And of course, to round out the last day of the anniversary is "New Kid 29"!!! It's been an awesome two years, and I thank you all for keeping up with me for so long. You've all been a blessing! Thanks! As usual, all emails are welcome at

"New Kid In School":
29th Chapter"

"Randy, get up. You're gonna be late." My mom said sleepily, tapping loudly on the door. It was one of those happy, sunny mornings where the warmth and comfort of your sheets are just kidnapping you and sedating your senses with the sweet sweet feeling of sleep. I didn't want to get out of bed, not for any reason. And even with the intrusions, I just rolled over and shut my eyes, hoping to enjoy it for only five more minutes. I was just beginning to drift off again when..."Randy!" She said again. Geez this was getting annoying! Leave me alone already!!! Arrrgh! I sighed outloud, and when she tapped on the door a third time, I was so enraged that I couldn't have gone back to sleep if I wanted to.

"FINE!!! I'M UP ALREADY!!!" I shouted. I angrily jumped out of bed and slammed my door shut. I don't know what had me so wound up this morning, but it was enough to keep me stomping around the house until it was time to go. I doubt my mother could have cared less about my little tantrum, she knew that I wasn't going to take it too far. The LAST thing I needed was for her to give me more 'slave work' for another weekend. Once I had gotten myself into the shower, I seemed to calm down a bit. The warm water felt good against my body, and it reminded me a lot of Ryan's gentle touch. The way his fingertips tickled as they lightly traced their way over my soft skin. The way his gentle kisses seemed to bring this tingling sensation to every spot they touched. The way his body heat would mix with mine and cover me as we embraced one another. Oh how I missed that. How long had it been? A week? Almost two? Who remembers? Ever since that damn make out party, things have been so topsy turvy that I haven't really had a chance to be with my boyfriend at all. I was starting to wonder if I could still even call him that anymore. Especially since Hailey was turning him into her personal 'Ken Doll' these days. He'd better have a damn good reason for not being in school yesterday. DAMN good! Ok Randy...don't get yourself all worked up again. It's just something that has to be discussed and worked out. We've been through things like this before, and everything gets screwed up because we just don't communicate. So...that's what I'll do. I'll tell him what's worrying me, he'll tell me it's all ok....then he'll do it again. And I'll have to kill them both. Then I'll hide the body in the basement under a layer of cement, the cops will think they ran off together to elope or something...and I'll get away scott free. End of story. Nah....where the hell am I gonna get money to buy cement? So much for that plan!

I hopped out of the shower and came down to snatch a pop tart or two before leaving. My mom was sitting at the table with this bewildered look on her face. Then she looked up at me and said, "Wilson called while you were in the shower." That explains the bewilderment.

"Really? It's kind of early."

"Yeah...he apologized for that. He said something about a frisbee, and a broken arm, and some old lady who teaches him swear words, and he wants to know if he should bring a tent with him." She said, looking confused as all hell. I couldn't help but laugh a bit.

"A TENT? What the heck for?" I asked.

"He wants to camp out in the backyard, but he wants to bring a long extention cord so you two can play video games and watch tv. I...I think...I might have that wrong."

"Hehehehe...I TOLD you he was interesting, Mom."

"Interesting indeed. I really am going to be anxious to meet this boy and hopefully figure him out. He'll be here tomorrow at six."

Oh man, I had almost forgotten about my houseguest for this weekend. Great. That heart to heart with Ryan may have to be postponed for a day or two. "Sounds good. Don't worry mom, I think you'll like the little imp when he gets here."

She smiled, and I gave her a goodbye kiss and took off. Sort of my apology for snapping at her earlier. She didn't mention it, but I think she understood what it was for. We've always had that mother-son connection down to a science. I can remember times when we could practically pass telepathic messages back and forth across the dinner table so my dad wouldn't hear us. God forbid. It was nice to know we still had it.

I walked out of the front door and started to walk on my own. I'd probably be a bit late, but not by much, no biggie. Then I saw Ryan drive up beside me, to offer me a ride. "You running late too?" He said. He doesn't drive to school unless he's late, which lately has been most of the time. He's always quick to offer me a ride when he does though. However...something was different this time.

I looked closer, and saw Hailey's head pop out from the passenger seat. "Hi Randy!" She said, her fake Shirley Temple smile gleaming bright enough to blind me. "You coming with us?"

Um...I'm thinking no. Actually, it was more like HELL no! "That's...that's alright. I'm just gonna hike it today."

Ryan gave me a signal for help, asking me to jump in the car, but I turned it down. That's when I saw Tyler coming out of his house. Then I said, " and Tyler have things to talk about. See you guys later." And I smiled, looking at Ryan's face as he realized that he was trapped yet again. Good for him, the bastard. Still...I wasn't really sure how to take this constant intrusion. Some days it seemed harmless, somedays it was annoying as hell, and others it was downright threatening to me. It was a guessing game that I was quickly getting tired of. I saw Ryan swat Hailey's hand away as she tried to fix his hair for him, and they drove away. No more delays, no waiting until monday. This had to be taken care of today. No matter what.

