I decided to go back to school the next morning. Since it was a Friday, Gabe thought I should just wait until Monday; but I was getting bored sitting around the house. Besides, either he or his whore would stop in and check on us during the day.
He hadn’t yet moved back into the house, but I knew it could be any day. Right now he was letting Aunt Barbara spend the night; but I heard him tell her that she should be expecting to return home shortly. I still couldn’t imagine having to live in the same house with him.
In fact, I had decided I wasn’t going to. I knew it was impossible for the two of us to live under the same roof. My plan was to make him hate me so much that he would agree for me to live with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Roger. It would mean that I wouldn’t see Andrew and Melinda as often, but I was willing to make the sacrifice if it meant I didn’t have to live in our house.
Gabe was walking up the drive as I was coming out the door. A wide grin appeared on his face. I knew he still hadn’t gotten used to seeing me with short hair. “Don’t say it,” I admonished him before bursting out in laughter. He threw his arm around my shoulder and we walked to the end of the drive to await the bus.
“You ready to do this again?” he asked worriedly. I hadn’t been in school for almost three weeks. I had remained by my mother’s side the final week. Then there was the funeral. Gabe had been bringing me my homework assignments, but I had only done a few assignments in biology. I was hoping that the teachers would give me more time to complete them.
“I don’t know,” I replied sadly as I sat down on the curb and peered down the street for the yellow monster to appear. I looked over at Gabe. “I mean, what’s the use anymore?”
Gabe reached out and placed his hand on my shoulder. “You can’t think like that, Richie.”
Tears started to form in my eyes. “I wanted to make her feel proud of me,” I said as I wiped away the tears that were starting to fall down my cheek. “Why bother anymore.” I stood and walked away. Gabe walked up beside me and put his hand on my back.
“She’s still watching you, Richie,” he assured me. “She’s proud of you.”
“Watching me from where, Gabe?” I asked. “Heaven?” I started laughing. “Yeah, I’m sure that’s where she is. God took her away from us so that she could be with Him.” I wiped more tears away. “Some God He is.”
“Don’t do this, Richie.” Gabe reached out and grabbed my arm.
“Do what?” I shouted. “Feel sorry for myself?” I was wiping tears away with my hands. “What am I supposed to do? Act like nothing happened?” I shouted louder. “Is that what I’m supposed to do, Gabe?”
I looked down the street and saw the school bus approaching. Gabe grabbed my arm and led me back up the drive. The bus driver honked the horn and opened the door. “You guys getting on?” Gabe waved him off and he pulled away.
Gabe took my arm and led me back down the drive. We turned left and started the long walk to school. I knew he didn’t want me to get on the bus with my eyes all red and puffy.
We had walked to school many times when one of us had missed the bus. It meant that we would be about fifteen minutes late to school. The school had an automated phone system that called your home and left a recorded message. Mom never got too upset since she knew I had left late, but it usually meant that Gabe would receive some sort of punishment. Even though I was usually the reason for his late arrival to school, he never complained. I would make it up to him by going over to his house and helping him with whatever chore his mother had given him as punishment. I used to tease him how his family had the cleanest garage in the neighborhood.
I know he wanted me to talk because he kept looking over at me. But he knew that I wouldn’t until I was ready. After being best friends for so many years, he knew when to keep quiet. He knew I’d eventually come to him and talk.
After getting a late pass, I headed to my first period class. The teacher looked sympathetically at me as she took it and handed me the day’s assignment. “I’m so sorry, Richie,” she said as I walked to my seat. Everyone in class was watching me as I sat down. A couple of kids giggled when they noticed my hair had been shaved off.
I was somewhat of an oddity. At fifteen, most of them had never known anyone close who had died. I could remember a couple of my classmates losing a grandparent, but none had lost their mother. Jennifer Wheeler lost an older brother in a motorcycle accident when we were in the third grade, but most of us were too young to really comprehend death. Now we were old enough to understand. Most of them were probably thinking, ‘I’m glad it was him and not me.’
I had been working on the paper for about ten minutes when Mrs. Livingstone called me to her desk. She looked sadly at me as I sat down. “I’m sorry about your mother, Richie.” She reached out and touched my arm. I quickly pulled it back.
I shrugged my shoulders. “It’s okay, Mrs. Livingstone.”
