Chapter 55: Our Dreams Don't Fit On Ballots
Toby closed his eyes tightly and tried to keep his breathing under control. He was shaking his head, extremely disappointed in the way he had played today. Match point down, he knew he had to continue to hit the ball they way he had been, hard and deep. He remembered a saying he had heard on television while watching a tennis match, "Fortune favors the brave."
He stepped up to the baseline, got in a ready position and again told himself to go for it. His opponent served the ball to his backhand and Toby went for a winner as he rocketed the ball up the line. He knew before it landed that it was going to be just wide of the line. His opponent signaled the ball was out and looked over and smiled to a few of his teammates who were watching. Toby jogged to the net and smiled like he always did, whether he felt like it. Win or lose, he always said, "Good match."
"For sure." His opponent said.
Toby walked to the bench and shook his head again. He saw his coach approaching him and smiled. He could tell by Coach Williams' demeanor that he wasn't happy. He sat down next to Toby, "You want to talk about what happened?"
"Not really," Toby smirked, "but I can tell you want to."
"Of course I do. We're about a week away from the championships and you lost a match you should have won. I think there's a lot to talk about."
"I just made a lot of errors. Think of it as pre tournament nerves. I'll be fine."
"It's none of my business, but you've looked very preoccupied lately. You can't focus and play good tennis if you've got issues in your personal life. Maybe you should spend this week figuring out how to solve those problems and then let the tennis fall into place."
Toby nodded, "I think you're right."
"Hey." Jack smiled as he approached the counter of the ice cream parlor.
"Hey, what are you doing here?" Tim asked.
"I actually came to ask you something."
"I'm very scared."
"I want to know if you're coming to my graduation?"
"Oh, uhhh...when is it again?"
"It's like a month away, but I want to make sure you have time to clear your schedule for me." Jack smiled
"Right," Tim smiled back, "yeah I'll come. I just need a specific date and time."
"Are you excited about getting out of high school?"
"Oh yes. I can't wait to get to college and go to parties and do all that kind of stuff. It's gonna be awesome to turn 18."
"It's not all it's cracked up to be. Trust me." Tim said.
Jack shrugged, "It will be for me. I got to get home or dad will probably go ballistic on me," Jack said rolling his eyes, "I'll call to remind you about the graduation as it gets closer."
"He fancies you." Jon said from behind Tim.
"Don't remind me."
"I think it's kind of cute actually."
"Gross. He's underage."
"I didn't say to do anything with him," Jon said, "I just said I think it's cute that he likes you, that's all. Too bad he doesn't know he has no chance."
Tim spun around quickly, "What does that mean?"
"I just meant you're sort of taken now."
Tim laughed, "Am I?"
"I thought so." Jon said.
"You don't mean you do you?"
"Apparently not." Jon said walking away.
"Hey hey," Tim said following him to the back of the store, "I just thought we were...having fun I guess."
"Yes, that's all it was." Jon said with a hint of bitterness in his voice.
Tim laughed again, "I'm sorry, but come on, this is really funny. Who would have ever thought that we'd be in this situation, especially with you being the one who got his feelings hurt."
"What does that mean?"
"You think because we've fooled around a couple of times, I don't still think you're an asshole?"
"I can't tell if you're joking." Jon said confused.
"I'm half joking. I just...I don't know I don't even know what to say cause I honestly didn't think we'd get to this point."
"Fine," Jon said turning away from Tim, "you should go back to the front and make sure no customers are waiting."
"Jon I'm sorry."
"Hey Mom." Eric said into his phone.
"What's wrong with you?" Eric said immediately on hearing his mother's voice.
"It's been an absolutely tiring week at the store and I'm just exhausted; Which is why I'm calling."
"Do you need me to bring you something?"
"Actually, I want you to take something from me. I want to know if you could pick up Jamie and take him for tonight."
Eric was suddenly reminded of the conversation he and his mother had had when they had last spoken in person. Feelings of bitterness returned to Eric's mind as he remembered how his mother used Jamie as an excuse not to have him and Cooper over for dinner, "Uh...I guess if you just want me to."
"I would appreciate it."
"Fine. I have some stuff to do around the house, I'll be there around six."
"Thank you. I'll see you soon."
"How's your mother doing?" Cooper asked as he walked into the room just as Eric was closing his cell phone.
"How'd you know it was her?"
"Cause whenever you talk to her on the phone you sound like you're being lectured."
"That's just cause she annoys me."
"Your mother doesn't annoy you."
Eric gave him an exasperated look and Cooper returned it, "Are you still mad about the whole dinner thing?"
"You're not?" Eric shot back.
"It'd be nice, but it's not a big deal. Your mom already loves me. All moms do. Remember when she touched my cock ring?"
Eric rolled his eyes, "Well she doesn't like you anymore. She probably imagines us doing horrible things."
"I'd like us to actually do some of those horrible things." Cooper smirked.
"She wants Jamie to stay the night here tonight."
"Uh...why are you so happy about that? You never greet me with that enthusiasm."
"Do you want me to?" Cooper asked raising his eyebrow.
"No, please don't." Eric laughed.
"When are you going to get him?"
"Probably in a couple of hours. I want to enjoy my last few hours of peace and quiet."
"I want to go with you."
"You think that's a good idea?"
"A brilliant one if I do say so myself. Your mother doesn't have to invite us over for dinner, but she does need to get used to the fact that we are together...and doing horrible things."
"I counted the register and everything checks out." Tim said as nicely as he could to Jon who had barely spoken to him since their conversation earlier.
"You're still mad at me?"
"I'm not mad."
"Ok, then why are you over there pouting like a two year old."
"Please don't insult me."
"I'm not trying to, I'm just completely thrown by all of this. You're acting like I was supposed to be able to read your mind or something. This miscommunication or whatever it is isn't my fault."
