The courtroom was lit by indirect lighting from around the upper echelons of the walls, giving the ceiling an unnerving glow, as if heaven were watching earthly drama below.
"All rise." The bailiff ordered.
Scuffling sounds of shoes and wooden chair legs scraping on wood floors hid the courtroom patriarch's entrance from his side chambers. As the scraping noises subsided, the black robe proceeded to take its throne. Judge 'Dread,' as he was referred to by the many defense attorneys who had preceded this case, picked up the file folder from his bench and started reading.
"Be seated," the judge announced.
More shuffling, but quiet followed.
Judge Kendrick glanced toward his computer monitor briefly before removing his glasses and began staring at the defendant.
"Would the defendant please rise," Kendrick ordered.
Ross Morrison glanced up at the judge, staring for a moment, and then turned his eyes toward his defense attorney seated next to him.
The lawyer, seeing the fear and panic in the young man's eyes, briefly nodded, put his hand on Ross's arm, and they began to rise.
Ross stood with his attorney but kept his eyes on the table in front of him. He bit his lower lip and then proceeded to turn his face toward the judge. Ross watched the judge's eyes. There was no emotion.
"Ross Morrison, you have been tried and found guilty by the State of Minnesota of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree. We're here today to pronounce sentence for that crime," the judge said.
Judge Kendrick watched the defendant for a moment, watching his eyes for any emotion. He saw only fear.
Kendrick continued to watch Ross for a few more moments. He then put his glasses back on.
"I've had to think long and hard about this. Mr. Morrison, you're only eighteen years old, and from what I've heard in this courtroom over the past few days, I believe you have remorse over what you did. And I also believe that you believe it shouldn't have happened. But the fact remains you did let it happen.
"This court concurs with the evaluations of you that you should not be classified as a Sexual Psychopathic Personality or a Sexually Dangerous Person, so you will not be enrolled in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program."
Judge Kendrick removed his glasses.
"However, this court cannot overlook the fact that the complainant was not yet sixteen years old. He was fifteen years old at the time. Minnesota's age of consent laws are very complex, but they are very complete and try to protect both parties. Your sexual contact was performed while you and the complainant were both under the influence of alcohol, and you should have known he was mentally incapacitated because of it. Mr. Morrison, at the time of the crime you were only two years and a couple of weeks older than the complainant."
The judge stopped for a few moments, put his glasses back on, and looked directly at Ross.
"Mr. Morrison, you have been convicted of violating Section 609.344(b) of the Minnesota Criminal Code in that the complainant was under sixteen years of age and you were more than twenty-four months older than he was. You also have been found guilty of violating Section 609.344(g)(ii) in that the victim suffered personal injury. You have been found not guilty of violating Section 609.344(d) in that both of you were impaired by the use of drugs and not just the complainant."
After reading the verdict, Judge Kendrick looked directly at Ross for a moment.
"Would the defendant like to make a statement before I pass sentence?"
Ross looked at his lawyer briefly, and then turned his attention back to the judge.
"No, Your Honor. I have nothing more to say." And then Ross lowered his head.
"Mr. Morrison, I'm going to show a little mercy on you because you've had no prior incidents with the judicial system, but most importantly you have shown, throughout this trial, remorse over what had happened."
The judge paused for one more moment.
"I sentence you to be confined in the State of Minnesota correctional facilities until you reach the age of 21 years old."
CRACK! The gavel jolted the courtroom.
"This court is adjourned."
"All rise," the bailiff responded.
Ross turned to his attorney, his eyes now filled with confusion and hurt.
Why me? Why the fuck me? Ross thought to himself.
The defense attorney shook his head as Ross Morrison was led toward the side door to the waiting jail below.
"You got off lucky kid!" the attorney said to no one.
Ross had been issued bedding, shoes, toiletries and orange jumpsuits for clothing. He was still wearing the jumpsuit that had been issued to him while he was in the county jail during his trial. They had to be returned. As he walked down the corridor carrying what was now his life with a guard in front of him and another behind, he began to tremble. He knew his life was now over. Whatever he had known before or even dreamed of for his future was lost. He wouldn't cry. He couldn't. He held his tears in check, but the sorrow would not leave.
The lead guard stopped and turned to a cell with the waiting bars open. Ross stopped, looking at the guard for a moment, and then turned his head toward the open cell The trembling continued. He just stared into the cell, not moving.
"Enjoy your new home here at Saint Cloud Correctional, kid." the front guard said softly, sarcastically, grinning.
"Move on in." the guard behind him said.
Ross turned his head to look at the guard behind him, nodded and stepped into the cell. The front guard spoke into the microphone clipped to his left shoulder, words Ross did not hear, and the barred gate slid with a slow grinding noise behind him.
Bang! Metal on metal.
Without turning around, Ross lifted his face upward as the first tear slid past his right cheek.
Ross began to calm down and look around the room he was in. There was a bed with a bare mattress and pillow in the corner, bed linen at the end, a desk with a lamp opposite the bed, a sink and toilet combination next to the desk and built-in shelves for his clothes in the far corner. Other than a bookcase next to the desk, the room was empty, nothing but pealing lime green paint on the concrete walls and bare concrete for flooring. The cell was small, not giving a lot of room to walk around.
Ross threw his armful of final possessions on the desk and sat on the bed. He wasn't going to cry anymore. He'd heard all of the horror stories about what happens to young people in prison, and the thought terrified him. But he resolved himself to be strong.
Ross sat on the bed for another 30 minutes before he began to realize this was his new home. If he was going to get any sleep that night, he had better at least make up his bed. He got up and started putting his clothes and toiletries onto the shelves. When he had put those away, he started to put the sheets on his bed, but was startled when he heard a clanking on the bars of the cell. He looked up and saw a woman in civilian clothes staring at him from behind the bars. She appeared to be middle aged and was dressed very professionally in a grey women's business suit.
"Mr. Morrison, I see you're settling in."
Ross didn't say anything, a little fearful of this person in front of him. He just stood facing her.
"Ross, can I call you Ross?"
"Yeah, I suppose." Ross replied, nodding his head.
"Ross, My name is Matilda Peterson, but you can call me Mattie. I'm here to process you into the correctional system. Do you know where you are?"
"No. Well, I'm in a jail cell, but I have no idea where I am. All I know is that I was on a bus for quite a few hours."
"You're at the Saint Cloud Correctional Facility. It's the system's intake facility. I suspect you'll only be here for about a month or two."
"A month? Where am I going after that?"
"That's what we're going to find out. Minnesota has five levels on imprisonment ranging from very little supervision at level 1 to maximum security, that's level 5. In the next day or so, we'll be giving you some tests and you'll be assigned to a counselor. Based on the results of the testing, the recommendations from your counselor and what the courts have said about you, we'll determine which type of security is appropriate for you. Then you'll be transferred to the facility that has that level and has available space. We're a little crowded, but that doesn't mean we won't find a place for you."
Ross again was silent, not finding the words, lost in his world of disbelief of what was happening to him.
"Do you understand any of this Ross?"
Ross was brought back to his cell by her question.
"Yes, I think so. So, this is only temporary?"
"Yes Ross. It's only temporary. It usually takes 30 to 45 days for this process to be completed, and then you'll be transferred."
Ross nodded his understanding.
"Ross, the other facilities are a little more comfortable than this. This is just a holding cell. Once we find out what kind of risk you are, you'll be moved to another facility. You're only 18 and your sentence is only until you turn 21, so you probably won't be put in with the older inmates. I'm sure that worries you."
Ross looked directly at the woman in front of him.
"It terrifies me."
"I'm sure it does. Try not to worry too much."
She turned and as she was starting to walk away, she turned her head slightly back to the cell.
"We'll get together in a day or so."
She then was gone.
Ross turned around, dumbfounded. This was all so new to him. Finally, he finished putting the pillowcase on his pillow and laid down on top of the blanket, putting his hands behind his head on the unfamiliar pillow and began staring at the ceiling. He was scared and he knew it. He had never felt so alone before, so completely alone. He started wondering how long it would be before he could see his mom and dad again, when they would be able to visit him. He didn't even know if they had visiting hours where was now.
Ross had been awake for at least an hour when the lights came on and they scared him at their suddenness. He drew the blanket over his head, more to keep out the reality of where he was than to shield his eyes from the light. Today was a new day to be filled with what Ross did not know. Was he supposed to get up now? Could he just lie on the prison bed for a while longer?
Faintly he heard the clanging on the barred door again, and as he removed the blanket from his head, the sound became louder. Someone was standing just outside the cell, banging a wooden stick across the bars, back and forth.
"Time to get your ass out of the rack, pretty boy." the man said as the banging stopped.
Ross stared at the black man for a few moments, wondering what he was supposed to do. No one had told him what he was to be doing during the day.
"I told you to get up, man. I gotta get you to breakfast."
Ross starred at this intruder for another moment without moving, scared, not of the man, but of the unknown of what he was supposed to do. There was a uniformed guard standing behind the black man somewhat in the shadows, just staring at Ross.
"You gonna be..."
Ross threw the blanket from his body and swung his legs off the bed, his bare feet feeling the coldness of the concrete floor as he sat up. He had slept in his clothes, not wanting to be naked in this room, this home. Keeping the jumpsuit on gave him a small amount of security, and he needed what little security he could find.
"I'm up, okay?" Ross shouted.
"Good. I can see that. Now, get your shoes on. I'm going to escort you to the café to get you some breakfast."
"Ah, I'm just trying to make your stay here pleasurable, and we'll always keep a light on for you. Now move it pretty boy." The black man was not being funny.
Ross leaned down to grab his shoes and socks from under the bed. He pulled on the same pair of white socks that he had taken off the night before and slipped on the black loafers he had been issued. He then looked back at the man waiting outside the bars. Ross ran his fingers through his hair to give it some semblance of being combed.
The black man turned his head to the guard behind him and nodded. The guard looked down the hallway and also nodded, and suddenly, the barred door began to slide open, that metal on metal sound again.
"Come on then. Out you go." the black man said.
Ross stood and walked out the cell entrance, following the black man as they made their way down the hall. The uniformed guard still had not spoken a word and took up position behind the two prisoners as they walked. There were cells on both sides of the hallway, four on Ross' side and four opposite the ones on his side of the hallway. All the other cells seemed to be empty, no one was in the rooms.
"My name's Tobias." The man said, turning his head back toward Ross as they walked.
"My name's Ross." putting his hand up to shake as an introduction to Tobias.
Tobias jerked away from Ross, turning around to face him. The guard behind them stopped and watched both prisoners but said nothing.
"Don't touch me, man!"
Ross didn't know what to do, but eventually lowered his hand to his side, watching Tobias for some indication of what was wrong or what to do next.
"Look squirt. You haven't been checked out yet, so don't touch anyone. Keep your hands to yourself."
Ross continued to look at Tobias, but eventually nodded his head to him.
"Sorry. I didn't know."
"And don't ever say you're sorry either. Not in here anyway."
Tobias glared back at Ross with narrowing eyes but kept quiet.
Ross instantly knew what he had done. The first thing was not listening to this man. He knew he had to keep his wits if he was going to survive.
"Okay. I understand."
"Alright then. Come on, let's get something to eat."
Tobias turned and continued down the hall past the last of the vacant cells and turned right, going down another hallway. This hallway was more brightly lit than the one they had just left, and it had no cells along the sides. Ahead was a large set of open double doors leading to a large dining hall. Many voices could be heard from the room as they entered.
The room looked like any high school cafeteria but was larger and filled with men. There were no women to be seen, and even the staff behind the food lines were men.
"Just go on over and grab a tray. Get whatever you'd like." Tobias said.
Ross looked over at the food service lines, seeing only one other person waiting in line before grabbing a tray, walked over to wait behind him. Tobias was right behind him with the guard only a few steps behind, still watching.
Ross helped himself to some scrambled eggs, a few strips of bacon and two slices of toast. Before exiting the food service line, he picked up a carton of orange juice from an ice filled tray.
"See those empty tables over on the left?" Tobias asked from behind him.
Looking to his left, Ross saw three empty small square tables with four chairs each.
"Yeah. Is that where I'm supposed to eat?"
"You catch on fast. Move on over there and grab a seat. I'll be sitting with you."
As they moved in the direction of the empty tables, all eyes were following them. Ross felt as if he was being paraded in front of a den of hungry lions and glanced down quickly to make sure that he had clothes on and wasn't naked. He sat his tray down, pulled the chair out and sat down as Tobias sat on the chair opposite from him. Ross looked around and the eyes from before had returned to their own conversations and the ever-present guard was nowhere to be seen. His eyes returned to Tobias, who was just watching him.
"You're a little scared, huh, Junior?" Tobias suddenly asked.
"No." Ross stated knowing he was terrified of what was happening to him. "Who are you, and why are you with me?" Ross had to finally ask.
Tobias reared back and let out a short laugh but held his wide smile.
"I'm your keeper. You've been assigned to me."
"I don't understand. Shit, I don't understand anything that's happening to me."
Tobias leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table, clasping his hand together, inches from his face, looking directly at Ross.
"Ross, you just arrived here, and you're in lockdown until you're classified. Until then you don't go anywhere alone. Outside of meals and trips to the shower, you will spend your entire time in that cell. And any time you're outside of that cell, you will be with me and that guard. Oh, he hasn't gone away. He's still watching you, and me, but he's over by the wall."
Ross looked around, and sure enough, the guard was leaning up against the wall about 40 feet from the table, still watching. He then looked back toward Tobias.
"So, they're keeping me away from those other prisoners?"
"First off, they're called inmates. We don't use the word prisoner here. That's only in the movies."
"So, Tobias, are you an inmate?"
"Call me Toby if you want. We'll get to know each other soon enough. Yeah, and I'm an inmate just like you. Difference is, I've been here for a couple of years, and well, they trust me a little more, so I get to wet nurse new people like you."
"What are you in here for?"
"Ah, that's another thing you don't ask."
"Okay." Ross responded, careful not to say 'sorry.'
"But if you really want to know, I'm in here for the same thing you are."
Ross' eyes went wide, and it was obvious to Toby.
Toby let out a short chuckle.
"And I also know you're gay."
Ross' eyes got even bigger, staring at Toby in shock. He couldn't look at Toby any longer and had to lower his eyes, almost appearing shamed at that revelation.
"Don't look so surprised Ross. It came out at your trial. You even admitted that yourself then. And that's also why I'm here with you. I'm not gay, by the way."
Ross looked back at Toby. He was starting to trust this man, and he knew if he was going to survive in this place, he had better start listening to him.
"Ross, I'm going to be frank with you right now. This may make you squeamish, but you gotta know what's going on in here. The prison system is finally starting to recognize that sex happens inside. This is a male facility, so sex occurs between these boys. Mostly it occurs because you coop a bunch of men together, and because we all need sex, it'll happen. The stories you hear of rape of young boys in here just doesn't happen like they talk about on the outside. What happens is when there's no one else to have sex with you will find someone who will."
Ross' mouth remained open.
"The problem is when a gay guy is sent here. You're automatically a 'catcher.'"
Ross shook his head a couple of times. This wasn't what he had heard before.
"Toby, what's a catcher?"
Toby leaned slightly back and chuckled.
"Well, there's a 'pitcher' and a 'catcher.' I think you can figure out which is which."
Ross looked down again, nodding his head in the affirmative. After a moment of thought, he looked up again at Toby. He was starting to realize what Toby was saying, and he would have to start looking out for himself in a different way. These guys were going to approach him.
"Toby, do I have to worry about you?"
Toby laughed. "Probably."
Ross' eyes went wide again as they filled with a small amount of fear. He was starting to trust this man, but now Toby had just told him something that was going to break that trust. Ross started breathing hard.
"Calm down Ross. You don't have to worry about me. I told you because I don't want you to ever let your guard down. The staff here knows what's going on, but they also feel it's gonna happen anyway, and it does. What I mean is, you will be approached. Maybe not here in St. Cloud cuz you're in lockdown right now, but, definitely where you'll go after here. Most of these guys aren't gay and never will be, but like everyone else, they need an outlet. But you shouldn't trust anyone."
Ross wasn't sure what to do.
"So, I guess I get to stay in my cell all day because of this lockdown thing. What am I supposed to be doing all day?"
Toby let out a laugh while leaning back in his chair again.
"You can jerk off all day if you want. After a while, when you're nice and sore, I'll bring you a couple of books from the library."
"Right now, I couldn't jerk off if I wanted to. Why don't we start with the books, okay?"
Two guards escorted Ross down the corridor, one behind him, and one leading the way. He knew this was his time to see the counselor or shrink, to find out what they had evaluated him at, to determine how much of a risk he was. He knew he wasn't a murderer or anything like that, so he was hoping he would be given a light security evaluation, but he also knew he hated to talk to mind people.
The forward guard entered a door on the right side of the corridor, holding it open for Ross. The guard behind him gave him a nudge to move forward. Ross paused for a moment after stopping behind the forward guard and then entered.
The room looked like a reception area, like any other corporate office, but without the product logo behind the receptionist's desk. But there was no receptionist, and no desk, only a few chairs along the wall. It was stark, the same lime green painted walls as his cell.
The front guard walked over to the only other door to the room on the left and knocked.
"Come in." could be heard from behind the door.
The guard opened the door, stuck his head in without entering, and talked to the person inside.
"Ross Morrison's here."
"Bring him in, then you can leave."
The guard turned to Ross and stuck his hand out into the room as if to escort him to his dining table at a fancy restaurant.
Ross looked at the guard, wondering why he's acting so different, but was also thankful for the treatment.
Ross walked into the office and the guard quickly closed the door. He was alone with the same business-like women who had talked to him earlier through the bars.
"Have a seat, Ross." Matilda Peterson said as she pointed to the single seat in front of her desk.
Ross sat in front of the lady who was about to determine his future in the Minnesota Correction system. He was scared but knew what he had told them during his interviews had now determined his future.
"Oh, come on Ross. Relax, will you?"
He turned his eyes directly on hers.
"I suppose. Relax a little Ross. You're not one of our hard cores, okay?"
Ross sank a little deeper into the chair, thinking maybe he might have a chance here.
"Ross, your evaluation by the counselors and your court record are good. One thing bothered us was that you feel a little anger toward you victim. Do you wish to explain that?
Ross thought for a moment. Yeah, he hated Tim for turning him in, and testifying about the alleged rape. Ross couldn't remember what actually happened, but for Tim to be his accuser, was something he couldn't fathom.
"I'm sorry. Yes, I felt anger toward him, but it's gone away. I know what I did, and he's not my problem. My problem is what I did."
Ross still had no idea what had actually happened that night but wanted to say what they wanted to hear.
"We kinda thought that. So, you'll be transferred to Fairbault shortly. But you know you shouldn't be making that general knowledge?"
"Well, what's Fairbault, and why shouldn't I say anything?"
"I guess Tobias hasn't told you yet? You're going to a light security facility. Not too many of the inmates here will be too receptive to that. You're going in as a level one."
"Oh. Okay, I won't say anything.
"Good, It's a level one through three facility."
Ross was excited that he wasn't going to have to go in with the hard core. He feared that the most.
"So, why am I just a level one risk?"
"Ross, that can change in a heartbeat. It all depends on how you act."
"Miss Peterson, Mattie, I don't want to be here. I just want to get this over with, okay?"
Matilda Paterson smiled at Ross. "You'll do fine."
Matilda looked at Ross for a few moments.
"Ross, you're not like someone I usually see, but you're here. I won't be judgmental, that's what the courts do, but I think you'll learn something here."
Ross smiled at her, knowing he was not supposed to be here.
Ross sat in his seat on the state bus starring out of the window. The man next to him was only a few years older than he was, but he was also silent during the 4 hours long journey. Ross wondered what Fairbault would be like. He knew it was a facility for less than killers, but he wondered what the rest of the population would be like. His attention turned to the man next to him, and he starred at him, wondering what crime he had committed. It was none of his business, so he refocused his attention on the grain fields passing outside the bus window.
The bus stopped inside the steel gate, and the driver got off, but before he walked down the few steps he turned to the few passengers and said for them to remain seated. The driver approached two uniformed guards just outside the bus. They were apparently waiting for the bus to arrive.
After a minute or two he came back up the steps and said, "Okay, everybody out. Welcome to your new home."
Ross was getting tired of hearing that, but he followed the six people off the bus.
Once inside the door, Ross was led to a room, by again two guards, but the room was more like a dorm room. It had two beds, bunk beds, two dressers, two tables with reading lamps but too small of an area to be an actual dorm room. This was prison after all so the door was still barred, no real privacy. As he walked in, he felt more comfortable. This was not what he had expected given the bleak cell that he had had at Saint Cloud.
Ross chose the bottom bed because it had a bare mattress and threw his few belonging on top. For the last 30 days he had been alone, and he wondered who his roommate would be, what he would be like. He was told his name is Daniel Hendrickson, and that's all Ross knew about him. Ross was still young, and the counselor said he wouldn't be put in with older inmates.
He started unpacking his few clothes when the cell door opened and a man of about 30 entered.
"So, this is the fucking kid I got stuck with." was the only thing said as the husky man entered the cell.
Ross turned to the man, seeing the tattoos covering his arms. He was probably just over 30 and muscled from obviously working out, his arms and chest bulged.
"I guess you're taking the bottom bunk. Just don't snore. I really hate that."
Ross didn't know what to make of this man. He was obviously going to be his cell mate, so Ross wanted to get along with him, but he remembered Tobias's words. 'Don't trust anyone.'
"What'd they call you besides Ross?"
"Just Ross. That's what they call me."
"Okay Ross, here's the rules."
