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I walked through the front door with my backpack in tow, determined to reveal the truth. I was scared, and I knew I had to do it right now, while I had her to myself. If I didn't, there was no telling when he would stop.
I went to my room and changed out of my school clothes, then I went to the bathroom and came back downstairs to the living room where I knew I could find her. I took a seat next to her and proceeded to tell her everything that was happening. It seemed like she couldn't be bothered at fist, but as soon as the commercials started, she paid attention to what I was telling her.
That's when she snapped. The rage she was in told me that I should have kept my mouth closed as she slapped me as hard as she could, over and over. Then she told me that I disgusted her and to get out of her site. Before I could move though, she grabbed my hair at the top and ran me up the stairs, where Billy was waiting for me.
My dad was there too, and he linked arms with my mom, laughing along with her, pointing at me and calling me names as Billy forced himself on me repeatedly. I cried and begged them for help, but neither one of them would do anything. Instead, my mom and dad both spat at me and told me to think about what I had put my little brother through. I tried to tell them I hadn't done anything to him, but they both made it clear that they didn't believe me.
"This must be a bad dream," I told myself as both the sexual and verbal abuse continued to happen despite my pleas. I used my hands to slap myself across the face and when I felt the sting of the contact the palm of my hand was making with my face, I realized that it was real, and I screamed at the top of my lungs.
I sat straight up in my bed and gasped as the door to my room opened and my dad hit the light switch, then, as if I had no control of my emotions, I let my body fall over onto my mattress and started to cry. The fact that I was only having a nightmare was no consolation to me. The profound feeling of panic and fear I had at that very moment was too vivid, and I knew that my nightmare wasn't just a product of my imagination. It had been my reality.
I could hear my grandparents' voices from the hallway, worried about what had caused my outburst. My dad told them that I was just having a nightmare and that he would take care of it, so they went back in their room.
"Hey son," he said softly as he climbed into my bed and pulled me up so he could console me. "Did you have a nightmare?"
"Yes," I cried, feeling silly about not being able to stop, but at the same time, vulnerable. "Why did it happen, dad? Why did he do it?"
As soon as those words came out, I broke down and cried even harder. I cried because someone had hurt me in a way I could never measure. I also cried because the two people I loved and trusted more than anyone in the world wouldn't help me. They both knew and they did nothing.
The details of my dream were still fresh in my mind, and I could still see the image of my mom and dad standing arm in arm the way I had always wished I could see them stand before, but they were hurting me. Their union was unholy, and I was the sacrifice. I knew that my dream was threaded in reality, even if those circumstances were a thing of the past.
"No one helped me," I croaked as a new set of tears poured out of my eyes, and when I looked up at my dad, I could see the guilt on his face. My intention wasn't to make him feel bad, or to tell him I was mad at him for leaving me to Billy's devices, but I knew that I had. Strangely, though, I had no regrets about doing so. It didn't make me feel happy or vindicated in the least, but I didn't feel sorry for the way he felt, either.
"I want you to sit up, Kevin," my dad said softly, so I followed his order. He wrapped his arm around me and let out a long sigh, then he continued.
"There's no way for me to ever make up for what happened, son," he said in a thoughtful tone. "But what I can do is start right now. Son, I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. It was wrong of me, and I should've done better for you. It's my job to protect you, but..."
His voice cracked a little and when I looked up I saw his eyes moistening. I knew he was sorry. Not just by his words, but by his expression. I knew he was living with the guilt of the past six months, and that it might take him a lifetime to live down the shame he felt.
I sat up on my knees and gave him a kiss on the cheek, and he wrapped both of his arms around me and hugged me tightly. Every once in a while, he wiped the tears from my cheek with his hand as new ones fell, taking their place. I felt better for a moment, knowing that he was there with me, but I wondered what was in our future. His actions that night gave me the answer I was seeking.
He told me to get up and go to the bathroom before I went back to sleep, and I did what I was told. When I got back to my room, my dad was sitting in a chair that was next to my closet. It was an older chair, probably something my grandparent's had bought brand new before my dad was ever born. It looked like something out of the nineteen sixties, with a gaudy green vinyl material and ugly flower patterns.
Still, it was a comfortable chair. I had sat in it plenty of times myself to read quietly or just to think. I always draped my left leg over the arm rest, finding that I was most comfortable that way. My dad was sitting in it the same way, looking stressed and tired. When I saw him move to get up, I decided to walk to him and give him another hug. He looked like he really needed one.
As I approached him he took his leg down and held his arms out for me, so I walked into them and let him lift me up into his lap. He wrapped me up in his arms and held me close, rocking me back and forth and kissing the top of my head.