"Fine. You made your feelings clear that you didn't want anything to happen, so whatever."
"You're such a child. This is why nothing should have ever happened. I don't have time to sit here and argue with you over something that isn't my fault."
"You really need to leave before I say something I can't take back." Jon said angrily. Just then Tim felt his cell phone buzzing in his pocket.
"We're not done," Tim said as he fished his cell phone out of his pocket, "Eric! What's up?"
"Hey. Are you busy tonight?"
"No," Tim said hesitantly as he walked out of the ice cream shop. He gave one last look at Jon who still seemed to be pouting in the corner, "Why?"
"I'm on my way to pick up Jamie from my mother. She needs a night to herself and I wanted to see if you wanted to grab Tathiana and maybe we could all go for ice cream or something."
"That sounds like fun, but can we not do it at the parlor? I just got off from work there and I really don't want to go back."
"That's cool, I'll think of something. I'll call you in a bit."
"Can you believe that you're just a few days away from completing your first school year in the United States?" Joey asked as him and Brian studied for their finals in the library.
"Shhh! It's a library." Brian smiled still reading through a text book.
Joey playfully kicked him under the table, "We should go out and do something fun tonight. We look like huge losers studying here on a Friday night."
"You'll look like an even bigger loser if you don't pass your classes."
"Good point," Joey agreed, "Chase!"
Brian returned the kick under the table and smiled as he shushed Joey.
"Hey guys, how's it going?" Chase asked.
"We're just here studying." Joey said. He looked at Chase with as friendly an expression as possible but he was slowly checking Chase over, not because he thought Chase was hot, which he still did, but because it looked like Chase was very stressed.
"Yeah, I'm here to get a book for a class I was supposed to have read a long time ago."
"You're welcome to join us if you want." Joey said.
"Uhh...actually..." Chase started.
"I'm going to the bathroom. I'll be back." Brian really didn't have to go, but he wanted to give Chase and Joey the freedom to talk amongst themselves.
"So how are things going with the club?" Joey asked hesitantly.
Chase gave a smile that clearly spelled it out, "Not good huh?"
"Nope," Chase answered, "The last two years I've been unchallenged in my run for President of the club, but not this year; someone's running against me."
"I bet I can guess who that is." Joey said rolling his eyes.
Chase laughed, "Yeah. Lucas is running against me."
"Are you upset about it?"
"Do you think he'll win?"
Chase shrugged, "No idea."
"He probably is running for your spot as a cushion. He doesn't have a chance in hell to be President of the student body so he probably felt that with everything going on he had a good shot at yours."
"Probably, but I guess we'll see what happens."
"Keep me updated." Joey smiled.
"Of course. I got to go get that book, but good luck on your studying and I'll talk to you soon."
Seconds later, Brian came walking from around one of the large shelves in the library, "That looked very casual."
"I thought you went to the bathroom."
"You were spying on me?"
"How would you feel if I spied on you and Richard."
"There would be nothing to see."
"Our love lives suck." Joey pouted.
"Honestly, I'm used to it by now." Brian said before returning to his book.
"This was a great idea bringing them to Chuck E. Cheese." Tim said as he bit into a slice of pizza.
"It sort of takes me down memory lane. I had like four or five birthday parties here in a row." Eric said.
"I bet Cooper would love to have his next birthday here." Tim laughed as he motioned behind Eric. Eric turned around to see Cooper wrestling with both Tathiana and Jamie in the large container of colored balls.
"The sad thing is you're probably right." Eric said, "so...what's going on between you and Jon?"
Tim was taken aback not only by the subject matter but the abruptness with which Eric asked, "Uh...I'm not sure what you mean." Tim asked nervously.
"I meant to ask a while ago. Ever since I saw you guys at Toby's birthday party it just looked like something was going on."
"We're friends...I mean we see each other a lot now...because of work and I just realized he's not that bad of a guy."
"So there's nothing between you?"
"If I tell you something, you promise not to get mad?"
"No, but that pretty much told me all I need to know."
"Oh my God, you're really mad, aren't you?"
"How could I not be?"
"Well...I thought with Cooper and everything..."
"Come on that's bullshit and you know it."
Tim was again taken aback by how angry Eric did seem about his situation with Jon, "I didn't think it would be an issue."
"You never bothered to ask. Plus, there are rules about this kind of stuff. If you really didn't think it'd be an issue, then why did I have to ask you about it?"
"It's not like we've been hanging out a lot lately."
"So that makes it ok to go behind my back." Eric said sarcastically.
"I really don't think that this is the place for us to talk about this." Tim said quietly. He didn't want to cause a scene and he could see that Eric seemed to be getting more and more upset by the minute.
Eric slid out of the booth and started to walk away, before turning around, "You know what's so frustrating about you Tim? You always seem to put yourself in these impossible situations that can't possibly work out to a positive conclusion and then you always act like you have no idea how you got yourself into them."
Eric hastily made his way to the ball pen area. He stood by the entrance and pouted until Cooper swam over to him, "What's wrong?"
"Do you want to go?"
"No, I don't want to ruin it for everyone else."
"Fine, then stop pouting and get in."
Eric gave a genuine smile, "You're funny."
"I'm serious. You don't want me to come out and get you in front of all these people."
"You wouldn't dare."
"You don't know me very well then." Cooper said as he leaped out of the pen. He grabbed onto Eric's shoulder and Eric fell into a fit of giggles.
"Wait stop." Eric said doubling over with laughter. Cooper took Eric's moment of weakness to pick up his boyfriend and throw him over his shoulder. Eric was still laughing too hard to put up any real fight and he could see that both Tathiana and Jamie were enjoying the show that he and Cooper were putting on. Cooper was about to throw Eric into the ball pen when he felt someone hit him below his knee. He turned around while still holding Eric firmly on his shoulder to see a little girl with her arms crossed with an angry look on her face.
