We stood facing each other. I had hoped that I wouldn’t run in to him. And by the look on his face, I don’t think he was aware I was in the house.
Freddy’s mother rushed from the kitchen and grabbed me by my arm. “This way, Richie,” she insisted nervously as she pulled me into the dining room. Andrew, Harley and Melissa were already seated. Freddy walked over and sat down beside Andrew.
“Move over a seat, Dear,” she instructed Freddy. She then had me sit between Andrew and Freddy. The seats had been situated tightly together. Andrew was practically sitting in my lap, and my right leg was pressed firmly against Freddy’s.
He walked in and took a seat. He glanced quickly at me before asking Linda, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
She came hurriedly from the kitchen carrying a large bowl of spaghetti. She placed it in the center of the table. She looked nervously around the table before disappearing again. Seconds later, she returned with a plate of garlic bread. She sat down, folded her hands and said to Harley, “You say grace.”
I bowed my head while Harley gave thanks for the spaghetti because it was his favorite dish. Andrew started snickering to my left. “And thank you Jesus, for letting Richie eat with us tonight. Just don’t let him eat too much spaghetti.” Andrew giggled again as Linda lightly smacked Harley’s hand. “Amen.”
Everyone took a heaping portion of the spaghetti. It looked delicious. Linda kept looking nervously at me. I think she was afraid I would get into an argument with him as I had in the past.
“Did you boys work on Freddy’s history assignment?” She asked as she attempted to ease the tension at the table.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Freddy replied. “We got quite a bit done. Richie’s pretty smart.” My Dad glanced quickly over at us.
“You’re smart too, Freddy,” she assured him.
“Yeah,” giggled Harley. “You just suck at hiskory.”
“It’s history, Dear,” she corrected him. “And your brother doesn’t suck.” She looked quickly at Freddy and exclaimed, “Oh, My!” I looked over as his face turned scarlet red.
My father was trying to stifle a laugh. “Yes, well,” he said quickly. “Perhaps we should change the subject.” He turned to me. “Richard,” he asked, “How are you doing in school?”
I tried to ignore him by reaching for a piece of garlic bread, but Freddy elbowed me in my side. “Fine, Sir,” I replied without looking at him. Freddy dropped his hand from the side of the table, took my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“I’m learning to add!” Harley announced excitedly. “Listen, 3 plus 3 is 6.” The rest of the dinner conversation involved Andrew quizzing Harley on his math skills. I thought he did really well for his age.
Since Linda did the cooking, it was customary for the children to clean the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Freddy told the younger children they didn’t have to help. They hurried from the room before he changed his mind. Linda and my father disappeared to their bedroom, leaving Freddy and me alone. “Are you all right?” Freddy asked me when we took a load of dishes into the kitchen.
“Yeah,” I started laughing. “Dad and I were actually in the same room without getting into a fight.”
“I know,” he sighed. “I think Mom and I were worried the entire time.” He nudged me in my side. “You handled it really well.” We walked back into the dining room and returned with more dishes.
“Just don’t get used to it,” I replied. “I don’t plan on making it a habit of eating here.” His smile turned quickly to a sad expression.
“Okay,” he said. “I was hoping we could spend more time together.”
“We can,” I assured him. “But maybe at my house, or even in school.” He remained quiet as we continued to clean up. As we were standing in front of the dishwasher, I nudged him in his side.
I started giggling. “So, you don’t suck?”
He put his hands to his face and moaned. “I can’t believe Mom said that. I was so embarrassed.”
I smiled at him. “I thought it was cute the way you turned so red.”
He elbowed me in my side. “Shut up.”
I continued to tease him. “You never did answer my question,” I giggled. “Do you?”
He glanced down quickly at my crotch. “If you’re good, you may find out.”
I started laughing and replied, “If you’re bad, you may.” His face reddened again. I leaned in and quickly kissed him. We turned when we heard a noise behind us.
“Oh!” His mother exclaimed. “Excuse me.” She turned and hurried from the kitchen.
My aunt and uncle were sitting in the family room when I got home. I entered and plopped down on the sofa beside my aunt, toed off my shoes and rested them on the coffee table. She quickly hit my leg.
“Were you raised in a barn?” she asked. I started grunting like a pig. She and my uncle burst out laughing.
