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`I wish I could be
Touched by the hem of his garment.
To be proud has never been
so mean, so stern, so cruel.'
Hem of His Garment (Dido)
Gene slid his notes into the top folder and sat down beside Doug as Jaye began to speak to the group assembled in the debate room. Gene sighed and closed his eyes, trying not to look again into the corner. The gentle touch on his leg startled him.
Doug patted Gene's leg again and whispered, "You're doing great, Gene, the group is great." Doug's brown eyes were warm as he looked at Gene. On the other side of Doug, Camille watched Jaye attentively, her hands winding around the worn dance slippers tied together with a ribbon and looped around her slender neck. Her tight white tee shirt read `Straight But Not Narrow' across her small breasts.
"Thanks." Gene said, annoyed that he looked in need of comfort. He sat up straighter in the plastic chair and tried to concentrate on what Jaye was saying. Something about why the GSA was needed at Northside. The bright rainbow flag on the door was a little much, Gene thought. Still, it was nice of Doug to bring it, he meant well. It's a good thing that no one thought to bring Wizard of Oz costumes or a mirrored disco ball.
The debate room was full of students and a couple of teachers, including Dr. Friedman and Ms. Robi, but Gene was a little disappointed there weren't more people here. And why wasn't John Ironwood here? Gene made a mental note to talk to the dance teacher tomorrow. More teachers meant more safety, in Gene's mind, and less chance of trouble with administration. It also never hurt for gay students to get to know teachers who either were gay themselves or gay-friendly enough to participate in a GSA.
Against his will, Gene's gaze traveled again to the corner of the room where Angel sat on Michael's lap, his arms wound around the athlete's neck as he listened to Jaye speak. Michael wasn't listening to Jaye, he was watching Angel's face so close to his own and stroking Angel's thigh with his right hand. He looked oblivious to the other people in the room, focused entirely on the slim boy in his lap. Gene swallowed. It was hard to believe that this was the same Michael who had gotten angry the one and only time Gene had kissed him in the student parking lot. Michael hadn't spoken to him for two days. How many times had Michael told him that a football player couldn't act like that in public? Gene felt that familiar prickling on the back of his eyelids and forced his eyes back to Jaye, willing himself not to show what he was feeling. He felt Doug's hand on his leg again but didn't dare turn his head.
He was afraid of what Doug might see in his eyes.
`I am barely breathing and I can't find the air.'
Barely Breathing (Duncan Sheik, 2003)
Bobby leaned back into the leather seat of the car and closed his eyes, trying to shut out the sound of his mother's voice. His hands were stuffed deep into the pockets of his jeans and his sneakers shuffled against the floorboards nervously. Her sharp voice penetrated his head like knives. He didn't want to hear it again. He wasn't to speak to those boys anymore, meaning Jaye and Angel but she wouldn't say their names, he needed to concentrate on getting his life under control. A favorite expression of his father's, `getting things under control', as if problems could be marshaled like troops and made to march in step.
Bobby was glad to be out of Refuge but wished he were going anywhere but home to his parents. His father hadn't spoken a single word to him since Bobby had told them he was gay. Mother...well, Mother's FBI-like surveillance was always a strain and now she'd never take her eyes off of him, he was sure. He wondered if she'd taken his room door from its hinges the way she had after she'd found him masturbating when he was twelve. Boys didn't need too much privacy, she'd said, it wasn't good for them.
He flushed at the memory. His mother's expression of distaste when she realized what he was doing under the covers of his bed. His father's face when Bobby had told him he was gay. His mother's face whenever she'd see Angel, the pinched look of her mouth when her eyes would travel down Angel's clothing choices. Sometimes it seemed as if Bobby had been born ashamed, ashamed of everyone he knew, everything he did, everything he was. What would it be like to not feel this way ever again? How did other people manage it?
"Bobby, are you listening to me?" Jeannie asked him suddenly, her voice harsh.
Bobby sunk deeper into the seat. The radio was low, something lethargic dragging him under. Her voice sunk into his brain like an ice pick.
He mumbled a reply, not looking up, not opening his eyes. His mother was silent. He felt the car slowing and opened his eyes. His mother was watching traffic in the rearview mirror intently as she pulled onto the shoulder of the road and braked hard.
`Oh, shit.' thought Bobby.
Jeannie Boyd moved the gearshift into park and released the foot brake. She turned to face her son, her expression dark. The afternoon sun lit up tiny wisps of gray hair around her temples that had escaped the restraining hairpins. Her white blouse was buttoned to the collar, her simple earrings small diamonds that glittered once as she moved. She looked severe; she looked serious.
She looked furious; Bobby thought and sat up in the passenger seat.
His mother's eyes narrowed as she studied him, her gaze felt painful. He remembered his cousin holding a magnifying lens over a beetle when they were little and telling Bobby to watch while the bright white light burned into the tiny insect. He'd been horrified but he hadn't been able to look away. Bobby shifted in the seat uncomfortably.
"Mom? What's wrong?"
Jeannie pursed her lips and spoke.
"School tomorrow. If we let you go to school tomorrow, we have to have an understanding, Bobby. We have to know you'll be...all right."
"All right? At school? Why wouldn't I be all right at school, Mom?"
His mother's eyes flashed.
"Don't take that tone with me!"
"What tone? I just-"
"Those boys! Those boys are at school, those boys, other boys, I don't know! Whoever you've been...doing whatever you've been doing with, Bobby!" Jeannie was breathing hard, her eyes like diamonds on her son.
"Bobby, your father and I have talked about this and we'll put you in a private school if we have to but you're to stay away from those boys. Find some other friends. That boy who came to visit you, that debater, that Japanese boy, why not him? He has lovely manners. He's coming to dinner this week, I believe."
