©Copyright 2005 Julien Gregg
Edited by Bruce
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author. This story is completely fiction. The characters depicted in this story exist exclusively in the imagination of the author. Any resemblance to an actual person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. For a list of my other stories, original and fan fiction, please visit my personal website.
I took a full step back when he said it, and I heard
Phillip gasp beside me. I didn't know what to say, and my stomach was now
threatening to expel the spaghetti that I'd eaten earlier. I wanted to crawl
under a rock and hide, but at the same time I wanted to scream at him that he
was a bigot that didn't deserve a son in the first place. I was shaking with a
mixture of fear and rage as I did my best to glare back at him. I saw my
father's face as if it was superimposed over his, and then I really got angry.
I wanted to scream at him so badly that I had to mentally remind myself that I
was deeply emotionally involved with his son who was standing beside me.
"Paul, shut your mouth and get in the house," said Tom from the open door. "Don't ever let me hear you talking that way to Dustin again."
"You would defend the fag," said Phillip's father.
"You let your son hang out with the houseful of them across the alley. You and
Shirley are cracked pots."
"I think it might actually be time for you to leave our house, Paul," said Shirley, coming up behind Tom. "I can't believe that you're my brother."
"Well, one thing is for sure," said Paul, looking back at Phillip, "my son isn't staying in this city one more night."
"I beg to differ, Paul," said Tom. "I've talked with Meg about this, and she assures me that the judge's order is valid. You aren't leaving this house with Phillip."
"Dustin, I'm sorry about this," said Shirley, coming out onto the porch. "Could you please take Phillip back to the apartment while we settle this?"
"That fag isn't taking my son anywhere," yelled Paul as he
glared at me again.
"Go, Dustin," said Tom, putting his hand on Paul's arm to restrain him.
"Come on," said Phillip as he opened the passenger door of my truck. "Get me out of here, Dustin. Please!"
I threw the hateful Paul one last glance before walking around to the driver's side of my truck and getting in. I looked at Phillip as I started the truck, and his face was a mask of horror and pain. I wanted so badly to comfort him, but I knew that the best thing I could do was get him away from his father. I was still shaking from the encounter. I heard Paul yelling more insults at us as I drove away from the house.
We were silent throughout the entire trip back to the apartment. Phillip stared out the window, and I was trying very hard to calm myself back down. I wondered why I'd associated Paul with my father. I'd never had a confrontation quite like that one with my own father, but I was angry with him for kicking me out of his life. Maybe I was really angry over his dying without ever being able to at least try to mend my relationship with him. My father was gone, and there was no way for me to say the things that I wanted to say to him. I just hadn't known how angry I really was with him until that night.
When we reached the apartment, Phillip didn't say a word. He took his bag of clothes and walked into the building with me right behind him. I followed him up the stairs and into the apartment where Charlie was waiting for us. He looked surprised to see Phillip, and I'm sure that's why he didn't ask me why I left. He must have noticed the look on Phillip's face, because his expression went from surprise to concern.
"Hey guys," he said, looking from Phillip to me and back
again. "What's up?"
"My father is insane," moaned Phillip as he sank down onto the couch, dropping his bag at his feet. "Dustin, I'm so sorry."
"You don't have anything to be sorry for," I said, sitting down beside him.
"I shouldn't have called you and asked you to bring me my stuff," said Phillip. "I should have asked Ben to come and get it. My dad isn't exactly happy with Ben, either."
"What's going on?" asked Charlie, looking confused as he stood before us.
"My dad showed up today," said Phillip. "He threw a fit because Tommy and Steve were at Shirley and Tom's, and when he found out that I'd been staying with Dustin, he really hit the roof."
"I don't get it," said Charlie.
"He called Tommy and Steve fags and threw a fit until they
left," continued Phillip. "Then he started yelling at me and calling me all
kinds of names. He said that he knew a place where they could fix me, and I
was going there even if it killed me."
"What about your mom?" I asked. "Tom said that he'd talked to her."
"I called my mom as soon as I could," explained Phillip. "She told me that my dad couldn't take me. She already has a restraining order against him, and the judge added me and Jason to it, too."
"Jason?" asked Charlie, sitting down on Phillip's other side.
"My little brother," explained Phillip. "Carl is eighteen, and he's just like dad. He hates me, too."
