The cafeteria was abuzz with chatter when Kyle arrived. When he stood in line to get his milk and stale doughnut, he could overhear students talking about what had happened the night before.
He had seen Brad and the other boys taken away in police cars, but he went to sleep afterwards. He didn’t wait up to see if he returned home. After listening to some of the conversation, it appeared Brad was being detained for assault.
“I heard he almost killed the guy,” remarked one student to his friend.
His friend asked, “Do you know him?”
“Nah,” he replied. “Supposed to be some sophomore. No one knows him.”
Kyle was slowly beginning to put the pieces together. For some reason, Buddy went to Brad’s home, and he was beaten up by Brad and a couple other football players. That must have been the reason he stumbled in front of his father’s car. He was also picking up bits and pieces with the mention of drugs and Joy Riddler, but he wasn’t able to understand what they had to do with Buddy’s beating.
He made his way to the south side of the cafeteria and sat down at a table alone. After laying his book bag on the table, he pulled out his literature book and tried to catch up on a short story that had been assigned as homework. With all the activity the night before, he hadn’t had a chance to read it.
As he was reading, he was interrupted by another student who sat down across from him.
“Hi,” he waved timidly at Kyle. “I’m Donald Dillon, but everyone calls me Donnie.” He held out his hand to shake Kyle’s.
Kyle skeptically shook his hand. “I’m Kyle Caldwell.”
The boy laughed nervously and said, “I know who you are.” Kyle found him very attractive. He reminded him of Jordan. He was thin and lanky, and he was wearing a Cowboys football jersey that draped off his shoulders. He had cropped blond hair and blue eyes. But Kyle was struck most by his beautiful smile with straight white teeth.
Kyle glanced down so the boy wouldn’t notice him staring. “You got Oswald for lit?” he laughed. He grabbed the book from Kyle’s hand and looked at the story he was reading. “Masque of the Red Death,” he said excitedly. “I read this last week. It was pretty decent.”
Kyle smiled and said, “Then you can tell me what it’s about. I didn’t have time to read it last night.”
“I bet,” replied Donnie. “I heard about everything that happened on your street. I live over on Somerset. I saw all the cops around your house.”
Kyle laughed and said, “There was a lot of excitement.”
“Is it true,” asked Donnie. “Did your old man really hit that kid?”
“Listen,” responded Kyle rudely as he put his book in his book bag and started to get up from the table. “I don’t know you, and I really don’t want to discuss what happened last night with a stranger.”
Donnie gently grabbed his arm. “It’s okay,” he assured Kyle. “I really don’t want to talk about what happened.”
“Then what do you want?” asked Kyle skeptically.
Donnie looked around to see if anyone was sitting nearby. Then he leaned in and whispered softly. “I heard rumors you are gay.” He did a quick look around before continuing. “I thought I was the only one in the school.”
Hesitantly, Kyle sat back down and stared at the blond boy across from him. He seemed sincere, but he still didn’t know if he could trust him. “So why do you want to talk to me?”
Donnie shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I guess I’m looking for someone to talk to.” He looked around the cafeteria. “I’ve been going to this lousy school for two years, and I hardly know anyone. If you don’t play sports, and you’re not one of the popular kids, no one even knows you’re alive.”
Kyle smiled slightly and mumbled, “You got that right.”
Donnie tried to assure Kyle, “I just want us to be friends, is all.”
Kyle studied his face before responding. “I’m not looking for a boyfriend.”
“No!” replied Donnie excitedly. “I’m not trying to hit on you or anything. I just thought we could talk, you know, about things.”
Just then, the bell rang, and Kyle stood and pulled his book bag over his shoulder. “So, what do you think?” Donnie asked as they started walking away from the table.
Kyle looked over and smiled. “Maybe,” he replied.
“Cool!” said Donnie excitedly. “Maybe I’ll see you at lunch.” Kyle nodded his head and laughed as Donnie took off hurriedly down the hall.
