This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Will didn't feel like being at school, he felt as though everyone knew what had happened to him. His English teacher Mister Greenwood had given him a knowing look in class and simply left him alone. Other students simply whispered behind their hands as they nodded at him in the halls. He felt heavy hearted as he walked around, so painfully aware that life was never going to be the same for him.
Lisa was keeping a close eye on him, refusing to let him out of her sight. And ordinarily he would have felt smothered by her constant attention, but he needed her there with him. He needed her when he felt the world crashing down upon him. When the stares began to get to him. The whispers too loud for him to ignore.
Brody had been, typically, exactly what Will needed; a firm and responsible adult, making decisions that had to be made, sheltering Will as much as he could. And Will was grateful for all the help that was offered to him. It was good to know that when he needed them his friends had stepped up to meet the challenge.
Will had been sitting in the library, the only place he could find some peace, Lisa beside him as she tried to distract him with small talk when Jared joined their table.
Will swallowed, anticipating what was to come, and he tensed.
"I heard," Jared said pushing his cap back from his eyes and slouching in his seat, "I'm sorry man."
"What did you hear?" Lisa asked defensively as Will simply sat there staring across at Jared.
"About your folks," Jared said, "And Jennifer has been shooting her mouth off..."
Will's head fell, "Damn..."
"Look Will," Jared said leaning on the table, "I don't care, you're my friend okay? What ever you need I'm here."
Will nodded, "Thanks..." he swallowed, "What is she saying?" he didn't want to know the answer, but had to know what was being said.
"She was saying you were kissing some guy in the park," he stopped and looked at Will, "She doesn't know who." He said realizing what Will was asking.
Lisa nodded, "Thanks Jared."
He gave her a smile, "Least I could do, Dude's my reason for passing biology."
Will felt relieved, but that relief turned to trepidation as he ran into Andrew on his way to his locker. Lisa had gone to the washroom, and he had felt confident to slip downstairs alone. He hadn't expected to see Andrew sitting with his back up against Will's locker waiting for him.
He stood for a moment and looked around, glad that they were alone for a moment, the bell rang for the next class but neither made a move to go. And once the rush had finished and they were truly alone and undisturbed Will broke the silence.
Andrew looked up from his seat on the floor and stood, "I heard what happened..."
Will shook his head, "It's alright, no one knows it was you..."
Andrew shook his head, "I couldn't care less, are you alright?" he rested his hands on Will's shoulders and searched his eyes.
Will's eyes flicked away, "I'll live."
Andrew's cocked his head to look at Will's eyes, "So what now?" he asked nervously.
Will found the strength to look at him, for a moment he stared into those powerful eyes and could see all the way to the soul. He could see himself in them and that terrified him, he swallowed as he sort words finally daring to speak, "I have so much going on in my head right now," he shook his head, "I don't know what to do. Bury all this and hope it goes away I guess."
Andrew's head sank slightly as he swallowed, "I...I don't know if I can."
Will blew out a tight breath as he straightened his back, "Are you ready to go through all...all that I am going through right now?"
"I...don't know..." Andrew admitted.
"Neither am I, but I have to go through it...and if your seen with me they'll figure it out." It hurt like hell, he felt the knot in his stomach tightening, but what choice did he have, until everything calmed down, if it ever could, he couldn't deal with his own emotions as well.
"I'm sorry..." Andrew said softly as his eyes searched Will's face.
"Don't be." Will replied, "I'll get this figured out."
Andrew swallowed, "in case I don't get another chance... I love you..."
"I know." Will replied as he pulled from Andrew's grip and blinked back tears as he opened his locker and fished out Andrew's jacket and handed it back.
Andrew held the jacket in his hands as he looked at Will for what felt like the last time. "I don't want to do this..." he said after a moment of silence.
"I don't think either of us are ready for that." Will replied again, all to aware that he was shutting away so much emotion, "maybe one day, but not now."
Andrew nodded before he turned and stumbled away, fighting back tears of his own. Will sank to the floor where Andrew had sat to wait for him and felt like his world had come to an end.
William shivered; he sat at the small kitchen table in Brody's house. Staring in misery out at the snow falling more steadily now. That was how you were supposed to feel when it snowed, miserable? But Will hadn't even noticed the snow. His mind was firmly fixed on what he had done to Andrew.
Will had done it supposedly to protect Andrew from hurt. But that didn't change the pain in those blue eyes, the loss. And Will knew that feeling, he felt the emotions of the last few days welling up into him threatening him with spilling tears over the abandoned book on the table in front of him.