“You’re such a brave young man,” she said as she looked at me and smiled warmly.
I sighed. “Look, Mrs. Livingstone.” I wasn’t in the mood to receive someone’s pity. I thought I would be prepared for it when I returned, but I realized I wasn’t. I just wanted to be left alone. “I’d really like to finish the assignment.” I started to get up, but she put out her hand and stopped me.
“I’m excusing you from the work you’ve missed, Richie.”
“Why?” I asked angrily. “Am I some kind of a charity case?”
A surprised look appeared on her face. “No, of course not,” she said quickly. “I just thought that after what you’ve been through it would be best not to add more stress to your life.”
I looked into her face and laughed. I didn’t mean to be rude, but I found the situation comical. I was no longer Richie Ferguson. I was now Richie, the poor boy who lost his mother. That was now how everyone was going to see me.
“I’ve got to finish my class work,” I said as I got up. “Gabe Dyson has been bringing my assignments to me. If you’ll give me a little time, I’ll have them done for you.” She looked worriedly at me and nodded her head.
“If there’s anything...” I walked away and didn’t hear the rest of her sentence.
“How’s things going?” Gabe asked as I sat down at the cafeteria table. The room was loud with excitement since we had a big basketball game that evening. Gabe had on his purple and yellow jersey with a large number 4 on the back.
The table was filled with other basketball players. Even though I didn’t play, just being Gabe’s best friend entitled me to sit with them. Besides, I had known most of the guys since the first grade. Again, they looked at my shaved head, but no one said anything about it.
Truman Howard was the first to look over at me. “Richie,” he apologized. “I’m really sorry about your mother.” I nodded.
“Look, Guys,” I said. “I really appreciate your sympathy, but right now I’d just like to kind of forget about things. Okay?” They looked at me and nodded. A minute later they were talking excitedly about the upcoming game. Gabe, however, kept looking over with a worried look.
When the bell rang, he followed me out of the cafeteria. As I started to leave, he gently grabbed my arm and stopped me. “You all right, Rich?”
“Yeah, sure,” I tried to smile. “Why wouldn’t I be all right?”
He looked sympathetically down at me. “Will you be at the game tonight? I can ask Dad to pick you up if you don’t mind going early.”
“Let me call you later, okay?” He nodded as I turned and headed down the hall to my next class.
As I was heading to sixth period, the last class of the day, someone grabbed my arm and wrapped theirs around mine. I didn’t even have to look to know who it was. It was Becky Reynolds. Becky liked to think of me as her boyfriend, but I had never given her any reason to believe that. I also hadn’t given her a reason to believe I wasn’t. We dated occasionally, but it was usually with other couples. I had quickly kissed her a few times when I dropped her off at her home after a date, but I usually felt guilty afterwards. However, I was a teen in high school, and it was expected that you dated someone of the opposite sex.
“Hey, Hon,” she said sweetly as she kissed me on the cheek. “I tried to talk to you at the church but you were always with your family.”
I turned and replied angrily, “I wasn’t with my family.”
She gave me a puzzled look. “Oh,” she exclaimed. She knew my father didn’t live with us, but she didn’t know the resentment I felt for him. Only Gabe was aware of that. She looked up at my head and gave me a puzzled look.
“Why did you cut your hair?” she asked. “I liked it the way it was.”
“Look, Becky,” I said as I pulled my arm away from hers. “I’m going to be late to class.”
“Sure, Hon.” My lips curled into a frown. I hated her little words of endearment.
I leaned over and quickly kissed her gently on her cheek. “Are you going to the game tonight?” She nodded. “Then I’ll look for you. I’ll be going early. I’m riding with Gabe.”
She returned my kiss. “See you there, Babe,” she cooed as she hurried off down the hallway.
I knew something was wrong when I returned home. Since it was a game night, Gabe went home without first coming to my house and playing some video games. I would usually grab a bag of potato chips and a couple of Mountain Dews before an intense game of Grand Theft Auto on my Xbox. We were pretty evenly matched and neither of us could claim ourselves as the champion.
“What’s that?” Gabe asked as he noticed some furniture stacked up along side the garage.
“Dunno,” I replied. “Looks like a bed or something.”
“I thought your old man was going to move in, not move out,” he said. Suddenly, I felt a large knot growing inside my stomach.
“I’ll catch you later,” I said as I hurried toward the house.
