DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account involving gay teenage boys and a teenage lesbian couple. There are references to gay sex and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Although the story takes place in actual locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of neither real individuals nor school policies. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.

Please note that this is the seventeenth in a series of short stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Slightly modified versions of some of these stories that are suitable for younger teens can also be found on the Altimexis Page at Codey's World. Please see the Introduction for important background on the series.

So Close and Yet So Far

A Naptown Tale by Altimexis

Fear. It's hard to describe what it's like to always live in fear. I've lived with fear for so many years that it's hard to remember what it was like to not live in fear. Yes, I know there was a time when my childhood was happy and carefree, but that seems so long ago. Was that little girl really me?

Technically, I was still a girl, but at seventeen, I would soon be an adult. Finally, I was a senior in high school. In only eight months, I'd graduate. In nine, I'd be eighteen, and legally an adult. Then my parents couldn't touch me. Then I could finally leave home and be who I was meant to be, but until then, I had to live in fear, as I had since that frightful day when I was eleven years old - the day when I had my first period.

Having a period wasn't what was so frightening - we'd already had sex-ed in school and so I knew what to expect - it was what happened afterwards that changed my life. My mother sat me down and gave me the `now-that-you're-a-woman' talk, which I guess every mother does when their daughter has her first period. She scared the shit out of me about how some boys might try to take advantage of me and how easily I could get pregnant, but I told her not to worry - that I still thought boys were kinda gross, and that's when she laid the heavy on me. I can still remember her words to this day.

"Debbie," she said, "God made Adam in the Garden of Eden, and then he took one of Adam's ribs and he made Eve. He made Adam and Eve together, a man and a woman. That was His natural order of things. He made a man and a woman. He did not make two men, and he did not make two women. He made a man and a woman and he told them to be fruitful and multiply.

"Now as you know," my mother continued, "Eve was tempted by Satan, who came to earth in the form of a serpent, and tempted Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, and man learned about evil. Man learned that instead of the beautiful act that creates new life, sex could be turned into a perversion that brings only pleasure, and pain. Men were having sex with men, and women had sex with women.

"God saw the great evil that man perpetrated. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorra, and he sent the great flood. There can be no doubt that God intended for man and woman to be together as they were in the Garden of Eden, and that sex was meant to be a thing of beauty used to create new life.

"The main point of this . . . the main reason I needed to explain all these things is to tell you that you must not have sex until you marry," she admonished me. "Some things are worth waiting for, and this is one of them. Many boys will tempt you, but you must not give in. If we ever find out you've had sex with a boy, we will ground you until you turn eighteen, and don't think we won't," she said with a wink.

"Now as you know," she continued, "abortion is a horrible sin, so if you do become pregnant, you will not only have to go through with the birth of the child, but you will have to raise that child while you're still in school. It's a terrible burden on a youngster to have to raise a child.

"Lastly, my child," my mother said, "what you said about boys being kinda gross has me a bit worried. At your age, you ought to be starting to develop an interest in boys, however you're still young, and you just may be a late bloomer. I just want to be sure you understand how we feel about homosexuality. As I said, homosexuality isn't natural. God created Adam and Eve. He meant for men and women to be together . . . not men and men . . . not women and women. When the time is right, we expect you to date boys, and ultimately to get married to a fine young man and to give us grandchildren.

"If we ever find you in a relationship with a girl, however, we will throw you out of this house faster than you can blink your eyes. Homosexuality is a sin on a par with murder, and we will not tolerate having a sinner under this roof. I know you're a good girl and would never knowingly sin. I just wanted to be sure you understood what a grave sin homosexuality really is."

You can imagine how much of an impression that little speech made that I can remember it verbatim after six years. At eleven years of age, I didn't know what I felt. I just knew that I was starting to feel certain attractions, and that boys were still yucky, and held no interest for me. Now for my mother to tell me that being attracted to a girl was as bad as being a murderer . . . you can imagine the nightmares I had in the months after that. The thing is, I think many straight girls would have had the same worries - after all, at eleven, how many of us have raging hormones just yet? Still, I was able to feel that I wasn't normal, and I knew I had reason to feel fear . . . and that, I really felt it.

By the time I hit puberty, what started out as fear turned into full-blown terror. I still didn't have any interest in boys, but at about the same time, I was beginning to have a strong attraction to girls. I started to notice their curves. I wanted to fondle their tits. I wanted to explore what was between their thighs. I knew these thoughts were the embodiment of pure evil and could only be coming from Satan - my mother had told me so and I had to believe her and trust her judgment - but no matter how hard I prayed to God to make me normal, nothing changed.

The turning point in my life came the summer after I turned thirteen. I was at Bible Camp, and more miserable than I'd ever been in my life. I couldn't stand it any more, and had finally made up my mind to kill myself.

I guess in a twisted way, I thought that if I couldn't be normal, and if I was going to Hell anyway, then I might as well get it over with, or so I thought.

One night, I snuck out of the cabin after I thought everyone else was asleep. I took a small knife with me that I'd snuck out of the kitchen earlier in the day. I snuck into the woods to a secluded spot where I assumed no one would find me until it was too late, and I sat down on the ground and got ready to slash my wrists. I held the knife in my hand and was examining my wrist carefully.

"What are you doing?" I heard a young voice from behind me. In panic, I dropped the knife, which cut my thigh as it fell to the ground. I cried out in pain.

"Are you alright?" the young voice asked. A familiar face came into view. It was Cathy, one of my cabin mates and one of the reasons I was suicidal in the first place.

I had a major crush on Cathy. She was everything I wanted in a girlfriend - she had long blond hair that reached her shoulders, dazzling turquoise blue eyes and alluring red lips. More importantly, she had a warm personality that drew you in and made you want to get to know her. Since the start of camp, we had become fast friends, and it killed me that we could never be intimate - that my dreams could never come true.

"Debbie, what's wrong?" She asked me. "What are you doing with that knife? Oh no! Tell me you weren't going to slit your wrists, were you? Please tell me you weren't! It would kill me if you killed yourself."

I continued to look at her, speechless and frightened.

I looked into her beautiful eyes and even in the moonlight, I could see into her soul, and she into mine, and I could not lie to her. I didn't need to tell her . . . she could see it in my eyes.

"But why, Debbie? Why would you do such a thing?"

"I . . . I can't tell you, Cathy . . . I . . . just can't. If I told you, you . . . you would hate me." Tears were building in my eyes.

