“There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
After dinner was served to the students, Trent and I got in his car and headed to his place. I still can’t call it home yet. I’m going to need some time to see if we can actually make this work. After all that has happened to me, my instincts tell me to be cautious. However, my heart is telling me something else.
When we pulled out, Trent gripped my hand and squeezed it. “I still can’t believe this is real.”
I smiled and replied, “I was just thinking the same thing.”
He squeezed my hand tighter and assured me, “It is. I’ve never been happier.” When we stopped at a light, he leaned over and kissed me. I quickly looked around to make sure that no one saw us. As we pulled away from the light, he looked over and asked me if I was tired.
“No,” I replied. “Why?”
He nervously replied, “There is somewhere we have to go.”
I gave him a skeptical look. He was becoming extremely nervous and vague. “Where?” I asked.
“My Mom invited us to dinner,” he said as he looked over with a nervous smile.
“What? You want me to go to your parent’s house?”
“It will be okay,” he assured me. “Mom called this afternoon, and she invited me to dinner. I asked if it would be okay if I brought you.”
“She knows about me?”
“Not really,” he replied. “I just told her I wanted to bring a special friend to join us tonight.”
“Oh, God,” I moaned as I sat back and rested my head. Trent is a really great guy, and I’m not sure his parents would approve of him being involved with a guy like me. He said they know he’s gay, so if he is taking me to meet them, then they’ll surely know what is going on. Besides, if his aunt suspected it almost instantly, then I’m sure his parents will also. I’m just not the kind of guy you take home to meet your parents.
Trent squeezed my hand and said, “It will be okay, Matt. My parents are really cool about things. It won’t be a problem.”
“What if they ask me questions about my past?” I asked worriedly.
“Then be honest,” he replied. “You’ve done nothing that would make me love you any less.” Tears filled my eyes as I looked out the window. Trent continued to hold my hand and rub my knuckles as we headed to his parent’s house.
Their home was what I expected it to be. It was a large suburban home on a cul de sac. The yard was nicely landscaped with beautiful flowering bushes and plants. A man was holding a garden hose watering the bushes. He was tall and lanky. However, I knew he had to be Trent’s father. When we pulled into the driveway, he turned and waved at us. He turned off the hose and approached the car.
“Hi, Trent,” he said cheerfully as he hugged him. “Your mother said you were joining us for dinner.” He looked over at me and smiled. “You must be, Matt. We’ve heard so much about you.” I looked quickly over at Trent. He hadn’t said he had talked about me with his parents. My body stiffened when his father walked over and hugged me. He pulled away, smiled and said, “It’s nice to meet you, Matt.”
He then pointed toward the house. “Come on, Boys. Mother has dinner ready.” As we walked toward the front door, it surprised me when Trent reached out and gripped my hand. I wanted to pull away, but he had a firm grip on me. His father opened the front door and glanced down at our entwined hands. I thought he might say something, but he just smiled and stepped aside as he entered.
Trent’s father shouted out, “Mother! The boys are here.” We entered the dining room, and Trent’s mother was busy preparing the table.
She stopped, walked over and pulled me into a hug. “Matt, Dear, it is so nice to finally meet you.” I again glanced quickly at Trent. His face reddened, and he shrugged his shoulders.
I was confused because Trent and I had only been together since Friday. He was with me the entire weekend, and today he was at work all day. Therefore, he must have talked about me earlier. But why would he have talked about me when he hardly knew me?
Trent’s mother wrapped her arm around mine and led me into the kitchen. She told me to have a seat at the kitchen island. Trent pulled out a chair and sat down beside me. His mother stepped back and smiled at us.
My face turned scarlet when she smiled and said, “You two make the cutest couple.”
“Mother!” shrieked Trent. “You’re worse than Aunt Marie.” I suddenly knew how his mother knew about me. I recalled Trent’s aunt carrying our plates down the aisle singing a song about us being in love.
She laughed and said, “Get over it. I’m your mother. I can say whatever I want to say.” She picked up a plate of roast beef and carried it into the dining room.
Trent turned to me and apologized, “I’m really sorry, Matt. I should have prepared you. She promised me she wouldn’t embarrass us.”
I asked worriedly, “She knows about us? How?”
He replied, “My family and I have always been close. They’ve helped me through some really rough times. After I was raped as a boy, they have been super protective of me, and they want to know about every man I date. When I first met you, I knew in an instant I was in love with you.”
“You were?” I stared into his eyes. He had to be talking about the first time we met in Mr. Laird’s office. Then why had he waited so long to tell me? He could tell his family, but he couldn’t tell me?
