I waited nervously in the family room watching television with Josh while Mom and Dad remained in my room with Billy and Lonnie. I couldn’t believe that they had been so careless as to make-out in front of Mom and Brenda. Everyone just got carried away to the music. Even Mom was having fun until she saw what they were doing.
Josh came over to the sofa, lay down and put his head in my lap. “Where’s Mommy?” He curled up as I gently stroked his head. It was something Mom usually did at night to get him to go to sleep.
“Talking to Billy,” I said nonchalantly. I didn’t want him to become suspicious. At twelve, I’m sure he had heard the word, gay, playfully bantered about by his friends. I knew that soon I’d have to sit down and discuss it with him. As he began to fall asleep, I silently wished that he were straight. I wasn’t sure how Mom and Dad would react if they had three gay sons.
After about forty-five minutes, Dad walked Lonnie to the door. They stood talking quietly for several minutes before Dad patted Lonnie on the back as he left. He then came into the family room and motioned for me to join him out on the deck. I gently removed Josh’s head from my lap, got up and joined him outside.
As he had when he discovered I was gay, he was standing by the swing smoking a cigarette. He took a final puff and flipped it into the neighbor’s yard. He then looked up at me.
“How long have you known?” We sat down in adjoining swings.
“About two weeks,” I said. I looked over at his face. He appeared tired. He had spent the past week dealing with me, now he had to deal with Billy. Suddenly, I felt sorry for him. I realized how hard it must be to be a parent sometimes.
“Your mother and I suspected it,” he said as he lit another cigarette. “We were just waiting to see if it was a stage he was going through.” He looked over at me sadly and shook his head. “I really don’t know how these things work.”
“Who does,” I laughed nervously.
“It’s just strange.” He appeared to be talking more to himself than me. “We have six children and two are gay.” He chuckled to himself. “Well, the verdict is still out on Brenda and Josh.”
“Are you upset?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Your mother and I will handle it. Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we expect it to.”
“Yeah,” I replied. He got up and waited for me to get off the swing. He threw his hand around my shoulder as we headed for the house. Before going in, he stopped.
“Zac,” he spoke in a serious tone. “You’re the older brother. Protect Billy. He’s young. I know you don’t have all the answers, but he looks up to you and admires you.”
“I’ll do my best, Dad.” He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it.
“I know you will.” When we entered the house, he headed toward to the family room. I peeked in and saw Mom sitting on the sofa. Josh was asleep with his head in her lap as she gently stroked his head.
Billy was lying on his bed reading a comic book when I entered. I went over and flopped down on my bed. He got up, came over, and lay down beside me.
“What happened?” I asked. Since I had already talked to Dad, I knew that things hadn’t been too bad for him.
“I got The Talk,” he said as he held up his fingers and made a quote sign.
“Were they upset?”
“Naw,” he said. “They told me they thought I might be gay. Mom was pissed because Lonnie was doing what he did in front of Brenda.” He lifted his head and looked embarrassedly at me. “They wanted to know what we’ve done so far.”
“Did you tell them?” I still couldn’t believe that I was nineteen and Billy was only fourteen; however, he was the one who was sexually active.
“Not really,” he replied. “I kind of lied and told them we’ve just played around a little.” He lifted himself on his elbow and looked pleadingly at me. “You won’t tell them me and Lonnie have sucked each other’s dicks, will you?”
“Jesus, Billy,” I laughed. “I told you I don’t want to know these things.” I remained silent for a minute before asking, “What about Lonnie? Is Dad going to talk to his father?”
“I don’t think so,” replied my brother. “Lonnie told him he’d already talked to his parents about being gay, so I think he’s going to leave it alone for now. He warned us if he catches us doing anything again, he’ll have a talk with them.”
“You’d better be careful,” I warned.
“Well,” he added. “You don’t have to worry about the knock twice and wait thirty seconds anymore.”
“Dad said we have to leave the door open when we’re in here alone.” He started grinning mischievously. “I guess I’ll be spending more time over at Lonnie’s house.”
“You’re a perv,” I laughed.
