Kevin was lying on the bed in the guest bedroom when he was awakened by someone gently pushing on his shoulder.
“Are you all right, Honey?” He sleepily opened his eyes and looked into his mother’s concerned face. He turned and pulled the covers over his head.
“What time is it?” It seemed like he had been asleep for hours. After the fight with Devin, he had come straight into the guest bedroom, curled up on the bed and fell asleep.
“It’s almost midnight,” she informed him. “Why are you in here and not in your own bed?”
He turned and sat up. His mother sat down beside him. “Can I have this room?”
A worried looked appeared on her face and she gently touched the side of his face. “Where did you get this bruise?” She turned his head and noticed his black eye. “What on earth happened to you?”
He lay back down and turned away from his mother. “Nothing,” he mumbled. She grabbed his shoulders and forced him to sit up.
“I want to know where those bruises came from,” she insisted. “You haven’t left the house since you got home from the Lynch’s.”
Realizing she’d find out sooner or later, he confessed. “Devin and I kinda got into a little fight?”
“What?” she said loudly. “Why would you two be fighting? He’s your brother.”
“Not anymore,” he mumbled as he once again lay back down and threw the covers over his face. “Let me go back sleep, Mom.” She sat for a minute looking down at the covered image. She gently rubbed his back and then stood up. Kevin heard her leave the room and go into their bedroom.
He lay for about ten minutes until he heard her come out. She stood briefly outside his door and then walked away. He fell back to sleep, but he spent a restless night. He couldn’t understand why Devin had reacted so angrily. They were twins. They shared the same blood. If anyone would understand, then it should be Devin. If he couldn’t, then how would everyone else react? If Devin turned against him, then so too would his mother and father. He felt he was losing control of his life, and he didn’t know what to do.
He was already dressed for school when he entered the kitchen with his book bag thrown over his shoulder. Devin turned and gave him an angry look. Kevin could hardly contain his laughter when he saw the dark bruise around his brother’s left eye. At least he had also gotten in a good punch.
He tried to turn his head so his father wouldn’t notice his black eye. He was sure that he had questioned Devin about his. He didn’t know what story he had told them.
“Bye,” he said. “I’m off to school.”
As he was turning the door knob, his father shouted out, “Stop, Young Man. You have some explaining to do.” Without acknowledging his father’s warning, he closed the door and left. He knew he would eventually have to face his father about why he and Devin had been fighting. He just wasn’t in the mood to do it then.
“Whewww,” whistled Paul when he saw Devin’s eye. “What did the other guy look like?”
“Shut up, Paul,” Devin shot back. He leaned his head against the window and watched the scenery go by.
“Who’d you get in a fight with?” Stanley asked from the back seat.
“Kevin,” stated Devin unemotionally.
“Kevin!” Stanley shouted. “You got in a fight with Kevin? I’ve never seen you two say anything bad to one another, and I’ve known you guys since we were in diapers.”
“Kevin’s a fag,” Paul snarled. “He deserves to get his ass kicked.”
Paul almost lost control of the car when Devin reached out, grabbed his arm and squeezed it tightly.
“Don’t you ever say anything about my brother again!” he yelled angrily. “Got it?”
Paul shook Devin’s hand away. “Sure thing,” he said nervously. He’d never seen Devin react so violently before. “But even you said he was a fag.”
“Don’t call him that!” Devin shouted. “I’m going to take care of this. You stay out of it.”
“Whatever you say, Man.” Paul looked at Devin and nodded. Devin rested his head against the window and closed his eyes.
“Damn,” said Stanley softly. “Kevin’s gay?” Paul looked at him through the driver’s mirror and raised his eyebrows. Stanley shook his head disbelievingly.
When they pulled up into the student parking lot, Ashley was waiting where Paul usually parked. She ran up to Devin to pull him into a kiss. Suddenly, she stopped when she noticed his eye.
When she reached up and gently touched it, Devin winced in pain. “What happened to you, Baby?”
“I walked into a door,” he stated. Paul and Stanley started snickering.
