Life In A Northern Town
The day had been a mess as far as I was concerned, and now sunlight was bleeding off into darkness. I wasn't in the mood to talk to this yo-yo who I was
going to live with. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye as he drove, swaying a bit to the music and pretty much ignoring me and my attitude. At least he
wasn't going to force me to explain my life to him; I guess that's something.
"Hope you're hungry, I know Joe and Scott will be," he chuckled, "like Chinese food?"
"It's ok I guess. I need to call Randy when we get ho...I mean, when we get to your house," I said sulkily.
"Well, I don't usually hand out phone privileges right away, if you can improve your attitude just a little I'll think about it," he replied.
"You try having the day I had and see how your attitude is," I muttered.
"True, you had a bad day, but that's not my fault, nor is it the fault of Scott and Joe. I'm here to help, and I haven't done anything to you," John said patiently, although it was clear he was getting a little pissy with me.
"Well, if you're going to put it like that, it's not Randy's fault either, but he'll be worried, and so will Nick. How fair is that?" I knew I was pushing the limits, but I couldn't seem to stop the flow of words as all the stress of the day sloughed off me in my tirade, "You try having your mother scream and throw things at you, call you all kinds of names and then throw you out of the house and then to top it off, call the police and tell them your kid attacked you!" I screamed.
"Well, it's still not my damn fault, so check your attitude!" John yelled back. He looked at me, snapped his head forward to steer, then fixed me with a look of pure anger again before looking forward again in silence.
The sport utility trundled onward through the busy streets laden with people trying to make their ways home from work. Yellow lights blinking ahead signaled construction, and the traffic tightened into a knot as the flagmen ahead stopped our side of the road. A large tractor-trailer pulling a flatbed with some earthmoving equipment was trying to back across the road and having very little success. I watched as it stopped and pulled forward for another shot at backing to the desired area for unloading the large piece of equipment it was hauling.
"I'm sorry for yelling at you," John sighed as he relaxed his grip on the wheel. He was apologizing to me? Who was he trying to fool?
"Yeah, sure," I replied.
"Look, you have a lousy attitude and I realize you had a real bad time of it, but this is the breaking point. You're not in that situation anymore. I don't know you; you don't know me, and we need some time to get to know each other a bit. I like to think I am pretty fair, but you have to give some too, you know," John said with a trace of exasperation.
"I don't trust anyone except Nick and Randy and Randy's folks," I replied.
"I didn't ask you to trust me, that's something that is earned. I am asking that you treat me with some respect so I can do the same with you."
"Well, why is the phone a privilege?" I asked, somewhat warily.
"Because I have to pay for it, so I have rules. Yes I agree that you're friends will be worried, but at the same time you're not being too cool. So maybe if you lighten up a little I'll let you use my phone and we have a small step taken between us, huh? It kills two birds with one stone and shows we can cooperate," John said reasonably.
Ok, I hated to admit it even to myself, but he was making sense. I felt like I'd be giving in to what he wanted because he suggested it though, it was like giving up something. Well, duh, giving up something to get something. The flagman waved us through when the huge truck had succeeded in backing into the cordoned off area for equipment, and the truck slowly accelerated through the intersection. John had gone back to humming and shifting in his seat to the music, his temper quickly forgotten as we headed back towards the suburban end of town. We stopped short of the street that my mother lived on by a good seven blocks, and turned towards the river. He headed all the way down to River Street, which gets its' name from the fact that it runs right next to the river, big surprise.
We stopped in front of a large two-story structure, dull red brick with a large garage; I think they call them carriage houses cause they look like they could have an apartment on the top of them. John switched off the truck and swiveled in his seat to get a look at me, and I studied my hands.
"Look, Adam, I know this isn't your idea of a good time, but give it a chance. Joe and Scott are good kids, I'm really not that bad, and once you get on your feet a bit, I think you'll feel better about things," he smiled softly, "Come on, let's get you fed and watered and then you can make a phone call, let your friends know you'll be out of school tomorrow to get some clothes," he said as he opened his door. I scrambled out of my seat.
"Where are my clothes?" I questioned.
"Well, Bernard said your clothes were small on you, said you might be going through a growth spurt and now would be a good time as any to get you some new stuff," John explained as we walked. This sounded suspiciously diplomatic to me.
"Is that a nice way of saying my clothes suck and I can't wear my old clothes?" I asked, a bit pleased I had figured it out, and also that I'd get some new clothes to wear. John stumbled a bit and looked at me. A grin spread across his face.
"Well, let's leave it diplomatically said, all right?"
"Ok," I agreed.
