Chapter 27

Dad’s car was parked two doors down from my house when I pulled into the driveway. Before I got out, he had pulled in behind me. I got out and walked up to him. I asked, “What do you want me to do?”

“It’s up to you, Son,” he replied. “I met you here in case you wanted to come home with me. It’s totally your call.”

I gave him a confused look and replied, “You mean for tonight or like move in with you?” We hadn’t talked about it, so I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to do.

“Maybe for a few days,” he said. “It sounded like you may need a break from your mother and sister. I don’t want to cause any problems. If you feel comfortable here, then stay. I’m just offering you an alternative.”

I looked up at the kitchen window and saw my mother looking out at us. I wasn’t sure if she recognized that I was talking to Dad. I looked at him and smiled. “I wouldn’t mind getting away. I need a break. It will also give us a chance to get to know each other better.”

He patted my shoulder and responded, “Good. That’s what I was hoping you would say. Now, go get a few things. I’ll wait here.”

I grinned and said, “You don’t want to come inside and meet Mommie Dearest?”

“God, no!” he replied. “I’m fine waiting here.” I told him I would go pack a few things, and then I’d be back.

As soon as I entered the house, Mom angrily approached me. “What the hell are you doing with THAT man?” She stressed the word that. I tried to get around her, but she blocked me. “I asked you a question, Seth. Answer me!”

I stood defiantly in front of her. “Just how long were you going to keep it from me that Dad lives only fifteen minutes from here?”

She responded angrily, “I had my reasons.”

“Oh, that’s right,” I answered sarcastically. “You were afraid he was going to take Stacy away from you. It’s always about Stacy, isn’t it?”

Anger filled her face. “You little monster!” she spat. “Don’t you talk about your sister like that!”

I pushed past her and said, “I’m leaving.”

She grabbed my arm and tried to stop me. “You’re not going anywhere with him!” I pulled my arm away, and for a split second, I considered hitting her.

“I’m not staying here!” I replied angrily. I stormed to my room. Stacy looked out at me.

“Mom?” she cried out. “What’s going on?”

“Stay in your room, Stacy!” Mom hollered back. “Close your door and stay there!”

I took out a duffle bag and two backpacks. I was crammed as many clothes and shoes as I could into them. I wasn’t sure how long I might stay with Dad, but I wanted to take enough of my things in case Mom wouldn’t let me back in the house.

I had an armload of shirts when Mom entered my room. She closed the door and stood by it and watched me continue to pack. “It doesn’t have to be this way, Seth,” she said more calmly. “I don’t want you to leave. I’m really trying.”

I looked over and glared at her. I then grabbed a few pairs of shoes and shoved them into a bookbag. She walked over and sat on the edge of my bed. “Marie came by today with Carol Reinhart. We talked about getting Stacy professional help. I’m going to school tomorrow and withdraw her. Carol is going to help me enroll her in an academy that deals with students with behavioral problems.”

I turned and asked, “And what about you? Are you going to get help too?”

She stood and looked angrily at me. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” she stated adamantly.

“Oh really, Mother?” I asked sarcastically. “Then why am I leaving?”

“You’re confused, Seth,” she began to cry. “This gay thing has you all messed up.”

I began to laugh. “There’s nothing wrong with me. This gay thing isn’t my problem.” I walked over and faced her. “You’re my problem. You and Stacy. You’ve made my life hell living here.”

“So, you’re going to go live with a man who abandoned you ten years ago?” she cried.

“He didn’t abandon me,” I replied angrily. “You kept him from me. He’s shown me in one day more love than you’ve given me in sixteen years.” I closed the duffle bag, and then I put my laptop computer, a few video games and my schoolbooks inside the book bags. I picked them up and trudged toward the door.

“Seth,” she cried. “Don’t go!”

I looked at her and replied, “It’s too late, Mother. Goodbye.” I hurried down the hall with her following me closely. I thought she would stop, but she followed me out to where Dad was standing.

“Jimmy!” she screamed. “You’re not taking my boy from me! I’ll call the police!”

My father stepped up to her and insisted, “Seth is my son too. If he wants to come home with me, he has every right to do so. You can’t stop him.”

“Bastard!” spat my mother. “This is why I made you stay away. I knew you would try to take them.”

We turned when we heard Stacy hollering on the porch. “Mom! What is going on?” My mother screamed for Stacy to go back inside and close the door. Stacy took one last look and closed the door.

Dad looked at me and ordered, “Put your things in the car.”

Mom hollered, “Seth, take them back to your room!”

I turned and looked at both of them. I had to make a decision that may affect the rest of my life. Should I stay with my mother who has raised me for sixteen years, or leave with a man I have only known for a few hours? It was an easy decision. I opened my car trunk and dumped everything inside.

My mother grabbed my father’s arm and pleaded, “Don’t do this Jimmy! I love my son. Don’t take him from me.”

