Birds Don't Sing Before a Storm

Chapter 19

I managed to finish my history report, but I’m not sure how good I did on it. I’ll be lucky to make a passing grade. I still couldn’t believe what I saw in the bathroom. I wish I hadn’t looked in. I should have just gone back to my room and not have looked in. However, I thought I was alone in the house. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see Curtis and Pip together in there.

I didn’t know Pip, so I couldn’t say if he was gay or not. But Curtis? If someone had asked me two hours ago who I thought would be the last person to even think about another guy, it would have been Curtis. Rodney seemed open-minded, so I could see him perhaps messing around. But Curtis? No way was he gay.

And if he was, he hid it very well. I don’t even think Mike knew he was. He never said anything to me about it. They had an unusual relationship, however. One minute, they acted as if they were bitter enemies. Then the next, they seemed as if they were close allies. I always figured they were best friends who had their ups and downs. Maybe there was more than I imagined. Perhaps, Mike was jealous of me living in the Crawford house because he was afraid that Curtis and I might hook up.

One thing was for sure- I had never been more confused about something in my life. Just when things were beginning to flow smoothly, I had to open that bathroom door and see Curtis and Pip together. And they weren’t just together, they were involved in a sexual activity. Were they secret lovers? If they were, then I now knew their secret. Now I worried what they might do to make sure that secret was never revealed.

I didn’t sleep at all. I think I was afraid to go to sleep in case Curtis came into my room. His actions toward me were irrational since I first came to stay. I wasn’t sure how more irrational he could become. To say I was afraid would be an understatement.

Shade was waiting for me at my locker when I arrived the next morning. His smile turned to a look of worry when I approached. “You look like shit,” he said as he studied my face.

I opened my locker and reached inside for some books. “I didn’t sleep very well,” I answered.

He grinned and jokingly stated, “Were you thinking about me?”

I attempted to smile. “God,” I replied, “If I could just kiss you right now.”

He scooted nearer to me and pressed his body lightly to mine. “We could go backstage at the theater,” he grinned as he wiggled his eyebrows. “No one is there right now.”

“Thanks,” I replied, “but I should go to class.”

He looked worriedly at me and asked, “Casey, is everything all right?”

I gently gripped his hand and then let go, “Can we talk later?” I threw my bag over my shoulder. “I’m kind of in a hurry.”

“Okay.” He gave me a confused look as I turned and headed down the hall.

I wanted to talk to Shade, I really did. But what would I say to him? “Guess what I saw last night? I saw Curtis getting a blowjob in the downstairs bathroom.”

No. This was something I was going to have to work out in my own head. However, first, I needed to see just what Curtis and Pip’s next move was going to be.

It didn’t take me long to find out. I was eating lunch with Lane and his friends, when Pip approached and stood behind me. “Casey?” I turned to see what he wanted. His voice trembled nervously as he asked, “Can we go somewhere to speak?” When I didn’t reply, he added, “Please?”

I glanced over to the table with the baseball team. I saw Curtis looking our way. I became worried because I thought Pip was going to try and lure me out of the cafeteria and into a trap.

I shook my head and replied, “I’d rather not.”

Lane looked up and asked Pip, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” replied Pip. He looked pleadingly at me again. “I need to talk to Casey- alone.”

I looked around and noticed an empty table alongside the cafeteria wall not far from where we were sitting. No one else was nearby except for a boy eating alone. I pointed to the table and said, “We’ll go over there.”

Pip looked over, nodded and headed to the table. I got up and followed behind him. When I sat down, I made sure to position myself so I could keep an eye on Curtis. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t try to do anything inside the cafeteria with assistant principals and teachers monitoring students’ activities.

Pip was nervous. He tapped his fingers on the table as he looked over at me. “Listen, Casey,” he pleaded. “You can’t tell anyone what you saw last night.” He looked around to make sure that no one could hear our conversation.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he stammered. “But it’s not like that.”

“Like what?” I asked sarcastically. “I guess I didn’t see what I saw?”

Suddenly, tears welled up in Pip’s eyes. “I got a girlfriend, Man,” he pleaded. “We’re going to get married after we graduate. I ain’t no fag.”

I shook my head. “I’m not judging you, Pip. It ain’t none of my business.”

Pip insisted, “We ain’t fags.” When I raised an eyebrow, he stated, “We ain’t. Me and Curtis have been messing around since we’ve been ten or eleven. It don’t mean nothing. We don’t kiss or hug or do any of that gay shit. We just suck each other off from time to time. My girl is on the rag, and Curtis, well, Curtis, he’s between girls right now.”

