The following story is for adults and contains descriptions of sexual contact between teenage males. If you are a minor it is illegal for you to read, or if you find the subject objectionable, read no further. All the characters, events and settings are the product of my over-active imagination. I hope you like it. Mail me or if literary analysis interests you visit Eliot's Space.



by eliot moore

Chapter Nineteen



Empty eyes, Tuesday, March 1st

Laine was unsettled. His dance card had been empty for days. It was a sad comment on his personal relationships that he was beginning to live his days around momentary glimpses and brief flirtations. It was even sadder that Daniel and Laine's dance was still confined to shy looks and casual posturing in the hallway. Laine had yet to offer one civil word to Daniel.

Daniel had not been making their date at lunch time. His seat by the window had either been vacant or occupied by others. The first time a pair of older girls usurped Daniel's spot Laine had felt the impulse to cross the hallway and chase them away. The idiocies of obsession that, but not the overwhelming mind loss he had suffered going out with Arlo. Laine was not that far gone this time. He had his pride too. The barely reliable Arlo had made it clear Daniel had a girl friend. Laine was not going to fall for a guy in a heterosexual relationship. That sounded sensible to Laine as he climbed off the early bus and scanned the gloomy school.

Daniel it seemed like to use the main entrance. Laine had noticed him leave that way twice and he hoped it was a consistent pattern. It was a cold morning so Laine abandoned the front steps of the school and occupied a bench beside the guidance department door. It was still early so he passed the time working on a homework assignment he had forgotten to do the night before.

Daniel came in early as well. Laine dropped the pretense of study and watched Daniel as he stopped inside the doors to pull his gloves and a knit cap off his head. Laine's presence on the bench should have been an obvious invitation to Daniel. The hallway was quiet. At the very least this would be a good time for a casual comment. Daniel shoved he loose items in his pockets. He seemed to look in Laine's direction. Laine smiled and nodded his head to catch Daniel's attention. Laine's heart sank. Daniel's eyes passed over his as if Laine was not there. The connection over the last weeks had been broken. The smile faded from Laine's face and he felt lost. He was stupid. He was doing it all over again, and he was so stupid. He thought a boy he had talked to five months ago would be his friend. It could not have been in his imagination. There had been a connection Laine reasoned.

Laine had expected Daniel to move away quickly but instead Daniel remained standing in the middle of the entrance. He looks sad, Laine realized. Laine felt impotent watching him. It is like he does not know what to do next. Laine had assumed that Daniel had everything together. He seemed so confident. Something was bothering Daniel and suddenly Laine hurt that they were not friends; that he could not know this sad thing and make Daniel whole. Daniel turned away and moved off down the hallway. Laine rose to follow him.

* ** *

The silence between Mandy and Daniel was a frost working its way closer to Daniel's heart each day that passed without a word from her. The silence chilled his fevered thoughts. Today he would break through to her, he resolved. Daniel was so distracted that it came as a surprise when Jake stopped his progress with a strong arm across his chest. Daniel frowned and then began to detour around the outstretched hand without a comment. Jake checked him again with a hand on his chest and pushed him back and pinned Daniel against the row of lockers. "Hey babe, where are you off to in such a hurry?"

"Don't call me babe, Jake."

"Don't be that way" Jake growled softly. Jake let his hand rest lightly on Daniel's shoulder. He massaged the tense muscles through Daniel's jacket. Daniel blinked away the momentary impulse to move forward against Jake's tall muscular frame. Jake always left him confused. There was this strange attraction. Jake was so like Denver. Daniel knew he was seduced by the youth's similarity to Denver. He accepted Jake's hands and lips on his flesh if for no better reason than it recalled the touch that Denver had denied him.

Jake was definitely not Denver; when Jake slid his hand under Daniel's jacket Daniel shrugged the offending hand away and tried to move away. Jake grabbed a handful of t-shirt and slammed him back against the locker. "I said don't be that way." There was a hard edge to Jake's words. It broke the spell.

This was Jake in the restroom that horrible September afternoon. The flash in Jake's eyes was testament to the eighteen-year-old's willingness to see him bent over the sink once more; to continue the violation he had started. This Jake could not hide his contempt for the ninth grader. Jake rough grip tried to assert rights Daniel refused to relinquish.

"Let me go" Daniel growled as he tried to break the grip. When he attempted to knee Jake his blow glanced harmlessly off the iron muscles of the other boy's thigh. Jake's lips curled into a smile and his eyes widened in pleasure at the unequal contest.

"You better behave babe"

"Fuck off"

"Let that boy go this instant!" The voice had a commanding tone, and another student might have been instantly cowed, but Jake merely relaxed his grip on Daniel slightly and cocked his head toward the sound of the vice principal's irate voice. Jake raised an eyebrow as if to suggest freshman and senior shared an amusing predicament. Busted in his indiscretion his eyes gleamed at Daniel. "I said let the boy loose." John Cox repeated.

Jake's attitude infuriated Daniel and he pushed him away violently. Jake gave ground and then pushed his hands deep into his pockets.

"Whatever the two of you have going on here stops right now." John Cox approached until he stood between Jake and Daniel. He ignored Jake's pretense at innocence and ordered the older boy to a spot across the hallway. The twelfth grader met his gaze with a careful measure of insolence before backing slowly across the hallway until he ended slouched against the wall of lockers. John studied him a moment before turning back to the more familiar figure of Daniel. "Daniel right?" The boy's eyes were locked on the grade twelve still. His young face was tense. "What's your last name?" John's raised voice finally caught the boy's attention.


