I arrived at school late the next morning so that I could avoid running into Stephanie. My blood was still boiling over her email. I don’t know why she had suddenly become so obsessed with my relationship with Jason.
I had known him much longer than she had. Why had she, so all of a sudden, become his watchdog? If I had wanted to try and have sex with him, I would certainly have done it before now.
When I entered third period history class, Stephanie was already at her desk. I tried not to look at her when I took my seat.
About ten minutes into the period, the person behind me tapped me on my shoulder and handed me a small piece of paper. It had been folded over tightly several times. On one side was written my name. I unfolded it and read the contents.
I’ve been watching the way you look at him, fag. Stop it!
My face reddened as I felt the anger seething within me. I knew that I had never acted differently around Jason than I had for years. If he didn’t realize I had feelings for him, then how could she?
When the bell rang, she rushed out of the room, brushing me roughly against my shoulder. Before she left the room, she turned around and gave me a snide look. I decided that I would again skip lunch, so I headed for the library.
Mrs. Mason’s class was working on their research paper. She looked up at me and smiled when I entered and took a seat at the back. I sat down and pulled out some books from my book bag. I had come prepared. I had packed a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just in case. Now I was glad I did.
After about twenty minutes, I looked up and saw Cynthia walking my way. She sat down and looked worriedly over at me.
“Hi,” she said. “You all rig..” Suddenly, she stopped. “I mean, how are you, Taylor?”
“I’m all right,” I said with a smile. I knew she had remembered when I had gotten angry when she asked me if I was all right.
“Why are you in the library? she asked. “I was looking for you at lunch.”
“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I just wanted to be alone.”
“You avoiding me?” she asked sadly.
“No!” I tried to insure her. “It’s not you.”
“So you are trying to avoid someone?”
“Yeah,” I confessed. “Stephanie.”
I told her about the email the night before, and the note that was passed to me third period. She listened intently while I described Stephanie’s behavior the past few days.
“She’s insecure right now,” Cynthia explained. “She says all Jason does is talk about you. He’s worried that something’s wrong with you.”
“But why does she think I like him?” I asked.
“She’s jealous,” she said. “She thinks Jason is paying more attention to you than her.”
“That still doesn’t explain why she thinks I’m gay.”
“She never thought about if before,” she said. “Then she got to questioning me why you never kiss me like other guys do their girlfriends.”
I continued to listen carefully. “I guess I kind of implied that maybe you weren’t like other boys,” she said embarrassingly. “I didn’t mean it to sound like you was gay, but she took it that way.”
“So that’s why you wanted me to kiss you in the hall yesterday?” Everything was beginning to make sense now.
“Yes,” she said. “I was trying to throw her off.”
“I don’t think it worked,” I sighed.
“No,” she said. “But I think she’s a little confused right now.”
We spent the rest of the period chatting comfortably with each other. It’s strange, but now that she knew I was gay, I enjoyed being with her. I didn’t feel like I had to be someone I wasn’t. It was nice to be able to take off the mask and be myself around someone who meant a lot to me.
Later, when we went to law class, Mr. Anderson took Jason and me to another room to begin preparing us for our roles in the mock trial. I had been reading over the material for the past few days, so I knew my part. Jason was as ready as I was. We seemed to impress Mr. Anderson with our preparation.
We reviewed the case and he spent thirty minutes explaining the role of a prosecutor and defense attorney. I had seen a few law shows on television, but a trial seemed much more involved than what we saw on the screen.
“You can’t just know the case,” Mr. Anderson explained. “You have to know people. You have to be able to look them in the eye and make them believe what you’re telling them. If you don’t believe it, then neither will a jury.”
“That should be easy,” laughed Jason. “I’ve been lying to my parents for years and they fall for it.”
“Like when you told them I broke your bicycle?” I asked. “And you’re the one who tried to race it down the hill and crashed?”
“Well, they believed it, didn’t they?” He started laughing.
“Act it out,” insisted Mr. Anderson. We looked over at him, wondering what he was talking about. “Jason, you’re explaining to your father what you did. Taylor, you pretend to be his father.”
We spent the next fifteen minutes role playing. It was hilarious. Jason was trying to convince me, his father, that I had ruined his bike. I wouldn’t believe a word he said. Out of frustration, he threw up his arms and sat down angrily. Mr. Anderson had watched the exchange without saying a word.
“That young man,” he got up and walked over to Jason, “will cause you to lose a case. An attorney can never lose control in the courtroom.” Jason sat with his arms folded, staring out the window.
“Taylor,” he continued, “you did a good job refusing to be swayed. You’re the kind of witness I like to put on the stand.” Jason looked angrily at me. I could tell he was once again jealous that Mr. Anderson had praised me.