I caught up to Tyler as he was walking, and he seemed happy to see me. He was dressed a little snazzier than normal again, and his hair was beyond its usual perfection. God he looked and smelled good! I wonder if he went through this much trouble with me. "So what's up?"

Tyler smiled and said, "Nothing much. I had some last minute homework to finish up this morning. I can't hit first period without it. So I figured it would be better to be late than empty handed. What's your story?"

"Just...lazy." We snickered a bit. And started chatting away as usual. We never ran out of things to talk about, me and Tyler. It was so weird sometimes. As we got closer to school, I decided to snoop around a little bit andsee what tidbits of info I could find out. If it's one thing that could take my mind off of my boyfriend and Ms. Prissy was Tyler and Ariel. "Say, you're awfully dressed up today. How come?"

"No reason..." And then he tried to change the subject by asking me the time. He wasn't getting out of it that easy.

"We've got plenty of time. So...your clothes..."

"Dude. What IS it with you and my clothes lately? Everytime I put on more than a t-shirt and jeans, I've got you guys acting like I'm going to prom. It's normal to look nice for school. Besides, it's a sunny day out, why not enjoy it?" Tyler said.

"Actually..." I said. "...ARIEL told me it was going to rain today." I smiled to myself as I saw his ears perk up a bit. But he pretended not to really care.

"Oh...that's nice."

"Yeah. We were out talking after school yesterday, and we had a nice little talk about some things." I was trying, I really was. I had planned to stick to my promise and not tell him, but I'll be damned if I don't stretch it as far as possible.

"Good. He's cool. I'm glad." Then we walked in silence for a while. I wasn't going to say anything else, because I know it was killing him. I could tell from the way he was walking. It was so cute to see him flustered. I don't think I'll ever get used to this side of Ty. After a block or so, he cleared his throat and said, "So...what'd you guys talk about?"

He was still trying not to appear interested, so I figured I could play with him a bit more. "Who?"

"You and Ariel? Helloooo?"

"Dude, that was like a block and a half ago!" I grinned.

"Does everything have to be so difficult with you? I was just making conversation." He said.

"Oh...ok." And I let him squirm for a little bit longer as I let another silence pass between us.

"SO???" He asked, and this time his voice almost squeaked.

"So what?"

"Dude...come on! What were you talking about?"

"OH...that? Nothing much. Just...stuff."

"Stuff like WHAT?" He was getting jittery now, and moving on to frustrated.

"Ty, it was just a conversation. We talked about the weather, about school, know...STUFF!"

"Well....if it was nothing important, then what the hell did you bring it up for?" He said with a huff.

"I was just making conversation." I replied, repeating his own words back to him. I don't care what anybody says..this was FUN! I let a few seconds pass, and then I asked him, "Can I ask you a serious question, Tyler?"

"Not if it's what I think you're gonna ask, no."

"It's NOT! Seriously."

"Sure, go ahead."

"Dude, are you in love with Ariel?" Tyler's eyes opened wide and he instinctively slugged me in the shoulder. "OW! What?"

"SHUT UP RANDY! I am NOT in love with anybody! And you said you wouldn't ask!" He started to speed up, trying to avoid the subject long enough to reach the safety of the school walls. But I just sped up to match his steps.

"Tyler...come on bud. It's just you and me here. No teasing, I swear." But he just kept walking faster, and now I could see him blushing. He didn't say anything, so I pestered him a bit more. "Tyler? Tyler? Tyyyyyyyyyler...."

"WHAT?!?!'re driving me nuts!"

"So you're not going to answer me?"

"I already DID! And the answer's NO! Ok? Leave it alone already?"

"Dude, this is ME here. I won't tell anybody, honest. I just think it would be cool to see you two...maybe...go out or something. Wouldn't that be cool?" I asked, hoping to break through his defenses a little. We were almost at school now, I had to hurry.

"Randy....'sigh'...can we just drop this?"

"Ok ok...just...admit that you think he's cute. Ok? That's it! Just tell me he's cute, and I'll leave you alone."

"A lot of people are cute, Randy." Tyler's voice sounded like he was ready to tell me. Come on Ty...tell daddy what he wants to hear! SAY IT!!!

"Not as cute as Ariel I bet. Right? Dude, if you can look me in my eyes and tell me he's not cute without flinching, then that's cool. But I'm betting you can't do it!"

With that, Tyler stopped walking, and looked me directly in my eyes, determined to put an end to this. He didn't say anything for a second, then he said, ".........So what? He's cute. There, you happy now?" And he hurried in through the front doors of the school. I followed right behind him and just smiled, completely satisfied. So...all I had to do now was find Ariel and...

"Randy, if you EVER, and I mean EVER, breathe a single WORD of this to Ariel, then I'll break your neck! Got it?"

