Even though the assault in the boy's shower room at school had been traumatic, with Kevin's help Cory had forgotten the incident rather quickly. He was more excited about the building relationship with his best friend, Kevin and with his other friend, Matt. For the next week, all three boys seemed to be joined in partnership, doing everything from studying together to just hanging out.
But Matt still had the problem of what to do about Kelly. He really liked her, but he was afraid that if he didn't speak up soon, she would be led down a path that would lead to nowhere. He really didn't want to hurt her, like she had been hurt before. On Thursday of that week, Kelly appeared at Matt's locker as he was rummaging around inside looking for his English Lit book just before he had to make it to his study hall.
"Hey, cutie. How's it going?" she said from behind the locker door.
Matt hadn't noticed her come up to him, but he surely knew the voice behind the door. He smiled and closed the locker door to look at her.
"Good. How're tricks with you?"
"Same thing over again. You know, boyfriend hunting."
Matt knew that this wasn't starting out good.
"Hmmm. Kelly, you doing anything next period?"
"Just lunch. I've got first lunch, you know?"
"I've got study hall."
"Too bad. You'd like sitting at my table." She grinned.
Matt wondered if that was another flirt, but he knew he had to forge on.
"You wanna go get a burger instead? I can skip my study hall."
Kelly started to wonder why the sudden change of interest.
"Why don't we just get a burger from the cafeteria and go sit outside?"
"Okay. That'll work for me," Matt answered.
After getting their lunch from the cafeteria, they settled into a table under a tree off to the side of the schools outdoor eating area by the library. It was a quiet table, apart from the usually noisy ones.
"Okay. Something's bothering you, Matt. Out with it," Kelly abruptly started the conversation.
"That's what I like about you, Kelly. You always keep me on my toes."
"Sorry, Matt, but I'm trying to figure you out here. We've become friends, but you seem to shy away from me. Why?"
Matt knew that the time had arrived.
"I really like you, Kelly. I mean I really do, but I think you might be heading in the wrong direction with me."
"Finally," Kelly softly said so Matt didn't hear. "Wrong direction? No, I think we might be finally heading in the right direction."
"Huh? No, I don't think you understand. Kelly. I'm gay. I really like you and want to be friends with you. But I can't, I can't like you like you want me to. I don't want to hurt you, Kelly, and I think being honest with you is the only way I know how. Shit! That didn't come out right. Look Kelly, what I mean is..."
"Good grief, Matt, it's about time, you dickhead."
Matt stopped short.
"I'm sorry, but I'm a little confused here."
"Oh, Matt, I know you're gay, at least I've always thought you were. I've just been waiting for you to finally tell me," Kelly grinned.
"But, but how'd you know? Am I that obvious?"
"Only if you know what to look for."
Matt's questioning face turned to shock.
"Oh, Matt, you're so cute when your face turns into a tomato."
Around the corner of the library, Johnny was sitting alone eating his lunch. Although he was unseen, he had heard every word that was being spoken.
"Matt, I've seen you looking at guys a little longer than the straight boys do. That's the first clue."
"And the second clue is how you seem to want to be friends with me but run like hell at the hint of a date."
"I'm that obvious, huh?"
"You don't wear a neon sign, if that's what's bothering you."
Kelly paused looking at Matt.
"Alright, Matt. If it's not me then, who? Anyone in particular?"
"Maybe. Well, there was a maybe"
Kelly's eyes lit up.
"Okay, who is he? I gotta know."
"Promise you won't say anything. I mean if this gets out, I'm ruined."
"I won't be telling anyone, I promise."
"Kelly. I'm serious."
"It's okay, Matt. I may be a flirt, and even too loud sometimes, but there is something that I will not do. I will not betray my friends."
Matt thought for a moment.
"Okay, it was Johnny."
Johnny bolted from the table, bulleted his unfinished lunch in the trash can next to him and stalked back into the school."
"That creep? Are you serious?" Kelly almost shouted.
"I know. I know. But, when I first came to this school, I didn't know him. He looked so cute when I saw him that first day."
"Yeah, he is cute. But he's also one of Jeremy's henchmen."
"I had this major crush on him for the longest time. But then I saw how he treated Cory. Cory's not even gay. He's just a new kid at school. It reminded me of, well, times before I came to this school."
"While you were still in California?"
"What happened there?"
"Nothing. Besides, it's past history."
"Matt? Did someone hurt you?"
Matt looked down at his twitching shoes.
"Yeah, someone did hurt me. That's also why I gave up on Johnny. I saw that he could do the same to me."
"Johnny's such an asshole."
Matt looked up at Kelly again.
"Look, I don't have a crush on him anymore. That's over."
"Okay. But who have you got your eye on now?"
"No one really, not right now. It's kind of hard not knowing who's gay or who's not. I know there's someone out there for me, but it's not being able to approach them that sucks."
"I never thought of that. Shit, I can walk up to anybody and flirt with them all day long, if I want. You can't, can you?"
Matt looked down and just said, "No."
"Oh, Matt, we'll work on this together," Kelly grinned again. "What are you doing after school today?"
Looking back at Kelly, Matt said, "Ah, I have to do some shopping."
"Shopping? You guys like shopping, don't you?" she grinned.
"No, I don't! But in this case, I have no choice."
"So, what are you going shopping for?"
Matt didn't answer.
"Well, what's on your buy list?"
"Just some clothes."
"Matt, you've got nice clothes. What more do you need?"
"Ah, just a pair of swim trunks. I don't have any." Matt said.
"But you do. You had those blue board shorts at Cory's birthday party, and they looked..."
Kelly stopped short. She looked straight at Matt.
"You aren't. You're not, are you? You're going to swim tryouts with Corey and Kevin, aren't you? AND you don't have a pair of Speedos, is that right?"
Matt looked down, a little embarrassed, but nodded his head.
"Oh, I am so going with you shopping."
As Matt and Kelly returned to the cafeteria, Matt's mind raced with the fear of Kelly ogling him as he tried on new pairs of Speedos. He knew that he was definitely NOT taking his shirt off.
Just as they approached the conveyor for their empty trays, a foot suddenly came out from under a table. Matt tripped and what was left of his food tray, sprawled out on the floor as his knees hit the same hard floor. He looked up to see a pair of eyes snarling at him.
"Can't walk straight, huh, fag?" came from just below those eyes.