Ross no longer felt safe with his new cellmate. The older man had told him what he expected but didn't even care what Ross felt. The rules consisted of only two things. The first was he was to never touch any of the things belonging to Dan, and he was to obey him, do whatever he was told.
Ross was initially happy about being transferred to a Level I facility and he wouldn't be put in with older inmates, but this new place only held terror for him. He avoided even talking to his cellmate, fearing him. Toby had told him not to trust anyone, and now especially Matilda Peterson.
Only on occasion did Dan ask him to do anything over the next few months, mostly to fetch his cigarettes from his desk or to throw him a magazine that Ross was reading. Ross did what he was told to do. Although Dan was never abusive to him, Dan didn't try to get to know Ross. They co-existed in the same cell, Dan almost oblivious to Ross' presence, Ross becoming more and more terrified of the man next to him.
Each night, Ross would climb into the bottom bunk, trying to avoid any movement that would bring attention to Dan. His nerves had been on constant alert all during the day, but as he tried to go to sleep each night, his body would relax, and the trembling would begin. At first, he slept soundly from the exhaustion of the nervousness he felt during the day, but as the months wore on, his sleep became erratic, and he would wake more and more times each night. During his sleep times at night, his dreams turned to two people…Tim Halstad and Dan Hendrickson. When Ross woke up in the morning after his fitful sleep, his energy never seemed to return, as would be the case after a good night's sleep.
One night, after the first week in the cell, Ross was awaked by slight movements of the bed. The bed was rocking slightly. After his mind cleared from his sleep, he realized exactly what was happening. Dan Hendrickson was masturbating above him. Ross clinched his fists, pushing the image from his mind. As the months rolled by, Dan would be more open about his self-pleasuring, even to the point of not waiting until Ross was asleep.
One night, as he felt the movements from above again, his mind flashed to a picture of Tim Halstad. Tim was smiling at him as he had done so many times. Why had Tim accused him? he kept rolling over and over in his mind. Why? What really did happen that night? Ross rolled over on his side, his eyes now wind open, staring at the wall opposite the bunk beds. If I did rape him, I don't remember any of it. All I remember is that we had tried alcohol. We were both so scared.
Ross was assigned to the kitchen as a dishwasher, and it meant he had to get up early to be there when the breakfast dishes started coming in and stay late until after the evening dinner dishes were cleaned. He was glad of this schedule because he was up and gone before Dan, and he could stay later in the evening, helping to clean the rest of the kitchen. This also gave him some free time during the day just after the lunch dishes were cleaned. He would spend this time reading in his cell or the library. After this free time, he had an exercise period in the yard that was mandatory. He hated that time. Everyone was required to be out in the yard during these exercise periods, but that meant he was thrown in with the rest of the inmates. Many fights would break out from all of the stored-up tension in the inmates in trying to stay alive.
Being in Level I security meant his cell door was open for most of the day. He could walk around the large room just outside of the cells, read, or just relax. He had to get permission to leave the outer community cell to visit the library, but this was usually granted. He didn't even have to have an escort to and from the library, but he had to check in and out each time. The cell doors were locked at night, after bed check to make sure everyone was in their cells.
The job was good because it took his mind off of his other thoughts. When he was idol, his mind would travel to Tim and then to Dan. He hated Dan and was also terrified of him. He didn't know what to think about Tim. He knew one thing, though. Tim was responsible for his being where he is now.
As Ross approached the chairs next to the library window to sit and read for a while, he couldn't stop thinking about how his relationship with Tim had gone so wrong. After becoming comfortable in the easy chair, the book in his lap, unopened, his memory refused to leave Tim.
"Ross. You have a visitor."
Ross had been lying in his bed after his exercise period that afternoon thinking of his parents coming to see him again when a voice from the front of his cell brought him back to where he was. He had been expecting them today and was excited at seeing his mom and dad again.
"Okay." Ross said as he rolled out of his bed to put on his shoes. "Be ready in a second."
The guard at the steel door waited patiently as Ross put on his shoes, brushed his fingers through his now short hair, as if it would do any good, and pointed down the corridor as Ross stepped from the cell.
"You remember where it is." The guard said as they started walking toward the meeting area.
Although there were other visitors talking to inmates in the room, when Ross entered the lounge area, he saw his mother and father across the room almost immediately. His mother was seated at a small round dining hall table while his father stood across the table from her. They both watched their son as he made his way toward them.
When Ross was almost twenty feet from his parents, his mother jumped up from her chair and ran the few feet toward her son. She stopped in front of him, looking up into his eyes.
"Oh, Mom. Come here." Ross said.
She immediately reached out and embraced her son. Ross' dad walked over to where they were holding onto each other and put his arm around Ross' shoulders and joined the hug.
They remained in that position for a full minute, not moving, not speaking.
"Hi Mom, Dad." Ross finally said.
Both parents looked up and smiled, loosening their grip on their son.
"Let's go sit." his dad said, pointing back to the small table.
Ross' parents sat across from each other and, Ross sat to the side with his parents on each side of him.
No one spoke a word for a few moments, Ross' dad fidgeting with his hands, his mother holding Ross' left hand.
"How've you been Ross? It's been a few weeks since we last saw you."
"I'm doing good dad. Working in food service means I always get enough to eat." Ross smiled at his dad.
Ross' mom squeezed his hand.
"Owen, look at him. He's getting enough to eat." His mom said without taking her eyes off of him.
Conversation was stinted as neither of the three knew what to say, although Ross being in prison was on all of their minds.
Ross looked at first his father and then toward his mother. It was about time he approached the subject.
"Mom, Dad, I really don't know what happened that night…"
"That's okay Ross." his mom interrupted. "You don't have to bring it up. I know it was unpleasant."
"But that's just it Mom. It wasn't unpleasant. You know I'm gay. Well, you had to know after the trial. Anyway, the point is I've been doing a lot of thinking in here. There's not much else to do. And, I've been thinking about Tim, a lot. Mom, Dad, I really loved him."
Ross waited for a reaction from his parents, but he only got their expressionless stares.
"I have no idea what happened that night. I really mean it. I thought the alcohol made me do something, something I normally wouldn't have done."
"But Ross," His mom said. "We tried to appeal your case. They rejected that saying there was no other compelling evidence to warrant a new trial." Ross' mom looked down at her son's hand in hers.
"Eve, we tried," Owen broke in. "There doesn't seem to be anything else we can do. Ross…"
"No Dad. That's not important now. What is important is I need to understand what really happened. I know I'm going to be in here until I turn twenty-one, but for me, I need to know why I did what I did. Don't you see, both of you. I was in love with Tim, and I know he was in love with me. I just don't believe I could have ever done what I did to him."
Ross let go of his mother's hand and covered his face with both of his hands, lowering his head.
"Ross, are you absolutely sure you were in love with Tim? You had only known each other for a few months," Owen asked.
Ross quickly looked up at his dad. "Dad? How long after you met mom was it that you fell in love with her?"
Ross' dad had to grin, and it was obvious to Ross' mom and Dad. Eve also started a smile.
Owen continued his grin to a smile as he looked at his wife.
"I started loving her the first night we met. It was at Patrick's house. You remember Eve?" he said looking directly into her eyes.
Ross' mom smiled back at him and nodded.
"We were over there playing pool in his basement when you walked down the stairs and I saw you for the first time. I couldn't keep my eyes off you, you were the prettiest women I had ever seen. Patrick introduced you to me, and if I remember correctly, we spend the rest of the evening just talking to each other. I don't think I even remembered I was there to play pool with Patrick."
Owen looked over at his son, lowered his head and said, "Yeah. I see your point."
Ross walked sullenly back to his cell after saying goodbye to his mom and dad. They loved him, of that there was no doubt, and he loved them. They had been with him, supporting him all through the months before the trial and then again all through the most horrifying experience he had ever had…the trial.
As Ross walked into his cell, he remembered the trial and the look in Tim's eyes as he said those things. Tim has accused Ross of having sex with him while he laid drunk on the grass. Damn it, why can't I remember any of that?
Ross rolled over to face the wall next to him. The bed movement had stopped, but Ross's mind was racing. Why had I ever continued talking to him? Ross thought. He knew the answer to that question before his thought had finished. That was the biggest mistake of his life. Never again! Ross told himself.
I had met Ross online one night. I was questioning whether I might be gay or not, so I investigated an online gay chatroom. I had put up a profile with some basics like appearance, age and my first name but no pictures. To begin with, I stayed in the main room for a few nights under the chat name of boi88 just reading the banter. Then one night I got a surprise, a request to go to a private room. My curiosity got the best of me, so I clicked OK.
Whoever it was, was quiet for a moment, so I started.
<peeper85> Nothing, u?
<boi88> not much
<boi88> ur profile says ur name is ross
<peeper85> It is and ur profile says ur tim
Ross didn't answer right away, probably thinking of what to say to this stranger.
<boi88> u go 2 school?
<peeper85> Yeah. You?
<boi88> ya me 2. ur profile says ur 17.
<peeper85> Ya. I'm 17, but I'll be 18 in 3 days.
<boi88> im 14 but ill be 15 next sat
I knew this was a gay chat room so assumed Ross was gay
<peeper85> I haven't seen your screen name here before.
<boi88> just found the rooms last week. ive only ben on once b4
<peeper85> Me too. I'm kind of curious what's here.
<boi88> me 2 but i guess you can tell that from my screen name.
<peeper85> Yeah. I thought so.
The screen was silence for a moment, but then Ross decided to push his question.
<peeper85> Are you gay?
More silence. Ross was about to start typing again when a response came up on his screen.
<boi88> I don't know. r u?
<peeper85> Yeah. I'm pretty sure.
Ross' screen was blank for about 20 seconds.
<boi88> how'd you know?
<peeper85> I guess I suspected since I was 13. I never looked at girls, so I just figured I was gay.
<boi88> me 2
<peeper85> As time went on, it became obvious to me.
Tim seemed slow in answering, Ross thought.
<boi88> i think i am.
<peeper85> You don't sound to convinced.
<boi88> i don't know what it's all about.
Ross was about to ask Tim where he lived when the screen flashed Tim again.
<boi88> i gotta go. ttyl.
And then the screen flashed 'boi88 has just signed off.'
I was intrigued by this Ross person. I hadn't been talking to him for very long, but I sensed the shyness.
<boi88> hey remember me?
Ross stared at the screen, shocked, after Tim had left so abruptly the last time, to see him after a week had gone by.
<peeper85> Hey Tim. Good to see you.
<boi88> ya been meaning 2 come online again.
<peeper85> I come on a few times a week, usually late at night.
<boi88> so what u been up 2?
<peeper85> Just school and homework. You?
<boi88> u a sr?
<peeper85> Yup. Taking it easy this year.
<boi88> wish i could. It's not so bad though.
Ross thought back for a moment, remembering that Tim had said that he thought that he might be gay.
<peeper85> Do you have a boyfriend?
The question remained unanswered.
<peeper85> You still there?
<peeper85> Sorry if that was too personal.
<boi88> its ok. no. no bf. u?
<peeper85> No. I've never had one.
<boi88> me neither...ever
Ross didn't respond right away, thinking about what he wanted to talk to this unknown gay kid about.
<boi88> ross? can i ask you something?
<boi88> how did u know that ur gay?
Ross again scooted back from the computer screen, staring at the question. 'That's a pretty deep question.' went through his mind.
<peeper85> I guess I started thinking about it when I was about 13.
<boi88> me 2
<peeper85> When I turned 15, I pretty much thought I was gay.
<boi88> but what clued u in?
<peeper85> I was scared of girls, didn't understand them.
<boi88> hell I don't even understand str8 guys.
<peeper85> Well, I always liked guys better. At least by the time I turned 15, I kinda knew that I was attracted to them.
<boi88> im kinda scared.
<peeper85> Tim, what are you afraid of?
The screen was silent for a few moments.
<boi88> i think i like guys too much 2
<peeper85> Tim, that's nothing to be afraid of.
<boi88> ya it is. i don't know how 2 be gay
<peeper85> You don't have to act gay; you know?
<boi88> but the gay guy at school acts like a girl
<peeper85> Yes. Some will act like that, but not most. Most gay guys act just like anyone else.
<boi88> they do?
<peeper85> Yeah. I'm gay, and I'm on the baseball team.
<peeper85> And I act just like anyone else.
There was another pause.
<boi88> have u ever kissed a boy?
<peeper85> No. Not yet, but I've thought about it.
<boi88> me 2...a lot lately
<peeper85> when i think about kissing another boy, i get sorta...
<peeper85> turned on.
<boi88> me 2
<peeper85> Yeah. I feel all tingly.
<boi88> u do?
Ross didn't know if he wanted to go any further with this but gave into his curiosity.
<peeper85> I just do.
<boi88> do u like...
There was another pause.
<peeper85> Okay! I get hard. Okay?
Ross was a little annoyed at having typed that, and the screen was again silent for a few moments.
<boi88> me 2
<peeper85> You're probably gay then.
<boi88> I've never told anyone that b4
<peeper85> It's okay. We can talk about stuff like that...at least on here.
<peeper85> Thanks for what?
<boi88> just 4 talking 2 me. I've never had anyone 2 talk 2 b4 about this stuff
<peeper85> You can talk to me. I'm no expert, but I am a few years older than you.
<boi88> thanks ross. im glad i met u
<peeper85> Me too. You seem okay.
<boi88> u 2
<boi88> ross i gotta go. moms calling me 4 dinner
<peeper85> Okay. Let's keep in touch, okay?
<boi88> ya. ill b on this sunday nite
<peeper85> I'll look for you.
I thought back to my third conversation with Ross.
<boi88> hey u
<peeper85> Hey yourself
<boi88> good 2 c u
<peeper85> Good to see you too.
<boi88> hey im 15 now as of yesterday!!!!!
<peeper85> Congrats man.
<boi88> ya its awesome
<peeper85> Did you have a party yesterday?
<boi88> ya but only with family. We went out to dinner and then mom had cake and ice cream at home.
<peeper85> Sounds good.
<boi88> i had a bad day at school on Friday
Ross frowned at his monitor after seeing that.
<peeper85> What happened?
<boi88> old man hammer gave me an f on a paper in English. and i worked my ass off on it.
Ross leaned back again. Hammer, he thought to himself.
<peeper85> Wait. You have a guy named Hammer for English?
<boi88> ya hes an old dude tall with grey hair and hard as nails
<peeper85> It couldn't be Doug Hammer, could it?
Now I had to sit back and stare at the screen. 'What the hell.' I thought.
<boi88> do u know him?
<peeper85> Well, if he teaches at Coon Rapids High School, I know him.
<peeper 86> I go to Coon Rapids HS and he was my English teacher when I was a sophomore.
I had to stop. 'Holly shit.' I thought to myself. 'He goes to my school!'
<peeper85> You still there?
I still stared at the screen for a moment, but finally put my hands back to the keyboard.
Ross thought for a moment, and then smiled.
<peeper85> Ah, do you go to Coon Rapids HS?
I thought to myself, Oh man, this guy goes to my school. What if I tell him that I do too? He seems nice enough and I don't know any other gay kids at school. And I don't know a Ross, but Coon is a big school, so I may not know a senior named Ross. It might be nice to be able to talk to someone about all of this.
Ross thought back to when he was 15 and how scared he was about being gay. He knew right then that this guy was as scared as he was about revealing himself.
<boi88> ya i go to coon too.
Ross' eyes opened wide at the revelation that the guy in the chat room would be sitting in a classroom right next to the one he was sitting in.
<peeper85> I don't think I've met you before in school.
<boi88> i dont think ive met u b4 either ross.
<peeper85> So, what classes are you taking?
<boi88> history algebra english pe and band
<peeper85> Oh wow! You're a smart kid.
I was slightly taken aback.
<boi88> im not a kid! Im 15 now
'Oops.' Ross thought.
<peeper85> Sorry, tim. I didn't mean that you were a little kid. You're still a kid like I am. Remember, I was only 17 two weeks ago.
<boi88> oh ya im sorry 2. i just get mad when someone calls me a kid
<peeper85> Yeah, me too.
<boi88> so what classes u taking?
<peeper85> I'm a senior so I'm taking it easy. I've got mostly basket weaving classes except for pre-calc. I love that class and do good in it, but it's hard.
<boi88> ah poor baby.
<peeper85> Just wait till you get there dick weed.
Ross had to laugh.
I looked at what Ross had just called me but knew that Ross was just being friendly and smiled to himself.
<boi88> ill ace it so there big shot. Hehe
Ross smiled along with Tim.
<peeper85> So we both go to the same school, huh?
<boi88> ya how unusual
<peerer86> What's so unusual about us going to the same school?
<boi88> well, you could have been from anywhere in the world, but u turn up in my back yard. That's unusual.
<peeper85> Yeah, I guess it is.
<peeper85> You live close to school?
Again, I was worried about how much information that I should give out to this guy.
<boi88> not far, u?
<peeper85> Me too. I'm only a few blocks from school.
'Oh my God. So do I,' I thought.
<boi88> hey ross
<peeper85> Hey. I've been waiting for you.
<boi88> u have?
<boi88> but we talked just yesterday
<peeper85> Actually, it was on sunday.
<boi88> oh, sorry
<peeper85> So what's been happening the past few days?
<boi88> not much u?
<peeper85> I think I got a job.
<boi88> oh? what kind of job?
<peeper85> Nothing fancy. They needed baggers at Piggly Wiggly, so I applied.
<boi88> but they said you def have the job?
<pepper86> Well not exactly yet, but they said that I should know tomorrow.
<boi88> so you don't actually have it yet, right?
<peeper85> He did tell me that I fill the bill, but the GM has to approve it first.
<peeper85> General Manager
<boi88> oh ok that sounds great
<peeper85> Yeah. Dad wants me to get a job so I can work to save money for college next year.
<boi88> my dads been asking me about a job 2 he thinks i should be thinking about where I want to work when im 16
<peeper85> Actually I had a job when I was 16
<boi88> where was that?
<peeper85> Well, I worked for my dad. He's an architect.
<boi88> oh wow
<peeper85> Yeah. He taught me some drafting.
<peeper85> but he also made me do a lot of filing and making blueprints.
<boi88> i bet hes a tyrant hehe
<peeper85> No. My dad and I get along. My mom too.
<boi88> me 2 i have good rents
Ross sat back and smiled.
<boi88> do u have any sibs?
<peeper85> No. It's just me.
<boi88> im an only kid too
<peeper85> There you go again.
<peeper85> You called yourself a kid again.
<boi88> well i am….sometimes
<peeper85> Sometimes I am too.
<peeper85> So what do you like to do?
<boi88> mostly i swim im on the jv team at school
<peeper85> I play baseball. I'm on the varsity team.
<boi88> ya you told me
<peeper85> I did? When?
<boi88> well it was when you told me that ur gay…
<boi88> and that you acted normal
<peeper85> You remembered.
<peeper85> You're silly. LOL
Ross grinned to himself.
I sat back and looked at my screen, also grinning, wondering what Ross looked like.
<peeper85> Do you have a lot of friends? You seem cool so I bet you do.
I had to think for a moment.
<boi88> only a few u?
<peeper85> Only 2 that I'd call friends.
<boi88> but ur on the baseball team so u gotta be popular
<peeper85> I know a lot of people, but…
<peeper85> they're just acquaintances. I only have 2 peeps that I can call true friends.
I had to think again for a moment.
<boi88> but I don't understand…
<boi88> if you know a lot of peeps why aren't they friends?
<peeper85> A true friend is someone that will stick with you…
<peeper85> no matter what…
<peeper85> someone that you can trust and that trusts you.
<boi88> then i think i only have 2 friends
Ross looked at his monitor, thinking about Tim.
<peeper85> I hope we can become friends.
<boi88> me 2
<peeper85> So tell me what you look like.
<boi88> i look like nothing
<peeper85> Oh come on. You gotta look like something.
<boi88> ok im short but im starting to grow…
<boi88> i have blue eyes…
<boi88> and i have brown hair
<peeper85> short or long?
<peeper85> your hair
<boi88> oh its short for swimming what about u?
<peeper85> I'm about 5-10 and skinny LOL
<boi88> me 2…skinny i mean LOL
<peeper85> and I have long dark blond hair…
<peeper85> coach always makes me tuck it under my hat. LOL
<boi88> LOL i bet ur cute
Oh my God. Why did I just say that? I asked himself as I pushed himself away from my computer.
I smiled as I brought myself back to my keyboard.
<boi88> well…i bet u r
<peeper85> I don't think so. I think I'm just normal.
<boi88> well i like normal then
After my last chat with Ross, my mom asked me to run down to Piggly Wiggly, which is a supermarket, one afternoon to get a jar of apple sauce to go with the pork chops that she was preparing for dinner that night.
"Why not Mom? My homework's done, so I've got nothing else to do this afternoon."
I enjoyed doing small things like this to help my mom. Mom gave me some money to pay for it, and I was off. I was still pleasantly remembering my last chat with Ross on the Internet.
He really seemed nice, I kept thinking, as I walked right past the Piggly Wiggly store lost in my thoughts.
I finally looked around, realizing that I had gone past the supermarket and retraced my steps. I found the apple sauce in the canned fruit aisle and headed for checkout.
As I stepped in line behind two other people, my eyes fell upon the bagger.
Oh, my God. I said to myself. He has brown hair, just like Ross has and is about a couple of inches taller than me, just like Ross. I wonder. Ross said that he's working at Piggly Wiggly. OMG.
I moved up to second in line and watched the bagger move to the adjacent checkout to help another customer. I continued to watch him as the bagger moved back to my checkout lane, and I jumped up in line to be facing the checkout lady.
