“What I want you to do now is read over the case and decide what role you’d like to try out for,” Mrs. Mason instructed us. Jason, Stephanie, Cynthia and I pulled our desks together to study. Cynthia was sitting closely beside me, as was Stephanie next to Jason.
“I want to be the defense attorney,” Jason said excitedly. “They have the biggest part.” He looked over at me and smiled.
“You can be the plaintiff’s attorney,” he said. “That way we can argue against each other.” Here we go again. It has always been this way- Tay against Jay. Our entire life has been a contest. He has to be better than me at everything.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I think I’ll just be a witness. There is less work involved.”
“No, Man.” He was becoming upset with me. “Come on, Tay. We gotta do this together.” He began his puppy dog whining again. Stephanie and Cynthia laughed, but I just rolled my eyes.
We spent the next hour reading over the case. I had to admit, it did look interesting. I wasn’t good at sports or other school activities, so this was my change to do something that I could be successful at.
“All right, students.” Mrs. Mason had been walking around the room listening to us discuss the case. “Tomorrow I’ll have try outs for the parts. Be prepared because an attorney friend of mine will be here. His name is Bernard Anderson. He’s a very successful criminal attorney in town.”
“Better write his name down, Tay,” Jason smirked. “You’ll probably need it someday.” Everyone laughed as I turned red.
“Remember, come tomorrow prepared,” Mrs. Mason warned us again as everyone rose to leave.
“I’m hungry,” Jason said. “Let’s go get something to eat.”
“I have to go home,” I insisted. I really didn’t. I just wasn’t in the mood to go out with the three of them.
“Why?” he asked.
“My mom has some chores for me to do,” I lied. It was the quickest reply that came to mind. Jason pulled out his cell phone and called my mother. When he asked her if I could join them, he looked over at me and frowned.
“She said you could go with us.” He gave me a questioning look. My mother probably told him I didn’t have anything to do.
We took Jason’s car to the mall. I have my driver’s license, but I don’t have my own car yet. My mother or father lets me borrow theirs if I have a good reason to go somewhere. I always try to wait until I can use my father’s vehicle. He had a new Escalade. My mother has an old Toyota Camry which has a few rust spots on it.
Jason’s parents bought him a car for Christmas last year. It is an older model Chevy Cavalier, but it gets us around. I never say anything to him about it because he would just remind me that it is more than what I have.
We went to the food court and ordered pizza. It tasted like cardboard, and I ended up throwing most of it away. Cynthia kept looking over at me. I was just waiting for her to ask her usual question. She didn’t disappoint me.
“Are you all right, Jason?” She asked for about the tenth time. She knew something was wrong, but she had no idea what it was. I guess she just figured I was just being a moody teenager. This time, however, I snapped.
“Why are you always asking me that?” I stood and shouted at her. People at nearby tables stopped eating to look at us. I knew I had embarrassed her terribly.
“I’m just worried about you, is all.” She replied softly. Jason and Stephanie were staring at me with worried looks.
“Well, don’t. All right?” I said loudly. “I told you nothing is wrong.”
I turned and started walking away. The mall was only about two miles from my house. I just wanted to be alone, and the walk would help clear my head.
Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and looked into Jason’s worried face.
“Taylor,” he said. “What’s up man? This isn’t like you.”
“Leave me alone, Jason.” I took his hand and removed it from my shoulder. “All of you just stay out of my business.”
I took off running through the mall. People looked at me oddly. Once outside, I stopped to catch my breath. I then continued the long, lonely trek home.
“Hey, Honey,” my mother said cheerfully as I walked into the kitchen. I had hoped she would not be at home. She was an interior decorator, so it was hard to know when she would be out. My father had converted one of the upstairs bedrooms into an office.
“Hi, Mom.” I walked over and stuck my head in the refrigerator to see if there was anything to snack on. I was hungry since I had thrown most of my pizza away.
“What was that weird phone call from Jason?” she asked. “Why did you tell him you had chores at home? When was the last time you did anything around here?” She started laughing as she cut up a piece of chicken for dinner.
