Brittle as a Bird

Chapter 16

I’m at the lake. Figures, huh? I got up early and headed out before Ticker woke up. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I needed some time to be by myself and try to piece things together.

I looked in the mirror while I was getting dressed, and my eye is swollen and bruised. Fortunately, my eye isn’t closed shut. Ticker gave me some ice when we got home, and I applied it to my face for a while. It seems to have helped a little.

I still can’t get over what happened. In his drunken state, Gene came on to me last night. By doing so, he outed himself to everyone at school. What is amazing is that Barry had no idea that his best friend is gay. Why would someone like Gene have a homophobic friend?  If he was trying to use him as a shield to hide his own sexuality, then it completely backfired last night.

I should feel glad that he finally got what he deserved, but I don’t. Actually, thinking back, Gene really never did seem to want to hassle me. Barry was always the instigator, trying to set him against me. Perhaps, Barry did suspect Gene was gay, and that was his way to test him. Last night he discovered the truth, and his reaction was violent.

By the look of Gene’s face last night, Barry must have pummeled him pretty badly. His face was a bloody mess. I’m sure he was sore this morning after the effects of the alcohol wore off.

Why do I feel so sorry for him though? Every fiber of my body says I should hate him, but I don’t. Looking at him lying completely devastated on the ground last night should have brought some closure to all the times I’ve been teased unmercifully by Gene, Barry and all the rest. However, I cried when I saw his crumpled body.

Maybe it was the fact that he was Allen’s brother that made me sorrowful. However, I remembered how Star said Gene had treated him the past few years. Again, could rejecting his brother have been an attempt to hide his own sexuality? Star did say that his father watched Gene like a hawk. Therefore, by going along with his father’s hostility could also have been a cover.

The more I thought about it, the more sorrow I felt for Gene. He must have known when his father kicked Allen out of the house that he was gay, or maybe suspected it. So then all these years, he must have feared that the same would happen to him if his secret was discovered.

I also worried about how Allen would handle the news. From some of the things he said, he hated Gene for turning away from him. Of course Gene was a young boy when it occurred, but he was now old enough to make his own decisions. It was obvious he didn’t want to resume a brotherly relationship. Even Mrs. Albright had suggested that. She also seemed disappointed with Gene’s behavior. I wonder how she was reacting to the revelation that her other son was also gay?

I need to see Allen, but I’m afraid to confront him. I don’t want to be the one to tell him about the events of last night. He would certainly want to know how I got my black eye. What could I say? “Your brother kissed me, and I got my ass kicked.”

I was also faced with another dilemma that had been kicking around in the back of my mind since the kiss. What if I liked it?

I was just beginning to consider a relationship with Allen. With all the baggage we both carried, I still felt very strongly for him. In fact, I think I’m beginning to fall in love with him.

What if Gene really does like me? I’ve admired him for years from a distance. Who wouldn’t? I just always assumed he was straight and was therefore forbidden fruit. Now I find out he’s secretly wanted me- Joey Carpenter. It is every gay boy’s dream come true.

Shit, what a mess. This isn’t something that you can just toss a coin and make a decision. Hearts are at stake, and I have to be careful to protect mine. I’ve never been in love before, so I don’t have a lot of experience in things like this.

Is what I feel for Allen strong enough to forget what had happened last night? We are still talking about our feelings. We are beginning to define us together. Now Gene is thrown into the equation. Could everything fall apart now? As usual, my life continues to unravel. Why is it always one step forward and three steps back?


“Where have you been?” Star was screaming frantically into the phone. I’d returned to Ticker’s house earlier, and I was now lying on the cot. Ticker hadn’t said a word to me when he handed me the phone.

“I took a walk,” I replied.

“Are you all right?” Her tone had shifted from anxiety to concern.

“Yeah,” I laughed. “Why wouldn’t I be all right?”

“Come, on, Joey. This isn’t funny.”

“I know. It’s just the typical shit that happens to me.”

“I told you last night,” she insisted. “It’s not your fault.” There was a pause. I guess she was waiting for me to say something. When I didn’t she asked, “Have you seen Gene?”

“Why would I see him?”

“He took off in his car last night and no one has seen him. Gina is frantic.”

“His father probably isn‘t too happy, either,” I said.

“He’s in Kuwait for a month,” she informed me. “He has no idea what’s going on.”