"Put him down!"
"I hadn't seen you in a while," Cooper said looking at Sally, "I hoped you had died or something."
"Cooper put me down really. Hi, Sally, how are you?"
"I am fine. Pooper is bothering you!"
"He bothers me all the time." Eric smiled.
"He won't when I'm around." Sally said still glaring at Cooper.
"If you only knew the ways I bothered him." Cooper smirked.
"Ewww!" the little girl said as she ran away.
"I love using my sexuality to offend people." Cooper said.
"Did you brush your teeth?" Eric asked Jamie as Jamie climbed into his bed.
"I did." Jamie said smiling widely so that Eric could see his teeth.
"Good job." Eric said as tucked the little boy in.
"You're not going to sleep in here?"
"No. I'm going to sleep in Cooper's room, but I'll be one room over so I'll hear you if you call me."
"Can you leave the door open to this room?"
"Yes, good night."
"My mom said that she was going to leave me with Auntie Carol for a little bit cause she had some grown up things to do, but it's been a long time and she hasn't come back. Do you know when she is coming back?"
"I don't." Eric said as kindly as he could.
"Ok." Jamie said disappointedly.
Eric smiled at the boy because he didn't know what else to do, but as he walked across the hall to Cooper's room, he was sure that the boy was better off with his mother.
"Hey." Toby smiled nervously as he opened the door the following morning to let Jennifer in.
"Hello. Are you all packed?"
"Yeah, about to head to the school to meet the bus in just a few minutes. Sorry, for making you come out here."
"It's not a big deal at all."
"So yeah," Toby said handing over his part of the project for their Sports Psychology Class, "there might be a few typos, I tried to look over it last night, but my mind was elsewhere."
"Oh yeah I totally understand."
"So that should be it." Toby said. He was shifting his hands in and out of his pockets as he tried to find some courage.
"Ok cool. I'll look over it for the typos before Kyle and I turn it in. It's been great getting to know you these last few weeks, you're a nice guy."
"Don't say that."
Jennifer laughed, "Don't be modest. I mean it."
"You don't understand. I know that this may not be the time or the place, but I want you to know that I'm incredibly sorry and it seems hollow and pointless to say it a year later but..."
"Sorry for what?" Jennifer asked. But Toby could tell she already knew what he was going to say.
"The guy who attacked you...I was the person who let him in."
Jennifer didn't say anything and the silence was killing Toby so he kept talking, "I don't expect you to ever forgive me or anything like that but I just wanted you to know it wasn't a malicious act or anything personal..." He started to cry despite trying his hardest not to, "I don't want you to think I'm crying because I feel bad for myself. I'm just I don't know. This is about you and how bad I feel that I'm responsible for what happened to you..."
"Toby stop." Jennifer said kindly, "It's not your fault. I've let people into the building too that didn't live there and thankfully nothing happened. But I'm sure everyone who ever lived in that building at some point or another let someone in that they weren't supposed to. So I don't forgive you because there's nothing to forgive."
Toby's breath caught in his throat and Jennifer wiped a few tears from his face, "You shouldn't have had to live with that for a year."
"This is so backwards. I should be comforting you." Toby said choking through tears.
"You can't blame yourself because there's an asshole out there who likes to violate women. If it wouldn't have been me who was attacked it would have been someone else unfortunately. By the same token, if you hadn't let him in, someone else would have, it might have even been me who did it. So stop beating yourself up. It's ok to forgive yourself."
"You're an amazing person," Toby started as he wiped his eyes, "I think I would be angry if I were you."
"I am and it's hard, but you can't let one bad thing, no matter how huge, ruin your life. I refuse to give anyone or thing that power." She said with conviction, "So I want to go to the tournament and whoop some ass and forget all about the attack. It's not your burden to bare anymore."
As he watched Jennifer go, Toby was almost sure that he was never going to see her again, but he was sure the impact of her words would be everlasting.
Toby couldn't believe he was back as he walked into the auditorium that would house the tournament for the upcoming week. He had been anxious the entire time on the bus, wondering how he would react to being back after last year's absence. He was no longer anxious, but appreciative now. Despite being 21, he was aware that he only had a year or two max before he could no longer do this. The rules stated that players in the league could represent their school a maximum of five years before they were ineligible. Assuming he continued to play good enough tennis to qualify this would all be over in two years.
"It's amazing huh?" Toby said looking over to Brian.
"It is and scary at the same time." Brian smiled, "Thanks again for asking me to walk with you."
"Of course. We're the two best hopes for our school, we should show a united front."
"No bullshit man, I'm sorry I've been an asshole to you since you've come to Sunnydale. I've been known to be that way sometimes, but there's no excuse for it and I'm trying to be better."
Brian smiled genuinely, "Thanks. And I know I didn't make it easy for you and I apologize for not being sensitive to how you must have obviously felt."
They were now sitting and Toby nodded, but didn't say anything.
"I'll be honest," Brian continued, "I thought when you asked me to walk next to you that it was just like a show for the people here."
"No," Toby laughed, "I guess I should have been clear. It was supposed to be a gesture of kindness. Like I said I know I've been a dick."
"Well thanks it means a lot."
"Could you two lovebirds shut the fuck up? I can't hear what they are saying." Kyle whispered from behind them. Toby shot him a dirty look and he knew that Kyle wouldn't bother them anymore during the ceremony.
"So what happens now?" Brian asked.
"Pretty much the next half an hour to forty five minutes is all these different people that we've never heard of and won't see until next year welcoming us. After that, they announce the four wildcards chosen and then this part is over and then each team goes to meet with the press and they ask us the standard questions and stuff."
"Press? Like newspaper?"
"And media? Even though it's tennis, this tournament gets a lot of coverage, especially the winners. It's a pretty big title in the scheme of things, especially for the guys thinking about going pro."
"You ever think about it?" Brian asked.