"Tyler, you said he was cute, you like him...maybe it can work! Just say something. You never know....he might...kinda, sorta, think you're cute too." I was pushing it, but I really wanted this to work.

"I'm not Randy. And I'll deal with this myself, ok? Just knock it off."

"But Ty, I'm just saying that..."

"Randy, if I were you, I'd be trying to find out why my boyfriend is dating a girl right under your nose. Then you won't have time to meddle in MY business so much!"

OUCH! I gave Tyler a look of shock, and I must admit, that was a bit of a low blow. Even if I WAS being a pest. "...ok...fine. Whatever." I said, and I started to walk away.

"Randy...wait. Look...that was...that was mean. I'm sorry. OK? Just...I've got it under control, ok? I'm not in love. I'm through with that for right now, and after the last time, I don't want to give anybody the chance to hurt me again. Not now. Not like that. Next time, I'll be sure. Ok?" Tyler was truly sorry, but he had a good point. I've got some nerve thinking I can patch him up with somebody when I've got my own trouble in paradise.

"'s cool." We shook on it, and went our seperate ways. Although I must say, that comment stung me pretty hard. And I knew that this was a lot bigger than I was making it out to be.

I walked into the classroom about ten minutes late, and got the usual cold stare from the teacher. Ryan's eyes met mine, and followed me all the way to my seat. And he knew exactly what I was thinking, because he was thinking it too. We had to work this out before it ended up driving a wedge even further between us. Just before I sat in front of him, I saw him nod, and a few traded notes said that we'd talk after school. Good. Because this was really starting to worry me. I suppose he would be going through the same things too if Jenny and I were carrying on the same way. But the truth was, she had so many extracurricular activities, that she hardly had any time to devote to making a spectacle of ourselves. We talked on the phone sometimes, and a couple of times online, but our 'relationship' was restricted to a few whispers in the hallways and a kiss on the cheek before hurrying off to our next class. It was hardly the same. The weird thing is, that this time...I felt something I hadn't felt with the other problems we had. Faith. Just pure, innocent, blind faith. I didn't know why, but this was different. When Ryan and I broke up over Tyler, I thought my life was over. When I had problems with my dad, or thought he was cheating on me with the 'blond trio', or when he came out to his dad, or any of the other trials and ordeals that we lived through...they all hurt me to the point where I wasn't sure how to carry on without him. But now? Now I had grown to believe that things would be okay. How sick is that? I started to wonder if this is what happens to couples who divorce...if maybe that's what happened to my mom. They believe so strongly that everything will be ok, that they become blind to what's really going on. I wasn't sure if I should be worried about that blindness...or appreciating the comfort and overall safety of it. It's a wonderful thing to feel that your love is untouchable. I hope I'm right.

The day had surprised us all, starting out with a beautiful sunny appearance, and transforming into the dismal showers that I stared at in my class before lunch. The rain had come out of nowhere, and it was just a strange day. The rain would go from drizzle, to downpour, and back to drizzle again. Wild. The bell rang, and I packed up to head out to lunch. I was the first one to the table, and Tyler was the first to join me. He sat down across from me, and asked how things were going. I knew what he was talking about. "Fine, actually. I think it'll be alright. We're going to talk about it later on this afternoon, and hopefully work something out."

"Good. I knew you guys would. You two are so perfect that it's disgusting to watch." Tyler giggled. But then he got serious again. "I'm sure it'll be ok. Really."

"Thanks man." Just then, Ariel walked up, and I saw Tyler take a deep breath, and never let it go.

Ariel sat down next to me and said hello. A 'normal' hello. But for Tyler, it came out so quietly that either one of us barely heard it. "Hey...Tyler." And he lowered his head to the table, his dark hair obscuring his eyes from view as he started eating his lunch without saying another word. Tyler suddenly clammed up as well, and I just watched as the tension at the table threatened to suffocate us all.

"What's up guys?" Ryan said, coming to join us. Thank goodness! This little luncheon was getting weird.

"Running a bit late aren't we?" I asked.

"I ran into Wil after class. He told me to say hello to you, and that he wanted to talk to ya some time soon." I engaged with a few more lines of conversation for a while, and that's when Ryan noticed Tyler and Ariel sitting in total silence. They weren't talking, or even EATING. They were just sitting there, stiff as boards, and barely making eye contact. Ryan smiled at me secretly, and said, "So...what's with YOU two today?"

I nudged Ryan in the ribs harshly. He didn't know about their little confessions to me, but if he let on, they'd think I told him for sure. Tyler spoke up first. " how are YOU, Ryan?" He was not very good at changing the subject when he was nervous.

"I'm fine Tyler. Thanks for asking." Ryan said with a lopsided grin to show his knowledge of Tyler's lame attempt to get out of trouble. Then he turned to Ariel and asked, "How about YOU, Ariel? Feeling cute today?"

THAT comment warranted him another sharp jab in the ribs! He winced a bit from this one, and Ariel wasn't sure how to respond. "Um...huh?"