Matt got up, stared at the unknown eyes with fury, turned and left Kelly behind in the room.
It was Friday and school was finally over for the week. The hustle of kids running to their lockers to deposit their books or to retrieve others was the usual mayhem in the halls. Cory and Kevin met after their last class to join the mass of teenagers as they headed for their own lockers.
"Hey, Kev, you doing anything after school today?"
"Yeah, frigging History, what do you think?"
"Well, want some help?" Cory asked.
"That would be so cool. You know I suck at History."
"Yeah, I know you do. Come on. I'll walk home with you."
Just as the boys turned the corner to reach their lockers, Cory noticed Johnny standing by his own locker. Johnny looked up and their eyes locked for an instant. Cory had to stop for a minute as what he saw was fear in Johnny's eyes. But that fear quickly seemed to change to rage as Johnny continued to glare at Cory.
It was obvious to Kevin that his friend was shaken. He quickly grabbed Cory's arm and pulled him forward to continue their trek down the hall to their own lockers.
"Forget him, Cory. He's not going to do anything here."
"Yeah, I know, but there's something about him that's not right. He's scared of something, and he always seems so angry."
"I just see him as another asshole," Kevin retorted.
Cory slowly nodded his head and soon his fears were forgotten. After creating an even larger mess in their lockers from changing books, they slammed the doors closed and headed for the double doors leading to the outside and the weekend.
As the bright sun hit their eyes, a sense of freedom came over Cory and Kevin. They bounded down the concrete steps, avoiding the rest of the mass of kids heading out of the school. Cory noticed Matt walking toward them, and then Matt fell in step next to him as they walked.
"What's up guys?" Matt asked.
Kevin looked over at Matt.
"We're going over to my house to bash History."
Cory had to laugh.
"Sounds good to me. Let's go," said Matt.
As they reached the soccer fields toward the back of the school, the number of other students had thinned considerably, except for Jeremy and a group of four boys standing in their path. The three boys were now trapped between two low chain link fences that separated the two soccer fields by 20 feet, and the threat that was just in front of them. Kevin was the first to spot Jeremy in the group.
Cory recognized Jeremy and Johnny in the group standing 30 feet in front of him, and he remembered what Jeremy had done to him in the boy's shower. Both fear and anger began to fill him.
Kevin knew what Cory was thinking and whispered out of the side of his mouth to Cory.
"Don't say anything, man. Just let it be. Just walk right on past him, okay?"
As they continued their walk home, in total silence, Cory was trying his best to just look straight ahead, not even acknowledging Jeremy's presence.
Jeremy looked up and, seeing Cory approach, began walking toward him. Two of his boys held back, Johnny was one of them, but the other two followed Jeremy.
Johnny couldn't keep his seething eyes off Matt. He knew what Matt had told Kelly at lunch, and it burned into him as he watched Matt. The thought of Matt saying those words to anyone was almost too much for him to stomach. He wondered what Jeremy would do if that had happened to him, or even his father, or even his minister.
"Hey, faggot!" Jeremy yelled as he stepped in front of Cory.
Cory had to stop as Jeremy stood directly in his path.
"Had your ass kicked today?" Jeremy continued.
Cory backed up a few steps as Jeremy continued to get closer. Suddenly, Jeremy reached out and pushed Cory, hard. Cory stumbled backward, dropping his book bag to the ground.
To his own surprise, Kevin mustered the courage that he felt he lacked at the last incident and stepped in between Jeremy and Cory.
"Stop it, Jeremy. Just back off. Leave him alone."
Kevin was steadfast, glaring at Jeremy.
Jeremy continued to look straight at Kevin for a few moments and then stepped forward and hit Kevin squarely in the face.
Kevin fell backward and hit the ground with a thud. He rolled over holding his nose, blood appearing to be going everywhere.
"Oh, Christ," Kevin moaned as he rolled from side to side.
As Cory witnessed the attack in near shock, his anger quickly returned. He then lunged at Jeremy, hitting him in the stomach with all the force that he could muster. Cory swung his other fist as fast as he could, but Jeremy had doubled over from the first blow, and Cory's second swing was high, missing its mark.
From out of nowhere, two of Jeremy's friends grabbed each one of Cory's arms, holding him. Cory was now defenseless.
Jeremy recovered from the blow to his stomach, and seeing Cory being held by his two friends, started to close on Cory.
Matt saw Jeremy move closer to Cory. He could see that, Jeremy being hit himself, hate had now filled Jeremy, and so he stepped in front of him in an effort to stop him.
But Jeremy was in a rage and didn't stop.
Matt stumbled backward as Jeremy's first fist hit him in the cheek, and the second followed in an instant, hitting him in the other side of his face. Matt fell to the ground.
Jeremy continued toward Cory, but Kevin, still lying on the ground, was in his way. As Jeremy stepped around Kevin, he turned and kicked him hard in the ribs.
"Ahhhhhhggggghhhh," Kevin screamed as he rolled over.
Jeremy approached the imprisoned Cory.
"Good for nothing faggot!" Jeremy yelled.
He then hit Cory squarely in the face.
"God damned queer!" Jeremy cried.
Jeremy then hit Cory in the stomach, hard, and then hit him again in the face.
Cory's blood was reaching his chin.
Jeremy was about to hit Cory again when he was pushed to the side. He looked up and saw Matt slowly moving in between Cory and himself. Jeremy saw Matt's bloody face before him but something in Matt's eyes startled him, so he held his glare on Matt, wondering if he should take him on again.
Matt was breathing heavily, charged with determination. In a low voice, he whispered to Jeremy.
"If you make one more move Jeremy, you...are...dead."
Matt paused for a moment, waiting for Jeremy to back off, but Jeremy stood his ground.
"Believe in me, Jeremy. This is no joke," Matt continued with resolve.
Jeremy saw the determination in Matt's face and backed off slightly. He snapped his head at his two friends, and they released Cory. Cory dropped to the ground as Jeremy and his friends continued to back off.
Cory looked up at Jeremy with disbelief as he and the other two boys were backing away, but his mind quickly went to Kevin. Still feeling the pain from his own beating, he mustered his strength, and began crawling toward his friend. As he saw Kevin doubled over in a fetal position, he became frightened. He had to help him.