Bobby smiled inwardly, remembering Gene's kiss.
"Stay away from those boys in theater, you never know about boys like that. Boys who like to wear makeup." Jeannie continued, her face darkened red with emotion. "Boys like that, you expect them to be...funny."
Bobby raised an eyebrow.
"Mom, I'm in theatre."
"Exactly! And look what happened!" Jeannie spat out.
Bobby rolled his eyes.
"Mom, nothing happened, I was born this way; I'm just gay, that's the-"
"Shut up!" She hissed. Her hand was up before he realized it and the slap struck the side of his face, cutting off the rest of his sentence. The sound was loud in the confined space, flesh on flesh, bone on bone. His cheek stung, his chest ached. He felt tears in the small of his eyes. He squeezed them shut and felt one teardrop slide hot down alongside his nose as his mother spoke.
"No. You weren't born gay; you aren't gay. People choose to do things that are wrong, Bobby; I thought you learned that at Exodus. Homosexuality," Jeannie said the word as if lemon slices were in her mouth, "is a choice. Doing those...things with other boys is a choice. And we want you to make intelligent choices from now on, Bobby." She stared into her son's face.
"Are you listening to me, Bobby?" she demanded.
"Yes, ma'am." Bobby said in a whisper, his eyes still closed.
Bobby opened his eyes and looked at his mother's angry face. He felt tired suddenly and wanted to be in his own room again. He felt naked, vulnerable to the heat of the sun, the heat of her gaze. He wanted to be anywhere but right here, right now.
He remembered first grade and how his mother had reacted when she'd seen him writing in the big tablet with his left hand. She'd watched him carefully after that, pinching him when he used the wrong hand, finally tying his left arm behind his back with a belt when he sat at the kitchen table doing homework. By Christmas, he'd learned to use his right hand to write although he still used crayons with his left. Now he couldn't remember the last time he'd reached for anything except his dick with his left hand.
Bobby sighed, surrendering.
"I'll do whatever you and Dad want me to, Mom. I'll...make new friends; I'll...make good choices. I...promise." He said in a low voice.
His mother nodded.
"Good. Fine. That's a start, then." She said, calm.
As his mother started the car engine, Bobby looked out the window at the scraggled trees that lined the road. They seemed bent and frail, as if they'd never quite gotten enough sun, enough water. Dirt kicked up from behind the car as his mother put the gear into drive and pressed the gas pedal. As the car pulled away, the dust floated out amid the trees, dirtying their sparse browned leaves and obscuring Bobby's view. He leaned his head back on the headrest.
He thought of school, he thought of the drama room, he thought of Jaye and Angel. He remembered the parking lot after dress rehearsal and the look in the football players' eyes, the sounds of their voices. The heavy hand on his chest as they called him a fag. Bobby felt something mean and red wrap tight around his heart and squeeze. He slitted his eyes as he looked out into nothing.
Yeah, he was definitely going to make some good choices for a change.
`When the angels fall,
Shadows on the wall;
In the thunder's call
Something haunts us all.'
When The Angels Fall (Sting)
Trey shifted in the hospital bed, grimacing as pain shot through his head with the movement. The nurse tapped his foot, glancing at his wristwatch. Trey wished he'd stop that; it was difficult enough to urinate into a plastic container in front of someone else without feeling that the someone else was overdue for his coffee break. Trey concentrated, his dick in his left hand, the handle in his right. Nothing. Damn.
"Sorry." Trey said through clenched teeth.
The nurse nodded.
"Yeah, but do you think it's gonna be anytime soon, kid?"
"Not if you keep asking me that." Trey said.
The nurse, a big black man in his thirties with sharp creases in his white uniform, made a disapproving `tsk' and folded his arms across his massive chest. Trey closed his eyes and tried to relax. His bladder was so full it hurt but, naturally, he couldn't do anything about it. He knew he was able now to get up and use the bathroom himself but when he'd tried it, the nurse on duty had read him the Riot Act. Hospital regulations and heads split open in a fall. Did all nurses have such vivid imaginations? You'd think it would be a drawback in that occupation, thought Trey.
Eyes shut, he heard the nurse making impatient noises. You'd also think patience would be a job requirement, Trey told himself. Florence Nightingale must be a myth.
Trying to distract himself, Trey thought of Northside and his friends in drama. He pictured the backstage and wondered if they'd done the takedown correctly and how much mess there would be when he got back. Everything had to be in order by the time set construction on Camelot started this weekend. He tried not to think of Jaye but the blond boy was in the front of every other thought. Jaye naked on Angel's bed at the party; Jaye laughing with his pants down in the car afterwards. Trey's mind skittered over what happened after he left Jaye's car. He'd lost his virginity spectacularly, he thought with a grin. And just what exactly did he want from Jaye now?
Trey tried to imagine having a boyfriend, tried to picture what it would be like. It seemed like a lot more trouble than it was worth from what he could tell from other drama relationships he'd seen. Jaye had been phoning him several times a day since he'd woken up and found the other boy beside him. Jaye telling Trey he missed him. Jaye asking when he could see him again.
What do I want from him, wondered Trey. He wondered if he'd started something that would complicate his ordered life. He had to decide what exactly he wanted and make that clear to Jaye, he had to get control of the situation.
Trey's cell phone on the bedside table buzzed hard, shivering on the laminated tabletop. The top flashed with the caller's name. Trey lifted his chin to read it. Jaye again. Damn.
The stream hit the back of the container with a loud wet sound of release.
Trey sighed in relief. The phone went silent as his bladder finished emptying. The nurse held out a hand wordlessly. Trey shook himself and handed the full container over silently with his right hand. When the nurse left, pulling the door shut behind him, Trey curled his left hand tighter under the sheet. Jaye's face filled his thoughts as he stroked gently.