He reached over and grabbed my arm. “Listen, Casey,” he pleaded. “You’ll ruin us, Man, if you tell anyone.”

I remembered the fear when my mother caught me and Rollie in bed together. I was young then. I could justify my actions as just experimentation, things that boys just do together. However, Pip just admitted that he and Curtis had been messing around for years. I felt sorry for him. However, as I looked across the cafeteria to where Curtis was watching us talk, I felt nothing but animosity for him.

He had made comments since I arrived about my sexuality. He had indicated several times with hatred that I was gay. I had been worried what he would say when he actually did find out that I was. It was just a matter of time before it became a known fact around school that Shade and I were boyfriends. My greatest fear had been that Curtis would react with hostility.

Now, I had the upper hand. Somehow, though, it didn’t seem right. I no more wanted to seek revenge on him, than I would have wanted him to treat me with hatred and scorn. To me, it was a lose-lose situation. There was no game to be won. Someone had to draw a line in the sand, and the moment had come to do so.

I looked Pip directly in the face and promised, “You have my word that I won’t say anything.” I then extended my hand to him.

He seemed surprised by my response. He stared at me, and I could tell if he was deciding if I was playing some kind of a cruel game with him. He looked at my hand and hesitated a minute before finally shaking it.

He gave me a puzzled look and asked, “Why?”

I responded, “Cause, if it was me, I would hope the other person understood.” I reached out and shook his hand again. “I understand, Pip.” I looked across the room at Curtis. He seemed confused by our actions. “Tell Curtis he ain’t got nothing to worry about. It’ll be just our little secret.”

“Thanks, Man,” replied Pip as tears welled up again in his eyes. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but God do I appreciate it.”

“It’s okay,” I said as he got up from the table. I watched as he walked back over to Curtis. They talked briefly, and then they left the cafeteria together.

Shade was waiting for me outside the theater door. He still looked worried. He seemed relieved when I grinned as I approached. He looked quickly down the hall before he leaned forward and kissed me quickly.

“You seem in a better mood than you were this morning,” he said as he gripped my hand. We walked past several students on the way to the back of the stage. Again, no one seemed to mind that we were holding hands.

Megan was already pacing around when we arrived. She looked like she was ready to burst into tears at any minute. Shade pulled her into his side, and she rested her head on his shoulder.

“Things can’t just get any worse,” she moaned. “We should never have taken on such a difficult production.”

“Now what’s wrong?” asked Shade.

Megan stepped back and started pacing again. “I called the parents of the children last night,” she said. “Two of the parents objected because they thought it might be too much for them to handle.”

She nodded her head when I asked, “Was Donnie one of them?” I knew Lane would be upset when he found out his best friend wouldn’t be with him in the play.

“And I still haven’t found a Captain Von Trapp,” she added sadly. She looked over at me and pleaded, “You sure you can’t sing?”

Shade laughed and replied, “You heard him. Do you want people running out of the theater holding their ears?”

I acted insulted as I asked, “Am I that bad?”

“Yes,” responded Shade and Megan in unison.

My heart stopped when I looked over Megan’s shoulder and saw Rodney standing in the background. His mouth was slightly open as he stared at Shade and me. I had forgotten that we were still holding hands. I tried to pull my hand away, but Shade gripped it tighter.

Slowly, he approached. “Yes, well,” he said nervously. “How are things going?”

Megan wrapped her arm around his. She could tell by the surprised look on my face that Rodney had seen us. She asked him, “What brings you here?”

“I had some time to kill,” he replied as he continued to stare at me. “I thought I would come hang with you guys.”

“That is so sweet,” cooed Megan as she pulled him away. I watched nervously as she led him over to the other side of the room. They seemed to be having a very animated conversation. Well, Megan was animated. Rodney just looked down at her and smiled.

Several minutes later, they walked back toward us. Megan had a stupid grin plastered on her face. “Thanks to you, Casey,” she said sarcastically as she tightened her grip on Rodney’s arm, “I have to go out with Rodney Saturday night to explain why he saw you and Shade holding hands.”

Rodney grinned and winked at me. “I just don’t get it,” he remarked. “All this PDA shit. Why does it upset people?” He looked down at Megan. “I hope you can make me understand.”

“Of course,” she remarked as she added, “you are an athlete. I’m not sure you have the intelligence to understand.” She removed her arm from his and pretended to storm off.

“Hey!” laughed Rodney as he quickly followed her. “We’re not all idiots!”

