I awoke early Tuesday morning knowing that it would probably be one of the most awkward days I would ever have to live through. I tried to tell myself that no one really cared, except for Stephanie; but I knew I’d only be kidding myself.
As usual, Dad and Mom were supportive. Dad even volunteered to drive me to school and talk to the principal. I told him I’d try and handle things on my own. I was prepared for some ribbing and teasing. It just comes with the territory of being a teenager. I just wasn’t prepared for how cruel some people could be.
I trembled all the way to school. It was a miracle that I wasn’t involved in an accident. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, my palms were sweaty and I was visibly shaking.
When I entered the building, students began to immediately stare at me. I heard one girl ask her friend, “Is that him?” They disappeared down the hallway giggling. One boy, who was standing beside his locker, grabbed his cock and winked at me. My face began to burn with embarrassment.
I thought about turning around and going home until Cynthia walked up and grabbed my arm. “Are you all right?” she asked worriedly.
“Just don’t ask me to kiss you,” I said jokingly. “I don’t think it’s going to work today.”
“I’ve got your books.” She handed me the books I’d need for the morning classes.
“I’ve got to put some things in my locker.” I turned to walk away, but she grabbed my arm and stopped me.
“Don’t go to your locker, Taylor.” She sounded desperate. “Let’s go to class.” I looked into her eyes and could see the anguish in them.
“Something’s wrong.” I pulled away and walked down the hallway. Students started giggling as they parted a path for me. I stopped suddenly when I approached my locker.
Someone had spray painted it pink. With purple paint, they had written the words, fag and cocksucker on it. I could hear laughter all around me as tears filled my eyes. Cynthia grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away.
I turned and faced those around me. “Shut the fuck up! All of you! Fuck all of you!” I threw down my books and ran down the hallway. I could hardly see where I was going because of the tears in my eyes. Suddenly, I felt a pair of arms grab me from behind and pushed me up against a locker.
“Stop it, Taylor.” I looked in the green eyes of Chris. He had me pressed tightly to a locker. “Don’t let them see your weakness. They’ll only prey on it.” Through the haze of my tears, I could see the stern determination in his eyes.
“I can’t do this. They all know I‘m a fag,” I began to cry. He pulled me away and walked me down the hall. I looked up and saw Mrs. Mason motioning for him to take me into her room.
“Is he going to be all right?” I heard her ask Chris.
“Can we use your room to talk?” he pleaded.
“Of course,” she responded. “Let me put a note on the door for my class to report to the library. Come get me if you need me.”
“Thank you,” he replied. He led me over to a desk. Mrs. Mason walked up to me and rubbed me on my back.
“It will be all right, Taylor,” she said comfortingly. I put my head on the desk and continued to cry.
“Maybe I should stay,” she said to Chris.
“Let me talk to him,” he insisted. “I promise to come get you if anything happens.”
She left and closed the door behind her. Chris pulled up a chair and sat down beside me.
“Why, Chris?” I cried. “I didn’t do anything to them. I got drunk once and made a mistake. Now I have to live with it the rest of my life.”
“I know,” he said softly. “I wish I had never had that stupid party.”
“It’s not your fault.” I looked up and saw the concerned look on his face. “Sooner or later something was going to happen. I just wish it hadn’t happened like it did.”
“So you are in love with him?” he asked dejectedly. I couldn’t quite make out the expression on his face. I couldn’t tell if it was one of concern or sadness.
“I thought I was,” I responded. “After this, I don’t think I can ever fall in love again.” I buried my head in my hands and started to cry again.
“Listen, Taylor.” I looked up to see his eyes moist with tears.
“If you plan on getting through this,” he said, “then you’re going to have to lift your head and walk tall. You can’t let them see that they’re getting to you.”
“Easy for you to say,” I replied.
“No, it’s not easy for me to say,” he said. “You have no idea.” I watched as tears formed in his green eyes. “You have no idea,” he said again.
I sat up and wiped the tears from my eyes. “What am I going to do, Chris?”
“I don’t have an answer, Taylor,” he said sadly. “But it’s only going to get worse if you keep reacting to everything they do and say.”
“I’m not that strong.” I looked up and met his eyes.
“Then I’ll help you.” He reached out, grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I looked down as he began to rub my knuckles.
“Why do you want to ruin your reputation by helping me?”
“What reputation?” he laughed. “Don’t you remember? I’m the guy no one ever talks to.”
“But why do you want to help me?” I asked again.
“I told you last night,” he said, “I like you.” I became aware that he was still holding my hand and squeezing it tightly. When I looked down, he released it. His face began to redden as he muttered, “Sorry.”
Just then there was a soft knocking on the door. “Taylor, are you in there?” It was Cynthia’s voice. Chris looked at me, and I nodded. He walked over and opened the door.
“Is he all right?” Cynthia asked worriedly. “Mrs. Mason told me I could find you here.”