`Boyfriend', there's a concept. Someone waiting for him after rehearsal. Someone to take to a movie and hold hands with. Trey felt the drugs taking effect, warming up his thoughts and smoothing out the sharper spikes of worry. Jaye really was handsome, he reminded himself with mellow amusement. Like that mattered. Boyfriend. Trey and Jaye sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
Trey smiled slowly.
Well, he could think of worse things.
`Have you seen him dressed in blue?
See the sky in front of you;
And his face is like a sail-
Speck of white so fair and pale.'
Like a Rainbow (Rolling Stones)
`If I had a magic wand,
I'd make the world suck my dick without a condom on.'
If I Had (Eminem)
In the Northside student parking lot, Ryan Sellers sat in his jet black, fully-loaded 2005 Wrangler Rubicon U (for Unlimited), a present from the Judge on his eighteenth birthday, listening to Eminem on the 7-speaker CD system. Scott and Billy had hung out for a while but Ryan had sent them home an hour ago. Losers. The tray sat on his lap and he sorted out the seeds and stems with the platinum American Express card in his right hand while he watched the doors of the performing arts building. He needed to relax, he needed to be alone, he needed to think.
That GSA Fag Club meeting was going on now and that was why Ryan hadn't gone home. He couldn't understand why the principal had even allowed that fucking group to meet on campus, was he promoting queers now? And Mike lovey-dovey with that drama kid, what the hell was going on with Northside all of the sudden? It was like no one cared how sick it was, no one was saying anything, no one was stopping it. This queer stuff was getting out of control and maybe Ryan was the guy to fix that. With his right hand, he pulled the lacquered wooden pipe out from the glove compartment and filled it. The afternoon light was bright in his eyes and he pulled the visor down. The near-empty parking lot was silent.
As the lighter flicked and he inhaled, Ryan closed his eyes. He remembered Mike in the gym shower earlier; saw his dark haired friend clearly in his mind's eye. Naked, wet...Mike had been nervous. Ryan felt his dick twitch and exhaled hard. Mike was confused and Ryan should maybe help him out. That's what friends were for, to help each other out. Mike didn't need that drama fag, he just didn't understand about those things. Maybe it was his dad's fault; the Judge was always saying what a loser Joe Morrison was, defending the same worthless guilty shits he'd once prosecuted. A man should have principles; a man should defend what's right. Joe Morrison just wanted to make money, the Judge always said, and would take anyone's cash, guilty or not, and defend them. It was a crime against the system, really, the idea that everyone was innocent. Everyone wasn't innocent and that was a fact. Everything wasn't good and acceptable, some things were just wrong. Like...being queer.
The whole queer thing was confusing. How had all these guys at Northside been queer without Ryan knowing about it? Even Gene Kuo had looked like a fag this morning with his arm around that little makeup queen, Angel. And Mike...no, he didn't want to think about Mike. The thing was, he couldn't seem to help himself, he kept thinking about Mike with Angel, about Mike naked in the shower, about Mike at football practice, sweaty and laughing when he fumbled. Friends helped each other out for sex things but Mike had never asked, never said anything about jacking off or sex when the other guys talked. If Mike needed something, he should have come to his friends first. Mike just...didn't understand that stuff. And that was Joe's fault, probably. There was something Ryan wanted from Mike, he just couldn't explain what it was exactly. And if Mike needed something he could give, well, they could work that out. Friends help each other out and Mike needed to know he was still one of the guys. Everything was still okay; it wasn't too late.
Ryan had to talk to Mike. If he had those drama punks with him when he came out to the parking lot...well, one way or another, Ryan was going to talk to his friend. Alone.
Ryan had one shot to fix things and he wasn't going to screw it up.
`Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
to seize everything you ever wanted-one moment-
would you capture it or just let it slip?'
Lose Yourself (Eminem)
Gene pulled the folders together and held them upright on the table, tapping them to even out the stack, then slid them into his briefcase. Jaye stood near the door talking to Camille and Doug who seemed to be making an effort not to wrap themselves around each other the way they usually did. Probably their idea of being supportive heterosexuals, thought Gene with amusement.
Matty was entertaining himself while waiting for Gene by talking to Jenny in the coach's office. She was sitting on the edge of the desk and smiling enigmatically while Matty talked rapid-fire in her ear, his arm around her slim waist, her long red hair falling over his arm beneath the tight sleeve of his black tee shirt. She didn't exactly look uninterested and Gene shook his head. Bisexuals were so confusing.
Mike and Angel had been within a foot of each other the entire meeting; even when Angel spoke to the group, Mike had stood at his side. Mike didn't seem at all concerned about being seen so wrapped up in someone that everyone knew was gay. Gene wondered if there was more than one reason Mike stayed so close to Angel today. Safety in numbers and all that. Right now, they were both talking to some students Gene didn't recognize at the far table. Marina leaned against the same table, talking to Dr. Friedman, her long legs, bare under her plaid miniskirt, propped up on the wheel of his chair while Ms. Robi listened. The room was brightly lit and somewhat sterile, the students a little nervous after the meeting broke up. Several had simply slipped out the door immediately, clearly uncomfortable with being spoken to at a GSA meeting. Gene sighed. The group had a long way to go at Northside.
Matty walked up and leaned against the table edge beside Gene, smirking like a cat with a face full of cream. Gene rolled his eyes.
"Don't even tell me." Gene advised his partner.
"I'm crazy for freckles, what can I say?" Matty told him.
Gene turned the clasp on his briefcase and shook his head.
"I thought you were hot for Jaye from the way you kept, ah, not looking at him."
Matty blushed and bit his lower lip.
"Um, yeah, he's..." Matty hesitated. "Does Jaye...have a boyfriend or anything?"
