Dancing on a Star Chapter 31
When I headed out to the car with Dad, Tracy came running across the street. “Can I get a ride, Mr. Woolery?” Dad nodded his head, and Tracy jumped into the backseat. As we pulled off, we saw Jimmy heading our way. He playfully stuck out his thumb for a ride. Dad slowed down and acted like he was going to stop, but at the last minute he sped away. Tracy and I roared with laughter. Dad suddenly stopped, backed up and waited for Jimmy.
“That was mean, Jerry,” he admonished my father. He had been calling my father by his first name since we were little. I also called his father Dave. They said it was ridiculous for us to always be referring to them as Mister.
As we drove to school, I glanced into the backseat and noticed Jimmy and Tracy holding hands. I quickly looked over at my father to see if he saw them. His eyes were on the road, so I guess he didn’t. I looked into the backseat and scowled at them. I didn’t want to try and explain to my father why they were doing it. He knows Tracy is gay, but I don’t think he suspects Jimmy to be. If he keeps holding Tracy’s hand, though, he will soon know.
It also surprised me because Jimmy and Tracy seem to be getting closer. Just a few weeks ago, he hated Tracy. Now, it seems like he is risking everything by associating with him. I wasn’t sure, but by looking at them in the backseat sitting closely to each other, they appeared to be boyfriends.
When Dad let us out in front of the school, Tracy helped me out of the car. He put his arm around me as we headed into school. I was getting stronger, and I really didn’t need help. However, it felt good to know that my friends still cared. We went to my locker to get the books for my morning classes.
Classes were getting back to normal. Since Jeff had brought me my homework assignments while I was at home, I was caught up with most of my work. I had a couple of tests to make up, but even then, most teachers told me they wouldn’t hold me accountable for them. I guess they felt sorry seeing me struggling around school on crutches.
Second period was tense. I shared that class with Jimmy, Jeff, Tracy and Tyler. Jeff was late to arrive. When he did, he sat down without even looking at me. Jimmy gave me a questioning look. I didn’t tell him about our little fight over Lyle. I still hadn’t seen Lyle. I looked for him in the hallway going to my classes, but I never saw him. Maybe he was trying to avoid me like Jeff.
I was on my way to third period by myself. It was one of the few classes I didn’t share with anyone. Tracy had offered to help carry my books, but I told him I could manage by myself. As I walked down the hall, someone kicked my crutch from under me, and I fell to the ground. When I did, my head hit the floor. I grabbed my head and screamed out in pain.
When I looked up, Clayton Crawford was standing above me with his arms folded and a wide grin on his face. “This is what we do to faggots like you around here,” he hissed.
I started to get back up, but he put his shoe on my shoulder. “Stay on the ground, Fag,” he warned. “That’s where you belong.” Tears welled up in my eyes. Besides my head pounding, I was embarrassed because others had circled around me to watch. Suddenly, someone grabbed Clayton’s shoulders and tossed him across the hallway. Others moved away quickly as his body slammed against the lockers.
Lyle rushed over to him and started pounding him unmercifully. “You piece of shit!” he screamed. Clayton covered his head to avoid the severe punches. “If you ever touch Jack again, I’ll fucking kill you!” he screamed. Out of nowhere, Jimmy joined Lyle and began kicking Clayton. They stepped back, and Clayton recoiled in fear. Hesitantly, he rose and ran off down the hall.
Lyle rushed over to me and knelt. “Are you okay, Jack?” he asked worriedly. His eyes were filled with tears. Soon, Jimmy knelt and held me tightly as I cried into his shoulder. “I’m so scared,” I sobbed. “I thought Clayton was going to kill me.”
We heard shouting in the background, and students parted to make way for Mrs. Alexander and two school security officers. “What is going on?” she asked as she knelt beside Lyle.
“Clayton Crawford tried to hurt Jack,” Jimmy informed her. “He tripped him and then tried to beat the shit out of him.”
Mrs. Alexander looked around and asked, “Where’s Clayton now?”
“We took care of him,” hissed Lyle.