“I’m not taking him from you,” my father replied. “I’m setting him free.” We watched as my mother sobbed hysterically. For a brief moment, I felt sorry for her. She thought that she had done everything possible to provide for me. And she had. The only thing that she couldn’t provide was the love of a mother. Stacy claimed all that.

I spoked almost inaudibly, “Goodbye, Mother.” I turned and got in my car. I looked in the rearview mirror as my mother continued to plead with my father. Finally, he shook his head and got in his car. We backed out of the driveway. I watched as my mother buried her head in her hands and cried as she walked toward the house.

I was an emotional wreck on the way to my father’s house. I was wondering if I had made the right choice. I felt that I may have thrown away the past sixteen years of my life. I had dreamed of leaving home. However, now that I had been given the opportunity, I felt miserable. Watching my mother fall completely apart haunted me.

She hadn’t been a bad mother. She gave me almost everything I wanted. I was the first of my friends to have a car. Of course, she had her reasons for doing that. She wanted me to chauffer Stacy wherever she wanted to go. I wore nice clothes, and she gave me her credit card to buy the latest video games that I wanted. I had chores to do around the house, but they weren’t overwhelming. I did get mad when I had to do the dishes after meals. Rarely did she tell Stacy to do them.

It was the emotional and mental turmoil that created all the chaos in my life. I never felt that she nor my sister cared for me. I was just a person who took up space, and at times, seemed to be in the way. I never felt I belonged. But I had gotten used to it. I stayed alone in my room, and I rarely interacted with them. After watching my mother’s reaction to my leaving, I think that she thought everything was alright. I didn’t complain, so I guess she was in the dark about how I felt. However, if she had made more of an attempt to communicate with me, she would have known. I might have even confided in her how I was feeling. I might also have told her I was gay. However, her attention was always on Stacy. I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do.

I parked out front of Dad’s house because I didn’t want to block him from parking his car in the garage. I didn’t know his schedule, and I didn’t want him waking me up in the middle of the night to move my car. He came to my car and helped me carry my belongings into the house.

As we walked up the driveway, he asked, “Are you okay, Seth? That was quite a scene with your mother.”

I answered softly, “I’ll be okay.” He looked worriedly at me as we entered the house.

“Let me show you your room,” he said as I trailed behind him. He opened the door to a small guest bedroom. It was nicely furnished, but it didn’t make me feel like it was a special place for me.  “Here it is,” he smiled as he walked around the room. “Make yourself at home.” I threw my bags on the bed and sat atop it.

“Nice,” I responded as I looked around. There wasn’t a desk, so I wondered where I could put my computer.

He walked over to a door and opened it. “You have your own bathroom,” he said. “You won’t have to share one with Emily.” I nodded and smiled. He looked at his watch. “It’s getting late. I have to be at work at six. I’m going downstairs and tell Holly what is going on.” He laughed and added, “I kind of sprung you on her today.” He patted me on my knee. “Unpack and then come downstairs before you go to bed. I’ll find you something to eat.” He smiled and then left the room.

I sat on the side of the bed and looked around. Tears began to well up in my eyes. The room was nice, but it wasn’t home. I felt more alone here. I know Dad was trying hard to make me feel wanted, but I still didn’t feel that. I felt like I had intruded in his life. I rose from the bed and entered the bathroom. I stripped off my clothes and took a long shower. However, no matter how hard I scrubbed myself, I couldn’t wash away the feelings I was experiencing. Chaos was creeping back into my life again.

When I finished, I went back into the bedroom and rummaged through my bag trying to find something I could wear downstairs. I decided on a tee shirt and sweatpants. I put on my socks because I didn’t know if they would object to me walking around the house barefooted like I normally do.

When I entered the family room, Dad was lying on the sofa with his head in Holly’s lap. She was stroking his hair as they watched television. Emily sat in front of them on the floor. She was reading a book. I stood unnoticed as I looked at them. They appeared to be a perfect family. Again, sadness became overwhelming. I wondered if I would ever fit into their world. They looked completely happy. I was afraid that I would just be in the way.

Holly noticed me standing at the door and spoke. “Hello, Seth,” she said politely. “Come in and sit down.” I looked around the room, and then I walked over and sat in a recliner. It appeared to be worn, so I assumed that it was Dad’s chair.

Dad grunted and rose from the sofa. Holly began to laugh and said, “You need to start going back to the gym, Old Man.”

Dad started pounding his chest. “Old Man?” he asked. “You didn’t say that last night.” Holly quickly looked down at Emily to see if she understood his comment. Dad motioned for me to follow him into the kitchen. “Come on, Seth,” he smiled. “I promised you something to eat.” Holly asked if he wanted her to get it, but he told her to watch the show. I trailed behind him into the kitchen.