“Yeah,” he giggled. He moved around on bed, laid his head on my stomach and looked up at the ceiling. “Zac?”
“Do you think it’s wrong?”
“You know,” he let out a sigh. “Being gay?”
“No,” I replied assuredly. “Do you?”
“No,” he answered. “It’s just who I am.” I reached down and gently stroked his head as I had with Josh earlier. “This is nice,” he purred like a kitten.
I then removed the chain with the rainbow pendant from around my neck and handed it to him. “What’s this?” he asked as he twirled it in his fingers. I watched as he read the small engraving of the word, proud.
“I want you to have it.” I took it from his hands and placed the gold chain around his neck. We remained silent for several minutes as I continued to run my hand gently over his head.
“I love you.”
“Ditto, Little Brother.”
I got out of bed the next morning after Billy left the room. We chatted while he was getting dressed and he hinted a couple of times about me taking him and Lonnie to school. I felt guilty making them walk when they looked forward to riding in my truck. “What’s so important about image?” I thought as I dressed quickly. “Family is more important.”
His eyes lit up when I walked into the kitchen and announced I would take him to school. He immediately got on his cell phone and called Lonnie. When I sat down, Mom placed a large plate of bacon, eggs and toast in front of me. “Eat up, Zac,” she insisted. “You’re too skinny. People will think we don’t have any money to feed you.”
I started laughing. “I’m a runner, Mom. People expect me to be skinny. Besides, have you ever seen a fat runner?”
She stood over me and looked down at my body. “Well, you don’t have to be so skinny.” I took a couple bites of bacon, and then pushed my plate over to Billy who quickly forked the remaining food onto his plate.
Dad came to the table, sat down and opened the newspaper as he does every morning. He usually doesn’t say much until after he’s had his morning coffee. I thought it was strange that nothing seemed to have changed. Within a week, they had discovered that two of their sons were gay, yet they went about as if nothing had happened. I thought how lucky Billy and I were to have such accepting parents. I only wish that Adrian’s parents would be as supportive.
“Daddy?” Everyone looked over at Josh. He usually said very little at the table. Being the youngest, it was hard for him to sometimes to join in on our conversations. My father put down his paper and looked at him.
He cast his eyes downward at his plate and mumbled, “Never mind.”
“What’s wrong, Josh?” My mother asked worriedly.
He looked back at my father and stammered out, “Umm, umm, do you think I could have a cell phone?” He then looked back down at his plate.
“Why?” My father asked. “You’re only twelve. Why would you need a phone?”
His face began to redden. “There’s this girl at school. Her name is Stephanie.” His face turned even redder. “And she said if I had a phone, I could, umm, like call her.”
Billy started giggling. “Ohhh!” he shrieked, “Joshie’s got a girlfriend!”
“Do not!” Josh squealed back.
“Do too!” Billy replied.
“Boys!” My father yelled trying to stifle a laugh. He looked over at me and winked. “I think if Josh wants a phone, then we can work something out.”
“Really!” Josh squealed. “I can have a phone?”
“I think we can manage that,” he said as Josh started bouncing in his seat. “But we’ll talk about the responsibilities of you having one. One, you can’t talk to this Stephanie until after you’ve done your homework.”
“Okay, Daddy!” Josh jumped up, ran over, and gave our father a big hug. Dad looked at me and winked again. I think he was relieved that Josh was interested in calling a girl. If Josh had asked at that minute, I’m sure Dad would probably have bought him a car to take her on a date.
“We’ll go get you one when you get home from school.” Josh hugged him tighter. The rest of the breakfast conversation centered around Josh’s phone. Mom and Dad went over the rules of being responsible enough to have one. Billy and I had heard the same lecture when they gave us our phones.
When Billy and I pulled up in front of his house, Lonnie ran out and jumped in beside Billy. He was still excited about what had happened the night before and wanted to know what happened after he left. Billy turned and proudly showed him the pendant I had given him.
