Chapter 29
I was in my room working on a homework assignment for law. I was going to wait
until Sunday night, but my father and Rodney were watching a basketball game in
the family room. Karen was reading a book, and Lane was in his bedroom playing
video games. He had asked me if I wanted to play with him, but I wasn’t in the
mood.

The more I thought about Curtis and Mike taking advantage of Joshua, the angrier
I became. Sure, he was a self-centered diva, but he was younger than the two of
them, although by only a year. They were also much more muscular than he was,
and they could overpower him if they chose to do that. I was very concerned that
they might pressure him into doing things he didn’t want to do. At one point, I
 
even considered talking to Rodney to see if he would take me over to Mike’s house.
However, I decided against it. Besides, if the three of them did want to do
something together, it wasn’t any of my business.

I was lying on my bed with my laptop researching a question when someone
knocked on my door. I looked to see what time it was. It was 6:22. I hollered out,
“Come in,” thinking it was probably Lane. However, Lane rarely knocks. He just
comes barging in and jumps on my bed.

Instead, it was Curtis. He walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. He looked
down and asked, “Whatcha doing?”

I replied coldly, “I’m working on an assignment for my law class.”

He responded by merely saying, “Oh.” He then sat and watched as I pretended to
read an article on Wipikedia. With him staring down at me, it was hard to
concentrate. Finally, I left the site and closed my computer.

I asked, “Do you want something? I thought you were over at Mike’s with Joshua.”

“I was,” he replied. “But I left.”

“Why?”

He toed off his shoes and scooted back on my bed. I put my computer on the floor,
and sat beside him. I asked worriedly, “Something happen?” He seemed upset, so
I was beginning to assume that Joshua had been hurt.

He shook his head. “Naw, not really. I just didn’t feel like sticking around.”

We were in another exchange of me trying to draw out what was wrong with him.
Curtis was the kind of person who could shut himself off, and you would need a
crowbar to open up what was bothering him. Finally, I asked, “Did you guys do a
threesome with Joshua? When you left here a few hours ago, I kind of had an idea
that is what you were going to do.”

“We were,” he said, “But we didn’t.”

“Something happen?”

He sighed and replied, “No, not really.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

He shook his head and explained, “Mike and Joshua got to making out and shit.” He
said with a little anger in his voice, “They tried to get me to join them, but I just
can’t get into that shit.” He sat up and turned towards me. “I can suck a guy’s dick,
but I don’t want to kiss him or anything. I just don’t get into that emotional stuff.”

I replied, “But that’s a part of making love.”

He leaned toward me and said, “But that’s just it, Casey. I don’t want love. I just
want to get off.” He looked at me with a questioning look. “Get it?”

“I’m not sure,” I replied. I was getting rather confused by his reasoning.

“Okay,” he said. “Let me see if I can explain this.” I watched as he thought about
what he wanted to say. “I want sex- a lot of it.” He grinned and added, “Hell, we’re
seventeen. Ain’t we supposed to want sex all the time?”

“Yeah,” I laughed. “I know I do.”

“You’re lucky,” he said. “You got Shade. And it’s okay if you guys make out and
kiss and things like that. You guys love each other.”

I shook my head and said, “Okay.”

“But I ain’t in love with no one,” he continued. “I just ain’t into kissing guys,
 
holding hands and shit like that.” His eyes widened and he said, “Sorry, I didn’t
mean it like that. I mean, if you like doing things like that, it is okay.”

He nodded when I asked, “But it’s not your thing?”

“Not with a dude,” he said. “I mean, I can kiss a girl and hold her hand, but with a
dude, I just want sex. Nothing more.”

He shook his head and asked, “That’s kind of fucked up, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” I replied. “You have to do what you feel comfortable doing.”

“Yeah,” he said. “We was all naked and things, and I was ready to do something,
but then they got to kissing and shit. I mean, me and Mike never did things like
that before. But Joshua, he tried to kiss me and stick his tongue in my mouth. I
thought I was going to puke all over the bed. Then they got to going at it really hot
and heavy, so I got up and left. I don’t think they even noticed I was leaving until I
was dressed and told them I was going.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, Casey,” he said sadly. “I mean, I got to rethink this gay thing. When
it was just sex, I was cool with it. But the more I think about having a steady
boyfriend and all, I just ain’t with that program.”

