Bright Things Come to Confusion
A scream ripped through my dreams, snapping me awake in an
I sat bolt upright in my bed, heart hammering in my chest. Had it been real or
just a nightmare? I heard angry voices coming from elsewhere in the house and my heart rate slowed as I realized
it was just my parents fighting again. Nothing new there. My room was at the far end of the hall so I couldn’t
quite make out what they were saying. I heard a crash and decided that this fight seemed worse than usual. I
wondered what it was about this time.
I slipped from my bed and crept towards the door. It wasn’t uncommon for my
parents to fight, but there was something different about this one. I felt my stomach clench
“Get out!” I heard my mother scream. As far as I knew, she’d never kicked Dad out
before. I grabbed the door handle and turned it slowly, pulling at the same time. I almost leapt from my skin
when I saw my little brother Kane standing in the hallway, just a few feet away. He’d turned when I opened the
door and stood staring at me like a deer caught in headlights, his eyes huge and round. It was obvious that he’d
been there for a while and had probably heard a lot more than I had. Kane turned back towards the voices, which
were lower now so that I still couldn’t tell what was being said. Kane had eased up to the corner of the hallway
now. I stepped out in order to hear better. At the same time, Kane suddenly stepped into the living
“Mommy?” he gasped. The look on his face told me that whatever he was seeing out
there wasn’t a pretty sight. Dad shifted into view and I quickly stepped back into my room.
In the sudden silence that followed, Dad’s voice carried easily to where I stood.
“Go back to bed, sweetie. Mommy and I are having a disagreement. It’ll be okay.” He didn’t sound at all
convincing to me, but Kane turned reluctantly and trudged back down the hall towards his room. “You too, Seth.”
Dad added, making me jump.
With a sigh, I shut the door and returned to my bed. I didn’t go to sleep, though.
I lay there awake, straining to hear what was going on in the living room, but they kept their voices down after
that. Somehow, that scared me even more. I watched as the minutes ticked by, and slowly the minutes turned into
hours. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to know what had happened.
Once more, I slipped from my bed and eased open my door. The house was dark and
eerily quiet. I thought I heard a soft snuffling, almost like someone crying, coming from the direction of the
living room. A creepy blue light emanated from the doorway and a horror movie I’d watched (without permission)
the week before crept into my mind. I almost lost my nerve about leaving the relative safety of my room, but I
gathered up all the courage I had and dashed quickly across the hall, letting myself into Kane’s room as
silently as possible.
At first, I couldn’t find him in the pile of stuffed animals on the bed. I hadn’t
even known he owned this many toys. He must have unloaded his entire toy box onto the bed. Was he trying to hide
under there? I started tossing them aside, looking for my little brother.
“Lions and tigers and teddy bears,” I grumbled. He had enough toy animals to
populate a small zoo. Finally, I found him curled into a ball in the center of the bed.
I shook him gently awake and he came up with a ragged gasp.
“Shh,” I hissed quickly. “It’s just me. Seth.”
Kane blinked at me with his huge green eyes, looking more like a startled owl than
a nine-year-old boy. His reddish-blonde hair even stuck up like the ear tufts of a great-horned
“What time is it?” he asked.
“Late. I need to talk to you.”
“About what? Are Mommy and Daddy still fighting?”
“No, but that’s what I want to talk to you about.”
“Yes now. What were they fighting about?”
“I don’t know,” he said, his little face screwed up in confusion. “Mom sounded
really angry, like she hated Dad. Do you think she hates him?”
“I don’t know, Kane. Just tell me what they were saying.”
“I couldn’t even understand most of it. Mom’s voice was all funny. She was yelling
at Daddy to get out and then he said something about us, and then…” He stopped suddenly as if he’d just
remembered something. “Hey Seth, what’s a faggot?”
“Seth?” he asked.
“What did you say?”
“What’s a faggot?”
“Because, I heard Mom say it when she was fighting with Daddy.”
“She said faggot? You’re sure of that?”
“Yeah, what does it mean?”
I turned without answering and was at the door in a flash. I let myself out of
Kane’s room and tiptoed down the hall as stealthily as I could manage. I peeked around the corner into the
living room. Mom was sitting in front of the computer, crying. The images on the screen confirmed my worst fear.
I half stumbled back to my room, my heart gripped in the tight confines of grief and terror. I knew now why Mom
and Dad had been fighting. They’d been fighting over me. They’d discovered my dirty little secret and it was all
over. What would happen now? Would they come screaming into my room? Throw me out? Hit me? The waiting was
almost worse than what I felt was the inevitable confrontation.
It had all started a few months before. I was playing at a friend’s house when his
Mom had run to the store, leaving us alone. She wasn’t even out of the driveway yet when he’d asked if I wanted
to see something cool. He’d turned on the computer, signed onto the internet, and in just a few minutes, we were
staring at pictures of naked women. At twelve, I’d barely started thinking about sex, but my friend was
obviously a little more advanced than I. It didn’t take him long to start rubbing at his crotch, which was home
to a bulge he didn’t bother to hide. I found myself more interested in what was happening between his legs than
the action on the screen. In fact, the large breasted women actually made me a little uncomfortable. I found all
these new things more than a little overwhelming and I was quite glad when we heard the sound of his mother’s
car pulling back in and he turned off the computer.
For days after that, I found myself wondering what my friend looked like without
his clothes. It didn’t really strike me as all that odd that I was thinking about my male friend naked. After
all, it was just curiosity, or so I told myself. There was no way I was gay. It was a term thrown around quite a
bit a school. I knew it meant guys who liked guys, but more than that, I knew it was something very negative and
dirty. That wasn’t me, was it?
My sudden obsession with seeing my friend naked soon grew to curiosity about
almost every boy in my class. The brief glimpses in gym class weren’t enough. It was weeks before it occurred to
me that if the internet held pictures of naked women, that maybe it would hold pictures of naked guys as well. I
waited impatiently for several days before I was left alone at home to try out my theory.
A few key words in my favorite search engine, and seconds later, I had all the
naked guys I could wish for. Most were a lot older than me, but it didn’t stop a tent from quickly forming in my
shorts. Then I hit what I considered pay dirt, a site that hosted nothing but young boys who didn’t look that
much older than me. I was in heaven. Over the next few months, I was online every chance I got, searching for
pictures of naked young boys. Over time, I got careless. I saved my favorites onto the hard drive in files that
I gave innocuous names like ‘project’ and ‘work’. I’d known it was a bad idea but I just couldn’t resist having
them where I could bring them up to look at whenever I wanted. Now Mom and Dad had found the files. It was all
over. They knew all about me.
Over the last few months, I’d come to the uneasy conclusion that I might be gay,
but it was still something I felt terribly unprepared to deal with. I wondered what they had thought when they
found the files. They must have been so disappointed. I’d never heard Mom sound so upset. I wondered what they
would do. I waited and waited, shivering alone in the middle of my bed, but no one ever came. At some point, I
began to cry and I must have eventually cried myself to sleep. The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off. It
was a school day. My world hadn’t come to an end last night, but maybe they were waiting for this morning. I
dragged myself out of bed and went through my morning routine out of habit, all the while wondering when the
other shoe would drop.
I entered the kitchen hesitantly. Kane sat at the kitchen table eating a bowl of
cereal while warily watching our mother. He hadn’t finished dressing yet; he had his pants on, but no shirt,
socks or shoes. Usually, he wouldn’t be allowed to eat until he was ready for school, which just confirmed to me
that something was very wrong. Mom stood by the sink, staring blankly out the window. Dark circles surrounded
her eyes and her shoulders slumped in a defeated manner.
“Get a bowl of cereal and get ready for the bus,” she said listlessly without
turning. She can’t even stand to
look at me, I thought darkly.
“I’m not hungry,” I mumbled. The very thought of food made my stomach heave. I
didn’t get a response.
For several minutes, the only sound in the room was Kane’s spoon clinking against
the bowl and the slight slurp as he ate. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any more.
“Where’s Dad?” I asked, hating the tremble that betrayed my emotion. Kane’s spoon
stopped halfway to his mouth.
“Gone,” Mom said harshly.
I gulped. “When will he be back?” I asked in a small voice.
“He’s not coming back,” she snapped in a voice that clearly said that was the end
of the subject.
Kane dropped his spoon with a clatter, splashing milk and cereal all over the
table. Mom spun around and glared at the mess.
“Clean it up,” she barked, then pushed roughly past me. “Don’t miss the bus,” she
yelled back at us before slamming her bedroom door.
Kane looked at me with round eyes. “Daddy’s gone?” he asked, his lower lip
beginning to tremble.
I grabbed some paper towels and started mopping up the milk and Lucky Charms. I
didn’t know what to say to Kane. What could I say? That Dad had left because he found out his oldest son was a
faggot and he couldn’t stand it? That Mom was so devastated she couldn’t even look at me? That it was all my
fault that our family had been ripped apart?
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I cleaned. Kane stared in horrified silence. I
didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to face all my friends and pretend nothing was wrong. I wanted to
curl up in my bed and cry. Or better yet, I wanted it to all go away. I just wanted all of this to be a terrible
nightmare. But Mom had said not to miss the school bus. She probably didn’t want me here.
A sudden thought occurred to me as I stared down at the sodden mess of paper
towels and colored marshmallow shapes. If I had messed things up, maybe I could fix them as
“Kane,” I said and he looked up at me with tear-filled eyes. “Finish cleaning this
up, then get ready for school, okay?”
He stared at me uncomprehendingly. “Kane?” I said, a little more sharply than I’d
intended. He flinched a little, but focused on me this time. I repeated my instructions and he
I walked to my parent’s bedroom door and took a deep breath before knocking
hesitantly. There was a muffled response from within, which I took as an invitation to come in. Once inside, I
suddenly didn’t know what to say. Mom was lying on the bed, not bothering to hide the fact that she was crying.
She still wouldn’t look at me.
“M-Mom?” I began shakily. “I…I’m sorry.” I stopped and choked down a sob. After a
second, I tried to continue. “I…I know you’re really upset right now, but I promise to be really good from now
on, okay? I’ll do whatever you want me to do. Okay?” There was no response except for silent shuddering. “Okay,
Mom? And maybe if I’m good, Dad will come back.”
That, at least, seemed to get a reaction. She sat up and looked at me for the
first time that morning, her bloodshot eyes narrowed. I took an involuntary step back. “Your father isn’t coming
back. Ever. He’s gone for good.” She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself down. “But I will need you to
be good. Both you and Kane. It’s just us from now on, and that means we’re all going to have to pick up the
slack. And what I want you to do right now is get ready for school. So please go help Kane and make sure you
don’t miss the bus.”
I nodded mutely and turned to go.
“And Seth?” she called. I stopped, afraid to turn back around and look into her
eyes again. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
Somehow, I managed to get Kane ready. I don’t even remember any of it. All I could
think was that I really had destroyed our family and now Mom hated me because of it. I could see it in her eyes.
She’d tried to hide it, but I’d seen it.
I was standing on the sidewalk in front of our house, waiting for the bus when I
felt that tingling feeling you get on the back of your neck when someone is watching you. Kane hadn’t come out
of the house yet so I turned slowly and scanned the yard behind me. Suddenly, I spotted Dad standing in the
window of the house next door. Mr. and Mrs. Marsh lived there. That must have been where he’d gone when he left
last night. Dad was just staring at me with a sad expression. I almost started crying when I saw him. I had made
him sad. I had made him leave.
He raised his hand and gave me a small wave. My throat constricted as I realized
this was his way of telling me goodbye. I waved back just as I heard the bus pulling up. I wanted so badly to
run to him and tell him how sorry I was and that I would be good from now on. That I’d never look at boys again
if he would just come home. But I didn’t. Instead, I turned and climbed onto the bus and walked to the very
back. He was still standing at the window as we drove by. It would be the last time I would see my dad for
* * *
When I got home from school later that day, Mom was barricaded in her room and
didn’t even come out to ask me how my day had been. That had always been something Dad asked as soon as he got
home from work every day, no matter how busy he was. A sharp jab of grief blindsided me as I realized I might
never hear him ask me that again. All at once, it hit me that there was something different about the house. Not
just the absence of Dad’s presence, but something more. It only took me a few seconds to realize what it was. I
quickly went from room to room, but it was the same everywhere. Everything that had been Dad’s was gone, as if
he’d never existed. For a panicked second, I thought that maybe I had somehow imagined him. Kane arrived home at
that moment and just the sight of him quickly brought me back to earth.
Since Mom still hadn’t made an appearance, I fixed Kane a snack of some fruit and
milk. A couple hours later, I was wondering what to do about dinner when she finally emerged from her room. One
look at her and I almost wished she hadn’t. Her face was splotchy and eyes were swollen and bloodshot; it was
obvious that she’s been crying again. Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry anymore. I made her feel that bad, I thought miserably to myself. This is all my fault.
Without even asking, she picked up the phone and ordered a pizza to be delivered,
then left me some money to pay for it before turning around and going back into her room, shutting the door
firmly behind her. Kane watched all this with wide, frightened eyes.
“Is Mommy going to be okay?” he asked in a small voice. He looked like he could
burst into tears at any second.
You have to be
strong, I told myself firmly, even though I felt like I could cry
at any second too.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” I lied. I wasn’t sure at all. It seemed like our entire
world was crashing down around us. “She’s just sad about Dad leaving…” My voice caught in my throat and I had to
stop. I swallowed a few times, then continued. “Don’t worry though, kiddo. I’ll take care of
He gave me a tremulous smile and I quickly turned away to hide the tears that were
threatening to spill over, rummaging in the refrigerator for sodas as an excuse. We watched TV until the pizza
arrived. I had no idea how much to tip the delivery guy so I gave him a twenty for one large
“Keep the change,” I said, feeling ridiculous but not knowing what else to say. It
must have been okay, because the pizza guy just nodded and said thanks.
After we ate, I helped Kane with his homework and then did mine while he watched
Nickelodeon. When his bedtime arrived, he went to bed and let me tuck him in without arguing, something I don’t
think he’d ever done before in his life. I think we both knew that the rules were different
Once that was done, I realized I needed clean clothes for the next day. This was
the day Mom usually did laundry so most of my school clothes were dirty. I figured that was up to me as well. I
turned on the light in the laundry room and stared at the messy pile of clothes on the floor. It looked like
someone had dumped out the laundry basket and then kicked stuff everywhere. With a sigh, I started the washer
and threw in clothes at random, not even knowing enough to sort the colors. I just about had a full load when I
recognized one of Dad’s favorite shirts. It was the first thing I’d seen that was his. I stopped and just stared
at it for a minute before slowly reaching out and picking it up. I brought it to my face and inhaled. It still
smelled like his cologne.
Before I knew what was happening, I was on the floor curled into the fetal
position, weeping into the shirt. Everything I’d been holding back for Kane’s sake, all the guilt and fear and
grief, just came pouring out without inhibition. I don’t know how long I cried, but I suddenly noticed Kane in
the doorway. I cut off my sobs with a hiccup and sat up.
“You miss Daddy too?” he asked with a tear-filled voice.
I simply nodded and in a flash, he was in my arms crying on my shoulder. I held
him and cried with him, the two of us sitting on the laundry room floor, grieving together. We formed a bond
that night that would get us through the next few years.
The following weeks were a living hell. Mom barely spoke to us except to yell and
always seemed to be on the verge of losing her temper. Kane and I tiptoed around trying to guess what we would
do to set her off next and avoid doing it at all costs. We weren’t allowed to talk about Dad and all she would
tell us was that they were getting a divorce. Kane and I hadn’t talked any more about their big fight since that
first night. It seemed we’d both silently agreed to avoid the topic. I don’t know about Kane, but most nights I
cried myself to sleep in a fit of self-recrimination and missing Dad.
For my part, I’d vowed to myself to do exactly what I’d promised Mom. I didn’t
touch the computer except to do homework and every time I caught myself thinking about a boy, I’d mentally slap
myself. I was determined to be the perfect son. I might have lost Dad, but I wasn’t about to lose Mom
Despite my best efforts, it became obvious that I’d already lost her, at least
emotionally. It was like she was a completely different person now. She’d never been the warmest person – Dad
had always been the really affectionate parent – but now she was positively frigid. She seemed to grow more
distant with every day. The further she withdrew emotionally, the harder I tried to please
One good thing that came out of all this is that Kane and I continued to grow
closer than ever. Mom had said that we would all have to pick up the slack, but it seemed I was doing most of
the picking up. I went from a carefree kid to the man of the house in just a few weeks. I kept doing the laundry
and even started doing some of the lighter housework. Most mornings, I was the one who cooked Kane’s breakfast
and helped him get ready for school. I found myself becoming very protective of my younger
The only other thing to benefit from this situation was my schoolwork. My grades
up till now would best be described as average, but I transformed myself into the perfect student. In the
process, I discovered a certain satisfaction in my work, in getting an “A” on my papers and receiving the
recognition from my teachers brought on by my sudden interest in academics. In some ways, the attention from my
teachers helped offset the loss of my father and my mother’s continuing withdrawal. It wasn’t what I really
wanted, but it was enough to keep me going. I think some of my teachers recognized the deeper pain that I
struggled so hard to hide at school, and made a special effort to be supportive and encouraging. When things
failed to improve at home, I simply threw myself even deeper into school activities, becoming involved with
extracurricular clubs like after-school drama.
The next few years blurred into a routine. Mom mellowed somewhat; we didn’t have
to walk on eggshells around the house anymore, but she was as distant as ever. She took almost no interest in
our lives beyond making sure we didn’t interfere too much in hers. Kane followed my lead by doing well in
school, but his true escape became skateboarding. I kept an eye on him, knew all his friends, and generally made
sure he stayed out of trouble. For my part, I felt I lived up to my end of the bargain. I was now a straight-A
student, at or near the top of my class. I was friendly with everyone, but I had few close friends and no one
that I really allowed inside. It had seemed easier that way, no chances of me finding myself attracted to one of
my male friends. Plus, it had the added bonus of keeping everyone at arms length. If no one got too close, no
one could hurt me or find out my secrets. If I was lonely much of the time, well, that was the price that had to
be paid. My plan worked as well as I could have hoped until I was fifteen.
