“I can assure you, Mrs. Caldwell,” remarked Dr. Carville, the Superintendent of
Center City Schools, “that student safety is our first concern.” He looked over at
Kyle and continued, “We’ll do everything we can to make sure that your son is not
Mrs. Thornton, the principal of Center City High School, shuffled some papers on
her desk, cleared her throat and said, “I’ve emailed Kyle’s teachers and informed
them of the situation.” She looked over at Kyle and remarked, “There may be
some initial reaction. These things happen with teens. But after a few days, I’m
sure things will return to normal.”
“And if it doesn’t?” Kyle’s mother glanced over worriedly at her son. “Then what?”
Dr Carville spoke very authoritatively, “We are quite prepared to handle the
situation. Center City Schools has zero tolerance when it comes to bullying of any
kind. All our students are aware of the consequences if they cross the line.”
Mrs. Thornton glanced at Kyle and asked, “What about the other matter?”
“What other matter?” asked Mrs. Caldwell.
“Well,” replied the principal as her face reddened slightly. “What about Kyle’s
Kyle watched as his mother rose from her chair and looked angrily at Mrs.
Thornton. “Proclivities?” she said loudly. “You make it sound like my son is some
kind of a deviant.” She stood and stared down angrily at the principal.
Dr. Carville rose from his chair and stood in front of the principal’s desk. “I’m sure
she didn’t mean it to sound that way.” He glanced down at Mrs. Thornton. “All
children at Center City High are treated with the same respect as normal students.”
“Normal students!” screamed Mrs. Caldwell. She glanced down at Kyle. “My son IS
normal! You’re no better than the students,” she spat angrily. “You’re assuming
that Kyle is gay just because of a photoshopped picture. I came here today to
discuss his safety, not his sexuality.”
“Now, now,” replied Dr. Carville in a soothing manner as he pointed to a chair.
“Please have a seat, Mrs. Caldwell.”
“I’m not sitting!” Kyle’s mother shouted angrily. “If any harm comes to my son
while in school- or out,” she warned as she glared at the superintendent and
principal, “I’ll sue this school district into oblivion.” She grabbed Kyle’s hand and
pulled him to his feet. Before leaving, she turned and added, “And I’ll be sure that
both of you will be standing in an unemployment line the next day.”
After escorting his mother to the main entrance, Kyle returned to get a pass to
class. When he entered his second period history class, Mr. Peterson had already
divided the class into several groups. He explained to Kyle that each group was
writing a short play about the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. He looked
around the room, and he told Kyle to join the third group. He walked over and took
a seat beside Buddy. Buddy had his head down on the desk and appeared to be
“Oh, it’s you,” remarked Lizzy Taylor when he sat down. Lizzy was the student
everyone hated because she was always asking questions in class. Often she would
take up so much class time that the teacher would have to assign additional
homework. Lizzy appeared to be leading the group assignment. “I’ve already
assigned the roles, so you can just sit and watch.” She glanced over at Buddy and
remarked snidely, “Or you can go to sleep.” Kyle snickered when Buddy, without
lifting his head, raised his hand and flipped her off.
Buddy looked up when their group went to the front of the class to present their
play. He looked over and noticed Kyle still sitting beside him. He asked, “You
taking an ‘F’ too?”
Kyle smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “Looks like it,” he said, “since I wasn’t
given a part.”
“I’m failing this class anyway,” remarked Buddy. “Peterson gives too many
assignments that has to be done on the computer.”
Kyle asked, “You don’t have a computer?”
“Nope,” replied Buddy as he put his head back down on the desk and pulled his
hood over his head. It was the first time he had ever really talked to Kyle, and he
didn’t want him to know how impoverished his living conditions were.
Kyle completed an assignment for biology as the members of his group worked on
their presentation. He was glad he wasn’t asked to participate because they were
going to act out a five-minute play. He would have to get up in front of his
classmates, and he knew that everyone would be thinking about the picture as they
watched him. So far, no one had said anything. However, he did see a few girls
look at him and giggle.