“Maybe you should find a girlfriend?”

His eyes widened, “No,” he replied. “I ain’t with that just yet either. Maybe I’ll wait
until I know just what I want.”

I nodded and said, “That’s a good idea.”

He grinned and said, “I know what I need.”

“What’s that?”

“I need to find a girl who is bi. We could love each other, but then do our own thing
on the side.” He reached down and adjusted his sweats. “Hell,” he laughed, “It
might be hot watching her get it on with another girl. She might even find it hot
watching me do it with some dude.”

I laughed and said, “I don’t know if those girls exist.”

“They gotta,” he said hopefully. “I gotta change the girls I hit on. Girls like Monica
would never go for that shit.”

I sat back and started laughing. “Curtis, you are one fucked up guy.”

“Yeah, I know,” he laughed as he tugged at his hard cock. “But man, I’m tired of
being boned up all the time.” He tugged at his erection again. “I need more than
jerking off all the time.” He wiggled his eyebrows and asked, “Sure you don’t want
to do something? No one has to know. ” I looked down as he stroked his huge cock
through his sweat pants.

I could feel myself begin to harden, but it wasn’t because I wanted to have sex
with Curtis. After all, I was seventeen and gay. Any gay guy in my situation with
another boy sitting a foot away stroking what looked like an eight-inch cock would
get aroused.

Curtis looked down at my crotch and laughed. “You don’t have to answer that. I
don’t want Shade trying to kick my ass.” He laughed again, and added, “As if he
could anyway.”

He rose off the bed and patted my shoulder. “Thanks again, Casey.” He smiled and
said, “You should be a psychiatrist.” He thanked me again before leaving the room.

Shade called me an hour after Curtis left. I had finished my assignment and I was
just stretched out on the bed listening to an Ipod Rodney had loaned me. He
asked, “Have you eaten yet?” Lane had brought me a hot dog about an hour
earlier, but I was still hungry.

“Not really,” I replied. “Why?”

He answered, “I’m at the diner. Mom is fixing me and Daddy dinner, and she told
me to call you to see if you wanted to join us.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. I could tell by the excitement in his voice, that if I had
refused, he would have been disappointed.

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes,” he said and then hung up. I put on my shoes and
then went into the bathroom to see if my hair needed combed.

I was waiting for him on the porch when he pulled up. I was surprised that his
father was with him. When I climbed into the backseat, he let out a low whistle.
“Damn,” he said admiringly as he looked up at the house. “That is some house.”

I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “I guess.” I knew that Shade and his family
didn’t have a lot of money, and I never tried to embarrass him when he visited. I
knew where he lived, but he had never invited me into his home.

On the way back to the diner, Mr. Shade reminisced about Shade’s childhood. Since
he was only six when the incident with the neighbor occurred, there  weren’t many
stories he could tell. However, he seemed happy for the moments they did share
together. Shade laughed because it was probably the first time he had heard the
stories.

“I came home one day,” his father laughed, “and this youngun was in a tree upside
down.” He started laughing louder. “He had fallen off a branch, and his britches got
caught. He was squealing like a pig. Damndest thing I ever saw.” If I could have
seen Shade’s face, I’m sure it would have been beet red.

The door to the diner was locked, and Penny had to come over to open it. She
smiled as she led us over to a table that she had prepared for dinner. It contained
a white tablecloth with a candle burning in the center of the table.

Mr. Shade walked over and hugged her. “Whoo Whee, Woman!” he said
appreciatively. “You sure know how to make a man feel at home.” He looked over
at us and asked, “Don’t she, Boys?”

Shade laughed and replied, “She sure does, Daddy.”

We sat at the table while Penny brought dinner to the table. It was nothing that
was on the menu. She had prepared four T-bone steaks, baked potatoes, fresh
broccoli with side salads.

