***Please Note:  This story contains scenes depicting sexual acts between men and boys.  It also contains scenes depicting incestual sex.   If you are under the age of 18, or if it is illegal for you to read such material in your state, please do not read further.  If you are offended by this type of material, again, please do not read further.

This story is completely a work of fiction.  The characters and situations in the story exist solely in the author's imagination.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding this story, please email me.   Flames ignored.

For a list of my other stories, and info about me, go to my Website.

Well, guys, I guess this won't be the final chapter of the story.  I guess I have a little more to tell.  I don't know how long the story will continue, but it isn't finished yet.

I will be returning to writing Boys Of Summer soon.  There may be a few new things posted before I get back to that one.  I do want to finish it, and I hope that everyone will go back to reading it.  I know its been a while.  Sorry for that, but Christopher's Story demanded my complete attention.

I do have one story that I've been working on for quite some time that I'm thinking about posting soon.  It's called Celebrity.  Let me know if you're interested in reading it.  It needs a lot of polishing, because its a few years old, and some of the living celebrities that are mentioned in it are no longer of interest to me, but I'll post it when I'm done editing if you want to read it.


Christopher's Story

Copyright ©2002-03 Eric Draven®.

All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 25:


    I stood there, looking at Jim's back as he was about to answer the door, and the memories just washed over me.  Every little thing my mother had ever done to me flashed through my mind, and I hated her even more with every passing memory.  I couldn't wait to leave.  I couldn't wait to get away from Chicago and get away from her completely.  I'd never come back.  I was sure of that in that moment.  I would do everything in my power to stay as far away from my mother as I possibly could.  As far as I was concerned, they could keep her in jail forever.

    "Jeff," said Jim when he opened the door.   "Come on in."

    "Thank you," said my dad, stepping inside.

    "Chris has been anxiously awaiting your arrival," said Jim.

    "Hi dad," I said, trying to smile, but I just couldn't do it.

    "Hey Sport," he said.  "You ready to go?"

    "I'm all packed," I said quietly.

    "There are some things that he couldn't pack," said Jim.  "I'll make sure that they get to him, though."

    "Thanks Jim," said my father.

    Dad helped me carry my stuff down to the car.  We were quiet the whole time, and I didn't know what to say now.  Dad must have sensed that I didn't feel like talking, because he didn't say anything either.  I just had way too much on my mind to talk right now.  This was all happening very fast for me.

    When we were finished packing the car, my dad talked to Jim for a few minutes while I just stood there watching.  I don't know why, but this whole thing just had me in a daze.  It felt like it wasn't real, and I kept expecting to wake up and find that I had to go to school.

    "Chris," said Jim.  "Take care of yourself, ok?"

    "I will," I said just above a whisper.

    I did walk over to him and give him a hug.  I was going to miss Jim, and I didn't want to leave without at least doing something to let him know that.  He hugged me back and squeezed tight.  I don't know what my dad thought about that, but at that moment, I wasn't thinking about my dad.

    "Love you, kid," said Jim.

    "Love you, too," I said, letting go of him.

    I slept through most of the drive back to Springfield.   You'd think that I'd be too excited to sleep, but it seemed like as soon as my dad pulled away from the curb, my eyes snapped shut, and my head was against the head rest of the seat.  It was good sleep.  I didn't dream, and Dad finally woke me up when he stopped to get something to eat and use the bathroom.

    "Hungry?" he asked.  "I sure am. I didn't even get to have dinner."

    "I'm sorry," I said, following him into the truck stop.

    "Hey," he said, turning to face me.  "Don't be sorry, Chris. I'm happy that I missed dinner to come and get you."

    "Oh," I said dumbly.

    Inside the truck stop, and after we'd both used the facilities, we sat across from one another in a booth.  I continued to be quiet, and my dad tried to pull me into conversation several times, but I just couldn't keep up with it.  I was so tired, and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

    "Chris, are you alright?" he asked me.   "Did something happen?"

    "No, nothing happened," I said.  "My mom just got into an argument with a policeman, and she got arrested."

    "Jim told me that on the phone," he said.   "I was asking why the policeman was there to begin with."

    "Jim called the police on Zack," I said.

    "He did, huh?" asked Dad.

    "Its a long story," I said as our food arrived.   "I don't really want to talk about it right now."