“He’s really upset,” Chris said as he looked over at me. “Can you stay here for a few minutes while I go to the office and let them know where we are? The last thing I need is for them to call my house and tell my dad I’m not in school.”
“Sure, I’ll stay.” Chris left the room as Cynthia sat down in the chair beside me and grabbed my hand.
“Hey, you,” she smiled. “Are you going to be all right?”
“Oh, yeah,” I replied sarcastically. “I’m going to be just fine. I have an idea. Why don’t you go get the band director and we’ll have a parade down the hall. I can dress in one of the cheerleader outfits and give the newest cheer, ‘I’m here, I’m queer.’ Everyone will just love that.”
Cynthia looked down at my legs. “Nope. Too much hair. Definitely not sexy.” She looked at me as a small grin appeared on her face. Soon, we were both laughing.
“God, what am I going to do?” I lamented. “I’ve still got a year and a half before I graduate. Every day is going to be like this. I can’t take it.”
“Just give it some time to soak in,” she suggested. “It’s just the latest news. Something else will take its place tomorrow.”
“I’m going to ask my dad to enroll me in Wentworth,” I said. Cynthia looked at me and frowned. Wentworth is an all-boys school located about five miles outside of town. It is very rigid and has extremely strict guidelines. Even though I knew I would hate going there, at least they would never tolerate anything like what had happened this morning.
“Taylor, you can’t run away from this. If you do, you’ll be running your whole life. You’re going to have to stand tall and hold your head up. You can’t let them know they’re getting to you.”
I started laughing. Cynthia looked at me like I was crazy. “What is so funny?”
“Chris said almost the same thing to me before you got here,” I laughed. “Boy, you two really are meant for one another.” She gave me a quizzical look.
“I think you and Chris would make a cute couple,” I said sadly.
“I don’t think so,” she responded.
“Why?” I asked. “He’s a really great guy. He’s good looking, and you see how he lives. He’s the perfect boyfriend.”
“It won’t work, Taylor.”
“Because I’m not you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Jeez, Taylor. You really are dense, aren’t you?”
“What?” I was completely lost by our conversation.
“He’s in love with you.” She smiled when my eyes widened. “He couldn’t stop looking at you last Friday night. When I was dancing that slow dance with him, he called me Taylor twice.”
I didn’t know how to respond to what Cynthia had said. I was so wrapped up with my feelings for Jason that I never even gave it a thought that someone could feel the same way about me.
“When you disappeared on Saturday, he went nuts,” she continued. “He was out all day driving his car up and down the streets looking for you.” I remembered my father telling me that, but I hadn’t given it much thought.
“I saw him later that day and he was crying like a baby because he thought something had happened to you.” She took my hand and held it. “He cares deeply about you, Taylor.”
“This can’t be.” I got up and started pacing around the room. With everything else that had happened to me recently, someone falling in love with me was not something I had expected.
I stood in the middle of the room and looked down at Cynthia. “After everything I’ve done, how can you say he loves me?”
Cynthia rose and stood before me. “Because he loves you, he can accept you for who you are. Just because you made a mistake, doesn’t mean he loves you any less.” She pulled me into a hug and kissed my cheek. “The same goes for me,” she whispered in my ear. I could feel the tears welling in my eyes once again.
We pulled apart when we heard a key opening the door. Mrs. Cox, the school’s principal entered with Chris following shyly behind her.
“Sit down, please.” She motioned for us all to take a seat. Chris walked over and sat down beside me. She pulled up a student desk and sat before us.
“I was briefed this morning by the custodian about your locker,” she said as she studied my face. “As we speak, it is being repaired. If I discover who vandalized it, I will suspend them.” There was an awkward silence as she stared at us.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she finally spoke, “but I was able to persuade Chris to fill me in on why someone would do something like that.” I looked over at Chris. He looked away.
“Although I don’t condone your behavior, Taylor,” she said sternly, “there is still a zero tolerance for sexual harassment here at school. What you did to your friend was wrong, you surely understand that.” I dropped my head and nodded.
“We can expect repercussions,” she said. “I’ve been around teenagers long enough to realize that this is something that is not going to go away quickly. But as long as you are here at Easton High School, I will do everything I can to protect you.”
I blurted out, “I’m going to transfer to Wentworth.”
“No,” gasped Chris. I looked over and saw a sad expression on his face. Tears began to form in his eyes as he jumped from his desk and headed for the door. Before leaving, he gave me one last, sad look.
“Someone doesn’t want you to go.” Mrs. Cox replied after watching Chris’s reaction to my news.
“But I can’t stay here,” I insisted. “Do you know what its like to walk down the halls and know everyone hates you?”
Mrs. Cox reared back in her chair and started chuckling. “Yes I do,” she smiled. “Remember, I’m the principal of the school. Everyone hates me. It comes with the job.”
