The rest of Thursday and all of Friday blurred together. I didn’t even attempt to go to school. Dustin tried to get me up on Friday but I yelled at him to leave me alone, that I wasn’t feeling very good. Since Dad left early and with Mom out of town, I decided to call myself in sick. I’ve done it once or twice for Dustin when the need came up, so the school didn’t question it when I called myself in. I even forged a note in my Dad’s horribly illegible handwriting to hand in come Monday. I just… need the weekend to recover.

I’m so stupid!

The instant I plowed through the front door mid-Thursday, I locked myself in my room and just leaned against my wall. I cried. I cried because, even if I may be gay, it wasn’t the way I figured I’d eventually deal with it. I could’ve handled the moment better! Maybe if I could’ve come up with a quick retort, saying that if I was… oh, who am I kidding?! I just shouldn’t have said it! I just wish I could take it all back!

It’s definitely not the way I wanted Dexter to find out.

I awoke Saturday and still hadn’t heard from him. My private line remained silent. I expected this. As soon as I uttered those words, I bet the years of friendship I had with him… were all gone now. Poof – just like that. Up in a cloud of smoke. I hugged my pillow to me tighter, burying my face into it. This was all happening too much, too fast. Instead of coming out to a couple people at a time – my family, then Dexter, then maybe when I was comfortable with it around them I’d just come out altogether. But no, I just skipped to the last step – whatever closet I sat in now, the walls were all splintered upon the ground around me with nowhere left to hide.

I glanced at the clock – around two in the afternoon. Dustin had left a note taped to my door, saying he went to go play some games with some of the neighbor kids – I only saw it on my way back from the bathroom. It said he might be back for lunch but might also eat over at a friend’s house. It worked for me – I had no desire to cook for him as horrid as I am, nor was I hungry enough to eat anything. I laughed a bit bitterly. Dad didn’t even check on me at all Thursday night. Or Friday morning – at least not that I know of.

“Chance open the door!” Dustin shouted as he pounded furiously on my room door. His sudden banging made me jump a bit.

“No! Now go away!” I shouted back at him, trying to hide further into my pillow. “L-Leave me alone!”

“No! I’m not going away until you either come out here and try to beat me up or until you let me come in your room!” The pounding on the door was relentless. “Don’t make me break this door down! I’ll find a way – you know I can!” He was right – the bastard can be quite resourceful if needed.

“Damn it, stop pounding already! God!” I growled as I threw my pillow into my headboard. “Why can’t you just leave me the fuck alone?!”

“I’m mad at you Chance!” He kicked my door but the pounding stopped. “I’m mad at you… because all my friends tell me that you’re gay and you didn’t tell me!”

My blood froze.

“Wh-What?” I managed to squeak out.

“A lot of the older kids in the neighborhood are telling me something that you should’ve.” His voice was quieter, somber. “Just like you promised me… I don’t care if you are or not. But… b-but it sucks b-because they told me. Not you.” Somehow I found my way to my room door and popped the lock. I opened the door slowly and felt a weight following against it – Dustin was leaning into it. I placed a hand on his shoulder before opening it the rest of the way.

“I-I didn’t plan this you know!” I cried quietly, sinking down next to him as I felt him staring at me. “I-I wasn’t ready t-to do what I did. I’m still not… Oh God, what have I done?!” I buried my face into my knees. “Wh-What am I g-gonna do?!”

“I know I’m the little brother, but I’m here for you Chance. Always.” He leaned against me and placed his arms around me. “And you heard Mom the other day. She’ll be fine with you. And I’m pretty sure Dad will be okay too – remember what he said?”

“B-But… what about Dex? He was there…”

“He called the house phone half hour ago. I’ve been home for an hour, trying to think of ways to get you to talk to me.”

“H-How did he sound?” I managed to raise my head and stared at Dustin with blurry vision. His face was neutral at the moment but slowly it changed back to annoyance.

“He sounded like Dex.” Dustin shrugged a bit. “But he told me he wanted to come over. To talk to you. I told him I wanted to talk to you first.”

My baby brother. Even while I’m bawling my eyes out, he still managed to impress me. He still looked a bit miffed at me but somehow pushed it aside to help me out. At age eleven, he’s one hell of a kid. “Would it help you if you knew that you’d have been the first one to know?” I rubbed my eyes. “When I was ready… I was gonna tell you first.”

“Really?” He looked really surprised. “Even before Dex?”

“Even before Dex.” I managed a weak smile. Dustin stood up and offered me a hand up. I took it and lifted him up off the ground for a few seconds in a tight bear hug which wasn’t easy. “Dusty… I love you. Thank you for just… listening.” I set him back down – the kid’s kind of heavy now.