    "OK," he said, eyeing me strangely.

    We ate in silence, and I kept catching my dad looking at me.   I knew that he had questions, and I knew that I needed to answer them, but right now I just couldn't.  I hoped that he'd understand.  I was happy to be going home, but I was just so tired, and all I wanted to do was go to sleep.

    "Evan doesn't even know you're coming," he said as we were both finishing our burgers.

    "He doesn't?" I asked.

    "Nope," he said, smiling.  "He was at school when Jim called. I just left him a note telling him that I would be back late and not to worry."

    "Oh," I said, looking down at my plate.

    We left the truck stop and got back on the highway, and I was asleep again almost instantly.  When I opened my eyes, I saw that we were in Springfield, and I was suddenly more tired than before.  I didn't understand why I was so tired.  I was getting what I wanted, and it should have made me excited, but I really just wanted to curl up somewhere and sleep for a week.

    Dad looked over and saw that I was awake.  He smiled at me, but he didn't say anything.  I was glad, but I felt guilty for not talking to him.  I had so many things to apologize to him for.  The list was getting endless.  I thought back to the day that my mother took me from Springfield and the way I'd treated my dad.

   "Are you really going to let her do this?" I'd asked him that day, fighting tears.

    "Chris, there really isn't anything I can do," he said.

   "You could fight for me," I said.   "But I guess I'm just not worth it."

    I turned and walked out of the room with him calling after me.  I went up to my room and grabbed my duffel bag.  I didn't even pay any attention to what I stuffed inside the bag.   When it was full, I turned around and saw Evan standing in the door way.

    "Chris, you really hurt Dad with that remark," he said.

    "Evan, I don't want to go," I said.   "She doesn't care, and Dad won't do anything about it."

    "He can't, Chris," said Evan.

    "Yes, he can," I said.   "Get out of the way, I have to leave."

    I shoved past him and walked out of the room.   The tears started before I even made it to the stairs.   I felt like shit for what I'd said to my father and my brother.  I didn't even know why I'd said those things.  What I wanted more than anything was for my father to stand up to my mother.   I didn't understand why he wouldn't do it.

    He was standing at the bottom of the stairs.   When I walked near him, he grabbed me and held me tight.

   "I'm so sorry, Christopher," he said.

    I didn't say anything.  I just stood rigid while he held me.  I could hear my mother honking the horn of her car outside, so I pulled away from him.  I looked up into his face and saw that he was crying.   I had to look away.

    "I have to go," I said with a shaky voice.   

    "I love you, Christopher," he said, but I just walked out the door.

    I sat there thinking about that day, and all I wanted to do was crawl under a rock.  I couldn't believe how selfish I'd been.  I knew that it must have been tearing my dad apart to have my mother do all of that, but at the time, all I could think about was myself.  Evan had once told me that if I wasn't careful, my resentment would turn into hatred, and then I would turn into someone that no one liked to be around.  I remember telling him that I would never become that person, but it sure looked like I was well on my way.

    "Your friends are going to be so happy to see you," said Dad, breaking me out of my memories.

    "I don't want to see anyone for a little bit, Dad," I said.  "I just want to go home and go to bed."

    "I understand, Son," he said.

    The word home had sounded so good in my head, but when I said it, it only felt like something that I was used to saying.  I didn't know what I'd expected when I was wishing for this day to come, but now that it was here, I just wished that none of this had ever happened.

    We pulled into the driveway, and I looked at the house that I'd longed to see for what seemed to be forever.  It looked the same as it always had.   Snow covered the lawn and the bushes in front of the windows.  Evan's car was parked next to us in the driveway, and I knew that he was inside.  I guessed that he was up in his room, because the lights were off downstairs.  The only light on that I could see was the entry light.

    "You go on in, and I'll bring in your stuff," said Dad as he put the car in park.

    "No, that's ok, I'll help," I replied, grabbing my back pack and getting out of the car.

    We grabbed everything at once, and went inside.  Dad flipped on lights as we went, and I just walked straight up the stairs back to my old bedroom.  When I opened the door, Evan looked up from his computer and smiled.   I had to admit that it was great to see him again, but I was too tired and too confused to do anything about it.

    "What are you doing here?" he asked, standing up to take one of my bags.

