“There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
We continued to write for about another hour. I didn’t want to do it, but Charles insisted that it might be our way of being able to go home. “Our parents may keep us here forever,” warned Charles. I still didn’t understand what was happening. One day I was going to school. Ricky and I became friends, even friends with benefits. The next thing I know is Dad is forcing me into the car and bringing me here.
I asked Charles, “How did you get here?”
“It was last week,” he replied. “Pastor Simpson came to the house and spoke to my parents for about an hour. The next thing I know is I’m told to pack a bag for a few days. He brought me here.”
“Have you seen your parents?”
“No,” he replied sadly. “Pastor Simpson won’t even let me call them.” Tears started to fall down his cheeks. “They probably don’t want me coming home.” I scooted toward him and held him while he cried. Tears were falling down my cheeks because I was feeling the same way. We didn’t know what was going to happen to us.
Charles stopped crying, sat back and muttered, “Thanks. I’m glad you’re here with me. I thought I was alone in the world.”
“We’ll survive,” I assured him. “We have too.”
“I hope so,” he replied as he wiped tears from his eyes.
I asked, “What about tomorrow?” I was concerned about school. I had already missed one day, and I didn’t want to miss a test that was scheduled for tomorrow. Mrs. Longfellow always gives biology tests on Friday.
“Pastor Simpson takes us,” he replied. “He’ll also be waiting for us when school lets out. Don’t be late,” he warned. “He hates having to wait.”
“Is that why you ran off when James hit me?”
“Yeah,” he said sadly. “I’m sorry, but I had to leave. If I had stayed around, Charles might have come after me again.” He looked sadly at the bruises still on my face. “I’m really sorry,” he said as tears welled up in his eyes.
We suddenly heard footsteps coming up the stairs. I scooted my chair away, picked up a pencil and began copying. Pastor Simpson unlocked the door and entered. He looked around the room before walking over to us. He lifted the papers off our desks to see what we had written.
“Nothing like the Good Word to lead us to a righteous life,” he said proudly. “Isn’t that right, Boys?” When we didn’t respond, he repeated angrily, “Isn’t that right, Boys?”
“Yes, Sir,” we replied nervously.
“Now get up from your chairs and kneel before the Lord,” he ordered. He spent the next few minutes praying as he had earlier in his study. Occasionally, he would put his hands on our foreheads. I wanted to giggle and tell him it wasn’t doing any good. The devil was refusing to come out. However, I knew I would be punished if I did. After about ten minutes, he stopped praying and told us to get ready for bed. When he left, he locked the door.
When we started dressing for bed, I told James, “I hate it here.”
“Shhhh!” he said as he put his finger to his lips. He walked over to me and whispered, “I didn’t hear him go downstairs. I think he’s listening to us at the door.” We quickly dressed. I jumped into my bed, and James turned out the lights before crawling into his bed. Five minutes later, I heard the door unlock. I could see Pastor Simpson’s silhouette in the doorway. He looked around before closing the door and locking it.
I lay awake for a long time. I was unable to fall asleep. So many thoughts were running through my mind. My main fear was what was going to happen to me and Charles. We were prisoners here, and I didn’t see anything changing soon. My mother and father had abandoned me- for nothing. All I did was try to protect the boy who was now lying eight feet away. And I would do it again if I had to. I like Charles a lot. He has a kind and gentle soul. I don’t think it is in his nature to hurt anyone. I had seen other students pick on him over the years, and not once did he ever respond in an angry way. He usually would just put his head down and try to ignore their comments. Even when students like James confronted him, he would try to walk away. I knew I had to act the other day because if I hadn’t, James would have hurt Charles. Instead, I was the one who got hurt. But were my parents proud of what I had done? No, they rejected me. I have to live with their decision the rest of my life.
I still find it hard to believe what happened earlier. I find Charles attractive. He’s extremely cute even though he is girlish. I’ve never before thought of boys in a sexual way. I liked seeing Ricky naked. There is nothing special about him, but he’s fun to be around. And now that we’ve had sex together, I hope that we can spend more time alone.