That brought it back to John. The boy had seemed familiar. "Are you and your mentor having a disagreement?"

"He is not my mentor," Daniel spat. John turned back to the twelfth grade boy and realized he had been mistaken. The twelfth grade student was unfamiliar to him. The two students continued to stare each other down. Something had happened here. John stepped into Daniel's line of sight.

"What gives? Do you have something to tell me Daniel? Is this boy bothering you?" Daniel's eyes finally turned John's way and some of the tension drained from his body.

Daniel considered the question. What could he say to the vice principal? He was beginning to blush. How would he face anyone if he tried to tell the truth? Nobody would respect him. "It was nothing, really."

And there you have it thought John Cox in frustration. He tried a second time, "It certainly looked like something to me." Daniel shrugged and wisely held his silence. John could see some inner argument play across the boy's features. The years had tutored John and he knew adolescent pride struggled here with adolescent insecurity. John liked the look of the boy and sympathized with his dilemma. Karen's ranting about abuse around the school had made him less sure of the control the staff had over the mentoring program. John had to admit it had put a great deal of power into the hands of seventeen and eighteen year old boys and girls. "You are an honors student aren't you?" The question earned him a small shrug. "Has it been a rough year for you? Is that boy the problem?" Daniel closed his eyes before shaking his head slightly. John felt his frustration begin to surface. The answer to his question was clearly yes. "Will you come to me if there is a problem?" Daniel shrugged again and John realized that yet again he was getting nowhere with these young students. The boy was not going to say anything to him right now, particularly with the other boy watching. "All right, grab your things and go." Daniel moved off quickly.

John turned on the senior. ''and your name is?"

"Jake Waterman"

"Just because he didn't tell me what happened does not let you off the hook here. We respect each other at this school. We are safe with each other. Isn't that right Jake?" Jake offered John a blank stare.

"It seems to me that you have forgotten that. Did this boy Daniel bother you in some way?" John's instincts denied the possibility but it was the correct procedure to follow.

"We were just having a little fun. You know how it is."

"Sure I know exactly how it is with your type. Fun, you're not a just a bit tired of all this fun you are having, hmm? It's March now. Don't you think it is time to stop the games? Do you have anything else to say?"


"Let me share something with you, Jake Waterman, that boy's mother has phoned to complain that he has been being bullied here at school. She claims someone is hurting him. Could that possibly be you?"

"Hey, I don't hurt Daniel!" There was a genuine anger in the youth's response.

"I wonder... I think an hour after school might serve to remind you of the appropriate conduct we expect from students at Riverview." Jake looked like he might argue with John, but he kept his silence. John would enter the grade twelve into the system and he suspected the boy would not show up for the detention. One of his colleagues would have to follow it up. It would just be more running in circles. Jake might be suspended. It was more likely his parents would complain and in the end nothing would be accomplished.

"Can I go now?" John studied the boy's easy slouch. His words had barely penetrated. It was all teacher-babble to the youth who obviously thought John was irrelevant. Jake would go on this way, thinking he could act independent of the rules that held the mass of students together in some semblance of sanity. Perhaps if John was lucky Jake would make a mistake and then the school could take action.

"Take off." Jake started off in the direction Daniel had taken. "Go the other way." The youth offered John a look of transparent anger.

"My locker is that way."

"Too bad, take the long way around then." It was a futile gesture. If there was more than a passing problem between the two boys then the delay would hardly serve to help. Jake chose not to argue with John, and John chose not to hear his muttered words of contempt as Jake moved off in the direction of the cafeteria.

* ** *

Laine had seen Daniel and the older boy from the bench where he had been abandoned. He had moved halfway down the hall before he realized he did not understand the situation. He had stopped to remind himself that he did not know Daniel. Anything could have prompted the older boy, surely a grade twelve, to handle Daniel so roughly. Laine was inclined to trust Daniel so he was ready to do something stupid when the teacher stepped out of the counseling office. While the teacher spoke with Daniel, Laine examined the senior.

He was good looking. He reminded Laine of the skaters in the park near his new home. He was tall and powerful. It was hard not to notice him, Laine admitted with a familiar tingle. The senior was intentent on Daniel and the teacher across the hallway. His fingers tapped out an impatient beat against the lockers behind him. Daniel was angry, Laine could tell. That fueled Laine's anger so later, when the senior stalked in his direction, he stepped in front of him on an impulse. The tall senior came to a stop and eyed Laine; God he was big.

"Leave him alone."

Jake gave Laine a puzzled look and then glanced back down the way he had come as if to catch a glimpse of the departed Daniel. When he turned back to Laine a smile played across his lips. He let his eyes drift down Laine's figure. Laine tensed at the scrutiny. Jake laughed softly and dismissed Laine's challenge with a gleam and a nod. The eyes spoke volumes to Laine and it came to him in a cold wash of fear. Jake was dangerous. He made Laine feel vulnerable and he wished himself away. Behind the lust lurked violence and for a moment it was directed at Laine. The handsome senior pushed past Laine knocking his lighter frame back with his shoulder. Laine turned to watch him move off. Was this what had been troubling Daniel over the past few days? Laine stood in the hallway confused.


