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From Behind Those Eyes - Chapter 6

The wind was blowing a little today, but not enough to affect my game. I had been through this enough times over the years that I knew how to adjust for that variable. I loved the feel of the sun warming my body and the cool fall breeze blowing around me. The freshly cut grass was fragrant and as I enjoyed the scent I cleared my head. Standing out there on the mound, my team behind me waiting, I brushed the dirt off the rubber with my cleat before I looked to my right, nodding at Bobby and then to my left, checking the runner on first base before I threw the next pitch. The guy swung and missed. The umpire yelled, “Strike!” signaling the end of the inning and causing the people in the stands to cheer.

We all ran into the dugout, and as I slipped my jacket on my right arm to keep it warm, Coach came over and said, “Nice job Cooper,” before he ran off to watch the guys who were up to bat. I had seen my Dad in the stands and Jesse walked by at some point during the game, but I couldn’t let myself get distracted. I owed it to my team to have my shit together and I didn’t want to let them down.

It had been a close game so far, and that meant I had to be even more focused. Any errors on my part could cause the game to go either way, and I didn’t want to be responsible for us losing. A few more innings and it would all be over and I could get on with my evening and see Jesse, finally. Besides, the guys are always in a better mood when we win, I mean who really likes to lose? Umm, I think that would be no one.

I looked around, not really watching the game, and I saw my Dad sitting with Jules. They waved and I waved back. I spotted Sean standing with Jesse discussing something, but I didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t worry about it now anyway, but I was glad to see that he had someone to talk to. I would have hated to see him sitting all alone.

I forced myself to focus my attention on the game. It wasn’t too hard to do really, since I loved playing, and it was over before I knew it. We won, but it had been a hard game, and now I was more than ready for the chance to relax and have some fun with Jesse. I was still nervous about him officially meeting all my friends, and I knew it would be awkward for a while, but he was a cool guy and seemed to be willing to try.

I was in the locker room after the game when Bobby asked me, “Hey Coop! You going to Joey’s right?” I smiled, secretly knowing that I would be there with Jesse when I answered back, “Yeah I’ll be there,” before heading off to the showers. I usually hurried when I was in the showers, and that was only after a game anyway, but I didn’t need to get caught looking at the guys. Only this time I was hurrying because I knew Jesse was waiting for me and we would be at Joey’s together tonight and that made me smile again.

I quickly dressed in a pair of jeans and a gray hoodie before I pulled on my shoes and my letterman jacket. I thought I had hurried, but I noticed as I looked around, that I was about the only one left in the locker room. I glanced down at my watch, checking the time, and then grabbed my keys and headed out to find Jesse. We had agreed earlier that he would wait for me after the game and that we would go together to Joey’s. It was the right thing to do, I mean friends do that all the time, and for now at least, that’s how we were trying to portray our relationship. Friends.

As I got closer to the door, I heard a bit of a commotion going on, but I didn’t think much about it since there were always some guys hanging out around the locker room rough housing. When I finally made it out the door I heard, “Look guys, the queer is hanging out by the locker room,” come from Jeremy’s mouth. Jeremy was the classic example of the straight, homophobic jock. Big mouth, small brain, and no class; and about my least favorite person. For the most part I really tried to avoid any interaction or association with him. He wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to have as a friend, and I was pretty sure that his free time was spent trying to be the biggest jerk possible and it seemed that right now, he was succeeding.

People had sort of formed a circle around Jeremy and Jesse, watching as Jesse was being harassed, ridiculed, when I pushed my way to the middle to see what was going on. Jeremy spotted me and said accusingly, “Hey Coop, I think this guy was trying to see some cock.” Looking at me expectantly, as though I would help him continue on with this bullshit, I said sarcastically, “That’s what happens when you try and think. Don’t hurt yourself there J.” I had my eyes on Jesse the whole time and he stood there quietly, trying not to provoke Jeremy to say any more than he already was.

