“Have you changed your mind yet?” Jade asked as she sat across from me in the library. I had gone there to work on a report for my English class, but she had somehow found me and was again trying to talk me out of working.
I tried to sound enthusiastic as I replied, “It wasn’t too bad. The workers are fun to work with.”
“You’re working at Panera Bread,” she responded sarcastically. “How can that be fun?”
“Look,” I replied. “I know you don’t understand, but this is something I have to do. Okay?”
“All right,” she said. “But don’t come begging to me if you need money.”
I laughed at the concerned look on her face. In a way, it made me feel good. I had always lived the life of a rich kid. For once in my life, I felt...normal.
Jade and I studied for several more hours. Occasionally, we would talk about what was happening in our lives. Her life was changing quickly. She and Amanda were becoming very close. Jade was attending her basketball practices late in the afternoon, and she was even considering trying out for the team her sophomore year. She said if she made the team, then Amanda and she could share an apartment together. They seemed to be settling into a close relationship, and I was happy for her. Jade has an abrasive exterior, but inside she possesses a heart of gold. As her friend, I knew there was nothing she wouldn’t do for me.
Growing up, I had never had any close friends. Jade was the first gay person who ever befriended me. Watching the self-confidence she possessed assured me that maybe I could live my life someday with the independence she displays.
At four o’clock, Jade and I walked back to the dorm. Jill had given me a tentative schedule. Since all of the employees were university students, we worked around our classes. I decided that the weekends and Wednesdays would work out best for me. She wanted to schedule me for Tuesday nights, but I told her I would prefer not to work so I could attend the Campus Pride meetings. Scooter overheard our conversation, and she said she wanted to attend the next meeting.
When I entered my room, I was surprised to see Cameron sitting at the table talking to Seth and Sydney. “There you are,” remarked Sydney as I stepped into the room. “Why haven’t you answered your phone? We’ve been trying to call you for over an hour.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. “I was in the library studying,” I informed them. “I turned it off.” I looked over at Cameron and asked, “What’s going on?”
He replied, “Sit down, Dorian.” Seth got up and sat down beside Sydney on the sofa as I sat down across from him.
“Seth told me last week what happened to you,” he began. I looked quickly over at Seth. “I went to the Dean of Student Affairs office yesterday to find out how the matter with...,” he looked down at a notepad before him, “Travis and Raleigh was adjudicated.” He paused to wait for my reaction.
I replied, “And?”
When he sighed, I knew he must not have been pleased with the outcome. “Well, for one, trying to get anything was like pulling teeth. I was told the information was confidential. I kept insisting that it should fall under the guidelines of public record, but they insisted they couldn’t reveal any information.”
“So what did you do?” I asked.
He smiled slightly. “I used my charm,” he laughed. “One of Raleigh’s old high school friends is in my chemistry class. When we had lab work yesterday, I managed to work beside him. I suspect he may be gay, so I started flirting with him a little bit.” When I gave him a suspicious look, he laughed again. “He’s really attractive.”
“He’s still one of Raleigh’s friends,” I said angrily.
“Yes, well,” he replied, “but I did manage to find out what happened.”
“Okay,” I asked, “What happened?”
He shook his head. “Not much,” he informed me. “James said the Dean put them on academic watch for the remainder of the semester.”
“What?” I stood and shouted excitedly. “They strip me naked and toss me out into the lobby, and nothing happens to them? They’re just put on academic watch!”
“Sit down, Dorian,” ordered Cameron softly. When I sat back in the chair, he continued. “I did a little more snooping around, and what I gather, Dr. Avery wants to keep this quiet. If he expels them, he’s afraid they might appeal the ruling and it could become a problem for your father.”
“Damn it,” I muttered. “It’s always about my father.”
Cameron replied, “Travis and Raleigh’s grades are in the crapper. Both are failing every class. He knows they’ll be leaving at the end of the semester, maybe even sooner.”
“But that’s not fair,” I replied angrily. “They should be expelled for what they did to me.”
Cameron sat back and looked over at Seth and Sydney before speaking. “We agree with you, Dorian,” he assured me. “What they did to you is a sexual assault. It probably would meet the criteria as a hate crime.”
“A hate crime?”