“Chance… I love you too.” He leaned against me, resting his head on my chest. “I hate seeing you upset like this. I feel… lost when I see that you’re in this kind of funk.”

“I know… I know. Do me a favor?” He looked up at me for a moment as I took in a breath. “Can you call Dex back… let him know that it’s okay for him to come over?” He nodded and darted over to my phone. The call was brief.

“He’ll be here in like two minutes.”

“Um… I’ll want to talk to him alone, but if you think he’s being… difficult…”

Dustin nodded. “I’ll come in and see what’s up. Oh and by the way,” he said as he headed for his room. “I never did get lunch so if you could hurry up the chat, maybe we could all walk to Burger King and get something?”

“We’ll see. I’ll let you know.” He nodded once and stepped into his room as I heard the front door open. Just as I found a small bit of my appetite again, it fled as I heard Dexter approaching. Suddenly I decided I wanted more room to talk to him than my own room provided. I cut him off at the stairs and pointed towards the living room. He eyed me a bit but complied. He sat down on the sofa and I remained a healthy distance away. Just in case. Dexter frowned.

“Can’t you, like sit or something? I hate when you hover like that.”

“I’m standing for a reason.” My voice was flat, emotionless. Dexter frowned harder.

“Really Chance? Do you trust me that little? You think I’m going to attack you for what you said at lunch on Thursday?”

I fidgeted. “I-I don’t know your stance on… h-homosexuals. It’s not like the topic ever came up and we d-discussed it at length or anything. So I don’t know… a-are you?”

“No… I guess it didn’t. Let’s clear the air here. Right now.” He stood up and I froze. Instead of advancing on me like a gorilla hell-bent on destroying me, Dexter took slow, careful steps. He even had his hands up and open. Eventually he stood in front of me and I had to look up. For a moment, I saw his bottom lip tremble.

In an instant he had me in his arms, squeezing the stuffing out of me.

“Chance… I’m so sorry you thought I’d hate you. And I’m really sorry for always talking about girls.” A bitter laugh slipped out but I could tell he was very upset. “Now I understand those looks you got.” Slowly, he eased up and guided me to the couch and we sat down.

I raised an eyebrow. “Looks? What looks? What are you talking about?”

Dex sighed. “Sometimes when I’d start talking about girls around you, I’d see you tense a bit. I just really attributed it to shyness or awkwardness when it came to them. I-I didn’t… oh fuck!” He slapped his forehead as something came back to him. “Now I feel really bad. All those times I tried to get us double dates! Chance, I’m sorry! Really I am.”

“Dex… you didn’t know. Stop apologizing to me already.” I hung my head. “I’m the one who’s sorry for how you had to find out…”

“Hey… that was your thing. It’s not my place to judge how or when you tell whomever the hell you want. Sure, I think I’d liked to have been in the loop before you told the school, but only so I could back you up if the chips came down.”

“I-I know! I’m really not ready to be totally out like this…” I looked hard into Dexter’s eyes. “I’m scared, man. I’m not Ricky Dresden, who can play all the sports and still go down on two guys in the same day, no one even batting an eye at him for his behavior. And with the way I yelled at Aimee, she’ll find a way to make this come back and bite me in the ass.”

“Screw Aimee. She’s had that coming for years now, dude. By the way, she totally got humiliated by Ricky after you panicked and ditched. He ‘tripped’ and dropped his banana pudding all over her dress.” I laughed.

“Really? He did that?”

“Really. I could spot that fake trip from a mile away.” Dex grinned. But then he sobered up. “Seriously, I’ll help get you through this at school. No matter what happens, I got your back. You’re my bro – always and forever.”

“I’ll help too!” Dustin was at the top of the stairs and barreled down them, only to leap onto both our laps. “I know I’m only eleven, but I can still help!”

“I know you can Dusty. You can be my rock here, okay? I might need to vent some days so I don’t blow up at you later.”

“I think I can stand to listen to you whine if I don’t get beaten up later.” Dustin grinned.

The grin came back to Dexter’s face. “Just don’t expect me to watch your back. If you know what I mean.” He even waggled his eyebrows a bit.

“What are you…” I started before it hit me. “Oh dude! No! We’re practically brothers!”

“What?” Dustin asked. “I don’t get it.” I rolled my eyes as I whispered what Dex meant into his ear. He recoiled back. “Really? Is that how you’re gonna have to do it?”

I blushed. “Um… not for a while, but I-I guess, yeah. I think I’ll want to eventually.” He cringed.

