Here is the next installment of Things Are Different. I didn't want to take too long between chapters considering where I left everyone at the end of chapter nine. Thanks for all your comments, I look forward to them, both positive and negative. As always, feel free to contact me at and I can put on an email notification list for the next chapter (and maybe some other things I am writing). Hope you enjoy this chapter.

Things Are Different - Chapter 11

-Thanks for your patience. Here is the next chapter. I hope you like it. I always enjoy hearing from my readers and you can reach me at


I was not sure if it was more discouraging and painful to not know the taste of Scott's kisses or to know them and not be able to partake.

Every day school was torture, though I knew it was self-inflicted. I sat next to him, talked with him and walked with him and there was no outward sign of our affection for each other. The occasional accidental touch of the sort that would be expected between two guys would send shiver up my spine.

"You know nobody will care," Scott told me again as we sat waiting for Dani at the Starbucks after school.

"I suppose," I said, "it's just I'm not used to the attention I get now. I've always made myself a near invisible outsider and I'm not ready to wear a rainbow flag to school." I wanted to hold his hand as I had seen the couple do at Powell's.

"Nobody is telling you to be a gay activist."

"That's not what I mean. If I was out like you, not that you scream queer or anything, but I would want to act like Dani and Devon and that would be like the same thing."

"I think Devon has his arm around you as much as he does Dani."

"He's like that with everyone."

"He's never hugged me like that."

"See. I know Devon is not a homophobe, but it would change things and I haven't had a chance to get used to this. You don't know what my life was really like before. It was partly my doing, but I never really had any friends before. I'm just . . . I don't know . . . it's all so fucked up."

"Relax, don't worry, I'm not going to push you out of the closet, but remember I want the same things you do."

"Thanks, I know that. You are too good."

"And don't you forget it," he flashed me that quirky smile that never failed to make the corners of my mouth turn up just as it made my stomach pleasantly queasy.

"You two on another date?" a sneering voice said behind us. Looking up we saw Keith, whom I hadn't encountered in probably a week.

"You've got some sort of problem, don't you Keith?" Scott spoke up. I didn't want to look like I was trying to disappear, Scott did not disserve that, but I wanted to make myself invisible.

"Hey guys, been waiting long?" Dani and Devon walked up, instantly diffusing the situation. Keith didn't say anything.

"Hi Dani," Scott got up and gave her a hug. Devon put a hand on my shoulder.

"What do you want?" Dani gave Keith an icy stare.

"Nothing," Keith mumbled, glancing at each of us, ending on Devon. "Nothing," he mumbled again and left without a drink.

"He is a strange one," Scott commented.

"Yeah, I don't know what got into him. We used to get along great. We weren't best friends or anything like that, but he seemed like a cool guy. Maybe I will talk to him," Devon shrugged.

"Well, now he is just strange. A grande iced soy mocha, please," Dani directed that to Devon as she got her laptop out.

"You guys want anything?" he asked us. We raised our cups to let him know we already had our drinks.

"So here is the slide show I put together from the script and the charts you guys made. Images and statistics will show up on the screen as you talk. I've added some images and video clips. If you guys time it right, you will be able to talk without having to manually click through it like some boring ass slide show of Aunt Trudy's trip to Disneyland."

"Sounds awesome," Scott said. Sometimes his enthusiasm scared me.

"Sounds daunting," I added. The whole thing made me nervous. Not just the subject matter, but I thought we were doing more than anyone else. Did I say I suffer from anxiety in front of groups? Hell, I wouldn't be sitting here in a crowded Starbucks if Scott wasn't here too. I would take my drink and leave.

"It will be just like performing on stage. Timing shouldn't be too hard," Scott said.

"Easy for you to say, I've never been on a stage in my life" I responded. I don't know how Scott could get in front of a group of people and perform.

"Come on Jay, you will be great. All the girls will be staring at you anyway and not paying attention to the presentation." Dani said.

"Bullshit," I said.

