“Where are you, Amy?” Everyone looked at me when I shouted into my phone. Bobby gave me a worried look.
“I’m not sure.” she responded nervously. “I hitched a ride with a trucker and he let me out when I wouldn’t have sex with him. I’m really scared.”
“Do you have any idea where you might be?” This sounded really serious. I was starting to get worried for Amy’s safety.
“There’s a restaurant down the street called the Wayside Inn, but I’m not sure what town this is.” She started to cry. She must have been through a terrible ordeal. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Listen, Amy.” I was trying to think how I could help her. “Let me make a phone call. Don’t turn your phone off. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
“All right. But hurry.” She hung up. I then called my Aunt Janice.
“Aunt Janice. Amy’s in trouble. We need your help,” I said excitedly.
“Slow down Mark. What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Amy ran away this morning.” I started to explain the situation to her. “She hitched a ride with a trucker and he let her out when she wouldn’t have sex with him.”
“Oh, Sweet Jesus!” she shouted. “Is she all right?”
“She seems to be, but she doesn’t know where she is. Are you familiar with a restaurant called the Wayside Inn?”
“My God, she’s a hundred miles away!” My stomach knotted when I heard this.
“Then you know where it is?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes. I’ve eaten there a few times. Call Amy back and tell her I’m on my way. Tell her to go to the restaurant and wait for me, and not to leave for any reason. I should be there in about an hour and a half.” I sighed with relief.
“Thanks, Aunt Janice. I’ll call her and tell her what you said. Bye.” I only hoped that Amy would be safe until she got there.
I called Amy back and told her what Aunt Janice had said. After feeling that she’d be safe, I called my mother. She was extremely upset, but relieved that Amy had called me. She said she was going to call and talk to her until Aunt Janice arrived.
When I hung up everyone was looking at me. Bobby scooted closer to me and asked if everything was all right. I could tell that he wanted to put his arm around me, but he was fighting the urge to do so.
I spent the next few minutes telling everyone what had happened. All of them had met Amy, so they were not surprised by her behavior. After wishing me well, they got up to head to class. Bobby stayed behind to comfort me.
“Everything will be all right, Mark. She’ll be safe.” I looked at him and saw the worried look on his face. I knew he didn’t like Amy, but it was nice that he was concerned about me.
“I know,” I said. “I just feel so helpless right now.” There wasn’t anything I could do. I couldn’t call her because my mother would be on the phone with her. Aunt Janice didn’t have a cell phone, so I couldn’t get any information from her. The only thing to do was wait until they called me later.
“Look at the two lovebirds.” I heard Scott’s voice behind me. I had been so preoccupied with Amy that I had completely forgotten about seeing him today. He bent down between us and looked us both in the face.
“Did you enjoy your little vacation?” A devilish smile appeared on his face as he looked at me. “You’d better watch your back. I’m not done with you two yet.”
He started to say more, but he noticed Dr. Johnson heading our way. He started walking away quickly. He still had his little group of followers trailing behind him. However, I didn’t see Richard with him.
“Are you going to be all right?” Bobby asked. “You think he’ll leave you alone today?”
“I really doubt it,” I replied. “You heard what he said.”
“Well be careful,” he warned me. The bell rang and he headed off to class. I headed to Mr. Allison’s room. I hadn’t been there since I left three days ago. I doubt he thought very highly of me now.
“Good morning, Mark,” he said as I entered the room. “I want you to sit here.” He pointed to a seat in the front row beside my friend Kristi. I sat down and looked at Mr. Allison. He was giving me a knowing smile. I nodded and whispered, ‘Thank you.’
Scott entered late again. He saw me sitting in the front and gave me a scowl. I think he was expecting me to be in the other seat so that he could torment me all period.
The rest of the morning went by without any problems. I’d tried a few times to contact my mother but her phone was busy. Aunt Janice must have arrived at the restaurant by now. I was till worried that something could happen to Amy.