“Six!” Gabe hollered as I rushed into the house.
I ran up the stairs and into my room. Someone had come in while I was in school and completely redecorated it. My queen size bed was replaced with two twin beds. There were plaid covers on the beds and matching drapes.
I threw my book bag down on the floor and looked angrily around the room. I then ran across the hall to Andrew’s room. His had been redecorated also. Instead of a twin bed, two beds designed like racing cars were on opposite sides of the room. The covers and matching drapes contained designs of cars.
“Cool, huh?” Andrew squealed as he ran into the room and started jumping up and down on his bed. He was followed by a young boy. He entered the room and timidly watched Andrew’s excited antics.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“This is mine and Harley’s room,” Andrew responded excitedly. “Dad said we could have it any way we wanted.” He looked at Harley and smiled. “We wanted cars. Isn’t this the neatest room?” He pulled the younger boy onto the bed and they both started dancing atop it.
I hurried back to my room and began yanking the covers off the beds. I knew what he was planning to do. He expected me and Freddy to share MY room. As I was removing the curtain rods and throwing the drapes across the room, he walked in.
“What the hell are you doing, Richard?” He walked across the room and stood before me. I looked behind him and saw Freddy looking nervously into the room.
“You’re not going to do this!” I screamed as I tossed the drape at him. “This is MY room!” I shouted. “I’m not going to share it with your whore’s son!”
I didn’t see his fist coming toward me, but stars appeared when it made contact with the left side of my head. I reeled back and lost my balance as I fell to the floor. It took me a few seconds to realize he had hit me. I then jumped up and lunged at him.
“You Mother Fucker!” I screamed as I hit him repeatedly on his chest. He wrapped his arms around me and tried to prevent me from hitting him.
“Richard, Stop!” He screamed as he tightened his grip.
“I’m Richie, You Fucker!” I screamed as I tried to free my arms so I could hit him again.
“Stop it, Son!” He replied as he tried to hold my arms down to my side.
“I’m not your fucking son!” I yelled as I spit in his face. “You gave up that right when you left us to go live with that whore!”
He raised his fist again, but Freddy ran into the room and grabbed his hand. “Stop, Mr. Ferguson!” he shouted. “Don’t hit him anymore!” he pleaded.
He loosened his grip and I managed to squeeze out from under his arms. He walked over and sat down on the side of the bed. Freddy sat down beside him. Both looked up at me.
“I hate you!” I screamed as I looked down at the two of them. “I hope you go to Hell!” I looked at my father and rubbed the side of my face. My temple was throbbing from the blow he had just thrown.
He started to get up, “I’m sorry, Son,” he said as he approached me with his arms extended.
“Fuck you!” I shouted as I fled from the room. I ran down the stairs and opened the front door. I continued to run down the street until I approached Gabe’s house. I ran onto his porch and collapsed on a bench.
It took me about ten minutes to calm myself down enough to finally knock on the door. Mr. Dyson, Gabe’s father, opened it. “Come in, Richie,” he said worriedly as he looked at the side of my face. “Are you all right, Son?”
“Yes, Sir,” I lied. “A book fell out of my locker and hit me on the side of my face. Can I go up and see Gabe?” I pleaded before tears started to appear in my eyes.
“Of course,” he replied as he stepped aside. I ran up the stairs and burst into Gabe’s room. He was lying naked on his bed, masturbating to a Playboy magazine.
“Jesus, Rich!” he shouted as he pulled the sheet over his naked body. “Can’t a guy have a little privacy?”
“I can’t take it,” I cried as I sat on the side of the bed, buried my head in my hands and started sobbing. Gabe reached down, took his shorts off the floor and put them on. He then scooted over and sat down beside me.
I turned my face and showed him the side of my face. “The son of a bitch hit me!” I cried. I got up, walked over to the mirror and looked at the bruise on my face. I then turned back to Gabe. “I hate him!”
“God, Richie,” Gabe said as he got up and felt the side of my face. I winced in pain. “You want my Dad to call the police?”
“Yeah, right,” I replied. “He’s a cop, remember? He’s friends with every other cop in this town. He’ll just tell them I fell down the steps and they’ll believe him.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do,” I replied angrily. “I’m not going to live in the same house with him and that whore he calls a girlfriend. He already changed my room so that Freddy guy can move in with me.”