If Kane’s escape was skateboarding, then mine was definitely acting. I loved
drama. I loved getting lost in a part, being able to become someone else for however brief a period, forgetting
who and what I was. It was my sophomore year and we were putting on a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
I was Lysander, which was quite an honor for an under classman. The other cast members were probably the closest
thing I had to friends, but I rarely spent time with them outside of school. There were four of us who received
the starring roles in almost every production and we’d formed a tight knit bond. There was Leah playing Helena,
Brooke as Hermia, and Cole as Demetrius.
Leah and Brooke were as different as night and day. Leah was a junior and looked
as if she’d be more at home on the field, cheering for the team, pom-poms in hand. She had long blonde hair,
sparkling blue eyes, and an unerringly cheery personality. She was also one of the best actresses in our school.
She wasn’t vain at all, despite her almost perfect good looks, and she was quite willing to take any role and
totally become that character. The only thing Leah had in common with the older Brooke was her love of drama.
Where Leah was small and light, Brooke was big and dark. Not to say that she was fat, far from it in fact, but
she was large-boned and athletic. She wasn’t unattractive, but she would have been better described as handsome
rather than pretty or cute. She had olive skin that looked as if she had a tan 365 days a year. Her dark eyes
flashed when she was angry or excited and she wore her dark brown hair short and spiky. The short hair might
have presented a problem in playing Hermia, but she had tried out for the part in a long dark wig and nailed her
lines. If Leah and Brooke hadn’t shared a passion for acting, they probably would have never spoken, but then,
that was true of all of us. I would certainly have never allowed myself to get as close to Cole as I had if
wasn’t for the camaraderie of rehearsals and cast parties. It was one of those things that crept up on me until
it was too late to do anything about it.
Like Brooke, Cole was also a senior. This would be his last play before he
graduated. When I’d first started drama as a freshman, Cole had been a little threatened by me. Before I’d come
along, he’d been unchallenged as the best actor in the group. It hadn’t taken anyone very long to realize that I
was just as good as Cole. We had settled into a kind of adversarial rivalry for roles that gradually eased into
a competition of a friendlier sort, and eventually into something akin to friendship. Or as close as I came to
friendship. We had a mutual respect for each other’s acting ability. What Cole didn’t know, what no one knew,
what I barely dared admit to myself, is that I admired Cole for more than just his acting
Cole was slightly shorter than me and thin. He was on the swim team in addition to
drama and he had the classic swimmer’s build, streamlined and powerful, but not showy. I’d always thought his
name would have been more appropriately spelled “coal”. He was what is often referred to as “Black Irish”. His
hair was so black it sometimes seemed to reflect blue, and his eyes were just as dark. His creamy complexion
seemed even paler against the stark contrast. I thought he was one of the most beautiful boys I had ever seen
and he had a natural grace to his movement that complimented his looks. Just being in his presence never failed
to make me feel awkward and gangly. Over the last year, I had grown to almost six feet tall and I had yet to
adjust to my sudden height. My poker-straight reddish-blonde hair had a mind of its own and so I had adopted a
carefully mussed look that was harder to achieve than one might think. Next to Cole, I felt like a court jester
before a prince. I tried very hard to hide my awkwardness around him, and most of the time I was pretty
successful. Every now and then, though, I would catch him looking at me with a strange expression, and for a
second, I would think that he knew how I felt. But then he’d look away and I’d convince myself that it had just
been my imagination.
Our first performance was only a few weeks away and Mr. Roedel, the drama
director, was starting to get hyper. Of course, he always got hyper as opening night approached. The closer it
got, the more manic he’d become until he’d practically be in heart failure by the time the curtains actually
opened. This time, though, even I was a little nervous. Rehearsals had been rough. A lot of the lines were
really long and with the unfamiliar Shakespearian English, some people were having a lot of trouble memorizing
them. The guy who was playing Theseus could barely get two words out without getting stuck and Hippolyta wasn’t
much better. I wasn’t worried about my lines. I’d been blessed with a very good memory and I’d memorized all my
lines already. I was worried about everyone else though, for Cole’s sake as much as anything. Leah and Brooke
pretty much had their lines down as well, although there were still a few places they stumbled over. Of the four
of us, Cole was having the most difficulty, which was odd since he usually had his lines memorized before I did.
I passed it off as nerves about his final performance. I knew he wanted it to go well.
Most of our in-school rehearsal time was spent on scenes one, four, and five since
those were the ones Theseus and Hippolyta were in. Since Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena were in these
scenes as well, that left the fairy cast pretty much on their own most of the time. When Mr. Roedel finally
realized this, it was obvious he didn’t know quite what to do. Theseus and Hippolyta still needed a lot of work,
but we needed to rehearse the Woods scenes as well. His solution was to stay even later after school. I didn’t
have a problem with this, as anything that kept me out of the house even longer was fine by me. After a week of
this arrangement, however, we still weren’t spending much time on scenes two and three. Cole grew more and more
nervous, since most of his biggest scenes were in the neglected parts.
Finally, Leah came up with a solution.
“Why don’t we get together at my house and work on these scenes?” she suggested
after a particularly discouraging rehearsal.
Cole brightened up immediately. “That’s a great idea!” he said happily.
“Whenever is good for everyone else I guess.” Brooke and Cole quickly said that
they were available anytime. Leah turned an expectant gaze at me. I had never been to Leah’s house before and
I’d never been anywhere outside of school with Cole. I realized everyone was waiting for my
“Whenever is fine for me too,” I mumbled, trying not to blush.
After checking with Allison, Tim, and Eddie – who played Titania, Oberon, and Puck
respectively – we settled on Friday evening. Leah said she’d order pizza.
“It’ll be like a little party!” she enthused with a giggle. She threw her arm
around my shoulder and jumped up and down a little. “I can hardly wait! It’ll be so much fun!”
I smiled tightly. I wasn’t used to socializing outside of school, let alone going
“We have to work too, Leah,” Cole said, coming to my rescue.
“Oh, I know, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, too!”
So the date was set and we went our separate ways, my stomach clenched at the very
thought of spending time alone with Cole. Sure, we wouldn’t really be alone, but still… Somehow, it was okay at
school. Being in the intimacy of someone’s home, though, scared me.
Brooke usually gave me a ride home after practice since she lived only a block
away and Mom couldn’t be bothered to pick me up. I was unusually quiet – even for me – on the ride home and she
couldn’t help but notice.
“What’s wrong?” she finally asked.
“What? Huh? Nothing!” I sputtered. I’d been in my own little world of
“Something is obviously bothering you. You were fine up until Leah suggested
rehearsing at her house.”
“It’s not that,” I said quickly. “I’m just worried about the play, you know, and
my lines and all…” I faded out lamely.
“You know your lines better than anyone else in the damn play,” she scoffed.
“What’s really bugging you?” When I didn’t respond, she tried a different tack. “Look, Seth, you know you can
trust me, right? We’re friends, aren’t we?”
I looked over at her nervously. What was she getting at? Sure, we were friends,
but we’d never been the type that confided in each other. Just school friends. The kind you saw in the hallway
and said “hi” to, chatted with at lunch, maybe even did things like give you a ride after school, but that was
“I’m fine,” I insisted.
Brooke sighed. “Fine. Whatever.” I could tell I’d disappointed her, but what was I
supposed to do? Tell her I was pretty sure I was gay but that I’d destroyed our family by being careless about
it before and I wasn’t about to let it happen again? That I was afraid to be alone with Cole because I had a
crush on him?
I gasped out loud. I’d never admitted that I had a crush on Cole, not even to
“Oh for God’s sake,” Brooke burst out, causing me to jump. “I know you like Cole,”
she said quickly, as if she just couldn’t hold the words in anymore.
“What?’ I yelped. How could she know? I hadn’t even admitted it to myself before a
few seconds ago.
“The way you look at him, the way you avoid being too close to him, the way you
blush when he speaks directly to you. It’s obvious.”
“Obvious?” I whispered.
She looked over at me and realized how terrified I was. She quickly pulled into
the parking lot of a strip mall and parked. “Obvious if you know what to look for,” she said.
“Do you think anyone else knows?” I asked with a growing panic.
She shrugged. “I doubt it. I’ve never heard anyone say anything specifically about
you. You know how some people just assume that any guy in drama is gay.”
Gay. She’d said it out loud. The word hung in the air. Suddenly I felt like I
couldn’t breathe. I began to hyperventilate.
“Put your head between your legs,” Brooke ordered, pushing my head down. “Take
deep breaths.” I tried to do as she said and, slowly, my breathing returned to normal.
“It’s not the end of the world,” she said softly.
“You don’t understand,” I said with a slightly hysterical note creeping into my
“Yeah, actually I do.”
“You can’t understand,” I wailed.
“Seth, I’m a lesbian.”
That stopped my impending panic attack in its tracks. “What?” I asked
“I said I’m a lesbian. A dyke. A rug muncher…”
“I get the picture,” I said quickly.
“So you see, I do understand.”
“Not really,” I moaned. The shock of her revelation was wearing off and my panic
was returning in full force.
“I’m not going to tell anyone, if that’s what you’re worried
“It’s not just that,” I said, trying hard not to hyperventilate again. I started
talking, barely realizing I was speaking. “When I was twelve, my parents found out I was gay. I’d left some
stuff on the computer. They had a big fight about it and my dad left. My mom hasn’t been the same since. It’s
like she can barely stand to look at me.”
“Oh God, Seth, I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“I swore to myself that I would make them proud of me, that I would be straight. I
guess at the time I thought it would somehow make things right again, bring my dad back. It’s pretty obvious
that isn’t going to happen now, but still…you know? I just want to make them proud of me.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes; I’d run out of words and Brooke didn’t seem
to know what to say. Finally, she made up her mind.
“You know, being gay isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s just a part of who you
are. People who think it’s something evil or bad are the ones that have it wrong. You can’t help who you like
and you can’t make yourself be something you’re not. I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but if your
dad really left your family just because you’re gay, then he was a jerk and you’re better off without
My head snapped up. “He wasn’t a jerk,” I hissed. “You don’t even know
Brooke’s eyes widened. “I don’t have to know him to know it’s a shitty thing to
leave your kid when he needs you the most.”
“And I suppose your parents know about you and are fine with it, huh?’ I
“Actually, yes. I told them last year. They had a little trouble with it at first,
but they went to this support group called PFLAG and everything is fine now.”
A pang of jealously shot through me. “Well we can’t all be that lucky,” I said
“I’m really sorry, Seth. Maybe I shouldn’t have even brought this up, but I could
see it was really bothering you and I thought if someone else knew it would be easier on you.”
“Maybe you were wrong,” I said, turning and looking out the
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. She started the car and pulled back out into the
traffic. We didn’t speak again until she pulled into my driveway. “I won’t mention any of this again unless you
choose to bring it up,” she said quickly, before I could get out. “If you want to talk, you know my number. And
you don’t have to worry about me saying anything to anyone. I promise.”
I got out without saying a word, but I shut the door gently instead of slamming
it, as I probably would have done a few seconds before.
I avoided Mom and Kane for the rest of the night, shutting myself in my room and
not even coming out for dinner. I just told them I wasn’t feeling good. Mom was easy to avoid; Kane was a little
harder. I actually snapped at him when he stuck his head in my room to ask if I needed anything. I felt bad
about it as soon as I saw the hurt in his eyes, but I was too caught up in my own misery to follow after him
when he withdrew his head and shut the door again.
I was dreading Friday evening more than ever now. What if Brooke broke her promise
and told everyone? I couldn’t see her actually doing that, but it was still a fear I had. And her words kept
echoing through my head. Was Dad a jerk for leaving us? All this time I’d been so busy blaming myself that I’d
never allowed myself to be angry at him for going. For the first time ever, I allowed myself to feel a bit of
the resentment that I’d buried so deeply.
And what about the other stuff she’d said? She’d made being gay sound like being
born left-handed. Just a part of who you are, not something you can help or change. It was something I’d never
let myself think about before. I didn’t sleep much that night. I had too much on my mind. And it was only
Tuesday. Would I even survive till Friday?
* * *
The rest of the week dragged by so slowly I thought I’d go crazy. I spent most of
my days avoiding Brooke and my nights avoiding Mom and Kane. Mom was the only one so far who hadn’t noticed my
evasion. Kane gave me a look like a kicked puppy every time he caught my eye. Brooke was a little more subtle,
but I could tell my reaction had hurt her feelings. I felt terrible, but I just wasn’t prepared to deal with it.
Why couldn’t she understand that?
I was also dodging Cole. Trying to avoid both him and Brooke made for interesting
play rehearsals. I’d interact enough to say my lines and block our stage positions, but then I’d retreat to a
corner by myself as soon as we were released. My anti-social behavior was nothing new, but this was a bit
extreme even for me.
Thursday night, things came to a head with Kane. I was hiding out in my bedroom,
working half-heartedly on some homework, when he barged into my room. He shut the door firmly behind him and
leaned against it, arms crossed over his chest as if barring me from leaving. At twelve, Kane was still quite a
bit shorter than I, but he was built sturdier, probably from all his skating.
“What are you doing?” I asked uneasily.
“I want to know what the hell is going on,” he said in a no-nonsense tone. “You’ve
been treating me like dirt all week and I want to know what I did wrong.”
“You haven’t done anything wrong,” I said.
“Then why have you been holing up in here and snapping at me every time I try to
talk to you?”
“I’ve just had some stuff going on.”
“What kind of stuff?”
“So talk to me about it.”
“Because I can’t, Kane. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Why wouldn’t I understand? Just because you’re older? I’m not stupid you know.
I’m your brother and we’ve always been there for each other. You’ve never kept secrets from me
If you only knew, I thought darkly.
When I didn’t answer, Kane slowly moved away from the door and sat down on the
bed. “What’s going on, Seth? Please talk to me. I’m worried about you.”
“Don’t worry about me,” I mumbled, refusing to look up at him. “I’ll be
“I can’t help but worry when you’re acting like this. You’ve always been there for
me and now I want to be there for you. Since Dad left, all we have is each other. Let me be there for
I bit my lip in an attempt to stem the flow of tears that was threatening to spill
over at any second. “Maybe I’m just scared of losing you too,” I whispered.
Kane’s eyes grew wide. “What are you stupid or something? You could never lose me.
Look, whatever is going on, you can tell me. I promise you, nothing could ever be so bad that you would lose me
I looked him directly in the eye. I could see he meant it but I was still so
scared. Sure he meant it now, but once he knew what was really bothering me, would he feel the same? How could
he, knowing his big brother was a fag?
I slowly began to shake my head no, but Kane refused to accept
“Damn it, Seth! Don’t shut me out! I love you!” And then suddenly, he began to
cry. I sat in stunned silence as the first few tears slowly built into a full-fledged sobbing bawl. I quickly
moved to his side on the bed and pulled him against me. Kane immediately threw his arms around my neck and
buried his face in my chest. Right after Dad left, it hadn’t been at all uncommon for me to hold my little
brother like this, but it had been a long time since then and it felt awkward now.
After a while, he cried himself out, but he still refused to let
“What was that about?” I asked gently, half-afraid I would set him off once
“I’m losing you,” he sniffled pitifully.
“What? No you’re not!”
“Yes I am. You’re pulling away from me, just like Mom did after Dad left. First
him, then her, and now you. I can’t stand it! I can’t!” With that, he started crying again.
“Kane, I don’t mean to pull away. You know I love you. It’s just that…I’ve been
having a really hard time with some things lately…”
He sat up suddenly, pulling away and staring at me accusingly. His face was red
and tear-streaked, his eyes shining with pain. “Why can’t you tell me about it then? I could be here for you.
Sometimes things aren’t as bad as you think they are when you have somebody to talk to about
“It’s not that simple, Kane. I wish it was, but this isn’t something that’s just
going to go away if I talk about it.”
not that simple, Kane,” he mimicked angrily, leaping up from the bed
and whirling to face me. “You
wouldn’t understand, Kane.” Well, fine. If you don’t want to tell me,
that’s your business, but I sure as hell can’t understand if you won’t even give me the
He spun around and stormed towards the door.
“I’m gay,” I whispered so softly I didn’t even think he would hear me. He must
have though, because he stopped dead in his tracks, hand on the doorknob. He turned slowly to face me, his face
slack-jawed with surprise.
“What did you say?”
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and repeated myself. “I’m
Here it comes, I thought. He’ll realize that I’m the whole reason Dad left us in the first place. He’ll
realize that I’m the reason Mom retreated into her own little world. He’ll realize that I’m the reason our
family fell apart. And he’ll hate me. Just like everyone else.
My eyes were still squeezed shut when I felt a pair of arms sliding around my
neck. I flinched away as my eyes flew open. Kane looked at me appraisingly.
“Didn’t you hear me?” I rasped. “I said I’m gay.”
“So?” He couldn’t have sounded less concerned. He smiled. “Thanks for telling
“Wait. It doesn’t bother you?”
He shrugged. “Not really. It doesn’t change who you are. You’re still my big
brother and I love you.”
I took a second to let that sink in.
“It is a little weird when I think about Dad though,” he said
“Weird?” I said, unable to believe that’s all he had to say about it. “I think
it’s a little more than weird. I destroyed our whole family.”
Kane’s face scrunched up. “Huh?”
“Mom and Dad know. That’s why he left. It’s my fault…” I was just getting worked
up, but Kane cut me off with three simple words.
“No it isn’t.”
After a succession of rapid blinks, it was my turn to respond with,
“It wasn’t your fault Dad left. Mom threw him out.”
“But…I saw the computer. And you said that they were talking about a faggot. You
asked me what it meant.”
“I dunno about any
computer, but you never let me finish telling you what I heard that night and it upset you so much I never
brought it up again.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I didn’t understand a lot of what I heard that night, but I’ve thought about it a
lot since. They were arguing and Mom said that Dad disgusted her.”
“Maybe he wanted to kick me out or something…” I suggested
“Will you let me finish! Mom was yelling at Dad to get out and Dad said they
should think about us kids. Then Mom told him she didn’t want him to ever come near us again.”
“She said he made her sick and she never wanted to see him
“But…I don’t understand.”
