My mother told my grandmother that we were leaving for the hospital. She agreed to stay with Randy until we returned. I was trying hard to keep my emotions under control, but it was difficult. I was extremely worried about Brent. His situation must have been serious if they had to rush him to the hospital.
He had to have been taken to Mount Evans General Hospital. It was the closest to the bridge. I tried to call Linda to make sure, but her phone had been turned off. A wave of guilt washed over me. My actions once again had created problems for him. We hadn’t even gotten to know each other yet, and it seemed like a possible relationship was already doomed.
In addition, we hadn’t even gone out yet. All we did was share two kisses- one in my room, and the other fateful one in the boys’ restroom at school. Linda had talked earlier about love at first sight. She said he felt that way about me. I really wasn’t sure if I could say what I felt for him was really love. I know I was infatuated with him, but I didn’t know if it was anything more.
He had been outed at school because of me, and now he was lying in a hospital room just because he thought I’d committed suicide. All the way to the hospital I kept wondering if his life wouldn’t be better if I had never sat down at the lunch table with Linda on Monday morning.
My mother was keeping a watchful eye on me as she drove to the hospital, but she didn’t interrupt my thoughts. I’m sure there were a thousand questions going through her mind, but she seemed to sense that I was too wrapped up in my own thoughts to speak.
Once we pulled into the parking lot of the hospital, I began to worry if I had done the right thing. What if Brent didn’t want to see me? He had told Rachel for Linda and Amber not to bring me to his home. Also, how would they react? They had seemed mad at me when they left school. I sat in the car several minutes, deciding if I should get out.
“What’s wrong, Artie?” My mother asked worriedly, finally breaking me from my thoughts.
“What if Brent doesn’t want to see me?” I asked. “I’ve done nothing but mess his life up since he met me.”
“I think he needs to see you,” she replied softly. “Right now he’s probably lying in a hospital bed thinking that you’re dead in the river.” Her voice cracked when she said the last words.
“What if he’s dead?” Tears started to appear in my eyes. “You said he was having trouble breathing.”
“Let’s pray that’s not the case.” She opened the door and got out. She stood at the front of the car waiting for me.
We walked into the hospital and went to the information desk.
“Can you tell me what room Brent...?” She turned to me. “What’s his last name?”
“England.” I recalled Amber’s name from the interview I did with her last year.
“Brent England.” We watched anxiously as the receptionist typed his name into the computer. Unable to find his name, she picked up the phone and spoke to someone else.
“They still have him in the emergency room,” she said. She pointed down the hall. “Just follow the signs to the ER.”
We walked quickly down the hall. When we approached the ER I slowed down. My mother grabbed my hand and led me forward. When we entered the waiting room, I immediately saw Linda and Amber sitting on a sofa holding hands. A shocked looked appeared on their faces.
“Artie!” They shouted in unison, and then came running across the room and jumped on me, kissing me and holding me tightly.
“Thank God you’re alive,” cried Linda. “Someone said you jumped into the river.”
“Someone was wrong,” I replied. “As you can see, I’m all right.” They continued to hug me and shower me with kisses. My mother walked over to the sofa where, I presumed, Mr. and Mrs. England were sitting.
“How’s Brent?” I asked worriedly. “Is he okay?”
“We think so,” said Amber. “The doctor came out once and said he was breathing on his own, but they were still running tests on him.”
“Do they know what happened?”
“When he went to the bridge and saw the fire department dragging the bottom of the river for your body, he just freaked,” said Amber. “He couldn’t catch his breathe. We thought he was going to die.” Both girls broke down and started crying again.
“The doctors think it was something like a panic attack,” offered Linda. “He seems to be okay now.”
“I know he hates me,” I said sadly.
“Hates you!” Amber said loudly. She looked over at her parents who were now watching our conversation closely. My mother was sitting beside Mrs. England, trying to comfort her.
“You’re so fucking self-centered, Artie,” responded Amber angrily. “He just met you, but you’re all he’s talked about all week. Yesterday when you kissed him in his room, he came into my room last night and wouldn’t stop talking about it. He’s in love with you.”