“Whoo Whee, Momma!” exclaimed Shade. “We ain’t never eaten like this before.”

She leaned over and kissed Mr. Shade. “We’ve never had a reason before.” Shade
reached down and held my hand. Mr. Shade looked over and smiled.

The meal was delicious. The steak almost melted in my mouth. I usually hated to
eat steak because I found it tough and hard to chew. She had prepared it just right.

As we ate, Mr. Shade asked his son about school. Shade excitedly told him about
the play we were performing. He made sure to stress that I was his
assistant stage manager. Mr. Shade remarked that he and Penny would have to
attend.

Shade asked his mother, “Will Carl let you off on a Friday night?”

She looked over at Mr. Shade and then looked back at Shade and smiled. “He
  
won’t have to.” She took Mr. Shade’s hand, held it and looked around the diner.
“Next week, we’ll own this place.”

Shade squealed, “Really?” He jumped up, went around the table and hugged his
mother and father. “I know you said you wanted to.”

She told him that they had discussed buying the diner with Carl that morning.
     
He was in his seventies, and he was well past retirement age. The only reason he
hadn’t retired was that he couldn’t find anyone he trusted to take over the diner.
Mr. Shade told them how Old Carl wanted to swindle them out of money, as he
called it, before they were finally able to reach a figure they both could agree to.

Mrs. Shade said with pride, “It isn’t much, but it will be ours.”

Mr. Shade took a final bite of his steak and said, “We should add steak to the
menu. You reckon your customers would buy it?”

She replied, “Don’t know till we try.”

Shade sat back down beside me and squeezed my hand. “Me and Casey can help
out too.” He grinned and added quickly, “Course we expect to get paid.”

Mrs. Shade looked over at me and said, “We’ll pay Casey,” then she looked at
Shade, “but you work for your living.”

Shade frowned and said, “Hey, that ain’t fair, Momma.”

I started laughing when I glanced over and saw the look on Shade’s face. “Sounds
fair to me,” I remarked. Mr. Shade raised his hand and high-fived mine.

On the way home, Shade was really excited about the turn of events the past few
days. He still couldn’t believe his father was home. He was also happy that his
mother and father were going to buy the diner. Tears welled up in his eyes when
he remarked, “Momma has been through so much the past eleven years. It’s about
time the birds started singing again.” I looked over and remembered our
conversation backstage just a few weeks earlier. I was surprised he also
remembered it.

When Shade dropped me off, I asked him to come in for a while, but he said he
had some homework that needed to be completed. I didn’t object because I knew
he had fallen behind because of all the things going on in his life. The play was one
week away, and hopefully, things would get back to normal when it was over.

My father, Karen and Lane were watching a movie when I went downstairs. Dad
looked over at Karen and nodded. She then rose, grabbed Lane’s hand and said
that he should go to his room and play some video games. “Why?” he asked
defiantly. “We was watching a movie.”

Karen said sternly, “Because I’m your mother and I said so.” Lane started to say
something, but she glared at him. He stomped his foot and headed upstairs.

After they left, my father pointed to the sofa and asked me to have a seat. I asked
worriedly, “What’s wrong?”

He replied, “There is something we need to talk about.” The tone of his voice
worried me.

I asked nervously, “What?”

He sighed deeply and stated, “Your mother called earlier.” Just the mention of her
name angered me. I hadn’t thought about her in weeks. I assumed she hadn’t
thought about me, either.

I asked angrily, “What did she want?”

He shook his head and said, “Can you believe it? She wants you to return home.”

“What?” I shrieked as I stood and started pacing around the room. “Are you
serious? I don’t want to go back and live with her!” Tears welled up in my eyes.
   
“I can’t leave Shade.”

My father pointed to the chair and told me calmly, “Have a seat, Son.” I reluctantly
sat down, but I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. The last thing I
wanted was to go live with my mother again. My life was finally happy. Returning
home would be like sending me back to Hell to live.

I looked at Dad and pleaded, “You’re not going to make me go back, are you?”