Gene cocked his head at Matty, his sleek dark hair brushing across the top his collar. Matty swallowed hard and looked at his boots for a moment, then back up into his friend's eyes. Gene shook his head, smiling gently.
"No boyfriend that I know of." Gene told Matty.
Matty grinned and looked away, then back at his partner, his expression growing serious.
"Wouldn't fucking hurt you to be interested in someone, too, Gene. Someone who doesn't play football; someone with a brain." Matty told him.
Gene looked down while he picked up his car keys from the table, saying nothing. Matty reached out and lifted Gene's chin, forcing their eyes to meet.
"Gene, you deserve to be happy more than anyone I know." Matty said gently and leaned in, before Gene could object, to kiss his partner lightly on the lips. Gene froze for a moment, glanced once around the room and then pulled back without comment.
"Don't." Gene said, his voice inflectionless.
"Fuck, Gene, you're my friend. I care about you." Matty said quietly, pushing his hands into his pockets.
"We need to go if we're going to pick up your things at Friedman's. I still haven't decided whether to visit Bobby today." Gene paused and smiled. "She invited me to dinner."
Matty laughed. "I'll bet; parents love you, Gene. Want to drop by there on the way to your place?"
Gene shrugged. "Maybe. I should call and see if it's convenient for them."
"So he's home now?" Matty asked.
"Matty, you should have seen that place, Exodus' little indoctrination farm, that his parents sent him to. It made me angry, those self-righteous people; gay people trying to prove you don't have to be gay, that it's a choice." Gene grimaced. "Hell, Matty, they had him on some kind of medication and watched him constantly. God knows what else they did."
Matty sighed. "But he's out now, right?"
"Yeah. His mother said she was bringing him home today." Gene said as they walked toward Friedman at the last table. Marina, standing beside their coach, nodded at them both. Ms. Robi had apparently gone, probably to oversee the initial work for the musical. Mike and Angel now stood alone on the far side of that same table, whispering quietly, their faces inches from each other. Mike's arm was around Angel, his right hand tucked inside the tight back pocket of Angel's jeans. Angel looked up when Gene drew close and smiled, his teeth flashing bright white, then winked at Matty, who winked back. Mike glanced once at the approaching debaters and grinned dreamily, clearly distracted, and quickly turned his attention back to Angel.
Gene nodded to the couple, then looked pointedly away. Matty drew close to stand beside Gene while he spoke to Friedman and Marina. Matty's eyes narrowed as he watched Mike's hand against Angel's rear, inside the boy's pocket, pulling Angel instinctively closer and against his own body. What an asshole, does it even occur to him how Gene feels, Matty wondered in irritation. What the hell did Gene ever see in this dumbass jock? Christ. Matty realized that Gene's body was tense: he never took his eyes from Friedman's face while they spoke. He watched Gene closely, ready to pull him away so they could leave the debate room.
Gene listened as Marina and Friedman dissected the meeting, complimenting him on the organization and planning, without hearing any specifics. He was uncomfortably aware that Mike was on the other side of the table, whispering in Angel's ear, his nose buried in the loose dark hair of the drama student. He heard Angel giggle and Mike's low voice answer him. Gene forced himself not to look, not to turn at those familiar tones, that familiar voice.
I'd know that voice anywhere, Gene realized, the rise and fall, the husky murmurs, the sounds of that man in love. I hear that voice in my dreams.
Gene stood deliberately taller, eyes focused on Friedman and Marina, Matty almost forgotten at his side.
Gene could smell Mike's cologne. He was almost sure that it was one he had bought his lover. His slender hand rose without thought, long fingers sliding under the silver chain around his neck, running along inside it to meet the heavy shield-shaped medallion that hung there.
St. Michael. A deep relief of the saint with upheld sword and a dragon at his feet, it's body twisted, eyes wild, chest exposed and begging for the blade.
The image of a shining hero triumphant.
Gene wondered exactly what the dragon felt as the sword cleft its heart in two.
`How do you cool your lips after a
How do you rid the sweat after the body bliss?
How do you turn your eyes from the romantic glare?
How do you block the sound of a voice you'd know anywhere?'
Insensitive (Jann Arden)
Doug looked up at Camille's face and cupped his hand around her neck to pull her face down into a kiss. Her lips pressed into his, her tongue sliding inside him as she ground her hips again down onto him. He groaned and sucked her tongue in further. Jesus, God. He arched his back, thrusting into her, feeling the need to bury himself inside her slight body.
She weighed almost nothing but seemed to pin him to the bed with the heat of her, the intensity of the connection, the two points of most contact felt like an electric current suddenly wired through his body, firing sparks between them. Doug moaned again and wrapped his fingers around her hips, feeling the bones against his hand, and pressed her tighter to him as he rose up to meet her. She pulled away from the kiss, leaning back to watch as she impaled herself on him.
Camille growled low, panting, as he slid the thumb of his left hand between her flesh to rub hard against her sweet spot in time with his thrusts. Her body rocked against his, little cries escaping her throat, her eyes closing as she lost herself in the rhythm of their bodies slapping together, of his thumb strumming her chord, that single-note flowering into a symphony as her body suddenly tensed and tightened on him. The sound she made was loud in the room but he didn't hear it, caught up as he was in the sudden, mindless urge to simply pound at her above him, his thought focused on the tightening that cried out for release inside her. He groaned loud and arched one last time, shoving hard into her and holding still, caught in the moment of explosion.
At point zero, everything went white hot as the flash lit him from within and blew outward, radiating heat that blanked his mind and tore away everything but her face above him and the hot depths that consumed him. The frozen moment held changeless for a time he couldn't measure as the bomb detonated repeatedly, echoing itself through his body as he shuddered his release.