My eyes caught Jesse’s, just for a moment, but it was long enough for me to let him know I was here for him and that I was sorry that this had happened. I should have known better than to ask him to wait for me here. His eyes told me that he was sorry that I even had to get involved, and behind that I saw sadness, and an old wound. I still hadn’t heard the story he had mentioned in the library the other day, but I could tell that he genuinely was hurt by the words Jeremy was saying. There were some laughs from the not so innocent bystanders when I said that to Jeremy, and he seemed to try and laugh it off, as if I wasn’t being entirely serious. “So are we going or what J?” I asked hoping to get his mind off of picking on my boyfriend. I knew deep down that if it came to protecting his safety, I would do what I had to, but if I didn’t have to tell everyone about us I wasn’t going to, at least not yet.

“Yeah, let’s go, I’m hungry,” he said and walked off toward his car throwing over his shoulder, “See you later queer.” I was so torn emotionally. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. There was always the option of just kicking Jeremy’s ass and ending up outing myself in the process, but at least Jesse would know I was there for him and that I cared enough to protect him from assholes like Jeremy or I could be the friend to Jesse I kept claiming to be and stick up for him. I could tell Jeremy to fuck off, but all of those left me with the same problem. What do I say when he asks me why I care what happens to ‘the queer’?

I hated that word. It stung every time I heard him call Jesse that and he wasn’t even talking to me, but I knew that if he knew about me he would be saying it plenty, and I tried to shrug off the feeling that my little straight world I had created was slowly crumbling right in front of me. “Are you alright?” I asked Jesse trying so hard not to reach out and pull him into my arms and protect him from all the pain and hurt he was so obviously feeling. I had to shove my hands in my jacket pockets to stop myself from doing something that would be obvious. People had started to clear out a little since there really wasn’t much to see anymore and I was thankful for what little space that gave us.

He wouldn’t even look at me. I know that he appreciated me getting Jeremy to lay off him, but that didn’t really solve anything. I couldn’t just show up with Jesse now without there being another confrontation and I sure as hell wasn’t going to put him through that again. “Yeah,” was all he said before he turned and walked away; away from me and away from the delusion that in some place, at some point, we might be able to be in a normal relationship. Right now we couldn’t even figure out a safe way to be friends, let alone boyfriends.

I watched as he walked through the parking lot alone and headed for home. His head hung in a lonesome way, his shoulders slumped forward. He looked dejected, miserable, and I knew he knew I felt that way too having to watch him e hurt and being totally unable to do anything to help. “Coming Coop?” Bobby said as he headed for my truck. I nodded and said, “Yeah, let’s go.” I usually took Bobby with me after the game where we would meet everyone else. I didn’t plan on staying there, especially if Jeremy was there. I didn’t trust myself enough not to kick his ass the very next time I saw him, so I thought I better just avoid him for now until I could cool off.

Besides I wanted to see Jesse anyway, so I told Bobby on the way to Joey’s that I wasn’t feeling well, which in a way was true. I dropped him off at Joey’s and headed straight to Jesse’s house. When I arrived there I saw a petite woman in the front yard, she must be Jesse’s mom I thought as I wondered what to say to her. She was watering the yard when I walked up. “Hello Mrs. Green,” I said, polite as usual. She smiled at me, and I immediately knew where Jesse got his smile from because she looked radiant as she stood there smiling. “Hello,” she said in return, looking at me curiously since I had approached her but not yet said why I was there. “Oh sorry,” I said, “I was looking for Jess, is he here?” I asked hopeful that he was.

“Yes sweetie, he just got here,” she answered before indicating that I should go on in the house and find him. I found that a bit odd since I had never even met the woman before, but I didn’t waste my time thinking about that. I knew my way through his house and I walked in and went straight upstairs in search of the place where he first kissed me, the place where I admitted to the first person ever that I was gay. I walked in, finding him lying on the bed on his stomach, head turned away from the door and me. “Jess,” I said so softly, afraid that he wouldn’t want to see me. He turned onto his side, his back to me, and I took that as an indication that he didn’t want to see me. I frowned as his head sunk down into his pillow.

