Linda and I stood looking at one another in utter amazement. I knew I was mad as hell for what my mother had done; and by the look of anger in her eyes, I knew she felt the same way.
Suddenly, my mother gave me a nudge from behind. “Don’t just stand there, say something.” My face turned red with anger. I started to walk away, but she reached out and jerked me back to her side. If we had not been inside a church, I think I would have said something that I’d later regret.
“Hi, Linda,” I said timidly. Tears were forming in my eyes from the anger and humiliation that was flowing through me.
Linda looked sympathetically at me. She was as embarrassed by the situation as I was. “Hello, Artie.” Surprisingly, she grabbed my arm and pulled me away from my mother and started to lead me outside. I looked back and saw my mother smiling appreciatively.
Without saying a word, I followed her over to a bench under a large maple tree. She sat down and motioned for me to join her.
“Are you as mad as I am right now?” she asked angrily. I looked into her green eyes, and her frown turned to a warm smile.
“Do you go straight to hell for killing your mother inside a church?” I returned her smile.
“I don’t know,” she laughed, “but how do you want to do it? Guns or knives?”
“I’m kind of partial to a public hanging.”
“Sounds like a plan.” She looked at me and gave me another warm smile. “I think we have some rope in the garage.”
We sat quietly and giggled at our antics. It was strange, but I felt comfortable with her. Perhaps our meeting had been under embarrassing conditions, but she had managed to make it into a lighthearted situation. I liked her for that.
She turned and looked at me. “Sorry about that thing with your dad. You must be going through some shit right now.”
“I’m not sure some shit would best describe it,” I replied. “It’s more like a manure factory.” She started giggling.
“And I’m really sorry about this,” she said. “Our moms just got to talking and when my mother told her I was single, she insisted that we go out.”
“It’s okay,” I assured her. “But I really thought the days of parents arranging dates for their children were over.”
“Obviously not,” she responded. “But you know you’re not obligated.”
“Tell my mother that,” I said sadly.
I looked again at Linda. She was an attractive girl. If I had been straight, I’d probably be jumping into my mother’s arms and thanking her for hooking me up with someone like her. She had beautiful green eyes, which complimented her soft blonde hair. She looked rather boyish in her appearance, which made her more appealing.
“Why is she so insistent that we date?” she asked.
“From what I could see,” I teased, “Your mother seemed to like the idea almost as much as my mother.”
“Yeah, well, it’s a long story,” she sighed.
“Same here,” I sighed back. We looked at each other and started giggling.
“You’re all right for a boy,” she laughed.
“You’re not too bad for a girl,” I joked.
Just then our mothers stepped out of the church and looked over at us. My mother gave me a smug, approving smile. I tensed up once again from anger.
“I guess they approve.” Linda laughed when she saw our mothers smiling at us.
I kidded, “Next thing you know, they’ll have us married.”
“I’m not sure my girlfriend would like that.” My mouth dropped as my head turned suddenly in her direction. I was floored! Linda just admitted to me she was gay.
She looked over at me and smiled. “Surprise!” She laughed at the look on my face. “Why do you think my mother was pushing so hard for me to go out with you?”
“You’re gay?” I stammered out.
“Not if you ask my mother,” she replied. “According to her it’s just a phase.”
I sat and stared wide-eyed at her. She again started laughing. “You’d better close your mouth or bugs will fly in it.”
I sat back and started laughing uproariously. I looked over and saw our mothers still watching us intently.
“My mother wants me to date you, because after my father’s arrest, she’s convinced I’m gay.”
“Are you?” I stopped laughing and looked at Linda. I had never told anyone that I thought I was gay. She had just outed herself to me, but I wasn’t sure I could do the same.
“Well, I’m waiting.” She waved her hand in front of my face. “Are you gay?”
“Yes.” I finally admitted it- to Linda and myself.
“This is perfect!” she exclaimed.
“What are you talking about?” She was grinning from ear to ear.
“The perfect cover.”
“The perfect cover,” she repeated. “We can go out, but we’ll invite Amber and your boyfriend along. You do have a boyfriend, don’t you?”
“No,” I said. “I’ve never really thought about it before.”
“Well, we’ll have to find you one,” she said excitedly. “Then we can double date. My mother has been watching me like a hawk. She refuses to let me see Amber. If I go out with you she won’t think anything. But I don’t want you to be tagging along by yourself. We have to find you a boyfriend.”
I sat looking at her dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She looked so confident. I didn’t mind helping her see Amber, but I definitely didn’t like the idea of finding a boyfriend. I wasn’t ready for that- yet.
It also sounded like a good way to prevent my mother from finding out I was gay. If I started going out with Linda, it would definitely throw her off.
