8th Grade by Cole Parker

Sometimes the kids don’t like a teacher.
Sometimes a teacher doesn’t like the kids.
That could be. . . awkward.

Chapter 7

My dad called me into the living room after Brad had left. Mom had already gone to bed. I sat down on the couch next to his wheelchair.

“Danny,” he said, “I’m glad you had Brad over. You two sounded like you were having so much fun together. I haven’t heard you laugh like that for ages. It made my heart happy. You need to spend time with kids your own age and not so much with me and your mother or alone. You’ll never know how much we appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made for us, but you need to be a kid. Brad seems so nice, and he sounds like he’s known you for years, the way you joke together. He sounds like he really likes you and wants to spend time with you. I think you want to do that, too.  I think that because what I also hear is something in your voice when you talk to him, something that I haven’t heard before.”

He stopped talking, obviously wanting me to respond to his line of thought without him having to ask too much, and I didn’t know what to say. I was always honest with him, which is why we were so close. You start hiding things from people, especially important things like your feelings, and you just can’t be as close with them as you want to be. The problem was, I wasn’t sure just what I felt. But then, I thought, isn’t that what having a someone you could talk to was for, wasn’t it to have someone to bounce things off, to get advice from, to get support? I trusted him to be on my side. So, I said to myself, ‘the hell with it, let’s get this over with,’ and I just started talking.

“Dad, you heard right. I like Brad, I like him a lot. I mean, I haven’t had a friend my age for a couple years and having him to share things with is great. Being able to spend time with him, just being around him is making me feel better about things than I’ve felt for a long time. His presence seems to let me release pressure I didn’t even realize I had in me. But also, I’m feeling things when I’m with him, even when I just think about him, that I’ve never felt before, and I’m not sure what they mean. I’m a little confused, a little scared, but also very excited. It’s really difficult to even talk to you about this because I haven’t figured it out in my own head yet. I don’t know what it all means.”

Dad was looking at me—well, this head was focused in my direction—and he was listening intently. Now, he reached his hand out and I took it. He grasped onto mine. “Danny,” he said softly, compassionately, “you’re thirteen. At that age everything is new and confusing. You’ll have crushes on your friends, on people you see at school that you don’t even know but who look good to you. You’ll see a girl toss her head, flip her pony tail, and you’ll fall in love. You’ll see a cute boy stoop to pick up some papers he dropped and somehow, the scowl on his face while he’s doing it will be so endearing it will almost overwhelm you. This isn’t anything for you to worry about. You should enjoy it! It’s fun, being overcome with the beauty and vitality of life around you. These crushes are wild and exciting and the boy you fall in love with today will mean nothing to you tomorrow. The girl who gets you hot and bothered tomorrow with her looks will speak to you the day after and you’ll fall out of love with her the second you come in contact with her brain.”

He paused, thought for a second, then continued. “I think what you’re saying to me is you have feelings for Brad, romantic feelings?” I started to nod, then said softly, “Yes.

He nodded. “It’s probably scary thinking you might have feelings for Brad that go beyond mere friendship. But don’t be scared. Be his friend. Spend as much time with him as either of you want to spend. What happens, happens. You’ll either both feel an attraction that will build, or one or both of you will only want to be friends. Maybe great and lifelong friends, maybe just good friends. Things have a way of settling themselves, of working themselves out. Sometimes, they change with time. But experiencing them rather than rejecting them is something you need to do. Don’t be afraid of life. Don’t be afraid to experience the highs and even the lows that it has for you. If you’re afraid to put yourself in a place where these things can happen, you’re denying yourself the chance to live. You like Brad a lot. You just said so. So don’t be afraid to spend time with him and get to like him even better, if that’s what happens.”

Well, I thought, here goes. “But Dad, what if that means, well, might that mean I’m gay? What if the attraction does grow, and we feel the same way about each other. What then?”

“That might happen. Sure, it could. Or you might not fall in love with him but simply strengthen your friendship. Would either one of those things be a tragedy? Wouldn’t it be more of a tragedy to either deny yourself the chance to be happy or not have the chance to grow into a deep friendship because you’re afraid of what never might happen? Being gay isn’t something you can do anything about; living a happy and full life is something you can either work for, strive for and make happen, or avoid through fear. I don’t want to see you avoiding life because you’re afraid of how messy it might be or for some other equally absurd reason.”

I leaned over a hugged my father, hard, and just held onto him for a minute. “Dad, thank you,” I eventually almost whimpered. “You have no idea what that means to me. You’re there for me, and I really need that right now. You’re right, I’m scared, scared of a lot of things. The kids at school, my own feelings, that Brad will get tired of me, how complicated this is going to be, whether I’ll even feel the same things I’m feeling now next week. But one fear I won’t have now is that you’ll be upset or disappointed. Thanks. You’re just the best. I love you, Dad.”

“Me too, Danny. Hey, I want you to tell Brad tomorrow you’ll spend Friday night with him, and when you do, you have the best time you can with him. He wants to be your friend; you can hear it in the way he talks to you. Let him be. Okay, that’s enough advice for tonight. The office is closed. Now, how about a dish of ice cream?”

--- --- {} --- ---

The next day at school, Brad met me by my locker. I told him I could spend the night Friday and he got a huge smile on his face. “That’s great, Danny! It’ll be cool! What time can you come over?”

“Well, actually, if you want, I could come home after school with you and eat there too. It’ll save your parents a trip driving over to my house to get me. My dad says he’ll have some Chinese food delivered when mom comes home and I should just go enjoy myself. Is that okay? I don’t want to invite myself or anything.”

“No, that’s great! I can hardly wait till tomorrow! I have to watch the team’s practice scrimmage right after school, but if you want to come too and watch it with me, my mother can drive us home after that. How does that sound? This is neat!”

I had a hard time keeping from laughing at his enthusiasm, and then, remembering my father’s message, I thought, why not laugh? So I did, he looked at me and grinned sheepishly and got that warm look in his eyes I couldn’t quite comprehend, and I told him, “Works for me. I’ll bring my stuff to school in a gym bag and be ready to go when you are.”

And that’s what we did. That’s how I ended up spending the night with Brad Decker.  


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This story is Copyright © 2004-2018 by Cole Parker; the image is Copyright © 2017-2018 by Colin Kelly; the original image is by elizabethaferry under the Terms of the Creative Commons License CC0 from pixabay.com #417612. They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story and use the images. No other rights are granted.

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This story may contain occasional references to minors who are or may be gay. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG (in a more enlightened time it would be rated G). If reading this type of material is illegal where you live, or if you are too young to read this type of material based on the laws where you live, or if your parents don't want you to read this type of material, or if you find this type of material morally or otherwise objectionable, or if you don’t want to be here, close your browser now. The author neither condones nor advocates the violation of any laws. If you want to be here, but aren’t supposed to be here, be careful and don't get caught!