Something that struck me as odd was the fact that Scott still seemed to be popular among his friends. In fact, they seemed to worship him even more. I think they thought he was some kind of celebrity because he was now considered to be the son of a gangster. I had overheard some students relating stories he was going around telling others. It seems he was making up lies to make his father seem like he was a member of the Mafia. According to the information on his inmate profile, he didn’t seem to be anything more than an average businessman who tried to line his pockets with other people’s money.
He was in my second period class, but again I sat towards the front of the room. This was the class that he had hit me in the back with the water balloon. Mrs. Bowen was sitting at her desk watching Scott and me intently. I think she was worried we were going to fight again. I also noticed that Dr. Johnson was standing outside the door right before class started. I became extremely embarrassed realizing that everyone was watching me.
The class went by without any problems. Scott brushed past me on his way out the door. He never missed a chance to remind me that he was always around. He was waiting outside the door when I left, but he didn’t say anything. His friends laughed at something he said. They were all watching me, so I know his joke had been directed at me.
Fortunately, he was not in my third period World History class. Since this was my first time attending all my classes, I didn’t know which ones we shared. At least I knew I had one period I wouldn’t have to worry about him. Richard was in this class, though. He took a seat beside me and we talked together after the teacher had given us our assignment.
“Has Scott been bothering you?” he asked.
“Not too much,” I replied. “I think Dr. Johnson is keeping an eye on him. She seems to be looking for a reason to put him out.”
“Yeah. He’s causing a lot of problems. Ever since you put up those posters, he’s into this thing about being the son of a mobster. It’s really crazy,” he informed me.
“I saw all his groupies kissing his ass like it was a bronze idol,” I said jokingly. “You don’t kiss it anymore?”
“Hell, no. I’m staying away from that crazy fucker,” he replied seriously. “I told you that at your house. He scares me.”
“You heard anything more?” I was still worried that he was going to hurt Bobby or me.
“Nothing really,” he said. “He seems to be lying low for now.”
“I hope he stays that way,” I said.
Just then my cell phone began to ring. I looked at the caller ID and saw it was my mother. I went up to the teacher’s desk and explained the situation to him. He gave me permission to go out into the hall and return my mother’s call.
“Mom!” I said excitedly. “Is Amy all right?”
“Yes, Mark,” she said softly. “She’s asleep right now. Aunt Janice arrived with her a little while ago. She wanted to go straight to bed, so we’re letting her sleep for a while.”
“She didn’t get hurt?” I asked.
“No, thankfully.” she sighed. “I shudder every time I think what could have happened to her. It really shook her up.”
“Do you want me to come home?” I was hoping she’d say yes, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
“No,” she said sternly. “You’ve already missed three days. You don’t need to miss any more. She’ll be all right. Aunt Janice is going to stay here for a couple of days.”
“Ok. Mom. I’ll see you after school then,” I said. I went back inside, but there were only a few minutes left. Richard gave me a questioning look. I told him everything was all right. No need to tell him what had happened this morning. We were friendly with each other, but I didn’t consider him a friend.
The bell rang and I headed for the cafeteria. We ate the first lunch period. I was surprised when Richard trailed behind me.
“Mind if I sit with you guys?” he asked timidly.
“I thought you didn’t want Scott to see you talking to me,” I reminded him of what he had suggested yesterday in my room.
“Fuck him,” he said angrily. “He hates me anyway, so what difference does it make.”
Bobby had a stunned look on his look when he came in the cafeteria and saw Richard standing beside me. He walked over cautiously. With everything that had happened this morning, I had forgotten to tell him what he’d said about Scott.
We went through the line without saying much. When I sat down, Bobby sat on my right and Richard sat on my left. Bobby kept glancing suspiciously at me. I laughed when I realized he was getting jealous. Maybe he did like me more than he let on.
“What’s he doing here?” Bobby leaned in and whispered in my ear. I couldn’t help it. This was my chance to get even with all the pranks he’d pulled on me the past few weeks.
“He wants to do a threesome with us after school. Is that all right with you?” I watched Bobby’s face go through a myriad of emotions. First, disbelief; then to shock, embarrassment and anger.