I looked over at Linda and grinned. “This just might work, girlfriend.” We both started laughing.
“Okay, boyfriend.” We looked back at our mothers and it just made us laugh louder. They smiled appreciatively at us. I guess they thought that we were really getting along. If they only knew the scheme we were plotting; as Linda called it- the perfect cover.
Mother smiled all the way home. I was amused because she thought that she had won this small battle. She felt that the preacher had exorcised my demons and averted me from spending a life of sin.
“Isn’t Linda the most adorable girl?” she asked. I didn’t answer. “She’ll make you such a wonderful girlfriend.”
“Mom,” I whined. “I’m not going out with her.” I knew she’d be suspicious if I suddenly agreed with this matchmaking situation planned by her and Linda’s mother.
“Yes, you will,” she stated emphatically. “It won’t hurt you to date a nice girl.” She looked over and scowled. “Do you have a problem with dating a nice girl?”
I thought a moment before answering. “I’d just like to find my own date. It’s not right for a mother to do it.”
“Well, it’s been decided,” she insisted. “You’re going out with her Saturday night.”
“And if I don’t?” She looked at me and glared. I was afraid she was going to drive off the side of the road because she wouldn’t stop staring at me.
Finally, she answered coldly, “That is not an option you have.”
Success! I had maneuvered her into our perfect cover. I was proud of myself. Linda had slipped me her phone number before leaving. I couldn’t wait to give her the good news. She was going to be able to spend time with Amber on Saturday night.
I didn’t sleep well Sunday night. I knew I’d have to go to school and face everyone. Adam had already given me an indication of what to expect. If my best friend turned his back on me, then I assumed everyone else would too.
Randy must have slept well, because he didn’t crawl into my bed during the night. I was also afraid, that if he did, Mom might peek in and see us sleeping together. She made it evident at church yesterday that she didn’t approve of our closeness. I think she thought that I might molest him. It saddened me that she didn’t trust me with my own little brother. It just added to the developing feelings of animosity I felt for her.
I got out of bed and jumped into the shower. I like to shower in the morning to try and wake myself up. I wasn’t a morning person. If it was left up to me, school wouldn’t start until after noon. Naturally, we’d still have a 3 o’clock dismissal.
As I was washing my hair, I heard Randy open the door and enter. I heard him pissing. Then it hit me. “Dammit, Randy! Don’t you dare!” I heard him giggle, then flush. Seconds later, I was shockingly awakened when the scalding water hit my body.
Getting to school is a forty minute ordeal. Randy walks two blocks to his elementary school, but my high school is located across town. We live in a private development, so students gather at the main thoroughfare.
Usually there are about fifteen of us waiting for the bus to arrive. It is evenly divided between boys and girls. The girls gossip, while the boys horseplay. More than once I’ve had my book bag snatched, then spent several minutes chasing the guy who took it.
Today was different. As soon as I walked down the street, everyone stopped talking and watched me approach. Adam was in the center, and I could tell that he had been filling them in on what had gone on over the weekend. Some friend.
As I walked up, I looked around; but everyone refused to meet my eyes. I could tell they were very uncomfortable with my presence. Then I thought how I’d feel if the same thing had happened to one of their fathers. I know I would have reacted the same way. What do you say to a guy whose dad was busted in a public restroom? “Hey guy. Anything new?”
I walked away, and sat on the curb about twenty feet away. They resumed their quiet conversation. Again, Adam seemed to be the one speaking the most. I heard a few of the words they were using, and it hurt. I shot Adam a dirty look when I heard him say, “Cocksucker.”
When the bus arrived, I sat in the seat behind the driver. I usually sat in the middle of the bus with Adam and a few of the other guys, but I knew they didn’t want me to join them. As students got on the bus, they would look at me and then walk away with a stupid grin on their face. Again, I heard a few remarks, but none of them seemed to be intentionally directed at me. They may have been afraid of the driver writing them up and reporting them to the principal.
The bus dropped us off, and I walked dejectedly into the building. This was probably one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life. I had always been rather non-existent at school; but as I walked, it was evident that wouldn’t be the case today.
I expected my fellow classmates to talk about me, but it hurt when I passed by three teachers gathered in the hall and they stared at me. As I walked by, I heard one say, “Is that him?” The other responded, “Yes, that’s that Rudolph Thomas’s boy.” They then resumed talking about my father. I shot them an angry look and continued walking.
During homeroom, the teacher didn’t even call out my name when she took attendance. She just looked at me and shook her head, and then proceeded to the next student. I don’t know if she was trying to ignore me, or if she thought other students would react if she said my name.
