When Kyle Parker returns home from school one afternoon, he finds a strange boy sitting on his doorstep. He takes him into his home and quickly becomes intrigued by his mysterious visitor. Who is he? What does he want? Kyle is determined to get some answers, but is he ready to hear what the boy has to say?
It was the first week of school, and we were holding our first GSA meeting. It was the most crowded GSA meeting I’d ever seen. This was Club Rush Week, and we’d done our best to get a large turnout. I was the GSA newsletter editor this school year, and I’d been able to get an article I’d written printed in the teen section of last week’s local paper, the Journal. Apparently it had worked, because the classroom we were in wasn’t designed for so many people.
I was standing at the snack table. I wanted to get one of Bobby’s homemade chocolate chip cookies before they were all gone. I was too late. Bummer! Laurel pushed her way through the crowd, grabbed me by the arm, pulled me down, and talked into my left ear so I could hear her over the noise of the group. “Kyle, this is so amazing! There must be a hundred people here!”
I laughed. “I sort of noticed. How many have signed up?”
“Don’t know. After the meeting’s over let’s find out. But I wanted to be the first to say what a fantastic column you wrote for last week’s Teen Scene. I’m sure it’s why we have such a huge crowd.”
I blushed. I always blush when I’m complimented. “Thanks, and your posters all over the campus sure helped remind kids and got them to come and see what we’re all about. I hope they didn’t just come to scarf up the goodies, and that we get a lot signing up.”
A voice from the front of the classroom interrupted our conversation. It was our faculty advisor, Ms. De La Cruz.
“Can I have your attention for a minute? I’m happy to see so many of you signing up on the club roster. Welcome! If you haven’t made up your mind yet, please take one of our flyers. Anyone can come to all of our meetings, whether they join or not. And remember, there are no dues! Now, we’re going to end the meeting in about five minutes, the janitors want to come through and bulldoze the room.”
There was a smattering of laughter, and when I looked at Laurel she rolled her eyes. Ms. De La Cruz tries to be funny, but… well, she probably shouldn’t.
“And be sure to stop by our refreshment table. We don’t want to have to bring any of the goodies home with us.” Now, that was funny. Ms. De La Cruz was, to be kind, chubby. She had a sweet tooth that was famous around school. There was some laughter from the kids who’d been members last year, and those who had her as a teacher.
“Come on, Laurel, let’s get out of the way before the feeding frenzy starts.” I grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the sign-up table next to the door.
“Afraid that some cute guy might try to kneel down and bite you, Kyle?”
Laurel had a real potty mouth, but what she said was almost always funny.
“Only in my dreams, honey!”
“Oooo! You’re gonna hafta tell me about those dreams some day.”
I laughed at her. “Only in your dreams, honey!” That made her laugh, too.
We’d finally gotten through the crowd and watched as a bunch of kids wrote their names and showed their student body cards to the three GSA members who were manning the sign up table. I shook my head.
“I almost don’t believe it. When you and I joined GSA last year there were what, maybe eight members? By the end of the year we had almost 40. Now look at how many are signing up.”
Laurel smiled. She was GSA president last year, and she turned the club around. Ms. De La Cruz had called it ‘moribund’ which was a good description, even if she used a fancy word for ‘dead’. By the time last year’s Club Rush Week started Laurel had personally plastered the campus with GSA posters, large black printing on posterboard of different bright colors. There were two of them. One had a headline aimed more at straight kids:
COME STRAIGHT TO THE GSA CLUB RUSH
SEPTEMBER 7th IN ROOM 411 AT 3:15
The other poster was for gay kids or those who weren’t sure about their sexuality yet:
MEET WITH A GREAT GROUP OF KIDS WHO DON’T CARE
IF YOU’RE BENT OR STRAIGHT OR SOME OF BOTH
GSA CLUB RUSH
SEPTEMBER 7th IN ROOM 411 AT 3:15
Laurel claimed it was the last line on each poster that had gotten us a great turnout. Maybe so, but whatever the reason, we had 35 kids sign up last year. Laurel insisted that we never ask anyone what their sexual orientation was. She said that was a private matter, and it was up to each person whether to tell others or not. She also arranged for fantastic programs. Sure, there were some uncomfortable topics, but at each meeting most of what was presented was positive. ‘Happy News’ she called it. She had the Community Services Officer from the Police Department come and talk about their outreach program for LGBT youth. She had two doctors from the medical center come and talk about STD’s and how to keep safe. She showed a video of an HBO program about kids with Tourette Syndrome to show that discrimination isn’t something that only LGBT youth face. She had three guys who played on the community college paraplegic basketball team talk about how they overcame their disabilities and how LGBT kids can organize together to have fun in a supportive environment. She put on a program for parents on teen sexuality and what parents should do when their kid comes out to them. The programs were so successful we started getting more drop-ins than members. That was fine with us, the important thing was that our message was getting out.