“Seth, she called him a faggot.” When I didn’t respond, he continued. “Don’t you
see? Dad is gay too.”
My mind reeled. I felt like the bed had dropped out from under me and I was
falling. Then everything went black.
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes again was Kane’s face hovering above
me wearing a concerned expression.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “I’ve never seen anyone pass out
“I didn’t pass out,” I said indignantly and I struggled to sit up. Then Kane’s big
revelation flooded back into my mind and I almost fainted again.
“Seth!” Kane gasped as I swayed.
“I’m okay,” I said. I didn’t even convince myself. Everything I’d believed for so
long had just been turned upside-down. The last three years of my life had been cast in an entirely new
“You really thought that you’d caused all that?” Kane asked with disbelief in his
“I saw Mom looking at the computer…” I was so confused. Suddenly, I didn’t know
what to believe. “Are you sure you’re remembering correctly?”
“Positive. And why do you keep talking about the computer?”
“I, uh, had pictures on there,” I said sheepishly. At Kane’s blank stare, I
explained, “Of naked guys.”
Understanding flooded his face. “And Mom found the files?”
“I guess. I saw her looking at them later that night when I left your room. I
thought they knew and that’s what they were fighting about. I thought that was why Dad left and Mom blamed
He sat quietly for a minute, obviously thinking about what I’d said. “I don’t
think they knew it was you,” he said after a minute.
“Where else would they have come from?”
He shrugged. “I don’t think Mom knows though. I think if she did then she would
have said something sometime in the last three years.”
I realized he was probably right. I’d been reading her silence on the subject as
proof of her knowledge, but now I realized how absurd that was.
Kane frowned. “You’ve really been blaming yourself all these
“I don’t know how you did it,” he said quietly. “I barely made it through knowing
it didn’t have anything to do with me. I couldn’t have done it without you watching out for
“Yes you could have.”
“Maybe, but you sure made things a lot easier. I can’t believe you thought I’d
“I was just so afraid,” I said softly.
His arms were around me again in a flash. “Well now you don’t have to be afraid,”
he said fiercely. “I don’t care who you think is hot. I love you and I’m proud of you.”
I hugged him back tightly. “Thanks, little bro.”
“So,” he said with a grin as he sat back. “Who do you think is
“Kane!” I gasped.
“I can’t believe you asked that!”
“Well, you always ask me who I like.”
“I dunno. It just is.”
“It’s so not. Tell me! Who do you like?”
I sighed. “That’s part of the problem,” I said. “It’s this guy from
“Do I know him?”
“I don’t think so. His name is Cole McBride. He was in the play last fall, the
modern day fairy tales? He was Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk.”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“So what’s the problem? I’m no expert, but he seemed pretty cute for a
“His looks are definitely not the problem. The problem is I can’t let anyone know
I have this stupid crush on him.”
“Kane, come on. This is high school we’re talking about. I haven’t even dealt with
being gay yet. You’re only the second person who even knows, assuming Mom and Dad really don’t know. I’m
definitely not ready to be outed at school.”
He quirked his mouth to one side. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. The kids at school
are always picking on this one guy they say is gay.”
He shrugged. “Who knows? They think he is, so that’s all that really matters. Hey,
wait a minute. Did you say I was the second person who knows? Who else knows?”
“Brooke Rivera, this girl from drama.”
“You told her before you told me?” I could tell he was hurt.
“No,” I said quickly. “She figured it out. She said she could tell because she’s
gay too. That’s what I’ve been upset about all week. I was afraid that if she could tell that easily, maybe
other people could too.”
“Oh. Okay then. Well, you don’t hafta worry about me.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Kane. You don’t know how much that means to
He grinned. “I’m glad I could do something nice for you for a change.” He stood up
and scuffed his foot against the carpet. “And, you know, if you need to talk about anything, I’m here for you.
Just cuz I’m a kid doesn’t mean I can’t help.”
“Yeah, I know that now. I think you just proved yourself pretty
He glowed with pride as he scooped in quickly for another hug before heading for
“Oh, and Seth? I don’t think I’d tell Mom if I were you,” he
“Don’t worry, I had no intention.”
He nodded and exited. I stared after him for a while, letting all the new
information swirl around my brain. Kane knew about me and he didn’t care. So did Brooke for that matter. And
what’s more, Mom and Dad didn’t know. It would take me a while to get
used to that concept. But most importantly, Kane had said Dad was gay too. My mind had yet to wrap itself around
that bit of information. Could it be true? And if so, what did that mean? I had to find out more. But how? I
couldn’t exactly ask Mom.
I walked over to my desk and I looked down at my neglected homework. I had a
feeling it wouldn’t get finished tonight.
* * *
With everything I had going on in my head, it wasn’t at all surprising that I was
very distracted the next day at school. Usually attentive and responsive, my teachers found my sudden
distractedness frustrating and mildly alarming. More than one teacher pulled me aside after class to ask me if
everything was okay. I gave the same answer each time, assuring them that I was fine. Most of them accepted my
reassurance with varying degrees of incredulity. Mr. Roedel refused to be put off so easily. He’d cornered me
after another disastrous rehearsal and totally failed to buy my assertion that all was fine.
“Give me a little credit here, Seth,” he admonished gently. “I may be a little
preoccupied with opening night approaching and our snail’s pace progress, but a blind deaf man could tell you
haven’t been yourself this week. And then today, you actually flubbed several of your lines. What’s going
“It’s really nothing, Mr. Roedel, but thanks for being
“Being concerned about my students is part of my job, Mr. Connelly.” He always
reverted to our last name whenever he was making a serious point. “It happens to be a part of my job that I
especially enjoy. I hope you know you can talk to me. You might find I’m more understanding than you
That caused me to stop and think. Was he hinting about something or was that just
my imagination? There were rumors that Mr. Roedel was gay, but then, that was only to be expected for a slightly
flamboyant, single, male drama teacher. I’d never put much stock in the whispered stories about his supposed
boyfriends. I decided that it was just an innocuous offer to listen.
“Thanks, but it’s just some personal stuff. I’m sure it’ll all work out and I’ll
be back to normal by Monday.”
“I hope so, for your sake. If you change your mind, just know you can talk to me
I nodded and made my escape. I was still thinking about how odd that whole
exchange had been, when someone caught my sleeve and I found myself cornered again – this time by
“Hey Seth,” he said with a nervous smile that somehow made him even more
“Er, uh, hey Cole,” I mumbled. “I thought you’d left already.”
“I was waiting for you,” he said.
“For me?” I gulped. “How come?”
“Brooke said she was supposed to pick you up for the rehearsal at Leah’s tonight,
but she’s going to be late.” Funny, she hadn’t mentioned that to me, although, to be fair, I hadn’t given her
much chance to say anything to me. “So, um, she asked me if I could pick you up. I said yeah, but I don’t know
where you live.”
I felt my face heat up with anger and embarrassment. Anger at Brooke for setting
this up and embarrassment at being put in this position. Damnit! Why couldn’t I be old enough to drive? And then
suddenly, I didn’t care if I was old enough to drive. I didn’t want to go to this stupid rehearsal. I didn’t
want to spend a long, uncomfortable night at Leah’s house, feeling out of place and awkward.
“You know, Cole,” I said wearily, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to make the
rehearsal tonight. I’m really sorry but you’ll just have to make due without me.”
I turned and walked quickly away. I’d only taken a few steps, however, before Cole
called after me. “Uh, Seth?” I stopped and turned to face him. “Since I didn’t know where you live and I was
going to pick you up and all, Brooke said I should just take you home too.” I stood there wishing the school
would just collapse on top of me and end this day. When I didn’t say anything, Cole continued hesitantly. “You
know, that way I’d know where you lived…”
He looked so nervous and insecure standing there that I felt sorry for him. It
wasn’t his fault Brooke had turned out to be a conniving bitch. I sighed. “Yeah, okay. Thanks, Cole. That’s
really nice of you.”
He shrugged and bit his lip. He stood there for a minute before realizing that I
was waiting for him to lead the way to his car. He blushed slightly and started moving. I fell into step beside
him and we walked silently to the parking lot. For the first time ever, I realized that Cole seemed just as
uncomfortable as I did. Maybe he knew I was gay and didn’t want to be alone with me any more than I wanted to be
alone with him. Only our reasons would be very different. I wasn’t ready for anyone to know I was gay and he
probably just didn’t like being alone with a queer boy.
I was so lost in my thoughts I almost walked into him when he stopped suddenly in
front of a dark green Camry. “This is my car,” he said.
“It’s nice.” Lame, Seth, very lame.
“Thanks.” He unlocked the passenger side door before walking around to the
driver’s side. I climbed in, sitting my backpack on my lap, and we both buckled up. He started the car and
pulled out of the lot. Neither of us spoke the entire time. Once on the road, I realized he didn’t know where my
house was, so I gave him directions to the suburban development where I lived. We drove a few minutes in silence
before Cole spoke up.
“Hey Seth, I know you said you couldn’t make it to the rehearsals, but if there’s
any way you can, it would mean a lot to me. I’ve just been really nervous about this play for some reason and
the extra time with everyone would make me feel a lot better.”
I couldn’t believe Cole McBride was practically begging me to come. Was this
really happening? Had Brooke set him up to do this?
“You don’t need me,” I said quietly.
“Yes I do! You’re really important to me! I mean to the play. I mean Lysander is
really important.” He blushed furiously as he kept his eyes carefully on the road. What was going on
I didn’t answer right away; in fact, I didn’t say anything except to give him some
last minute directions to my house. As he pulled up in the driveway, I looked over at him. He was staring
straight ahead and biting his lip again. The last of my reserves melted away.
“Pick me up at six-thirty,” I said and quickly jumped out of the
Kane was standing at the door when I got there. He raised one eyebrow. “Wasn’t
“Yes,” I said in a voice that clearly said that was the end of the subject. For
once, he took the hint and dropped it.
I was a nervous wreck waiting for Cole to come back. I was such a mess that I
couldn’t even eat dinner. I didn’t know how I’d make it through the rehearsal without making a complete fool of
myself. By the time his green Camry pulled back into our drive, I was practically babbling.
“Calm down,” Kane said soothingly. “Just do your lines and you’ll be
“You make it sound so easy,” I grumbled as I started out the
“And you make everything so hard,” he called after me.
“Hi,” I said as I climbed into his car for the second time that
He smiled at me and his whole face lit up. God, this boy was beautiful. “I was
afraid you wouldn’t come,” he said.
“Here I am,” I mumbled.
“Thanks. It means a lot.” He was dripping sincerity.
He tried to make small talk all the way to Leah’s house, which was about fifteen
minutes away, but I wasn’t feeling very chatty. Most of my answers were of the monosyllabic variety. It didn’t
stop him from trying.
Leah’s house turned out to be an attractive, two-story Colonial-style white house
with black shutters. She met us at the door and led us through a tastefully decorated home. We followed her down
to the basement, which was finished off into a rec room, complete with big screen TV and well-used pool table.
Everyone else was already there, including, much to my surprise, Miss I’m-going-to-be-late Brooke. If she was
going to lie about being late, the least she could do was actually show up late. I glared daggers at her and she
looked away guiltily.
“Great, now that everyone’s here, let’s get started,” Leah said
The rehearsal itself went pretty well. The first time was a little rough, but we
improved a little with each consecutive run-through. Everyone had their lines pretty well memorized and we all
felt a lot better after we’d gone through the scenes for the third time.
“Well, hey,” Cole announced after we’d finished. “I don’t know about the rest of
you, but I’m feeling a lot better about this now. How about we go through it one more time and then call it a
“Let’s take a break first,” Brooke suggested. I’d done my best to ignore her
throughout the night. It had made for rather awkward scenes when it was just the two of us, but no one else
seemed to notice.
“Okay,” Cole agreed with a shrug. Everyone quickly relaxed. Leah offered to get
sodas for everyone. Several conversations quickly sprung up as I retreated to a corner. Much to my chagrin,
Brooke made a beeline for me.
“Can I please talk to you for a second?” she asked quietly.
“Don’t you think you’ve said enough?” I snapped.
“Fine,” I agreed through gritted teeth. “But not here.”
She nodded and led me back up the stairs. “Seth and I are going outside to get
some fresh air,” she called to Leah.
We went outside on the front lawn, where I stood with my arms crossed tightly
across my chest. I stayed quiet, letting my body language do my talking for me.
“Look,” Brooke started, “I know you’re probably mad at me for asking Cole to take
you home today and pick you up, but I really did think I was going to be late. I promise. I had a bunch of
chores I had to do for my mom and I didn’t think I’d ever get them done in time, but it turned out they went
faster than I thought they would.”
“So out of everyone else involved, you just had to ask Cole?” I was still angry;
she wasn’t getting off the hook that easily.
“It was just the most logical choice, Seth. He doesn’t live that far from you and
he can drive. It didn’t make sense to ask Leah to come get you and you hardly even know Allison, Eddie, and
I grudgingly had to admit she had a point. “So you weren’t just trying to set me
“No, I promise.”
I sighed. “It was just so shocking to have him come up to me and tell me you’d
asked him to take me home. Especially after what we talked about the other night.”
“I’m sorry. I would have at least discussed it with you but you’ve been avoiding
me all week. You’d think I had the Black Death.”
I grimaced. “Yeah, sorry about that. I’ve been dealing with a lot since we
“How’s it going?”
“I thought you weren’t going to bring it up.”
“I didn’t, you did. Seth, I could be a friend if you’d let me.”
I looked into her eyes and saw that she was sincere. I decided to take a risk. “I
had a lot of trouble with it up until last night.”
“What happened last night?”
“I told my brother and he was fine with it.”
She broke into a wide smile. “That’s great!”
“Yeah, he’s really cool. Not that it’s all peachy-keen now. I still have a lot of
stuff to deal with, and I’m definitely not ready to come out yet or anything, but at least I know I have someone
in my corner.” I looked over at her and smiled. “Make that two people.”
She gave me a quick hug. It felt weird, but not at all unpleasant. So this is what
it was like to have a real friend. I kind of liked it.
“There would be other people in your corner too, if you’d let them in,” she said
softly into my ear.
I drew back. “I don’t think I’m ready for that yet,” I said.
She smiled and winked at me. “Baby steps,” she said and we both
“Do many people know about you?” I asked.
“Not too many. It’s not like I walk around with a “Dykes to Watch Out For” T-shirt
or anything. I tell people I trust and that I want to know.”
I flushed with pleasure. “I feel honored.”
“You were the first person to know about me,” I told her.
“I thought your Mom and Dad knew,” she said hesitantly, as if afraid to bring up
the subject of my parents.
“So did I,” I admitted. “But apparently I was wrong all this time. Kane, my
brother, said he’s pretty sure they don’t know.”
“But…I thought you said that was why your dad…”
“That’s what I’ve thought all these years, but Kane says he thinks my dad is gay
too and that’s why my mom kicked him out.” I frowned suddenly. I was still new at this friendship thing and it
suddenly occurred to me that I was probably blurting out way more than necessary.
Brooke seemed to read my expression. “Don’t worry,” she said quickly, “I won’t
tell anyone what you tell me. It stays between us. Scout’s honor.”
“You’re not a Boy Scout,” I pointed out.
She smiled. “Maybe not, but you can trust my word.”
“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
“You always have a choice. I didn’t have to tell you about myself, but I thought
it was worth the risk.”
“I’ve not been much of a risk-taker these last few years, but I took one when I
decided to be your friend tonight.”
“Being a friend is always a gamble. So is coming out. I’ve found that the benefits
of both far outweigh the risks.”
I thought about her words for a minute. “Aren’t you afraid?”
“Of coming out? I mean, people get killed over this stuff.”
“You can’t live your whole life in fear, Seth. Then the bigots win. I just decided
one day that I didn’t want to lie about who I was anymore – not to the people that matter. I wanted to be
myself. I wanted to know that they accepted me for who I really am, not just who they think I am. Do I worry
that people might reject me because of who I am? Or that my life might be harder because I’ve chosen to live it
truthfully? Sometimes. But I don’t let it consume me. I can’t. And I can’t live a life of lying and pretending
to be something I’m not. What kind of life is that?”
“Not much of one,” I agreed sadly. I knew that from firsthand experience. “Do you
have a girlfriend?” I asked suddenly.
She shook her head. “Not right now. It’s really hard to find someone, especially
considering the much smaller pool we have to choose from. And then if you’re lucky enough to find someone you
like, it’s really hard to maintain any kind of relationship. There are a lot of things going against us. Like,
there was this one girl that I was really into but she didn’t go to our school, so it was really hard to see
her. Then her parents found out and they didn’t like it at all. They forbid her to see me and that made it even
harder, so we just eventually broke it off.”
“Sounds like Lysander and Hermia,” I said.
She laughed. “Yeah, star-crossed lovers. That was us.”
“Is there anyone you like now?”
“Maybe,” she said teasingly.
My response was cut off by the door opening behind us. It was Cole. He looked out
at us curiously for a second before speaking. “Hey guys, are you ready to go over the play one more
Brooke looked at me with raised eyebrows. “Yeah, I think we’re ready,” I said with
a smile. With an answering grin, she presented her arm and I looped mine through it as we walked towards the
door. Cole gave us a surprised glance before disappearing into the house.
Brooke leaned in just before we broke apart to go in. “Now maybe we can really
rehearse our scene instead of you pretending you’re saying your lines to a mannequin.”
I laughed out loud as I followed her in.
Once back in the basement, we started from the top with Act 1, Scene 1. It
contains the first big scene for Brooke and me as Hermia and Lysander. The words took on new meaning after our
Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
But, either it was different in blood,--
O cross! too high to be enthrall'd to low.
Or else misgraffed in respect of years,--
O spite! too old to be engaged to young.
Or else it stood upon the choice of friends,--
O hell! to choose love by another's eyes.
Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
Making it momentany as a sound,
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream;
Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and
And ere a man hath power to say 'Behold!'
The jaws of darkness do devour it up:
So quick bright things come to confusion.
If then true lovers have been ever cross'd,
It stands as an edict in destiny:
Then let us teach our trial patience,
Because it is a customary cross,
As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs,
Wishes and tears,
poor fancy's followers.
