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Sorry, We're Together

by Nick

Walking toward the lighted porch with a feeling a dread washing over me, I had my hand in my pocket; trying to extract the key that would open the door and bring the hell I knew was waiting for me on the other side. I was grounded. That was a given. It was more than three hours past my curfew, and in my house, that was certain death.

I unlocked the door and entered as quietly as possible but the loud chirp of our alarm alerted anyone who hadn't heard me come in to my presence.

"Shit," I whispered to no one when the sound hit my ears. Closing the door, I carefully and quietly bypassed the living room and took to the stairs, but the sound my father's booming voice stopped me dead in my tracks.

"Daryl Martin, where the hell have you been?" he said, causing me to turn on my heel to face him. His face was a bright shade of red that registered the anger that was coursing through him and the lines on his furrowed brow told the rest of the story for me. "Well?"

"Uh, I was just out, and..." I stammered, but he cut me off before I could finish.

"You know what?" he said shortly. "Never mind. Your best bet is not to say another word right now. Get to bed, son."

With that, I turned back on my heel and hurried up the stairs. The door to my brother's room was open and I could see his light on, so I peeked in to see what he was up to. As usual, he was on MSN, chatting his life away.

I could never understand that. There's a whole world outside, but for some reason, my brother William and his friends chose to communicate online. It wasn't that he didn't have plenty of friends, either. In fact, if anything, he had more friends than I did. The difference was, his friends were a little weird. They could have all met anywhere they wanted, but all they wanted to do was be online together. Oh well, to each his own.

I, on the other hand, can't stand being indoors. I need to be doing something all the time. If I have to be home, I prefer to be busy. I'd rather work in the garage or the backyard than sit in front of the TV. If I can get out and do something, you won't catch me anywhere near the neighborhood I live in.

I was about to say something to my brother when I felt a strong grip on the back of my neck, making me tense up immediately and yelp in pain.

"I thought I told you to get to bed, damn it!" my dad snapped, leading me roughly to my room by the back of my neck. When we were halfway down the hall, he let go and followed me the rest of the way. As soon as I was in my room with the light on, he closed the door behind us and I knew I was in for it.

Now, when I say I was in for it, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I mean, sure, my dad can get a little heavy handed, but he hasn't hit me in years. In fact, grabbing the back of my neck was probably the harshest thing he'd done to me in a long time, and I knew he'd only done it to get my attention.

No, what I was in for was something way worse. In fact, at times I think I would have preferred a beating to what I was about to endure. He motioned for me to sit down on my bed and pulled the chair out from my desk, and I knew it was too late.

My dad's real name is Stanislaus. People call him Stan for short but I just call him dad. We don't have the closest relationship in the world, to be sure, but there's a certain level of respect that he commands in our house. He gets it from my brother and I, and he gets it from my mom, Judy. It's an unspoken rule in our house that everything has to be a certain way because that's what he wants.

In return, we get mutual respect from him. He doesn't set unreasonable expectations for any of us, and in my mom's case, he bends over backwards to please her. My brother and I are free to do pretty much anything we want within reason, but there are some limits we have to abide by.

One of those limits is a curfew that ends at midnight. Before I got my drivers license that curfew was eleven o' clock, and I never broke it. Now that I had a license in my wallet, though, I was pushing back a little to see how far over the line I could go. The previous two weekends I had been fifteen and thirty minutes late, respectively, and all I got were firm but friendly reminders about coming in on time.

This week I wasn't even planning on being late but something had come up. Actually, it was someone, and that someone was Alan Wichek, a senior I went to school with. Alan's a blonde adonis that girls fall over and guys try to emulate. Standing at six feet two inches with broad shoulders and layered hair, he was easily the most attractive guy at our school. Our meeting wasn't the fateful accident I saw it as at the time, either. When I left my house that Friday night to pick up my boyfriend, Tommy Bach, I didn't have much on my mind except for what the two of us wouldn't be doing.

"Darryl, what time is your curfew?" my dad asked, folding his arms and leaning forward to rest them on his legs, which were covered by his blue, silk robe.

"Midnight," I answered, a little worried about my fate.

"So knowing this," he said in his logical tone, which was saved only for lectures and handing out punishment. "Why would you willing come in so late?"

"I lost track of time, dad," I halfway fibbed. My dad cocked his head to the right and cut his eyes at me, then he nodded knowingly and stood up.

