© 2018 Geron Kees All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction and depicts sexual activities between minors. All characters and situations are imaginary. No real people were harmed in the creation of this presentation. Please observe the laws of your jurisdiction with regards to reading this material.
If you are not 18, you shouldn't be reading this at all. Go find a boyfriend and talk stuff over with him.
"Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable". - R. Buckminster Fuller
To forget his problems.
They were his own fault, and he knew it. Coming out had been a bold act, and it had seemed the right thing to do, the morning he had done it. He had felt bold that day, felt sure he was on the right track. Only later was he to find that boldness could be an illusion, and that it could vanish as easily as it had arrived. And when boldness took a walk, it usually left fear in its place. Kevin knew he was scared now, though he preferred to call it by another name. Careful. He was being careful, and that had come to mean not doing things that paid off in anxiety.
Kevin's family had moved during the summer, into a pleasant house on a pleasant street, just blocks away from the scenic Mohawk River. The new area was more rural than his old neighborhood had been, but just a little, and far more beautiful under its canopy of red and gold fall leaves. The move had been coming for some time, as his parents looked for a slightly larger home, so it had not taken Kevin by surprise. And while he missed his old friends, and his old school, and his old neighborhood, the fact that he had had sufficient time to accept the coming changes had made it all a lot less traumatic than he had expected.
It was a move across town, which meant a new school district, and a new school. They had only just gotten settled-in a few weeks before the new school year had begun, and thus far Kevin had yet to make any real friends, still expecting the new semester of school to kind of take care of that. So far he had gotten to know a few people on his bus, and in his classes, but he hadn't really clicked with anyone in the neighborhood just yet, and was perfectly willing to be patient and let time take its own course.
In another way, he had been looking forward to the move. Because even though he had had plenty of friends in the old neighborhood, he had not yet found that special one - the one that would be able to offer both friendship, and another sort of affection. Kevin was at the point in his life where he wanted a boyfriend, and his old neighborhood and school had not offered up anyone that was that extra-special soul that would compliment Kevin's own.
He had been carefully eying the prospects here, hoping against hope that luck would favor him this time with someone special. Evan Kaylin had been the first big attraction for him, but he had simply watched the boy from a distance and dreamed a little. Patience was the word in this new place, despite his open past. Kevin had been out at his old school, which was a gay-tolerant, if not outright gay-friendly place; but this was new territory, first to be explored before waving any flags. Coming out so early had not been in his plans; at least, not unless he had a very good reason to do so.
But it had happened anyway, despite his resolve to test the waters first.
Johnny Perry was the cause of it, at least in part. He had come out shortly after the start of the school year, just a few weeks back, and come out in a big way, too, grabbing Bill Braden in the hallway in front of their lockers and planting an incredible smooch on him that had stunned the crowd of kids getting out their books for the next classes. Bill went right along with it, obviously an accomplice before the fact, and the least stunned of them all at being waylaid and assaulted in such a fashion.
The kiss had gone on forever, it seemed; and then when it was over, Johnny Perry had draped an arm over Bill's shoulders, smiled at the assemblage before him, and then leaned forward and let his eyes rove boldly among the onlookers. "Anybody got a problem with that?"
In retrospect, Kevin should have better considered the factors involved. Johnny and Bill were seniors, while Kevin was a lowly sophomore. Johnny was the star goalie of the school's soccer team, the Privateers, and Bill was already on his way to glory on the wrestling team, and was strong enough to bend steel in his bare hands, like Superman. All Kevin had going for him so far was that he was in the science club - not the highest of honors in a school focused on athletics - and that he was nice enough looking that a few girls had shown interest in him. And even that last had ended now. He had closed that door with a resounding thud by telling Evan Kaylin that he was gay. And in public, too.
It was a small mistake, with big consequences. Evan was also a sophomore, but you'd never know it by the way he acted. He was no bigger than Kevin, but he had a way of walking about the hallways at school that seemed to make him much taller. His smile was made of gold, and when he offered it, his pretty green eyes went along for the ride, and more than once Kevin had felt his heart skip a beat at seeing it. Evan was a dream walking, and Kevin was a dreamer, and it certainly looked like a match made in heaven.
What had seemed to seal the deal had been the day that Harper Landon had asked Evan out. Evan's locker was only three doors down from Kevin's, and, while he had not been intentionally eavesdropping, he had been near enough to hear it all as it happened. Harper had shown up, dripping smiles, and made some initial small talk. Then she had put her hand on Evan's shoulder, kindled her most killer sexy look, and asked him to go with her to the Halloween party at Breena Pellet's house, three Friday evenings hence. Evan had listened patiently, looked down at her hand on his shoulder, and then shaken his head like she'd just asked him for his very last nickel.
There had been nothing subtle about that one. Harper had blinked in surprise, taken a step back, and stared at him. "You're saying no?"
"Damn right." Evan had leaned forward to restore the distance between them, his eyebrows raised. "No girl like you is getting her hooks into me. It makes me sick to see these guys walking around here with their tongues hanging out, all hoping one of you leeches will notice him." Evan had pulled back then, and shaken his head. "I'm a woman hater, and don't you forget that."
It was hard to judge whose mouth had fallen open farther: Harper's, or Kevin's. He had pushed his head into his locker as if looking for something, grinning uncontrollably, and simply too stunned to be out in public with the knowledge had had just acquired. Evan didn't like girls! And then it occurred to him for the first time that he had never seen the other boy with a girl, either. Evan cut a unique swath of his own through the crowded hallways of the school, but he was always alone when he did so.
Harper had not taken the refusal kindly. "I didn't know you were gay." There was scorn in that, but Evan wasn't having it.
He had just laughed. "As far as you're concerned, I am. Bye now. I'm sure one of the tongues hanging out will take you to Breena's." Just then Luke Walker had gone by, and wistfully eyed Harper's butt in her tight little jeans. "There's one now," Evan pointed out, laughing.
Other kids had seen and heard the exchange, and many were attempting to conceal smiles, while some were not even trying. Harper had glared, and marched off in a huff.
Evan had noticed Kevin watching then, and grinned. "The nerve of some of these dames, huh?"
Kevin had blinked at the archaic word, but nodded, hardly disagreeing. There were a lot of nice-looking girls in the world. But some girls - like Harper - used their looks and their nice clothes almost as weapons, and seemed to have a predatory nature, and a nasty tongue when defied. Kevin felt no compassion for her being turned down. What he did feel was a small bit of hope that a certain dream he had been having might not be such a ridiculous one, after all.
Evan had grinned at him one more time, banged the door closed on his locker, spun the combination dial, and ambled off, whistling, smiling, and looking ten feet tall.
Kevin had just sighed.
"That was kind of funny," a small voice next to him had said then.
Kevin had turned about, to spy his neighbor on the other side, standing at his locker. Briefly he had frowned, trying to remember the guy's name. Randy? Ricky? Something like that.
"You were there the whole time?" Kevin had wondered aloud, because he certainly hadn't noticed the other boy standing there while Evan was having his moment with Harper.
His neighbor had nodded, and smiled weakly. He had dark hair and pale blue eyes, and, while pleasant looking in an average kind of way, he wasn't the sort that grabbed your attention as he walked by. Certainly not like Evan did. Kevin had briefly recalled that his neighbor was in a few of his classes, but that was it.
He'd simply smiled. "Yeah. Harper thinks she owns the whole world. Serves her right."
The other boy had tried the weak smile again, and Kevin had vaguely realized that he was seeing shy. But he hadn't had time for that, his thoughts going back to Evan and his revelation that he didn't like girls. Was that really the same thing as admitting that he liked boys, instead? Only one way to find out.