“What..are..you..talking..about?” he stammered. I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I started laughing hysterically. Everyone at the table, including Richard, thought I’d lost my mind.
“I’m just kidding with you. He’s not the enemy. He wants to help us,” I finally was able to say after the laughter subsided. Bobby again gave me a suspicious look.
“I’ll tell you about it tonight. Just trust me.” Bobby looked into my eyes and then nodded. The rest of the lunch time went well. Richard seemed to fit in well with our motley group. He and Casper really hit it off. It seemed that they were going to attend the weight training sessions after school. Both were going to try out for the baseball team in the spring and wanted to get in shape.
At one point Bobby elbowed me in my side and told me to look across the cafeteria. Scott was sitting on top of a table glaring at us. His buddies were trying to talk to him but he was ignoring them. I felt shivers go down my spine with the cold stare he was giving us. Richard looked up and followed our eyes and noticed Scott also.
“I told you that mother fucker is crazy,” he whispered. “I’m starting to really get worried.” Scott sat looking at us and started rubbing his knuckles.
“Me too,” I replied. Just then the bell rang and we got up and left the cafeteria. I said goodbye to Bobby and heading for my fourth period class, gym. My heart sunk when I followed Scott down the hall and watched him head to the locker room. Shit! Of all classes to share with him, why did it have to be gym!
As I walked through the locker room I kept looking around for Scott. I didn’t want to take a locker anywhere near him. As I walked through, someone stuck their foot out and tripped me. I fell flat on my face. The room erupted in laughter. I looked up and saw some of Scott’s friends walk away.
“You all right?” I heard a deep voice ask. I looked up and saw a boy named Randall looking down at me. He extended his hand and helped me up.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” I replied embarrassingly, brushing myself off. I looked up at him and he smiled.
I had to look up, because Randall is one of the star players on our basketball team. He was also a sophomore and had been in some of my classes last year. Randall was one of the few black students who attended our school. He stayed pretty much to himself and didn’t act like most athletes who strutted around on campus. At sixteen, he stood about 6’7”. He was expected to grow another two inches before he graduated.
I looked into his face and saw very soft brown eyes. It’s funny, but I had never noticed them before. For someone his size, he seemed like a gentle giant. He noticed me staring at him and looked away. I felt embarrassed because I was sure he thought I was checking him out. He had certainly heard all the rumors going around school.
“Thanks, Randall,” I said breaking the awkward silence.
“Listen, Mark,” he said looking down at me. “I know that asshole Scott has been giving you a hard time. Stay beside me in gym. He won’t bother you.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Why, what?” He looked at me questioningly.
“Why do you want to help me?” I couldn’t believe that someone I had hardly said a half dozen words to last year wanted to help me.
“Because we have to stick together.” He patted me on my shoulder and walked away.
‘We have to stick together?’ The words kept echoing in my head as I got dressed. What did he mean- we? I wasn’t an athlete or black. Suddenly it hit me. We. He’s gay! Randall Thompson, star basketball player and future college recruit is gay! Scouts came to many of our games just to watch him play. I had heard that he had already received a stack of offers from colleges from all across the country.
When I entered the gym, the coach was taking attendance. I looked around and saw Randall standing off to the side. I trotted over and stood beside him. He looked down at me and smiled warmly. I looked up and returned the smile. Suddenly, all my fears melted away. I knew I would be safe this year in gym.
The coach said we’d be playing basketball. He chose Randall and Scott as captains. A coin toss determined that Scott would pick first.
“Mark,” Scott said, giving me a smirk. His friends began to laugh.
“He’s on my team.” Randall walked up and stood before Scott. I began to blush as everyone turned to look at me. It was a known fact that I wasn’t very athletic. I didn’t play on any sports team. In fact, when we played baseball last spring, I usually struck out. Now two guys were arguing over me.
“I picked him first.” Scott backed away from Randall.
“I said he is on my team,” Randall insisted angrily, moving closer to Scott as he stepped back. It was obvious he felt intimidated by Randall’s size.
“Yeah, whatever,” said Scott, casting me a dirty look. “Ray.”