Mrs. Alexander asked, “What did you do?” When Lyle grinned, she shook her head but didn’t say anything. She stood and asked Lyle and Jimmy if they would help me to her office. They lifted me and held me tightly as I hobbled behind her.
We followed Mrs. Alexander to her office. She told us to sit while she left. Lyle looked sadly at me and asked if I was okay. I started to assure him I was, but before I could speak, he kissed me on the lips. “Damn!” giggled Jimmy.
I wiped my lips and asked, “What was that for?”
Lyle’s face reddened as he responded, “I don’t know. I was scared you were hurt.”
Jimmy giggled again and responded, “You kissed him because you thought he was hurt?” He held his finger out to Lyle. “I got a boo boo on my finger. You want to give me a kiss?”
“Shut up,” laughed Lyle. His face was scarlet red. He turned back towards me. “Seriously, Jack. Are you okay?”
I rubbed the back of my head. “I hit my head when I fell,” I informed him. He stood and examined the back of my head. I started to stiffen when he gently rubbed his hand over my head. Jimmy watched me rearrange my shorts and started laughing.
“You guys are going to make a cute couple,” he laughed. Lyle looked into my eyes. We stared at each other. I think both of us were wondering if what Jimmy had just said was true. We had just met, but I think we were sensing that something special was happening.
Mrs. Alexander entered with the school nurse. She walked over and inspected my head. She asked me how I felt, and how hard I had hit my head when I fell. I told her it hurt at first, but it was beginning to feel better. She asked if I thought I should go to the hospital, but I insisted that I was alright.
She turned to Mrs. Alexander. “We’ll keep an eye on him the rest of the day. Inform his afternoon teachers what happened and have them call me if they notice any sudden changes.” She then left the room.
She spent the next ten minutes going over what had happened. She was more focused on Clayton’s actions and what he had said to me. She didn’t appear interested in what Lyle and Jimmy had done to Clayton. I guess she figured he got what he deserved. When we finished, she assured me that Clayton would be suspended for his actions. She also told me that she had spoken to my father. She asked if I would like him to come get me and take me home, but I told her I would like to stay in school.
She looked at the clock. “Lunch is going to be in ten minutes. Why don’t you boys stay here until then.” She rose and left the office.
Jimmy asked worriedly, “What do you think will happen now?”
Lyle responded, “I don’t think we’re in any kind of trouble. Mrs. Alexander didn’t say anything about us beating the shit out of Clayton.”
“You guys were crazy,” I laughed. “I couldn’t believe you kicked his ass like that.”
“He was hurting you,” replied Lyle as tears welled up in his eyes. “We couldn’t let him do that.”
“Yeah,” agreed Jimmy. “If he messes with you again, he’s dead meat.”
“Thanks, Guys,” I responded appreciatively. I wasn’t sure what would have happened if Lyle and Jimmy hadn’t jumped in. The look on Clayton’s face showed that he intended to hurt me.
Jimmy started giggling. “If you guys want to kiss, I’ll turn my head.” He laughed louder as he turned away from us and faced the wall. I was surprised when Lyle leaned toward me and kissed me again.
“I knew it!” laughed Jimmy. “You did it!”
“So?” smiled Lyle as he leaned in and kissed me again. I quickly looked at the door to make sure that Mrs. Alexander wasn’t watching before I returned his kiss.
“Damn,” giggled Jimmy. “You guys are serious.” I looked over and watched as he rearranged a growing erection inside his shorts. Good old Jimmy. I guess anything turns him on.
He looked at the door and warned, “You guys better be careful, though. Alexander might come in and see you. If she does, it’s a ten-day suspension.” We smiled and scooted away from each other. Jimmy kept staring at us and shaking his head.
I couldn’t stop looking at Lyle. He doesn’t have the looks of a hot teen boy. In fact, I had never really noticed him until yesterday when he showed up at my house with Jimmy.