"Gotta go, uh --" Kevin had blinked, suddenly realizing he didn't really know the other's name.
"Riley," the boy had said softly.
Kevin had nodded. "Gotta run. See you later."
He had started off after Evan, knowing that the other boy had French class next, because Kevin had Spanish in the next room. But he hadn't caught Evan before the other entered his classroom, and Mrs. Parnell had pulled him up at the end of Spanish class and asked if he wanted to do the extra credit writing assignment, because he hadn't signed the sheet yet. By the time Kevin reached the hallway again, Evan was long gone, and for the rest of the day Kevin had been in a dreamy daze, imagining conversations with Evan that finally got around to, "So, uh, what are you doing Friday night?"
On the bus ride home from school that day, he had heard other kids talking and laughing about Harper's run-in with Evan. Most of it was harmless, but some of it was mean, and he realized then that there was very little that happened at school that everyone didn't soon know about. It should have served as a warning to him, but he had been too wrapped up in his fantasies to take heed.
His dreamy mode had continued throughout the evening after dinner, causing him to take forever to get his homework done, and he had later fallen asleep to the dream of walking along a sunshine-speckled road beneath gently waving trees, hand-in-hand with Evan, the both of them laughing and smiling...and in love. Holy crap!
For the next several days the idea of approaching Evan grew on him, and every time he saw the boy in school, the little movies he had created played again in his mind, with the very same ending where he and Evan walked happily into the sunset. Evan's smile, which went so deeply into his eyes, could only be the front for a very sweet personality, and the more that Kevin thought about it, the more he felt like daring to find out more. That last, fateful evening, he had sat through two hours of TV with his parents, and could not have said later what they had watched, or what they had talked about during the commercials. Nothing really registered except Evan and his amazingly cute smile. But he'd made up his mind to act, just as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
Evan and Kevin, he'd thought to himself, sighing. Sure has a nice ring to it. By morning, he had grown comfortable with the idea that all he need do was to be bold enough to approach Evan and ask the boy out, and that the future would just take care of itself.
On the bus to school that morning he had tried to envision every scenario for the coming day, starting with running into Evan at their lockers, and covering seeing him in the hallway, in the cafeteria at lunch, near their language classes, and outside before or after school. Each little play within his mind ended with Evan smiling, and saying that he would love to go out with Kevin. Each little play within his mind ended with Kevin being gloriously happy.
How could he have been so stupid?
As it had turned out, it had been the very first of the plays he had rehearsed that had come about. Kevin had gotten to his locker just as Evan had reached his from the other direction. Kevin had looked over, and Evan had noticed him and offered up one of those fifty-thousand watt smiles. Kevin's heart had done a little flip in his chest, and he had swallowed, stoked the fires of his determination, and walked the few steps down the hallway it took to bring him to Evan's locker.
The other boy was just closing the door as he arrived, and looked surprised to see Kevin standing there. "Oh...uh, hey, what's up?"
Kevin had smiled. "I was just thinking about Harper asking you out the other day. She didn't know, huh?"
Evan had grinned. "I'll say she didn't. I really can't stand that type."
Kevin had nodded. "I know what you mean. Girls are nice, but they don't always get what a guy's about."
"That's right. You hit it right on the head."
Kevin had taken a deep breath. "Guys always know what guys are about, though."
Evan had looked at him, and emitted another high-voltage smile. "Pretty much. Although some of the guys around here aren't too smart sometimes, either."
Kevin nodded, and took the plunge. "Do you like horror movies?"
"Sure. Not the slasher kind, but monsters and stuff are cool."
"Yeah, well, have you seen the one down at the mall? It's called Devolution? About these things from another dimension that pop through into ours in this little town, and --"
Evan had looked surprised, and actually put a hand on Kevin's arm to stop him. He could still remember the thrill of that first touch. "Oh, yeah, I read about that! It sounds really spiked! I didn't know it was around yet."
Kevin had closed his eyes for just a second, and then opened them again. "Well...would you like to go? Friday night? Um...with me?"
For a long second Evan had stared at him. And then his smile had slipped, and he had slowly pulled his hand away from Kevin's arm. Those pretty green eyes continued to inspect Kevin's for a moment longer, and then squinted just a bit, looking puzzled. "Hey, man...are you...asking me out? Like...a date?"
Kevin compressed his lips, and nodded.
Evan drew back just a bit. "You're gay?"
Kevin nodded again.
Evan licked his lips, and nodded very slowly. "I didn't know. I mean...I don't even know your name."
Evan leaned a little closer. "You think I'm gay?"
The tumble that Kevin's heart had taken at that question - at the way it was asked - had not been the pleasant kind. "Well, I thought...the way you gave Harper the boot...and you said you hate women...I thought..."
Evan slowly shook his head. "Uh uh. I'm not."
Kevin had actually flinched, all of his dreams falling from the sky of his mind and crashing together in a giant heap at his feet. "You're not," he repeated softly, feeling slightly like he wanted to sit down.
"No." Evan became aware then that others in the hallway were looking at them, listening. He frowned, and then a spark of anger came into his eyes. "What are you all looking at? Take a walk!"
Something in his voice demanded it. Those watching, which even included some older kids, suddenly found they had business elsewhere, and the spectator mood vanished. Still, there were some smiles, and a few laughs, as the watchers moved off.
Evan had reached out again and gently touched Kevin's arm. "I'm sorry. Were you out?"
Kevin simply shook his head.
Evan sighed. "I think you are now." He leaned forward. "Screw what those idiots think, okay?"
Kevin had simply stared at the boy, trying to think of something to say, but finding no words any place inside his mind that were willing to come out into the light. He'd turned away from Evan then, and walked blindly back towards his locker, and almost ran headlong into Ricky, or Randy...the guy that had the locker next to his. That boy looked like he wanted to say something, but when he saw the anguish on Kevin's face he winced, and stepped back, allowing him to pass.
Somehow, Kevin made it through the rest of the day. He was aware of the stares, the laughter, and the whispered comments. A few people didn't even whisper. He disregarded all of it, but only because his mind simply would not focus on anything at all. The bus ride home was more of the same, and he was vaguely aware that Kyle Hartford, one of the guys who had taken to sitting with him on the ride, chose a seat well back from him this time. Still his mind would not grasp it all, and he stepped off the bus outside his house largely ignoring the snickers aimed at his back.
But in the two weeks since that time, he had learned what it was to be different. It needn't have been that way, he knew that. He could have taken the bull by the horns and just plowed on through, basically told everyone to get over it, and gone ahead with his life. Like Johnny Perry had done, that day he and Bill had come out in the hallway. Anybody got a problem with that?
Kevin had basically done just that at his old school, and been fine. But at his old school he had been known for years, and had friends, and so had not faced suddenly being different all by himself. He'd had support, and now he saw how necessary that support had been.
Here, he was a new kid, an unknown quantity, and one suddenly also labeled with a vague and whispered stigma, not just gay, but something even weirder. That he so obviously was fleeing from it under the gaze of all who looked at him only fueled their suspicions that even Kevin knew that there was something wrong with him. Something nasty.
And yet, Kevin felt powerless to stop what was happening. He was too aware now that he had let his own desires and imagination get away from him, and that knowledge had so undermined his confidence that he seemed unable to regain it. So he simply went through each day like a zombie, going from one class to the next, answering when the teachers spoke to him, and ignoring everyone else. The blatant whispering, the stares, the laughter, slowly died down; but by then Kevin barely noticed, having retreated into his own small world, only surfacing enough to walk away from some taunt, some nastily-smiling face.