Finally, his head fell back on her pillow, spent, exhausted and suddenly weak, unable to hold itself up, and his eyes closed. His hands fell away from her body, having felt her finish her series of explosions that left her limp. She leaned onto his chest, heavy with spent heat, her lithe body damp with sweat, her unbound hair falling loose over his face. He sucked in a strand, tasting her, stroking his tongue across the salty fiber, unable to move any other muscle.
Camille made a sound like a purr that rumbled against his chest, vibrating inside him, the familiar feel of her soothing what was left of his mind. He pushed the hair out of his mouth and kissed her head, inches from his. She murmured something; he couldn't make out what. It didn't matter.
He drew his arms around her, pulling her hot body against him. She was so sweet when she was like this, weakened and willing, so open and unlike herself. Doug squeezed her closer to his chest and smiled happily to himself.
Moments later, she rolled off of him and onto her side, tucking her head into the crook of his arm and shoulder, laying her right arm across his naked belly.
"Hey, honey." Doug whispered into her hair.
"Mmm." Camille answered.
"What was that you were trying to tell me?" He asked her.
Camille snickered gently, energy on low, and drew her fingers across him, circling patterns on his bare, sweat-slicked skin.
"Oh...well...I was thinking..." Camille began, her voice barely audible.
"I was thinking about...you know. The baby thing." Camille continued absently, her fingernails raking through the hair that crept up between his groin and his navel. Doug shivered.
"You were thinking?" He repeated, trying to focus on her words and not her body tucked warm against him.
"Mmm-hmm. I was thinking...well, I was thinking that maybe..." Her voice trailed off as she ran the nail of her forefinger up his still plump organ. He groaned softly, feeling himself twitch involuntarily under her touch.
"Yeah?" He managed to say.
"Mmm-hmm. I was thinking that maybe we could, yanno, try it...your way. If you still want to." Camille's voice was low, quiet, but certain. Her nail tip grazed across the tip and into the opening, making him gasp as her words penetrated.
"What? I mean...what? You want to...have the baby, honey?" Doug said, scrambling for his scattered wits and turning onto his side to face her. The late afternoon sun warmed the bed; painting bright yellow across the lilac satin comforter they lay atop. The door to her room was shut, though it didn't matter, her parents weren't home. A Siamese cat lay at the foot of the bed, unconcerned with the recent tussle at the head of the bed, curled in a warm ball of sleep.
Camille stared at Doug's chest in front of her, bringing her hand up to touch the hollow of his throat.
"Mmm-hmm." She said, not meeting his eyes.
Doug grinned; he couldn't help it. He squeezed her tight against him and laughed.
"Oh, God, really?"
"Mmm-hmm. But we need to talk about things, Doug. I'm still worried about...you know. My dancing, my parents...I dunno. Everything." Camille said softly.
Doug laughed again and kissed her forehead.
"Anything you want, honey, anything at all. I'll do anything you want. Jesus, Camille, I'm ...so happy." He wasn't going to ask her why, he just wanted it to be true.
Camille nodded, still looking at his chest.
"I know, Doug."
He kissed her again. "Thank you." He said simply, letting out a sigh of relief and leaning his head back against the pillow. He looked up at the ceiling, smiling at the dust motes he could see in the swath of sunshine. He remembered his mother telling him when he was little that they were fairies dancing and watching out for him. He grinned up at them, pulling Camille onto his shoulder with his right arm. She nestled there and shut her eyes.
Doug leaned his head against hers, watching the fairies dance in the sunbeam over his lover's bed. He began to hum softly, something from Camelot that he didn't yet know the words to.
He couldn't remember ever being this happy.
`How to handle a woman?
Mark me well, I will tell you, sir:
The way to handle a woman
is to love her...simply love her.'
How To Handle a Woman (from Camelot)
"Thanks for coming with me to the meeting, Mike." Angel said, his head against the back of the seat, black hair falling onto the brown leather. His mascara was a little smudged this late in the day; he looked a little rumpled, thought Michael.
Michael drew his finger down his lover's face as he examined it.
"Sure, baby." Michael said.
"What'd you think of the meeting? Of the whole GSA idea?" Angel asked.
"I dunno, baby. I can understand that we maybe need something but I'm wondering if...you know, if people won't like the group starting at Northside. If people will...overreact."
Angel raised an eyebrow.
"You'd rather just leave things the way they are?" Angel demanded.
"No, I mean...I dunno, how can things stay the same? For me, anyhow, that's not gonna happen after today. Seems like..." Michael paused and sighed heavily. "Like everyone knows about me and you, baby."
Angel studied Michael's expression carefully.
"Was it bad today, Mike?" Angel asked.
"Meaning what? What happened today that I don't know about?" Angel asked, worried.
Michael looked out the car window, running his tongue along the inside of his teeth, not answering. He was picturing Ryan Sellers in the gym shower, standing close and breathing hard. Remembering how he'd felt then, nude in front of his friend, naked in more ways than one, he flushed, confused. He'd known Ryan most of his life but he couldn't understand what had happened between them today, what it meant, what it was going to mean. And he didn't see how Angel could understand.
And he definitely didn't want Angel to know the part where he got cold-cocked by a teammate. He'd heard enough already about how dangerous Ryan was, he didn't want to hear more. Really, Jaye and Angel were overeating, he thought. Ryan was a jerk and a bigot but he was hardly dangerous. He couldn't really blame Ryan for hitting him, he'd thrown, or tried to, the first punch himself.
"Just...nothing. Just...people looking at me, not saying much. That type of thing. Attitudes, I guess. You know." Michael told Angel.
Angel watched him carefully.
"Yeah, I do know." Angel told him, his expression unreadable.
"Look, baby, it's okay. Really. I just...well, I never meant to be the poster boy for gay pride or anything. Its not really that much fun when you're on the football team." Michael said uncomfortably.