"Kevin!" Cory screamed
Matt moved over to where Cory and Kevin were lying on the ground, but he kept his eyes on Jeremy. He wasn't going to give him another chance. As Jeremy and his friends continued to walk away, Matt turned his attention to his friends.
Cory then looked up at Matt with tears in his eyes.
"Matt, we've got to get him home," Cory yelled.
"Oh God, Cory, he looks awful," Matt answered Cory.
Matt turned his head one more time in Jeremy's direction and then felt comfortable as he saw them leaving the soccer field."
"Let's go Cory. It's not far from here," Matt said as he knelt down to help Cory pick up Kevin.
Kevin wasn't that heavy, and he was also able to help himself stand, but couldn't fully stand erect, holding the side where the kick landed. The three boys walked slowly off the soccer field toward Kevin's home.
Kevin's mother opened the door shortly after the first ring of the doorbell. Cory was relieved to see her, but if she hadn't come to the door, he was going to storm in anyway.
His mother looked at Cory and a smile started to cross her face, but then she saw her son.
"Oh, dear God, what's happened?" she yelled in horror.
The boys couldn't speak as they both turned and looked at Kevin, and Kevin's mother didn't wait for an answer.
"Help him inside." She told Cory and Matt as she stepped aside. As they crossed the door threshold, she wrapped her arm around Kevin's shoulders.
Cory and Matt then released Kevin to his mother's care.
Sitting at the kitchen table moments later, Cory and Matt waited anxiously for word from Kevin's mother. She was still upstairs with her son, and the silence was making them both nervous.
"How is he? I need to know." Cory yelled to no one in particular as he jumped up suddenly. He started pacing the floor.
Just as the suspense was almost more than Cory could bear, he heard Kevin's mother's footsteps descending the staircase. He turned and went to the bottom of the stairs, looking up with fear. Matt followed quietly behind Cory, and he too looked up with questions.
"How is he? He'll be alright, won't he? Cory whimpered.
Kevin's mother, seeing the anguish in both Cory and Matt, quickly spoke to relieve them before she reached the bottom step.
"He's fine now. Let's go into the kitchen."
Cory practically ran to the kitchen and quickly sat at the table. His eyes silently followed Kevin's mother as she took a chair out and sat down next to him.
"Cory, Matt. He'll be alright. After I cleaned the dried blood off of him, it didn't look so bad. I'm taking him to the hospital emergency room to have him looked over though. He was kicked pretty hard I hear."
"I'm going with you!" Cory shouted, standing up.
"No. You boys stay here or go home. There's nothing more that you can do right now. He's going to be fine. I'm just taking him there as a precautionary measure, just to make sure he's alright."
"We're so sorry that this happened. Kevin didn't do anything wrong," Cory said looking directly at Kevin's mother.
"I know. You boys go on home now," she said rising from her chair. She turned and looked directly at Cory and Matt. "You boys need to get yourselves cleaned up too. You don't look so good right now."
"Kevin will be okay, won't he?" Cory asked again, his eyes pleading. He had to make sure that all was well.
"We'll call you as soon as we're back from the hospital," She replied.
Kevin's mother saw that same look in Cory's eyes that she had seen many times before. This was more than mere friendship for her son. She then smiled at him knowingly.
Cory returned the smile, bowed his head slightly, nodded, and then both boys left the room.
They hadn't spoken to each other during their walk home, both being in their own world.
When they reached Cory's house, Richard went into a tirade. He wanted to know why they were so bloody. After Matt explained what had happened, Richard calmed down slightly and wanted to know all about Kevin's injuries.
"This isn't right. The bullying has got to stop," Richard exclaimed.
Matt was quiet but Cory wasn't.
"Richard, I hate it too. Our principal doesn't seem to put a lot of pressure on the rest of the school to follow the rules, you know, those anti-bulling rules. But I've learned something from you, Richard. I'm not going to back down like you didn't back down when you found out what had happened to me. Matt was trying to protect me. Kevin was trying to protect me. They cared. They cared about me. It's just something they do. And I care about them too, a lot."
Matt remained very silent.
Richard, sitting down and looking exhausted, gave out a sigh.
"Why don't you two go on upstairs and get cleaned up."
As the boys went upstairs, Richard looked up at them walking away from him. Richard knew that there was a lot more to Cory than there was just 2 months ago. He saw that 'will' again, stronger, growing. He also saw the love for Kevin that Cory had let out a month ago. It hadn't stopped. No, it was still growing, if that were even possible.
Entering Cory's room, Matt sat in the chair in front of Cory's computer, staring at the blank screen. Matt had remained quiet from the moment that he had left Kevin's house except for explaining to Richard what had happened. Something about the telling again of what had happened, had gotten to Matt.
Cory sat on his bed staring out the window at the approaching evening sky. It was dead silent.
"Something happened out there to me today," Matt suddenly said to the blank computer monitor."
Cory looked at Matt but said nothing.
"What happened to Kevin made me feel that we are, all of us, are so fragile. Shit like this can happen to anyone, anytime."
Cory still didn't know where this was going or what to say.
Matt quickly turned around in the chair and looked directly into Cory's eyes. Cory became a little frightened.
"Cory, if I don't say this to you, I may not have the chance. It's something that you need to know about me. I want you to have the chance to really know me before..."
"What is it Matt?"
Matt dropped his eyes from Cory's for a moment but returned his gaze.
"This is hard Cory. Don't say anything right away. You've got to know, to know..."
Matt turned and looked out the window.
"You've got to know that I'm gay."
Matt then lowered his head and looked at his shoes.
"So?" Cory stated.
Matt looked up quickly at Cory.
"What do you mean, 'SO?'"
"Just what I said, so what?" Cory exclaimed.
"Huh? You don't care?"
Matt looked down.
"How could I man? You see, Matt, I'm kinda a little gay myself."
Matt looked at Cory suddenly. He was startled.
"What? You're, you're…you're gay too?"
"Yeah, kinda stupid, isn't it?"
"It's NOT stupid! Shit Cory, I was so scared to tell you. You, Kelly and Kevin are the only friends who I have. I've hidden this for so long and I was becoming afraid that something like what happened to Kevin would happen to me, or even worse. I guess I needed to tell you that, so you'd know who I am before it's too late."
"That's not what I meant, Matt. I mean it's so stupid that we have to hide not only from our friends, but from ourselves too."
"I guess that's what I've been doing, and it really sucks!"