I’m not sure what I expected to find when I got there, but it definitely wasn’t Jesse turning his back on me. I wasn’t about to give up that easily though, so I walked over to where he was laying down after closing his door and laid down behind him gathering his body in my arms in the process. His scent calmed me as I relaxed a little knowing that he was at least safe, even if he wasn’t happy yet. I held him as his body went from rigid to fidgety, and then finally, after laying there for a while in silence he was in an almost peaceful, relaxed state. “Can I stay here tonight?” I asked him becoming more and more certain that it would be increasingly difficult to for me to get myself to leave, to have him out of my arms any time soon.

“You really want to?” he asked sounding skeptical at the thought that I would want to stay the night with him. “Yes, I really do,” I whispered softly in his ear, “I don’t ever want to be away from you.” He finally turned over and we were face to face when he said, “You know, you can’t protect me from shit like that. It will happen to you too at some point.” I wasn’t thinking about myself just then and maybe he was right, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to or that I wasn’t going to try my hardest to keep him safe and happy. In my arms at least I knew he was both of those.

“Will it be okay with your parents if I stay?” I asked him. He nodded saying, “Yeah, if you really want to.” I saw an unspoken plea for me not to leave in his eyes. “I’m not going anywhere,” I said and he relaxed against me, his head on my chest. “Let me call my Dad and tell him that I’m staying here tonight,” I said but as I moved to get up he wouldn’t let me go. I laughed a small laugh saying, “Come on Jess, I told you I’m not leaving,” but by this time he was shaking in my arms. I instinctively held him tighter, maybe to make him feel safer, maybe to try to get him to stop shaking, but it wasn’t working because the next thing I knew he was crying.

“Jess, what’s wrong?” I asked, possibly being the dumbest question I could have asked him. He wouldn’t say anything, or maybe he couldn’t, as he cried in the safety of my embrace. Maybe he just needed to let it out so he would feel better, but it was hard for me to speculate since I still didn’t know exactly why he was crying. I knew that what Jeremy had said was hurtful, but I heard stuff like that being said all the time, and I figured that Jesse did too, so that didn’t seem like something that would provoke this strong of a response from him.

His body trembled against mine, his breathing becoming erratic, and I was beginning to get a little scared since he showed no signs of calming down. I held him close, tight against me, our legs intertwined as I rubbed small, soothing circles across his back. I had been softly saying things like, “I’m here Jess,” and, “It’s okay, it’s over now,” trying to comfort him, but my words didn’t seem to be helping. All I wanted was to take all his pain away, to see him smile again; I felt helpless being unable to calm him down.

His tears had soaked through my shirt and I felt the warm moisture on my chest. “Jess, I need you to tell me what’s wrong,” I said using a bit more force than I had before. “This all can’t be because of Jeremy, I mean you know that guy is just a dumbass right?” He had seemed to try to relax a little hearing the fear and concern in my voice. He tried to calm himself down finally when I suggested, “Come on Jess, take a deep breath, okay,” hoping that he might be able to get his breathing a little closer to normal than his current state of almost hyperventilating.

His face was buried in my chest when he spoke so I barely made out the words, “I was so scared that they would find out.” At least I knew that it wasn’t what Jeremy had said that was causing all the emotional upset. “About me?” I asked. He nodded against my chest mumbling, “I’m so sorry that you had to see that,” as he grasped on to my shirt in a way that led me to believe he was still worried that I was about to disappear.

I reached behind me, grabbing his hands and prying them open. I managed to get him to release the grip he had on my shirt before I pulled him up to sit across from me. “Jess, I need you to look at me,” I said firmly so he would know that I meant it. “Please,” I added hopeful that he would actually do what I was asking of him. After just a moment of inner thought on his part he granted my request and I flashed him a brief but sincere smile.

“Listen to me carefully okay,” I instructed and he nodded before I continued. “I hope you know that I never would have let him hurt you. People are going to find out eventually anyway,” I said with some resolve. “I’m getting tired of not being able to see you when I want, or touch you or kiss you or talk to you.” I had no illusions about how difficult it would be for us once everyone knew, but as it stood now, it wasn’t exactly easy either. At least we could be there for each other if everyone knew we were together.