What was going through his head? The electric thrill of that kiss under a street lamp in the snow... the warmth of Andrew's skin as they pressed against each other just to stay alive. The soft vowels of his voice, the hint of French in his accent. The pain in those eyes.
All those conflicting things assaulted him, and he remembered the Major throwing him up against the wall. The shock driving home the fear that came with the thoughts. He was a teenager, and gay was dangerous. It was the reason kids got beaten up by gangs; it was the reason kids committed suicide from the bullying. It was something to be afraid of.
Brody set the bowl of Habitant pea soup, a staple of French Canadian cuisine that came in a distinctive yellow can. You couldn't be French without keeping at least one can of the hearty soup on hand for an emergency.
Will looked at it, thick yellowish white substance that would talk to him if it weren't eaten quickly. And he looked up thankfully, and he opened his mouth to say something but was cut off by the phone ringing.
Brody shrugged, a paternal look on his young face as he answered it. "Oui Hello?" the bilingual answer giving the caller the choice of a language to respond in. Brody glanced up at Will and nodded, "Yeah he is, hang on Mrs. Carter." He covered the phone and extended it to Will.
Will's face went ashen the Jackal was calling him. Why would the Major's wife call him? He stood shakily and accepted the phone timidly.
The voice on the other end of the phone cause the tears to spring from his eyes unbidden, rolling down his cheeks. The old and leathery sounding voice of his Grandmother. "William." She said as if she knew he was crying the moment he had heard her voice, "are you all right?" there was a determination to her voice, a concern that was genuine.
It was with good reason; she had raised him after his mother had abandoned him. She had been the one to hold him at night, to change his diapers and kiss his bruises when he fell. She had been the one to teach him, bring him up, love him...
"I'm okay..." he managed between heavy sobs. Noticing Brody, the emotionally aloof warrior had left him alone with the phone. Retreating to the living room and a hockey game.
"That's a relief," she said, her voice softening "I heard from your father last night. I had to call your aunt Majella to find out where you were."
Will smiled, Majella although not really his aunt, she was his Grandfathers niece, was the closest to family he had there. A meddlesome and domineering woman, she had a kind heart and could be as protective as a lioness over her brood. His grandmother and aunt talked frequently there was little Gran didn't know about his life.
"I...I..." Will stammered, not really sure what to say, what could he say that would reassure her that he was alright. He wasn't exactly sure he would be himself.
"Good," she said as if she made up her mind, "I couldn't believe your Dad would do something like this..." her voice sounded disappointed, but she knew her son too well. "I want to make sure you are all right and..." she became a little uncertain of herself, "what you wanted to do now."
What she meant by that was very clear. Halisham, the little town she lived in lay just south of London in England. Five thousand miles away from his current life. He felt his stomach clenching, part of him screaming for him to take the offer, tell her he wanted to go home more than anything in the world. Finally escape and just... go home.
Canada was his home, he had been out there a long time, his schooling was coming along and he had his friends. He had given all that up once before to follow his dad's dream of a new life. Could he really give it all up again to go back?
His Grandmother sensed his apprehension, "You don't have to come home if you don't want to." She said softly, reassuringly, she knew his father because she had raised him, but she also knew Will for the same reason. "I could talk to Majella, her and Arthur have that apartment but they might be able to..."
"They don't have room Gran..." Will said tiredly resting his back on the counter and looking out the window at the snow falling across Brody's truck, "I don't know what choice I have..."
Brody appeared in the doorway to the kitchen and made a gesture for the phone, a simple beckoning indicating he wanted to talk to Gran. Will frowned and handed the phone over.
"Hello Madam Carter?" Brody said, his accent thicker as he became more formal on the phone, he turned and pointed for Will to give him some privacy.
Will shrugged as he walked back into the living room and flopped down into the chair. Brody was up to something again. Like a demented Frenchman on a mission, French Canadian he corrected. There was a different kind of nuts that came from the descendants of frontiersmen. Few people remembered that it was Cartier and a group of those insane Frenchmen that had built the first colony in North America, and had founded through pride a great nation.
Will quirked a smile, too bad the English had ... borrowed it awhile.
Brody returned to the living room and tossed Will the phone before sitting back down on the couch. Will caught it and lifted it back to his ear, "hello?"
"I've talked it through with Brody," she paused a moment, "You have a good friend there William."
"I know." Will said looking up at Brody, who was pointedly ignoring the look, uncomfortable with gratitude and any kind of praise.
"We've talked about it and he is willing to let you stay there until you finish high school, however I insisted on paying rent for you." She hesitated, "He would only let me pay for half of your utility bills and for your food." He could hear she was relieved about that, "I am going to send you a cheque each month, what ever is left over you can spend on yourself."