He thought to himself, “Maybe I’ve found my first friend.” He laughed as he said, “He’s cute, too.” He pulled the book bag tighter over his shoulder and headed to first period.
* * * * * *
“But you don’t understand!” Andre shouted as he struggled with the hospital security guard. “I’ve got to see him!”
The burly guard wrapped Andre’s arms behind his back. “Settle down, Kid. I don’t want to hurt you.” Andre’s smaller body was no match for the husky man.
Andre’s body went limp as he stopped struggling. “He needs me,” he cried. “Please, let me see him.”
A nurse stepped up and held his arm. “He’s still in surgery,” she informed him.
Andre looked up and asked tearfully, “Then he’s still alive?”
She smiled and gripped his arm tighter. “He’s in surgery,” she assured him. “That means he’s still alive.” She pointed to a seat in the waiting room. “Why don’t you sit down, and I’ll let you know when he gets out of surgery. Okay?”
Andre nodded, and the security guard helped him over to the seat. He patted Andre gently on the shoulder before walking away. Andre sat back and cried. “He can’t be dead,” he cried to an empty room. He sat alone for two hours. He heard the elevator door open. He jumped up and rushed to the woman who came limping into the room.
“Aunt Mavis!” he shouted as he wrapped his arms around her. She was dressed in a shabby jacket. It appeared she had left the house quickly. Underneath her coat, she still had on her blue nightgown. She was wearing pink, fluffy slippers.
“How is he?” she asked worriedly. “The police came by the house and told me what happened.”
He led her to the sofa. “I don’t know,” he replied as they sat down. He took her hand and held it. “I’ve been here for over two hours and no one has come out and said anything.”
She looked worriedly into Andre’s eyes. “What was he doing in that neighborhood anyways? The police said he walked into a car.”
Andre shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve been trying to figure that out myself.”
Mavis gripped his hand tighter. “Is he working for Aubry? That’s what his mother told me when I called her.”
“Is she coming to the hospital?”
Mavis shook her head. “She’s working.” They both knew that even if she was at home, she still wouldn’t come to the hospital.
Mavis sighed deeply. “Poor Buddy has never had a break. He has to put up with that mother of his, and now this.” She pulled a stained handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed at the tears in her eyes. “I hate say this,” she continued, “but maybe it’s best that he doesn’t survive this.”
“Aunt Mavis!” cried Andre. “How can you say something like that?”
She started crying uncontrollably. “I’m sorry,” she wept, “but that poor baby doesn’t have a chance in this world.” She pulled Andre into her arms, and they held each other tightly as they wept.
* * * * * *
Kyle was sitting in the cafeteria nibbling on a cold chicken nugget. It had been a busy morning. Brad was the conversation of the entire building. Even sitting alone, he could still hear his name being mentioned at nearby tables.
From the rumors, Brad and a few other members of the football team were over at Brad’s house. His parents weren’t home, and someone had brought some weed over to smoke. When they ran out, David Gaston, a tight end, called a friend to see if they could get some more. An hour later, Buddy arrived. When Brad saw him, he became violent and began hitting him mercilessly. Some of his friends tried to stop him, but not before Buddy was pushed into the water. They managed to get Brad inside, but when they went out to check on Buddy, he had disappeared. Ten minutes later, they heard sirens. When they looked outside, they saw the fire department and ambulances on the street. His friends were trapped and unable to drive away.
Kyle was still unclear of what happened next, but from what he noticed the night before, and from a few conversations he overheard, the police brought in a canine unit and they were able to trace Buddy’s scent to Brad’s backyard. After questioning Brad, he was taken downtown. As far as anyone knew, he was still there since he hadn’t appeared in school.
Kyle took another bite of the chicken nugget, and then tossed it back onto his plate. “Tastes like shit,” he mumbled to himself. Just then, he looked up and saw Donnie approaching his table. Donnie broke out into a wide grin when he sat down.
“You don’t mind, do you?” he asked as he unwrapped a cheeseburger and took a bite.
“No,” replied Kyle nervously.
