It's Not Easy Being a Tree

Chapter 23

I went straight to my room when I got home. I didn’t want to be anywhere near Dad. It’s an awful feeling to dislike someone who you’re supposed to love. Dad and I had never really been close. Jon was always his favorite son. Now that he’s getting older, Dad is starting to turn his attention to Glenn. Me? I’ve just always been caught in the middle.

But now, I was starting to not like him. Hate is too strong a word. I’ve never understood why he didn’t give me the same attention he gave Jon. I lived in his world, but I was never a part of it.

It’s sort of the same way my brother has always treated me. I’m someone he shares a room with, but I’m never really there. He’s always called me runt, which just about sums up how he sees me. It’s a weird feeling living with two people and them not seeing you for who you are.

Now, I guess, they are going to see me only as being gay. Ross already told me Jon doesn’t care. It’s not because he doesn’t like gay people. He just doesn’t care enough about me to even think about my sexuality. It’s sort of like someone telling him Elton John is gay, and he replies, “Who cares.”

I heard the phone ring a couple of times. A few seconds later I would hear Dad slam it down and start ranting. I guess we were still getting calls about my involvement at school. I had to hold back tears when I heard him holler once, “Fucking kid.” He said it at the bottom of the steps, so I know he wanted me to hear him.

Glenn and Glenda came home a little later. Glenn ran to this room and started playing MY video games. He left his door open to make sure I could hear him squealing as he played. I was beginning not to like him, too.

I walked over to the window when I heard car doors slamming shut. I looked down as Jon, Connor and Ross exited Jon’s car. Several minutes later they came upstairs.

“Hey, Buddy” Connor said as he came over to my bed and sat down. Jon cast him an angry glance, but he said nothing. I guess he was afraid if he did, Connor might blacken his other eye. Ross walked over and sat down on the other side of me.

“I thought you guys had football practice?” I asked.

“Coach called it off tonight,” Connor informed me. “He was pissed he had to attend that meeting after school.”

Ross started laughing. “He was a little more than pissed.” He looked over at Jon, but he was lying on his bed watching a soccer game.

Connor stood and stretched. “I’m bored.” He walked over and smacked Jon’s dangling foot that was hanging off the bed. “Let’s go do something?”

Jon turned on his side. “Do what?”

“I dunno,” replied Connor. “How about we go to the mall and walk around. I could use some new sweats.”

Jon got off the bed. “Sounds good. Let’s go.” He put his gym shoes on and tied them up.

As they were leaving, Connor stopped and looked at me. “Come on, Woody. You’re going, too.”

“No!” Jon barked. “That homo’s not going anywhere with us.” Connor balled up his fist, but Ross grabbed his hand before he hit Jon again.

Connor stepped back and threw up his arms. He stood defensively before Jon. “Okay,” he said angrily. “I’m a homo, too.”

“No, Connor!” Ross screamed. “Don’t do this! Now’s not the time!”

Connor turned to Ross. “No,” he adamantly replied, “I’m doing this.”

He turned back toward my brother. “You heard me, I’m a homo, too.” He walked over and put his arm around my shoulder. “If you can’t accept Woody, then you can’t accept me.”

Jon just stood in the middle of the floor staring at us. It was obvious a million different thoughts were running through his head. Ross stepped over and stood in front of his brother, in case Jon decided he wanted to fight him.

Jon started laughing. “You ain’t no homo. You’re just saying that because Woody is.”

Connor stepped around Ross and stood in front of Jon. “I’m gay, Jon,” he said softly. “I’ve always been gay.” Jon’s eyes widened and he looked over at Ross. Ross nodded his head.

Connor stepped back and stood beside me, putting his arm around my shoulder. “It’s who I am, Jon.” He looked down at me. “It’s who Woody is. If you can’t accept that…then…”

There was a deafening silence as my brother stared at his best friend for a moment, then he sat down on the side of his bed, burying his head in his hands.

Ross grabbed my arm. “Come on,” he said as he pulled me from the room. “They need to talk.” As we were leaving, I watched as Connor sat down beside my brother.

“You think they’ll be all right if we leave them alone?” I asked Ross as we descended the stairs. I envisioned them fighting like they had two nights earlier.

“They’ll be all right,” Ross assured me. “Connor has wanted to come out to Jon for months. He just didn’t know how to do it. I guess you gave him the reason he needed.”

We went out to the backyard and sat on the patio. I got up and went into the kitchen to get us something to drink. When I returned, Ross surprised me again. “Connor came out to Mom and Dad last night.”