We used the same poster designs this year, just changed the date to September 6th. That, and my article in the Journal, seemed to generate this year’s huge turnout.
Finally, everyone had left except for those of us who were club officers and Ms. De La Cruz. She looked at the sign up list.
“I’m amazed. There are 81 names on this list, plus 30 members who are back from last year. I think we might be the largest club on campus.” Her smile was infectious, and we were all smiling and high-fiving and hugging each other.
She turned and looked for the goodies that were left over. There were no goodies left over. She pouted, put her fists on her hips, and turned back to look at us.
“Someone could have saved one of Bobby’s chocolate chip cookies for me!” Then she grinned to show that she was just kidding.
Bobby was still sitting behind the sign up table. “Hey, Ms. Del La Cruz, I saved y’all a few.” He reached into his backpack and pulled out a baggie with what looked like a dozen cookies.
“Oh, you lead me down the path of temptation, you bad boy, you!” We all busted up laughing because as she was saying that she had reached over and grabbed the baggie, and was holding it to her bosom like it was one of the most valuable things in the world.
We stood around and talked for a few minutes more, and Laurel said the Executive Committee, a fancy title for those of us who she “volunteered” to be responsible for running the club, would meet Monday right after school. Then the meeting broke up, and the janitor did come in to sweep the floor.
I grabbed my backpack and left with Laurel and Bobby.
“Ya walkin’ or takin’ the bus, Kyle? My mom can give ya’a ride if y’all want.”
“Hey, Bobby, that would be great!” I looked at my watch. It was 4:35. “I want to get home and finish my AP Geography homework so I have all three days without having any homework to do.” This was Thursday, and tomorrow was a teachers’ conference day so there was no school. I’d been able to do all of my Pre-Calc and U.S. History homework in class, so the only thing left was my Geography homework which was already 90% done.
“Hey, there’s Mom. Gotta go. See you guys on Monday.” Laurel walked to a bright canary-yellow Hummer in the parking lot.
“I don’ un’nerstan why anyone would wanna gas guzzler like that ‘un.” Bobby was well-known on campus as an eco-freak. He had started the Ecology club when he was a freshman. Actually, I agreed with him, so I was a member of the Ecology club.
He looked around and shouted, “Hey, Mom!” and waved at his mother who was parked in the shade in a green (of course) Prius. We walked to the car, and Bobby introduced me to his mother. I was amazed that she didn’t have a Southern accent like Bobby.
“Nice to meet you, Kyle. Bobby’s told me a lot about you.” I blushed, and could feel my ears getting hot and turning red.
“Uh, nice to meet you, Mrs. Fuller.”
We got in, and I told Mrs. Fuller where I lived. She said it wasn’t too far out of her way, and we headed out. She asked Bobby about the meeting.
“We’ve gotten 81 new kids signed up, Mom! 81, imagine that! We’re gonna have over 100 members this year. We’ll be ‘bout th’biggest club at school.”
We chatted about the Club Rush, about Ms. De La Cruz and the chocolate chip cookies, about my article about the GSA in the Journal, about Bobby wanting to be a chef, preferably a pastry chef, about what we’d be doing with our three-day weekend, about the football game Friday night, about the hot weather, about homework. It was typical of what teens talk about when a parent is around. It was cool that Mrs. Fuller was okay with Bobby being gay, and talking to him about it while I was there too. That made me grin, which made Bobby ask me what was so funny, and I had to make up an excuse about Ms. De La Cruz and the cookies.
“Uh, Mrs. Fuller, why don’t you drop me off at the next corner. It’s only a few blocks from there to my house, and I feel like I need the exercise.”
She looked at me through the rear-view mirror. “Okay, if you’re sure, Kyle. It’s no problem for me to take you right to your house.”
“It’s okay. Besides, Kendall Avenue is being dug up to fix a water pipe or something, so it’s a real hassle driving to my house, you’d hafta take a long detour.”
“All right. Here we are.”
She pulled over to the curb, and I got out. I leaned in the passenger window and Bobby and I linked our index fingers together in a handshake. “See you Monday, Bobby.”
“See ya, Kyle! Have a good ‘un!”
“Will do, and you, too. Thanks again for the ride, Mrs. Fuller.”
“Any time, Kyle.”
