Other Sinful Things
Tiffany stood and stared down at me. With a puzzled voice, she asked Mrs. Oliver,
“What’s he doing here?”

Mrs. Oliver grabbed Tiffany’s hand and led her over to the table. “He’s staying with
me for a few days,” she informed her. “Now, sit down, Sammy.”

She pulled her hand away. “Nana,” she muttered angrily. “Don’t call me Sammy.   
I’m Tiffany.”

Mrs. Oliver looked nervously at me. I don’t think she knew what to do. She didn’t
know that I was aware of Tiffany’s gender identity, and she probably thought it
might make things awkward at dinner. “Yes, Dear,” she replied politely. She
gripped Tiffany’s hand and insisted, “Now, have a seat...Tiffany.” She gave me a
weary look before turning, going over to the oven and removing the chicken from
the skillet.

Tiffany sat down and looked angrily over at me. It was obvious that her
grandmother hadn’t informed her that I would be joining them for dinner. I
attempted to speak, but words wouldn’t leave my mouth. I was relieved when Mrs.
Oliver placed plates before us.

She sat and asked me to say grace. I said the usual saying I had been taught since
a little boy. Mrs. Oliver said, “Amen,” but Tiffany said nothing as she picked up her
fork and began eating the mashed potatoes.

Mrs. Oliver attempted a smile as she asked, “Isn’t this nice?” She gave me a
pleading look as she asked, “Jacob, you and Sam... I mean... Tiffany go to the
same school. Do you know each other?”

I glanced quickly at Tiffany and replied, “Yes, Ma’am. We’re in the same grade.”

Attempting to sound cheerful, she responded, “That’s wonderful.” She then looked
over at Tiffany and asked, “Isn’t it nice to know someone who goes to your new
school?”

Tiffany took a bite of chicken, and without looking up replied sarcastically,
“Wonderful.”

I was beginning to become upset. I knew Tiffany wasn’t expecting me to join them
for dinner, but she   didn’t have to be so rude. I had attempted to protect her a
couple of times from Darryl. That at least should have rewarded me some degree
of friendship. However, it was very obvious that Tiffany wasn’t looking for friends.

We ate in silence the remainder of dinner. Mrs. Oliver seemed hurt that Tiffany was
making no attempt to be friendly. She had expected that perhaps we could be
friends. That was probably the purpose in inviting Tiffany to join us.

When I finished eating, I asked Mrs. Oliver politely if I could please be excused.
Dinner had been uncomfortable, I couldn’t wait to leave the table. “Of course,
Dear,” she replied apologetically.

Instead of going to my room, I decided to go out into the backyard and sit on a
swing. Mrs. Oliver and I had often sat together and watched the hummingbirds
drinking from the feeders that were hanging from the nearby trees. Mrs. Oliver
loved gardening, and her back yard was an oasis of various plants and flowers. I
particularly loved the bed of day lilies I had helped her plant a few years earlier.

From the swing, I could see Mrs. Oliver and Tiffany through the window as they
washed and dried the dinner dishes. They appeared to be engaged in a very
serious conversation. Occasionally, Tiffany would look out the window and see me
watching them.

Soon, they turned out the kitchen lights and went into the living room. I continued
to swing as I closed my eyes and enjoyed the chirping of the birds in the trees. It
was about a half hour later when I heard the  back door open. Tiffany stepped out
and stood looking at me. At first, I thought she was going to leave through the
back gate, but I was surprised when she walked down the stone path to where I
was sitting.

As she approached, I looked at her lithe body. Her step was graceful, but hesitant.
I looked up into her face. It was beautiful and flawless in the setting sun. However,
her blue eyes seemed filled with uncertainty and fear.

It surprised me when she sat down on the swing beside me. She said nothing as  
we swung in awkward silence. Finally, she clearer throat and looked at me. “I want
to thank you for helping me at school.” Her eyes darted nervously around, and she
wouldn’t look at me directly.

“It’s okay,” I responded. “Really.” As she looked away, I noticed how beautiful her
complexion was. It was silky, not the rough texture that most boys our age have.
Her nose appeared almost too small for her face. The stubble I had noticed on the
bus the first day was shaven. As awkward as it seemed, I found her to be...
beautiful.

I quickly looked away, thinking that my thoughts were as my father would have
described them- sinful. Maybe I was being tempted. After all, it didn’t seem normal
for a boy to be described as beautiful. However, Tiffany was. She was actually
prettier than any girl who attended our school.

