This story is fiction. The city of Clifton, and the University of Clifton, exist only in my imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. These stories have as their main character a sexually active gay college student. If this is offensive to you, or if it is illegal in your area, or if you are under age, please leave now.
This story involves a search for personal acceptance, worth, and meaning. There is a religious element in these stories. If you don't like that, maybe now is a good time to leave.
My stories develop slowly. If you're in a hurry, this is probably not for you.
Thanks to Colin for editing.
Constructive criticism is welcome on my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bryce, Chapter 24 - Mostly Fraternity
Buoyed by the support he received from Curtis and the other officers of Sigma Alpha Tau, Bryce slept well that Wednesday night, and arose eager to tackle his regular workouts on Thursday morning. He actually ran over to the gym, and was enjoying sweating when Curtis appeared. The two easily fell into their usual routine of helping each other with the various exercises. Bryce decided not to mention the incident yesterday unless Curtis brought it up.
"I forgot to mention, I saw Maddy's ring at the study group yesterday. Nice," he said instead.
Curtis got that goofy grin on his face again. He had been doing that more and more lately whenever Maddy was mentioned.
"Thanks. Nearly exhausted my bank account. I never realized how expensive rings were. Of course, we had to buy both the engagement ring and the wedding rings as a matched set. That's what costs so much. There are all these unexpected things constantly popping up. Girls seem to know about them by instinct," Curtis related, not complaining, but more kind of wondering.
"Maybe they know about them because they made up the rules in the first place," Bryce ventured, but at the same time wondering whether there were some convention about being boyfriends among gays that he did not know about.
"Yeah, maybe," Curtis responded languidly. Obviously, he was not interested in pursuing the topic.
"How's Maddy doing? I mean, you know, handling the loss of her brother? And, I guess, being cut off from her parents as well?" Bryce ventured.
"Getting better," Curtis responded, exhibiting a decisive reaction for the first time. "She started seeing someone at the campus Counseling Center right after the semester started. A Dr. Craycroft. She likes her. I mean Maddy likes Dr. Craycroft. I think it's doing her some good. They asked me to come twice, but most of the time it's just the two of them. But I think Maddy's not as tense as she used to be, and she doesn't break down crying as often."
"Sounds encouraging," Bryce sympathized.
"Yeah. If things continue this well, we're talking wedding. Maybe in June. And we decided over the break we want you in it," Curtis announced.
"Me! How do I rate?" Bryce exclaimed, surprised by the invitation, if that's what this was.
"Well, you're friends with both of us, and besides, you are so photogenic you'll raise the aesthetic level of the wedding photos," Curtis kidded.
"Actually, I think it has something to do with that first encounter between you and Maddy. You remember, when she thought you looked like Bobby," Curtis ventured.
"Boy, do I ever. Scared the shit out of me. I really screwed that up. I'm surprised Maddy wants to be reminded of that," Bryce said.
"This is all tentative. Our plans change just about every time we talk about it. But I think you're kind of a substitute for Bobby."
"Don't freak out. Just hang loose, and we'll see what develops in the spring, okay?" Curtis pled.
"Sure. I definitely don't want to tick off Maddy," Bryce agreed.
After a few minutes of working out silently (except for a few grunts), Bryce contributed, "Damon is going okay with the drinking. He hasn't been drunk once since that time, you know, when Bick tried to rape him."
Curtis chuckled. "Afraid somebody else might try it?"
"No, I don't think that's it. He said he was feeling really great about being accepted. After being invited to pledge, and then accepted by you and Tom and others with the Bick incident, I think he doesn't feel the need any more. He has a lot of emotional baggage from his background to overcome, and I think all that helped," Bryce speculated.
"That, and having a boyfriend," Curtis asserted.
"I .... Well .... Um ...." Bryce stuttered.
Curtis laughed, and slapped him on the back. "Having someone around who cares is important. That's what Maddy keeps telling me, anyway."
