Jason's father slowly moved into the room. "Jason. I'm here for you. Is there something you want to tell me?"
"Dad, I keep telling you no."
"Well...it seems like you don't leave me much choice. Your mother and I are going to the school tomorrow to see what's going on."
Jason jumped out of bed. "Don't do that. It'll screw everything up. Just leave it alone."
"We can't. We love you. We can tell something's really bothering you. We need to get to the bottom of it."
Jason stood paralyzed, staring at his dad. "I...I'm...I'm..."
"Spit it out, Jason."
His father slapped him. "So you and that gay boy were fooling around in the bathroom, and that's what you didn't want to tell us?"
Jason recoiled and put his hand to the side of his face. "No, it was nothing like that. Andy and I were going to talk about my feelings, and these guys came into the bathroom and started harassing us. They stripped my shirt off and threw it in the toilet. That's how it got all wet. Andy yelled for help, and when the guys saw that I'd passed out, they ran. Andy and Dax patted my face until I came too. Andy gave me his t-shirt, but then he didn't have anything to wear, so I had to put my wet shirt back on because we were afraid of what people would think if either one of us came out without our shirts."
"I knew something was going on."
"Nothing was going on. We were just going to talk. He told me to meet him at the baseball dugout, but I was afraid and didn't go, so he came looking for me."
"It's lucky you didn't go out there. He probably would have raped you."
"Andy's not like that, Dad."
Jason's dad pulled out the chair from Jason's desk and sat down. He pointed at Jason to sit on the bed.
"How do you know you're gay?"
"That's what I was going to talk to Andy about. I'm confused and wasn't sure. I thought talking to him would help. And then all this crap happened."
His father shook his head. "Are you expecting me to accept that you're gay?"
Jason didn't say anything for a few beats. "Well, uh...uh...I was hoping."
"You said you weren't sure, and that's why you were talking to Andy. And now you're sure. Are you really sure?"
"Uh. Pretty sure."
Silence pierced the room for almost a minute as the two glared at each other. Jason's dad had a look of anger on his face, while hope was written all over Jason's.
"You know how your mother and I feel about homosexuals. You've heard us talk about gay people and how God hates fags."
"I have, and that's why I was afraid to even talk to you about the possibility I might be gay."
"As far as your mother and I are concerned, you are not gay. It's just a phase. Do you understand? It's just a phase."
Sometimes wisdom is the better part of valor, and Jason paused to think about it before replying. "Right, Dad. It's just a phase. I thought it might be, and that's why I wanted to talk to Andy. Does that make sense?"
A look of relief crossed his dad's face. "So it's just a phase?"
"Not even that, Dad. I thought I might be gay and wanted to talk to Andy. But I really don't think I'm gay. It's just that I look at guys sometimes when I think I should be looking at girls."
"Why do you think you look at guys?"
"I don't know. I like the way they look I guess. I wish I looked like some of them, and, of course, I don't. I'm tall and skinny. Does that make sense?"
A smile crossed his dad's face and Jason began to think that maybe he'd dodged a bullet.
"Of course, Jason. I had some of those feelings myself. I've never told anyone, but I thought I might be gay too. Of course, no one talked much about being gay when I was a boy. But it was only a phase. After that, I hated fags. They make me feel uncomfortable. Just the idea of what these guys do disgusts me. I couldn't live with it if you were gay."
Jason hadn't expected even this amount of reasonableness and didn't know what to say, afraid that if he said the wrong thing, his world would turn to shit.
"Dad, I have talked to Andy before, and he helped me a lot. To be honest, I avoided him because I didn't want anyone to think I was gay. That has been my biggest fear all day. I was afraid that if I was seen with Andy, people would think we were doing things. Look, even you thought that or thought that Andy tried to do something to me. He didn't. If anything, he is responsible for helping me realize I'm not gay. I want to see this put behind me, so please don't go to the school. You'll just make it worse." "I'm concerned about the principal."
"Don't be. He suspended the guys and let Andy and me go. It's all over unless you make something out of it."
His dad paused. "Maybe you're right, but something about this whole thing doesn't seem right. I'll tell you what. Your mom and I will leave it for now, but if anything else happens, we'll be down to the school to talk some sense into those people."
Jason ran up to his dad and hugged him. "Thanks, Dad. I love you."
Yes, it was all a lie. Some might accuse him of not being true to himself, but at that moment, all he cared about was survival, and this would help him survive, at least for a while.
I was surprised to see Jason at school the next day. He walked right by me without even acknowledging that he knew me. It kinda pissed me off. But what the hell, at least he was alive and didn't look as depressed as I had expected him to look. At the time, I really wanted to know what happened when he got home, but it was a few days before I had a chance to find out.
I caught Thomas and Colt walking out the front door of the school together. Yes, it was one of those days that had me confused. What the hell was going on there? They were talking and laughing like they were happy. After the foursome, I thought it might cause a rift between them, but evidently it didn't. Matt and I hadn't talked much about it except to say we'd talk it over with Dr. Walker on Saturday. Neither of us were looking forward to talking to him about it, but we knew we had to. How else could we begin to deal with the knots we insisted on tying in our lives?