"Debbie," she said with tears in her eyes, "you're my best friend. I could never hate you. No matter what you've done, or may have done, or think you may have done, I'll always love you. Please don't hurt yourself. I couldn't stand it if you killed yourself. It would kill me if something happened to you. I would die."

Cathy threw her arms around me and held me tightly, and we cried together in each other's arms. For the first time in my life, I felt the warmth of another female body close to mine - other than my mother's - one that had true compassion for me. Slowly, what she said sank in and I asked her, "What do you mean by, `you love me?'"

"Now you'll hate me," she said. "Debbie, there's no easy way to say this, and if you do hate me after what I say, please don't tell anyone else, but . . . I'm a lesbian. If you want me to stay away from you, I will. I know it's wrong to like girls . . . I . . . I just can't help it. I'm just not attracted to boys at all."

Having this beautiful girl sitting there by me who said she loved me, and who admitted she liked girls, and who I'd secretly had a crush on was too much for me. At that moment I felt this overwhelming sense of euphoria. Looking back, now I understand that I didn't realize how depressed I had become from the guilt and fear that had been instilled in me. I went from feeling hopeless to feeling giddy. When I smiled back at Cathy, the grin that lit up her face was priceless.

So instead of killing myself that night, I ended up making out with Cathy. We made out a lot that night, and just about every night we could. We snuck out every chance we got. After I told her about my mother's `talk', we agreed that although homosexuality might not be part of God's plan, we didn't give a fuck. We were happy, and we'd never be happy unless we could be together.

Cathy and I fell deeply in love that summer. We became inseparable. Everyone said we were joined at the hip, but in private, it was our lips that were perpetually joined, and our tongues, and as we got more courageous, other parts of our anatomy, too. It was an exciting time for us, but the fear was always there for me, waiting in the background.

After spending so much time together at camp, returning home was a real letdown. Fortunately, Cathy and I lived in the same part of town, but some miles apart, so at thirteen, finding ways to spend time with each other was difficult. Visiting Cathy by bicycle was out of the question. I tried to talk Mom into letting me do just that, but it involved crossing several very busy streets and even I had to admit it was dangerous. In the end, we had to settle for getting our parents to drive us to each other's houses, or to meeting up at Casselton Square Mall, or in Broad Ripple or Glendale, or catching a movie together.

Once school started, the situation was even worse. We were even in different middle schools - it was enough to make us cry. The only times we could possibly see each other was on the weekend, and we were both under pressure to date boys. At least we both seemed to be getting asked out often enough - the biggest problem was in talking the boys into double-dating - but that didn't leave us any time alone together.

The situation was infinitely better when we entered high school. It was a huge school, but Cathy's aunt worked in the superintendant's office and was able to pull some strings to make sure Debbie and I had most of our classes together. We were in heaven!

No, we couldn't hold hands or kiss in the hallways the way boy and girl couples could, but we were a couple in every other sense of the word. We stayed deeply in the closet and might have never told anyone we were anything more than best friends had it not been for Trevor Austin.

Trevor is a kid who goes to our church, Hope Evangelical Christian Church, which is the same one Cathy and I go to, or rather the same one our parents take us to. Anyway, about a year ago at Homecoming, Trevor managed to out himself by dancing with David Reynolds, a rather gregarious and very `out' freshman who, incidentally, is now the sophomore class president.

Trevor's parents took the news surprisingly well, but the Reverend DeWitt, the pastor of our church, decided to make an example of poor Trevor and singled him out as an example of the rampant sin among the youth of our community. The good reverend in turn used that to start a petition drive to try to get our high school's gay-straight alliance disbanded. That had to have been the most humiliating and uncomfortable moment of my life -- listening to the Reverend give his sermon against homosexuality with Cathy beside me. We sat there dumbfounded as our parents just nodded their heads, agreeing with every statement that the Reverend hammered out to the congregation.

I have to tell you that as much as I live in fear, I just couldn't sit back and let that happen. After a lot of discussion, Cathy and I decided to ask a couple of straight boys we occasionally dated to go with us to a New Year's Eve party the GSA was holding at which they were hosting a strategy session to figure out what to do.

You know what happened? As soon as we were all in the car together, Larry . . . he was Cathy's date, said, "I really hope we can stop that DeWitt character. The guy's a creep. Girls or guys like you two deserve to be treated the same as everyone else."

My heart felt like it would burst out of my chest as I asked, "What do you mean?"

Tim, my date, answered, "Hey, it's OK . . . Larry and I kinda figured out a while back that you two are a couple, and we're cool with it. We've really enjoyed going out with you and all, and we know how religious your parents are and that you need a cover. Really . . . We're cool with it. Just remember, it's who you are."

"You can't tell anyone," Cathy said in acknowledgement of what we'd told no one else.

"We'd never do that," Larry said. "We're your friends."

"Thanks," was all I could say.

I guess it was at that party that Cathy and I came to actually accept the fact that God made us lesbians and that our parents were flat-out wrong about homosexuality being a sin. Maybe that relieved some of the guilt, but certainly not the fear.

Even the support of Tim and Larry couldn't prepare us for what the GSA had planned, however. Lance Cohen, whose dad was a senior editor at The Star, had apparently arranged for a reporter to come to the party and interview us all. If I'd known about it in advance, I would have never gone. Anyway, they did a feature article on gay youth that ran on the front page of the Sunday edition of the paper, in which they highlighted the plight of the GSA.

You know what? It turned out the reverend's son was gay, and he came out, right in the article! They even interviewed Cathy and me, but we weren't about to ask our parents for signed releases. Because of that, they couldn't quote us or anything and could only refer to us anonymously and in generalities, but we really felt good about being able to contribute.

That feeling lasted until breakfast Sunday morning.

"How do you like that?" my father said as he opened the paper. "They got an article on queers, right on the front page. And it's about the queer kids in our neighborhood, too!" he said.

I really started to get worried as he sipped his coffee and continued to read. What if he recognized some of our friends in the article? What if he somehow recognized Cathy and me? Fear . . . would it never go away?

"Ha! The reverend's kid's gay! Reverend DeWitt's Goddamn kid's a fag! How do you like that?"

I finally started to exhale when I realized my father was going to focus on the reverend rather than on me, but then the fear returned when he said, "Wait a minute, there's a quote from a Gary Phillips in here. Isn't he the kid who hosted the party you went to New Year's Eve?"