However, in the brief time I’ve known him, he appeals to me. He seems down to earth. There is nothing arrogant about him. Tracy and Jeff are good looking, and they know it. The times we’ve been naked together, I feel embarrassed because I don’t have their bodies or good looks. Jimmy is athletic, and even though he’s not as attractive as Tracy and Jeff, he is still appealing. He could have several girlfriends if he wanted them. That is why I’m surprised I never picked up that he is gay. I should have known it when he kept rejecting girls’ advances. I used to hear him say so often, “I’m a player. I don’t want to get tied down to one girl.” However, he never showed any interest in any girl.
Lyle is different, though. I can’t really put my finger on it. When he smiles at me, I feel comfortable. It’s not like Jimmy’s grin when I know what he’s thinking. He wants to tackle me, strip me naked and suck me until I’m dry. Tracy and Jeff also only seem interested in the sex we have.
When I look at Lyle, I don’t imagine us having sex. I think of sitting on the sofa holding hands and watching a movie or taking a walk with our arms wrapped around each other. It is a strange feeling. I’ve never thought of anyone like this before. I even think I could walk into the kitchen holding hands with Lyle and not be worried about what my mother or father might say. I just think they would take one look at us and know…
Wait a minute. I’m not thinking what I was just getting ready to say. Jeff wanted us to be boyfriends; however, I never felt that way about him. I suppose he senses it and that is why he’s mad at me. Maybe he picked up on it yesterday before I even did. Maybe that is why he stormed out of the house and hasn’t spoken to me today. I’m not even sure he is aware of what has happened.
“Hey, guys!” Jimmy laughed as he snapped his fingers. I blinked my eyes. I hadn’t realized that we had been staring into each other’s eyes. “You two need to get a room,” he giggled. “If you don’t stop, you two are going to be fucking here in the office.”
Just then, the bell rang. We stood to leave. I looked down and noticed a large bulge in the front of Lyle’s pants. I smiled knowing that he had been thinking of me. As we left, I let my hand brush gently against it. He opened his hand and I placed mine in his. He looked at me and grinned. We were careful to unwrap our hands before we left the office.
The cafeteria was buzzing when we entered for lunch. Everyone stared at me as I hobbled across the cafeteria where Tracy and Jeff were sitting. Jimmy and Lyle headed for the lunch line. Jimmy knew what I wanted. After eating lunch together for so many years, he knew what I liked- and didn’t like. How anyone can swallow a slice of dry cheese pizza is beyond my imagination.
Tracy spoke, but Jeff looked away and ignored me. I was beginning to get tired of his attitude. He thinks he can do anything he wants, but I have to be Mr. Perfect for him. Screw him.
“I heard about your fight,” said Tracy. Jeff looked over and I could tell he hadn’t heard what had happened. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m okay.”
Jeff asked, “What happened?”
I responded sarcastically, “As if you care.”
Jeff rose and pushed his chair away and it crashed to the floor. Several students sitting nearby looked over. “I’ve had it!” he hissed angrily. “What is wrong with you, Jack?”
I looked around as others stopped eating to watch our argument. “Shut up, Jeff!” I remarked as my face reddened. “Everyone is looking at us.”
“I don’t care!” he shouted louder. “Let these fuckers listen!” Several girls let out a gasp. Tears welled up in his eyes as he looked down sadly at me. “I’m outta here,” he cried as he wiped his eyes and rushed away.
“Damn!” I exclaimed. “What’s his problem?”
“Did you guys have a fight?” asked Tracy. “He’s been bad-mouthing you all morning.” Before I could answer, Jimmy and Lyle approached and sat down. Lyle sat closely beside me. Tracy gave us a questioning look.
“Tracy,” I said. “This is Lyle Landers.” Tracy held out his hand and fist bumped Lyle’s fist. “He’s a friend of Jimmy’s,” I explained. “You may remember him yesterday from the basketball team.”
“Yeah,” responded Tracy as he stared at Lyle and me. “I remember.”
Jimmy tried to get every to talk, but we didn’t. Tracy kept staring across the table, and Lyle was unusually quiet. Jimmy laughed and asked, “Did someone’s grandmother die or something?” When we didn’t respond, he finished eating lunch without saying anything else.