The rest of the morning continued the same way. People weren’t being outwardly rude. No one said anything mean to me, but it was like I was some spectacle in the zoo. Someone would point me out to someone else, and then I could tell they’d be talking about me. I caught a couple of comments in passing. Most were about my father being arrested, and none seemed to be directed at me personally.
I couldn’t wait for lunch to arrive. I had planned to get to the cafeteria early, grab a sandwich and then find a quiet place outside to eat. However, my plans changed when someone grabbed my arm as I was heading toward the serving line.
“Hey, Boyfriend.” Linda was grinning at me. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed me on my cheek. “The pregnancy test came back positive.”
I stopped and roared with laughter. Linda was the medicine I needed to take my mind off everything else that had been happening. “Girlfriend, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, because I had a vasectomy last year.” Now it was her turn to laugh.
“Come on.” She wrapped her arm around mine as we got the usual cold, stale cafeteria staple- pizza and French fries. After we paid, I followed her across the room. I watched as students stopped eating and looked my way. Again, I could tell that I was the center of their conversation.
Linda sat down at a table occupied by another girl and a boy. The guy was cute- super cute. I don’t know why, but I blushed as I took my seat.
“Artie, I want you to meet Amber.” I looked up and met the eyes of Linda’s girlfriend. I immediately recognized her. I had interviewed her last year for an article for the school newspaper. She was one of the key players on our girls’ basketball team. I found her extremely friendly and easy to talk to. It was one of the best interviews I had conducted. She later sent me a letter thanking me for the wonderful article I had written on her and the team.
Like Linda, she was rather boyish in her appearance. Her brown hair was cut short and spiked on top. She was also very beautiful. Her complexion was flawless, and she had penetrating blue eyes. I looked back and forth between her and Linda, and I found them to be a very attractive couple.
“I remember you,” she stated excitedly. “You did that article for the school newspaper. My parents had it framed and hung on the wall in our den. You’re a good writer.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled. I know I was once again blushing. I wasn’t very good at receiving compliments.
“The nerdy looking kid beside her is her brother, Brent.” He looked up, and then quickly looked back down at his meal.
“Say hello, Brent,” admonished Amber. He looked up and I stared into his deep blue eyes. “Hey.” He started to give me a timid wave, but quickly put his hands back in his lap.
I couldn’t stop looking at him. I know you’re not supposed to consider another boy beautiful, but that was the only word that could come to my mind. He looked remarkably like his sister. His hair was cut short and spiked on top as well. And like Amber, his skin was flawless. He looked much younger than he probably was. Since he was in high school, I assumed he had to be close to my age.
Prying my eyes away from Brent, I looked over and noticed Linda grinning at me. She nodded her head at Brent, and then winked. I could feel my face burning with embarrassment.
The amazing thing about lunch was the fact that nothing was said about my father. For thirty minutes I completely forgot that I was the school oddity. Linda and Amber spent most of the time bantering back and forth. Basketball was in mid-season, and she seemed excited about the prospects of the team doing well this year. I assured her that I would continue to cover the games and report their winning season.
Brent didn’t say anything, but I caught him looking at me several times. Each time I’d look over and catch him, he blush and look away. Amber and Linda saw us several times exchange timid glances. They’d look at each other and smile.
“Linda told me that you’re now her boyfriend?” Amber looked at me and grinned. “Am I invited to the wedding?” I started to make a gay remark, but I looked at Brent and caught myself.
“It’s all right,” said Amber. “He knows.” He looked up and gave me a timid smile, before looking back down at his meal.
I started laughing. “I’d marry her, but I don’t seem to have the right equipment.” Linda and Amber started laughing. I saw Brent’s lips curl into a small smile.
“Well, I don’t have the right equipment for you, either,” Linda replied. Brent lifted his head and looked wide-eyed at me. I began to blush. Linda had just outed me to him. I should have been upset, but I wasn’t. For some reason, I wanted him to know.
Realizing what she had said, she placed her hand on my arm, “Sorry, Artie. I need to be more careful.”
“It’s all right, really,” I assured her. “If we’re going to be friends and hang with each other, then we need to be honest. At least the three of us have something in common.”
I almost fell out of my chair when Brent timidly muttered, “Four of us.”
“Well, I guess that’s out of the way,” laughed Amber. “She took a pencil out of her book bag and pointed it at the table. After tapping it three times, she announced, “I hereby declare this to be the ‘Anything but Straight’ table.” For the first time since I sat down, Brent laughed.
“Are we still on for Saturday night, oh boyfriend of mine?” asked Linda. I really had conflicting feelings about going. I wanted to go with Linda and Amber. In the short time I had known them, I really felt we had bonded. Looking around the table, it seemed like we had been friends for years.
