As Cory approached the house, he saw Richard sitting on the front porch steps.
Richard was watching Cory as he walked up the front sidewalk thinking Cory looked like he was trying to fake an Irish jig. Finally, as Cory was just a few feet away from him, Richard with a slight grin asked, "How was school?"
"Oh man. It was great. You know, I might like it here. I think I made a couple of friends already today."
"Well, are you going to tell me their names?"
"Oh. Yeah. One guy's name is Kevin and the other is Matt. Kevin's from here, but Matt moved here from California this past summer. They're both great guys. Kevin actually started talking to me right away. He was kinda forward, so I tried to be like him and approached Matt myself and said 'Hi' first."
"So, the day turned out okay, huh?" Richard asked.
"Oh man. I think I'm going to like it here."
"I thought so," Richard grinned.
He paused for a moment and then Richard's grin turned from friendly to something else.
"How was the bus ride home?" Richard asked with his grin growing devilish.
"Busses suck, big time. At least I didn't get tossed out the window today," Cory replied with a scowl.
Richard had a hard time keeping a straight face.
"Well maybe you should take a look in the garage then. I think there's something in there that will make the ride home a little better."
Cory looked perplexed, as he looked at Richard, but then turned to go to the garage. He pulled up on the handle and opened the garage door, stared inside for a moment and then returned his stare toward Richard. A huge smile came over his face.
Suddenly Cory ran into the garage. As Richard rounded the corner and entered the garage, Cory was looking at his new mountain bicycle. Cory was actually caressing the handlebars with his right hand, almost sensuously.
"Is this for me?" Cory shouted. "My old bike got wrecked last year and dad wouldn't fix it. Wow! This is so major cool."
"I thought you might like this as a way to get to school instead of riding the bus."
"Oh man, do I. Thanks a lot. I really mean that."
Cory grabbed the bicycle by the handlebars, turned it around facing the driveway and pushed it out through the garage door. He jumped on the bike, kicked hard on the pedals and was off down the street before Richard knew what was happening.
Richard shouted at Cory, "Be back in time for dinner."
Cory rode further away without looking back as Richard shook his head, and with a smile, walked back into the house.
Cory rode his new bike to school the next morning. It really gave him a sense of freedom and his world grew beyond the few blocks around his house. Within a few blocks of the school, he noticed a boy walking on the sidewalk toward the school. A smile crossed him as he recognized that it was Kevin. He stopped his bike after jumping the curb, coming up next to him.
Kevin stopped and turned to Cory; a smile could be seen forming.
Cory got off of his bike so he could walk along side of Kevin.
"Hey dude. What's happening?" Cory asked. "I didn't expect to see you until first period, but it's good to see you."
"Good to see you again, too."
"I thought you'd be riding your bike or taking the bus," Cory said as they walked together.
"Oh. I live too close to take the bus, and I don't have a bike, so I walk. It's good exercise though and it gives me time to think."
"No friends to walk to school with?" Cory asked walking with his bike next to Kevin. "You must know a lot of people."
"Yeah, I do. I know just about everyone at school. I went through grade school with most of them."
"So how come you're alone then?" Cory asked.
"Like I said, I know lots of people but they're just not friends. Friends are special. It takes a while to really become friends with someone, someone who you can trust without question. The last friend I had, last year, moved away this last summer. I've only got one other real friend now."
Cory saw the similarity. He was thinking about Mike.
"My best friend moved away too so I know what you mean about getting close to someone and then losing him."
Cory's remembrance of Mike pleased him but then it faded when he realized that he had used the word 'him.' That might be too telling.
But then he looked at Kevin asking himself why Kevin's opening up like that and so soon? Kevin just seemed so natural around people, so Cory thought that that was all there was to it.
"Yeah, he was my best friend too," Kevin continued. "His name was Kaz. Can you imagine that? What a name to carry around with you, Kaz," Kevin laughed."
