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Beyond Salvation

by Mark Peters

Chapter 17

My mother's favourite restaurant is one of the local Chinese places, called the Imperial Palace. It's decor is stock standard red and gold, with lots of black lacquered timber and bamboo. Compared to the other Chinese restaurants in town, this one takes the cake as far as I am concerned. It's pleasant and comfortable, and besides, the service and food are both great. Whenever we are going out to dinner, whether for a special occasion or not, this always seemed to be our go-to. Not that I minded at all.

It was just after we had finished our entrees –their prawn cocktails are just the best –when my phone rang. Pulling it from my pocket I noticed it was Dallas, so I told my parents I would go out into the foyer to take it.

'Hey, babe. How are you feeling?' I asked him.

'Better, thanks. I think sleeping it off was a good idea,' he replied.

'You're still sounding a bit scratchy.'

'Yeah. On the mend though. What are you up to?'

'Dinner with the 'rents at The Palace,' I replied, using the name that everyone I knew seemed to use.


'I showed dad the message Timmy sent me,' I said. 'He reckons that Timmy is sounding a bit possessive. Maybe he's just jealous of me and wants you all to himself?'

'Fuck that!' Dallas spat.

'No thanks. And there's only one person you're allowed to fuck from now on.'

'Is that so?'

'Oh, yeah. And if anyone gets between you and him, they'll most likely get their eyes scratched out…'

'Or their balls chopped off.'

'Good to see we're on the same page,' I replied, laughing.

Looking through the windows back into the restaurant I could see my parents both studying me carefully, and both looking concerned.

'Look, I'm out in the foyer here and now I'm getting the worried parent look coming from inside, so I better get going,' I said.

'That's fine. I'll see you tomorrow, eh?'

'You better believe it. Goodnight, babe.'

'Goodnight, sweetie pie,' he said with a chuckle, before disconnecting.

I was smiling to myself when I went back inside to the restaurant and resumed my seat.

'Everything okay?' my mother asked.

'Yes, thanks. Dal said he's feeling better and he'll see me tomorrow.'

'Well, that's good news then,' dad replied.

'It definitely is.'

'And are you planning on doing anything about this Timmy character when you get back there?' he added.

'We would like to, but I'm just not sure what we can do. We might have a chat with Hollywood and let him know what is happening with this latest round of crap.'

'I want to know everything that happens, okay? I'm quite prepared to talk to Ken Sullivan if I need to,' my father said, referring to his old friend and our family solicitor.

'Thanks, dad. I will.'

Just then a waitress brought out the first of the dishes for our main meal, and placed them on the table between us, halting the conversation for now, but that didn't stop my mind from working. Was there a legal way to stop Timmy, I wondered. But even if there was, hadn't the damage already been done? Weren't we already branded by his innuendo?

We finished our Chinese banquet with very little talking. Mum even asked for the left overs to be packaged up to take home with us, which was something that the restaurant was always happy to do, then once we were ready we paid the tab and headed off into the night.

It wasn't late when we pulled into our driveway, but still, once inside I said goodnight to my parents and thanked them for dinner, then headed to my bedroom. I didn't want to go to bed just yet, but I did want to talk to Pete and Merry if I could, so I took a punt that they would be on our favourite chat program, as they were most nights.

No sooner than when I logged on a message came through from Merry.

Merry:, < Where have you BEEN? >

Me:, < Out to dinner with the 'rents. Imperial Palace. Yumm. Yumm. >

Merry:, < Bangers and mash here. Very boring. >

Me:, < They're OK. But not as good as a prawn cocktail and Sweet and Sour Chicken. >

Merry:, < Biatche! >

Me:, < And loving it! Where's Pete? >

Merry:, < Right beside me. Why? >

Me:, < Really?, Sleepover? >

Merry:, < As if! He was just here for dinner. >

Me:, < Okay then! I have questions for you both. >

Merry:, < Oh God. Here we go! >

Me:, < Call me and put me on speaker. >

Seconds later my phone rang and I answered it to hear them both giggling. For the next twenty minutes or so I quizzed them about the mood of the room at school. I needed to know what our fellow classmates all thought about having gay guys amongst them.

'And what about me?' I asked them. 'Do they care about me being gay?'