    "He's home to stay," said my father from behind me.

    "What happened?" asked Evan.  "I went to school, and when I came home you weren't here. Now you come back with Chris!"

    "We'll talk about all of that soon," said Dad, coming into the room with the rest of my bags.  "Right now, I think your brother wants to get some sleep."

    "It is kind of late," said Evan, glancing at his watch.

    "Do you work tomorrow?" asked Dad.

    "At nine," replied Evan.  "I'll be home by four."

    "That's good," said Dad.  "I'd like to spend a little time with both of you."

    I didn't know if I would be up for that or not.  At that moment, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and go to sleep.  I was so tired.   I searched through my back pack for my shorts, and then I went into the bathroom to change.  I avoided looking at myself in the mirror, because for some reason, I was afraid of what I would see in my reflection.

    When I came out of the bathroom, Evan was already in bed.   Dad was gone, and I could tell that Evan expected me to crawl into bed with him, because he was all the way against the wall.  I walked over to my old bed and crawled in there instead.  Evan didn't say anything, so I guessed that he just thought I needed some real sleep.  That was good, because I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

    I didn't wake up until well after noon the next day.  For a long time I just lay there in my bed, staring at the ceiling.  I tried hard not to think of anything, but memories have a way of barging in on you when you don't want their company, and I replayed every event from the day my mother took me to Chicago to last night.

    I didn't understand why I couldn't shake the feelings that had a grip on me.  I felt so tired, and I didn't even want to get out of bed.  My dad finally came up to get me up around two, and even then he had to tell me to get up four times before I dragged myself out of bed and went downstairs.

    He fixed me something to eat, but I wasn't really hungry.   I picked at the food for a while, and Dad came back into the kitchen to find me staring at my plate.  He didn't say anything, but I could tell that he wanted to say something.  After a little while longer, I emptied my plate into the garbage disposal and went back upstairs.  Before I knew it, I was back in bed again.

    I heard the phone wring a few times, and I was certain that it was my mother.  Dad never called to me to answer the phone, so I stopped worrying about it after a while.  I wasn't about to talk to anyone on the phone anyway.   I just wanted to stay in my room for the rest of the day.

    I thought about unpacking my stuff, but even that didn't seem to interest me much.  I lay there, staring at the ceiling again, thinking about things I didn't want to think about and wondering if I would ever stop thinking about it.   I thought about Zack and how much I hated him.  I thought about my mother and how much I hated her.  I even thought about Ken and how much I hated him.  It seemed like I hated a lot of people, and that really scared me.

   "You know, you'd better be careful," Evan's words ran through my mind.  "Sooner or later, that anger will turn into hatred, Chris. Then you will be a completely different person. You'll be a person that no one likes to be around."

    Was I that person now? I wondered.  Was I a person filled with so much hatred that no one would want to be around me now? I didn't want to be that way, but it was so hard not to hate those who had done so many cruel things to me.  I wanted nothing more than to see them suffer, and that really bothered me.

    What had happened in the time that I lived in Springfield bothered me, but not near as much as my feelings toward those who had either caused the events or let them happen.  Those thoughts made me shiver in fear, and I broke out in a cold sweat.  Before I knew it, I was crying like a baby.

    I wanted all of this to be over.  I wanted to go back to being the boy that I had been before it all happened.  I just didn't know how.  I didn't know what to think about other than how much I hated those people.  Evan had been right.  Anger turns to hatred, and hatred causes thoughts that can crush you with their weight.

    I cried myself to sleep, but I didn't escape my thoughts in slumber.  I dreamt about all of it.  I dreamt of what it would be like to hurt those people as much, and worse than they had hurt me.  It was an awful dream, but a part of me was thrilled by the visions in it.  I hated that part of myself.  I loathed it.

    I woke to Evan shaking me, and I tried to shrink into the bed away from his touch.  He looked at me with worried eyes for a few moments before smiling at me.  I tried to look him in the eye, but I just couldn't do it.  I looked away from him, and I knew that he'd know that something was wrong.

    "Chris, what's the matter?" he asked.  "Did I scare you or something?"

    "Evan, please just leave me alone for a while," I said softly, trying hard to keep from snapping at him.  After all, he hadn't done anything.