And we are here as on a darkling plain, Tuesday, March 1st

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

h, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


Poetry is all about making personal connections. Arnold writes a poem. He struggles over the wording and rewrites it many times. He was an educated man, a teacher, and I think he wrote about something he wanted to understand. He was exploring his feelings or beliefs and being an educated man it was probably easier for him to do that by writing it down on paper. So first of all, Dover Beach is something he is telling himself. But secondly he is sharing his feelings with someone else. Maybe he shared his poem with the person he is talking to in the poem. This is the person who seems to be in the background. H. Kerpneck commented that Arnold said nothing about when or for whom the poem was written. The answer to that question might be interesting, but I do not think it matters. The need for commitment and trust exists between all people. Thirdly, Arnold is sharing his poem with me. He is sharing it with you. He had these thoughts and feelings he needed to understand, so he wrote them down. He let them publish his poem because he decided his feelings were worth sharing with others. What he wrote has to connect with these other readers though. Would anyone read this many lines if what they could not relate to the feelings and beliefs expressed?

Relating to a poet's thoughts does not mean sharing the same experience. I have never been to Dover or heard the ocean pound the chalk cliffs with their steady beat. I'm only eighteen but I can still connect to what Arnold is saying in his poem. I can feel his depression because I have been depressed like that. "for the world, which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night." Those lines really mean something to me.

Arnold had the thought; he wrote it down and shared it with me. I really get it. This is how I am feeling right now. So many things in my life are confused right now. It is an awesome line. It puts my feelings into words. It does not end there though. This is not the idea Arnold is trying to share. What he wants to share is the idea that when things are this bad you need to hold on to the people you care about.

Plans do not always work out. They start really well sometimes. It is like Arnold says in his poem, it starts out seeming beautiful and new, it seems like your dreams are coming true; and then suddenly everything is falling apart. It gets confused and everyone around you seems to be fighting with each other. When things are like that you need to hang in there with the people you care about. Arnold's poem is about promising to be there for someone.

Denver tapped his pen on the table and stared at his words. He was having trouble concentrating on the assignment. It was not easy to tune out the low murmur of voices around him. There had not been these resource periods when he was in ninth grade. Denver cringed from the idea. It would have been a nightmare if he had been forced to sit through even this short period with his senior. They had not been friends. Daniel sat across from him temporarily freed from his misery. He and Kemal were bent over Kemal's paper as Daniel struggled to help the puzzled boy understand his math. Daniel's fresh hair curled around his ear. His soft voice whispered instructions as his eye lashes flicked between the paper and the other boy's face. Daniel was mostly a zombie moving listlessly through the day unable to get over his break with Mandy. No joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain: that was certainly how things felt right now. Daniel seemed so young to Denver. Daniel turned and saw Denver watching. Denver was rewarded with a weak smile. He had not had all the innocence beaten out of him yet. Denver returned a glimmer of a smile and moved his eyes back to his unfinished paper. A slip of paper marking the English Literature book caught his attention. He pulled it free and smiled softly. It was just a simple reminder to pick up a birthday present for Beth. Mark had signed it M with a small frown face - a small signal that Mark knew he was enabling a relationship he would rather see go gently into that good night. Denver sighed, the note was now a week old and Denver had not remembered to buy Beth anything. Mark had rescued him by buying three tickets to a concert at the university.

Mark had been doing much the same thing with Daniel. He touched base with Denver's freshie before the end of lunch when he could. He stepped into the shadows when Daniel needed support from his older friend.

Denver felt Daniel's leg press slightly against his own beneath the table. Daniel was still immersed in ninth grade algebra and Denver had decided long ago that this groping for physical contact was largely an unconscious habit. Denver's paper languished on the table in front of him as he watched Daniel. Daniel's hand slid over to the cell phone he had left beside his calculator and as Denver watched he tilted the face slightly. This was not an unconscious gesture. This was conviction and faith, or at least it was stubborn hope. Daniel no longer sagged in disappointment at the static screen. Daniel would stare a moment in disbelief, blink and then turn away.

It was a powerful display. Denver had considered breaking up with Mark. They were such different people: Denver so rational and Mark so passionate. Love grows, thought Denver. He could say that now - love. Maybe not a love that could sustain two people through the twists and turns of a life neither of them could really quite imagine yet. It was a feeling Denver was not ready to part with though. Mark was special, like his first girl friend in grade eight. Being with Mark, being in a relationship with a boy had been a big step for him. Denver could admit to himself that Mark had made it easy too. He had accepted the price Denver had forced him pay for being with him. Hiding was definitely not in Mark's nature. Mark would only do it for him. All Mark had asked in return was to be with Denver. Denver had to be true to Mark. The thought of his young and passionate lover brought an unexpected welling of tears. Stupid to be sitting in a classroom and have a moment like this, Denver scolded himself. He dropped his eyes to his paper and shielded them behind his hand. Arnold's words came back to him again. He did not want really share this with an English teacher. Arnold was right. Maybe Arnold was saying that when everything else seemed to be falling apart you needed to remember what you do have. This was a thought worth sharing with Mark in the quiet of the night.

Denver looked back at Daniel and found that he had turned to lean on the table. Daniel propped his head on his arm and seemed to study Denver. It was a slender elfin face that had too much sadness written into it for Denver to bear. "Are you okay? You look kinda down," Daniel asked softly.

"I'll be fine."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not really, I'll tell you about it later." Daniel looked at him wistfully. He cocked his head again and then lifted his head. The resource period was almost over. Denver watched him pack his bag with unconscious grace. "Hey Daniel" the beautiful eyes turned back to him, "it will work out, 'kay? Trust me on this one; have a little faith." He wanted to tell Daniel that Mandy would come around. The truth was Denver did not know. Daniel responded with a sigh and nodded his head slightly.

Denver felt like a pretty shabby rock for Daniel to be leaning on at that moment. They had to put in an appearance at the Freshie Court and Denver was not feeling at his best. The futile months of chasing down classmates who might have hurt Daniel were wearing on him. He was not winning his war and it helped not at all that it felt as if his own flesh and blood was the victim. Denver had never been an especially aggressive person. Right now, he badly needed someone to hit.