Both boys grinned at each other for a moment, but Matt's eyes changed to a questioning hue.
"What do you mean by a 'little' gay? How can you be a 'little' gay?" Matt asked.
"Good one! I'm not a little gay. I'm really all gay. I guess I said it that way to try to break it to you gently," Cory giggled.
Both boys burst into laughter at that one.
Matt soon stopped laughing and looked at Cory.
"Do you have a boyfriend or someone who you'd like to be with?" Matt asked.
"Yeah, I do. I mean I don't have a boyfriend, but there is someone who I've got this huge crush on."
"Who is it man? Come on Cory! I want details, all of them." Matt grinned.
"Well, you're going to laugh, so I'm not telling."
"You bastard! Come on Cory. Tell me who's stolen your heart."
"No! You'll laugh at me. But, yeah, he's stolen my heart, my brain, my eyes, all of me. Thing is, he doesn't even know it yet."
"Well, tell me who he is. Maybe we can make him see you."
"Come on man, you can tell me"
"Who is it?"
"I'm NOT telling you, period. You're gonna laugh at me."
"You're kidding me, right?" Matt asked.
"No. I wish I were."
"Holy fuck! My two best friends are stuck on each other. This is going to be good!"
"No, it's not. I'm sick over him, and he's not gay, but I have to stay this way. I'll die if he ever walks out on me when this comes out. Look man. I just want his friendship. I want him close to me so bad that I'm willing to let it be and not tell him."
"Oh Cory, get off it, man. You know he'll stick with you. Kevin is NOT an asshole."
Just then Matt remembered something about Kevin. He had seen it before but had not let it register. Now he knew. Matt waited for a second before continued while he grinned.
"But there's something that you might not have noticed."
"What are you talking about dipshit? I'm feeling like shit right now and you want to play 20 questions?"
"I don't think you've ever seen the way Kevin looks at you."
"Look at his eyes, man, the next time he looks at you. I think you'll find something that you'll like in there."
Matt continued with his grin.
"And he doesn't look at you just a little. He looks at you a LOT."
Cory blushed, then, grinned.
Matt turned away from Cory suddenly. His brows furrowed as he stared at the computer monitor again.
Cory saw the reaction and knew that something different than his talking about Kevin had just entered Matt's mind. Something that Matt said, or Cory said, but something was bringing Matt to his past.
"Ah, you okay, Matt?"
"It's okay. I'm alright."
"What's wrong, Matt?"
"It's nothing really. It's just, just seeing what you and Kevin have, brought back some memories, that's all.
Cory wasn't sure if he wanted to press Matt. The mood had so quickly changed, and Cory wasn't sure what had happened. But Matt was his friend, and Cory wanted to help him if he could.
"You wanna tell me about it?" Cory finally asked.
"No, it was a long time ago."
The mood in the room became black. Cory knew that whatever it was, this may be what Kevin had seen, something that Matt was terrified of. He knew that now was the time to be a true friend, to love him, to be there. Matt was deeply troubled, and Cory had to help his friend.
"Matt, please tell me what it is. If you can talk about it, I know the pain won't go away, but you will be able to not see it so badly."
Matt started to cry. Cory had never seen Matt cry before. This wasn't good.
Matt looked up at Cory.
"Cory, it wasn't my fault," he said with mountains caught in his throat.
"What happened, Matt?" Cory almost yelled.
Matt couldn't speak. The mood from before, gone. Silence was everywhere except for the sound of the wind slightly pressing itself through the open window.
"I was raped."
Matt lost it.
Cory's mind screamed, exploding with grief.
He ran to his friend and sucked him into his arms as Matt buried himself into him. They clung to each other, Cory praying he could make it all go away, to strip Matt's pain from him, to suck it into himself.
Matt was clinging to life itself. He had just exposed what he could never say, that having said what he just said, knew that his life was exposed for all to see, to see the shame. He had just told Cory of the worst moment in his life. He knew that his life had been changed forever. Cory now knew. He wanted his life back, but also knew that with having told Cory, his life was changed.
But then he started to feel differently about his life. He still had his life, changed, yes, but it was still his life.
Matt's sobbing lessened. He was getting in control of himself, as he saw that his life wasn't over. What he had just experienced was what he had feared the most since the rape that someone would know. But now someone knew, and he felt better. He didn't know why but, he actually felt better.
Cory sensed that change. He knew that Matt was coming down from that emotional roller coaster he was on but wasn't at the gate yet. He loosened his grip.
"I'm sorry, Cory. I've never told anyone this before."
"That must have been horrible."
Matt choked trying not to think about it but knew he had to.
"Can I tell you about it?"
"You don't have to. This is hard for you. Just try to relax, okay?"
"No, Cory, I've told you what happened, but telling you made me feel – I don't know – better. Sounds weird, but I'd like to tell you."
"Okay, come over here, Matt. Sit down and I'll listen."
Cory grabbed Matt's hand and pulled him to the bed, sat down and patted his other hand on the bed next to him. Matt sat down next to Cory.
Matt was silent for a moment but turned to Cory and fixed his eyes on him.
"I had a boyfriend."
Matt turned from Cory but continued.
"It was back in California, just before we came here. He was a nice enough guy so I thought we would make a life together. We hadn't had any sex before and I thought that he was interested in me, and that sex would follow as we got to know each other better.
"But one night we were together in my room, and he was hinting that he wanted to fool around. We were already just in our boxers together as we had been before, so this was normal. I thought that maybe we were at the next step, you know, our love progressing. And yeah, Cory, I was falling in love with him.
"He started kissing me, which was normal for where we were in our relationship as we'd done that before too, but then he changed. He got more aggressive. I asked him what was wrong, and he said that he was pissed at me for waiting so long. He said that I was just teasing him.
"That scared me, Cory. He then said that he was going to have sex with me now, that I'd put if off too long.
"Just then, I wanted to get away from him. I was scared of him. I didn't know what he was going to do. I tried to get out from under him, but then, he hit me."
"God, Cory, I was really scared of him then. This was the guy that I was willing to give everything to but right then I wanted to cover myself. I tried to shove him off of me, but he grabbed my arms, pinned them over my head and holding them with one hand, and then he hit me again."
Cory stared at his friend, his heart crumbling.
"I started crying, Cory."
Cory's head left his gaze on Matt and fell to his chest.