I’m not sure where Charles will fit into my life. What we did was fun and spontaneous, but I don’t know if I want him as a boyfriend. Boyfriend? Did I just say that? I know that Ricky and I can’t be that. I feel that he’s a brother I never had. I looked over at Charles. He still appeared to be having trouble sleeping too. But where do we go from here? We’ve kissed each other, not just once but several times. And I liked it. I didn’t feel filthy or dirty when we did it. It is like it was meant to happen. Since it was our first time kissing a boy, maybe it was meant to be. We are both struggling with our sexuality. Kissing and hugging each other kind of confirmed the doubts we were having. I now know that I’m gay. I don’t think I can admit that to anyone but Ricky and Charles yet, but I know for sure who and what I am. And it scares me.
An hour later, I was still wide awake. Charles kept tossing and turning in bed. Suddenly, I heard him sniffling, and then he began to cry softly. I could feel his pain, and tears started to flow down my cheeks. I pulled back the covers and carefully walked across the floor.
I sat on the side of his bed and asked, “Are you okay, Charles?”
He gripped my arm and cried, “I’m scared, Matt! What is going to happen to us?” He sat up and pulled me into a tight hug. We cried together as we clung to each other in desperation.
After several minutes, he pulled away and looked into my face. “Why, Matt? What did we do wrong?”
“We’ve done nothing wrong,” I assured him. I kissed him quickly, and then I pulled back his sheet and crawled in beside him. I rolled over on my side facing away from him. He lay back down and snuggled against me. When he put his arm around me and spooned his body into mine, I gripped his arm. Soon, we were both asleep.
I awoke just before six. Charles’s body was still pressed against me. I carefully crawled out of bed and got into mine. I didn’t want Pastor Simpson coming in and seeing us lying in bed together. I’m not sure what he would do if he did.
I fell back asleep, but I was awakened when I heard the key in the lock. Pastor Simpson entered and stood in the middle of the room. “Get up!” he shouted angrily. “I want you dressed and downstairs in ten minutes!” He stared angrily at us before leaving. We jumped when he violently slammed the door. I noticed that he didn’t lock it.
“What’s going on?” I asked Charles. He looked as stunned as I was.
He shook his head and responded, “I don’t know. I’ve never seen him act like that before.” We jumped out of bed and quickly started dressing. We didn’t want him to get madder by us showing up late.
After a quick visit to the bathroom, we stood at the door and looked at each other. Charles gripped my arm and asked nervously. “You don’t think he knows anything, do you?”
“How could he,” I replied. “We’ve been locked in the room alone.” Charles reached out and gripped my hand.
“I’m scared,” he said. “I’m glad you’re with me.” I squeezed his hand and opened the door. We didn’t know what awaited us.
Pastor Simpson met us at the bottom of the steps. He pointed toward the kitchen. “Mrs. Simpson has breakfast ready. Eat quickly and come to my study.” His eyes narrowed in anger. “It’s going to be a long day.” Charles and I looked quickly at each other. We had no idea what he meant.
I hoped whatever he wanted to talk about didn’t take too long. It was Friday, and I had a test to take. Besides, I had missed school yesterday, and I didn’t want to fall too far behind in my classes.
We ate quickly. Mrs. Simpson gave us a disappointed look when she put the plates in front of us and left the kitchen. Again, we were both feeling scared by their behavior. I felt something bad had happened, but I didn’t have any idea what it was. For a minute, I began to feel that maybe something bad had happened to someone in my family or Charles’s. I don’t know if I could live with myself if Dad or Mom died, and the last thing they would remember about me was that I might be gay.
We finished eating and placed our plates in the dishwasher. Charles looked at me worriedly and asked, “Are you ready?” I nodded my head, and we headed towards Pastor Simpson’s study. I wanted to reach out and hold Charles’s hand, but I didn’t.