"My friend's name was Mike, just plain old Mike."
"Was he special to you?" Kevin asked, looking at Cory again as they walked.
"Yeah, he was my best friend."
Kevin turned his head and looked straight ahead.
"You know something Cory?"
"I think I like you. I think we're going to become friends."
"But you don't really know me yet. You don't know anything about me, the kind of music I like, what I do outside of school, any of that."
"Sure, it does. You need to have stuff in common with someone who's going to be a friend, don't you?"
"No. It really doesn't matter. That's all-surface shit. What really matters is what's inside the other guy. That's all that really matters."
Cory didn't answer, but he heard Kevin use the word 'guy.'
"Cory, let me ask you something."
"What kind of music did Mike like?"
"Ah, mostly jazz and some soft rock. Why?"
"Well, what kind of music do you like?"
"Ah, I'm kind of into some of the older pop stuff, Bee Gees, the Beatles, that kind of stuff."
"Well, did your difference in music tastes have anything to do with Mike being your friend?"
Cory really didn't have to think about that.
"No, I guess you're right."
They kept walking.
"Cory, that's why I think that you and I are going to be friends. We haven't talked about our likes and dislike yet, but I've seen you. I saw how you reacted to your first teacher, what you looked like and even sounded like when I first talked to you. I heard how you talked when we had lunch yesterday, how you moved. I can see a lot about you through your eyes, and they told me a lot about you. I have this feeling, that's all."
"So, what's that feeling telling you?"
"It's telling me that you might be okay. You're not like the rest of the screw ups here. There's a… a… I don't know, maybe a real person in there. And like I said, that's all that really matters."
Cory was silent for a second.
"You know, Kevin? There's a lot more to you than you let on too," Cory returned.
Kevin turned to Cory as they kept walking. He smiled.
Cory continued, "Who's this other friend you have?"
"Her name's Kelly. I've gotten to know her over the past four years. We went to Junior High together too."
Cory didn't dare ask. He couldn't, but he had to know. "Is she your girlfriend?"
Kevin jolted a look at Cory, pausing for a moment, before answering.
"No. No, she's not my girlfriend. We're just good friends."
A sigh of relief bellowed through Cory's mind.
"She's available right now, you know?"
"That's alright Kev. I'm not looking for a girlfriend."
Both boys walked on silently.
"Well, here we are – our daily prison," Kevin laughed as the school stood in front of them. "Come on. I'll walk you to your locker and then we can get to Geometry together."
Cory sighed. He knew Kevin was right. In the first 24 hours after having met Kevin, he knew that there was something special growing between them, something that he couldn't put into words – something that he just felt. But Cory knew that Kevin wasn't like him, not in that respect.
As Cory and Kevin approached Cory's locker, they noticed Matt pulling books out of his locker next to Cory's.
"What's up dude?" Cory asked Matt as he walked up next to him and started the combo on his own locker.
Matt turned to Cory, throwing a last book into the locker – thunk.
"Just trying to get by. I've got a quiz in Lit this afternoon, but Kelly keeps bugging me. She called me last night and all she wanted to do was talk and talk and talk. I didn't get much reading done last night, and now I've got to face that quiz today."
"Pussy whipped already, are we?" Cory snickered out, tilting his head to the side.
"Hey! Shut up. It's not like that."
Cory wasn't sure what to say then.
"Ah, hum," could be heard behind them, breaking the momentary silence.
"Oh, Matt, do you know Kevin?" Cory finally trying to grab his manners back.
Matt looked over at Kevin, studying him for a moment. "Yeah, I've seen you around. I haven't actually met you though."
Kevin stuck out his hand to shake. "Well, now you have. How's it going?"
They shook hands as Kelly walked up behind them.
"Hey, Kevin, you guys know each other?"
"Yeah, we just met. Matt's in my gym class. I've seen him there before, but Cory and I just met yesterday."