“Someone is in a good mood,” she smiled. I guess it had been a long time since they had seen me laugh. “Did you have fun last night at Gabe’s?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “I did.” I sat and watched television with them for a while. It was some old action movie I had never seen before. The special effects sucked. I couldn’t believe that people used to watch things like that. After a while, I went to my bedroom to finish an assignment in literature that was due on Monday.
I lay on the bed and opened my lit book to chapter six of Beowulf. My eyes instantly closed, and I fell asleep. I must have slept for about an hour when I felt a tickle on my nose. I tried to ignore it, but it continued. When I raised my hand to scratch it, I felt foam on my face. I opened my eyes when I heard Gabe roaring with laughter. Uncle Ray was standing behind him holding a can of shaving cream.
“What the hell!” I yelled as I looked at the white foam covering my right hand. I then lifted the hand to my head and smeared more cream onto my face. Uncle Ray left the room laughing so hard tears were flowing down his cheeks. Gabe was standing over me laughing uncontrollably.
I jumped from the bed and lunged at him. We both tumbled to the ground as I attempted to smear what remained of the shaving cream into his face. We wrestled on the ground for a few minutes before stopping. He scooted back and rested against the bed while he tried to catch his breath. I got up, went into the bathroom and removed the cream with a towel. He was still laughing when I returned.
“That was so fucking funny!” he laughed. “I got to hand it to your uncle, I would never have thought of doing something like that.”
“This was his idea?”
“Yeah,” Gabe continued to laugh. “He’s a pretty cool guy.”
I looked over and scowled. “You know I’m going to get even with you someday?”
“Ohhhh!” He pretended to shiver. “I’m so scared.” I threw the towel I was holding at him.
I sat down on the bed beside him. “What did your Dad say to you after we left?” I knew Mr. Dyson well enough to know that he would not forget about us streaking. I figured I would probably be helping Gabe clean out the attic next weekend or something.
Gabe frowned. “I can’t see Sasha next weekend,” he announced. “He said he won’t take me. I can’t wait until I turn sixteen so I can get my license.”
“What about your mom?”
“She’s mad at us too.”
“Yeah,” he replied. “It was your idea.”
“My idea!” I screamed. “You’re the one who talked me and Freddy into doing it with you. You were naked before we even climbed down from the tree house.”
“For the record,” he grinned. “It was your idea. I just told them I did it because you talked me into it.” I sighed and sat back on the bed. It was no use to even argue with Gabe.
He turned to me. “So, what about you and Freddy?”
“What about us?” I was afraid to say anything to him because I didn’t want to out Freddy.
Gabe raised his eyebrows. “Come on, Richie,” he asked, “Do you like, like him?”
He giggled when he saw my face begin to redden. “You do, don’t you?”
“Gabe,” I insisted. “I really can’t say anything.”
“Why?” he asked. “It’s okay. I know he’s gay.”
“Yeah,” he grinned. “I kind of figured it out because of the way he was always looking at you. Why do you think I got you guys naked last night?”
“You had us streak so we could get together?”
"Yeah!” His face beamed with excitement. “Did it work? I saw how you guys were sleeping when you woke up this morning.”
My eyes narrowed. “You planned this whole weekend, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, sure,” he giggled. “Did it work?”
“What about Cindi?” I couldn’t figure out why he had tried to get Freddy to go out on a date with her if he knew Freddy was gay.
“Oh, that,” he replied. “I didn’t plan that, but it worked out pretty good. Did it make you jealous when he was with her?”
“It did, didn’t it?” he asked excitedly. “I knew it!”
I hit him in his arm. “You, Fucker.” I acted like I was mad, but I couldn’t stop grinning.
“So, did you guys like do it when you went back to your house?” He made a gesture with his fingers.
“No!” I shouted. “We didn’t,” I imitated his gesture, “do it!”
“Damn!” he replied disappointedly. His eyes brightened up. “Did you at least kiss him?” He started laughing when my face reddened. “You did!”
“Shut up, Fucker,” I said as I elbowed him in his side.
“Umpph,” he moaned. “I find you a boyfriend and this is the thanks I get?”
“You didn’t find me a boyfriend,” I insisted.
“So, when did you kiss him?” He sat up and waited for me to reply.
I looked into his eager face and smiled. “Why are you so interested this?”
His face softened. “I just want to see you happy, Richie.” Tears started to form in his eyes. “You’ve been through so much shit you deserve to be happy.”
I leaned in and gave him a hug. We embraced for about ten seconds before he started to giggle. He pulled away, grinned at me and asked, “You’re not going to kiss me, are you?”
