Linda asked, “So, are we still on for Saturday?”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied. “I can’t believe my mother thinks she’s arranged this whole thing. If she only knew you were meeting Amber.”
“And that you’re meeting Brent,” she said.
That took me by surprise. I know I had kidded about him going with me, but I never considered it a date. The way Linda said it, it did sound like that.
“It’s just a movie,” I replied. “It’s not a date, or anything.”
“Tell that to Brent,” she said. “He’s so nervous you asked him out.”
Again, I had to stop and think about our exchange in the cafeteria. I had been joking, but I guess Brent could take it that I had asked him out. I couldn’t believe the cute guy at lunch was excited about going out with me.
I asked, “So he wants to go out with me?”
“Are you kidding,” she laughed. “He’d marry you if you asked him to.”
“He doesn’t even know me,” I reminded her. “He just met me today.”
“Sometimes it doesn’t take a long time, you know,” she said. “Haven’t you ever heard of love at first sight?”
“Yes,” I laughed. “In the movies.”
“Rudy!” My grandmother hollered up the stairs. “We’re leaving to meet your mother for dinner.”
“Listen,” said Linda. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“All right,” I responded. “I have to go meet Momzilla.” I listened to her laugh as I hung up.
We met Mom at an Italian restaurant downtown. I’m surprised we went there because it used to be one of Dad’s favorite places to eat.
She was already waiting for us when we arrived. I could tell by the scowl on her face that she wasn’t happy. Of course, that expression had been plastered there since Friday when my Dad walked out.
We ordered and then sat silently. My grandmother and I kept giving each other questioning glances. We didn’t have to wait long, though.
“Boys,” she started, “There are some things I need to tell you.”
“Sarah,” admonished my grandmother, “this is not the time or the place for this discussion. This is a family matter, and it should be discussed at home.”
“If we discuss it at home,” she looked over angrily at me, “then Rudy will storm off to his room. He won’t do it if we discuss it here.”
I looked at her and glared. “Do you think I am that childish?”
“Yes, I do,” she stated sternly, without taking her eyes off mine. “You’re acting childish now.”
“Well, how is this for childish, Mother.” I got up and leaned over and stared her in the face. “I hate you.”
I turned and raced from the restaurant before she saw the tears start to fall from my face. I didn’t know her anymore. She had become a bitter woman. I know she probably needed my support now, but I just couldn’t bear to be with her. I reminded her too much of my father, and she hated me for it.
I walked to the car, but it was locked; so I turned and started walking down the street in the direction of our house. It was about twelve miles, and I knew I’d never be able to make it there anytime soon.
When I was about five blocks away, my grandmother pulled up beside me. It was obvious she had been crying. I looked to see if my mother was with her, but she was alone.
“Get in, Rudy,” she said softly. I walked over and got into the car. We drove for several minutes without saying a word. She turned into the parking lot of a fast food chicken restaurant.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m still hungry,” she said. We entered the restaurant and took a seat in the back. She pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to me. “I want a two piece dinner with a coke. You get anything you want.”
After returning with our food, we ate for about ten minutes without saying anything. Finally, after several minutes she spoke.
“Give her some time, Rudy,” she said. “She’s been through an emotional ordeal and it’s going to take her some time to adjust.”
“So what do Randy and I do in the meantime?” I was trying desperately to hold the tears back. “We’re going through the same thing as Mom.”
“She loves you, Rudy.” She reached out and rubbed my hand.
“She hates me, Grandma.” This time the tears started to appear. “I can see it in her eyes. I remind her too much of Dad.”
“You’re just imagining things,” she replied.
“No I’m not,” I cried. “She’s trying to set me up with a girl at church because she’s afraid I’ll turn out like him. You don’t know what it’s been like around the house.”
She got up and came over and sat down beside me, pulling me into her as I cried softly.
“This won’t last long, Rudy,” she assured me. “It will pass.”
“No it won’t,” I cried. “She’ll really hate me when she finds out I am like him.” I started crying harder, waiting for her to push me away; but she clutched me even tighter. I could tell that she too was crying.
She finally pulled away, but it was to stand. She reached out and took my hand and pulled me up. “Let’s go back to my apartment. This is too public a place.” Several people stared as we walked out of the restaurant.
I tried to pull myself together in the car. I looked out the window, lost in thought. I couldn’t believe I had come out to my grandmother. I hadn’t intended to do it. I had gotten so emotional about the way my mother had been treating me that it just slipped out.