"It's not that much fun for anybody, Mike. You think I like it when people treat me like shit? Look at me that way?" Angel demanded.
"No, baby, I don't. But it's different for you." Michael hesitated. "I mean... you're in drama. People expect-"
Angel's eyes flared hot as he interrupted.
"People expect drama kids to be queers, is that what you mean? Well, fuck you, Mike, that's the kind of shitty attitude that makes the GSA important here. I'm not gay because I'm in drama, dammit, that's not how it works!"
Michael put his hand on Angel's knee.
"Calm down, baby, that's not what I said. But yanno, some of you drama people kind of...bring it on yourselves." Michael told him.
Angel brushed Michael's hand from his leg.
"Just what the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
Michael exhaled, letting out at least two days worth of tension.
"Well, fuck, Angel, whaddaya think I mean? Look at you, look at your clothes, look at that makeup. What other guys wear makeup to school who aren't in drama? And your clothes look like something from Rocky Horror." Michael's voice was harsh as he spoke.
Angel stared at him.
"What the hell did you just say to me?" Angel asked, voice silken threaded with contained anger.
"I'm saying I think my day wouldn't have sucked quite so bad if you had thought of someone besides yourself when you got dressed this morning, Angel. If you'd have thought of me for one second, you wouldn't have dressed like that, maybe not worn makeup today, of all days. And what about the GSA thing? I mean, some of those kids won't ever come back, maybe, because they'll think the GSA is just for people like you, guys wearing makeup and that stuff, and not for normal-"
Angel's slap caught Michael by surprise, cutting off his sentence and fracturing his thoughts. He felt the sting on his cheek and raised his hand to touch it, staring at his boyfriend, who looked back at him wordlessly, fury evident in his black eyes. The silence drew tall and then lengthened between them, making the space in the car seem far larger than it really was. The parking lot was nearly empty now, clusters of cars and trucks waiting for students busy with after school activities. The afternoon sun was bright and brushed away the shadows that might have lingered inside the Lotus. The light made Angel's mascara streaks more visible to Michael as he stared at his lover, hand against his cheek. Michael began to wonder about what people said about Latinos and temper. What had he said to make Angel so mad?
"Apologize." Angel said tersely, his coal eyes flashing darker.
"For what? Jesus, Angel, I don't think it's unreasonable to want you to think about me now, to maybe, you know, tone that shit down some at school. Hell, do you even know what people say about-"
"Don't. Tell. Me. What. People. Say." Angel said through clenched teeth. "I fucking know what people say, they've been saying it to my face for years, Mike. I don't fucking need you to tell me what they say!"
Michael frowned, leaned back in the driver's seat and looked out the windshield at the patient, empty cars.
"Look, baby, it's just the truth. I'd really appreciate it if you could...well, tone it down a little. For a while, maybe. Okay?" Michael said, weariness in his voice. "I don't mind getting my ass kicked for dating you if...well, if you just didn't make it so easy for them to wanna do that. I mean, hell, Angel, can't you at least try to see it from my side? For chrissakes, I'm not in drama, I'm a varsity football player!"
Angel studied him, the fire quieting in his eyes.
"Yeah." Angel said finally. "You are."
Angel opened the car door and grabbed his backpack from the floorboard mat without comment. Michael watched, stunned, as Angel simply slammed the door and walked off, pulling his cell phone out of his pack and flipping it open, not once looking back. Michael shoved his own door open and stood up beside the car, one foot on the running board as he called out to Angel.
"Don't leave, dammit, come back and talk to me, Angel!"
Angel didn't turn around.
"Angel!" Michael bellowed, startling two drama ducks at the edge of the parking lot that had waddled this far from the pond. A flutter of feathers settled down quickly. When Michael looked back at Angel, cell phone to his ear, he saw Jaye walking toward him from the drama building, his own cell phone open. Neither of them looked in Michael's direction.
"Fuck!" Michael yelled and slammed his hand hard onto the top of the Lotus. He threw himself back into the car and pulled the door shut as hard as he could, the impact rocking the light frame of the vehicle. He gripped the steering wheel tightly, staring ahead but seeing nothing.
Michael couldn't imagine Gene Kuo ever making him this angry.
`I loved you
once in silence
and misery was all I knew.
Here we are, my love,
Silent once more
and not far, my love,
from where we were before.'
I Loved You Once In Silence (from Camelot)
Ryan sat, stoned, in his jet black, fully loaded 2005 Wrangler Rubicon U (for Unlimited) and watched Angel walk away from Michael's sports car on the other end of the student parking lot. He saw Michael hit the top of the Lotus and winced, the impact was bound to make a dent in a car that light. Angel and the other drama kid disappeared into the theater building and Michael got back inside the car but didn't start it. Ryan reached for a cigarette, thoughtful, and then ground it out unlit into the ashtray. He opened the door of the truck and stood there for a moment, watching Michael's unmoving car. Ryan looked around once and, seeing no one, closed the door of his truck and walked slowly over to the Lotus.
Michael looked up when Ryan drew close, startled, then relaxed. When Ryan came to the driver's side door, Michael looked up again, unsure, annoyance still written in large font across his face. Glancing away and then back, and seeing Ryan still standing there silent outside his car, Michael pushed the button to lower the window. He glanced at Ryan then flicked his eyes away. Neither said anything for several moments. Finally, Michael spoke, his voice harsh.
Ryan swallowed hard. He ran his hand across the roof of the car, feeling for damage, not answering immediately.
"Ryan. What the fuck do you want?" Michael demanded.
"Wanna go get a burger?" Ryan asked suddenly, still looking at the unblemished car top.
"What?" Michael laughed, mirthless. "Now just why the fuck would you think I'd have a burger with you, Ryan?"
"Thought we could talk." Ryan said, looking out across the near-empty parking lot at nothing.