Monkey Trial, Monday, March 29 th

"My Freshie didn't want to hump a girl. What is the problem here?" Could these people look any more like the losers they were? He scanned the judges dressed in their blue and gold robes, medieval hats perched precariously on their heads.

"Nobody would ask a student to do such a thing Denver Hawke. That is totally gross and against our school code of conduct." The girl pointed at a poster strategically located over where Ms. Gunderson sat reading eleventh grade projects out of the bottom of her bifocals. "He simply didn't do what he was told and Tiffany says he hurt her freshie's feelings. You know how it works Denver." These guys could get bent thought Denver. Denver glanced at Daniel slumped beside him. Denver had tried to reassure Daniel that things with Mandy would be fine. He had been through too many relationships himself and he knew life would go on, painful as it might be. But Daniel was too young, he didn't see it that way and he was still devastated. This court business was an unwelcome added irritation to it all.

"So what do you want?" The judge-nerds consulted among themselves and turned back.

"The court rules that the Freshie must clean tables in the lunch room tomorrow in a purple and yellow dress."

"With pearls" added another judge.

"Shaved legs?" offered a third hesitantly. Ms. Gunderson paused from her papers to peer over her glasses. She had a slight disapproving frown.

"No, that would be a violation of his rights," one of the other judges responded responsibly. Ms. Gunderson took a sip of her coffee and settled back into her marking. Denver was furious.

"And if he doesn't?"

"Well he can always pay the twenty dollar fine."

"You pricks are unbelievable...."

The conversation continued in this way and Daniel wished himself elsewhere. What was he doing here when he could be tracking Mandy down? Simon had promised to search out the girl from the bathroom. Daniel noticed that the judges were mostly girls. There was one boy at the end of the row of desks facing him. His hat was slightly large and as Daniel watched him he self consciously adjusted it so it sat at a rakish angle on his head. The girl next to him seemed intent on the words of the girl in the center. She would listen to Denver and then watch the girl arguing with Denver before settling on a reaction of her own. Daniel sighed at the way things were drawing out. He noticed the boy on the end covertly squeezing a pimple on his chin. The boy caught his eye and quickly moved his hand.

"Denver we have heard all this before. You are wasting the court's valuable time."

"And you are ignoring the mess this whole freshie thing creates... it is unconstitutional..." Daniel shifted around to look at the small scattering of people in the classroom. Three girls were having a discussion about some school work behind him. A boy a little older than he was was taking shots on the wastebasket with a series of items he had pulled out of someone else's pencil case. Daniel blinked a few times and then turned back to the array of judges. It all seemed suddenly very odd.

"... Seniors have the authority over freshman behavior."

"We tutor them for God sake, that's all..."

It came to Daniel that the whole thing reminded him of the SRC at 7 th Avenue School. These were the same people he had avoided in middle school. There was a nerd on the end, the queen holding court and a bevy of girls waiting for her to give them some idea of what they should do or think. Daniel studied the shabby robes hanging awkwardly from their shoulders. They were all so self-important, yet nobody in the room was listening to them. All it had taken was one brief look from the teacher in the corner and they had backed away from making him shave his legs. Daniel thought about the sanity of Ms. Cannon's classroom and the safe zone she created by simply caring about their welfare. Daniel cleared his throat, "No."

It came out loudly and Denver paused to look at him before returning to his argument with the girl in the center. Denver felt Daniel tug his sleeve. He glanced at his Freshie.

"Let it go Denver. It's okay." Daniel looked sadly at him. Denver shook his head in irritation. It just wasn't fair. "I don't want to listen to this anymore. Let's get out of here. I want to find Mandy. Something just came to me."

"You are not going to..."

"No, I'm not paying the fine either. Well, I don't know. It's for the party at the end of the year right? Maybe I'll pay it. This doesn't matter Denver, just drop it okay? We don't need this. It's all stupid" Denver put his hand on Daniel's shoulder and they stood up together. Before they got to the door someone called out to Denver.

"Lighten up Denver. Why can't you have fun with this like everyone else?" Denver gave the girl the finger over his shoulder. "The court has not dismissed you yet!"

Daniel ignored the girl. Suddenly he had a desperate urge to find Mandy before their class started.


I get by with a little help from my friends, Monday Noon

Simon had spent a weary time tracking down a girl named Melissa with a senior named Tiffany. Simon took pride in working the system, but in the end he needed Ms. Cannon's help. He went to her and explained his problem. He needed the girl's time table. Ms. Cannon was privately upset to see Mandy and Daniel fighting. She knew it was not her business and young relationships rarely lasted, but she felt she should help. It didn't take her long to get the time table and after that Simon had no difficulty finding the girl.

Melissa thought Simon was just hitting on her when he appeared outside her science class. He had an easy time charming her into telling her story. Simon and Melissa had better luck finding Mandy than Daniel had. Simon sat Mandy down and made her listen to Melissa's story. "He was really nice. Most of them just pull their pants off and do it." It was an aweful thought and Mandy was repulsed. Simon studiously examined his finger nails. The girl was pretty in a way that reminded Mandy of Amber Klein. Mandy searched the girl's face looking for the truth. The girl met her skepticism with wide-eyed honesty. "It's what happened honest." The girl said. "Tiffany took him to Freshie court today. I was there `cause Tiffany was like really, really mad." The girl's earrings jangled slightly as she nodded her head to emphasize the importance of it all. Slack black lips chewed a wad of gum. Daniel would not cheat on her with this girl. Mandy believed the girl and gave her a hug. She had to find Daniel.