She didn’t seem too upset. She had held me tightly in the restaurant and let me cry. Instead of taking me home and dumping me on my mother, she was taking me back to her apartment. I looked over at her a few times, but I couldn’t figure out what was going on inside her. My insides, however, were doing somersaults.
When we arrived at her house, I immediately fled into the bathroom and threw up what I had just eaten earlier. I was so emotional that it was making me physically sick. I had tried to bottle up my feelings for Randy’s sake, but now it all caught up with me.
Grandma was sitting on the couch watching television when I came out of the bathroom. She motioned for me to sit beside her. After sitting, she told me to lie out and use her lap as a pillow. After lying down, she threw an afghan over me. Within minutes, I was sound asleep.
I was awakened about an hour later when the phone rang. The phone was sitting beside the couch, so Grandma didn’t have to get up to answer it. I listened to the one-sided conversation. It was my mother, and I could tell that whatever she was saying was upsetting my grandmother.
“Fine, if that’s the way you feel, he‘ll stay here.” Those were her last words before she slammed the phone down. Once again I felt tears well up in my eyes. I knew my mother didn’t want me to come home.
I lay in her lap for an hour absently watching a show on television. I wanted to know what my mother had said, but I was afraid to ask. After the show went off, my grandma asked me to sit up so she could get off the couch. She returned a minute later with some bed linen.
“You’ll be sleeping here tonight,” she informed me. “I’ll drive you to school in the morning.” Fortunately, Randy and I were used to staying overnight with her, so we had several change of clothes. I didn’t have to worry about having to wear the same clothes to school tomorrow that I had worn today.
“She doesn’t want me to go home, does she?” I asked as she made up the couch for me.
“I’ll talk some sense into her tomorrow,” she stated angrily. “I know she’s going through a lot right now, but it’s ridiculous some of the things going on inside her head.”
“She thinks I’m going to molest Randy.” Tears started to fall once again. I loved my little brother more than anything in the world, and it was tearing me up to think that my mother was trying to separate us.
Grandmother walked over and pulled me into her while I cried. “She’s just confused.”
“How come you haven’t said anything?” I asked. Not once had she mentioned my disclosure that I was gay.
“What is there to say?” She hugged me tighter. “Nothing you’ve said will change how I feel about you.” I lifted my head and kissed her gently on the cheek.
“Thank you, Grandma,” I responded tearfully. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Rudy.” She took my hand and led me back over to the couch. She then went into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with hot chocolate and some peanut butter cookies.
“Now tell me about it.” We spent the next hour talking about my sexuality. I was surprised how interested she seemed to be. She wasn’t judgmental. She listened carefully, only interrupting me a few times to clarify something she didn’t understand.
Talking to her also helped me understand myself better. I knew a few years ago that I was gay, but I had tried to block it out. Talking to my grandmother helped me put my thoughts and feelings in order. I felt more confident about myself after talking it through with her.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” she asked. She smiled when she noticed how red my cheeks became. “So you do.”
“No, Ma’am,” I said. “At least I don’t think so.” I then told her what little I knew about Brent. She found it amusing when I told her about Linda and Amber. She laughed when I told her about our ‘perfect cover.’
“That is the most ironic thing I’ve ever heard,” she roared with laugher. “Your mother tries to force you to date a lesbian.”
“You won’t tell her?” I asked worriedly.
“Of course not,” she assured me. “In fact, if you ever need a ride to go see your boyfriend, let me know.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I insisted.
“Of course, Dear.” She smiled as she brushed her hand through my hair. “Now you should get some sleep. I’ll wake you up in time for school.”
“Thanks, Grandma.” I leaned in and hugged her tightly. It was a big relief knowing that I had someone to turn to if I needed.
I tossed and turned most of the night. I was worried about my little brother. I was afraid my mother was going to try and stop us from seeing each other. She had made it obvious tonight that she didn’t want me around anymore. Grandma hadn’t said it, but I could tell from their phone conversation that she didn’t care if I didn’t come back home.
As we were eating breakfast, the phone rang. Grandma answered it and then handed it to me.
“Artie, are you okay?” It was Randy. I could tell by his whispered voice he was trying not to let Mom hear him on the phone.
“Yes, Little Buddy,” I assured him. “Are you?”
“I slept in your bed last night,” he said sadly. “Are you coming home today?”
“I don’t know, Randy,” I replied. Tears welled up in my eyes when I heard him sniffling. I could tell he was trying hard not to cry. “Grandma will come by after school and pick you up.” I looked over and gave her a pleading look. She nodded her head.