* * *
The last run-through of the night was, by far, the best. Everyone felt really good
about our parts when we were finished. Now, if the rest of the cast could get their act together, we’d be fine
come opening night.
After we’d finished, Leah announced that she had rented the movie version of “A
Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Rupert Everett, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Calista Flockhart. She invited anyone who wanted
to watch it to stay. “I even have popcorn,” she giggled.
I’d just about had my fill of being social -- baby steps, as Brooke had said – so
I quickly sought her out. Having formed a new bond with her, I assumed she’d be taking me home. She was having
an animated discussion with Allison about Calista Flockhart’s rumored anorexia. As I approached, I took note of
the look in Brooke’s eyes and realized that I now knew who she was attracted to: Allison. I paused and took in
Allison for the first time. She was average height and very curvaceous, not heavy but not stick thin like the
subject of their conversation. Her face was pretty but nothing spectacular. What really stood out about Allison
was her hair, which hung long and straight down her back and was a deep, rich shade of red – and completely
natural. I could understand Brooke’s attraction. Suddenly, I hated to interrupt their conversation, but at the
same time, I really didn’t want to stay for the movie.
Just then, Brooke noticed me standing there like a dork and motioned me over. I
rallied a half-hearted smile and joined them.
“Have you seen this movie before?” Allison asked me, quickly including me in the
“Yeah, several times. It’s really good,” I said with as much enthusiasm as I could
“Then who do you think is prettier? Calista, Michelle, Anna Friel or Sophie
Marceau?” It never ceased to amaze me how even straight girls could talk candidly about how attractive other
women are without shame, but men were forbidden to do the same by our society.
“Um, Anna Friel is the one who played Hermia?” I hedged. In truth, it had never
occurred to me to wonder which was prettier. Meanwhile, Brooke was suppressing a grin with limited
“Yes, and Sophie played Hippolyta.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen it,” I said, desperately wishing for a
distraction. If she’d asked me about the guys, I could have instantly told her that I thought Christian Bale was
hot as Demetrius and Rupert Everett was as sexy as I’d even seen him as Oberon.
My wished-for distraction arrived at that moment in the form of Cole. I’d never
been so glad to see him in my life.
“Are you guys staying for the movie?” he asked. His eyes never left my
“I think I will,” Allison said.
“Me too,” Brooke chimed in, looking at Allison. I felt my face fall. I’d been
hoping she’d say no.
Cole noticed right away. “Hey Seth, if you need a ride home, I’m not staying and I
can give you a lift.”
I considered my options. I didn’t really want to stay and watch the movie,
especially if Brooke was going to be preoccupied with Allison the whole night. On the other hand, while part of
me definitely wanted to accept Cole’s offer, I was a little uncomfortable with being alone with him again. He’d
been acting funny all night and it made me nervous.
Cole stared at me expectantly, and finally I decided that going home was the
better option, even if it meant being alone with him. “Yeah, thanks,” I said softly. “I’d appreciate
His face lit up again with his smile. “You ready now?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. “See ya, Brooke. Bye, Allison.”
“Bye,” they chorused. Brooke winked at me and I stuck my tongue out at
“You guys are pretty good friends, huh?” Cole asked me as we walked
“Who?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“You and Brooke.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess so.” We hadn’t been good friends for that long, but there was
no need to go into that with him.
“That must be nice,” he said, wistfulness evident in his voice. His eyes were
watching the floor as if he had to choose each step carefully to keep from tripping.
“Huh?” I responded with my usual charm.
“I’ve never really had a close friend.”
“Why not?” I blurted out without thinking. I immediately regretted the question.
It was intensely personal, not to mention insensitive. “Never mind, you don’t have to answer that. It was really
rude of me to ask it.”
“No. It’s ok,” he took a deep breath. By now, we were outside and approaching his
car. “Do you mind if we take a walk though?”
“Here?” My voice cracked a bit. I really just wanted to go home. I was getting
more and more uncomfortable by the moment. I glanced around Leah’s neighborhood. It was a nice place; a planned
residential area with trees standing sentry along the street like the guards at
Buckingham Palace. There were no streetlights, so the road was
illuminated only by the light from the houses. It fell across the macadam in a patchwork of shadow and warm
“Yeah. If you don’t mind, I mean. There’s a little park at the end of the
I did mind, but it seemed rude to say so. I shrugged in acquiescence and we set
off at a leisurely pace. Cole was looking everywhere but at me. I took the opportunity to study his face and
wonder what was going on inside his head. I didn’t have to wonder for long.
“I guess I don’t have any close friends because I’m afraid to let anyone get
close,” he said after a minute.
Great, personal confessions. Just what I needed. I hoped he wouldn’t expect
reciprocation. I tried to let the statement lay there, but finally, my empathy for him and my curiosity won
“You always seem to be around a bunch of people at school,” I said, then realized
that it implied I’d been watching him at school. Which I had, but he didn’t need to know that.
Thankfully, he was so caught up in what he was trying to say that he didn’t seem
to notice the implications in what I’d said. “They’re not really friends,” he admitted to me. “None of them are
people I would call if I needed help. I don’t even see them outside of school.”
I could relate to that. “You seem like a really nice guy,” I said
“Thanks,” he said, sounding somewhat sad. “So do you.”
We walked along in a heavy silence until we reached the park. It was just a small
community playground really; a clear area surround by trees with a few pieces of playground equipment in the
center – a swing set, a slide, etc. Cole made for the swings and I trailed along behind him. He settled into the
center swing and I sat in the one to his right. He pushed off gently, but I stayed still. I wasn’t quite sure
what we were doing here.
“Can I ask you a question?” he asked after a few seconds.
I was immediately on guard. “I guess,” I said warily, “Although I may not answer
“That’s fair enough, I guess,” he said. Then he went quiet again. I’d just decided
he’d changed his mind about asking when he spoke up in a voice so soft I could barely hear him. “Why do you
“Wha…wha…I…you,” I sputtered. Whatever I’d been expecting, it hadn’t been that. I
took a deep breath and forced my thoughts into some semblance of organization. “I don’t avoid you,” I
“Yes. Yes, you do,” he said just as softly.
“I…I…” I sighed. “You’re right. I do. I’m sorry.”
“I…I don’t know.”
“I think you do. Do you not like me? Is it something I did?”
“No, it’s not like that,” I said desperately. I silently prayed to whoever might
be listening to open up the ground and swallow me, but of course, it didn’t happen. It never does when you
really want it to.
“Is it because I’m gay?” he asked in that same barely audible
I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up. I jumped off the swing and rushed
into the nearby bushes, but I only dry-heaved. I hadn’t eaten anything since a few chips at lunch and there was
nothing in my stomach to come up. I was greedily gulping air, trying to settle my stomach, when I heard Cole
approaching. I leaned against a tree trunk, keeping my back to him.
“That’s what it is, isn’t it?” he asked. His voice sounded so defeated that I
could barely stand it. “If that’s what it is, I wish you’d just tell me. I’ll leave you alone, I promise. I just
need to know why you always seem like you can’t wait to get away from me.”
“Why does it matter?” I asked hoarsely.
“Because it does. It matters to me.”
“But why? What difference does it make?”
“I don’t know if it will make any difference. It’s not like I can change who I
am.” He paused. “Most of the time, it doesn’t matter. Not with other people anyway.”
I turned slowly to face him. “But it does with me?”
“Yes.” His face was shaded so I couldn’t see his expression. I focused on his
voice, trying to read as much into it as possible.
“Because…because I like you.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. It almost seemed unreal, as if I would awake
any second now and find myself in my bed at home. Things like this didn’t really happen, did they? I stood there
so long that Cole finally gave up on me answering. His shoulders slumped and his head dropped
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Please forget I said that. I won’t bother you
He turned and started walking away.
“Cole, wait,” I said quietly. He stopped and turned back. The moonlight fell
across his face now, plainly showing the glistening tear tracks. I stepped out of the bushes and faced him.
Brooke had said that being a friend was a gamble, but the benefits usually outweighed the risks. I sure hoped so
now, because I was about to take a very big chance.
“You wanted to know why I avoid you. It isn’t anything you did. I didn’t even know
you were gay. The reason I’ve been avoiding you is because…” Deep breath. “It’s because I’m gay and I like you
* * *
We stood staring at each other for what felt like forever, neither of us saying a
word. The silence grew between us until it became an insurmountable wall. Good job, Seth. You really screwed this one up
I’d just about given up when Cole brought the wall crashing down with just one
sentence, “I think maybe we should start over.”
I nodded vigorously, eager to agree to whatever he suggested. “Should we sit back
down?” I asked tentatively.
He answered by walking back over to the swings and settling into the same one he’d
chosen before. He didn’t swing this time, just silently watched as I sat next to him, his eyes never leaving me
for a second.
“I’ve wanted to hear you say that for so long,” he said after a moment. “It almost
seems like it’s just a dream.”
I don’t know what came over me, but I found myself reaching over and pinching Cole
on the arm.
“Ow!” he yelped.
“It’s not a dream,” I said with a giggle.
He grinned suddenly, his face lighting up in that now familiar way. “Wow,” he said
with a happy sigh. “You really like me?”
I grinned back and nodded shyly. We were a couple of giddy
He laughed out loud. “I can’t believe this! I thought you hated me because you’d
heard that I was gay.”
“I was afraid to get too close to you because I thought you’d figure out I was
He laughed again.
I had a million questions and I just couldn’t hold them in anymore. “People know
“Yeah, I thought everybody knew. I’ve not exactly kept it a
“I had no idea.”
“I figured Brooke would have told you, if nothing else.”
“Yeah, we both go to Student Pride.”
“It’s the gay/straight alliance at school.”
“We have one?”
“You’re learning a lot tonight, aren’t you?” he said with a grin. “It’s a great
group. You should come some time.”
“Wait! Slow down. I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. You’re only the third
person that even knows about me.”
“Hey, it’s cool. Everyone should come out at his or her own pace. That’s like rule
number one at Student Pride.”
“I don’t know if I want to come out at all. Nobody bothers you?”
He shrugged. “I guess it depends on what you consider bothering. I get called
names sometimes, but that doesn’t really bother me. I’ve been pushed around a couple times, but I went to the
principal both times and she took care of it. We’re very lucky that they have a pretty strict non-harassment
policy at our school. For the most part, no one really cares who I like.”
I’d never even considered that it might be like this. It amazed me that this had
been going on right under my nose and I’d been so caught up in my misery that I’d missed it
I got lost for a minute in my own thoughts. When I looked up again, he was simply
staring at me.
“What?” I asked, suddenly self-conscious.
“You’re so cute,” he said in a gentle voice.
“Me?” I yipped.
“No way. I’m skinny and goofy and my hair never wants to do anything I tell it
He laughed. “I love your hair; it’s so adorable. You’re so adorable. Do you know
how many times I’ve forgotten lines because I get lost looking at you?”
“Wow. I never even imagined. I’ve always thought you were the most beautiful boy
I’ve ever seen.” I blushed as I said the words. It felt so strange to be talking about this out loud, especially
to Cole of all people. He didn’t say anything for a minute and I found myself terrified that I’d gone too
“I pretend that I’m saying my lines to you,” he said quietly.
“What?” I asked in surprise.
He stood up and turned to face me. The moonlight fell across his face like a
spotlight. He began to speak softly, his voice slowly gaining strength as he recited his lines from the play
with an intensity I’d never heard from him.
“Things growing are not ripe until their season,” he said, “So I, being young,
till now ripe not to reason. And touching now the point of human skill, Reason becomes the marshal to my will
and leads me to your eyes, where I o’erlook Love’s stories written in love’s richest book.”
My breath caught in my throat as the familiar words took on new meaning spoken
directly to me. By the time he finished, my heart was pounding a tattoo that almost drowned out his voice. He
slowly began to move towards me, each step closer caused my heart to beat even faster. He stopped in front of
me, so close I could feel his body heat in the cool night air. I looked up at him, my heart in my throat. He
began to lean in towards me, seemingly in slow motion. I was completely lost in his gaze. His lips slowly
descended to mine.
It was my first kiss and it was from the boy of my dreams. I let go of the chains
to pull him closer.
And suddenly, we were falling.
We hit the dusty ground with a thud, my legs still caught awkwardly in the swing
and Cole landing heavily on my chest.
“Oof,” I grunted.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry,” Cole said as he struggled in vain to disentangle
All at once, the situation struck me as hilarious and I started to laugh. After a
few seconds, Cole joined in. The laughter built until we were howling and Cole once again collapsed against my
chest. Eventually, we laughed ourselves out but we continued to lay like that for a while, catching our breath,
his body creating a pleasant pressure against mine. I had no complaints.
Finally, he pushed himself up on his elbows and looked down at me. “I can’t
believe this is really happening,” he whispered.
“Do I have to pinch you again?” I asked with a smile.
He smiled back, then slowly leaned in for another kiss. This one wasn’t
interrupted by gravity and it proved to be much more satisfying.
After a minute, he gently broke off the kiss. I gave a soft moan of
disappointment; I didn’t want it to end. I was happier than I’d been since Dad had walked out of our lives and
never come back. I hadn’t thought I’d ever be this happy again.
“This probably isn’t the best place to do this,” he said with a
“I don’t care,” I said and tried to kiss him again but he pulled back with a
“What if somebody catches us?”
I hadn’t thought about that. Suddenly I became very aware of the fact that Cole
was lying on top of me in the middle of the playground. “Yeah, okay. Good point,” I conceded.
Cole managed to stand up, then took my hand and helped me get untangled from the
swing. He pulled me to my feet and we stood staring into each other’s eyes, our bodies almost touching but not
quite. I realized he was still holding my hand and looked down. He followed my gaze.
He cleared his throat nervously. “So, um, since you like me and I like you…” He
paused and took a deep breath. “Would you like to be my boyfriend?”
I felt my eyes widen. Wow. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that yet. I began to
stutter, “Oh wow…I mean…whoa…I didn’t expect…” I took a deep breath of my own and forced myself to speak
coherently. “Can I think about it and get back to you?”
Immediately, hurt flashed through his eyes. He let go of my hand as if it had
burnt him and stepped back. “Never mind,” he muttered. “It was a stupid question.”
“It wasn’t a stupid question,” I said quickly. “It’s just that this is all
happening a little quickly here. A couple hours ago, I didn’t even know you were gay. Hell, a couple days ago, I
could barely admit I was. I just need time for all this to soak in, you know?”
He gave a jerky little nod, but I could tell he was still upset. I stepped closer
to him. “Cole, you know I like you. Kissing you was incredible. I’ve never felt like that before. This is all
just really new for me. Please try to understand.”
He visibly relaxed. “I’m sorry. You’re right.” He took my hands in his again and
held them against his chest. “Take all the time that you need. Just please say yes after you think about
I laughed and leaned in against him. He let go of my hands and slid his around my
back, holding me tightly. It felt very right.
“Kissing you was pretty incredible for me, too,” he said into my hair. I tipped my
head to one side and smiled at him. He quickly leaned in and kissed me. Not a long lingering kiss, just a short
sweet buss. “I guess I’d better get you home,” he said after a few minutes of just standing there holding
I sighed. “Yeah, I guess so,” I said reluctantly.
Neither of us moved.
“We’re going to have to let go eventually,” he whispered.
“Yeah, just not yet,” I whispered back.
His arms tightened around me. We stood like that for a few more minutes before I
gently pulled back. He let his arms slide around me until his hands rested lightly on my hips.
“So much changed tonight,” I said as I looked into his eyes.
“All for the better, I hope,” he said with a lopsided smile.
He spun me around by my hips and gave me a gentle push in the direction of Leah’s
house. “If we don’t start walking we’re never going to leave,” he said.
I laughed as I reached back for him and we walked down the street hand in hand. As
we approached Leah’s though, I dropped his hand.
He glanced over at me questioningly.
“I’m not ready for anyone else to know,” I said simply.
He grimaced. “I want to scream it from the roof.” He laughed at my startled
expression. “But I won’t,” he added quickly. “I’ll wait until you’re ready.”
I smiled and he unlocked the passenger side door. As I climbed in, I thought about
how different it was getting into his car now than it had been earlier that day in the school parking lot. He
now knew I was gay and I knew he was too. And not only that, but we had kissed! It seemed so unreal to
As he pulled away from the curb, the questions that had been pushed aside earlier
in the evening began to resurface.
“Have you had a boyfriend before?” I asked him.
“Yes. Twice,” he said softly.
“What’s it like?”
“Well, my last dating experience was a disaster.”
“Oh, I’m sorry…”
“No, it’s ok. I’m past all that. He was a jerk. He cheated on me so I dumped him.
It hurt at the time, but I’m ok now. Live and learn.”
“What about the other one?”
He smiled sadly. “You might say that one is bittersweet.”
“What do you mean?”
“I really liked him; he was sweet and funny and cute. We had a lot of fun
together. It was nice having someone who really understood me. He was great. But he was terrified of anyone else
knowing about us and that wasn’t so great. Sneaking around and lying got old really fast.”
“So what happened?”
“It got to be too much. We started fighting about stupid stuff and eventually we
I thought about that for a minute. “Wouldn’t you just be getting into the same
thing again with me?” I asked.
He glanced over at me and shrugged. “I don’t know. Would I?”
“I’m not ready for people to know.”
“You wouldn’t have to tell the whole school.”
“I don’t know if I’m ready to tell anyone.”
“You told me.”
“That was different.”
“Did she tell you?” I demanded, ready to be furious with her if she
“No,” he assured me quickly. “At least, not exactly. At our Student Pride meeting
earlier this week, she said something about a friend who was having a hard time with accepting that they were
gay. I didn’t associate it with you until you told me tonight.”
“Oh,” I said, slightly mollified, but still a bit miffed that she’d mention me at
“You need to stop being so defensive,” he said gently. “There are a lot of people
who would be supportive of you if you’d let them.”
“I’m not used to letting people get close to me.”
“I’ve noticed. But is that how you want to live the rest of your
My answer came quickly. “No.”
