A Different Road

Chapter 8

I was waiting impatiently in the driveway for Charlie to arrive. I kept pacing back and forth. She told me she would be there in ten minutes, and twenty-five minutes had passed. My father kept coming out onto the porch to check on me.

Finally, I saw a small blue car speeding down the block. I immediately recognized the person with the green hair sitting behind the wheel. She pulled into the driveway and almost hit me.

“Where’s Adrian?” I shouted leaning into the window.

“Get in,” she said. “I’ll explain it to you on the way to the hospital.”

“The hospital!” I screamed as I got into the car. She sped off before I even had my seat belt fastened.

“What happened to Adrian?” I asked, this time a little more calmly. The way she was driving, I did not want to upset her by acting hysterical.

“He was in a car accident,” she responded worriedly.

“Is he alright?” I was afraid of the answer. I also was worried that I had been the cause of the accident. He had sped away from school after what happened in the restroom.

“I really don’t know,” she replied. “A friend called me and said she saw the accident on the way home from school. She said she thought that Adrian was my brother.”

“Your aunt and uncle haven’t called you?” She looked over at me and rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, sure,” she laughed. “I’m their favorite niece.”

We made it to the hospital in one piece. For a while, I was afraid we would be next in line at the emergency room. We went to the information desk, but they said they didn’t have any information on an Adrian Baker. They told us to go to the emergency room and see if they had any information on him.

We stopped dead in our tracks when we approached the waiting area. Reverend Baker, his wife and my mother were sitting on a couch. They were praying. My mother was holding Mrs. Baker’s hand while they had their other hand extended into the air.

“Damn,” Charlie muttered. “We can’t go in there with them here. What do we do now?”

We walked down a hall, stood beside a wall and looked at each other. We’d never be able to find out what was wrong with Adrian as long as they were in the waiting area. Charlie’s eyes lit up when she saw a small, bald man walking hurriedly towards us.

“Uncle Cornelius!” she shouted as she rushed into his arms.

“What’s happened Charlie?” he asked. “How’s Adrian?  A friend of mine who works here told me they brought him in a little while ago.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “We just got here. Uncle George and Aunt Edith are in the waiting room.”

“That‘s right,” he said angrily. “That son of a bitch still won’t talk to you?”

“Duh.” She stepped back and threw up her arms showing off her bizarre outfit. Her uncle started laughing. He turned to me and looked at me appraisingly.

“You look too normal to be one of Charlie’s friends.” He laughed as he extended his hand for me to shake.

“Corey Singer. And I’m not all that normal” I laughed.

“Good for you, boy.” He patted me on my back. “We already have too many normal people in the world.”

“He’s Adrian’s friend.” Charlie grinned at her uncle. He looked back at me as my face reddened. I don’t know why, but the way she said it made it seem like I was his boyfriend.

“That is wonderful.” He patted me on my back again. “So Adrian finally got himself a boyfriend.”

“I’m not his boy...” I started to say, but Charlie grabbed Uncle Cornelius by the arm and started leading him towards the waiting area.

“Go see what you can find out,” she insisted. “We’ll wait in the cafeteria for you.” Charlie grabbed my hand and led me away.

“Why did you tell him I’m Adrian’s boyfriend?”

“I didn’t,” she grinned. “I merely told him you were a friend.”

“Then why does he think I’m Adrian’s boyfriend?” I was completely confused.

“Uncle Cornelius is gay,” she explained. “He’s been with the same guy for over thirty years. He and his partner more or less adopted Adrian as a son when he was very young. They are the only stable thing in his life.”

“That still doesn’t explain why he thinks I’m Adrian’s boyfriend.”

 “They’ve been trying to get him to accept himself for a long time,” she said. “We all know he’s probably gay, except himself. His father keeps him so confused.”

“But that still doesn’t explain why he thinks I’m Adrian’s boyfriend.”

“Baby,” she laughed. “If you could see your eyes right now. You’re worried sick about Adrian. No one looks like you do unless you have feelings for someone.”