"You know how many girls want to ask you out?" she pressed the issue.

"Zero," I looked at Scott, who was giggling at my discomfort. I hid behind my coffee.

"Ugh, you are impossible!" Dani said in frustration.

"Here you go," Devon interrupted the very uncomfortable discussion, bringing Dani her drink and pulling up a chair between us. He draped one arm over her and one over me. Scott cocked an eyebrow at me like Spock. Damn, I wish I could do that. I would have shrugged, but Devon had me pinned, so I took a sip of my coffee instead. "Let's get this thing rolling," Devon said.

"I have the script scrolling for timing at the bottom, but that won't be in the finished version."

The presentation ran and I couldn't believe the quality. It was almost like a music video. There were YouTube snippets of teenagers talking about how much they hated their lives and a couple saying "it gets better," but it didn't for any of them. I swallowed hard listening to them. Despite my recent outbursts, I am usually very good at controlling my emotions. I could not help but keep glancing over to Scott. His own attention was intently focused on the screen.

Devon's hand squeezed my shoulder. His face, usually radiating a friendly openness, was a stony mask, his mouth held in a straight line.

"Wow! All I can say is wow!" Scott breathlessly exclaimed a few moments after it ended.

"Uber-intense. You guys are definitely going to be rocking an A with that," Devon added.

"Dani, I don't know how to say thanks. That makes this presentation into something unbelievable," I said.

"You think? It's not too much? You guys gave me a great script and outline, but you don't think the video clips are too much?" I had never seen Dani act unsure of herself before.

"No way. This will hit some knuckleheads in class over the head with a sledge hammer. If we get a good grade, I'm making sure you get some sort of credit too," Scott said, "of course, if we get a bad grade I will blame you too," he added with a smile.

Honestly, I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I wanted a good grade, but I didn't want to hit anyone over the head with a sledgehammer. This project felt a little like I was being a gay activist and I just got finished saying that is not something I wanted. Not to mention the fact that getting up in front of a group to speak gave me a serious case of butterflies and not the good kind that I get when Scott looks at me, like right now. I turned from his gaze in case I started to blush like a lovesick school girl.

"We need to fine tune this and rehearse," Scott said.

"When is your presentation?" Dani asked.

"Friday," my voice cracked a little when I said it and I had to clear my throat. I could not imagine getting up in front of the class and delivering the presentation.

"Why don't we meet at my house after school tomorrow?" Scott suggested.

"Sounds like a plan," Dani agreed. I just nodded my head.

"I have a student council meeting, so I will have to miss it," Devon said.

"Dani will have to be the audience, critic and technical advisor," Scott said.

We made plans to meet after school tomorrow and everyone went their separate ways. On the way back to school to meet my grandma Scott grabbed my hand and pulled me into an underground parking garage across from the soccer stadium. The space was awash in the sickly light of fluorescent lights and the dirty odor of idling engines. At the base of the ramp he guided me into a dark alcove filled with bicycles where he took me in his arms and planted a kiss on my lips. I was more than happy to reciprocate.

"I've needed to do that all day," he said.

"Me too," I told him, "I'm sorry I'm not ready to do that out in public."

"It's okay, it will happen when you are ready."

"You know I am almost pathologically shy?"

"It's one of the things I find so adorable about you," that brought the color to my cheeks and he gave me a quick peck on the end of my nose. "Speaking of shy, I think we have an audience," he directed my attention to the lot attendant standing next to a glass booth by the yellow gate. We were in a dark corner of an already dimly lit cave, but I was sure we were at least partly visible to him. I was worried that he would come over and yell at us for trespassing.

Scott smiled and waved at the guy. I pulled his hand down and tried to drag him further into the shadows. The guy just gave us two thumbs up and turned away.

"You've got to love Portland," Scott said.

"It is going to take me a while to get used to it," I said.

"Come here," Scott pulled me closer and his mouth found mine and he even slipped a hand into the back of pants.

"Shit," I said coming up for air.