“I just didn’t feel like going out after school. That’s all.” I slammed the refrigerator door and headed to my room.
“Are you all right?” she asked as she followed me down the hall. “You don’t seem yourself lately.”
I turned and shouted at her, “Why in the hell does everyone keep asking me if I’m all right?” A hurt look appeared on her face. I turned and raced up the stairs to my room. I sat at my computer, put in a CD, and placed headphones on. I just wanted to tune out the world.
I didn’t turn around, but I could tell that my mother looked in a few times to see if I was all right. I kept surfing the web to try and find out anything that could help me deal with the problems I was facing.
Where does a gay teenager go to get information on how to deal with his sexual conflicts? Who could tell me how to deal with masquerading as a straight boy who is in love with his best friend?
Do they write books on how a gay boy breaks up with his ‘girlfriend’ without everyone finding out his secret? Someone could make a lot of money if they could write a “How To” book for closeted boys and girls.
Who can I turn to? Going to my minister was out. Besides the fact I hadn’t been to church since my parents dragged me there last Easter, the guy is a complete homophobe. Every time he starts ranting about gay marriages being the ruin of modern society, it makes me feel sick. What chance do I have at happiness when my own minister is condemning the lifestyle I am now beginning to realize I am a part of?
If I talk to a counselor at school, they will probably tell every teacher in the school I am a troubled, gay boy. “Watch Taylor White. He’s having trouble with his sexuality. Let me know if he seems depressed.”
Tell Mom and Dad? Yeah right. Like they would really love me after I tell them their only child is not going to give them grandchildren. I watch my mother at the store when she runs into an elderly woman with her grandchildren. She bends down and fawns all over a small child. It’s instinctive that women want grandchildren. How would she feel about me when I tell her I am going to deprive her of that?
So I did what I do best. I got into bed and curled up with the covers pulled tightly over my head. At least I was sheltered from the world.
I must have been asleep about an hour when I was awaked by my door opening. I felt my bed sink as someone sat down. I felt a hand rest on my back.
“Hey, Champ.” It was my father’s voice. He had been calling me Champ ever since I was seven, and I had won a spelling bee in the second grade. I won when I was the only student who could spell giraffe. The only reason I could spell it was because he had taken me to the zoo the previous week.
“Want to talk about it?” Tears began to form in my eyes as I kept my head buried under the covers.
“No,” I muttered, trying not to let my voice quiver. “Everything’s all right.”
“You know your mother and I love you, don’t you?” He spoke almost in a whisper.
“Yes,” my voice cracked. I buried my head deeper as tears began to flow from my eyes.
“There’s nothing you can do or say that will ever make us love you any less.” He rubbed my back for a minute while I lay crying. “I’m here if you ever need me.”
I rose from the bed and walked over to the door. “Why don’t you pull yourself together and come down to dinner, Champ.”
I got up and walked across to the bathroom. I took off my clothes and jumped into the shower. I let the warm water run over my body while I kept my eyes closed. After a few minutes, I washed my body, got out and dried myself off.
I looked in the mirror at myself. I wondered why I couldn’t have been born cuter. Most people refer to my appearance as nice. Never hot, cute or handsome. Just nice. How plain is that?
My hair is dark brown, almost black. I keep it cut short because it tends to curl uncontrollably if I let it get too long. I wouldn’t mind curly hair, but it makes me look like a poodle if it grows too long. I also have brown eyes with long, curly lashes. They are the thing Cynthia likes most about me. She says I have lashes like a girl. Some compliment.
Like most teenagers still going through puberty, I have a few pimples. I have really been plagued with them since the ninth grade. Kids often call me Pizza Face. Needless to say, it always hurts when they call me that. My only consolation is that the person calling me that usually has more zits than I do.
I’m not very athletic looking, either. Even though I only weigh about 150 pounds, I think I am still too heavy for my 5’9” frame. I begged my father for a weight set for my sixteenth birthday. It is still in the basement collecting dust.
I guess I am just a typical teenager. I’m, not ugly or anything like that. But I’m still not cute like Jason. You know what it’s like to walk through the mall and have girls flirting with the other guy you are with. No one ever looks at me that way.