“What!” Ross laughed when he saw the astonished look on my face.

“Yeah,” he smiled. “They took it pretty good. Better than I thought they would.”

“Why did he do that?”

“Because of you.”

“Me!”

“He didn’t think it was right that you were going through all this alone,” Ross explained. “He felt he was partially to blame.”

“It wasn’t his fault,” I insisted. I never blamed Connor for the situation I was in. Indyboi91 could have been anyone. It just happened to be Connor.

“He felt it was,” he replied. “That’s why he decided to come out to our parents, and then Jon right now. He says he’s tired of living a lie.”

“I know that feeling,” I replied.

“He’s actually pretty proud,” Ross remarked. “He said he slept better last night than he has in years. It was like a big weight had been lifted off his shoulders when he told Mom and Dad.”

“So, they weren’t upset?”

He laughed slightly. “Sure they were upset. But after he talked to them for a couple of hours and explained how he was feeling inside, they kind of started to understand.”

“I wish Dad would understand,” I replied sadly.

“Give him time,” Ross assured me. “He’ll come around.”

“I doubt it.” We sat quietly as we drank our soda. I couldn’t believe Connor had come out to his parents. He said was going to wait until he went to college to tell them. I was also worried about what was happening upstairs. Connor hadn’t come down yet, so that was a good sign that things hadn’t gotten too out of hand.

A few minutes later, the patio door slid back, and Connor and Jon emerged. Both their faces were drawn and taut, but neither had any bruises as if they had been fighting.

“We’re going to the mall,” Connor announced sharply as he stepped off the patio and headed around the house. The rest of us trailed behind and got into the car.

Just before we pulled off, I shouted excitedly, “I can’t go! Dad will kill me! I’m supposed to be grounded.”

Connor turned and put up his hand. “It’s okay, Woody. Jon talked to him and your dad said you could go.”

“He did?” I stared at the back of Jon’s head. I couldn’t believe he had talked Dad into letting me go with them.

No one said anything as we rode to the mall. I could feel the tension between Jon and Connor. Connor would occasionally glance over at my brother, but he said nothing. Just before we arrived at the mall, Connor’s cell phone rang. He answered it and then handed it back to me. “It’s your mother.”

“Mom?” I couldn’t understand why she would be calling me on Connor’s phone.

“Woody,” she said. “Could you call Lucas? He’s called here several times worried about you. I thought you were still at school. Your father just told me you were with Jon and Connor.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I smiled. “I will.” After getting Connor’s permission, I called Lucas.

“Where are you?” he screamed into the phone. “I thought something had happened to you!” I assured him I was safe with my brother, Connor and Ross.

Connor turned in his seat. “Ask him if he wants to join us.” I noticed that Jon glanced quickly at Connor. I wasn’t sure, but it appeared he rolled his eyes.

Lucas tried to protest, but Ross grabbed the phone and convinced him we would like him to join us. After getting permission from his father, he told us he’d be waiting outside the church.

Jon grumbled when he had to turn around, but he didn’t say anything. Ten minutes later, we pulled up outside the church where Lucas stood nervously waiting for us. I scooted into the middle as he climbed in beside me. Connor and Ross immediately spoke to him. Jon looked at him in his rearview mirror. I know he was trying to figure out why we were picking him up. He had only seen Lucas a few times at church, and he didn’t know that Lucas was involved in the mess with Mr. Dewberry.

When we got to the mall, we strolled around looking in store windows. Ross and Lucas seemed to enjoy it. They were quickly becoming good friends. I would have gotten jealous, but I knew that Ross was no threat. Now if it had been Connor…

Jon and Connor walked together, but they didn’t talk. Connor kept glancing over at my brother, probably trying to figure out if he was still his best friend. Ross got excited when we passed the Arcade. “Let’s go in,” he said as he grabbed Lucas and me by the arm.

“I don’t have any money,” I protested.

He dug into his pocket and pulled out some money. “I do,” he grinned. “I mowed three yards this past weekend. Come on!”

We had a lot of fun. Since Lucas didn’t get out much, he was like a kid in a candy shop. He ran from game to game watching other people play. The times Ross insisted on paying for a game, he didn’t do very well. It really didn’t matter, though; he was having fun.

Once when I was watching Ross and Lucas, Connor stepped up beside me. “He’s really cute.” I looked up into his smiling face. “You like him, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” I remarked embarrassedly. “We’re kind of like boyfriends.”