    It turned out that I'd use those same words for the rest of the weekend.  I did finally get out of bed and put my stuff away, but that was Sunday evening, and I only did it because my dad ordered me to.   He came into my room and sat on my bed.  He told me that he knew that I had been through a rough time, but I had to get up and at least try to let things go back to normal.

    It was like he was speaking gibberish to me.  I did get up and put my stuff away, but right after that, I was back in bed again.  Evan asked if I wanted him to help me set up my laptop, but I didn't answer him.  I just turned on my side and stared out the window at the snow.  I could hear him talking to me some more, but I didn't answer him at all.  Then I heard him leave the room, and a few minutes later, I heard him talking to my dad, but I didn't try to hear what they were saying.  I didn't care.

    The next day, my dad took me to the school and registered me for classes.  I didn't attend any that day, though.  We went back home, and I went back to my room.  I thought that my dad would try to stop me, but he went back to his own room to work on something.  I was glad he let me go.

    When Evan came home, he talked to me while he got ready for work, but I didn't say much of anything back to him.  He gave up after a few tries and went downstairs.  I heard him start his car and drive away, and then my dad was standing next to my bed.  He looked down at me for a few minutes without saying anything.

    "Chris, you have got to pull yourself together," he said finally.  "I thought you wanted to come home."

    "I did," I said simply.

    "Then why are you so unhappy?" he asked.

    "I don't know," I lied.

    "Talk to me, Chris," he said.

    "I can't," I replied truthfully.  I couldn't talk to him about it.  I couldn't talk to anyone about it, because I didn't know what to say.  I didn't know how to tell him that I was unhappy with myself.  It had nothing to do with coming home.  It was all about me.  I didn't know how to say any of that to him.

    He finally left the room and let me have my peace.  I was happy for that.  I stayed in bed for the rest of the day, and I was asleep before Evan got home.  I dreamt the same dreams again that night.   They were just as vivid and upsetting, and I kept waking up off and on throughout the night.

    In the morning, I was so tired, but my dad made me get up to get ready for school.  Evan drove me, and we were both silent in the car the whole way.  I knew that he wanted to talk to me, but I just couldn't talk to him.  He dropped me off at my school on his way to his own.  I saw Tommy and James as soon as I got out of the car.

    They both rushed over to me and started asking a million questions, but I just walked away from them and went inside.  They tried several times to talk to me, but I avoided them all the way through the day.  I didn't have the same lunch period as they did, so I didn't run into them at lunch.

    I couldn't tell you anything that went on in any of my classes that day.  The whole day was a blur to me.  When it was over, I waited until I knew all of the buses were gone, and then I walked home.  My dad was waiting in the living room for me when I got home.

    "Where have you been?" he asked.  "Tommy has called three times to see if you were home yet. He thought I picked you up."

    "I walked home," I said.   "I didn't feel like taking the bus."

    "Chris, you have got to stop this," he said.  I could hear the worry in his voice.  "I don't know what's bothering you exactly, but whatever it is, you've got to talk about it."

    "I can't, Dad," I said.   "I just can't."

    I walked out of the room and up the stairs.  When I got to my room, I flung my back pack over the chair at the desk that Evan wasn't using.  Then I crawled back into bed and stayed there until my father came to get me for supper.  Evan was home, but he hadn't come upstairs, so I wondered when he'd gotten there.

    We ate dinner together, but I picked at my food again.  Dad and Evan talked to each other, and they both tried to get me to join their conversation, but I didn't say more than a few words.  I only answered questions with simple answers, and they gave up shortly after they started trying.

    After supper, Dad asked me if I would load the dishes into the dish washer, and I did it without comment.  Then I went back to my room and got back into bed.  Evan stayed downstairs until it was time to go to bed, and he didn't talk to me when he came into the room.

    This went on for days.  Finally it was Christmas Vacation, and things still hadn't improved.  I knew that my dad and brother were worried about me, but I couldn't help it.  When my dad finally told me that he'd gotten the call about going to court over all of this, I just stared at him.

    "Chris, the judge is going to want to talk to you," he said.  "You're going to have to answer questions about what happened in Chicago. Do you think you can do that?"

    "I can do that," I said flatly.

    "He's going to ask you if you want to live here with us or with your mother," he said.

    "I'm never having anything to do with my mother again," I said hotly.  "As far as I'm concerned, I don't have a mother."