“But that’s where–”

“I know what it’s for, but I’ve…” My blush deepened. “I-I’ve read that you can stretch it. Like a rubber band if you’re careful.”

Dustin jumped to his feet. “That’s gross! If I end up being gay I’m not letting anyone do that to me! No sir!”

I couldn’t help but laugh at him. “Like I said the other day, you’ve got a few years to figure things out. Just… if you end up being gay, don’t do what I did.”

“What, so I shouldn’t scream at some… um, slut and come out at the same time?” He stuck his tongue out at me and grinned.

“You cheeky bastard!” I laughed. I jumped off the couch and heard the delighted sound of him squealing. He turned tail and ran for his room but I grabbed him before he got too far. I pulled him back into the room and started tickling him mercilessly. But then Dex came to his aid and tackled me off Dustin. The rest of the afternoon we spent wrestling and just goofing off. And it felt wonderful to not feel so… pressured for once. All of us were really hungry and had just enough energy – after a few showers – to make it to the Burger King. We all ate at least two burgers and had a ton of fries and even split the onion rings we ordered.

For someone that seemed to be on the edge of social ruin, I was having quite a good day.

 

*                      *                      *

 

Sunday Dex had come over to keep my spirits up – I was glad. The first thing I woke up to was a fading nightmare where somehow both Ricky and Aimee rallied the whole school to string me up to the one really tall oak tree on the school grounds. I couldn’t untie myself as rotten foods were tossed my way along with all the verbal jabs and taunts striking at my psyche. I woke so loudly that I made Dustin stir at around seven in the morning. He came to check on me and lay with me – I felt silly having my little brother comforting me but it did the job. Both of us got an extra couple hours of peaceful rest, his arm holding me lightly around my waist.

When Dex did arrive, upon my second waking for the day, I felt a little better but still down in the dumps. Would it really be that bad come Monday? Or was I blowing things out of proportion? I really hoped it was the latter. Dex and Dustin kept me busy for most of the day, barely giving me time to think about what could happen. Other than that, Sunday wasn’t too eventful.

Until I had to tell Dad.

Dustin and I sat at the table for dinner, Dexter having to go home to spend time with his family. I knew I had to tell Dad before somehow another parent called and told him for me. I think he’d be more upset with the fact that I didn’t own up to it to him and took the “coward’s” way out. That was about the one thing he really hated – cowards. He told us one day that he wouldn’t care if we each went on a wild murder spree in an insane moment, as long as we turned ourselves in. But if we hid or evaded the police he’d never visit us in prison. So with a weak and trembling voice, I told him.

At first he asked me to speak up as he didn’t catch what I said. Somehow, his voice came off like he was addressing one of his troops. I reacted like a private and shouted out what I said again, sir and all. He didn’t react at first but when he did, I was relieved when he said that the second time saying it was better. He also commended me on my courage in saying what I did before I went into gut-spilling mode and told him what happened.

“You did what?” he said as he narrowed his eyes a bit.

“I-I called myself in sick on Friday,” I said nervously. “I did it so I could take the three days to think about what I did. I-I didn’t mean to do what I did at school.”

Dad leaned back into his chair as he thought about what I said. Dustin just watched the exchange between us carefully but continued to eat. “Son,” Dad started. “For a moment I was about to dress you down like I did the privates I used to command but I held back. I assume you have a reason for pretending to be sick for that day?”

“I-I’d like to say I really did, but at the time, no… I was too scared to face the kids at school.” I swallowed. “But now that I did take the day, I feel better – not much but still – about going back tomorrow. I have Dexter’s support to fall back on and that was the big reason why I was afraid of going on Friday – that he hated me.”

Dad nodded slowly. “All right. I want you to shred your forged note – I’ll write you a real one. Don’t make this a habit, understand me? Because if you do, I’ll hang you up from your britches.”

“Yes sir.”

“Carry on then.” He stood and went to find a piece of paper. The conversation gave me something else I wasn’t expecting – Dad’s respect. I felt like I never had it all these years and finally talking to him today made me see that I did have it and quite possibly even realized that I never lost it. After Dustin went upstairs to finish some homework, Dad came to me with the note and explained to me that he was proud of me – not for what I did but for finally telling him. He said as I grew up that I was a really stubborn kid and if I didn’t like something I’d ignore it until I had to deal with it. So it surprised me a bit when he said that he had suspicions about me as I grew into puberty. It did help to hear from him, though, that along with that stubborn streak I had, I usually was one to accept things in a relatively short time, even if the results of my stubbornness didn’t work out in my favor.

I went to sleep Sunday night with a weak smile on my face. I had three people in my corner and for once it didn’t seem so bad to be different.