'That's old news,' Merry replied.

'I think some are worried about you. And some are surprised how close you and Dallas are getting… like you might be hooking up or something,' Pete added.

'Is that right? And would it be an issue if they knew we were?'

'I don't think so. I think people are over all this anti-gay bullshit. And sick and tired of Timmy's attitude as well,' he continued.

'And what if there were other… couples, at school? And what if they came out?' I asked.

'Wait? What? There are others? And are you and Dallas actually considering it?'

'I can neither confirm nor deny any such rumours. Let's just consider it a hypothetical that we want an answer for.'

'Okay then. We'll do a survey and see how the electorate is feeling on this issue,' Merry suggested.

'Wiseass! Anyhow, have you seen or heard what Timmy did next?'

'Something about a text message going around this weekend,' Pete said. 'But I haven't seen it.'

'Yeah, there was a message,' I replied.


'It was about me and Dallas and not very flattering. Alex Costas showed it to us when we bumped into him last night.'

'So, what you going to do?'

'Dallas wants to kill Timmy. I'm thinking we should just let him do it!'

'Now who is being a wiseass?' Merry responded.

We signed off shortly after that and I went to bed. I was tired, and after my afternoon in the garden with dad my muscles were aching, but I was feeling good about things, and I was really looking forward to seeing Dallas again in the morning.

Next morning, I was up and in the shower earlier than I needed to be, but I was keen to get to Dallas' house and pick him up, then maybe grab a coffee on our way. As I washed I noticed the water that was draining away in the shower well was stained slightly, so finally the last round of black hair dye was giving up its hold on my usually brown hair.

I had noticed my hair starting to lighten off slightly over the past week or so, and now the original JJ was about to be revealed. All part of the new me.

Stepping out of the shower I picked up my towel and began drying myself, noticing a little more of the black rubbing off as I dried. Mum was going to be thrilled when she saw this towel in the wash. When I was done I looked in the mirror and finally liked what I saw, then I combed my hair in place and dressed.

The hair needed to be a little shorter yet, as it was a bit long on top and unruly, but it was easy to see that punk rock JJ had now been officially banished.

After kissing my parents goodbye, I hopped in the car and headed for Dallas' place.

There wasn't very much traffic on the road and so it only took a few minutes to reach their house and pull into the drive. I noticed that his mother's car wasn't there, but didn't think much of it, so after parking I got out and headed for the door and knocked.

'C'mon, Dal,' I said to myself as I waited. 'What are you doing?'

Nobody came. Nor could I hear the sound of anyone moving around inside. I knocked again, only louder this time. I waited. Still nothing.

Pulling my phone from my pocket I tried calling him, but it just went through to message bank.

When it connected, I spoke and left a message, 'Hey Big D. It's me, standing at your front door. Are you here? What's happening? You're probably in the shower or something. Come and open the door, or call me back. I'm waiting!'

I tried knocking again, then sat down on the steps and waited. He wouldn't be long. Any minute now I'd hear him thumping his way up the hall. Any minute now.

This wasn't like him. He knew I was coming for him. After five minutes I was starting to get annoyed. I called him again and left another message.

After ten minutes I was getting pissed. But after fifteen minutes I was worried. Really worried.

I thought I should check the house if I could, so I looked around under a few pot plants for the spare key that I knew was there somewhere, but I couldn't find it. I walked down the side of the house towards Dallas' bedroom window, peering through every window as I went, but saw no sign of activity. Not even a light left on.

It was no use. They obviously weren't home.

'So, what do I do now?' I said out loud, then in the next instant I knew what the answer was. All I could do would be to go to school. There wasn't much else I could do, so I climbed back into the car and started it.

I detoured via McDonald's again and picked up a coffee and something to eat, making sure I checked the car park for his mother's car, just in case. There was no sign of them, so I pulled back out onto the road and drove to school, where I found Pete and Merry waiting close to where I usually parked.

'Where's the devil?' Merry asked as I locked the car.

'I wish I knew. There was nobody home when I went to collect him, and he's not answering his phone.'

'That doesn't sound like him,' Merry replied.

'No. That's why I'm worried.'

I was surprised that Timmy hadn't also been hanging around waiting for us to arrive.

