Neil looked at the empty seat beside him. Sammy still hadn’t entered the room, and the bell was getting ready to ring. Mrs. Yarber was waiting by the door. Suddenly, Sammy came rushing in. Her face was flushed, and she appeared upset.
As the bell rang, she hurried and sat in the seat beside Neil. She looked over and smiled slightly as she sat down. Mrs. Yarber closed the door and began going over her class expectations for the year.
Neil had noticed when he entered, that most of his former group was sitting in the back. Besides Lucas, Owen, Mac, Robbie and Ned were also enrolled in the class. Maggie and Jessie had also followed Sammy into the room.
After distributing books, the class groaned when Mrs. Yarber assigned them a short story to read. Lucas barked from the back, “You mean we have to do work the first day?”
Mrs. Yarber approached him and asked sarcastically, “What did you expect you would do? Play games?”
The class laughed when Lucas replied, “That works for me. How about Grand Theft Auto?”
“Well, Mr. Prescott,” responded Mrs. Yarber as she made her way back to the front of the room, “You just added a homework assignment for the class.” Everyone groaned and looked back at Lucas.
He stood and protested, “What did I do?” Neil was afraid to look back. He was worried that Lucas might point him out to humiliate him.
Mrs. Yarber walked to the back and stood before Lucas. He towered over her, but she didn’t seem afraid of him. “You have this attitude that my class is going to be easy.”
Lucas looked around the room. Everyone was watching to see how he would react. Over the years, he had gotten into many verbal confrontations with teachers. It appeared that Mrs. Yarber might be using the moment to make sure that he didn’t try to control her classroom as he had others. He looked down and said defiantly, “I didn’t say that.” He looked down at Mac and asked, “Did I?” Mac turned his head and looked away.
Mrs. Yarber stood erect before Lucas. “I think it would behoove you to take a seat, Young Man.”
Lucas looked at his feet and laughed, “I ain’t got any hooves.”
“No,” replied Mrs. Yarber, “but what you do have is one night’s detention.”
Lucas shouted, “What! What did I do?”
“You have disrupted my class,” responded Mrs. Yarber angrily, “And you’ve taken up too much of my time with your disrespectful behavior.” She took a step closer to Lucas and ordered him to take his seat. He hesitated a few seconds before sitting down. Everyone, except Neil, was watching the exchange. It was one of the few times a female teacher had ever stood up to Lucas. Male teachers had done it in the past, but Lucas tended not to confront them as much as he did female teachers.
The class groaned again when Mrs. Yarber added an additional homework assignment. She cautioned the students that if they didn’t do it, then they would be joining Lucas the following night for detention. Either she didn’t hear him, or she chose to ignore him when he muttered under his breath, “Bet I don’t show.”
Only fifteen minutes remained in class. Mrs. Yarber told the students to continue reading the short story she had assigned until the bell rang. If they didn’t finish, they were assigned to read the remainder at home and to answer the questions at the end of the story.
Neil pretended to read, but he was too upset. He was worried about Lucas. Lucas had already targeted him once that morning. Now, after his confrontation with Mrs. Yarber, he was upset. Lucas was the kind of person who would take his anger out on someone else. He knew he would probably be that someone else.
And he was right. As he exited the classroom and started heading down the hall towards the cafeteria for lunch, Lucas rushed by and brushed his body against him. Lucas stopped and grabbed Neil’s arm. “Watch where you’re going, Homo,” he hissed. He then grabbed Neil’s shoulders and slammed him violently into the lockers. Mac and Ned grabbed him before he did anything more.
As he turned to leave, he pointed a finger at Neil and threatened, “I ain’t done with you.” Mac and Ned pulled him down the hall.
Sammy approached Neil, held his arm and asked worriedly, “Are you okay?”
Neil didn’t respond. He looked frightened as he turned and rushed off down the hall.