Twice Evan tried to talk to him, but Kevin had simply grunted and shied around the other boy and kept on going, definitely not wanting to face him now. He saw that Evan was aware of his pain, and even that the boy had sympathy for him. But Evan was inextricably linked now with the cause of all this misery, and even the fact that it was scarcely his fault did not ease the anxiety that Kevin felt every time he saw him.
And so here he was now, on another Monday morning, one kind of dreary-looking, kind of overcast, kind of dark. Looking out at the crowd at the bus stop was like looking at a huge boulder rolling down a steep hill at him; he could jump, he could run, but somehow, he could not quite get out of its way. The prospect of being run over yet another day was not a pleasant one.
God, I don't want to go to school.
He rubbed his eyes, and walked to his bedroom door, opened it, and headed for the kitchen. His mom was there, finishing up her breakfast. She took one look at him, and frowned. "You're not dressed? You'll miss your bus if you don't hurry."
Kevin flopped into the chair across from her. "I don't feel good. I think I'm getting sick."
Her eyes settled on his, and he knew right away that she wasn't fooled. He had come out to his parents first, two years prior, and by now they were good with it. It had taken his dad a little longer to accept it than his mom; but at this point in time it had ceased to be a sticking point with either of them.
"You've been down and out for two weeks now, Kevin. Did something happen at school?"
Despite his parents knowing his sexual preference, Kevin still felt unable to share his recent debacle with Evan with either of them. They knew something was bothering him, and this was the fourth time his mother had asked him about school.
"No," Kevin lied, averting his eyes. "I just don't feel good."
His mom reached across the table and felt his forehead, and then sighed. "You don't have a fever. Are you sure everything at school is okay?"
"Yes. I just need to go back to bed and sleep some more, I think."
He could see the indecision in her eyes. And then the acceptance. "I have to get to work, honey. I guess you can stay home today." She eyed him then, a little bit of the old steel creeping into her gaze. "But if you don't feel better tomorrow, we'll be going to see Doctor Elliston. Got me?"
Kevin nodded. Even a one-day reprieve would help to restore his energy. And help restore what little courage he'd managed to muster against this way-too-crappy world.
"Okay." His mom smiled then, and rubbed his arm. "If you need to talk, I have two very good ears. You understand?"
Kevin smiled. "Okay. I'm good, but...thanks."
His mom stood. "Go on back to bed. I'll see you this afternoon. Your dad may be home before me because I have to stop at the store on the way home and get something for dinner."
"Have a good day, mom." Kevin stood, allowed her to give him a kiss, and then retreated to his bedroom.
After she left, he stood near the window in his bedroom and peered out through the curtains at the kids at the bus stop, until the bus came along and picked them up. As they filed aboard, a couple of the boys looked back at Kevin's house, as if wondering why he wasn't there. No doubt they'd planned some more sharp comments to make, and were disappointed that he was not there to present some bare flesh to be cut. Only after the bus had disappeared down the street did Kevin lay his back against the wall and breathe a sigh of relief.
He closed his eyes a moment, and then slid a hand over and pushed it behind the curtains. He placed his palm against the window pane, felt the October chill beyond as it seeped into his fingertips. It was the same chill he felt at school, but of a different origin. Better not to endure that coolness today; better to stay warm.
Better to stay safe, at home.
Kevin jumped back into bed, pulled the covers up, and closed his eyes, and tried his best to tune out the mental noise that was the world around him. Tried his best to get back to sleep. But as he lay there, his head insisted on going over that morning with Evan yet another time. He'd tried to put that whole thing away in a spot where it would not keep resurfacing, but it seemed to have a will of its own, and kept coming back to aggravate him.
But this time, somehow, instead of agonizing over it, instead of looking away, Kevin had relaxed and simply watched the show as it played through in his memory. He was in the safest place in the world, his own bed, where nothing could really hurt him. The little movie ran its course, by now a familiar episode of his life, and when it was done, he was a little bit surprised.
In retrospect, Evan had not been upset with Kevin - not at all. He'd seemed saddened by the whole thing, actually. He had been angry with the watchers, the thrill-seekers, yes. Them, he had warned away. But not Kevin. And Evan had tried to talk to Kevin since that day, and Kevin had been the one in avoidance. He frowned at that, realizing he should not hold Evan in any way responsible for what had happened. It had been Kevin's own wants and desires, his own wild imagination, that had brought his world crashing down around him.
He sighed at that. He should have brazened his way through, somehow. He should have made it known that, okay, he was gay, but he was proud of it. Don't like it? Too damn bad! He should have owned up to it, instead of skulking about like a kicked dog, afraid to look anyone in the eye.
Yes. He should have done those things.
"But I didn't," he told himself. For a moment his eyes grew wet, and he wrestled with feeling very sorry for himself. But...that never worked. Feeling sorry for yourself was just admitting that you'd screwed up, you hadn't meant to, and now you were too upset to attempt to fix it for yourself. But try as he might, he could see no easy solution to the situation he had placed himself into by his incautious actions. First impressions counted for a lot with people. He was a new kid in school, and now he had made a very bad first impression. Getting away from that would not be easy.
But then the words that Evan had offered came back to mind: "Screw what those idiots think, okay?"
Kevin shook his head in wonder. Evan had already looked ahead, even at that moment, and foresaw the possible results of Kevin's actions that morning. What an amazing person he must be, to so quickly see how things might add up. Kevin sighed, and it was about as wistful a sigh as he had ever produced. Evan would have been a wonderful boyfriend, in all likelihood...but for the simple fact that he was not gay.
Kevin opened his eyes and looked at the ceiling, in that instant realizing that the world was a lot more complex than he had ever imagined. Appearances could really be deceiving, and what the heart wanted could so overpower what was reasonable and smart in thinking that it could fool the mind into going along with the dumbest of ideas. Only after the fact could reason once again take charge, and by then the heart was in such bad shape that it could only contribute its unhappiness, and really be of no help at all.
He sighed. He was awake now, and there would be no going back to sleep this day. In fact, he wanted to get up and get out, not to lay about the house as if he were sick. He was not sick, he was not unable to go on, and he didn't feel like being cooped up. He didn't feel like hiding anymore.
But...he didn't feel like going to school, either. He sighed again at that, seeing he'd made a small step to get back on track, but also seeing that it was a baby step, not quite ready for a full run. Maybe he could go out for a walk, go by the mall and see what was new in some of the stores. He needed to keep himself company a little, to get back to where he was able to deal with himself again. To forgive himself, maybe.
Buying himself something would be nice. A feel good move. The thought brought a smile to his face. Kevin had always pretty much liked himself, and he saw now that he had been mad at himself, and sorry for himself, and that that was just not going to cut it. If he didn't want to wind up a basket case, he needed to push himself a little again. He needed to face the world.
He got up and got dressed. It was drizzling now, and he donned a water-resistant hoodie over his flannel shirt, and pulled it down over the top of his jeans. October rains were notoriously chilly, and being wet would not help him to attain a better mood. He stuffed his wallet and his phone into the pockets of his jeans, and then headed to the kitchen, where he left a note for his mom in case she came back for some reason. He just said that he'd felt better, and wanted to get out into the air a little, and that he had his phone, and that she could call him. Kevin was pretty sure he would be back well before his mom, and that she would never see the note. But it wouldn't hurt to cover all the bases.
The mall was three blocks over, and a shortcut through a big stand of woods. There was nobody else out walking. Young people were all in school, and everyone else drove, or at least had too much sense to be out strolling about in the too-cold rain. Kevin didn't mind at all. The sense of openness gave him a much-needed sense of freedom, and he smiled as he walked along beneath the red and gold autumn trees.