Bryce blushed and flubbed his exercise. It was time to hit the showers anyway.
This was the day of the dreaded Milton exam, so Bryce definitely did not want to be late for class, nor did he want to be so stuffed he could not concentrate. Hence, after waking Damon, he had only a light breakfast. He could not help thinking about what Curtis said, though. Was he really so important to Damon? Once the pressure of mid-terms was over, they would have to have a serious talk.
Although Bryce had not put in his usual level of performance at the study group the evening before, he felt confident when he entered the room for the examination in the Milton class. His meeting with Curtis the evening before, and again earlier that morning, restored his sense that all was well with the world. Consequently, he turned in his draft term paper, and got down to business with the exam. He took longer than usual, being one of the last to leave the classroom, but he felt he had done well. Still, as a freshman in an upper division class, he was not sure he was comparing himself with his fellow students or with his high school peers of the previous year. When he left the Stuart-Warren Building, he found several of his classmates hanging around outside, reviewing their performances. Among them were Mike Sandoval and Maddy Moore, so he joined them. After no more than ten minutes of comparison talk, Bryce was convinced that he had done as well as these classmates, which gave him a great sense of accomplishment. In this positive mood, he met Damon for lunch, then, after a brief stop at the dorm, both guys went off to their Biology lab session.
While in lab, Bryce felt his cell vibrate in his pocket. Taking advantage of a moment when he was not busy, he checked his message. It was from Curtis, asking him to come by the Sigma Alpha Tau house later that afternoon. Silently, he showed the message to Damon, shrugging his shoulders to indicate he did not know what that was about. Maybe more fall-out from his confrontation with Mack Campbell the previous day. Nonetheless, when the lab period was over, both friends walked over to the fraternity house. Damon said he wanted to see DuBois anyway. Although he did not say so, what Damon wanted was to ask DuBois about any repercussions from Bryce's conflict with Mack. What were the brothers saying about that? Did they favor Bryce, or perhaps stand by their fraternity brother Mack?
At the house, Damon spotted DuBois as soon as they entered, and went off with his mentor, who was rapidly also becoming a good friend. Once out of earshot of Bryce, Damon began questioning DuBois. He was much relieved at what he found out. DuBois related that, while some of the brothers were uncertain about just what had happened, those who did know were definitely on the side of Bryce, or, more specifically, on the side of Curtis Manning and Tom Blankenship. Mack was admired for his athletic prowess, but he was not liked by many of the brothers. He tended to take a condescending attitude to entirely too many of the brothers when they disagreed with him about anything. Damon discovered that the altercation between Mack and Bryce had been much louder than Bryce realized, and had been overheard by several brothers, who did not appreciate Mack's narrow views, nor did they approve of dressing down a pledge in public like that. The consensus seemed to be that the fraternity had voted to adopt the University anti-discrimination policy, and so they should observe it. Moreover, Tom Blankenship and Curtis Manning were popular and the elected officers of the fraternity, and deserved the support of the brothers. All this made Damon very proud to be pledging this fraternity, and eager to inform his boyfriend of the wide support he enjoyed, even among some who disapproved of homosexuality per se. Loyalty to the fraternity and its officers outweighed their personal preferences, to the benefit of Damon and Bryce.
Bryce, meanwhile, sought out Curtis, who pulled him aside to discuss a new mentor. Curtis lost no time in finding a replacement for Mack. This time, he wanted to let Bryce know who his mentor would be before making it official.
"I don't want a repeat of the situation with Mack," Curtis explained. "I don't think this guy will have any problem with your sexual orientation, or your relationship with Damon."
Bryce grinned. "Don't tell me you found me a gay big brother."
"Not as far as I know," Curtis replied. "There may be a couple of brothers who are gay. I have my suspicions. But they're not out, and I don't want to embarrass anyone by asking or making assumptions. But I think the brother I've chosen will be fair. He's definitely committed to upholding the anti-discrimination policy we adopted. I made certain of that before I asked him about taking Mack's place."