"Cory, you don't have to hear the rest of this."
Cory knew that Matt wasn't finished. Yes, it was terrifying, but he knew that Matt had to continue, for his own sake.
"Matt, tell me all of it. Get it out, man."
Matt needed Cory right then. He had to do this.
"Cory. I was so scared. He then let my hands go and reached for my underwear. I just lay under him as he pulled them down and off of me. God Cory, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want him to hurt me."
Matt was now crying, the words having a hard time coming out.
"Oh God, Cory, he put himself in me. He put my legs up and forced himself into me. It hurt; it hurt so much. The pain was something that I had never experienced before, and I couldn't stop crying, but he didn't care. I felt that he had ripped my insides. He kept it up.
"But you know what? It wasn't 'that' pain that I was feeling so much then. It was the pain that I had been used, betrayed."
Matt paused for a moment. Cory didn't keep his eyes off of his friend. Matt raised his tear-soaked face and continued.
"When he was done, he got off me and walked to the center of the room and started to get dressed. That hurt even more. He was leaving me. You know what he did then?"
Cory could hardly speak, but whispered, "No."
"He left without saying another word, nothing. He left me and walked out the door without even knowing that I existed.
Cory wrapped his arms around his friend and pulled him into himself. He didn't say anything to Matt, but just wanted to be with him, to take the pain away.
Matt's eyes closed as he put his head on Cory's shoulder. He took a deep breath. He had finally said it. Matt knew then that what had happened to him was why he was running away from friendship. Friendship had scarred Matt for what it could lead to.
But Cory and Kevin had changed all that. All of a sudden Matt realized what the true nature of friendship meant as he sat there in Cory's arms. Cory hadn't moved, hadn't run away and hadn't turned on him. Matt no longer felt the guilt from before. The guilt had stopped, but he hadn't taken the next step yet. It was coming, but not yet. All he felt now was...nothing.
Cory tightened his arms around Matt, and Matt returned the stronger embrace, but he seemed to have died. Matt was emotionless, lifeless. He had let it all out. He had finally told someone.
Cory sensed that Matt had finally expunged his devil.
Cory held his friend, not saying anything, and just held on to him to let himself flow into Matt. Finally, he looked at the ceiling.
"Matt, thank you for telling me and getting this out. Your life wasn't over just because of what happened. Maybe it was on hold for a while. But now, right now, your life has just begun. Matt, know this, you exist," was all that Cory could say.
He knew that Matt was on the way to being truly Matt again, for the first time since it happened.
Later that evening, Kevin's mom called. Both Matt and Cory heard the phone ring, but Richard got to it first. They ran downstairs both knowing it had to be Kevin's mom.
"Yeah. They're both here waiting to hear right now," Richard said.
"Okay. Thank you for calling. And yes, Kevin can come over. He can join us for dinner, too."
"Okay, I'll see you in a few minutes, and I'll take him back home tonight."
Richard hung up the phone and turned slightly toward the two boys."
"Out with it! What's happening?" Cory yelled.
"Will you calm down, Cory. Don't worry. Kevin's going to be all right. He's got a hairline fracture in a rib from the kick, but he's fine other than a few bruises."
"You said Kevin's coming over?" asked Matt.
"Yup. The doctor taped him up, and he's going to be a little sore for a while and has to take it easy, but he said that Kevin can go on as normal. "Look. I'm going into the kitchen to get dinner ready. When Kevin gets here, no wrestling matches, you hear? You need to be a little gentle with him for a while. Hell, if it weren't for his cracked rib, he'd probably kick both of your asses anyway."
Richard laughed and went into the kitchen. Both boys eyed each other, but then Corey turned to Richard's retreat.
"Hey, don't swear," Cory realized that he gotten one in.
Turning to Matt, "What did Richard just say?"
"I think he said that Kevin could kick your ass if you're not careful."
"Hm. I think he used the plural form of ass."
A few minutes later the doorbell rang, and Cory was on it like a shot. Before Kevin could get a foothold inside the house, Cory was all over him. His arms tried to squeeze the breath out of him.
"Ouch! Let me go, doofus!"
Cory backed away, but kept his arms loosely around Kevin's neck.
"Oh God, Kevin. Oh God. Oh God. I'm so sorry. I forgot. I'm just so glad to see you. Are you okay? Where does it hurt?"
Matt couldn't help but grin at Cory's reaction at seeing Kevin. He knew what he was seeing, and it wasn't just simple concern. Cory was so obviously in love with Kevin. And again, he noticed. Kevin had that same airy look in his eyes as he looked at Cory.
"Is it okay if I come in for a minute?" Kevin's mother asked from behind Kevin.
"Oops, sorry," Cory said pulling Kevin to the side. "Let's go up to my room. Can you make it, Kev?"
"Hey! It's just a busted rib. I'm not dead yet, you know?"
The two boys helped Kevin navigate the stairs.
"Mr. Mathews? May I have a word with you?" asked Kevin's mother.
"Why don't I make you some coffee? We can talk in the kitchen while I finish the salad."
"No. Let me. I'm probably better at it then you are." She grinned.
As they worked together, Kevin's mother turned to Richard.
"Call me Ellen, please. I know we haven't talked but a few times on the telephone, but I'd like to mention something about Kevin, and Cory."
"Okay, Ellen. I'll call you that, if you call me Richard."
"Hmmm, okay. Richard, have you noticed any difference in Cory lately? I mean in the way he acts, especially around Kevin?" she added.
Richard eyed Kevin's mother for a few seconds before responding. Richard knew where this was going.
"I have. I've seen a difference in Cory for the last month or so, actually."
Ellen said nothing for a while, but finally broke the silence.
"It's my son, isn't it, the one who's causing this, change, in Cory?"
Richard now knew that she knew and now was about to let her know that he knew what she knew.
"Yes, it is." After a short pause, Richard continued, "How do you feel about this?"
"I'm worried, I guess. You see, I've seen the change in Kevin, too. I don't think he's ever been happier than he is right now, and I don't want to see him go back to the way he was before he met Cory. I want him to be happy. He wasn't always like he is now. His dad's a little hard on him at times, I guess. I guess I'm worried that life will be hard on him too, both him and Cory."
"Has Kevin told you how he feels, about Cory, I mean," Richard asked.