I turned and walked up Crestview to Kendall. Kendall was closed, and there was that yellow tape strung across both the street and the sidewalks on both sides. There were no workmen around, so I just walked around the tape and up Kendall to Lupin, and on to my house. Mom would have to use the back way to get home tonight. I made a mental note to call her and let her know.
When I turned up our driveway I saw that someone was sitting on our front porch. It was a boy. As I got closer and could see him more clearly in the shade of the porch, and it looked like he was about my age. There was a backpack and a gym bag on the porch next to where he was sitting. He had a serious kind of expression.
“Uh, hi. Can I help you? Uh, I live here.”
I could see him looking me over.
“Is this where Barbara Parker lives? Do I have the right house?”
“My mom is Barbara Parker.”
“Oh. Good. I need to talk to her.”
I stood there, looking at him, for about ten seconds, waiting for him to say something else. Ten second is a really long time. The silence was getting very awkward.
“Uh, can you tell me what it’s about? That you want to talk to her about? I’m her son, Kyle. Kyle Parker.”
He stared at me for a few seconds. “It’s sort of private. I really need to talk to her. When will she be here?”
“She’s working a late shift today. She should be home between 7:15 and 7:30.”
Another few seconds of silence. This was getting weird.
“Uh, what’s your name?”
“Oh. It’s Darryl. I’m Darryl.”
Jeez, what was this kid about? Darryl what? Apparently he wasn’t about to tell me. More silence. I decided to do something to end it.
“Uh, you wanna come in? I just got home from school, it’s hot out here, and I’m gonna have a snack. You want something to eat?” I smiled at him, more to show him that I’m a good guy and I wasn’t going to pull out an axe and chop him up or something once we got into the house.
He smiled. He actually smiled. “Yeah, thanks. That’d be great. And something to drink, ice water or something, I’m pretty thirsty. Been here since 1:30.”
“Whoa, dude! It’s over 90 degrees out here. You must be like dehydrated.” I unlocked and opened the door and stepped inside, holding it open for him. “Come on in.”
He got up, grabbed his backpack and gym bag, and followed me into the house. It was cool inside, and felt great after being out in the heat.
“You can drop those here.” I dropped my backpack on the entry floor, and Darryl whatever-his-name-was dropped his bags next to mine. “Come on, the kitchen’s back this way.”
I led him through the living and dining rooms to the kitchen. I turned and looked at him. “I usually make a peanut butter and jam sandwich when I get home. That okay for you? Or, we have cheese and lunchmeat and other stuff in the ‘fridge.”
He smiled. Again! “Peanut butter’s fine. Uh, one other thing. I gotta take a leak something fierce. Can I use your bathroom first?”
“Oh, sure. There’s a guest bathroom. Here, let me show you.” I walked from the kitchen to the hall, stopped, and pointed. “First door on the right. Come on back to the kitchen when you’re done.”
I went back and got ready to make a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. I pulled out the butter, peanut butter, marmalade, and rye bread. That’s how I like a peanut butter sandwich, on rye with butter on the bread. And a lot, I mean a lot, of peanut butter and marmalade. I zapped the butter for a few seconds in the microwave so it would be easy to spread on the bread, and started making the sandwiches. I thought about what he said, being on our porch for like three hours with nothing to eat or drink, and made two more sandwiches. I cut them in half, across the middle, put them on two plates. I put the plates on the table so we’d be sitting across from each other. I wanted to get a good look at this kid while we were eating. I pulled out a bag of potato chips and grabbed a couple cans of Sprite from the fridge.
Darryl walked back into the kitchen just as I finished getting our snack ready. He giggled, and it was cute. “I don’t think I could’ve waited another 15 minutes. I woulda peed my pants. That would have been a little embarrassing, I guess.”
“I think so. First thing Mom would do is haul your butt to the hospital to find out why you had bladder problems.” I laughed at my joke, but Darryl got all serious looking when I said that. What’d I say wrong? I thought I was being funny. Weird!
Darryl looked at the plate of sandwiches and the Sprite and smiled again. I noticed that he had dimples on both sides of his mouth when he smiled.
“Wow, this looks great!” He looked up at me. “How’d you know that peanut butter on rye’s my favorite?” He picked up a half and bit into it. “And with marmalade! Orange marmalade!” He looked up at me again. Really looked at me, stared, really. I got sort of uncomfortable. Then he grinned, and I wasn’t uncomfortable any longer.
“I’ve never met anyone else who liked peanut butter sandwiches made this way. Never. You’re the first. Uh, Kyle, right? Sorry, it’s been a weird day for me, I almost forgot your name. Anyway, thanks. This is a great sandwich.”
