Abby asked Tyler to show her what he had written. They had been talking for quite a while, and he had become very much at ease with her, so he showed her the poem. The old lady looked at the paper for several minutes, almost studying what was written there. Tyler glanced at her nervously as she looked at the paper. He saw a smile finally come to her lips.
"That's very moving, my young friend," she finally said. "It seems that you must have lost someone very close to you."
"Yes..." Tyler admitted. "...the love of my life. We were so close..."
"But he died?" Abby questioned him.
"Yeah, and I blamed him for it for a long time, even though it wasn't his fault." Tyler suddenly realized the lady next to him had figured out he had been talking about another boy. He didn't know how she had guessed that, or figured it out, but he had just admitted to her that she was correct.
Tyler sat silently in his seat for a moment before he asked, "How did you know?"
Abby patted his hand reassuringly. "My grandson is gay, and I've met a few of his boyfriends since he came to live with me. It comes with the territory I suppose."
"Your grandson lives with you?" Tyler asked, sort of surprised - she had told him that her son and grandchildren lived in Savannah a few minutes before. Maybe she had had another child? He imagined that something awful must have happened to his parents that he would have to live with his grandmother. "Did his parents die or something?" he asked. "I thought you said your family lived in Savannah..." he continued, allowing the thought to trail off.
"No dear," she said, sadly. "His parents do live in Savannah with their other children. They just weren't happy with him being gay – and wanted him out of their house. So he came to live with me in Atlanta."
"Why is that?" he asked
"Sweetheart, in the south, old prejudices can often run very deep. I can't say that I'm proud of the way my son feels about one of his own children, and I can't say that I understand my grandson's choice of lifestyle, but he is family, so I can't have him living out on the street." Abby seemed to grow just a little more melancholy for a moment, then continued. "So of course I took him in. What else was I to do?"
Tyler looked over at the elderly lady who still had her hand upon his. "Abby," he said, "It isn't a choice. I didn't decide to be gay, and neither did your grandson. I don't know if I can really explain it to you, but I didn't just wake up one morning and decide that I wanted to be gay. I was born this way, and if your grandson is gay, so was he."
Abby sat and pondered what the young man sitting next to her had just said. It seemed remarkably wise to have come from someone so young. She squeezed his hand gently. "Thank you Tyler. I hadn't thought about it that way, and Mitchell... Well, he seems so angry so much of the time... He's never really talked to me about it."
"Mitchell is your grandson?" Tyler asked.
"No, Mitchell is my son. Jayson is my grandson. He's sort of embarrassed by the thought of discussing such a delicate matter with an old woman, I think. Mitchell, well... When he found out about Jayson being, um, homosexual, he got very upset and threw him out of the house. I didn't find out until almost three weeks later when Jayson showed up at my house, poor thing." Abby let out a sigh as she thought about the condition her grandson had been in when he turned up on her doorstep.
A flight attendant stopped by their seats to see if either of them wanted anything. Tyler asked for a Coke, presuming correctly that they had already crossed into U.S. airspace. Abby considered it for a moment and asked for a cup of hot tea. She had considered asking for something stronger, despite the early hour, but changed her mind.
"So how old is your grandson?" Tyler finally asked.
"He's seventeen, dear," she told him. "Don't you go getting any ideas though, he has a boyfriend."
"Wow, that sucks... Er, that stinks I mean - you know, that his dad kicked him out when he was so young and all..." he corrected himself. The elderly lady next to him had a sort of regal presence that made Tyler uncomfortable to have used even such slight profanity. "How old was Jayson when his dad kicked him out?" he asked.
"He was just sixteen. He had just turned sixteen as a matter of fact. It was the day after his birthday when his mother caught him talking with someone, or whatever it is you young people do on the computer."
"Chatting," Tyler told her, "it's called chatting."
"Chat, tweet, twit, chirp," Abby sighed. "I just can't keep track of all these terms you kids use these days. It was so much simpler in my day. You courted properly, and in person. Of course two young men wouldn't be able to do anything like that back then, not that's not to say that it didn't go on where folks couldn't see..."