“Cool!” Lonnie said as he examined it. “Where’d you get it, Zac? I’m going to have Mom buy me one, too.” I told him about Irene and the kiosk in the mall. He said he was going to get one so he and Billy would have matching necklaces. When I dropped them off, they entered the building side by side as they always did. It was as if nothing had happened the night before.
I went to a Starbucks and got a cup of coffee. I was bored and there really wasn’t anything to do. I didn’t want to go home because no one was there and I didn’t feel like watching television or playing video games. I had completed all the homework assignments Valerie had given me from my teachers.
I waited around until ten o’clock when the mall opened. I thought I would go visit Irene and see if she had another rainbow pendant. I was going to surprise Lonnie with it.
“Hey!” She smiled when I walked up. The mall was empty since it was early, so we stood around and talked as we had the day before. She told me more about her girlfriend and how much she missed her.
“What are you doing Saturday night?” she asked. “Want to go to a movie?”
I pretended to get out an appointment book and thumb through it. “Let me see,” I said as I turned imaginary pages. “Saturday night?” She giggled as I continued to turn pages. I looked up and smiled. “Seems like I’m free.”
“You’re crazy,” she giggled. “I can pick you up at six and we can go out and get a bite to eat before we go to the show.”
“I have a truck,” I said. “I can pick you up.”
“I asked you out,” she giggled, “so I get to pick you up. Besides, I want to meet your family. From what you’ve told me, they seem like wonderful people.”
“Okay,” I laughed. “It’s a date. But don’t be surprised if Mom asks you a million questions.”
“She can’t be any worse than mine,” laughed Irene.
“Don’t bet on it.” I watched as Irene looked behind me and started smiling.
“Omari!” She said excitedly. I felt my heart stop when he walked up beside me and patted me on my back.
“Hey,” he said. “I’m surprised to see you here again.”
Irene gave us a puzzled look. “You two know each other?”
My face reddened when Omari looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes and winked. “We’ve met.” Irene kept looking back and forth between us. I knew when she gave me a mischievous grin what was coming next.
“Are you busy Saturday night, Omari?” I attempted to shake my head slightly, but she grinned and looked at him. She took my arm and held it. “Zac and I are going to a movie. Would you like to join us?”
His eyes lit up as he stared at me. “I’d love to,” he announced.
I felt trapped as Irene and Omari made plans. She was going to pick him up at his apartment, and then come to get me. Not only did I have to explain to my parents why I was going out with a girl five years older than me, I would also have to explain why I was going out with an extremely handsome guy.
Omari looked at his watch and announced he had to get back to work. After giving Irene a hug and patting me gently on my back, he turned and walked away.
“You can thank me later,” giggled Irene.
“I’m not looking for a boyfriend,” I insisted.
“God, Zac,” she replied dreamily as she watched Omari walking down the aisle of the mall. “If I was straight and someone as knockout gorgeous as Omari showed the slightest interest in me, I’d be all over his body.”
“You’re a bigger pervert than my brother,” I laughed.
“Seriously, Zac,” she said. “Omari is really into you. Didn’t you see the way he looks at you? He told me yesterday about this guy he met. He said he really liked him. When he walked up a few minutes ago and looked at you the way he did, then I knew it was you he was talking about.”
“So you just had to ask him to join us Saturday night?”
“Well, duh,” she giggled. “Like I said, you can thank me later.”
“Well, like I told you,” I warned. “I’m not looking for a boyfriend.”
“Sure,” she said sarcastically. I spent another half hour talking to her. She also had a matching rainbow pendant for Lonnie. She even gave me a fifty percent discount when I told why I wanted it. When the mall began to get more crowded and people started to walk up to the kiosk, I decide to leave. I made sure I left the mall without Omari seeing me.
I awoke the next morning around 4:30. It’s amazing I got any sleep at all. Fortunately, after jacking off around one I was finally able to get a little bit of sleep. It was Friday morning and soon I’d be returning to school for the first time since my suspension. I didn’t know what to expect.
Well, I did know what to expect, I just didn’t want to think about it. The guys stopping by my house two nights ago helped. I knew I wouldn’t have any problems on the track, but in the halls and classrooms might be different. Everyone now knew I was gay. Billy had hinted to me a couple of times that people were talking about it. He said he was doing what I asked him to do- ignore them.