"Yup. Kevin and I have first period together," Cory said. "And speaking of, I think we'd better get going. It's just about time to be there. See you guys around."
The three boys bumped knuckles.
"Later," Cory said as he and Kevin turned and started walking toward their first period classroom.
Lunchtime rolled around, and Cory hoped that he'd see Kevin again and have lunch with him. Again, he didn't see him as he made his way through the food line. He chose to try the pizza this time, thinking that it was almost impossible to ruin pizza. To finish, he grabbed a plastic cup of pudding and another milk carton.
Spotting his small empty table, he resigned himself to a lonely lunch. As he started in on his pizza, he saw Kevin walk into the cafeteria, but he wasn't alone. Matt was with him. He watched them go through the food line together, talking to each other. Cory didn't understand the feeling that he was getting just then. Was he jealous of Kevin? No. That's just bullshit, he said to himself. He'd just met Kevin yesterday.
Cory thought that Kevin and Matt were going to eat their lunch together by themselves but was surprised when they both showed up at his table, looking down at him. Cory's heart flipped as he saw that sparkle again.
"Hey, grab that empty chair," Kevin said to Matt as both boys crowded around Cory's table. No trays on the table this time. There was just enough room for their food.
"How's day two going, Cory?" Kevin asked just before he tried to bite into his pizza.
"Good. Better now that I've got some friends around."
Kevin looked up at Cory.
"Don't worry Cory. We'll get there," was all that Kevin said and then he grinned.
Matt looked at Kevin questioningly.
"Don't look so perplexed Matt. I just told Cory this morning that it takes time to make real friends. We're working on it."
Cory smiled because he knew what that meant. They were 'working on it' to become friends.
"I saw Matt in the hall and asked him to join us for lunch," Kevin said.
Cory then knew that Kevin had intended to lunch with him today and that made him feel good.
"Hey, you guys. Feel honored – I had to cut Study Hall to be here," Matt laughed out.
"Glad you're here," Cory replied.
Kevin turned to Matt after the pizza was gone.
"What's going on between you and Kelly? She's really a sweet girl, you know?"
"Yeah, she is. A little forward though."
"Yeah, that's our Kelly."
Then Kevin's eyebrows lowered.
"Kelly may come across as peppy or seems like she has it easy, but she hasn't always been that way. She was head over heels with this guy last year, but he dumped her. She was really hurt. He was such an asshole so I'm glad he dumped her. She didn't need that, and I think she realizes now that it was for the best, but it still hurt her for a long time. I think she's finally over that jerk."
"That's right," Cory butted in finally remembering. "She's the girl who you mentioned this morning, the one you said was your other friend."
"Yup. We've been close for a long time."
Kevin looked apprehensive for a moment before continuing.
"I'm the one she finally opened up to about what this other guy had done. She was pretty upset back then, and we would talk for hours at night, sometimes on the phone, sometimes I'd go over to her house. I guess she thought that I was someone that she could trust."
"She seems so lively now. I didn't realize that she'd been through something like that," Matt had to say.
"I don't know her that well. But yesterday and today at our lockers, she seemed so alive. I guess you had a hand in making that happen, didn't you?" Cory asked looking at Kevin.
"Yeah, maybe so. I just knew she needed to talk, to talk it all out. She cried on me a lot during that time. I really felt so helpless, but there wasn't much that I could do except to just be there for her."
Kevin stopped and looked at Matt.
"You know, Matt, she really is a special person. She's got a big heart. She's caring, cute as all get out, smart too. You could do a lot worse."
Matt looked down for a moment before looking back at Kevin.
"Ah, please Kevin. Don't try to fix me up or anything. Not just yet. I'm not looking for a girlfriend right now."
"Don't worry Matt. I won't have to. If she wants you, you'll know it soon enough."
Matt turned grey.
"I think I already know."
"Hey, look at those two fags." Kevin pointing to the table across from them.
The other two boys looked over and saw two guys talking across their lunch table, their eyes on each other, glassy.
