Chapter 23
I was finally beginning to realize how much work goes into putting on a school play.
In the past, the school would have an assembly, and we would be forced to sit
quietly while students performed onstage. Unless the play contained a lot of humor,
most students paid little attention. In fact, I had fallen asleep during several.

Now, I understand that students work their asses off to present a show. We were in
the middle stages, but I could feel the tension building. Shade ran around
backstage seeing that everyone understood his or her assigned role. From
backstage, I could hear Megan, Max and Lorenzo helping the actors and actresses
rehearse. A few times, I went and watched offstage as Lane rehearsed. I had never
seen him happier. He followed directions well, and he appeared to be having no
trouble remembering his lines. Being a bundle of energy, he particularly enjoyed
the singing and dancing numbers.

“He’s good,” remarked Shade as he stood beside me watching Lane follow Elisa as
they danced around on stage and sang.

I replied, “I’m really proud of him. At first, was afraid he couldn’t handle it.”

Shade said, “Lane’s very special.” He looked at me and smiled. “He’s lucky to have
you as a brother.”

I looked out at Lane dancing around on the stage. “I’m the lucky one,” I replied.

Lane was excited when we got into Shade’s car around nine. “Did you see me,
Casey?” he asked excitedly. He beamed with pride when I told him what a great
job he was doing. By the time we arrived home, however, he was sound asleep in
the backseat.

He mumbled sleepily when I took him from the car and carried him in my arms
into the house. Karen met us at the door, and I told her I was going to put Lane to
bed. He barely awoke as I removed his clothes, put on his pajamas and tucked him
into bed.

“Casey?” he mumbled softly as I pulled the cover over him.

“Yeah, Little Brother?”

He opened his eyes and kissed my cheek. “I love you. Okay?”

“Love you too,” I replied as I kissed him on his forehead. He was asleep before I
turned out his bedroom light.

Karen was waiting for me in the family room. “Is he all right?” she asked as I sat
down beside her.

“He’s fine,” I assured you. I told her how well he was doing in the play.

She looked worriedly at me, “And what about you?”

“I’m okay,” I assured her.

She explained about my father discussing Mr. Shade’s imprisonment with her. “If
anyone knows what to do,” she said, “It’s Randy.”

“I hope so,” I replied hopefully.

She reached out and held my hand. My first instinct was to pull away, but I didn’t.
She asked softly, “Are you in love with him?”

I gave her a puzzled look. “Who? Dad?”

She grinned and replied, “No. Shade.”

I rested my head back as she squeezed my hand tighter. “I think so,” I mumbled

“He’s a wonderful boy,” she said softly, “And so are you.”

“Thanks,” I replied, unsure what else to say.

She released my hand and sat up. “I wish Curtis was more like you,” she said as
tears filled her eyes. “He’s so troubled. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he just shuts
me out. Rodney says he does the same to him.” I was afraid she was going to cry
when she said sadly, “I don’t know what to do anymore.”

I attempted to laugh. “We’re teenagers,” I joked. “Aren’t we supposed to be

She shook her head. “It’s more than that,” she said. “I’m his mother, I can tell.”

We sat quietly watching television. I’m not sure either of us was paying much
attention to what was playing. It was some old movie starring Mel Gibson. Finally,
she let out a deep sigh. I almost couldn’t breathe when she asked, “Do you think
he’s gay?”

“What?” I sat up and looked over at her. Karen’s eyes were filled with tears.  “Do
you think Curtis is gay?”

“Why would you ask that?”

She reached for my hand again and held it. “I never thought about it until you
came to stay with us. Randy told me you were gay.” She squeezed my hand
tighter. “It doesn’t bother me, believe me.” She sat up and stared into my face.
“But I watched you, and I tried to understand. And the more I did, I began to see
similarities between you and Curtis.”