The house was a squarish thing, the roof angling inward just at the top, like a haunted house or something. Large rectangular windows ran along the upper and lower floors and a wrought iron fence ran into the gloom, disappearing where it was smothered in shadows. John led the way to the front door, which was really the back of the house, and directed me to remove my shoes on the enclosed porch. I deposited my worn sneakers next to his shoes and followed him in the back door; which opened into the kitchen.
The kitchen was done in a cream colored tile and a dark reddish wood that accented the counters and made up the bulk of the cupboards. A tall refrigerator loomed next to the door as we passed it, a two-door model with a built in ice maker. A small breakfast nook sat against the far wall opposite the sink. A small archway led out of the kitchen and into a short hallway that had two doorways open off the right hand side, one on the left, and whose end was the beginning of the stairs to the second floor. We walked along the hallway, and John opened the left hand door, which was under the stairs to reveal a closet.
"Coats go in here," he explained while shedding his own. I tugged mine off as well and placed it on a hanger.
"Are you going to cook, John?" came a voice from the front of the house.
"I was thinking Chinese, I don't much feel like cooking," John replied as he closed the closet door and strode past the first doorway on the right and entered the second one, French doors opening into a spacious living room. Two kids were laying in the living room, one on a recliner with his back curved into the back of the chair and his legs hanging over the arm while he watched television. The second boy was sitting on the couch Indian style, busily typing away on a laptop that was balanced on his legs.
"Chinese sounds good to me," the one in the recliner replied.
"Works here too," chimed in computer boy.
"Good. Guys, this is Adam, he'll be here with us for a bit. Adam that lump on the chair is Scott,"
"And the geek on the couch is Joe," John finished.
"Funny John, remind me when your computer stops working again," Joe muttered.
"Hey Adam, I've seen you. Don't you have Needham for math? Third period?" Scott asked.
"Yeah, I do," I replied quietly, my attitude having dissipated quite a bit.
"She is such a bitch, she was handing out detentions today like they were nothing, man," Scott grumbled.
"Did you do your homework? It's why she was handing em out," Joe muttered from behind his computer.
John's eyebrows went up as he looked at Scott to answer, but Scott skillfully redirected the conversation, "Well, if someone would quit changing my own password I could get my stuff off the computer, couldn't I?"
Joe jumped a bit and smiled over his computer.
"Oh, I know you too Adam, you hang out with Randy Proctor and Nick Jackson, right?" he asked. I nodded my assent.
"Randy, is he a nice guy?" Joe asked, leaning out over his laptop a bit.
"Sure, he's my best friend," I replied.
"Joe," John said in a warning tone of voice. Joe looked at John in surprise, almost as if he hadn't realized he was there, and then blushed a bit.
"Joe, why don't you get Scott his password back, and Scott get your homework out so I can check it. Adam has to use the phone, and then we'll head to dinner.
"Translation, leave so Adam can use the phone with some privacy," Scott snickered as he headed for the stairs and Joe folded up his computer following him.
"Phone is in the corner there, Adam. Try not to make it too long, ok? We're all kind of hungry," John said before heading up to settle the other two, who must have been wrestling from the sounds that were coming though the ceiling.
I sat on the couch and placed the base of the phone in my lap before picking up the receiver and dialing. His dad answered on the second ring.
"H...Hi, Mr. Proctor it's..."
"Adam, where are you! We've been worried sick all day! Randy called me from school, what's going on?" I could hear Randy in the background asking for the phone.
"They took me away from my Mom today, they put me in a foster home," I replied.
"Did you tell them we would have taken you?" he asked.
"Yeah, they said they had my arrangements all worked out already, and since they had me I had to go to a state authorized place or something." I replied sullenly.
"Well, I'll go talk to Joe Lutz and see what can be done tomorrow. Don't worry Adam, we're all here for you. Hold on, Randy is going to rip my arm off if I don't give him the phone," he said before I heard the phone change hands.
"Adam? Bro, where are you?" Randy's concern brought my emotional roller coaster around to wanting to cry with relief at hearing him.
"I'm a few blocks away, a foster home Rand," I replied thickly.
"Are you ok? Where is it, I'll come down now, Nick's here so we can be there in a jiff," he said quickly.
"We're going somewhere to eat, Rand, we won't be here," I sniffed.
"Tell them they can stop at eight for about a half hour," John said as he descended the stairs and headed towards the kitchen.
"John, the guy who owns the house, says you guys can come here at eight for a half hour," I said to Randy and then gave him directions.
"We'll be there, bro, here's Nick," he said as the phone once again moved into new hands.
"Adam? It's me," Nick's voice was soft and gentle, southern accent like a balm to my frayed nerves.