The shortcut through the woods brought him to the backside of the mall, and he crossed the half-filled parking lot and entered by a side door. The daytime crowds were thin, and older, with just the occasional small kid with a parent or two among them. Kevin had no problem making his way through the stores, just browsing, not looking for anything in particular. He saw some neat toys here and there, but nothing he was willing to spend his hard-earned chore money on. Not just yet, anyway.
He came to the theater, saw that Devolution was still playing there, and that there was a matinee show at noon. He still wanted to see the movie, and after a single wistful thought at how nice it might have been to see it with Evan, he decided to buy a ticket and come back later for the matinee. Now he just needed to kill a little time until that happened.
So after he purchased his ticket, he walked back to the eatery called Dempsey's, a popular spot for the local school kids to hang out. He took a peek through the windows first, just to make sure that no one from the school was actually inside, and then went in and had a belated breakfast. It was genuinely pleasurable to be out and about on his own, responsible to no one, and everyone about him a perfect stranger. No one watched him, or sent over one of those mocking smiles; no one whispered behind their hand while watching him out of the sides of their eyes.
Ever since his screw up with Evan, Kevin had been sticking close to home when he was not in school, and he could see now how lonely that had been. Loneliness only made things worse. Briefly he thought about Jason and Bret, his two best friends in his old neighborhood, and sighed. He sure could use their company now.
He took his time, had dessert, and let the morning age gracefully. An hour before the matinee was to start, he got up and paid his bill, and ambled across the way to the Best Buy and spent a while looking at electronics. That was always fun, and before he knew it, it was time to head back to the theater.
He stopped at the concession stand and got a candy bar and a drink, and then went into the softly-lit theater and found a seat. The place was scarcely full, with maybe ten percent of the seats showing shoulders and heads above the backs. Most people were too busy during the day for movies and the like. But some were obviously at loose ends, just as he was. There were a lot of single people like himself spaced about, with just a smattering of couples here and there. Kevin wandered down to the middle and found himself a nice aisle seat, and waited for the place to darken.
The movie was good, but not quite as scary as he'd hoped. There were a few genuine jump-in-your-seat moments, and he did that, and smiled at the shrieks that came from around him. This was just what he had needed, to share something fun with others, but without getting too close to any of them.
It helped that the heroes of the film were a small group of teen boys and girls his own age. Watching them face down horrors from another dimension kind of made Kevin's local horrors seem much more tame by comparison. At least no one at school was trying to genetically restructure him into a slobbering monster. By the time the lights came up, he was feeling much better about a lot of things, and maybe more ready to take on the problems of his own world.
That feeling lasted all of two minutes. Kevin gathered up his trash and stood, and joined the people filing out. As he turned about, he spied three guys sitting together, maybe his own age, maybe a little older. He didn't recognize any of them, but the reverse seemed not to be true. The boy in the aisle seat looked up at him as he approached, squinted a second, and then laughed. And then he was leaning over to the others and whispering, and two more pairs of eyes came up to examine Kevin.
That they were from school he was suddenly sure of. Three guys cutting classes to see the movie, maybe, much like he was cutting the entire day. Kevin felt an instant bout of nerves, but immediately drew from his newfound determination and steeled himself. He stared back at the end boy as he passed, and nodded, and the other looked away. Kevin went on, picking up his pace a little, and when he looked back, the three were rising to leave. Their eyes were on him, and the attention had a certain purpose to it that made Kevin certain that they were going to follow him.
When he got to the lobby he increased his speed to a fast walk, and exited the theater to the mall. He looked left, and then right, and chose the direction that was shortest to the exit door by the woods where he had come in. He set off at a fast walk, his head already considering what might be coming next, and what he might need to do to react to it.
But he had only passed two stores before a little voice suddenly spoke up in the back of his mind: What are you running away from?
Kevin slowed then, surprised at himself. He was doing exactly that. Anger flared throughout him then, that he was letting three complete strangers jerk him around as if he was a puppet on strings. He slowed, and then stopped to look at the clothing in the window of a men's store. I am not running away.
He heard the sound of footsteps behind him, and then a whispered voice: "Told ya it was him."
Kevin turned to look at the three boys. They didn't seem prepared for that, and the two end ones looked suddenly uneasy. The one in the middle, slightly taller, was the one that had seen Kevin in the theater. He frowned now as Kevin watched him, but then broke into a smile. He elbowed one of the boys beside him, and laughed. "So this is what a fag looks like."
Kevin felt a chill, sure now where this was going. He'd never understood the mindset of those that felt like they had some kind of right to bother others. Bullying was an alien concept to him, one that would never have merit to it no matter which angle he was to view it from. But that some others seemed to need that sort of unpleasant interaction in their lives he did know - he had seen it before, at his old school.
"What do you want?" he heard himself say. "I'm not bothering you."
The other boy made a face. "I'm not bothering you," he parroted, in an insulting tone of voice. He walked past Kevin, eying him up and down, and then looked into the store window. He grinned then, at the male mannequins in their summer wear. "What are you doing here, pretty boy? Checking out the guys?"
"He needs ones that will stand still and let him do it," kidded one of the other boys. That brought more laughter from the others.
"I'm minding my own business," Kevin corrected, surprised at his own bored tone of voice. "Why don't you do that, too?"
He turned then, and went into the men's store, glancing about as he passed the front counter. The clerk there was a smiling young man in a nice suit, and he was talking to a gray-haired older man who had his hand atop a pile of folded polo shirts on the countertop. Kevin breezed by them and went into one of the aisles, and stopped at a row of pricey designer blue jeans, and pretended to examine them.
Again, he heard footsteps behind him, and then that same insulting voice. "Look, he even wants to buy the fag jeans. He must like them tight, so that the other fags can see his junk." Then laughter. "Bet they need a magnifying glass for that, though."
Kevin knew he was in danger, but some part of him wasn't having it. He turned then, on the leader of the trio, and let loose some of the anger he was feeling. "Fuck off, asshole."
The other boy blinked in surprise, while his two companions suddenly emitted nervous titters.
The bully's surprise quickly turned to anger. "What? Who the hell do you think you're talking to, ya penis-puffing fuckwad?" He moved closer, and Kevin backed up until he hit the display holding the jeans.
"Fucking fag," the other boy breathed, something mysterious and vile in his gaze now.
"Leave me alone!" Kevin roared, and tried to force his way past the other. But the bully reached out and grabbed him, and used his superior size and weight to force Kevin backwards over the blue jeans.
"I ought to knock your faggot head off --" the boy began.
"What's going on here?" a new voice demanded, and the clerk from the counter appeared next to them. He glared at the bully, and pointed a finger at him. "Let him go and get out of here, right now, or I'll call for security."
The bully's two friends immediately backed away. "Come on, Mark," one of them hissed, sounding scared now. "This guy'll get us busted."
Mark - the bully - looked immediately deflated. He released Kevin so quickly that Kevin staggered against the display holding the jeans.
"I'm not doing anything," Mark said, holding up his hands. "This guy --"
"Did nothing," the clerk interrupted, angrily. "I saw and heard everything. This boy told you to leave him alone, and I suggest you listen to him." He leaned closer, his eyes narrowing down to angry slits. "I hate bullies," he said softly. "I'd like to smack the shit out of you, kid."
Mark licked his lips, but still managed to toss an angry look Kevin's way.
The clerk saw it, and motioned at Kevin. "Change of plan. You. Go on home, or wherever it is you were going." He pointed at Mark and the two others. "These three will stand here for a few minutes and keep me company."
