I peeked out the window and watched my mother and Sheriff Tackett argue on the porch. Finally, she stormed away, got in her van and pulled off. Seconds later, there was a knock on the door. Mrs. Grayson answered it.
The sheriff stepped in, looked around until he saw me. He then approached. “Jacob,” he insisted, “I need to talk to you.” He looked over at Mrs. Oliver and added, “You too, Mrs. Oliver.”
We went into the kitchen and sat at the table. Sheriff Tackett asked me if I had run away, or if I had been sent by my parents to Mrs. Oliver’s home.
“They kicked him out of his own house,” angrily replied Mrs. Oliver. “Pastor Long has said some dreadful things to him.” She reached over and put her hand on my arm.
The sheriff looked at me and asked me if it was true. I told him how my father and I had been arguing about Tiffany, and that I had told him I hated him. I related how my mother had placed my clothing in some luggage and brought me to Mrs. Oliver’s house without even telling me where or why I was going.
Sheriff took out his notepad and scanned it. He then looked at me and asked again, “Are you sure you didn’t run away and come here like your mother has stated?”
“No, Sir,” I adamantly replied. “They kicked me out of my own house.” Mrs. Oliver squeezed my arm tightly.
“I have a problem here,” he said as he read back over his notes. “It appears your mother has filled out a false police report.” He clicked his tongue and added, “That is a serious crime.”
I laughed when Mrs. Oliver excitedly said, “Throw her in jail!”
“Now, now, Mrs. Oliver,” he said. “If I do that, then I have to lock you up for striking the pastor with your cane.”
Mrs. Oliver protested, “I didn’t strike that old fool. I was merely getting up from my seat and my cane slipped and hit him.” I giggled when I noticed that she had put her hand behind her back and crossed her fingers.
He closed his notepad and stood. “I guess I’ll go back to the office to straighten this all out.” He looked at me and asked, “Are you sure, Jacob, that you are staying here under your own will? No one is forcing you to stay?”
I leaned over and put my arm around Mrs. Oliver. “No, Sir,” I replied. “I’m staying here voluntarily- that is as long as Mrs. Oliver will let me.”
She smiled at me and responded, “I may even adopt the boy.”
Sheriff Tackett laughed and said, “He’s just a little too old for that. The way I see it, he’s old enough to make his own decisions. The city attorney may have to clear all this up before it is over.” He extended his hand for me to shake. After hugging Mrs. Oliver, he left.
When we returned to the living room, everyone was curious what had happened. Like Mrs. Oliver, most of them agreed that my mother should be locked up behind bars.
I was afraid to go to school the next morning. I didn’t know what to expect. First, there was the meeting that my father had arranged with the school board. I knew when I saw Tiffany enter the girls’ restroom that trouble would happen. It didn’t take my father long to attack her for her actions.
I was also worried because on Saturday, Colton, Jerome, Tiffany and I had agreed that we would attend the meeting, if we were allowed. We didn’t know if only adults could attend. None of us had ever attended a board meeting before. If I was admitted, it would be the first time that I would encounter my father since he kicked me out of his house. I was really afraid that he might make a scene, much like my mother had the day before when she tried to make me leave with her.
I was still confused about that. By her actions, I could tell that she really didn’t want me to return home. She gave me no indication that she missed me. She was merely trying to get revenge upon Mrs. Oliver for walking out of my father’s church and taking a large number of members with her.
She probably wasn’t even going to take me home. She probably had arranged for me to stay with another member of the congregation. I doubt that my father had changed his mind about me. They might have even plotted to have me taken somewhere for gay conversion therapy. I had done some research about it a year ago when I heard them discussing it in my father’s study. A mother in the church was worried that her daughter was a lesbian, and she had discussed it with my father. Though they never said anything about it, I was always afraid that one day, if they discovered I was gay, they would load me up in my mother’s van to have me reprogrammed. Now, after what Mrs. Oliver had done, they might consider it my best option for salvation.
Another thing that worried me was Darryl Standifer. After what happened after school on Friday, I was certain he would try to seek revenge on Tiffany or any one of us. We had humiliated him in front of his friends. A guy like Darryl doesn’t just forget about something like that.
Jerome met me at my locker. He seemed nervous. “Have you seen Tiffany?” he asked. “I waited for her to get off the bus, but she wasn’t on it.” I informed him that sometimes her mother brings her to school. Since I no longer rode the bus, I wasn’t sure.