Kids were still talking about what went on the in the bathroom when we got to school on Thursday. The gossip was always far worse than the reality. I spotted Jason Settles at his locker, and he was standing so close to it as he worked his combination that I thought he and the locker were going to become one. A few assholes bumped into him and said, "Sorry, fag." I should have yelled at them or done something because they were only sophomores, and I felt I had a responsibility. But as you know, feeling like you have a responsibility and being responsible are two different things.
Jason got his books out of his locker and then dropped them on the floor. This time a few guys came by and kicked them a few feet down the hall and just said, "Sorry, we didn't see them there." Jason picked them up as he looked around to see if anyone else was lurking close by ready to give him a hard time. Despite the crap he was getting, he looked surprisingly happy. It was hard to explain. I ran into a few of the assholes that harassed him later that afternoon and called them chicken shits. They said, "Fuck off, queer." Having underclassman talk to me that way really hurt. Here I was a senior and I didn't get any respect. I remember thinking that if I was the starting quarterback, they wouldn't treat me that way, but I had no proof of that.
I did manage to say, "Queer or not, at least I'm not so low that I have to pick on some poor kid I know won't fight back. At least I'm not a fucking coward." It kind of made me feel good. My only regret was that I didn't say something at the time they first hassled Jason.
We were in shorts and shoulder pads at practice on Thursday, in preparation for our game the next night against Patterson High. I had no idea if I was going to get any playing time or not. Either we had to be way ahead or Greg would have to get hurt. There wasn't any way I wanted to play at his expense, so I gave him all kinds of encouragement before the game. "Greg, I'm counting on you to kick ass so I can have a chance to play."
He laughed. "Why would I want to do that? You might make me look bad, and then I'd lose my job."
"True enough, Greg, but I know you like competition. So give it your best shot."
He smiled this time. "I'll think about it."
I patted him on the back. "That's all I can ask. But keep in mind, if you don't, I'm going to hit you in the knee with a metal pipe."
"Okay, I got the message."
'The next night at the game, Greg ran the team smoothly. The guys really respected him. I did too, but I had no idea if they respected me. They at least tolerated me, given everything that happened. We were ahead at half-time by 14 to 7. Coach pulled me to the side as we headed back out onto the field after the half and said that if we got ahead by two touchdowns, he'd let me in. All I could say was, "Thanks, Coach."
Patterson got a field goal and the score was now 14 to 10. My heart sank, but Greg moved the ball down the field and threw a touchdown pass, and the score was 21 to 10 after we kicked the extra point. Coach Gilbert motioned Greg and me over just before the extra point and told me that he was going to put me in the next time we were on offense. Andy played both offense and defense, while I only played defense, so I told Andy, Alan, and Ernie, "I'm going to get to play if we hold them. So kick ass." I would have loved to have been able to tell the whole team that, but I wasn't sure if they cared if I played or not.
Patterson made two first downs and were on our forty-yard-line. My hopes of having a chance to play began to dwindle. It was 3rd down with two yards to go when they surprised us with a pass on short yardage. Their receiver caught the ball in front of Andy, who hit him with every ounce of his 145 pounds and jarred the ball loose. Alan recovered the ball, and we were on offense. The whole team was excited, but no one noticed I was more excited than everyone else.
The guys looked surprised when they saw me in the huddle. Jackass said, "What the fuck. The loser's in." That was the last thing I needed, but I was the quarterback and the team leader at that moment and decided to act like one. "Barnes, just do your job and we'll all be happy. I plan on doing my job and ask that all of you do the same. The game isn't over until the time runs out. I'm sure you want to win the game as badly as I do. Do you agree?" It took everything in to keep from calling him Jackass.
They looked at each other and nodded their heads.
"Good. Let's play ball."
Coach sent in a pass play to Andy over the middle. Ernie snapped the ball and I dropped back and tripped. What a great way to start. Ernie gave me his hand and helped me up. "Don't worry about it. It's just nervous jitters. You're going to do fine." A couple of other guys seconded him. That helped my confidence.
The next play was a run. I faked to Andy and handed off to the halfback, who ran for a first down. It didn't require much of me, but at least I didn't fumble and run the wrong play. The next play was a pass. I dropped back more confidently this time and completed a five-yard-pass to Alan, who managed to pick up an extra ten yards. That put us on their forty-seven-yard-line. It still left us a ways to go. We had a first down, and Coach called a run on first down. We passed on second, and one of Patterson's lineman hit the ball with the tip of his finger, which changed the trajectory of the ball, so the pass was incomplete. I was tempted to yell at the lineman who let the guy get so close that he could touch the ball, but I let it go.
I said, "Don't worry about it guys. We'll do better this time."