"I have to meet my grandma and I can't go like this," a very noticable long bulge was stretching the left leg of my jeans.

"That's what you get for wearing boxers," Scott laughed.

"Har-har," I knew Scott preferred tighter fitting underwear, "I think you do that on purpose."



I like Dani, but I never really feel comfortable around her. Admittedly I don't feel comfortable around anyone, except Scott and I know enough to understand that a lot of that has to do with hormones and endorphins. Those are things I have little control over. It is also only in private I can be completely open with my feelings for him and I am truly able to relax. Of course, the fact that Dani is a girl also has something to do with my unease. Around guys I can fake it, act more straight than I am and they are more likely to take my quiet as churlishness or toughness and ignore me. Oddly enough I am afraid of offending girls with my outward attitude and even more afraid that they will see through me.

In Scott's living room Dani connected her laptop to their T.V. and we stood on either side of it. Scott held a copy of our script in his hand. She pulled her long red hair back into a ponytail, accentuating her slightly rounded face. Dani is just stunning, which made me even more nervous. I know it doesn't make much sense that a gay guy would be so anxious around girls.

"Okay, I will work on the timing as you guys run through it once. You start Scott," Dani was obviously enjoying her role as director, "action!"

"Over a third of all gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans youth in grade nine through twelve have attempted suicide," he started.

"In 2005, ninety percent of LGBT youth reported physical or verbal harassment in the last year," I continued. We traded statistics and quotes back and forth, pausing when Dani indicated and watched stoically as a now deceased thirteen or fifteen or eighteen year old told their story. Everything was going well until the end when suddenly Lady GaGa's Born This Way come out of the speakers.

"What the fuck was that?" Scott said with surprise.

"I thought it would be cool to end it with a little anthem," Dani said.

"That was not there yesterday and we never talked about it," he added.

"It's kind of a rallying cry, don't you think?" she looked at me, maybe looking for support. I didn't know what to say.

"I like Lady Gaga and all, but everyone is doing that, don't you think it is maybe a little trite?" this time Scott looked to me. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.

"Well excuse me," Dani, like all girls can really turn sour quickly.

"I like the idea of some music. It is already like a music video, I just don't want to be like everyone else. What do you think Jay?" Scott asked. Crap, I thought, but then I thought of something better.

"This whole subject is a real downer, right?" they nodded, "rather than try to lift them up, why don't we make them feel the despair that these kids felt?" They both looked at me with questioning looks on their face. I took Dani's laptop and looked up Patty Griffin's Tony on YouTube.

Does anyone remember Tony

A quiet boy, little over weight

He had breasts like a girl

When I wasn't too busy feeling lonely

I'd stare over his shoulder

At a map of the world

He always finished all his homework

Raised his hand in homeroom

He called the morning attendance

With the pledge alligence to the gloom

Hey Tony, what's so good about dying

He said I think I might do a little dying today

He looked in the mirror and saw

A little faggot staring back at him

Pulled out a gun and blew himself away

I hated every day of high school

It's funny, I guess you did too

Its funny how I never knew

There I was sitting right behind you

They wrote it in the local rag

Death comes to the local fag

I guess you finally stopped believing

That any hope would ever find you

Well I know that story,

I was sitting right behind you

Hey Tony, what's so good about dying

He said I think I might do a little dying today

He looked in the mirror and saw

A little faggot staring back at him

Pulled out a gun and blew himself away

Hey Tony whats so good about dying, dying

Hey Tony whats so good about dying, dying

Hey Tony, what's so good about dying

He said I think I might do a little dying today

He looked in the mirror and saw

A little faggot starin back at him

Pulled out a gun and blew himself away

Pulled out a gun and blew himself away

Pulled out a gun and blew himself away


"Damn you Jay," Dani said, "You sure do know how to make a girl cry." She wiped at her eyes.

"Sorry," I said.

"Damn, you know the depressing stuff dont' you?" Scott said. Like usual, I looked down and shrugged my shoulders.