"Talk about what?" Michael asked, surly. "You fucking hit me today in gym, asshole."
"Yeah." Ryan admitted. "Sorry."
Michael looked at Ryan, raking his eyes up the larger boy's form standing outside his car window. He raised his eyebrow.
"Sorry? That's it?"
"I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry I hit you, Mike. I just...I dunno. You hungry?" Ryan asked, returning like a bird dog to the subject.
Michael studied Ryan's face impassively.
"Well?" Ryan asked, his voice even.
Ryan nodded and moved to walk around the car to the passenger side. Michael shook his head.
"No. You follow me. McDonald's okay?"
Ryan cleared his throat, still not looking in Michael's face.
"Yeah, sure. Over on Elm?" Ryan suggested.
"Fine. Meet you there." Michael said, reaching for the ignition key. Ryan nodded again and walked back to his Wrangler, feeling somehow lighter as he moved across the pavement.
The McDonald's on Elm was crowded with students from Northside grabbing a snack before heading home to wait for dinner and with families of little children running wild through play areas filled with stylized fish and McDonald's characters. Ryan and Michael ordered shakes, fries and Big Macs, then took their trays to a far table near a large neon lit fish tank in the corner. They sat down in silence, across from each other in the blue molded plastic chairs. Michael dumped his fries onto the tray and unwrapped his burger before taking a deep bite into the sesame seed bun. Ryan laid his fries out neatly in their box, setting the paper ketchup container beside them, and then folded back the burger wrapper to free his sandwich. He didn't start eating, just looked at his food while Michael chewed. Michael reached across the trays to dip a cluster of crispy fries into Ryan's ketchup cup. Ryan looked up, finally meeting Michael's gaze. Michael stopped chewing.
"So? What'd you wanna talk about?" Michael asked him.
Ryan shrugged, looking back down at his carefully arranged food in its colorful paper shells. He suddenly didn't feel hungry.
"I just..." Ryan started, then stopped, unsure. "I just...I mean...I don't know, I just didn't like fighting in gym, Mike."
"Yeah, I didn't like it much either." Michael said, his tone wry. He popped another several fries into his mouth and chewed, stilling conversation for another minute. Ryan stared down at his hands.
"I'm sorry I hit you, Mike, I really am." Ryan said quietly.
"Okay. What about that stuff you said, though?" Michael asked him.
Ryan drew in a breath and looked up.
"I dunno, Mike. I mean...I dunno what to think about you being...you know." Ryan said, hesitating.
"Gay?" Michael asked, his voice very low, glancing around once before speaking.
Ryan nodded, watching him.
"I don't see what fucking difference it makes to you, Sellers." Michael said, annoyed. He took another big bite of the Big Mac, conscious of Ryan's gaze as he chewed. He couldn't taste the thing and so set it down, looking up into Ryan's face. "Why the hell do you care, anyway?"
Ryan looked stricken. "I don't care, I mean I do care but, well, I mean I care about you, Mike, about you...at school, about you...making bad choices or whatever. I want..." Ryan hesitated. "I want you to be okay, Mike, I want things to be like they were, okay?"
Michael looked at his teammate.
"Like they were, how?" Michael asked.
"You know, Mike. Not...not hanging around with those drama guys who wear makeup and shit. Not...I dunno, just like they were, Mike. I mean, can't you just hang out with Billy and me and shit, Mike? I got some smoke in the truck, we can...talk and smoke it after we eat. Okay?"
Michael watched the expression on Ryan's face. Angel's slap still stung his face, or maybe it was his imagination. After the day he'd had, he'd expected a little more sympathy from Angel, a little more cooperation. Not to get slapped in the face by Angel de la Torres, the whole reason his day had sucked in the first place. A little smoke wouldn't hurt after a day like today.
"Sure. Whatever." Michael said.
Ryan smiled. He picked up his Big Mac and began to wolf it down, his eyes on Michael's.
My what big eyes you have.
`My noodle is cock-adoodle, my clocks cuckoo,
I got screws loose, yeah, the whole kitten-kaboodle,
There's no room and I'm Numero Uno...
You need a fag to come and tear a new hole in
You better love me bitch.'
Love Me (Eminem)
Mrs. Boyd opened the door to Bobby's room without knocking and he groaned without looking up from his position face down on the bed.
"Mom." Bobby said, low, in a tone of complaint.
"You have a visitor, Bobby, sit up now." Jeannie said, her voice prim as she pushed the door fully open. Her son sat up on the bed, rubbing his eyes to focus them. He looked over at his mother and couldn't stop a smile from blossoming on his face.
Gene Kuo stood beside his mother at his bedroom door, wearing gray slacks and a button-down oxford shirt that he wore buttoned up to his neck. His hands were in his pants pockets as he stood casually, smiling at Bobby. Jeannie brushed at imaginary lint on her white blouse and spoke to Gene.
"I'll leave you two to talk, Gene, just let yourself out when you have to go. Will you be able to have dinner with us this week, dear?"
Gene met her eyes and smiled the Kuo smile that won over debate judges before they heard him speak.
"Yes, ma'am, and thank you. I think Wednesday would be good but I'll need to check with my mother first." He told her.
Jeannie smiled, pleased. "Of course, Gene. Just call me and let me know. And I'd love to meet your mother sometime."
Gene nodded. "Yes, ma'am, but she does work a lot. I'll let her know, though."
Jeannie nodded and looked from Bobby to Gene for a moment, uncertain, then relaxed and smiled again.
"Well, you two have a nice talk and I'll see you later in the week, Gene." She said.
Gene held out his hand, his eyes level with hers, and Jeannie took his hand and shook it, clearly pleasing the older woman. She left, pulling the door closed behind her, which made Bobby's eyes go wide.