“Then you have to start letting people in. I hope you’ll start with
I turned and studied his face in the light from the dashboard while he drove. He
was so beautiful. It was hard for me to believe he wanted me. It all seemed too good to be true. I was afraid
that if I allowed myself to believe I could be that happy, that something horrible would happen to me. I wasn’t
supposed to be happy. That’s just the way it was. Right? I’d been miserable for so long it was all I
“Is it possible to be afraid of happiness?” I asked almost under my
His mouth tugged down at the corners. “I think so,” he answered thoughtfully. “And
I think it’s all that stands between many people really being happy. Like, it’s right there within reach, if
they were just willing to take a risk and let it happen.”
I sighed. “I think I have a lot to think about tonight. No matter what happens
though, I hope we can be friends.”
“Me too,” he said, giving me a small smile. “And if I’m still hoping for more than
friends, well, you’ll just have to deal with it.”
I laughed. “Baby steps,” I told him.
He laughed too. “As long as we’re moving in the same direction.”
He pulled into my driveway and suddenly I became nervous. What was the protocol
here? We weren’t boyfriends, but we had kissed. Would he try to kiss me now? What if Mom happened to be at the
window? I quickly reached for the door handle.
“Seth?” Cole said quickly. “I really…I really enjoyed tonight. Think about what I
I nodded; hand still on the handle, ready to make a run for it if he made any
“I’d really like to kiss you goodnight, but it’s pretty obvious how you feel about
that,” he chuckled. “So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Cole shall restore
amends,” he said, paraphrasing Puck’s closing speech.
I smiled and felt myself relax. I took a quick look at the house, and seeing no
one at the windows; I took Cole’s hand in mine and leaned in for a short kiss. He didn’t let go of my hand right
away, giving it a gentle squeeze before reluctantly relinquishing it as I swung open the door.
“Talk to you soon?” he asked hopefully.
“Count on it,” I said and was rewarded with another of his illuminating
I practically floated inside. I couldn’t remember ever feeling like this. I
coasted on my natural high all the way to my room, where I dropped backwards onto my bed and just stared at the
ceiling. When I was around ten, I’d become obsessed with astronomy. Dad had bought me a telescope and then
helped me paint my ceiling black with painstakingly applied tiny stars of glow-in-the-dark paint. The light in
the center of the room represented the sun and we painted in all the constellations we could fit. I’d been a
stickler for accuracy and it had taken forever to finish. Since Dad left, I’d thought a few times about painting
over it, but had never actually been able to bring myself to do it. However, it wasn’t the galaxy on my ceiling
that I was seeing now; my mind was far above it, lost among the real stars.
“Hello, Earth to Seth,” a voice rudely brought me back down to Earth. Without
getting up, I turned my head to find Kane standing in my doorway, a bemused expression on his face. “Welcome
back,” he quipped.
“Bite me,” I said with a dopey grin.
“No thanks,” he shot back. “I’ll leave that to your boyfriend.”
“What?” I gasped, sitting up with a jolt. “How…I mean…I don’t have a
Kane started laughing. “Chill out, Seth. I was just kidding.”
My heart was in my throat as I glared at my little brother. “Well, it wasn’t
funny.” I had hoped to sound stern but it came out rather whiny. It made Kane laugh all the harder. I continued
to glare until he’d calmed himself down.
“So, how’d it go tonight?” he asked once he’d regained his
“What do you mean?” I asked defensively.
He rolled his eyes. “The play practice? You were a nervous wreck before you left.
Or was that just because what’s-his-name was driving you?”
“Cole, his name is Cole.”
Kane smiled mischievously. “So it was Cole you were nervous
I growled warningly.
“Oh come on. I want to know what happened to make you act all
“Nothing happened. And I was not acting goofy.”
“Yes you were. Something obviously happened and I want to know what. Please tell
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“Please, Seth?” He gave me his puppy dog eyes and I felt myself giving in. He
didn’t use them often, but when he did, I just couldn’t say no. “I’m your little brother!”
“Fine,” I surrendered huffily. “But come in and close the door.”
He grinned triumphantly as he shut the door and bounced up onto the bed next to
“So what happened?” he asked eagerly.
“Practice went really well,” I started off slowly. “Everyone knows their parts
really well now and we all feel a lot better about the play.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Kane interrupted. “Can we get to the good part
I gave him a playful shove. “Who’s telling this story?”
“Obviously not me or we’d be to the good part already.”
I laughed. “Okay, okay. After practice, Leah had rented a movie and invited
everyone to stay and watch it. I didn’t want to but Brooke did, so Cole offered to drive me
“Mmmhmm,” Kane said, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. I felt my cheeks heat up
and knew I was blushing.
“Anyway,” I continued. “When we got outside, Cole asked if we could take a
“Mmmhmm!” Kane said again.
“Look, are you going to keep interrupting with your little
He giggled. “Okay, I’ll stop. I promise.”
“As I was saying, he asked if we could take a walk and I agreed, but I was really
nervous. So we walked to this little park at the end of the street and he asked me why I was avoiding him. I
said I wasn’t.” Kane snorted and got a warning glance. I took a deep breath. “Then he asked me if it was because
“I knew it!” Kane shouted, jumping to his feet.
“Do you mind?”
“Not at all. What happened next?” he asked, practically bouncing up and down in
his excitement. “Did you kiss?”
“Kane!” I gasped in shock.
“What? Did you?”
“You did, didn’t you?” he crowed.
“Shh!” I hissed.
He jumped up on the bed again, bouncing up and down the whole time. “Seth and Cole
sittin’ in a tree,” he started to sing.
I grabbed a pillow and shoved it over his face. “Will you keep it down! Jeez,
you’re going to have Mom in here if you don’t stop.”
He went limp and I removed the pillow.
“Sorry, I’m just excited for you,” he said with a grin.
“A little too excited if you ask me.”
He suddenly became serious and sat up. “Seth, you don’t understand. You’ve been
there for me for so long – always trying to make sure I had everything I needed and that I was happy – but
nobody was there to make you happy. It’s just really great to see you find someone you like and who makes you
I felt a little teary all of a sudden. I grabbed him and pulled him against me for
a tight hug.
“So,” he asked after a second. “How was the kiss?”
I laughed and pushed him away. I wiped my eyes and decided to just give in and go
with it. “It was incredible,” I sighed happily.
“Did you use tongue?”
“None of your business.”
“Did you?” He pulled the puppy dog eyes again.
“Yes,” I admitted with a blush.
“Did you guys do it?”
“Kane!” I cried. “I can’t believe you asked me that! Of course
He giggled. “I was just kidding. But seriously, are you guys, like, boyfriends
“No,” I said slowly, drawing the word out. “He asked me, but I said I needed to
think about it.”
“What’s to think about? You like him, he likes you…seems simple enough to
“That’s just it, though. It’s not that simple. Maybe if we were straight it would
be, but we’re not.”
“Well duh. Thanks for that newsflash. Why isn’t it that simple?”
“Okay, look. If you want to date a girl, you can just ask her out and if she says
“What do you mean ‘if’?”
“…if she says yes, you can walk down the halls at school holding hands and no one
will even blink. But if I say yes to Cole, then we have to be really careful. There are a lot of people out
there who don’t like gay people. They could make life really hard for us, or even hurt us.”
“Then don’t hold hands at school.”
“There are other reasons too.”
“I’ve barely accepted that I’m gay, I don’t know if I’m ready to jump right into
being someone’s boyfriend.”
“You won’t know unless you try.”
“And what about Mom and Dad?”
“Huh?” That brought him up short. I’d begun to think he had an answer for
everything. “What do they have to do with this?”
“I need to know what happened with Dad. If Mom really kicked him out because he
was gay, then she’d really freak out if she found out I was. It was hard enough to pretend to be straight all
these years when I didn’t have any friends. How much harder will it be if I have a boyfriend?”
“How are you going to find out about Dad?”
“I’m going to try and find him.”
Kane’s eyes grew round. “How?”
“I don’t know exactly. I guess I could start with the phone
Kane was out of the room in a flash and back with the phone book almost as fast.
We quickly flipped to the C’s and found Connelly. There were several in our calling area, but none named
“Maybe he didn’t stay in the area,” Kane ventured.
“Or he has an unlisted number,” I mused.
“So what now?”
“I don’t know. Any ideas?”
“Do you know where he went when he left here?”
I thought back. “He was next door when I was waiting for the bus the morning
after,” I said.
“With Mr. Grant and Mrs. Lydia?”
“Maybe they would know where he went.”
“The question is where did they go?”
The Marsh’s had moved into the house next to ours a few months before Dad left.
They’d quickly become friends with Mom and Dad and were over here quite often. After Dad left, Mom suddenly
stopped spending time with them. They’d moved out of the neighborhood within a year.
We turned back to the phone book and this time, we struck gold. Grant Marsh was
listed in the phone book living in the next town over. I copied the number into a notepad and tucked into a safe
place. I couldn’t call now, it was too late, but I’d call the next chance I got.
“It’s late, kiddo,” I said, glancing at the clock. “You’d better get to
“It’s a Friday night, I don’t have to get up early in the morning,” he
“What do you want to do? Stay up all night?”
“I want to keep talking to you.”
He grinned. “I want to hear more about that kiss.”
I threw a pillow at him, which he easily dodged. “No way, José,” I said as I felt
my cheeks flush.
“Aw, come on,” he wheedled. “You’re my big brother. You’re supposed to tell me
these things. How else will I know what to expect from my first kiss?”
“Well, unless you’re planning on kissing a guy, there won’t be much
He made a face. “Okay, fine. But what are you going to do about
I sighed. “I don’t know yet and I really don’t want to talk about it
“Well, in that case, I guess I will go to bed,” he said. He started for the door
but then suddenly scooped up the pillow I’d thrown at him and gave me a solid whack across the face. “Hopefully,
that knocked some sense into you,” he said with a wicked grin. He was out the door before I could
A few seconds later, the door reopened just wide enough for Kane to stick his head
in. “For the record,” he said in a serious tone. “I think you should go for it.” He closed the door again,
leaving me alone with my thoughts.
* * *
I woke up early the next morning with a renewed sense of purpose. I was determined
to find Dad -- the sooner the better. I needed to talk to him, to know what had happened. I felt as if there was
some vital information missing that I had to have in order to move on with my life.
I forced myself to wait until what I considered to be a decent hour before calling
Mr. Grant. Mom had left to do some shopping and Kane was out skating, so I had the house to myself. Being a
Saturday morning, I’d hoped the Marsh’s would be at home and my guess turned out to be right. A woman answered
the phone on the second ring.
“Uh, is Grant Marsh there?” I asked hesitantly.
“Yes, hold on while I get him,” she told me. A moment or two later, a man came on
“Mr. Grant?” I paused. Now that I had him on the phone, I wasn’t quite sure what
to say. “Um, I don’t know if you remember me or not. My name is Seth Connelly. You used to live next door to
“Of course I remember you, Seth,” he said quickly, the curiosity and perplexity
plain in his voice. “How’s your mom?”
“She’s fine,” I answered. “But actually, I was calling about my
“Your…dad?” I’d obviously surprised him.
“Yes. Do you, uh, know where he is?”
“Do I what? You mean you don’t know?”
“No. I haven’t seen him since he moved out. The last time I saw him he was at your
“Oh wow, I had no idea it was that bad,” he muttered to himself. A long silence
stretched on the phone.
“Mr. Grant?” I asked, reminding him I was there.
“Yes, Seth. I’m sorry. I was trying to decide what to do.”
“I just need to talk to him. Please.”
He sighed. “You’ve placed me in a very awkward position, Seth. Obviously, your
mother has kept you from your father for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but I hate to go behind her
back. At the same time, I hate to see you and your dad kept apart. I know he wants to see you. I don’t see him
much these days, but I know he’s gone through some hard times missing you boys.”
“If he misses us so much, why hasn’t he tried to see us?” I couldn’t help
Another pause. “You’ll have to talk to him about that.”
“So you’ll tell me how to find him?”
Another sigh. “Yes.”
“Thank you! Thank you so much!”
“Don’t thank me yet,” he said sourly. “The truth is, I lost touch with your dad
after our mutual friend died. He kind of withdrew to himself for a while. I know that when he moved out of Uncle
Charlie’s house, he got an apartment or townhouse or something like that, but I don’t really know where it
“Charlie was a friend of mine who I introduced your dad to when he needed some
help. He died last year.”
“Oh. Do you at least know his phone number? It’s not listed in the phone
“Hang on a second and I’ll see if I have it.”
I heard him set the phone down and then sat anxiously as I waited for him to come
back. My stomach was clenched in anticipation; I could almost hear the blood rushing in my ears. Finally, after
what seemed like an eternity, he came back on the line.
“Good news!” he announced and I breathed a sigh of relief. “Not only did I find
his phone number, but I also found an address that I don’t remember him giving me. My wife must have written it
in there. Do you have a pen and paper ready?”
“Hang on,” I gasped as I scrabbled around the desk for a piece of paper and a pen.
I ripped the bottom off a grocery list I’d started earlier in the week and started testing pens. It seemed like
every one I grabbed had run dry. “Okay, go ahead.”
He read off a phone number and address for me as I scrawled it onto the paper with
a shaking hand. It was a Baltimore address. That meant he wasn’t far away at all. All this time he’d been living so close
and I hadn’t even known it. For that matter, I’d been so busy being angry at him for leaving that I’d never even
wondered where he was.
I thanked Mr. Grant and hung up. For a long time, I just sat and stared at the
torn sheet of paper. It was my first tangible link to Dad in years. If I chose, I could pick up the phone right
now and call him, hear him speak. It had been so long since I’d heard his voice. My hand reached out for the
phone, almost of its own volition, but I stopped just short of picking up the receiver.
Hearing him wasn’t enough. I wanted to see him.
I pulled my hand away from the phone and tried to figure out how to get to him.
Once again, I found myself cursing the fact that I couldn’t drive yet. I pulled out my wallet and stared
dejectedly at its pathetic contents: three whole dollars. That left a taxi out. I could probably take a bus, but
I’d never ridden one in my life and, if I had to be honest, I was a little scared at the prospect. There was no
way I could walk there; I wasn’t even sure where “there” was.
Suddenly, a crazy idea occurred to me. Or maybe it wasn’t so crazy. I quickly
looked up a phone number and dialed it.
“Hello,” I said when someone answered. “Is Cole there?”
“Speaking,” he said and despite my reason for calling, I felt a quickening of my
“Hi, Cole,” I said, suddenly shy. “This is Seth.”
“I know. I recognized your voice.” He sounded genuinely happy that I’d called and
I suddenly felt guilty for only calling him because I needed a ride.
“Oh…I…uh…I need to see you,” I stammered.
“Really?” He sounded excited.
“Um, yeah. I need to talk to you about something. And I kind of need a
“Anything,” he said without hesitation.
“You may want to hear me out before you commit to anything,” I warned
“When do you want to talk?”
“Anytime, but preferably not on the phone. Are you busy now?”
“Not really. I was just hanging around the house. You want me to come
“Sure. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
We said goodbye and I hung up. Once again, I stared at the address. I was getting
closer all the time, but closer to what? I slipped the scrap of paper into my pocket and went to watch at the
front window for Cole to arrive.
I had intended to head him off in the driveway and ask him if we could go
somewhere else, but he was out of the car before I could even get to the door and it seemed rude not to invite
him in. I was nervous as hell since I didn’t know when Mom would be home. I really didn’t want to have to
explain Cole to her; I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a friend over to the house.
I quickly showed him around the house, which didn’t take long since it wasn’t very
big, and the tour ended in my room. As he stepped into my sanctuary, I suddenly felt very vulnerable. Except for
Kane and my mom, no one had been in here for years. I wondered what Cole would think of the painted ceiling that
suddenly felt extremely juvenile. Or the ragged teddy bear sitting on top of my dresser, the one I’d had since I
was born. Or the assortment of academic trophies on the shelf. Would he see me as an immature geek? I held my
breath as he looked around.
“Nice,” he said and I let out my pent up breath in a whoosh. “The ceiling is
really cool,” he added.
“My dad and I painted it,” I said softly.
He turned to face me. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you mention your dad before,”
he said casually.
“I haven’t seen him in years,” I blurted out.
His eyes widened. “Oh my God! I’m so sorry,” he said as he reached out a hand, as
if to snatch back his words.
“No, it’s…it’s ok. It’s a long story.”
“I have time,” he said and looked into my eyes. I tried to look away, but somehow
couldn’t. I saw something there that made me want to tell him the whole story -- but not here.
“Can we go somewhere else and talk?” I asked.
He gave me a confused look.
“I don’t know when my mom is coming home and I’d rather not be here when she
Understanding flooded his eyes. He had such expressive eyes. I could tell almost
every thought that went through his mind without him even needing to speak. If I’d been able to look him in the
eyes before, maybe I would have seen his feelings for me before things reached the point they did at the park
last night. Not that I would have had the nerve to act on them, so maybe it was better that things had happened
the way they had.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked me.
I shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Anywhere.”
He smiled. “Then I have an idea.”
“I’ll surprise you.”
I found myself smiling in return. We started for the door at the same time and
“You go first,” I said shyly.
He just stared into my eyes and once again, I was caught in his
“I couldn’t stop thinking about you after I dropped you off last night,” he said
in a husky voice.
My breath caught in my throat as he leaned slowly towards me. His lips closed over
mine and my arms instinctively circled around his neck. I was losing myself in his kiss when I heard the front
door open. I leaped away from Cole as if I’d been burned.
“I’m sorry…” he started but I shook my head to cut off his unnecessary
“Let’s go,” I said, eager to get out before Mom did something to embarrass
I made a beeline for the door, passing Mom as she went into her bedroom with an
armload of purchases.
“I’m going out,” I called to her.
She glanced up to respond and stopped when she saw Cole. Her eyes narrowed and she
stepped back into the hall.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” she said.
“Mom, this is Cole. Cole, this is my mother, Eve Connelly.”
“Eve Douglas,” she responded quickly. My eyes grew wide. I hadn’t known she’d gone
back to her maiden name. “What’s your last name, Cole?”
“McBride, ma’am,” he answered politely.