He had calmed down quite a bit by this time when I said, “And I don’t want you worrying about people finding out about me, or us. Until I decide to tell them they won’t know for sure anyway.” He nodded at me and I gave him a comforting smile, squeezing his hand and reminding him that we were in this together.

“Is it still okay if I stay here tonight?” I asked hoping that it would be. I didn’t want to leave him and if I wasn’t staying then I would have to be heading home soon. He responded by asking me, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” It occurred to me suddenly that his parents must know that he was gay and that this could be awkward. I knew that I wanted to stay with him, hold him, sleep next to him and wake up with my arms around him, but now I wondered if that would even be possible with his parents knowing.

“Your parents know, don’t they?” I asked him and he nodded. “Do they know about me? I mean about us, that we’re together?” I asked, all those words coming out so quickly that he flashed me a look that said I was overreacting just a little. He shook his head no as he said, “But I really want to tell them. They’ll be okay with it.” I think that I must have had this incredulous look on my face because he laughed and said, “Stephen, it’ll be okay, I promise.” I just shook my head in disbelief.

“So what you’re trying to tell me is that you want to tell your parents that you want your boyfriend to spend the night with you?” I asked pointedly, still shocked by the way he was so calm and certain that it would all work out. He nodded saying, “Yes that’s exactly what I’m saying.” Okay, now I was really confused. I mean I was pretty sure that most parents didn’t let their kids boyfriends sleep over and here he was telling me that his wouldn’t mind in the least.

“Why would they be okay with that?” I asked, the uncertainty clearly evident in my voice. Instead of answering my question he asked, “So are you staying or not?” He actually laughed at me when I stood up and was pacing around his room, rubbing my head. I flashed him a look that told him just how funny I thought the whole situation was. He stood up and walked over to where I was currently having a deep discussion with myself and said, “Better call your Dad then,” before I felt his lips gently land on mine. All the anxiety and fear I had been feeling seemed to melt away as I felt his tongue pleading for entrance to my mouth.

He seemed to have this amazing ability to make me instantly forget anything that was going on around me simply by putting his lips on mine, not that I was complaining at all at the moment. At some point during our kiss, I felt his hands travel down my back, ending up on my ass. I thought nothing of it really since he had done that before, but it was when I felt his hand slip into my back pocket that I broke our kiss. He grabbed my cell phone out of my back pocket and put it in my hand saying, “Call your dad and tell him that you’ll be staying here tonight. I’ll be right back,” as he headed out the door, in search of his parents I assumed.

“Hey wait. Jess…,” I said but he didn’t stop, he was gone already. I did as I was told and called my Dad. I told him that I was staying at Jesse’s for the night and then took a seat on his bed, and waited for him to come back. He had said that his parents knew he was gay, and that he wanted to tell them about us. I was currently trying not to think about that. I was fairly certain that my brain wasn’t ready to think about all that now, to deal with all the possible scenarios that could occur as a result of him telling his parents that we were, in fact, boyfriends.

I had been sitting there, fidgeting nervously, for about fifteen minutes when he finally returned to his room. I was so anxious at that point, that I practically screamed at him, “Where have you been?” not realizing that he had some sandwiches and drinks in his hands. He just laughed at me, again, saying, “Relax. I was hungry and I figured you probably were too, so I made us something to eat.”

“Oh,” was all I could manage as he shook his head at me, probably thinking that I was acting crazy. I guess I was acting crazy, but that was because he was walking around like it was no big deal that I was spending the night, and I still didn’t know if he had told his parents about us or not. I took the sandwich he was offering me since I actually was hungry. I hadn’t realized that I was until he mentioned it, but I was very hungry, and glad that he had brought some food with him.

“I hope you like turkey,” was all he said as we sat down across from each other on his bed to eat. I nodded saying, “Yeah, thanks.” He nodded in return since by this point his mouth was full. “So what happened down there?” I asked, referring to the time he had spent downstairs. I assumed that at some point he had run into his parents or actually went and asked if it was okay for me to stay over tonight. I needed to know exactly what he had told them, and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure how comfortable I was with his parents knowing that we were together and not caring if we were sleeping together. Not that we were ‘sleeping together’.