He shook his head. “No, Son,” he replied. “I was pretty sure how you would react,
so I told her that I would not send you back to live with her again.”

“Why does she want me to come home anyway? She couldn’t wait to get rid of me.”

He said they had a long conversation. She told him the house seemed empty, and
that she was lonely. She realized that she had acted too quickly, and now she
wanted me to come home so she could make things up to me.

I asked worriedly, “What if she tries to make me go back?”

He smiled and said, “She can’t. I called my lawyer to make sure. He said since you
are seventeen, you’re old enough to make your own decisions. No court would ever
order you to go back.”

I asked worriedly, “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he smiled. “I’m sure. I just wanted to let you know that she called. I knew
what your answer would be, but I had to hear it from you.”

I was still a little skeptical. “So, I don’t have to go back to her?”

“No,” he said adamantly. “You don’t.”

I rose and walked over to my father. He stood and we embraced. “Thanks, Dad,” I
said as I hugged him tightly. “I love you.”

He squeezed me around the waist and replied, “I love you, too, Son.”

I returned to my room and stretched out on the bed. I now finally felt that my past
was just that- my past. It had been a tough road, and for a long time the birds
stopped singing and dark clouds swirled overhead. But like any storm, the clouds
opened to a blue sky, the bright sun reappeared and the birds filled the air with
their melodious songs.

THE END

                                                  EPILOGUE

“Okay, breathe deeply,” I told Megan as I held her tightly. Rodney was holding her
hand, but she was still a bundle of nerves.

I hadn’t seen Shade in half an hour. He was somewhere backstage making sure
that the set was ready when the curtain opened.

Lane ran up and gripped my hand. “I’m scared, Casey.” He looked like he was on
the verge of tears. He was adorable in his little green lederhosen and fluffy white
shirt. He had complained the night before at dress rehearsal when he was given his
costume. He had stated, “I’ll look girly,” but Shade and I managed to convince him
that was the clothes German boys wore.

I bent down and hugged him. “You’ll do just great, Little Brother.” Tears filled his
eyes. “Just remember everything that Lorenzo and Megan taught you.”

“But I’m scared,” he whimpered again.

“Of course, you’re scared,” I said with a smile. “It’s called opening night jitters.”

He pouted and said, “What if I mess up?”

I kissed him on his forehead. “You won’t.” He attempted a smile as he turned and
skipped off to where the other child performers were waiting offstage.

I laughed when Shade came up behind me, grabbed my hand and exclaimed,
“God, I’m nervous!”

I kissed his cheek and asked, “Is it always like this for everyone to be so uptight?
Everything went perfect last night at dress rehearsal.” Rodney held Megan around
the waist as they headed over to where the actors were assembled.

He said nervously, “Yeah, but tonight the house is sold out.” We could hear the low
din of chatter coming from behind the curtain. I followed Shade as he walked over
and pulled the curtain back slightly. People were still making their way into the
auditorium. Dad, Karen and Curtis were sitting in the third row. If it was possible,
Karen looked more worried than Megan. Shade’s parents were sitting beside my
father.

Suddenly, we heard Joshua yelling behind us. “Shade, Dear,” he exclaimed as he
quickly approached with Mike holding his hand. For the past week, Mike had been
stopping by after baseball practice to wait for Joshua to get out of rehearsal.
Joshua was introducing Mike to the other actors as his boyfriend.

“Shade, Dear,” said Joshua was he gripped Shade’s arm. “Megan is being such a
bitch. Can’t you talk to her?” I looked over at Mike. He smiled and nodded. I
nodded quickly and then looked away.

Shade asked with a tone of exasperation, “What did she do now?”

“She’s trying to change one of the scenes at the last minute,” he complained.

Shade reminded him, “She is the director.” He took Joshua by the arm and started
to lead him away. “Just do what she says. Okay?”

“Okay, Dear,” he replied, “But only because YOU insisted.”

When Joshua left, Shade pretended to pull his hair out. “I can’t wait until this is
over.” He moaned and added, “To think we added an additional performance
tomorrow night.” There had been such a demand for tickets that a second show
was added the following night. It was the first time that had happened. Max, of
course, was thrilled.