“Where are you going?” she asked me, although her eyes never left Cole. I was
impressed that he refrained from squirming under her scrutiny. Where her sudden interest in my activities had
come from, I didn’t know. Usually she couldn’t care less what Kane and I did as long as we left her alone and
stayed out of trouble.
“Just out,” I said.
She finally turned her icy glare to me. It’s funny how when you’re around someone
all the time, you tend to stop really looking at them, but now I saw her as Cole must see her. She was a small
woman, barely reaching five foot in height and if she weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet, I’d be surprised.
But what she lacked in size, she made up for in personality. She exuded an intimidating aura that left men more
than twice her size trembling in her wake. She’d had long hair when I was younger, but a few years ago, she’d
started wearing it short, almost severely so. It was still as fiery red as ever, but now instead of curtain of
red gold, the spiky locks more closely resembled dancing flames. Her eyes were the same shade of intense green
that both Kane and I shared.
She stared at me for a few seconds and then she simply turned and went back into
her bedroom. “Don’t be late,” she called over her shoulder, almost as an afterthought.
“Let’s go,” I said, grateful for the release.
“Wow, your mom is intense,” Cole said once we were in his car.
“You’re telling me,” I muttered.
“Is she like that all the time?”
“But not always?”
I gave him a quizzical look. “Why all the questions about my
“I’m sorry,” he said, blushing slightly. “I just want to know everything about
you. I guess I’m just trying to find it all out at once.”
“We have plenty of time,” I said with a smile. He smiled back, started the car,
and backed out onto the road. “Do I get to know where we’re going yet?” I asked.
“Nope,” he said with one of his grins. “But feel free to start talking any time. I
can drive and listen at the same time.”
“Talk about what?” I asked in confusion.
He shrugged. “Beats me. You’re the one who said you needed to talk to me when you
called earlier. If you don’t know what about, I sure don’t.”
I laughed but then sobered up quickly. Cole noticed and glanced over at me with
concern on his face.
“Hey look, if this is about me asking you to be my boyfriend, you’re right, it was
too fast. I should have never asked. It was wrong of me to put you in that position.”
“It’s not about that. And you had every right to ask. I just need a little more
time. Actually, what I did want to talk to you about is one of the reasons why I need more
“I’m listening,” he said gently when I paused.
I took a deep breath. “When I was twelve, I woke up one night to hear my parents
fighting. That was nothing new really; they’d been fighting for about as long as I could remember, but that
night it seemed worse than usual. So I got out of bed and tried to sneak out into the hallway to hear what they
were fighting about.
“When I opened the door, my little brother Kane was already out in the hall and he
barged into the living room where Mom and Dad were. Dad sent us back to our rooms, but I couldn’t sleep. Later
that night, I went into Kane’s room to see if he’d heard more than I did. He had and he started telling me about
it. He said he’d heard them use the word faggot. I panicked. I knew what a faggot was and I was pretty sure I
was gay by that time. I went to the living room and there was my mom at the computer, looking at all the
pictures I had on there.” I paused again and glanced over at Cole, trying not to blush. His eyes were on the
road but I had no doubt that he was listening intently. “They were pictures of naked boys. I figured they’d
found them and that’s what they were fighting about. I went back to my room and cried myself to sleep. The next
morning, Dad was gone. I never saw him again. Mom never mentioned the pictures and we weren’t allowed to talk
about Dad. That was when she started changing.”
“Oh wow. Seth I’m so sorry…” Cole started.
“Just wait,” I interrupted. “I’m just getting started. I spent the next few years
believing that Dad left because he found out I was gay and couldn’t handle it and that Mom had pulled away
because she was disgusted too, but stuck with me as my mother. I tried to be the perfect son. And I tried to be
straight. I kept thinking that if I was good enough, maybe she’d love me again and somewhere in the back of my
mind, I hoped Dad would come back. Neither happened, but something else happened recently that changed
“When I came out to Kane, he told me what else he’d heard that night. It has
nothing to do with me.”
“You mean they didn’t know you’re gay?”
“No, they have no idea from what I can tell now.”
“Then why did Kane hear them say something about a faggot? And why did your dad
“They were fighting because my dad is gay too.”
“What?” he exclaimed, looking over at me and swerving dangerously into the wrong
“Eyes on the road!” I squealed. Once the car was back on the right side of the
road, I continued. “From what Kane heard, Dad is gay and Mom freaked out about it. Which I guess I can
understand. She threw him out.”
“But why haven’t you seen or heard from him since he left? Even if they got
divorced, wouldn’t he have visitation rights?”
“I don’t know. That’s one of the things I want to talk to him
“You’re going to talk to him?”
“I hope so. That’s what I need your help with.”
“Yeah. I managed to get his address, but I don’t have any way of getting
“I’ll take you,” he said immediately.
“Are you sure? I mean, I hate to even ask, but I don’t have anyone
“You didn’t ask. I offered.”
“But I mean…”
“I offered, Seth. I want to do this for you. I want to help.”
I was suddenly overwhelmed by emotion and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I
turned quickly towards the window as the first few tears squeezed out and rolled down my cheeks. “Thank you,” I
managed to mumble.
As I stared out the window, I noticed where we were for the first time. We’d
driven into the city and we were heading steadily towards the Inner Harbor. Baltimore’s harbor is one of the oldest harbors in
America. It had become a very dangerous and
seedy place until the 1970’s when it was completely redeveloped and restored. Now it’s a beautiful tourist
attraction with restaurants, shops, the National Aquarium, street entertainers and much more.
“We’re going to the Inner Harbor,” I announced brilliantly. As if this was news
“It’s about time you figured it out.”
“My mind was on other things,” I defended myself, but with a smile, since I knew
he was only kidding. I realized that I’d better snap out of it and start paying more attention to
“Oh, is my presence distracting you?” he teased.
I gave him a sidelong glance from under lowered lashes, trying to act as sexy as I
knew how. I didn’t have a lot of practice. “You know it,” I purred…or tried to purr. I guess I pulled it off
because I got the satisfaction of seeing Cole blush.
“Ahem,” he cleared his throat. “I, uh, was planning on maybe taking you to the
Aquarium if you were interested, but if you want we can just go right to your dad’s.”
“The Aquarium?” I repeated dumbly. The National Aquarium is world-famous and huge.
It’s home to over 10,000 animals. It also costs about $18.00 to get in. “I, uh, didn’t bring any money with
“That’s ok. I was planning on paying for you anyway.”
“You don’t have to do that!”
“I know, but I was hoping you’d let me. Think of it as our first
I felt my face flush with pleasure. I could barely wrap my mind around the idea of
me going on a date with Cole McBride. It didn’t seem possible.
We had a great time. For a while, I was able to forget everything else and just
enjoy being with Cole. We tried to be as discreet as possible, but the occasional lingering touches or quick
kisses stolen when no one was in sight were as exciting as anything I’d ever experienced. Our visit finally had
to come to an end, though. I felt sad that it was over, but as soon as we stepped outside, my thoughts
immediately went back to my father. I guess Cole sensed the shift in my mood, because he didn’t waste any
“Are you ready to go look for your dad now?” he asked.
I took a deep breath. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“So what’s the address?”
I dug out the scrap of paper and handed it to him. He cocked an eyebrow and let
out a low whistle. “I have an aunt who lives in this neighborhood,” he said. “It’s really
“So you know where it is?” I asked excitedly.
“More or less. Let’s go.”
I spent the drive in quiet anticipation. Cole seemed to sense my need for silence
and respectfully left me to my thoughts. I was so nervous by the time we arrived in front of the two-story
brownstone townhouse that I felt like I was about to crawl out of my skin.
Cole shut off the car, but I didn’t move to get out. After a minute, Cole spoke
up. “I, uh, can’t imagine how scary this must be,” he said softly, “but I want to respect your privacy and all,
so I’ll stay in the car if you want.”
I shook my head no. “Please come with me,” I managed to whisper.
Cole slipped out of the car, came around to my door, and opened it for me. Still,
I sat unmoving. I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car. Cole reached out a hand and I reluctantly
took it and let him draw me from my seat.
“Now what?” I asked. My voice broke on the second word, sending the end of the
question into an upper register that caused me to flinch.
“Now we go find which one is his and knock on the door,” Cole said
“What if he’s not home?” Now that we were here, I was determined to postpone this
as long as possible.
“Then we come back another time.”
“What if he doesn’t want to see me?”
“Then we leave, but I seriously doubt that’s going to happen.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous in my life,” I
He took my hand in his and smiled at me. “That’s why I’m here.”
After a few shaky breaths and I was ready. Finding which one was Dad’s townhouse
was as easy as finding the unobtrusive brass letters above the doors. I stood in front of Dad’s door shaking
with nerves and squeezing Cole’s hand so hard it’s a miracle I didn’t shatter it. I was about to chicken out and
make a break for the car when Cole reached up and knocked on the door.
“What did you do that for?” I gasped.
“It’s what you do when you want someone to answer the door,” he said mildly. “And
you looked like you were about run.”
Before I could respond, the door swung open. Standing in the doorway was my Dad.
He didn’t really look any different than the last time I’d seen him, except maybe not as tall. I guess he hadn’t
shrunk, I’d just gotten taller. His shoulders were just as broad, he still wore his reddish-blonde hair short,
and his eyes were the same shade of pale blue. He looked like he was in better shape, but other than that, it
was the Dad I remembered.
As he focused on my face, it took him a second to realize who I was, then a few
more seconds to process the fact that I was standing on his doorstep. He stared speechlessly at me, his eyes
wide, and his mouth forming a perfect “O” of surprise.
“Hi Dad,” I squeaked.
“Oh my God, Seth,” he whispered, and then a shout, “Seth!” He leaped towards me
and threw his arms around me in a bone-crushing bear hug. The next thing I knew, I was clinging to him like a
child and weeping into his shoulder, Cole all but forgotten. I don’t know how long we were lost in our own
little world, speaking a language that isn’t spoken aloud, but eventually I became aware that Cole was still
standing awkwardly on the steps and we’d been joined by another man around Dad’s age.
I didn’t want to let go, but Dad gently pushed me away and held me by my
shoulders, looking me over intently.
“I can’t believe how much you’ve grown,” he said, his voice choked with emotion.
“I doubt I’d even recognize Kane now.”
I couldn’t help grinning. “He doesn’t look that different. He’s not grown as much
as I have.”
He shook his head in confusion. “But what…how…?”
“It’s a long story,” I said.
He suddenly seemed to remember that we weren’t alone. “Well we can’t stand out
here on the front steps all day. Come in, and, uh, you too, of course,” he added to Cole, who was still trying
to melt into the scenery.
We followed Dad and the other man through a short entranceway and into a
well-decorated living room. The color scheme was decidedly masculine, all dark browns and tans. It was very cozy
and den-like. I don’t know what I had been expecting but this wasn’t quite it. We all stood awkwardly in the
center of the room for a few moments; no one seemed to know what to say. Finally, Dad took the initiative and
began a round of introductions.
He cleared his throat. “Steve, this is my son Seth,” he said formally. “Seth, this
is…” He paused and looked into Steve’s eyes. “…this is my boyfriend, Steve.”
Steve was about the same height as Dad, a little over six foot, and in just as
good shape. His hair and eyes were dark and he had a small neat mustache. He smiled at Dad’s words and then
shook my hand.
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Seth. I’ve heard an awful lot about
I couldn’t help but blush. “It’s nice to meet you too, Steve.”
And then it was time for me to introduce Cole.
“Cole, this is my Dad.” As I was speaking, several things clicked into place at
once. I took a deep breath and couldn’t hold back my grin. “Dad, this is my boyfriend, Cole.”
I don’t know who was more surprised, Cole, Dad, or Steve. The looks on their faces
were so comical it was all I could do not to laugh out loud.
“Boyfriend?” Cole and Dad chorused, recovering at the same time.
I just grinned in response.
“Gay,” I announced happily. It felt so right and so…good just to say it out loud.
It was strangely freeing. It was almost like I was accepting it myself for the first time.
Dad looked like he needed to sit down. For that matter, so did Cole. Steve must
have agreed with my assessment, because he gently took Dad by the arm and led him to the nearby sofa. “Have a
seat,” he said, indicating the two overstuffed armchairs. Cole and I sat and waited for Dad to process this new
bit of information.
“So how did you find your dad?” Steve asked to fill the silence.
“I called our old neighbor, Mr. Grant, to see if he happened to know where Dad was
living now. I lucked out and he did.”
“Pretty resourceful,” Steve commented.
“You’re gay?” Dad asked suddenly, sounding incredulous.
“Did you know I was before you came here?”
“Yeah, but I just found out recently.”
“I guess your mother told you.”
“No, actually Kane did. Mom never even mentions you.”
“Kane?” Dad exclaimed. “How does he know?”
“He overheard you and Mom fighting that night…the night you left. He’s known all
along but he never told me. I guess he thought I knew too.”
Dad shook his head in disbelief. “When did you figure out that you were gay?” he
“I knew before you left. Actually, I’ve spent the last few years thinking that was
why you left.” A pained expression crossed Dad’s face. “I thought you and Mom found out and you couldn’t
stand it so you left. I tried to pretend I was straight, but…”
Dad exploded with a strangled sob. I was across the room before Steve could get
his arm around Dad’s shoulder. I knelt in front of my father and hugged him close. “It’s ok, Dad,” I whispered.
“Cole’s really helped me a lot.”
He struggled to get himself under control. “I don’t ever want you to have to
pretend to be something you’re not,” he managed to say. “I did that for most of my adult life, and you and Kane
were the only good things to come out of it.”
Steve got up from the couch to make room for me and I slipped into the warm spot
“Why would you think we knew you were gay?” Dad asked.
“I thought you found my pictures on the computer and figured it
His eyes grew large. “Those were your pictures?”
I blushed. “Where did you think they came from?”
He shook his head. “Your mother thought they were mine and I thought she’d
downloaded them just to use against me.”
“Use against you how?” I asked sharply.
Dad pursed his lips. “Never mind. I shouldn’t have said as much as I have. I was
just so shocked…”
“No, tell me.”
He sighed. “Those pictures could have sent me to jail. There was no way to prove I
hadn’t downloaded them. Your mother threatened to tell the police they were mine if I didn’t stay away from you
My mouth fell open. I couldn’t believe she could do something like that. Then
again, why was I surprised? I’d seen what she had become -- an empty, bitter woman. She didn’t really care about
Kane and me at all. And she’d kept Dad away from us.
“All this time I just thought you didn’t care about us,” I said in a small
The tears started to roll down Dad’s face again. “I did care. I cared so much that
I stayed away to try and protect you. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do, I don’t know, but I did what I
thought was best at the time.”
We cried together for a few minutes and then we both seemed to dry up at the same
“Oof,” Dad said, humor warming his voice. “I haven’t cried like that in quite a
“But it was good crying,” I noted. I looked around and noticed that Steve and Cole
had thoughtfully left us alone.
“So…” Dad said slowly. “How is your mother?”
I frowned. “Who knows? She lives in her own little world. She never pays attention
to Kane and me except to yell at us if we do something wrong.”
Dad pressed his lips into a thin, straight line. “Then she doesn’t know you’re
gay?” I shook my head no. “You might want to keep it that way for now,” he said, his voice carefully neutral.
“And how’s Kane?”
“He’s good. He’s a great kid. More like my friend than my little brother. Very
mature for his age.”
“Sounds like he’s had to be,” Dad said dryly. “Like you,” he added after a
I grimaced. “I don’t feel very mature. Most of the time I feel like I’m some dumb
little kid that just manages to screw everything up.”
He laughed. “Hey, I still feel that way too sometimes.” He looked and me and just
shook his head. “I can’t believe you’re sitting here in my living room.”
I grinned and wiggled my eyebrows. “Believe it.”
He laughed. “Let’s go find Steve and your friend.”
“Boyfriend,” I corrected him, feeling a warm fuzziness just saying the
“Boyfriend,” Dad repeated. “He seemed as surprised as I was at that pronouncement.
How long have you two been boyfriends?”
“How long have we been here?” I asked and we both laughed again. “He asked me a
few days ago but I wasn’t sure before. Somehow, it just seemed right at that moment.”
“I think I can understand that. What’s his name again?”
“Cute name.” He grinned. “Cute kid. You have good taste.”
I giggled. “I could say the same for you.”
We located Cole and Steve in the kitchen. They were sitting at the table eating
ice cream and looking awkward. Steve jumped up as we came into the room.
“Everything okay?” he asked, his eyes shifting between the two of
“Everything is great,” Dad said.
“Ice cream?” Steve offered.
“None for me, thanks,” Dad said.
“Me either, but thanks anyway,” I said, sitting next to Cole. He looked over at me
“So, will we be seeing more of you around here?” Steve asked.
I looked over at Dad, but he just shrugged. “I sure don’t have a problem with it,
but I have a feeling your mom would.”
“She doesn’t have to know,” I suggested tentatively.
Dad raised his eyebrows. “I don’t know if I want to be a part of lying to your
mother and sneaking around behind her back.”
I felt my face crumple. “But I just found you again!” I wailed. “I don’t want to
lose you already.”
He sighed. “I don’t want to lose you either. I guess we don’t really have a
I turned to Steve, eager to change the subject now that I’d gotten permission to
continue seeing Dad. “Do you live here too?” I asked him.
He shook his head no. “I’m just visiting for the weekend. I live on the
“How’d you guys meet?”
Dad and Steve took turns telling the story of how they’d met, and then the
conversation turned to Cole and me. I told them about the upcoming play and invited them both to come. We sat
and talked for a couple hours before Cole reminded me that we needed to get home. I gave Dad my email address so
we could at least stay in touch that way until we could make plans to meet again.
We hugged at the door until Steve and Cole practically had to pry us apart. As
soon as we were in the car, Cole exploded.
“Boyfriend!” he exclaimed with the air of someone who had held something in for
far too long.
I giggled. “Well, if you’d rather not…”
“Are you kidding?” he interrupted me. “I want it more than anything! You just
really caught me by surprise, to say the least.”
“Surprise?” I said and giggled some more.