“I told you, I made us some sandwiches,” he said as he continued to eat his. I was beyond exasperated at this point and his attempt to be coy with me was making me crazy. Why was it so wrong of me to want to know what had been said? It seemed only fair since it was partly about me, or at least I thought so. I was about to freak out, all this uncertainty was killing me when he said, “Oh, and I told my parents you were sleeping over.” He said it so casually, as if I had no reason to be worried about anything. Maybe I didn’t, maybe he was just a little more used to all this than me, maybe I was overreacting, but that didn’t help me feel any better at the moment.

“What did they say?” I managed to get out after having a little talk with myself, trying to calm down and not panic at the unknown. He just shrugged saying, “They said it’s cool,” causing me to officially lose it. I had held onto the small amount of patience and self control I had left until that moment, and then it was gone.

“You’re enjoying this aren’t you!” I said in an outburst of nervous tension. “Will you please just tell me what you said to them, exactly, before I have a heart attack?” I think that I succeeded in making him think that I was a total freak, and he was looking at me like I was being ridiculous. Perhaps I was, but again, I needed to know what had been said, and he wasn’t being very forth coming with the details.

“Why are you freaking out?” he asked me calmly, as if my behavior was unjustified. “All I said was that it was getting late and that you were gonna stay here tonight. They said that it was fine, so chill out okay, please,” he said trying to calm me down some. I nodded but didn’t say anything as I stood up and went over to look out the window. Why was I being such a jerk? I was about to get to spend the whole night with Jesse and wake up next to him, and I was ruining it by acting like this. I felt his arms wrap around my waist from behind me and I melted back into him as he held me. My head resting on his shoulder and his on mine I started to relax finally.

“I’m sorry Jess,” I murmured quietly. “I didn’t mean to act like that, I’m just, it’s been a long night,” I said, realizing he knew just how I was feeling. He squeezed me tighter saying, “Yeah it has been,” sounding a little down about it still. I turned around in his arms and hugged him tightly. “I’m sorry our night didn’t go as planned,” I said gently, not wanting to upset him any more than he already was. He shrugged against me saying, “Yeah, but now I get you to myself for the whole night, and the morning too, so I guess I have no complaints.”

I laughed nervously at that, but I was excited too. I never got tired of being around him, even when things were tense or uncomfortable, him being there seemed to help me relax and feel better about whatever it was that was bothering me. I wondered if I had the same effect on him so I told him, “It really helps me, knowing I can count on you to be there for me when I’m losing it, like tonight.” He laughed saying, “Yeah, you were kinda freaking out earlier.”

“Me! What about you?” I said incredulously as I pulled back enough to see his face. He laughed and said, “Okay I guess you’re right, I did have my moment too, didn’t I? But you were there for me then too, so I guess we’re even.” I smiled at him, happy that I was a comfort to him as well. I felt like I wanted to be as close to him as possible and never let go. We had been standing there together by the window, for about ten minutes now, and I was finally calmed down enough to realize that he was in my arms and I was in his as I leaned over and brushed my lips gently across his.

I heard a content sigh as he took my hand and walked me over to his dresser. Curious as to what he was doing, I followed along silently, and he said, “I don’t know what you usually sleep in, but I might have something that will fit you.” I blushed at the thought of me sleeping naked in his bed next to him, like I did when I was home, and he noticed the color creep across my cheeks as he looked at me suspiciously. “What?” he asked me, wondering what was causing me to turn that shade of pink. “Nothing,” was my answer, but then I started laughing.

“Okay, what is so funny?” he asked me almost sounding worried that I was laughing at him. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just embarrassing,” I told him. He apparently didn’t understand what I was talking about because he asked, “You’re embarrassed to sleep in my bed with me?” I could hear the concern and worry in his voice as he questioned me.