"Thanks for telling me Melissa." Mandy turned and kissed Simon. "I was wrong about you Simon. Thank you." Simon blushed. She had never seen him blush. She looked at the skinny grade nine with new affection.

"Give Daniel a break though. He is not some knight in shining armor." He was embarrassed by her praise.

"Silly Simon, of course he is and so are you. I need to find him."


Nowhere to run, Wednesday afternoon

Daniel couldn't find Mandy in the lunch room. The best thing he could do was head toward her locker in hopes of seeing her before class. He prayed that she had not gotten there before him. He sat on the floor with his back against her locker. He thought of Simon. His friend had been right. Daniel had been going about this all wrong. Students passed by Daniel and he looked at them with new eyes. Everyone seemed into their own world; mostly, people ignoring each other. A younger student bumped into someone bigger and got shoved away lightly. The boy shot a cautious glance at the irritated boy, but the older student dismissed the moment and returned to some joke he was sharing with his friends. An older girl lost a pencil case while she was answering her phone. Daniel recognized a girl from his class stoop to retrieve it. A quick exchange and the two girls parted. Conrad drifted into view. The two boys eyed each other with open hostility. I've got your number, thought Daniel. Conrad looked undecided. Clearly he had been on the same mission. Conrad seemed to concede Mandy's locker to Daniel, but he glanced up and down the hall before retreating in the direction Daniel assumed Mandy would take to her locker. Daniel smiled to himself; not a problem dick wad, I will strip her off your chunky arm as soon as I see her.

Daniel didn't see the three seniors until they were on top of him. Daniel had thought he recognized all the boys he needed to avoid. These three were new to him. He tried to calm himself. He was probably blocking someone's locker. Daniel pulled himself up and tried to step aside. A heavy set boy shoved him back into the locker.

"This was much easier than I thought it would be boys." A cell phone exchanged hands as the three boys consulted a picture. The heavy set boy held the phone up for Daniel. "This is you right?" Daniel stared at the grainy picture. Someone had apparently caught him sitting beside Denver at the freshie court. It was obviously him so all Daniel did was shrug. He waited warily for the three boys to get to their point.

"You are one smart ass kid did you know that?" they closed in on him. There was no where to go.

"You're senior is a big pussy. The faggot must be so hot for your stinky ass he can't lift his limp wrist to tune you in. Tiffany has a message for you." Someone reached out and hauled him off his feet. Daniel panicked and dropped his book bag next to the locker. This couldn't happen now. He had to stay here by the locker. Mandy would be coming.

"No, leave me alone!" They began dragging him toward the boy's washroom and Daniel started fighting back. The older boys just laughed. Daniel caught flashes of disapproving faces as he was dragged along. He heard the odd laugh, but he also heard a girl tell them to leave him alone. He hoped wildly that someone would stop the boys. The heavy set boy used Daniel's body as a ram to open the washroom door. He fell into a wall and before he could recover someone shoved him deeper into the washroom.

Daniel tried to push through them and escape back to the hallway. It didn't make sense. He just wanted to get back to the locker. Someone slapped him in the face and he leaned back against the wall looking desperately for help. There was a metallic taste in his mouth and he realized his nose was bleeding. As the seniors closed in on him he saw Conrad had followed them into the room. He appealed to Conrad with his eyes. Conrad's eyes were lidded and Daniel could not read his expression as he turned to leave. The three boys circled Daniel. Daniel thought, not this time and pushed against the bullies. They pushed him back toward the wall. He took a swing at one of the grade twelve's and received a hard blow to the stomach. Daniel crumpled to the floor and began to wretch. He saw the boy's shoes as he gasped for air and searched for the strength to make another attempt to break through.

* ** *

Mandy had circled as much of the school as she could. She had stopped to ask people if they had seen Daniel. She had even found a friend and borrowed a phone. Daniel had not answered her text message. That surprised her. Daniel had been trying to talk to her for days. He could not have given up or he would not have sent Simon find that girl. She concluded she would just have to meet him in class. Mandy felt terrible about how she had treated him. Why had she suddenly become such a jealous bitch? She paused when she saw Daniel's book bag at the foot of her locker. Mandy looking up and down the hall but he was not in sight. Conrad was leaning against the wall by the washroom. She watched him stop a couple of boys and direct them away from the washroom door. "Conrad, have you seen Daniel?"

Conrad finished with the two boys. Ass holes, they did not like being told to go somewhere else. He heard Mandy call out to him. God she was beautiful. It galled him. She wasn't going to pay any attention to him. He knew it now. He had protected her from the older guys and spent all his money on gas driving her around town. He thought she liked him, but without any warning she stopped taking rides. Without a word she stopped sitting next to him and when he phoned her after school she made stupid excuses. Conrad did not understand. It was like she had just used him, and she thought that little jock was the better man. There she was now clutching the kid's book bag to her like it was Daniel himself. Fuck, she showed more affection to the stupid bag than she did to Conrad. Little showboat punk, he was the football hero who saved the drama festival production. No effort and no commitment to the play. Conrad had spent hours studying his lines and talking with people about how they should be delivered. The little prick walked out onto the stage and fired out the lines like it was nothing to him. He had coached Mandy and all she had said to Conrad was "thanks, it was fun." What, Conrad thought bitterly, would she think if she saw her little friend now? He pointed at the door. "He's in the bathroom amusing some friends." Her smile faded and she seemed to sag. Conrad felt a little guilty. He stared at her a moment conscious of the voices and noises coming through the door. "Goodbye Mandy," Conrad whispered to himself and walked away.

