I looked quickly down the hall past Ernest. I was silently praying that a teacher or another student would come walking down the hall and prevent the Shays brothers from completing whatever they had in store for me.
“Where you going, Pussyboy?” Ernest spat. I attempted to move to his right, but he jumped quickly to the side and put out his arms, preventing me from running around him.
“Scare him my way!” shouted Sly from behind me. Ernest moved towards me, forcing me to back up. I then felt a pair of fat, thick arms grasp me from behind. Sly wrapped his arms around me so tightly that I could hardly breathe.
“Please don’t hurt me!” I begged. Ernest stepped forward and threw a punch to my left side. I thought I was going to vomit from the blow.
“Hit him again,” ordered Sly. Ernest threw another punch to my side, causing me to gasp in pain.
“This is what we do to fags around here,” said Sly, as he tightened his grip around me.
“Why are you taking so long?” I looked up and saw Stephanie standing next to Ernest. Her eyes were glaring with hatred. “Hurt him!” she ordered her brothers.
Ernest stepped forward to give me another blow, but a classroom door opened down the hall. I saw a teacher step out into the hallway, but he didn’t look our way. I started to shout out, but Sly removed one arm from around me and started to place his stubby hand over my mouth.
Instinctively, I bit down on it. I could feel his fleshy skin sink deeply into my mouth. He screamed, causing the teacher to stop and look our way.
“What’s going on down there?” he hollered. “You kids aren’t supposed to be in the building.” He then turned and headed away.
I sunk my teeth deeper into Sly’s hand, causing him to let go of me. When he did, I jumped free and ran past Ernest and Stephanie. I ran as fast as I could down the hall, expecting them to follow. When I heard no footsteps behind me, I quickly looked back.
They were still in the middle of the hall, examining Sly’s hand. I could see blood running down the sides. I suddenly felt sick, knowing that I had his blood in my mouth. I started spitting it out onto the hallway floor.
Ernest flipped me off and yelled, “We ain’t through with you yet, Fag!” They turned and headed for the exit. I watched as they left, knowing that they couldn’t reenter once the doors locked them out.
I entered a nearby restroom and rinsed my mouth out. I almost rubbed the skin off my lip trying to get rid of the vile taste of Sly’s blood. Once done, I went back to get my books that had fallen to the floor when I was grabbed from behind.
I expected them to be ruined, but they seemed to have been untouched. I guess they were too worried about Sly’s hand to do any damage to them. I cautiously approached the door and peered out. I was afraid they would be waiting outside for me. I waited several minutes until I saw some students walking down the sidewalk. I figured I’d be safe if others were around.
Carefully, I opened the door and looked around. I didn’t see them anywhere. I quickened my pace as I rushed to my car. I stopped suddenly when I was about 25 feet from my car. All four tires on my car were flat. They had been slashed with a knife. There were cut marks about three inches long on each tire.
“No!” I looked into the sky and screamed,“Why me?”
I put my books into the car, and then pulled out my cell phone. “Dad,” I said sadly. “Can you come get me? I’m in the parking lot at school. My car’s been damaged.” I explained to him what had happened to the tires. I left out the part about the Shays brothers trying to hurt me.
“I’ll call a towing service,” he said. “You stay put until I get there. Will you be all right?”
I assured him I was safe. I looked across the parking lot and saw the football team practicing in the distance. I figured I could holler for Leon and his friends. Not even Sly and Ernest were stupid enough to take on the defensive line of our football team.
As I stood outside my car, I looked around the parking lot. There were still a number of cars. I was surprised when I saw Jason’s car still parked across the lot. As far as I knew, he didn’t have any extracurricular activity. Now that the mock trial was over, there was no reason for him to stay.
Five minutes later, I saw him walking out of the building with Cynthia. They seemed to be in a deep conversation. Several times they’d stop and face each other. Cynthia kept poking him in his chest. She had a habit of doing it to me when she was trying to make a point. I watched as they slowly made their way to his car. He walked to the passenger’s side and opened the door for her.
Before getting in, she looked over and saw me standing beside my car. She pointed me out to Jason. We made eye contact as he assessed the situation. He noticed the flat tires on my car. He backed out and drove slowly towards me.
Cynthia jumped out before the car had come to a stop. “Are you all right?” she asked as she ran up and grabbed my arm. She walked around the car inspecting my flat tires. Jason looked out his window, put he said nothing.