“Good morning, Dear,” my mother sang out when I entered the kitchen and sat down.
“You look like shit,” Billy announced as he looked over at me. Josh giggled when Mom took off her slipper and threw it at him.
“Do you kiss your mother with that dirty mouth?” She tried to sound serious, but started laughing when Billy got up and planted a wet kiss on her cheek.
I started laughing at their antics. It was what I needed to take my mind off what might happen. Josh kept talking excitedly about the phone Dad was going to get him after school. At one point he even admitted he like Stephanie, which started Billy to kid him unmercifully. Josh got angry and left the table, but not before flipping Billy off when our mother’s back was turned.
We picked Lonnie up at his home, and as usual, he talked all the way to school. He squealed with delight when I handed him the pendant and necklace. I almost lost control of the truck when he leaned over Billy and gave me a big hug. He was still holding it in his hand when I dropped them off in front of the building and then parked my car in the student parking lot.
As I walked toward the school, Rory pulled up and rolled down his window. “Hold on, Zac,” he said as he slowly pulled away. “We’ll walk in with you.” I bent down and saw three other members of the track team in the car. He parked and they jumped out. They shook my hand and told me it was good to see me back.
It was kind of weird to walk down the hall to my first period surrounded by my friends. It was as if they were shielding me from other students. I studied the faces of people we passed in the hall, but no one seemed to be paying me any attention. A couple of seniors nodded to me as I passed by, but I didn’t hear any derogatory names directed at me.
“I can take it from here,” I laughed as I walked up to my first period class. “Thanks, Guys.” They patted me on my back and walked away. When I entered the room, everyone was standing around and talking, waiting for the bell to ring.
“Zac!” I jumped when someone shouted out my name. Bev Mitchell came running over and hugged me. She was a member of the girls’ track team. Soon several other girls surrounded me and hugged me. I was completely surprised. It was not the welcome I was expecting.
As I took my seat, a couple of guys walked up and told me it was good to see me. Several even gave me a pat on the back after I sat down. Mr. Kennedy walked in just before the bell rang. He looked back, noticed me in my seat and nodded.
The rest of the morning went the same way. Each class I entered, everyone told me it was good to see me back. Each of my teachers readily accepted the homework assignments they had given Valerie. My trigonometry teacher even told me I could make up a quiz she had given the day before.
On the way to third period, I passed Kenny. He looked my way and moved to the other side of the hallway in order to avoid me. Justin was walking with me and noticed his actions.
“He’s a jackass,” he muttered under his breath. He then told me how many students were angry with him for what he had done to me. Except for his friends on the baseball team, almost no one else would talk to him. I thought it was ironic that he was being treated the way I had expected to be treated. Instead, no one seemed to really care that I was gay. In fact, I hadn’t even heard the word mentioned the entire morning. After all my worries, my world had actually changed very little.
A few underclassmen gawked at me in the hallway, but they didn’t say anything. I think most of them were intrigued because they knew I was Billy’s brother. He had mentioned that a couple of his classmates had asked him what it was like to have a gay brother. He said his response was, “I don’t know. What’s it like for your brother to have an asshole for one?” He said they’d give him a puzzled look before walking away.
Rory and Carson were in my fourth period class. When the bell rang, they waited outside in the hall for me to come out. They then walked with me to the cafeteria. When I entered, I saw Adrian and Valerie sitting at their usual table. Rory grabbed my arm and led me to a table where several members of the track team had gathered.
As I was eating, I looked over at the table where Kenny, Rachel, Alise and I used to eat. Four other students were sitting there. I scanned the cafeteria and noticed that Kenny was sitting with members of the baseball team. He was eating quietly while they were engaged in a lively conversation. I looked around the cafeteria for Rachel and Alise, but I didn’t see them.
Again, no one mentioned what had happened in the locker room between Kenny and me. Instead, the guys seemed excited about our first track meet next Saturday. When the bell rang, they all told me they’d see me after school.