“How can he be?” I asked incredulously. “I’ve done nothing but hurt him. Look at what happened at school. I outed him.”
“He doesn’t care about that,” replied Amber. “What hurt him was your lack of feelings for him. All you cared about was how things were going to affect you. You didn’t even worry about how it would affect him.”
“I know,” I said sorrowfully. “I talked to Dr. Ashe about it this afternoon. You’re right. I am a self-centered ass.”
“Yes, you are,” they said in unison, then looked at each other and laughed. “But you’re our self-centered ass,” said Linda. She took my hand and led us to a sofa on the other side of the room where we could talk privately.
“Do you think he’ll forgive me?” I gave them a questioning look.
“You’ll have to ask him that when you see him,” replied Amber.
“What if he doesn’t want to see me?”
“Then that’s a chance you’ll have to take,” said Linda.
We talked a few more minutes, until my mother rose from her seat and walked over to me. “Rudy, come with me.” She held out her hand and accompanied me across the room to where Brent’s mother and father were sitting. Mr. England rose and stood before me.
“I’m Jeffrey England.” He extended his hand for me to shake. “I’m Brent and Amber’s father. This is my wife, Gloria.” I held out my hand and shook hers gently.
“I’m Artie...” I stopped suddenly. “I mean I’m Rudy Thomas.”
“Call him Artie,” spoke my mother. “Everyone does, except for me and his grandmother.” She looked at me and smiled. “I guess that’s something we’ll have to work on.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Artie,” said Mrs. England. “Brent and Amber have spoken so highly about you.” I began to blush from her words. I wasn’t sure if they knew Brent was gay, so I didn’t know how to respond.
“Don’t let them interrogate you,” said Amber as she walked up and wrapped her arm around my waist. “The Spanish Inquisition was child’s play considering what they can put you through.”
“Mom and Dad, play fair.” She started laughing. “At least let me break him in first.”
We sat down beside my mother. Linda walked over and sat beside Amber and held her hand. I looked at Amber’s parents for a reaction, but they didn’t appear upset by their show of affection.
My mother, on the other hand, seemed stunned. She kept staring at their entwined hands, and then she would look over at me. Since she now knew I was gay, I didn’t need Linda as a cover anymore. However, I think my mother was shocked. She gave Amber’s mother a questioning look, but her mother just smiled gracefully. She looked like she was daring my mother to say something.
About ten minutes later, the doctor came out into the waiting room and asked to speak to Brent’s mother and father. He led them to a small office off to the side and closed the door. We waited anxiously for about five minutes.
Finally, they emerged smiling. I let out the breath I was holding in. I think I heard a collective sigh from all of us.
“He’s going to be all right,” said Mr. England. “The doctor said he experienced too much stress, and his body couldn’t handle it. With a little rest, he should be okay.”
“Can we see him?” Amber asked excitedly.
“Actually,” said her mother. “He’s being released shortly. Your father and I are going back to be with him. After we sign some papers, he’ll be free to go.”
Amber and Linda grabbed each other and circled around, holding each other tightly. They grabbed me, and we all danced around the room. I looked at my mother, and surprisingly, she was smiling as broadly as Mr. and Mrs. England.
Brent’s parents were escorted to his room, leaving us waiting for him to come out. Amber and Linda continued to sit together holding hands. My mother kept looking at them out of the corner of her eye.
“How long have you two been together?” She finally asked. I started smiling, knowing she was dying to question them.
“Just a little over two years,” replied Linda.
“Well, um,” my mother seemed confused. “Your mother didn’t say anything last Sunday when I suggested that Rudy go out with you.” She looked over at me. “I’m sorry. I meant Artie.” She seemed uncomfortable saying my nickname.
“My mother thought that if I dated Artie, it would cure me.” She looked at Amber and laughed.
My mother appeared shocked. “Your mother knows you’re a lesbian?”
“She thinks it’s just a phase that I’m going through,” Linda laughed. “Girls today, boys tomorrow.”
“That’s ridiculous,” huffed my mother. “You are what you are. You can’t change that.”