When his group performed, Kyle looked over when Buddy started to snore rather
loudly. A couple of students sitting nearby laughed. Kyle scooted his chair nearer to
Buddy, and then he lightly elbowed him in his side.
Buddy slowly lifted his head. “What?” he asked as he pulled the hood from his head.
Kyle stared into his blue eyes and smiled. “You were snoring,” he giggled. He had
seen Buddy in the past, and he always found him cute. However, looking into his
face, he noticed how handsome his features were. His hair flowed just beyond his
earlobe. His eyebrows were a shade darker, and there was hint of a thin blond
mustache that was beginning to form on his upper lip. His cheeks were rosy, and
he still had a few boyish freckles dotting his nose.
Their eyes met for several seconds until Buddy looked away. Kyle noticed Buddy’s
face begin to redden slightly. “Was I?” he asked as he wiped the sleep from his
Kyle giggled again. “Yeah,” he replied, “I was afraid the teacher was going to come
back and say something.”
“Thanks,” remarked Buddy appreciatively, “for looking out.” Again, their eyes met.
“It was nothing,” replied Kyle as he looked at the school clock on the wall. His
group had finished their play, and they were returning to the table. Kyle gathered
his books and placed them inside his book bag. When the bell rang, he rose from
his seat. He waited briefly for Buddy. He hoped they could walk down the hall and
talk. However, Buddy got up and walked to the teacher’s desk to speak to Mr.
Peterson. He tried to hear what he was saying, but they were talking quietly.
As Kyle walked down the hallway to his third period class, he saw Brad
approaching. He was flanked by several members of the football team. Brad
stopped when he saw Kyle. He looked over menacingly, as his eyes narrowed in
He walked over, grabbed Kyle’s jacket, and slammed him against the wall. Several
of his friends pleaded with him to stop, and they tried to pull Brad away from Kyle.
He batted away their hands as he tightened his grip on Kyle.
“We gotta talk, you little fag,” he spat angrily.
Kyle pleaded, “I had nothing to do with that picture. Honest, Brad.” His voice
trembled with fear as he looked into Brad’s angry face. He could sense students
starting to gather around them and watch as Brad pinned him to the locker.
Kyle turned his head when he heard a voice say, “Leave him alone.” Brad slammed
him again into the locker, and then loosened his grip. He had to steady his legs so
he wouldn’t fall to the floor.
“What are you doing?” Brad asked angrily as he faced Buddy. “Protecting your
“Why don’t you shut the fuck up,” spat Buddy as he stood defiantly before Brad.
“You fucking moron.”
Brad’s friends held him back as he balled his fist and tried to hit Buddy. Buddy took
a step back, and he positioned himself for a fight. “I’ll fucking kill you!” screamed
Brad. “You’re responsible for all this anyway!” Brad had always assumed that
Buddy had told either Kyle or Melissa that he saw him and Joy under the stairwell
They stepped away from each other when they heard several teachers shouting for
students to move so they could break up the fight. One was Coach Abernathy, Brad’
s football coach. He grabbed Brad by the nape of the neck and quickly pulled him
away from the crowd. As he did, Brad looked back and threatened, “This ain’t over
with.” The coach slammed him against the wall and started hollering at him to get
his ‘act together,’ or he was going to kick him off the team.
Kyle was still shaking as he watched the coach drag Brad down the hallway.
Students started to disperse and hurry to class. When he looked over to where
Buddy had been standing, he had disappeared into the crowd.
* * * * *
“I just can’t do this anymore,” lamented Buddy as he lay on Andre’s bed with his
head resting on Andre’s lap. Andre was gently running his hand through his hair.
“It will be okay, Baby,” assured Andre as he leaned down and kissed Buddy’s
forehead. Though they hadn’t been sexually active for over a year, he still felt a
deep affection and loyalty for the boy who had been his first love.