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

“I don’t know,” she replied. “It’s hard to explain.” She sat back and closed her
eyes. “I just imagined what you were like as a young boy, probably about Lane’s
age.” She opened her eyes and looked over at me. “I know he is beginning to
realize his sexuality.”

I laughed and asked, “What?”

She smiled and hit me lightly on my arm. “Oh, come on, Casey. I didn’t just get off
the bus.  I know what those stiff towels under the bed are for.” My face must have
turned about fifty shades of red. If she had turned out the lights, I’m sure the glow
from my embarrassed face would have lit up the room. To embarrass me even
more, she grinned and added, “I know all about Rosy Palms and her five sisters.” I
fell off the sofa onto the floor and laughed until tears rolled down my face. She
laughed at my antics. Finally, I sat back down on the sofa.

“Karen,” I laughed nervously. “We can’t talk about things like this. I’m a guy, and
well... you’re a mother.”

She patted my hand. “Sure we can,” she said sadly. “I need someone to talk to.
Your father listens, but that’s all he does. I’m not sure he even pays attention to
me when I talk.”

I sighed, rested my head back on the sofa and said, “All right.”

She sat up and folded her legs under her. She then continued. “Curtis was such a
happy little boy.” She held back tears and said, “Then he hit his teen years. I
watched him change.”

“We all change at that age,” I replied. “I know I did.” I was thinking about my
feelings for Rollie.

“He tried to follow in Rodney’s footsteps.” She looked over, smiled and said
proudly, “He’s very popular with the girls, you know?”

I laughed and replied, “I know,” as I thought about him and Megan.

She became sullen again. “Curtis tries to date,” she remarked sullenly, “but girls
don’t seem to like him. I don’t think it was as much as they don’t like him, as he
tries hard to make them not like him.”

I looked over and said, “I don’t get it.”

She asked, “Did you ever date girls?”

“No, why?”

She sighed and said, “I don’t think Curtis wants to, either. I think he feels he has to
because Rodney expects him to.”

Without thinking, I asked, “So you think he acts like an asshole so girls won’t like

She laughed and replied, “I wouldn’t exactly call my son an asshole, but I guess the
answer is yes.”

Her theory made sense except for one thing- Mike. “Okay,” I said. “So if he’s gay,
then why does he hide it? His friend Mike is gay, and everyone seems to accept it.
It looks like it would be easy for Curtis to come out.”

She shook her head, and tears once again filled her eyes. “It hasn’t been that easy
for Mike,” she said. “His mother is one of my best friends. She’s told me how
difficult it is for Mike sometimes. She said he goes through these deep depressions
that sometimes last for weeks.”

“I didn’t know,” I replied. Even though my life had been difficult after my mother
found me in bed with Rollie, I never felt any remorse for being gay. It was
something that I naturally accepted, whether my mother did or not.

Karen gripped my hand tightly. “I don’t know how to approach Curtis,” she started
to cry. “I know he’s probably going through what Mike goes through, and it is killing
me inside. I’m afraid if I ask him if he’s gay, he’ll just deny it, and he’ll probably
hate me for it.”

What she was saying made sense. If Curtis had managed to mess around with Pip
for years without Rodney or anyone else suspecting, then he must have mastered
how to hide his dark secret. His mood also seems to have changed since I
discovered him with Pip. His behavior was becoming more noticeable to everyone.
If he thought others had discovered his secret, it is hard to tell how he might react.

She squeezed my hand tightly and asked softly, “What am I to do, Casey?”

I wished that I had an answer for her, but I didn’t. If Curtis is gay, and he isn’t
ready to come out, then there was nothing she can do. To confront him would only
make him deny it anyway. I was going to suggest seeing a psychologist, but I knew
how violently I reacted when my mother tried to insist that I see one after the
incident with Rollie. We argued for weeks until she finally gave up. I was only
fourteen, but I told her I would run away if she tried. In my mind, there was
nothing wrong with me. However, I’m not sure Curtis feels the same way.

I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “I don’t know.”

