Chapter 19: Tim

Saying goodbye to Hank was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I was so scared for him. I couldn't tell him that, though. But I told myself that he and Jeff were big and strong and were smart where it counted. They'd be okay. I just knew it.

I was originally planning to mope around all summer and wallow in self-pity, but Dad had other plans for me. Since Jeff was away at boot camp and I was now 16, I got to be the new gopher at the big construction job site. He insisted that I needed to learn the family business and this was a good way to start; Jeff had done the same thing and now it was my turn, he said.

He took me out and got me some new work boots and on my first day of work, I wore my new boots, jeans and a t-shirt. I thought I looked like a nerd in a Halloween costume. I was 5'7" and 130 pounds and going to work at a construction site. When we got there, before we got out of the truck, Dad had a talk to me about guys. He told me to be very careful around the guys here. He said that some of these guys might want to take advantage of me because I was smaller than them, and especially if they thought I was gay. He told me that not all guys are like Hank and they're just looking to use me or hurt me and if anyone gave me trouble of any kind, to let him know immediately.

I thought about my experience with Marty a couple of years ago and I nodded and said I understood.

We went into the job trailer and we filled out some paperwork, then he gave me a hard hat.

He took me over to one of the building frames and introduced me to Clark Thompson, who would be my supervisor and show me the ropes.

Clark was a big beefy bear of a guy. He was in his late thirties and he was tall and wide, muscular with a bit of a belly. He had green eyes and very short dark brown hair. He had a bald spot on the crown of his head and a thick, short-cut beard. I noticed he had a gold wedding band on his left ring finger. I was immediately scared shitless by him, but he turned out to be a big teddy bear.

Clark took me around and introduced me to some of the guys and let them know I was the boss's son. He showed me where things were and explained to me what some of the stuff was and how it all worked. Before he set me to work, he took me aside and put his arm around me.

"Tim, don't let these guys scare you. Most of them are good guys. But don't let any of them talk you into going off by yourself with them. A couple of the guys might try to take advantage of you. You understand what I'm saying, right?"

"Yes, sir."

After both Dad's and Clark's warnings, I was scared to death that I would be raped by the end of the day. But I didn't have to worry, because everyone was really nice. One guy did get a little friendlier than the others and I could tell he was checking me out, but he didn't act like he was going to make any move on me or anything, so I was relieved about that.

I was really tired when I got home. I sent both Jeff and Hank an e-mail telling them about the job and how scary Clark was until I figured out he was as harmless as a teddy bear. Hank responded with an 'LOL', but he also warned me to be careful because some of those guys might try to hurt me or take advantage of me. I laughed to myself that he was giving me the same warning as Dad and Clark, and still trying to protect me from afar.

I actually enjoyed the job somewhat. It kept me busy for the summer and kept my mind from dwelling too much on Hank, and I made what I thought was pretty good money.

Throughout the summer, I continued to write Hank and Jeff pretty regularly, and they wrote me back as well when they could. In my emails to Hank, I kept the conversation casual and never made any mention of my feelings for him or our (past) relationship, just in case someone might see the email.

No one tried to 'hurt' me at work, but there were two guys who flirted with me. The way they looked at me and the suggestive comments they made, it was pretty obvious what they wanted. One guy named Barton actually made a move on me. One Friday night, he put his hand on my ass and squeezed it. He said he wanted to take me out and get to know me. He told me I'd fit real nice on the back of his bike; he suggestively said that he had a big hog and he'd take me for a nice, long ride. I lied and told him I was dating someone, but he didn't back off. When I told him I was sixteen, he was shocked and he finally backed off, but he still flirted with me a little bit, just not as suggestively.

Hank and Jeff finished boot camp in August and had like a week off before they had to go to training. Unfortunately, this was during band camp and I didn't get to see them. I was very upset that I was going to miss them, but Mom sent me some pictures in an email. I was shocked at how different Jeff looked. She also sent me one of Hank and Jeff together. Seeing Hank's picture made me really sad, but at least I didn't bust out crying during band camp. I saved the email so that I could keep the pictures on my computer when I got home.


That following week, I started my junior year of high school. It turned out to be a completely different experience than last year.

First off, since I had turned 16 and got my driver's license over the summer, I got to use Jeff's jeep since he couldn't take it with him.

Second, I realized that my social status was kicked back down to the bottom rung now that Hank was gone. Last year, I walked in with Hank's arm around my shoulder and I felt like somebody. I hung out with the jocks and popular kids. I went to their parties and chilled and drank beer (well, I pretended to).

This year, I walked in and it was like no one even noticed. I got my locker assignment and opened it up to put my stuff in. As I shut my locker to head to first period band, someone shoved me and I banged my head on the front of the locker.


I turned around to see Tommy Bigelow and one of his buddies scowling at me. Tommy was a senior on the football team and he was big and fat and a complete jerk. I knew he didn't like Hank and me, but I guess with Hank and Jeff gone now, he didn't feel the need to pretend otherwise.

He got into my face and I backed up against my locker. He quietly growled at me, "Your boyfriend and brother are gone, pretty boy. I run this shit now."

He smirked and 'patted' my face hard twice. "See ya 'round, pussy."

I rubbed my cheek where he smacked me and I winced. Yeah, this year was going to suck.

I ran into Gina Ballatori in the cafeteria at lunch as I was carrying my tray to my table.

"Hey, Tim," she said. "I miss seeing you around. We talked to Hank the other day."

"How is he?"

"He said boot camp was hard, but he and Jeff had it easier than some of the other guys. Since they're already in pretty good shape and all. The hardest thing was adjusting to the rules and the new lifestyle, he said. Plus learning and memorizing everything they needed to know. Anyways, I thought you'd be interested."

"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 to me.

"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 fun."

"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 again."


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 anguish.

"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 you."

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 crying, too.

"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.