“Does his mother?”

“I’m afraid so,” her voiced started to tremble. “Barry came home about thirty minutes after you and Ticker left. Before we could stop him, he went over to their front door and pounded on it. He kept yelling for the fag to come outside so he could beat the shit out of him again.”

“Damn,” I muttered.

“Gina called me later and asked me to come over and explain what was going on. I tried to lie, but she eventually got the truth out of me.”

“What did she say?”

“Nothing.” Star became emotional. “She thanked me and then went to her bedroom. I waited around for a little while, and then I left.”

“Poor woman,” I said. I had grown very fond of Mrs. Albright. She had recently been treating me as if I were one of her sons. I loved it when she reached out and hugged me. She also seemed to be encouraging me to become closer to Allen. I don’t know if she wanted me to be his lover, but she did want me to become a better friend. “She had to deal with Allen’s problems, and now she finds out her other son is gay.”

“I still can’t believe it,” exclaimed Star. “I’ve known Gene all my life, and I never suspected anything like this.”

“Maybe he’s not gay,” I suggested. “Maybe he just got drunk and did something stupid.”

“Kissing you is not stupid,” she replied. “Taking off your clothes and running around naked is stupid. Kissing another guy isn’t. It must have been something he’s thought about for a long time.”

“That’s what he said,” I responded. “So no one has seen him?”

“No,” she answered. “He tore off down the street and disappeared. I’ve called everyone I know, and no one has seen him. In fact, most people don’t want to see him.”

“Have you called Allen?”

“I doubt he’d go there,” she said. “Allen would be the last person he’d run to.”

“Does he know what happened?” I didn’t know how Allen would take the news. It would be bad enough to find out his brother was gay; but then to discover he outed himself by kissing me.

“I’m going over there in a little while,” she replied. “I need to make a few more calls. Do you want to go with me?

“I don’t think so,” I laughed nervously. “I don’t want to be there when he finds out about all this. He may never want to see me again.”

“Joey!” she shouted into the phone. “This is not your fault!”

“I know,” I sighed. “But it’s the same shit that always happens to me.”

“I’ll be sure that Allen understands you had nothing to do with this,” she replied. “Will you come by later after I’ve talked to him? He may want to see you.”

“Yeah,” I laughed. “To kick my ass.”

“He’s not going to kick your ass,” she assured me. “He cares too much about you.”

“He won’t after he finds out what happened.”

“Come by around seven,” she replied. “See you then.” She hung up while I sat on the side of the cot and wondered how Allen would take the news.


“Where were you last night?” Star was waiting for me at my locker when I arrived at school. Once again, I seemed to be the center of attention. Students giggled and snickered when I walked down the hallway sporting a black eye. I guess most students had spent Sunday getting the latest school gossip.

“How did Allen take the news?” I asked. Star stood staring into my eyes.

“It was really strange,” she replied. “He didn’t say anything. It was as if he didn’t even hear me. When I tried to get him to say something, he changed the subject.”

“Is he mad at me?” I asked.

“Why would he be mad at you? You didn’t do anything.”

There was a commotion in the hall, and we looked to see why everyone was so excited. Students parted, and we saw Gene walking toward us. He was trying to ignore the comments being made to him, but you could tell by the strained look on his face that he was deeply hurt. Just forty-eight hours earlier he had been the most popular guy in school. Now he was the brunt of many rude and hateful comments. I knew what he was feeling, because I had been there myself.

He looked like he was in a great deal of pain. His face still showed the beating Barry had given him. One of his eyes was darker than mine, and the side of his face was still puffy and red.

“I’m going to cry,” stated Star. “This is too sad.” He continued to walk and ignore the comments being directed at him. Fag, Queer, Homo. I’d heard them so many times that it would surprise me if I didn’t hear someone say something to me. However, witnessing someone else being the recipient of such hatred hurt me.

“See you later.” Star ran over and grabbed Gene’s arm. He flinched at first, but he seemed relieved that he was no longer alone. I felt compelled to join them, but I knew it would only make the situation worse.

The morning classes went as I expected. Students laughed and giggled when they saw my black eye. It was usually associated with Gene’s name and a reference to our kiss. What was strange was that no one seemed to be blaming me. Barry must have told everyone that Gene had instigated the kiss. I think they were surprised because Gene had kissed me. They already knew I was gay, so it wouldn’t have been as newsworthy if I had made an attempt to kiss him.