After dressing, I went downstairs. My parents were sitting at the dining table talking quietly. They stopped when I entered the room.
“Hi, Sweetie,” my mother said as she got up from the table and headed into the kitchen.
“Hi, Mom,” I replied. “Sorry about earlier, Okay?”
“Sure.” She returned carrying a casserole and placed it on the table. She reached over and patted my cheek.
Nothing more was said of my earlier behavior. They kept asking me questions about the mock trial which I had discussed it with them the day before.
“I have a good friend who is an attorney,” my father said. “I’m sure he would give you some pointers if you want.”
There’s not a person in town my father doesn’t know. He owns his own plumbing company, and he has a contract with most new developments in the area. He has forty men and women who work for him. He has hinted many times about me learning the trade so I can take over the business some day, but it really doesn’t interest me.
It’s just another disappointment I am to him. I often wondered if he regrets having only one child. If they had another child, at least he or she could give them children and carry on the family business.
“I’m not sure I really want to do it,” I confessed. “It seems like a lot of work.”
“But you seemed excited last night,” responded my mother. “You were looking forward to working with Jason on it.”
“Yeah,” I said sadly. “He’s got Stephanie to work with.”
I noticed my parents look at each other. It was one of those knowing looks that parents share with each other. My only problem was, I had no idea what it meant.
I excused myself and went back to my room. I worked on some homework and then messaged a few of my friends. I tried to chat with Jason, but he was busy with Stephanie. Cynthia was online, but I didn’t feel like talking to her. She messaged me once, but I just ignored it.
I arrived at school late the next morning. I didn’t feel like meeting up with Jason and the girls for breakfast. Fortunately, I didn’t share any of my classes with them until third period. Stephanie is in my history class.
She was walking behind me when I entered the room. “Hi. Jason. Feeling better today?”
“Nothing was wrong with me yesterday,” I replied.
“Yeah, right,” She said with a smirk. “Say that enough times and you might just be able to convince yourself.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked. She was heading to her seat, but turned around and walked back, staring me directly in my face.
“Get over him,” she replied angrily. “He’s mine.” My face turned red as she turned and walked to her desk. She sat down and gave me another angry look.
I was trembling when I sat down. I never realized that another person was aware of my feelings for Jason. I had tried to be careful whenever we were around each other. Now Stephanie seemed to know how I felt about him. By the look she was giving me, I knew she could cause problems if she wanted.
When the bell rang ending class, I decided to go to the library rather than going to lunch and having to face Stephanie again. I wasn’t sure if she had told Jason her suspicions about me.
The librarian looked at me when I entered, but she didn’t ask for a pass. That’s one of the advantages of being a good student. If it had been a student trying to cut class, she wouldn’t have let me in.
Mrs. Mason had her fourth period history class working on a research paper. I felt sorry for them because I had the same assignment last year. I was still mad at her because she had given me a ‘B’ as a result of failing to footnote two references.
I was quietly reading a magazine, when she came over and sat down beside me. “Hi, Taylor,” she said smilingly. “Isn’t this your lunch period?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I replied. “I’m not hungry.”
“A growing, teenage boy and you’re not hungry?” she laughed. “You must be sick.”
“No, Ma’am,” I responded politely. “I’m fine.” She was beginning to irritate me. I had come to the library to find some quiet; instead, I was now facing an inquisition by a teacher.
“I’m glad you’re auditioning for one of the parts for the mock trial,” she said. “This is the school’s first attempt to compete, and I’m looking for some of my brightest students to participate.”
“Then why do you want me?” I asked. I was trying sound sarcastic, but it came out sadly.
“Why wouldn’t I want you?” she said worriedly. “You know how much I admire you. You’re one of my best students.”
“You don’t know me,” I replied as I rose from my seat. I could feel the tears beginning to appear in my eyes. I quickly tried to blink them back.
Mrs. Mason put her hand on my arm to stop me. “Taylor. If anything is wrong, come to me and talk about it. I’ve raised four teenage boys, so I know the problems you can sometimes face.”