"Did you find everything you needed," she asked me as I set the jar of apple sauce in front of her; never keeping my eyes from the bagger, but then…
The bagger looked up at me…and stopped doing his work, staring at me. We looked at each other, me oblivious to the checker trying to tell me the price of the jar, the bagger not getting a paper bag out to put the jar in. We were at a standoff, not moving, just looking at each other.
I finally handed the checker her money, while the bagger put the jar in a paper bag, still staring at each other.
Finally, the bagger turned to the checkout person and said, "I'd like to go on my break now, if that's okay."
The checker noticed the boys transfixed on one another and said, "Yeah, that's okay. We're done with lane for a while."
"The bagger asked, "Would you like me to carry this out to your car for you?"
"No, that's okay. It's not too heavy, and I walked, and I'm too young to have a car yet," I responded.
"Oh," the bagger said. "Sorry."
We stood, staring at each other until the bagger had to ask, "Is your name Tim?"
My face smiled, a knowing smile.
"You're Ross, aren't you?" I asked.
"Ah…yeah, I am. Say, would you like to have a coke with me? It's free for me, but I'll buy yours."
The checker heard their conversation and remembering the look that the boys were giving each other, said, "That's okay Ross. Give him one on us" as she walked by.
I turned to her as she was past us and said, "Thank you mam."
"Wanna go sit outside," Ross asked.
"Yeah, that would be nice," I answered.
We got our cokes, left the store and found a spot on an empty park bench across the street.
After sitting on the bench, we snickered at each other for a moment.
"I can't believe that I finally met you," I said.
"I can't either. Who would have ever though that we'd meet like this?"
"You're just like you told me when we chatted."
"So are you," Ross said.
We sat quietly for many moments, each not knowing what to say to the other.
"So, you're gay?" I finally asked Ross.
"Yeah, but you knew that. How about you? Have you decided yet?"
"Pretty much. Now that I'm fifteen, it's become quite obvious to me. I'm gay."
"Have you found a boyfriend yet?"
"No. It's not that I haven't been looking either. It's just that I haven't found anyone that I like enough. Most of the boys my age at school are just too silly and immature for me."
"I know what you mean. Most of the kids my age don't want to fit in with me. They're either too flamboyantly gay, too drunk or too high."
"Any other seniors at Coon that you know are gay?"
"The only ones I know of are those flamboyant ones. That's not me."
"I don't know of any sophomores that are gay."
"It could be that they're still deciding like you are," Ross commented.
"What do you like to do after school?"
"Well, I go to our neighborhood park sometimes, I like to go to museums and the library, stuff like that."
"You really do sound like me," Ross responded.
"Say, Tim, my break is about over, and I should get back to work."
"Can't I see you again, Ross?"
"Of course, and I'd like to see you again too. Give me your number so I can put it in my phone.
The boys exchanged numbers and even addresses.
"Man, you are close. Did you know that we live only one block apart? Wow."
"Not until just now, Tim."
Ross went across the street to work, and I went skipping all the way home.
I couldn't believe that I actually met Ross. He is a couple of years older than I am, but I can get over that, because he is one of the cutest boys that I have ever seen. His eyes draw me in, and I know he can instantly read what's on my mind. He's a little taller than I am, so I have to look up at him when I kiss him. Oh, God, what did I just say? The more I thought about it, I realized that it would be out of this world to actually kiss him. My heart is now beating a mile a minute.
After dinner that night, while doing my homework, my cell phone chirped. I could see on the caller ID that it was Ross. My heart started palpitating.
"Hey, Tim. I just wanted to talk to you, you know, see what you're up to."
"Oh, not much, just finishing up some homework, is all. What are you up to?"
"I just finished having dinner with my folks. I don't have hardly any homework cus I'm sliding this year. What are you working on right now?"
"I've got trig this semester, and it's bugging me. Sometimes, I just don't get it," I said.
"You want some help. Trig was one of my favorite subjects; I got an A."
"Really, I could use the help."
"Since we live so close, I could come over tonight, if you want?"
"Oh, man. That would be great. What time?"
"I can be there in five minutes."
"Okay. See you when you get here."
I waited at the foot of the stairs for him, making sure I was the one to open the door. Just on time, the doorbell rang.
When I opened the door, I looked up at my cutie; what am I saying, he's not MY cutie…yet.
"Come on in. Let me introduce you to my parents. They're in the living room watching TV.
We walked into the living room, and when Dad saw us, he paused the TV and stood up.
Mom, Dad, this is Ross Morrison." I said.
"So, you're the Ross Morrison that Tim's been talking about all evening?"
Ross looked at me for a second, and then turned back to my folks.
"Yeah, but I'm sorry if he said anything bad about me," Ross answered.
"Oh, no. He had nothing but good things to say about you," Mom said.
"Where did you guys meet each other?" Dad asked.
"We met at school," I said, not willing to tell them that we met on the Internet.
"What grade are you in, Ross," Mom asked.
"I'm a senior this year," Ross answered.
Tim's mom and dad 's eyes then took on a questioning look.
"You know that Tim's only a sophomore, don't you?" Mom asked.
"Yes, mam, I do. But Tim doesn't act like any sophomore that I've ever met, he doesn't talk like one either. Honestly, Tim's the most mature sophomore I know."
"Well, I'll give you that. Sometimes he acts like he's fifteen going on twenty," Dad said.
"Ross, we'd better get to my homework. Mom, Dad, he's helping me with trig tonight."
"Well, we won't keep you then. Don't stay up too late, though," Mom said.
"We won't," I said as we started up the stairs to my bedroom.
Ross looked around my room when he entered. I had full size bed with nightstand and lamp, a dresser, a desk where I had my computer and a separate table for doing my homework on. I was lucky because I had an on-suite bathroom with tub and separate large shower.
"You've got a nice room," Ross said.
"Well, it's home to me," I chuckled.
Ross walked around the room, noticing everything, He even stuck his head in the bathroom, I guess to see what was in there.
"Your parents are nice," Ross said to me as he sat on the end of my bed.
"I like them, but I've heard horror stories from some of the other kids about their parents."
"Yeah, me too. I've got good parents too, so I guess we're both lucky.
"We'd better get to your trig," Ross said.
As much as I didn't want to, as much as I just wanted to talk to him and look at him, I knew he was right.
"Okay, if you say so." I said with my puppy dog look.
"So, what are you having trouble with?" he asked.
"It's this sine, cosine stuff. It doesn't make any sense to me."
"Okay, let's sit up at your table, and I'll try to make some sense of it."
"Here's a triangle, but it's a special triangle," as Ross drew it on a piece of paper. "It's called a right triangle because one of the angles is exactly 90 degrees. That makes for some very interesting things about the rest of the triangle. It has two sides, here and here, as he pointed to them, and a hypotenuse opposite the right angle.
This you'll have to remember. The sine of the angle is the opposite side divided by the hypotenuse, and the cosine is the adjacent side divided by the hypotenuse. The tangent of that angle is the opposite side divided by the adjacent side. These you'll need to remember."
"Let's try an example. Say the angle is 30 degrees, the opposite side is 5.774", the adjacent side is 10.00" and the hypotenuse is 11.547."
I want you to calculate the sine, cosine and tangent of that angle, each number will be different, and you can use your calculator."
I put in the numbers in my calculator.
"The sine is 0.500, the cosine is 0.866 and the tangent is 0.577, But what are those number used for, that's what I don't get."
"Now, use your calculator to put in the angle of 30 degrees and then push the sin, cos and tan buttons to check your work."
"They're the same! how about that!"
"Ah, here comes the magic. If you already know some of the measurements, you can calculate the rest of the triangle. Here's an example. Let's say you want to know how tall a flagpole is. You can measure how far you are from the flagpole, say 40 feet, and the angle to the top is 45.5 degrees. The 40 feet will be the adjacent side, and we'll call the height of the flagpole, X cuz we don't know it yet. Now what formula contains the angle, the adjacent side and the flagpole, X?"
"I think it's the tangent formula."
"Right you are. So, we have tan(45.5) = X/adjacent side, or 1.018 = 40/x. Now, use your algebra to solve for X."
"It's 32.293 feet."
"Yup, that's how tall the flagpole is."
"Wow, that's really simple. I didn't know I could do that. I guess this trig stuff is pretty cool."
"Tim, if you need any more help, make sure you call me, okay?"
I know I'm going to need a lot more help, I thought, especially from Ross.
"What're you doing this weekend?" Ross asked.
"Not much. Why?"
"Would you like to go to Riverfront Park with me and maybe have a picnic on Saturday?"
"I'd like that. Can we cook hotdogs? I love them."
"Okay. I'll bring some chips and sodas too," Ross said.
"What time do you want to go?"
"I'll use my mom's car and pick you up at noon. Is that okay?"
"Okay, it's a date, I said.
Oh, man, I love the word 'date.' I'm going on my first date with Ross, I shouted to myself.
I looked out the front window, and sure enough, Ross was right on time. I guess the car he was driving must be his mom's dark blue 2003 Dodge minivan.
"You didn't tell me what to bring, so I just brought my winter coat, a blanket and my frisbee," I said through the open window to Ross.
"I've got everything else, food, cokes and even plates and napkins," Ross said.
I threw my blanket and coat in the middle seat and jumped into the passenger seat.
"So, which park are we going to?" I asked as Ross started the car moving.
"I thought we'd go to Riverfront park. It's got lots of trees and a great view of the Red River, although it's clear with no ice yet."
"Good. I've been there before. I Like that park."
When we arrived, we found a spot under some evergreen trees with a view of the river, and I started spreading the blanket. Ross pulled out the bag of charcoal and started a fire in a BBQ grill. Within minutes, we had hot dogs cooking as chef Ross was working his wonders on them.
We sat Indian style on the blanket and began devouring our lunch.
"Ross, you cooked these just the way I like them with just a little char."
"Me too. It's the only way to have hot dogs," Ross answered.
"I'm full. I've had three dogs and that's enough for me," I said.
"I am too. Let's clean up and then we can relax."
After putting our gear back in the van, Ross joined me on the blanket, resting on his back with his hands under his head.
"I love this place. It's quiet and away from the rest of the families picnicking," Ross said.
"Yeah, I feel like we're alone here."
Ross turned on his side, facing me.
"Can I tell you something?"
"Anything you want to," I answered.
Ross was silent for a moment.
"Tim, I think you're so beautiful, and I can't believe we met online."
I wasn't shocked by that, because I had been waiting for those words from him all day.
"I think you are too Ross. You're one of the cutest boys the I know."
Ross moved closer to me and put his hand on my stomach. Pleasures of joy swept through my entire body with his small touch.
"Tim, You don't know how much I like just being with you," Ross said quietly to me.
"I turned my head to look into his eyes and what I saw caused my heart to skip a beat. What I saw was love in the sparkle as if it were a 4th of July sparkler; I knew it was for me. His eyes sparkled for me.
"All the time we talked online, I kept getting this feeling about you, a feeling of happiness. I wanted to meet you so bad, and I felt so let down when we had to sign off," I said back to him.
"Tim, I hope you don't get offended by this, but can I kiss you?"
"You don't know how long I've waited for that," I replied.
As Ross lowered his head to mine, I returned to laying on my back, waiting for our first contact, and when it happened, a fireworks display went off in my mind with all the colors of a rainbow. As our lips made contact, I could feel the tenderness of his lips on mine. It was soft, but his eyes showed his passion. Ross broke the kiss but did not get up. He stayed only inches from my face, looking into my eyes.
"Tim, I've dreamed about this day for a long time. Can I kiss you again, so I'll remember it?"
"I think you'd better."
This tine his sweet lips stayed glued to mine a lot longer, and this time the fireworks display was brighter.
"Tim, I don't want to go, but Mom has some stuff she wants me to do when I get home. I had to promise her so I could use the van."
"When can I see you again?" I asked.
"How about we have lunch together at school?"
"I'm only a sophomore. Do you think your friends will be okay with me sitting there?"
"They'd better or we'll sit somewhere else, but I don't think there'll be a problem. They're a bunch of good guys."
Ross drove me home, and I couldn't stop looking at him as he drove.
"Stop looking at me. You're making me nervous, and I need to focus on the road," Ross said with a chuckle in his voice.
"I can't help it. You're just so beautiful."
On Monday, I went looking for Ross in the cafeteria but had trouble finding him with the crowd of kids all talking to each other. After getting my tray with what looked like pizza, I spotted him with only two other people, and rushed over to his table. As I approached, Ross stood up and with hand gestures, invited me to sit with them.
As I was sitting down, Ross said, "Tim, this is Rosaline and Alex, but she goes by Roz. Guys, this is Tim Halstad. Alex and Roz have been friends of mine like forever."
"I'm glad to meet any friends of Ross'," I said.
"So, this is the sophomore Ross' been talking about, huh?"
"I had to lower my eyes as I blushed from the notoriety."
"So, Tim, what're you hanging around a senior for? What do you see in him?" Roz asked.
I looked up and had to smile.
"Ross is one of the nicest persons I have ever met, and he doesn't mind me sitting with all you old people either," I had to say with a laugh.
"Well, you sure have a sense of humor; I'll give you that," Roz said.
Both Ross and Alex burst out laughing, while I sat with a smug look on my face.
"If you don't like your pizza, I'll be glad to take it off your hands for you," Ross said.
"Fat chance, I love pizza," I said.
"Ross, I think we're going to like this kid. He knows how to put you in your place," Alex said.
"Har, har," Ross returned.
Ross and I had lunch together the next day and again on Thursday. I had to miss lunch with him on Wednesday because I had to study for a calculus exam and was in the library. At lunch on Thursday, Ross explained he was going to have to miss Friday lunch with me because he would be in the library to study for an exam he had Friday afternoon.
That makes two whole days this week I wasn't going to see him, and I was a little pissed.
"Tim," Ross said. "Why don't we celebrate the end of the week this Saturday We can go to the park, just you and me? We can celebrate there, and maybe I'll get to kiss you again," he said with a grin.
"What time do you want to meet?" I asked, now getting eager, after he mentioned another kiss.
"I'm supposed to help my dad clean out the garage that day, so why don't I pick you up after dinner, say around 7:00?"
"I'll be ready. Do you want me to bring anything?"
"No, I'll take care of all that."
After dinner, I sat anxiously waiting for Ross. As I paced up and down the foyer by the front door, it was obvious to Mom and Dad I had a huge crush on him. They didn't realize it was more than a crush.
Ross was right on time as he pulled his car onto the driveway. I walked out the door and met him halfway.
"No. I'm not in the car yet, duffus," I laughed at him.
When we arrived at the park, Ross parked the car in the parking lot, went to the trunk, pulled out a blanket and a duffle bag and we headed across the grass until he found the spot he was looking for under mature oak trees with a view of the Red River.
"This is perfect," he said.
After I helped him spread the blanket, Ross picked up the duffle bag. As he set it on the blanket, I heard clinking coming from the bag.
"What you got in there, Ross?" I asked.
"I told you this is a celebration, so I brought stuff to celebrate."
Ross pulled out a couple bags of chips, three tubs of dip, two large bottles of orange juice, two large plastic cups and napkins.
"And now the pièce de resistance," Ross said, as he pulled out two 5ths of vodka.
"I guess when you said celebrate, you really meant it," I exclaimed.
I'm not used to drinking much, except then my dad let me have one beer after working in the yard on a hot day. I really didn't much like the taste of it either. But the way Ross mixed them, they were so good on my taste buds that I was drinking too fast. Ross had to tell me to slow down.
After an hour of the drinks and chips, I could feel myself getting drunk. I had trouble pronouncing my words. But it wasn't just me, Ross was the same way.
I looked at Ross, as he turned to me. We both had grins on our faces. Ross leaned over and put his hand on my shoulder, pushing me back onto my back. I knew I was about to be kissed, and my excitement flooded my body. The softness of his lips was exactly how I remembered it. Ross left my lips, moved closer to me and drew his knee up to rest on my waist. As he lowered his head to kiss me again, I could feel the bulge of his erection against me.
When we broke the kiss, we were panting, desperately trying to catch our breaths.
After a few moments, Ross looked at me.
"Tim, I love you. I love you so much it hurts sometimes. I wish I could be with you always.
"Ross, I've love you ever since I met you.
With that, we hugged each other so deeply, that we were making our body's become one.
As we lay back on the blanket, savoring our moment, Ross asked, "Would you like another drink? I'm going to have another."
"Yeah, why not? You're a great bartender."
When Ross handed me my drink and I tasted it, I could tell this one was stronger than the others, but I didn't care. We munched on a few more chips until the bags were empty and the dips were gone, and then had a few more drinks.
Ross was clearly drunk as he staggered back and forth trying to reach the restroom. After a moment or two, he came out and staggered back to where I was. I could tell he must have had trouble peeing in the restroom because his jeans were wet in his crotch area. When he returned, he stopped about twenty feet from me, fell on the grass. He had passed out, asleep.
I laid on the blanket watching him, realizing I was getting sleepy, but I knew I had to pee first. I downed the last of my drink and tried to make my way to the restroom, weaving back and forth, unable to walk a straight line.
When I returned, I staggered past Ross and headed for our blanket. I didn't even try to lie down, I just fell onto the blanket, and that was the last I remembered.
At some time later, I felt an excruciating pain in my ass, and I remembered screaming. But slowly the pain subsided, and I must have passed out again.
When I awoke later that night, I was naked, but I didn't remember getting undressed. I looked around and saw Ross' clothes next to me, and then I saw Ross about twenty feet from me. He, too was naked.
Why were we naked? What had happened? Then I remembered my screaming, and I knew what it was from. Ross had had sex with me, and that was why we were both naked.
I smiled, knowing my first sex experience was with Ross. This was sex with love, the best kind.
All Sunday, I was in a daze, and it wasn't from a hangover. I couldn't get Ross out of my mind thinking about him, thinking about what we had done. Dad asked me as I was sitting at the kitchen table well after lunch was finished, if I was alright. He said I had missed breakfast and was a little spacy when I came down at 11:00.
"Dad, I'm okay. I'm just daydreaming, that's all."
"What are you daydreaming about? Is it about that new boy you met?"
Dad, we both know I had been wondering if I was gay or not. He said that he would support me in whichever way I decided.
"Does it show much?" I sheepishly asked.
"Did you have fun last night, Tim?" he asked. "You didn't get home until 6:00 this morning.
"Yeah, Ross and I spent the night at the park."
"Did you have anything to drink last night? You kind of reeked when you came in this morning."
"We had a little. This was a celebration for the school week ending, and Ross brought some orange juice and vodka."
"So, is Ross your new boyfriend?" Dad asked.
"I think he may be." I answered.
"You seem like your head's been in the clouds all day.
"Do you think you might be gay?" Dad asked.
I used the same answer, and said, "I think I may be."
Dad's face looked stern when he through out the question I knew was coming.
"Did you have sex with Ross last night?"
There it was, and I didn't know how to answer him. My sex life was supposed to be private, but I had no sex life until last night. I just wished I remembered more of it.
"Yeah, I think so," I finally said.
"You think so?" Dad asked.
"Dad, I don't remember."
"How old is Ross, Tim?"
"He's eighteen, why?"
"Because, you're underage, that's why."
I got a call from Mr. Morrison on Wednesday, and he didn't sound to happy.
"Tim, the police were just here, and they arrested Ross," he said.
"What," I shouted. What in the hell for?" I asked.
"I don't know except they said something about a sex crime. I thought you should know.
"I'll be right over," I said as I closed my cell phone.
It didn't take me more than fifteen minutes to go the short distance on my bicycle, I peddled hard, just barely missing people in the crosswalks. When I got there, I threw my bike on their front lawn and rushed to the front door.
Mr. Morrison opened the door for me, and I noticed immediately he was trying to be stoic and not be upset. I stepped through the front door and wrapped my arms around him and held her in a hug.
"Ross' never been in any trouble like this before," he said.
"What do you want to do right now," I asked?"
"Well, the first thing to do is I should go see him, and maybe he can tell me something," Owen said.
"Do you want to go with me, Tim?" I know he was important to you too, Owen asked me.
"Yeah, I do. I'm just as concerned about him as you are."
"Okay. Leave your bike here and you can go with me. I'll come back for your bike later."
"I need to call my mom first," I said. "It's getting close to dinner time, and she'll be expecting me."
I called, got permission to go and we all climbed into his car.
The police station was in an upscale part of Moorhead and situated in a complex containing the Clay County Court House, a juvenile center and the Social Services office. How convenient, I thought. The building looked fairly new with ample parking. I guess they expect a lot of guests, I thought.
When we walked in, the officer at the front counter asked us if he could help us. Mr. Morrison said we were here to see Ross Morrison.
He looked to his rear and another officer watching us shook his head as if to say no. Then he turned back to us.
"Mr. Morrison is still being processed in. You'll be able to talk to him during visiting hours. We use a video conferencing system where you'll be able to see and talk to him. But visiting hours don't start until 7:00 pm."
"So, we'll have to come back then?" Mr. Morrison asked.
"I'm afraid so," the policemen said.
As we walked out of the police station, completely dejected, I asked if he's coming back.
"Of course, I am," Owen said.
"Can I come back with you," I asked.
"If your mom and dad say you can," Mr. Morrison said.
He dropped me back at his house so I could ride my bike home. It wasn't dark yet, and I knew how my mom hated me to ride at night. He said he'd pick me up after dinner at around 6:45.
When we got back to the police station, we were shown to a room containing four computer monitors and keyboards set on desks separated by two-foot walls looking to be sound proofed. There were old type phones hanging on the wall we were supposed to use when talking. Mr. Morrison was given a password to access the system. I wasn't given one because I'm too young.
Three of the stations were already being used so Mr. Morrison sat at the empty station, used his password and a list of names came up. When he selected is son's name, a dialog box came up stating it would be a few minutes until he would be brought to the visitation monitor. We waited for about five minutes, until the monitor flashed Ross' face.