 

*                      *                      *

 

I awoke to a really uneasy feeling deep within my gut. What would happen to me now that everyone knew? I bet they’re all uncomfortable about it at best – I’m not even fully comfortable about it! And the whole school knows! How am I going to get through the rest of my high school days with this knowledge out in the open?

“Chance… time to get up.” The voice… it was Dex’s. He tried to get in but I inadvertently locked the door. “Hey, let me in.” I stumbled towards the door, still half-asleep and opened the door. He glanced down for a moment. “Nice boxers bro. But seriously, I’m here to make sure everything’s kosher for you at school. Now,” he sighed as he brushed past me and went to my dresser. “Let’s get you some clothes so we can stop for breakfast.” He stopped and stared at me as I just stood there. “Go! Go get your shower or whatever, dork.”

“Um… okay.” I slid out of my room and almost ran over Dustin – he had just stepped out of the bathroom, a cloud of steam following him. “Oh… sorry Dusty.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “You might want to make it fast – there doesn’t seem to be much hot water left. I think Dad took a really long shower before he left for the base or something.” Dustin, holding the towel around his waist, squeezed by me, his wet head leaving a trail of water along my left side. “Sorry!”

I stepped in the shower and tried to rationalize my fears, hoping to calm myself down before I even stepped foot into the school. I mean, everyone knows that Ricky’s gay, so I mean… they’d all be hypocrites if they hated me for being gay too. Right? Just because I’m not really a part of any club shouldn’t make me a special case or something. At least, that’s my hope. I shook all these disturbing thoughts from my head and focused on getting cleaned up for the day.

I walked back to my room, dripping a bit as I held the towel around my waist. I walked in and saw both Dustin and Dex sitting on my bed, chatting idly with each other. Dustin giggled at something my best friend said but stopped after he noticed I was in the room. “Do I really need an audience in getting dressed?” I said as I felt my entire upper half blush at the thought.

“C’mon man,” Dex said coolly. “It’s not like we haven’t seen each other before. Like going to the pool or spending the night at each other’s places. And Dusty here’s seen you too, right? No big deal.”

“Easy for you to say,” I muttered. Louder, I spoke to Dex. “Why the sudden interest in my body? You’re not gay too… are you?”

“Nope, sorry man,” Dex laughed. “No, I just need to know what my bud’s best attributes are… so we can get you your dream guy if the rose was from a girl or a really fugly boy.” He sighed. “I really want to go on a double date with you,” he eyed Dustin warily as he started to giggle, cutting my brother off, “but now I know which gender I need to focus on for you. And before you say it, my date will have to be cool with you and your boyfriend. No questions asked on that, bro.”

“Dex… I don’t know what to say.” I really didn’t, as he seemed to be a little random with the whole double dating thing. His heart was in the right place, though.

“But even though I really don’t want to see your dick like that, I need to know what you’re working with, or will… so to speak.”

“Dex… isn’t that like, crossing a line or something?” I dropped my towel anyway as I saw the time – I didn’t have the luxury of kicking them out and changing in peace. I paused for a couple of seconds before I turned and grabbed a clean pair of boxers, sliding them on. “I hope that was enough because I’m not showing either of you my crotch again.”

“You have some hair above yours. A lot more than last time.” Dustin finally decided to speak again, being oh so helpful. “Why?”

“I-I don’t know,” I stammered. “All I know is that it comes with puberty,” I said with a bit of a darker red tint to my face. I started rifling through my closet. “Can we just get–”

“Stop – I already got your outfit together, dude. Here.” Dex thrust some clothes into my hands. “Get dressed. I’m starving.” I balked a bit at the skinny jeans that I forgot I had and the almost form-fitting shirt that Dexter gave me for my birthday one year. At the time, he said it was to help attract the ladies. I never did wear them. Dex saw me eyeing the shirt. “Oh I know you never wore this and I think I know why now. But I think this will draw a few eyes from the male crowd your way. Trust me, it’ll look good on you.” I rolled my eyes a bit as I started to get dressed.

“Can we get breakfast now?” Dustin almost whined. “I’m just as hungry as Dex!” I slipped on my socks and shoes, grabbed my stuff, and the three of us headed out the door.

Breakfast involved a quick stop at the convenience store along the way and didn’t seem too bad. We even ran into a few girls from the school and either they didn’t hear what I did or they didn’t care. Their eyes did linger a lot longer than I expected. Maybe Dex had a point about my outfit. It was even better when I think I saw an older guy turn his head my way to take a look at what I had on. While slightly creepy, I could definitely see an interest in his eyes. So far… so good. Now if only it could stay like this.

 

Published March 1, 2013

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