She rested her head on my shoulder. “I’m sorry to burden you with this, but I’m at
my wit’s end. I love all my boys.” She squeezed my hand and said, “That includes
you too.” She sighed deeply. “I just want to do the right thing, is all.” She sat
quietly for a minute, and then added, “It’s hard being a mother.”

“Yeah,” I laughed slightly. “I guess it is.”

She leaned over and kissed me on my cheek. “Thanks, Casey, for listening. I just
needed someone to talk to.” She rose, squeezed my hand and then left the room.

I sat back and muttered, “Jesus. What a mess.”

                                                   * * * * *

The rest of the week was extremely busy. Lane and I would stay late after school
so he could rehearse. Shade and I were spending less time together because
everyone demanded his time. He had even given up his job so he could devote
more time to the play.

Joshua was also becoming a problem. Even though Megan was the director, he
would run to Shade and complain about anything he disliked. Normally, it involved
petty disagreements. If Megan told him to move to stage right when he was acting,
he would insist moving stage left. As a result, tension was beginning to mount, and
Shade was caught in the middle.

Shade approached me Friday evening backstage. He was running his hands through
his hair. “I can’t take it anymore,” he moaned. “I wish Megan had never cast
someone so immature for the part of Captain Von Trapp.”

I wanted to smile, but I knew Shade was upset. I was beginning to think that
Joshua was no longer a threat. He even seemed to be turning against Shade each
time he told him there was nothing he could do, and that he would have to deal
with Megan or Max.

During one of his complaints, he had put his hands on his hips and insisted that,
“Megan is such a bitch.” Shade’s face reddened with anger, but he said nothing.
Instead, he turned and walked away as Joshua hollered, “Aren’t you going to help

I put my hands around Shade’s hips and kissed him. “We only have a couple more
weeks until the performance,” I said. “You’ll make it.”

He pulled away and started pacing around the room. “I don’t know,” he moaned. “I
feel like I’m being pulled in all directions. Do this, do that. I need this, I need that.”
I walked up behind and put my arms around him.

“I know what you need,” I whispered into his ear as I let my hand fall to his
crotched and rubbed him gently.

He lifted my hand away. “We can’t exactly do it here,” he laughed.

“Sure we can,” I giggled as I tried to unzip his pants. I could feel he was getting

“Casey!” he shrieked. “Someone is going to see us.”

I grabbed his hand and pulled him toward a storage room. “Come on.”

He laughed as I pulled him into the room and closed the door. “Someone’s going to
catch us,” he warned. “We’ll get into a lot of trouble.”

I pressed my lips to his. “You worry too much,” I said as I reached into his pants
and started stroking his erection. He closed his eyes and moaned. “Shhh,” I
giggled. “Someone is going to hear you.”

I fell to my knees and unzipped his pants. I expected Shade to resist, but he didn’t.
I knew we didn’t have but a few minutes, so I engulfed his cock and started sucking
him. He leaned against the door when his knees started to weaken. It only took
about two minutes before he unloaded.

He was breathing heavily as he pulled up his pants. “God, Casey,” he mumbled as
he kissed me. “That felt great.”

I put my hands around his waist. “Just call me Doctor Feel Good,” I giggled. “I
know how to cure your stress.”

“You sure do,” he smiled as he kissed me again. He reached down and began to rub
my erection through my jeans. He fell to his knees and began to unzip my pants.

Just then, someone started banging on the door. We heard Lane hollering, “You
guys in here? Let me in.”

“Damn,” hissed Shade as he rose to his feet. I quickly buttoned my pants. Shade
kissed me before he opened the door.

Lane came barging in. “What are you guys doing?” He looked around, and then he
wrinkled his nose. “It smells funny in here.”

I grabbed him by his shoulders and gently pushed him from the room. “We were
looking for some supplies.”

“Okay,” he said, “But Megan told me she wants to see Shade for a minute. Joshua
is acting like a big baby again.”