As if he knew what I was thinking, he gripped my hand and said softly, “We’ll talk about it later. Okay?” I nodded my head.
His father stepped into the kitchen and announced that dinner was ready. I was afraid to eat because I didn’t know what would happen. I had only been in their home for ten minutes, and I was already overwhelmed. We sat, and Mr. Remington said grace.
“Eat up, Boys,” his father ordered. “Your mother has been preparing this meal all afternoon.” Besides roast beef, she had made mashed potatoes, green beans and brussels sprouts. Everything looked delicious.
It was even better when I started eating. The roast beef melted in my mouth. I had never eaten roast beef so tender. “Do you like it?” his mother asked after I stuffed the third helping in my mouth.
“It’s delicious,” I replied. “You’re a good cook, Mrs. Remington.
“Please, Dear,” she responded politely. “Call me Debbie.”
His father added, “And please, Matt, call me Roger.” I nodded my head and smiled.
We ate silently for a few minutes before the interrogation began. I was surprised just how much they knew about my past. His father asked, “When will the news article appear in the paper?”
“I’m not sure, Mr…” I stopped suddenly and replied, “I’m not sure, Roger. Stephanie said it could take several days.”
“I’ll be looking forward to reading it, Matt,” said Debbie. “Trent has told us so much about you.” I looked over at Trent.
He shrugged his shoulder and replied timidly, “They asked about you. And well, I kind of told them.”
His mother laughed and said, “He comes over here and can’t stop talking about you. We’ve never seen him so much in love.”
I started choking on mashed potatoes I had just stuffed into my mouth. His mother actually said she knew that Trent was in love with me. It appears he told her before he even told me. Trent reached over and patted me on my back. “I’m sorry, Matt.” He looked angrily at his mother and sternly said, “That’s enough, Mother. You’re embarrassing us.”
His father laughed and said, “Embarrassing you now? Hell, she’s just getting started.” He looked over at his wife and winked.
She reached out and held my hand. “I’m sorry, Matt,” she apologized. “It’s just my way of letting you know that you are welcomed into our home. Trent has told us so much about your past, I just wanted you to know that you can be comfortable here.”
Tears began to well up in my eyes. I was upset with Trent for talking to them about me, but I understood. We felt love for each other, and he didn’t want any obstacles to come between us. He had loving and supportive parents. I think he knew after we met that we might someday fall in love. His parents meant the world to him. There was a strong bond because of what had happened to him as a boy. Sharing his feelings with them would be expected. It also made it easier for them to accept our relationship. I took his hand and squeezed it. He smiled, and unexpectantly leaned over and kissed me gently in front of his parents.
The rest of the dinner was mainly spent talking about various family members. I found out that Trent has an older sister. She is married with three children. They live about 100 miles away. She is a nurse, and her husband owns a hardware store. Trent told me that he spent two summers while he was in college working in the store. His sister, Emma, and her children often visit on Sundays. Roger and Debbie admitted that they have spoiled their grandchildren.
As I sat and listened to them talk, I realized how much I had missed. I never had a family. My mother and father resented most of our family members. They rarely visited us because of my parent’s staunch religious beliefs. I don’t think I would recognize my own grandparents today if I passed them on the street. I wondered sometimes when I saw a face I thought was familiar when I was panhandling, if they might be a family member.
As I sat and listened to them talk, I was beginning to feel a part of the Remington family. Deb said she wanted me to meet Emma and the boys. One of Trent’s cousins was getting married in a few months, and they talked about how much they couldn’t wait to introduce me to their other family members. When Trent noticed my eyes begin to tear up, he reached over and held my hand.
After dinner, Trent and I insisted on cleaning the table and doing the dishes. Deb kept telling us that I was a guest, and it wouldn’t be proper. However, she stopped objecting when Roger told her I wasn’t a guest. I was part of the family. I tried hard not to break down but tears still filled my eyes. As we washed and dried the dishes, Trent kept sneaking small kisses on my lips. I no longer looked around because I knew his parents didn’t object.
After finishing in the kitchen, Trent and I joined his parents in the family room to watch a movie. They had two sofas. When we entered, they were cuddled up on one. Trent led me to the other. We sat down and cuddled together on the other sofa. It was the most enjoyable night I could ever remember. I felt at home…and loved.