"I love you Kevin," he said as I felt his arms tighten around my frame. "I'm so sorry for what happened, son. I can't make that go away, bud, but I can promise you that from now on, no one's going to get the chance to hurt you again."
"I love you too, daddy," I said meekly as I thought about the promise he had just made me. "I'll be good. I promise I'll be good. Just don't leave me again."
"I know you will, son," he said as he planted a kiss on my forehead. "I don't want you to worry about a thing, either. I'm not going anywhere."
When I fell asleep, I was still with him in the chair, and I could feel his hand moving up and down my back. Every once in a while, I would wake up a little, but not completely. Just enough to know that he still had me in his lap and that he was still there protecting me. I could hear his light snoring, and I knew he had fallen asleep too.
When I opened my eyes again, it was morning and the smell of coffee and the sound of the news was all around me. I looked up and saw my dad taking a sip out of his mug, feeling a cool breeze flowing over me as my eyes focused. At some point, my dad had gotten up and moved out to the family room. I smiled to myself when I realized that he had taken me with him, keeping me in his arms the entire night. When he saw that I was up, he smiled down at me.
"Hey buddy," he said. "Did you sleep good?" I smiled and nodded as he set his mug down on a coaster and used both his hands to lift me so that I was sitting straight up on his lap.
"Are you hungry for some breakfast?" he asked. "Grandma made some fried potatoes and bacon." Once again I smiled and nodded at him, then I laid my head up against his chest and yawned.
We sat together for a few more moments on the couch, then he scooted me off of his lap so I could go to the bathroom and wash my hands and face before breakfast. I looked at the clock, taking note of the fact that it was almost seven o'clock, and that I still had to get ready for school. My dad didn't seem to be concerned with getting me off to school on time, though. During breakfast we chatted about different things that seemed to have nothing to do with school or being late for it.
When I mentioned the fact that I had to get moving or I was going to be late, he told me not to worry, that he would drive me to school and go to the office for me. That's when I shrugged and stopped worrying about being tardy for class. By the time we got out the door, I could hear the bell for school ringing and I knew I was late for first period.
"Listen, buddy," my dad said as we pulled up to the front of the school. "We still need to have a talk when you get home, okay?"
"Okay, dad," I said, feeling more nervous about being late than anything.
When I got home, my dad was waiting for me. He looked to be in a serious mood, and I wondered what he wanted to tell me. I knew it had something to do with what had brought him to Pittsburg, but somehow, I expected him to tell me that the two of us were going to move into our own house in Modesto.
My grandparents weren't there, and it almost seemed to me like they were absent by design. They were never gone in the afternoon. I knew that whatever my dad wanted to talk to me about must have been serious if they had gone to such great lengths to ensure our privacy. He helped me with my backpack, hanging it on the back of a chair in the kitchen, then he had me sit with him on the couch.
"So did you have a good day at school, son?" he asked casually as he took a seat next to me. I smiled and nodded my reply, then I watched him clear his throat and straighten up.
"Son, I know we've talked about this before," he started to say, then he stopped and took a deep breath before he continued. "Do you understand what happened to your brother?"
I looked up and nodded, feeling more nervous that I had at any point since the day I had come to live with my grandparents. He slowly nodded his acknowledgment of my reply, then he continued.
"Can you tell me what you know about his birthday party?" he asked, and I scratched my head a little and thought about his question. My memory of my little stepbrother's birthday party was sketchy at best, and I couldn't understand why. It seemed chaotic to me, the way everything happened.
I could remember and described in great detail to my father the party that they threw for him, and I can remember the new set of bunk beds in his room that day. He wanted to show them off to everyone, and I was no exception. While I was in there, though, something else had happened. At the time I couldn't quite place it, but I knew something was off.
Someone else was in the room with us. I remembered it clearly, too. As it all came rushing back to me, it seemed so surreal. I never would have suspected that the person who was there with us would have hurt my little brother that way. Yet, I never saw a thing.
"Kevin, go get a piece of cake and give us some time to visit by ourselves," were the last words I remember hearing as I was ushered out of my brothers room. I took it as an order, and maybe as a little bit of rejection from someone who I barely knew. I think I saw that person one more time at the party, and upon reflection, it had become obvious what had happened.
The look on my dad's face was pure rage as I spilled my guts out to him, but I knew I wasn't telling him anything he didn't already know. I was merely confirming facts. Facts he had learned about, and maybe I was adding to the knowledge he already had.
"Son, why don't you start your homework while I make a phone call?" he suggested as he got up and walked to the kitchen. He picked the cordless phone up to dial a number and walked back to his room and closed his bedroom door while I tried my hardest to concentrate on my homework.
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