“Does it hurt?” She touched it again, and he quickly backed away.
“Would you stop doing that, Ashley!” he shouted. “Of course it hurts.”
“How did you do that?” She looked over at Paul and Stanley. By their reactions, she knew Devin was holding something back.
“Why don’t you ask Kevin,” said Paul as he and Stanley briskly walked away when Devin gave him an angry look.
She reached down and took Devin’s hand in hers. “You can tell me about it later,” she said. “Right now I want to talk about yesterday. It was wonderful.”
Devin leaned down and gave her a kiss. He put his arm around her waist and they continued to walk toward the school. “When can we get together again?”
She looked up at him and grinned. “You got a condom?”
He frowned. “No, damn it. I only had the one. Why?”
She looked over at the football stadium. “I thought we could go under the bleachers for a quickie. One of my friends says she goes there with her boyfriend all the time to do it.”
“Shit!” replied Devin as he reached down and arranged his growing cock. “If you had mentioned it last night, I could have gotten one from a friend.”
Ashley looked down and started laughing. “Poor little Devin. He wants out.”
“Little!” Devin shouted. “You didn’t say that yesterday.”
“Silly,” she hit Devin on his arm. “It was just an expression. Of course, I’m not complaining.” She took his hand and started leading him toward the bleachers.
“Where are we going?” he asked. “I told you I don’t have a condom.”
“No, you don’t,” Ashley said seductively, “but there’s other ways to take care of that problem.” She pointed to his tenting pants.
“Yeah,” smiled Devin. “Right.” He grasped her hand and they hurried away before anyone saw them.
Kevin was walking down the hall to his first period class when he heard a gruff voice call his name. He turned to see Coach Alston approaching him. He was dressed in his coaching uniform- sweats, sneakers and a whistle around his neck.
He was tall and lanky. He loved to tell the students that he was recruited by the New York Knicks when he graduated from college, but a torn tendon ended his playing days. Since he graduated from a small, rural college in the South, no one really believed him.
He walked up to Kevin, looked down and stared for a moment. “Now which one are you? I can’t tell you apart when you’re off the court.”
“I’m Kevin, Sir,” he replied.
“Good.” He threw his arm around Kevin and started leading him to the gym. “You’re the one I want.”
They entered the empty gym and Coach Alston walked over, picked up a basketball and tossed it to Kevin. Kevin looked at it, unsure what to do. Finally, he ran towards the basket and sunk a shot.
“Nice form,” shouted Coach Alston. He walked over, picked up the stray ball and ran toward the basket. As he began his shot, Kevin jumped up and knocked the ball out of his hand. He grabbed it and ran toward the basket for a lay up. He turned and gave the coach a wicked grin.
“Think you’re all that, do you?” Coach Alston retrieved the ball, and he and Kevin spent the next ten minutes playing a rough game of twenty-one. When they finished, Kevin walked over to the bleachers, sat down and tried to catch his breath. He laughed when Coach Alston sat down beside him and laid his body back.
“I’m getting too old for this,” he puffed. They sat for several minutes trying to catch their breath. Finally, Coach sat up and looked over at Kevin.
“Your Dad called me this morning,” he said. “I’m supposed to talk you into playing for the team this year. He says you don’t want to play.” Kevin didn’t respond as he stared across the gym.
“You mind telling me why?” he asked. “Is it something I did or said? I know I can be demanding at times, but it’s only to make you boys better players.”
Kevin looked into his coach’s eyes. “No, Coach. It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
“I don’t know,” Kevin responded. He was afraid to tell the coach the truth. “I just don’t want to play.”
“I see.” Coach Alston sat quietly for several minutes before speaking again. “My whole program last year was built around you. You are one of the best players I’ve coached in several years. The team is depending on you. I’m depending on you.”
Kevin sat silently and tried hard to blink away the tears that were forming. Finally, he looked at the coach and spoke. “I can’t play. If I do, I’ll only disappoint you. I’ll let the team down.”