The bell rang as Mandy stared after Conrad. The hallway cleared and still Daniel didn't come out of the washroom. She looked about feeling uncertain. She dropped the bag next to her locker and walked down to the washroom door. There were sounds, but she could not make them out. Finally she pushed the washroom door open and stifled a scream at what she saw. There seemed to be so much blood. Daniel's shirt was stained and ripped open. He had been pushed to his knees and two seniors had his arms pinned cruelly behind his back while he struggled with a third who was trying to force his penis through Daniel's closed lips. The older boy had handfuls of Daniel's hair in his hands. One of the huge boys snarled at her to get out and she backed away in panic. Daniel's eyes had been on her as the door closed. Mandy backed away from the door in shock and looked for some place to retreat to.

She should scream. She should call a teacher. She looked wildly up and down the hall. In her mind her panicked voice raised a fearful alarm. But the sound never came out. If she opened her mouth she knew she would break down completely. It would be Mandy tearfully pointing at the closed door before her. Concerned teachers would come out first to investigate. A crowd of curious students would follow, and then it would be everyone hearing Mandy babble the words that would let the whole school know that Daniel, her Daniel, was being sexually molested in the bathroom. Daniel would come out of that bathroom and everyone would see him and Mandy would not be the first person he had to face. He would not understand. She backed into the girl's washroom across the hall.

Back in the boys washroom Daniel closed his eyes to block the sight of Mandy's expression. Her look knocked the fight out of him and tears streaked his face as the first senior's cum covered his bloody lips. He stopped struggling and the two boys holding him freed his arms. A second boy moved around in front of him. Daniel sobbed loudly. Okay Simon, Daniel thought through his tears, it hardly matters now, but this one is for you. He drove a clenched fist hard into the soft flesh below the boy's fumbling fingers. The boy doubled over with a gasp and Daniel felt a hammer strike the side of his head. He was blinded by the concussion and fell on his side dazed. A toe drove into his belly as an after thought. Daniel looked off across the cracked terrazzo floor toward the dirty shoes shuffling around him. He thought he was done in. There was another half hearted kick. Daniel pulled himself onto his knees and sat on the filthy floor waiting for them to continue their assault or leave.


Redemption comes, Wednesday afternoon

Daniel was finally alone. He had fought, and that should have made him feel good, but nothing mattered anymore. Mandy had seen him. She knew what he was like now. The pretense was over. Daniel's shoulders hurt from the struggle. His stomach ached from the last kick and his sense of loss. He splashed some water on his face and watched the blood drip into the sink. He tried to wash the taste out of his mouth. It didn't seem as if he could.

When he pushed the door open the hallway was empty. He started for his locker. He had to get out of the school. "Daniel wait!" Daniel paused a moment and held onto the wall as his legs buckled. He couldn't handle Mandy now. He had no way to explain this to her so he continued slowly down the hall. They had been friends. She might still be nice to him later. "Daniel stop, I'm so sorry." He turned to put his head against the wall. He couldn't stop the tears. He didn't need her pity and he hated her seeing him like this.

Daniel flinched at the touch of her hands on his back. Mandy turned him gently around and kissed him on the lips. She held him tight and spoke gently to him. "It's alright Daniel. I know it hurts, but it doesn't matter." It wasn't what she meant. Of course it mattered. It had been terrible. Seeing Daniel's battered face brought fresh tears, but she felt a calm descend over her. She touched the crushed flesh beside his eye. "I'm not going anywhere. I love you. It's not your fault."

She had said the word he needed to hear. He looked at her and confessed "Jesus, I thought I had lost you." she smiled through her tears and brushed his wet hair back. She gave him another light kiss and this time he responded to her.

"Daniel, you can't win all the time." Daniel broke into sobs and nodded his head in agreement. "I talked to Melissa. I'm so sorry. Don't let them change you. Don't break Daniel. I need you so much." He sniffed and nodded again. "Let's get out of here."

Daniel stayed close to Mandy as she grabbed her coat from her locker and picked up Daniel's book bag. Mandy would not let him take it until he pulled it gently free from her grasp. He gave her a look and she understood. He had to take care of himself. She touched his chest to feel his strong heart beat. Before they left Daniel put a hand on the locker door, home safe, he thought. They moved furtively through the hallways avoiding security and the staff members in transit. The odd student looked at them curiously. At one corner Daniel pressed against the wall as vice-principal Cobbe strolled by with his radio. Daniel's head and body throbbed from the blows he had taken. Mandy clutched his arm and leaned her head into his shoulder. She felt good next to him. Daniel couldn't imagine being separated from Mandy at that moment. She was still with him; she was still his girl. Even if Cobbe saw him that would still be true.

They were at the door when they bumped into Simon. "You had me worried. Is everything all right?"

"Yeh, but we're going to skip the afternoon." Simon's eyes flicked down to the blood and back to Daniel's bruised face. Daniel raised an eyebrow as if to see if he had Simon's approval. Well at least they didn't break your pretty nose, Simon reflected.

"Mandy Cole and Daniel Murrell are going to play hooky together? Man the world is coming to an end." Daniel put a hand on his friend's shoulder and Mandy hugged Simon again. Simon watched them walk away.

* ** *

Karen waited for her scout to come back with news. Everyone else had made it to class that day. The two empty desks had generated no interest among the students. She had tried to let it go and set her mind to the rest of the class. The midwinter blues had the class in a hammer-lock and she knew she needed to shift gears with them and get some work out of the fourteen-year-olds before they were lost to spring fever.