"No, he hasn't said a word. But I can see it though, the way he lightens when Cory comes over, or when Cory calls or when Cory's name is even mentioned. I hope he does eventually, but I won't push him. Kevin's pretty self confident already, but he hasn't said anything to me yet. I think he's holding back because of his dad. He's probably wondering how he'll react. But one day he'll tell me." She paused for a moment. "Has Cory said anything to you?"
"I have to be a little truthful here. I appreciate your candor and will return the trust you've shown me by bringing this up."
Richard paused as Ellen gave him a questioning look.
"Cory's not mine. Well, I mean he is, but I'm his foster parent. Cory's father kicked him out of his home a few months ago."
"Whatever for? Cory seems like such a good boy. I can't imagine him doing anything that would warrant that."
Richard knew he had to answer her, but how do you say that there are reasons why some people do the unimaginable?
Ellen said nothing for a few moments, but rather looked straight at Richard.
"Yeah, I figured that. I'm not shocked, by the way. And so is Kevin, he just hasn't told me yet. So, you knew about Cory all along?"
"From the day I met him. I picked him up as he was trying to hitchhike to Florida one night. He was so miserable, and I couldn't leave him there. It was the night his father beat him and threw him out. I don't understand parents who think that their children are something that can be thrown away."
Richard paused for a moment collecting his thoughts.
"In a way, Cory has helped me more than I've helped him, more than he will ever know."
Ellen didn't say anything, so Richard continued.
"I took a chance with Cory. I took a chance with my own life too. I saw something in Cory that night that scared me a lot. It scared me because I didn't know what to do then. I saw a little boy who could become a man destined for greatness. I can't really explain it, but in a way, what I saw was a 'will' to be himself – a form of purity, innocence, you know, the innocence of a child? But that 'will', that individual force that some people have, that determination registered on me. I remembered a little of myself too, what I was like a few years ago. I decided that night to forget my fears and to grasp at my former self. I was going to make his life different from the hell he was in, to allow that greatness to emerge."
Richard let those words sink for a moment. Then he pressed on.
"I think Cory has a great capacity to love. I've seen a lot of people who don't. That's how Cory has changed me. After my wife died, I sort of lost it. I couldn't care or love. I'd lost it all. I was pretty indifferent to just about everything around me. Well, Cory brought all that back to me. Did he save my life? Was it that powerful? Was it that earth shattering?
"Yeah, it was. I owe my integrity and happiness to him."
Ellen said nothing then but looked into Richard's eyes. After a few moments, she tilted her head.
"I see you in Cory. I see your influence on Cory. Kevin sees it too."
After another moment, Ellen asked, "So, they're boyfriends now, huh? If it had to be anyone, I'm so glad it's Cory."
"Well, actually, I don't think so yet. Cory and I do discuss his sexuality rather openly. He's not afraid of it. But he's very worried about how the rest of the world is reacting. One of the things he's worried to death about is losing Kevin. Yes, he's so totally in love with your son that he'll just do about anything to not lose him, to protect him. He's afraid that if he comes out to Kevin, he will in fact lose him."
"Stupid kids! I believe Kevin's the same way. This is almost too ridiculous. They're going to lose each other unless they find a way to start trusting each other a little more and tell each other the truth about how they feel."
After the dinner dishes were cleaned up Richard gave Kevin and Matt rides back to their homes. Cory had returned to his room to try and finish his homework. Twenty minutes into his studies, a knock came from his door.
Richard popped his head in.
"How's it going?"
"Good. I'm finally getting these Geometry problems. Kevin helped me yesterday during our study hall. He has a knack of making everything so clear to me."
Richard walked over to Cory's bed and sat down facing him.
"I'm glad you brought that up, about Kevin, I mean," Richard opening the conversation.
"What's this about, Richard?" Cory asked while turning his head from his homework.
Cory then turned completely around to face Richard, and asked, "What about Kevin?"
"Well, have you told him yet?"
"Richard, we've been over this before. You know I can't."
Richard understood Cory's resolve, but he had to think of a way to get Cory to face his fear of losing Kevin. He thought for a moment, and all of a sudden, it came to him. It was so simple.
"Hmmm, He's pretty good at math, isn't he?"
"You had a lot of faith in him, and trust, to ask him to help you with your Geometry, right?"
"Well, yeah, he's good in that."
"Think Kevin would have purposely given you the wrong way to do those problems?"
"Hell no! I trust him."
Richard paused for a moment and then continued.
"Let's see. Kevin joined the swim team with you, didn't he?"
"And you two are on the same relay team, right?"
"I don't get where this is going, Richard."
"Okay then. What do you feel when you pass the next lap over to Kevin?"
"Well, I feel that he's going to do his best at his part of the relay, just like I try to do my best at my part."
"You know that he'll to do his best, right?"
"Yeah, of course, I know him."
"You trust him to do that, right, to do his best?"
"Of course, I trust him. I trust him a lot. Where is this going?"
"Take a look at what we've been talking about. Listen to your own words."
Cory looked straight into Richard's eyes, shaking his head. This was going nowhere fast. He had no clue about...
Suddenly Cory's eyes bulged.
"Get it now?"
"It's about trust, isn't it?" Cory slowly asked.
"I think you get the point. Now, let me ask you again. Have you told Kevin how you feel?"
"God, I feel like such an ass right now. I should have known how he'd react."
"Don't be scared Cory. You know that Kevin will be cool with you no matter what."
"Do you know something I don't know?"
"No. I just feel that this will turn out all right. That's all."
"You know something, Richard? I really do hate you."
Richard looked at Cory in shock, "Why?"
"It's because you're so God damned right all the time."
The next day after school had let out, Cory walked over to meet Kevin at the bike rack. Today was the day that was going to change his life forever. Cory knew that today was the day that he was going to tell Kevin. He was going to trust him. The cards may not fall the way he wanted them to, but he had to do this. Cory was scared to death.
Kevin bound down the front steps of the school, almost skipping across the sidewalk as he saw Cory waiting.
"Hey, what's up, dude?" Kevin shouted.
"Just waiting for your skinny ass, that's all."
"It's not skinny, shithead. It's getting plumper by the week. See!" as he turned around and bent over.
"Come on plump ass. Let's get to my house. I have something to ask you or tell you."
"What's up?" Kevin asked.
"Wait till we get home, okay?"
Kevin's face showed his fear rising.
"Ah, what's going on Cory?"