"Nothing. You two just aren't your usual chipper selves today. That's all."

"I'm...I'm cool. Just....I'm just thinking about stuff." Ariel said, and I saw his glance swiftly land on Tyler, and then back down to his tray. OK! If THAT'S not a sign, I don't know what is! I KNEW Ty would pick up on that. How obvious could it be. Hell...I was on to Ariel's crush on ME from the third day we spoke! But somehow, I think Tyler was using all the energy he could muster to deny it ever happened. I guess it's like my blind faith that everything will work out reverse.

"Stuff....ok...well, that's good I suppose. What about you Tyler? You thinking about stuff?" Ryan was having even more fun than I was at first, but he really needed to slow down. Encouragement is one thing, but this is bordering on badgering.

"I'm fine Ryan." Tyler said with a harsh look. I think he got the message and let it go, but when I looked up at Ty, he was looking right back at me. Giving me the signal that would remind me exactly what would happen if I opened my mouth about what he said. I nodded back, and looked over at Ariel, who was basically giving me the SAME look! For cryng outloud, how hard could this POSSIBLY be??? Being sworn to silence is such a pain in the ass when these two were concerned. But I kept my word, and didn't say anything else.

The rest of the lunch period went along the same lines, with as little 'risque' conversation as possible. I hated to be so strained when being with my friends. But suddenly, the two of them were so paranoid that I couldn't say ANYTHING outloud without them kicking me under the table. Tyler even gave Ryan a few shots to keep him from smiling in his direction. Jesus! It was better for me not to say anything at all. And when we finally split up after lunch, I think Ryan and I had been beaten and kicked, bruised and nudged, until we were sore from it. Both of them need to get laid...and fast.

Tyler and Ariel went their different ways, but I pulled Ryan to come follow me down the hall. "Dude, take it easy ok? I got the info."

Ryan's eyes widened. "NO WAY!!! From WHO?"

"From BOTH of them! And we're right...they like each other!"

"Well DUH! So we've gotta tell 'em! Dude, let me tell Tyler! Oh man, that'll be so cool!"

I had to stop him. "Um...actually...we can't do that just yet."

"What do you mean we can't do that? Dude, we're almost there man!"

"I....I kinda had to promise not to say anything." I saw Ryan sigh and his shoulders drop. "I HAD to! Tyler threatened to break my neck, and Ariel almost broke my arm! Do you want me to be a cripple?"

"Would you still be able to make stupid promises?" He said sarchastically. "Don't me some time. I'll think of something." And he started to walk away. But I stopped him again.

"Ryan...about later. Thanks...I just really want to talk about things. You understand, right?"

"Totally. I do. And I know I've been an ass lately. Look, we'll settle this later. One more tardy and I'll be locked up in detention for sure. But there's some things I want to talk to you about later, ok? See you soon." And he reached out to kiss me, which I leaned back to avoid.


"Hehehhe sorry...instinct! I guess Hailey screwed me up worse than I thought." And he blushed, his beautiful smile spreading across his lips as he walked away.

To think, he almost kissed me in a hallway with a bunch of straggling students going to class. It was so....exciting! To be able to kiss him as easily as I kiss Jenny, or as he kisses Hailey. To be FREE. It's not like we would have been grinding on each other like most of the kids around here. But sharing an innocent kiss with the boy I love in public would be a fantasy come true. Sometimes I wonder. Maybe after high school, we could move to some small town away from everybody, and just be...US. The 'real' Ryan and Randy. With all this double life garbage, I'm starting to feel like Batman and Robin. And we ALL know that THEY had something going on!

The day went on, the rain continued to fall, and by the time school let out, I was screaming for my freedom. Ryan and I went out to his car, and started on our way home. Just the two of us. It was great.

"I'm going to do it tonight." Ryan said, a smile on his face.

"Do what?"

"I'm going to break it off with Hailey. I got invited to this party tonight, and I'll take her aside afterwards...then I'll tell her."

I don't have ANY idea why, but suddenly my conscious decided to speak up. "Well...dude, I don't want you to be mean or anything."

"Oh no! I'm not going to be some heartless bastard about it. You see, I'm planning to let her down easy, and then set her up with somebody else before she knows what hit her."

"Do you really think that will work?" I asked.

"Letting her down easy? Yes. Setting her up with someone else? Not really. But it's worth a shot right?"

"I suppose. Listen...I have to ask you something, and be honest with me."


I gathered my words, and just spoke from the heart, " weren't in school for the whole day. And neither was Hailey..."

"I know. I was ditching that ONE class in the hopes that I would be able to avoid her for one day. And what happens? She comes to school late and one of her ditzy friends pointed me out in the courtyard. So she comes over and just decides to skip with me so we can 'further define our relationship'. I tell you, there's no escaping this girl. The next thing I know, she's got me driving her out to the lake and I spend the day fending off her kisses with everything short of an uppercut to the jaw!" Hehehehe, that wasn't QUITE the explanation I was expecting! "I'm sorry Randy. I should have called or something to let you know what was up."