After we left Trent’s parents, we returned to our home. I think I can say that now after the wonderful time I had. Meeting his parents made me feel more secure in our relationship. They accepted our relationship, and I don’t think Trent couldn’t have been more excited. That night he made passionate love to me. I thought that what we did over the weekend could never be any more wonderful. However, that night Trent took me to a place I had never been before. We didn’t just have sex. We shared something special and wonderful. My past seemed to disappear. Nothing that happened to me before meant anything. He opened up a new world for me. A world filled with love, hope and a brighter tomorrow. I now know what love is. Whether we will ever be able to achieve the height of passion we experience last night isn’t important. He took me there, and now I know there is no going back. Our love is meant to be.
When I arrived at work on Thursday, Hayden was sitting outside on a bench waiting for me. He walked over, embraced me and broke into tears. “Evan left last night,” he cried. “I feel so lost.” I let him cry as I rubbed his back. There was nothing I could say that would make the pain in his heart go away. I knew that over time, he would feel better. After being separated from Charles, I felt sad and alone for several weeks. After a few months, I could hardly remember what he looked like.
“You’ll be okay,” I tried to assure him. “Just be happy he’s found a nice home with a family who cares about him.”
“But that’s just it,” he continued to cry. “I don’t have a home anymore.” I didn’t have a response to that. Hayden’s future was uncertain. Mr. London was trying to keep him from returning home, but it seemed that the judge was ruling in his parents’ favor. At an earlier hearing, Hayden had testified that neither his mother nor father had ever physically harmed him. The judge stated that seeking gay conversion therapy wasn’t enough cause for him to be removed from the home. Evan had told me that he would never go back home. I was worried what might happen if the judge ruled against him.
We entered the building, and I took him into the kitchen to help me prepare breakfast. At least for a while, it would take his mind off Evan’s leaving. Mrs. Thatcher was surprised that one of the boys volunteered to help, but she quickly put him to work setting the tables. When the other students came in, he joined three other boys at a table. I watched as his mood grew brighter as he talked with them as he ate.
When Mr. London came in, he asked me to join him. I was worried because he seemed to be upset about something. He first informed me about Evan leaving. He was happy that the foster home he was going to appeared to be a perfect fit for him. His father had relinquished any responsibility for him, so that was not going to present any further problems.
He then waited until all the students had left to go to class before he informed me about Hayden. “There’s a hearing on Monday,” he said. “Trent and I are going to be there to represent Hayden, but from some of the court statements I’ve received, it appears the judge is going to rule in his parents favor.”
“Damn,” I muttered angrily. “Hayden isn’t going to like that. I’m worried what he may try to do to himself if he has to go back home.”
“I am too,” replied Mr. London. “If the judge does rule in his parents favor, we may never see Hayden again.”
My heart sunk. I was very fond of Hayden. He was like a brother to me. I couldn’t imagine not seeing his smiling face around the center. Even more, I would miss his hugs when he saw me. Tears started to fill my eyes.
Mr. London looked sadly at me. “There’s nothing we can do, Matt. It’s part of the job. We see boys and girls come and go every day. We can only do so much.”
“There has to be something we can do,” I replied tearfully. “We can’t just let him go back to his parents.”
“It’s out of our hands, Matt,” he replied. “We can only hope that he finds happiness.”
“That won’t happen,” I said as I rose from the table. “He’ll never be happy at home. I know, I’ve been there.” I left the room with tears falling down my eyes. I managed to work the rest of the week without Hayden knowing how upset I was. I kept hoping that the judge would change his mind and let him stay at New Morning.
When I entered the center on Friday, Mrs. Thatcher told me to report to Mr. London’s office immediately. I was worried that I had done something wrong. Usually, he waits until he comes in for breakfast to speak to me.
He was reading the newspaper when I walked up to his office door. I tapped on the door, and he turned around. He smiled when he saw me. “Come in, Matt,” he motioned and pointed to a chair. “Have a seat.”
I nervously asked, “You wanted to see me, Sir?” He handed me the paper and I looked at the front page. There was a picture of me on it! I read the heading:
Local Hero for Boys in Trouble
One Man's Fight Against Gay Conversion Therapy
by Stephanie Harding
A three-part story
“She did a wonderful job, Matt,” said Mr. London as I continued to look at my face on the front page. She had taken a few pictures of me, but I didn’t realize she would use them for the article. “This is the first article. The other two will appear on Saturday with a larger article on Sunday.”