Buddy looked up into Andre’s eyes. “He’s going to kill me,” he said nervously. “I
could tell it in his eyes. He thinks I’m the reason for Kyle’s sister breaking up with
“Maybe you should talk to Kyle,” suggested Andre, “and tell him to have a talk with
“Not likely,” responded Buddy. “He was going to kick Kyle’s ass before I stopped
“Aww,” giggled Andre. “You saved your boyfriend.”
Buddy rolled his eyes. “That’s what Brad said. Half the school heard him.”
“I still think you should ask him out,” suggested Andre as he ran his hand through
Buddy’s hair. “You said you picked up some vibes in class. You shouldn’t have
ditched school and gone to your afternoon class to see if he would talk to you
Buddy sat up and leaned against the wall. He turned to Andre as tears appeared in
his eyes. “We can’t keep kidding ourselves,” he replied. “Guys like Kyle aren’t
meant for guys like us.”
Andre reached over, took his hand and squeezed it. “How do you know if you don’t
“And do what?” asked Buddy. “Get hurt?” He laughed nervously. “No thanks. I’ve
got enough problems as it is. I don’t need to add rejection to the list.”
Andre turned toward Buddy. “What if he really does like you? What if you miss your
Buddy fell back on the bed and laughed. “You really do believe what you’re saying,
Andre nodded his head as tears welled up in his eyes. “I gotta believe it, Buddy. If
I don’t, I’ll feel as miserable as you.”
He jumped off the bed, went over to his CD player and hit play. Suddenly,
Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ blared throughout the room. Andre reached down, grabbed
Buddy’s hand, and pulled him to his feet.
“I thought I broke that fucking thing,” spat Buddy.
Andre laughed and said, “I stole another one at Walmart.” He tried to spin Buddy‘s
body. “Come on, Baby,” he pleaded. “Dance with me. Believe with me.”
Andre fell on the bed and cried when Buddy hurried from the room.
* * * * *
Kyle was exiting the school at the end of the day, when someone grabbed him from
behind and dragged him into a doorway. When he turned, Brad and a couple of his
friends were surrounding him and blocking him from leaving.
Kyle asked nervously, “What do you want?”
“You know what I want,” spat Brad angrily. “I want to know why you and that
other fag sent out that picture.”
“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” pleaded Kyle. “You have to believe me.”
Brad approached and grabbed Kyle’s jacket and lifted him off the ground. “Then
why did he try to protect you this morning? I know he told you what he saw last
week. You told Melissa, and then you two helped her get even with me.”
Kyle’s voice trembled as he asked, “What are you talking about? I don’t even know
him. Honest. Besides, why would I do that? This has hurt me as much as it has
“Then who sent out that photoshopped picture of us?”
“I don’t know,” replied Kyle. “It must have been Melissa.”
“How did she find out about Joy? I know your boyfriend told her,” spat Brad.
Tears appeared in Kyle’s eyes as he pleaded, “He's not my boyfriend. I don’t know
what you’re talking about. Please let me go.”
Brad pulled him closer as his friends stepped nearer. “I’m warning you, Kyle,” he
remarked angrily. “After seeing that picture, everyone in this school thinks I was
fucking around with you.” He tightened his grip on Kyle’s jacket. “You better tell
them the truth, or next time I’ll kick your ass.” He lifted Kyle off the ground and
stared angrily into this face. “Got it?”
“Yeah,” mumbled Kyle, "I got it."
Brad let go of his jacket and Kyle fell to the ground like a rag doll. Brad kicked him
lightly and warned, “Tell your boyfriend I’m coming for his ass. All this is his fault.”
He turned and stormed down the hallway with his friends trailing behind him. Kyle
lay on the cold floor for a minute before finally pulling himself to his feet. When he
felt it was safe, he peeked out the door and scanned the deserted hallway before
“How was school, Dear?” His mother sang out from the kitchen when he entered
the front door. He tossed his book bag on the floor, went into the kitchen, and sat
at the island counter.