"When I was younger. Now, I couldn't dream of doing it. With my ankle and everything; it's just not for me."
"Yeah, but I'd love to be a pro trainer, that's my ultimate goal. Richard and I used to talk about maybe becoming a team like working together at a major university and being trainers, but things change. He's changed and I'm changing so it doesn't look like it'll work out."
"I always think things have a way of working out the way they were always supposed to."
"I'm starting to believe that too." Toby said.
"You nervous?" Brian asked Toby as they rode on the bus the following morning on their way to the auditorium for their first round matches.
"Really? I feel like I'm about to cry." Brian smiled nervously.
"Ok, I'm a little nervous, but a few nerves are good; you don't want to go out there flat." Toby said.
"Good point." Brian said not at all agreeing.
"At least we can't play until the finals," Toby smiled, trying to ease Brian's mind, "that would be nice for the school."
"It would be."
"You'll be fine. Didn't you get words of encouragement from Richard?"
Brian looked at Toby alarmed and he felt even more uncomfortable as he spoke, "Yeah, he called me...we didn't speak for very long." Brian wanted to know if Richard had called Toby, but he was afraid the answer might be no.
"Richard said he talked to you. He wished me good luck too. Poor guy sounded stressed." Toby stated.
"I know he has been lately, but I thought things would have calmed down in the last few days."
Toby shrugged, "I think he's more nervous than anything, you know about finding out the results of the election. Hopefully we'll have to hear the results by telephone."
"Why?" Brian asked confused.
"Because if we're there that means we didn't win the tournament."
"Oh. That." Brian laughed.
The bus came to a halt and Toby, who was sitting closest to the window, looked out to see the auditorium standing tall.
"It's showtime." Toby said as everyone else began to file out of the bus.
Toby looked up to the sky and took a deep breath, "Damn, it's a beautiful day."
"It is." Brian agreed as they began to walk in.
"You're up first right?"
"Yep." Brian said, the nervousness still obvious in his voice.
"I'm going to go through this in the lockerroom," Toby said lifting up his tennis bag, "and then I'll be out there to watch you a bit before my match."
"Good luck," Toby smiled, "and see you in the finals."
Brian walked into the pressroom, not sure what to expect. Sure he'd been here just the day before, but that was with the rest of the team which meant the focus was on him.
"You look just as nervous now as you did during the match." A reporter said.
Brian smiled, "Yeah, I didn't play very well, but I won so that's nice."
"Why do you think you were nervous." A reporter who looked more like Santa Claus asked.
Brian shrugged, "It's a lot of pressure and expectation, but it is what it is."
"Are you and Toby friends?" A surprisingly young woman asked.
"Uhhh," Brian wasn't sure how to answer, "We respect each other for sure."
"Is that a yes or a no?" She followed.
"I ask because there was some feeling that you guys didn't like each other."
"I think a team is about being able to co exist with your teammates whether or not you like them." Brian said a little angry about the insistent questioning on Toby.
"How are you feeling in general, first match done, five to go, you think you can win?" A kind looking male reporter asked.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't know I could." Brian smiled.
"It's nice to just be coming to school this late in the afternoon." Cooper said as he exited Eric's car.
"Yeah and to know we're only going to be here for an hour is great." Eric said.
"An hour? Try thirty minutes." Cooper responded.
"You say that every year about your finals."
"And every year it's the truth. Look there's Richard...Hey!"
"Hey." Richard said as he continued to walk right past Eric and Cooper.
"Wow, someone has a stick up their ass." Cooper said.
"He's probably just nervous. It's a big week for him and Bliss."
"Yeah," Cooper said thinking about it, "You're probably right. No one could walk that fast with a stick up their ass."
"I talked to Toby this morning."
"Really? Did he kill Brian yet?"
"That's not funny," Eric said reprimanding him, "I'm sure their handling everything like responsible adults."
"All I'm saying is I'm putting my money on Toby. He'd whoop Brian's ass. Can I ask you a weird question?"
"When do you not?"
"At Bliss' party last year remember when I saw you and Brian in the bathroom, did anything happen?"
"Ok, just wondering."
"Why? Would it make you jealous?" Eric said poking Cooper in the ribs.
"Not at all, I just wanted to know if it was video taped so I could watch."
"Perv. But no really nothing happened. You sort of interrupted."
"Yeah, I could tell as much. Did you want something to happen?"
"At the time yeah, but now I mean it's all in the past and you know I love you now so it doesn't matter."
Cooper tried to keep his face and his voice as even as possible, "You love me?"
Eric smiled, "Yeah I do. I mean obviously we've been in this relationship for a while now..."
"Five months and like sixteen days if you count from when we made it official in January." Cooper said.
"Exactly...and it's been fantastic actually. You know what sealed the deal for me?"
"What?" Cooper said still trying to keep control of himself.
"The way you stood up for me at the debate, when those guys were going to jump us or whatever. When you walked in front of me in that guy's face...like...wow," Eric laughed, "Like you'd said it before and you've been amazing at giving me time to grow and get comfortable with everything but that was like real proof that you really did love me."
"And you know something else," Eric said, now whispering, "Seeing you be all alpha male kind of made horny." Eric said as they approached the building Cooper had his final in.
"Woo hoo!" Cooper yelled loudly cause a few people to look back to see the cause of the commotion.
"I knew that was coming."
"I tried to hold off," Cooper started, "but you love me. He loves me!" Cooper yelled.
Cooper grabbed Eric's face and gave him a quick kiss, "I'll see you in about twenty five minutes." Cooper said as he raced into the building.
"I need longer than that!" A smiling Eric yelled after him.
Toby's brain flashed back to just about half an hour ago to what was starting to become an all too familiar smile at these championships, a smile and then a "good match." He couldn't believe he lost again. His coach had already been by to go over what had gone wrong, but it was completely unnecessary. He already knew that he had collapsed into a slew of errors and simply couldn't stop himself. When the coach one again questioned his tactics, all he could say was, "I was sure they were going to start falling in."