"They are so not for each other. That is just plain disgusting." Kevin said as Matt and Cory continued staring at the other two boys.
Matt's eyes turned black, lost in his past.
Cory lowered his head. He now knew that Kevin was straight and was untouchable. But he still liked him and wanted to be his friend. He knew he would never come out to Kevin, he couldn't. He would not jeopardize his friendship.
Matt went to his next class, while Kevin and Cory started down the hall in the other direction. Neither boy said anything for a while until Kevin mentioned, "Matt's got a secret."
"Huh?" Cory turned to him.
"Yeah, I could see it in his eyes. There's something about him that he's not telling us."
"Hell, we all have our secrets. I don't tell everything about myself to everyone, and I'm sure you don't either."
Especially 'that' secret after what Cory had just found out about Kevin.
"Yeah, you're right. I guess we all have something that we hide. But this is a little darker, something that seems to frighten Matt."
"I think maybe I've seen it too. I don't understand it, but sometimes he seems so deep in thought, you know, away from us?"
"That's kind of what I mean. I think Matt was hurt once, hurt badly, and is trying to forget it."
Cory had to grab Kevin's arm to stop him and pulled him back to look directly at him.
"How can you tell that? How can you know something like that about someone who you just met?"
"I saw it in his eyes. And because I see that Matt cares. You could see the care in his eyes when I was telling him about Kelly. Matt's not dumb and I think he's very sensitive, although he fights that too. I suppose I could be wrong, but whatever it is, it's important to him or it's something that really scares him."
"Matt's a nice guy," Cory had to say. "We all have our shadows."
Time was running out and they had to run to their next class, Cory barely slipping in the door as the final bell rang.
During his bike ride to get home after school on his second day, Cory just rode past his house. He wasn't ready to go inside to start his homework just yet. He had been thinking about Kevin during his ride home but wasn't finished yet. He hadn't come to any conclusions about all of the things that were running around in his head, so he rode on.
He now knew that Kevin was obviously much more than he had first imagined. He'd learned how much of a caring person he was, how he gave of his time to help Kelly. Kevin never wanted anything from Kelly but to be her friend. It was so apparent that Kevin really cared about Kelly, not in a girlfriend sort of way but in a human sort of way.
Kevin also really puts a high value on the concept of 'friend.' A friend means a lot more to him than just an acquaintance. A friend to Kevin seemed to be someone who he could trust implicitly, had no fear of someone who he could really be open with. The way people use the word 'friend' doesn't even come close to what a 'friend' means to Kevin.
Kevin's never spoken down on anyone either, except for those bullies at the other table at lunch yesterday. But Cory didn't think Kevin was trying to put them down. What he thought Kevin was really doing was trying to protect Cory. Cory knew that he was starting to care about Kevin, and because Kevin was trying to protect him, Kevin was starting to care about him too.
But Kevin was not gay, which worried Cory. Cory was afraid of building the kind of relationship that he might have wanted, but that one would go nowhere.
He knew that Kevin was smart too. He seemed to read people so easily. It seemed to Cory that Kevin could look at someone's eyes and can see right inside, like he's touching their soul. Cory had caught Kevin looking at him many times and it scared him. There were things in there that Cory wasn't ready to have Kevin see just yet. But Cory couldn't shake the deep feeling that Kevin already knew.
He was cute too. He'd seen Kevin talking to a lot of girls, and it seemed to Cory that Kevin could talk so easily with them. He started wishing that Kevin would look at him the same way he looked at girls and the way the girls looked back at him. But Cory knew that just wasn't going to happen. He still wanted to dream though.
But Cory's dream screeched to a halt before it even got started. He had remembered just then what Kevin had said at lunch. Kevin had said that the two gay boys, the fags, were disgusting. That was it. Kevin was straight. There was no doubt about it now. And if he ever told Kevin about himself, it would be the end of their emerging friendship.
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