He waited while I got my books out of my locker. When I did, my notebook that I wrote my letters to God fell out. He picked it, looked at the first page and handed it back to me. He asked, “What’s this?”
I took it from his hand and replied, “Nothing.” I then placed it on the top shelf of my locker.
“Looked like a diary,” he said. He giggled, looked around and asked, “You keeping a diary of Colton?”
I started to get upset, but he had such an impish grin on his face. “Are you keeping one on Tiffany?” I asked. His face started to redden. Before he could answer, I grabbed his arm and told him we had to get to the cafeteria.
Cathy was sitting alone when we entered. Jerome went to get something to eat. However, I had eaten breakfast with Mrs. Oliver, so I went over to the table and sat down beside her.
She smiled and said, “You look happy today. Did you have a nice weekend?” I didn’t feel any different than any other morning, but I suppose I did appear more cheerful since I was no longer living at home.
I grinned and said, “No. Just my normal sunny self.” I laughed when she rolled her eyes.
Just then, Jerome sat down across from us. He opened his doughnut from the plastic and frowned when he took a bite. “Yuck,” he said. “My dog eats better than this.”
Cathy responded by saying, “You would think that after 150 years of public school, they would learn to feed us decent food.” She picked up her half eaten doughnut and tossed it on her tray.
“Then we would be healthy,” laughed Jerome. “That would violate the FDA guidelines.” Cathy nodded her head in agreement.
Jerome looked over at me and asked, “Did you give the meeting tonight anymore thought? What are we going to do?”
I shook my head and responded, “I don’t know yet. We’ll have to see what Colton thinks.”
Cathy looked over and asked, “What are you talking about? What meeting?” She remembered when I asked her if she had gotten the letter to parents that had been distributed.
She asked excitedly, “Are you guys going to the meeting?”
“We will if they’ll let us in,” I informed her.
She asked, “Why wouldn’t they?” Jerome replied that we thought the meeting might only be for parents and not students.
Cathy remarked, “The letter said it was an open meeting. They can’t just keep us out.”
I asked, “Us?”
“Hell, yeah,” she replied angrily. “I’ll be there with you guys. If they try to pull anything about us not being allowed to attend the meeting, then they’re messing with the wrong person.”
I laughed and asked, “Where did all this come from? You haven’t said a word to anyone in ten years, and now you want to take on the school board?”
She responded angrily, “I’ve never had a reason to say anything before. But this is just plain wrong. If Tiffany wants to use the girls’ restroom, then I say let her use it.” I lifted my hand, and we high fived.
Just then Colton entered the cafeteria. Jerome lightly kicked me under the table and started to giggle. “Hey, Guys,” remarked Colton as he sat next to me. Again, Jerome kicked me. I was beginning to regret that I had confessed that I liked Colton to him.
As if on cue, Tiffany came walking toward us. I kicked Jerome and smiled broadly. He blushed when she sat down next to him. We waved at her when she said hello to everyone.
Cathy began to tell everyone how excited she was to be attending the meeting with us. “We have to have a plan,” she said thoughtfully. She looked over at me and added, “Your father will definitely have a plan.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “And I know exactly what it will be.” I glanced at Tiffany. I had witnessed my father’s wrath many times over the years. Only until recently had I been the target.
Jerome looked at her and asked, “What kind of plan?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “Let me think about it, and we’ll talk more at lunch.” I gave her a skeptical look. I know she meant well, but she had never gone up against my father.
When the bell rang, Colton walked with me to class. He seemed reluctant to attend the meeting. “I don’t know about this,” he confessed. “I’m already in trouble at home because of my fight last week with Darryl. If I go to the meeting tonight and get into any more trouble, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
I asked sarcastically, “What could possibly go wrong?” He looked worriedly at me and shook his head.
We met up again for lunch. Jerome sat beside Tiffany, and Colton sat beside me. Cathy seemed out of place, but she didn’t seem affected by it. I guess she had been on the outside for so long, she was enjoying her newfound friendships.
Colton asked her, “Did you come up with a plan for tonight?”
She shook her head and replied, “Not really. I’ve never been to a board meeting, so I don’t know what to expect.” We all shook our heads when she asked if we had ever attended.
Jerome offered, “I watched one on television with my parents last year. It had something to do with graduation requirements, and my Mom wanted to see what I would need to graduate. You can’t just talk. You have to fill out a card or something, and then they call you to a microphone to speak.”
Cathy replied, “We can do that.”