"It's a pretty common name, Dad," I answered.

"Not that common," he countered, "and it'd only take a phone call for me to find out if he's the same one quoted in the article."

"Well, now that you mention it, I think Gary has a gay brother, so he could be the one quoted in the article," I admitted

"I wish you'd told me that. I'm not keen on you going to parties with sinners."

"Dad, there are good kids and bad kids everywhere, and there's good and bad in everyone, just as the church teaches us. Just because Gary's brother is gay doesn't mean Gary's a bad kid. You have to trust me."

"Yeah, I s'pose you're right," my father agreed, much to my relief.

"Ha! If I didn't know better, I'd swear these two lesbian girls sound like you and Cathy, but I know better."

The fear hit me like a ton of bricks, but I put on my best fake smile and laughed out loud and said, "Very funny, Dad." He laughed with me at the absurdity of the thought.

The reporter from The Star approached Cathy and me for a follow-up article over the summer, but it was just too much of a risk, particularly with the way my father had reacted and with how close he'd come to discovering the truth at New Year's. We turned him down.

Now we were seniors in high school. We were on the home stretch! If we could just get through this year, we would graduate from high school, and then we'd start college. Then we could get our own apartment together and finally live our lives without the fear. We were so close . . . and yet so far.

But we could do this. Tim and Larry were willing to go out with us, even knowing we were gay, and there were lots of other boys who liked to ask us out, too. Because our parents are so religious, boys always believed us when we told them we were waiting for marriage to have sex, so there was no problem there. Yes, we could do this. There would be challenges ahead to be sure, particularly with things we'd managed to duck last year like prom, but we'd get through them, and then we'd be home free.

Or so we thought . . .

The first sign of trouble came at Homecoming. Tim and Larry invited us to the game, and then the dance, and of course we went. It was a great chance for Cathy and me to be together, and yet for us to appear to be out on one of our regular double dates as two ordinary straight girls. Last year, the GSA made a big deal about same sex couples being allowed to dance together, but no one expected it to be an issue this year. Girls always tended to dance together anyway if they wanted to, but Cathy and I didn't want to push our luck and so when boys started to pair off with boys and girls with girls, we didn't even give any thought to doing that ourselves. We each danced with our own dates, and with some of the other boys who asked us.

I was more than surprised, however, when Trevor Austin asked me to dance with him, and to a slow song, no less. I mean Trevor was the friggin' president of the GSA now, and he had a boyfriend, for cripes sake. In fact, his boyfriend was none other than Kurt DeWitt, the former pastor's son. I didn't want to hurt Trevor's feelings, but if word got back to my parents that I'd danced with Trevor, it could definitely be bad. One dance to be polite, I figured - that I could easily explain - and then I'd let him down gently.

As we started to dance, Trevor leaned in close to me and said, "I suppose you're wondering why I asked you to dance."

"To put it mildly," I replied. "If my dad hears about this, he'll throw a fit."

"That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about," Trevor explained. "You probably don't know this, but my dad owns a small security company. They mostly install security cameras and alarm systems, and install hardware and software to protect computer servers against hackers and spies, but they also have a team of investigators that do some fieldwork for companies that need information. In other words, my dad's company employs private investigators.

"A while back, your father hired my father's company because he was, um, concerned that his daughter never went out on dates unless she double-dated with her best friend. Now please understand that my dad's really religious, too, but even he would have never agreed to it had he known what your dad was up to. The guy that took your father's job no longer works for us.

"Anyway, the bottom line is that your father hired my dad's company to spy on you and Cathy. By the time my dad found out about it, it was too late . . . your father already had pictures of the two of you making out."

Suddenly, my vision grew dim and I felt faint. I could barely breathe and the music seemed to fade into the background. I felt disoriented - I wasn't sure where I was anymore and then everything around me went completely black.

When I came to, I was lying on the floor and a bunch of kids were surrounding me. Trevor was there, and so were Cathy, Tim and Larry. Kurt DeWitt was there as well.

"Are you alright?" Trevor asked.

"I . . . I think so," I responded. "What happened?" I asked.

"You fainted," Trevor replied. "I usually don't have that effect on women," he smirked. "It's the boys that need to watch out."

"Would you like something to drink?" Tim asked and I nodded.

"I'll get some punch," Kurt offered, and then he was back in a flash. "Don't worry, this isn't spiked. I checked," he laughed.

I greedily gulped it down and instantly felt better.

"Why don't you stand up slowly," Tim asked, "and we'll walk back to our table?"

I nodded my head and Tim helped me to my feet. I felt soo embarrassed, seeing all the students that were staring at the group of us, but Tim, Larry, Cathy, Trevor and Kurt made me feel so self-assured as we walked off the dance floor.

When we got back to our table, I collapsed in my chair and the tears started to flow.

"Debbie, what's wrong?" my girlfriend and soul mate of more than four years asked me.

"It's my father . . . I . . . I just can't . . ."

Trevor and Kurt had pulled up a couple of chairs and sat down with us at our table. Turning to Trevor, I asked, "Please, Trevor, would you tell her?"

"Is it OK with Tim and Larry here?" He asked.

"Yeah, they already know about us." I answered and Cathy's eyes opened wide as she registered the implication.

"Cathy," Trevor said, turning to face my girlfriend, "Debbie's father hired my father's company to spy on the two of you."

"Holy shit!" Tim practically shouted, drawing some stares from the adjacent tables.

Trevor waited until no one was looking at us, and then he continued speaking softly, "Believe me, my father would have put a stop to it if he'd known about it, and by the time he found out, it was too late . . . Debbie's dad already had pictures taken by one of our field operatives . . . what most folks call a private eye."

"Oh my God," Cathy whispered as she started to cry. Larry put his arm around her - I was still too paranoid to do so myself in public.

"My dad's gonna refund the money," Trevor said. "This kind of spying's iffy to begin with, but by my dad telling me and me telling you, we've violated client privilege, and that's definitely something your father could sue us over, even if we do give him his money back."

"So you're saying we can't confront my father about what he knows?" I asked.

"Debbie, if you do, and if your father sues us because of it, we'll deal with the consequences. It was my father's choice to tell me knowing I'd tell you. Of course we'd rather you didn't confront your father . . . at least not directly."

"So we just wait for the other shoe to drop?" Cathy asked. "I can't stand it . . . I just want to be able to finish the school year."