He was scheduled to go to lunch, but he was too upset to eat. Besides, he knew that everyone would probably stare at him if he did enter the cafeteria. Instead, he decided to go outside. He really wasn’t sure where to go to avoid everyone. Many times last year, he and the other guys had wandered around outside until the bell rang. The last thing he wanted to do was for Lucas to discover him alone.
He walked around to the south side of the building. It was in the sun; and since it was hot outside, he figured most students would remain in the shade. He walked about a fifty yards until he slumped down against the building. He put his head between his knees so know one could recognize him.
“Why?” he asked himself. His life had changed so much over so little. He also couldn’t understand why all his friends had turned against him so quickly. Didn’t years of friendship mean anything to them? Could they possibly be that shallow?
He wondered what he would have done if the roles had been reversed. If he was straight like Owen, and Owen had wrapped his lips around his dick, would he have reacted with the same hostility? He didn’t think he would have, at least that is what he told himself.
“Owen is my friend,” he mumbled to himself. “I wouldn’t have turned against him if he was gay.” So then, wondered Neil, “Why did he turn against me?”
His stomach growled from hunger, but he was too afraid to go into the cafeteria to get something to eat. He was too upset to eat breakfast, and now he was starting to feel weak. He nestled his head between his knees and closed his eyes. A few minutes later, he dozed off to sleep.
He was startled awake when someone sat down beside him. His heart began to race as he lifted his head and looked over to his left. It was Sammy. “Here,” she smiled slightly as she handed him an apple. “I didn’t see you in the cafeteria, so I figured you ditched lunch.”
Neil hesitated before taking the apple from her hand. “Thanks,” he mumbled as he took a bite.
Sammy rested her head on the brick wall and muttered, “I hate Lucas Prescott.”
“Yeah,” replied Neil as he took another bite of the apple. “Me, too.”
Sammy sat forward and looked worriedly at Neil. “You know you have to tell someone. If you don’t, Lucas is going to hurt you.”
Neil shook his head and replied, “I can’t. He’ll do it anyway if I tell someone or not.”
“That’s stupid,” responded Sammy as tears welled up in her eyes. “You can’t just wait until he hurts you.”
Tears also began to form in Neil’s eyes. “What can I do?”
“You need to talk to your mom or Jack.” She added, “Maybe you should go to Mr. Bowers.”
Neil asked, “The principal?” Sammy nodded her head. “And tell him what? Huh? Lucas don’t like me anymore? He would think I am crazy.”
Sammy looked into Neil’s eyes and stated, “Then maybe you should tell him the truth.” Neil rested his head against the brick and closed his eyes. That was something he couldn’t do- out himself at school. Right now, he hoped it was just in the rumor stage. He had seen it happen many times over the years. Today’s rumor was usually forgotten when a new one emerged the next day.
They remained quiet for several minutes. Neil was hoping that Sammy would just go inside the building and leave him alone. She didn’t. He froze when she asked, “Is what Owen saying true? Are you gay?”
Neil quickly rose to his feet. “I gotta get to class,” he said as he threw his book bag over his shoulder. Sammy stood and grabbed his arm.
Tears filled her eyes. “It doesn’t matter to me, Neil,” she said as she wiped her eyes dry. “We’ve been friends too long for something like this to come between us.”
Neil stared into her eyes. “Look, Sammy,” he replied apologetically. “I really don’t want to talk about it. Okay?”
“Sure,” she said as she wiped more tears from her eyes. “I think you just gave me the answer to my question.” She wrapped her arm around Neil’s. They could hear the bell ringing inside the building. “We had better get to our class.”
Neil asked, “What do you have next?”
Sammy replied, “Biology. What about you?”
“Art with Mrs. Fitzpatrick.”
Sammy said, “I had her last year. You’ll like the class.” When they got inside, they separated and Neil headed upstairs to art class.
When he entered the classroom, he looked around to see if Lucas or any of the other guys had arrived. He was relieved to see only Ned sitting alone at the back of the room. The others, he thought, must be taking auto mechanics or woodshop. Most would probably consider art a class for girls. In fact, most of the room was comprised of girls.
