I had been awake for hours and had risen quite early. It was the most restless night I had had since Tony first arrived on my doorstep. With the events of the previous evening I had been unable to stop my brain for working. My head had been filled with unanswered questions, plans, trying to work out where we went from here.
I looked at the bedside clock - nearly 7.00 and went for a shower. There was no sound from Tony and Dave's room as I passed to the bathroom and still no noise as I returned to my bedroom. I finished dressing and headed for the stairs. The boys' room was still silent, so I knocked gently.
"You two awake?" I asked through the closed door and it was Tony's voice I heard in reply. "It's time you were getting up," I called and informed them that I was going to start breakfast.
A short time later I heard the heard the shower begin to run and guessed that they would soon be down and eager for a hearty breakfast, I knew I was. I began to prepare the morning meal and was stopped by a knock at the front door, which I went to answer.
"Tony," I called upstairs.
"Tony!" I called again.
This time an answer.
"Down in a minute, John," came back the reply.
I took my visitor into the living room and offered a cup of coffee, which was politely refused. A few moments later, Tony came bounding down the stairs and into the living room dressed in the shirt from hell - the hideous bright orange creation with the lime green cuffs and purple buttons, a large grin across his face.
"I didn't know you'd bought this. Thanks, John. I thought you hated it."
""I did - I still do, actually, but we'll discuss it later. Right now you have a visitor."
Tony turned to look into the room and I saw the look of surprise and fear all coming into his face in rapid succession.
"What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you."
"How did you know I was here?"
"Your mother told me. She said she'd been to see you last night."
"Is Mom okay?"
"Of course she's okay. She's at home. I said I wanted to come and see you myself."
"Yeah? Well, I'm sorry, but I don't want to see you."
"Tony, please, this isn't easy for me."
"Then you don't have to stay."
"I'm not leaving, Tony - not without you. Your mother wants you home. We can talk then."
"I'm not going anywhere with you."
"Now listen to me, young man, I am still your father and you'll do as I say."
"Maybe I would have done at one time, but not anymore. You relinquished the right to be my father the day you threw me out of the family home"
"You know why I did that."
"Yeah, I know why - because I'm gay and you can't handle it."
At that moment, Dave arrived, a big smile across his face.
"Great shirt, John, wish I had one like that," then he noticed Tony's father. "Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt anything."
"Come on, you," I said, "let's leave them alone."
"No!" It was Tony. "Don't go - my father is just leaving."
Tony stood facing his father, but his father made no effort to leave the room.
"I'm not going anywhere without you, Tony. I promised your mother I would bring you home and home is where you're coming."
"Sorry, but I'm perfectly happy here, with John and Dave."
"Don't be ridiculous, boy - go get your things."
Tony was angry. I could see it in his face and hear it in his voice and that anger was about to be unleashed.
"How dare you come here and tell me what I can and cannot do. Do you know what it's been like for me these past few weeks? Where were you then? Did you come looking for me, make any effort at all to find me. For all you knew or cared I was dead. Well let me save you the bother of caring - I'm staying put. Tell your friends I'm dead, do whatever you want, but I'm staying here with John and Dave, at least for the time being; and when I do leave, it won't be to return to a home in which I'm not wanted."
"Your mother wants you home."
"I know - she told me, but I can't return even for her, someone who will at least make the effort to accept me for what I am."
"I can't pretend to understand. It was a shock to find out my son was gay. I've never been particularly fond of homosexuals - never understood them. I suppose finding out my son was one - well, it made me angry. I didn't understand - was it something I'd done? All sorts of things went trough my head. What I did, I perhaps did for the wrong reasons, but I can't change that and I don't expect you to forgive me, any more that I can change my reasons or my opinions. I don't like what you are. I despise what you are and I hate it that my son feels he has no other choice but to admit to being a homosexual."
"I make no apologies for what I am, but I am still the same person. I am still Tony - your son. That will never change. Your son is gay, Dad, I'm just sorry that you can't accept it, so I guess we have nothing further to say to one another."
They stood in silence for a few moments, almost oblivious to the fact that Dave and I were there, until Tony's father suddenly turned to Dave.