We were interrupted by the sound of a door.

"Scott! Scott!" Cassie shouted running into the room. She paused when she saw me and squeeled "Jay!" flinging herself at me, almost knocking me over.

"Did I forget to tell you? You have a fan," Scott was smiling at me as his little sister wrapped her arms around me.

"Hi Jay," Scott's mom stuck her head in, her arms full of groceries.

"Mom, this is Dani, she is helping us with our project." Scott said.

"Hi Dani. Cassie, stop bothering Jay."

"She is no bother," I said, "what have you been up to Cassie?" That was apparently the wrong thing to ask, because she launched into a breathless, non-stop, high speed recount of everything she did, saw, ate or thought since I last saw her. She dragged me to her room to show me what she got at OMSI on Sunday as well as the pictures that she had drawn. Not knowing what else to do I was solicitous and commented on everything she said or showed me and I congratulated her on the A she got on a spelling test.

"Come on Cassie, let Jay return to his friends," her mom told her as we sat on her bed. I went back to Scott and Dani, but with Cassie clutching my hand.

"So are you Jay's girlfriend?" Cassie asked Dani.

"No, we are just friends," Dani laughed.

"So, are you seeing anyone?" Cassie turned to me.

"Um," I involuntarily glanced at Scott. He shrugged his shoulders. Realizing what we had both just done, we turned our eyes to Dani.

"I knew it!" she stated triumphantly.

"Shit," I said under my breath and sat down when my knees got weak. Cassie instantly sat on my lap. I noticed she smelled of strawberries, a pleasant aroma for a little girl.

"Please Dani, don't say anything to anyone," Scott pleaded.

"Why? I think you two make a cute couple. I knew something happened when you were both glowing on Monday."

"Nothing happened," I said, "at least not the something that you think happened." My head was spinning.

"Well, what happened?"

"Yeah, what happened?" Cassie asked.

"Nothing," we both chorused.

"Scott, do Jay and Dani want to stay for dinner?" Scott's mom paused when she came in the room, looking around at us. "What's going on here?"

"Nothing Mom," Scott replied, but gave me look that was half apologetic and half pleading. I didn't know what to do, so I just threw up my hands and nodded my head. I felt like I was going to hurl. Everything was out of control and I think I was starting to hyperventilate. In any case I was feeling light headed and I was glad that I was already sitting down.

Scott took a deep breath, "We just accidently outed Jay to Dani as my boyfriend."

"Jay's your boyfriend? When did this happen?" she asked.

"This past weekend."

"Is there anything we should know about leaving or not leaving you two alone in the house together?"

"No," Scott and I answered in unison.

"Nothing like that happened. We just, you know, told each other how we feel," Scott glossed over a lot of details.

"You told me you weren't boyfriends," Cassie said.

"We weren't when you asked, dummy," Scott said.

"Scott, watch your tongue."


"Well Jay, I guess you are staying for dinner so we can get some details. Are you joining us Dani?"

"I wouldn't miss this for a million dollars," Dani responded. His mom left to finish getting dinner ready.

I just closed my eyes and groaned. Leaning back, all I could think about is how onerous this was going to be. Cassie, still in my lap snuggled against my neck.

"I'm glad you're Scott's boyfriend." she said.

I looked down at her. I never had a little sister and I am typically even more uneasy around kids than I am around adults, but there was something about this little girl. She was sincere and without guile. I felt - happy - holding her. I brushed a stray strand of hair from her forehead.

"Me too," I said with a smile.

Click! Click! Looking up I saw two smartphones aimed in my direction.

"God, that was adorable!" Dani exclaimed.

"I have a new wallpaper for my phone," Scott said.

"Jesus effing Chirst," I mumbled. It would have been a lot more explicit if I did not have Cassie with me and right now I was not letting her go anywhere. She was my little tree right now, anchoring me to a little sanity.

"Okay, you guys are going to have to spill," Dani demanded.

"Oh no, you have to wait. I am not going through this twice," I said.