“Good,” smiled Donnie. “I was going to sit here anyway.” He let out a chuckle as he reached for one of Kyle’s chicken nuggets. He took a bite and spit it out into his hand. “Jesus,” he grumbled. “Tastes like shit.” Kyle sat back and laughed.
He took another bite of his cheeseburger and asked, “So, how’s your day going?”
Kyle shrugged his shoulders, “Okay, I guess. Everyone is talking about what happened last night.”
“Yeah,” replied Kyle. “Talk about drama. I even heard you’re messed up in all this?”
“I am?” Kyle asked excitedly, “How?”
“It seems like your sister started all this shit when she broke up with Brad,” he said. “Now all this is rumors,” he assured Kyle, “But it seems like Brad was out to get that poor stiff who was hit by the car.”
Kyle shook his head. “I still don’t see how he was involved. I don’t think my sister even knows him.”
Donnie looked around to make sure no one was listening. He leaned over the table and said, “I overheard a guy who knows a guy who was at Brad’s house last night.” Kyle leaned forward and nodded his head. “He says the guy who got hit by your dad’s car saw Brad and Joy Riddler fucking under a stairwell last week. He thinks the guy told your sister, so he beat the shit out of him.”
Kyle’s eyes widened, “What?”
“Yeah,” replied Donnie excitedly. “When that poor guy showed up at his house last night to drop off some weed, Brad went nuts.”
Kyle asked, “So where is Brad now?”
“The guy said he’s locked up in juvie until they find out if the kid dies or not.”
Kyle slumped down in his seat. Donnie reached over and grabbed another chicken nugget, examined it, and stuffed it in his mouth. He asked, “You okay?”
“I suppose,” responded Kyle. “It’s just a shame some innocent guy got caught up in all this.”
“He wasn’t all that innocent,” suggested Donnie. “He was delivering weed to someone’s house.”
Kyle looked away and thought about Buddy lying somewhere in a hospital bed, that is, if he was still even alive. Kyle had seen him a few times, and he appeared to be a nice guy. He kept to himself, and he didn’t deserve what happened to him.
Donnie looked at the clock on the wall and noticed the bell was getting ready to ring. He stuffed the remainder of his hamburger into this mouth. “What are you doing after school?” he asked with a mouthful of food.
Kyle asked, “What?” He smiled as he watched Donnie try to quickly swallow the hamburger.
“I asked, what are you doing after school?”
Kyle asked, “Why?”
“I dunno,” replied Donnie. “I just thought we could hang out. I can drive you home, if you like.”
Kyle’s eyes opened wide. “You have a car?”
Donnie’s face reddened slightly. “Yeah,” he replied. “My dad is Jeff Dillon.”
“Jeff Dillon?” Kyle squealed. “Like in Jeff Dillon Ford? The guy I see on the television all the time?”
Donnie shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, I guess.” The bell rang, and they rose from their seats. “So, what do you say? Can I take you home after school?”
Kyle eyed Donnie suspiciously before replying. Donnie was attractive and friendly, but he wasn’t ready to become involved with someone, at least not yet. As if he read his mind, Donnie smiled and said, “I’m just taking you home. I’m not asking you for a date.”
Kyle flung his book bag over his shoulder and headed for the door. “Okay,” he replied as Donnie ran up beside him.
“Good,” said Donnie with a smile. “Meet me in the parking lot after school.” Kyle nodded and hurried away.
* * * * * *
Mavis was asleep with her head on Andre’s shoulder when someone exited the double metal doors. She awoke when Andre sat up and nudged her slightly.
She asked sleepily, “What?”
“I think the doctor is here,” he replied as he stood before the elderly doctor in green scrubs. Andre extended his hand and pulled Mavis to her feet.
They both stood silent, awaiting to hear what the doctor would say about Buddy. Andre almost collapsed to the ground when the doctor smiled and said, “He’ll be okay.”