As I was leaving the cafeteria, heading to my fifth period class, Valerie walked up from behind me and took my arm. “Are you still mad at me?”
“No,” I joked. “Only dogs get mad.”
“Then are you still upset with me?”
“I was never upset with you,” I informed her.
“Then are you upset with Adrian?”
I pulled her over to the side. “Look, Valerie,” I said. “You’ve made it clear that Adrian doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. I was home for three days and not once did he call me. I may not be the brightest bulb in the pack, but I get it. Okay?”
“You don’t understand,” she said sadly.
“You’re wrong,” I insisted. “I do understand.” I started to walk away, but turned to her. I leaned down and whispered, “Tell Adrian not to worry. His secret is safe with me.” I then turned and walked away.
As I walked to class, I felt like my heart was going to burst. Indirectly, I had broken up with Adrian, even before we had been given a chance to be a couple. We had never even been on a date, but I felt worse now than when I realized I was going to break up with Rachel whom I had dated for two years.
I wanted things to be different. I wished that we lived at different time and place where we could freely love each other. The love was there, I was sure of that. He just lived in a world that prevented us from being together. I could help him break down the walls, but he would have to indicate to me that he loved me enough to want me to help him. There was a deep divide separating us. There was also a wall he had built to keep us apart.
I guess Marty was right. I had run a good race. I had given it my best shot. There was no more I could do. I now had to shake off the loss and prepare for the next race.
As soon as I entered the locker room, I heard the familiar smack of a towel and then a loud yelp. I started laughing when I saw Justin rubbing his leg where a big welt was starting to appear. “I’ll get you back!” He screamed as he chased Chuck Rosewell from the room furling a yellow towel.
I dressed and went out to the track. Coach Templeton and Marty were standing in the middle of the field when I ran out with some of the other players. Marty motioned me to come over and join them.
“Hey,” he smiled as he held out his hand. Coach Templeton put his hand on my shoulder.
“How is everything going?” Coach asked. “I guess the guys had a talk with you?”
“Yes, Coach,” I replied. I looked over at Marty and smiled. “I think things are going to be okay.”
“Good.” Coach patted me on my back. “Now give me twenty laps.” I moaned and took off running.
We practiced for an hour and a half. There are six sprinters on the team, and none of the others even came close to my times. Each time I ran, Marty would use a stopwatch to record my times. He gave me a thumbs up on two of my races.
“Impressive,” he said as I trotted up to him after we’d been told to go shower. “You’re only five tenths of a second off from the winning time at the state meet last year. If you keep improving like you are now, you’re going to be standing on the top block in May.”
“I hope so,” I said confidently. I could tell I was stronger and faster than last year when I came in sixth place. I may not place first, but I was sure I’d beat last year’s performance.
Marty threw his arm around my shoulder and led me away from where the others were entering the locker room. He led me into a small conference room and turned on the light. We sat down and he turned his chair so he was facing me. “How is everything else going? You can prepare for a race physically, but you also have to be mentally in shape as well.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. I guess things are getting better.”
“How about you and that kid you were fighting?” he asked. “Is he giving you any more problems?”
“No,” I answered. “He’s leaving me alone- at least for now.”
“And what about Adrian?”
I started laughing. “You mean Door Number Three?” He nodded. “Not going as expected.” He listened attentively while I told him about Adrian’s fears of being outed and the consequences it could have if his father discovered he was gay.
“Sounds like a lose-lose situation,” Marty stated.
“No shit,” I laughed nervously. “And I really liked the guy.”
“Maybe he’ll come around,” Marty volunteered. “He is old enough to make up his own mind.”
“I doubt it,” I said. “Besides, I’ve decided to go for Door Number Two?” He gave me a puzzled look. I told him about Omari and our unofficial date on Saturday with Irene.
“He seems safe,” I said. “He’s gay and he’s out. He seems like a pretty nice guy.”
Marty looked at me worriedly. “Just remember what we talked about. Sometimes what is behind one door isn’t as nice a prize as what’s behind another.”
I nodded my head, got up and left the room.