    That said, I went back to my room.   I knew that I shouldn't have just walked out on my dad like that, but I just couldn't talk to him about it.  I didn't know how to pull myself out of the slump that I was in.   I had what I wanted, so why couldn't I be happy about it?

    I started a painting with nothing in my mind about what I wanted it to look like.  I just painted, and after an hour, I noticed that I was only using the darker paints.  When Evan got home from work, my painting was almost done, and he stood in the doorway looking at it.

    "Chris, what is that supposed to be?" he asked, finally.

    "I'm not sure," I replied without turning to face him.  "I'm just painting the way I feel."

    "Don't take this wrong, but I don't like it," he said.  "Its too dark."

    "I think its supposed to be," I said.

    After that, he was quiet.  He just stood there, watching me paint, and I pored all of my unhappiness onto the canvas.  I tried to put all of my sorrow and confusion into it, and from Evan's comment, it seemed that I was succeeding.  I kept at it until my dad came in and told me that we really needed to talk.

    "Please put the paints away and come downstairs," he said.  Then he turned and walked out of the room.

    I cleaned everything up and went downstairs.  Dad was sitting in the living room on the couch.  The television wasn't on, and he had the most serious look on his face that I'd ever seen.  He looked up at me, and I could see worry in his eyes.  I'd known that this conversation was coming, but I was nowhere near ready for it.

    "What do you want to talk about?" I asked him, sitting down in the recliner.

    "You," he said.   "Chris, you are not happy, and I just want to know if there is anything that I can do to help you."

    "Dad, I don't know what's wrong with me," I said.  "I know that you and Evan are worried about me, and I try so hard to just let things go back to the way they used to be, but its hard."

    "Do you think that you would benefit from talking to someone?" he asked.

    "What do you mean?" I asked.

    "Well, it might be a good thing for you to talk to someone that isn't inside the family," he said.  "An impartial set of ears."

    "You mean a psychiatrist," I said.

    "No," he said quickly.   "I mean a councilor."

    We talked about what he wanted me to do, and I finally agreed to see a councilor.  I didn't think it would do me any good, but I wanted to show him that I was at least trying.  He seemed to relax after I told him that I'd go to a councilor, so I guess that I did the right thing.

    So, as agreed, I started talking with a councilor.  His name was David, and we met once a week.  At first, our sessions were kind of quiet as I tried hard to figure out how to tell him all that was on my mind, but after the first two or three, we were talking like friends, and he was giving me advice on how to deal with some of the feelings that I was having.

    When we finally went to court, it went really well.  I thought I would freak out, but David was there, and he had told me that I would be ok.  We went over some breathing techniques before it was time for me to talk to the judge, and that seemed to help.  Seeing my mother sitting there wasn't something that I had been looking forward to.

    Jim was there, too.  He wasn't there with my mother, though.  I figured that out as soon as she narrowed her eyes at him.   She looked as if she hadn't known that he would be coming.  I hoped that he had left my mother like he said he was going to.  He deserved better.

    The judge asked me to describe in my own words what living in Chicago had been like for me.  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, looked right at my mother and told the judge everything that had happened in Chicago.  A few times, I saw my father shake his head, and Evan didn't look me in the eye even once.

    When the judge asked me where I wanted to live, I told him that I wanted to stay with my father.  He asked if I had any desire to visit my mother, and I said no.  My mother tried to say something then, but the judge silenced her.  He told me that I had the right to decide if I wanted visits with her or not.  I assured him that I didn't want anything to do with her again.

    When we left the courtroom, Jim came over to us, and he smiled at me.  He talked to my dad for a few minutes, and then he asked me if I would take a short walk with him.  I looked at my dad, and he nodded his approval, so I followed Jim away from my dad and brother.

    "I'm proud of you, Chris," he said when we were away from everyone.  "It took a lot of courage to get up there and tell all of that."

    "I think it would have been easier if none of it was the truth," I said honestly.

    "Chris, I'm so sorry for not doing something to help you sooner than I did," he said, stopping and looking at me.   "There's no excuse for not stepping in before then, and I hope that you'll forgive me."