He shook his head and was about to grab his racquet bag so he could once again face the real world when Brian walked in looking just as disappointed as he felt.
"Don't tell me you lost too?" Toby said laughing.
"Too? You lost?"
"Me too." Brian said sitting next to Toby on the bench.
"Wow, this is fucking crazy."
"Yeah, so much for being the school's two biggest hopes."
"Yeah, no shit. What happened?" Toby asked.
"The guy I played was on fire. I don't even think I played that badly, but he just was smacking winners left and right."
"That's better than losing because you can't hit a ball in the court." Toby said.
"I guess so."
"I think the thing that really sucks is that I had no excuse this year," Toby started, "The first year I had everything going on with Richard and then having to play him was just too much. Last year, everything with the rape I didn't even get a chance to play, but this year, all of that was gone. I had settled my issues just a few hours before about the rape, I feel like me and you had made some sort of peace, and I felt like tennis was in it's proper place in my life. Important, but not everything. I don't see how that equates to a loss in the second round."
"I know. It was like all of a sudden I'm out. No more, a year's worth of work is gone."
Toby nodded, "But it's just a tennis match."
Brian laughed, "Just one match...by the way I hope this peace lasts between us no matter what happens."
"Me too. We don't have to be best friends, I doubt we would be anyway, but we can definitely be nicer to each other than we have been."
"I think I'm ready to face the world again," Toby laughed, "I'll see you back in Sunnydale."
"Knock knock." Dr. Taylor asked as she walked into the office she had visited many times before.
"Come in." The dark haired man smiled, "What brings you by?"
"I just wanted to pick your brain about something. How are the wife and kids?"
"Wonderful," Professor Paul Zamora smiled, "The kids are great and doing excellent in school and me and the wife are having the time of our lives."
"I would hope so after twenty years of marriage." Dr. Taylor smiled.
"I'd hope so too."
"Are you busy? You have tons of papers on your desk."
"I always have tons of paperwork on my desk. I can get a little behind if it means chatting with an old friend."
"Good," Dr. Taylor smiled at the psychology professor, "I want to know what you think about a no confidence vote against the President."
"Of the university?"
Dr. Taylor nodded, "I think the faculty, staff, and students have waited long enough for things to change and nothing has happened. I say it's time to force his hand."
"You want me to be honest?" Dr. Zamora asked.
"Of course. I'd expect nothing less from you."
"To even get something like that off the ground would take a lot of support. Frankly, I don't know if you have it."
"A lot of people said that about getting a Pride Center on campus. It took a while, but I'd say our first year has been an amazing success."
"I agree, but that is different. There are very few, if anyone, who would claim to know more than you about issues surrounding sexual orientation. That's not true of school politics as a whole. There'd be plenty of people who would feel that you are overstepping your bounds."
"Maybe, but those are people who would probably support the President anyway."
"True, but it doesn't mean that you are the person that would get faculty and staff, who are likely to play the fence on board. Sure, you could get the students to agree on such a vote, but we've talked before about the apathy of students on this campus, it's not likely to be a lot."
"So what? I refuse to believe my hands or tied on this. Something needs to be done and if nobody else is going to take charge then I'm more than willing to take on the job. Let me ask you, if I went ahead with it, would you support the no confidence vote?"
"I'd like to know what the primary mode of action would be, but generally I don't believe that psychologists have any business in these kinds of matters."
Dr. Taylor rolled her eyes. She knew Paul wouldn't be offended, they were old friend and had had countless debates about this very issue, "Our fundamental disagreement rears its ugly head."
He smiled, "It will until you admit you're wrong."
"I don't need you to agree with me, I've got truth on my side." She returned. "Thank you for this. It was helpful despite how brief it was."
"I'm glad. What are friends for?"
Chase always arrived about twenty minutes before everyone else on the nights of his Christian club meetings. Not only did he need the extra time to set up the equipment they used, but as the President he felt that it was his responsibility to make sure the meetings went as smoothly as possible, which usually resulted in a quick prayer to ensure the man upstairs was watching.
He walked into the room normally reserved for their meetings and he was surprised to see that most of the members were already there. He looked around and anger flashed across him when he saw Lucas standing at the front of the room, "I took the liberty of calling everyone in a little early. We all have busy lives and it's finals week; no point in having this hang over our heads any longer than needed."
Some of the members were actually voting as Chase was walking in. He really wanted to give Chase a piece of his mind, but he felt that some of the members were watching and his reaction might tip the scales in his favor, "You're right. The sooner this issue is over the sooner we an get back to what it's really about, which is worshipping the Lord."
"I couldn't agree more." Lucas said taking a seat.
Chase wasn't sure what he should be doing. He knew that if Lucas lost, there was likely to be a huge confrontation. Chase also knew that if he were to lose his presidency, especially to someone like Lucas, he wouldn't be able to stay. He would walk out and leave the club and never come back. A few more of the guys had dropped their ballots into the box. As one of the guys put his ballot in the box, he gave a genuine smile to Chase and that helped to relax him.
"Has everyone voted?" Lucas asked.
"I didn't." Chase said grabbing a ballot.
"There's no need. You're of course going to vote for yourself as would I, so they'd cancel each other out."
"Can I have two volunteers to count the votes?" Lucas asked. Two boys that were sitting together raised their hands and took the ballot box out into the hallway.
"No cheating boys," Lucas laughed, the nervousness ever so slightly evident in it, "The Lord is always watching."
Chase shook his head while glaring at Lucas. He definitely wanted to be President, but he wanted Lucas knocked off his pedestal even more. He was so smug, as if he'd already won control of the club. Chase looked behind him to make sure that he would be easily able to get a hold of his belonging should he be outvoted. He was sticking with his plan of leaving, should he lose. The next few minutes passed in complete silence and Chase became lost in his own thoughts. He looked up when he heard the door to the room open; the two boys had returned.