He had told me that he and his brothers were very close, and I wondered why he'd said nothing about Carl and his dad being against his sexuality before. I didn't say anything about it, because I figured that he was only trying to put a pretty picture over a bad situation when he'd first told me about them. I was just glad that Charlie and I really were close in spite of my sexuality.
"Your dad was going to take you to a place where they claim to fix homosexuals?" I asked. The very thought made my skin crawl.
"Well, that's what he thought he was going to do," said Phillip as someone knocked on the door. His face nearly imploded with fear.
"I'll get it," said Charlie, getting up to look through the little hole in the door. His shoulders relaxed as he opened the door to let Ben into the apartment.
"Phil, my dad sent me over here to see if you're all right," said Ben as soon as Charlie stepped aside to let him in.
"Where's my dad?" asked Phillip.
"They arrested your dad for violating the restraining order," said Ben. "You're mom is flying here in the morning."
"I'm all right," said Phillip. "But I'm staying here with Dustin."
"Yeah, my dad said that you probably should," said Ben. "Your mom said to keep you away from the house, and she was happy to hear that your dad doesn't know where Dustin lives."
"Does she know about me and Dustin?" asked Phillip.
"Oh yeah," he replied smiling. "She said that Dustin is your business, and your father had no right to talk to your boyfriend that way."
"She's so cool," sighed Phillip. "Is Jason coming with her?"
"And Carl," said Ben.
"Great," Phillip said sarcastically. "What Dad didn't do, Carl will."
"I don't think so," said Ben, sitting down on the other side of Phillip. "Carl is really mad at your dad right now, and when I talked to him the only thing he wanted to know was if your dad hurt you."
"Yeah, but he hates gay people, Ben," insisted Phillip. "He basically told me that I'm not his brother anymore because I'm a no good fag."
"I don't know anything about that," said Ben, "but he seemed very worried about you when I talked to him. He said that when he sees your dad, he's going to tell him off."
"Well, my decision is made," said Phillip. "I know which parent I want to live with now."
"Yeah, Jason doesn't want to live with your dad, either," said Ben.
Ben stayed for a little while, and Charlie and I left him and Phillip alone to talk. It felt wrong to be sitting in on their discussion. Charlie and I both knew what family problems were like, and I, for one, knew far too well what outsiders stepping in was like. We went to Charlie's room, and he showed me all of the stuff he'd gotten when he went to Storyville University to talk to an adviser.
He was trying to just transfer everything from the school in Carbondale to Storyville. So far, his adviser at Storyville U told him that it was going to be simple. Charlie told me that most of the classes he was supposed to take next semester were offered here, but there were two that were only similar. He said that he'd get along all right, though.
"When are you going to go and talk to them about your classes?" asked Charlie as we sat on his bed.
"I still haven't decided if I want to go to the university or to the community college," I replied. "Sure, it would be nice to have my degree, but it would also be very expensive. Besides, I know what I want to do for a career. I've already got it started. I just need basic classes to make sure I can keep my head above water."
"With Shirley as your partner, you should do fine," said Charlie. "So, what classes are you thinking about?"
"Botany, for one," I replied. "And I will need a few accounting and business classes also. Most of what I will need is directly involved in the work side of the business."
"You can get all of that at Washington," said Charlie. "But you need to make an appointment to go and talk to one of their councilors soon, Dustin. August isn't far off."
"Yeah," I said, nodding. "I'm calling the school in the morning to try and set up an appointment for Monday. I don't have lawns to take care of until after noon on Monday, so I should be able to go in there in the morning without looking and smelling like I rolled around in a grass pile."
"So Jason and Danny start working with us on Monday, right?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Yeah, and six more lawns start next week, too," I replied, smiling. I was very happy with the way things were going with my lawn business.
"Have you worked out the new schedule?" he asked.
"We'll still be doing two lawns a day for four days," I
replied. "I'll just take a third, and one of you can take a third on one of
those days, too."
"I'll take the extra," he said. "So the new lawns are going to be the ones that you split, right?"
"Right," I replied. "There are two for both Danny and Jason, and two extra. With you taking one and me taking the other, we're set."
"What about masonry?" asked Charlie.
"Well, that is going to be something we'll tell each of our clients that we offer now," I explained. "When someone orders a walk or driveway, Jason and Danny will take that. One or more of us will go with them to help out and learn."
"Sounds easy enough," he agreed. "What about flowers and trees?"