"I'm so glad to see you guys," Ross said.
"We're so glad to see you too."
"Too, who's with you?"
"Tim's with me. He wanted to see you too."
"Have him come in view of the monitor's camera. I want to see his face too."
I moved over so he could see me.
"Oh, I'm so glad to see you, Tim."
Ross' dad went and got a second chair to sit beside us, so we would be both be on camera for Ross.
"That's much better," Ross said.
"How're they treating you son?" Owen asked.
I'm good, Dad. They haven't put me in chains yet," he chuckled.
"Did they tell you exactly what you're In here for?"
"No, not yet. All I was told was I'm accused of having sex with a minor. They're supposed to tell me exactly when I get arraigned tomorrow."
"Who were you supposed to have had sex with." Owen asked.
"That's just it. I don't know. I don't remember having sex with anybody. Right now, Dad, I'm totally confused."
At Ross' trial, the evidence was circumstantial. During the next morning of the sexual encounter, Ross' naked body was found sleeping under a tree in the park. Tim's naked body was also found sleeping about twenty feet from Ross. Ross' clothes were found lying next to Tim, along with two nearly empty 5th of vodka and two empty orange juice bottles. It was obvious from the scene Tim had been raped and the conclusion was Ross was the guilty party.
Both boys were quite bewildered, mostly due to extensive hangovers, and admitted they didn't remember what had happened that night. But the damning testimony was from Tim, who admitted that Ross had sex with him.
Ross was found guilty.
After the trial, I knew I still missed Ross, terribly. But as the weeks rolled by, I had started to feel an extreme loneliness without Ross. That feeling of loneliness got worse day by day. It would be three more years before I could feel his touch again and that feeling drove me into a depression. I moped around my house for hours at a time remembering all the great times we had.
I had to figure out a way to forget him and get on with my life.
That Monday, as I was heading to class, I was bumped into the lockers along the wall.
"I'm sorry, I didn't do it on purpose. I was pushed into you," this boy said.
"That's okay. I didn't get hurt."
He looked at me for a moment, and then asked, "What's your name? I've seen you around, but we've never met."
"Tim Halstad. What's yours?"
"Nice to meet you Jason, but I've got to get to class," as I turned and rushed off.
At least he wasn't rude like a lot of kids out there. And, he was kinda cute, too.
When class was over for the day and as I was leaving the building, I noticed Jason heading toward the student parking lot. I don't know why I did, but I stopped and watched him and saw him open the car door to a bright yellow Mustang. Must be nice, I thought and started my walk home.
I was only about a half block from the school when a yellow mustang pulled up to the curb next to me. The passenger window came down, and I recognized the driver. It was Jason.
"Can I give you a lift home?" he asked.
I only had a few blocks to go, but I said, "Sure."
As soon as I was buckled in the front seat waiting for him to drive off, he said, "You know, I have to know where you live before I can get there."
"Oh, yeah. Turn right at the next corner. I live four blocks up from there." I said.
"Are you a senior too?" he asked.
"No, I'm a Junior. I just turned sixteen."
"Do you have a girlfriend yet?"
I wasn't about to answer that question. It was a little too personal to tell someone I hardly knew, and I was definitely not going to tell him I'm gay.
"I don't either, so we're even."
"That's my house. It's the white one with pillars out front," I said pointing up the street.
Jason pulled onto my driveway and before I got out, he said, "I like you, Tim. Maybe we can get together and hang out sometime."
"That would be good. I'll see you later, and thanks for the ride, Jason."
I watched Jason drive off and was soon gone. As I was walking up to the house, I was thinking about my feelings of loneliness and thought it would be nice to have a friend to hang with, but I'd have to get to know him better.
The next morning, I was at my locker getting what I needed for the morning when I heard a Hi. I turned around and saw Jason standing in front of me.
"Hi, yourself," I said.
"I saw you at your locker and thought I'd just come over and say, hi."
We stood silently for a few moments, looking at each other, not knowing what to say.
"Ah…Tim. This may sound awkward, but I'd like to get to know you better. My friends tell me you're a good guy.
Yes, that sounded awkward, but he did sound sincere. I think it would do me some good to meet new people, to get out more.
"Okay. What do you want to do?"
"I thought we could grab a burger after school, some place quiet so we could just talk to get to know each other better."
"That sounds good to me."
"I know a place in Fargo that's not far. It's called Krohl's Diner. I get good service there cuz I know the guy who serves people, and I'm driving."
"I've got to call my mom and tell her where I'm going after school.
I met Jason at his car after school that afternoon, and he seemed in a good mood.
"Hey, guy, You ready?"
"Yup, let's go."
Krohl's was a diner kids frequented. It was small and the staff was friendly. Jason's friend came up to us as soon as he saw Jason, and said, "Bout time I saw you again. You haven't been in here in a while."
"I know, mostly school and football practice. Ryan, could we have the booth back by the windows. It's quieter back there."
"Who's your friend? Ryan said as he led us to the back booth.
"His name is Tim."
"Well, he's sure a cutie," Ryan said as he winked at me.
It became obvious to me Ryan was gay and had no compunction of showing it off.
"What's your pleasure?" he asked as we sat down.
"Just your house cheeseburger, fries and a large cola, no ice, for me," Jason said.
Ryan turned to me and had a bigger smile on his face than for Jason.
"And you young Tim?"
"I'll have the same, please."
"Oh, good Lord. You must teach Jason some manners," he said as he sauntered back to the kitchen.
I looked at Jason, and asked, "He's gay, isn't he?"
"As gay as he can be."
Having just figured out I was gay, I was certainly going to watch him, not to emulate him, but clearly the opposite.
"Tell me about yourself."
I wasn't sure if I wanted to go into telling him about Ross, so I started by telling him about what I liked to do.
"I read a lot and I dabble at playing tennis. I've had some lessons at tennis, but my teacher had to go away, so my lessons stopped.
"That's too bad. I bet you were getting pretty good at it though."
"Yeah, I like tennis. It gets me out of the house, and it's good exercise.
"What about you Jason? What do you like to do?"
"I'm just a normal guy. I play football for our school in the Fall, and the rest of the year I usually hang out with friends, well, they're mostly my teammates. During the summer, I like to go to the waterpark."
"Do you like to go to the movies, and if you do, what kind?" I asked.
"I like all kinds, but mostly action movies. Occasionally I'll watch a horror show."
Horror movies scare the pants off me, I thought.
"What about you Tim. What kinds of movies do you like?"
"I'm a romantic, so I like stories which move me, the kind which make my cry at a happy ending."
I looked down at the table and was surprised to see our food had been delivered and was already half eaten. I picked up a fry, but put it back, it was cold. Jason's food was also unfinished.
Jason watched me put my fry back, and asked, "You about ready to go?"
"Yeah, I need to. Mom told me not to be late."
"Before we go, I want to tell you I really enjoyed talking to you. I think we're going to become good friends."
"I did too Jason, and I think you're right, if we're not friends already."
"Would you like to go to the waterpark with me on Saturday? It'll be a lot of fun, and I could pick you up, say, around 1:00 in the afternoon. The park is indoors and the water's heated.
I looked at him for a moment and then nodded. "I'd like that."
"By the way, this food is on me," Jason said.
The waterpark was located in the Courtyard by Marriott hotel just off I-94 in Moorhead. Since we weren't guests of the hotel, we had a $ 5.00 each fee for its use, which I gladly paid, since Jason bought my food at the restaurant.
It was huge with a leisure river meandering around the park. I counted three huge water slides, one with the enclosed tube running outside the building. For snacks there was a sit up bar off to the side which served cheeseburgers, fries, chips, sandwiches and soft drinks. It was fabulous, and with my bathing suit in hand, I was ready to go!
"Where's your friends," I asked Jason.
"They're not here. I think they're at football practice. I want this to be just you and me."
I smiled at that because I wanted it to be just me and Jason.
"Tim, the changing room is over there," as he pointed in the direction next to the snack counter.
As we entered the restroom/changing area, it hit me that I was about to be naked in front of Jason. I held back for a moment, watching him in front of me. I had to admire his body, toned, muscular, broad shouldered and a 'V' that went down to his waist. I knew I couldn't compare myself to him with my skinniness.
Jason stopped, turned to me and said, "Come on. Let's get changed and hit the water. I really want to take you on one of those slides."
As I stepped up to an open locker, Jason had already removed his shoes and his shirt and was starting to undo his belt buckle. I knew this was the time to be brave and just do it, so I also removed my sneakers and shirt. Jason had dropped his pants and stood for a moment, watching me, when he dropped his boxers, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. He was gorgeous.
"Hurry up, the water's waiting," he said.
It seemed to me, he waited naked purposely, to watch me look at him, which I was. The thought of him also being gay crossed my mind, but I also knew it was a dream.
And, then, to my surprise, he put on a tight-fitting pair of speedos. My mouth gapped open, almost drooling, as I watched him.
After I had changed into my board shorts, we walked into the shallow kiddie end of the large pool to get used to the water. It was warm, and I must say, very pleasing. We continued walking into deeper water, and when it was up to my waist, Jason put one arm over my back and the other over the back of my knees and lifted me completely out of the water. He then threw me about three feet in front of him. I landed with a huge splash, going completely under water.
When I came up for air, I heard him behind me, laughing hysterically.
"Now that you're completely wet, let's go for one of the slides," he said.
"Yeah, but you're not. Your hair's still dry."
With that, he downed himself in the water. When he reemerged, his hair was just like mine, all wet.
We climbed the stairs to the top of the middle slide and waited for two younger kids to have their turn in sliding into the opening of the slide. When it was our turn, Jason went first, and I followed shortly after he slipped from view.
The ride was full or twists and turns, and the only scarry part was when I entered a covered part of the tube. Not being able to see the turns, I felt a scream was appropriate, and I did.
When I splashed into the water at the end of the ride, I saw Jason standing in the water waiting for me.
"How was it?" he asked.
"Absolutely boss. Let's do it again," I said.
We went down the slide six or eight more times, until we were getting worn out.
"Let's take a breather and maybe grab something from the snack bar," Jason said.
"I'm all up for that."
We sat in one the tables for two which were scattered around the perimeter of the main pool area. As typical to teenagers, we each had a cheeseburger, fries and a cola. We were enjoying the quiet time with each other when Jason did something that surprised me. As I was reaching for a fry, he put his hand on top of mine. He didn't leave it there as it were an accident, no, he left it there.
I looked up to greet his eyes on me.
"Tim, are you having a good time? I know I am. I really like being with you."
"Yes, I am. Thank you for taking me here. And, I like being with you too."
Then he removed his hand from mine, but not before giving it a slight squeeze.
Why don't we try the lazy river to let our food settle before we go for the big slide?"
"Lead the way," I said.
We jumped in the water where the large inner tubes glided by and grabbed onto one that would just for two. And then, he did another surprising thing. As we let the slow-moving water guide us down the river, Jason put his arm around my shoulders and left it there. I really enjoyed his touch. He was far from aggressive, like I imagined him to be, but gentile. I was sent into a peaceful trance, closing my eyes I dreamed of Jason being my boyfriend.
The lazy river made its way around bends and eventually we came to a short dark tunnel. As we entered the darkness, Jason leaned to me and very quietly said, "Tim, may I kiss you?"
In the pleasant mood I was in, I relished the thought of his lips on mine and just nodded.
His lips were so soft, I hardly felt him at first. I reached across him with my free arm and embraced his whole body. Holding him so close to me, I could now imagine what being in heaven would feel like.
As we approached the light from the main room, ending the tunnel, we broke our kiss and ended our embrace. Jason quietly looked at me for a while, smiling.
"I've wanted to do that ever since I met you," he softly said. You're the first boy I've ever kissed.
"Jason, I need to ask you something, and it's important."
"What do you want to ask. I'll tell you anything."
"Jason, are you gay?"
He paused for long time before he finally said, "I am. I realized it when I was 14, but I was afraid to tell anybody. I still am. No one knows except you. I wouldn't be able to take it if my teammates found out. If this repulses you, I'm so sorry, and I will take you home," he said as if his heart were bleeding with each word.
"No, Jason. I don't want to go home. I want to stay here with you," I said as my eyes started to moisten.
Jason lowered his head.
"Jason, would you look at me?"
His head slowly rose until his eyes met mine.
"Jason, when you took your time in answering my question, I realized how hard that question was for you. But you were honest with me. You're my friend, Jason, and I feel I have to be just as honest with you as you just were with me. Jason, I'm gay too.
His eyes bulged.
"You are?" he happily asked.
"Yes, I am. I too wrestled with being gay or not. My mom and dad helped me to decide just who I am. It was my choice and they've supported me in that choice."
"So, your folks know?" he asked.
"Yes. They're the only ones I'm out to, with the exception of my two closest friends, Roselyn and Alex. They're not gay. They're very straight and also very accepting. You'll like them."
"I wish my teammates could be like your two friends."
"Don't worry, Jason. This will be our secret," I said.
Jason and I dated for another two months until June 12th when he asked me to be his boyfriend. My loneliness had left me some time during those two months, and I was happy for the first time since Ross went to prison.
Those two months, however, were rocky at best. I was happy, but inside me was a hope Jason would be like Ross. Oh, he could be nice at times, but he had a wild streak in him. I sometimes felt he paid more attention to his teammates than he did to me.
"Morning Mom, Dad." I announced as I entered the kitchen on Saturday morning just before 9 am.
My mom and dad were seated at the small kitchen table across from one another and had already finished their second cup of coffee by then. They were reading the newspaper while waiting for me to arrive before having breakfast.
"Right on time, I see." my dad grinned at me.
"Good morning, dear. Did you sleep well." My mom asked while keeping her eyes on the morning newspaper.
This was just so normal to me. It was the same question I got from my mom every morning. My dad was usually gone by the time I came down for breakfast before school, but I felt good to see my dad there on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
"Yup," I said.
I walked past my mom to get a coffee cup from the cupboard and then filled the cup with coffee from the pot on the counter.
"Sugar's on the table, but we're out of cream. You can use the milk that's in the fridge." My mom, said, still keeping her eyes on the morning news.
Nothing had changed. They've never had any cream. My dad is an engineer, and I knew his not wanting any extra fat in his diet was just the anal part of being an engineer, everything worked out in detail.
I loved my parents. They treated me with respect even when I had to be disciplined for my numerous screw-ups. And I knew they loved me too.
"What's for breakfast, Mom?" I asked as I sat at one side of the kitchen table, my mother on my right and my father on the left. I held my cup of coffee in both hands close to my nose, savoring its aroma. But I knew I wouldn't taste it, black like that, so I put it down and began heaping spoonful's of sugar into the mug.
"I thought I'd make waffles this morning, and the bacon's already cooked. Your dad doesn't want eggs, but we can have a couple, if we want. How does that sound?"
Ted Halstad lowered his newspaper and looked at his wife over the rim of his glasses.
"I didn't say I didn't want them. I just said I can't eat eggs because they have too much cholesterol." My dad stated flatly. He was just too scientific.
I snickered at my dad. I loved the playful banter between my parents. It was just so...so homey.
"Well, you can just suffer in silence then. Tim and I will feast this morning," Mom said.
Sarah Halstad turned to her son.
"Ah, Mom. What if I said I didn't want eggs either, that they're bad for me too?"
Sarah's eyes shot open.
"What? You turning into an engineer too? I'll never be able to take the two of you." she glared at me and had to force her smile down.
"Nah. Numbers give me hives. I'll have two sunny side."
Sarah smiled as she turned back to Dad.
"See, I told you he was worth raising."
Ted Halstad shook his head from side to side, grinned and picked up his newspaper.
My mom got up from the table, pulled out the waffle iron, rummaged around in the cupboards for the ingredients, pulled out a bowl and utensils and began to work on the waffles.
The clanking of food preparation was the only sound until my dad put away his newspaper.
"So, how's Jason doing? We haven't seen him in a couple of days." Ted asked.
I looked up from my coffee, remembering it still didn't have any milk in it. I slid my chair back, got up and headed for the refrigerator.
"He's fine. He had to go out to dinner with his folks last night, so I didn't see him after school. Oh! We're going to Kelly's party tonight."
My dad lowered his head and, over his glasses, watched me pour milk into my coffee mug.
"Do you think that's wise? I mean, there's a chance Jason or you could raise some questions as to why you're going together to a party. I remember what high school was like."
Both of my parents knew their son is gay. It couldn't be helped when they found out why I had gone to the park the night of the rape. Everything that had happened that night was a nightmare, but as a family, they kept us together.
I put the milk away in the refrigerator and returned to my seat at the kitchen table.
"Jason wants to go. I asked him the same question you're asking, but he still wants to go. Maybe he's getting a little braver. I don't know. Maybe he wants to come out or isn't afraid of it anymore since we're seniors."
"Well for me, I always think it'd be better for both of you to just be a little careful. I just don't want you, or Jason, to get hurt."
"Dad, we're not going there as a couple. Roz said we could just go without dates, just drive there together."
"Do you know who's going to be there?"
"Just our usual friends, I guess."
"So, you'll know everyone there?"
I paused for a moment, tilting my head to the side as I watched my dad take another sip from his coffee.
"Dad, you don't have to worry about me being out of the house. I'm 18 now, and you know who all my friends are."
Sarah Halstad turned around with a plate of waffles in her hand and proceeded to place them on the table. She had a frown on her face.
"Tim, son, we're just concerned for you, that's all. And we probably always will be." she said.
"Okay, but don't worry about me and Jason. We won't do anything stupid."
"Well, let's eat then." my father said, ending the exchange.
Breakfast seemed to be eaten with more silence than usual. I was curious as to why my dad seemed to be more concerned with who I'd be with that night than I had been in the past few months, at least since I had turned 18.
I sat at my desk, working on a paper which was due on Monday for my American Literature class when my cell phone chirped. It took me a second to pull my thoughts away from Mark Twain and focus on where I had left my phone. I heard the electronic ring, but the phone wasn't where I was looking. Shit, I thought, jumping up from my chair, frantically looking around my room.
I heard the fourth ring coming from my clothes lying on the carpet in the corner, and that's when I remembered the phone was still in the front pocket of my jeans. By the time I pulled the jeans from the floor, the fifth ring should have been starting, but there was silence. Shit, I said to myself.
I flipped open the phone and checked my missed calls, hoping it was Jason. Again, I didn't recognize the number. But after staring at it for a second or two, I remembered the silent call from the other day. I closed the phone. It was the same telephone number.
What the hell's going on? I thought to himself. Who is this?
I decided to find out. I flipped open the phone and opened my Missed Calls library and found the number. Highlighting it, I hit Talk and waited. The phone rang. It rang again. Then again. The phone rang eight times, but no one answered, so I slowly closed my phone.
For the first time, I started to worry. Something's going on, but I had no clue, and that's what was worrying me most. I had gotten over what had happened to me three years ago with Ross and had slowly gotten my life back together again.
I had undergone a deep depression after the attack. To come out of my feelings of guilt and self-loathing, had taken my family and a psychologist two years to accomplish. I was finally starting to live my life on its own without seeing it from the past. And now this. I knew it was Ross, but my mind wanted to put Ross in my past. I also knew the thought of the phone calls being from Ross was ridiculous. This had to be someone I knew from school playing a mind game on me. But who?
I was leaning against Jason's Mustang, waiting for my ride home at the close of the school day, when I saw Roselyn and Alex walking together down the front steps leading to the student parking lot. They appeared to be laughing together, and seemed to be such a close couple, always together, I thought to myself as I watched them. I had known the pair of 18-year-olds since the three of us were together in the 5th grade, and Alex and Roselyn had been a couple since they were sophomores in high school. I knew few high school romances ever lasted past graduation, but I had a feeling this one might just be the exception. This was our senior year, and the past two years seemed to bring Alex and Rose closer and closer together. I felt pangs of envy every time I saw them together like this. They were always together. I wanted what they had, that stability, that…I didn't know how to describe it. All I knew was I didn't have it. I wasn't as outgoing as Alex, as confident as Alex.
As Roselyn and Alex approached the parked cars, they noticed me leaning against Jason's front fender and decided to head over to me. Their enthusiastic conversation was addictive, and I had to smile as they approached.
"Still waiting for Jason?" Alex said as he leaned on the fender next to me. Roselyn took up on the other side, flanking me.
I looked from side to side at both of my friends, feeling the camaraderie.
"He's never on time, you know?" Roselyn whispered in my ear.
I focused on Roselyn.
"I know. It seems like I'm always waiting for him."
Again, I felt envy of my two closest friends. I kept wondering why Jason and I didn't seem close. Jason was confident in himself and seemed to put me and Jason at odds sometimes, like I didn't fit with Jason, didn't have 'oneness' so many couples had. I knew I was the follower, and Jason was the leader. That's just the way it was.
"Hey Halstad!" Alex said, getting my attention again. "Are you and Jason going to Kelly's party Saturday? It's gonna rock!"
"I don't think so Alex. We're not out, you know? Kent's going to be there, so it's a place I want to avoid."
"Yeah, he's such a dickhead. I have no clue what Kelly sees in him. Beyond being somewhat good looking, his head's completely empty."
"Maybe they just get it on well." Rosalyn cut in.
"Geez Roz. I don't think that's any of our business. I don't want people talking about us like that."
I snickered, a little too loudly.
"Knock it off Tim. Want me to say a few words about you and Jase, huh? Alex scolded.
"Ah, that's okay. Let's just leave me out of this, okay? I said.
I looked at my shoes sliding across the pavement.
"Oh, you're so cute when you're wearing your tomato face." Rosalyn chuckled.
Alex burst out laughing.