"Okay, so who is this mystery brother?" Bryce asked.
"Keith Hamilton. He's a junior like me. Accounting major. Not the most outgoing brother, but solid. Never misses a meeting or any other fraternity business, and has really taken to that soup kitchen you and Damon introduced us to. He goes down there twice a week, I think. I don't think Keith has an enemy in the house." Curtis laughed. "Maybe not in the entire world."
"Sounds like just what I need after Mack," Bryce responded. "So, when can I meet him?"
"Right away. He's around the house somewhere. He lives here, and is usually around, but I asked him to be available this afternoon especially."
They walked back to the large assembly room, and asked another brother where Keith might be. "Library," they were told. And so it proved. There was a room on the ground floor which had several shelves with mostly reference books like dictionaries, an encyclopedia, an atlas, and the like, a few popular novels, as well as several newspapers scattered about. There, they found Keith reading the Wall Street Journal. When they came into the room, however, he looked up, laid his newspaper aside, and rose to greet them.
"Bryce, this is Brother Keith Hamilton. He'll be your new mentor," Curtis made the introductions.
Keith extended his hand. He had a firm, warm handshake. "I've seen you around," Keith said. "Sorry to hear about your problems with Mack."
"Thanks, Keith, but I think it was his problems with me. I appreciate you taking me on half way through the process like this. I hope I won't be a problem for you," Bryce replied, returning the greeting.
Curtis left them. Keith and Bryce sat down to discuss just where Bryce was in the pledging process. After a few minutes, they decided Bryce needed to get his pledge book, which was in his dorm room, as he had not expected this meeting when he gathered his things for the Biology lab after lunch. Leaving, he encountered Damon. As the two walked back to Clay Hall, Damon shared the results of his conversation with DuBois, which greatly pleased Bryce. For his part, Bryce brought Damon up to snuff as far as his developments were concerned. He told his boyfriend that Keith seemed like a really nice guy, and he did not anticipate any problems. For one thing, Keith was surprised to find that Mack had Bryce do his laundry each week, and informed his pledge that he did not require any such service. After fetching his pledge book, Bryce returned to the SAT house, and completed his discussion with Keith. Wednesday afternoons were not a good time to meet for Keith, so they began searching for another time. When Mondays were mentioned, Bryce said, "I have no regular commitments then, but this coming Monday I have an appointment with the Catholic chaplain at the Newman Center."
Keith looked surprised. "Are you Catholic, then?"
"Yes, I plead guilty," Bryce joked. Then, fearing a new source of conflict, he added, "You seem surprised."
Now it was Keith's turn to be embarrassed. "Well, I kind of am. I mean, I was under the impression that one of the reasons you and Mack did not hit it off was because you were ...." He trailed off, leaving his sentence incomplete.
"Gay?" Bryce supplied. Seeing a nod from Keith, he continued, "That's right. Mack made some very unacceptable remarks about gays, and I could no longer work with him. I thought you knew."
"Well, I sort of did. I mean, about you being gay. I was in the room yesterday when you and Mack had that argument, and overheard part of it, and after you left Mack did some yelling about ... well, never mind the words he used ... about gays," Keith explained.
"So, what's the problem?" Bryce pressed.
"I'm Catholic, too, and, well, I just never thought about a gay person being Catholic. How do you manage it?" Keith elucidated.
Bryce smiled. "I'm not sure about that myself. It's one of the things I'll be talking to Father Miller about. Is this a problem for you?"
"No. No, not at all. I was just surprised. I'll be really interested to see how this all works out," Keith replied.
After that understanding, the two agreed on Tuesdays before the SAT business meetings as their regular time to check on Bryce's progress in pledgeship. Bryce left the meeting with very positive feelings about his future with Sigma Alpha Tau.