She leaned forward and said, “Seriously, Taylor, you’re a good boy. I looked at your records before coming in here. They are exemplary. You are a top-notch student with a lot of potential. I don’t think people are going to react as badly as you think they will.”
“I wish I was as sure about that as you are,” I responded.
“Do you have any idea who may have damaged your locker? Do you think Jason is capable of doing such a thing?”
“More like his girlfriend,” Cynthia muttered.
“You mean Stephanie Shays?” She arched her eyebrows. “You think she did this?”
“Or her goony brothers,” Cynthia responded. Mrs. Cox leaned back in her seat and sighed.
“This could be trouble,” she said worriedly.
Everyone knows the Shays brothers. Every school has a bully, someone who intimidates everyone else into giving him their school lunch money? Our school has two- Ernest and Sylvester Shays, or Sly as he like to be called. He once saw the movie, Rocky, and he quickly adopted the appropriate nickname.
They had bullied me all through elementary school, but stopped when Jason started dating Stephanie. They are crazy about Jason, so they leave me alone because they know I am his best friend. But now, it is hard to say how they would react to what I had done. If Stephanie is controlling their behavior, I am in for a lot of trouble.
Sylvester is the older of the two. He is a senior, and Ernest is a sophomore. They look like the stereotypical school bullies. Their father is a police lieutenant, so they like to emulate him by strutting around school like it is their territory. Both have red hair, like their sister, only theirs is cut short. They are also overweight. The back of their necks seem to wrinkle up like a pack of hot dogs. They have pudgy faces with large red blotches on their cheeks. When they laugh, they snort like pigs.
I have always found them grotesque looking. I don’t know how two people can produce a pretty daughter like Stephanie, and then have two absolutely hideous sons. I have always been afraid of them; but since they leave me alone, I just ignore their antics around school.
They even bully the teachers. Neither are extremely bright. I think most teachers pass them on to the next grade because they are afraid of having them again the next year.
Their father is also a source who has to be reckoned with. He thinks the sun rises and sets on Sly and Ernest. Any time one of them is referred to the office, he is there immediately, shouting threats that he would make life hell for whoever had the nerve to accuse his sons of any misdoings. After a while, people just try to stay out of their way and ignore them as much as possible. I know I certainly have.
“I’ll call them into my office and talk to them,” said Mrs. Cox. “I’m sure I’ll be hearing from Lieutenant Shays. The police won’t properly investigate the matter if they think the Shays boys are involved.”
“Why do the police have to investigate?” I asked worriedly. If a police report was filed, then the media could pick up the story. That was all I needed was for a reporter to stick a microphone in my face and ask me how it feels to be the school fag whose locker was painted pink.
“There was some minor vandalism done,” she stated. “I guess we can let it go this time. However, any other incidences, and I will have to make a report.” I let out a sigh of relief.
“Thank you, Mrs. Cox.” I replied. “I’m sorry I’ve made your job so complicated.”
She started laughing. “Complicated! This is nothing compared to some of the things I have to deal with.” She then sat forward and stared into my eyes. “I really do wish you would reconsider attending Wentworth. It’s a fine school, but you’re such a good student here.
“I’ll discuss it with my father,” I told her. “I’m not sure I’ll be safe here anymore.”
“Well, it’s true we can’t watch you all the time,” she said. “However, I can assure you I’ll do everything to keep you safe. Under the zero-tolerance policy, I can expel any student who violates it. You come to me at the first sign of trouble. My door will always be open to you.”
I nodded my head as she rose and left the room. I looked at the clock and first period was almost over. Mrs. Mason’s class would be returning soon.
“Are you really going to leave?” Cynthia asked worriedly.
“I don’t know,” I replied honestly. “I’m so confused right now that I don’t know what to do. I really messed my life up.”
“Problems are only temporary,” She assured me. “They do go away.”
I put my arms around her. “What did I ever do to deserve a friend as special as you?”
“You were just being you,” she responded as tears appeared in her eyes. “I love you so much,” she said. We continued to hold each other for a minute before she stepped back and wiped the tears from her face.
“Unfortunately, I love you like a brother.” We both laughed. “Now somewhere out there is a heartbroken boy who’s feeling about as miserable as you are at this minute.”
“Chris?” I asked.
“He really cares about you,” she said. “I know that the last thing you’re looking for right now is a boyfriend, but at least talk to him. He feels about you, the way you feel about Jason.”
“I won’t hurt him,” I assured her. “I promise. I know what that hurt feels like.” We hugged one last time. We broke away when Mrs. Mason opened the door and led her class back in. She walked over to me and asked me if I were all right. I assured her that everything was fine now. We talked a few more minutes, until the bell rang.
When I exited the class, I stopped suddenly. Sly and Ernest were standing against the water fountain, looking at me with smirks on their faces. Ernest lifted his shirt to show me a small can of spray paint hidden under his belt.