Connor nudged me in my side. “Good, you deserve someone nice. You’re a great guy.” I laughed when I looked over and he said disappointedly, “You could have waited for me.”

I nudged him back. “You’re graduating in a few months. You’ll forget all about me.”

“I doubt it,” he smiled. “You never forget your first crush.”

“Shut up,” I giggled as I elbowed his side. “I won’t forget you. either.”

He started to say something, but Jon walked up and stood beside him. When they started talking about football practice, I knew that things were going to be okay between them. They were talking like they always did. It seemed like nothing had changed.

After several more games, we finally decided we’d had enough. We went to the food court and ordered two large pizzas. Lucas sat close beside me as we ate. Jon sat across from us and he would occasionally look over at us.

“So,” Jon asked as he pointed at me and Lucas. “Are you two like boyfriends?”

I looked at Lucas and he nodded. “Yeah,” I said as I looked back at Jon.

He simply said, “Okay, cool.” He then shoved an entire slice of pizza into his mouth.

Later, as we left the mall and headed to his car, Jon put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me into him. He held me tightly as we walked side by side through the parking lot.

It felt good being me.

THE END

                                                                                                                                                            Epilogue

Wow! Where do I begin? The past three months have been a roller coaster ride. There have been a lot of ups and downs.

I guess I’ll start with the ups…

Things are better at home. Jon and I are actually acting like real brothers. I guess his mind works differently than others. I thought after Connor told him he was gay, Jon would turn his back on him, but he didn’t. If it’s possible, they are closer now than ever. I think it’s my brother’s mission to make Connor straight.

It’s fun to watch them interact. Jon tells Connor he needs to find a girlfriend, and Connor tells him he should swing both ways. A few times it appears like Jon is considering it. I’d laugh my ass off if someday I came in the bedroom and saw them making out.

After the incident with Mr. Dewberry, Connor really became protective of me. I think it made Jon realize how he’d been a real dick over the years. They include me in a lot of things now. I’m even beginning to enjoy lying on Jon’s bed and watching football games with them.

I don’t know how he did it, but a couple of nights after we went to the mall, Jon convinced Dad to return my computer and video games. I came home from school one day and it was back in our bedroom. He installed a parental control device, though. I thought about removing it, but I didn’t. I don’t go to any porn sites anymore. Jon’s tried to get me to change it so he can visit his ‘t and a’ sites. Maybe I will. After all he’s done for me, I should do something nice for him.

Connor and Jeff are seeing each other. We were in the cafeteria one day when Connor came over and sat down at the table. Jeff was telling everyone about the time I spent the night and how I hated the smell of the barn. Connor made some comment about how cool it would be to grow up on a farm. Jeff asked him if he would like to spend the weekend sometime. Connor agreed, and a week later he did. Neither will tell me what they did, but I think it involved a lot more than what Jeff and I did.

They are a good match- boyfriends with no strings attached. Connor didn’t want to become involved with anyone because he was going to graduate and go off to college. And Jeff, he still wants to get married and have kids someday. So, I guess it works for them. They’re just having fun while it lasts.

Ross is dating a cheerleader. She’s really pretty, and everyone at school thinks they are a perfect couple. He’s also having a lot of sex with her. Connor is always teasing him because he has to buy condoms for him at the drugstore. Ross looks cute when his cheeks turn a bright red.

I’m also growing taller!! I had Jon measure my height a couple of weeks ago. It’s been ages since I last marked the door frame to see if I’ve grown. I’m two inches taller than the last time! Now if I can just gain some weight, I’ll look like a normal teenager. I go downstairs a couple of times a week with Jon. He’s put me on a special program to build up my muscles. Maybe someday I’ll look as good as him.

And Lucas. I’m saving him for last. We’re getting closer each day. Dad and Mom lifted the punishment and let me start spending the weekends with him. I had to promise, though, that I’d go to church on Sunday and return home with her. Lucas still gets nervous before he has to sing, but I’m there to comfort him. We go downstairs to the bathroom and make out for a little while. When he’s singing, he’ll look down at me and blush. I’m really starting to fall in love with him.

I even told him that last week. He told me he loved me, too. We haven’t really had sex yet. We’ve both agreed that after what we’ve been through, we should wait a little while. We do get naked in his bed and jack off together. We are sixteen. We’ve touched each other a few times, but that’s all. When we do finally have sex, I want it to be perfect. So, we’ll wait until that special moment arrives. Right now, I just enjoy it when he holds me and tells me he loves me.