He looked around the room for an empty seat. The only one remaining was beside a boy he didn’t recognize. He stood out because he was African American. Since Farmersville was a rural school, there were few black students. The others were three girls who were upper classmen. They had moved to the community a few years ago, and they were very popular. Two were cheerleaders, and the third was vice president of the senior class.
Neil apprehensively walked over and asked the boy if anyone was sitting beside him. “No,” he smiled. “Have a seat.” He appeared relieved that someone had volunteered to sit beside him.
After Neil sat, he extended his hand. “I’m Alex Cunningham.” When he smiled, Neil blushed and looked away. Alex was extremely handsome. Even though he was sitting, he appeared to be tall. His hair was cut short and sculptured on the sides. His skin was light, almost an almond color. His brown eyes brightened when he smiled at Neil.
Neil looked up and his face reddened as he shook Alex’s hand. “I’m Neil,” he replied. “Neil Michaels.”
Alex gripped his hand tighter and said, “Good to meet you, Neil.” Neil looked quickly away. He looked back when Alex remarked, “There’s some really hot girls in this school. Do they put out?”
Neil felt like someone had dropped a bag of cement on his shoulders. For a few minutes, he hoped that Alex was different from the other guys. He wasn’t. Neil looked away and shrugged his shoulders. “I wouldn’t know.”
Alex laughed slightly and nudged Neil. “Sorry, Man,” he apologized. “I was just trying to fit in. I’m new here, and I thought that might get you to talking.” He nudged Neil again. “Guys are supposed to bond talking about girls. Right?”
Neil looked at Alex and smiled. “I suppose,” he laughed. Just then, Mrs. Fitzpatrick entered the class, and everyone stopped talking.
After hearing her presentation, Neil thought he might enjoy art. She made it seem interesting as she talked about the influence art has had on society. It was something he had never considered. Paintings were just paintings. He never thought about how they reflected a generation or a particular culture. He listened with interest as she displayed art on a screen and talked about its historical significance.
When she finished, she handed each student a sheet of paper. “To evaluate how well you draw at this stage,” she said as she wandered around the room, “I want you to draw something that you enjoy doing.”
Neil’s face reddened when he heard Ned say, “I bet I know what Neil is going to draw.” Several boys sitting around him began to laugh. He watched as Alex look angrily back at Ned.
Alex turned and nudged him. “Hey,” he asked cheerfully, “What are you going to draw?”
Neil shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno,” he replied. “I don’t do too much.”
“There must be something you like to do,” remarked Alex. He picked up his pencil and put it to the paper. “I know what I like to do.”
Neil asked, “What?”
“Basketball,” smiled Alex. “I live and breathe basketball.” He smiled and asked Neil, “You play?”
Neil shook his head and replied, “No.” However, he added quickly, “I like to go to the games.”
“Cool,” said Alex. “You’ll get to see me play.”
Neil asked, “You play basketball?”
Alex laughed. “I’m six foot five,” he replied. “Of course I play.” Neil knew by looking at him as he sat in the seat that he was tall, he just didn’t realize he was that tall. He asked Neil, “What about you? You play any sports.”
“Naw,” responded Neil as he shook his head. “I play baseball with my ...,” he suddenly stopped before he said friends. He no longer had any friends.
Alex gave Neil a puzzled look. “Baseball, huh.” Neil became uncomfortable when Alex scanned his body. “I’d say you play short stop. Right?”
Neil grinned. “Yeah,” he said. “How did you know?”
“You are small and fit,” replied Alex. “You’re probably quick. It takes a fast guy to play short stop.”
Neil shrugged his shoulders and replied. “I’m not all that good.”
Just then, Mrs. Fitzpatrick hollered out and reminded everyone that they only had fifteen minutes to complete the assignment. Alex and Neil picked up their pencils and began drawing. Neil kept looking out of the corner of his eye at what Alex was drawing. He was very good. He was drawing a guy shooting a basketball. Before he finished, he shaded in the face, arms and legs.
