We arrived home from the dance with relatively large smiles on our faces. The three of us opened my front door quietly, as it was a bit late – I didn’t want to disturb Mom or Dad if they both turned in early. We had agreed that we would hang out in the basement for a while before we would succumb to sleep. But our sneaky entry wasn’t warranted when I saw both of my parents in the living room – Mom had a mystery novel in hand, whereas Dad busied himself with the sports section. Both of those activities stopped and the two looked up at the three of us.
“Evening, boys,” Dad said coolly, ruffling the paper a bit. Mom lowered her novel and had a warm smile on her face. “How was it?”
“Colonel, it was awesome,” Dexter said, opting to use my father’s rank instead of his first name – Alex – like Dad had asked of him. He did accept his military rank, but absolutely refused to be called Mr. Adams – said it made him feel too old. “Elliot and Chance stole the limelight from the spring king and queen elected at the dance. You should’ve seen them!”
“Dex… stop,” I whined as I blushed. Elliot just laughed deeply and richly – a sound I had liked hearing more and more every day. Ever since he told me about his brother and mother, he had loosened up a bit and since then had actually made a few friends – one of them being Dexter. It’s amazing the transformation he had undergone in only a few weeks, all because he plucked up the courage to tell me his feelings for me. “You’re embarrassing Elliot!”
“Don’t pawn your embarrassment off onto me, mister,” Elliot said with a cheeky grin. He playfully growled as he latched onto my waist and spun me around a bit, making me squeal with surprised delight. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of feeling his arms around me.
“Alright, enough you two,” Mom said with a lot of playfulness in her voice. Since she got back from that second medical conference, she had said she supported Elliot and me, but also made us sit through a mini-lecture on the merits of safe sex. Both of us suffered through it, knowing that neither of us was quite ready to go that far. But…
I felt the day soon approaching where we would.
Elliot has made me feel so… alive and free lately. Just being with him made any situation infinitely better. He had come with me to my doctor’s appointment once just to help ease the tension I felt as my own mother examined me formally. Just knowing he came to support me made the day tolerable. Especially as Mom checked me for hernias… that wasn’t fun for sure!
“What happened at the dance?” Mom asked again, breaking me out of my thoughts. Both Dex and Elliot had stopped conversing a bit.
“Mom… it was wonderful,” I said as I grabbed my boyfriend’s hand. He just smiled at me. “We danced to several songs, hung out with friends, and just… it was great.”
“Aren’t you going to tell them what happened with Aimee?” Dex said. Both Elliot and I groaned – we just wanted to forget what she did. But both of my parents wanted details ,so thanks to my best friend, I was forced to divulge. “I mean, what she did was mean, even for her.” That made my parents frown harder.
I sighed before I started. “Well, the evening had just started and all three of us saw her and her date arrive just a bit before us. She got asked to the dance by Fred Myers which isn’t all that great a choice.”
“He’s definitely not a looker,” Elliot said off-handedly. I looked at him and he just shrugged. “What? Can’t a guy window shop a little?”
“As long as it’s only window shopping,” I said before I went back to looking at Mom and Dad. They seemed a tad amused and I tried to ignore it. “Anyway, Fred’s a piece of work. Thinks he’s the best thing in that school, hands down. Of course that’s like a match made in heaven for him and Aimee, though I was amazed both their egos managed to fit in the same space.” Both Dex and Elliot laughed. “Within five minutes of being there, Aimee saw me and got this really sadistic look on her face, but only for a second or two. Then it just became creepy.”
“So,” Dexter picked up the story from there. “Everything’s going great. We’re all having a good time, Aimee had faded into the crowd of kids. But then, during a slow dance with these two lovebirds on the floor, she decided to cause a scene.”
“Oh no,” Mom said with a worried frown.
“Aimee marched right up to me after shoving Elliot to the side and…” I groaned at the recollection of the moment. “She… sh-she kissed me. On the lips.” I shuddered a bit. “Mom, Dad… it was awful! What she was doing, how she decided to do it. She even tried to slip me some tongue!”