We reached the cafeteria and I sat down. I was confused by Charlie’s statement. I hadn’t really had time to put my feelings for Adrian into perspective. I knew I liked him, but she was practically saying I was in love with him. That couldn’t happen in just one day. Besides, I was still in love with Brett.

We sat quietly drinking soda. Charlie would look over at me and snicker every now and then. I’d just look at her and roll my eyes. I was really worried. I kept feeling that it was my fault because Adrian was in the hospital in the first place. My heart dropped when I saw Uncle Cornelius walking towards us with a sad expression on his face.

“Is Adrian alright?” Charlie jumped up from her seat and pulled him over to the table.

“I hate that man,” he said angrily. “I can’t believe we both had the same mother. After all these years he still hasn’t changed.”

“Uncle Cornelius!” Charlie shouted. “Is Adrian all right?”

“Adrian?” He acted as if he were still angry. “Oh, yes. He’ll be all right.”

“What happened to him?” She grabbed his arm and started shaking it. I just stood by waiting anxiously for him to give us some information.

“He was in a car accident,” he said nonchalantly. He looked over at me and smiled.

“He asked about you.”

“Uncle Cornelius!” Charlie shouted again. “Would you just tell us what happened.”

“Damn, Charlie. You need to learn to be patient,” he laughed. “It seems he was driving home from school and ran off the road. He sideswiped a tree and rolled his car.” I thought I was going to get sick. The accident sounded very serious.

“Fortunately, he had his seat belt on,” he said. “He broke his right arm; and other than a few bruises, he’ll be okay.”  I finally let out the breath I was holding. We walked over to the table and sat down.

“Then you got to see him?” I asked. He had said something earlier about Adrian asking about me.

“Yes,” he said. “My brother finally let me go back after I told him I was going to even if I had to go through him to do it.” He started to laugh. “He never could beat me in a fight, even when we were growing up.”

“So he’s alright then?” I asked impatiently. It seemed like Charlie’s uncle had a knack for getting off the subject.

“I told you two already,” he said. “He’ll be just fine. A broken bone and a few cuts and bruises.”

“Are they going to admit him?” Charlie asked.

“It didn’t sound like it,” he said. “But he’ll still be here a couple of hours.”

“Can we see him?” I asked hopefully.

“Are you serious?” Uncle Cornelius laughed. “My brother wouldn’t let you anywhere near him. He almost tore up the room when Adrian asked about you.”

“He was still groggy from the medication,” he explained. “And he kept asking for you. How come Robert hates you so much?”

“To make a long story short,” I said. “My mother told him I was gay and asked him to exorcise the devil from me.” Uncle Cornelius started laughing hysterically.

“He pulled that same shit on me twenty years ago,” he laughed. “I just told him I’d see him in Hell. He’s really one to talk. There isn’t a woman in this town he probably hasn’t hit on at one time or another.”

“Uncle Cornelius!” Charlie shouted. “You’re not serious?”

“My dear child,” he laughed. “He’s probably got at least four little bastards running around this town. If Edith only knew.”

Suddenly, I felt sorry for Adrian. It seemed a shame to have a father who was so narrow-minded about one thing, but had no problem indulging in his own sins. I wondered if Adrian had any idea he had stepbrothers and stepsisters running around.

“Does Adrian know?” I asked. Uncle Cornelius looked sadly at me.

“He suspects,” he said. “He saw his father with a small child at the park a few years ago. He was smart enough to know that it was more than just a friendly day out at the park. He came by afterwards and talked to me.”

“You said Adrian kept asking about me. What did he say?”

“He kept saying to tell you he was sorry.” He looked at me questioningly. “What did he do?” I looked over at Charlie. She just shrugged her shoulders. I guess she was going to leave it up to me whether to tell him what had happened.

With a very embarrassed face I explained what had happened in class and then in the bathroom later. Uncle Cornelius grinned when I was finished.

“So our little Adrian is smitten,” he laughed. “I’ve been praying that a nice young man would come into his life.” I immediately began to frown.

“Oh, oh,” he said worriedly. “I guess I may have missed the mark here?”

Before I could say anything, Charlie interrupted and began to explain my relationship with Brett. Uncle Cornelius kept watching my face as she talked.