"But not if our parents keep us apart," I said, "or worse, send us to a `Christian school' where they try to force us into being straight."

"That would be awful," Cathy agreed. "If only there were a way to confront Debbie's dad without giving away that we found out about his spying on us . . ."

"You two could always just come out," Larry suggested.

"You've gotta be kidding me," I said. I was incredulous.

"Actually, I see Larry's point," Tim said. "By coming out to your parents, or somehow outing yourselves, you'd be heading your father off at the pass and catching him off-guard. You might be able to keep him from implementing whatever he has planned for you."

"My parents would still probably throw me out of the house," I said.

"Mine would, too," Cathy agreed, "but you know, that might actually be the best case scenario. I'll be eighteen in only four months. I've heard CPS often allows seventeen-year-olds to care for themselves when they're married . . . I mean, I know gay marriage isn't legal in this state or anything, but if we were an `out' committed couple, maybe they'd treat us the same. We could get a small apartment and we could get after school jobs. We can survive if we have to . . . I know we can."

"But what if they put us in foster homes?" I asked. "They might even put us in different school districts, or what if they force us to stay with our parents and our parents send us away?" I cried.

"That's why I think we need to come out," Cathy said. "By coming out before our parents take action, we stand a much better chance of controlling what happens." Turning to Trevor, Cathy asked, "Trevor, you went through something like this, didn't you?"

"Yeah, but I accidentally outed myself at this dance last year, so I had no choice but to come out to my parents, and it turned out my dad already knew. I should have figured the owner of a security company would be monitoring attempts to hack into our home computer network, including those from the gay porn sites I'd been visiting," he said as he blushed. We all laughed at that.

"Could you, like, hire a lawyer?" Larry asked.

"Wait a minute!" Kurt said suddenly as his eyes lit up. "I think I know someone who can help us, and maybe he could suggest a lawyer, too. He sure helped us out when Trevor was accused of sexually molesting a bunch of kids at camp over the summer and when I was raped."

"What?" I practically shouted, drawing the attention of practically everyone around us. Once again, we had to wait until people lost interest and turned away.

"Yeah, didn't you read about it in The Star or see it on TV?" Kurt asked.

"We went on vacation for a couple of weeks to Europe toward the end of July," I said, and "Cathy's family went to California around the same time."

"Yeah, that's when it happened," Kurt explained. "There was a counselor, `Gary', at the Bible camp where we were volunteering who was an imposter. He posed as a graduate student but he was a child molester, and he framed Trevor. After the police took Trevor away, I called Harold Warren at The Star . . . you remember him from the New Years interviews, right?" Cathy and I nodded. "Anyway, he got Trevor a great lawyer and a P.I., but I was in a hurry to prove my boyfriend didn't do it. My intent was to catch Gary in the act of molesting another kid, but I forgot the camera on my cell phone uses a pre-flash to focus, so he caught me before I got the picture. Gary forced me to have sex with this kid while he took pictures and video.

"In the end, he tried to kill me, but I used his greed against him and was able to get away."

"Kurt, that sounds horrible," I said. "I can't believe you're able to talk so freely about it. If something like that happened to me, I'd be an absolute basket case."

"If I don't talk about it, who will?" Kurt asked. "I'm gonna participate in a city-wide roundtable on rape later this year, but even before that, I'm hoping to organize a forum here at school. I'm on the student council, and the whole council's receptive to the idea of holding a student assembly on rape and abuse. I'd like to get at least another rape victim . . . preferably a girl . . . to come forward, too, and also a victim of sexual abuse in the home. I think kids need to hear our stories. If other kids hear what we've gone through, maybe even more kids will come forward, and we can help each other heal, and maybe some of the aggressors who have gone unpunished over the years will finally be brought to justice."

"Kurt, that's amazing," Tim said. "How many kids would be willing to do that?"

"Now you know why I love him so much," Trevor said as he took Kurt's hand in his and squeezed it tightly. "I mean, I was already in love with him before this shit happened, but the way he tried to rescue me and there's what he did that he didn't even tell you about. He put his own life in danger to save that little kid, and now, doing what he's doing, just shows you the true beauty that is Kurt."

Turning red as a beet, Kurt said, "Please, Trev, you're embarrassing me."

"Well, get used to it, sweetheart, 'cause I'm never letting you go. You're one in a million, Kurt, and I'm the luckiest guy alive to be your boyfriend."

"Wow! The feeling's mutual, Trev," Kurt said. "I'd be stuck being `reprogrammed' at the Christian Academy down south if it weren't for you. I owe you everything, but it's not just that, and it's not hero worship. I love you 'cause of the wonderful person you are. I'm not letting you go, either."

"Aww, how precious," Larry said with a smirk.

"I think it's really sweet," Tim said.

"Seriously," Kurt said, "Trev and I are a year-and-a-half apart in age, but two full grades apart in school. I'm gonna try going to summer school to catch up, but with Trev's smarts and his AP courses, the chances of me making real inroads are slim to none. Trev could start college here in town, but let's face it, he's MIT or Cal Tech material, and I wouldn't dream of holding him back. I've already spoken to my mom about it, and she's agreed that if we're still together in two years . . . and she keeps reminding me that's a big `if' in the lives of two teenagers . . . she'll let me go with Trevor and finish high school wherever he goes to college."

"Damn," I said out loud, which was a word I rarely used, "why couldn't my parents be more like your mom?"

"My father wasn't," Kurt reminded me.

"How could I forget," I remembered. "He tried to disband the GSA, and he made Trevor's life hell."

"Yeah, but he couldn't take the heat of the publicity of having a gay son. Don't you just love a church scandal?" Trevor asked with a smirk and we all burst into laughter.

"Debbie," Kurt continued, "let me call Harold Warren. I'm not suggesting you and Cathy should come out in The Star like I did, but Harold will probably have some good ideas on how you should handle this. As a minimum, he'll know of a good lawyer, or someone at CPS, or maybe even a family court judge who can help you out. He also knows how to keep his sources confidential, which I know will make Trev's dad happy. Let me give him a call, and then we'll talk about what to do next if that's OK with you."

I looked over at Cathy, and we both nodded our heads. With that, Kurt pulled out his cell phone as he headed outside. We made small talk while he was gone. For sure the wait was interminable. Finally, Kurt returned.