“What did you do about it, son?” Dad asked. I saw he actually thought my plight was amusing and not horrific. Traitor.
“You didn’t say that earlier!” Elliot growled before I could answer my father. “Hon, why didn’t you say that before now?!”
“Because I’d know you’d want to kill her. While I wouldn’t blame you, it’s not what I want for you – I’d hate to have to visit you in prison over something like this. It’d be like punching her for giving me really horrible… awful cold medicine.”
“She better not make any house calls or I might slap her once or twice.”
“No dear, that’s a mother’s job,” Mom said with a smile. “Answer your father, dear.”
“She made the scene worse by shouting to the kids that she was right and that I wasn’t gay. That or she started saying she changed me back – she kinda said both things at the same time. It was bad, feeling the majority of the school just… staring at me. All because Aimee is an idiot.”
“The best part was when Chance shouted – once the shock, and I guess the disgust, wore off – that he was now even more aware of it than before and thanked Aimee for helping him realize it. Then he helped Elliot off the floor and said that he needed to go disinfect his mouth, as he wanted to kiss Elliot but didn’t want to harm his boy.” Dex’s wide grin got to my parents and they too were grinning before they started laughing.
“You didn’t say that! …Did you?” Mom asked.
I nodded. “She tried to humiliate me into being her boyfriend! All it did was make me wanna puke, along with making me want to stab her too. So I had to get even with her and make her get the point. I think she finally did tonight when she stormed away from me as we headed to the punch bowl.”
“Okay, but you guys had a good time otherwise?” All three of us nodded. “Glad to hear it. Now if you’ll excuse us, it’s time for us old folk to head to bed. Keep the noise level down and please, don’t exclude Dustin – he’s up in his room waiting for his brother.” Mom and Dad stood and said good night before retiring to their room.
“Why don’t you two head down while I talk with my brother?” I suggested. Elliot leaned over and kissed me.
“Don’t be too long – I’ll miss you otherwise.” He smiled brightly, which was another thing I grew to like seeing on his face. I cupped his right cheek gently as he pulled away from my hand and the two headed down into the games room. I climbed the stairs and knocked lightly on Dustin’s door.
“Come in,” he said. I opened the door and saw him glance to see who it was. He stopped what he was doing and smiled brightly at me. “Chance! You’re home – I didn’t hear you come home.”
“I can be just as sneaky as someone else in this room if the need is there.” I smiled a bit more as Dustin got off his bed. He stood in front of me, looking up slightly into my face. His bright smile slowly slid off his face as he became thoughtful. “Something wrong, Dusty?”
He didn’t say anything for several seconds. A single tear streaked across his left cheek. “No. Nothing’s wrong. In fact… everything’s great. Better than great.” He sighed before he hugged me tightly. “I’m just happy to see my big brother again.”
“What do you mean? I’ve always been here.”
“Maybe your body has,” he said, somehow tightening the hug more. “But your heart wasn’t and that’s what makes you complete.” He paused for a moment and I just enjoyed the brotherly hug. “I-I missed you, Chance. The r-real you.” I hadn’t realized I had become so… different ever since I tried to fight my true feelings. During that dark time before I would allow any boy into my heart – especially one as great as Elliot – I knew that things had changed some, but never to this degree that Dustin spoke of. But it was moot anyway and I comforted my little brother as he kept adjusting his hold on me. Eventually his arms fell back to his sides. “Chance… please don’t go away again. Not like that.”
“I’m here buddy,” I said as I mussed his hair. “And I don’t have any plans of another vacation.” His sad, somber face broke back into the full-out grin I saw when I entered the room. “What do you say we go play some games with my boy and Dex?” He nodded and I guided him out of his room. I lovingly squeezed his shoulders a bit as we neared the top of the stairs. He looked back over his shoulder and I saw the admiration he had for me in that glance. He broke free from my grasp and tore down the stairs towards the basement.