“You should be so lucky,” I laughed. I then lifted my leg and kneed him in his nuts.
“Ouch!” He screamed as he curled into a ball and moaned.
“That will teach you to play matchmaker,” I laughed. He pulled me down on the bed and we wrestled around for several minutes before Aunt Barbara came to the door and told us to quit acting like children.
I stood nervously outside the large doors of the school waiting for Freddy to arrive. Gabe had even noticed I that I was edgy, but I used the excuse that I was worried about a test in biology.
Actually, I had been nervous since his mother had seen us kissing in the kitchen. She was still in her room when I left. Freddy said he would ask her to take me home, but I thought it might be a little awkward. She knew he was gay. She also knew I was gay. So that wasn’t what worried me. For some reason I felt we had committed incest.
Even though we weren’t close, he was like a big brother to Andrew. I guess that kind of made him my big brother. There was also the possibility that we could live in the same house someday, although I had decided I would never again live under the same roof as my father.
I just needed to see Freddy and see if he was feeling like I was. I certainly wasn’t interested in becoming involved in another relationship. I still thought about Wade. There wasn’t an hour that would go by that I didn’t picture his face. We had only had sex a few times, but I relived those few times often. It wasn’t the kind of thoughts that I would have late at night in bed, get an erection, and then masturbate. They were more like… I don’t know how to describe them. Maybe warm feelings would come closest to how I felt. I would picture his mischievous grin just before he did something funny, and I would find myself smiling. Then I would have to fight back tears knowing I would never see that smile again.
So, no. I wasn’t ready for anyone to love me; at least not yet. Not until Wade’s smiling face began to fade from my memory. Uncle Ray told me the hurt would go away, and then I would just have memories. I just didn’t know when that day would come. Maybe never.
Freddy smiled when he saw me standing on the steps. He pushed his book bag back onto his shoulder as he approached. “Hey, you,” he said cheerfully. “Waiting on me?”
I grabbed his arm and squeezed it. “About yesterday,” I said, “I’m really, really sorry. I should never have...” I looked around to see if anyone was nearby. “I should never have kissed you,” I whispered.
His brown eyes lit up as a big grin appeared on his face. “It’s okay, Richie,” he assured me. “I liked it.”
“But your mom,” I said a little louder before lowering my voice. “She saw us!”
“If it bothered her,” he replied, “she didn’t say anything this morning.”
“But, but…” I stammered, “We’re practically brothers.” He started laughing as he grabbed my arm and led me up the stairs.
“Let’s just think of each other as kissing cousins.”
“Did she tell Dad?” He seemed to have accepted what happened between Wade and me, but I wasn’t sure he could accept me doing something with Freddy. Now that we were becoming friends, I didn’t want him to persuade Linda not to let us see each other.
Freddy shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. He just comes to the table, drinks coffee and reads the newspaper in the morning. He may say something later.”
The warning bell rang for first period and he headed to class. “See you at lunch.” He gave me a wave and then ran off to class.
I made it to Mrs. Livingstone’s class just as the bell rang. As I sat down, Earl Buckman came into the room and took a seat beside me. He looked over and smiled as he opened his book bag and took out a notebook.
I was almost asleep as Mrs. Livingstone lectured from the front of the class. Most of the class had their heads down on their desk. At least I was able to sit up and stare blankly toward the front. If I had completed all her assignments, I would also have been sleeping like everyone else.
“Pssst!” Earl was trying to get my attention. I looked over and he handed me a small piece of paper. It had been folded several times. I opened it and then blushed. When I looked back at him, he grinned. I looked down at the words he had written with a red pen. 'I really think your hot, Richie. I’m waiting for you to call me.'
I folded the paper back and looked over at him. He was smiling at me. “So?” he mouthed. I shrugged my shoulders. I couldn’t tell him I really wasn’t interested. I knew I should never have told him I would consider it. A boy like Earl seizes on any opportunity he thinks opens up to him. By the look on his face, he was probably already considering me as a boyfriend.
“Earl Buckman?” I looked quickly toward the front of the room. Mrs. Livingstone had stepped away from writing on the blackboard and was walking down the aisle toward us. Students started raising their heads from their desks to see what was happening. Earl’s face was turning red from embarrassment. I lowered my head so she wouldn’t shout at me.
“Would you like to share with the class what you and Richie have to say?” It was now my turn to become embarrassed. Several students around us started sniggering.