“No wonder he hardly ever dated,” remarked a girl in my second period class. “We should have known he was a fag.”

“Yeah,” replied her friend. “I went out with him two years ago and tried to make out with him. He pushed me off and said he had a bad cold and he didn’t want me to catch it. I should have figured it out then.”

Then her friend looked at me and sneered, “Can you believe he kissed HIM?” She said it as if I were a leper. I smiled and flipped her off. Her eyes widened, and then she turned her back and continued her conversation.

Students bumped and pushed into me while I walked down the hall to my classes. I spotted Gene once, and he looked pathetic. He ambled along with his head hung down and refused to look at anyone. As he approached, he looked up and our eyes met briefly, but he quickly looked down as he passed.

Ticker and Star were waiting for me when I entered the cafeteria. I planned to tell them that I was going to spend the lunch hour in the library, but Star insisted that I stay and eat with them. I reluctantly went to cafeteria line and got my usual slice of cardboard and cold fries.

On the way back to my table, I didn’t see someone put out their foot to trip me. I fell to the ground and dropped my food on the floor. The cafeteria erupted into laughter. Some students stood on their chairs to witness me sprawled out on the floor.

“Fucking fag!” Someone called out. I stood up and quickly left the cafeteria. I could hear Star behind me shouting my name. I exited the building and hurried down the sidewalk toward Sullivan Lake.

I was half way there when I turned and started walking downtown. Before I realized it, I was knocking on Allen’s door. After three knocks, he opened it and I fell into his arms.

“Hold me, please!” I cried. We stood in the doorway, weeping into each other’s shoulders for several minutes before Allen finally pulled me inside and closed the door.

He led me over to the couch, and I placed my head in his lap. Unable to stop crying, he gently rubbed his hand through my hair.

I sat up and looked into his face. He smiled and then got up and walked into the kitchen, returning with a roll of paper towels.

“Here,” he laughed as he handed me a towel. “Wipe the snot off your face.” I took it and blew my nose several times. He then pulled me back into him. I rested my head on his shoulder and sighed.

“Thanks,” I mumbled softly. “I’m glad you were here.” He squeezed me tighter. After several minutes I sat up and looked at him.

“I’m sorry.”

A puzzled look appeared on his face. “Why would you be sorry?”

“I don’t know,” I replied as tears started to reappear. “I feel like I’ve hurt you.”

Tears welled up in his eyes as he reached for me and held me again. “You haven’t done anything,” he whispered in my ear.

I then kissed him. We wrapped our arms around each other as we kissed passionately. As I closed my eyes, I envisioned Gene’s lips pressed to mine. I remembered the kiss we had shared on the porch. When I opened my eyes, Allen was staring into mine with a sad expression.

I stood up, grabbed his hand and tried to pull him off the couch. “Make love to me.”

“Sit down, Joey.” He patted the couch. Disappointedly, I sat back down. I had intended to take him to the bed and have sex with him. At the moment, I really felt I needed to be closer to him.

I leaned in and kissed him again. “I want you, Allen,” I whispered in his ear. I reached down and rubbed his erection through his pants.

He took my hand and moved it away. I gave him a disappointed look. “It’s not right, Joey. This isn’t the time.”

“Yes it is, Allen.” Once again I kissed him and rubbed his cock. “I love you. I want you to fuck me.”

He got up and looked sadly down at me. “This isn’t the time, Joey.”

Tears started welling up in my eyes. “Are you mad at me for what happened?”

“No,” he said as he sat back down and took my hand. “I’m not mad at you. It wasn’t your fault.”

“Then why won’t you make love to me,” I begged. “I want you.”

“Joey,” he replied softly. “If we went over to the bed and had sex the rest of the afternoon, would it really make anything better? Would it make things just go away?”

I buried my head in my hands. “I’m so confused right now.”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” stated Allen. “If and when we make love, it has to be just right. But now isn’t that time.”

I stared at him with tearful eyes. “I really do love you.”

“I know you do,” he said with a gentle kiss. “And I love you.”

I leaned back against him and buried my head in his shoulder. He threw an arm around me and held be tightly for about ten minutes. Finally he asked, “Tell me what happened Saturday.”