They all nodded. I called the play and broke with a loud clap. Maybe it was my imagination, but it sounded louder than the previous ones. This helped my confidence. Coach called another pass, and this time I completed it for a twenty-one-yard gain, and we were on their twenty-seven. That twenty-seven yards could either seem like a mile or twenty-seven yards. I chose the latter. "Okay, guys. We only have a few yards to score." Yeah, like twenty-seven yards is nothing. Getting ten yards for a first down is hard enough, never mind twenty-seven! "Let's put another seven points on the scoreboard." Everyone nodded.
"Let's make our job easy and score on the next play," Ernie said.
I smiled because it reminded me that a few years back, Andy and I thought Ernie was going to be nothing and would never make the team. Boy was I glad to have him in my corner. And it was all thanks to Gina. The thought made me feel a little disappointed that I'd let her get away, but it wasn't meant to be.
The play was a run. "Okay guys, everyone block, and after you make your first block, run down field and hit someone else so there won't be anyone to stop the play." I could see confidence in their eyes, and even Jackass managed a confident look.
We broke the huddle, and I pitched the ball to Andy, who quickly got around Patterson's defensive end and headed toward the goal line. The guys did as I asked and blocked down field, making it possible for Andy to run into the end zone untouched. Bedlam broke out on the field and in the stands. I looked to the sideline and even Greg Johnson was jumping up and down.
We kicked the extra point, and Patterson got the ball and scored. Coach put Greg back in but pulled me to the side and said, "Nice job." That was all I needed right then. Sure, I would have like to have played more, but it was enough to prove to myself and the team that we could do it. We won 28 to 10.
Thomas and Colt bought their lunch and headed out the front door to sit at the table under the maple tree. They fidgeted and made small talk, each afraid to discuss the important issue between them. Finally, Thomas asked, "How was your time with Zoe? Did you get girls out of your system?"
"You get right to the point, don't you."
Thomas smiled. "It's easier that way."
"To be honest, it was good. Better than I expected. No lube necessary and I glided in smooth and easy. I'm not sure if I could have even gotten a hard-on if it hadn't been for Matt telling me to get everything clear between us before we had sex. We both agreed to have sex without any commitment beyond being friends with benefits."
Thomas frowned. "Sounds like you plan on doing it again."
"I don't know, but I'd like to keep my options open."
"So this means you really don't want things to change between us?"
Colt moved in closer. "I didn't say that. That's why we're talking. We're young. Our parents all think we're too young for sex, but we're having sex anyway. But it doesn't mean we have to be committed yet. Can you understand?"
"I'm not that way. If I'm going to have sex, I want it to be in a committed relationship. I want love now and for the rest of my life."
Colt smiled. "It didn't seem like that on Sunday. You looked like you were having a pretty good time."
"I did have a good time, but it's not the same as having a relationship with someone. I enjoyed our time together when it was just you and me. Didn't you?"
Colt nodded. "Yeah, but I want to experience as much as I can in life before I'm old."
Thomas couldn't help but laugh. "Old? It'll be a long time before you're old."
"True," Colt said, "but what's wrong with dating a lot of different people while we're young. Is that so bad?"
"Thomas, you're a lot more mature than I am. Maybe that's the problem."
"I don't think so."
Colt wanted to grab Thomas' hand but held back. "Well, I'd have never thought about what you just said regarding the importance of experiencing love when we're young and not just when we're old. But for me, love makes me feel trapped. It's like you and me have a fence built around us and no one else can get in. I don't want that. And I don't want to feel that I can't get out because there's no gate."
Thomas gave him a light punch in the shoulder. "That sounds pretty mature to me. So mature in fact, that it makes me look at it a little differently too. I don't want either of us to feel like we're locked inside a fence and there's either no room or no chance for someone else to come in or for either of us to get out. The way I see it, we go together until someone wants out. That's exactly the way it went last time. When you wanted out, I let you go."
"You're right. You did, and it made me realize how much you must love me. That's part of the problem. I love you too, but I'm not sure my love is as strong as yours."
Thomas fiddled with his fingers on top of the table. "So what do you want to do?"
Colt smiled. "Have another foursome." He put his hands on top of Thomas' to stop his fidgeting. "Just joking. It was hot though, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, but watching you made it all the hotter. Made me think about the great sex we'd had."
"Same here. I'd like to get back together, but I still think we need to iron some things out." Colt looked away from Thomas for a second before turning back. "What if Zoe wants to have sex again?"
"Good question. Let's talk again over the weekend and see where it goes from there."
"Sounds good. I'd love to kiss you right now, but I don't think it's a good idea."
"Me neither. Save it for this weekend."
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. - Mahatma Gandhi
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. - Lewis B. Smedes
If you like this story, contact me at email@example.com I answer all emails.
I'd like to thank Lisa for taking the time to edit Knots 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. As the author, I take final responsibility for all parts of the story, including any errors.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales, is purely coincidental and no slanderous intent is implied.