    I just looked at him.  I hadn't blamed him for not doing anything.  In fact, I'd never given it any thought.  I suppose that it was true that he could have done something at any time to stop what was happening.  I didn't hold anything against him, though.  He'd been there for me when I needed someone to talk to.  That was all that mattered to me.

    "Jim," I said.  "I don't hold anything against you."

    "Well, I'm glad that you don't," he replied, looking relieved.  "But I would understand if you did."

    "I don't, though," I said.

    "Your dad tells me that you've been having some problems," he said.  "I've called to check on you a few times."

    "You have?" I asked.  I couldn't believe that he'd called, and my dad hadn't told me.

    "I sure have," he said.   "I just hope that you can work through whatever is bothering you and get your life back to normal."

    "I'm trying," I replied.

    "I know you are," he said.   "I just wanted you to know that I'll be here for you any time you need me. If you need me."

    "Thank you," I said.   "Right now, I'm talking to a councilor, and we're working through some things together."

    "Your dad mentioned that," he said.

    "I'm glad to hear that you called to check on me, Jim," I said.

    "Hey, kiddo," he said, smiling.   "I told you that I thought of you as a son."

    "I know," I said.

    "I talked it over with your dad, and he says that I can come to visit you any time I want," he said.

    "I haven't really been visiting with anyone lately," I said.  "I've been kind of staying to myself."

    "Do you want me to come and visit you?" he asked.

    "Yes," I said.  "I'm going to try to be outgoing again. My dad is worried about me, and I hate to see him worry. I'm trying to get over all of this, but its hard, Jim."

    "You do know that Zack has been formally charged with sexual assault, right?" he asked.

    "My dad talked to me about that," I said.  "I have to go to court in Chicago to testify."

    "I told your dad that you guys could stay with me," he said.  "I don't know if you want to come to my apartment, though."

    "I think I'll be ok with that," I said.

    We walked back to my dad and Evan, and Jim talked to my dad for a while.  He said hello to Evan, and Evan hesitated before saying hello back.  I wanted to tell Evan that Jim was a good guy, but I just kept my mouth shut.  Then I watched as Jim got on the elevator.

    As Jim got on the elevator, James came off the elevator with a woman following close behind him.  He saw me, and he looked down.  I wondered what he was doing here.  I looked at Evan, but he was looking at James.  He walked over to him and I stood there with my dad.

    "How's it going?" I heard Evan ask James.

    "Its ok," replied James.   "We have to meet with the judge to discuss permanent arrangements."

    "Where's Cole?" asked Evan, looking around.

    "I don't think he knows that I'm here yet," he said.  "Cole doesn't live with us anymore."

    "I'm sorry to hear that," said Evan.

    "Its ok," said James.   "Cole and I haven't been getting along very well lately anyway."

    "I know, and I'm sorry about that," said Evan.  "I've tried talking to him about it, but he just tells me to mind my own business."

    "Thanks," he said.   "How's Chris?"

    I looked over at them when I heard my name.  I'd been listening to them, and I wondered just what was going on between James and Cole.  I'd have thought that Cole would have been understanding and protective of his brother.  Then I thought about how much I had ignored Evan since I'd come home, and I felt ashamed.

    "He's trying," said Evan, glancing over at me and catching me watching them.  "Its hard for him, though."

    "Evan, what happened in Chicago?" asked James, looking at me.

    "That's not something I should talk to you about," he replied.  "You'll have to talk to Chris about that."

    "Chris doesn't talk to me," he said.

    I'd decided that I'd heard enough.   I didn't want to stand there and listen to them talk about me like I wasn't there.   For some reason that just made me angry.  I asked Dad if we could go downstairs now, and he said goodbye to whoever he was talking to, and we made our way over to the elevator.

    The day that school started, everyone was looking at me and whispering.  They'd stop talking when I walked close to them, and I wondered just what was being said.  I hadn't done anything or said anything to anyone since I'd come back to the school, so I didn't think I'd said the "wrong" thing to someone.  I didn't have a clue what they were looking at me and talking about me for.

    It went on all day, there were giggles and whispers behind hands in almost every class.  At lunch, I finally found out why I was so popular.  Todd Reynolds and his friends came over to the table where I was sitting alone and sat down.  I looked up at them when they sat, but I lowered my gaze back to my half eaten tray just as quickly.  I wasn't in the mood to be friendly.