Neil’s face reddened when Alex looked over at his drawing and started roaring with laughter. “What the hell is that?” he howled as he looked at the stick drawing Neil had completed.
Neil giggled and replied, “It’s supposed to be a guy playing a video game.”
Alex laughed again and responded, “Neil, that is the sickest thing I have ever seen.”
“I tried,” replied Neil with a very red face.
Alex laughed again and said, “You better hope the teacher grades on effort.” Just then, Mrs. Fitzpatrick walked up and examined their drawings. She praised Alex for his, but shook her head as she picked up Neil’s off the table.
When the bell rang, Alex asked Neil what class he had next. “History with Ms. Shelton,” replied Neil.
Alex looked at his schedule and said, “I have Mrs. Pressley for Spanish.” He patted Neil on the shoulder and said, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then. It was nice meeting you.”
“Yeah,” replied Neil. “I liked meeting you too.” He couldn’t believe how tall Alex was when he rose from his seat. In fact, everyone in the room stared at him. Neil watched him as he exited the room.
He jumped when Ned stepped up behind him and whispered in his ear, “Got a new boyfriend?” He then roared with laughter and walked away.
On the way to history class, Neil needed to stop into a restroom to relieve himself. Since he had spent his lunchtime outside, he was too rushed to stop on the way to art class. Before entering, he peeked inside to make sure that no one he knew was in there. The room was empty. He entered and went into a stall. Since the urinals had no partition between them, he didn’t want another boy accusing him of looking over and try to take a peek at him.
As he peed, he heard a couple of boys enter. He quickly zipped up his pants and waited until he thought they were standing the urinals. He hoped to sneak out without them seeing him. Suddenly, he smelled cigarette smoke, and he knew they would probably be in the room until the bell rang. He had no choice except to leave or be late to class.
When he opened the stall door, he saw two boys standing over by the urinal exchanging a cigarette. One of them was Robbie Kincaid’s older brother, Johnny. The other was also a senior on the football team.
Johnny grinned when he saw Neil. “Well, well, well,” he said as he looked over at his friend. “What have we got here?” He handed his friend the cigarette and approached Neil. “Aren’t you in the wrong bathroom?” He looked at his friend and they both laughed.
The other guy asked Johnny, “We did come in the right bathroom, didn’t we?” He looked down at the urinals. “Yep, guess we did. The homo must have come into the wrong one.”
“Yeah,” grinned Johnny as he looked down at the frightened boy. “You suppose we should teach him what happens when a girl comes into the boys’ restroom.”
“Yeah,” replied Johnny’s friend as he tossed the cigarette into the urinal. “Let’s teach him a lesson.”
Neil tried to run toward the door, but Johnny blocked it. His voice trembled as he asked, “What are you guys going to do to me?” He looked for an escape, but they were blocking the door.
Johnny looked at his friend. “I dunno,” he said. “What do you think?”
His friend’s face lit up as he suggested, “How about a wedgie? That should do it.”
“No!” shouted Neil. He panicked as he rushed toward the boys in an attempt to get out. Johnny grabbed him around the waist while the other boy grabbed his underwear from the back and yanked on them. He lifted Neil’s underwear about half way up his back.
Neil’ cried out, “Stop it!” However, the boys were enjoying themselves too much to care that they might be hurting Neil. After another sudden jerk, Neil felt his balls disappear into his scrotum. The pain was so intense, it made him start violently coughing.
Just then, someone pushed open the door of the restroom. A young black boy stuck his head in. When he saw what was going on, his eyes widened. Johnny shouted, “Get out!” and the boy quickly disappeared.
After another yank of his underwear, Johnny let go of Neil’s waist. Neil fell like a rag doll to the ground. Both boys stood back and laughed. “That should teach him,” said Johnny as he put his hand on the other boy’s shoulder and pushed him out the door.
Neil couldn’t move. He was in too much pain. He looked at the door when it opened. It was the boy who had looked in and left. He rushed over to Neil, bent down and asked worriedly, “Are you alright?”