"You must be Dave," he said.
Dave almost choked at being spoken too, but nodded.
"I'm afraid I don't know much about you, but my wife tells me that you're Tony's boyfriend, is that right?"
Dave almost choked again.
"I guess so, yes."
"I can't say I'm exactly thrilled to meet you and I don't know the full story, but I know, by what my wife tells me, that you looked out for Tony and I thank you for that."
"I love him. I would never do anything to hurt him," said Dave.
"Love? A pretty strong word, don't you think? How long have you known each other?"
Tony's father sighed and shook his head.
"This is ridiculous." He turned to face Tony again. "Look, I'm not standing here arguing, get your things and we'll be on our way."
"I'm going nowhere with you," spat Tony.
I felt it was time to intervene. Things seemed to have reached a stalemate.
"Tony's more than welcome to stay here," I said.
Tony's father acknowledged my presence.
"I thank you for the kindness you have shown my son, but he is fifteen years old. He is a minor and he belongs with his family - not in a ... den of iniquity."
"If you're going to have a go at anyone, have a go at me, not John, or Dave. If it wasn't for them I may well be dead now. They saved me from the horrors I have been subjected to, which are all down to you having thrown me out because I didn't fit in with your idea of what a son should be. It's not been an easy few weeks and it's helped me grow up faster. I've seen things I wouldn't want anyone to see, felt things I wouldn't want anyone to feel and I've learnt that I can take care of myself. I may need a few friends along the way, like Dave and John, but I certainly don't need you. Try to take me home and I'll leave again - this time of my own accord."
Silence again, father and son weighing up the other,
"Perhaps you should go home, Tony?" I heard my words, but they made me jump as I realized I had said them out loud.
"Do you want me to leave?" Tony asked, spinning round to face me.
"No, of course not, but perhaps you and your father can work out your differences better at home."
"If you want me to go, John, just say and I'll leave - but, please, don't expect me to go anywhere with a man who can't stand the sight of me."
"I never said that," said Tony's father, drawing Tony's attention away from me.
"You didn't have to, your actions said it all for you - throwing me out onto the streets, refusing my telephone call...."
"Please stop it, both of you," it was Dave's voice and all eyes turned towards him, tears falling down his face.
"I would have given anything for my father to love me when he found out I was gay, but he didn't - instead he beat me. At least your father didn't beat you - he just threw you out. You have a chance to go home, why not take it? We can still see each other, nothing will change, I can't do that with my father - I hate him and he hates me, but you have a chance to be a family, don't either of you let pride stand in the way."
And with that, Dave ran from the room, his footsteps loud and echoing as he ran up the stairs.
"Now look what you've done," spat Tony, who turned to follow his friend.
Tony's father headed for the door and I followed him, he opened the front door and stepped out into the drive and we walked onto the street where Tony's father had parked his car.
"I can see my coming here was a waste of time. I tried, that's all I can do and, yes, I did it for the sake of my wife. I do love my son, I shall always love him, but you may find that hard to believe, but I cannot accept him as he is and I'm not sure I want to even try."
"You're making a mistake," I said.
"Am I? Perhaps, time will tell."
Tony's father climbed into his car and started up the engine. At that moment Dave ran from the house followed by Tony.
"What's going on," I asked as Dave hurtled past me.
"He thinks it's all his fault - that if it wasn't for him I'd go home, he said he's leaving, John. I have to stop him."
Tony ran after Dave and I followed and as we ran into the street there was a screech of breaks and Dave was thrown across the hood of the car. He flew into the air and landed in the road behind the car and we ran towards him.
Tony's father climbed quickly from his vehicle and ran towards the figure lying on the ground.
"Leave him alone," screamed Tony, as he arrived at the scene.
The car had come to a stop and a dazed and bewildered driver climbed from the vehicle.
"He just ran out in front of me, I couldn't stop," he shouted, as he ran to join Tony and his father where Dave lay. "Please, God, tell me he's still alive."
But Dave wasn't moving, he lay in the street twisted and broken in death.
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