"Just wait till we're home, okay?"
As they walked home, Cory knew that this already wasn't going well.
As Cory threw his bag on the floor, Kevin stepped into Cory's room rather cautiously.
"Are you going to tell me now?" he asked.
"Have a seat, Kevin, this isn't easy."
Kevin sat on Cory's bed wondering what the hell he'd done now.
Cory began pacing slowly around the room, his eyes unable to find Kevin. As he stopped by the window, he paused a moment and stood silent.
"Man, you gotta tell me what this is all about, Cory," Kevin let out. "You're scaring me."
"I can't, man. I mean I don't want to, but I need to."
"Do you trust me, Cory? We're best friends, man. Whatever it is, I won't feel any different about you."
There it was. Kevin had just said it, that word, 'trust.' Cory's mind screamed inside of his head. He lost it and immediately and burst into tears.
Kevin jumped from the bed and wrapped his arms around Cory, holding him. Cory stood there with his arms at his sides, and placed his head on Kevin's shoulder, his uncontrolled sobs not abating.
"What is it Cory? Please tell me."
Cory's tears slowly stopped, and he remained silent for a full minute, all the while remaining in Kevin's arms. Without looking into Kevin's eyes, Cory silently spoke.
"I'm in love with you Kevin."
"I love you too man. I've told you that before."
Cory then turned his head to look directly into Kevin's eyes.
"No Kevin. You don't get it. I'm 'in' love with you. Don't you understand? I'm gay and I've been in love with you from the time we first met."
Cory pushed Kevin back, but Kevin grabbed Cory's hand and wouldn't let it go. They looked into each other's eyes without speaking for another long minute. Cory finally had to break the eye dance and look away.
"Kevin. You can hate me, you can even despise me, but I have to be truthful with you, and if that's what happens, it happens, okay? But no matter what, I will always love you."
Kevin reached down and took Cory's other hand.
"Look at me Cory, please." he said softly."
Cory looked up.
"You really trusted me, didn't you, to say what you just said?"
"I do Kevin. I couldn't keep this from you any longer."
"I mean you put your life in my hands, didn't you?"
"I'll do that again and again, but I believe that we could never be even friends if I... if I didn't let you know who I really am, and how I really feel. I had to believe that you'd do the right thing, no matter what that was."
Cory's tears were obvious to Kevin again.
Kevin released Cory's hands and slowly put his hands on Cory's hips and pulled him closer.
"You are so beautiful. Do you know that?" Kevin softly said, looking directly into Cory's eyes.
"I just told you. You are so beautiful."
"No buts, Cory. Don't you see what's happening? I'm telling you that I'm 'in' love with you too. Cory, we've been unofficial boyfriends for so long, too long. But we've been so scared to death to admit it, to tell each other. I think our friends think we're a joke. I was just so afraid that you might not think of me the same way if I told you. Oh God, I love you so much and I just can't lose you.
"And I don't love you like a straight guy either," Kevin finished.
"Yeah, I'm as gay as the sun is bright. So now, finally after all this time, we've both said it."
Cory looked up at Kevin, quizzically.
"Kevin? That day we had lunch with Matt, you know that second day just after I started school..." Cory started to ask.
"What about that day? I could see us heading for a friendship even way back then.
"Well, you said something that, well, it changed how I was thinking about you."
"Huh? What'd I say?"
"Remember pointing out those two gay kids, the ones google-eying each other?"
"Yeah. What about them?"
"Well, you called them fags and said that it was disgusting. All I could think of then was that you were straight and that you'd never like me if you ever found out that I was gay."
Kevin had to think back for a moment, trying to remember the conversation. Then it hit him.
"Uh, Cory, I also said that they weren't for each other. That's what I really meant."
"Look, Cory, I know those two guys. One's a really nice guy, but the other one's a real jerk. What I meant was that they couldn't get beyond their google-eyes to see what the other guy was really like. That's the disgusting part. They hadn't become friends, nor probably ever would. That's a real shallow relationship."
"I guess I took it wrong. I jumped at something that wasn't true, and it, well, it kept me away from you. I knew I was falling in love with you, but I didn't want to lose our friendship. I was always thinking that you'd leave me if you'd found out."
Kevin was quiet for a moment.
"Cory, I need to say something to you too. Just listen, please.
"I felt something happening to me when you walked into your first class and sat next to me. That was one of the happiest days of my life, but I didn't know exactly why. When I saw you in our gym class that day, I was thinking about you. I looked up, and there you were. When I saw Jeremy almost knock you over, I jumped to try to help you, but I stopped, because I saw that you had walked away from Jeremy. You were safe then. I didn't know what was happening to me, but all I wanted to do was to protect you, to hold you. It was crazy. I'd only met you an hour before, but then at that moment in the gym locker room, it all came to me. At that moment, I knew. I knew it right then. Do you know what an epiphany is, Cory?"
"It's when everything comes together in your mind. Everything fits and you finally see something that's there, that's real. Right there, in that locker room, I had an epiphany. You came together in my mind. You came together to fit into my life. I'm a stupid kid and I've never had these kinds of feelings before. But I knew that this was so different and so exciting that it had to be real. From that moment on Cory, I was so totally yours.
"But Kevin, you had a girlfriend. You said so at dinner last week."
"I dated, yes, but so did everyone else. I was doing what I felt was normal, what everyone expected me to do. It wasn't until we broke up that I really started to look at what I was doing, how I was lying to myself. That's when I changed. I really wanted to be me. In a way, my ex really helped me.
"I'm glad she did." Cory whispered.
They continued looking into each other's eyes. Time had ceased being.
Cory leaned into Kevin slightly.
"Remember the day before my birthday party when we were just leaving school?" Cory softly asked.
Kevin leaned into Cory.
"Yeah, just before we walked to your house, you got a little embarrassed, didn't you?" Kevin whispered.
"Yeah, you said you were going to come out."
"I meant it, too. I really was going to tell you at my 16th birthday party."
"You really meant it, didn't you? I was so scared then."
"Yeah, I wanted so much to tell you then. And then later on that night in the pool, when I kissed you, I wanted to touch you, to feel your lips on mine, but I chickened out."
Their eyes were unable to move away from each other, clouding over with total longing.
Cory and Kevin each slightly tilted their heads to their left.
"I wanted so much to do this that night," Cory barely audible.