“He probably wants Ferguson to fuck him,” I heard one student mumble off to my left.
“No, Ma’am,” Earl said defiantly. “Besides,” he looked around the room. “Everyone in here is sleeping. Why are you picking on us?”
She walked over and peered down at him. “Because your behavior is disruptive.”
Earl jumped to his feet. I reached out for his arm, but he pulled away. “Disruptive! You crazy bitch!” Several students let out a gasp. “So it’s all right for us to sleep in your class, but if we do manage to stay awake during one of your boring lectures, then we’re disruptive?”
Her hands were shaking as she pointed to the door. “Get out!” Earl looked angrily at her as he stuffed his notebook into his book bag.
“I’ll be glad to leave,” he responded angrily as he headed for the door. Several students started laughing. Before leaving, he turned and flipped them off.
Mrs. Livingstone then looked down at me. “Richie, you have two nights of detention.” It was now my turn to spring to my feet.
“What?” I shouted. “Why? I didn’t do anything!”
She held up three fingers. “Three nights of detention.” Again, I heard laughter coming from around the room.
Before I knew what I had said, I heard the word, “Bitch,” come out my mouth.
Her eyes narrowed in anger. “Get out!” She screamed. “Get your faggot ass out of my classroom!” A surprised look appeared on her face when she finished uttering the words. The room became deadly silent as everyone waited to see how I would react.
“Fine,” I said as I picked up my books off the desk. “I’ll leave your classroom.” I then held my head high and paraded from the room. I could hear subdued talking as I closed the door.
Earl was leaning against the wall across the hall when I left. Tears were in his eyes. I walked over and stood beside him. “Did she throw you out too?” I nodded.
“She called me a faggot.” His eyes widened. Suddenly, anger consumed me. I looked into Earl’s eyes and realized he had put up with this type of discrimination all his life. I had watched other students jeer and heckle him since elementary school, and I had stood by and said nothing. Until I had been outed by Stephen, I was reluctant to talk to Earl in school for fear other students would think I was gay.
Now I had received the worst form of discrimination- from someone I had formerly respected. If someone like a teacher could harbor such bigotry and hatred, then how deep could it be for others?
“She didn’t?” Earl asked incredulously. “She really called you a fag?”
“Faggot,” I said. “She told me to get my faggot ass out of her room.”
“Damn,” he muttered. “What are we going to do?”
“We?” Earl was looking expectantly at me.
“Sure, Richie!” he said excitedly. “We can’t let her get away with saying something like that. She’s a teacher. Isn’t it against the law or something for her to say that?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “She’s still a teacher. And we are gay. Who’s going to stand up for us?”
“Yeah,” he said sadly. “I’ve been called a fag all my life. When I complained to the principal last year, he told me I should just ignore them.” Tears formed in his eyes. “Ignore them. He doesn’t have a fucking clue how much it hurts.” I put my hand on his back and patted him gently. I wanted to hug him, but I was afraid he might misread my intentions.
“Fuck it!” I muttered as I put my arms around him and held him. He pulled away after a minute.
“Thanks, Richie.” He wiped the tears away with his sleeve. “You’re a good friend.”
We both froze when we heard Mr. Latham, the school principal, announce over the PA, “Would Earl Buckman and Richie Ferguson report to the office.” There was a short pause before he added, “Immediately.”
The office secretary looked up when we entered the reception area. She motioned for us to have a seat while she rose and went into Mr. Latham’s office. She returned seconds later and told us he was waiting to see us.
Mr. Latham is a rather large man. He briefly played football for the San Diego Chargers before he injured his knee during a playoff game. I had never dealt with him before, but I heard that he was very strict and intimidating. All he had to do was holler down a hallway before a bell would ring, and students would scatter to their classes.
He was reading a paper when we entered his office. Without looking up, he motioned for us to have a seat in two chairs facing his desk. We sat down and waited timidly for him to speak.
He sat back in his leather chair, folded his hands behind his head and stared at us. He looked over at Earl. “Earl,” he said. “I warned you the last time that if I saw you in my office again, I was going to suspend you.”
“But, Mr. Latham,” Earl’s voice shook with emotion. “I didn’t do nothing. Honest.”
“That’s what you always say, Earl.” He took the paper on his desk and held it up. “Disruptive talking in class.” He leaned toward Earl. “And you called Mrs. Livingstone a bitch?”