"Boy, am I glad I made that phone call. Sorry it took so long, but Harold called a family court judge he knows while I was out there, just to make sure he was giving me the right advice. The bottom line, girls, is that you have to act tonight, just in case your parents are planning something for when you get home from the dance. The bottom line is that, legally, they're still your parents. They can, literally, kidnap you and send you away to have you reprogrammed, and while what many of these so-called Christian schools do isn't Kosher, they can hide behind the first amendment and get away with it. Your parents have the right to send you to the school of their choosing.

"You've gotta force their hands. If you come out first and they then attempt to punish you for your sexual orientation, you or any of your friends can call CPS and then it would be extremely difficult for them to send you away. At seventeen, you're old enough to consent to a sexual relationship. They have no legal grounds to split you up. If you petition the courts for separation from your parents, with the exception of a few conservative judges, the courts will usually side with you in an instance like this and in most cases even require your parents to pay for your support until you reach eighteen, or even finish high school.

"The key is that you have to be completely out of the closet and your parents have to know you're lesbians and in a committed relationship for this to work. Anything they try has to appear to be a reaction to your coming out, rather than simply an arbitrary decision to change schools."

"Wow, this is all so overwhelming," I said.

"Believe me, I know," Kurt said with obvious sympathy in his voice. "I went through pretty much the same thing last winter, when I found out from Trevor my dad was planning to send me away to the Christian Academy. 'Course I didn't have a boyfriend at the time, so I chose a more subtle approach to coming out . . . I did it in The Star," he joked.

"So how do we come out to our parents before we get home?" Cathy asked.

"I say you start by coming out here," Trevor suggested. "There's several gay and lesbian couples dancing tonight, so it won't seem contrived if you two start dancing together, too, and it won't look like you had an ulterior motive for coming out. It would be perfectly natural now that you've been together for, what, three years . . ."

"Four years," I corrected him.

"Four years, to decide to come out in the presence of so many other gay couples. However, once you've made the decision to come out to your peers, you're faced with a dilemma . . . have your parents hear about it from a stranger, or hear about it from the two of you.

"What Harold suggested is that both of you call your parents and try to get them to agree to meet the two of you at one of your houses after the dance. You might want to leave the dance a little early, so you'll have time to talk. If you want, Kurt and I could go with you to provide moral support."

"I think it might seem like we're ganging up on them if we all go over there together," I said. "I mean, it would be six of us against four of them. Besides, I know my parents would not take kindly to seeing Kurt and Trevor. Yeah, that's just what they need . . . to have their daughter come out to them and to be confronted by a couple of known `perverts' from their church . . . NOT."

"I don't want you girls talking to them alone," Tim protested.

"That's really sweet of you, Tim, but Cathy and I are big girls. We can handle ourselves."

"But it would be four of them against the two of you. I just don't like the odds," Larry chimed in. "I really think Tim and I should go with you, just in case things don't go well, or in case your parents try something. I know you want your privacy, but there's safety in numbers, and it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of supportive, straight guys around."

"I think he's right," Cathy agreed.

"OK," I relented. "Since I have the bigger house, let's say we try to get everyone to meet at my house at around, say, 9:30?"

"That sounds good," Cathy agreed. "That's late enough that we'll still be able to stay for most of the dance without raising too much suspicion, but not so late as to get them alarmed."

Cathy and I called our parents and explained we had something very important we needed to discuss with them right after the dance, and that we'd leave a little early so we'd have enough time, and that we wanted to do it all at once at my house. My parents were curious to say the least, but I told them it was nothing to worry about, that we were having a wonderful time, but that something came up involving both sets of parents and it couldn't wait until morning. I could only imagine what sorts of things were going through my parents' heads.

After making our respective calls, Cathy and I took to the dance floor for the first time in our lives. It felt . . . strange. I'd like to say if felt liberating, but after four years of hiding deep within the closet, I almost felt naked while dancing with my girlfriend, out in the open. This would definitely take some getting used to.

After the set of songs was over and we made our way back to our seats, I wanted to hold Cathy's hand so badly, but I couldn't do it. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I knew there was no reason not to, but it just didn't feel right. It should've been no big deal, but it was. If I couldn't hold her hand in public, how could I ever bring myself to kiss her in public?

On top of fear, now I felt awkward. This was a new feeling in my relationship. It was a feeling I didn't really need. I could see by the look on her face that Cathy felt the same way - we knew each other that well.

"So . . . how's the happy couple?" Trevor asked.

"F-f-fine," Cathy answered, the nervousness evident in her voice. I knew exactly how she felt. She wasn't just nervous about what was to come later tonight, but after four years in the closet, being out was . . . strange.

"And how are you doing, Debbie?" Trevor asked.

I decided there was no use putting a happy face on it as my girlfriend had. "Trevor," I said, "I'm scared shitless."

"Oh my God, I can't believe you said that!" Cathy said.

"Well aren't you?" I asked incredulously.

"Fuck yeah," she replied and we both burst out laughing.

"Trevor," I continued, "It's not that we're both scared of what may happen tonight . . . it's that we've been hiding so far in the closet for so long, that being out just doesn't seem natural."

"Damn, girl," Cathy agreed, "you got that right."

"Trust me, girls, it takes time, but as they say, practice makes perfect. The more you hold hands together in school, and kiss in public now and then, the more natural it will become. It'll actually start to feel liberating, rather than terrifying.

"Why don't you give each other a kiss right now?" he suggested.

I knew he meant well, but I thought I was going to be sick. Cathy and I had spent hundreds if not thousands of hours making out in private, but the thought kissing in front of our classmates literally made my stomach churn. It's not that I didn't love her, but I just couldn't get the thought out of my head that someone would see us and tell our parents. Sure, I knew our parents already knew, but try telling that to the butterflies in my stomach, and Cathy looked no more up for it than I did.

Slowly, we moved toward each other. We closed our eyes and tilted our head, bringing our lips together. We gave each other a chaste peck on the lips. It was no more than you might give your grandmother. It meant nothing.

"You call that a kiss?" Tim stated more than asked.

Rather than answer him, we slowly brought our faces back together as the world faded to black and our lips made contact. This time I used all my willpower to maintain contact with the girl I loved. I focused my thoughts on just that . . . that I was kissing the girl I loved, and nothing else. I tried to block out everything else, ignoring the room we were in, and the students around us. It was just Cathy and me, and no one else. Neither one of us tried to use any tongue, but we deepened the kiss and I ran my fingers through her silky, golden hair until someone's catcall broke the mood. At least it was a start, but it still didn't feel right.