Their lips a fraction of an inch apart, their first real kiss imminent.
"I wish we had done this a long time ago," Kevin just barely breathed out.
As their lips softly joined, Cory felt the softness against his and his mind exploded. Never in his life had he tasted something so wonderful. This was Kevin. Cory wanted this taste so much. He was joining with Kevin, pulling in Kevin's body, pulling in Kevin's soul, to be one being with his own being. He was now complete. He was now one with Kevin. They were together one entity, one being.
As Cory pulled Kevin in closer and tighter, he could feel Kevin's erection under his clothes trying to join with his own.
Cory jumped back instantly. He knew what he had just done.
"Oh God, I'm sorry Kevin. I'm so sorry. I forgot about your rib."
"It's okay, Cory. We just need to take this slow, okay?"
"Hey boys! Dinner's ready."
"Hmmm, let's continue this latter, okay?" Cory laughed.
"Coming!" Cory yelled to the door.
Kevin and Cory looked at each other and then cracked up. They knew the significance of the word.
"Ah, Kevin? If it's alright with you, I'd like to tell Richard."
"Does he know that you're gay?"
"Oh yeah. He's known all along. As a matter of fact, he's been after me to tell you how I've been feeling."
"Really? He's cool with you then?"
"More than just cool, but he doesn't know that we've finally talked."
"Okay. Let's do it, but can we do it together?"
"That's the way it should be. I mean, we are together, right?"
"Forever, just like your bracelet says."
Cory and Kevin bounded down the stairs screeching across the kitchen floor in their stocking feet, almost colliding with Richard.
"Hold it boys. What's gotten into you? Where's the fire?" Richard asked while pulling up his arms in defense.
"Nothing! We're good. Just in a good mood I guess," Cory wheezed out.
"Well, why don't you guys set the table. We're having my world-famous beef stew tonight," Richard chuckled.
While they set the plates and bowls out, Kevin kept swishing his head at Cory toward Richard, trying to get him to say something. Richard was turned around intent on finishing the stew.
Cory grimaced, silently telling Kevin to shut up. Kevin kept it up during the setting of the silverware, but Cory really told Kevin to shut his face with one evil look. Richard was still turned around.
Just as Cory was about to say something finally, Richard turned around.
"Okay guys. It's done, so let's eat," Richard said.
The moment was lost.
Cory was still a little furious with Kevin as he looked at Richard.
"What's the matter Cory? Are you feeling alright? You look a little pale."
"Ah, I'm fine. Just hungry I guess," Cory answered as he sat down, glaring at Kevin.
Kevin sat across from Cory while Richard sat at the end of the table. Richard started dishing steaming stew into his bowl, but he stopped halfway through another ladle full, watching the two boys glancing at each other and then back to him. Richard knew that something was up.
While Richard was looking down at his plate, buttering the cornbread in front of him, Kevin again twitched his head toward Richard. Richard looked up just in time to see Cory silently mouth, 'in a minute.'
"Is something wrong, Cory?"
"Yeah, Kevin keeps smiling at me."
"Well, that's nothing new. I always thought you liked Kevin smiling at you."
"Well, not this way."
Richard glanced at Kevin as Kevin sat up straight, opened his eyes, folded his hands in front of him and tried to put on an angelic face. Richard almost laughed at Kevin. He wasn't buying it.
"So, Kevin. How have you been smiling at my son?" Richard asked with a devilish look countering Kevin's angel.
Kevin's eyes got wide as he knew that he was now in the hot seat.
"Um, like I usually do, I guess," he answered.
"Well, how do you usually smile at him then?"
"RICHARD! Don't embarrass Kevin. How's he supposed to answer that?" Cory spoke up.
"Hey, I'm just asking a simple question," Richard answered as his eyes returned to Kevin.
Cory knew this wasn't working. It's like Richard was trying to force Kevin to tell Cory, or force Cory to tell Kevin.
"So, Kevin, if you're smiling at my son a lot, does that mean that you kind of like him?"
"RICHARD!!! What's going on here?"
"Nothing, Cory, it's just casual dinner conversation. What's gotten into you?"
"Like hell it is. This is a 'Mathews Inquisition.'"
"Yeah, I do like him. I like him a lot," Kevin finally answered trying to defuse Cory.
Cory looked at Kevin wondering where Kevin was going with this. He was hoping that he would be the one to tell Richard, but Kevin seemed to be going there instead. He knew that Richard was badgering this out of him.
"Well, that's settled finally. You like Cory. Now what else should we talk about?" Richard grinned.
Richard knew that either Cory was mad because he was forcing the issue or that Cory was mad because he hadn't let Cory tell him that they had talked. The way the two boys came racing downstairs, Richard suspected that they HAD talked. Either way, Richard was having fun.
"Cory? Do you want to start? We can talk about anything that's on your mind," Richard asked.
Cory was now fuming. He knew exactly where Richard was going with this. He knew that Richard knew that he and Kevin had finally talked. Cory thought that he and Kevin had given it away somehow. Was it the way they looked at each other? He didn't know. Cory knew that Richard knew how he felt about Kevin, but he didn't know if he knew how Kevin felt about him. Maybe he suspected. Cory now knew that Richard was forcing this conversation. He knew that they had talked and wanted for Cory to say so. Cory was NOT going to let Richard get away with this. Richard was NOT going to be leading this conversation. Cory was!
"Yes Cory?" with a severe case of stomach pain as he tried to hold back his laughter.
"Ah, the stove is still on, and I think the rest of the stew is burning."
"Shit!" Richard jumped from his chair to run back to the stove.
Cory quickly looked at Kevin and put his hand up signaling for Kevin to put his hand on the table too. As Kevin slowly put his hand on the table in front of him, Cory took Kevin's hand and held it.
Kevin tried to pull away, not knowing what was going on. Then he smiled, finally figuring it out, and relaxed, still holding onto Cory's hand.
Richard returned from the kitchen. When he saw Cory and Kevin holding hands, he knew that he was right. They had talked, finally.
"Cory. There's nothing wrong with the stove. Nothing was burning, but I think something's getting mighty warm in here," he smiled.
"Richard! You swore. Don't swear," was all Cory had to say.
Richard sat down and they all started to enjoy their dinner. No more pretence, no more holding back. He saw the look in the eyes of both boys. They were one. They were finally a family, a growing one.
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