“Tell my mother that,” replied Linda sadly.
She looked over at me and smiled. “I have to tell myself that first.” I had to fight to hold back tears.
We sat and talked, waiting for Brent to be released. My mother seemed to like Linda and Amber. I was proud of her for being so accepting. They even stopped holding hands; I guess they realized it made her a little uncomfortable.
The television in the waiting room had been on all night, but no one had paid it much attention. At 11:00, the news came on, and it began with breaking news- ME. We stopped talking and walked up to the television and watched the lead story that talked about the rescue team spending most of the afternoon dragging the bottom of the river because they thought I had leapt from the bridge.
Of course, they had to mention my name; and then they talked about me being the son of Rudolph Thomas, prominent attorney arrested last week for a sex crime. They even showed a school picture of me! I don’t know where they got. It was my eighth grade picture.
The next scenes showed my mother standing on the shore crying. Then it showed Brent being put on a gurney and taken to an awaiting ambulance. Naturally, they had to sensationalize the event by showing distraught family and friends. The announcer finished by saying that the search had been called off, but gave no reason. It made it sound like my body was still in the river. They didn’t even mention that I was safe.
I looked over at my mother and she looked furious. Linda and Amber seemed equally upset. Our privacy had once again been invaded by the news media. This story wouldn’t even have received television coverage had I not been the son of my father.
My mother walked over and took my hand. “Are you all right?”
“Yes,” I managed to smile weakly. “Are you?” She nodded her head. Her cell phone rang and she answered it.
“Yes, we saw it, Mother.” It was my grandmother. My mother moved away so I couldn’t hear the rest of her conversation.
“I can’t believe they showed them putting Brent in an ambulance.” Amber’s face was red with anger. Linda held her hand, trying to calm her down.
“And they made you sound suicidal,” said Linda. “I’m surprised they didn’t mention you and Brent kissing in the restroom.”
“Give them another day and they probably will,” I replied.
Just then my cell phone rang. I looked to see who was calling. It was my father’s cell phone number! I was stunned. I just looked at the number and let it ring.
“Aren’t you going to answer it?” Linda was giving me a puzzled look.
“No,” I said. I closed the phone and put it back in my pocket. I looked over at my mother and she was still talking to my grandmother. She would be furious if she knew my father had tried to contact me.
A minute later, my phone rang again. I took it from my pocket and looked to see who was calling. It was Dad again. I looked over to see if my mother was still talking, and then walked across the room.
My hands were shaking when I raised the phone to my ear.
“Artie? Are you there?” It was my father’s voice. Tears welled up in my eyes from hearing his voice.
“Oh, God. Thank you.” I could tell he was crying. “Are you all right, Son? I just saw the news.”
“I’m fine, Dad.” There was a long pause. Neither of us knew what else to say.
“I’m sorry Artie. I love you and Randy.” The phone then went dead. I looked across the waiting room and saw the men’s restroom. I quickly entered, and then collapsed against the wall. It hurt to hear his voice. All the hate I had previously felt for him was replaced with hurt. The door opened and Linda and Amber walked in and sat down beside me. Linda pulled me into her and I openly wept into her shoulder while Amber gently rubbed my back.
“That was my dad.” I finally managed to say. “He saw the news and wanted to know how I was.” I got up and walked over to the sink and washed my face with cold water.
“Are you going to be okay?” Linda and Amber walked up and stood beside me.
“I don’t think I’ll ever see another rainbow,” I replied. They looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. They had no idea what I was talking about.
We left the restroom and returned to the waiting room. I told Linda and Amber not to mention to my mother that my father had called me. Even though she seemed to be accepting things, I wasn’t sure how she’d react if his name was mentioned.
She gave me a puzzled looked when we walked out. I guess my eyes were still puffy from crying. She also knew that Linda and Amber would not have gone into the men’s room unless something had happened to me.
We sat around quietly for about a half hour. Linda put her head on Amber’s shoulder and fell asleep. I grabbed an old copy of Women’s Home Journal. It was about two years old. The other magazines were medical journals. I thumbed through the magazine, looking at the pictures.