The four of us had a great time that night. We did everything that we could for a couple of hours. Video games, ping pong, pool, darts… we did it all. And it wasn’t always me and Elliot versus my brother and best friend; no, we all were on each other’s teams – though I do think that me and Dustin made a really great team in comparison to my other two. But then again, he has known me the longest, being my brother, so maybe it’s not too fair. In any event, the night wound down as Dustin had crashed against Dex, his arm protectively wrapped around my little brother’s shoulders. I covered the two of them, not wanting to disturb them at all. I motioned for my boyfriend to follow me and he did.
Quietly, the two of us went to my room but we didn’t stay there for long. I helped Elliot into his coat and he into mine; the two of us stepped out onto the overhang just below my room’s window. The chilly night air bit into me, but for the first time in a while, it felt invigorating, refreshing. I took in a deep breath, savoring the moment. I looked up to the stars on the cloudless night as I lay down next to Elliot. He snaked his arms around me and rested his head on my chest. My right arm acted as a pillow for him as it helped to pull him closer to me.
“The sky is so beautiful, isn’t it?” Elliot whispered somewhat, trying to keep the reverent moment intact. “I mean, I used to look up all the time when I was younger and even more so after… after the failed robbery that led to their deaths. After that night, I always asked the stars… why them? What did they do to deserve their fate?”
“I can’t answer that, love,” I whispered just as quietly. A gentle breeze rocked a few trees from side to side and the two of us cuddled closer for warmth. “All I can say is for as long as we’re together, Dustin can be your new brother and my mom is your mom too. I’m willing to share them, you know.” Elliot laughed softly.
“Thanks for that.” The two of us just continued to stare up into the speckled night, just enjoying our moment together in peace. It was the perfect end to a not so perfect evening. For a while I thought he had fallen asleep on me but he spoke again, a little louder this time. “I don’t know why… but I feel my brother’s hand in all of this.”
I sat up just a bit to look at his face better since he spun so he could look at me. I leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “What do you mean, hon?”
“Mitch always wanted to see me happy – he hated to see me so down in the dumps all the time. And I was… so angry and upset at the world. Up until that day I accidentally knocked you down. When I did, all I meant was to help you up and… disappear off your radar. And then you’d forget about me and I’d secretly be pining after you and probably grow jealous of whoever became your first boyfriend.” His eyes closed. “But then something came over me that day and… I swear I felt like I was forced to get on my knees to help you out. And then after you left… I felt a strange sensation that gave me the courage to write that note to you.”
“So you really think Mitch helped you get over your crippling shyness for a moment?”
“Well that and… well, I have to admit that I’m a great artist, but only with pencil and inks that are for drawing. I normally can’t think of anything profound to say, let alone say it.” He stared hard into my eyes, a warmth that radiated from them despite the increasingly arctic-feeling winds. “Now Mitch… he had a way with words. Always writing stories, making things up on the fly that sounded like they came from Twain or Hemmingway or Fitzgerald. You know, really famous people.
“As I got older and he saw that I really had a gift with drawing and painting, one of the things we’d talk about a lot was us going into business together of a sorts, where he’d write stories and I’d illustrate them. Every time we’d talk about the idea, his eyes would light up so bright, I swear he’d make sure it’d happen. That we’d be a team, all the way.”
“You two still are, Elliot. And… you’ll always be a team. He just can’t visit as much as you’d like, I’d wager.” Elliot laughed softly, being both morose and light at the same time. “And now… if what you say is true, then Mitch has given us his blessings and just wants us to be happy… together.”
“Together…” Elliot sighed contentedly. His voice started getting quieter, almost as if he was starting to fall asleep. Even with it being cold out, I was okay with it. As I also closed my eyes for a bit, I heard Elliot whisper so softly, “Thanks… Mitch. For this… gift. I love you, bro… always…”