"You have the results?" Lucas asked.
"We do. Should we write it or just say it?"
"Just say it." Lucas said.
Chase closed his eyes and said a quick prayer, "Whatever happens is your will." He said clearly in his mind.
The two boys looked at each other before one stepped forward, "Lucas is our new President."
There was lots of noise after the announcement. Some of it was surprise, some of it was excitement, but some people stayed quiet. Not sure if this was a good or bad turn of events.
"Well..." Chase said surprised by how raw with emotion he felt at the moment, "we all have busy lives." and with that he walked out. Everyone turned to see him go, including Lucas he wanted to keep a snap shot of this moment in his memory forever. Unfortunately for Lucas, part of this memory would be blemished by the fact that a few of the members felt the same way Chase did, that it was no longer appropriate for them to be there. Even though it was only seven of the thirty some odd members that felt this way, it was enough to make Lucas feel that it wasn't a total victory.
"Let them go," Lucas started, looking at the remaining members, daring them to leave, "if they choose not to accept God's wishes then...anyway shall we began the meeting?"
"Can I get a beer?" Richard asked. The worker behind the counter at the pizza place looked skeptically at Richard.
"Let me see your wristband." Richard gave her a nasty look as he showed her the wristband.
"You know the rule right?"
"Yes," Richard said annoyed, "A maximum of three beers."
"Which means this is your last."
"Yeah, I can count. Can I have my beer?"
She handed the beer to him and he took a big gulp of it before returning to the table with his friends.
"How many beers is that?" Toby asked.
"I'm just asking. You don't want to be drunk off your ass when you win."
"Last time I checked, I hold my liquor better than you. Remember your birthday?"
Toby and Bliss exchanged looks from across the table. Bliss leaned over to Richard, "You sure you're ok."
"Yeah, I just don't understand what's going to take three hours to count the ballots."
"Aren't there like twenty thousand students at this school?" Brian asked.
"Yeah and I bet you no more than three thousand voted," Joey piped in, "it happens like that every year, but three thousand votes is still a lot to count."
"And hopefully you're all amongst that three thousand who voted." Dr. Taylor said as she stood behind Richard, her hands on his shoulders.
"Hey Doc." Richard said raising his beer.
"Hello. Are you excited?"
"Of course he is," Cooper started before Richard could speak, "so excited that he's allowed the excitement to turn him into an asshole."
Richard stuck up his middle finger and Cooper smiled at Dr. Taylor, "See what I mean."
Richard looked up at Dr. Taylor, "They're just on my case. I'm fine."
"You have sort of insulted everyone at the table." Eric said.
"Really?" Richard asked as he looked around and one by one all of his friends nodded their head, "Ok, I can see myself insulting everyone at this table, but what did I say or do to insult you?" Richard asked looking at Eric.
"I'd rather not repeat it." Eric said looking down at the table.
"Alright, I'm sorry guys. I'm just nervous and just sitting around is not helping them at all."
"I can think of something that might help." Joey said licking his lips.
"That would take a few more beers." Richard said.
"Your loss. Just ask Cooper over there." Joey smiled.
"Eric was better."
"I knew it!" Toby yelled. "That day you guys were in bed together and your mom came over I knew something had happened."
"Threesome action alright." Joey said.
"Awwww...my little Eric is all grown up." Bliss said, her hand over her heart.
"So what have you guys done?" Richard asked raising one eyebrow.
"This sounds like a good time for me to start mingling, I'll see you guys later." Dr. Taylor said.
"I don't think people should talk about their sex lives." Eric said.
"Wow, sex life?" Brian giggled, "sounds pretty active to me."
"Chase! What are you doing here?" Joey asked surprised. He hadn't even seen Chase walk up to the table.
"Can I talk to you for a second?"
Before Joey could stand up, Chase was already walking towards the exit. He hurriedly walked out of the pizza parlor and was able to catch up to Chase, who had continued walking.
"Chase, wait up. What's going on?"
"Just follow me, you'll see."
Tim walked up and down the aisles of the grocery store waiting for something to call out to him. There wasn't anything in particular he wanted for dinner that night, but he knew he wanted something and he was waiting for it to leap out at him. He felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket and he was wondering who it could be. He knew it wasn't Toby because Toby was at the school at the election party, and Eric was still mad at him as was Jon. He looked at the screen and didn't recognize the number. Normally, he would have pushed the reject button and not thought anything else about it, but for some strange reason he felt compelled to answer the phone.
"Tim Henderson." A man's voice said rather than asked.
"Yes, who is this?"
Tim didn't recognize the name, "Are you sure you don't have the wrong number? I'm sure I don't know you."
"You don't. But I know your mother. Very well actually."
"How?" Tim said his voice starting to shake.
"We've been having an affair for the last several months." Tim was speechless for the next several seconds and the man continued, "even though you're not in school anymore Tim, you're still a very bright boy. You didn't figure out what all the phone calls were about with someone on the line but not saying anything?"
There was a condescending tone to the way the man was speaking to Tim. Almost like he was enjoying being the one to inform Tim about this stuff, "Why are you telling me this?"
"People always talk about a woman scorned, but I'd bet I can give any woman a run for her money in that department."
Tim sat down the frozen pizza he had in his hand and headed for the exit of the store; he was no longer hungry, "I think you're an asshole, whatever your reason for doing this. This is between me and my mother, I don't even know if you're telling the truth."
"Say my name in her presence and watch her reaction. That'll tell you everything you need to know."
"I'm hanging up now...don't call me again." Tim said.
"Your choice, by the way tell Tathiana I hope to see her again."
"Fuck you." Tim yelled into the phone, but the line had already gone dead.