“Does Adrian know about any of this?” he asked. I suddenly felt ashamed that I had perhaps led him on.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “He knows that Brett and I were close friends, but he doesn’t know about my love for him.” I became extremely nervous the way her uncle kept looking into my face. It was as if he were searching for something.

“Then I think you should tell him before he gets hurt,” he said sadly. “He’s very fragile.”  There was that word again. Charlie had said the same thing to me earlier when she thought I was playing Adrian.

“Why does everyone refer to him as fragile?” I asked curiously. Charlie and her uncle exchanged knowing glances.

“He tried to kill himself two years ago,” Charlie said. I felt my heart sink. Why would someone like Adrian try to take his life?

“He swallowed a bottle of his mother’s sleeping pills,” she continued. “She found him unconscious and called for help. Another ten minutes and he probably would have been dead.”

“Why’d he do it?” I finally asked.

“No one knows for sure,” Uncle Cornelius spoke. “He wouldn’t even tell me, and he tells me everything.”

“But Uncle Robert was really hard on him after that,” said Charlie. “He told him he was going to Hell because he tried to take his life. A passage in the Bible says it’s wrong or something like that.”

I wondered if Adrian had felt like I had that night I stood on the edge of the cliff ready to jump. I could remember how I had felt complete despair that night. If my father had not arrived when he did, I probably would have jumped. What drove Adrian to the edge of a cliff?

“You all right?” Uncle Cornelius reached out and held my arm.

“When can we see him?” Tears were starting to form in my eyes. I suddenly wanted to see him again, just to know he was safe.

“Hold on,” he said getting up from the table. “Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back.” I watched him walk away. Charlie and I sat quietly for a long time. She finally broke the silence.

“Don’t lead him on, Corey,” she said softly.

“I’m not.” I tried to reassure her. “We’re just friends. I’m not looking for anything more.”

“But he may be,” she said. “I told you before. I’ve never seen him act around anyone the way he does you. He really likes you.”

Charlie reached over and took my hand. My mind was going into overdrive. I still hadn’t gotten over Brett. I was still tormented by knowing I would have to see him daily. I had to go back to football practice on Monday and see him on the field. Now I had to sort out my feelings for Adrian. I could feel Charlie gently rubbing the back of my hand with her thumb.

“Sucks being young, doesn’t it?” she said. “All the shit we have to deal with.”

“Yeah,” I replied sadly. “How are we supposed to know what to do?”

“Follow your heart,” she said. “Always do what your heart tells you to do.”

It suddenly dawned on me what Brett was trying to tell me. A different road to follow. He had come to a fork and had to make a decision. Although I didn’t like the road he took, I now understood.

So I was now standing now at a fork in the road. Both paths were dark. However, I knew that one led to a life where I’d be following around behind Brett, hoping that one day he’d come back to me. The other led down a path where I could trust someone else with my heart- perhaps Adrian. I let out a deep sigh and put my head on the table.

“Where’s the damn rule book when you really need one,” I moaned.

“What rule book?”

“Never mind,” I laughed. “It’s personal.” 

“Adrian!” she screamed. I looked up and saw Adrian and Uncle Charlie approaching. He had a deep bruise on the right side of his face. His right arm was in a sling, holding up his cast.

Charlie got up and flew into his arms. He winced in pain when she grabbed him. He then looked over at me and dropped his head. An immense sadness surged through my body. I walked over and put my arms around him. He clutched me tightly.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered in my ear. I pulled back and looked into his beautiful face. A single tear was running down his face. I wiped it away with my thumb. I looked over at Uncle Cornelius and he was smiling at us as he wiped tears from his eyes.

“I should be apologizing to you,” I whispered back. “I shouldn’t have led you on.”

“I’m hungry.” Charlie announced. We started laughing.

“I am too,” said Adrian. “I haven’t eaten since this morning.”

Uncle Cornelius looked at his watch. “It’s after one in the morning. The only place open at a time like this is Denny’s.”

“What about Aunt Edith and Uncle Robert?” Charlie asked. “Where are they?”

