Cory sat in the front seat of the car and thought about that. He knew he needed to start really concentrating in school. He sure didn't want to be throwing burgers at kids all his life.
He looked up when he felt the car start to turn into another parking lot.
"Where are we? Hey! That's a school," Cory exclaimed.
"Yup, it's called your new school. What do you think?"
Cory looked around left to right studying the school. It looked just like his old school in Plymouth. But it seemed much smaller. Plymouth High was considered a Class A school with over 4,000 kids. This one seemed like it was only one half of that size. Then he noticed something strange.
"It looks really weird. I mean, I don't see any kids out."
"Duh! That's because they're in class right now. Come on. Besides, we're here to see the principal."
"Does he know we're coming?" Cory asked.
"When I was with Mark, my attorney, this morning, we also called the school and made an appointment for us the see the principal so he's expecting us"
Richard pulled the car to a stop in the visitors parking area, and they got out and walked across the parking lot approaching the front door. As they walked through the front door, they stopped momentarily, looking up and down the vacant hallway. Richard then pointed down the hall to the right, and they headed for the sign in front of a door reading 'Administration.'
Richard ushered Cory into the office. The room was brightly lit, and several people were behind a long counter attending to the needs of the many students standing in front of the counter. Cory stopped and looked around with a little fear showing on his face but said nothing. An older woman of around 50 looked up from whatever she was doing at her desk and saw them approach the counter. Slowly she got up from her work and also approached the counter.
"May I help you?" she asked with no life.
Richard put both of his hands on the counter in an offer of peace.
"Yes. We're here to see the Principal, Mr. Bettler."
"Is he expecting you?" again sounding like she had died 10 years ago.
Richard was now annoyed.
"Yes, yes, yes. He's expecting us. Tell him that Richard Mathews is here with Cory Anderson."
The back-office door opened and a short, portly man of about 55 years old walked out. He wore a white shirt with a multicolored bow tie. His hair was balding, and he had combed it over the top to hide the top of his head. As he walked across the room, he looked up from the papers in his hand for a moment and noticed the strange pair standing in front of the counter talking to his secretary. He slowly walked over to where Richard and Cory were standing as he remembered his appointment, past due by 10 minutes.
"You must be Mr. Mathews. I was expecting you. And this must be Cory.
"Yes," replied Richard.
"I'm John Bettler, the Principal. Please come in," as he opened the low swinging door leading to the office work area. His secretary did not move but continued eyeing the pair as they walked toward the back office.
Entering into the Principal s' office, Richard noticed the dark academic atmosphere of the room. The walls were lined with bookshelves, filled with books in neat rows with all of the bindings level with the edge of the bookcase, obviously unused. A massive desk sat in the middle of the room with two chairs in front and a large executive chair behind.
Richard turned to the principal. "I'm sorry we're late, but Cory needed a few things before he could start school."
Pointing to the chairs in front of his desk, the principal said, "Please, have a seat," getting over his annoyance at being held up.
As Richard and Cory were seating themselves, the principal walked around the desk, put his hands on the back of his chair, and looked at Richard, not seating himself.
"Mr. Mathews, I've already contacted Plymouth High to get his records sent. However, we can't officially accept him here until this emergency foster family situation is also official." The principal sat down in his chair knowing that he had taken charge of this conversation.
"I took the liberty of calling your attorney back this afternoon and he says that it's only a matter of days. The weekend starts tomorrow, and he hopes that by Tuesday it should be all set."
"Thanks, Mr. Bettler. I find it hard to believe how fast things are working."
"I've been through this before, Mr. Mathews. When it comes to the safety of a child, sometimes the system can move quickly. Not always, but we try. I understand that Social Services will be out to inspect your home this weekend, and your interview is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. To be honest with you, they can move fast, but I've never seen it move THIS fast."
"The State of Michigan took charge of Cory as soon as my attorney filed the injunction."
Mr. Bettler turned and focused his attention on Cory.
"Now, Cory, as far as where you'll be starting, we have to wait until your records get here so we know what levels you're at. But don't worry. By the time you start school, we'll have it all figured out."
Mr. Bettler swiveled his chair around and pointed to the school beyond through the window behind him.
"Do you want to see the school, Cory?"
"Yeah, that'll be cool. Do you have a swim team here?"
Looking back toward Cory, his shoulders moving back a fraction of an inch, the principal remarked, "Actually, our boys swim team made regional finals last season."
Getting out of his chair, Mr. Bettler asked Cory, "Do you swim?"
Richard and Cory also got up from their chairs and started to follow the principal to the door. Cory looked at the principal as they walked. "I was on the team in Plymouth. I'd like to continue."
"I'm sure Cory will be fine here. We had some trouble last year with some of the boys. Turns out there were two gay boys on the team, and, well, the situation became just too disruptive. We're somewhat particular now on making sure that the right kids are part of our team."