Cynthia asked worriedly, “Who would do this?”
“I’m not sure.” I replied. I didn’t feel like telling her that I suspected Stephanie’s brothers with Jason so near. For all I knew, he might have been involved himself.
She reached out and put her arm around me to comfort me. I let out a yelp. With all that had happened, I had forgotten that I had been beaten by Ernest.
“What’s wrong with you?” Cynthia asked worriedly.
“Nothing,” I replied as I held my side and winced in pain. Cynthia pulled my shirt up, revealing several very black bruises.
“Oh, my God,” she gasped. “Who did this?” I looked over and saw a very concerned looked on Jason’s face. He got out of the car and walked over to me.
“Who did this, Taylor?” He pulled my shirt up and examined the bruises. I grabbed the bottom of my shirt and pulled it down quickly. He then walked around my car and examined the tires.
“I guess you don’t know who did this, either?” He looked deeply into my eyes. Again, I knew he could tell when I was lying, so I chose to say nothing.
Just then my dad raced up in his truck. He stopped and jumped out. After looking at the damage, he walked over to Jason.
“Did you do this?” he asked Jason angrily, grabbing at his shirt.
“No!” I shouted. My father looked over at me. “He had nothing to do with it. He just pulled up with Cynthia.”
“Sorry, Jason,” he apologized as he let go of his shirt. “I should have known you’d never do anything like this.”
“It’s all right, Mr. White. I understand.” He walked over to his car and got in. Our eyes met one last time before he drove off. I think he was hurt because my father had instantly assumed he had been the one who damaged my car.
“Do you know who did this?” My father asked as he walked around the car, kneeling to examine each tire. “It looks like someone may have slashed them with a switchblade. The cuts seem pretty clean.” He pulled out his phone and dialed 911.
“What are you doing?” I asked nervously.
“We have to notify the police,” he said. “This is a dangerous act of vandalism. The next time they may use the knife on you.” I sunk down to the ground and wrapped my arms around my legs tightly. Cynthia sat down beside me and said nothing. My father kept pacing around and shaking his head each time he’d see a flat tire.
The police arrived around thirty minutes later. He took a report and kept asking me who I thought might be responsible. Cynthia even lifted my shirt and showed him the bruises before I could stop her. My father became irate when he saw the dark bruises covering my sides. I finally had to tell him that the Shays brothers had beaten me in the hallway at school.
The police officer taking the report became very quiet after I told him who had bruised me. At one point, he walked to his cruiser and made a call on his cell phone. I had a sinking feeling that he may have been calling Lieutenant Shays and telling him about my allegations.
I was right. About fifteen minutes later, Shays pulled up in an unmarked cruiser and jumped out angrily. He walked around the car and then pulled the officer to the side. They talked briefly before he came storming over to me.
I have met him on several occasions and he has always scared me. He is a huge man with a very short temper. He stands 6’3 and weighed about 260 pounds. He has a full head of red hair. It seems like all his children had inherited this trait. Stephanie’s brothers also received his bullish behavior.
“You the queer who is accusing my boys of doing this?” he asked loudly as he strutted over to me shaking his finger. “I’ve heard all about you what you did to Jason.”
Before I could respond, my father stepped between us, protecting me from his rage.
“You take one more step, Lester, and I’m going to lay you out right here,” threatened my father. “I don’t care if you are a damned lieutenant. You have no business saying things like that to my boy.”
He stopped suddenly. “Are you threatening me, Robert?” he asked angrily. To show his authority, he put his hand on his gun. He turned to the officer who had taken the report.
“Did you hear that Jerry?” he asked. “This man just threatened to hit an officer of the law.” The officer shrugged his shoulders and walked away. It was apparent he was intimidated by Shays’ bullish behavior.
“I’m not threatening you, Lieutenant Shays.” my father said, stressing Lieutenant. “I’m just stating a fact. This boy is only sixteen, and you just called him a derogatory name. I don’t know a lot about the law, but I’m quite sure you just violated his civil rights.”
“What the hell you talking about?” he shouted. “That boy of yours sucked off my daughter’s boyfriend. My wife said Stephanie came home from school crying because Jason broke up with her today. If you ask me, I think that little faggot of yours got everything he deserves.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen my father get so mad. He didn’t say anything to Stephanie’s father. Instead, he walked over to my car and smashed the passenger’s side window with his fist. Holding his hand and wincing in pain, he walked away and phoned Bernie.