Mr. Anderson told us to go back through the case and prepare questions we would ask potential witnesses. When the bell rang, Jason got up and left without even saying goodbye.
When we returned to Mrs. Mason’s classroom after school, Jason still seemed to be upset. He rolled his eyes at me when I walked in. Cynthia came in and sat down beside me. She leaned in and gave me a small peck on the lips. I looked over at Mr. Anderson, and he raised an eyebrow, causing me to blush.
We again broke into groups. Cynthia, Wayne and I went to the other classroom to prepare while Jason, Stephanie and Chris remained with Mrs. Mason. We worked diligently for an hour and a half before Mr. Anderson told us we could leave.
Cynthia and I were walking down the hall when we approached Jason and Stephanie. Cynthia grabbed my arm and pressed her body against mine.
“You guys want to go get something to eat?” Jason asked. He no longer seemed upset.
“We’re going over to my house,” Cynthia quickly responded. “We have some studying to do.” She then started giggling. I watched as Stephanie gave Jason a questioning look. Cynthia grabbed my arm and pulled me down the hall.
“Don’t you think you’re overdoing it?” I asked after we were a safe distance from them. “They’ll never believe we’re having sex.”
“They will if you get me pregnant.” I started gasping for breath. I looked over, and she gave me a wide grin.
“I knew that would get you.” She started laughing hysterically. She grabbed my arm, and we left the building.
I was in my room later that night when Jason came in. I was lying on my bed with all the papers from the mock trial scattered around me. He moved some of the papers and sat down.
“All right, spill it.” He looked at me and folded his arms.
“When did you and Cynthia start sleeping together?” he asked. “Her dad is going to kill you if he finds out.”
I didn’t know what to say. I started to deny it, but then I thought he might start thinking I was gay again. At least if he thought I was sexually involved with Cynthia, he wouldn’t suspect that I really wanted him.
“Ummm,” I stammered as I tried to think of a response.
“No, it’s all right,” he said apologetically. “I guess it’s really not my business.”
He grabbed a paper off my desk, and we began to go over the case. He kept looking at me, but he never mentioned it again. I knew he was hurt because I had not confided in him as he had me when he became sexually involved with Stephanie. It was a little too late to deny it now. I only hoped that I could convince Cynthia to go along with it.
We spent the next few weeks pouring over the case and learning more about the legal system. I was beginning to think that I would enjoy pursuing a legal career. It was particularly heartening for me to know that Mr. Anderson could become a very successful gay attorney. No one seemed to mind that he was involved in a relationship with Thomas.
One day we were taken to the court house after school and allowed to practice in an actual courtroom. Mr. Anderson brought in a judge to observe us. When we finished, the judge said we had performed very professionally. He thought we would do very well in the competition.
There was only one problem with performing in the mock trial. When we got to the actual competition, we would be paired to compete against another school. The officials of the competition would assign the roles. We would either compete as a prosecutor, with the opposing school as the defense, or vice versa.
That meant that only one of us would compete. Jason would either defend the case, or I would act as the plaintiff‘s attorney. One of us would be sitting on the sidelines watching the other. I thought it would be a shame to spend so much time on this and then have to sit and just be an observer in the courtroom.
Mr. Anderson tried to sound upbeat and tell all of us that we had gained knowledge of the legal system, even if we didn’t get a chance to perform. I knew I had learned a lot, and it had helped me to make up my mind about my future; but I still hoped that I could present my side. Jason probably felt the same way.
He came over to my house late one night just days before the competition. It was a Wednesday night and the mock trial was scheduled for Friday afternoon. Both of us were becoming exceedingly nervous as the day drew nearer.
“I hope we get picked to present the plaintiff’s side,” he said as he sat on the bed going over the case. “You’re really good, Taylor.”
“Thanks, Jason,” I remarked, “but I hope you get to compete. You’ve worked harder on this than me.”
“Maybe I have,” he grinned, “but I think Mr. Anderson will be disappointed if you don’t get to participate.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he reponded timidly. “It’s just the way he watches you.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked. He seemed to want to say something, but he was holding back.
“I think he likes you or something.” His face began to redden. “Do you think he’s a fag?”
I suddenly became angry at Jason. It was the way he said the word ‘fag,’ like it was dirty. We had been working with Mr. Anderson for over a month and he had never been anything but professional. It made me mad that Jason would insinuate something like this about someone I thought we both had grown to admire.
“What if he is gay?” I shouted as I got off the bed. “Does that make him less an attorney?” I walked over to my computer desk and started playing an online game. I was trembling, and I was trying to find something to do to calm me down.
“Damn, Tay,” Jason replied defensively. “It was just a question. Why are you getting so upset?”