“Yes,” he replied. “They could be facing felony charges if you want to prosecute.”
“Prosecute?” Suddenly, I was becoming increasingly worried. I just wanted Travis and Raleigh expelled. I had never considered them facing criminal charges for what they did to me. “Can’t they just expel them?”
Cameron sighed and said, “The school’s position is to place them on academic watch since no criminal report was filed. As far as they are concerned, this was merely a prank.” He stared over at me. “The ball is in your court. If you want more done, then you have to file assault charges against them. I’m not sure how this is handled, but we have members of Campus Pride who are in the law programs. They can help.”
I looked over at Seth and Sydney. They had been listening to our conversation. “I don’t know. What do you think?”
“I think we should get some rope and hang them by their balls from the nearest tree,” remarked Seth angrily. Sydney grabbed his hand, squeezed it and looked over at me.
“This is your decision, Dorian,” she stated. “If you don’t do anything, then they walk away free, thinking they can intimidate the next gay guy they meet.” I shook my head. “But,” she continued, “If you file charges against them, then the press will surely pick up the story- a vice presidential candidate’s gay son tossed naked out of an elevator in his dorm. It will be all over the front pages. Justice will be done to Travis and Raleigh, but they probably won’t use their names. You, though, will have to live with it for the rest of your life.”
I turned toward Cameron when he stated, “She’s right, Dorian.”
“So what do I do?” I asked everyone sadly. “If I file charges, I lose. If I don’t, I still lose.” I looked over at Seth for an answer. He looked blankly at me and lowered his head.
I then looked back at Cameron. “Can I think about this? Do you need a decision today?”
“No, of course not,” he replied. “I just came here today to tell you what I’ve discovered so far. Maybe Dr. Avery will change his mind and expel them anyway.”
“I wonder if Dad knows about this,” I wondered aloud. I thought that perhaps it was the reason he didn’t speak to me. If so, then it would make me even angrier that he did nothing to protect me. Instead, he would rather let two brutes go free so he could protect his own image.
Cameron rose from his seat. “Let’s give this a couple day’s thought, okay?” I nodded my head. “I’ll talk to a few law students and see what they think we should do.” He looked sympathetically at me. “The ultimate decision, though, has to be yours.” He opened the door and left.
I looked over pleadingly at Seth and Sydney. “What should I do?”
“I don’t know,” Seth said as he shrugged his shoulders. He looked at Sydney. “She’s right, though. If you do file charges, you’ll have to face the consequences.”
“This isn’t fair,” I spat angrily. “They’re upstairs thinking this has blown over.”
“But in a few months, they’ll be gone anyway,” remarked Sydney.
“It still isn’t fair,” I replied as I got up to go take a shower before going to work.
When I arrived at Panera Bread, Jill smiled from behind the counter. I had spent a lot of time ironing my uniform shirt, and I had on my baseball cap with the emblem on it. “Don’t you look sharp,” she smiled.
I stood erect, placed my feet together and saluted her. “Ready, for duty, Ma’am.” Several of the workers behind the counter laughed at my antics.
“Don’t get anything started!” shouted Scooter. “She already runs this place like a prison guard.”
Jill blushed and then ordered everyone back to work. She approached and pulled me to the side. “You did a good job yesterday, Dorian.”
“Thank you, Jill,” I replied, “for giving me the opportunity to work here.”
She looked around and laughed. “I’m not sure it’s an opportunity.”
I replied, “To me it is.” I walked over to Scooter and asked her if she needed help preparing an order for a customer. I know I acted like a sixteen-year-old boy working at his first job. To me it was. Since my father was wealthy, I had never had to provide for myself. I wasn’t even required to mow the lawn or rake leaves for an allowance. Dad employed two gardeners who took care of those duties.
When I returned later to the dorm, I was exhausted. A large group of students came in just minutes before closing, and Jill kept the restaurant open an additional hour. Several more students wandered in before she finally locked the door shortly after one.
I was surprised that Seth was still awake. As usual, he was watching Sports Center on the television. He sat up when I entered. “How was work?”
“Great,” I replied as I took off my cap and laid it on the coffee table. I sat down beside him on the sofa. “I’m exhausted,” I said as I rested my head back and closed my eyes.