He leaned over and gave me a quick kiss before starting the car and heading for
home. He glanced over at me out of the corner of his eye. “I’m really glad things worked with you and your Dad,”
he said softly. “And I’m really glad I got to be there for it. It makes me feel closer than ever to
I nodded happily and reached over to take his hand. “I’m glad you were there
We drove home in a contented, comfortable silence. When we arrived home, I leaned
over and gave him a kiss without even thinking about it. I walked inside feeling as if I’d changed today and
wondering if it would be something other people could see from the outside.
Mom was nowhere to be seen, which I was thankful for. I wasn’t ready to face her
right now, knowing what she’d done to us. I went to look for Kane and found him on his bed listening to his
Discman. His eyes were closed and he didn’t hear me come in for the music blasting through the earphones. I
could hear it from the door. I just couldn’t resist. I slowly crept up on him. I was just about to pounce on him
with a roar when he sat up and screamed right in my face. I almost leaped from my skin. Kane collapsed back on
the bed, overcome with laughter.
“Ha ha, very funny,” I said sourly as I sat next to him.
“Gotcha,” he said still giggling. “You should have seen your
“I didn’t think you heard me,” I said, finally cracking a smile. He had gotten me
pretty good, I admitted.
“So what were you up to today? I was surprised when I got home and Mom asked me
who your friend Cole was. She said you left with him this morning?”
I nodded. “What did you tell her?”
“I just said he was a friend from school and that you were both in drama
together.” He narrowed his eyes and stared closely at me. “Something happened today, didn’t
“Is it that obvious?” I asked, breaking into a grin.
“Maybe not to anyone else, but remember who you’re talking to
I got up and closed his door before joining him once again on the bed. “I saw Dad
today,” I whispered.
“What?” he screeched.
“Shh! You heard me. I saw Dad.”
“Oh my God! Tell me everything.”
So I did, quickly taking him through everything that had happened and all I had
learned. When I finished, he just sat silently for a minute.
“In a way, I feel kind of sorry for Mom,” he said after a while.
“You what?” I asked in amazement.
“Come on, you have to admit that would be hard to accept. Finding out your husband
is gay is one thing, that has to be really hard to deal with. But then she found those pictures and thought they
were his, she must have thought that he wasn’t just gay, but he was also some kind of a pervert. It had to be
really hard on her.”
“Hard on her? What about poor Dad? He thought she’d downloaded them to blackmail
him into staying away from us. How do you think he felt? He couldn’t even see us. At least Mom got to see us,
not that she ever seemed to care.”
“I’m not saying that I think it was harder on one that the other, Seth. All I’m
saying is that I can see things from her side too.”
I pouted. I still wasn’t ready to stop being mad at her.
“Anyway,” he said after a minute, “Dad’s okay?”
I nodded grudgingly. “He seems like he’s really good. He has an extremely nice
townhouse and his boyfriend seemed very nice.”
“Good,” he said with a certain satisfaction. “Can I go with you to see him
“Sure,” I said, happy that he now seemed to be back on my side again.
When did it come to taking
sides? a small voice asked inside my head. I purposefully ignored it.
“Oh! I almost forgot to tell you, something else happened today too.”
“What?” he asked.
“Cole and I became boyfriends,” I said, beaming.
“You said yes?” he asked excitedly.
“That’s great!” He threw his arms around me in a tight hug. “I’m so happy for
“Thanks, little brother,” I said affectionately. “I’m really lucky to have a
brother like you.”
“No, I’m the lucky one,” he countered.
“Let’s just say we’re both pretty lucky and leave it at that.”
“Works for me.” He got a thoughtful look on his face. “You know, on second
thought, you really are the luckier one. I wish I could have me for a brother.”
I laughed and gave him a playful shove. “Admit it; you’d be lost without me
looking after you.”
“Hey, I’m not a baby anymore. I can look after myself.”
“Fine, then how about if I go live with Dad?”
He lost his teasing smirk. “You’re not serious, are you?” he asked in an odd
“I hadn’t really thought about it. It just came out.” I thought about it for a
minute. “It does kind of make sense, though, you know?”
“Mom would never allow it.”
“I’m old enough to have some say in where I live.”
“I don’t want you to go,” he suddenly sounded like he could cry at any minute. I’d
had enough crying for one day.
“Kane, I never said I was going anywhere. Chill out.”
He took a few deep, calming breaths. “You’re right, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think I could live without you. You’re not just my brother, you’re my
I pulled him into another hug. “And you’re mine,” I told him. “But you could live
without me if you had to. You’re a strong little man. You’ve got to believe in yourself. You might have to live
without me someday.”
He shook his head into my shoulder. “I don’t even want to think about
“Neither do I, but you never know what could happen.” I felt a strange chill run
down my spine at my words.
“Let’s talk about something else,” he pleaded.
“Okay,” I eagerly agreed and I began to tell him about my trip to the aquarium
with Cole. Soon, he was back to his usual good-natured self, but I couldn’t get my mind off of our conversation.
A nagging sense of foreboding had crept over me, ruining my good mood for the rest of the day.
The dark cloud hung over my head for the next few days, but eventually, as things
progressed with Cole and nothing bad happened, I forgot all about it. And things did progress with Cole. We were
making out every chance we could get, even in school. It was a bit risky to do it at school, but it was like we
couldn’t resist and the risk made it all the more exciting. By the end of our first full week as boyfriends, I’d
even agreed to go to the gay/straight alliance with him.
I was amazed at who I found at the meeting. It was a real eye-opener. I suddenly
understood the strict privacy agreement I’d had to sign before I could attend. I certainly didn’t feel alone
anymore. Not that there was a huge crowd there, but there were more people than I had expected, at least twenty
kids. I reminded myself that some of them might just be straight supporters. I was also surprised by how much I
enjoyed the meeting.
Before I knew it, it was time for the opening night of “A Midsummer Night’s
Dream.” It came off beautifully, almost without a hitch. If Theseus and Hippolyta were a little stiff and needed
a few cues, well, who cares? I never missed a line and neither did Cole. I felt myself flush with secret
pleasure each night when he said the lines he’d quoted to me in the park. His eyes would meet mine and it was as
if he was saying them just to me. Dad and Steve attended the first night, Kane came the last night, and to my
knowledge, Mom didn’t show up at all.
The next couple weeks flew by. I spent all my free time with Cole. I attended the
Student Pride meetings. I even got to see Dad again, although Kane couldn’t go because he had a dentist
About a month after Cole and I started dating, Mom announced one Friday that she
was going out of town for the weekend to visit her father, my grandfather. She gave Kane and me the choice to go
with her or stay home alone. I didn’t hesitate to choose option B. I had never been close to my maternal
grandfather; he was a distant, domineering retired military man of the sort who believes that children should be
seen and not heard. I immediately began to imagine a whole night alone with Cole. I couldn’t wait to talk to
him, but I didn’t have a choice. Tonight was graduation and I wouldn’t be able to talk to him until afterwards.
Leah was supposed to pick me up since Brooke was graduating too.
I dressed in a nice pair of khakis and a deep maroon button-down shirt. I fixed my
hair in its usual carefully mussed look, just for Cole -- he still insisted he liked it that way -- and then I
waited impatiently for Leah to show up.
The ceremony itself was mind-numbingly long. The speaker, someone I’d never heard
of from the State Legislature, was obnoxiously dull. I could have sworn he was a little tipsy. He droned on
about his first job, which apparently involved carrying sacks of shit…and he actually used the word “shit.” It
would have been hysterical if it wasn’t so boring.
Then came the seemingly unending procession of students accepting their diplomas.
We’re a pretty big school, so the graduating class was quite large. Finally, it was over and I went to find
Cole. It took forever to find him in the throng of parents, family, and friends. Everyone looked alike in their
caps and gowns. I finally found him posing for pictures with his parents. I waited quietly until they were
finished before catching his eye. His face lit up as soon as he saw me. His mom turned to follow his gaze and
smiled warmly at me.
“Judging by the look on my son’s face, I’m guessing you must be Seth,” she said as
I approached. I was surprised that she knew about me and it must have shown on my face because she laughed
warmly. “Oh, we’ve heard all about you. All good things of course,” she added with a wink. I know I must have
I shook hands with her and Cole’s father, mumbling something about it being a
pleasure to meet them. She insisted I pose for a picture with Cole and then we stood chatting for a few more
minutes before Mrs. McBride graciously excused her and her husband, leaving me alone with
“Sorry about that,” Cole said as he pulled me into a tight hug.
“Nothing to be sorry about. They seem really nice; it just surprised
“They’re great, but I guess I should have warned you.”
“I have something for you,” I said, handing him the card I’d spent almost an hour
picking out. “And I have a surprise too.” He stopped opening the card and looked at me expectantly. “Read the
He read the card and gave me another hug; this one came with a quick kiss on the
“That was really sweet,” he said. “But what’s my surprise?”
“Well, I have a graduation gift for you.”
“You didn’t have to get me anything, Seth!”
I giggled. “I didn’t get you anything, I’m giving you
He looked at me uncomprehendingly. “Huh?”
“Think you can spend the night at my house tonight?”
His eyes slowly grew as the implications sank in. “But what about your mom and
your brother?” he asked.
“She’s out of town and Kane went with her,” I said with a grin. “I’ll be home
“I’ll ask Mom and Dad,” he said with an answering grin. “Stay here,” he called
over his shoulder as he took off to find them.
While he was gone, I spotted Brooke with her family and went over to congratulate
her. We were still talking when Cole appeared at my side, grinning from ear to ear.
“They said yes,” he said, barely containing his excitement.
“Who said yes?’ Brooke asked, curious as always.
“My parents said I can stay at Seth’s house tonight,” he
Brooke raised an eyebrow and gave me an appraising look. I couldn’t help but
blush, which set Brooke to smirking. “You two boys have fun,” she said with a wink. “But don’t do anything I
I mock frowned. “All things considered, that doesn’t leave much, now does
Brooke laughed out loud and pulled me in for a hug. “I’m going to miss you when I
go off to college,” she said out loud, and then added in a whisper meant only for me, “How about if you do all
the things I wouldn’t do?”
I pulled away blushing hotter than ever. We said our goodbyes and Cole and I left
together. We stopped off at his house so he could pick up a change of clothes, then drove on to my house. It was
dark and empty as anticipated.
Once inside, however, we were both overtaken by a sudden case of
“What do we do now?” Cole asked nervously.
“Want to watch a movie?” I suggested.
We went into the living room and I flipped through our collection of videos, not
seeing anything that appealed to me. I felt Cole move up behind me and slide his arms around my
“Anything you want to see?” I asked.
“More of you,” he whispered huskily as he began to nuzzle my neck. All thoughts of
movies fled from my brain. I gasped raggedly. “Would you be terribly upset if we skip the
“Who cares about a movie?” I said shakily. I turned in his arms to face him and we
began to kiss in earnest. His hands slid under my shirt to caress my chest. I took that as permission to do the
same to him and slowly began to run my hands up and down his back, my lips never leaving his, our tongues
entwined. I don’t know how long we stood there, locked at the lips, before I noticed he was unbuttoning my
shirt. His fingers moved nimbly up the row of buttons, faster than I could have imagined possible. Almost before
I knew what was happening, he was pushing my shirt off my shoulders, where it fell to the floor. I was so caught
up in the moment I didn’t even think to be self-conscious.
I began to unbutton his shirt, but my fingers were clumsy compared to his,
fumbling with each button for far too long. Before I was even half finished, Cole simply grabbed the shirt and
ripped it open, sending the remaining buttons flying in every direction. I broke away from the kiss for the
first time to drink in my first sight of his naked chest. It was just as I’d imagined it. Firm and toned, but
not overly developed. He was beautiful. I looked up into his eyes and found him staring at my
“I’ve wanted this for so long,” he said softly, his voice gruff with
“I’ve never done this before.” For the first time since he’d slipped his arms
around my waist, my brain had time to catch up with my body and I suddenly found myself scared and unsure. He’d
had boyfriends in the past; I was completely new at this. He had experience; I had none. I wasn’t even sure what
to do. What if I didn’t live up to his expectations?
“I know.” He sounded so gentle and loving.
“I don’t want to disappoint you,” I shyly admitted.
His face broke into a tender smile. “You could never disappoint me, Seth.” He
pulled me against him as he kissed me once more. As his bare skin touched mine for the first time, it felt like
fire spreading across my chest. I pressed the entire length of my body against his. I could feel that he was as
excited as I was.
I broke the kiss again, long enough to whisper, “Let’s go to my
We half-walked, half-stumbled down the hall, kissing and touching everywhere,
losing shoes and socks as we went, until we were wearing nothing but our pants when we finally arrived by my
bed. We stopped again, at the same time, almost as if we were thinking with one mind. I stared into his eyes,
searching for something, although I didn’t know what.
“I love you, Seth.” That was it. That was what I’d been searching for. He’d only
whispered the words, but they had sounded like a shout to my heart. I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, to
capture the image into my memory forever. When I opened them again, he was staring at me anxiously. I realized
he was waiting for a response.
I smiled and kissed him gently on the lips. “I love you, too.” He leaned in for
another kiss, but I surprised him by taking a step back. I locked eyes with him, and deliberately began to undo
my pants. His eyes widened as they slowly traveled down my chest and over my stomach to where my hands were
working. I pushed the pants down and stepped out of them. Now I was only in my boxers. He started to take a step
towards me, but I placed a hand firmly on his chest, stopping him. I let my hand slide seductively down his
stomach. He sucked in a breath with a sharp hiss. Finally, my hand reached his waistband. I hooked a finger into
the top of his pants and slid it around to his button. His mouth opened slightly as his breathing deepened. I
undid the button with none of my earlier ineptness, tugged down the zipper, and then slid his pants down,
revealing his tented boxer-briefs. I let my hand trail lightly over his bulge and he gasped out
“I thought you were new at this,” he rasped.
“I am. Just a natural, I guess.”
And then, he was on me, pushing me back until I hit the bed and we fell over onto
it together. Our hands were all over each other and I was suddenly caught up in something bigger than me. I
don’t even know when the underwear came off, but everything after that remains perfectly clear. And it was
incredible. What I didn’t know instinctively, Cole patiently and tenderly taught me. The lessons continued late
into the night, or I guess it was morning, when we finally drifted off to sleep, totally exhausted, but
completely satisfied, at home in each other’s arms.
I awoke with a start to find the sun streaming in through the windows. I glanced
over at the clock to find it was almost noon. Cole was still wrapped around me, his arm across my chest and his leg thrown over mine. His
face was nestled into my neck. I idly wondered what had woken me up.
And then I heard it again. Voices. Inside the house.
With a jolt, I sat up in bed. What was going on? Mom and Kane weren’t supposed to
be back until tomorrow.
“What’s going on?” Cole asked, his voice blurry with sleep.
The voices were louder now and there was no mistaking my mother, especially when
she was angry. And she sounded plenty angry now.
“Shit!” I cursed, as I remembered the trail of clothes we’d left strewn from the
living room to my bedroom. A sudden fear clutched at my heart. This was not going to be
That thought had no sooner crossed my mind when my bedroom door flew open with a
crash that brought Cole bolt upright beside me. We stared in wide-eyed terror at the tiny figure of my mother
standing in the doorway. She looked like one of the mythical Furies, her eyes burning with rage, her lips curled
up in a snarl.
“How dare you?” she growled.
“Shut up,” she snapped. “I don’t want to hear it. God, you make me sick. I can’t
believe this. What? Does it run in families? Is this like some sort of inheritable gene? Some disease that gets
passed down from father to son?”
“Ms. Douglas, it’s not like that,” Cole spoke up, sounding angry. I had to admire
him for his courage, at the same time marveling at his stupidity. “I love…”
“I said shut up!” she screamed at him with a vehemence that even caused me to
flinch. “I leave for one night and come back to find my son in bed with some faggot slut and you think I want to
hear about how you love him? You don’t even know what love is; you’re just a filthy
Suddenly, my vision blurred. I’d always thought that “seeing red” was just a
saying, but I discovered now that it wasn’t. I could never remember being so angry, so filled with
“Shut up,” I said in a menacingly low voice.
Either she didn’t hear me or chose to ignore me. She just kept up with her
horrible diatribe. “I’m so glad I left Kane with my father. I’d hate for him to have to find out his brother is
nothing but a piece of faggot trash.”
“Shut up,” I growled, a bit louder. Something in my voice caused Cole to flinch
away, but there was no stopping my mother.
“I should have known when I found out about your father that he’d probably already
molested you, turned you into…”
“I said shut up!” I roared, leaping out of the bed, heedless to the fact that I
was still completely nude. “Shut up! Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” It finally seemed to sink in that I was
slightly beyond control and I had the pleasure of seeing something akin to fear swim through her
“Do you have any idea how much I hate you?” I said through gritted teeth. “Dad
didn’t make me gay and only a sick mind like yours would even think that. He’s never touched me in a sexual way
and if you ever try to say he has again, I’ll…” I stopped, not sure what I’d do, but I could see in her eyes
that I’d made my point. “I didn’t even know he was gay until a few weeks ago. All these years I thought he left
because he found out I was gay and couldn’t stand it.” Confusion flickered over her face. “That’s right, Mommy
Dearest, I’ve known I was gay since I was twelve. Those pictures you found on the computer? They were mine. I
saw you looking at them that night and thought you’d figured it out. I waited and waited for you two to confront
me. I fell asleep crying. I woke up the next morning to find Dad gone and I blamed myself.” Tears were running
freely down my face now as the words continued to tumble out. “I tried to be straight. I really did. I hoped
that maybe it would make you love me again. You tell Cole he doesn’t know what love is, but you’re the one who
doesn’t know the meaning of the word. All you care about is yourself. I’ve practically had to raise Kane since
She suddenly seemed to flare back up again, attempting to regain control of the
situation. “You’d better not have laid a hand on him,” she shrieked.
“Fuck you!” I screamed. “You just don’t get it, do you? And you never will because
you’re a selfish bitch.”
“Get out of my house,” she screamed back. “Get out and don’t ever come
“Kicking me out, huh, Mom? Just like you did Dad.”
“Get your shit and get out!”