" should have. Hehehhehe, but it sounds like you've had quite a bit of punishment for one day." The car stopped at a red light with no one else around, and I leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "I really appreciate this. Thank you."

"I want us to be happy, I really do. It means more to me than anything else. That's the truth." Ryan drove me the rest of the way home after our little scenic ride around town, and dropped me off at the door. Then he returned the sweet kiss I gave him, and said, "I'm going to call Matt when I get home, and we're gonna celebrate once this is all over. Ok? For hours and hours and hours and..."

I put my finger to his lips. "'ll get me all anxious." I said with my pattented feminine lisp, and I ran from the car to the front door. Avoiding the pouring rain as best I could.

As soon as I got in the kitchen, I kicked my wet shoes off, and walked into the living room, where my mother met me with a grin. "You have twenty one messages Randy. One from Jenny, one from a boy named Wil, and NINETEEN from Wilson!"

Geez, what was this boy on? He was a thunderbolt of constant energy that never seemed to give ou. I could see this saturday turning into a VERY tiring night! "I'm sorry Mom...really. He's just excited about this weekend."

"It's quite alright, I really am starting to like him. He is such a sweetheart, and so polite. And he asked if he can call me Mom 2 this weekend since his real mom will be away. He reminds me an awful lot of you when you were little."

"Ha! Mom...don't EVEN! I was not that wild." But she maintained that I was, and that's when I looked on the coffee table and saw something terrible! Horrible! Life threatening! PHOTO ALBUMS!!! No no no no no no! I got up as calmly as possible, andtried to break for my room, but she caught me.

"Come here and sit down for a second..." And that's how it all began. The next thng I knew...I was being reminded of the time I fell in the creek at summer camp, and the time I put jello in Aunt Joyce's bra, and let's not forget the potty training saga. I thought I had been immune to the old stories by now, but they embarass me just as much as before. It's like having your mom see you naked and spouting off, 'it's nothing I haven't seen before'. THAT'S the kind of stuff that traumatizes the future serial killers of tomorrow. So I sat there for almost an hour while mymom reminiced over the good old days. I'll be honest, some of the stories I enjoyed. But that'll be out little secret.

The ones that stood out for me, however, were the ones about my father. Crazy as that sounds. As much time as I spent being either terrified of the man or hating his guts, there was a deeper part of me that just wanted him to be there for me. A part that wanted to love him so badly that it hurt not to. Call it society's 'family values' if you want, but there was the undeniable need to have a father in my life. Not just someone to yell at me, or kick my ass when he was angry, or to make me feel like shit whenever he needed to blow off steam. I wanted what other people had. I wanted to make him be a son he could show off to his friends. To one day be such an outstanding person that he had no choice but to love and adore me. I'm his SON for Christ sakes! Shouldn't that be enough? But I guess it wasn't. I could be a billionaire and win the Nobel Peace Prize, and I'd still be worthless in his eyes. But...sitting here with my mom and looking at these old pictures, I remembered some of the times when he was good to me. Times when he took me to ballgames and bought me chili dogs with extra cheese. I would always make a mess, and he'd always say "'re mom's gonna get you for messing that up." And he'd smile. I'd laugh everytime. No matter how often he did it. There were a few good times that I liked to hold in my memory when I want to feel like I had some normalcy in my childhood. But those images didn't last. The laughs always turned into screams, the good times always turned bad, and all that was left was pain and tears and misery. The whole thing suddenly got me down, and I got up to go to my room. I think Wilson's exuberant antics made her wish for some good old days of her own, but I was too down to support at that moment. I slinked off and sulked for a while, letting the rain outside my window sing me to sleep for a while. It was still early in the day, but I missed those sheets while I was away.

About an hour had gone by when the phone rang. I picked it up, and was Wilson. SO happy to have caught me at home finally. He rattled on and on and on about anything and everything that he could. What to bring, what to wear, what we'd do, what games to play....he even asked me my phone number just to make sure! WHILE he was on the phone with me! You would have thought the kid was going to an amusement park or something. It WAS kind of flattering to think that I held that level of importance in his life. I felt like I big brother all the time when Wilson was around, and he had this way of making you feel like you were the only person in the world when he talked to you. It was nice. And a curse at the same time. Hehehehe! It was like he hadn't been talking to anyone for weeks, and then he suddenly exploded when he talked to me. Weird.

"I've gotta go, Randy. My mom's here, and she's gona take me home now." He said.

"Ok, that's cool. See you tomorrow Wilson."

"YEAH! I'll be there! It'll be SO awesome! I'm bringing EVERYTHING! I'll come tonight if you want me to!"

"No no! I mean...that's ok. I've gotta clean up and everything for you. K? See ya then!" And while he was shouting yippee and all, I hung up. It would be cool to have a little brother around the house for a day or two. I know my mom was looking forward to it. Afterall, I'm no little boy anymore. I think she misses it a bit.