"I'm supposed to go with Shirley to look at an old greenhouse over on Center Street," I said. "She's going to let me know when. She said that it needs a little work, but with all of us pitching in, we could have it ready in no time."
"But you haven't had any classes," he said.
"Well, Shirley knows all about flowers, trees, shrubs and bushes," I reminded. "She's going to teach us all the basics as we go along. I'll take my classes, and then everything will be available."
"What about money?" asked Charlie. "Are you getting a loan?"
"We're going to banks starting Monday morning," I replied. "Shirley will co-sign for the loan, so it shouldn't be a problem. We're also getting business cards, professional fliers and an ad in the paper. We're talking about a radio spot and a local television commercial, but that's still a way off."
"Sounds like we're all set," he said.
"We will be if everything goes the way we want it to," I replied as Phillip came into the bedroom.
He sat beside me on the bed, and I put my arm around him. He sagged against me, and Charlie looked at him with sympathetic eyes. I didn't know what to say to him about all of this. I had been under the impression that his father was comfortable with his sexuality until I'd actually saw him in person. I didn't know if Phillip had just tried to make it sound better than it was, like he had with his brother, or if this was a new twist that even he didn't know about.
"My mom and brothers will be here in the morning," he said. "I don't have lawns tomorrow, so I'll just go to Tom and Shirley's in the morning to wait for my family."
"Well, if you need to talk, just call my cell," I told him, holding him tighter.
"Dustin, I'm really sorry for what my dad said to you tonight," he said.
"Don't worry about that," I replied. "My own mother has said worse to me than he said. I'm not worried about it, Phillip. I'm worried about you."
"Don't worry about me," he sighed. "I can't believe that my dad did this, but at least I know that he can't do anything to me."
"Well, just remember that I'm here if you need to talk," I said.
"Right now, I'd just like to go to bed and try to sleep," he said.
We said goodnight to Charlie and headed off to my room. Neither of us said a word as we got undressed and slipped under the covers. He scooted close to me, and I wrapped my arms around him and held him in silence. I didn't know what to say to him, and I don't know if he knew what to say, either. If all he needed was to be held then that was what I would do for him.
The next thing I knew, the sun was shining through the window, the alarm was going off, and Phillip wasn't in bed. I must have fallen asleep while I was holding him. I scrubbed the sleep out of my eyes with my fists and swung my legs over the side of the bed, resting my feet on the floor as I stretched. I could hear the shower running, so I figured that Phillip was in the bathroom. I knew that Charlie wasn't awake yet. He never got out of bed before eleven on days that he didn't have to mow.
I slipped on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt before padding down the hall to the kitchen for a glass of juice. I was putting bread in the toaster when Phillip came out of the bathroom. He smiled weakly at me before heading back into my room to get dressed. I added two more slices of bread to the toaster and put another glass of juice on the counter as soon as he was out of sight.
I was getting the butter and jam out of the fridge when he
came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me. I stood back up straight and
turned in his arms to put my arms around him, too. We held each other tightly
in front of the open refrigerator for a few minutes. He clung to me, and I
clung right back to him. I knew how hard being rejected by a parent was, and I
wanted to be there for him in any way that I could, even if it was only a pair
of arms to hold him.
"I love you, Dustin," he said, and I froze. He'd said that he didn't want to say that he loved me, because he didn't know what love was. Now he'd said the words. I didn't know quite what to think at that moment. I wasn't sure if he was feeling something that he thought was love just because of what was happening or if it was genuine. I knew that I was in love with him, but I'd refrained from saying the words to him out of fear of scaring him to death.
"I'm sorry," he said, pulling away from me and turning his head.
"Hey," I said, putting my hand on his shoulder. "What are you sorry for? I'm the one who's too shocked to say anything."
"But I shouldn't have said it," he said. "I know that you probably don't love me, but I really do love you, Dustin. I didn't know for sure until my dad screamed at you. That's when I knew that I was in love with you."
"Come here," I said, putting my arms around him again. "I'm sorry for scaring you, Phillip. I haven't said anything for a while, because I was afraid of scaring you. I love you, too."
"I'm so happy to hear you say that," he said, squeezing me tighter. "I was so scared that I was going to have to leave last night, Dustin. I didn't want to leave with my dad and never see you again. Then when he did what he did, I was so sure that you wouldn't want me anymore."