The next hour was complete turmoil. Bernie arrived minutes later with several attorneys from his office. The police chief was summoned, and there was a huge argument in the parking lot. Cynthia and I sat on the curb and watched.
Lt. Shays threatened to arrest my father for threatening to hit him. My father demanded that Shays be removed from the force for calling me a queer and a faggot. Bernie’s associates were hurriedly recording all that was being said. One attorney interviewed me, while another interviewed the officer who had originally responded to the call.
Everything came to a halt when an attorney from the city law office arrived. She informed Lt. Shays that he should exercise his right to remain silent. It was decided that everyone involved would meet downtown after a thorough investigation was held by internal affairs.
“We’ve got that son of a bitch!” exclaimed Bernie excitedly after everyone had pulled off. “I’ve wanted his balls for a long time.” He went on to explain how Thomas had been involved in several incidences involving Shays concerning other gay and lesbians. Nothing was ever done because there had never been other witnesses around to verify their accusations. This time there were several, including another police officer.
“Damn, my hand hurts!” shouted my father. His hand was swollen and turning blue.
“I think it’s broken,” said one of Bernie’s attorneys after she examined his hand carefully. “You should go to the hospital.”
After a tow truck arrived and pulled off with my car, I drove my father to the hospital with Bernie and Cynthia following us in his. Since he had been shown the bruises on my body earlier, he insisted that I too be examined by a doctor and have pictures taken of my injuries. He said they may be needed later at a trial.
He said that Lt. Shays had been negligent in his duties. When he was told that I had been assaulted, he refused to make a report because he feared his boys were involved.
I was exhausted by the time we got home. I had left Mrs. Mason’s class around three in the afternoon. It was now after ten in the evening. Cynthia came home with me. I had tried to get her to go home, but she said that she had something important to discuss with me. I told her I’d take her home after we’d talked.
We had to fill my mother in on what had happened. I had called her from the hospital to give her a brief updates, but she still wasn’t aware of everything that had occurred. My father was still extremely upset. He had a cast over his hand which extended halfway up his arm. He went to the bar and poured himself a drink as soon as we got home. My mother warned him he shouldn’t because of the medication they had given him for pain, but he hollered, “I don’t give a damn!” While he ranted about the incident, Cynthia and I snuck off to my room to talk.
“What’s so important that it couldn’t wait until tomorrow?” I asked as we sat on my bed.
“Jason broke up with Stephanie,” she informed me. I then remembered Lt. Shays saying something about the breakup when he called me a faggot. It didn’t sink in because too much other stuff was going on at the time.
“Why did he break up with her?” I knew he was upset with her, but I didn’t think he’d leave her.
“Actually, she dropped him.”
“He told her to tell her brothers to leave you alone,” she replied. “They got in a big fight in the hallway and she slapped him in front of everyone. She told him to go fuck his boyfriend.”
“Is that why you were with him after school?” I asked, remembering that they had left the building after everyone else was gone.
“Yes,” she said. “He was pretty upset.”
“I can imagine,” I responded. “I guess it’s rough losing your girlfriend.”
“No, that‘s not it,” she replied. “He was upset that she had come between the two of you. He was going to drop her soon, anyway. He didn’t like the way she had been treating you.”
I was stunned. I figured that after what I’d done, Jason would never want to speak to me again. Now he had broken up with Stephanie because he valued our friendship more than being with her. I didn’t even know how to respond.
“Hello, anyone there?” Cynthia waved her hand in front of my face and giggled at my distant stare. I guess I had been looking blankly into her face.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m just a little shocked. I can’t believe he broke up with Stephanie because of me.”
“Now he’s worried because he doesn’t know how to talk to you again,” she said. “He thinks you’re too upset to be his friend again.”
“You mean he’s not mad at me?” I asked incredulously.
“No, Silly” she replied. “He knows you both were drunk. He feels bad because he’s the one who kept giving you liquor all night.”
“But I took advantage of him!” I said loudly. “He has to be upset.”
“He is,” she replied. “We talked a long time about that. He said he knew you were probably gay. You can’t be someone’s best friend and not know it. He just wishes you had talked to him about it.”