Shade looked over and rolled his eyes. I laughed and told him, “Go handle it, Mr.
Stage Manager.”

He flipped me off and said, “Handle this.”

“Later,” I laughed. Lane grasped Shade’s hand and pulled him toward the stage.

After rehearsal, Shade took Megan, Lane and me to the diner for a bite to eat. I
agreed only if I could pay for Lane’s and my meal. After a brief argument, he
finally agreed.

“Aw,” laughed Megan as she looked at Lane. “They are having their first fight.”
Lane giggled and told us we should kiss and make up. When we stopped at a light,
we did.

Lane wrinkled his nose and said, “Ew.”

It surprised me when Megan told Lane, “You won’t feel like that when you kiss

I turned and asked, “Who is Cindy?”

Lane tried to cover Megan’s mouth, put she pulled his hand away and said, “She’s
the girl who is playing Louisa.” She laughed and added, “Lane likes her.”

“I do not!” He squealed as his face reddened. “She’s icky.”

“You didn’t seem to think so when you were holding hands and dancing around the
stage,” she replied. “You were happy as a lark.”

He replied, “I wasn’t happy as a lark.” He looked at me and asked, “What’s a lark

I smiled and said, “A boy who likes a girl named Cindy.”

“I don’t like Cindy!” he insisted. We continued to tease him all the way to the diner.

The diner was rather busy when we entered. Shade’s mother was scurrying around
taking orders and refilling drinks. She stopped long enough to give us each a hug.

“It’s so good to see you again, Casey,” she remarked as she wrapped her arms
around me. “I’ve never seen my son happier.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Shade,” I replied.

“Please,” she insisted, “Call me Penny. I feel so old when people call me Mrs.

I smiled and replied, “Okay, Penny.”

Since Penny was busy, we all ordered a hamburger and fries. She passed by the
table several times to refill our sodas. Each time, she would smile and pat me on
my back.

“Momma likes you,” remarked Shade. “When we’re at home, you’re all she wants
to talk about.” I wanted to ask him if he has told her what we’ve done, but I didn’t
because Lane and Megan were with us. I would have to be sure to ask him later.
However, I would probably feel too embarrassed to come back into the diner if he
told me he had.

As we ate, I asked Shade if he would like to spend the night. Lane became excited
and said we could stay up and watch movies all night. Megan jokingly stated we
would probably want to do more than just watch movies.

When Shade asked his mother if he could, she asked if he had any homework. He
told her it was a Friday night, and he could always complete it on Sunday. She
gave him permission to stay, but warned him to be on his best behavior and follow
my dad’s and Karen’s instructions. When she asked if he needed to go by the house
and get his pajamas, I told her he could wear something of mine. When she left the
table, Megan whispered softly, “You have no intentions of giving him anything to
wear.” Our faces reddened as we looked at each other and laughed.

After we had eaten, Penny brought Lane a bowl filled with apple pie and vanilla ice
cream. He jumped with excitement as she placed it in front of him. “Oh Boy!” he
squealed as he took his spoon and dug into the mountain of ice cream.

She left and returned with three plates containing apple pie. “My treat,” she said as
she placed it in front of us. “Besides, we’ll be closing in an hour and it will just be
thrown out into the dumpster. I can’t serve stale pie to my customers tomorrow.”

Penny returned to the table later and told us not to worry about the bill. “It’s on the
house,” she insisted. I objected and told her that I would pay for Lane’s and my
meal. She replied, “Nonsense,” then turned and left. When we rose from the table,
I left a ten-dollar bill on the table without Shade seeing me.

As soon as we got home, Lane ran into his room and changed into his pajamas. He
then hurried into the family room. He asked excitedly, “You guys ready?”

I gave him a puzzled look and asked, “Ready for what?”

“Aren’t we having a pajama party?”

Shade laughed and replied jokingly, “A pajama party? Only little girls have those.”

Lane suddenly looked dejected. “Okay,” he muttered as he headed back upstairs.”