“We?” responded Colton. “You have a mouse in your pocket? I can’t get up and talk in front of people.”
She asked, “Why?”
“My Dad will kill me,” he replied.
“Why?” she asked, as she looked over at Tiffany. “Because you’re standing up for someone’s rights?”
I suddenly felt guilty. I was just getting ready to tell Cathy that I couldn’t do it either. I looked over at Tiffany and I understood what she was going through. It must be horrible to be afraid to use the bathroom during day. If she used the boys’ restroom, she could face ridicule and possible harm. If she used the girls’ restroom, she could be suspended under the current rules.
We laughed when Jerome puffed out his chest and announced proudly, “Well, I’m going to speak. They can’t do this to Tiffany.” It surprised us when he reached down, grabbed her hand and squeezed it.
She smiled and insisted that he didn’t have to speak. In fact, she pleaded with all of us not to get involved. “You have to think about the repercussions. Everyone in school will hate you, just like they do me.” She reached up and wiped some tears away from her eyes.
“I really appreciate what you’re doing,” she said, “but I don’t want to see any of you get hurt.” She looked over at me and added, “Bobby, you’re already in enough trouble with your father…”
I quickly interrupted. “I don’t care,” I insisted. “He has no right to get involved in this. He’s just going to make matters worse with all his hate.” I knew I had to take a stand, whether I wanted to or not. I looked at the others and said, “I’m in.”
Colton frowned and said, “I guess me too.”
Cathy put her hand face down on the table. Jerome covered her hand, and then I did. Colton worriedly looked at me and placed his hand over mine. We all looked at Tiffany for her reaction. Would she be willing to join us? She looked at us, sighed and then placed her hand over Colton’s.
Cathy asked, “What time does the meeting start?”
“Seven,” I informed her. Before the bell rang, we agreed that we would meet outside the Administration Building at 6:45. Cathy said she would have her mother bring her. The rest of us said we would meet at Mrs. Oliver’s house at 6:00. I was pretty sure that after what happened the day before, she would readily agree to take us.
After school, Tiffany and Jerome walked home with me. Colton said he had to go home and rake leaves. I looked down at his hand and asked him how he was going to do that with a brace around his wrist.
“It won’t be easy,” he replied. “But I have to be on his good side if I’m going to ask him if I can attend the board meeting.”
As we walked down the sidewalk, Jerome kept looking behind us. I think he was expecting Darryl to jump out from behind a bush any second. When I joked about it, he said he was still worried.
“We’ve known Darryl since the first grade,” he stated. “He’s not going to let Colton hit him like that without trying to get even. And if he can’t get him,” he said worriedly, “then he’ll get one of us.”
When we got to the house, I went to my room to put away my book bag. Tiffany said she would get us a soda out of the refrigerator. I stopped suddenly when I returned. Jerome had Tiffany pushed up against the counter kissing her.
“Ahem,” I said as I cleared my throat. Jerome jumped away. His face was flushed, and it grew redder as I stared at him. Tiffany pushed her hair back and announced she had to go to the restroom. I couldn’t help but notice the bulge in the front of her outfit.
I giggled as Jerome stood red-faced in front of me. “I guess you got your answer?”
“Shut up, Bobby,” he replied as he sat down. It was obvious that he was embarrassed from me catching him kissing Tiffany.
I laughed and sat down beside him. “It’s so cute,” I kidded him. “Young love is so sweet.”
“You would know,” he said sharply. “Tiffany told me she caught you and Colton kissing the other day when she walked in on you.”
It was now my turn to blush. “I wasn’t kissing Colton,” I insisted. When Jerome raised an eyebrow, I laughed and said, “He was kissing me.”
Just then Tiffany returned to the kitchen. She sat down, but she refused to make eye contact with me. I reached out and lightly touched her hand. “It’s okay,” I said. I got up from my seat and insisted that Tiffany sit beside Jerome. When she did, he reached out and gripped her hand.
I smiled and said, “I’m really happy for you two.”
“I don’t know,” replied Tiffany as she smiled warmly at Jerome. “This is all so new to me.”
Jerome giggled and said, “It’s not like I have any experience. I’m not exactly a ladies’ man.”
It surprised me when Tiffany leaned over and kissed him quickly. “I like you just the way you are.”
They released their hands when Mrs. Oliver entered through the back door. She smiled when she saw the three of us together. She walked over to the refrigerator and took out an apple pie. “I just baked this,” she announced as she started cutting slices and placing them on plates.