"Why are we outside of your office?" Joey asked Chase. Joey was curious, but he was also nervous as hell. The building looked to be completely deserted and it was giving him the creeps.
"Remember when I called you a few days ago and said that while I was hurt I wasn't upset about losing my Presidency?"
"Well now I'm pissed." Chase said as he stuck they key into the keyhole and opened the door.
"That was obvious from the way you walked over here, but I still don't get why we're here."
"We're going to fuck their stuff up."
"But this is all stuff you worked hard to produce and I thought you shared this office."
"I do. We're not going to touch their belongings and the stuff I worked so hard on is no longer mine sooo..." Chase knocked over a lamp and it crashed to the floor.
"Come on man," Joey pleaded, "think about what you're doing. This is vandalism."
"I asked you to come with me cause I thought you'd understand, but I guess not." Chase was a little disappointed in himself for manipulating Joey that way, but at that moment he just needed Joey in on the plan, "Plus you know that Lucas is an ass, he deserves it."
"Fine, but if we get caught I'm telling them that you forced me into it." Joey smiled.
Joey reached into a drawer, pulled out a stack of paper and threw them into the air.
"That's what I'm talking about." Chase encouraged.
"You know what I've always wanted to do?" Chase said.
"This." Chase ran his hands over the desk he had sat at many times before knocking everything onto the floor.
"I hate you," Joey giggled, "I was going to do that."
Joey quickly turned his head to the door, "Did you hear that?"
Chase stopped moving for a second and he heard the click of the building entrance door, "It's probably just the custodian."
"What if it isn't? We shouldn't take the chance."
"Yeah." Chase said dropping the empty drawer he was holding. He peered around the corner and at the very end of the hall he saw the custodian coming near to them.
"Ok, we're going to run down the hall and to the left ok. The custodian is coming down the opposite way; he won't be able to give a good description if we move fast enough ok?"
"One, two, three!"
They ran and by the time the custodian knew enough to yell after them, they had reached the exit door and were running out into the night air. They ran most of the way back to the pizza place, laughing and giggling as they moved.
"Wait, wait," Joey said stopping when they came to a bench not far from the pizza place, "I can't breathe."
Chase laughed, but took a seat next to Joey, "You're out of shape. That wasn't even that far."
"Whatever. We ran a good chunk of the campus just now. So what's our story going to be?"
"What do you mean?"
"Our story that we conspicuously disappeared twenty minutes before a vandalism occurred that we both have a connection to. I'm just trying to avoid the slammer."
"They'll never prove it." Chase said with assurance, "Thank you for doing this with me." Chase said sincerely.
Joey smiled, "Well it's nice to help you out and kind of nice to help you out."
"I knew you would. You're a great friend."
"Thanks, you're a great frie..." Joey was no longer able to speak because Chase's lips had impeded any movement. Joey didn't even have the presence of mind to kiss back at first because he was so surprised. He was even more surprised at how long the kiss lasted. They finally pulled away from each other and Joey was dumbfounded, "You kissed me."
"I did," Chase smiled, "and it was a long time coming."
"So...what does this mean?"
"I have no idea." Chase said honestly, "I just knew I had to do it."
"Are you gay?" Joey tried to ask in as unaccusatory a tone as he could muster.
Chase didn't say it with words, but the confusion etched on his face spoke volumes to Joey, "Ok then at least tell me what you thought of the kiss."
"I thought it was pretty disgusting." Lucas said approaching the two of them, but also being smart enough to keep his distance, "I always knew you were never fit to lead the group, but this show you just put on is worse than I ever imagined."
Joey grabbed the much larger Chase by the arm, "We don't have time for another of your long winded speeches, we've got more important things to do."
"I'm sure you do," Lucas said, "Chase, have fun in hell."
"I'll see you there." Chase said before walking inside with Joey.
Tim knocked violently on the door. He continued to knock on the door until he saw the light in the living room come on. He stopped and his dad opened the door, "Tim, what the hell?"
"Where's mom?" Tim said rushing into the house.
"In the back in our room why?"
"I need to talk to her." Tim said as he started to move back there.
His dad grabbed his shoulder, "I'm not letting you back there, not in this state and not until you tell me what's going on."
Tathiana came from her room and walked into the living room, "Tim! You are here late."
"I wouldn't have come if I'd known she was awake." Tim said to his dad, "Tati, I need you to go to your room."
"Just do it."
"But I want to talk to you."
"Don't yell at her like that!" Tina said coming down the hallway in a night gown, "You have some nerve coming here this late disturbing this house."
"Tim, what's gotten into you?" His dad said extremely concerned.
"Tati, please go in your room, I promise I'll come visit another time."
"Ok." she said disappointed.
"Are you on drugs?" Tina said, because if you think I'm going to allow you to come in here like this ever again you are sadly mistaken.
"You really are something," Tim said looking at his mother, "you are so judgemental, so controlling, and so righteous and it's all a lie."
"If you don't leave, I'm callin the police." his mother said.
"Stanley Merchant called me today, sound familiar?"
His mother's face immediately changed. She recovered quickly, but not soon enough to where Tim and his dad didn't notice the shock that registered on her face.
"Isn't that the name of a coworker of yours, Tina?" His dad said.
"Why is he calling Tim?"
Tim didn't give her time to answer, "You are such a bitch. An evil hypocritical bitch."
"Tim!" his dad said stepping forward, "You won't talk..."
"Dad, she's having an affair. She's been having one."
Tom Henderson's eyes darted from his son's face to his wife's, "Is...is that true?"
"I don't want to talk about this with him here!" Tina yelled.
Tim had never been as angry in his life as he was in that moment. He was shaking because he was so consumed by his anger, "You made me feel like dirt for getting kicked out of school and working at the ice cream shop cause I messed up your perfect little family and for most of that time while you were making me feel low you were off with some other man. All the phone calls," Tim said turning his dad, "all the times someone has been calling and not saying anything on the line, that was him."