Pastor Simpson was sitting at his desk. He was looking at something on the computer in front of him. He looked up, scowled and snapped, “Sit down!” We nervously sat in chairs he had placed in front of his large oval desk.
He continued to look at the monitor. He again looked up with an angry look on his face. “We have a very long day ahead of us,” he informed us.
My voice trembled when I told him that I had to be at school for a test. He rose from his desk and slammed his hand on it. Charles and I jumped in our chairs. Pastor Simpson had such an angry look on his face, that I was afraid he might hit us.
“You’re going nowhere,” he shouted. “I’ve been nice to you boys,” he spat. “I’ve been peacefully trying to remove the evil that has taken over your bodies.” He shook his head and continued, “But the devil is strong.” He reached for his Bible and waved it in the air. “God is stronger!” He shouted and began talking that strange language he used the day before. After several minutes, he stopped and looked down at us with dark, black eyes.
“Today, I am determined to save your souls and keep you from hell, fire and damnation!” he shouted.
I started to cry because I was so scared. “What have we done?” I asked.
“What have you done!” He leaned down and looked angrily into my face. He then walked around the desk and grabbed the laptop computer and turned the screen toward us. “I’ll show you what you have done!”
He hit a button, and suddenly a video appeared of Charles and me kissing naked the night before in the bathroom. We were both erect and grinding our bodies into each other. I wanted to vomit when I saw what was happening. Charles looked over at me with a shocked look on his face.
Pastor Simpson had placed a hidden camera in the room to monitor what we were doing. It was facing the bathroom, and I suddenly remembered we had not closed the door, so he was able to see everything we did.
We jumped when he slammed the computer closed. He hissed, “I have never seen anything so disgusting and evil in my life. Satan has consumed your bodies and souls.”
My voice trembled when I asked, “What are you going to do to us?” There was no use in denying that we weren’t gay. He had evidence to prove that we were.
He looked at his watch. “Your parents should be here in about fifteen minutes,” he informed us. I looked wildly over at Charles. He looked like he was about to faint. I’ve also invited some members of the church, and two other pastors who have experience in this sort of thing.”
Tears were flowing freely down my cheeks. “What are you going to do to us?”
The hairs on my neck stood when he warned, “We are going to pray the gay out of your bodies.” He looked again at his watch. “People should be arriving soon.” He walked to door, turned and warned, “Don’t leave those chairs until I return.” He then walked out and locked the door behind him.
“Oh, My God,” cried Charles. “He saw us!”
I was growing angry. “I can’t believe he had a hidden camera in the room! That’s illegal or something,” I spat.
“What do you think is going to happen now?” sobbed Charles. “Pastor Simpson is going to show it to our parents.” He put his head down and continued to cry. “I can’t watch their faces when they see it.”
“They won’t,” I stated angrily as I rose from my chair.
Charles tried to pull me back into my chair. “You heard what he said,” he warned.
“I don’t care what he said,” I replied as I walked around to the other side of the desk, pulled the cord from the outlet and placed the computer under my arm.
Charles asked excitedly, “What are you going to do?”
“I’m leaving,” I said adamantly. “I’m not going to let him do this.”
“How are you going to stop him?” asked Charles worriedly.
I paced around the room for a minute. I stopped in front of a bronze statue of Jesus on a table near a window. I picked it up and started smashing the window out.
“Matt!” screamed Charles. “What are you doing?”
I ran over and grabbed his arm. “Come on,” I said as I pulled him toward the window. I checked to make sure that there was no glass that would cut us. “Crawl out!” I helped him climb out the window. I think things were happening so fast that he didn’t have time to think about it.
After he was free, I climbed out behind him and looked around. We appeared to be on the side of the house facing a wooded area. I grabbed Charles arm and pulled him toward the trees. “Come on!” I knew we didn’t have much time before Pastor Simpson found us missing. He had to have heard me breaking out the window.