"Now that's more like it," Trevor said.

My stomach was still doing flip-flops, but Cathy and I managed to dance a few more sets before it was time to leave for our `rendezvous with destiny', as I was coming to think of it.

The ten-minute drive to my house was one of the longest in my life. Larry and Tim did their best to put us at ease, but their attempts at gentle conversation were answered pretty much by single words by Cathy and me. Our hearts just weren't in it.

Finally, the moment of truth had arrived. We all went inside and I could barely look my parents in the eye. My father immediately caught on that something was up.

"What is it, Debbie?" he asked. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

As we all sat down, I summoned all the courage I had and said, "Dad, Mom, there's no easy way to tell you all this. Cathy and I had planned on waiting until we had graduated and left home, but we got carried away tonight, and thought it better to tell you ourselves than have you hear it from someone else."

"What are you talking about, Dear?" my mother asked.

Continuing, I said, "I know how you guys feel about this, with the views of the Church and all, but you have no idea what it's like growing up with your basic feelings being the reverse of what everyone expects them to be.

"Mom, Dad, Cathy and I have been lovers for the past four years. As far as we're concerned, God made us this way, and there's nothing you can do to change it. We came out at the dance tonight. We hadn't planned to . . . it just happened. We can't go back in the closet . . . We won't go back in the closet. If you want us to move out, we will, but we're not going to let you split us up."

The room was completely silent after my little tirade, and then my father got up from where he was sitting. He walked out of the living room and into his study, and returned less than a minute later with a thick brown envelope in his hand. He opened the envelope and spread out photo after photo over the coffee table. The photos showed Cathy and I kissing. There was no mistaking what we were doing.

"You spied on us!" Cathy shouted out indignantly. "I can't believe you spied on us." Leave it to my lover to say exactly what needed to be said.

Putting on what I hoped was a total look of shock on my own face, I looked back at my father and said, "Dad, how could you do this? How could you spy on your own daughter?"

"Isn't it obvious?" he asked. "We had every reason to be concerned, and we were right!"

"Honey," my mother began, "when you were eleven, I told you what would happen if you followed Satan's path, and yet you chose to do so. What did you think would happen when we found out?"

"This isn't Satan's path. I've been a good Christian girl all my life. I've done everything God expects of me, and yet I fell in love with Cathy. There's no way God would have abandoned me. There's no way love could be wrong. I don't believe that. I can't believe it. God isn't wrong, but the Church doesn't always know God's will."

"And you think you do?" my father asked.

"Debbie," my mother jumped in, "How could you do this to us?"

"I didn't do this to you, Mother," I replied. "Cathy and I did this because this is who we are."

"Who you are," my father replied, "is our daughter, and you're still our daughter and will obey our wishes until you turn eighteen." I visibly cringed as he said that, but he continued anyway. "We raised you to be a good Christian girl . . ."

"I am a good Christian girl," I interrupted. "I've spent my whole life in the service of Christ, and I'm living my life the way I believe He would want me to. If loving Cathy is a sin, then why didn't Christ speak even once about homosexuality?"

"He didn't need to," Cathy's father said, speaking up for the first time. "The definitive word had already come from God."

"You mean like it did on slavery, or mixing meat and milk products, or mixing fiber types, or wearing red dresses, or eating shellfish and pork," my lover said. "But you know what?" she continued, "I don't think any of that matters to you, because you've already made up your minds. Jesus said `Love your neighbor as yourself,' and that's how Debbie and I try to live our lives. To us, that's all that matters, but you're so indoctrinated with what you've been taught to believe is God's word that you'd even toss your own daughters out on the street before you'd consider the possibility you might be wrong.

"One thing I can say with near certainty . . . If you toss us out like yesterday's garbage, we definitely won't be seeing you in heaven, and if we see you in Hell someday, it won't be because we're lesbians."

"Cathy, that's uncalled for," her father responded.

"So is tossing us aside," Cathy said as she burst into tears.

"You tossed yourselves aside when you turned your backs on God," Cathy's mother added, making her fundamentalist views clear as well.

"Debbie, Cathy," my father started speaking again, "we'd still like to help you if you're willing. There are schools that can help you. Good, Christian schools that know how to help kids like you who've lost your way. We've already looked into this and we're willing spare no expense to get you the help you so desperately need.

"You have a choice tonight. You can return to God and we'll help you in your struggle . . . the struggle to save your souls, or you'll need to leave. I'm sorry to sound so harsh, but we're Christians and we live by Christian morals. Anything less is unacceptable."

Up to this point, the boys had been silent. Just then, Tim spoke up. "I got a text message from Trevor. His parents have offered their guest room tonight if you need it."

"Trevor? Trevor Austin?" my mother asked.

"Yeah," I answered. "His parents are good evangelist Christians. They have a gay son that they love and support. They know the true meaning of Christian love."

"That bastard!" my father practically shouted. "I give him my business, and this is how he rewards me?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, helping to cover Trevor's tracks.

"I hired Austin's firm to take those photos," Dad answered.

Shaking my head, I said, "Somehow, I doubt that Mr. Austin had anything to do with that, or I bet he would've put a stop to it. I'm just glad he's giving us a place to stay for the night."

Turning to my lover, I said, "Come on Cathy, let's go somewhere where people can accept us the way we are." With that, I grabbed her hand and the two of us, along with Larry and Tim, departed.

When we arrived at Trevor's house, the acceptance by his parents was immediate. With reassuring hugs and words of encouragement, Cathy and I started to feel a new state of what normal should feel like. The contrast between his parents and ours was so overwhelming. We shared a lot of tearful moments during that short introduction. Trevor's father practically tripped over himself to apologize to Cathy and me for what had happened. He really did feel responsible and wanted to do everything he could to undo the damage that had been done. Unfortunately, that really wasn't possible. Cathy and I were now out, we were no longer welcome in our own homes and we would now have to try to make it on our own.

Even when we had to return to get our personal belongings, it was a cold wordless experience in both of our homes.

At best, we might find a sympathetic family court judge who would allow us to live on our own as a couple, but we'd still need jobs to survive, and we'd have to put ourselves through school. If we could have just made it until we were both eighteen, we could have at least had control of our college funds.