Suddenly, the door to the emergency area opened. Mrs. England came out, followed by Mr. England with his arm around Brent. Brent stopped when he saw me.
He jumped when Amber and Linda ran up and hugged him. With his head resting on Amber’s shoulder, I saw tears forming in his eyes as he looked at me. I cautiously walked over and stood beside Linda.
He released his arms from around his sister, and then fell into my arms and started crying. “I thought you were dead!” I held him tightly as he continued to cry. His mother came over and tried to pull him off me, but he wouldn’t let go.
I looked over at my mother and her eyes were wet with tears. At that moment, I think we were all crying. Even Mr. England wiped tears from his eyes with his sleeve.
“I’m fine, Brent,” I assured him. “It was all a misunderstanding.” He nodded into my chest and calmed down.
I pulled him back and looked into his tear-stained face. Even with snot running from his nose, and his eyes puffy and red with tears, he looked beautiful. I wanted to kiss him, but everyone was watching us. I grabbed his hand and announced loudly. “We’re going to go clean up.” I lead him over to the restroom. Once inside, I locked he door and reached for him.
He again fell into my arms. I held him for what seemed like an hour, but it was probably only about three or four minutes. We didn’t say anything. We just rested our faces against each other and enjoyed the closeness we were feeling.
Finally, I pushed him gently away and said, “We should get back out there. They’re probably wondering what we’re doing in here.”
“This.” He said as he stood on his tiptoes and gently kissed me. Our bodies pressed together as he kissed me deeply. I could feel his cock begin to hardened against my leg; as I knew he could feel mine starting to expand against his stomach.
We kissed another minute, before he finally moved away and looked into my eyes. He said, “I know this sounds silly, because we only just met; but I think I’m in love with you.”
I gave him a quick peck and replied, “I think I’m falling in love with you too.” We embraced, but jumped apart when someone started knocking on the door.
“Are you boys all right?” It was Mr. England. Brent walked over and unlocked the door. His father stepped in and looked at us.
“We’re fine, Daddy,” said Brent. “I’m feeling much better now.” Brent looked over at me and smiled warmly.
“Then I think it’s time we should be heading home,” he replied. “It’s been a very long day.”
“Daddy?” Brent put his hand on his father’s arm.
“Can Artie spend the night with me?” His dad looked over at me, and I could tell he was giving Brent’s question a lot of consideration.
“We’ll have to make sure it’s all right with Mrs. Thomas,” he finally responded. “Are you sure you’re not too tired? You’ve been through quite a bit today.”
“We both have,” he replied. “That’s why I want him to stay tonight with me. We need to talk.”
“Well, tomorrow’s Saturday, it’s not a school night,” he said. “So I don’t see any problem with it.”
“Thanks, Daddy.” He leaned in and kissed his father on the cheek. His father pulled him into a hug and kissed his forehead. It brought tears to my eyes. My dad and I had been close, but we had never shared the affection Brent and his father had for one another. For a moment, it made me feel empty.
Seeing that I was becoming emotional, Mr. England reached out and pulled me into him and held me. Brent threw his arm around me. I had heard people joke about a group hug. This one felt nice.
I was afraid my mother was going to say no when I asked her if I could spend the night with Brent. I think she felt that too much was happening too quickly. She had only tonight accepted me as being gay. Now she had to face the reality that I had a boyfriend.
When Mrs. England saw her hesitation, she pulled her aside and they left the waiting room and walked down the hall. Through the glass doors, we could see them talking quietly in the hallway.
I sat nervously waiting for them to return. Brent was beside me, and I could sense that he too was nervous. We had been through a lot and, like he told his father, we needed to talk about it. If I couldn’t stay at his house, then maybe he could go home with me. It really didn’t matter; as long as we were together.
My mother turned and looked at me while Mrs. England talked to her. Finally, she nodded and they came walking back into the waiting room.
She walked over to me and put out her hand. I took it and rose. “Can we talk a minute?” I nodded and we walked into the hall where she had just been talking to Brent’s mother.