"That's okay I can wait. I was hoping you two would hook-up anyway."

"We did not 'hook-up' and what do mean?" I asked

"Well, when Scott joined us at lunch that first time, I saw how all you did was avoid looking at each other and I thought it was really cute. Why do you think I made Devon drag your ass to that party? Just to see Scott play? Please!"

"You are quite the schemer," Scott said smiling broadly.

"Thank you," Dani bowed.

"Christ, I was that obvious?" I asked.

"To a girl like me. Most guys are completely clueless."

"Well, I will admit to that." I certainly felt thoroughly perplexed by, well, life in general.

In short order we were called to dinner with Scott's parents. At least they did not start the interrogation about our relationship right away. Instead, they asked about school, the project and of course Dani, since this was the first time they had met her. I learned that Dani's parents were divorced and that she spent most weekends at her Dad's place.

"So I hear you two are boyfriends now," His dad finally spoke up about it, "is there anything you want to tell us?"

"There is nothing to tell. We like each other and no we have not had sex on the kitchen table or anywhere else for that matter," Scott answered.

"Scott your little sister is present," he was scolded by his father.


"Please, I've seen Divorce Court on TV Dad," Cassie piped up to embarrassed smiles.

"From your reaction earlier Jay, I take it you are not out. How do you think your grandmother will react?" his mom asked.

"She already knows," I answered, "it kind of came out by accident on Saturday, but," looking at Scott I continued, "apparently she already figured it out and she is okay with it." I sat between Scott and Cassie.

"Scott, you know something about that?"

"Well, when I went over there on Saturday Jay wasn't ready yet and while we waited his grandma told me she thought Jay was gay and that he like me," I could feel the blood rush to my face, "she wanted to make sure I was okay with that. I told her I was more than okay, but it was up to Jay to come out when he was ready. I don't think he was ready, like right now, but he is stronger than he thinks."

I thought about the strength I could draw from the bear pendant around my neck and the love I felt as Scott held my hand below the table. An unexpected, but very welcome source of strength came from a small hand clasping my other hand.

"I got a visit from a friend from Texas that brought my mother's . . . stuff to me and Grandma. It was really hard for me. I lot harder than I expected and I am really glad Scott was there, but it was impossible to hide how we felt about each other. It all worked out for the best." I wasn't used to saying anything about my life to -- anyone.

"So I take it you guys, um, professed your feelings while we were out on Friday?" we both blushed when his dad brought that up.

"Philip!" Anita exclaimed.

"What? It's a legitimate question," he protested.

"It wasn't like that! Nothing happened!" Scott did his own protesting.

"All we did was kiss, I swear!" I couldn't believe I said that.

"Well I guess anybody that turns that color of scarlet can only be telling the truth," he said with a smile, "Come on, what kind of father would I be if I didn't give my son's first boyfriend a hard time?"

"Your grandma is way cooler than my parents," Scott said.

"Well, you know she has quite a reputation," Phillip added.

"I honestly don't know her that well yet. I only met her a few weeks ago."

"Why?" Cassie asked.

"Cassie don't be rude. Jay does not have to answer that question." Anita said.

"Why?" she asked again.

"Because," I couldn't believe I was answering the question, "my mom died and Grandma let me come live with her. Before that I didn't even know I had a grandma."

"Everybody does. I have two."

"Then you are twice as lucky," I told her.

"Granny Eve smells like cabbage. I don't think that is lucky."

"Cassie that is not nice," her mother scolded her.

"But true," Scott said.

"True," his father added at his wife's stricken expression. After a momentary pause they all burst out laughing.

"She doesn't even like cabbage," her mother said through a hiccupping laugh.

"You can borrow her if you want," Cassie offered.

"Well, I wouldn't want to deprive you of her and her cruciferous perfume," my statement brought mostly blank stares, "cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli and cauliflower." There was an anemic chorus of "ohs" around the table. I am not a very funny person.

"Where's your daddy? Why didn't you stay with him?" she asked.