When the bell rang, Jimmy and Lyle headed for their fourth period history class. Tracy grabbed my arm and steadied me as we went to biology. “What’s going on?” he asked as we made our way down the hall.
“What do you mean?”
“First, Jeff is pissed at you,” he replied. “And at lunch it looked like something is going on with you and that Lyle guy.” When I didn’t respond, he asked, “Is there?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know.”
He stopped me and remarked worriedly, “Be careful, Jack. Jeff isn’t going to like it if you see another guy. He’s really into you.”
I laughed and replied, “Sure he is. That’s why he’s fucking around with you, Jimmy and any other guy he meets.”
“It’s complicated, Jack,” he replied. “Jeff may mess around with other guys, but his heart belongs to you.”
I started laughing uproariously. “His heart belongs to me? What kind of shit is that? He can do what he wants, but if I look at another guy he gets pissed.” I turned and headed off down the hallway. When Tracy grabbed my arm, I brushed him off.
I looked at him and said, “Tell Jeff to kiss my ass.” I turned and hobbled quickly away.
I was in a bad mood the rest of the afternoon. I tried to pay attention in class, but my mind kept going back to what Tracy had said. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. It was as if he agreed with Jeff. He saw no problem with Jeff messing with other guys as he kept me as a boyfriend. I began to wonder if this was really how gay relationships are.
I knew from the start that I didn’t want a steady boyfriend. I knew I would be attracted to other guys, and I didn’t want the burden of trying to mask how I felt. For a while, I thought Jeff felt the same way. I was even going to give it a try. However, he decided to change the rules. I was supposed to be the faithful boyfriend while he played around behind my back. By the end of the day, I had decided that Jeff and I were through. I no longer wanted to see him.
Jimmy and Lyle met me in the hall at the end of my last class. “You going to the gym and watch us dance?” he giggled.
“No,” I replied rudely as I brushed past him and hurried away. Lyle ran up beside me.
“Are you okay, Jack?” he asked.
I turned and started to yell at him, but the concerned look on his face prevented me from getting angry. Lyle had nothing to do with how I was feeling. “I’m okay,” I assured him. “I just need to be alone.”
“Alright,” he replied. He looked down at my hand, and I thought he was going to reach out and hold it. “Can I stop by after practice and see you.”
“Yeah, sure,” I tried to force a smile. “I’d like that.” He nodded and hurried back to where Jimmy was standing watching us. Jimmy threw his arm around Lyle’s shoulder as they headed toward the gym.
I walked home by myself. I needed to clear my head. Things were beginning to return to normal. I was adjusting to what was happening at home. Mom and Dad seemed more supportive. Mom hadn’t said anything bad to me in a week. We still didn’t return to that special bond we had a month ago, and I had accepted that we probably never would. Dad seemed happier that the tension in the house had subsided. Even Karen remarked a couple of times how much better it was at the dinner table.
But now I felt that things were getting out of control again. I realize now that I made a mistake by leading Jeff on just so my mother would accept me being gay. I still think it helped. After I fell and called him, she seemed to have changed. She seemed to like Jeff, and I think she was accepting that we were boyfriends. What would I say to her if he doesn’t come around anymore?
I’m confused about my feelings about Lyle. He likes me, that I’m sure. However, I’m confused how I feel about him. We only met yesterday, but there is something special about him. I don’t think he’s had the sexual experience that I have had; although it is limited to just Tracy, Jeff and Jimmy. I get the feeling that he may have never been with a guy.
What if he begins to like me, and I can’t like him back? I’m still not sure I want a boyfriend. I’m in the situation I’m in now because of my reluctance to give myself entirely to Jeff. But staring into his eyes in Mrs. Reynold’s office, I think I might be willing to take a chance. What if he doesn’t? What if he turns out to be like the other guys? What if he only wants me for sex? Again, I keep returning to the same question. Is this what gay relationships are all about?
Will I ever find love?