When the sides were chosen, Scott walked past me and slammed his body into mine. I started rubbing my shoulder. I watched as he walked away and saw Randall slam against his body. He hit him so hard that Scott almost fell on his ass. Randall then looked at me and winked.
The rest of the period went that way. Every time Scott would try to do something to me, Randall would step between us and give Scott a warning look. Soon he stopped. Once he tried to get one of his friends to push me, but Randall walked up and whispered something in his ear. The boy looked at me and nodded, then walked away. I saw him talking later to Scott. I think they were confused about what was going on. They couldn’t figure out why someone like Randall would be protecting me. To be honest, I didn’t quite know myself.
The coach blew the whistle and we headed to the locker room. Randall had already disappeared when I saw Scott trotting up to me.
“So what did you do? Hire yourself a bodyguard?” he asked. “He can’t protect you all the time.” He pushed me and went running into the locker room. I didn’t see him again as I dressed. Randall was down at the other end of the room, keeping a watchful eye on me. When I was done dressing, I walked over to him.
“Thanks, Randall,” I said appreciatively. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but thanks.”
“I told you. We got to stick together,” he smiled. “Later Little Bro.” He held out his hand and I shook it.
“Yeah, later.” I smiled and walked away. I felt that I had just made a really good friend.
I didn’t see Scott again until the last period of the day. He was in my computer science class. Fortunately, the teacher assigned us to a computer. We were on the other side of the room from each other. I was at station 2, he was at 27.
I met up with Bobby when school was out. We walked home together and I told him about Randall and what had happened in gym class. He was astonished as I was that someone like Randall could be gay.
He also asked me about Richard. It was the first time we’d had a chance to discuss him. I told him how he had come to my house the night before and warned me about Scott. At first Bobby was suspicious. He thought that Scott was trying to get Richard to befriend us so he could watch us. But I assured him that Richard could be trusted. He said he still didn’t feel comfortable around him. I could understand that. Richard had been one of Scott’s ardent admirers.
I really felt confident with what had happened at school. I had acquired two new friends- gay friends. I was beginning to realize that there may be more gay students at our school. I just assumed that Bobby and I were the only ones. Another added bonus was the fact that they both despised Scott as much as we did.
Bobby wanted me to go home with him, but I wanted to see if Amy was all right. He seemed disappointed. I’m sure he wanted to mess around before his parents came home because his shorts were tenting out. I hated to say no, but I really wanted to check on my sister.
When I entered the living room, Aunt Janice was curled up on the couch reading a book. She sat up and patted the cushion beside her. I sat down and gave her a hug.
“How was your first day back, Sweetheart?” she asked worriedly. “Did that terrible boy leave you alone?”
“Everything went all right,” I assured her. I didn’t feel it was necessary to tell her about the threats Scott had made. I was pretty sure that with the help of my new friends, I could deal with him.
“How’s Amy?” I asked.
“Thank God, she didn’t get hurt,” she sighed. “She was more scared than anything else.”
“Where is she now?”
“In her bedroom. She’s asleep.”
I gave my aunt a kiss on the cheek and then went to my sister’s room. Her door was slightly ajar, so I tiptoed inside. She appeared to be sleeping comfortably. I walked over and gave her a kiss on the forehead and then headed to the door.
“Wait,” Amy said quietly.
I walked over and sat down on the bed beside her.
“You all right, Kiddo?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “You know what was really weird?”
“When I was in trouble, you’re the first person I thought about.” She looked up at me with tears in her eyes. “I knew I could depend on you.”
“I’ve always been here for you.” I reached out and brushed back her hair.
“But I’ve always been such a shit head,” she cried.
“But you’re my shit head.” I kissed her on her forehead. “I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you.” She leaned over and held me as she cried. I rubbed her back gently. After a few minutes I laid her back down on the bed.
“Get some sleep, Amy.” I kissed her again on the forehead and got up to leave.
“Thanks, Mark.” I walked out of the room with tears in my eyes. That was the first time in two years she had called me ‘Mark’ instead of ‘fag.’