The rain had let up a bit, almost to less than a drizzle, so I figured I could take advantage of the opportunity, and grab a few burgers from the place around the corner. I grabbed a jacket just in case, and took off. The rain had been falling on and off all day long, and yet it didn't seem to really put a damper on anything. It wasn't a 'gloomy' day at all. I kind of enjoyed the walk, letting the stray raindrops fall on my face, the cool breeze rustling through my hair, it felt good. Ryan had already promised to call me when he got back from the party, no matter how late it was. He was planning to go way out to his old hometown for it, and I knew that it could be a while before he got back. He was probably already on his way. I wondered what he'd say, how he would do it, how she would take it. He made it sound so easy. I hope I'll have the same courage when it comes time to tell Jenny. She seems infatuated, but hardly the full blown maniac that Hailey was about the whole thing. She had found her prince in Ryan. Smart, funny, popular, gorgeous...he was the status symbol that girls like her went nuts over. A ready made prom king and queen. This would be hard for her, I'm sure.

As for Jenny, she almost seemed scared of me sometimes. It was like she was so afraid of screwing things up or saying the wrong thing, that she just avoided me altogether. I know she talked about me, to other people. But when it came to me, it seemed like she had twice as many secrets as I had, like I was constantly thinking bad things about her. And nothing could be further from the truth. We got along great, and I knew she was a cool person. But I don't ever think she was actually convinced that I thought of her that way. And when I do finally tell her that we should 'see other people'...I was sure she'd think it was all her fault. Just once I wish life could be as easy as I once believed it to be. Nowadays, every decision I make seems to affect 100 other people and half of them end up getting hurt. That sucks. I'd be better off telling her I'm gay.

I got to the old burger joint and shook some loose water out of my hair before placing an order. A coupld of gut busters for me and my mom. Some nights, junk food can be so divine. That's when I noticed her. The same waitress that was serving Ryan and me that day when I told him I loved him. Geez! Was I dumb enough to think she wouldn't still be working there? Thank goodness my mom wasn't with me, I'd be having a heart attack by now. I tried to sort of half turn my back on her so she couldn't see my face, but I think she noticed anyway. I was shaking now, almost ready to run out and stand in the rain while they made my food. She KNEW! I mean...I suppose at the time it was cool...but now? I don't know. It was a strange feeling. Like she could say something about it, and somehow all of my friends from school would walk in at that very moment. Sigh...was I EVER going to be comfortable with this?

"Hey!" Came a voice over my shoulder. Grrr! I had been discovered!

I slowly turned around and shyly whispered a hello back to her. She asked how I was doing and all, and the conversation was innocent enough. I guess I could relax. Maybe she didn't even remember the whole thing.

"So how's your boyfriend kiddo?" She asked. Arrrrgh!!!

I blushed right away and looked down at the floor. God I hope nobody heard that. She asked if I was ok, and I answered, "Yeah. know?"

A look of surprise came over her face. "OH! Oh honey, I'm sorry. I thought after last time that you two were...that you guys...oh I'm sorry. Forget I said anything. I'll keep my trap shut." And she winked at me. She was such a sweet lady, a motherly type. We engaged in some small talk, and she instantly gave me the impression that I could tell her anything. Maybe it was her voice, or her mannerisms, but she just had this aura of kindness and understanding around her. I felt a little weird about it.

By the time my burgers came up, the rain had transformed back into complete armaggeddon. High winds and heavy rain that was sure to soak my burgers beyond rescue. But the waitress gave me a plastic bag or two and wished me luck on the way home. She asked if I was going to be coming back anytime soon. "Sure. I'll be back. Thanks again miss."

"Miss? Oh no shorty! You're not gonna add twenty years onto MY age by making me feel like a 'miss' anything. Call me Dianne." She said. I giggled a bit and waved goodbye. And then I walked out, hoping to brave the storm for the next few blocks.

I was wrapping up my food even tighter in the plastic bag, and shoving it into my jacket so it wouldn't get too waterlogged, and I heard a noise coming from the side of the building. A high pitched whimper and a few grunts. I peeked around the corner, and I saw this little boy, maybe about 10 years old and not a day older, struggling with his bike. He had curly red hair, and dimples that were visible at all times. It looked like the lock was stuck and it was firmly attached to the bike rack. The poor kid was getting soaked in the rain as he frantically pulled on the lock with all his might, his little muscles flexing as tightly as they could. But he just couldn't get it to open. I decided to be a good samaritan and ran over to help. The rain seemed ice cold as it washed over me, and I was hoping that this wouldn't take too long.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

His voice was a high, ten year old whine. "It's my bike. It won't come loose! I've gotta go!" And he gave it a few more angry yanks.

"Lemme see if I can get it." I asked.