He opened the refrigerator and took out some cold cuts and mayonnaise. He then got some bread from the cabinet and began making us sandwiches. When he got ready to spread the mayonnaise on the bread, he asked, “A lot or a little?”

I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “A lot, I guess.” He took out a couple of sodas, and we sat down at the counter to eat.

He took a bite from his sandwich and asked, “So, what do you think?”

“About what?”

“Your room,” he replied. “Is it okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said rather unenthusiastically.

He reached out and gripped my arm. “Seth,” he said. “I know this is a rather sudden change in your life. I don’t want you to feel trapped. I’m not trying to disrupt your life.” He squeezed my arm tighter. “I only want what is best for you.” He smiled and continued, “It is not my intention to take you from your mother. I just felt after talking to you today that you might need some space away from her and Stacy. I want to provide you with that space. I would do it for any friend of mine.”

I know he was trying to be kind, but his words cut my heart out. “Any friend of mine.” I wasn’t a friend who needed a place to spend a day or two to clear my head. I was his son. I am hurting, and I need his love.

I attempted a smile and replied, “Thanks.” I picked up my sandwich and asked him if I could go to my room. He gave me a puzzled look and then told me to go get some sleep. He said we could talk more tomorrow when I get out of school. I returned to the bedroom, lay across the bed and cried myself to sleep.

No one was home when I went into the kitchen. I didn’t know if I should get something to eat. There wasn’t a bowl or plate on the table for me. I sat down and called Ty. I told him I would pick him up in fifteen minutes. I went back to the bedroom and got my schoolbooks. On the way out, I made sure to lock the door. However, I wondered what I would do if I returned before Dad or Holly. I guess I would have to wait in my car until they arrived.

Ty was waiting by the curb when I pulled up. He jumped in the car and immediately started talking about Blake. “I called him this morning,” he said. “He sounded pretty good. He said the tests they ran on him came back negative. The doctor says he may get to leave later today or tomorrow.”

“That’s great,” I replied. Ty gave me a strange look when I didn’t say anything more.

He asked, “Are you okay, Seth?” I shrugged my shoulders and didn’t reply. He became more worried. “What’s going on? After going home with your dad last night, I thought you would be super happy. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

Tears welled up in my eyes. “I don’t know.” I looked over sadly and asked, “You ever felt like you just don’t belong anywhere?”

He gave me a puzzled look and replied, “No, not really. What’s happened Seth?”

“Nothing,” I replied, “Just forget it.” We drove in silence the rest of the way to school. We entered the building and headed to the cafeteria. We walked over to the table where Jennifer and Sherman were sitting. They were arguing over a problem we had been assigned in geometry. They got Ty and me involved, and we agreed with Sherman.

“You boys have to stick together,” replied Jennifer sarcastically. She pushed herself away from the table and scurried out of the cafeteria.

“What’s wrong with her?” asked Ty? We started laughing when Sherman replied that it must be that time of the month.

I jumped when someone clamped their hands on my shoulders. Craig started laughing and told me to settle down. Ty scooted over, and Craig sat between us. He asked Ty if he had talked to Blake, and they spent the next few minutes talking. We agreed that we would meet after school and go to the hospital.

Ty asked Craig, “What about football practice though? Do we have to wait until you finish?”

Craig shook his head. “Naw,” he replied somberly. “It’s okay.” He then told us how he and his father had gotten into a rather heated argument last night. His father insisted that he attend practice, but he told his father he had more important things to do. When he asked him what could be more important, Craig told him about Blake. He said his father started ranting that visiting a faggot in the hospital wasn’t more important than football practice. Craig said he told his father that he was quitting the team. His mother had to pull his father to their bedroom so he wouldn’t hit him. He said he could hear them arguing for another hour.

I asked Craig, “Are you going to be alright not playing football?”

“Fuck yeah,” he replied. “I’ve never liked playing. I only did it because my father made me. After I got that concussion, I’ve been thinking a lot about quitting. I don’t want to end up some day a vegetable because some lame ass decides to target me or do something else stupid. I’ve read articles how a concussion can fuck your life up.”

Sherman added, “It can also kill you.”

“Damn straight,” angrily replied Craig. “Let my Dad play. It’s easy for him to yell from the stands. But if I get hurt, he’ll just tell me to take it like a man. That’s what he told me when I got hurt last week. Take it like a fucking man.” He puffed out his chest and mocked his father. He told us he planned to talk to Coach Abernathy during lunch. He told us he would tell us how he reacted during fifth period.

It surprised me during the day that no one said anything about what happened Saturday night. It was as if no one cared. A few students scowled at me and Craig when we entered the classroom. I guess they were still upset about getting in trouble at the party.