“I doubt it, Mrs. Mason.” I tried to avoid her eyes. I didn’t want her to see the moisture in mine. “I don’t think any of them had my problems.” I started to walk away when she grabbed my arm again. I looked into her face and tried to blink away my tears.
“You might be surprised, Taylor,” she said in a motherly manner. “I might understand more than you think.”
I rushed from the library. All of a sudden, it seemed like I had become an open book for others to read. First, Stephanie seemed to know I was gay. Now it appeared liked Mrs. Mason was trying to imply the same thing.
I went outside to spend the rest of the lunch period. When the bell rang, I headed inside to class. I wasn’t looking forward to going to chemistry. Jason was in that class.
“Hey, Asswipe.” Jason ran up beside me as I was approaching class. “We missed you during lunch. Where were you?”
“I went to the library to do some work,” I informed him. He looked at me skeptically.
“Let’s get to class.” When he threw his arm around me, I stepped away. He gave me a quizzical look. It wasn’t uncommon for us to walk down the hall with Jason’s hand on my shoulder or back. I never did it to him, but I always felt a closeness when he did it to me.
“Damn, Tay,” he said angrily. “What the fuck’s wrong with you? You’re not acting like yourself lately.” He seemed hurt that I had walked away from him.
“Just leave me alone, Jay!” I said loudly. “Stay out of my life!”
Instead of going to class, I turned and headed in the opposite direction. I hadn’t taken five steps when I noticed Mrs. Mason watching our exchange.
“Come with me,” She said sternly as she grabbed my arm and started pulling me down the hall toward her room. After we entered, she closed the door and locked it.
“Sit down, Taylor.” She pointed to a chair. I walked over, put my head down on the desk and started crying softly.
“How long?” she asked as she pulled up a student desk and sat down beside me.
I looked up with tearful eyes at her. “How long? How long what?”
“How long have you been in love with Jason?” She didn’t say it condemningly or judgmentally. She made it seem like such a simple question.
I put my head back down and continued to cry. I don’t think I had ever felt so trapped in my life. For the first time, someone was asking me about my sexuality. I knew if I lied, she wouldn’t believe me. I also felt there was no way I could admit the truth.
“It’s all right, Taylor,” she said reassuringly. “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“Tell that to the rest of the world,” I said with my head buried in my arms.
“My youngest son is just like you,” she said. “We got him through it.”
“You have a gay son?” I looked up and saw tears in her eyes.
“Yes. My son Timothy is gay,” she smiled. “He’s twenty-four and in a wonderful relationship with another man. I love Jeffrey, his partner, as if he was my own son.”
“Then you don’t think I’m some kind of freak?”
“Of course not.” She stood up and held out her arms. I rose, and she threw her arms around me. “Then I’d be calling my own son a freak.” She held me tightly for a moment.
She pulled me back and looked into my eyes. “You still didn’t answer my question.”
“What question?” After experiencing so much emotion, I had forgotten what she had asked.
“How long have you loved Jason?”
“Since we were about fourteen,” I confessed. She was making me feel so comfortable with myself. I should have been ashamed admitting my love for another boy, but I didn’t.
“But he doesn’t feel the same way?”
“No,” I replied sadly.
“We’ll get you threw this.” She gave me another hug. “I had to help Timothy get over his first big crush.” She started laughing. “His was the quarterback of the football team. And just like Jason, he was straight as an arrow.”
“Thank you Mrs. Mason,” I said appreciatively. She reached out and wiped a tear from my face.
“Do your parents know?”
“No, Ma’am,” I replied. “Only one person knows. You.”
“Then I feel very special,” she said with a smile. “The bell is going to ring soon. Go across the hall and wash your face. We’ll talk later.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I replied. It felt like a large weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I knew things weren’t going to be any better, but at least I knew I had someone I could talk to when things got too difficult for me to handle. Mrs. Mason had helped her son through tough times, and she seemed more than willing to help me.
“Will I see you after school?” she asked as I prepared to leave.
“I’ll be there.” I responded smilingly. I closed the door feeling better than I had in a few months.