"Thanks mister! Please hurry! I can't be late! I've gotta go!" He was dancing around like he was about to wet his pants. I guess the ice cold rain was freezing him to the bone.

I gave it a few tugs, and on the third pull, it came off. "Ok, there ya go man."

The kid jumped up and hugged me quickly before swinging his bike around towards the street. "THANKS!!! You're the best!"

"Yeah, well...just remember me in case I need ya to do the same for me someday." I said. But what he said next kind of left me confused.

He smiled and after looking me up and down, he said, "Nah...not you. You don't need me at all." And he sped off in the rain, peddling as fast as he could. I swear, there were soe real weird ones in this town. And they're starting them off young these days.

I looked down to adjust the burgers in my jacket, and I noticed two slips of paper laying in a puddle. I picked them up, and they were two free tickets to the movie theater downtown. The kid must have dropped them or something. They expired the following thursday, and I put them in my pocket. Maybe Ryan and I can use them to celebrate later. It would be fun. A movie, just me and him...followed by a night of hot butt naked sex. I like that idea.

I trotted home, surprisingly saving the food from being too soggy, and spent the next few hours just listening to music. Then I watched tv. Then I played a game or two. Then I went back to the music. I was wondering when Ryan was going to get home and tell me the good seemed like it was taking forever. Wait, what was I talking about? It was a PARTY! It's not like he had a curfew. And plus he was way out in his old hometown. I doubt that he'd be rushing home before midnight. Still, I think I was just anxious to finally say that this was all behind us. I just wanted to make things like it used to be.

Time went on, and on, and on...and I think I dozed off. Suddenly, a huge clap of thunder nearly made me jump out of my skin! It was so loud that the windows rattled. As soon as I opened my eyes, the lights wnt out, disorienting me further. I tried to flick the light on, but the power was out. The thunder was still ringing in my ears, and my heart was beating hard and fast. It was hard to calm down. I sleepily walked over to my window and looked to see if Ryan had made it back yet. Sure enough, there was his car in the driveway. Why didn't he call me? I picked up the phone, and it had gone dead. Fair enough, he couldn't call me. I guess it would have to wait until tomorrow. I laid back down in my bed, tapping my fingers on my chest, wondering if I could wait that long. After a startling wake up call from the storm, I wasn't going to be able to go to sleep anytime soon. I wonder. I wonder....

I couldn't take anymore, so I hopped up, put on some shoes and a jacket, and crept to the front door. Not that my mother would be awake. She could sleep throuagh two train wrecks and a plane crash if she wanted to. And I splashed my way over to his house. I never really tried climbing up to his bedroom window before, and certainly not in the rain. But I doubt his dad would appreciate me ringing the doorbell. I used the garbage cans to get to the kitchen window. I used the kitchen window sill to reach the tree branch above it. Then I used the branch to sloppily make my way to his window. Locked! I tapped on it, and he came over to open it. Evidently the thunder had scared the hell out of him too, because he was wide awake, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, and maintaining the sexy image of perfection that I always kept close to my heart.

"RANDY??? What the hell are you doing out there?" He said in a loud whisper, but all I could think of was getting out of the rain. I tried to come through the window gracefully...but ended up sorta falling to the floor with a thud. "Shhhhhh!!! What the fuck man?" Ryan said.

I was so wet and dirty that I had to actually laugh at my awful appearance. I was hardly Florence Nightengale here. "I'm sorry. Hehehehe! I would have waited until tomorrow, but I was excited and the phones were out, so you couldn't call me, and...ah forget it. How did it go? How'd she take it."

"Randy...dude, if my dad catches you here..."

"I won't be long. I just wanted to know if I should be celebrating or not. So...what happened?"

"Keep your VOICE down! He's going to find you. Look, we'll talk tomorrow, alright? Just...just go." He said. And that's when my smile started to fade. Suddenly the only thing that mattered to him was that I not get caught in his room. And he wasn't being the nicest person in the world about it.

I stood there for a second, feeling a pinch of pain go through my heart, and I waited a few moments before asking him. " didn't tell her. Did you?" I already knew the answer, but I was hoping that I was wrong.

"Randy I..." I shut my eyes, hoping...praying...that my blind faith would return to me. How did this happen? How did I suddenly become the 'other woman' in all this?

"Good night Ryan." And I started to turn around to leave the way I came.

"Randy...I didn't even GO to the party! I got there, and she introduced me to her family and they invited me for dinner, and....well...I COULDN'T dump her in front of her family for crying outloud!"

"One excuse after the other. Over and over, round and round. Maybe by the time you're 35, you'll have the balls to say something. Maybe...I won't be here then." I said, and crawled out of the window.

"Randy, don't leave like that! I'm trying to make things right, it's just not as easy as I thought it would be. As soon as I get the chance..."

"You've HAD the chance! A million chances! When you're ready to make time for me, just let me know!" I yelled a little louder, tears coming to my eyes. And when I saw him wince, as though he were getting ready to tell me to quiet down, that was all I could take. I just climbed back out on the branch and traced my haphazard path back down to the ground. I had nothing more to say.