I told him about the events at the party. I told him how I had wanted to leave, but Star and Ticker were having a good time playing Monopoly. I then told him how I had walked around to the front of the farmhouse to be alone. I told him how Gene had drunkenly approached me and kissed me. He seemed concerned when I told him how Barry had violently attacked him, leaving him with a bruised and battered face.

He sat silently beside me. “What are you thinking?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” he responded. “I don’t know how to feel. Gene and I were really close. For years he followed me around like a puppy. I used to get mad at him because he always wanted to be with me. You know,” he looked at me and smiled, “he was cramping my style.”

“He really seemed upset when you fell down the stairs,” I said. He gave me a questioning look. “I sort of spoke to him at school.” I told Allen how Gene had found out about his injury when I spent the night at his house.

“You slept in my bedroom!” he shouted. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“We weren’t talking,” I giggled. “Remember.” Unexpectedly, he leaned in and gave me a quick kiss.

“That was nice,” I grinned. I leaned in and kissed him. I wiggled my eyebrows and nodded toward the bed. “You sure? After all, I did sleep in your bed.” He sat back and laughed.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” He grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “Did you see Gene at school today?”

“Yeah,” I replied sadly. I told him how other students had been treating both of us. Tears appeared in his eyes when I told him how someone had tripped me in the cafeteria.

“Why did you come here?”

“I don’t know,” I responded. “It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

“I’m glad you did,” he said. “I wonder how Gene is doing?”

“Not very well,” I replied sadly. “For years I’ve experienced their wrath. It’s going to be really hard for him since he was so popular. No one saw this coming.”

“I should have,” stated Allen. I gave him a puzzled look. “I had a feeling when he was little, and I was out running around. He kept asking me a lot of questions.”

“About what?” I asked.

“Typical sex things guys first start asking when they discover they have a dick that wants to do more than just piss.”

“Did you think he was gay then?”

“I don’t know,” said Allen. “But a lot of his questions dealt with sex between guys. You know, things like sucking a guy’s dick.”

Suddenly, it occurred to me that Gene and I had both probably questioned our sexuality around the same time. Having sex with Uncle Mike made me realize that I was gay. It had to have been around that time that Gene began to realize the same thing.

“He never said anything about being gay?” I asked. Allen sat thoughtfully for a minute. I was sure he was trying to think back years ago to their conversations.

“Only once,” he said thoughtfully. “I’d almost forgotten. When his father found out I was gay, and he was giving me a lot of shit, Gene said something about how he’d have to be careful. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, but now it makes sense.”

“So he’s spent the past four or five years trying to hide the fact he’s gay?”

“It appears that way,” replied Allen. “Poor guy. It must have been hell. He saw what happened to me when his father found out.”

“But you said he treated you like shit,” I said.

“Now I understand why,” he replied. “He had to do it. His father didn’t give him much of a choice.”

Just then someone started knocking at the door. I looked at the clock on the wall and realized it had to be Star stopping by after school. Allen got up and opened the door. His mother came barging in.

“Have you seen Gene?” she asked frantically. “He didn’t come home after school. I’ve called his cell phone, but he has it turned off.”

She walked over to me and asked, “Did you see him in school? How was he?”

What could I say? I didn’t want to tell her how he’d been treated by the other students. She was already to upset, and I didn’t want to make her worry more.

She stopped pacing around the room and walked over to me. She reached out and gently touched my face. “Look at you.” She gingerly touched my black eye. “So it is true then? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Mrs. Albright.” I winced when she applied some pressure to my sore eye.

“Did Barry do this to you, too?” She had a worried look on her face. “He beat Gene pretty badly.”

“I know,” I replied as I remembered him walking dejectedly down the hall earlier in the day with a battered face.

Allen asked, “You don’t have any idea where he is?”

“Not a clue,” his mother responded as she sat down beside Allen on the couch. “I’m worried sick. He was so depressed when he left the house this morning.”

“May I borrow your phone?” Mrs. Albright handed me her cell phone. “I’ll call Star; she may know where he is.”

“I already called her,” she stated.

Suddenly, I had an idea. I dialed Ticker’s number. “Ticker, do you have Billy Joe’s number?” I waited a minute while he searched his phone for it. “Okay, thanks.”

I walked outside and called from the sidewalk. “Billy Joe, it’s Joey. Have you seen Gene?”

I walked back upstairs and opened the door.

“I found him.”