We sat there eating our sandwiches and drinking our Sprites and not saying anything. He kept looking at me, so I kept looking at him, too. The more I looked the more familiar he seemed. I kept trying to remember where I’d seen him. Could be at school, but I’m sure I’d have recognized him right away if he went to Hillcrest High and I’d seen him. Maybe we went to the same intermediate school, or even elementary school. Now that I had the opportunity to actually study him, he looked really familiar, but I couldn’t place him, and it was starting to bug me.
Darryl finished his sandwiches, and tilted his head back as he drained the last of the Sprite from the can. He set it down, and let out a big sigh. My reaction was like, ‘Aww, that was cute’.
“That was great, Kyle. Thanks.”
“You like another Sprite?”
“Sure! If you have enough.”
“We have a couple of 12-packs in the garage and one in the cupboard, and a bunch of cans in the ’fridge.” He was sitting closer to the refrigerator than me. “This is a self-serve household, so,” I pointed to the refrigerator, “help yourself.”
Darryl smiled. Damn, when he smiled he looked even more familiar. I began planning a question-and-answer session in my head as he got his Sprite. He turned and looked at me.
“Can I get you one while I’m here?”
“Sure. I can use another. Thanks.”
I stood and picked up the plates.
“Let me help. I can put those in your dishwasher.”
I handed him the two plates. And he grabbed the two empty Sprite cans. “Do you recycle?”
“Yeah. On the right side under the sink, you can pull out the cans and the recycle one’s in the back.”
I closed up the bag of chips and put it away, and wiped off the table. I thought about this guy, Darryl. He’d actually offered to help clean up. None of my friends ever ask if they can help. I decided that I liked Darryl.
“Let’s grab our stuff and take it up to my room, okay?”
I could see he was hesitating, but he answered “Okay” and we went back into the entry hall and picked up our bags.
“My room’s upstairs,” I pointed to the stairs, “up there.”
“You’re a good host. I’d never lose my way following your directions.”
I thought that was very funny, and started laughing. Darryl started laughing along with me.
“Man, Darryl, you have the same kind of weird sense of humor that I do.”
Suddenly he stopped laughing. I turned and looked at him, wondering why he stopped. He had a sort of serious-and-sad look. Totally weird. I just couldn’t get a take on this guy. I continued upstairs and into my room, which is right at the top of the stairs.
“Okay, this is it. Not typical, it’s neat. I’m sort of a neat freak.”
Darryl was standing in the doorway, looking around my room. Like he was trying to take a mental picture of it.
“Come on in, put your stuff down anywhere. Have a seat, take a load off.”
He walked in, very slowly, still looking around. He set his backpack and gym bag down at the foot of my bed, then slowly turned around in the center of the room, like he was taking one of those panoramic photographs. Then he looked at me, and smiled.
“Kyle, this is a very cool room.”
He walked over to my bookcase and looked at my books.
“Big science fiction fan, I see. And you have all of the Harry Potter books. Oh, Ursula Le Guin! The Left Hand of Darkness! Oh, man, that’s my favorite sci-fi book of all time. Frek and the Elixir! That’s so funny! Nobody I know has ever heard of it, and I don’t know anyone else who has it, except now, you.”
He kept looking at my books, then my CD’s and DVD’s. Finally he looked at me, with that serious sort of expression, and sat on my bed.
“Oh, is this okay?”
“What, that you’re sitting on my bed? Why not? Relax! Enjoy! Just take off your shoes before you put your feet on the bedspread. Mom would have a cow if she saw anyone, you or me or anyone else, on my bedspread with their shoes on.”
He carefully took off his sneakers and put them just under the bed, and pulled his legs up so he was sitting with his legs crossed in front of him.
“Hey, I’m gonna change.” I pulled open my bureau drawer and pulled out a pair of board shorts, a bright orange T, and a pair of bikini briefs. I kicked off my sneakers and started to undress.
“You want me to leave while you dress?”
“No, why? If you have PE where you go to school you’ve seen it all and a lot more than you’ll see here. Uh, if it’s uncomfortable for you, I can go change in the bathroom.”
“It’s okay, I just wanted to make sure. Maybe you expected me to go out of your room while you’re changing.”
“Could care less.” By then I’d stripped so the only things I was wearing were my socks. The position I was standing gave Darryl a good view of my dangly parts. I sort of peeked at him and he was looking at me. Staring, actually. I laughed, mentally. What I was doing was kind of a test to see how he’d react to seeing another guy naked. Hey, I’m gay, I’m always interested how other guys react to a naked guy. I pulled on my T, then the bikini briefs, adjusting my stuff so it fit and felt right, then my board shorts. I kicked my sneakers so they were next to the bed, and sat down on the bed in the same sort of position as Darryl, but facing him. He turned so we were facing each other, him at the head of the bed, me at the foot.