Kevin simply nodded, and slid past the three boys and headed for the door.
"You can't keep us here," Mark said, now sounding worried himself.
"You're right, I can't," the clerk agreed. "So you go ahead after him, and I'll call security. The store's cameras caught everything, I'm quite sure--"
The voices died away as Kevin emerged from the store. Briefly, he sent a mental thank you back towards the store clerk, even as he resented the need to even be doing it. He headed for the exit, a turmoil of emotions whirling through his head, none of which he could stop to examine too closely.
His good mood was gone now, and anxiety had replaced the little bit of confidence in himself he had restored. That he had stepped backwards again he was aware of, and it made him mad at himself, but he had no idea how to repair that. All he wanted now was to get home, and maybe crawl back into bed as he had originally planned.
I didn't do anything wrong, was all he could think.
But the world didn't seem to care about that. The world did not seem to give a rat's ass about what Kevin Kennedy wanted, or didn't want in his life. The world, just like the people in it, was indifferent.
He exited the mall into an equally indifferent light rain, pulled his hood up to ward off the droplets, and crossed the parking lot to the shortcut through the woods and entered them. The three boys at the mall did not ride his school bus, did not live on his street. He had never even noticed them before at school. They would have no idea which way he had headed, and Kevin could not imagine them following him, anyway.
It sounded like a good argument. But that did not stop him from looking back over his shoulder periodically, and when he did spy motion in the distance behind him, all the barriers broke lose. He ran, not even waiting to see what it was he had spied. His head emptied of every thought except the one that wanted to get away.
He took the turns in the path blindly, reached a fork, and turned into the left one, and ran harder. He soon reached another fork, and went right this time. His shoes squished-squished in the covering of soggy dead leaves, adding a somehow desperate note to his headlong plunge. He heard shouts behind him, and knew then that the pursuit had been taken up. The hounds were baying now as they ran, the scent of blood in their noses, the sight of prey ahead spurring them onward.
Kevin rounded a bend in the path, came out onto a rocky surface...and stopped. Ahead of him was a drop off, and the sound of the river below. He stared, the facts slowly adding up, until what had happened was plain.
He'd taken the wrong paths.
Somehow, in all the panic of his escape, he had gone the wrong way at the forks. He should have gone right, and then left, and he'd somehow reversed them. He was standing atop a rocky bluff, the busy, churning sounds of the rain-filled Mohawk River wafting upwards from beneath him. Behind him, in the distance, the voices grew louder, came nearer, and Kevin saw that, short of striking off noisily through the undergrowth in some random direction, there was simply no place to go.
He edged up to the drop off and looked down. Below, the river moved by more quickly than normal, its waters swollen with fresh rain. The drop was an easy thirty feet, and the water was moving too fast to be even remotely a safe haven. Kevin looked wildly about, seeking another way out...and then suddenly, he just sagged and stood still.
I'm so sick of this, he thought. I hate this.
He stood still and closed his eyes, and listened to the voices of his pursuers as they neared. All that had happened to him since that day in the school hallway with Evan Kaylin flashed through his mind, leaving behind a sad and lonely reflection which he knew was a true look at himself. He did not like what he saw, not one bit; but could not help staring at himself, at his fear, and his sadness, and at his inability to fix what was now wrong with his life.
I wish...I wish...that I was gone, he thought. I wish that this world could no longer see me. He glanced at the drop off, wondering if that was the way to go. He was still considering it when he heard the thuds of running feet, and the three boys burst from the woods behind him. Kevin turned to face them, and opened his eyes.
"Where is he?" one called, as the bully named Mark charged forward to look over the edge of the drop off. "I saw him here," added the other boy.
Mark looked down at the water, and then slowly around the little clearing. "What the fuck? Where did he go?"
Kevin simply stared at the boys standing a mere six feet away from him, and actually opened his mouth, intending to say, "Here I am."
But then he stopped, and closed his mouth again, and simply watched, stunned, as the three boys circled the clearing, looking into the bushes, stretching their necks to peer into the woods. They stood and listened, but only the sound of the racing water below reached them.
"He's not here," one of them finally said, and then looked towards the drop off. "You don't think he--"
"He has to be here," Mark said, shaking his head. But all three of them moved to the edge of the rock face and looked down into the swiftly moving waters below.
"If he jumped, he's in trouble," one boy said, a note of horror in his voice. "That water looks rough."
"He couldn't have jumped," Mark said then, disbelief plain in his voice; and yet Kevin did not miss the white look of fear on the boy's face now. "If he did, and he drowns--"
"It'll be because of us," one of the others said flatly. "They'll blame us."
"We'll go to jail," the other one whispered.
Kevin stood absolutely still, unable to believe what was happening. How could they not see him?
Mark suddenly whipped his head side to side, looking fiercely at his companions. "No one say anything, not to anybody. We don't know anything about what happened."
"That clerk at the store saw us," said the boy who'd mentioned jail. "Their cameras saw us with that guy. We'll get caught!"
"Shut up!" Mark looked at the water again, and shook his head. "We didn't lay a hand on him. If he jumped, he did it on his own."
"You can't do that!" the boy that had said they'd be blamed hollered. "If he's in the water, he needs help!"
Mark grabbed him by the front of his shirt and shook him. "You can't say anything!"
But the other boy roared, and pried Mark's hands off of him. Then he turned and started back into the woods.
"Wait!" Mark bellowed after him. "Where are you going?"
Mark looked desperate then. "Wait! We have to talk!"
"I'm going, too," the other boy said. "I don't want to see your dumb ass again, Mark. You stupid shit."
Mark looked shocked. "You were with me! We were all doing this!"
Mark's jaw dropped, and he stood with his hands out, staring down the path as the others vanished into the trees. For a long moment the boy just stood there, shock and disbelief at the turn of events plain in every line of his face. And then he turned and walked back to the edge of the drop off, and looked down into the turbulent waters below. Kevin watched the guy, feeling no compassion for him at all.
But then, a new thought came to him. Had he...had he jumped? Was he dead now, and that was why no one could see him? The thought suddenly terrified him. He didn't want to be dead! He wanted to live!
Kevin yelled, an incoherent sound, all fury and despair.
Mark turned and ran, screaming himself, and Kevin simply stared after him, shocked. The reaction was intense, and its cause, obvious. He heard me, Kevin realized.
He contemplated that, and then sighed. He could not be dead if people could hear him. Well...at least not dead, dead. He considered everything that had just happened, focusing intensely on the moment he had approached the drop off and looked over. Yes, he had been scared. The waters had even briefly looked an easier way out than facing Mark and his two friends. But...he concentrated, and slowly shook his head. I didn't jump. I am not dead.
Then what? And in that moment, all in a rush, his thoughts came back to him...his wish. I wish I was gone...
Kevin gasped, stunned, and held up a hand before him. It was not there. He looked down at himself, at his hoodie, his jeans, his shoes. None of which were there...
No...wait. His shoes did seem to be there, after all. He moved a foot, and the shoe moved. But it was empty, ghost-like, surreal.
I'm invisible, he realized then. I'm really, truly...gone.
Kevin stood there for what seemed like a very long time, trying to wrap his thoughts around the idea of being invisible to everyone else. But it was just so far beyond his experience that he really couldn't grasp it. Especially if it was permanent, an idea which sacred the crap out of him.
"No, no. I want to be seen," he said then, raising a hand in front of his face and gently waving it back and forth. "I want to be back."
Nothing happened. No hand appeared, no arm...nothing.
Suddenly, the urge to go home seemed paramount in Kevin's mind. He started back down the path at a run, then slowed to a jog as he realized that he was scarcely looking where he was going. Even invisible, if he tripped over something and broke his neck, he would probably still die.