'I've seen that text message we talked about,' Pete said.

'And everyone else at school too, I suppose,' I responded, just as I noticed Alex was heading our way.

'Hey,' he said, as we bumped fists. 'All alone today?'

The questioning look that passed between Pete and Merry wasn't missed.

'Yeah, Dallas wasn't at home when I went to collect him. He was sick yesterday, but I spoke with him last night and he was on the mend, so I'm not sure what's happening.'

'Tried calling him?'

'Straight to voice mail.'

'Bugger. Well, I'm sure he'll show up. Right now I need to show up in home room though. I'll catch up with you later,' Alex said, the headed off for the start of the day.

As the three of us headed off after him Merry asked, 'So, what's with you and the Greek?'


'You guys got a new friend or something?'

'Oh, we bumped into him on Saturday night and we got to talking. I know we've never had much to do with him, but he's a cool dude. He showed us what Timmy was spreading around about us,' I replied.


'Don't go getting any ideas in your head,' I scolded her.

'Moi? Jump to conclusions?'


When we arrived at our home room we found Timmy and his pals were already there. As soon as they noticed us the evil eye was pointed our way, glaring at me in particular, then Timmy moved his hand up in front of his face, pointing two fingers at his eyes, then turning his hand and pointing those fingers at me. This was the universal sign for 'I'm watching you.'

What a fucking joke. As I sat down in my usual seat I simply gave him the finger.

I really wished I could talk to Zack again to try and find out what else he knew about Timmy. After his comments on Saturday night I was becoming more and more certain that there was more to this guy's story and that Zack held the key. Maybe I could get a message to Alex and ask them to meet me in the library or someplace at lunch time.

Right on nine a.m. a teacher came in and stood at the front of the class, though it wasn't one of our regulars. It looked like we had a substitute today, otherwise known as a subby. Before he could say anything however, I heard a familiar thump, thump, thump in the hallway, then Dallas appeared at the door.

He looked my way, then over at his old friends, before looking back at me once more. I could tell something was going on inside his head, but then he seemed to make up his mind, and he came down the aisle towards me, before then sitting down in the empty seat beside me.

A murmur seemed to ripple its way through the room. I could see some faces were clearly surprised or shocked, yet others seemed not to be surprised.

Dallas had finally chosen sides. In a major indication of how he was feeling about Timmy, he had made a statement. And Timmy looked like he was about to blow a fuse.

'Sorry,' Dallas said to me quietly. 'I was talking to mum last night about the message. She wanted to talk this morning, so we went to a cafe for breakfast and my phone was on silent.'

'That's okay. I was worried something might have happened.'

'That'll be enough talking,' our subby said, while looking straight at us when he said it. 'You can save that for later. Now, I'm sure you all know the drill. When I call your name please respond.'

A giggle quickly passed through the room, followed by a stern, 'Enough!'

It sounded like somebody got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning.

'Anderson, Charles?' our subbie called from the roll.


'Baartz, Amelia?'


And so it went on.

Looking around the room I could see many faces casting curious glances our way. I could almost hear the comments being made inside their heads… 'Yup, they've got to be fucking each other!'… 'What a waste of a good man. It's always sad when you find out a guy as hot as Dallas is gay!'

Dallas noticed the stares as well.

'Let 'em think what they want,' he whispered to me.

'You sure about that?' I whispered back to him, as the roll call continued.

'Yeah. I just don't care any more.'

'Jackson, Joel,' our subby said, but apparently I didn't hear it.

'Jackson, Joel,' he repeated, only this time louder.

Dallas gave me an elbow in the ribs and gave his eyebrows a quick lift.

'Here, sir,' I said.

'I think he's a bit distracted, sir,' somebody said.

Everybody laughed. Everybody except Timmy and his mates. Their death stares continued.

Eventually our roll call was completed, reminders were given that the final exams for the year would soon be upon us and it was strongly suggested we hit the books for revision. Then our daily fifteen-minute morning home room was finished. We were dismissed and everyone made their move to head for their first class for the day. For me that was English.

There was the usual jostling and hustle and bustle as we all tried to leave, and when we reached the door and started through it, I noticed Timmy and friends were following close behind us.