"Hey, it's really good to hear your voice," I replied, still struggling to maintain my illusion of holding it all together.
"You too," I could hear a door closing and then he spoke again, " I saw you today, when you were...leaving. I'm so sorry they did that, Adam," he said softly.
"It...it's ok, there was nothing anyone could do. I was so pissed...they said it was for my protection," I said quietly.
"Would you be embarrassed if I...if I gave you a hug when I see you?" he asked.
"I'd love it, Nick, I think I could really use that right about now," I whispered.
"I really do think I love you, Adam Castle," he whispered, "I'll see you at eight." And the phone went quiet.
* * * * * * * *
We went to a Chinese buffet, complete with chintzy oriental decorations and chopsticks. Waitresses bustled around the converted fast food joint getting drinks and cleaning tables off for new customers. The girl behind the counter rang up four meals, which John paid for, and we were directed to a seat. The other guys hung their coats on the backs of their chairs, and then attacked the buffet. I hung my coat and headed over to see what they had, not being a huge fan of Chinese food.
Scott and Joe were trying o nudge each other away from the foods they wanted. Matter of fact I don't think the food mattered so much as annoying the other, but in this Joe was a clear winner as he stood at least two inches taller than Scott, and the differences didn't stop there. Joe was solid, a football kinda guy, whereas Scott was maybe a hundred forty pounds sopping wet. They had different colored eyes, same brown hair though. Joe's face danced with freckles, but the one thing they truly shared was a mischievous grin that made it plain they were partners in crime.
John clucked at them as he went by and they settled for a few minutes, long enough to load their plates and return to the table. It started as soon as they sat down. Scott took the end of his straw wrapper off and blew into the straw firing the paper sleeve right onto the corner of Joe's mouth. Joe, meanwhile, had been chewing with his mouth open to try and gross Scott out.
I sat down next to Scott as John upbraided them and told them sternly to behave or go sit in the truck, and I think they were just hungry enough to take the threat seriously.
Either that or one of them had been sent to the truck before.
"You been friends with Randy a long time?" Joe asked and jumped when someone, Scott I think, kicked him under the table.
"Well...yeah, since we were little kids. Our parents used to drop us off at each other's house to get babysat and stuff," I replied wondering why Randy was so interesting to Joe. "Why? Do you know Randy? I don't remember you guys hanging out before."
"That's cause he doesn't hang out with Randy," Scott said with an evil grin before Joe returned the kick savagely.
"Ok, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, cut it out!" John growled and they lapsed into silence, Joe glaring at Scott and Scott smirking at Joe. Something very odd was going on between these two. I wonder if they spent too much time together. My eyes went wide, I think they fool around! I looked from one to the other; Scott's smile faltering a bit under my curious gaze.
"Adam, do you know your waist size?" John asked.
"Yeah, twenty nine. Um, well, it was twenty nine last spring anyhow," I muttered.
"Ok, well that's a starting point anyway. I hope you're not as difficult as these two to shop for," John added.
"If you just let me get what I want it'd be so much easier on you," Joe said with a grin.
"Oh yeah, shirt that says, 'Lets' get one thing straight- I'm not', sure that'd go over great," Scott crowed, then sobered as Joe glared malevolently at him across the table, and John had this throbbing vein on his forehead that looked like it was standing like two feet off his head each time it pulsed.
"Scott, we have rules of respect in our house," John began.
"I'm so sorry, I forgot! I mean, I'm used to it just being us three!" Scott held his face in his hands and John leaned back in his chair taking a few deep breaths. Joe had his gaze pinned on me, searching me. Strangely I didn't see any fear, really, more like curiosity as to how I'd handle the news.
To be honest I wasn't really sure how I was handling the news. On the one hand I was thrilled that I now knew someone else who was gay, but on the other hand I was scared to come out to him and ask questions, too. My emotions roiled inside me and I looked around the table. Scott continued to hold his head in his hands, thoroughly ashamed, John was still pissed but looked as though he was calming down, and Joe continued to watch my reaction. In the end, Joe broke the silence.
"So you gonna freak?" he asked. Again I got the feeling his voice held no fear, just a calm evaluation of me, almost as if I were being weighed and measured.
"No," I replied meeting his gaze.
"People's sexuality on our house is a non-issue, I'm glad you don't feel threatened by that," John said, still eyeing Scott who looked miserable.
"Uh, yeah it's ok by me," I mumbled, clearly wishing the moment would pass.
"I'm not ashamed of who I am, but I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't say anything to anyone, unlike my buddy here," Joe said with a sharp nod at Scott who continued to wilt, "but I have to admit, for a straight guy, he's pretty fucking cool."