Perhaps, that was why boys like Darryl felt threatened. If I found Tiffany pretty,
then certainly they did as well. However, their masculinity would never permit
them to accept that fact.

Again, we sat in an awkward silence. I didn’t know what to say to her, and it was
obvious she would rather have been anywhere other than sitting beside me on the
swing.

Finally, I asked, “How do you like our school?”

She laughed slightly and replied, “It’s just swell. Everyone loves me there.”

“Sorry,” I responded apologetically.

She looked forward as she said, “It’s not your fault. You’re about the only person
who has treated me like  I’m not some kind of a freak show.”

I looked over and saw how taut her face appeared. “It must be pretty hard, huh?”

“Yeah,” she replied as tears welled up in her eyes. “It’s not easy being different.”

“I know what you mean,” I responded sullenly.

She looked over and smiled slightly as she asked, “You? What would you know
about being different?”

I gave Tiffany a puzzled look and asked, “So, I guess no one has told you?”

“About what?”

I sighed and replied, “I’m the preacher’s son.”

She gave me a questioning look and simply said, “Oh.”

We swung for another minute without saying anything. We watched the window as
Mrs. Oliver busily moved around the kitchen. Occasionally, she would glance out
the window to see if we were all right.

Suddenly, Tiffany sat forward and gave me a puzzled look. “You’re not Pastor   
Long’s son, are you?”

I nodded my head and answered, “Yeah.”

“Wow!” she said as she shook her head. “Now I know what you meant when you
said you were different.”

I gave her a puzzled look and asked, “What do you mean?”

Tiffany explained the conversation she had a few days ago with her grandmother.
Mrs. Oliver explained to her about leaving the church because of my father's
intolerant views. Now, I understood why her grandmother had made that decision.

“I don’t understand why she has stayed after the way he’s been talking about you,”
I said.

Tiffany laughed and replied, “Nana doesn’t hear too well at times, especially when
she’s at the organ. I  don’t think she realized he was talking about me until some
other members of the church told her.”

I asked, “So she’s really going to leave? She told me she’s been attending the
church since a girl.”

“Not only is she going to leave,” she informed me, “she’s taking others with her. I
told her not to do it, but once Nana makes up her mind, it’s made up.”

I laughed and said, “I would love to be there to see the look on his face when she
does it.”

“I don’t see how you can live with him,” commented Tiffany.

I laughed slightly and replied, “I don’t. That’s why I’m here.”

She glanced over and asked excitedly, “He kicked you out of the house? Nana   
didn’t tell me that.”

“I’m not sure what’s going on,” I responded sadly. “Mother packed my bags and
brought me to your grandmother’s house.”

“Oh,” she said as she sat back. Again, we continued to swing in silence.

Tiffany started to get off the swing, but I stopped her. “Wait,” I insisted. She sat
down and looked over at me.

I stared intently into her face, and then I looked away. “Never mind,” I mumbled.

She laughed slightly before stating, “I wondered when you were going to ask.”

I replied, “It’s none of my business.”

“You’re right,” she said tersely. “It isn’t your business.” When she looked over at
me, my face began to redden.

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

She sat back and remained quiet for a minute. “It’s hard to explain,” she said softly
as she watched two squirrels chasing each other around a tree.

“It’s okay,” I said. “You don’t have to.”

“No,” she replied adamantly. “I want to tell you. I think you would understand.”

“I don’t know,” I responded. “It goes against everything I’ve ever been taught.”

“Yeah,” Tiffany said with a sense of sadness. “It’s against everything everyone’s
been taught.” She sat back and sighed. “I was hoping you would be different.”

I smiled and stated, “It goes against everything I’ve been taught. I didn’t say I
believe everything I’ve been taught.”

For the first time since I had first met Tiffany, she giggled. It was cute because she
cupped her hand over her mouth and looked over at me with her blue eyes.

She sat back, and I was getting ready to hear her story. But just then, Mrs. Oliver
opened the back door and hollered out that it was getting late. “You both have
school tomorrow,” she reminded us.

I giggled when Tiffany mumbled, “Wonderful. Another day in paradise.”

“Yeah,” I laughed. “Another day in paradise.”

As she started to walk away, she turned and asked, “Will I see you tomorrow?”