Suddenly I felt someone bump into me and push me aside, out into the corridor. It was Timmy, of course, then the next thing I know he is trying to deliberately bump into Dallas as well. It takes more than that to surprise Dallas though, and in one swift action, just outside the classroom door and away from the line of sight of the teacher, Dallas grabbed Timmy, swung him around and slammed him forcefully against the brick wall. Timmy's cheek was pushed against the bricks as he looked back towards us, while Dallas leaned heavily against him to prevent him from moving.

'I've had enough of your shit, Baker,' Dallas hissed into Timmy's ear. 'Stay away from me. Stay away from JJ. And stay the fuck out of our lives!'

Timmy just smirked as Dallas released him and continued down the corridor, leaving Baker slumped against the wall and not wanting to give him a chance to respond. Clearly this wasn't over.

There was a commotion around us as students tried to avoid us, and of course there were the obligatory gasps and comments and sounds of people trying to get out of the way.

Hearing the noise outside the homeroom the teacher came out to investigate.

'What the devil is going on here?' our subby demanded to know.

'Nothing, sir,' Pete answered. 'Just some jostling as we all tried to crowd out into the hallway at once. It's all good.'

Looking back at Timmy and seeing his expression as I set off after Dallas, it was clearly far from being all good, but the message had now been sent. The rules had now changed. These last couple of weeks of the school year were going to be interesting.

When I caught up with Dallas a few moments later I asked, 'Want to ditch the next class?'

We stopped in the corridor as our classmates passed us by, some giving us odd looks, but others ignoring us and just getting on with their lives. I glanced back and noticed Pete and Merry hovering close by, but not intruding, while I could see that Alex was also coming down the corridor towards us.

'No, mate. It's fine. I have Science, then Commerce, and Timmy won't be anywhere to be seen,' Dallas responded. 'I'll meet you out front at recess, okay? There's stuff to talk about.'

'Okay. Just be careful,' I urged. Then he did something that shocked me. He reached out and hugged me, right there in the middle of the corridor, as our classmates were still streaming past us, before planting a very quick kiss on my cheek, then releasing me and turning away, to go downstairs to where the Science rooms were.

I glanced quickly around me. It looked as if the world had just stopped turning, as a number of people were just standing there, staring at me, some open-mouthed, some kind of smirking, some actually looking as if they were almost pleased for me.

Personally, I had no idea how I should be feeling or what I should say. I guess I must have also looked a little lost, as Merry quickly came to me, pulling me to the side of the corridor and then also hugging me.

'Did he really just do that?' Merry asked. 'What the fuck was he thinking?'

'It's okay, Merry. He knows what he's doing,' I said, as we were quickly joined by Pete and Alex.

'Did I just see what I thought I saw?' Alex asked.

I looked at him and gave him an odd kind of grin. 'I need to talk to Zack,' I said to him. 'Is he here today? I need to know what he knows about Timmy. Will he tell me that?'

'Lunch time. Front lawns,' he said, then he turned and headed for his class.

I could see that Pete and Merry were exchanging questioning looks and it would only be a matter of time before they started asking questions. Seconds later I was proved right.

'Okay, what's with you guys and Alex? And who the fuck is Zack? There's something going on here that we don't know about, and you know how I hate being left out of the loop!' Merry demanded to know, sounding like a kid who hadn't been let in on a secret.

'We need to get to class,' I said, as I started walking along the corridor, so they had to walk as well.

'Stop evading the question, JJ.'

'Okay, okay. But just between us… not a word to anyone… and especially not back to them! Got it?'

Merry just looked at me, pouting.

'I mean it! Got it?'

'Okay. Got it,' she finally answered.

'Good. So, first off, Zack is Alex's friend. He's a couple of years below us, right here at this school. We bumped into them on the weekend and got to talking, you know, after all that shit being shared around by Timmy.'

'Okay then. What do you mean by friend? As in… boyfriend?'

'You didn't hear it from me, okay? When we bumped into them we got to talking and they came out to us… which came as a surprise, but also kind of opened our eyes. We knew we weren't alone. You know what I mean?'

'So that's why, last night, you wanted to know about how others might feel about there being gay guys in our class,' Pete asked.