I wasn't even paying attention to the rain at this point. It soakd my body from head to toe, leaving me a sobbing mess. My clothes stuck to me, and I felt heavy as my skin soaked it all up like a sponge. He didn't tell her. How could he not tell her? What if he doesn't WANT to tell her? What if I'M the jerk in all this? Is that what he thinks? I was more angry than hurt, but I knew that it wouldn't last. My heart was bound to completely collapse by tomorrow morning. After that, my world would be a very dark place until Ryan came to bring light to it once again. How could I have become so utterly helpless without him by my side?

"RANDY!!!" I turned around, and there was Ryan, standing out in the rain with me. He had thrown on a pair of pants and his coat. But he was still bare chested, and the rain splashed down on it as he jogged to catch up to me. "Randy...please, let me explain."

"You already did." I answered.

"You don't understand! This isn't easy for me."

"It's not easy for me either! Don't you get it? I love you! With every piece of my being, with my heart and my soul! And that's not going to change just because you decide that you want to be with her instead of me!"

"Be with HER? Randy...that's not why I'm with her. That's not why I let this thing go so far." He said with a shakey voice. Oh no...he's not going to just shed some croccodile tears this time and get away with it.

"I don't want to hear it. You've gotta make a choice...her or me."

"It's YOU! It's ALWAYS been you! You KNOW that!"

"So why are you even PRETENDING to be with her? Do you know what it's like to feel like I'm playing second fiddle to somebody you don't even LIKE?"

Then Ryan yelled back with, "Do you know what it's like to be an embarrasment to your family!!! Do you?!?!" I was caught a bit off guard, and watched as tears trailed down his face, the rain mixing with them as quickly as they left his eyes.

"An embarassment to who?"

Ryan got choked up and could hardly speak. Then he cried, "My dad thinks...he thinks I'm sick. 'Sob'...that I've ruined his chance to be a grandfather. I'm just...I'm just not good enough. I'm just some faggot that was born into the family by mistake."

"Ryan...oh babe that's not true at all."

"It IS true! I heard him talking with one of my uncles on his cell phone in the garage. He went out there so I wouldn't hear him. He actually outed me to him on the phone! On the PHONE! How am I ever going to look my uncle in the eye ever again? They were talking about me going through a 'phase', about sending me away, about making me 'work right' again. 'Sob'...he...he hates me Randy! My own dad hates me for what I am!" Ryan began to cry even harder and I walked over to hold him up. He looked like he was about to fall over on the sidewalk. He cried over my shoulder, sniffling and holding on for dear life. "He's ashamed of me, of us. I just...I just wanted to make him proud. That's all. I never would have told him if I thought...if I knew..." And he couldn't even finish his sentence.

"Shhhh...he doesn't hate you." I whispered in his ear, trying to find some way to comfort him.

"But he doesn't accept me either. I thought everything would be ok. I thought he was learning to understand it. Why did I have to be so stupid and tell him anything at all?" It was then that I remembered the thoughts I had earlier of my own father, and how I wanted to make HIM proud, even if he was a complete asshole. God only knows what Ryan must have felt, being as close to his dad as he was. "After hearing the phone conversation, the make out party came up. Normally I just throw those things away, but I thought...I thought maybe...just MAYBE...if I could show him something he could be proud of...he'd love me again. And he DID! He smiled at me all the time, and he gave me money, and he slugged me in the shoulder, and showed me off to his friends. He was so happy. You should have heard him talking about how his boy was dating the prettiest girl in school. I just wanted to make him happy again. I never meant to hurt you Randy."

"I know. I know." I wasn't quite sure what to say at all. I guess we had a lot of leaps and bounds to make before we could truly claim to be 'together'. Completely, anyway. We held each other in the rain, freezing cold, with only our body heat to keep our teeth from chattering, and Ryan spilled his guts to me over my shoulder.

I'm not sure how long we stayed out there, but the night ended with a kiss. I saw Ryan look back at his house, not really wanting to go back, and I hugged him again from behind. "You're going to have to realize that it's what makes YOU happy that matters." I said, and kissed him lovingly on the cheek.

He sighed, and then told me good night before walking back home. I turned around, feeling better, but not exactly 'good'. The whole thing made me wonder if people would ever understand. For some, I couldn't care less. But what about the people who really matter? Our families, our best friends, our classmates, our parents? What happens if THEY don't accept it? I wonder. I wonder.

Now...technically...this doesn't classify as a cliffhanger! So there! :P Stay tuned for chapter 30, and...dun dun dun...Wilson's sleepover! Hehehehe! I really hope you guys enjoyed the two year anniversary of the Shack! It still amazes me that I've been around this long. Am I a geezer or what? :) Take care, and hugs and kisses to all of you! Thanks! Also...ask me about the Shack's NEW address on the net! The site is back, and soon to be stronger than ever! :)