I smiled and replied, “I hope so.” She turned and followed her grandmother into
the kitchen.

Dear God,
Is it possible for everyone to be wrong about something? Okay, let me ask it this
way. If I believe something that everyone thinks is wrong, but in my heart I
believe it is right, does that make it okay? When I get to Heaven and I stand
before St. Peter to answer for all my sins, will it be a sin if I think something in my
heart is truly right, even though others think it is wrong? I know I’m not making
any sense. I’ll just have to make the right decision and hope you don’t object.
Bobby

When I prepared for school the next morning, my stomach was doing somersaults.
In eleven years, I had never been afraid to go to school. I had my problems, and
other students would often shun me, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

Now, however, things had changed the past week. Two times I had almost fought
with Darryl. I’m not a violent person, and I had never even considered hitting
someone. Even when other boys would wrestle on the playground when we were in
elementary school, I never participated. It just wasn’t in my nature. I think I
feared my father’s wrath if I was sent home with a note that I had engaged in bad
behavior.

Now, though, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to just be an innocent bystander
to Darryl’s, or anyone else’s, harassment toward Tiffany. After last night, I felt that
I understood her better, even though we never talked about why she preferred to
live her life as a girl.

Even though I still wasn’t certain how I felt about the whole thing, one thing I was
sure about- she was the one who had made that decision. It really didn’t matter
what I or anyone else felt about it.

And in a way, I admired her for that.

For several years, I had hidden safely in the shadows of my father. No one had  
ever questioned me about how I felt about anything because they just assumed
that I was cut from the same fabric from which he was made. Until a week ago, I
had accepted that. Now, I had been kicked out of my own home for attempting to
step out of that shadow. And now that I had left the darkness into the light, I   
wasn’t sure if I could ever go back. And that too scared me.

“Jacob!” shouted Mrs. Oliver from the kitchen. “You’d better hurry or you’ll be late
for school.”

When I entered the kitchen, Mrs. Oliver was busily fixing breakfast. She turned and
smiled when she saw me. “Have a seat, Jacob,” she said cheerfully.

I sat down and watched her flit around the kitchen. I could smell bacon; and the
eggs she was preparing in the skillet looked delicious. My mother would only fix a
breakfast like this on Sunday morning before church. She always said my father
needed a fulfilling breakfast to help him preach the Lord’s word.

When she placed the plate in front of me, she smiled and said, “Thank you so much
for being kind to my grandson, Sammy, last night.”

“Not to be rude, Mrs. Oliver,” I responded, “but I think she wants people to call her
Tiffany.”

“Yes, Dear,” she said as she turned to get the orange juice from the refrigerator.  
“I must remember that.” When she placed the glass before me, she sat down and
frowned. “It’s so hard, though. He was my sweet little Sammy for fourteen years.
Then two years ago, he decided he wanted to be a girl.” Tears began to well up in
her eyes. “I just don’t understand it.”

“I don’t think she decided to get out of bed one day and be a girl,” I replied. “I
think it was something she struggled with for a long time. I guess it’s hard for us to
understand.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she responded sadly. “I’m just an old woman, and it is
hard for me to accept what is happening in the modern world.”

“I don’t know, Mrs. Oliver,” I replied. “I think these things have happened for a
long time. It is just that people are more open about it today.”

She clicked her tongue and said, “It was better when people didn’t talk about it.”
For a brief second, she sounded like my father.

When I arrived at school, I went to my locker before going to the cafeteria. When I
approached, I noticed a few students standing before it and laughing. They became
quiet when I came nearer. Someone had vandalized my locker by spray painting
the word ‘fag’ on it in purple paint.

“Excuse me,” I said as I pushed my way to my locker. The other students began to
move away. I got out the books I would need for my morning classes, slammed
my locker door shut and stormed off toward the cafeteria.

As I was walking down the hall, someone grabbed my arm to stop me. I turned
expecting to have to defend myself. Instead, it was Jerome Norman, one of the
smallest members of our class. He had been bullied since the first grade by bigger
students like Darryl. He was only five foot five, and on a good day he may have
weighed a hundred pounds. I always felt sorry for him. However, like others I
shunned him for fear of others ridiculing me.

“It was Darryl Standifer,” he informed me softly as he quickly glanced down the
hall. “I saw him do it.”

“Thanks, Jerome,” I replied. “I figured it was him anyway.”