“I feel stupid now.” I put my head in my hands and let out a sigh. All this time I’d worried about Jason finding out I was gay, and he already knew. Cynthia put her arm around me and rubbed my back.
“You can’t change what has already happened,” she said softly. “You can only ask him to forgive you and move on.”
“Do you think he will?” I looked into her face for a ray of hope. Even after what had happened, I desperately missed talking to Jason. We had been so much a part of each other’s lives that I felt a piece of me was missing.
“Just talk to him,” she replied with a slight smile. “Friends forgive friends.” I leaned in and gave her a hug.
“What would I do without you?” I whispered in her ear as she squeezed me tighter.
I drove her home a short time later. As I was waiting for her to go inside, her father stepped out onto the porch and motioned for me to come inside. I saw Cynthia standing behind him saying something. He turned and spoke to her, and then she walked away.
I got out and slowly walked up the sidewalk. I was very fond of her father, even if he was a little too strict. Because he was a preacher, I found it very easy to talk to him. His demeanor was soft and gentle. In the years I had dated Cynthia, I had never heard him raise his voice to anyone.
He was a small man, much shorter than me. He probably only weighed about 140 pounds. It always amused me because Cynthia’s mother was just the opposite. She was very large and rotund. When they say opposites attract, I guess it was true of their relationship.
“Come in, Taylor,” he said softly, motioning for me to go into his office which was located to the right of the living room.
I walked in and took a seat beside his desk. He sat in his chair and leaned back, studying me for a minute before speaking.
“Saturday evening Cynthia and I had a very long conversation,” he began. “She was on her bed crying her eyes out when I went in. It took me a long time for her to tell me why she was so upset.”
I could feel my cheeks begin to burn with embarrassment. I knew that she had probably told him what had happened at the party.
“I’m not going to sit here and judge you,” he said. “Only God can do that. As a minister, I have counseled many gay people. Personally, I don’t think being homosexual is a sin. It is your conduct that becomes sinful. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I looked into his eyes. I don’t think I’d ever felt so comfortable in his presence. I had always assumed that because he was a minister, he would condemn me if he knew I was gay.
“Yes, Reverend Larry.” He had insisted that I call him Reverend the first time I visited Cynthia.
“What I’m very upset with you about is the fact that you led my daughter on, leading her to believe she could build a solid relationship with you.” I dropped my head in shame. It was true, and he was letting me know it. “You hurt her very deeply.”
I sat speechless, knowing that there was nothing I could say. I had deceived her. I had dated her for two years to cover the fact that I was gay.
“However, my daughter has chosen to do what the good Lord teaches all of us to do.” He sat back and folded his hands in front of him. I looked up and our eyes met. “She forgives you.” I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. “And so do I.” I started to cry.
He rose from his chair, walked behind me and placed his hands on my shoulder. “I know you’re going through a crisis right now. Sometimes God brings things like this into our lives so that we might learn from them. Listen carefully to your heart and hear what God is trying to say to you.” I nodded my head as he kept his hands on my shoulders.
After a few minutes, I stopped sobbing and he walked back and took his seat. He folded his hands once again and studied my face.
“I like you Taylor,” he smiled. “I was hoping that some day I could call you son-in-law.” Once again I dropped my head in shame. “But I’m still proud that you are Cynthia’s friend.” I looked up and saw him smiling warmly at me.
“You are welcomed to take Cynthia out anytime you want,” he said. “Just don’t deceive her again.”
“I promise you that I won’t,” I reassured him. “I love Cynthia very much. She is the closest thing that I have to a sister.”
“Good.” He got up and patted me on my shoulder and started laughing. “Make sure you keep it that way.” He left the room, leaving me sitting alone. A minute later, Cynthia walked into the room.
“I’m really sorry, Taylor,” she said quickly. “He insisted on talking to you. Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” I said as I rose and gave her a hug. “For a day to start out so crummy, it sure has ended nicely.”
On the way home in the car, I was singing loudly to music that was playing on the radio. I felt good for some reason. Talking to Reverend Larry had lifted my spirits.
Mom and Dad had already gone to their room when I got home. I grabbed a quick snack from the kitchen and headed to mine. As soon as I sat on the side of the bed and began nibbling on my sandwich, my cell phone rang.
“Hey,” the voice on the other end said nervously.
“Hey,” I responded with a quivering voice.