The woods all looked the same to him, and it seemed much too long to the first fork, and he was shocked when he rounded a bend and suddenly emerged onto a grassy embankment above a parking lot. He stared, unable to believe his eyes. He was back at the mall.
But his relief at being out of the woods was palpable. He looked around, remembered that he could cross the parking lot to the road and go right, and down two blocks and then right again, and he would eventually arrive at home. Going back into the woods now was not something he wanted to do.
He wanted to go home, yes. But also, he wanted to...he needed to...look at himself. He crossed to the side doors of the mall, and positioned himself in front of one of them. The tinted glass reflected the parking lot behind him, but Kevin Kennedy was noticeably missing from the view.
He was truly not there at all.
He moved a little closer, and was startled when the door glided open. He jumped back, and it closed again. He stared a moment, and took a step back towards the door. Again, it glided open.
So he was invisible, but not intangible. The radar waves that activated the door knew he was there, even if the eyes of others did not. That gave him some hope, that maybe something could be done to fix his...condition.
He stood there on the blacktop, deciding what to do. He looked down at his invisible self once again, trying to figure out a way to explain to his parents what he had done. And as he did that, he spied motion on the pavement below. He froze, and then bent slightly forward, looking at the parking lot under his feet.
Again, he could see his own shoes. But this time, reflected in the rain-soaked pavement, he could also see a ghostly reflection of himself, standing there, looking downward. His reflection stood within the empty shoes that Kevin could see at his feet, belying totally the impression that they were empty at all. But the two images were out of synch - images of two worlds, one real, and one a reflection, and neither now apparent which one was which.
He turned for home. He had to be careful on the sidewalk, because no one could see him, and there were others moving along in both directions. Kevin noted that his shoes still made some slight scuffing sounds on the wet sidewalk as he moved, but that others apparently could not see them, as when he approached those coming towards him, some of them slowed and looked confused by the sound of someone walking, who obviously wasn't there.
The rain started again as he walked along, and the brief sense of relief he had felt at being able to open the door at the mall vanished, as he realized that, while he could see the rain coming down, he could not feel it. Even when he stopped and tilted his head directly back so that the rain should have hit him squarely in he face, he still felt nothing at all. He opened his mouth, but nothing seemed to go inside of it, and when he swallowed, only his own spittle went down.
That meant that he could not drink, and probably not eat, either. And that meant, quite simply, that if he could not do something about his condition, then he was going to die. A new sense of panic tried to take hold of him then, and he started off again at a faster pace than before. He reached the end of the second block and turned the corner. Down the street, a school bus was just letting off a small crowd of kids. Some of them took off immediately, trying to get home before the rain did much damage to their clothing. Others, better dressed for wet weather, sauntered along, in no hurry at all. A couple of kids in rain coats stood talking, heedless of the rain entirely.
One person moved towards Kevin, walking slowly,his hands in his pockets, his head down. The person wore a hoodie, and carried a small backpack slung over one shoulder. Kevin paid little attention to the person, planning to just step out of the way if there wasn't room to pass.
But as the person neared, he must have heard the scuff of Kevin's shoes on the walk. The head lifted, and a familiar face peered out at him. Kevin stopped, startled, trying to place the face, and was even more startled when the other boy stopped and smiled at him. "Oh...hi."
Kevin stared at the other boy...and then he had it. It was Randy, or Ricky...no, Riley. The boy that had the locker next to his in school. But even as he realized who it was, another realization struck home.
"You can see me?"
The other boy squinted at him, plainly confused by the question. He simply shrugged, obviously not knowing how else to act. "Well...yeah."
Kevin felt faint. He looked wildly around, and his eyes settled on a bench by the sidewalk, meant for riders of the city bus. He staggered over to it and sat down, and placed his head in his hands. Riley stared after him a moment, and then followed. "Kevin? Are you okay?"
The fact that the other boy even knew his name should have surprised him. But Kevin barely noticed. He looked up at him. "I don't know. Are you sure you can see me?"
Riley sat down next to him, and looked him over carefully. "What's wrong?"
And then, unable to control himself, the story of what had happened to Kevin that day came out, at first haltingly, and then faster and faster as Kevin's mind unburdened itself. Waking up and feeling overwhelmed at the thought of going to school. Feeling sorry for himself, getting his mom to let him stay home, and then finally deciding that was not the way to go. The walk in the rain, the mall, the movie, and meeting up with the guys from school. And then the chase - that awful, fearful chase. And finally, being trapped in the woods above the river, and wishing himself away. And his pursuers arriving, to find him gone, even though he was standing right next to them.
Riley listened carefully, his eyebrows dancing up and down with surprise and concern, and then, when Kevin finished, a shake of his head in wonder. "But I can see you, Kevin. You're not gone."
Kevin nodded, and extended a hand. At least, he could feel it extend, even if he couldn't see it. "Then touch me."
It was plain that Riley could see the hand. He bit his lip, and carefully reached out his own hand to touch Kevin's. The other boy's hand slowed, and settled on a patch of empty air...and then continued downward, unchecked. Riley gasped then, and pulled his hand back. "Oh, my god."
Kevin nodded. "I'm gone."
Riley's eyes stared at him, slowly filled with saddness. "Oh, no, you can't go." He swallowed hard, and leaned closer. "Please don't go."
It was Kevin's turn to stare. The other boy's face - his eyes - were now filled with sorrow.
"You can't go," Riley whispered then. "You can't."
For a moment the two of them looked at each other, and something occurred to Kevin for the very first time. Riley had a sweet face, and his pale blue eyes were simply loaded with emotion. So much of it that Kevin was nearly overwhelmed by it. "What's the matter?"
Riley chewed his lip, and then sighed. And then he lowered his eyes and leaned forward, and the hood shadowed his face. "I saw you the first day of school, out by the buses. I just stopped in my tracks. I just couldn't believe how...how wonderful you were."
Kevin's jaw dropped in shock. "Me?"
The other nodded. "I saw your face, saw you talking to someone. And then you smiled, and you laughed, and it was like being struck by lightning or something. I was frozen in place, and I watched you until you went inside." He gave out a tiny sigh. "And then I went in to my locker, and there you were, right next to me." He looked up then. "A dream walking."
A curious sense of deja vu rolled over Kevin then, as he recalled his own experiences with Evan Kaylin. He knew what it was like to be struck dumb by the beauty of a certain soul, as represented in the face, the smile, the eyes of another. He knew what it was like to long for the company of someone...only to know that it was unattainable. And he also knew what it was like to suddenly have new hope for that companionship, and then to see it dashed to pieces by the callous backhand swipe of wicked reality.
But all he could do was stare at Riley. "Me? You liked...me?"
Riley nodded. "But you liked Evan. I could see that, plainly enough."
Kevin winced. "You saw how that worked out."
"Yes. At first I just watched you, sure you couldn't possibly be gay." Riley offered a weak smile. "I don't have luck like that normally, I guess. I was afraid even to talk to you, that I might give myself away." Another weak smile worked its way out onto his face. "I'm a little shy."
Kevin suddenly found he could not help smiling himself. "I noticed."
"Yeah. Well, as I watched you, I soon noticed you watching Evan. It became so plain to me, what was happening, that I had to laugh a little." He suddenly looked apologetic, and raised a thumb and forefinger and held them an inch apart. "Just a little."
Kevin nodded. "Go on."
Riley dropped his hand, and sighed. "You were watching Evan, the same way I was watching you. I decided then that you were gay, but that I would never get to know you, because I was not like you at all. You were so cool, and you had so much energy, always smiling, always laughing." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I was a little scared of you."