Tom Henderson seemed to be thinking, but once Tim's words washed over him, he no longer needed confirmation from his wife.
"You know what else she did?" Tim started, "She..."
"Tim," his dad interrupted, "This is an issue between your mother and I. I'd appreciate it if you would leave."
"Tim, please. I will call you tomorrow."
Tim stood there in disbelief. He couldn't believe that he was the one who was being asked to leave, "Ok, bye dad."
He walked down the steps of the porch and sat in his car a few minutes staring at the window. He couldn't see either of them, but when the light from the living room was shut out a few minutes later, he knew they had probably gone to their room to talk privately. Tim felt this overwhelming urge to cry and he snifled a little bit, trying to stop the tears, but they came cascading down. He put his forehead on his steering wheel and let them fall.
"Hey." Toby said joining Richard on the balcony.
"They made an announcement just a few seconds ago, they're going to announce the winner in about ten minutes."
"Wow." Richard said honestly, letting his nervousness fully show, "Crazy."
"I know. Win or lose, I'm proud of you."
"Thank you." Richard smiled.
"I really mean it. I know I was really mad last year when I found out you changed your major cause I felt like another dream of ours was collapsing, but seeing you at the debate was amazing. It was really awesome to see someone in their element. I get it now, it's what you're supposed to do."
"You have no idea how much that means to hear you say that. I still feel a little guilty though."
"You've had a rough last couple of years. It's not fair and I feel like I deserted you when you needed me. Not just with the rape, but also when we first broke up to go to college. It was a really stupid thing for me to do."
"You don't think it worked out for the best?" Toby asked.
"Do you think that?" Richard returned.
"I don't know. Who's to say that if we had stayed together that we still wouldn't have broken up."
"We should have never gone to separate schools." Richard said.
"It was the right thing to do, we both started where we wanted to go."
"Then why are we here now? If it was the right thing then why do I still feel like I should be with you."
"I ask myself that all the time." Toby laughed, "You should probably hate me."
"And you should probably hate me." Richard smiled.
"I do know one thing," Toby started, "I think we hurt each other way too much to do anything without full commitment. I don't think we should get back together unless we both know that the other is fully committed in every way."
"Do you think we are?"
Brian was trying to act interested in the conversation at the table, but he could tell by the body language of Toby and Richard that they were having a very serious conversation. He was conflicted; half of him wanted to know what they were saying and half of him didn't.
"Everyone," Dr. Taylor said approaching the table, "they're about to announce the winner. Where is Richard?"
"He's outside." Brian turned towards the balcony, but they were already walking in. He cursed inside of his head. He felt like if he could have seen how their conversation ended he would know, once and for all where he stood.
"Alright alright, it's late, everyone wants to go home so I won't take too many liberties in announcing the winner." The President of the university, Dr. Brown said.
"Here is my moment." Melinda said as she and Kyle held hands.
"Our moment." Kyle reminded her.
"Don't worry," Melinda whispered to Bliss, "when I win, I'll give you a job."
Bliss laughed, "or I'll give you a job when I win."
"and with that, I'd like to say that our new President for the upcoming academic year is Mr. Morris Clemenson."
Morris' mouth dropped open in genuine surprise. Bliss and Richard gave each other a hug, Linus clapped with a smile on his face, but anyone who knew him even remotely well would have been able to tell that it was fake. Melinda, however, wasn't such a good sport.
"Nobody even knows that fool. How the hell did he win?"
"Go!" Richard said pushing Morris towards the President who had his hand outstretched to greet the new President.
Richard sighed, "It's probably a little too late to get another beer." Richard said the disappointment evident in his voice.
"Yeah, but hey you were open and honest about who you were and what you wanted to accomplish from the very start of this. That's more than most people could ever say." Bliss said.
"You're right." Richard said. He walked away and Bliss wanted to go after him, but she could tell Richard wanted to be left alone.
Brian watched as Richard went out to the balcony and he wanted to go after him, but it wasn't his place. Toby stood next to him, but didn't say anything.
"He looks sad." Brian said.
"I'm sure he is."
"I'll probably call him tomorrow you know to check up on him. I don't want to bother him."
Toby could suddenly feel a large lump in his throat, "he wants you too."
"Give him a few minutes and then go out there. He'll want to talk."
"I don't understand," Brian said, now looking at Toby, "why aren't you going?"
Toby shrugged, "Our dreams don't fit on ballots. Could you imagine me being the politician's wife? Trust me, wait a few minutes and then go to him."
Brian stayed glued to the spot staring at the back of Richard. He couldn't believe what was happening and that the road had been paved. He had been wishing and hoping for so long that he would get an opportunity like this. He put his hand on the handle of the door that led out to the balcony and walked out to talk to Richard.
Toby watched all of this impassively. He and Richard had just talked about it, agreed that they couldn't be fully committed to each other right now, but what it really came down to was that it simply wasn't the right time.
"You ok?" Eric said coming behind him.
"You sure? I can kick somebody's ass for you." Cooper joked.
Toby smiled, "I'm ok."
"Then let's go home." Eric said.
They walked out of the pizza restaurant and Toby couldn`t resist the temptation to look back, just for a second, at Richard and Brian out on the balcony. He turned back around and knew he was now ready for a new beginning.
Thanks for reading this latest installment of the story, and in case you haven't been paying attention it's going to be the last one for a while. I'm leaving to go to Australia in 8 days and besides living it up I'll be trying to write for the next season of chapters which won't be very many. Still, feel more than free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like during that time, to inquire about how the trip is going or to see how far along I am in the writing. On a final note, to any reader who might be reading this at some point far into the future. Even if it's been 20 years since the last update, if you want to write to me about the story, please do so. It would be nice to know that the story hasn't dies just because I stopped writing.