As Alex calmed down, he noticed Jason coming around the corner of the auditorium building, making his way toward the student parking lot.
I looked to where Alex had focused and watched Jason getting closer, and the closer he got, my smile grew larger.
"Well, here's tardy boy himself." Rosalyn said.
"Hey guys. Wassup?" Jason asked as he neared.
"We were just asking Tim if you and he were going to Kelly's party on Saturday." Alex answered.
"Tim and I haven't really talked about it much. We don't usually go to social gatherings together. We don't want to start rumors, and you all know how stupid stuff gets started." Jason was now standing next to his boyfriend as Alex moved sideways to give him room.
"Come on you, guys. This is 2006. It's not like it used to be. Most people don't give a shit anymore." Rosalyn jumped in.
"Roz. I know it's getting better, but there're still assholes out there. And of all people to avoid it's Kent Hoagland and his fascist friends."
"Well, you guys could come separately, you know, just without dates."
"We could, I suppose" Jason answered, "but if we stay together too much, people will talk. I just don't think it's a good idea, especially with who's going to be there."
I listened to this conversation without saying a word. I wanted to go, but I also knew if Jason didn't want to go, we wouldn't. But I also knew I didn't want to be outed either. I had realized I might be gay when I was a freshman but didn't want to accept it. It took me a year of wondering if it might be true, and when I was 15, I had decided to try to find out. I had met a boy online who turned out to be a senior at Coon Rapids High School, the same high school I was just starting out in back then. It didn't turn out well.
My cell phone jerked me out of the depression I was feeling. I had left school that next Friday and waited for Jason to give me a ride home. Jason didn't show. I waited and waited, but no Jason. Finally, after 30 minutes of solitude, I started the long walk home. Actually, I only lived a few blocks from the school, so it wasn't too far to walk. It only felt like a long walk because of how that feeling of loneliness had crept over me. Where was Jason?
As the subdivision houses past me on my right side, I kept my eyes on the concrete sidewalk passing underneath my sneakers. Where was Jason, kept going through my mind. Why had he not called? What was he doing?
I was about halfway home when my cell phone began its vibration from within my right pocket. Dropping my book bag to the side of the sidewalk, I reached for my phone and flipped it open. I had expected the call to be from Jason, but I didn't recognize the number.
There was silence on the line.
"Hello. Who's there?" I asked.
The silence continued. I moved the phone away from my ear to look at the display, but all it told me was that it was a local phone number, no caller ID name. I frowned and put the phone back to my ear.
"Who is this?"
I could hear light breathing on the phone, and it wasn't mine.
"Look, I'm not in the mood for this right now. Don't joke around. Who is this?"
"It's no joke." The caller said finally. The phone then went dead as the connection was lost.
I slowly closed my phone as I wondered, What the fuck. Who was that? Someone was obviously trying to play some kind of joke on me, but who?
Just then the phone started to vibrate again as the fake ringing sounded. Flipping the phone open, I saw it was Jason this time.
"Hello you sick bastard!" I angerly answered.
"You heard me. What are you trying to do?"
"What in the hell are you talking about? It's me, Jason."
I felt a little embarrassed for assuming Jason had been the one calling me a minute ago.
"Oh. Didn't you try to call me a few seconds ago? That wasn't you?"
"Well, someone did."
"You don't know who it was?"
"No, they wouldn't say anything. They just breathed in the phone."
"Hey, are you getting pervy calls?" Jason had to question.
I removed the phone from my ear and stared at it for a second, then replaced it.
"No. Not until now at least. That's the first call I ever got like that."
"So, they didn't say anything to you at all?"
"Well, I told whoever it was I wasn't in a joking mood, and then the voice just said, 'It's not a joke.' and then hung up."
"That's weird. Could you recognize the voice? I mean, could it have been someone that we know?"
"It didn't sound like anybody I know."
There was a pregnant pause for a moment.
"Ah, Tim, the reason I called was to say I'm sorry for not picking you up after school today."
"That's okay. I don't live far, but you could have called at least. I mean I waited for half an hour for you."
"I'm sorry Tim. I really am, but the coach held us all over after football practice today, and I didn't have my phone with me on the field."
Tim thought about that for a second before giving in. I let my anger go for the time being.
"Okay. So, why'd he keep you guys after? Someone miss a pass in the final run for the goal?"
"Nah. Some shit happened with the school's computers today. Someone tried to break in, and coach wanted all of us to keep our ears open for who might have done it. Then we had to listen to his speech again about respect for other's property."
"And it took 45 minutes?"
"It wouldn't have, but Kent Hoagland had to open his big mouth. So, coach had to explain to him personally why he's such a fuck up. Kent still just doesn't get it though."
"Figures." I replied.
"Hey, I see you up ahead. Turn around and you can see me coming up behind you."
I turned around, and sure enough, there was Jason's car coming down the street toward me. I'd recognize that bright yellow Mustang anywhere.
"Yeah, I see you. Just don't run me over, okay?"
"Why not?" Jason giggled.
I closed my phone, picked up my book bag and stepped to the curb to wait for Jason to pull up next to me.
While Jason brought the car to a stop at the curb, I remembered the weird phone call. Who the hell was that, I thought? As I opened the passenger door and slipped down into the seat, I kept thinking of the call.
I remained quiet for a moment, watching the road in front of me through the front windshield, as Jason started moving the car forward onto the traveling lane. Jason looked briefly at his quiet boyfriend.
"You still mad at me?"
"Huh? Oh, sorry. I was just remembering that weird phone call, that's all."
"Well, don't worry about it. It's probably nothing or a wrong number or something." Jason said turning his attention back to the road in front of him.
"Yeah. You're probably right."
We were quiet for a few minutes as the car headed for my house before Jason spoke again.
"Hey Tim. I've been kind of thinking about Kelly's party tomorrow, and...well, I think I'd kinda like to go."
I turned to look at Jason, and I was puzzled.
"Why? You've never wanted to go to things like that before."
"It's just a thought. We don't get out much, and, well, we should, you know?"
"Why the change of heart? I thought you didn't want to do the dating thing in front of other people, and there will be a lot of people there."
"I know, but the team is hounding me to go. They say I don't hang out with them anymore, and they're kinda pushy about it this time."
The Mustang pulled into my driveway and stopped in front of the closed garage door. Jason put the transmission into park, but kept the motor running, focusing his eyes on the garage door.
I remained silent for a moment, not taking my eyes off of Jason, wondering why he all of a sudden wanted to go to Kelly's party. I broke the silence.
"Jason, you know damned well you'll be outing yourself, and me too, if we went as a couple to Kelly's. Is that what you really want?"
"Roz said we don't have to, you know? Come as a couple, I mean."
Jason turned around in his seat to look directly at me and continued.
"She said we could just go there, separately, well, we could drive there together, but not go as a couple. They all know we don't have girlfriends, so don't have anyone to take, so we could just, you know, show up together."
I had to think this over for a minute. I wanted to go but thought Jason was always against getting into situations where he might be outed. Everyone knew what the rumor mill is like in high school, and it could make our lives miserable. I knew it terrified Jason, but I wasn't so sure it was necessarily a bad thing for him, to be out, to stand up for who he was. Maybe Jason is finally wrestling with that demon, I thought to himself.
"Okay. We'll go if you want. But are you going to talk to me at all that night, or are you just gonna run off with your teammates?"
"Oh, come on Tim. Of course, I'll talk to you. But we gotta be a little careful though, that's all, you know?"
"Yeah. I suppose. I suppose I can't kiss you then. Maybe we should avoid dancing together too, or even running up to the bedroom to be alone." I snickered.
"Oh, come on Tim. You know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. I'm just fucking with my closeted boyfriend. We'll go, and I'll be good, I promise."
"Thanks Tim." Jason smiled.
"You want to come in? Mom and Dad won't be home for a while."
"Thanks, but Mom wants me home right after school. I think she wants to take me out with Dad for an early dinner somewhere."
I eyed Jason brown's eyes and light brown hair for a moment. I loved the way his bangs slid down to the top of his eyebrows and then moved off to his right.
"Can I get a kiss?" Jason asked.
"Of course, you duffus." I replied as I moved closer to Jason.
Our lips softly met as Jason pulled me closer, and we held the kiss for a few seconds. I soon felt Jason's lips part and the soft tip of his tongue searching my own closed lips. I parted my lips and then felt Jason's tongue at the front of my teeth, pushing.
I had to break the kiss and push Jason away.
"That's enough of that. You've got a dinner to go to, and if we keep that up, you'll be late."
Jason lowered his eyes at being caught but looked up back at me.
"Okay, okay. I know. It's just, sometimes I can't help it when I'm close to you."
I had to smile at my boyfriend.
"Just get your ass out of here."
Jason turned around and slid back under the steering wheel, as I opened the side door.
"I'll call you tonight, Tim."
"Okay. Talk to you later. Now get home duffus." I smiled as I closed the door and started walking toward the front door.
Jason honked the horn a short two blasts as he started backing out of the driveway.
I stopped, turned my head slightly around to see the yellow Mustang pull back. I smiled as I shook my head from side to side before continuing my trek to the front door.
I woke up from my short nap and knew if I wanted to go to Kelly's party that night, I should be awake.
God, I hated parties with my high school friends. I knew I had to talk to people, and that was something I didn't like doing, because I knew something might slip.
I showered and tried to dress in something appropriate. I finally settled on a pair of tan cargo pants, sneakers and a polo shirt. That was innocuous enough not to make a statement, but still be acceptable to his friends. Of course, his straight brown hair always gave him trouble. He liked the tossed look, and it took him hours to make it look as if the wind had just messed it up.
Jason was going to pick him up and drive him to the party. Geez, this felt like a date, but he knew it was supposed to appear we were just going to a party separately. Ten minutes in the shower, one minute brushing his teeth, two minutes shaving his chin, two minutes dressing and twenty minutes combing his hair, and he was ready.
The doorbell rang as I walked down the hall to the stairs leading to the foyer. When I finally got to the bottom of the stairs and opened the door, Jason was standing in front of me, grinning. He looked like candy to me. Jason was dressed in a black pair of jeans with a tight-fitting black silk button shirt and black boots. His hair had that un-kept look I was sure took Jason an hour to accomplish.
"Oh man Jase. You look great!"
"Who's there?" my dad asked from the living room.
"It's just Jason. We're going to Kelly's party tonight." I said, wondered if Dad remembered anything I had said before.
"Oh. Hi Jason. You guys have a good time tonight. Just keep it under wraps, okay?
"What?" I had to ask.
Ted knew his son, and that he wanted to be out.
"You know what I mean. Just don't be a couple tonight, okay?"
"Come on Dad. Not tonight, okay?
"Okay, just have a good time. Oh, Jason, make sure you get Tim back by midnight."
"I will," Jason answered.
"Come on Tim, let's get out of here." Jason had to whisper to me.
Jason turned toward the front door, and I began to follow.
Damn, Jason didn't even notice how I was dressed, I thought.
The drive to Kelly's house was quiet, as was typical when I was thinking of things other than where we were going. The silent phone calls were worrying me. I wondered if someone at school had found out I was gay, or even both Jason and me. Then I thought maybe that someone was going to be at Kelly's party. All of a sudden, I didn't want to go.
Jason turned to look at me for a moment before turning his attention back to the road.
"What?" he asked.
"Are you sure you want to go to Kelly's tonight?"
Jason glanced back at me; his eyebrows lowered.
"What do you mean? Tim, I thought you wanted to go."
"Well, I do, but maybe not this time, okay?"
Jason braked the car and pulled over next to the curb. Putting the transmission into park, he turned in his seat to face me fully, staring at me.
"Tim, something's been bothering you. What is it? Why don't you want to go tonight?"
I didn't look at Jason, keeping my gaze toward the front windshield.
"It's nothing Jason. Look, I'm fine. I just...I just don't feel like going tonight, okay? We can do other things, maybe go to a movie or go to a restaurant."
"Tim, what is it? I know you said you'd go because I wanted to, but why the change?"
I didn't answer.
"Tim don't space on me. You'd better start talking."
I turned toward my boyfriend, and Jason saw the frown on my face.
"Tim, something's happened, and I want to know what it is."
I looked at Jason for a moment. I knew t I had to tell him about the phone calls and what he thought they meant. I also knew I had no idea who was making those calls and my fears were just in my mind, but I just then resolved to include Jason.
"Jason, I've had some strange phone calls on my cell."
Jason reared back a bit, his expression changing from anger to puzzlement.
"Ah, what do you mean? What kind of phone calls?"
"Just...weird. I answer, but there's no one there."
"Three so far in the last couple of days. I've checked and it's always from the same number."
Jason now looked quizzical.
"So, who's calling you? I mean, who would call and not say anything?"
"That's just it. I have no clue. They don't say anything, but I can hear them breath into the phone."
"Shit. That sounds like some pervert calling. Are you having phone sex now?"
"Oh, come on Jason. I don't do that, and you know it. I have no idea who's doing this."
Jason sat back into his seat, facing forward.
"Well, it's gotta be someone who knows your phone number. Any ideas?"
I turned to also face the windshield.
"I think it could be Ross."
"What!" Jason yelled turning back toward Tim. "He's still in prison."
"I know, but I just have this feeling."
"It can't be him. That's paranoid. Come on Tim, it's gotta be someone else."
I didn't want to say it, but now Jason's getting the point of why I didn't want to go to the party.
"Okay. Maybe it wasn't Ross. Maybe it was someone else. Maybe it was someone from school."
"Sounds more logical, I mean someone I know."
"Yeah. But who?"
"You tell me."
I again faced Jason.
"Jason, what if someone found out we're boyfriends? I mean, what if someone knows about us? And Jason, what if they're at the party tonight?"
Jason turned back toward the windshield. He had to think about that for a moment.
"Tim, no one knows. I've been pretty careful."
He looked back toward me.
"You haven't screwed up, have you?"
"No. I've been pretty careful too. I don't think anyone other than Roz and Alex knows."
Jason slid back into his car seat and let out a sigh, and we were silent for a moment.
"So, no one knows then?" Jason finally asked.
"I don't think so, but that doesn't mean someone does know. I mean if those phone calls were from someone at school, they might know."
"But you don't know that?" Jason asked.
"No, not actually."
Again, silence followed.
"Okay," Jason finally spoke up. "You're just being paranoid about this whole thing. No one there knows, okay? This will just be a group of our friends. If someone knew, they'd have already said something, right?"
I thought for a moment.
"Yeah, you're probably right. I'm sorry man. I just....I just thought someone there might know, that's all."
"Tim. It'll be alright. Don't worry about it, okay? Look, Tim, we're going to have a good time, okay? Stop worrying about who might know based on a few phone calls where no one said anything."
I didn't say anything right away, mulling over what Jason had just said.
I glared at Jason with a wicked grin.
"What's this car doing in 'park'? Isn't it time to get moving?"
Jason smiled as he pulled the car out of park and started moving down the street toward Kelly's house.
I was now exuberant as I led Jason up the front concrete stairs to Kelly's front door. We had to park the car several blocks away, as it was the only parking place within miles, it seemed, we could find. As we approached the block Kelly's house was on, we could hear the music even before we turned the corner, and it only got louder the closer we came to the house.
Kelly's parents' house was huge, bigger than either mine or Jason's parents homes. It was only one story but seemed to fill the one-acre lot. The front lawn was so well manicured it had to have been done professionally. Six-foot-high hedges ran down both sides and the rear of the lot, giving the house privacy.
We stood at the front door for a moment, gathering courage, but then knocked. I wondered if anyone could hear the knock, what with all the noise blasting through the closed door.
Within seconds, the door flew open, and Kelly was standing in front of us.
"Bout time you two showed up."
Kelly looked over our shoulders for a second, turning her head from side to side, shifting from one shoulder to the other.
"You guys bring anyone?"
"Nah, we didn't get dates for tonight. By the time we got out of what we had to do tonight, it was kinda too late. But we came anyway," Jason answered.
"Not a problem. There's a few single girls here, so you both can have your pick."
Kelly backed into the foyer allowing Jason and I to walk inside. She turned and walked back into the crowd that was in the living room to the right, leaving me to close the door.
The place was packed. Most people were standing, talking, drinking. I looked toward Jason.
"Wanna see what they have to eat?" I asked my boyfriend.
"First, I'd like to find the bar. I could use a beer."
"Jason. Please, not too much tonight, okay? You might open up too much, and…well, you don't want to say anything you shouldn't."
Jason threw his arm around my shoulders, and started directing me to the left, toward the kitchen.
"Come on Tim. One or two won't hurt. It might help you relax too."
I shrugged off Jason's arm and stopped in front of him. Jason stopped and stared at me, a quizzical look in his eyes.
"That's what I'm talking about Jason. Don't put your arm around me." Then I whispered as low as I could, just below the level of sound of the bands playing. "We're single here, remember?"
"Ah…sorry. I guess with the excitement of the party, I forgot for a second."
I shook my head at Jason, eyeing him with my brows lowered. Then a slight smile crossed his face.
"Come on Duffus. I could use a coke. Just watch how many beers you have, okay?"
Jason smiled back, and we turned and walked into the kitchen, keeping a short distance between us.
The kitchen was also huge with counters along two walls, ovens and a closet on another wall, and a double refrigerator and more cabinets along the fourth wall. There was a huge island in the middle of the room with a breakfast bar along one side. The room was large but seemed dwarfed by the number of kids standing all around the island and against the counters. The counters were filled with bowls and plates of chips, dips, crackers, cheese squares and small plates and napkins. The noise in the kitchen was mostly of loud conversations as the sound of the music still had people trying to talk above it. At the far end of the kitchen was an open sliding glass door Jason assumed led to the back patio.
"Come on. I bet the beer's out there." Jason said nodding toward the glass door as he pulled my arm forward.
I followed Jason through the crowd, and we eventually stepped through the door onto a wooden deck. The deck was even more crowded than the kitchen, but the largest crowd was standing around two kegs of beer.
"Now we're talking," Jason said to no one as he started to head in that direction. He turned around after taking only two steps, but continued slowly walking backward...toward the kegs, and asked, "You want one Tim?"
"No. You go ahead. I'm going to hold off for a little while."
I had started to remember what had happened in the park three years ago when Ross and I had had too much to drink. Ross was older than me by a little over two years, but since we had found each other on the Internet, we had grown to become close friends.
I watched Jason make his way toward the beer but lost him in the crowd before he had gotten ten feet away. I turned around and started heading back toward the kitchen but stopped when I saw two large coolers up against the back wall of the house. I guessed they held the soft drinks as there were very few people around them. Opening the closest cooler, I found what I was looking for, coke cans, and grabbed one. As I popped the can open, I went through the glass door back into the kitchen.
As I stared around the room, I realized I knew most of the kids there. I did recognize a few of the teenagers from some of my classes, but I hadn't seen anyone I knew well enough to go talk to. Just then Alex walked into the kitchen. Seeing him, I smiled and started walking in his direction.
Alex saw me approach from out of the crowd, smiled and also headed in my direction.
"Hey, man." Alex shouted over the noise as we high fived. I didn't think you'd be here. Is Jason here too?"
"Yeah. He's outside getting a beer. We just got here."
An evil grin came over Alex's face as he leaned in toward my left ear.
"You didn't hold hands when you came in, did you?"
I bolted backward as my eyes bulged open. I hit Alex on his left shoulder, hard.
"Shut up!" I said.
Alex started massaging my shoulder, but his evil grin grew to a smile.
"Hey. Just funnin with ya. Shit! That hurt."
"Sorry. I didn't mean for it to be so hard. I just didn't expect you to be so…so assholish."
"That's not even a word Tim, so how can I be something that doesn't exist."
"But it fits…sometimes." I grinned at my friend. "Where's Roz?
"Oh, she's back in the living room talking with some of her friends. Kelly's been trying to get her to join the cheerleading squad, but Roz's dead set against it. She walked away from Kelly to talk to a few others, and I thought I could use another coke. I didn't want to see Kelly's face burn, so here I am." Alex's grin grew larger.
I knew Alex and Roselyn didn't especially like Kelly. Her dating Kent Hoagland probably had something to do with that.
"Hey Alex." Jason said as he walked up, beer in hand.
"Oh, hey, Jase. Glad you guys made it."
"Yeah, me too. You see anyone from the team here?"
"Yeah. It seems the whole starting front line is in the living room listening to Kent talk about how great he is."
"Yeah, he can be quite the dick sometimes," Jason said, looking toward the living room. Jason then turned toward me.
"Ah Tim? Will you be alright if I go over and talk to the team for a few minutes?"
I looked at Jason for a second, and then nodded my head. "It's okay Jase. I'll be alright. You go ahead."
"Thanks man," Jason said as he turned and made his way out of the kitchen.
Alex and I starred at Jason retreating for a moment before Alex turned toward me, still remaining quiet for another moment.
"Yeah?" I answered, turning my eyes back to Alex.
"You got a minute? I'd like to ask you something?
"Sure, but not here. I can hardly hear you."
"Can we go outside? I think it's quieter out there," Alex asked.
"Is this important?" I asked.
I eyed my friend before saying anything.
"Alright. Come on." I finally said as I turned and headed back outside. Alex followed close behind.
We walked to the front of the deck and down the three stares to the back lawn. Alex took the lead then and continued walking across the grass to the hedge at the rear of the lot. He stopped by the hedge, waiting for me to catch up.
I approached Alex, and waited beside him, looking at his eyes without saying anything. Alex was looking straight ahead, not looking at me.
"What's up Alex?" I asked.
Alex turned toward me. "It's quieter here, and…and I don't think anyone can hear us," Alex said.
Alex paused for a moment before continuing.
"Tim, can I ask you something personal? You don't have to answer if you don't want to, but it's something that's been kind of bugging Roz and I."