A glass of milk and a plate of cookies were on the table in front of him. He smiled
when he nibbled on one of the macadamia cookies. They were still hot from the
oven. It had been several years since his mother had made fresh cookies.
As she took another tray of cookies from the oven, she turned and asked, “Did
anyone give you any trouble at school?”
He took another bite and hesitated before answering. He knew his mother well
enough to know that she would become upset if she thought Brad was threatening
She turned and stood before him. “Well,” she asked with a smile. “Would the
defendant answer the question?”
“Well, maybe,” he responded timidly.
She sat beside him and placed her hand over his. “Tell me what happened.”
Reluctantly, he told her about the incident after school. She listened patiently
without interrupting him.
“So you think Brad intends to harm this other boy?” Kyle nodded his head.
He shook his head when she asked, “Do you know how to contact him?”
“I don’t even know him,” he replied. “I don’t understand how he’s involved in all of
“Perhaps your sister does,” she said as she got up from her seat and left the
kitchen. Kyle continued to nibble on his cookies and wonder why Brad seemed so
upset with the boy in his history class.
He didn’t know him. He had sat with him in history in the morning while other
students prepared their presentation. Most of the time he had slept with his hood
over his head. He had also sat beside him in literature, but they hadn’t spoken. He
was also confused why he had attempted to stop Brad in the hallway after class. It
was apparent he was willing to get his ass kicked just to protect him. But why?
He looked up when his mother reentered the room. “She doesn’t know him,
either,” she said with a sigh. “She swears no one talked to her about Brad except
her friend, Laurie.”
Kyle asked, “Is she the one who made the picture?”
“Yes,” replied his mother angrily. “I called her mother last night, and she won’t be
doing that again.”
Kyle took another bite of his cookie, and then he asked, “So what should we do?
What if Brad hurts him?”
“He won’t,” she replied as she left the kitchen. Kyle followed her into the foyer
while she put on her coat. “I’m going to pay Mrs. Chambers a visit.” She looked at
her watch. “I think she should still be working at the boutique.” She kissed him on
the cheek and then left the house.
When he went upstairs to his bedroom, he passed by his sister’s room. The door
was slightly ajar, and he could hear her talking to someone on her cell phone. He
was surprised because he had thought his mother had taken it from her.
He was going to go to his room, but suddenly stopped when he heard his sister say,
“I want Brad’s reputation ruined. The picture was a start. Now tomorrow, circulate
the rumor that he was having sex with Kyle. Tell them that’s why I broke up with
Kyle opened the door and stared down at his sister who lay on her bed. “What!” he
screamed. “Why are you doing this?”
His sister jumped from the bed and yelled, “Get out! If you don’t, I’m going to call
the police again.” Kyle yanked the phone from her hand and threw it across the
“You Dweeb!” his sister hollered as she threw her arms around him and attempted
to scratch at him. He fell back and pinned her down on the bed. She continued to
wrestle with him as she clawed at his face. He could feel her nails digging into his
His sister hollered as she fought him, “I’ll get even with you!”
As he struggled to restrain her, he asked, “Why are you doing this to me?”
“Because I hate you!” she hollered. “You always wanted Brad. I saw they way you
looked at him.”
“What?” Kyle looked down into his sister’s reddened face. “I never wanted Brad.”
“You did, too,” she started to cry. “Everyone wants Brad.” She stopped struggling
and began to sob uncontrollably. She pounded on Kyle’s chest and yelled, “Get off
Hesitantly, Kyle rose from his sister and stood before her. She pulled the covers
over her face and continued to cry. She looked up angrily and yelled, “Get out of
Kyle looked down defiantly and said, “You better not start any rumors about me
and Brad. I’ll tell Mom.”
“Do you really think I care?” she asked tearfully. “My life is already ruined.”
“Well, you better not,” he warned.
She pointed to the door and yelled, “Get out!”
He turned and slammed the door on his way out. He then went to the bathroom
across the hall. He looked in the mirror at his face. There were several bloody cuts
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