Suddenly, we heard Megan holler out, “Places everyone!” Shade and I headed
backstage to watch the performance on a television monitor. We were both wired
with a headset, so we could hear what was happening in the control booth. Shade
had warned me to be prepared for almost anything. During the last play, one of the
walls had fallen and they had to briefly close the curtain while it was reset.

When the curtain opened, Rodney and Mike stepped up beside us to watch the
performance on the television monitor. I still didn’t feel comfortable with Mike
being backstage, but Joshua had asked Max if he could stay nearby for support. It
was a given to everyone that Rodney would only be steps away from Megan. Even
though he had no particular role in the play, he was still considered a cast member
because he was always seen with her.

The first act went by without any problems. Lane’s performance was excellent.
Once onstage, he fell completely into the role of Kurt. I was worried because he
had a few lines, but he performed them without any problems.

I’m not sure how it appeared to the audience, but on the screen Elisa and Joshua
had a certain chemistry onstage. Their duets sounded great, and judging by the
applause we could hear backstage, the audience seemed to agree. I hated to admit
it, but Joshua was impressive. I knew he could sing, but he had also become a
good actor the past few weeks.

There were a few minor problems as we prepared the set for the second act. We
had trouble rolling one of the sets onstage. Fortunately, however, the father who
helped build the staircase was able to repair it so we could set it into place.

Lane ran up and hugged me. He asked excitedly, “How am I doing?”

“You are doing great, Little Brother,” I replied. Tears appeared in his eyes when I
hugged him and said, “I’m so proud of you.” Rodney also knelt down, hugged him
and told him what a good job he was doing. When Lorenzo hollered for him, he
turned and skipped happily away.

The second act also went smoothly. We could hear some people in the audience
laugh when Lane sang, “So long, farewell, Al Peterson, goodbye,” as he was
leaving the stage at the end.

When the play ended, the audience gave the performers a rousing standing
ovation. When Megan was called out to take a bow, Curtis handed Rodney a
bouquet of roses. Megan started crying as she kissed Rodney onstage in front of
everyone.

When the curtain closed, Lane ran across the stage and jumped into my arms. “I
had the most funnest time!” he exclaimed excitedly. “Did you see me?”

“I sure did,” I assured him as I kissed his forehead. “You were the best Kurt ever!”
Just then, Megan and Rodney approached. She gave Lane a big hug and told him
how proud she was of him. I had never seen Lane happier.

He squealed again when he looked across the stage to see Karen, Dad and Curtis
approaching. He rushed over and hugged Karen tightly. She and Dad bent down
and hugged him. He grabbed their hands as he skipped beside them as they
approached.

Dad clapped his hands and announced, “I’ve reserved the back room at Angelo’s
Ristorante Italiano. I’m treating everyone to dinner.” Karen leaned over and kissed
him on the cheek.

Dad began to count heads. There was Karen, Lane, Curtis, Rodney and Megan, Mr.
and Mrs. Shade and  Shade and me. He also invited Max, Elisa and her boyfriend
and Lorenzo. I was a little disappointed when he invited Mike and Joshua.
However, I knew that I couldn’t be upset with Mike forever. He was still Curtis’s
best friend, and since we were in the same grade at school, I would be seeing him
for at least another year. As we were leaving, Dad hollered out and asked the rest
of the crew if any of them wanted to join us. Eight raised their hands. They seemed
excited when he told them to meet us at the restaurant.

Later, as we partied at the restaurant, I couldn’t believe how much my life had
changed in such a short time. I no longer felt like the abandoned boy who had been
rejected by his mother. I had found a home, a family, friends and a boyfriend. I
felt like the Von Trapp family as they left Austria and headed for a new beginning.

I had passed through the storm, crossed over the mountains and could now hear
the birds singing.

The End.


Write:  ronyx@themustardjar.com  to comment on 'Birds Don't Sing Before a Storm.'
                            
Birds Don't Sing
Before a Storm