“With pleasure.” I leaped forward and slammed the door in her
“And don’t call me Mom ever again,” she screamed through the door. “I only have
I turned to find a shocked Cole cowering in the bed. As soon as I saw him, all the
adrenaline rushed out of my system and I suddenly felt weak-kneed. I sat heavily on the floor, as the steady
trickle of tears became a torrent. The sobs caught me by surprise, ripping up through me with such force that it
hurt. I don’t know how long I cried before I felt Cole kneeling next to me. He hesitantly wrapped his arms
around me, almost as if he was a little afraid of me. I curled into his body, grateful for the contact. Some
part of my brain vaguely noted that we were both still naked, but there was no eroticism in his touch, only
Eventually, I cried myself out and I pulled gingerly away. We looked at each other
without saying a word. There was something in his eyes that hadn’t been there before, but I wasn’t quite sure
what it was.
“I’m sorry,” I said at last, although I wasn’t exactly sure what I was apologizing
for. That he’d had to witness that? That we’d gotten caught? Everything?
“I…” He paused. “I thought you were going to hit her,” he said
I opened my mouth to deny that thought had even crossed my mind, but I stopped and
thought about it. While it was true I really hadn’t thought to hit her, I may have if she hadn’t stopped talking
when she did. “I didn’t plan on hitting her,” I said slowly. “But I was so angry, I probably could
“I’ve never seen you like that.”
I shook my head. “That’s because I’ve never been like that before. I’ve never been
that angry in my entire life. But when she started saying those things about you and Dad…” My voice trailed
“Where are you gonna go?” he asked after a minute.
“Dad’s,” I responded without hesitation.
“I’ll take you,” he said. I smiled gratefully at him. “Want me to help you
I nodded and stood up. I suddenly became very aware that neither of us was wearing
a stitch of clothing and I felt myself blush. He grinned up at me.
“I’m sorry last night got ruined,” I said, turning quickly to pull on my boxers
from last night.
“Nothing was ruined,” he said, standing and moving up behind me. He massaged my
shoulders for a minute until I relaxed. “Last night was perfect. Nothing could ruin it. This morning was a
completely separate incident. Sure, I would have liked to have been awakened a little more gently, and maybe had
a second round…”
I blushed again and leaned back against his chest. I could feel that he was indeed
ready for a second round. I was wondering how he could even be thinking about sex at that moment when my body
started to respond on its own.
“I…I need to pack,” I mumbled.
“I know,” he said softly into my ear.
A few minutes before, being romantic was the last thing on my mind. It was quickly
becoming the only thing on my mind. I couldn’t believe I was feeling like this so soon after what had transpired
with my mother -- and with her still in the house!
A sudden banging on the door quickly brought us both crashing back to
“I’m leaving but I’ll be back in an hour,” Mom yelled through the door. “I want
you gone when I get back.”
I stood still until I heard the car start outside and drive away. I moved away
from Cole and he didn’t try to hold me back. I think he knew we didn’t have time to fool around. I got dressed
then started opening drawers and pulling out my clothes, piling them in stacks on my bed.
“What are you going to pack them in?” he asked.
“There are trash bags in the laundry room on the shelf above the washer and
dryer,” I told him. He slipped on his boxers and pants and left the room, reappearing a few minutes later with
not only the box of trash bags, but also our other discarded clothing from the night before.
“Thanks,” I said. He opened a bag and I started dropping in the piles of clothes.
My entire wardrobe barely filled one bag. It suddenly felt sad, seeing pretty much everything I owned in one
black plastic trash bag. That’s my
life, I thought. My entire life in a trash bag. How appropriate.
Maybe it’s not worth it. What if dad doesn’t want me? Where will I go then? Maybe I’ll end up sleeping on the
street. Or maybe I’ll just kill myself and then it will be me inside a black plastic bag.
“What else?” Cole asked, snapping me out of my dark reverie.
“Oh, um…I dunno. My school stuff I guess.” It didn’t take long to gather that
together. Most of it was still in my backpack.
“What about your trophies and stuff?”
I glanced over the shelves of academic trophies and awards. “Nah,” I said. “Leave
‘em as a souvenir.”
“Come on,” he argued. “You worked hard for them. You might want them
I let him talk me into packing them too. He insisted on wrapping each trophy in
one of my T-shirts, which we had to dig out of the clothes bag. After that, we carried the bags out to his
“Anything else?” he asked while we were standing in the
“I should leave a note for Kane,” I said, just as Mom pulled into the driveway.
She was back well before her allotted hour.
She got out of the car carrying a paper bag emblazoned with the logo of a local
hardware store. She stared coldly at me, but stalked towards the house without saying a word. At the door, she
stopped and spun around dramatically.
“I hope you have everything out because I’m changing the locks now,” she
“I wanted to leave a note for Kane,” I said as evenly as I could
“No,” she said simply.
“He’s my brother. He deserves to know what happened.”
“He’s no longer your brother. I’ll tell him all he needs to
“Just like you told us about Dad? And he’ll always be my brother, you can’t change
“You’ll never see him again,” she proclaimed haughtily, her head thrown back, eyes
flashing. She looked like some sort of otherworldly elf queen. I felt a chill go down my
I stood still, my eyes locked with hers, refusing to be the first that looked
away. It was a battle of will and I would not give in.
“Come on, let’s go,” Cole said, opening his door. I didn’t move. “Seth?” I still
didn’t move. Cole grew quiet as he watched the silent struggle between mother and son.
After what seemed like an eternity, she swung around and stormed into the house,
slamming the door behind her. I’d won. Somehow, the victory felt quite hollow.
“Are you ready now?” Cole asked softly. I nodded and climbed into the passenger
Neither of us spoke as we drove to Dad’s. I didn’t know what was going on in
Cole’s mind, but he seemed different now, withdrawn. A gulf had opened up, and it seemed to be ever widening. I
didn’t know if things would ever be the same between us, but I had other things on my mind. What if Dad didn’t
want me living with him? He’d been on his own for a few years now, he had a boyfriend; maybe he wouldn’t want a
kid around all of a sudden. Sure, he’d seemed really happy to see me, but that was just a visit. Moving in was
something else entirely.
What would I do if he didn’t want me? Where would I go? Cole had said his parents were
supportive of his sexual orientation, but I doubted that would extend to allowing his boyfriend to move in with
them. I didn’t have any other family really. Would I end up homeless? I’d read about gay kids who got kicked out
and ended up on the streets hustling to survive.
That thought scared me. I had no street smarts and I knew it. I didn’t have much
confidence that I’d survive long on the street.
We pulled up in front of Dad’s townhouse and Cole turned the car off. We sat in
silence for a minute, neither of us moving.
“He’s not going to turn you away,” Cole said after a minute. It was almost like
he’d heard my thoughts. I turned to look at him.
“How do you know?”
He shrugged. “Because he loves you.”
And my mother didn’t. He didn’t say it, but it was there, hanging in the air. I
gave a jerky nod and got out. I felt Cole’s presence behind me as I walked to the door and
Dad seemed surprised when he opened the door. “Seth, I didn’t expect you today,”
he said. He looked behind me. “Hello there, Cole. Come on in, guys.”
“I hope it’s ok that I just showed up,” I said nervously as Dad started for the
He stopped dead in his tracks and turned around. “Of course it is! I didn’t mean
it to sound like that. This is your home too; you’re always welcome here. I just meant that I was surprised to
see you today.”
I felt my throat close and I had to fight down the tears that were threatening to
“Seth, what’s wrong?” Dad asked, quickly coming closer.
I somehow managed to squeeze the words past my throat. “Mom kicked me
Immediately, Dad pulled me into a hug. He wasn’t quite quick enough to hide the
pain on his face. “I’m so sorry, son,” he said in a choked voice. I was determined not to cry again, but it was
a losing battle. Just the comfort of having my dad’s arms around me was enough to make me fall apart. He simply
held me until I calmed down, then led me to the living room with his arm around my shoulder. Cole followed as
unobtrusively as possible.
“What happened?” Dad asked once we were all seated.
I haltingly began to tell him about Mom deciding to go see her father, and me
inviting Cole to spend the night. I blushed at saying this to my father but there was no judgment in his eyes,
so I continued. I told him how Mom had come home unexpectedly this morning and found us in bed together and how
she’d flown into a rage and thrown me out. By the time I was finished, I was almost in tears again. Dad gave me
a second to get myself under control before he started speaking.
“I’m sorry that had to happen,” he said slowly. “I, of all people, know how that
feels. But maybe this is all for the best.”
I must have looked at him like he’d lost his mind, because he chuckled a little.
“Think about it, Seth. You can move in with me here and you can just be yourself. No more lying or hiding who
“You mean I can move in with you?” I said sounding pathetic and needy, even to
I saw pain flash through Dad’s eyes again. He was trying to be strong for me, but
I could tell this whole situation hurt him as much as it hurt me. “Of course you can live here, Seth. You didn’t
think I’d turn you out on the streets, did you?” He paused and the pain deepened. “You did, didn’t you?” He
sighed. “What else would you expect? I disappeared from your life years ago. You hardly know me anymore and your
own mother just kicked you out. Seth, you’re my son and you always will be. I love you. I want you to live here.
You can’t know how much I’ve missed you and Kane. It’ll be a dream come true to have you with
I could see the sincerity in his eyes and I knew he wasn’t just saying that to
make me feel better. I could feel a burden lifting from my shoulders and I let out a breath I didn’t even know I
was holding. I couldn’t help but grin at him even as I felt a new wave of tears coming over
We quickly brought in my bags of belongings and Dad and Cole helped me get set up
in the guest bedroom. It would be my room from now on. The next couple weeks were difficult but exciting. Dad
and I got to know each other better and I settled in to my new living arrangements. I missed Kane horribly, but
every time I tried to intercept him somewhere, I seemed to miss him. The one and only time I tried to catch him
at home, Mom was there, and we just ended up having another huge fight. And Kane hadn’t even been home. I
guessed he was spending more time at his friends’ house these days. I wondered how he felt about me being gone
and what Mom had told him. Whatever it was, I felt confident that he knew how much I loved him and would know I
hadn’t just abandoned him.
Cole and I didn’t see as much of each other as we had been. The distance between
us had continued to grow. It bothered me but I had too many other things going on to worry about it too
The day after the last day of school, Dad asked me if we could sit down and have a
serious conversation. My heart was in my throat as we settled into the living room. A million different
scenarios were flying through my head. Was I in trouble? Had I done something wrong? Had he changed his mind
about me living here? Was Kane okay?
He didn’t leave me in suspense for long. “Son, I have a big decision to make and I
want you to be a part of it,” he said with a serious expression. I nodded, still nervous but not as badly as I’d
been just a few seconds ago. “Before you showed up here on my doorstep a month ago, Steve and I had been talking
about me possibly moving to the Eastern Shore. Obviously, that discussion was tabled when you came back into my life, but it’s recently
come up again. Steve and I have gotten pretty serious and it’s a pretty long drive back and forth from where we
live now. I have a house in Ocean City…”
“Whoa!” I interrupted. “You have a house in Ocean City? Plus this place?”
“The house was left to me by a friend.”
“Uncle Charlie?” I remembered the name from my conversation with Grant
Dad looked very surprised. “Well, yes. How did you know about Uncle
“Mr. Grant said you lived with him until he died,” I explained.
Dad nodded. “I did. He was a very nice man and he quite possibly saved my life. He
helped me out when I was in a very bad place after your mom and I broke up.”
“Was he rich?”
“He was well off, but that’s not really important. He left me the house in
Ocean City and I’ve been thinking about moving there
full-time. I want you to be a part of making that decision though. I can take you down to see it and let you
think about it, but if you don’t want to move, we won’t.”
“Would Steve live with us?”
“No, neither of us is really ready for that. We would just like to be closer. You
don’t have to answer right now, but I want you to think about it. Okay?”
I nodded. That weekend, we drove down to Ocean City and Dad showed me the house. It was incredible,
right near the beach. I fell in love with it at first sight. I gave Dad my answer that night.
“Are you sure?” he asked me. “What about leaving all your
“What friends? I don’t really have any. Brooke, Leah, and Cole were pretty much
the only people I ever talked to and Brooke and Cole graduated this year. They’ll be going off to college this
fall and I’ve never been that close to Leah.” I sighed. “Besides, things with Cole are pretty much over anyway;
we’ve just been kind of coasting along. This will be a good excuse to make things final. I already don’t see
Kane and if Mom has anything to say about it, I won’t, so it doesn’t really make any difference where I live. At
least this way you can be closer to Steve. I really like the house and it would be cool to live near the
“So you’re sure?”
Dad grinned and I could tell he was really happy with my decision. “You can think
of it as a new start,” he said excitedly. “You’ll make new friends at the school here, maybe even find a new
boyfriend. It’s going to be great, I just know it!”
I grinned back at him, but once again, I felt a strange sense of foreboding sweep
over me. Stop being so
negative, I told myself sternly, but I couldn’t hold back the shiver
that ran through my body. Luckily, Dad didn’t notice my shudder or the falter in my smile.
We returned back to Baltimore but it was really only to pack up. Within
two weeks, we were moved lock, stock, and barrel into the beach house. I saw Cole one last time. It was an
amicable break-up. His relief was almost palpable when I told him we were moving to Ocean City.
“I guess it’s for the best,” he said. “I’ll be going to college in
Florida this fall and I think a long
distance relationship would be hard.”
I nodded and we hugged. As he walked away, I wondered what exactly had happened
with us. I rather suspected it was me. I wasn’t the same person I’d been that first night we kissed in the park.
I wasn’t the same person he’d fallen in love with, if what we’d felt had ever really even been love. I didn’t
have much experience with romantic love, but I had a feeling that we wouldn’t have let go of the real thing
quite so easily.
Over the next couple months, I found I liked living in Ocean City a lot more than Baltimore. For one thing, it was beach resort town and
there were always tons of hot, half-naked guys everywhere. For another, it was a very different pace than in the
city, even though I’d read somewhere that Ocean City was
the most densely populated city in the country during the summer. Things just seemed much slower and more laid
back. It suited me much better. I didn’t make any friends that summer, but I felt at home for the first time in
years. I loved living with Dad and we had a lot of great times with Steve. I still missed Kane, but overall, I
Finally, the school year rolled around. I was very nervous about starting school
again, especially in a brand new place, but I’d decided that I was going to live my life honestly this time. No
more sneaking around and hiding who I was. People had been fine with it at my old school, at least according to
Cole, and I had no reason to think they’d be any different here.
The first day of school, I put on one of the new outfits Dad and I had bought
in Rehoboth Beach,
Delaware. We’d bought a ton of new clothes
at the outlets there; I practically had a whole new wardrobe. This was good considering how little I used to
care about my appearance. I looked at myself in the mirror and barely recognized the person looking back at
me. I looked so much more confident. Almost sexy, I thought with a grin. My hair looked the same always, but
Cole had finally convinced me it looked good.
“Stop primping and come on,” Dad said from the doorway, causing me to jump. “You
don’t want to be late to school on your first day.”
I grinned at him and then followed him after one last look in the
“I’ve created a monster,” he grumbled as we started downstairs.
Despite my decision to be out at school, I almost lost my nerve as I sat in my
first class and the teacher asked us to each tell the class five things about ourselves. All the other kids were
saying dumb general things. Most of them had probably known each other since kindergarten. I was already the new
kid. Did I really want to make myself even more of an outsider?
Suddenly, it was my turn. I stood up and took a deep breath. “My name is Seth
Connelly,” I started out. “I just moved here from Baltimore. I was very active in the drama department
there. I live with my Dad. I have a little brother who still lives with my mom. And I’m gay.” I sat down and
tried hard not to blush. The room was deathly quiet and every eye in the room was staring at me in disbelief,
including the teacher. I wasn’t sure if they were just startled by my admission or if they had a problem with
it. Either way, it was over and done with now. I’d made my decision. The rest of the class passed uneventfully,
but afterwards, everyone quickly left the room without even making eye contact with me. I sighed and went out
into the hall. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea. Maybe I should have settled in first, gotten to know
some people before outing myself.
“Watch where you’re going fag,” someone growled at me as I was rudely jostled. I
turned in time to see one of my classmates moving quickly away. He had brown hair and eyes and would have been
kind of cute if it wasn’t for the sneer on his face. I struggled to remember his name as I made a mental note to
watch out for him in the future. Zach…that was it.
The rest of the day went by without anything noteworthy. Until my last class of
the day, that is. It was the one I’d been looking forward to the most. Theater -- my home away from home. I got
lost on the way there and had to stop by the office to get directions. When I finally found my way there, the
class had already started. I tapped politely on the door and the teacher called me in. Mrs. Tatum, I reminded
"Yes?" Mrs. Tatum
"My name is Seth," I
said, "Seth Connelly. I'm transferring into this class. Here's the paperwork."
I handed her the
papers the office had given me that morning and looked around the room. It was a pretty good-sized class. After
Mrs. Tatum had looked over the paperwork, she looked up at me. It felt like she was measuring me with her eyes. I
wondered if I measured up, but I must have since she simply sniffed and said, “Looks like it’s all in order. Why don't you find a seat, Mr.
Connelly, and we can continue with the class.”
I looked around the room again and this time one boy in particular caught my
attention. He was staring at me with an odd look in his eyes. He looked small enough to be a freshman, but I got
the impression that he was older. He had slightly shaggy, wavy blonde hair and startlingly blue eyes behind a
pair of wire-rimmed glasses. He was strikingly beautiful, but I could tell he wasn’t really aware of that fact.
Something in his body language made it clear that he felt insignificant. Our eyes locked and for a second, I
felt such a connection to this boy that I almost gasped out loud. Something had definitely passed between us,
but he quickly dropped his eyes and looked away.
I was in luck. The seat next to him was empty. I slid into it and he glanced over
at me nervously. I held out my hand and he eyed it warily before timidly slipping his into mine.
“Hi. I’m Seth.”
“Killian,” he said in a soft voice. Even his name was sexy.
He blushed slightly and turned back to face Mrs. Tatum. Was he feeling something
too? I watched him for a few more seconds then turned to pay attention myself. I couldn’t contain the tiny smile
that pulled at my lips. Maybe Dad was right. Maybe this would be a new start. And just maybe, Killian would be a
big part of that.