“Okay, Artie.” He seemed to become more cheerful. “I’ll see you after school.” He hung up before I could tell him goodbye.
My grandmother dropped me off at school before heading over to the house to talk to my mother. I really wasn’t expecting her to be able to change my mother’s mind. I just hoped that I could return home so I could protect Randy from her. I didn’t think she’d hurt him physically, but she could upset him emotionally if she started ranting about me or my father.
I was surprised to find Linda at my locker when I arrived. She had a silly grin plastered on her face when I approached.
“Hey, Boyfriend,” she said as she wrapped her arm around mine. “How’s things?”
“It’s been better,” I replied sadly.
“Uh, oh,” she frowned. “Trouble at home?”
“If I have a home anymore.”
“Shit,” Linda hissed. “She’s still taking things out on you?”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” I responded. “She hates me; and I’m beginning to hate her back.”
I put my things in my locker and took out the books I’d need for my morning classes. Linda wrapped her arm around mine as we walked down the hall. A few classmates turned and stared at us. It’s always the talk of the school when a new couple is spotted together. Most of it involved wondering if they ‘did it’ yet. I guess it wouldn’t hurt either of our images to let them wonder. Our perfect cover seemed to be working.
A minute later I felt another arm wrapped around me. I turned and saw a grinning Amber looking up at me. She looked around me and playfully glared at Linda.
“Get your hands off my man,” she warned.
Linda pulled me in tighter. “He’s mine. I found him first. Besides, my mother already told me I could keep him.”
“Damn,” I laughed. “You make me sound like a stray dog.”
“More like a cute little puppy,” laughed Amber. Just then, Brent came walking towards us. Our eyes met briefly before he looked down at the ground.
“Boyfriend Alert,” giggled Linda as she looked over at Amber. Both of them removed their arms from around me. I couldn’t help but blush. These two were definitely carrying the matchmaker role too far. Brent and I had only met yesterday, and in that time we had only exchanged a few words. That didn’t exactly qualify us as being involved in a relationship.
“Hi, Little Brother,” said Amber as Brent approached. “Look what we found wandering around the hall. Do you thing Mom would let you keep him?” We all started laughing at the astonished look on his face.
“I already told you, Amber,” said Linda angrily. “He’s mine. Mom said I could keep him.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me closer to her. Brent looked on with a puzzled look.
“Wait, he has on a collar.” Amber reached up and pretended to read a tag. “It says he belongs to Brent.” She pushed me over to her brother. “Here, take him. But if he pees on the carpet, you have to clean it up.” She grabbed Linda’s arm and they took off down the hall laughing.
“Is she always like that?” I laughed.
“She spends most of her day figuring out how she can embarrass me.” Brent looked shyly up at me. I hadn’t noticed yesterday how much taller I was than him. I figured him to be about 5’7”. I was about four inches taller. He was also very slender, but I could tell that he worked out. His shirt fit him tightly, exposing a very solid body. He blushed when he saw me running my eyes over his body.
“Well, I think it’s cute.” Our eyes met again. “You’re cute.” I said boldly.
“Thanks,” he said before heading off down the hall. I hurried to catch up with him.
“Where’s your first class?”
“Fast Eddie?” I laughed. Mr. Ed Eversole had a reputation for trying to hit on the girls in his class. No one ever took him seriously. He weighed over 300 pounds, and usually sat at his desk because he’d become winded whenever he’d walk around the room.
“Yes,” replied Brent. “Does he ever get up from his chair?”
“I think they take him out to his car in a wheelbarrow at the end of the day.” Both of us started laughing. He had a high pitched laugh; and for some reason, I found it sexy.
“Will I see you at lunch?” he asked hopefully.
“Of course,” I replied. “Let’s go out today. We can walk down the street to the Pizza Palace.
“I’ll tell my sister,” he said.
“No,” I said hurriedly. “Let’s go alone.”
He gave me a surprised look, which quickly turned to a wide grin.
“Meet me at the side door after third period,” I informed him.
“Sure,” he said. “That will be fun. See you then.”
I watched as he walked into class. I turned and hurried to my first period. I was tempted to do a few cartwheels down the hall. I was going out with Brent- alone!
Brent was waiting at the side door when I got out of class. I was a few minutes late because I had put my books in my locker so I wouldn’t have to carry them with me. Brent had his thrown over his shoulder in a book bag.
“Ready?” he asked eagerly.