He asked, “Do you work tomorrow?”
“No,” I informed him. “I’m off until Wednesday.” I opened my eyes when he sat up and stared over at me.
“We need to talk about Travis and Raleigh,” he said worriedly. “Have you decided what you’re going to do?”
“Yeah,” I replied as I looked over at him. “I don’t think I’m going to file charges against them.”
He asked, “Why?”
“I know you won’t understand,” I explained, “but for the first time in my life I feel like I’m living it for me. I’m working and making my own decisions. I’m not depending on my parents for support.”
“But you can’t just shut them out of your life,” he said worriedly.
“Why can’t I?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he answered. “You just can’t.”
We talked for the next hour. I tried to explain to him how they had treated me my entire life. I tearfully told Seth that my parents didn’t love me, and they probably never would. I related how they had ignored me when I joined them at the convention, and that it was over a day before they even realized I had returned to school.
“I hate them,” I said sorrowfully. “I know it’s not right to hate your parents, but it’s how I feel.”
“Maybe things will get better someday,” he responded. When I frowned, he added, “Well, maybe not.” He then looked worriedly at me. “So, what are you going to do?”
“What I’m doing now,” I said. “I’m working and going to school. I know Dad won’t pull me out because he would have to explain it to the press. Leo told me that.”
“You know you can depend on me, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I replied as tears welled up in my eyes. Seth leaned over and gave me a big, brotherly hug.
Seth and I met Sydney and Jade for lunch at a fast food restaurant on campus. I had returned to my room after attending my modern biology class. I wanted to play a video game before going to my world civilization class at one o’clock. Seth had returned from his math class and insisted that I join them for dinner.
We were sitting in a booth drinking a soda when Jade and Sydney entered. When she sat across from me, Jade pulled a magazine from a bag and laid it in front of me. “Look what I found in the book store.”
I gasped when I saw the image on the front cover. It was a picture of me! In bold letters under my picture read, ‘The Senator’s Cute Son.’ I picked it up and examined it. It appeared to be a teen girl’s magazine. There were several other young men on the cover who I recognized as either singers or actors.
Seth grabbed the magazine from my hand and muttered, “Holy Shit!” He quickly thumbed through the magazine until he found the article with another picture of me. Both pictures had been taken while I stood on the stage after my father’s convention speech.
“The article says you’re hot!” exclaimed Seth as he read the article aloud. Jade and Sydney both seemed equally excited as he continued to read how I was the next superstar of the political world. The article also stated that the magazine had received numerous emails wanting to know more about me.
“Oh, God!” I moaned as I lay my head down on the table.
Jade exclaimed proudly, “Jesus, Dorian. You’re famous!”
“No!” I moaned louder. Seth and Sydney started giggling. They continued to pass the magazine around and make comments about knowing someone famous. Sydney even jokingly asked Seth, “What’s it like to live with a hot stud?”
Seth looked at me and laughed, “Him? Hot stud?” He held his sides as he laughed even harder.
“Thanks, a lot,” I replied as I joined them in their banter. “I guess hot and stud aren’t two words associated with me.”
“Nonsense,” remarked Jade. “I’ve been telling you since we met you’re one of the cutest guys on campus.” She picked up the magazine and showed me the cover. “Now, maybe you’ll believe me.”
“I wonder if my dad has seen this?”
“There you go again,” remarked Jade. “Why do you always have to worry about what your father is thinking?”
“Habit, I suppose.”
Sydney looked at the cover again. “Well,” she remarked, “I think it is a wonderful picture. You did look nice last week. Even my little sister got on the phone when I called and told me she thought you were cute. I didn’t think much of it then, but I guess you’ve become a heartthrob to little girls.”
“Heartthrob!” Seth almost spit out the drink in his mouth as he started laughing uproariously and looked over at me.
“Fucker,” I pouted.
“Okay, Stud,” he laughed as he got up from his seat. “Let’s go get something to eat.” He put his hand on my back and said, “You may need it to fight off all the twelve-year-old girls.”
After ordering, we returned to our seats. They wanted to talk about the article again, but I tried to distract them. “Are you guys attending the Campus Pride meeting tonight?”
“Hell, yeah,” remarked Jade. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
Seth looked over and said,” I wonder if Cameron has any information for you?”