"Okay," Will said, struck by the lengths his Gran was going to just to make sure he was okay. "Thank you..." he said his voice made him sound so little.
"You're going to have to be good, and I will be calling you every week and having you're Aunt Majella check up on you." Her voice took on a warning tone, "and if your marks slip you will be on the next plane home."
"They won't..." Will replied.
"They'd better not," she warned, "Look it's very late over here and I should let you get back to your homework. Just remember you will be okay, and that I love you very much."
He felt the tears welling up again in the back of his throat, "I know..."
"Good bye William." She said sincerely.
"I love you..." he said as he hung up the phone. He turned to Brody, his mouth just hanging open about what he had just done.
He looked at the rebellious young man that tried to avoid responsibility, and yet owned his own home, and now had stepped up to look after him. He was a little older than Will, dark brown hair that was cut neatly into a half pomp straight and roguish like he was. The kind of eyes that glinted with mischief, and a look of intent focus as the hockey game began to get interesting.
"Thank you..." he began, trying to find words for his gratitude.
Brody looked up, "Hockey." He pointed to the screen.
"But..." Will tried again.
Brody looked over at him and grinned, "You needed a place to stay, now I get to teach you how to appreciate Hockey."
Will smiled, someone had already done that... he stopped as his face fell slightly. That wound was still fresh, and something he would sooner just forget. Not that the other kids at school would let him forget. He had put up with the teasing, the derisive comments for much of the day. The looks of disgust from some kids, and worse, the looks of pity from others.
Andrew had avoided him the rest of the day, until blessedly the final bell had rung. And Will hadn't stayed, he had sprinted out to Brody's truck and when the man himself had arrived they had just driven back to the house in silence. If this was to be his life for the next year and a half, it was going to be difficult.
The knock at the door caused him to jump. He looked over at Brody, who shrugged simply and crossed to the door. Tossing it open on a towering man with a snow covered toque and beard. Arthur Aube was a broad shouldered dark man with very strong Native roots. He surveyed Brody a moment before looking past him at Will standing behind him.
He pointed simply at Will, "you're Grandmother just called," his voice was gruff, and accented like Brody's, "She wanted me to check with you and take you shopping."
Will frowned, "Shopping?" he asked carefully.
"Clothes, school supplies." He shrugged, "get your coat." It wasn't a request. Arthur had a way about him that was firm. He had to be to live with Majella; it would take a very patient man to tolerate her...determination. Will pulled on his old coat and shoes and followed his Uncle out to the white Mazda truck
Once they were safely on their way into the City of Ottawa, Arthur began to speak, "He kicked you out?"
Will nodded, wondering how he would explain why.
Thankfully Arthur didn't ask, he just kept driving, and Will realized that the shopping trip had an ulterior motive. Arthur had been sent to talk to him. By who was obvious, Majella was a devout Catholic and even the hint of something...that ran against her faith had to be investigated. She wouldn't shun him for it, on the contrary she would be too concerned with saving his soul.
He felt a pang of pity for his Uncle, Arthur hated being used in this manner. Will settled back into the seat of the truck, "thank you." He said after a minute or so.
Arthur shrugged his shoulders, "you need clothes to go to school," he nodded to the aged coat Will was wearing, it was a good quality hand me down, but old. He fingered it carefully he liked his coat. His Dad hadn't been poor, quite the contrary there was money in the house, but Will couldn't remember the last time he had been bought new clothes.
The Rideau Centre was in the heart of downtown Ottawa; it was the central Mecca of shoppers and kids. It was built as a major transit stop, feeding commuters to and from work and its food court was massive. And there were four floors leading up to a large movie theatre build on the top floor. Even on a weeknight it was still bustling, people coming off of work and heading for home, and kids lurking around looking for stuff to do.
Will was glad he lived in suburbia, Merrickville was just far enough away to avoid the rush of the city, but close enough for Ottawa to be the night life. He followed his uncle through the crowds of shoppers till they arrived at Sears. The busy department store wasn't nearly as crowded as it was normally, and Arthur guided him to the men's section and flagged down at passing clerk.
The overtly effeminate man scurried over, offering to help them. Arthur watched Will's reaction very carefully. Will, knowing full well not to look at the guy, picked at a rack of clothes. He wasn't being shy, it was just, well he didn't know what was going on in his head.
Here Arthur was trying to find out if he was gay without asking him, and if he was what then? Will didn't even know. He'd kissed a boy once. Even then that had just gone horribly wrong. What was the big deal anyway? He could tell if a guy was attractive and which were not. But have sex with them? What was that a joke? Not that sex with a guy was a joke...just Sex in general. Will wasn't one of the popular guys, he wasn't getting chased around. So yeah he thought about sex, but to actually have sex with anyone? That just couldn't happen, not yet...