"She said no one could be in here with the door closed!" Bobby exclaimed, surprised. "Well, no guys anyway."
"Well, I guess I'm the exception, then." Gene said, and then winked at Bobby.
Bobby laughed, blushing.
"Yeah, she says Gene has `lovely manners'."
"You'd be surprised how far lovely manners will get you, Bobby." Gene said, sitting down on the bed beside the other boy. Bobby sat up cross-legged in the bed, facing Gene.
"You'll have to teach me, I guess." Bobby said, with a laugh.
Gene's eyes twinkled like stars.
"Nothing to it, Bobby. Manners are just a way to be...friendly." Gene said, patting Bobby's hand that lay on the bed between them. Bobby flushed and bit his lip.
"Um, well, it's hard to feel friendly with Mother." Bobby said.
Gene studied Bobby's face; his eyes still alight.
"Well, yes, that's the hard part. The easy part is being friendly with people you like." Gene told him, mischievously.
"People you like?" Bobby repeated, caught in Gene's gaze.
"Mmm-hmm." Gene said softly. "It's easy being friendly with people you like, isn't it?"
Bobby inhaled hard as Gene leaned in and kissed him lightly on the lips, and then pulled back.
Bobby exhaled shakily, blushing like a bride, unable to meet Gene's eyes.
Gene leaned back on an elbow on the bed, watching Bobby.
"I have to leave in a few minutes to pick up my debate partner from our coach's house but I wanted to stop by to talk today." Gene told Bobby. Bobby stared at him, feeling very much off balance. Gene grinned and reached out to pet the beige stuffed cat in the middle of the bed.
Relaxed on the bed, Gene looked elegant, Bobby thought, slender and almost regal, his movements catlike. Gene radiated confidence. His coloring was rich against the light bedspread, his silken black hair brushing his shoulder as he leaned his head to the side. He reached up to unbutton the top two buttons of his shirt, revealing smooth skin and a slim silver chain that disappeared into the depths of his starched shirt. He smiled up at Bobby from under long-lashed eyes.
"So, Bobby. Glad to be home?"
And I can't turn away...
I'm like a prisoner, captured by your eyes.'
Eyes of Laura Mars (Barbra Streisand)
On his way out of the bathroom at McDonald's, Ryan's cell phone rang. Cursing, seeing Michael waiting beside his car, Ryan checked the caller ID. He didn't have time for a call right now.
It was the Judge.
Ryan flipped open the phone with his right hand, his eyes on Michael through the glass.
"Sir?" Ryan said low into the phone.
His father's voice was sharp in his ear.
"I just got a call from the D.A."
Ryan swallowed hard and sat down in the nearest chair. Oh, shit.
"Boy, I said I just got a call from the goddamn district attorney's office. A friend of mine called to warn me about charges being filed today."
Ryan said nothing but swore silently to himself. That little faggot was gonna regret this more than he could ever imagine.
"I don't know what you mean, sir." Ryan said carefully.
"Don't give me that shit. They said some kid filed assault charges against you for something that happened last Saturday. Claimed it was a hate-based attack, too. Said he was gay." The Judge's voice was harsh and promised consequences for Ryan.
"Dad, I don't know what they told you but I didn't do anything. Last Saturday, I was with Billy and Scott all night and at home with Mom all day, you can ask them." Ryan could hear the tremor in his voice and cursed his weakness. He had to convince his father now, before anything else happened.
"Billy and Scott couldn't say shit that I'd listen to and your mother says she doesn't know where you were after breakfast. Don't even bother making something else up. I just want to know what happened to your brains. You know damn well I'm running for office next year, you worthless shit. You fuck this up for me and I will take it out on your hide. I don't care if you think you're some hot shit football player, I will remind you of just what makes a Marine, son. No kid can take a Marine and no son of mine is gonna face assault charges in court. Not if he wants to remain my son." The Judge's voice was cold, clear and direct. Ryan's hands began to tremble.
"So what are you gonna do to fix this, boy?" His father asked.
Ryan stared out the window, seeing nothing but his father's face.
"I don't know, Dad, but...I'll fix it, I promise." Ryan said, fighting to keep the fear out of his voice.
"You'd better. I don't want to hear another thing about it except that it's over." The Judge told him. Ryan opened his mouth to answer but the line went dead.
The Judge had hung up the phone.
Ryan pushed out of the McDonald's and past Michael, got into his truck and started the engine without hearing Michael's indignant protest. Ryan pulled out of the parking space, barely conscious of other vehicles. As he entered the freeway, he slammed his right hand down hard onto the steering wheel. The absolute last thing he ever wanted was to face the Judge's wrath. He was going to have to visit that little drama fag. What the hell was his name, again? Clenching the steering wheel in both hands, furious, Ryan bared his teeth to the world.
All the better to eat you with, my dear.
`Okay, I'm ready to go play
I got the machete from O.J.,
I'm ready to make everyone's throats ache;
You faggots keep egging me on
'Til I have you at knifepoint, then you beg me to stop?
Shut up! Give me your hands and feet;
I said shut up when I'm talking to you!
You hear me?
Kill You (Eminem)
[End of Part 18]
Thanks again for your support! I'm still learning and all of you are helping me even if it's just by reading Drama Club or joining the list, but the emails really keep me going firstname.lastname@example.org
Deepest apologies for the delay between Parts 17 and 18. It won't happen again although things will be a little slower as this book draws to a close with events on Wednesday at Northside. Stay tuned to see what happens with Camille's baby, Bobby's homecoming, Trey's assault charges, Mike's attitude, Angel!, Gene's heartache and new interests, Matty's various attractions and, of course, to see who gets cast in Camelot! We will have a DC Christmas short story and Drama Club, Act II will be transcribed in the New Year.
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