On the other hand, agreeing to the date would give my mother power over me. She could dictate who I could see and who I couldn’t. I believed that at sixteen, my mother didn’t need to select my friends. My only consolation was knowing that Linda and Amber were gay. I wish I could tell my mother, just so I could see the astonished look on her face.
“Well,” she insisted. “Do I get to see Amber on Saturday?”
“I’m crushed,” I moaned, clutching at my chest. “Alas, my fair maiden doesn’t want to be my true love.”
“Alas,” she retaliated, “your Shakespeare really sucketh.” Brent broke out in laughter across the table.
“You think that’s funny?” I jokingly asked him.
“Actually, yes,” he replied shyly.
“Well, then Kind Sir,” I said. “Since my fair maiden refuses the request for my companionship, would thou agreest to accompany mine self?”
Brent blushed and looked down at his empty plate.
“I think that’s a yes,” laughed Amber. Brent looked up and met my eyes. I couldn’t look away from his penetrating blue eyes.
“Definitely a yes,” remarked Linda, as she poked me in my side. She turned to Amber and said, “I think we’ll have to watch these two.”
“Ew,” squealed Amber. “That’s gross! I’m not watching. He is my brother after all.” The bell drowned out our laughter.
We left the cafeteria and I was halfway across the building until I realized I was unconsciously walking Brent to his class. We weren’t saying a lot, but I just enjoyed being with him. I’m surprised that I had never noticed him before in school.
I still knew very little about him. I knew his name was Brent, his sister was Amy, he was extremely attractive; and, most importantly, he was gay. I suddenly stopped, realizing that I was going in the wrong direction and I’d probably be late to my class.
“I have to get to class,” I said nervously. “It’s that way.” I pointed in the opposite direction. That caused him to start giggling.
“Thanks for walking me to class,” he responded shyly. His cheeks began to turn red. It was one of the cutest things I’d ever seen. Looking at the teacher outside the door, another question was answered. He was going into Mrs. Cauldiron’s class. I had her last year for sophomore literature. I now knew he was probably a year younger than me.
“Bye.” He gave me a timid wave and disappeared through the door just as the tardy bell was ringing.
“Shit!” I said to myself. I ran to class knowing I was going to be a few minutes late, and I would probably be assigned a night of detention. As I walked into my chemistry class, Mr. Gates asked me why I was late.
“He’s been down on some guy in the bathroom.” Someone from the back of the room had said loudly. The class erupted into laughter, as my face turned red from embarrassment. Mr. Gates gave me a sympathetic look and told me to take my seat. He scoured the room, trying to figure out who had spoken out so rudely; but after a minute, he began the lesson.
I made it through the rest of the day without any more incidences. As I got on the bus, I was relieved that the school day was finally over. Again, I sat at the front of the bus behind the driver. When Adam walked on, he looked down at me and nodded before taking his seat in the middle of the bus. I looked back a couple of times and caught him staring at me. He’d quickly look away, but then he would look back to see if I was still watching him. We did this a few times until I got tired of the game and opened up a book and began to read.
My grandmother was sitting in the den when I arrived home. Randy was lying on the floor in front of her. He had a book opened, and he was doing his homework.
“Do you have any homework?” she asked as I walked in.
“Yes, Ma’am,” I replied.
“Well, go do it now,” she told me. “We’re going out to dinner in an hour.”
“She’s taking care of business.” I knew what that meant. She was probably at her lawyer’s office. “She’ll meet us at the restaurant.”
I went to my room and started on my homework. I was almost finished with a history assignment when my cell phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and recognized the number Linda had given me.
“Hey, Girlfriend,” I said.
She responded, “What’s up, Lover?”
“You know if we keep this up, we’re going to start believing it,” I laughed.
“I doubt it,” she giggled. “You don’t have...”
“I know,” I replied, “the right equipment.” We both continued to laugh. I couldn’t believe how comfortable she made me feel, even when we were speaking on the phone.
“So what’s up?” I asked. I didn’t know if she had something to tell me, or if this was just a friendly call.
“You have an admirer,” she informed me.
“Like you don’t know.”
“No, who?” I had a good idea who she was talking about, but I wanted to hear her say it.
“Brent,” she said. My heart began to beat faster. “He didn’t stop talking about you all the way home from school. I’ve known him for about two years, and he said more this afternoon talking about you, than I’ve heard him say in all that time.
“Really?” I was surprised by what she was telling me.
“So do you like him?” she asked. “He’s really cute, don’t you think.”
There was an awkward silence. I kept picturing his bright blue eyes as we sat at the table in the cafeteria; and then the way he blushed when I walked him to class.
“I’m waiting,” sighed Linda. “Do you like him?”
“Yes!” I smiled as I heard her excitement.