“No Jess, that’s not what I meant at all,” I reassured him. “I just meant that I’m embarrassed to tell you that I usually sleep in…,” I paused, but knew that he wouldn’t care, “nothing.”

“Oh,” was all he said before he turned the same shade of pink I was, causing me to burst out in laughter. “What?” he asked again, trying to act as though he wasn’t just as embarrassed by the whole situation as I was. I grabbed him into another hug saying, “You’re too cute sometimes, you know that?” I loved watching him laugh and seeing his happy, smiling face, and if I was the one that caused it, then even better.

“Well I may be cute sometimes,” he started, but I interrupted saying, “All the time,” and he smiled continuing, “But you’re always unbelievably hot.” Then he added, “Especially in that baseball uniform, you’re ass looks so great. I was worried the whole game people would notice that I was half hard just looking at you.”

“You were?” I laughed. He nodded still blushing like crazy. “Maybe you can start out your article like that,” I joked as he looked at me curiously so I continued. “Stephen Cooper pitched a great game today with his ass looking so hot in that pinstripe uniform…,” I trailed off as he rolled his eyes and laughed at my lame attempt at a joke.

“My articles are articulate and well written I’ll have you know,” he said trying to sound uppity. It was my turn to roll my eyes at him when he said, “Besides Sean writes the articles about your hot ass, I just edit them,” he smirked as he pulled out some pajama pants for us to wear. “Sean does not think I have a hot ass,” I quipped as he pulled off his shirt showing me his amazing, lean body. I didn’t think I would ever get tired of seeing it.

I must have been staring at him because he said, “If you’re just gonna stare at me all night, you could at least give me something nice to look at too.” I was startled hearing his words, and I blushed, trying to calm myself down. I wasn’t used to being able to look when I wanted to, and not worry about being caught, and it would take sometime for me to get used to that. “Does it bother you that I was looking at you?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied. “That was my way of saying that I want to see you too,” he said as he walked over to me and pulled my shirt over my head exposing my muscular torso. He ran his hand down the center of my chest and down over my tight stomach causing an incredible sensation where his gentle fingertips met my bronzed skin. I gasped out loud at the feeling of his hand on me, causing his eyes to meet mine.

“Like that?” he asked with a mischievous smile. I couldn’t speak so I nodded. His other hand came up as he started rubbing my shoulders. I groaned out loud and he laughed a small laugh saying, “He likes that too.” I nodded saying, “Yeah, I am a little sore, and you are really good at that.”

“Get changed,” he said walking toward the bed where he had placed the pajamas earlier. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he headed for the bathroom. I took that opportunity to change, and I was folding my clothes and placing them in a pile on his dresser when he returned. “I like it,” he said as I turned around to look at him curiously. “You, in my clothes,” he clarified and I looked down at my body. I was definitely bigger than him, and while I got into his pajamas, they didn’t leave much to the imagination.

“Where’s the bathroom?” I asked him. “Just across the hall,” he answered. I nodded, heading in that direction. I heard a whistle come from him as I made my way to the door, and I turned around to look at him, blushing again. He shrugged at me saying, “Well you look good. This may be my new favorite outfit,” as I made my way to the door. “There is an extra toothbrush in the drawer in the bathroom,” he added as I headed out to let him change.

When I finished in the bathroom I joined him in his room again. “Lie down and I’ll rub your back some more,” he offered. “You don’t have to,” I said, “I’ll be fine.” He walked over to where I was standing and grabbed my hand and led me to his bed where he said, “I want to.” I wasn’t about to argue with him so I lay down on his bed and his body came over mine. As he sat on me I could feel his knees on either side of my hips and his butt came to rest on mine.

He began working the muscles in my lower back first, rubbing and kneading them with an amazing touch. Just enough pressure to make it feel good but not so much that it increased any pain I was already feeling. I moaned my appreciation for the ministrations he was making on my body. I noticed that he was being awfully quiet so I asked him finally, “Is everything alright Jess? You’re being pretty quiet,” pointing out the obvious.