Simon's patrol had lasted longer than she thought it would. He might have gotten caught by John or one of the security guards; she should not have let him go. She had just written all three of them off when Simon came through the door. Simon was too cool to cooperate with a teacher but when she walked past his desk he passed her a scrap of note. She read it as she continued down the isle. "He got jumped. They are skipping. It's cool. Don't worry." She would have liked to hear the rest of the story, but whatever had disrupted her class over the last week seemed to have been resolved.

Karen knew she was a romantic fool. Ever since she had seen them together as Romeo and Juliet she had come to irrationally believe in their fidelity. Other ninth grade crushes would come and go, but her little Romeo and Juliet would be true to death. It didn't make sense she knew. That disaster of a Halloween dance stayed in her mind. Daniel's costume had reminded her of his appearance on the football field: tight pants and padded shoulders emphasizing his young manhood. Mandy had been temporarily transformed into a stunning blond imitation of Franco Zeffirelli's Juliet. Karen always saw her that way now: Just a fourteen-year-old Juliet, hiding behind the foolish costume of her daily wear. No double suicide today she thought with relief.


Coming Clean, Wednesday afternoon

Mandy and Daniel ran from the school through the heavy snow. The fat flakes fell on their shoulders as they waited for the bus. They held hands but they didn't talk. They ended up at Daniel's apartment because he needed to clean up. Mandy waited until Daniel had stepped into the shower before she entered his room and gathered up his blood stained clothes. She held the clothes to her face a moment to breath in his scent, and then she busied herself cleaning the mess and starting the washer.

She sat on his bed for a moment and listened to the splash of water from Daniel's bathroom. Her heart pounded as she began to undress. She came through the door in turmoil, feeling she should turn back, or cover herself. Daniel was standing with his head bowed under the flood of water with a hand against the wall. His shoulders were broader than she remembered and his strong back curved sensually down to his narrow waist and high tight butt. His body hair was darker and heavier than she had thought it would be. As she stepped closer to him, her hesitation gone, he made a graceful move to brush the hair back and lift his face to the steaming water. The movement ended with a turn toward her as he realized he was not alone. Mandy's eyes widened at the sight of the rest of his sculpted frame.

Mandy was more than he had ever dreamed of. She had changed from the summer picture taken a mere nine months earlier. She was older; the curves deeper. He drank in the curve of her thighs, the broad hips and dark mound. The narrow waist and full breasts with their dark nipples stunned him. Later he would think back and remember other details, but the moment he looked at her face he was lost in her eyes. Daniel held a hand out to her in invitation. She came forward shyly with a small hesitation and he moved back to let her stand under the stream of water. The stream moved down her body following the curves. She rotated slowly under the shower and he watched until her back and heart shaped rear was turned toward him. He wanted to trace her curves with his hands. He touched her bare shoulders and she turned back for a kiss. She leaned forward to reduce the contact between their bodies. He understood then that she wasn't ready for more. She must have recognized this herself because she paused to read his reaction. Daniel smiled his joy back at her. It was okay he wanted to tell her, he could wait. Perhaps she understood because she offered him another kiss.

Mandy pulled Daniel back into the shower to get him wet again. She began to slowly wash him. The shampoo and soap and her gentle hands was so erotic that Daniel became aroused. Mandy was soaping his chest when he saw her look down at his rampant cock. She looked back into his eyes. "I can't help it" he confessed humbly. She looked down and grasped his long member with one hand and started to gently stroke it. She cupped his heavy balls with the other hand and tightened her grip around his shaft to learn how hard it was. They stood with his hard-on between them both seeming to study it as her hands explored its shape and texture. Daniel's ejaculation came quickly and splashed against her belly. She rubbed the head of the spent cock a little longer while it reacted to the aftershocks of his sudden earthquake. Their eyes met again, Daniel was embarrassed by his orgasm. Mandy kissed him without comment and they rinsed each other off.


A Promise, Wednesday afternoon

After that they needed to get out of the apartment away from the physical intimacy they had shared. Daniel let Mandy go to the mall and he patiently followed her into the shops. It was usually an agony he would have avoided. She didn't drag him into her considerations and she restricted herself to one purchase. Mandy's mother didn't make much on the force. Daniel thought the sales women would have considered the dumpy girl with the glasses and no fashion sense as a write-off until he heard her tell Mandy to wait until June when she could enjoy good clothes. Daniel should have guessed Mandy would know them all. Daniel thought he just might remember the name of the geek at his favorite game store.

School would be out now but there were not many people their age yet. They sat over a drink.

"You wouldn't talk to me" Daniel blurted out his pain and confusion. "You always talk to me."

"I'm sorry" Mandy collected her thoughts for a moment and toyed with the drink straw. "At first I was hurt. I know it seems stupid and selfish. Do you remember what they made you do at the freshie party?"

"Yes" Daniel's answer was low and he blushed. Mandy touched his hand for the first time since the shower and then pulled it back quickly.

"I know that bothered you. I mean, having to do that with another guy." Daniel counted bubbles on the side of his cup. "Somehow it never entered my mind that you might do things with girls too." Daniel gave her a quick look and returned to the fascinations of the cup. "It is hard thinking of you with other girls." Girls who were more willing to give their bodies completely to Daniel Mandy admitted to her self.

"I'm not that much" and he would believe that too the idiot. "You are the one with all the boys around you." It sounded so much like their fight that Daniel had to quickly add, "I'm sorry. I did not mean to say that. That was stupid I know."