"We'll finish this in the morning, son," he said. "It's late, and we both need some sleep. We'll talk at breakfast, okay?"

"Yes sir," I said as he stood up and rolled the chair back into its spot under my desk. He turned and left, closing the door behind him. As soon as he was gone, I let out a sigh of relief and rolled my eyes, realizing that I had momentarily escaped a long, boring lecture about personal responsibility and my obligations as an underage driver in the Common Wealth of Virginia.

When I got in my bed my mind drifted back to the night I had and I pondered the worth of my tardiness. What if I got grounded from my car? What would my parents think if they knew what I had been doing with Tommy, or even more so, with Alan? What would William say? Would it be all over school by Monday morning?



Tommy and I had been at a serious crossroad as of late. I was ready to stop playing games and come out, but my boyfriend wanted to keep things going on the down low. We were known as close friends by almost everyone, but I wanted us to be seen as what we really were; boyfriends. I was gay and proud. Heck, even my parents knew, even if they didn't exactly understand how I had turned out gay.

When I came out to my family it was awkward. There are all kinds of coming out experiences that people have. Some of them regret coming out because they're thrown out of their homes or beaten by their parents. Some have wonderful families that accept them for who they are and life goes on for them.

For the first three months after I came out my parents played a role I think they felt like they had to play. They were traditionalists, and to have a son up and tell them that he was gay and in love with one of his buddies wasn't too traditional. Instead of being realistic about it at first, though, they were plastic. My mom told me how neat it was that I was so unique while my dad reverted to calling me pet names like "champ" and "tiger."

My big brother was probably my best friend through all of it, though. After a long, awkward silence from my parents that was followed by their scripted response, William took me to the side and surprised me by giving me the warmest hug I had ever gotten in my life. Then he told me that he loved me and that no matter what happened, he's be there for me at school and at home.

That made things so much easier for me, especially when the act ended and my mom and dad started to wake up and realize that having a gay son wasn't "neat," and that I wasn't my dad's "tiger" anymore.

Once my parent's were able to come to terms with how they felt, though, things got better. A lot better. For the first time in a long time, my dad gave me a hug and told me he was proud of me, and my mom introduced Tommy and I to her book club as a couple. In fact, that single act by my mom was the impetus behind my new yearning to be identified as an out and proud gay couple everywhere.

"We can't just do that," Tommy scoffed when I presented the idea to him. "We aren't exactly out yet, babe."

"But we will be when we tell everyone we're together," said, hanging on his arm and leaning into his shoulder. "Come on, sweetie. It'll be romantic."

"I..I don't know," he said, and for the first time in a long time, I felt crushed.

"You're ashamed of me, aren't you?" I said accusingly, and instead of an immediate denial, I got silence in return. I gazed over his features and thought back to the day we first met. His jet-black hair and big brown eyes perfectly set off the rest of the features of his perfect face. His pert button nose and thick, deep red lips that always looked moist were just the beginning of what drew me to him.

His frame was tall but thin, not unlike mine. He weighed in at 145 pounds and stood at almost six feet, but he carried his weight well. We both did crunches in the morning before school and had a small competition going to see who could have the tightest abs by the end of the school year.

I'm not quite as tall as Tommy, but I have a lot of his same features. My hair was dark, too, but I had green eyes that people always commented on. I had piercing's that he wasn't allowed to have, too.

I was about to let go of his arm and get up from my spot when he spoke up in time to stop me.

"Daryl, no," he said, his voice breaking with emotion. "I'm not ashamed of you. I'm just scared. What if my mom and dad find out?"

"You never plan on telling them?" I asked, the picture of Tommy living his life as a closeted homosexual making me cringe inside.

"I do," he said. "I'm just not ready yet. I'll do it soon, though. I promise."

I sighed and let the subject drop after that. I felt horrible that my boyfriend was keeping me in the closet, but at the same time, I could sympathize with Tommy's plight. He was afraid of what his parents would do and say, and who was I to rush him into the unknown?

I'd like to be able to say that things got better from there but I'd be lying. I needed to be part of a relationship that knew no boundaries and had no shame, but unfortunately, that wasn't my situation. I wanted to come out of the closet to everyone, and I wanted to come out holding Tommy's hand. I was halfway there, too. The door was opened, and my family could see in. I had Tommy's hand in mine. When I tried to take the fateful first steps out, my boyfriend's powerful grip was pulling me back in and I wasn't strong enough to fight the force.