“You can go live with your aunt and uncle,” he suggested.
“He already said we can’t do that,” I informed him. “He said he’d take them to court if they tried to take us from him.”
I started pacing around the room trying to decide what my options were. At fifteen, however, I didn’t have any. I stopped and looked at Gabe. “I can run away!” I exclaimed.
“Good idea, Rich,” Gabe said sarcastically. “Now just tell me where you are going to go.” I shrugged my shoulders. The only other relatives I had were his. Mom only has one sister and no brothers. Both her parents are dead, and his mother is still alive. They would give him a call as soon as I walked through the door. Besides, they lived about five states away.
“I’ll find someplace to go,” I insisted.
He stood before me and held out his hand. “What?”
“Give me your wallet.”
“Just give it to me.” I reached into my back pocket and handed him my wallet. He opened it, took out the bills inside and counted them.
He looked up at me. “Nine dollars,” he announced. “That should get you pretty far.”
“I’ve got some money in a savings account,” I insisted.
“And just how much is that?” I shrugged my shoulders.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe about $350.”
“Wow,” laughed Gabe. “You really are rich.”
“Shut up,” I said sadly as I sat on the side of the bed. “What am I going to do?” He shrugged his shoulders and sat down beside me.
“I wish I had an answer for you, Richie,” he replied as he threw his arm around my shoulder. “You know if things get too bad, you can always come here.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Gabe started to smile as he grabbed my arm and led me to his computer table. “Let’s play a game before we have to leave.” I tried to resist but he pulled on my arm harder. “I gotta make up for the last time we played. You kicked my ass.”
“Yeah, I laughed. “You did kind of suck.”
“Suck this then,” he laughed as he grabbed his crotch and pulled on it.
“In your dreams, Bitch,” I grinned as I headed over to this desk and sat down. ‘If he only knew,’ I thought
Gabe’s mother invited me to stay for dinner. As he always did before a game, Gabe ate very little. I didn’t have an appetite either, so both our plates were left almost untouched. “I don’t know why I bothered to cook,” his mother sighed as she started to clean the table.
Gabe and his father spent the next half hour talking about the game. His father was his biggest admirer and attended all the games. He had played basketball in college, so he was always trying to give Gabe pointers.
“Keep playing like you are, Son,” he said, “and you’re sure to get an athletic scholarship.” Gabe was beaming with pride.
Just then the phone rang, and Mr. Dyson got up to answer it. He returned a few minutes later with a concerned look on his face.
“Is everything all right at home?” he asked as he sat down and took a sip from his coffee cup.
“Yes, Sir,” I responded. I gave Gabe a puzzled look. He shrugged his shoulders.
“That was a call from your father,” he informed me. Anger began to build inside me. “He wants me to drop you off at home when I take Gabe to the game.”
“What?” I stood and look angrily down at him.
“He said something about some unfinished business to discuss with you.” He then looked at the bruise on the side of my face. “Are you sure you got that from a book falling out of your locker?”
I crossed my arms defiantly and stated, “I’m not going home.”
Mr. Dyson looked worriedly at me. “Tell me what’s going on, Richie. I can’t help you if you won’t tell me.” I refused to say anything.
He then looked at Gabe. “Do you know what’s going on?”
“Gabe has nothing to do with this!” I shouted. A surprised look appeared on his father’s face from my outburst. “I’m not going home to that son of a bitch!”
“Richie!” Mrs. Dyson had entered the dining room from the kitchen. “Your language, Young Man.”
I glared at her before turning back to Gabe’s father. “I’m not going home, Mr. Dyson. If you don’t want to take me to the game with Gabe, then I’ll walk.” I turned and headed to the door.
“Richie!” Gabe hollered. “Wait up.” He ran up to me as I was walking down the sidewalk.
“Where are you going?” he asked worriedly. “What are you going to do?”
I turned and stared into the face of my concerned friend. “I don’t know, Gabe.” I reached out and hugged him. He wrapped his arms around me and held me tightly. It was the first time we had ever done that. I pulled away and wiped the tears from my eyes that were quickly forming.
“I love you, okay?” I cried. I could hardly see him standing before me. “No matter what happens, I love you.” He reached out for me, but I pulled away and started running.
“Richie!” His voice echoed in my ears as I ran away.