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

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

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 softly.

“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 troubled?”

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

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 him?”

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

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

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 me?”

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

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 excited.

“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

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

“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

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 Cindy.”

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 anyway?”

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. Shade.”

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

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

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

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
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