"Thanks so much for letting me know," I said with a smile.
"Anytime, Tim. Don't be a stranger, okay?"
When I sat down with Matt and Amy, they were genuinely surprised that Gina was talking
"I can't believe that Gina Ballatori was just talking to you," Matt said. "In the
cafeteria. In front of people."
I rolled my eyes and reminded them, "I dated her brother for like two years. I was
at her house all the time. Besides, she was just giving me an update on Hank. It
wasn't like she was asking me to the Homecoming dance."
Matt and Amy both thought that was really funny.
A couple of months into the school year, I was late leaving marching band practice
because Mr. White wanted to talk to me afterward about being late all the time.
When I got to the Jeep, Tommy Bigelow walked up behind me and pushed me against
the side of the jeep. He was pressed up against me and he twisted my arm around
my back. His body was up against mine and I felt his hot, stinky breath in my ear.
"Well, what do we have here?" Tommy said with an evil chuckle.
"Let me go!"
He tightened his grip on me and I swear I could feel his dick in his sweat pants
as it pressed into my ass. I started to panic and began squirming.
"Get off me!" I screamed.
A voice interrupted us. "Hey! Tommy! Knock it off."
I turned my head and a group of the guys on the football team surrounded us.
Tommy let me go and held his arms up, palms out. "Hey, I was just having a little
"Yeah, well, go have fun with yourself," one of the guys said.
"Don't mess with Tim. He's our boy," one of the other guys said.
"You're gonna side with this fag over me?"
They all stood there with their arms folded across their chests.
"Fuck all of you," Tommy said and stormed off to his car.
"You okay?" one of the guys asked me.
I nodded. "Yeah."
"Hank and Jeff told us to keep an eye on you. Let one of us know if he bothers you
I smiled at them and climbed into the jeep as they walked off.
Tommy never bothered me again.
After boot camp and training, Jeff and Hank were split up. Hank ended up in California
and Jeff ended up in North Carolina. I still continued to write them pretty regularly.
I noticed that Hank's emails weren't answered as often, so I told myself he must
be really busy.
One evening in January, I was so happy when I checked my email and I saw an email
from Hank. I clicked on it to open it up and I had to re-read it three times.
Why are you still writing me? You need to move on and forget
about me. I can't have a 16 yr old kid emailing me all the time. You need to stop.
Don't write me again. I won't answer.
I screamed in denial and dropped out of my chair onto my knees and cried out in
"Tim?! What's wrong, Tim?"
Dad walked into my room and found me on the floor. He squatted down and I grabbed
onto him and bawled into his chest.
"Hank!" I sobbed.
Dad looked at the computer screen and read the email and he pulled me up and picked
me up and set me onto the bed. I clawed at him and grabbed onto his arm and buried
my head into his lap and cried. I'm not sure how long I cried, but Dad just held
me. When I finally stopped crying, he still held onto me.
"Why does he hate me, Dad? What did I do wrong?" I sobbed and started crying again.
"He doesn't hate you, Tim. I know Hank, and you know Hank. He's trying to protect
I cried myself to sleep with Dad rubbing my head and arm, trying to comfort me.
Dad woke me up the next morning for school. I wanted to stay home, but he wouldn't
let me and made me go. I walked around like a zombie and teetered on the verge of
crying. When I got home from school, I went straight to bed.
The next day, I managed to get through school somehow. I was getting ready to go
to marching band practice after school when Gina Ballatori stopped me in the hallway.
She looked at me and gave me a hug.
"You heard then," she said.
"Heard what?" I asked.
"I just thought from the expression on your face that Hank or Jeff maybe wrote or
talked to you."
"Gina, he hates me. He told me to stop bugging him and not to write him anymore...
he won't write me back."
I hung my head and tears fell from my eyes. Gina grabbed me into a hug and started
"Tim, he doesn't hate you," she said in my ear. "He doesn't want you to worry about
him. He's being deployed to Iraq."
"Oh, my god!"
We held each other and cried.
I was devastated. I skipped band practice and went right home. I went to the living
room and Mom and Dad were sitting on the couch. Mom was crying and Dad had his arms
around her. I walked to them and dropped to my knees in front of them and put my
head on Mom's lap.
"Jeff is going, too, isn't he?" I cried.
"Yes, son," Dad said.