My eyebrows lowered slightly, but I kept my eyes on Alex's.
"We're best friends Alex. We pretty much tell each other everything. What is it?"
"I guess I really don't know how to ask this, so I'll just come out with it. Do you like Jason?"
"What? Of course, I do. He's my boyfriend for Christ's sake."
"No Tim, I mean do you really like him? Like are you in love with him?"
I just stared at my friend, no smile on my face. The silence was extending too long.
"Why are you asking me this Alex? Jason and I've been dating for a year now."
"That's just it. You two have been together for just over a year. Oh shit! How do I say this?"
"Just say it, Alex!" I looked around to see if anyone was around them. His voice had risen a little too much.
Alex also looked around but turned his attention back to me.
"Okay. Here's what Roz and I see, or don't see. It's been a year Tim, and there's something missing. It should have been there, at least over time it should have been. But it's not there, not at all."
"What are you saying Alex? What's not there?"
Alex turned his eyes toward the stars overhead, letting out a sigh. Then he looked directly into my eyes.
"There's no sparkle, Tim. Your eyes don't sparkle."
"Huh? What does that mean?"
"It's just when you look at Jason, you don't seem to know he's there. There's no emotion."
I had to look away, swallowing hard. I knew what Alex was talking about.
"Tim? I'm sorry man, but you're my best friend. I love you like a twin brother, and I'd do anything for you. And one of the things is I don't want is for you to get hurt. I want you to be happy."
I turned back toward Alex, and he could see the redness and wetness in my eyes. I wasn't crying, but I sensed I was close.
"No! You're not." Alex exclaimed.
I didn't respond but continued looking at my friend.
"Tim? I know what I've seen in you before, and it's just not there now. I know you're not happy. It's just that…you don't have it anymore."
I looked toward my toes, watching my right toe move left and then right.
"I need to sit down for a second," I said.
I sat on the grass Indian style, and placed my elbows on my knees, knuckles holding up my jaw.
Alex looked down at me and then followed, sitting next to me. He looked toward the deck full of people, and seeing no one had been watching, he turned toward me.
"You're not happy, are you?"
I didn't answer right away.
"No. Not really."
"What is it, Tim? What's wrong?"
"I don't know Alex. I mean, Jason's a good guy. Yeah, sometimes he's forgetful, and he's nice to me and all, but…"
"But, he's not the one, is he?"
"I don't know Alex."
"Have you got your eye on another boy?"
"No! That's stupid Alex. I'm not looking for anyone."
"Not even Jason?"
I looked directly into Alex's eyes.
"I have Jason. I don't need anyone else."
"Yeah, but does he, have you?"
I looked down.
"Of course, he does."
"Does he really?"
"What do you mean? We're boyfriends."
"Look at me, Tim and then answer me this."
I looked back up toward Alex.
"Where's the sparkle, Tim?"
I couldn't answer.
"Where is it, Tim? Where did it go?"
"When did you last see it?"
Alex looked away at that moment.
"Tim. It was about three years ago."
I again looked down as Alex turned toward me.
"Tim, it was the last time you talked about Ross."
"Alex, you know what he did to me, right?" I asked.
"Yeah, I know."
The silence between the us stretched on and on, and Alex finally had to say something.
"You loved him, didn't you, Tim?"
I didn't move, but slowly lowered my head and sniffled.
Alex heard the sniffle.
I looked up at Alex, and this time Alex saw the tear slide down my right cheek.
"Why did he do that to me?" I shouted. "Why did…?"
"I don't know, man. I never met him."
"I loved him, Alex. I LOVED him. He LOVED me too! I don't understand what happened. I just don't understand any of it."
Alex moved closer to me and put his arm around my shoulders, drawing me into his side.
Resting my head on Alex's shoulder, I continued to fight back the tears, holding onto him, needing his strength, needing somebody.
Alex lowered his head to rest on top of mine, still holding me. He brought his hand up to rest on the back of my head, pulling me closer. We held onto each other for a minute, and then my tears subsided into sniffles.
We continued to hold each other for a moment longer until I raised my eyes to look directly into Alex's eyes.
"I'm kind of a baby, aren't I?" I said, trying to smile, but my smile only came up halfway. I had to blink my eyes several times for the tears to subside.
"No, Tim. You're more of a man than I am. I don't know if I could have the courage you do, to know you're gay and have to hide it from everybody."
"I'm not, you know, strong?"
"Yeah, you are…you shithead." Alex had to add, smiling down at his friend.
I finally let out a full genuine smile.
"You want me to take you home?" Alex asked.
"No, I'm fine. I'd like to stay for a while longer."
We stood, brushing the grass from our pants and then looked toward the back of the house.
"Think anyone saw us?" I asked.
"Doesn't look like it. I think the beer keg draws more interest than we do."
"Come on man. Let's rejoin the party."
Alex started to turn toward the house, but I stopped him with a hand on his arm. He turned back toward his friend.
"Just…just thanks," I said and smiled.
"Yeah." Alex too smiled broadly at me. "Come on. Let's go."
We walked back toward the house, and as the noise level increased, we made our way across the deck and into the kitchen.
"Oh shit. I bet Roz's wondering where I am. I'm going to grab another coke and bring one back to her too. Come with me?"
"Nah. You go ahead. I'm going to wander around a little and see who's here."
"You going to be alright, Tim?"
"Yeah, I'm fine now. You go. I'll see you both after I wander a little."
"Okay. Just take care of yourself."
"Yes, mother! Now go."
Alex smiled again at me, and then turned to grab two cokes from the coolers just outside the door and then made his way back into the living room.
I looked around for Jason, but didn't see him in the kitchen, so I headed for the living room. The living room was sunken one step down from the foyer, kitchen and the hallways leading away from the living room , so I had a commanding view of the room from the top of the step. The room was still crowded with loud voices outdoing the music from the stereo. As I looked around the room, someone came up to me from behind and stood next to me, also looking out over the sea of drunken teenagers.
"You're Tim Halstad, aren't you?" the boy asked.
I turned to the boy standing next to me. He stood two inches shorter than me and was much thinner, his glasses sliding off his thin nose.
"Yeah. That's me. I've seen you around school, but, I'm sorry, I don't think I know your name."
"That's alright. I'm Bobby. Bobby Fielder."
"Okay. You're that math wiz, aren't you?" I turned my attention back to the crowd.
Bobby laughed. "I don't know about the wiz part, but I do alright."
Just then I saw Jason with a group of his teammates standing around the coffee table by the fireplace, red plastic cups of beer in their hands. I clenched my fists but let go quickly.
"I don't go to these things much, too many people," Bobby said.
I turned my head back toward Bobby.
"Neither do I."
I turned my head back toward Jason who was now laughing loudly, his hand on Kent Hoagland's shoulder, the beer sloshing in his plastic cup and spilling some on the floor. I noticed the reflection from the fire in the fireplace off of the medallion hanging from Kent's neck. I looked at Jason and smiled as I saw the greater reflection off of his eyes.
"I've seen you around a few times, at school," Bobby said looking up at me.
Bobby looked again out over the room and seeing Jason together with Kent Hoagland, his forehead began to furrow.
"He's a friend of yours, isn't he? Jason, I mean."
"Yeah. You could say that. He drove me here tonight."
I turned around to face Bobby.
"Hey. You need another beer?"
"Ah, I'm only drinking coke. But if you want one, go ahead."
"Come on. I'll buy."
Bobby followed me across the kitchen to the back deck. I reached into the cooler, grabbed two cokes, and handed one to Bobby.
"Are You drinking coke too?" Bobby asked.
"Tonight I am. I think I need to stay sober tonight because I may be driving Jase's car home later."
"Yeah. I can see," Bobby said, looking over at Jason and then down at the floor.
I remained quiet for a moment.
"So, how come I haven't seen you around much?" I asked.
"Well, like I said, I don't go out much."
"Well, what brought you here tonight?"
"I was kinda forced into it. My sister wanted to come, but she didn't have a ride, so…here I am."
"Is your sister Allison Fielder?"
"She's in my Lit class. We study together sometimes in the library. I never knew she had a brother."
"You know I didn't know she had a brother?"
Bobby chuckled again, pushing up his glasses again.
"No. I knew you sometimes studied with her in the library."
"I'm two years younger than she is. I'm a sophomore, and she's a senior."
"Maybe that's why I don't see you around much. I'm a senior too."
Tim looked at Bobby quizzically for a moment.
Bobby looked down at the deck.
"Wait a minute! You said you're her ride tonight. But you're a sophomore; how come you're driving? You can't have a license yet, do you?"
"Nah, I don't, but she lets me drive her around sometimes. I'm a good driver. And besides, I'll be 16 next month so it'll be legit then."
I looked down at Bobby, thinking I was starting to like this small guy.
"Look Tim. I know you don't like being seen with a sophomore, so I'm going back inside."
Bobby turned, but I grabbed his arm.
"Where're you going? I never said that."
"My sister doesn't like talking to sophomores."
"I don't care. I'd rather stay out here and talk to you than with the bunch of drunks inside."
"Well, look over at the kegs. There's a bunch of drunks out here too," Bobby said.
I looked around and said, "I see what you mean. Come on. Let's go out on the grass where it's quieter."
"Oh, shut up Bobby. I told you I don't care that you're a sophomore. You sound more intelligent than some of the seniors I know."
Bobby had to grin, and said, "Thanks, I guess."
I turned and walked across the deck, returning to the grass lawn while Bobby followed. When we were out of earshot, I stopped, but continued staring at the back of the yard as Bobby came to stand beside me.
"This is better. I can almost hear you now," I laughed.
"Yeah. Oh, and thanks for talking to me."
I turned to look at Bobby.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, no one's really come up to me all night. I've haven't said two words to anyone."
"Really? How come?"
Bobby again looked down.
"I guess I'm kind of shy."
"But you came up and spoke to me first."
"Yeah. And it took me all night to get up the courage."
I smiled down at Bobby, remembering how scared I was when I was a freshman and then again as a sophomore. I smiled to myself when I remembered how I had gotten up the courage to ask Ross into a private chat room. Just then the smile faded from my face as I remembered Ross again.
Bobby noticed the frown.
"I'm sorry. I've probably said too much," Bobby said.
That brought me back to the party.
"No. I kind of like the way you talk. You seem pretty open."
Bobby kept watching his feet, but then looked up at me.
"I'm not very comfortable around other people, especially seniors. But you're nice."
"Thanks, so are you."
"What do you like to do when you're not in school?" I asked.
"Not too much. I read a lot and I like to draw."
"What kinds of things do you draw?" I asked.
"Mostly people. I'm not good, but maybe it'll help me get over my fear of talking to people."
"I think you're probably better at it than you think."
"Thanks for that. At least you haven't hit me yet."
"What? I'm not going to hit you. Why would I do that?"
"It happens," Bobby said as he shrugged his shoulders.
"Who's hit you?"
"Oh, there you are," Allison yelled from the deck. "I've been looking everywhere for you."
Allison stepped off the deck, stumbled to the ground, knees landing on the grass as she spilled her beer.
Bobby ran up to her and took ahold of her arm to steady her. She looked up and then noticed me standing beside her brother.
"Oh. Hey, Tim. Glad, to see you."
I didn't say anything.
"Allison? Why don't we go home?" Bobby asked, looking down at her.
"Sure Bro. Let me get one for the road."
"I don't think that's wise, Allison," I said. "Let Bobby take you home."
Bobby helped Allison to stand, and she seemed a little more sure-footed as she stood.
"I'm okay. I just missed that last step. I haven't had that much yet," she said.
Bobby looked at me for a moment, and then back toward his sister.
"You sure sis?"
"Yeah. I've only had two so far. I'm telling you, I just tripped."
"Okay. If you say so," Bobby replied. "When do you want to go home? It's already 10:30."
"How 'bout we leave at 11:00? I just wanted to find you and tell you I'm not going to be staying late."
"So, Tim. Where've you been all night?" Allison asked, not sounding too drunk.
"Mostly out here. It's kind of noisy in there."
"Well take care of my little bro. I'm going back inside for a minute. It's getting cold out here."
Allison turned and walked back toward the house. She stopped at the steps for a minute, looking at them shaking her head but continued on up and across the deck.
"I thought she was wasted when she fell, but I should have known better. Three's always been her limit. She usually doesn't drink much," Bobby said as he watched his sister walk into the house.
"She sure had me fooled," I answered.
"Ah, Tim. I think I'm going back inside too., I want to be close to Allison in case she wants to go home...or fall again."
"That's okay, Bobby. It is getting chilly out here, and I want to go check on Jason."
Bobby looked at me, smiled and nodded his head.
"I said thanks…for talking to me tonight."
I smiled and nodded.
Bobby turned and we both went inside the house, Bobby in search of his sister and me in search of my boyfriend.
I walked through the living room, and as I approached the coffee table, Jason looked up and saw me.
"Hey buddy. Where've you been? Hey guys, you all know Tim Halstad?"
"Yeah, we know who he is." replied Kent. The rest of the team looked toward me but remained silent.
"Well, he's my best bud," Jason said, throwing his arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer, grinning.
I didn't like this and frowned up at Jason. He was getting a little too friendly in front of his teammates, so I had to throw his arm off of me.
Kent looked at Jason and me, his eyebrows raising slightly.
"Hey, anyone need another beer?" Jason asked suddenly.
"I'm good," most of the team replied, except Kent.
"Yeah, I'll have another one."
"Jase? You sure you want another beer?" I asked, one eye closing slightly in an ominous stare.
"Hell yeah. I'm good." Jason replied, slightly slurred.
"Okay. Give me your keys. I'm going to be driving you home," I stated.
"No, you won't. I'm good man." Jason leaned more into Tim.
"Give him your keys, man. You're in no shape to drive anywhere," Mark told Jason. Mark was the starting center for the team, and at 290 lbs., he commanded authority.
Jason looked up at Mark, wide eyed.
"Yes sir!" and then he smiled.
Jason reached into his pocket, pulled out his keys and held them in the air, looking at me.
I put my hand out, but the keys didn't drop, Jason held them in the air between me and him, smiling at me.
"Drop em," Mark demanded.
"Okay, okay." Jason said as he dropped his keys the 12 inches into my palm. He then pulled Kent's plastic cup from his hands and headed for the kegs.
Kent, Mark and I watched Jason walk through the living room.
"You'd better watch him," Mark said to me.
Kent chided in saying, "He's okay. He's just having fun."
I looked at Kent with disgust.
"You don't care if he hurts himself, do you?" I asked.
"He's a big boy. And why are you so concerned?"
"He's, my friend. That's why!" I almost exploded at Kent.
Mark couldn't keep quiet. "Cool it guys. Tim? Watch him tonight, okay?"
I turned toward Mark, blinked my eyes, and said, "I will." I looked back toward Kent. "Thanks for your concern...Kent!"
Kent shook his head, turned away from me and walked toward the back yard in search of another beer.
"What's up with Kent?" Mark asked, looking directly at me.
I continued watching Kent leave the room.
"I don't know," I said. "It seems he's got it in for me for some reason, but I haven't a clue."
Just then Jason put his arm around me, pulling me in close.
Still angry with Kent, I pushed Jason away slightly to keep the intimate contact from prying eyes.
"What's wrong Tim?"
"You know what's wrong, man. You're drunk."
"Well, maybe just a little."
"No. A lot! We should go home."
Jason looked around the room.
"Can't we just stay for another half hour?" Jason pleaded still searching the room.
"No. I'm driving, and I say we have to leave now. Your parents are going to be pissed as it is."
Jason returned his eyes toward me.
"Okay, Okay. Let me go take a leak first. I don't think I'll make it home if I don't go before we leave."
I eyed Jason for a moment, skeptically, wondering if he had something up his sleeve.
"Alright. Go. But I'm leaving in three minutes, with or without you."
Jason smiled and then dropped his grip on me.
"Be right back," Jason said as he turned and headed for the hallway and the bathroom.
I watched him go and shook my head. I wonder when he's going to grow up, I thought to himself.
Kent Hoagland watched Tim lead Jason from the party, remembering why he hated them. From what he saw with the hugging between those two, just reinforced knowing they were gay. He hated gay people. His dad called them abominable.
But Kent also hated his mom and dad. His mom was never around, and his dad was a drunk, never able to keep a job. Kent Hoagland had no rules to follow, so he just did what he felt like doing. It got him in trouble at school many times, but his folks didn't seem to care.
Kent then remembered his trip to the park he was at a few years earlier, and that fag Tim was there too. Tim and Jason were off drinking with Jason's team and soon Tim and Jason had fallen asleep under a large evergreen tree. As Kent watched the two boys, he knew he was jealous of their relationship but hated that thought. He knew at some time, he'd get even with them for causing that thought in his mind.
Jason fell asleep as soon as the car pulled away from the curb into the night.
I watched him for a moment and, as I turned my eyes back to the road in front of me, I remembered my conversation with Alex that evening. Why had he brought up Ross this evening? I asked myself. He knows I'm trying to forget him.
"Come on duffus, get up. We're here."
Jason pulled his head from my shoulder, looking around. He was confused for a moment until he recognized his house through the passenger side window.
"Oh," was all he said.
"Jason? Are you going to be alright?
Jason turned from the side window, trying to focus on me sitting next to him in the driver's seat.
Jason rubbed his forehead with his fingers, trying to wake up.
"Yeah. I'll be alright. Mom and Dad go to bed early, remember? I'll slip in the back door again."
"Okay but be careful. You're still not sober."
Jason looked at me, at my eyes. He smiled and nodded agreement.
"Come here duffus," I said. "Get out and go inside." Jason put his left arm around me, pulling me close.
"Oh no you don't," as I then pushed Jason toward the passenger door. "No kiss tonight."
Jason sat up straight.
"Because you smell like a brewery, that's why."
"Oh." was all Jason could say. He knew the smell of beer was not to my liking.
I watched Jason walk toward the back of the house, to use the back door, I assumed, and made my way home.
As I walked toward my house, When I reached the front steps, I turned around again and looked at the empty street in front of me. Turning my head around to look at the steps, I plopped myself down. I again watched the darkness around me. Within minutes, my eyes misted, and a tear slid down my cheek.
God, he loves me. Why can't I love him back? Why can't I love him the way he loves me? Or does he really love me? Sometimes he doesn't act like he does. When I want to spend time with him, he runs off to be with his teammates.
I stayed on the front porch for the next hour, not moving, my remorse filling me. I didn't sob, but the tears never stopped their trek down both my cheeks, my eyes forward, watching the darkness.
I knew I had to leave Jason. He doesn't fit with me, and I don't fit with him. But, how do I do that? I don't want to hurt him. If I don't love him, at least I care about him.
On Monday morning, I was preparing for the day ahead in school. The sea of kids were all around me as I made my way down the hall toward my locker. I stopped in front of my locker, but I couldn't get to it because of the moving current of kids between me and my destination, my locker. I was waiting for an opening when I was knocked to the side by someone's shoulder. It was Kent Hoagland moving past me. I looked at Kent, puzzled, who looked back at me, smiling.
Now what was that all about? I asked myself.
I continued watching Kent join the sea of kids moving to their classes and wondered why Kent had done that. Kent was an asshole, but I had never had a run in with him before. It seemed to me Kent had done that to me on purpose.
I shook his head, forgetting Kent, and again tried to get close to my locker. I took the opportunity to dash through an opening and finally arrived in front of my locker. After quickly turning the dial on the paddle lock to open the locker, I started to get the books out I needed for my next few classes. Just before I closed my locker, I heard a familiar voice behind me.
"Hey," the voice said.
I turned my head toward the voice.
"Hey Bobby. How's it going, man?"
I turned back to get the last notebook from my locker and then shut it. I put the paddle lock back in place, locked it and turned back toward Bobby. Bobby was still standing there.
"What's up for you today, man?"
Bobby looked around to see if anyone was listening, and not seeing anyone, turned his attention back to his new friend.
"Nothing much. I saw you by your locker and just wanted to come over and say hi."
I smiled. This guy is nice, I thought.
Bobby looked over his shoulder for a moment, then around the hallway as if searching for something, or someone. He finally looked back at me.
"Looking for someone?" I asked.
"No, just looking," Bobby replied.
I questioned Bobby's response, because what I saw in Bobby's eyes looked more like fear than being nervous about what to say next. He has another reason to be here talking to me than just trying to be friendly, I thought.
"What's the matter Bobby?"
Bobby, again, looked around the hall before turning back toward me.
"Nothing, really," he said, shaking his head.
"Come on, Bobby. What's bothering you?"
Bobby looked up at me for a moment.
"I saw Kent push you."
"Yeah, well, Kent's an asshole."
Bobby looked at his right sneaker sliding across the tiled floor. He didn't look back at me, before he said, "He pushes me too sometimes."
Bobby finally looked back toward me. "Yeah, he has it in for me. I guess it's because I'm small for my age, and he keeps calling me a fag all the time. I'm 15 and towering at 5'- 4," he said with a forced smile.
"Has he been picking on you a lot, Bobby?"
Bobby blushed with the red of disclosure. He looked down for a moment before answering.
"More like beating me up whenever he gets the chance."
"He's hit you?"
Bobby Fielder was terrified of Kent Hoagland, and his school day was filled with that terror. He became afraid to even go to his locker for fear of meeting Kent in the hallway.
Bobby had just finished his gym class; they had been playing soccer and Bobby held back, afraid to go the showers for fear of meeting Kent. Kent had the same gym period, but as a senior, he was playing baseball.
Kent saw Bobby, alone on the soccer field, as he was coming from the baseball diamond.
Kent looked around to make sure they were alone and said to himself, Now's my chance to quiet the little fucker."