He had intended to spend the time between his Biology lab and the History study group preparing for his French exam, which would be first thing Friday morning. Now, it was too late to do much before grabbing a bite to eat, and heading off to the study group. He would just have to burn the midnight oil in this case. It was not as though he had been goofing off all semester, but he did need to review the various works of literature they had covered, along with the development of the French language during the period in question, and related matters. The positive feeling he had after his interview with Keith carried Bryce through his study group, and kept him going until well past midnight. When he finally hit the sack, however, he felt confident that he would do a respectable job on the French mid-term later that morning.
Bryce did not wake up at his usual hour. Being up late interfered with his normal routine. But he had set an alarm just in case, and it was a good thing he had. He arose in time to shower and then get Damon up. They skipped breakfast that morning, and Bryce went directly off to do battle with la literature française. Just as the previous day, he was one of the last to leave the classroom, but when he did, he felt he had done well. As he had no real friends in that class, he did not stop to carry out a post mortem, but went on to the cafeteria to make up for his skipped breakfast. There, by previous agreement, he met Damon.
While they were eating, Josh Young, the officer of the GLBT Club, again approached them. He said to Bryce, "I heard you had some harassment from that fraternity you're pledging. You should let us help. We can't let homophobes get away with their antics."
"Your information is only partly correct," Bryce replied. "It's true, my former mentor turned out to be homophobic, but it's been taken care of. Curtis Manning, the Pledge Master, relieved him of that role, and now I have a new mentor, who is very accepting."
"Really?" Josh responded, clearly surprised. "They took care of everything there at the fraternity?"
"Yes. I'm really satisfied with the arrangements the officers have made."
"I am totally surprised," Josh said, as he wandered off.
The rest of the day went pretty well, until that evening. The party which would normally have been held on the Friday before fall break had been rescheduled for this Friday. Naturally, the pledges were expected to be on hand to do the drudge work, making certain all went smoothly. Even before Bryce and Damon arrived at the SAT house, however, they were made aware of the fact that some of the other fraternities were upset at the change in schedule. They did not want the extra competition from SAT this Friday. When the two arrived at the house, they found Tom Blankenship and several other brothers huddled together. They were considering calling off the party, as some of the other fraternities spoke of appealing to the Pan-Hellenic Council, the body representing all the fraternities and sororities, which coordinated activities. The pledges got busy preparing the house for the party and making sure there was food and drink, even though they were not certain there would be a party. However, the officers eventually decided to go ahead, on the principle that it was better to brave it out than to admit their failure to observe the social amenities.
The party was not a success. The brothers and their dates were present, but there were very few paying guests, which meant that the fraternity would go deeper in the hole than usual to pay for this social activity. The sparse response from outside the fraternity did mean that the pledges were not as harried as usual, actually finding time to eat and drink enough, and even to dance a few times before the evening ended earlier than usual. The real fly in the ointment as far as Bryce and Damon were concerned was the presence at the party of both Mack Campbell and Bick Lomax. They were rude and condescending to their dates and to some others, so it was not just the two pledges, but they seemed to bear the brunt of the attentions of the two dissident brothers. They made it a point to make continuous demands on the pledges, and especially on these two, ordering drinks and food just about every time the guys settled down to enjoy themselves. They never addressed either Bryce or Damon by name, but always called them simply "Pledge," employing the condescending tone of a harsh taskmaster. The two gritted their teeth and carried out their responsibilities, and were pleased when several brothers, including Curtis, thanked them for not allowing that harassment to explode into an incident. On the way home, Damon suggested that it had been the intention of the two hostile brothers to provoke an outburst from them. On consideration, Bryce agreed.