She turned and said coyly, “Are you sure?”

He looked at me, winked again and mouthed, “Thanks, Casey.” He then hollered out to Megan, “You’ll find out Saturday night.” He ran up and put his arm around her waist as they left from backstage.

Shade looked worriedly at me. “Do you think he’s going to be all right with us?”

“Yeah,” I laughed as I kissed him quickly. “I got him a date with Megan, didn’t I?”

He laughed and replied, “That’s not much. She’s easy.”

Shade took Lane and I home. I invited him in, but he said he had to be at work in an hour. “I have something in my room, I would like to show you,” I insisted as he pulled up in front of the house.

Lane asked, “What?”

I looked at Shade, smiled and responded, “He has to come in and see.” After practically pulling him from the car, he followed me into the house. I asked Lane if we could be alone for a minute, and he scurried off to his bedroom.

“What do you want to show me?” Shade asked as he followed me downstairs and into my room. He looked around at the cramped space I called a bedroom.

“This,” I replied as I put my arms around his waist and kissed him passionately. He tilted his head slightly and wrapped his arms around my neck. I began to grind my erection against his.

“Mmmm,” he moaned softly into my mouth when I reached down and cupped it in my hand. When he touched mine, I thought I would explode inside my pants.

We jumped apart when Lane barged into the room. “What are you guys...” He stopped and stared at us. Suddenly, he turned and rushed out of the room. We could hear him stomping up the stairs.

“Oh, wow, Casey!” apologized Shade. “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s all right,” I replied sadly. “It was my fault. I didn’t think he would come in like that.”

Shade asked worriedly, “Do you think he’s mad?”

I nodded and responded, “Probably. I’ve never told him I’m gay.”

Shade brushed past me. “I had better go.” He gave me a quick kiss. “I’ll see you in school tomorrow. Okay?”

“Yeah sure,” I replied as I followed him upstairs and to his car. After a quick goodbye, I turned and headed back toward the house. When I looked up at Lane’s bedroom window, he was staring down at me.

Once inside, I sighed and headed to Lane’s room. I had to make him understand what he had seen earlier in my room. Not only did I have to explain to him that I was gay, I also had to tell him that Shade was my boyfriend. I wasn’t sure how he would handle it.

Lane was lying on his bed with his back to the door. I walked over, sat down and gently rubbed his back. He lifted his hand to wipe his eyes and sniffled. “You okay, Buddy,” I asked soothingly as I continued to rub his back.

“No!” he cried. He again wiped away tears.

I pulled his body up. “Come here.” He wrapped his arms around my neck and sobbed into my shoulder. I asked, “What’s wrong, Lane? Are you mad at me because you saw me kissing Shade?”

“No,” he sobbed. He pressed his head deeper against my shoulder.

I rubbed his back as I asked, “Then why are you so upset?”

He wailed, “Because you won’t love me anymore!”

I wrapped my arms tightly around him as I started to cry. “Lane,” I replied tearfully, “You’ll always be my bestest buddy.”

“No, I won’t!” he sobbed. “Now that you like Shade, you’ll forget all about me.” He wiped his wet eyes as he sobbed, “Just like everyone else!”

“Oh, Little brother,” I cried as I held him tightly and rocked him in my arms. We must have stayed like that for five minutes before I finally released my grip on him. He sat up and wiped his eyes as he looked at me.

“Listen,” I said as I put my hands on his shoulders and stared into his eyes. “You’re my bestest buddy, my bestest friend. Nothing, or no one, will ever come between us.” I smiled gently at him and added, “That’s a promise.”

He lifted his small hand and wiped the tears off his cheek. “Promise?”

“Forever and ever,” I replied with a smile. “We’re bestest buddies for life. Okay?”

He smiled and nodded, “Okay.”

“And you know what bestest buddies do?”

He gave me a puzzled look and shook his head. “They walk to Dairy Queen and get a Dilly Bar.”

His eyes lit up. “A Dilly Bar?”

I smiled and replied, “A Dilly Bar.” He jumped off the bed, grabbed my hand and pulled me off the bed.

He held my hand all the way to the Dairy Queen. I explained to him what was happening between me and Shade. Since he liked Shade a lot, it was easier for him to accept what was happening. I was surprised that he understood more than I expected he would. I guess his involvement with Donnie gave him some perspective into a boy liking another boy.

The only time I felt embarrassed was when he asked me, “Are you and Shade going to make the white stuff come out together?” He then told me he couldn’t wait for Donnie to come over after school someday so they could do it together.