I glanced over the article that continued on page four. I didn’t want to admit to Mr. London that I’m a slow reader. I wanted to take it and read it by myself later. I listened as Mr. London summarized what was in it. From what he told me, today’s story focused on gay conversion therapy, Pastor Simpson and the harm it can do to young gay men. Mr. London was pleased that Stephanie showed how evil Pastor Simpson was by relating only my personal account. The article also told what had happened to me when I was sixteen, and how my life had been affected.
Mr. London said he was proud of me. He said the article would open a lot of people’s eyes to the damage that gay conversion therapy has on young men. “This is a story that needed to be told.” I asked him if I could keep the paper and read it myself later. He told me to keep it, and that he had several copies he was going to pass out to the staff. When I left, he patted me on the back and again told me how proud he was of me.
I went outside and sat on a bench and slowly read the article. Stephanie had written a good article. I wish she hadn’t included my picture because now people would recognize me. She told about how my parents had sent me to Pastor Simpson to try and convert me. The article told how I had run away and lived on the streets. She told how I had confronted Pastor Simpson in his church about his hypocrisy, and that he had shot me and committed suicide. To confirm my accusations, she mentioned that Pastor Simpson’s estate was being sued for inappropriate conduct with a minor. However, she didn’t mention Hayden’s name, and she didn’t say where he was.
She ended the article by stating that the second part of the series would further explore what had happened to me after I ran away. She said it would focus on the harm that gay conversion therapy can have on an individual.
When I finished, I sat and stared at my image. It was the first time I had seen a picture of me since the eighth grade. I couldn’t believe how much I had changed. Dexter and Trent kept telling me how handsome I am, but for the first time I began to realize that I was. I didn’t look like the homeless bum on the street. I appeared attractive, confident and happy. I liked the look of the new me.
I looked up and saw Trent pull into the parking lot. He approached and sat down beside me. Without saying anything, I handed him the newspaper. I waited nervously to see what his reaction would be. I was also worried that his family might see it. We had gotten along so well on Monday night, and I was afraid they might change their minds about our relationship.
I was relieved when he finished reading, smiled warmly at me and said, “I love you.” I know he wanted to kiss me, and I wanted to kiss him, but we were out in a public place. We could be fired if a staff member or student looked outside and saw us. He looked again at the paper, pointed to my picture and asked with a laugh, “Who is this hottie?”
I pushed him with my shoulder and said, “Shut up.” We rose and headed into the building. Trent went to his office, and I headed to the cafeteria to see if Mrs. Thatcher needed me for anything. I had missed breakfast and she had me slicing cheese for sandwiches she was preparing for lunch.
I was stopped several times by staff members as I walked through the halls. Mr. Bell asked me if I would like to talk to the class again, but I politely refused. My mind was in overdrive from all the attention I was receiving. I was glad it was Friday, so I could have the next two days without people approaching me. I was worried what would happen on Monday after everyone read the other two articles on Saturday and Sunday.
When Trent and I headed home from the center, I think he knew that I was nervous. We stopped at a pizza place and ordered a large deluxe pizza to go. We took it home, changed into sweatpants and a tee shirt, and then enjoyed the pizza while watching a movie on television. The rest of the evening we cuddled on the sofa and watched a couple more movies until we both fell asleep. Trent woke me sometime after midnight and helped me in bed. He crawled in beside me, and we slept peacefully spooning each other the rest of the night.
I awoke around eight. Trent was snoring lightly when I crept out of bed and went to the bathroom. I took a quick shower, and then I headed into the kitchen to fix breakfast for Trent. Even though he said he didn’t like breakfast, he hungrily ate anything I prepared for him. I have to be careful, though. He seems to have put on a few pounds since I moved in. In fact, I’m beginning to be able to pinch an inch which I’ve never been able to do before.
I decided to make banana pancakes, link sausage and toast. Trent entered the kitchen wiping sleep from his eyes. He was in his boxers, and I admired his near naked body. It is a sight I’ll never get tired of seeing. He may not be Adonis, but he is a Greek god to me. I love him more every day.
“Smells good,” he said as he walked up and kissed me on the neck.
I told him to have a seat, and I fixed him a plate. We enjoyed a pleasant breakfast. We didn’t say much; we just smiled and stared into each other’s eyes. We jumped when someone rang the doorbell. Trent went to answer it, and I heard him talking to his mother. She said she didn’t want to come in. She just wanted to drop something off for us. He came into the kitchen and placed a newspaper in front of me. Again, there was another picture of me. Stephanie had somehow snuck into the kitchen when I was working and took a picture of me cracking eggs on the kitchen counter. The headline read:
Matt Stevens- A Life of Experience
by Stephanie Harding
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