Craig, however, seemed to be more upset than me. I didn’t have a lot of friends, so I usually didn’t interact much with other students. Craig was a popular athlete. He was used to being surrounded by admiring girls and guys. Now, no one talked to him. His teammates avoided him. I noticed him nod at a few in the hall, but they would look away. I guess since he had made the decision to quit the team, they no longer wanted to be his friend. I was worried if he would be able to accept not being the center of attention around school.

He came in late to fifth period. He seemed upset as he plopped down beside me. I wanted to ask if he was okay, but the teacher was going over problems on the board. When he finished, he gave us a written assignment and told us we could work together quietly on it until the bell.

I scooted my chair nearer to him. Roni scooted her chair beside me. “Can I work with you guys?” I looked at Craig and he shrugged his shoulders. I wanted to talk about his talk with Coach Abernathy, but I wasn’t sure if he wanted Roni to know what was going on.

Finally, I asked, “How did it go?”

Craig shrugged his shoulders and replied, “About like I expected. He was mad as hell.” Roni asked what was going on, and I told her about Craig meeting his coach earlier to quit the team.

“Good for you, Craig,” she replied enthusiastically. “I won’t have to worry about you getting hurt anymore.” I told her I felt the same way.

He said somberly, “I just feel like I’ve let the team down. We spent so much time together.”

“But you said you hated it,” I reminded him. “Look how they’re treating you now. If they cared about you, they would support you, not turn their backs on you.”

“Seth’s right,” remarked Roni. “It’s times like this when you know who your real friends are.”

Craig looked at me and smiled. “Yeah,” he replied. If we had not been in a crowded classroom, we would have kissed each other. “Fuck them,” he said. “I don’t need them.”

When the bell rang, we went to literature class. We met Ty outside the door, and Craig briefly filled him in on what happed with Coach Abernathy. Ty told him that he had made the right decision.

As I was going to my locker to put some books away, Amber approached me with tears in her eyes. “Seth,” she cried. “Do you know what has happened to Blake?” I told her I did, and I briefly explained what had happened to him. I also told her that I was on my way to see him in the hospital. She wanted to ride with me, but I lied and told her that I had a few other stops to make. She said she would probably see me later.

Ty and Craig were waiting for me when I arrived at my car. Craig gave me a worried look when I approached. “Are you okay, Seth?” he asked.

“Yeah, sure,” I replied. I asked them if they were ready to go visit Blake. Ty got in the car, and Craig gave me a puzzled look before pulling off.

We met in the lobby and headed up to Blake’s room. To our surprise, the room was filled with visitors. Aunt Marie and Uncle Steve were there. So was Mr. Ellis and Mrs. Reinhart. There was also a man in a blue suit standing against the wall I didn’t recognize.

Blake’s face lit up when we walked in. “Great news, Guys,” he said excitedly. “I may be getting out of this prison soon.” We walked over and hugged him tightly. He had tears in his eyes when we pulled away.

Aunt Marie informed us that Blake’s doctor felt he was well enough to leave. All his tests had come back negative. He hadn’t received a concussion when he was pushed into the car window. The gash on his forehead and bruises would take time to heal, but he wasn’t expected to be permanently scarred. I looked at Ty, and he had a smile on his face. We had talked a couple of times about Blake’s appearance after the incident. We were relieved that everything would be okay in a few weeks.

She also told us that Mrs. Reinhart was going to counsel Blake on what had happened. She introduced Mr. Sherman who was a psychologist in her office. She explained that he was an expert on family violence. She wanted to be sure that Blake wasn’t traumatized by what happened to him.

I was happy for Blake. I thought it was ironic that he was lying in a hospital bed, yet his life had made a 180 degree turn from when I first saw him weeks ago lying in a hospital bed. He would be living in a safe home with Aunt Marie and Uncle Steve. He would never have to worry about his cruel parents again. He would also never need to go to the warehouse and sleep on a hard cardboard bed because he had nowhere else to go.

I looked at Ty, and he couldn’t have been happier. He kept looking at Blake and smiling. I know he was wishing that no one else was around so he could kiss Blake. I should be jealous, but I’m not. Ty has been my best friend since elementary school. Even though I had no idea he was gay until recently, I was happy for him. He came out to his parents, and they didn’t reject him. Now he was free to start an open relationship with Blake. Watching them looking at each other, I knew everything would be okay.

I looked at Craig, and he was watching me with a worried look. He knows something is troubling me, but how can I explain it to him. I love him, but my life is such a mess right now. The chaos never leaves. Why can’t we be free to love each other? His father strongly objects to him being gay. I doubt that will ever change. My mother hates him because she feels he betrayed Stacy. If I return home, he’ll never be welcomed there. It just feels like our relationship is doomed before it even starts.

Tears began to well up in my eyes. Craig noticed and stepped over beside me. I turned and fled the room. I was halfway down the hall when Craig grabbed my arm and turned me towards him. He then leaned forward and kissed me.

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