After another moment of silence he said, “Yeah, I was just thinking.” I wondered what he was thinking about that had him so quiet, but I figured that if he wanted to talk about it he would so all I said in response was, “Okay.” He moved up to sit on my lower back so he could reach my shoulders and neck as his hands continued to bring my aching body some relief.

“Can I tell you a story?” he asked me suddenly, sounding nervous yet determined. This must be important I thought, considering his tone, and the fact that he was asking my permission just to tell it to me. I tried to remain unchanged as I said, “Of course, but will you come lay down with me?”

“Yeah,” was all he said as he slid off my back and ended up beside me on his bed. I turned over to face him and when I saw the look on his face I was worried. I had known that this was important since he was asking to talk about it, but now I knew it was worse, this was something that was going to be hard for him to talk about. I wrapped him in my arms tightly and he buried his head in my chest. If he was going to tell me this story, whatever it was, I was going to do my best to help make it easy on him and comfort him as much as I could.

“Jess, are you sure you want to do this now?” I asked him, “Cause you don’t have to if you’re not ready to.” I couldn’t see his face in the position we were in, but I felt him nod against my chest and I instinctively pulled him closer to me to try and protect him from whatever it was that was causing him so much pain. “No, I need to tell you this. I want you to know,” he mumbled, his head still pressed against my bare chest.

“Okay,” was all I said as I waited for him to be ready to go on. This was his story to tell, in his way, when he was ready; and as difficult as it was going to be, he definitely didn’t need me pushing him to tell me before he was absolutely sure he was ready to do so. We lay together in silence for a while as he summoned up enough strength to get the words out. When he finally spoke, it all came pouring out of him, like the dam had broken and there was nothing strong enough to stop the flow of emotions.

“I want to tell you why I was so upset earlier tonight,” he started. I didn’t dare say a word. I didn’t want to interrupt him and take the chance that he might close up on me and not tell me what had him so upset, so I just rubbed his back soothingly to remind him that I was there and he was safe in my arms. “When I was in eighth grade my best friend was a guy named Justin,” he continued and I felt him tense up in my arms just repeating that name. “Anyway, I already knew then that I was gay, but I hadn’t told anyone because, well you know how people are, especially guys who are dealing with all the changes their bodies are going through at that age,” he said, not really believing that was a viable excuse for what happened, and again I just rubbed his back not saying anything. “We basically spent all our time together, since we were little kids and we were best friends, and we both discovered some things together,” he said, but not going into detail. “We were in the locker room one day after PE and we were changing,” he said, his voice taking on a shakier tone, “and I was watching him change. I mean we spent all our time together at each other’s houses anyway, and we had for years so to me, it wasn’t out of the ordinary, but some other guys walked up and saw me staring at him and made some comment about it and he must have gotten scared because he said ‘What are you looking at?”

By this point in his story he was shaking and I could tell he was trying not to cry again. I pulled him as close to me as possible, wrapping my legs around him, and he continued. “I was scared, but I made it out of there with no major problems, or so I had thought. Apparently the guys who walked in and saw me staring at him decided that they better find out for sure if I was gay or not, and they ended up setting me up,” he said and I could hear the disgust in his voice as he went on. “They had some plan and apparently Justin was a part of it, but he didn’t know that at the time. Anyway, in the end, what happened was that Justin had to choose whether to stand by me, his best friend, or protect his own secret and he chose the latter.”

“So he’s gay too?” I asked for clarification and he nodded, out of words at the moment. “Wow,” I thought, some friend. “So you guys aren’t friends anymore then I guess,” I said thinking out loud more than asking. He shook his head no and then I said, finally putting it all together, “So you were worried tonight because it was me having to choose between sticking up for you or myself?” He nodded again, still pressed up against my chest, and I smiled to myself, glad that I, at least, had made the right choice.

I didn’t say anything for a while and neither did he and at some point I felt him relax and I assumed he was asleep since his breathing was slow and rhythmic instead of shaky like it had been earlier. I was glad that he felt safe in my arms and that I had proven myself to him tonight, unbeknownst to me at the time. “Goodnight Jess”, I whispered in his ear before I dozed off wrapped in his arms.

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