He helped Mavis and Andre back to the leather loveseat, and then he walked across the room to get a metal chair. He straddled it as he sat down before them. Mavis and Andre were crying as he explained Buddy’s injuries. “It doesn’t appear that the car accident did much damage,” he informed them. “Most of the injuries came from a beating he received before being hit by a car.”
Andre asked with surprise, “Beating?”
The doctor looked worriedly at him. “The police haven’t talked to you about what happened last night?”
Andre shook his head and replied, “All we were told is he got hit by a car.”
“I see,” said the doctor. He leaned forward and explained what he knew had happened to Buddy. Andre felt sick when the doctor told them about the injuries to Buddy’s face and body from a beating he had received prior to the accident. “He received a very serious blow to the head which resulted in a severe concussion,” he explained. “We’re going to keep him in the hospital for a few days to make sure there is no swelling.” He looked over at Mavis and asked, “Are you his mother?”
“No,” she replied, “I’m his aunt.”
He stood, looked down and said, “I need to speak to his mother.”
“Good luck,” replied Mavis sarcastically. “She could care less that he is in here. If you need anyone to sign anything, I can do it.”
“I’ll still need her to agree,” he remarked. “I’ll have a nurse bring you a consent form for his mother to sign.”
“Fine,” replied Mavis as she stood and faced the doctor. “If she sobers up long enough, I’ll get her to sign it.” She took Andre by the arm and started heading toward the double doors. “Now may we see my nephew?”
“Of course,” the doctor replied as he hurried to catch up.
* * * * * *
Donnie was waiting outside for Kyle when he exited the school doors. Kyle wasn’t sure if Donnie remembered he had promised him a ride. A smile appeared on his face when he saw Donnie at the bottom of the steps.
“I didn’t know if you’d remember,” Kyle said.
“I’m sixteen,” laughed Donnie. “I don’t have Alzheimer’s yet.”
“Yet,” remarked Kyle with a laugh. He jumped when Donnie reached out to swat him on his arm.
“Come on,” laughed Donnie as he took Kyle’s arm and pulled him towards the parking lot. Kyle bent over and started laughing uproariously when he saw Donnie’s car. It was a white Ford Focus with red bold letters running along the side that read, “Shop at Jeff Dillon Ford.”
“You’re driving an advertisement!” howled Kyle.
Donnie frowned and said,, “Get in.” Once inside he told Kyle, “It’s the only way I could talk my dad into letting me have my own car.” He looked over with a smirk. “Okay, Smarty Pants, just what do you drive?”
“I don’t have a car,” replied Kyle.
“Just what I thought,” gloated Donnie as he pulled out of the school parking lot. “At least this didn’t cost me anything, and Dad pays for the gas.” Kyle laughed when he Donnie looked over and stuck out his tongue.
As they headed away, Donnie asked Kyle if he’d like to go somewhere and get a hamburger. “Yeah, sure,” replied Kyle. “But I have to call home first.” He took out his cell phone and called his house. Melissa answered the phone.
Donnie listened as Kyle’s tone changed to anger. “Let me talk to Mom.” Kyle looked over and rolled his eyes. “Then put Dad on the phone.” Donnie stifled a laugh when Kyle angrily muttered, “Slut.”
Donnie couldn’t hear what Kyle’s father was saying, but Kyle kept replying, “Yes, Sir.” After a minute, Kyle closed the phone and put it in his pocket.
Kyle turned to Donnie and said, “He wants me to come straight home. Can I take a rain check?”
“Yeah, sure,” responded Donnie disappointedly. “Is everything okay?”
Kyle replied, “He wants me to go to the hospital to see Buddy. He said he called there, and they told him he’s out of surgery and in a room.”
Donnie offered to go with him, but Kyle refused. “Dad has never met you, and he’ll have a million questions.”
“Does he know you’re gay?”
Kyle nodded his head and said, “Melissa outed me last week.” He laughed when Donnie responded with an angry, “Slut.” A few minutes later he pulled into the gated community and dropped Kyle off in front of his house.
Kyle smiled as he waved goodbye.