Kevin was amazed at that. "Me?" The idea that someone had been watching him, the entire time he had been watching Evan, was...well...weird. How could he have not noticed that? But even as he asked himself that question, he already knew the answer. He had not noticed because he had not been paying attention to the boy with the locker next to his, any more than Evan had been paying attention to the boy three lockers down.
Riley nodded. "And you liked Evan, anyway, and not me."
"I didn't even know you," Kevin said apologetically. "I wasn't...I wasn't paying attention." He sighed. "I'm really sorry."
Riley just shrugged. "I'm used to it. I'm kind of invisible to most people, myself."
Kevin dropped his own gaze now. "Well, you saw what happened the day I asked Evan out. I found out the hard way that he wasn't gay."
Riley squeezed his eyes shut. "That was so...awful. I just wanted to...you needed someone so badly..." Riley gulped, and swallowed hard. "I cried for you, when I got home that day."
"I did some of that, myself," Kevin admitted softly.
For a moment they sat together in silence. "I don't know what to do," Kevin finally admitted.
Riley nodded, and looked saddened all over again. "I can't believe you wished yourself away, Kevin. I can't believe that you didn't want the world to see you anymore."
"I wanted to hide," Kevin confessed. "I wanted to --" He didn't finish the sentence. He couldn't.
I wanted to die, is what he almost said.
"Oh, Kevin," Riley said softly, leaning forward. He extended a hand, as if to touch Kevin, and then snatched it back as he remembered that he couldn't. "To wish yourself away is a terrible thing."
Kevin nodded. "And now I don't know how to get back."
Riley leaned forward, his eyes filled with pain. "Kevin, I'm used to being invisible. I'm used to not being noticed. I know it's not fun, but at least it doesn't hurt me much. But you...you've gone beyond that. You're not just invisible, you're untouchable now. And that's really a terrible, terrible thing."
Kevin gulped, suddenly feeling an urge to cry. "No one wanted to touch me, anyway. Except that asshole Mark and his buddies. And they just wanted to pound on me."
Riley squeezed his eyes shut. "That's not true," he said softly. "I wanted to touch you." He shivered, and emitted a soft, sad sound. "And now I never will."
Kevin froze, staring at this boy he scarcely knew. Was that true? Could Riley still feel so strongly for Kevin, after glimpsing how imperfect he really was?
And then the answer was clear. Riley could see him, when no one else could. And it was because he was seeing Kevin, not with his eyes, but with his heart.
Kevin squeezed his eyes shut. He wanted to cry out, such was his pain. Was this some horrible game life was playing with him? Was this the way it went? Show him someone he wanted, but couldn't have, and then show him someone who wanted him, but who now couldn't touch him? Someone who...he now might want to touch in return?
He had made the wrong choice, he could see that now. He had only been focused on what had been before his eyes, and had totally missed what was going on at his back. And then, when things had gone wrong, instead of looking about for a solution, a different direction to go, he had simply tried to be rid of all of it. To run away from it.
To run away from life.
Kevin gasped now, at the immensity of what he had done. He had done. No one had done this to him. Kevin had done it to himself.
I wished my life away, he realized. What could I have been thinking?
No life is ever perfect. Into each a little rain must fall, right? And what did you do when it rained outside? You grabbed a hoodie, or an umbrella, or a raincoat, and you went ahead with business. Life did not wait on rain. People did not wait on rain.
Living a life meant accepting the bad along with the good. It meant having strength, and courage, and dignity, and understanding that in the toughest moments of the day, you always had these things to fall back on. Living a life meant going on with it, even when you didn't feel like you could.
Kevin looked at Riley now, at the pain on the other boy's face. Some of that is for me. And the rest, is because of me.
Kevin closed his eyes, and remembered that moment back on the overlook above the river. The moment where he had stood and listened to the calls of his pursuers, his mind filled with the fear of the coming encounter, and elected not to face it. He had, instead, chosen to become invisible. He had been afraid, and he had been alone, and he had been ready to give in. And now he knew...that he had been wrong.
He stepped back to that very moment, when he made the wish, and the words had come, and he reached out, and he...changed them. He remade the decision, and this time, it was a different one.
This time, he chose...life.
"What on earth are you guys doing?" a voice said then. Kevin jacked his eyes open, to find a girl standing before them. She was maybe a year older than them, with a strong face and intelligent brown eyes. She was wearing a raincoat. and Kevin realized it was one of the two kids he'd seen standing and talking after getting off the school bus.
Riley stared at her. "Oh...hi, Denise." His eyes went wide then, and darted to Kevin before going back to the girl. "What did you just say?"
Denise frowned, like she thought that they were having fun at her expense. "I asked what you two were doing." She tossed a hand at Riley. "You were sitting there with your eyes shut, looking like you were about to cry, and your friend there had his head back and his eyes squeezed shut, looking like he was gonna puke. You looked like a couple of morons, is what."
Kevin tilted his head back, and gasped as he felt raindrops on his face. Rain! His head snapped forward, and he raised a hand and waved his fingers at the girl. "You see this?"
Denise raised a fist at him, and then the middle finger in it. "Yeah. You see this?"
But Kevin wasn't listening. He was staring at his hand, perfectly visible before his eyes now. He laughed, and jumped to his feet, turning to Riley. "I'm back!"
Riley jumped to his own feet, and grabbed at Kevin, and Kevin felt the contact as Riley's fingers closed firmly about his forearms. "You're back!" Riley yelled, laughing delightedly.
They rushed into each other's arms, hugging, while Denise stepped back in astonishment. "Hol-lee shit. Must be something awful in the rain water."
Kevin hugged Riley, pounded him on the back, squeezing him, and pushing his cheek against the other boy's, and Riley did all of the same things back. That went on for a full ten seconds before both of them realized what they were doing, and in public, too.
They bounced apart suddenly, each of them gasping.
Denise had her hands on her hips, watching them. "Are you two nuts or something?"
"Uh...we're rehearsing a play," Riley stammered, and then flinched terribly at what an awful excuse it was.
"Sure you are." Denise nodded. "What's it called?"
Kevin grinned wildly, wanting now to go along with Riley. "It's...uh, Waiting For Godot. That's the scene where Godot finally arrives."
Denise narrowed her eyes. "I read that stupid play last year in English, too. Godot never comes."
"That's what it would have looked like if he did," Riley stammered, looking desperately at Kevin for inspiration.
The complete absurdity of the situation struck Kevin then, and he laughed. He leaned forward, placed his hands on his knees, and laughed hard. Riley just stared at him, and Denise's eyebrows went up so high that Kevin thought they might push the hood back off her head. It was plain from her expression that she thought he was nuts.
Finally, Kevin wound down, and straightened, and smiled at Denise. "Can you keep a secret?"
She eyed him warily, plainly not about to be fooled again. "Maybe. What is it?"
Kevin steeled himself, and then nodded. "We're gay. And we just found out that we like each other."
Denise blinked. Her eyes went to Riley, who looked completely shocked by the admission. He stared at Kevin, and Kevin smiled at him. "Right?"
Kevin could see the decision as it slowly surfaced in the other boy's face. Riley sighed, his eyes bright, and nodded to himself. He looked back to Denise. "Right."
And then Denise's face cracked, and a smile appeared, and she reached over and gave Riley a playful prod. "'Bout time you came out, boy. I'm proud of you."
Riley's jaw dropped, and Kevin simply laughed. "You knew?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Sure." She leaned closer, and winked. "I'm kind of a tomboy, myself."