"Cassie," this time it was Scott that hissed a warning to her. I should not have been surprised that question was next.

"Honestly Jay, you don't have to answer any of her questions if you don't want," Anita reminded me. All I could think of was how this family was, well, a family and if I had a family how I would want to be treated by them. It was an easy decision for me.

"He died when I was about your age," I told her squeezing her hand. She reached up and put her arms around my neck and hugged me until I thought I was going to choke. I felt an all too familiar wetness build up in my eyes. Again I heard the familiar click! of a phone camera and turned to see Dani with her phone aimed at me and tears on her freckled face.

"Are you okay?" I asked her.

"Am I okay?" she wiped the tears away, "My god, you ask me if I am okay. My life is charmed. It is amazing you are so 'okay' after what you've been through. You are so nice and normal. I don't know what I would do if I lost my parents."

"To be honest my mother wasn't the greatest by a long shot. I certainly wouldn't call myself totally 'okay' either. Scott has seen my dark side. After what he has already seen, I'm surprised he is letting me sit with his family. So I'm not totally nice and normal." This brought a couple curious looks towards Scott.

"You don't have a dark side, you just don't let your emotions out often enough," he said. I just dipped my head, avoiding the looks I was getting, pushing my emotions down to the place they lived most of the time. Cassie was sitting half in my lap with an arm around my neck. Ever since I moved here my emotions and the tears were always hovering just below the surface. I really hated this lack of control.

"And you are nice and normal. Yeah, you don't smile a lot, except when Scott is around, but I can see now why you don't smile much. You are always polite; you say please and thank you, you hold doors for people. You say sir and ma'am to the teachers. I work in the office and I have heard them talk about you," Dani explained.

"I do? You have?" both Dani and Scott nodded at me.

"Well I'm ready for dessert." Phillip, none too subtlety ended the awkwardness that had filled the room.

"Me too!" Cassie shrieked in my ear.

I was definitely ready to change the subject.

"Okay, but somebody has to help me clear these dishes," Anita said and I automatically got up to start helping her, eliciting giggles from Scott and Dani.

"See nice," Dani said.

"Don't pay attention to them, some people could learn a thing or two," she elbowed her husband.

"Hey, I help," Phillip defended himself, but he didn't move when she took his dirty plate.

"He hasn't washed a plate in twenty years," she said as I carried a stack of plates to the kitchen with Scott right behind me, "and this one just knows it will get him closer to dessert. I hope you like pie."

Scott and I looked at each other; "Everyone loves pie," we shouted, drawing looks from everyone. We just laughed.

It was pecan pie and looking at it I questioned my earlier enthusiasm. I had never had it before and it did not look very appetizing. It only took one tentative bite for me to change my mind. I quickly finished ahead of everyone else.

"Another piece jay?" Anita asked. I politely declined, like I thought I should.

"Give him another piece Mom. He will eat it," he turned to me, "stop being so nice." Needless to say I ate another piece of pie.

By the time dessert was over it was time for Dani and I to head home. Philip said he would take each of us home so that we did not have to take the bus or call anyone. As we got ready to go Scott pulled me into a close embrace and kissed me on the lips. I can't say it didn't freak me out a bit with his parents and Dani there. It was his way of trying to get me to be comfortable in front of people. I have a feeling it is going to take a while.

Of course we also had to get Dani to promise not to out me to anyone.

"Why? Nobody will care?" she said, "and if anybody does fuck'em." Dani can have quite a mouth on her.

"I'm just not ready I guess. I'm still getting used to this new life. Things are way different than I am used to . . . and you know," I didn't know how to explain my reluctance and I don't think I had a really legitimate excuse.

"Okay, but I don't know how you guys can keep off of each other all day long at school. I go into withdrawal when I don't get my Devon time."

"It ain't easy, I tell you," Scott said eyeing me.

"Thanks Dani," I said.


If you haven't heard Tony by Patty Griffin, I highly recommend it, along with most of her other music too.