“Why, Kevin?” The coach looked into his eyes, trying to find an answer. He’d dealt with numerous temperamental players over the years, but Kevin didn’t exhibit any of their characteristics. Usually, when a player said he didn’t want to play anymore, it was over his position or lack of playing time. Most problems could be eliminated with a discussion.
However, the boy sitting beside him seemed troubled. He knew that there was a deeper problem that would require more attention.
“Is your Dad pressuring you too much to play? Sometimes fathers tend to live out their dreams through their children.” Kevin started laughing.
“My father put a basketball in mine and Devin’s hands before we could even walk,” he said. “His dream is watching us play in the NBA someday.”
“So you can’t handle the pressure?”
“No, Coach,” Kevin replied. “I’m used to it. That’s not it.”
“What is it then?”
Kevin became very quiet. He stared off across the gym. Finally, he said, “I really don’t want to discuss it.”
“Okay,” said Coach Alston. “Can we make a deal?”
“What kind of deal?”
“Will you at least show up for practice that begins in two weeks? Give it a try. If you still feel you can’t play, then I’ll talk to your father. Deal?”
Kevin thought for a minute. “So if I decide to just walk away, you will let me?”
“You have my word on it,” replied the coach. “Just give it a try.”
“Okay.” Kevin reached out and shook Coach Alston’s hand. “Deal.”
As he stood to leave, the coach grabbed his shoulder. “Kevin,” he said in a fatherly manner. “I know something is bothering you. I’ve been around boys all my life, and I can tell when something is gnawing at them. It usually involves girl trouble.”
Kevin started laughing. “You don’t have to worry about that.” He turned and walked from the gym, leaving Coach Alston confused by his final statement.
“Wow!” Cameron exclaimed as he sat down beside Kevin in geometry class. He was staring at the bruise on Kevin’s face. “What happened to you?”
“It’s nothing,” Kevin responded as he reached into his book bag and put the geometry book on Cameron’s desk.
“Nothing?” Cameron said. “You have a shiner, and you tell me nothing’s wrong.”
Kevin sat back and looked worriedly at Cameron. “Why didn’t you tell me Devin was giving you a hard time?”
“Is that who you got in a fight with?”
Kevin looked carefully around the room. “Listen,” he leaned into speak softly. “My brother is suspicious. He thinks me and you are doing something. But I want you to promise me something.”
“If Devin bothers you anymore, I want you to come get me.” Cameron stared at him before nodding his head.
“I mean it, Cameron,” Kevin warned. “I don’t want my brother messing with you.”
Cameron nervously opened the geometry book to the assigned page. He looked worriedly at Kevin. He didn’t want to come between Kevin and Devin. It was apparent that the two boys shared a closeness unlike most brothers, and he didn’t want Kevin to lose that brotherly love. If it meant losing Kevin’s friendship, then it would be worth the sacrifice.
“Don’t even think it,” Kevin looked at Cameron and frowned.
“You’re thinking about me and Devin.” He scooted his chair nearer to Cameron. “Look,” he said. “This was going to happen some day. Sooner or later he’d find out I was gay. If it wasn’t you, it’d be some other boy.”
Cameron looked at him and attempted to smile. “I’m glad it is you, though.” He bumped his elbow into Cameron’s.
“Me, too,” Cameron pushed his elbow against Kevin’s. Soon they were in a battle of which boy’s arm would remain on the desk.
“Boys,” chastised Mr. Shepard. “That’s enough.” Several students in the classroom looked over at them.
“Fags,” someone a couple of seats away said loudly. A few other students snickered. Kevin pushed his seat away from Cameron’s. Both boys realized they’d have to be more careful.
Kevin was at his locker after school when Stanley came walking down the hall. “Hey,” he smiled as he approached Kevin.
“Hi, Stanley,” responded Kevin. “What’s up?”
“Want to go shoot some hoops? The coach is having open gym now.”
Kevin hesitated before answering. He knew there might be a chance that might run into Devin in the gym. However, he thought it might be better if others were around when they came face to face again.