Earl jumped to his feet. “I get in trouble for calling her a bitch,” he looked over and pointed at me, “but she can call Richie a faggot?” His face was red with anger as tears started to appear in his eyes.
A surprised look appeared on Mr. Latham’s face. His eyes then narrowed in anger. “What did you say?”
“Honest, Mr. Latham,” Earl pleaded, “She called him a faggot.” He looked at me. “Didn’t she?”
I started to blush from embarrassment. Mr. Latham’s eyes were boring into me as he waited for me to speak. “Yes, Sir,” I answered timidly. “She told me to get my faggot ass out of her room.” I let out a deep sigh after the words were finally out.
Mr. Latham leaned back in his chair. He didn’t say anything for a minute as he thought about what we had said. Finally, he leaned forward. “I want you boys to go to your second period class. My secretary will write you a pass.”
“That’s it?” Earl asked. “You’re just going to send us to class?”
“Earl,” Principal Latham spoke very professionally. “Matters like this have to be handled carefully.”
Earl stood and spoke defiantly. “So, we just have to ignore it then, like you’ve told me before.”
Latham spoke very calmly. “I’m not asking you to ignore it. This is a serious matter, and there are procedures that must be followed. Due process, if you will. You go to class and let me handle this.”
We left his office, got a note from the secretary and headed to class. Once outside in the hall, Earl was still skeptical that anything was going to happen. “Bullshit!” he said angrily. “More fucking bullshit! He’s just going to let her call you a faggot in front of the class, and he’s not going to do anything about it. I just know it.”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “We’ll just have to wait.” We hugged and then headed off to class.
Gabe was standing at the cafeteria table waiting for me to enter. As soon as he saw me, he ran over to the door and grabbed my arm. “Is it true, Richie? Did Livingstone call you a fag?”
“When did you hear that?” I asked as I headed for the cafeteria line. I noticed that many students stopped to stare at me.
“It’s all over the school!” he informed me. “Everyone is talking about it. She really called you a fag in class?”
“I guess,” I said as I made my way through the line. After purchasing a salad and iced tea, he followed me to my seat. Several guys were already seated. They nodded when I sat down.
Gabe bit into his hamburger and asked, “So what happened? There are so many rumors going around.”
Just then, Freddy walked over to the table. I scooted over and he sat down beside me. I looked at him and joked. “Better be careful. You’re sitting next to the school faggot.”
“This ain’t funny, Richie!” Gabe admonished me. Freddy gave me a worried look. “She can’t say something like that to you.” I explained what happened between Earl and me, and then how Mrs. Livingstone had singled us out and said we were being disruptive.
“Bitch!” Gabe said angrily when I was done. “I hope they fire her.”
Freddy looked worriedly at me. He let his hand graze against mine. I could tell he wanted to hold it, but he was afraid what others might say. “Are you going to be all right?”
“I think so,” I laughed nervously. “I’ve been through a lot worse.”
We talked about the incident for the rest of the lunch period. When the bell rang, some students waited until I had walked past them before they left. I could sense that I was the topic of conversation. I looked for Earl on my way to class. I hadn’t seen him since we left Mr. Latham’s office.
I was taking notes in my fifth period class when a student entered the room and approached my teacher. He motioned for me to come to his desk. He then informed me that I had been summoned by the office, and I was to report immediately.
When I entered, Earl was sitting in a chair. I walked over and sat down beside him. “Do you know what’s going on?”
“Nope,” he responded. “My teacher told me to report here.”
“Mine, too,” I said.
Just then, the office door opened, and Mrs. Livingstone entered. She seemed upset as she scowled down at us. She walked past without saying a word. A minute later, the school secretary came out of the principal’s office and motioned for us.
When I entered, I quickly scanned the room. There were many people sitting around the office. I immediately noticed Aunt Barbara and Uncle Raymond sitting off to the left. They looked at me worriedly.
“Come in, Boys,” Mr. Latham ordered. He pointed to two seats in the middle of the room. “Sit down.” A crying woman to the right of Earl rose and took him into her arms. I assumed it was probably his mother. They sat down and she continued to hold him. Mrs. Livingstone was sitting in a chair off to our right. There was a man dressed in a business suit seated beside her.
I heard the door behind me open. Mr. Latham looked up and gestured with his hand. “Come in, Detective Ferguson.” My breathing stopped when I heard his name mentioned. Seconds later, he placed his hands gently on my shoulders.
“Are you okay, Son?”