Kent approached Bobby from behind to conceal himself. When he was close enough to Bobby, he yelled, "There's my little faggot."
Bobby turned around in terror after hearing Kent's voice and started backing up.
"Don't you run away from me, you dumb shit," Kent said.
Bobby stopped, and Kent hit him in the face, hard.
Bobby fell backward and landed on the ground, holding his jaw and screaming.
"I told you I was going to get you," Kent snarled at him.
Kent picked up Bobby, so he was standing in front of him and hit him again, this time harder.
"I told you if you ever squealed on me, I was going to kill you. Now I'm going to beat you till you're dead, so you'll never have the chance," kicking a lying Bobby in his ribs, and Bobby again let out another scream.
As Bobby lay on the ground, the baseball coach, Mike Nordstrom, and an umpire rounded the corner of the soccer field, Kent heard them chatting with each other. He then then glanced at Bobby lying in a fetal position on the ground and took off running.
"Mike, there's a kid lying on the ground up ahead, and he looks hurt," the umpire said.
As they came closer, Mike Nordstrom yelled, "Oh, my God. It's Bobby."
I got a text message from Bobby the next day saying he was in the hospital.
I wanted to go see Bobby in the hospital as soon as I was able, but schoolwork kept me tied up until Saturday. I was late for visiting hours that evening, but I went to see Bobby anyway. Bobby's parents were in the room when I entered, and they turned around to see who the visitor was.
Bobby appeared to be asleep.
"Do you know our son?" Bobby's father asked.
"Yes, sir, I do. We go to the same school, and he and I have become friends."
"I'm Noland Fielder and this is Bobby's mother, Ruth Fielder," Noland said as he stuck out his hand to shake mine.
I'm Tim Halstad," I said.
"Oh, you're that boy Bobby's talked about. He seems to like you quite a lot," Mrs. Fielder said.
I blushed, then asked, "How is he? To be honest, he doesn't look so good." Bobby's head looked like they had used a whole roll of gauze around his jaw. I could see wires protruding from the gauze.
"I can understand that, the way he looks," Mr. Fielder said. "His jaw was broken in two places, and he has a broken rib. His jaw has been wired closed right now and he's pretty heavily taped around his midsection," Mr. Fielder said.
"Is he going to be alright?" I asked.
"They said the surgery went well, and he spent the next day in intensive care afterwards. He was released two days ago. They said he'll be on a liquid diet for some time, though," Mrs. Fielder said.
"Do you have any idea who would have done this to him?" Mr. Fielder asked.
"I have no idea," I said, looking down at Bobby. "Is it okay if I come visit him when I can?" I asked.
"I think he would love to see you," Mrs. Fielder said. "He won't be able to talk to you with his jaw wired like that, though."
"That's okay. I'll bring some paper and a pen so he can write what he wants to say."
Visiting hours were about over, and I knew it was my time to leave.
"Tim, thank you for coming," Mr. Fielder said. "He should be awake when you come to see him next time."
I smiled at them, and Bobby, then I left.
"Where'd you go last night? I came over to see you, but you weren't there," Jason asked when he saw me at school the next morning.
"I went to see Bobby. He's in the hospital," I answered.
"That sophomore kid? Why'd you want to go see him?"
"Because he and I are friends, that's why," I said, becoming a little irritated with Jason.
Jason and I didn't seem to be getting along very well for boyfriends. I wondered what it was I saw in him at the beginning. He was always nice to me but seemed to sometimes pay more attention to his teammates than me.
Thinking back, it was just after Ross went to jail for what he had done to me. In a way, I was lonely after that…very lonely. Could it be I agreed to be Jason's boyfriend to cure my loneliness? Oh, my God, what a thought? What have I done to myself, if not to Jason too?
At that moment, I knew t I wasn't totally in love with Jason, and I'm not sure if I ever was. But, what do I do now? went rampaging through my mind…what do I do?
"Where'd you meet this Bobby kid?"
"It was at Kelly's party. He was lonely and came up and wanted to just talk to me. I've seen around school a few times after that. His sister is Allison Fielder."
"Really? She's hot."
"Come on, Jason. You're gay, remember?"
"I know, but I can still look, can't I?"
I didn't know what to think about him sometimes.
I went the next day to see Bobby in the hospital. Jason had other things to do, so I went alone. As I entered his room, I noticed right away he was awake and trying to scratch under his head bandages. When he saw me, he tried to smile, but had to squinch as it also seemed to hurt.
"Hey Bobby. I'm glad you're awake. You were still out of it when I came to see you the last time."
He tried to speak, but his wired jaw only produced gibberish.
"Bobby don't try to say anything. Here, I brought along a writing tablet and some sharpies. I'll talk and you can write what you want to say, okay?"
Bobby nodded his head, pushed a button to raise the head of his bed and took the tablet.
I pulled up a chair and sat beside him.
"How're you doing?" I asked.
He started writing and then showed it to me.
'I'm doing terrible, I can't talk, and I can't eat. All I get is juice and whatever they put in that IV I'm connected to.'
"Yeah, you don't look so good either with all those bandages all over your head."
'You should see my side. It's all taped up now but underneath it's black and blue.'
"I talked to your teachers today. They all wished you well and to get better soon. Oh, and tomorrow I'll bring your schoolwork, so you don't get too far behind."
'That's good. It'll give me something to do, because being in a hospital is the most boring thing I've ever had to do. I'm not a big TV person either.'
"Neither am I," I said, chuckling.
'Where's Jason? I thought you two were inseparable.'
"Well, I'm not so sure we're inseparable."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know, it's just we don't see eye to eye anymore."
Are you two breaking up?
"I'm not sure if we are or not. He just seems distant to me, like we're growing apart."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Tim."
"You like to draw, don't you? I think you mentioned that to me at Kelly's party."
"Yeah, I do."
"I can go over to your house and bring back some of your drawing supplies, if you'd like?"
"That would be great, if it's not too much trouble."
"It's not, and I'd be glad to do it for you," I responded. And when you're better and can leave the hospital, I'll take you to Riverfront Park, my favorite park, next to the Red River. It's a great place to think or draw if you'd like."
Bobby looked down for a moment with a frown.
"Why to frown? Wouldn't you like to go to the park with me?"
"It's not that, Tim. I just remembered some things about that park, that's all, and going with you would be great. I'd love to do that with you. Thank you."
Just then a nurse walked into the room, and said, "I'll have to break up your visitation for the rest of the day. Bobby has to go down for some Xrays, doctor's visit and some more tests on that fine skull he has there."
"Okay. I'll come by tomorrow to see you."
'Thank you, Tim. You're becoming quite a friend to me.'
"And you to me," I said as I winked at him.
He tried to smile, but only squealed a little.
I left the hospital and headed over to Bobby's house.
Mr. Fielder answered the door on my first ring.
"Come in, Tim. We're glad to see you," he said.
"Thank you, Mr. Fielder. I'm just returning from seeing Bobby."
"Have a seat, please."
I looked around the house, and it seemed to be smaller than mine. But I know Bobby is happy here.
"So, how is Bobby?" Mrs. fielder asked.
"I brought him a writing notebook, so when he wants so say something, he can just write it down for me. I think he was happy I brought it for him."
"That was extremely thoughtful of you, Tim," Mrs. Fielder said.
"I asked him if he wanted to go to the park with me, when his doctors say it's okay, that is."
"His doctor feels he can be released to come home sometime next week," Mr. Fielder said.
"When I asked him to come to the park with me, he seemed a little hesitant at first, but eventually said he'd like to go with me."
"About three years ago, when he was twelve, he was at that park with some friends having a picnic dinner. After everyone left, and he was waiting for me to pick him up, he saw someone, another boy, get attacked. He was alone, and the incident terrified him, and he hasn't been back there since," Mr. Fielder explained.
"I'm so sorry," I said.
"He's really gotten to like you a lot, Tim. He talked about you a lot before his accident."
"I don't think it was an accident. He was attacked by another student," I said. "Bobby told me he was terrified of someone at school."
Mr. Fielder sat forward on the couch, looking at me. "Do they know who that person is?"
"I don't think so," I answered, not telling them my suspicion that it was Kent.
"I wish they did," he replied as he sat back.
"Oh, I almost forgot. I'm here to pick up Bobby's drawing supplies. He told me he's not a TV person and gets awfully bored during the day,"
"I'll go get them for you, Tim. You wait here," Mrs. Fielder said and left the room.
Mr. Fielder looked at me directly. "I'm so glad Bobby has you as a friend. He's a very shy person and not very good at talking to people."
"I'm not either, or at least I used to be, so I can understand what he's feeling."
Mr. Fielding was nodding his head at me when Mrs. Fielding walked in the room carrying an armful of drawing pads, colored pencils and a box of black chalks.
"Let us know if you need more," she said.
"No. He can tell me himself with his writing tablet now," I said.
Mrs. Fielder smiled, and said, :Oh, that's right. Thank you so much for that."
"It's getting late, and I should be getting home," I said.
"Thank you so much for coming by Tim. We really appreciate it," Mr. Fielder said.
I left with a smile on my face.
My dad drove me to the hospital this morning because Bobby was going to be released from the hospital today, and I was so glad to see him. I told Dad I would be riding with Bobby's parents to their house, and they would give me a ride home. A nurse rolled him out to the front entrance in a wheelchair, and Robby's dad had to ask, "Why the wheelchair? His legs aren't broken."
The nurse said, "That's policy. Every patient leaves in a wheelchair. It's an insurance thing."
I gave Bobby a hug, as best I could with him in the wheelchair, and not putting pressure on his taped ribs. The bandages were off his jaw, and I could see him smile, still showing his wired jaw. He scribbled in his note pad and handed it to me. It read, "I'm glad you're here, Tim."
His mom and dad helped him into the back seat of their car, and I slid in next to him, while they took the front seats.
His mom turned to him, as his dad drove the car away from the hospital and asked him how he was feeling.
Bobby scribbled and handed it to her reading, "I feel good. Now if I could only "talk."
"The doctor said you'll need those wires until your jaw heals. That should take only about two months."
Bobby scribbled again and handed the tablet to me. All it said was, "Oh, shit."
I asked his parents if it was okay if I took Bobby to the park tomorrow."
"Bobby, would you like to go with Tim to the park tomorrow?" his mom asked him.
"Yes, I'd love to go." he scribbled.
"Is 1:00 okay with you?" I asked his mom.
"As long as he's back by 5:00 so he can rest before dinner."
"Mom, all I've been doing for the past week is resting," Bobby scribbled.
"It's still 5:00 Bobby," his mother exclaimed.
"Tim, would you like to have dinner with us tonight?"
"I'd love to, but Mom is expecting me home this afternoon. I think Dad has some chores he wants a slave around to do," I chuckled.
"Get off me, you dick!" I yelled at Jason, my boyfriend.
"Not till you tell me what's gotten into you," Jason yelled back.
"I told you before. It's really none of your business."
I gave my last final push upward with my body, and Jason, finally rolled off of me. I remained lying next to him in the dormant grass. The snow had not fallen yet, and the temperature hovered around 38 degrees. We watched the pale blue August Minnesota sky, catching our breath.
After a minute of silence, Jason rolled over to face me, propping up his head in his hand.
"Tim, seriously, what's going on? You haven't been yourself lately. It's like you've been avoiding me, well, not just me, but everyone."
I pulled his 5'10" body from the soccer field and stood next to my boyfriend but faced away from him.
"Jason," I said to the grass in front of myself and then paused for a moment.
"Come on Tim. Don't be this way."
Another moment of silence.
I got up, turned around and sat next to Jason, crossing my legs. I looked at Jason's face, and then began caressing Jason's arm with my fingertips.
Jason remained silent but smiled at the touch.
"Jase. Sometimes, I just, just zone out. It has nothing to do with you, or anyone else. Really."
"How long have we been boyfriends, Tim?
I didn't answer.
"Tim. It's been a couple of months now. I thought we had a trust going."
I felt the heartache. I knew Jason was right, that I should be able to talk about this with him. Jason and I had been official boyfriends for just over a month although we were not out to anyone except my parents and their two friends, Roselyn and Alex.
"Tim! Talk to me, man."
My eyes remained focused on Jason's eyes, but then I had to turn away, removing my fingertips from Jason's arm. I folded my arms around my own body, squeezing, needing comfort, needing strength.
"Look Jase. This is just something I have to work out. Okay? Please don't be mad at me."
I wanted Ross Morrison to go away, to have it all behind me, to forget about what had happened and the shame that went with it. Whenever the topic of Ross came up, my shame returned, and I felt small. I just wanted everyone to shut up and leave me alone about it.
"Yeah, well, you make me mad sometimes."
I looked back at Jason lying next to me.
"Fuck you, Jason. You've got the understanding of a rock sometimes," I said to him.
Jason got to his feet and looked down at me.
"Alright man. Be that way. If you don't want to talk about what's making you the worst dipshit to your friends, then, then… Oh, screw you. Lunch is about over, and I've got to get to class. Are you coming?"
I looked up at an angry boyfriend but lowered my head to watch my hands clasped in my lap, wringing themselves.
"Yeah. We should go."
I stood, grabbed my backpack and started following Jason across the soccer field toward the high school's locker filled hallway.
I watched Jason from behind and kept wondering why Jason was being so distant, why he couldn't just leave it alone. But then I thought Jason hadn't brought up Ross. Jason only wanted to know what was wrong, but when I asked Jason to let it go, he got angry, but right away he let it be. He didn't push, but just got angry.
I knew I'd have to let go about what had happen to me so many years ago. It drove my mind endlessly in the year after it happened. I couldn't get Ross out of my life, my dreams. I didn't love Ross, I never did. Or did I? I kept rationalizing to understand what he did to me.
The memories had been fading over the last three years, but they weren't completely gone. Maybe with Jason's help, I could finally put my past to rest. I then realized I needed Jason.
I walked past Jason, opened the door to the school building and waited for him. Following Jason inside, we were confronted with the same pandemonium that was typical for any high school during the time between classes. But there was order there too. Each person traveling the hallway had a purpose, a destination. On the whole it looked like chaos, but individually, there was order, purpose. The fake electronic bell sounding the 3-minute warning added to that purpose.
"I'm sorry Tim. I spoke out of turn back there," Jason finally said, turning to me and stopping me with a hand on my arm.
I looked up to Jason's 5'10" frame and could see the sincerity in his light chocolate eyes. As the chaos continued moving around us, I slowly nodded my head.
"Thanks, Jase. Let's just forget it. Okay?
"Yeah. It's probably not important anyway," Jason smiled. "Look, I'd better run, or old man Marks will chew on me again for the thousandth time for being late."
"You still going to take me home?"
"Thanks. I'll meet you at your car after last class."
"Later, man." Jason turned and raced down the hall, slipping from side to side avoiding other kids in his way, and was soon part of the crowd, invisible.
I continued to watch Jason disappear, smiled to myself and then turned and headed for my calculus class.
On Sunday, I was deep in thought for most of the day trying to figure out where Jason and I stood. I knew he had some feelings for me, but I didn't know how much. I had concluded I didn't really love him. I saw my future with him as me taking care of a drunk. After my experience with Ross three years ago, I had virtually stopped drinking alcohol. Well not totally. I would nip occasionally, but not getting so inebriated I'd pass out. Tomorrow is Monday, and I'm going to try to have a talk with him after school. I hate doing this to him, but I feel it's best for both of us.
I saw Jason at his locker Monday morning and went over to talk to him.
"Hey, Jas." I said as I approached him.
He turned around to look at me.
"Hey, Tim. What's up?" he said.
"Can we talk after school?"
"What's this about, Tim?"
"It's kind of private, and I don't want to talk about it here."
"This sounds important."
"Yeah, it is."
"Okay. Wanna meet in the parking lot after school?" Jason asked.
"That would be best. Thanks Jas."
Jason closed his locker, and before he walked to his first class, he gave me a questioning look.
I was terrified during the entire day as to what to say to him. There was no way in hell I could concentrate of whatever the teachers were saying. Roz came up to me at after lunch period and asked me why I wasn't sitting with Jason at our table. What could I tell her? That I'm dumping Jason? Fat chance! By the end of the day, I had alienated just about everyone that knows me.
As my last period ended, I started my long trek to the parking lot where Jason's car was parked. I knew he would be waiting for me from the questioning look he had given me this morning. And, sure enough, he was leaning on the driver's side door with his arms folded. Just then I thought about praying, but I'm not a religious person, so I didn't think that would do any good.
"So, what's up, Tim," Jason asked as I approached.
"Well, I don't really know where to start."
"Tim is this about you and me?" he asked.
All of a sudden, I realized he knew why we're here. He's going to make this easy for me.
"Jason, I don't think our relationship is working."
"Yeah, I've thought that for a while too."
"You have? And you haven't said anything?"
"Well, neither have you."
"Tim, do you think we should break up?"
My, God. He just took the words right out of my mouth, and I didn't know what to say to him.
"Tim?" Jason asked.
"I think it might be best for both of us."
"But, can I still be your friend?" Jason asked softly.
"Yeah, I'd want that."
"We can still have lunch together, right?"
"Of course, we can."
I was starting to think about that pendant heart I'd seen in the jewelry store that was broken in two. But, for some reason, I felt relieved. This had gone better than I had imagined.
"Tim, can I have a last hug from you?"
"Yeah, I want one too."
We were in our last hug when Alex and Roz came across the parking lot.
"What's going on here, guys?" Roz asked as they approached us.
"Oh, just giving a friend a hug. What's wrong with that?" Jason said.
"Well, for one, you didn't use the word boyfriend. So, what's up? Did you guys break up or something?"
"Well, kind of," I said.
Both Roz's and Alex's eyes bugged out, followed by grins.
"It's about time you two came to your senses," Alex said.
"I know, it's been a while," Jason said.
"You still friends? You haven't hit each other yet, have you?" Roz asked.
"No, we're still friends. As a matter of fact, we'll still be eating lunch together. Jason asked me to."
As Roz and Alex headed to their car, I asked Jason if I could still get a ride home.
"Of course, you can, Duffus. What are friends for?" Jason said with a smile on his face.
Bobby and I met for the next two Saturdays at the park. His ribs were healing so we could throw around my frisbee some, but I avoided making him jump for it in case he fell down reaching for it. But the third trip turned to be an eye opener that would rock my world forever. We were just lying on the grass, looking at the sky, when Bobby turned to me.
"Tim, we've become good friends over the past couple of weeks, and I consider you my best friend. As best friends, I feel I need to be open and honest with you."
I looked at Bobby, wondering where he was going with this.
"Well, Bobby, I have three best friends now. I only had two, Roz and Alex, before, but you've joined us now to be my trio of best friends."
"I've been holding back in telling you something. It's something that happened to me three years ago here in this very park."
Now I was getting concerned.
'What is it, Bobby? You know you can tell me anything, and if it's personal, you know I can keep my mouth shut."
"Okay. Three years ago, I was having a picnic dinner with some friends here in this park. They weren't close friends, but I was invited. I was twelve years old then. I saw you and another boy together and you were drinking. You both laughed so hard, it was very noticeable to me. I knew it was you because my sister had mentioned you to me several times before. My friends had left, so I was alone waiting for my dad to pick me up and didn't have much to do, so I watched you two having fun. You got up and weaved your way to the restroom, and when you got back, you saw your friend had passed out. You then stumbled about twenty feet away from him, laid down on the grass, and I assumed you had passed out then too.
There was a football game going on in the field next to the park, and when they left, one boy stayed behind. I didn't know who he was then, but I've since found out. He walked over to where you and your friend were sleeping and stood by each one of you for a moment each.
"Tim, this part is going to be hard for me to say, because it scared me to watch. The boy stood over you for the longest time, just looking at you. But then, he leaned over and took off your pants and underwear, completely. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I couldn't stop watching. He then took off his own pants and underwear, got onto his knees and put your legs over his shoulders. That's when I heard you scream, multiple times. That screaming terrified me, and I couldn't move. He wiggle around for about five minutes, got up and put his clothes back on. Then he went over to your friend and undressed him too. He took your friends clothes and threw them down next to you. And then he looked around and saw me. I was so scared I just stayed where I was. I knew I should have gone over to help you, but all I could do was watch him turn and walk away.
"Tim, I'm so sorry. I knew he was having sex with you and your screams terrified me, and I'm so horribly embarrassed at how I acted then. Can you ever forgive me?"
I scooted over close to Bobby and wrapped my arms around him, tightening as to never let him go as my tears flooded my eyes.
"Bobby, there's nothing to forgive. I know what it's like to be twelve where everything scares you. It was the same for me."
Bobby grabbed me tighter and cried as if his world had ended.
"Let it all out Bobby. You've held this in for too long, you deserve this cry."
He wouldn't let go of me for the longest time, just swaying slightly back and forth. I too was crying, crying for Bobby.
I was drained, but I had to ask him.
"Bobby, do you know who it was that raped me?"
He shook his head up and down, silently telling me, yes.
"Was it the boy I was with, Ross is his name?"
"Who was it then?"
"I didn't know his name until later at school."
"It was Kent Hoagland.
He's the one who attacked me because he was afraid, I would squeal on him. He said he was going to kill me to keep me quiet. And, I know he's going to try again."
The next day, Dad asked how my day went at the park and if anything had happened. Boy, did I give him an earful. I told him everything Bobby had said to me. Dad told me Mr. Fielder had called him to see how I was doing, because Bobby was very upset after he got home.
"Dad, it was the most heart wrenching experience I have ever been through. Bobby had opened to me and told me of a secret he's had inside him for the past three years. He also told me who it was that raped me. It wasn't Ross."
"And who was it then?" Dad asked.
I lowered my head for a moment and then looked directly at my dad.
"It was Kent Hoagland," I said.