Tears welled up in Neil’s eyes as he grabbed his crotch. “I think they hurt my nuts,” cried Neil. The boy helped Neil to his feet and led him over to the stall.
“You better see if you’re alright,” suggested the boy as he helped him inside. He stood back and watched as Neil dropped his pants and examined his crotch. He could hear Neil sniffling as he attempted to pull his balls back from the knot in his pelvis.
He whispered softly, “They okay?” He kept staring at Neil’s exposed white ass as he stood with his pants pulled down to his knees.
“I think so,” sniffled Neil.
Just then, the bell rang. The boy said, “I better get to class. I’m new here, and I don’t want to get into trouble the first day.”
Neil pulled up his pants and turned toward the boy. For the first time he got a good look at him. He looked like a smaller and shorter version of Alex. In fact, Neil assumed he was probably Alex’s brother. “Thanks,” he muttered as he zipped up his pants. The boy nodded his head and then rushed from the room.
Neil wiped his eyes dry and waited a few minutes before going to his class. He was already late, so another few minutes wouldn’t matter. When he felt he had his emotions under control, he walked slowly to the office to get a late pass. Each step was painful as his nuts rubbed against his tight jeans. When the secretary wrote him a pass, she warned him that he would have to serve a night of detention if she had to write him another.
“I know, Ma’am,” he replied respectfully. Although he had never served detention his freshman year, many of his friends had. Usually, Lucas was behind their tardiness.
Ms. Shelton was lecturing the class when he entered. She gave him a puzzled look as she took his late pass. She asked worriedly, “Is something wrong, Neil? You would have been the last student I would have expected to be late to my class.”
Neil hung his head and replied, “No, Ma’am. I was late is all.” Lucas burst out laughing when he noticed Neil hobbling to a desk near the front. Neil couldn’t hear what he told the others, but they all burst out laughing.
Ms. Shelton admonished them quickly. “That is enough, Gentlemen!” she said loudly as she made her way to the back of the room. She had learned while doing her student teaching that she needed to address any disciplinary problem quickly and with authority.
Lucas laughed and jokingly told the others, “Yeah, Gentlemen.” He stressed the word gentlemen. “You better behave.” Ms. Shelton was going to respond to Lucas’s behavior, but she decided it was better to get back to the other students rather than wasting her time on something she viewed as trivial.
She remembered what Mr. Longstreet, her supervisor, told her last year. “You have to pick your battles.” When she walked back toward the front of the room, she gently patted Neil on his shoulder.
Her gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Lucas. “Kissing up to the teacher already,” he muttered loud enough for Neil to hear.
Ms. Shelton stood before the class and addressed them. “Since I’m new here, I thought we could spend the first day getting acquainted.”
Lucas said jokingly from the back. “We already know each other. We’ve been going to school together since kindergarten.” Almost everyone, but Neil, laughed.
It surprised everyone when Sammy who was sitting on the other side of the room turned and said angrily, “Why don’t you shut up, you Moron. Let Ms. Shelton teach.”
Lucas glared angrily at her and spat, “Bite me, Samantha.”
Ms. Shelton immediately became upset. “That is enough,” she warned. “I don’t want to assign detention on the first day.”
Jed laughed, looked over at Lucas and said, “Lucas already has a night of detention from Mrs. Yarber.”
Lucas stated angrily, “Bet I don’t serve it.”
Ms. Shelton clapped her hands together and attempted to bring the class back to order. “This is what I want everyone to do,” she said. “Since I don’t know you, I want to go around the room and have each of you stand and introduce yourself to me.”
Sammy asked, “What do you want us to tell you?”
Ms. Shelton smiled and said, “Just something about you.” She thought a second and then added, “I know. Since you all know each other, then why don’t you tell everyone something about yourself that no one else knows.”
The hairs on the back of Neil’s neck bristled when he heard Lucas say, “Oh, Boy. This should be fun.” All the guys laughed when he added, “Right, Neil?”