Abby had let her last sentence trail off, betraying that perhaps she did know about some clandestine meetings that went on when she was young. Tyler thought for a moment about asking her about what she'd meant, but in the end chose not to. He thought it might be an embarrassing topic for her to discuss with him. He knew the reverse would certainly be true.
Tyler and Corey sat on the swings for a while and talked. It was good for Corey to be able to reconnect with his friend - former friend perhaps? But they were getting along again, sitting there as dusk fell and the snow continued to fall. Everything they talked about was inconsequential. But it was nice to be able to sit together and talk once more. They had both missed being together - more than either had realized.
Corey noticed that Tyler kept pulling his phone out of his pocket and looking at it. Finally he asked, "Are you expecting a call?"
Tyler looked over at Corey, who was able to see the sadness in his eyes right away. "Yeah," he answered. "I left a message for my mom earlier. I was hoping that she would have called me back by now."
"What did you call her about?" Corey asked, curiously.
Tyler sniffed and wiped a tear from his cheek with the back of his hand. "I told her I want to come home," he admitted. "I know I've fucked up, but I want to try to make it right. If I don't, I know I'm just going to fuck my life up even more. I just can't go on like this."
Corey extended his hand - merely as a gesture of friendship. Tyler glanced over at him, and Corey smiled at him. "You want to come spend the night with at my house tonight?" he asked. "No strings attached, just spend the night," he added quickly.
Tyler smiled back, took hold of Corey's hand and squeezed gently. "Yeah, I think I'd like that."
They walked slowly toward the edge of the playground hand in hand; Corey for once apparently not caring if someone saw them in a fairly intimate moment - at least that's how it seemed to Tyler. Until they reached the gate - it was there that Corey pulled his hand away. Tyler started to feel hurt again, but that only lasted a moment, for Corey only wanted to release his grip so he would be able to put his arm around Tyler's waist. When he did that, Tyler was forced to blink back another tear as he returned the gesture. He had one of his oldest and dearest friends back.
Corey wondered if he should try to sneak Tyler in through the basement as they got ever closer to his house. After all, his parents did know about his having run away from home as they had been contacted by Tyler's parents early on when they were looking for him. He knew that if they saw him, they would immediately call Tyler's parents - but if what Tyler had told him was true, that he had called and professed a desire to come home, that shouldn't be an issue. Finally, he decided it would be better to just ask. "Um, Ty... There's something I need to ask you about before we get to my house," he started.
"Well, when you... When you left home, your parents were calling all over looking for you. I know they talked to my mom and dad, and well, if they see you, they're supposed to call your parents right away. You know, to let them know where you are." Corey paused for a moment, but Tyler didn't respond right away, so he continued, "I just want to know whether or not we should sneak you into my room or not."
"I don't care if your parents see me," Tyler told him. "I told you, I already left a voice mail for my mom telling her I want to come home."
"Cool," Corey looked over at him and smiled. "Front door it is then."
It wasn't until they were entering Corey's house that they removed their arms from around each other's waists. They came in through the kitchen and walked into the family room, where Corey's parents were sitting, watching TV. Corey's parents stood immediately when they saw that Tyler was with their son. Corey's mother ran over and hugged him.
Once she'd released her grip she backed away a little, placing her hands on his upper arms and looked him up and down. "Well, you don't seem the worse for wear, but you have had everyone very worried!"
"Yes Ma'am, I know. I had a big fight with my parents, and well... I know what I did was pretty dumb..." he let that statement trail off. "I'm trying to make it right... I called and left a message for my mother a little while ago, but she hasn't returned my call yet."
That's when they heard Corey's father - he was talking on the telephone... "...he's here with us. We just want you to know he's alright. Please give us a ring back when you get this message." It was pretty obvious that he'd been leaving a voice mail for Tyler's parents. At least that explained why Tyler's mother hadn't called him back yet... She hadn't yet gotten the message.
"Is it okay if Ty spends the night?" Corey asked his parents. "I mean it's pretty late already, and his parents obviously aren't home..."