“I have no trouble with you spending the night at Brent’s, if...” There it was. The big IF. I knew she was going to tell me I couldn’t.
“If he was just a regular friend,” she said. “But you and I know he’s much more than that. If not now, then someday soon.” She reached out and ran her hand through my hair. “You’re only sixteen, Rudy. I think you’re much too young to become, um, involved.”
“It’s not like that, Mom,” I replied. “I understand what you’re saying, and I agree with you. We probably are too young. All we are going to do is just talk tonight. I really want to get to know him. Since I’ve met him, we’ve really never been alone.”
“Is that all you plan to do tonight?” She looked at me, awaiting my answer. It was true. I hadn’t even thought about doing anything with Brent, other than talking. I knew if we liked each other as much as I thought we did, then we would likely someday have sex. But it was something we’d both want, and only if we felt we were ready.
“I promise, Mom.” I kissed her on her cheek. “Just talk, that’s all.”
“Then you may spend the night with him.”
“Yes!” I kissed her again, and then ran back into the waiting room. Brent was grinning when I entered. He knew by my reaction that my mother had agreed to us spending the night together.
Mother drove me and Brent to my house to get what I’d need. She called my grandmother and told her that Randy could stay there for the night. It was late and she didn’t want to awaken him.
We ran to my room and I packed a small bag with the things I would need. “Bring enough for two days.” Brent gave me a wicked smile. So I packed two of everything. After getting my toothbrush and deodorant out of the bathroom we were ready to go.
His parents were still up when we arrived. They, Amber and Linda were sitting at the dining room where three pizzas had been half devoured. There was a guy who looked to be about twenty sitting with them.
He rose when I walked in and thrust his hand at me. “I’m Kevin.” He walked over and tousled Brent’s hair. “This dweeb is my little brother.” He pulled him into a hug. “How are you feeling?”
“Better, Kevin.” Brent began to blush with the attention his older brother was giving him. It was no mistake that he was related to Brent and Amy. There must be something about the England genes that produces beautiful children. Kevin was just as handsome as Brent and his father.
A girl about twenty-five walked into the room carrying a large bag of potato chips. “Oh, hello.” She walked over to me and hugged me. “You must be Artie. I’ve heard so much about you. I’m Debra, Brent’s sister.” I couldn’t believe it. She looked just like Amber, except her hair was longer.
Everyone started laughing as I looked around the room staring. I felt I was in some kind of a humorous video that people send in to television.
“How many of you are there?” I asked. This only made them laugh louder.
“Five,” laughed Brent. “You still haven’t met Jared.” As if on cue, another boy came walking into the dining room. I had seen him before when I did an article last year on our football team. He was our football team’s quarterback. He was extremely popular, and was the dream guy of every senior girl in our school. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before that he might be related to Brent and Amber.
“Hey Buddy.” He walked over and fisted my hand. “Welcome to the family; although, I don’t know how you can put up with this little piece of...”
“Jared!” Mrs. England shouted loudly. Everyone in the room started laughing.
“What?” Jared acted innocently. “I was only going to say little piece of wonderful brother.”
“Sure you were,” laughed Mr. England.
We sat down and started digging into the now cold pizza. The conversation was loud and lively. Our family had been close, but it was nothing like the England family. They playfully bantered back and forth, and often included me in the conversation. I looked over and noticed Amber and Linda holding hands. No one seemed to pay any attention.
After about an hour, Kevin and Debra left the room. Both said they had to get up early and go to work. It surprised me when Brent reached over and grabbed my hand and held it. Jared looked down, but he said nothing.
“I’m tired.” Brent looked over at me with sleepy eyes. “Are you ready to go to bed?”
My face started to blush. I was sitting at the dinner table holding Brent’s hand and he was asking me to go to bed with him.
“To sleep,” added Jared. I looked over as he leaned back in his chair and laughed. Brent pulled me up and we headed down the hall to his room. Jared was close behind us.
Just as we got to Brent’s room, Jared put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m the guardian of Brent’s virginity. It better still be intact in the morning.” He started laughing and then walked away. I looked over at Brent, and his face couldn’t have been any redder.