When we returned home, we fixed dinner. I found some ground beef and a couple of cans of Manwich in the pantry. Lane was excited about making sloppy joes. “I like sloppy joes,” he exclaimed.

I laughed and said, “I thought you like spaghetti and tacos?

He rubbed his belly and replied, “I like sloppy joes, too.” We worked together as if nothing had happened earlier. We discussed the play, and sang the do-re-mi song. If nothing else, he would have it memorized by the time he had to perform it.

Megan had given me a copy of the script. She had highlighted the parts that Lane would perform. Other than a couple of speaking and dancing parts, it didn’t look like anything he wouldn’t be able to handle. The older children appeared to have most of the speaking parts. I felt confident that Karen and I could work with him at home so he would be able to do well on the stage. It also helped that he liked Megan and Lorenzo. I didn’t know who would play the role of Maria. It appeared that Lane would do a lot of his acting on stage with her.

After we had prepared the sloppy joes and set the table, I took Lane down to the family room. I had him sit next to me on the sofa. I looked at him and said, “Now this is very important.” He smiled and nodded. “Right now I don’t want you to tell your mother or the others that you saw me kissing Shade. Okay?”

He gave me a puzzled look and asked, “Why? Is it wrong?”

“No,” I assured him. “I just want to tell them when I want to tell them that I like Shade. Okay?” He nodded his head.

I asked him, “Promise?”

He grinned and replied, “Promise.”

I then said, “So don’t be surprised if you see us holding hands or sitting real close together. Okay?”

He nodded and replied, “Okay. I promise.”

“And one other thing.”


“If Shade is here, and you see my door closed, knock before you come in. Okay?”

He grinned evilly and replied, “Are you going to be making the white stuff?”

I leaned forward and kissed his forehead. “You’re something else, you know that?” He giggled when I ruffled his hair.

As we got up to go back to the kitchen, he giggled and asked, “Well, are you?” He grabbed my hand and skipped beside me.

I laughed and replied, “Maybe.” He started giggling.

Things were frantic when the others arrived home. Surprisingly, Rodney and Curtis arrived first. Rodney came into the kitchen, grabbed a couple of sandwiches and headed off to his room. He explained he was in a hurry because he and Curtis had to hurry back to school. They were playing the last game of the season. He said they had no chance of a tournament bid, but the team they were competing against was in first place. If they could defeat them, it would be a big achievement.

After Rodney left, Curtis came strolling in. He glanced quickly at me before asking Lane, “Hey, Runt. Where’s my sloppy joes?”

Lane responded angrily, “I ain’t no runt!” Curtis started to say something, but I stepped over and stood protectively beside Lane.

I was surprised when Curtis shied away. “Never mind,” he said as he turned and left the room.

I prepared a couple of sandwiches and placed them on a plate. I handed the plate to Lane and told him to take it to Curtis. When he asked why, I just told him he should eat before the game.

Lane took the plate and left the room. A minute later, he reappeared holding an empty plate. He announced proudly, “Rodney wants another sandwich. He says they’re good.” I put two more sandwiches on the plate, and Lane left.

Karen and my father arrived home about the same time. Karen was relieved that Lane and I had fixed something to eat for them. They took a plate of sandwiches and headed to their bedroom. A half hour later, they came into the kitchen wearing school sweatshirts and caps. They told Lane to get ready and he hurried to his room. My father then asked if I planned to join them.

“I’d rather stay here,” I replied. Even though I knew Megan would be there to watch Rodney, I wasn’t in the mood to see Curtis running up and down the court all night.

After everyone left to go to the game, I cleaned up the kitchen and then headed downstairs to watch television. I was watching a movie on HBO, and I must have fallen asleep for a few hours. I was awakened when I heard loud voices entering the kitchen door upstairs.

Suddenly, I heard Curtis yell out, “Would everyone just leave me the fuck alone!” Seconds later, his bedroom door slammed shut.

Karen told Lane to go to bed. He insisted on seeing me before he did. He bounded down the stairs, sat beside me and kissed me on my cheek. I returned the kiss, and he jumped up and headed off to bed.

I was getting ready to go to bed myself when Rodney came downstairs with a Coke and a bag of chips. He plopped down on the sofa beside me. I shook my head when he offered me the bag. He then grabbed the remote and changed the channel to ESPN.

He muttered, “Mother fucker.” I looked over thinking that he was calling me one.

I asked, “What?”

“Curtis!” he spat angrily. “That mother fucker lost us the game tonight!”

“Oh,” I replied as I looked at the disappointed expression on his face.