Mandy sighed. "No, I thought about what you said in class and you were right. It was nice to having Conrad drive me around. I really did not think about how you felt. "

"Fucking bag of puss" it was a rare outburst from Daniel. Mandy thought Conrad was nice. Well she used to think he was nice. She could not excuse his being involved in what had happened at the school. She thought she understood it though.

"I have to go home soon. Mom has invited my Aunt Rose and Uncle Harold over for some boring birthday thing." Daniel nodded. Mandy was looking down at the drink between her hands. "Is that the way it always is?" Daniel took a sip of his drink to postpone his answer. She waited patiently for him to answer.

He glanced at her before responding "No not really. I was really surprised by that. Nothing like that has happened to me before, you know? I didn't think the seniors would do something so crazy. Do you think I should tell the school?" She grabbed his hand and squeezed it to get his attention.

"Don't lie to me please, tell me the truth. I need to understand." He looked at the appeal in her eyes then looked down at the scratched table top.

Daniel sighed. He did not know how much he should tell her. He did not know how much she was ready to accept about him. "Since school started I get jumped maybe twice, three times a month, a couple of times more. If I fight back, then that's the way it always is." He paused struggling to say this to her. "I haven't always fought back" he finished in a low voice. He looked over at her to gage her reaction. She had tears in her eyes.

"I know I have no right to ask you this Daniel, but I wish you wouldn't fight back." Daniel pulled his hand away and rubbed his eyes quickly. Denver and Simon came to mind. He knew what they thought. How could Daniel respect himself if he didn't fight it? Women were always asking guys to step off when there was trouble. He felt like he had been doing just that all year. It wasn't in him to let those guys win anymore. He would make them work for it from now on. It might be the wrong thing to do. He knew that a fight might be exactly what some of them wanted from him. Denver had said it was all about power. Daniel remembered the look in Jake's eyes that morning and he shivered. Even so he wasn't sure he could bend to Jake or anyone else any more. He glanced over to Mandy and saw that she was crying. He reached back for her hand. He knew he had to reassure her.

"I'll try." She looked at him searchingly. "They don't pick on me all the time." He tried to ease her mind. It was hard to talk about it. They had moved somewhere new in their relationship and he sensed they had to be straight with each other from now on. "What about you Mandy? Is the disguise worth it?" She laughed a little at that. It helped to break the mood.

"God I hate it. Sometimes I hate Claire for even suggesting I keep using it. I look in the mirror at school and I forget that this is not really me. I think of all the girls who look like this all the time." She blushed at the conceit implied by her words.

"I'll never forget what you look like." Their eyes locked and they both blushed remembering the afternoon shower.

"I've had trouble. Daniel, I had to suck... you know..." She trailed off unable to continue. "Mostly the seniors like to see us girls make out with each other." She looked into the distance. "I didn't think I could do that." She glanced at Daniel with a look of annoyance. "Why do you guys get so turned on watching girl on girl action?"

"I don't know" But he didn't say it wasn't a turn on. "The seniors seem to like to see us boys doing it to each other too." He got turned on doing it sometimes. Cocks just went on automatic pilot, but Daniel didn't understand why that would be a turn on to a straight guy watching.

"Boys with boys... are doing what I saw?"


After her afternoon in the shower she realized how strong Daniel's sex drive was. "You can't just turn it off can you?"

"Well I haven't found a switch yet." He blushed again. Then he got serious. He knew she had to go, but he didn't want the conversation to end till they were clear about things. "Mandy I can promise you that I will never do that with a girl" again he added silently. Until I can have you, he added to himself. He did not realize he had not included boys until later.

"Do you get...?" Mandy did not want to say fucked "I mean...?" Daniel tried to stay calm. Could he admit to what he had done with Denver and Jake to her? Could he ever tell her what he had done with Arlo? God damn it. He just knew Arlo was going to say something to her some day. Daniel let her off the hook.

"No, never; have you?" Mandy felt relief. She looked right at him wanting him to believe what she was about to say.

"Not yet."

Daniel was glad. He looked steadily at her and said with all the conviction of his battered fourteen-year-old manhood. "I will kill the son-of-a-bitch who tries to do that to you." Mandy stared at him for a beat. She realized she believed him and it was a little frightening to see that side of him. He had always seemed so gentle to her.

"I know girls who have. I know girls who want to." She thought about the girl she had just met, Melissa. Back off girl, he's mine.

"Boys too" replied Daniel thinking of his night with Denver and suddenly for the first time in days, Daniel thought of Laine.



"Yes, Arlo" She looked at her watch and decided she had to go. Daniel stood with her and they walked to the doors of the mall. She made him stop and wait while she ran into a store. She came back with a small gift bag and gave it to him. "Open it when I'm gone please" she blushed again. Daniel felt the weight of the bag and then walked her to the bus stop. They talked briefly about Arlo while they waited for her bus. When it came she kissed him quickly and "Sometimes shitty mornings can end beautifully Daniel." He nodded his head mutely and watched her go.

When the bus had pulled away he looked in the bag: soap on a rope. His mother never understood why he kept it on the shelf in his bedroom. She asked him why he didn't use it. He told her it wasn't time yet.

Riverview High School shooting during freshman hazing incident
Riverside Journal, February 24 th

Carl Ambrose, 14, whipped out a gun he'd been carrying when confronted by

five seniors bent on taking him with them as he was walking home. He had been subjected to intense high school freshman hazing. He fired a shot, wounding Theodore Lux, his peer mentor. The other four pummeled Ambrose, until two girls, Elizabeth Lyon and Margaret Pulse, picked up the gun and began firing in the air to scare off the four.



(to be continued)


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