“They left right after Adrian was released,” he said. “Robert was still furious that he’d been asking about you.” I looked at Adrian and he was blushing brightly.

“He told me to take him home tonight,” he said angrily. “I swear, one of these days I’m going to put that son of a bitch out of his misery.”

“Come on.” Charlie grabbed Adrian left hand and reached out for my right. We walked out to the parking garage and then drove to Denny’s. Uncle Cornelius was waiting for us when we arrived.

The conversation was light-hearted. No one mentioned the accident, although Adrian’s bruised face was a reminder that something had happened. When we finished, we headed back to Uncle Cornelius’s home. It was after 3:00 in the morning. Just as we pulled into the driveway, my cell phone rang.

It was my father. He wanted to know if I was okay. It was the fourth time he had called. I briefly explained what had happened to Adrian. Uncle Cornelius held out his hand for the phone.

“Hello. I’m Cornelius Baker,” he informed my father. “Since it’s so late, Corey can spend the night here at my house. We have plenty of room. Adrian and Charlie will be staying also. I’ll see that they get to school in the morning, but they may be a little late.”

I could hear my father’s voice asking a few questions, followed by some yeses from Uncle Cornelius. When he was done, he handed the phone back to me.

“I absolutely love your father,” he said. “He sounds sexy on the phone.”

“You should see him,” Charlie laughed. “Where do you think Corey gets his good looks from?” I could feel my face redden.

“Not from that bitch of a mother,” he replied angrily. “She’s worse than Robert. You’d think a mother would have a little more sympathy for her son.”

“She doesn’t know how to explain me to her friends,” I said sadly.

“Honey,” He started throwing his arms in the air. “The next time she has a cocktail party, I’m going to dress you in drag and you can have a coming out party!” We started howling with laughter as he flitted up the driveway with his arms flailing away.

“Yeth!” I screamed, imitating him. “I’ll be mah-velous.” Adrian was bent over laughing hysterically. He threw his arm around me and begged me to stop. I looked up and stared into his eyes. The only light was from a streetlight on the curb, but I could see them twinkling. I suddenly felt an urge to lean in and kiss him. I probably would have if Charlie and his uncle weren’t watching.

We went inside and I met Cornelius’s partner, John. He was asleep on the couch when we entered. He sat up and then rushed over to Adrian and gave him a huge hug. John kept looking over at me, and then he would whisper something into Adrian’s ear. I was beginning to blush because I knew they were talking about me. I heard Adrian say once, “It’s not like that.” I don’t know why, but the words hurt me.

We talked for a while until Adrian began to fall asleep. He had been strategically placed on the couch beside me. About fifteen minutes after taking a pain pill given to him by his uncle, he rested his head on my shoulder. John noticed and then disappeared into one of the bedrooms. He came back out ten minutes later carrying a sheet and comforter.

“Okay, Everyone,” he announced. “Bedtime. Charlie, you get the couch.” He tossed her the comforter.

“Corey. Grab Adrian,” he instructed. “We’ll help him to the guest bedroom, where you guys will be.”

Adrian mumbled something when we lifted him up. His eyes were closed, but he was able to walk without being carried. Once he was on the bed, John removed his shoes and socks. He then took off his shirt and pants. He looked amazing lying in nothing but his boxers.

“You lucky little shit.” John slapped me on my back. “You get to sleep with this fine thing and I have to go get in bed with a fat, bald man.” Suddenly, Cornelius slapped John on the back of his head.

“I heard that,” he laughed. “Like I get to sleep with Adonis.” They both started laughing as they walked over and hugged me. They left and closed the door behind them.

I didn’t know what to do. Adrian was lying almost naked on the bed asleep. I looked around for somewhere to sleep. I didn’t know if they expected me to sleep in bed with him.

Finally, I walked over and turned out the dresser light. I slowly undressed to my underwear. Then I crept into bed beside Adrian. I was trying to be careful not to wake him. I lay there for a few minutes listening to him snoring softly.

I froze when he rolled over and threw his arm around me. I thought at first he was asleep, until I felt him give me a gentle kiss on my neck.