Jade asked, “About what?” Seth spent the next few minutes telling her about the conversation we had had with Cameron. Jade was upset and insisted that I should file charges against Travis and Raleigh. Sydney agreed with me that it was best to let the issue go away because Travis and Raleigh would probably be kicked out of school because of failing grades by the end of the semester.
“They may leave school,” remarked Jade, “but they’ll still spend the rest of their lives bashing gays and anyone else they feel like fucking with.”
“They’re all bullshit,” replied Seth. “They are not as tough as they think, and someone will knock the shit out of them someday.”
I started laughing and said, “You already did.” He lifted his hand and we high-fived.
Later, when Jade, Sydney and I arrived at our world civilization class, Dr. Adkins stopped me at the door before entering. “Here, Mr. Gale,” he said as he thrust a piece of paper into my hand. “Dr. Avery wants to see you in his office right away.”
“It’s not my business to know,” he replied sharply as he turned and entered the room.
Jade asked, “What do you think he wants?”
“I don’t know,” I said as he turned and headed toward the exit.
Dr. Avery’s secretary jumped up from her seat when I entered his office. “Dorian Gale!” she exclaimed, “Follow me. Dr. Avery is expecting you.”
I followed her down a hallway to his office. He was seated behind his desk, but rose when he saw me and extended his hand. “Thank you for coming, Dorian.” He nodded at his secretary, and she closed the door as she left.
He pointed to a leather, wing back chair, “Sit down. Would you like something to drink?”
“No, Sir,” I replied as I sat. I looked across the ornate desk and waited for him to tell me why he wanted to see me.
“How are your classes going?”
“And your new dorm room? Are you satisfied with it?”
He laughed nervously. “I guess you’re wondering why I called you here today.”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied. “The thought did cross my mind.” He laughed again as though I had made a joke.
He leaned across the table and stared into my eyes. “Everything I’ve done since you’ve arrived here at the university has been for your protection.” He waited for me to respond, but I sat staring back at him. “Your father and I have been good friends for many years. When he told me you were going to attend, then I wanted to make sure that your stay here was educational and enjoyable.”
“Enjoyable?” I asked sarcastically. “You put me in a room with an asshole who hated me!”
“Your father and I thought it would be best for you if you tried to live as a normal freshman.”
“But I was terrified of him!” I shouted. “Twice I tried to get my room changed, but I was told I couldn’t.”
“You should have come to me,” he replied. “I would have helped you.”
A surprised look appeared on his face when I responded, “I didn’t trust you. You already threatened me that you’d tell my father if I did anything wrong.”
“I was trying to protect you.”
He jumped when I stood and shouted, “Bullshit! You were just thinking of yourself and your precious university.”
He sat back and said calmly, “Sit down, Dorian. You have to trust me that I have always had your best interest at heart.”
I sat down and replied, “And now you want to talk to me because you’re trying to cover your ass. Leo told me you were told to leave me alone.”
He bristled at the mention of Leo’s name. “I called this meeting to explain my concern for your wellbeing.”
“Then what about Travis and Raleigh?”
“What about them?”
“If you’re so concerned about me, then why are they still in school?”
“We thought it would be best if the matter was handled discreetly. We didn’t want the media to find out what happened. It could be harmful to your father’s campaign and the school’s image.”
I shouted, “The media! I’m stripped naked and tossed out an elevator, and you’re worried about my father and the school’s image!”
“Your father thought it would be best if we just...”
“Just let it go away?” I asked angrily.
“Dorian, please,” he said calmly. “You have to trust us on this. It’s best for everyone.”
I stood and looked down at him. “Best for everyone, but me,” I replied bitterly.
He stood and looked across the table. “What did you want us to do? We found you a safe place to live.”
“And Travis and Raleigh are still here. What will you do when they attack another gay student? Sweep it under the rug again?”
“Perhaps you should discuss this with your father,” he suggested.
He looked puzzled when I started laughing. “Discuss it with my father? My father hasn’t spoken to me in ten years.”
I turned and opened the door. Before leaving, I told Dr. Avery, “If you talk to my father, which I’m sure you will, tell him to go to hell.”
I slammed the door on my way out.