We ended up spending nearly a month at Trevor's place. Trevor's parents already had a license as foster parents and took us on as an emergency placement until we could petition the court for emancipation. It was a gamble, but given our circumstances as an out couple who'd been together for so long, our age and that there were so many friends who were willing to stand up for us, the attorney Legal Aide hired for us thought we had a good shot at it. Furthermore, he thought we could probably force our parents to relinquish control of our college trust funds to us once we were emancipated, so our finances wouldn't be so dire, after all.

Finally, the time came for our hearing before the family court. I was sooo nervous, and I could tell that Cathy was, too. The hearing wasn't at all what I expected. For one thing, it was a lot less formal. The judge just asked us a lot of questions, and he asked our parents a lot of questions about why they threw us out of the house and so on. Finally, the judge rendered his verdict, and it was better than anything I could have ever hoped for. Cathy and I were emancipated, and could legally take care of ourselves and make our own decisions. Our college trust funds were taken away from our parents and would be made available to us for college expenses, with a court-appointed administrator in charge. Finally, our parents were ordered to provide a stipend to cover our living expenses until we graduated high school. Wow! I guess the judge didn't take kindly to them throwing us out on the street.

So with that, Cathy and I got ourselves our very own apartment in a subsidized building over on Westlane Road. It wasn't the nicest apartment, but it was ours, and it was still within the school district, so we'd still be with all our friends. I almost cried the first time I saw how barren it was, but I knew we'd have fun furnishing it from scratch. First stop was Wal-Mart to get an air mattress, a TV, some sheets, towels, folding chairs, pots, pans and basic dishes and utensils. The rest would come later, as we could afford them.

In time, Cathy and I got into a pretty typical household routine. We each got part-time jobs as cashiers at the local Kroger, and we picked up our groceries there, too. We got used to doing our laundry at the communal laundromat in our building, although it was a bit disconcerting being one of the few white faces in the crowd, and we got a lot of ribbing for being a couple of `dykes'. The walls in our place were paper-thin, and the neighbors were always arguing, and when they weren't, there was always the sound of screaming babies or blaring TV sets.

I could tell that all of this was wearing Cathy down, but I didn't know just how much until the day I came home from work to find her sitting in one of the folding chairs and crying.

"I can't take it any more, Deb. I just can't take it any more," she said.

I hugged her tightly to my breast and cried with her, but I knew that things were strained, and probably wouldn't be the same again.

As Thanksgiving approached, Cathy's depression only worsened. I could tell she was at the breaking point, but I just didn't know what to do for her. I even suggested we go for counseling, but she wouldn't hear of it. Finally, she said, "Debbie, this isn't working. What we had worked fine while we were in the closet, but it's not working now. I can't live this way.

"Frankly, I'd rather live as a straight girl under my parents' roof than live with you the way we live now."

"But you aren't straight!" I countered.

"Debbie, it doesn't really matter to me any more. I just know that I can't go on like this. I'm sorry. I really did love you. In many ways, I still do, and always will, but now is not the time to be this way."

"So you'd rather live a lie?" I asked incredulously.

"Not a lie . . . just a different life," she answered.

"A life in denial?"

"Well, when you put it that way, maybe so, but if that's what it takes to keep my sanity, then yeah," Cathy answered.

We both cried as we hugged each other tightly.

And that was it. Cathy moved out that next day, and back in with her parents, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday school break. There was a school assembly just before the break on rape and abuse that I later heard was incredible and emotional. Kurt DeWitt spoke at the assembly, but I just couldn't stomach it . . . not with what I was going through. I skipped it and drove on home . . . not that the apartment felt like home any more now that Cathy had left.

Thanksgiving itself was awful. No one besides Cathy and me knew about our breakup, or I probably would have had an invitation to spend the holiday with friends. Actually Cathy and I did get invitations from a number of friends, including Trevor's parents, but we had turned them all down. This was to be our first Thanksgiving together as a couple, and we had planned to make it special.

Now that Cathy had deserted me, I was alone, and I wasn't about to go crawling back to my friends at the last minute . . . not just yet. Microwaved turkey and dressing was the order of the day, but I just wasn't hungry and ended up throwing it out. The couple next door had about as much fun as I did as they argued the whole time and threw what had to be most of their dishes at each other. I could hear the constant breaking of stuff while a kid screamed in the background.

I don't know how I had the courage to go back to school the next Monday, but I did. After all, life went on. Everyone knew right away that something was wrong. It was unusual as it was to see me apart from Cathy, but when I appeared so distraught and Cathy was seen actually flirting with boys, it didn't take long for our friends to figure things out.

"So I take it Cathy got back together with her folks," Trevor stated more that asked me at lunch. Unable to speak, I merely nodded. "That really sucks. You know it wasn't that she ran from you, Debbie," he said as he gently squeezed my shoulder. "She ran home. She couldn't stand the separation from her parents. She just wasn't ready for it."

Finally looking into his eyes, I said, "I know, Trevor, but it doesn't make it any easier. I've been in love with her for four years, and now she's thrown that all away so she can crawl back into the womb with mommy and daddy. If she actually starts dating boys . . ."

"I seriously doubt that it'll come to that," Trevor said, reassuringly, "but I've seen it happen before with other closeted gay kids who are desperate to make their parents think they're straight. Hell, I even considered it before I came out. If it does happen with Cathy, you just have to be strong and understand that she's doing it out of desperation. It's not who she really is."

"But how far will she go, Trev. When will it end? Will Cathy come back to me when she turns eighteen in January, or maybe when she graduates at the end of the school year? Or by then will she still be running scared. Will she decide that she needs her parents love too much to ever give it up. Will she get married and have kids, all for the sake of pretending to be what she's not . . . all for the sake of her parents?"

"Those are tough questions, Debbie, and maybe soon you'll have a chance to ask her, but now isn't the time. She may come running back to you tomorrow, or not at all. Just know this, Debbie . . . you have a lot of friends who are here for you. You're far from alone." As we stood up, Trevor hugged me tightly. He really was a true friend.

The weeks leading up to Christmas were sheer torture. It was odd -- now I felt as miserable and depressed as Cathy had just before she left me. Each day I was forced to see Cathy in the hallways, laughing with other people as if our love had never existed. Not only did she flirt with boys, but I saw her at Casselton Square Mall with Brad Simmons, standing in line for the movies, obviously on a date with him. They even kissed. For me, that was the last straw.