I started to resent it more and more. We had reached a point of critical mass in our relationship, and I decided that I was coming out with or without Tommy. If I couldn't come out with him, I decided, I was going to stop the charade and come out on my own. Then I was going to find someone who wouldn't be ashamed to be my boyfriend.

I picked Tommy up and we drove around all evening. I know it sounds monotonous, but all we did was talk. We talked about our lives and our families. We talked about being gay and we talked about coming out. Then I asked him to do it one more time.

"Please, Tommy," I pleaded with him. "I want us to be a couple."

"We are a couple," he said in an exasperated tone. "Why do we have to come out?"

"I don't think I want to be with you anymore," I said quietly, shocking myself as much as my now ex-boyfriend.

"Daryl," he pleaded, tears welling up in his eyes. The sight of him in that much pain was tearing me apart, but I had to take a stand. "Please, I don't want to break up."

"I don't either, Tommy," I sobbed. "I love you so much, but it hurts that you won't do this with me."

With that, Tommy covered his face with his hands and sobbed hard, his shoulders shaking in time with his crying. I tried to get my crying under control but it was hard, so I had to stop the car and park. It was no coincidence that I stopped in front of his house.

Without a word Tommy got out and stormed to his front door. I watched in agony as he went inside and slammed the door behind him, then I drove off. When I made it to the Farm Fresh parking lot, I was hysterical. Farm Fresh is a store in the area I live in, and it also happens to be where my brother works. I was sure he was working that night, so I went inside, desperate to tell someone who already knew the situation what had just happened.

As it turns out, William did have to work that night, but he had already gotten off. My shoulders dropped as soon as I found out he was gone, and as I turned to leave, I recognized Alan Wichek. I gave him a small smile and nod as we passed each other by, and I couldn't help but notice that he had returned my smile at first, then he looked concerned. I knew it was because my eyes were probably still puffy from the tears, so I went to the bathroom to see if I couldn't make them look a little better by splashing some water on my face.

There's something about a public bathroom that I find disgusting. I have a hard time touching anything in there, and typically, I use a paper towel to shield my hands from making contact with the faucet handles and the doorknob. I haven't figured out the theory behind touching a faucet with hands that just came from the toilet where people were doing god knows what with them, then taking the time to wash those hands, then using those same hands to retouch the same faucet.

So when I got to the restroom, I used a paper towel to turn the water on, then I dropped the paper towel to the floor and splashed some water on my face. I was reaching for another paper towel when the door swung open and Alan walked in.

"Hey dude," he said in a confident tone. "It's Daryl, isn't it? You're William's brother, right?"

"Yeah," I answered, honestly a little taken aback by his forwardness.

"I just wanted to make sure you're okay," he said in a soft tone.

"I'm fine," I said, taking a deep breath as I tried to let everything sink in.

"You don't look so good, man," he said, putting me on the defensive.

"Thanks a lot," I said, reaching for another paper towel so I could turn the faucet off and hasten my departure. I pulled the handle down and sidestepped him, walking toward the door when he spoke up.

"I didn't mean it to sound that way, dude," he said apologetically. "I'm just saying it looks like you could use an ear."

"No thanks," I said bitterly as I pulled the door open and walked out of the restroom. I had made it out of the store and was walking to my car when my cell phone rang. I knew it was Tommy before I even took it out of my pocket. We had a special ring tone for each other, and as soon as the notes carried through the air and into my ear, I felt a small glimmer of hope.

"Tommy," I said almost desperately as soon as I answered.

"Where are you?" he sobbed. I explained to him where I was and I was there, then I asked him if he'd changed his mind. I could hear the angst in his voice as he tried to explain to me that he wasn't ready to be out, but I didn't want to listen. For the next hour we went back and forth, and I finally told him that if he wasn't ready to be out, he wasn't ready to be with me. He pleaded with me to listen, but my only reply was to end the call abruptly before I let him change my mind.

The truth was that he had me. I was ready to give in to his pleas and accept a broken heart. There was no way I could see myself without him, and I knew he felt the same way. I was forcing his hand by breaking things off with him, but I knew he was holding all the cards. I was bluffing, but he didn't know it. My plan was simple. I was going to hold out until the next day, then I would call him and tell him I didn't want to lose him.

I tossed my cell phone to the passenger seat and opened the door to stretch my legs, which had fallen asleep while I was sitting in my car talking to my ex-boyfriend. I took the time to extend each one and crack my knuckles as a long, drawn out yawn took me over.