We ran as fast as we could. I dropped the computer once and had to quickly pick it up. As we entered the wooded area, I heard Pastor Simpson shouting at us from the broken window. We were so far away I couldn’t make out what he was saying.
We ran through the dense forest so fast that we didn’t realize what direction we were going. I just wanted to get as far away from Pastor Simpson’s house that we could. There were no paths, and we were getting beaten by tree limbs and tall weeds. I looked over at Charles, and he had cuts on his face and arms. He had a look of shear fright on his face. I grabbed his hand and we continued running.
We must have run for about twenty minutes before we came to a small creek. We sat down on a rock and tried to catch our breaths. I kept listening to hear any broken branches to indicate someone was following us. We were both gasping for air and couldn’t even speak for several minutes.
Charles looked at me and asked, “What are we going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” I replied as I stood and looked around. “There’s a creek here,” I said as I pointed at the water. “It has to lead to a larger lake or something. We’ll just follow it and hope it leads somewhere.” I walked over, gently gripped his arm and helped him up. We stepped over to the creek and looked down.
“Which way?” he asked.
“This way,” I responded as I stepped into the water. I remembered in science in the seventh grade that water flows into larger bodies of water. I was hoping that the creek would lead us to a larger river or lake. From there, we might find a path that would take us back to a road.
We trudged through the muddy banks for what seemed like miles. We were frightened because we saw numerous snakes on the banks. We also had to sidestep two that were swimming in the water. “I hate snakes,” I muttered as we continued forward.
“Me, too,” replied Charles. “And bugs,” he spat as he slapped a large bug that had landed on his forehead.
I was right. We did emerge from the forest into an open area with a large lake. I looked around, hoping to see a boat or someone fishing on the banks. However, it was completely deserted.
“What now?” asked Charles. I looked over, and in the sunlight noticed how many cuts and scrapes he had on his body. I knew by the looks of my arms that I probably had quite a few. At least we had worn pants, so our legs had been protected.
We walked to the edge of the lake and stopped. I held up the computer and heaved it about twenty feet out into the lake. It made a splash and then sank to the bottom. I didn’t know how deep the water was, but I was sure that no one would find it soon. If they did, the water would have damaged the hard drive making it impossible for anyone to ever see the video again.
I suggested, “Let’s walk around the lake and see if we can find a path.” A path would have to lead to a road or a house. We walked about halfway around the lake when we noticed a well-trod path leading up a hill. I grabbed Charles’s arm and helped him up the hill.
Again, we walked for about ten minutes until we came to another clearing. In the distance, we saw a large farmhouse with a barn. Several children were playing on a swing tied to a large oak tree.
Charles started to walk toward the children, but I pulled him back. “Wait,” I said. “We can’t just go walking up to them.”
He gave me a puzzled look. “Why?”
“By now, Pastor Simpson has probably called the police,” I told him. “If we go up to the house, they’ll call the police, and they’ll call him. He’ll come and pick us up and take us back to his house.”
Charles nodded his head. “You’re probably right. So, what do we do?”
I sat down behind some brush so that we couldn’t be seen by the children. “We’ll wait until dark and then head out for the street. It has to lead somewhere.”
Charles rubbed his stomach. “I’m hungry and thirsty.”
“We’ll have to wait,” I warned. “I’m not going back there again.” I looked around and noticed an apple tree about twenty feet away. I pointed it out to Charles. “When the kids stop playing, we’ll go get some apples.” He grinned and nodded his head.
We lay and rested for about a half hour. We snuggled close to comfort each other. We briefly fell asleep until I heard the children stop screaming. I looked around the brush and they had gone inside. I carefully got up and walked over to the apple tree. I picked about ten off the tree and returned to where Charles was still asleep.
His eyes opened when I sat back down. “Here,” I said as I handed him one. He greedily bit into it and started eating.
They were the best apples I had ever tasted.