“Wait,” I hollered out. I glanced over at Shade. “I think it will be fun to have a
pajama party.”

Lane stopped and turned. “You do?” he asked excitedly.

“Sure,” I smiled. “It will be fun.”

“Yippee!” he shouted. “I’ll go make some popcorn.”

After he left, I wiggled my eyebrows and told Shade, “He’ll be asleep in about an
hour. I’ll tuck him in bed and then we can have fun.”

Shade looked upstairs. “What about everyone else?”

“It’s Friday,” I replied. “Dad and Karen are in their bedroom.” I looked at the
clock on the wall. Even though it was early, they usually crashed on the weekends.
“They’re probably in bed and asleep by now.”

He asked, “What about Rodney and Curtis?”

“Not sure,” I replied. Since we had just dropped Megan off at home, I knew he
wasn’t with her. “They’re probably out partying somewhere. They won’t be home
until late.”

We turned on a scary movie and snuggled on the sofa. Lane came downstairs, put
his hands on his hips and announced, “You guys aren’t in your pajamas.”

“All right,” I responded as I pulled Shade from the sofa. “Let’s go get into
something more comfortable.”

We went to my bedroom, and I looked for something we could wear. Since I slept
in my underwear, I   didn’t have any pajamas. I took two pair of sweat pants and
tee shirts out of the dresser. I handed one to Shade. “Get undressed,” I laughed as
I wiggled my eyebrows.

He challenged me, “You first.” I shrugged my shoulders and quickly removed my
clothes. He admired my body as I stood naked before him.

“Now you,” I said. His face blushed as he slowly did a strip tease for me. I let out a
soft whistle when he was naked.

He asked, “You like?” I nodded, and then I walked over to him and pressed our
naked bodies together.

“I like very much,” I whispered softly in his ear.

Just then, Lane started banging on the door. “Hurry up, guys. You’re missing a
good movie.”

“Damn it,” muttered Shade. “I’m never going to have you.”

I kissed him and replied, “Later.”

We dressed quickly, and then we went out and joined Lane in the family room.
There was a big bowl of popcorn on the coffee table along with five cans of soda,
two bags of chips and a jar of dill pickles.

I laughed and said, “Didn’t you just eat?”

“But we’re having a pajama party,” he replied. “We’re supposed to eat.”

We watched two movies before Lane finally fell asleep with his head in my lap.
Shade was asleep with his head on my shoulder. When my arm fell asleep, I
moved to get into a better position. When I did, Lane woke up.

“You better go to bed,” I said as I helped him sit up.

“We’re supposed to spend the night having fun,” he mumbled. Just then, Shade
woke up and rubbed his eyes.

I laughed and said, “You two have been asleep for an hour.” I rose and pulled Lane
to his feet. “Let’s get you to bed.” I looked at the clock and it was a little past one.

Rodney and Curtis’s bedroom door was closed, so I assumed they had arrived
home. I didn’t hear them enter, but that wasn’t unusual. They always snuck in
quietly if they were coming in past curfew.

After tucking Lane into bed, I returned downstairs. Shade was waiting for me.
“Come here, You,” he grinned as he patted the side of the sofa. “I’ve been waiting
for us to be alone.

I sat beside him, and he immediately started kissing me. He pushed me back on
the sofa, reached inside my sweat pants and gripped my erection. I raised my hips
and he pulled my sweat pants to my ankles.

“I’ve been wanting this for weeks,” he whispered lustfully as he leaned forward and
engulfed it into his mouth.

I stretched out my legs, closed my eyes and moaned as he sucked me deeply.

Suddenly, we heard someone coming down the stairs. I jumped and tried to pull
my sweats back up, but not before Curtis stumbled over and looked down at Shade
and me.

His eyes widened as he staggered and slurred, “What the fuck is going on?”

                                                  * * * * * * *

Chapter 24    Return to TMJ
Birds Don't Sing
   Before a Storm