"You must love this place," I heard from behind me, but I wasn't startled. I turned and nodded at the hunky blonde as he smiled at me from the car next to me. "You know, the offer to talk is still open."

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have even considered it. Of course, the whirlwind night I had been having was anything but normal, so when I wasn't too surprised to find myself sitting in Alan's car, listening to the stereo and spilling my guts.

I'd never known Alan to be a jerk. In fact, I'd never known much about him other than the fact that he was Mr. Everything at school. He was in every sport, he got good grades and he was the object of the affection of every girl at our school. There were a lot of other things I didn't know about Alan before we met an hour earlier, either. Like the fact that he was a thoughtful listener.

Now, you have to understand that I failed to mention a couple of things to him. One of those things was that I was gay. Oh yeah, the other thing I forgot to mention was that I had a boyfriend, not a girlfriend. Still, he listened and was sympathetic to my plight. He never once asked who I was talking about and didn't pry for more information than I was giving him.

I listened to his advice, and he seemed to have plenty of it. He gave it with a smile, too. It was almost as if he were happy to be there for me, to give me a place and a person to vent at. Then it happened; I slipped up and said boyfriend.

He never batted an eye. I was waiting for him to throw me out of his car, but he just continued asking me questions about how things made me feel and how they made my girlfriend feel. Time seemed to be flying by, and before I knew it, midnight was approaching. Alan had to get home and I had my own curfew, so I opened the door to get out of his car when he said something that resonated with me in a way nothing else had.

"Just remember something, Daryl," he said with a warm smile. "Not everyone is ready to take the same steps at the same time. If you think he's really worth it, and I think you do, you should give him the time he needs. He'll come around."

"Thanks," I said, returning his smile. I got out and closed his car door, then I watched him pull away. I sighed a little and walked back into the store for a soda. I knew the placed closed at Midnight and I had to hurry, so I quickened my pace. Once inside, I grabbed a Coke and thought about what Alan said to me, realizing how right he was. I was about to pay when I noticed a tall, dark haired figure come through the doors at the last minute. He was looking down at the floor sadly when he saw me. I smiled as he approached me, though, and when he saw my smile, he grinned a little himself.

I waited for his verbal greeting, but it never came. Instead, his greeting came in the form of a hug that I wasn't expecting. It wasn't a tearful hug or an overly emotional hug. It was just a hug that I was happy to return.

"What brought that on?" I asked as he pulled away. He smiled shyly at me and took my hand, then he answered.

"The same thing that brought this on," he said sweetly, then he leaned forward and planted his lips squarely on mine. "I love you babe. I'm sorry."

"I love you too, Tommy," I said, turning to look at the cashier, who was a witness to my boyfriend's very first step in the coming out process. I looked back at Tommy, who was blushing a little, then back to the cashier, who had an embarrassed look on her face.

"Sorry, we're together," Tommy told her as she scanned my soda. The lady rolled her eyes a little sarcastically at us then said, "A dollar twenty five, please."

We spent the next three hours in my car, talking and kissing and holding each other. I couldn't believe he had snuck out of his house to walk to Farm Fresh on the off chance that I might still be there. He told me that on the way, he had decided that he was going to come out to his mom and dad, and whatever happened from there would happen. I put my finger to his lips and told him not to do anything he wasn't ready for. I let him know that I loved him and that no matter what, I was willing to wait for him to come out when he was ready. Before I dropped him off at home, we officially ended our break up with a long, passionate kiss.



I sighed contentedly, rolling over to look at my alarm clock. The illuminated display told me that it was almost four in the morning, so I pulled the covers back over my head and closed my eyes, ready for a few hours of shuteye before I had to face my parents in the morning.

I figured I was grounded this time. Fifteen minutes late is one thing. Thirty minutes is another. Three hours, on the other hand, is pushing it. I knew it, and I also knew that I didn't regret it. Any of it. If Tommy and I hadn't fought that evening, I wouldn't have wound up in Alan's car. If I hadn't ended up in Alan's car, I'd still be pressuring my boyfriend to come out. I also wouldn't have been in line at Farm Fresh at midnight, which was where Tommy proved his love for me.

I wondered to myself just when Tommy would be ready to come out. Maybe it would be years. I didn't know. There was one thing I was sure of, though; whenever that time came, I'd be there with him. I'd be there to support him and to love him, because he was worth it.


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