    "So I hear that you like guys," said Todd, and I snapped my head up and glared at him.

    "What are you talking about?" I demanded.

    "I heard about your little court room drama," he said, and his friends started to laugh.

    "Shut up, Todd," said James, coming up to us.

    "Oh, look, the other faggot's here now," said Todd, but now his friends weren't laughing.

    I looked at James, and I saw that Sheldon and a few other boys were walking over to the table.  I wondered just what they were going to do.  James looked at me for a second, and then he looked back at Todd.   I could see a mixture of hatred and dread in his eyes.

    "You know what happened to you the last time you talked about me," said James.  "I don't want to get into trouble again, but I will kick your ass if you don't shut your mouth."

    "Back off Jimmy Fag Boy," said Todd.  "You're all alone now."

    "No, he's not," said Sheldon, and Todd jerked his head around to see the other five boys standing behind him.  He hadn't turned to look at James, so he hadn't seen them coming.

    "Fine," said Todd, standing.   His friends followed suit.  They walked away, and James and Sheldon sat down.

    "Alright," said James.   "This has gone on long enough, Chris. Talk to me. Tell me to fuck off, tell me to go blow myself, but say something to me. I don't know why you're mad at me."

    "I'm not mad at you," I said.

    "Then what is it?" he asked.   "I thought we were becoming friends before you left. Did you decide while you were gone that I was scum or something?"

    "You aren't scum," I said, eyeing Sheldon.

    "Don't worry about Sheldon," said James.  "He was just leaving."

    "See you in gym," said Sheldon as he got up.

    "Alright, so what's going on?" asked James when Sheldon was out of ear shot.  "You don't talk to me, and every time I try to say something to you, you walk away before I can even get the words out of my mouth."

    "It has nothing to do with you, James," I said, looking down at my tray again.  The food would stay there.   I was no longer hungry.

    "Talk to me, damn it," said James.  "Chris, I want to be your friend. I know I was a dick to you and Tommy for a while before you left, but I swear that I'll be different. Just tell me why you don't like me."

    "I never said I didn't like you," I said.

    "Then what is it?" he asked.

    I could see that he was sincere about trying to be different.  I didn't know how to tell him that I just needed to sort some things out before I jumped into a bunch of friendships.  I was moody and cranky all the time, and the last thing I needed to do was start hanging out with someone and then start snapping at them all the time.

    "Its hard to explain," I replied.  "Some things happened to me in Chicago that I'm trying to come to terms with."

    "Maybe I could help," he said.   "You know what happened to me. Chris, that's why I was always so rude to everyone."

    "Maybe," I said, looking at my tray again.

    He called me at home later that day to see if I wanted to hang out.  Surprising myself, I said yes.  He came over, and for a long time, all we did was sit and watch a movie.  He didn't say anything to me, and I didn't say anything to him.  My dad kept checking in on us, but I think he was just happy that I was socializing.

    All through the movie, I kept wondering if he felt the same way about his dad and Josh as I felt about my mother and Zack.   It was hard thinking that I was the only one in the world that wished death on the people who had hurt me.  I felt like I was a monster, and that feeling wasn't something I could live with.

    Then, James reached over and took my hand.  It startled me at first, but I didn't pull away.  It was nice to be touched by someone who wasn't going to hurt me.  At least, I hoped that James wasn't going to try to hurt me.  I really needed a friend.  We just sat there for a while with him holding my hand.

    "You know, whatever it is, Chris, you can talk to me about it," he said finally.  "I think I would understand."

    "Its just hard, James," I said.   "I don't know how to talk about it."

    "When you're ready," he said.

    A little while later, my dad announced that it was time for James to go home.  I hated to see him leave, but it was getting late, and I had to go to bed.  Evan wasn't home yet, but I assumed that he was at work.  I went back upstairs to my room, but when I got ready for bed, I decided that I was done sleeping alone.  I crawled into Evan's bed.  Surprisingly, I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

    "Hey you," said Evan, waking me up when he came into the room.  "Cozy?"

    "Waiting for you," I said, lifting the cover and waiting for him to crawl into bed.  His hair was damp, so I knew he'd just come out of the shower.  I could smell the soap on him.

    "You ok with this?" he asked as he crawled under the covers.

    "Just hold me, Evan," I said, and then his arms were around me.