“Ummm,” I mumbled as the pie melted in my mouth. “This is good.”
When we finished, she placed the dirty plates in the sink, and then she returned and sat across from us. She asked, “Do you have plans to attend the meeting tonight?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I replied as I looked at Tiffany and Jerome. “We’re supposed to meet Colton and Cathy there at 6:45.”
Tiffany asked, “Can you take us, Nana?”
“Of course,” she responded angrily as she looked at me. “I can’t wait to hear what your father has to say.”
* * * * * *
To say that all hell broke out later that evening would be an understatement. Before the meeting even got underway, utter chaos erupted. Sheriff Tackett and three of his deputies ended up arresting three people- my father, Mrs. Oliver and Tiffany’s mother!
Let me explain what happened.
When Mrs. Oliver, Tiffany, Jerome and I pulled up in the parking lot, we immediately saw Colton and Cathy standing in front of the building holding up signs. Cathy had one that said, ‘All students have rights!’ She had taken a magic marker and crudely written the words on a piece of cardboard. Colton’s sign read, ‘Freedom from tyranny.’ I really didn’t understand what it meant since we were dealing with the school board and not the government.
When Tiffany, Jerome and I approached, she handed us a sign. Mine read, ‘Students demand our rights.’ Tiffany’s sign read, ‘Treat all students with respect.’ Jerome’s sign stated, ‘The school board sucks.’ I laughed because I figured that must have been Colton’s contribution.
Mrs. Oliver and several of her friends joined us, but they didn’t have signs. Mr. and Mrs. Grayson and Mrs. Davenport stood beside us. Soon several more former members of my father’s congregation arrived. I was surprised when Tiffany’s mother approached.
Tiffany proudly introduced us to her mother. She seemed like a really nice person, much like her mother, Mrs. Oliver. She seemed especially interested in Jerome. I guess her mother had told her about him.
We were standing around talking as we waited to go inside. Mrs. Oliver pointed out several board members as they arrived and hurried inside. Each time one would approach, we would hold up our signs and chant, “Students have rights!”
We became even more animated when a local television camera crew approached and began filming us. I was afraid someone would try to interview me, but no one did. They merely filmed us for a minute, and then they went inside the building.
My heart stopped when I saw my mother’s van pull into the parking lot. My father was driving, and she was sitting in the passenger’s seat. They appeared to be looking our way and talking. I was sure they had spotted me, and they were confused why I would be outside the building holding up a sign.
When they got out of the van, my father seemed to hesitate a moment before approaching the building. At first, it appeared that he was going to ignore me and enter inside.
When he got about ten feet away, he stopped. He pointed his finger at me and shouted, “You have sinned, and God will cast you into eternal damnation!”
I had never seen him so angry, not even when he was whipping me with a sycamore branch when I was younger.
Suddenly, Mrs. Oliver shouted out, “Shut up, you old fool! If anyone is going to hell, it is you!” She walked right up to his face, pointed her finger at him and shouted, “Jesus don’t like ugly. Everything that comes out of your mouth is vile and ugly.”
My father tried to lay his hands on her head to exorcise the devil out of Mrs. Oliver. “Dear God,” he prayed, “Cast out the demons from this woman!”
By now, people were pouring out of the building to watch the confrontation. I noticed that the camera crew had turned on the camera and were filming the incident.
Mrs. Oliver stepped away from my father. “Don’t you touch me!” she shouted.
My father then noticed Tiffany standing beside me. He pointed at her and shouted, “There is the scourge of Northdale! The devil has filled him with wickedness and filth.”
Mrs. Martin stepped before my father. She screamed, “How dare you! That is my daughter you’re talking about.”
My father pointed at her and shouted, “That is a vile and sinful creature who belongs in Hell!”
Then all hell broke loose.
Mrs. Oliver hit my father with her cane. He pushed her back, and she fell to the ground. Mrs. Martin slapped my father on the side of his face, and he struck her back. As all this occurred, he continued to call out for God to rid our community of the sin and evil that surrounded it. My mother tried to pull him away, but he refused to budge.
Finally, Sheriff Tackett and three of his deputies were able to break up the fight. I watched as Sheriff Tackett pulled my father to his cruiser, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of the cruiser.
After interviewing several witnesses, he had Mrs. Oliver and Mrs. Martin sit in the back of another cruiser. Minutes later, both cruisers sped away.