"Of course it is!" his mother answered, then looked over to her husband to see what his reaction would be, even though she'd already blurted out approval on behalf of the both of them. Fortunately he nodded his agreement.
Luckily, Corey's parents didn't press Tyler for details about where he had been staying or what he'd been doing since he'd gone missing from his parents' home. They allowed Corey to take him by the arm and lead him downstairs to his bedroom. Tyler wasn't sure where things were going to go between him and Corey tonight, and became even more uncertain when Corey led him toward the bed, then turned to face him. They were standing very close together, and it seemed for a moment as if Corey might move to kiss him.
That didn't happen though. Corey backed away a little. "It is pretty late," he said. "We'd probably better get ready for bed." He took another step back, and then he finally released Tyler's hand. Sheepishly, Tyler looked down at the floor. He just stood there, looking down. He sensed movement from Corey, but still he didn't look up. Corey used his toes to push his shoes off, then he raised each leg, one at a time, to pull his jeans off. The legs of his pants were tight enough that when he pulled them off, his socks went with them. Tyler finally looked up and saw that Corey was standing in front of him wearing only a skimpy pair of bright blue, no-fly briefs. His slim body was as pretty as Tyler remembered it, but it was sadness not arousal he principally felt as he looked Corey over.
Corey gave him a coy smile. "You aren't planning on going to bed like that are you?" he asked.
Tyler shrugged out of his jacket, letting it drop to the floor next to him. A moment later the flannel shirt he'd worn landed on top of it. He had to sit down on the bed to pull off the boots he was wearing, and while he sat there, went ahead and pulled his socks off as well. Finally, he stood and stripped down the rest of the way to his underwear, and turquoise pair of boxers which weren't nearly as tight on him as the ones he'd worn first thing that morning when Drake had seen him. The bruises Drake had left there were still very visible, and Corey couldn't help but notice.
"Oh my God! What happened to you?" he exclaimed as Tyler turned back to face him.
"What do you mean?" Tyler asked, not knowing exactly what Corey was referring to.
"Those bruises," Corey explained. "You've got some really nasty bruises on the backs of your legs. They look sort of like hand prints."
Corey put his hands on Tyler's waist, and Tyler allowed Corey to turn him around to see the bruises more closely. "These are hand prints! Ty, you have to tell me, please. What happened? Who did this to you?" The angle at which the imprints on the backs of Tyler's legs were made told Corey most of the story, which invoked a further feeling of sympathy for his friend.
"Not now, Corey," Tyler complained. "It's late, and I'm tired. Let's just sleep now, okay? I'll tell you about it later, promise."
They settled into the bed and Corey drew the covers up over them. Then he turned to Tyler, placed his hands on Tyler's cheeks and moved forward. Tyler thought he was going to make a move for a kiss on the lips, but instead his old friend kissed his forehead, then he lay back down next to him to go to sleep.
It took Tyler a while to get to sleep.
He had so many memories of this room: memories of the things he and Corey had shared in this room. He had lost his virginity to Corey... They had had sex here many times when he had stayed over. He had found Corey when he had tried to kill himself, and he had saved his friend here. And he had broken up with him here.
There were good memories for him in this place, as well as bad ones... Try as he might to focus on the good, everything seemed to come back around to the day he had given Corey the break-up talk. He thought about the reason behind it - that the relationship he had shared with Corey back then had been too one-sided.
He couldn't help but think that while Drake had at first seemed to be a benefactor and savior to him, that he had been used by Drake in an even far worse way than Corey could ever possibly imagine. Then he remembered that he had promised Corey that he would tell him about what had happened to him after Corey noticed the bruises on his legs.
As a tear rolled down Tyler's cheek, making its way slowly toward the pillow, he felt Corey snuggle up next to him. He could hear Corey's breathing, deep and regular. Corey was asleep. But he was finding comfort in Tyler being next to him anyway. There was just enough light coming into the window that Tyler was able to discern a look of contentment on his friend's face, even as he slept.
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