'So why do you need to talk to this Zack kid so badly?' Merry asked.

'Because of something he said when we were talking. I'm convinced he has some dirt on Timmy, and I need to know what it is,' I replied, as we entered the classroom for English.

Dallas found me on the front lawn at recess, waiting on a seat adjacent to the sign that proclaimed the school's name, Saint Joseph's Catholic College, to anyone driving by.

'Why did you make me walk so far?' he grumbled as he sat down beside me. 'And where are the others?'

'I wanted you all to myself, and I didn't particularly want anyone listening in. I've asked Pete and Merry to go and do some research for us, so we can sit out here on our own and talk, and everyone else can all just watch on.'

'I hope you don't want to put on a show? Did anyone say anything after I left you?'

'Ha. No way I'm putting on any show here, but I'm sure they will want us to.' I said, nodding in the direction of our senior students' building where some of our classmates were gathered on the balcony and watching us. 'And nothing was said really. Some odd expressions of course. Anyhow, we only have fifteen minutes, so we better get down to it. You sure surprised me. Surprised everyone actually. Did you really think that through?'

'Actually, yes,' he answered. 'I told you that mum wanted to talk this morning, that's why I wasn't at home. I'm sorry for not letting you know… it was a last minute thing.'

'That's okay.'

'So, mum wanted to know everything about what's been going on, especially with Timmy, so I told her and showed her the messages. She was pretty shocked, but also worried. She did say that it might be worth considering taking away all his power by just going all out and throwing it back at him. He can't hold it over us if we admit it and actually come out.

'I really wanted to talk to you first… but after what happened this morning I just acted on impulse. I'm so sorry I did that to you without letting you know first. I hope you're not pissed with me?'

I smiled at him, then reached across and took his hand in mine. Some laughter and a couple of wolf-whistles came from the balcony of the senior building, but it sounded like it was all light-hearted stuff.

'So, I guess it's all official now?' I said.

'I guess so.'

'I think we're still going to need to silence Timmy once and for all though.'

'And how do you propose we do that?'

For a few moments I looked out across the school lawns and down onto the sports oval, seeing kids sitting around and talking, a few throwing a football around. I knew that what I was thinking might be a long shot, but the way I saw it we really didn't have much of a choice if we were wanting to get Timmy off our backs for good.

'Remember the other night when Zack said Timmy deserves everything coming to him, and Alex agreed with him?' I asked Dallas.


'It sounded to me like Zack, and probably Alex as well, might know something. And you said yourself that you'd heard stuff about Timmy bullying kids… so I've asked Alex if we can all meet at lunch time. If there's something in it, and he will tell us what it is, then we might be able to turn it all back on Timmy and get the prick off our backs for good. What do you think?'

'It's got to be worth a shot.'

'Yeah. I mean, what have we got to lose now,' I said, as I gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

It was time to go back for our next class, so I stood up and dragged Dallas to his feet, while still holding onto his hand.

'Like my old man told us, it's probably not a good idea to flaunt our relationship in front of everyone,' I said, 'but I don't suppose a bit of hand-holding would be going overboard. How far do you think we should push the boundaries?'

'Here, not too far at all,' he replied with a grin. 'We've put it out there, but I still don't want to push it too far, at least not until we have the situation with Timmy sorted.'

'I have a feeling it won't be too long and this will all blow over,' I said as we started back towards the seniors building.

'And then what?'

'Then we'll have the Christmas break to catch up on whatever we've been missing out on for the past four or five years. After that, we'll be back here next year with a clean slate, out to the world and able to just be ourselves.'

Dallas grinned at me. 'Sounds like you've got it all planned out then.'

'No, not all of it, but enough for you and me to move on with our lives.'

There was some friendly banter and a few stares as we climbed the stairs to our classrooms, but nothing that was over the top. I think perhaps everyone was still in shock. As we made our way along the corridor we passed Alex, who told us that it was all set for lunch time, then moments later Hollywood stopped us and beckoned us into his office.

'Seems to be something of a buzz in the hallways this morning,' he said, while grinning at us both. 'You sure you know what you're doing?'

'No idea at all,' Dallas replied, while at the same time he pulled his phone from his pocket and opened the messages. 'We copped some flak from Timmy over the weekend and mum thought we needed to push back or something. It was just a spur of the moment thing… hell, I hadn't even spoken to JJ about it… I just did it.'