He felt his cheeks flushing red, realizing the clerk and Arthur were waiting for him and he looked up at them. "I... err." he stammered shyly.
Arthur took over at that point guiding him through the store, helping him to pick out clothes he liked. He kept his head down most of the time, choosing things he liked, and Arthur, who had a real nephew Will's age supplemented it with things he knew teenagers should be wearing.
He stopped as they passed the leather jackets.
Will's eyes widened in surprise and firmly locked on the price tag, "I-can't." he said.
Arthur ignored him and selected a classic looking leather bomber jacket and bade Will try it on.
"Teenagers not a man till he has a good jacket." He said quietly, "My dad bought me one when I was your age, I felt like James Dean in it."
"Who?" Will asked naively.
"Just a second," Arthur reached out and pushed Will's hair over a bit and he adjusted Will's collar, "There you go, that's what he looked like." Arthur laughed, "It looks good on you, you'll knock the ladies off their feet in that."
Again he studied Will's reaction, as if waiting for something. Will just shrugged staring at his feet. How had he allowed himself to get into this situation? All because he had let some guy kiss him, and had been caught.
Except Andrew wasn't some guy. He was tall, athletic, intelligent, sincere, heading that way, handsome...
Will's eyes went wide. Arthur started in surprise at the reaction and looked about him self-consciously.
Andrew drew short when he saw Will standing with his uncle dressed in sharp clothes and a leather jacket looking for all the world exactly like a young James Dean. He stopped and gaped. Will felt himself turning red, glad that Arthur had his back to Andrew.
Arthur frowned a moment as he shrugged and guided Will onwards through the store and away from Andrew. "We have to find you new shoes," he pointed out Will's sneakers. And guided him off. Will cast a glance back to see Andrew's mother Micheline holding a gaudy Hawaiian shirt up against her son, who was too distracted to notice the horrible print pattern on the front of it.
Will was halfway through trying on shoes, real shoes not sneakers. They felt comfortable, and reminded him of his time at school in England where he had worn real shoes every day. A well shined pair of shoes reflected a lot about a person, and he found himself getting excited, it was as if he was changing a part of himself. Getting rid of the person he had been as if he was getting rid of the cheap pair of sneakers.
Andrew rounded the aisle with his mother. The formidable woman almost pushing him down into the seat alongside Will as she set off in search of a new pair of shoes. He shifted uncomfortably a moment glancing at Will, and then over at Arthur, who was thankfully talking to the clerk.
"Hi." He said quietly, "I'm sorry my Mom wants to get me new sneakers... I tried to give you some space but ... she's been funny since the accident."
He shifted in his chair adjusting his jacket and craning his neck to see where she had gotten to. Will shrugged feeling a pressure building in his stomach, had it only been a few hours since he had made his monumental decision to stop anything with Andrew before it pulled both of them down. It felt like ages ago. So much had changed in a few short hours.
He shrugged, "It's ok." Will said after a moment, "I'm here with my Uncle Arthur."
Andrew followed his gaze over to the older man who was now arguing with the clerk heatedly about something. "That's cool." And he looked down at the new Jacket Will was still wearing, "And its good to see you finally found a coat."
Will blushed slightly feeling the heat rising into his cheeks. "Yeah, I like it its..."
"I got the shoes at the sale price," Arthur announced returning to the small seats with a shoebox under his arm. He glanced over at Andrew and smiled, "Mister Highmore!" Will started then remembered that Arthur worked at the local arena; of course he would know who Andrew was.
"Mister Aube." Andrew nodded, "I was just saying to Will that I liked his new jacket."
Arthur nodded approvingly, there was no suspicion in his eyes, a Condor was above suspicion. They were local heroes, and Andrew was their ringleader. It was just accepted that he was a normal guy. And Will felt a little envious of that.
Andrew smiled, "I was just about to ask Will if he wanted to chill a bit in the food court when he's done shopping. I'm here with my Mom but was thinking about heading home afterwards, I could drop Will off."
Will's back tightened, he wasn't even being consulted, it was a discussion between Arthur and Andrew. Arthur's eyes creased a little in concern when he looked at Will, but when he glanced back at Andrew his eyes drifted over the large golden C on the coat. And he just nodded, "It'll be good for him." He said almost as much to himself as he was to Andrew.
Will felt trapped, and wondered how he could avoid the situation that was developing, but realized he was really being given no choice at all. Andrew wanted to talk, needed to talk. And you just couldn't say no him. He was too clever for that.