And now the downs…

Things with Dad haven’t improved much. He looks at me like I’m a freak or something. I suppose the whole gay thing is something he’s never experienced very much. I think Jon’s acceptance of me has helped a little bit. I’ve noticed him smile a couple of times when my brother and I are bantering back and forth. Maybe someday he’ll come around and realize I’m not such a bad son after all.

I blame myself for his attitude toward me. I put him and Mom through a lot. I didn’t think of the consequences when I started my involvement in the chat room. For months I’ve drug them into a dark, perverted world that no parent should have to face. They’ve had to ward off reporters and inquisitive friends who want to know why they didn’t monitor my behavior better. They weren’t to blame, but they still feel guilty that they weren’t more aware of what I was doing.

Things at school got really ugly for a while. For days the paper began to report more details about Mr. Dewberry and his involvement with boys over the past several years. After a lengthy investigation, it was determined he had sexually assaulted more than fifteen boys. Most had been from the church camp in the summer. Many of the boys were from our school, so everyone tried to guess who might have been involved. Lucas became a prime suspect because his father’s church sponsored the camp outing. However, after months of wild rumors, no one is really sure.

Mr. Dewberry was charged with multiple felony counts of rape, aggravated sexual battery on a minor, forcible sodomy, coercion and enticement. They also found numerous pictures of young boys on his home computer, along with the ones he had of me and Lucas. As a result, he also faced numerous charges of possessing child pornography. The prosecutor even charged him with kidnapping since he refused to let me leave his classroom that day Lucas showed up.

Everyone at school knew I was involved. I did manage to protect Jeff, though. The police showed me pictures they had found on Mr. Dewberry’s computer. They asked me if I could identify anyone, especially the pictures of me with Jeff, but I told them I couldn‘t. They didn’t believe me; but since they had enough evidence on Mr. Dewberry anyway, they didn’t pursue it.

Things were embarrassing for the first month. I couldn’t walk down the hall without someone giggling or making a comment. I think most students were afraid of Mr. Calloway’s reaction if I would make a complaint; therefore, no one threatened or intimidated me. Ross also told me that Jon and Connor were going around warning other students that there would be consequences to pay if they did mess with me.

I always enjoyed going to lunch because I was with my friends- and they were my friends. No one deserted me when I was outed. Jeff wasn’t embarrassed to walk with me, even though rumors spread that we were probably ‘doing it.’ Kate was great. She would meet me at my locker before school and after school. She was like a protective mother hen. I heard she even threatened to claw another girl’s eyes out because she called me a fag in front of some other students.

And Anna. Anna is Anna. I think God threw away the mold when he made her. If only everyone could be so innocent. She just goes through life in one mode. Nothing bothers here. Well, maybe algebra tests.

After Brandon Metzger’s arrest, no one saw him again. The police charged him as an accessory to Mr. Dewberry’s sexual assault on me. He was also charged with disseminating sexual material. Detective Davis told Pastor Sparks that Brandon had basically acted alone. Mr. Dewberry told him how I was rejecting his advances, so Brandon took it upon himself to try to intimidate me into having sex with him.

Brandon was immediately suspended from school for ten days and Dr. Chavers later expelled him. The last rumor I heard was that his parents had worked out an agreement with the prosecutor. They shipped him off to some military school in South Carolina instead of him spending time in a juvenile facility.

The school was abuzz three weeks ago. Mr. Dewberry pled guilty to most of the charges. I guess he struck a deal with the prosecutor. I was happy because I was told that Lucas and I might have to testify against him if the case went to trial. The most serious charges against him, rape of a minor and kidnapping, were dropped. He was still sentenced to sixty years in prison for the other crimes. The judge also took away his teaching license. I found that ironic since he would be in prison for almost the rest of his life and he wouldn’t need it.

Things are slowly returning to normal. The stares and comments are becoming less frequent. I can walk through the halls without people looking at me like I am some carnival sideshow.

Through all this, though, I learned a valuable lesson. A moment of fun can have a lifetime effect. My life changed dramatically since that time I registered as Elmer Fudd. Then I was a shy, skinny sapling looking for someone.

Today, I’m stronger. I walk a little taller. I don’t see myself any longer as Charlie Brown’s sickly, little Christmas tree. Today, if Mrs. Chapman asked the class to write what it’s like being me, I could probably write something I would be proud to read.

However, there was a price to pay. I have to live with that the rest of my life.

THE END

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