Okay. I said it. I’m only sixteen, but I know what I want. I don’t want random sex with friends with benefits. I want someone I can trust. Jeff wanted to be that someone, but I don’t think he can be. For so long, he was on the outside looking in. No one would talk to him. He’s found friends now, and he’s enjoying that. I understand, I really do. Doors have opened up for him that didn’t exist before. He’s probably sat alone many nights crying because he thought no one wanted to be his friend. Now, he has several. Tracy and I are his friends. Jimmy has become a friend, as has Murray. I don’t want to hold him back. I just have to find a way to talk to him. That is, if he’ll ever talk to me again.
I was exhausted by the time I got home. I plopped down in my chair and immediately fell asleep. I must have slept for about an hour when I heard someone opening the front door. My mother peeked in and asked if I was alright.
“I’m kind of tired,” I replied. “It’s been a hard day.”
She came in and sat beside me. “Your father called me and told me about the fight.” She examined the back of my head. “Are you sure you’re alright? Do you need to see the doctor?”
“No, Mom,” I assured her. “I’m okay. Just tired is all.” She rose and told me to get some sleep. I closed my eyes and rested for another hour.
When I woke, I heard her in the kitchen making dinner. Without my crutches, I hobbled into where she was. She turned when she heard me. “Shouldn’t you be using your crutches?” she asked worriedly.
“I’m trying to not use them as often,” I explained. “I need to build my muscles back up for when they take this stupid cast off.” I lightly hit it as I sat down at the counter. She went to the refrigerator, poured some orange juice into a glass and handed it to me.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said appreciatively. She smiled and continued preparing the baked pork chops. When she finished and was peeling potatoes, I asked, “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, Honey,” she replied as she stopped what she was doing and looked worriedly at me.
“Never mind,” I said as I took a swig of orange juice.
She asked, “Is it important?”
I shrugged my shoulders. I was hesitant to talk to her about what was bothering me. It was only the past week we had been getting along better. I didn’t want to upset her again.
She sat in the seat beside me. “What is on your mind, Jack?”
I sighed and hesitated a minute before responding. “When do you know you’re in love?”
She appeared startled by my question. I guess she thought I was going to complain about my pain. She rose, walked around the counter and began peeling potatoes. I sighed again and said, “Never mind, Mom.”
She placed the knife on the counter, wiped her hands off with a towel and responded. “It’s okay, Jack.” She laughed nervously. “I figured we would have this talk someday; I just didn’t think it would be today.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” I replied as I stood. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“Sit down, Jack,” she insisted as she sat beside me. She took a deep breath and said, “I can handle this. I had this same talk with your sister three years ago.” She laughed nervously and added, “I guess it isn’t much different, is it?”
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I guess not.”
She asked softly, “Do you think you’re in love?”
I shook my head, “I don’t think so.”
“Is it Jeff?” she asked.
“No,” I sighed deeply. “I don’t think I’m in love with him.”
“I see,” she said. “Then what is the problem?”
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “Jeff wants me to be his boyfriend, but I’m not sure.”
She laughed and said, “I thought Jeff was already your boyfriend.”
“He wants to be,” I said, “But I’m not ready yet. I think I’m too young to know what love is.”
She smiled and replied, “You’re a smart boy, Jack. When all this happened, I didn’t know what to do. It really confused me.”
“You?” I laughed. “It wasn’t easy for me, either.”
“I know that now,” she admitted. “I think I’m ready for the next phase.”
Tears welled up in her eyes as she replied, “You falling in love.”
“I’m not in love,” I responded emotionally. “At least I don’t think so.”
“Then why are we having this conversation?”
My face reddened. “Well, there’s this boy I met.”
“I see,” she smiled. “And he’s not Jeff?” I shook my head. “And now you’re afraid of hurting Jeff?”
“I think so,” I admitted.
“Does the boy have a name?”
I giggled and said, “Of course he has a name.”
“Who is he?”
“I’d rather not say. I’m not sure yet.”
“Yes, you are,” she smiled gently. She stood and ran her hand through my hair. “When the moment comes, you’ll know what to do.” She picked up the knife and continued to peel potatoes.
I rose and started to leave. Before exiting the door, I stopped and said, “Thanks, Mom.”
She winked and replied, “You’re welcome, Jack.”