Scott looked up sharply, sensing an end to his discomfort.
"I won't say anything, it's not my business," I stated flatly, and I admit I was hoping my attitude would forestall any questions about my own tastes.
By the time we left, Scott may as well have not slipped and said anything as he and Joe were right back to their old selves, and John was back to being driven to distraction by them. We were home by seven and John told me I should shower so my clothes could get washed for tomorrow, so I'd have something clean at least, and he'd lay out some sweats. He showed me to my room, a medium sized room that was fairly plain, off white paint and no real decorations to speak of. A large chest of drawers and a mirror hanging form a closet door. John rejoined me momentarily with gray sweats in hand and then steered me to the bathroom, showing me the towel cupboard and such.
After showering I felt better and brought my clothes downstairs where John led me to the basement where the washer and dryer were. I placed Randy's clothes in the washer on cold and headed upstairs, and out on the back porch to wait for Randy and Nick.
I shivered a bit, lost in my thoughts of the whole day, at heart unhappy at the way things were, uncomfortable in a new place, and even thought my friends were coming, it was just to visit, and we would be separated. One friend and one boyfriend, I corrected myself allowing a small smile to reach my face. Thinking of Nick warmed my heart, made me think that there may someday be a way out of this mess. Randy also warmed me, in a different way though. Randy was my constant, the one never changing bulwark against all that goes wrong for me. I know I teasingly think of him sometimes as Saint Randy, but he is more like my white knight, always there to defend me.
Nick made me feel secure in other ways, like I could dance on the light of day if I wanted to. Is that ambiguous enough for you? I can't explain it any better, and that was the thought I had as the street was washed with light from the headlamps of a car. Nick's car pulled to the curb and Randy was out of it before the engine was dead. I stepped off the porch, barefoot, and went to meet him. Randy wrapped me tightly in a huge embrace, something he has never done, but I recovered fast and held him tight. I could feel him shaking and that scared me because I was always the weak one between us.
"It's ok Rand, I'm ok bro," I said softly. He started to laugh, a small mirthless laugh as he pulled away.
"Look at me, here to cheer you and you're comforting me? How fucked up is that?" he asked with tears standing in his eyes.
"You being here is the best, man," I said, barely above a whisper.
"Excuse me, can I hug my boyfriend?" Nick asked, louder than he intended I think, and I wasn't sure if he was reddening in the gloom or not. He called me his boyfriend!
Nick stepped up to me and his hug was worlds different from Randy's. It was gentle and full of softer emotions, a tenderness that was...loving. I relaxed into his grip and sighed deeply.
The porch door opened and I jumped as John's voice invited us to come inside. I led them into the house, Joe and Scott manning the living room again. Joe looked up and froze at the sight of Randy, eyes flashing to see if I had told his secret.
Um, Rand, Nick, this is Scott, Joe and John," I announced. Everyone murmured a greeting and John cleared his throat and indicated the stairs, and Joe and Scott said their goodnights as they retreated up the stairs. John smiled and excused himself to the kitchen leaving us in the living room.
The next half hour was a mass of questions, hand holding and more than one tearful hug. At eight forty-five John came in and said we'd have to wrap it up, so I walked them out to the back porch where Randy engulfed me again.
"I love you, Bro," he said into my ear, "Dad'll get you home where you belong," he promised. I nodded dumbly, hoping he was right. Randy left for the car to give Nick and I some space. We walked out onto the asphalt, just past the glare of the porch light, and Nick took my hand, bringing the back of it to his lips and placing my hand there. I shivered a bit, partly from the emotion and partly from my bare feet on the cold blacktop. The most amazing thing happened then, and I'll never forget it.
He placed his free arm behind my back and tugged me forward so that I was flat against him. He released the hand he had been holding, which I left on his shoulder, and he ran his fingers down my cheek, moving the hand to the back of my neck and pulling me gently forward.
It was like nothing I had ever felt before, my heart racing and my mind alternately trying to go blank to concentrate on the act, and at the same time swirling with the excitement of that first kiss, and then the moment came and seemed to swallow me whole. I was on fire, yet cool as ice, panicky and jittery, yet still and calm. I was everything and nothing all in one, and then the moment had passed. He looked deeply in to my eyes, and I returned his look unflinchingly. I knew then I was his.
I watched their car pull away and strangely didn't feel empty or alone, for they both sat in my heart and made me whole. As I walked back towards the house I saw Scott sitting n the window, suddenly no longer interested in the goings on outside. I smirked and realized I didn't care who knew, Nick Jackson loved me and Randy Proctor did too, and I loved them back.
... to be continued
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