“It’s just stupid that you can say something about someone who’s helped us out the way he has.” My voice was cracking with emotion. If Jason couldn’t accept Mr. Anderson, then how could he accept me?
“Okay.” He threw up his hands. “I’m sorry, all right?” He grabbed a paper and pretended to read it. I continued to play the game until I had calmed down. After about ten minutes, we continued studying. Nothing more was said about Mr. Anderson, but I saw Jason looking at me several times. I had a feeling he was wondering why I had gotten so upset.
I had been considering for the past week to come out to Jason. He was my best friend, but he had given me several indications that I couldn’t trust him. Every time I thought he could deal with it, he’d make some negative comment.
I was going to tell him a month ago, when we started the competition; but then Stephanie had to start poisoning his mind. Now his bitter comment about Mr. Anderson made me realize he would probably not continue to want me as a friend if I did confide in him.
The six of us who were competing in the mock trial were excused from classes on Thursday as we once again accompanied Mr. Anderson downtown to the courthouse. He had asked three other attorney friends to help us polish up our performance. The judge, who had observed us earlier, acted as the judge for our rehearsal. By the end of the day I was exhausted. I only hoped I had enough energy left for the next day.
Mr. Anderson invited us to dinner at a popular Italian restaurant. He had made prior reservations, and they had a small, private room for us. I was surprised when we entered the room to see another distinguished man sitting at the table. He got up and embraced Mr. Anderson.
He was introduced as a ‘friend’ of Mr. Anderson. His name was Thomas Murphy, and he was also a prominent attorney. Besides Mrs. Mason, I was the only other person who knew that Thomas was actually his partner.
Throughout the meal, I watched as Mr. Anderson and Thomas talked privately. It was obvious by their close contact that they were more than just friends.
“Look,” Jason whispered in my ear. “I told you he was a fag. See how he’s acting with that guy.”
“Just shut up, Jason,” I whispered angrily back. “It’s his life if he is.”
I scooted away from him, sitting closer to Cynthia. She looked over and gave me a worried look, but she said nothing. She seemed interested in talking to Thomas. He had been entertaining us with attorney jokes all night.
When dinner was over, Jason and Stephanie quickly disappeared. Chris and Wayne left also, leaving Cynthia and me with Mrs. Mason, her brother and Thomas.
“So that was Jason?” Thomas looked over at me and smiled. Mr. Anderson elbowed him in his side, causing him to let out a loud grunt. He looked over at Cynthia and his face reddened. He thought he had almost outed me to her.
“It’s all right,” Cynthia laughed. “I know about Taylor’s obsession with Jason.” Mrs. Mason’s mouth flew open as she looked at Cynthia and me.
“She found out right after I talked to you.” I admitted. Naturally, they were curious, so we spent the next ten minutes telling them about the kiss and Cynthia’s attempt to divert Stephanie from believing I was gay.
“It certainly seems to have worked,” remarked Thomas. “I think it’s very admirable of you to remain friends with Taylor. You’re a remarkable young lady.”
“Yeah,” I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “I think I’ll keep her.” Everyone started laughing.
It was late when I arrived home. My parents were in the den watching a movie when I entered. I went in and talked to them for a while before going to my room. I was sitting at my computer playing a video game when my father came into the room. He walked over and sat on the bed.
“Come here, son,” he patted the bed beside him. “May I talk to you for a minute?”
I walked over and sat down beside him. “I’m very proud of you. I talked to Bernie this morning and he said that you’ve really impressed him.” He put his hand on my leg and patted it several times.
“Thanks, Dad.” I was trying to choke back the emotion I was feeling.
“Your mother and I will be there tomorrow to watch you,” he informed me. “No matter how the competition turns out, we’ll still be proud that you’re our son.” I could feel my eyes fill with tears.
“Here.” He reached in his shirt pocket, pulled out a key and handed it to me.
“What’s this?” I took it and examined it. It had the Ford logo on it.
“No!” I shouted and jumped off the bed. He laughed as I ran down the stairs and into the den where my mother was standing with a wide grin. I ran over, hugged her and then raced outside.
Sitting in the driveway was a red Ford Focus. I ran around the car, jumping wildly. I took the key, opened the door and jumped in. My mother and father were standing in the yard laughing at my wild antics. My mother was wiping tears from her eyes. I jumped out and hugged them both tightly.
“It’s not the BMW you wanted,” Dad laughed, “but it will get you where you want to go. You’ve worked so hard, we wanted to reward you.”
“Thanks, Dad.” I walked over and pulled him into a tight hug. “I love you.”
“We love you too, Taylor,” he said tearfully. My mother stepped up and we continued to hug one another.
“Let’s go for a ride,” my father said excitedly. We locked the house, and then I drove them to a nearby ice cream shop. We all ordered a hot fudge sundae. Extra nuts, of course.