'And you're okay with everything?' he asked me.

'Yeah, I am. A bit surprised maybe, but I'm all good.'

'Pleased to hear it, lads. Just let me know if you have any issues.'

'We will. Thank you, sir,' I replied, then we left him and were soon hurrying along an almost empty corridor towards our next class.

When we entered our classroom, apparently the last ones to do so, everyone turned our way. I spotted Merry and Pete down the back and we started towards them, but no sooner than we took the first few steps someone let out a whistle. Somebody then started clapping, before being joined by someone else, and then a few more.

'Way to go, lover boys!' somebody said.

'Nice one, Dallas,' said somebody else.

'Can we come to the wedding?' someone else asked.

Of course, not everyone was happy for us. Timmy and friends were there, sitting amongst that crowd, but there was no way they were going to join in. The scowls directed at us, as they sat back in their chairs with arms crossed in front of them were enough evidence of that. I shuddered at the thought of him upping his attacks, now that the gist of his weekend message had possibly been vindicated, but he didn't know shit, really, and I had a feeling that it would be him who would be looking for a hole to crawl into in the not too distant future.

As we took our places behind Pete and Merry, our teacher did her best to settle everyone down, and before long we were deep into some Maths review for our final exams for the year.

At lunch time we resumed our positions on the same seat that Dallas and I had occupied earlier, with Pete and Merry side-by-side and leaning against a nearby tree, regaling us with the results of their morning "research", which had been overwhelmingly positive, as had been evidenced by the raucous reaction at the start of our Maths lesson. With only a few exceptions, nobody cared if someone in our year was gay. And if they happened to be lucky enough to find someone who felt the same way, then why shouldn't they be happy? After all, love is love, isn't it? Which seemed to be the mantra that was being touted these days.

At one point I found myself having to wipe away a tear, but when Dallas placed a hand on my thigh and leaned closer, whispering, 'You good, babe?' I still managed to give him a nod and a smile. This whole day was becoming quite surreal.

We were joined a few minutes later by Alex and Zack, who both sat themselves down on the grass in front of us.

'They tell me there was a disturbance during your Maths review,' Alex said, while grinning at us. 'You boys don't do anything by halves, do you?'

'Not if we can help it,' Dallas answered, while Pete and Merry were watching with interest.

'Guys, do you know Zack?' I asked them, then turning towards the youngest amongst us I said, 'Zack, that's Pete and Merry. Some good friends of ours.'

He gave them a wave and said, 'Hi,' but that was it.

Then Alex added, 'And just in case you are wondering, we're… together.'

'As in, like these two?' Merry asked. I was pleased that she didn't give away the fact that I had already clued them in on that piece of news.

'Yeah. Just like these two,' Alex responded.

I looked at Zack and his face seemed to go a shade or two brighter, but he seemed okay and smiled back at me when he caught me grinning at him.

'Is it okay if we have a chat?' I asked him. When he nodded, I got to my feet and said, 'How about we go for a walk?'

Nothing was said by the others, but I knew Dallas would fill Merry and Pete in once we had left them.

Not wanting to venture too far from our friends or put us in a position where Timmy and his friends might be close by, we walked down along the front fence of the school, which was a low brick wall and eventually sat on the wall in the shade of some trees, not exactly hiding, but still out of sight for most people on the front lawns.

'Alex said you wanted to know what happened,' he said to me.

'Well, I wasn't exactly sure if something did happen, but from what you said the other night after the movies I suspected that you knew something about Timmy. Was I right?'

'Yeah,' he said, while nodding.

'Are you sure you want to talk about it?'

'I think so. I mean, well, it's time I finally did.'

'So, you've never told anyone?'

'No. Alex knows because he showed up while it was happening… it was Alex who stopped it from going any further, and he's been like a hero to me ever since.'

'And what happened exactly?'

'Timmy almost succeeded in raping me. It was almost two years ago. The first day I started at this school… the first school day last year. The start of Year Eight. Fuck, I was only thirteen. Timmy was fifteen and in Year Ten.'

I let out a long, slow breath, then Zack told me his story.

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