Kevin smiled. "I wouldn't have guessed."
The girl rolled her eyes at him, looked up the street, and started off. "Have fun, guys. Hear no evil, speak no evil. See you later, Riley."
Kevin watched her go, and then turned to Riley. "You have some cool friends."
Riley licked his lips, and shook his head. "She's not a friend. That's my sister."
"What?" Kevin stared after the girl.
"Well, my half sister," Riley elaborated. He grinned then. "She is pretty cool, though."
Kevin sighed at the boy's smile - his very beautiful smile - and extended a hand. "Walk with me?"
Riley looked around them and frowned. But then he looked at Kevin's hand, and reached out, almost timidly, and settled his fingertips into Kevin's palm. The contact was genuine, utterly real. Riley gave his head a little shake as if in wonder, blew some air out between his lips, and suddenly smiled. He opened his hand then, and took Kevin's in his own.
"Where are we going?"
"I need to get home," Kevin said. "I have a feeling...a weird feeling...that it's important that I do." He waved a hand down the street. "I only live three blocks over." He grinned. "We were a lot closer to each other than we knew."
Riley suddenly smiled at that, and gripped Kevin's hand a little tighter. "Okay."
They started off, walking side-by-side, hand-in-hand. Kevin realized then that he was taking a chance here. He didn't know anything about Riley, except what he had seen and heard in the last few minutes. He looked over at the boy, who was smiling, and who seemed completely happy.
How could you not take a chance on that?
"No one will believe this, if we tell them," Kevin said then. "So we won't." He looked over at Riley. "If that's okay with you."
"No, I think you're right. My mom would just say I needed to see the therapist again."
Kevin blinked at that. "You were seeing a therapist?"
Riley nodded. "For my shyness."
"Oh. Well, it seems to have worked.'
The sweet laugh that came out in response to that was reward enough.
They talked, and, once the floodgates opened, a lot came out in a very short period of time. By the time they turned up Kevin's street they were laughing and carrying on like they had been friends for much longer than an hour. Riley was easy to get to know, once the first steps had been taken.
Kevin only felt that he had gotten lucky, to meet this shy, sweet boy, who had already made it clear that Kevin was the one he had been looking for. The knowledge of that was as wonderful as it was scary. A real boyfriend, Kevin mused. I have a real boyfriend now.
He gazed up the street towards his house, and slowed. There was a police car out front. Of course there was. That was why he had felt such an urge to come home.
He remembered now, how Mark's two friends had bailed on him, and that one had even suggested that Kevin might need help if he was in the river. In the world Kevin had lived in until this very moment, most of the things he laid eyes upon were painted in clean shades of black or white. But now he had come to understand gray, and the many shades of gray that came between the two. He knew now that things were not always this or that; sometimes, they were somewhere in between.
Not always good or evil, but sometimes, just stupid. Especially when it came to kids. Kids do stupid things.
"That's my house, with the cop car out front," Kevin said quietly.
Riley glanced up, and nodded. "Your dad's a cop?"
"No. My dad's a computer nerd for the government."
Riley slowed, and then stopped. His eyes went from Kevin to the police car, and then came back. "Then why is it there?"
Kevin eyed the car, and then smiled at Riley. "I think one of Mark's friends had a conscience, after all."
Riley looked like he did not understand, but nodded anyway. "Do you want me to wait here while you go in?"
"No." Kevin squeezed his boyfriend's hand. "No, I want you to come in with me."
Riley smiled, and they went ahead up the walk, and turned into Kevin's front yard. They crossed the grass, and went in through the front door.
There were voices in the kitchen. "...when we get the chopper up, and they start searching the river," someone was saying.
Kevin motioned for Riley to wait, and went to the doorway into the kitchen and looked inside. His mom and dad were seated, side-by-side at the table, their hands gripped together. His mom looked like she might have been crying, and Kevin's heart nearly broke at the sight of it. His father looked about as upset as Kevin had ever seen him, his eyes grim and angry. Across from them sat two police officers, one with a small pad of paper open before him on the tabletop.
"There were three boys, you say?" his dad asked, the anger plain in his voice.
The officer with the pad of paper nodded. "Yes. They are all in custody at the moment. But the one boy, Miles Bergeron, is the one that alerted us. He apparently ran home and told his mother, and she called us. He's been cooperative, is all I can say at the moment."
Mr. Kennedy nodded, and squeezed his wife's hand.
Kevin's eyes settled on his dad's, watched as they came up and saw him, there in the doorway. Watched as they grew wide, and then wider, and then as they filled with absolute joy.
And then the man was coming up out of the chair. "My god, Kevin! Where have you been?"
Kevin's mom gave a little shriek and jumped up too; and then Kevin was sandwiched between them, being hugged, being kissed, and feeling loved liked he had never felt loved before. He returned the hugs, the kisses, the tears, and all the while thinking, I nearly wished away this, too.
Some choices, he saw now, are not to be made lightly.
He had to sit, and he had to explain. The police wanted to know what had happened, and Kevin told them. It seemed very straightforward to him now, with the dull patina of fear removed from the actions. The officer with the pad and the pen scribbled hastily as Kevin spoke, nodding in between questions.
"Did any of these boys put their hands on you at any point?"
Kevin debated that. He hadn't been hurt - at least, not physically. But...someone like Mark needed reigning in, before he did hurt someone. So he explained about what had happened in the men's shop at the mall, and said that the clerk there had intervened.
The officer nodded, and wrote that down. "And what about when you got to the river?"
Here, the truth simply would not do, and Kevin knew it. "I realized I was at a cliff, and I looked over it, and there was nowhere to go. Then I saw a little ledge, underneath. I crawled over the edge and hid there. The others came up, and they couldn't find me." He shrugged. "I think they thought I had jumped."
The officer scribbled, and nodded. "And what did they do then?"
Kevin considered that briefly, before responding. "They got scared. The two guys with Mark said they were leaving. One of them said that if I was in the water, I might need help. That was probably the one that had his mom call you."
The man nodded. "And after they left?"
Kevin shrugged. "I came home. I took the long way around, instead of through the woods."
The officer nodded, and looked at his watch. "It took you all this time to get here?"
Kevin smiled. "No. I stopped on the way to talk to a friend." He sighed then. "I had no idea all of this was going on, or I would have called." He looked at his parents then, and shook his head. "I'm so sorry."
His dad nodded. "We're just glad you're okay."
His mom pointed a finger at him. "The next time you stay home sick, you are to stay home, you understand?"
Kevin nodded. "Yes. I'm sorry you were worried."
She smiled, and shook her head. "You don't even know, Kevin."
Finally, there was nothing left to be said. The officers looked at him with some sympathy, said they were happy this one had turned out okay, and said they would be in touch. And then they left.
Kevin's mom came right over and hugged him again, while his dad stood by, smiling. Kevin squeezed his mom, and kissed her, and then released her. "Stand right here a moment, will you?" He looked over at his dad. "Wait here, just a second?"
His mom gave him a quizzical look, and then smiled. "What are you up to now?"
Kevin smiled back. He had made his choice. He had decided on life, on being visible. To him, that meant sharing things now, with his parents, with his friends, with the whole damn world.
He had chosen visibility, and more importantly, he had chosen to allow himself to be touched. In his mind, upon his body, and within his heart.
He grinned at them, and held up his hands. "Just stand there a second. There's someone very special that I want you to meet."
And then he went down the hallway, to get Riley.
"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This story is part of the 2018 story challenge "Inspired by a Picture: Empty Shoes". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 24 August to 14 September 2018 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.
The challenge was to write a story inspired by this picture:
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