“Sure,” he said. He slammed his locker door and walked down the hall with Stanley.
“Hey, Kevin.” Sherri walked up from behind and took him by the arm. “How has your day been?”
“It’s been all right,” he replied as he removed her hand from his arm. She gave him a suspicious look.
“Well, excuse me,” she snarled sarcastically. “What’s your problem, Kevin? I’ve been trying for months to get you to ask me out.”
“I don’t feel like going out on a date with you,” Kevin shot back.
“Why?” She stood back and stared at him. Stanley stepped between them and tried to defuse the tension between them.
“You ready to go, Kevin?” He put his hand on Kevin’s shoulder as he led him away.
“I guess the rumors are true,” Sherri said loudly as they walked down the hall. Kevin looked around and saw several students stop to watch the exchange.
Stanley stopped quickly and turned towards Sherri. “Shut up, Sherri!” he shouted.
“Don’t tell me Kevin’s your boyfriend!” Sherri shouted back. Kevin could feel Stanley’s hand grip his shoulder tighter.
“I think you’ve said enough, Sherri,” he warned.
“Fags,” she hissed as she stormed away. Several students rushed to catch up with her.
Stanley kept his hand on Kevin’s shoulder as they walked away. He could feel the energy drain from Kevin as his shoulder dropped.
He stopped and faced Kevin. “You all right?”
“Thanks, Stanley,” Kevin answered sadly, “but I think you better go to gym by yourself. I’ve caused you enough trouble.” He turned and headed into the nearest restroom.
Seconds later, the door opened and Stanley walked in. Kevin was at the mirror staring into it. Stanley walked up and stood beside him.
“Sherri was wrong,” Stanley said. “She shouldn’t have confronted you like that.” He looked down at the sad figure beside him.
He turned and grabbed Kevin’s shoulders. “Look, Kevin,” he said gently. “We go back a long way. I’ve known you and Devin since first grade. It doesn’t matter to me who or what you are.”
Kevin tried hard to blink away the tears that were quickly emerging. He turned and walked to the other side of the restroom and stood against the wall.
“What if she’s right, Stanley,” he started to cry. “What if I am gay?”
“Then you’re gay,” Stanley replied. “It’s not an issue with me.”
“But it is to the others.” Tears were streaming down Kevin’s face as he looked at his friend.
Stanley walked over and pulled Kevin into a brotherly embrace. “Then that’s their problem.” Kevin didn’t pull away. He let Stanley hold him as he cried softly. After a minute he pulled away, walked over to the sink and washed his tear-stained face.
“Why are you being so nice to me?” Kevin asked. He couldn’t believe he had just admitted he was gay, and Stanley didn’t seem to be at all disturbed by the revelation.
Stanley looked down at him and smiled. “You were my friend yesterday, and you’ll be my friend tomorrow. Just because you’re gay isn’t going to change that.”
“But why?” Kevin asked. He couldn’t understand how Stanley was acting so unbothered about the whole thing.
“That’s what friends do,” he replied. “We accept our friends as they are. Being gay doesn’t change the fact that we’ve known each other for over twelve years. You’ve always been there for me, Kevin. When my mother died two years ago, you were the first person to come see me. You stayed by my side for weeks. You helped me get through it. Do you think for one minute I’m going to turn my back on you right now?”
“I could really use a friend,” Kevin acknowledged. “I think I’m losing everyone around me. Devin hates me, I can tell.”
“So Devin did give you the black eye?” Kevin nodded his head.
“I never thought I’d see the day you guys would fight,” he said sadly. “You two are like ying and yang.”
“Who’s that?” Kevin asked. Stanley started laughing.
“Never mind,” he laughed. “Let’s go shoot some hoop.” He grabbed Kevin’s shoulder and started to lead him out of the restroom. Kevin stopped and looked up.
“Thanks, Stanley,” he said appreciatively. “You’re a good friend.” Stanley gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze.
“So are you, Kevin.” Stanley squeezed his shoulder tighter. “So are you.”