He nervously looked around as he pleaded, “Please don’t tell him I saw him do it.”
He then quickly hurried away.

Cathy was sitting at the table when I entered the cafeteria. She could tell by the
look on my face I was upset. As I sat down she asked, “What happened?”

“Darryl messed up my locker,” I said.

“What did he do?”

“Spray painted ‘fag’ on it,” I informed her.

She asked worriedly, “Are you going to tell Mrs. Edwards?”

“What good would that do? Mrs. Edwards won’t do anything.” Cathy nodded
because she knew it was the truth. Darryl was a star athlete and running back of
the football team. He was also a starting forward for the basketball team, and the
catcher for the baseball team. He was at the highest student level, and his
involvement in inappropriate behavior would never be questioned. Besides, he
would lie about it, and no one would believe otherwise.

Cathy smiled and nodded toward the door. I didn’t have to look to know who was
approaching. Colton sat down in a seat opposite me and smiled. “Hey Guys,” he
said cheerfully as he looked at us.

When we didn’t respond, he sarcastically asked, “Did someone’s cat die or
something.”

“More like something,” said Cathy as she relayed what I had told her about my
locker.

“Fucker,” hissed Colton as he looked over at me. “He’s going to get his someday.”

I pleaded, “Please don’t be the one to do it.”

Colton slapped his fist into his palm. “He’s got one more time to fuck with you. I’m
getting sick of his shit.”

We turned and looked at Cathy when she started giggling. I asked, “What’s so
funny.”

She continued to giggle as she responded, “You guys are so sweet. Maybe you
should just get a room.” Colton rolled his eyes and flipped her off.

Just then, the bell rang and we headed to class. Colton stopped me and asked if he
would see me at lunch. He smiled when I assured him he would.

As he hurried down the hall, Cathy laughed and said, “He’s really into you, Jacob.
God, you’re a lucky shit.” She waved and hurried off leaving me to wonder what
was happening.

I was sitting in Mrs. Hawthorne’s English class reading a short story she had
assigned. It was Edgar Allen Poe’s, ‘Masque of the Red Death.’ I was enjoying it. I
was just getting to the part where the stranger enters the ball, when a student
came into the classroom and handed Mrs. Hawthorne a note.

She looked back and motioned for me to come to her desk. She informed me that
Mrs. Edwards, the school principal, wanted to see me in her office. Since the period
was almost over, she suggested that I should get my books before leaving. She
smiled and nodded her head when I asked if I could take the book that contained
the short story.

Mrs. Edwards was pacing back and forth in the hallway waiting for me to arrive.
She smiled nervously when I approached. She said, “I was informed this morning
of the vandalism to your locker.” She folded her arms and said disappointedly, “You
could have come and reported the damage to me yourself.”

I had known Mrs. Edwards since I first arrived my freshman year. She introduced
herself to me in the cafeteria one morning. When I told her my name, she asked if
I was Pastor Long’s son. I think she was aware of my father’s reputation, so she
had quietly kept an eye on me. If any of my grades fell, she would talk to me in
the hall and remind me that my father expected good grades.

She was a rather heavy woman. To me, she always appeared like she should be
teaching a first grade class rather than being principal of a large high school.
However, she was very popular and well-liked. Because of her good nature, most
students didn’t feel threatened by her presence.

“Yes, Ma’am,” I replied as I hung my head. I didn’t want to tell her how
embarrassing it would have been for me to have reported the incident. How could I
have possibly explained why another student would paint the word, fag, on my
locker.

“Well,” she informed me. “I notified your father what happened.”

“What!” I shrieked. “Why did you do that?”

She looked worriedly at me and replied, “Well, you are his son and I thought he
should find out from me rather than someone in his congregation.” She shook her
head and said, “I didn’t want to deal with the repercussions if he found out from
another source.”

“I don’t know why you told him,” I responded angrily. “It was just a little paint and
no one got hurt.”

She sighed, looked sorrowful at me and stated, “You’re very right, Jacob. I  
shouldn’t have.” She sighed again and informed me, “He’s sitting in my office.”

I shrieked again, “What! Father is here?”

“I’m afraid so,” she replied with a nervous laugh. “Why do you think I was waiting
out here in the hallway.”

She placed her hand on my back and pushed me toward the door. “Let’s go deal
with this,” she said nervously.



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