The real killer was that the next morning was the regular time for the brothers and pledges of SAT to police the highway leading to the airport, and that would begin at seven as usual. When Bryce and Damon arrived at the fraternity house that Saturday morning, they found most of the brothers in a foul mood after their social gaffe with the party, and then the early rising time. It seems no one had adequately thought out the situation when the brothers voted to have their party on the Friday after returning from break, and now everyone was grousing and bitching, when they were not half asleep. They carried out their responsibilities, although there were some absences among the brothers. All the pledges were there, fearing the consequences of not showing up. Bryce noted that neither Mack Campbell nor Bick Lomax put in service time on that Saturday morning, although both had been at the party, where they had made their excessive demands on the pledges, especially Bryce and Damon. As they gathered to return to the house, Bryce was pleased to note that Tom Blankenship was taking note of who was missing. He thought the next business meeting would be eventful.
In addition to all that, this Saturday was an away game for the football team, so there was an intramural soccer game scheduled that afternoon between SAT and another fraternity. After catching a few winks and a light lunch, Bryce and Damon dutifully showed up. Mack was still the captain of the fraternity team. His conflict with Bryce had not changed that. In this capacity, he decided that Bryce would sit out the game, but kept Damon in. Damon was much improved over his first attempt, but was clearly having problems keeping up. Still, Mack stuck by his assignments. In part because of this, and in part because of the party the night before followed by the highway work early that morning, SAT was putting in a pretty poor showing. They were down 3-0 at the midpoint. At that time, the other brothers demanded that Bryce be allowed to play. With bad grace, Mack gave in, but not without making a comment about wimps and special treatment. When play resumed, Bryce set out to do his best, but found himself blocked, not by the opposite team, but by Mack, every time he thought he might have a chance. Towards the end of the game, Bryce at last had the ball, and was making his way down the field, when Mack homed in on him from one side. Rather than assisting Bryce, however, Mack kicked him in the shin, causing him to collapse and loose the ball, which Mack took over and ran with. However, while Bryce rubbed his shin, and limped to his feet, the other side captured the ball from Mack. Bryce was standing to one side, still limping a bit, as the opposing player approached, heading the other way down the field. Without hesitating, Bryce sprang into action, stealing the ball back and resuming his progress to the goal. When Mack threatened to cut him off again, two of his team mates blocked Mack. Bryce made the only point SAT scored that afternoon. The team lost 5-1, but at least it was not a shut-out.
On the way back to the fraternity house, Bryce was still limping some, but dismissed it as not serious. The other fraternity brothers, however, loudly criticized Mack. He attempted to defend himself, and even to make out that Bryce had somehow prevented him from scoring, but the others would not buy that. At the house, Bryce and Damon both were feted, while Mack continued to be criticized. Keith Hamilton had been at the match only as a spectator, but he took advantage of a moment when he could speak to Bryce in private.
"I'm a total klutz when it comes to anything athletic," he admitted, "but even I could see that Mack was playing against you as much as against the other team. This will come up at the meeting on Tuesday."
"Don't bother for my sake," Bryce said, wishing to avoid creating problems for the fraternity.
"I won't. I'll do it for SAT's sake."
Damon, too, received his share of praise. DuBois had played that afternoon, although he was at best a mediocre player. He and Damon immediately grabbed beers after returning to the house. DuBois sat with his pledge, and congratulated Damon. "I could tell you were having some problems out there. Hell, everyone could tell. I remember what it was like my freshman year, when I had never played this game before. Obviously, Mack kept you in there just to make you look bad. It backfired. Everyone saw what he was doing, and knew you were doing your best."
"My best wasn't good enough," Damon replied. "We lost."
"No one is blaming you. Mack was the reason we lost, and everyone knows it. He let his thing with Bryce poison the game. And, after all, it's supposed to be a game, not a life or death struggle. Sure, we would have liked to win, but I think we all know we saw something more important out there this afternoon than winning a soccer match. We saw two pledges doing their best for the fraternity, and a brother allowing his biases and bad temper to screw it up. We won't forget that when it comes time to vote on you guys," DuBois assured Damon.
"You know," Damon said, "every time there's a problem here at the fraternity, you guys come out better than before. Thanks."
DuBois just grinned.