Life had come full circle. When I met Cathy, I was thirteen and had concluded there was nothing left for me as a lesbian in a Christian society. Cathy saved me from committing suicide. Her love showed me that life could have meaning. Now that her love was gone, once again my life was bereft of meaning and I saw no way out of my misery. Cathy apparently found she could survive by pretending to be straight. I knew I could never do that. For me, there was only one other alternative. . . .

Last time, Cathy had been there to save me. This time I had no illusions about a last minute reprieve. There would be no knight in shining armor. No last minute miracle. Most likely the next-door neighbors would notice a smell, the landlord would investigate, the police would be called and my body would be found. My parents would be called to the morgue to identify my body and they would shake their heads at the waste of my life, absolved of their guilt because they had kicked me out of their house before they could be blamed for what happened.

I only had one more thing to do. I stopped in at the CVS pharmacy on the way home from school to make a single purchase. While I was there, I ran into Trevor, who started to make idle conversation with me, when he noticed what I had in my hand.

"Why do you need razorblades, Debbie?" he asked.

When I didn't answer him, he asked me again, "Why are you buying a pack of razor blades?"

Trevor reached out and took the pack of blades from me and set them down, even though it was in the wrong spot.

"You don't know what it's like," I finally managed to say.

"No," he said, but I've been far closer than you can ever imagine."

Continuing, he said, "Come with me. We can come back and get your car later."

He took me to his car, a late-model Volkswagen Jetta, and we got in. I didn't really pay attention to where we drove until we pulled up in front of my parents' house.

"What are we doing here?" I asked in surprise.

"Believe it or not, your parents and my parents have become quite close since you left home. They're trying, Debbie, and while they still have a long way to go in understanding homosexuality, they've come a long way. Right now, I think you need them, and they need you, and your being gay is pretty secondary.

"I think your mother should be home. Let's go inside."

Mom answered the door and was shocked to see me, but she grabbed me into a tight hug and cried her eyes out. When she saw Trevor standing behind me, she immediately asked him, "What's wrong?"

"I found Debbie at CVS, getting ready to buy a pack of razor blades," he answered.

"Dear God, NO!"

"Cathy and I split up," I explained. "She just couldn't stand being apart from her parents, and decided to return home. She's even started dating boys, just to make her parents happy."

"Yes, I know," my mother exclaimed. "Her parents are ecstatic. They say she's not a lesbian any more. They hoped that maybe you'd change, too."

"Mother, she's still a lesbian. That's not something she can change. She just couldn't stand being away from home, and she's desperate enough to pretend to be something she's not, to regain her parents' love."

Sighing, my mother said, "Yes, I was afraid of that, but her parents are so happy. It's a shame for everyone concerned, especially Cathy, but you're undoubtedly right."

"What!" I said. "You believe me?"

"Debbie, I understand why you find it hard to believe, but your father and I have done a lot of soul-searching since you left, and we've spent a lot of time with the Austins. We've even joined the local chapter of PFLAG, believe it or not.

"The most important things we've learned are that we can be true to our religion and still love our gay child, and that we cannot truly love God if we turn our backs on our gay child. Those preachers who try to say otherwise, well, they should honestly ask themselves, `What would Jesus say?' I think the answer's pretty obvious, and I can't believe I was so blind all these years that I couldn't see it."

Looking at me with the sincerest look of love in her eyes, Mom said, "Debbie, come home. You belong here. I'm sorry I can't do much about Cathy and her stubborn parents, but we'll welcome you home with open arms, and I promise you, we won't try to change you. I'm sorry we started this whole mess in the first place. If you ever do bring Cathy or even another girlfriend home, she'll be welcome here. It may not be what we wanted for you and it may not exactly be what we accept as Christian, but it's not for your father and I to decide. You're the boss of your life. You're nearly an adult, now, and the choices you make are between you and God.

"Come home, Debbie. Come home, and celebrate Christmas with us. Come home, and celebrate the sanctity of your life, and never, ever think about taking your life again."

I threw my arms around my mother and we both cried our eyes out. Finally, I asked her, "Why didn't you ask me to come home before?"

"Debbie, it takes a lot of courage to admit your mistakes, and we always think there's plenty of time to make amends. When Trevor said he prevented you from committing suicide, it dawned on me that we were nearly too late. Let's promise each other to never let our stubbornness nor time get in the way of our love again."

Hugging her again, I said, "I promise, Mom," and she said, "and I promise you, my daughter."

As we pulled apart, Trevor said, "If it's alright with you, Debbie, I'll pick you up on the way to school, since your car's still at the CVS. Maybe this weekend, we can clean out your apartment and move your things back home."

Standing up, I gave Trevor a warm hug and said, "Thanks, Trev. You're truly my best friend."

Getting a serious look on his face, he said, "I just thank God I came along when I did."

"I do to, Trev," I admitted. "Believe me, I do. I think He may have been watching over me."

I had a wonderful Christmas with my parents. It was a joyful reunion, and not a word was said about my sexual orientation or my breakup with Cathy. It was just like old times, and except for my broken heart, I was really, really happy.

There was some terrific news in January from Kurt - his final HIV test came back negative. In fact, all of the campers' HIV tests came back negative except the four that were already known to be positive. That was bad enough, but it could have been so much worse. It was a true Christmas season miracle.

I would have liked to have said that Cathy eventually came to her senses, but she continued to play the role of the straight girl, going out on dates with boys until one day, I saw her crying all through lunch period. She wouldn't even look at me nor talk to me, and I had to find out from someone else that she was more than a month late for her period. Knowing her parents, an abortion was out of the question.

I wondered how this would affect Cathy's ambitions to become an architect. Would she even go to college now? I'd always wanted to become an interior designer, with a degree from a top art school, but now I wasn't so sure. It was our dream to have our two professions blend together so we could provide a complete package to any client, but without Cathy, what good was that dream?

The thoughts of having a baby to look after, who would be dependant on me, to grow up and make me proud of their existence, gave a warmer depth to my feelings of love and belonging, and that overrode every sense of career and ambition I'd ever had before.

However, Cathy had made her bed and now she had to lie in it. I truly felt for her and would even have been more than willing to help her raise her child, but she would have to come to me, first. I knew that pity was no way to establish or maintain a relationship. Maybe by the time she had her baby, she would become more self assured. Maybe once she had her own child, she would realize where her priorities truly lay.

Me, well, I had my family back, I had wonderful friends who truly cared about me, I had the GSA, and I had my whole life ahead of me.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing and Trab in proofreading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Codey's World for hosting them.

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