“Yep,” I replied. “Let’s ditch this place.” He giggled as we escaped through the door.
I found out quickly that Brent was not much of a talker. He’d only reply to something I’d say, and then, it was only with a one or two word response. By the time we arrived at the Pizza Palace, I was getting extremely frustrated. I had hoped that our lunch would be an opportunity to get to know each other, but he was making it extremely difficult.
Pizza Palace was crowded with the usual teen crowd from our school. We were told we’d have to wait a few minutes for a table. After about ten minutes, the waitress led us to a booth. I knew we’d have to eat and run if we were going to make it back to school in time.
We ordered a medium pepperoni with two cokes. I kept looking over at Brent, hoping he’d say something. He was doing the same to me. Finally, we looked at each other and broke out in laughter.
“This is more difficult than I thought it would be,” I laughed.
“I know,” he stated. “I really wanted this to be special- kinda like a first date.” I gave him an astonished look. He was feeling exactly how I was.
“Okay, let’s do it this way,” I suggested. “I’ll ask you something about yourself, and then you ask me something.”
“All right,” he said.
“Um, let me see,” I thought. “Do you snore?”
He looked at me and started laughing. “Why do you want to know that?”
“Well, I thought that if we...” My face started blushing brightly.
“If we what?” He leaned over the table and stared into my eyes.
“Never mind,” I said quickly. “It was stupid.”
“No, tell me. Please,” he begged.
“I just thought if we spent the night together, I wanted to know if you snore.” I don’t think my face could have been any redder.
“You want to sleep with me?” He seemed astonished.
“Yes,” I responded, then quickly said, “No, I mean, yes, I want to sleep with you. Wait, I mean I want us to sleep together.”
His eyes widened as I continued to stammer. “Damn, it!” I was getting frustrated. It was all coming out wrong. I was trying to say I wanted us to spend the night together sometime, but only so we could get to know each other better. But it was beginning to sound like I wanted to have sex with him.
“I was hoping we could spend the night sometime and get to know each other.” I managed to say. “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”
“I liked it better the first way,” he grinned before looking away. He was blushing so brightly his ears were even scarlet.
“Really?” He looked up and I wiggled my eyebrows. This only made him blush more.
The waitress brought our pizza, and we talked more comfortably. Most of our conversation was about school. I think he was intentionally steering clear of asking me anything about my family.
We had a lot in common. Like me, he was a good student, but was worried about appearing too geeky. He admitted that he had few friends at school. He said because of his looks, girls were always trying to get him to go out with them. As a result, he found it easier to stay away from any awkward social settings. So since about the eighth grade, he had pretty much become a loner.
“You’ve never had a boyfriend?” I asked. I figured if girls were always hitting on him, other gay boys would be too.
“I’ve never really been attracted to anyone until...” Suddenly, he stopped.
“Until what?” I questioned him.
“Aw, come on,” I insisted. “You made me tell you.”
He studied the table for a minute before looking up and meeting my expectant eyes. “Until you.”
I sat back and stared at him. This gorgeous boy across the table was attracted to me. I wanted to lean across the table in a crowded restaurant and kiss him. I could feel he was thinking the same thing. Our stare was broken when the people around us started getting up and leaving. I guess it was time to return back to school.
“We’d better go,” Brent said as he looked at his watch. “Will I see you after school?”
“I can’t,” I informed him. “My grandmother is picking me up after school.”
His expression saddened as we walked up and paid for our pizza. On the way back to school, we let our hands hang to our sides. Occasionally, we’d let them touch lightly. I thought it was senseless that a guy and girl could walk down the street holding hands, but Brent and I couldn’t.
I looked later for Brent in the halls, but I never saw him. Linda came up to me after fifth period and asked where Brent and I were during lunch. She raised her eyebrow when I told her we went out to lunch alone.
“And?” she asked.
“And what?” I replied.
“Don’t play games, Artie.” She reached out and hit me on my arm. “Do you like him?”
“Ouch, that hurt!” I grinned. “I’m going to tell my boyfriend.”
“Yes!” she shouted. She put her hand up and we high-fived. “Operation Perfect Cover is completed.”
My grandmother was waiting for me as I exited the building. I was expecting Randy to be with her since he gets out of school fifteen minutes earlier than me.
“Where’s Randy?” I asked as I got in the car.
She looked over and gave me a worried look. “Your mother insisted that I take you straight home. She has some things she wants to talk to you about.”
I looked over and our eyes met. I could see the apprehension in them. I was afraid this was not going to be a pleasant meeting.