Dad lowering his head for a moment, thinking.
"Do you know what his means, son? It means there's a boy sitting in state prison right now for something he didn't do. I think we need to talk to the police and get Ross a good lawyer."
I went to my bedroom and tried to think of what this means. It wasn't Ross…It WASN'T Ross. I had been so confused for all these years, for nothing. Now I'm starting to realize how much I've missed him. I tried to forget him, but everywhere I turned, his name kept coming up. I guess Alex was right. I didn't have that sparkle in my eyes for Jason, but it has always there for Ross.
Dad had contacted Ross' parents with the news, and, obviously, they were quite elated. Knowing that Ross' parents weren't as well off as we are, he asked them if he could go in halves with the cost of the attorney, and if they didn't have one, he could contact his attorney, Mr. Mark Stapleton, to handle Ross' case. Again, they were overjoyed, and saying they didn't know any lawyers, agreed to let my dad handle getting one.
On Monday morning, Dad called Bobby's parents, explaining that new evidence for Ross has emerged in the form of their son, Bobby, and that he might have to testify. He then contacted Mr. Stapleton and arranged for a meeting with him on Tuesday, August 8 at 1:00 PM. He then called both parents back to inform them of the meeting with Mr. Stapleton.
For a Monday morning, my engineer dad was very busy, you know, all details had to be worked out. God, I love my dad.
Mark Stapleton's office was on the 2nd floor of the Wells Fargo Bank building on 8th Street and US 10 in Moorhead, MN. He had a large office with a reception area and four other offices. Mark's office was in the rear of the room next to a large conference room.
My parents, along with Bobby's parents and Ross's parents, and of course me and Bobby, were led into the conference room. It had a long conference table of mahogany that would easily seat ten people. We all dispersed along the sides of the table, waiting for Mark Stapleton to arrive, who would sit at the head of the table. I sat next to Bobby, and he grabbed my hand under the table. It was obvious to me he needed reassurance that everything would turn out right, and I was there to give it to him.
Mr. Stapleton walked in five minutes after we were all seated holding only a yellow legal pad.
"Looks like we have quite a gathering here," he said as he sat down at the head of the table. "Ted and Sarah, it's good to see you again."
My dad stood up and said, "Let me introduce everyone. Across from me are Owen and Sarah Morrison. Their son Ross, who's in prison right now, is why we're all here. Next to them are John and Louise Fielder with their son, Bobby, who's sitting with my son, Tim, whom you know."
"Thanks Ted. "Tell me a little more than what you told me on the phone on Monday."
My dad spoke up and said, "Ross was sentenced to prison for the rape of my son, who was underage at the time. He was only slightly under the 24 months, which the state allows for sex with an adult. Ross was 18 at the time. He was convicted under mostly circumstantial evidence because there were no witnesses. Mr. and Mrs. Morrison have tried to have a retrial but have been denied because of no new evidence.
"Well, we have new evidence to give to the court. Bobby here, pointing out Bobby, witnessed the whole thing. He's been terrified of the whole experience and only told my son on Saturday what happened three years ago."
Mark turned to Bobby. "Bobby, could you tell us what happened?"
Bobby froze, gripping my hand harder, gulping a few times.
"Mr. Stapleton, Bobby is terrified about reliving that experience," I said. "Can you give me a few moments with him?"
Mark nodded his head, as he said, "Okay."
"Come with me Bobby," I said as I stood up.
Bobby stood up next to me, never letting go of my hand.
"Let's go to the back of the room."
When we got there, we sat in two chairs next to each other, him still clutching my hand.
I quietly said him, "Bobby, we have to tell the lawyer everything we know. It's the only way that Ross can be freed. I know this will be hard for you, but you will have me right next to you holding your hand. Be brave Bobby. I know you can do this, okay?"
Bobby looked up at me for a second before he nodded his head, yes.
"You wanna go back and try? Remember, I'll be right with you."
Bobby again nodded his head and we returned to our seats at the table.
"Mr. Stapleton, Bobby's ready to tell you what he knows."
I looked over at Bobby as he gripped my hand again.
Bobby looked at the attorney and told him everything he saw that night. He had many stops to clear the tears from his eyes in talking to the lawyer. By the end, Bobby was not just sniffling, he was openly crying. Looking around the room, I saw tears in the eyes of all the parents in the room.
When Bobby was finished, I turned to him and said, "Bobby, I'm so proud of you."
"Bobby, thank you for telling us that. I know it was hard for you and it took a lot of courage to say what you just did," Mr. Stapleton said.
"Mr. and Mrs. Morrison, I think we have a good case to get Ross freed. And I'll direct this to you, Mr. and Mrs. Fielder. I will have to put Bobby on the witness stand. He will need to tell the jury the same story we just heard."
"Bobby does not like talking to people, and with the courtroom filled, and all those people in the jury box in front of him, he's going to be terrified," I said.
"I can understand from what I just saw, but the jury needs to hear that."
"Can he do it by deposition," John Fielder asked.
"I don't think so. Fear is not a substantive enough reason to avoid the witness box," the attorney said.
"Let me work on this. I'll be calling the prosecutor's office, the police who arrested Ross and the judge who heard Ross' original case. If I have any more information, I'll let you know. Oh, which one of you will be your spokesperson I should call?"
"I don't know much about the law, so I'd like Mr. Halstad be our go-between," John Fielder said.
"I agree," Ross' dad said.
"Okay. I'll call when I have some news for you all."
With that, the meeting ended. Bobby still held my hand until we reached the parking lot where he had to let go to get in his mom's and dad's car.
Dad got a call from Ross' attorney at work the next Monday. He asked the attorney if he could call back in 30 minutes. Dad wanted to run home and put the call in the speaker phone so everyone could hear. Mark agreed.
30 minutes later, as we were all waiting around in the living room, the phone rang. Dad quickly put the speakers on.
"Hello, Mark. Been waiting for your call," Dad said.
"Well, I've got some good news for you. I talked to the prosecuting attorney, the same one who prosecuted Ross, and with a new witness, he's willing to hear it. We both then went to see Judge Kendrick, the same judge who heard Ross' case. We were lucky to have both men still available. Anyway, with a new witness with evidence, he's also willing to have a re-trial. I made some inroads with them on Friday. We still have one problem though," Mark said.
"And, what's that Dad asked.
"We still will need Bobby to get up and testify. I know it's going to be hard for him, but he is essential to our case."
"Dad, can I say something," I asked.
"Tim wants to have a word. Hold on."
"Mr. Stapleton, I'd like to help if I can. Would it be permissible if I were in the witness box with Bobby? I won't say anything, but it would help Bobby to have me there."
"Good God, Ted. Where did you get that boy? I wish my own son were as insightful and as brave as your son is."
"Runs in the family, I guess," Dad responded with pride in his voice as he looked at me.
"Well, I don't know if that'll be allowed. The witness is supposed to be free from any outside influence."
"Even if Tim doesn't say anything?"
"Tim just being beside Bobby could be considered an influence. Let me run this by the prosecutor to see what he thinks. I understand what Bobby's going through. I could have Bobby on the stand in what's called 'under duress,' but that's not the same. 'Under duress' is usually when the witness is predisposed one way or the other to the case, but that's not the case here. "Let me try to talk to the prosecutor and see what he says. I'll let you know."
"Thanks, Mark," Dad said, and the call ended.
"Hello," Dad answered.
"Hi Ted. It's Mark."
"Ah, Mark, could you call my home again. I'm sure Tim wants to hear what you have to say."
"Okay. Hurry up though. I've got a late luncheon date with another client at 2:30."
"I'm hurrying." Dad hung up and rushed to get home.
"Hello, Ted," Dad answered knowing who it was.
"Well, I had a long discussion with the prosecutor. I explained that Tim being there is no difference than a witness being wheeled in in a wheelchair or gurney or someone having to use an oxygen bottle while on the stand. He said, here's the deal, Mark. I want a voir dire evaluation of Bobby by a professional psychiatrist, and if he feels the only way Bobby can testify coherently is to have Tim with him, then I'll buy it, But I need a professional to tell me that. I'll motion to the court to have it done, and the state will pay for it.
I agreed to those terms. Now we need to get Bobby to a doctor,"
"Okay. I'll talk to John and see what we can do on our end."
"Thanks, Ted. I'll wait for your call."
Dad turned to me, and said, "What do you think, Tim? Think we can get Bobby evaluated like Mark needs?"
"I sure hope so, Dad. We really need him to testify."
"I'm going to call John and Louise right now and find out, and to tell them the court is footing the bill," Dad said.
God, my dad knows all the details of how to make what's going on work, I thought.
"It's Mark, Ted."
"Yeah, some pretty good news. The prosecutor motioned the court on Thursday morning, the judge signed the order that afternoon, and then he contacted Dr. Cyrus Neilson at Moorhead State. Bobby was evaluated on Friday, and the doctor's report came this morning. Bobby suffers from a social anxiety disorder. In Bobbys case it shows up as acute shyness. We saw that in my office. Most of the time, Bobby is quiet normal, but under duress, it can become quite acute. Tim's relationship with Bobby is Bobby's saving grace. For some reason, Bobby has become quite attached to your son. Tim has the ability to calm Bobby like no other person ever has. Like I asked before, where in the hell did you get this boy?"
"So, what does all this mean? Can Bobby help with Bobby's testimony?"
"The answer is yes. And, the prosecutor will even allow Tim to be in the witness box along with Bobby."
"Hallelujah," Ted announced.
"The retrial of Ross in scheduled for next Monday, the 21st of September at 9:00 AM. Normally, I would have had to petition the court for a retrial within 15 days of his conviction, but because of the extended time for a witness to show up, the judge excused that time requirement. Because there were no irregularities in the first trial, Ross will not be allowed any compensation by the court, I'm sorry to say."
"We'll be there. Now I have to call Tom, Louise and the Morrisons to let them know."
"I've already called the Morrisons. They're really looking forward to having their son back."
"I can imagine."
"All rise", the bailiff announced, as Judge Kendrick entered the courtroom. "The Seventh District court of Clay County is now in session. Judge Oliver Kendrick, presiding."
"Be seated." The judge said. "Mr. Morrison has been previously convicted under Section 609.344(b) of the Minnesota Criminal Code, and we are here today to hear new evidence that has recently come to light which has a bearing on Mr. Morrison's conviction. The jury has been provided with transcripts of the previous trial. In this retrial, I'm going to allow the defense attorney to start and to introduce his new evidence.
"Mr. Stapleton, you may proceed."
"Thank you, Your Honor," Mark said.
"I call Mr. Robert Fielder to the stand."
I had never heard him called Robert before. I guess Robert is shortened to Bob, and then Bob gets shortened to Bobby. Hm, makes since to me. I thought.
Bobby walked past the bar, as if he knew what he was doing, and then walked up to the bench and waited,
The bailiff swore Bobby in and told him to have a seat in the box. Bobby did, but he now seemed nervous. He looked around the courtroom until he spotted me. I stood up from the front row, not going anywhere, and eyed Ross' attorney.
The judge noticed me and turned to the prosecutor.
"Aren't we supposed to have an accompaniment for this witness?"
"Yes, Your Honor. Will Mr. Timothy Halstad approach the bench to be sworn in," The prosecutor asked.
I left my front row, walked past the bar and waited in be sworn in. As I was not to say anything, I wondered why I needed to be sworn in.
After I was sworn in, I sat next to Bobby. I guessed they had expected me because there were two chairs in the witness box, now a very crowded box. Bobby immediately grabbed my hand and held it loosely.
"Mr. Halstad, you are reminded you are there only as an aide to Mr. Fielder. You are not to speak unless directed by myself. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
"Okay, then let's proceed. Your witness, Mr. Stapleton."
"Thank you, Your Honor." Mark said as he turned to Bobby and me.
"Bobby, oh, may I call you Bobby?"
"Yes, it's okay."
"Thank you. Bobby. Let me turn your attention to the night when Mr. Halstad was sexually assaulted. Were you at that park that night?"
"Yes, I was."
"Would you tell the court, in your own words, what happened that night."
Bobby squeezed my hand slightly harder, and then proceeded to tell the court what he had seen until he got to the part where Kent was leaning over me. Bobby stopped talking and clutched my hand harder. I could tell that if he continued, his anxiety was going to go ballistic. I stood up, still holding Bobby's hand, and faced the judge.
"Your Honor, I need your permission to talk to Bobby. I can't be a calming influence on him if I'm unable to speak to him."
"You will have to speak into the microphone so what you say can be recorded for the court record."
"No, Your Honor. I need to speak to him in confidence, privately, just between him and me, please."
The judge looked at me for a moment, turned to the prosecutor for another moment and then said, "Will counsels please join me in chambers?"
I looked at Bobby, as both lawyers followed Judge Hanson out of the courtroom and saw fear in his eyes. I knew I couldn't talk to Bobby to comfort him until the judge gave me permission, so I put my hand on top of his and gave to a squeeze, nodding my head at him, hopping he understood.
When the judge and the lawyers returned and took their seats, I wondered if they had a resolution to my dilemma.
"I understand Mr. Halstad's concern, and I also understand the rules this court has to go by. I will grant Mr. Halstad's request on one condition. And that condition is that the prosecutor have an associate listen in on their conversation. This conversation will not be part of the court record, and the purpose is to make sure the witness is not influenced in any way to not speak the truth as he knows it. In other words, Mr. Halstad, you cannot tell the witness what to say, and I remind you that influencing a witness is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Your Honor," Ross' attorney said.
A women came forward from the prosecutor's table and stood by me and Bobby. "I'm only here obeying the judge's orders, to make sure you won't unduly influence him" she said.
I nodded to her and then turned to Bobby,
"Bobby, I know this is painful for you. Believe me, I know what you're going through. But you need to remember I'm right here beside you. With a little bit of courage, I know that we can get through this."
I could feel Bobby slightly regaining calm as his grip on the hand lessened.
"Come on, Bobby, we can do this, right?"
Bobby slightly smiled as he shook his head in the affirmative. I smiled at him and sat back, continuing to hold his hand.
Bobby continued his story, but he also began to gulp and sniffle quietly. I knew this was hard for him.
When Bobby got to the point where he had realized Kent was having sex with me, tears were beginning to drain from his eyes.
I leaned to him and whispered, "We can do this Bobby. You're almost finished."
When he got the part of hearing me scream, he looked up at me, and said, I'm so sorry Tim. I was so scared."
"Go on Bobby, tell them what happened next."
Bobby turned back to the prosecutor and almost yelled as if in panic mode, "I couldn't help it, I couldn't move, I couldn't breathe, I was terrified at what I saw. I was afraid for Tim, and I was afraid for myself."
Bobby turned and threw his arms around me, hugging me close as he started openly crying.
"Bobby, did you know the name of the person who was having sex with Mr. Halstad?" Mark asked.
Bobby slowly released me and turned back to the court, his crying subsiding.
"I didn't know at the time, but I found out at school, because I saw his picture in the hall with the members of the football team. The person I saw was Kent Hoagland."
"Bobby, at any time, did you go back to help Mr. Halstad?"
"No, and that's what I'm so ashamed of. Like I said, I was terrified."
"You said Mr. Hoagland was aware of your presence. Have you had any repercussions from him knowing you were there?"
"Yes. Kent caught me alone in the soccer field after gym one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. He beat me up so badly I had to go to the hospital."
"What was extent of your injuries?"
Bobby looked over at me, and I nodded my head telling him it was alright for him to answer.
"My jaw was broken in two places, and I had a cracked rib." Bobby said as he seemed to be about to cry, remembering what had happened.
"I have no further questions, Your Honor," Mark said.
"Cross?" the judge asked.
"Thank you, Your Honor.
"Mr. Fielder, do you know the victim in this case is sitting next to you?"
Bobby turned to me, looked straight into my eyes, and said, "Yes mam, I certainly do."
The prosecutor looked at me and Bobby for long minute, looked down at the floor while shaking her head back and forth and then looked up.
"I have no further questions for this witness, Your Honor," the prosecutor said.
"Reexamine? Mr. Stapleton."
"No, your Honor."
The judge then turned to the jury.
"You've all read a copy of the transcript from the original trial and have now heard additional testimony from a witness. The jury is now excused to deliberate. Your choice is simply to uphold the original verdict of guilty or judge the defendant not guilty."
The jury filed out of the courtroom, and as they did, Bobby again threw his arms around me, not holding back his crying.
"Bobby," I said. "You were fantastic. You mustered the courage to let it all out and tell the truth. You don't know how proud everyone here is of you right now."
Bobby continued to hold me, still sobbing.
"This court is recessed until we hear from the jury," the judge said, and banged his gavel.
John and Louise Fielder, Owen and Mandy Morrison and my mom and dad were out of their seats waiting at the bar for Bobby and me to come see them. When we opened the bar, we were almost attacked by their hugging us so tightly we could hardly breath.
"We are so proud of you Bobby," Louise Fielder said.
My dad said to me, "Tim, that must have taken a lot of courage when you told the judge "No."
"No Dad. It didn't take a lot of courage. All it took was knowing what was the right thing to do."
Again, I was crushed with his hug.
We all, including Ross, filed into the attorney's conference room to wait for the jury. Ross sat in the corner with his head down, rubbing his hands together. I walked over to him and put my hand on his shoulder, squeezing it slightly. He looked up at me, faked a smile and nodded his head.
We only waited for 10 minutes when a court aide opened the door and said, "Jury's in."
We all looked at each other, wondering why it didn't take hardly any time for them to reach a decision.
We all filed into the courtroom and took our seats in the front row, except for Ross who went to sit at the defendant's table.
When the judge returned and took his seat at the bench, he asked , "Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?"
The jury foreman stood and faced the judge. "Yes, Your Honor, we have," handing a slip of paper to the bailiff, who in turn handed it to the judge.
"Will the defendant pleas rise?" Judge Kendrick asked.
Ross and Mark both stood up.
"Would you please read your verdict."
"We the jury, unanimously, find Mr. Morrison, not guilty.
The courtroom erupted in clapping of hands and shouts of joy. Ross put his head in his hands on the table and wept.
"Bailiff, contact the Clay County Sheriff's office and have Mr. Hoagland arrested. Mr. Morrison, you are free to go."
I walked over to where Ross was still sitting at the table. His weeping had subsided being replaced by intermittent sniffles. He looked up at me, got up from the table and gave me a bear crushing hug.
"I never lost my faith that someday this would happen. I owe Bobby and you, my life."
"Do you still love me, Ross? I asked.
"Tim, I've never stopped loving you."
"Prove it," I said, as I reached out to him and connected in a kiss I never wanted to end.
That night, a party was essential to welcome Ross back among us. Everyone Ross and I knew had been invited.
Mom and Dad hosted the party and had invited the Morrisons and Fielders too. Of course, Roz and Alex showed up along with many of Ross' classmates. I was surprised to see many of Ross' teachers there too. And what was an even bigger surprise to me was Jason showing up. Since there were teenagers, my folks decided not to serve alcohol to the adults. How smart of them. Mom had prepared a ton of finger type appetizers. Where did she find time to do all that in the short time we had after the trial? I guess it's true that moms are infamous what they're able to put food things together in a short amount of time.
I was talking to Ross, who still couldn't believe he was free, when Roz and Alex came up to us.
"How does it feel, Ross, to be out of prison?" Alex asked.
"It's like a breath of fresh air." Waving his arm around the room, he said, "I can't believe I have so many people caring about me."
"I didn't know you until Tim had mentioned your name to me two years ago, Alex said.
Ross turned to me, and said," Big mouth!"
"Both of you actually didn't know what had happened that night?" Roz asked.
"No. Tim and I had both passed out from too much alcohol that night. I kept asking myself all these years what happened. I was clueless until Bobby said what he did at the trial," Ross answered.
"I didn't either. I knew I was sexually assaulted, but in all those years, I too kept questioning what had happened," I interjected.
"Did you know about Jason?" Alex asked.
"Yeah, Tim told me about him."
"Guys, you don't know how lonely I was after Ross had to go to jail. Jason was friendly to me, and, I needed someone," I said.
"Well, that someone is back," Roz said to Ross and lightly hit his arm.
"Tim, you've got dangerous friends," Ross said rubbing his arm.
Alex turned to me and asked," You remember what I told you at Kelly's party?"
"Yeah, I do," I said as I lowered my head slightly.
"Well guess what buddy? Your sparkle is finally back."
We both turned to Ross, who said with a smile on his face, "I know."
Just then, Jason came up and put his arm around me.
"You never told me you were friends with this famous duo here."
"Famous?" Alex questioned.
"Yeah, everyone at school's wondering why you two aren't married yet with at least one rug rat crawling around."
We all had to laugh at that.
Jason turned to Ross, as he let go of me.
"Ross, I want you to know Tim has never forgotten you. He never said anything to me about you, but I knew I wasn't his one and only, because I could tell by his moods. You've got a wonderful person there. My advice to you is that you never go back to prison," Jason had to say with a chuckle.
Ross put his arm over my shoulder and pulled me close to him.
"I'm never again going to let him go." He said.
Now everyone had smiles on their faces, including me.
Just then another quest came up to us. It was Bobby.
"Can I join in on this fun," he asked.
"You'd better," I said as I slipped out of Ross's arm and threw mine around Bobby's shoulders.
"I guess everyone here now knows Bobby Fielder. He's the bravest man I've ever met. What he did in that courtroom today put a lot of tears, not just in my eyes, but in everyone else's in the room.
I brought him closer to me, and then I kissed his cheek.
Of course, Bobby blushed.
The party ended with a group of close friends, not saying 'goodbye,' but saying, 'See you in school tomorrow.'
I couldn't have written this story without the tireless work of my editors. I am indebted to him.
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