As they continued down the corridor in front of the administration office, Mr. Bettler turned his head to look at Cory.
"I bet you'll find a place here." he remarked.
Cory's eyes became enflamed at what he had just heard back in the office. Cory said nothing but turned his head away from the principal and stared down the empty corridor.
Richard's car sped away from the school parking lot, and as they watched the evening city lights passing outside the window, Cory turned to Richard.
"Thanks for the clothes. It was a lot of fun this afternoon shopping with you. And I'm also glad that you let me pick out the styles for myself." Cory tried to be cheerful but wasn't.
"Now, you'll have something to wear to school on Wednesday."
They sat silent for a moment, Cory still stewing.
"So, what'd you think of the school? I know it's a little too far to walk, but the bus will pick you up about three houses down from our house."
"School busses are bad news, man. Can't we move closer?"
"Yeah, right!" Richard said with a tone of humor.
Cory was silent for a moment and then continued, "I think I'll be okay here. It's a little small, but the school's got everything that Plymouth had, so I'll be okay. Except..."
Cory paused and looked straight ahead, but then turned to look directly at Richard.
"Did you hear what Mr. Bettler said about their swim team, or should I say, 'his' swim team?"
Richard was staring straight ahead and did not speak right away. Then he turned and looked straight at Cory.
"Cory. I wasn't sure if you heard what he said or understood what he meant."
"Oh, I understood. He doesn't want any queers on 'his' team."
"Cory. If you want to be on the team, you do it. It should have nothing to do with you being gay or straight, only if you can swim well."
"Just be yourself Cory. That's all. Just be yourself. Don't try to let anyone tell you what you should do, how you should act."
Cory turned to the side window, speaking softly almost to himself.
"Alright, but it's being who I am that always starts the trouble."
After a moment of silence in the car, Cory turned to Richard.
"Do you think that things are going to change for me?" he asked.
"What kinds of things are you talking about?"
"Well, you, Dad and Mike are the only people who know I'm gay. I'm afraid that when other people find out, they won't like me, they won't let me be me."
"First off, how do you know you're gay, Cory?"
"I just do. I've known for almost three years, since I was 12. Well, I started thinking about it then. It took a couple of years for me to really figure it out, that I like boys better than girls."
Cory turned toward the side window again.
"I could never talk to girls without feeling stupid."
"Many guys who are straight also feel that way, you know? Not everyone is a Casanova."
"No. No, I don't mean it that way. I mean, guys are different."
"Of course, they are."
"It's more than that, Richard. It's that goose bump feeling, you know?"
"Yeah, I think I do now."
Richard was quiet for a moment, thinking about what he wanted to ask Cory next. He was unsure of himself and fumbled with his words.
Richard finally began, "Have you ever...?
No. That was too personal, and Richard had no right to ask that question.
"Have I ever what?"
Cory stared out the window for a moment, and then slowly turned toward Richard.
"I knew you might ask me that. But, no, not really. I mean, no, I haven't really done that. Mike let me, well, touch him once, but that's all I ever did."
Cory paused for a moment really thinking about this.
"This is kind of hard to talk about. I kept asking myself about how I felt when it happened, with Mike. I felt like I was doing what was so natural and right. I didn't feel it was wrong, but at the same time that I was in trouble for doing it. After a few minutes though, Mike asked me to stop. He said that it just wasn't for him."
"Did he get mad at you?"
"No. No, that was the weird part. Mike asked me not to be mad at him. He was apologizing to me. I was so embarrassed. It's like he wanted to be my friend, but he couldn't be like I was. He felt sorry for that. I guess he felt bad because he thought that he couldn't be the friend that he wanted to be. I told him that he already was a better friend then he'd even know. He liked that."
"But you and Mike are still friends though?"
"Oh, yeah. He told me that he would never tell anyone about me, and that he still wanted to be my friend no matter what. Until you, Mike was the only one I could talk to about this. I think Mike will always be my friend, even though we don't see each other much."
"There will be others. You'll meet new friends here, I'm sure. You'll make some good friends, the kind who you can be honest with, and they'll be honest with you."
Richard paused again for a moment.
"But you need to be careful who you talk to about being gay. Some people just don't understand yet. Who you are IS who you are. And you can't forget that. That's what's important. But you'll see. Not everyone is going to understand you. Some people can't understand that other people can be different than themselves. I guess I'm saying that you also need to be safe. You want to grow up and eventually be someone. If you get hurt somehow, you jeopardize those chances. You can come out and tell everyone who you really are, and I'm sure you'll want to do that one day, but it has to be at your choosing. Just be in control when that day happens. You choose. One day the ignorance and hate will end. I believe that. And then it won't matter anymore. Just be careful, Cory, and be sure."
"I hope you're right about what's out there ending up some day."
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