"Hey," I said, pulling back to look him in the eye. "I love you, Phillip. I don't care what your dad has to say about it. The only person's opinion of me that matters is yours. Don't ever think that I'd walk away from you just because someone had something to say about us."
I held him tight again, and then we sat down to eat our toast. We talked about what he was going to say to his mother about us if she asked, and I told him not to worry about what I thought about it. She was his mother, and he had to be honest with her. She already knew that we were together, so I didn't think it was going to be a huge problem.
He was still worried about Carl, though. He did tell me that he'd only tried to convince himself that Carl would come around when he'd told me that he was close to both of his brothers. His father had shocked even him, because he insisted that his father had never said anything bad about his sexuality before that day. What had happened hurt Phillip in more ways than just one, and I felt so sorry for him. I knew all about being let down by a father. I still couldn't figure out how to let go of the anger that I held for my own father.
After we'd eaten, he went to Tom and Shirley's to wait for his mother, and I went to my first lawn of the day. I'd decided to get my work done as early as possible, so I could be there for Phillip when he needed me later. There wasn't much for me to do on the lawns that day. Both were just strict mowing jobs, and I got them done very quickly. I did take the time to explain that more workers would be joining me the following week and that I'd have even more lawns to do with a lot more services to offer in the coming weeks. Both of my customers were very happy to hear that I'd be adding flowers, trees and bushes to my list of services, and they both seemed interested when I mentioned masonry. It seemed that Mrs. Johnson would be our first customer who wanted the works.
She told me that she'd been after her grandson to fix her
walk in the front of the house to the sidewalk, and she would really love to
have flowers on either side of the walk when it was finished. Her bushes along
the front of the house had all died, so I promised that as soon as I had
everything in place to plant new ones for her, she'd be my first customer in
I talked with her a bit about what I needed to take care of before I could start the project that she wanted. She seemed very interested in everything I had to say, and she offered me a glass of lemonade while we chatted about the greenhouse. I told her about Jason and Danny joining my staff, and I told her about Shirley becoming my business partner. That's when I explained that Shirley was the one with all of the knowledge about plants and flowers. I told her that as soon as we got the greenhouse ready and had seedlings to transfer, she'd have her flowers. I didn't know about bushes just yet, but I promised her that I would check into that and get back to her when I knew more.
Mr. Peterson was interested in a backyard patio. It took me a few minutes to make sure that he wasn't talking about a wooden deck, and that got me thinking about decks. We talked for a while about what he wanted, and I took a few notes. That way, I'd be able to discuss his project with Jason and Danny and have something to show them while I tried to explain what Mr. Peters wanted. I didn't know how soon we'd be able to start the patio for him, but I promised that I'd have Jason or Danny get in touch with him later in the coming week to talk about prices and materials that he wanted used.
I stopped at Speedy Burger for lunch, and I noticed that I hadn't even brought my cell phone with me that day. Then I started to worry about Phillip again. I worried that he might have tried to call me, and I didn't have the phone. As I ate my lunch, I thought about the fact that he'd said he was in love with me. I don't think it had really sunk into my mind that he'd actually said the words yet. I was still in shock over it all. He'd said he loved me, and I'd told him that I was in love with him, too. There was so much more that I wanted to say to him about it all. I could have kicked myself for not having the phone with me.
I got back to the apartment as Charlie was heading off to Storyville University to talk with them more about his classes. He told me that Phillip hadn't returned to the apartment at all, so I just went upstairs to shower. I was just coming out of my bedroom, fully dressed again, when someone knocked on the front door. I instantly thought of Keith, and I was prepared to inform him that he was not welcome to knock on the door any time he wanted. However, I got the shock of my life when I opened the door and was faced with my own mother.
She stood there, looking at me for a few minutes. I was too shocked to say one word to her at first. I had thought she was in Texas by then, and to see her standing at my door, of all places, was more than just a little shock. What was she doing there? I wondered. She'd signed all of the papers that Mike had drawn up. The judge had granted my emancipation, and I was a legal adult. There wasn't much she could do to stop anything that I had planned, and I hated that I was so suspicious of my own mother.
"Hello, Dustin," she said after standing there, staring at me for a few minutes. "I know you probably don't want to see me, but I really want to talk with you."
Feedback is always appreciated. I try to answer all email, but flames, of course, are ignored. Chapter 13 is in editing phase and will be posted as soon as editing is finished. I hope you enjoyed this chapter of Dustin.