“Okay, tell me your story. All I know is that your name is Darryl, you showed up here at around 1:30 today, you sat on our front porch for like three hours in the heat until I came home, you want to talk to my mom, and you look very familiar but I can’t remember where I’ve seen you. Over to you. Talk to me.”
I’d say that with my little rant I probably scared the shit out of him. At least it looked that way. His expression changed to what I would call ‘full panic mode’. He looked scared, very scared. Tough shit. I wanted answers.
“I really can’t…”
“Bullshit. Talk to me. I don’t bite.”
“I gotta wait to tell…”
“No, you don’t have to wait to tell my mom. Tell me first. Go ahead.” I changed my tone from demanding to friendly. “Come on, Darryl. Here you are, this weird but really nice kid with no last name, or at least I don’t know it, who comes to visit us and needs to tell my mom something.” I looked at my clock, it was 5:00. “She won’t be home for at least two and a quarter hours. We can just sit here staring at each other, or you can tell me what this is all about. Hey, I’m a good listener. I’m kind, and friendly, and understanding, and smart, and some kids at school even tell me I’m cute. So talk to me, Darryl.”
I scooted forward and put my hands on his knees. He sort of jerked at my touch, then looked right at me, right into my eyes. And he started to cry. No sobs, just tears, but lots of tears.
Oh, shit! I made him cry. For me that’s about the worst thing I could have done. The worst thing he could be doing. My personality is part emo, the sensitive, crying, girly-boy part of emo. I guess that goes with being gay. Mom says I wear my heart on my sleeve, meaning that I’m an overly emotional sort of guy. I cry at movies. I cry when I read a sad story or even a happy story in the newspaper. I cry when I’m sad, I cry when I’m happy. And I can’t do a damned thing about it. It embarrasses the hell out of me. The worst is when someone I’m with is crying. My waterworks turns on automatically, full blast.
Here I was, sitting across from this Darryl kid who’s crying, no sobbing sound or anything like that, but tears running uncontrolled from his eyes down his cheeks and dripping onto his shirt. And I was shedding a few tears myself. Aw, man, I couldn’t take it anymore! I scooted even closer to him, put my arms around his shoulders, and pulled him to me in a hug.
Then he did something… strange. Two 15-year-old or whatever age guys don’t hug unless they are gay and have known each other for some time. But Darryl did what I did. He put his arms around my shoulders and we sat there, somewhat uncomfortably because we were each leaning forward so we could hug with our crossed legs impeding us.
I adjusted how I was sitting. I moved and turned so I was sitting next to him, tossed my pillows onto the floor, stretched my legs straight out, and he moved his legs the same way. We continued the hug without breaking it off while I moved. I don’t even know how we did that, it was really clumsy, but we did. Now we were sitting with his right leg and my left leg pressed up against each other, sitting side by side, with our backs against the headboard of my bed, hugging. Darryl had buried his face in my left shoulder, getting my T very wet from his tears. My water works were still running too, but at a much lower volume than his. Nevertheless, my tears were dripping onto his forearm and it was getting quite wet. None of this interrupted the hug.
I realized that I liked hugging Darryl. It wasn’t sexual, it was just very comfortable. And comforting. I was thinking about that, and hoping that Darryl felt the same way, that he was comfortable, and that I was comforting him.
Finally, I don’t know how long it was, Darryl’s tears stopped and so did mine. He probably cried two Sprite’s worth of water onto my shoulder. Sometimes I don’t get that wet when I shower. That thought made me giggle.
I put my hands on his shoulders, and in a friendly way pushed him out of the hug. I looked at him, into his eyes.
“Darryl, tell me what you have all bottled up. Tell me, man. You’re going to have to get it out of your system. That’s something my mom says to me a lot, and I just said it to you. So what’s going on?”
He shook his head. He started saying “I’m sorry” over and over and over. I used my thumbs to wipe away the tears on his cheeks, then put my hands back on his shoulders. The “I’m sorry” became “I can’t, I’m sorry, Kyle” over and over and over. It’s was a litany, and I wasn’t really listening to it. But then he said something, just three little words, and I heard those. And they almost caused a short circuit in my brain.
“I’m your brother.”
Then he was back to the “I’m sorry” over and over and over.
What the fuck did he say? Did I hear him right? Did I dream it?
He said it again. “I’m your brother.” And then he didn’t say anything else. He was looking at me. You ever hear the expression ‘puppy dog eyes’? That was Darryl’s eyes. I guess I stared at him for, like maybe a whole minute. A minute under these circumstances seemed like an hour. My brain was racing at about a million miles a second. ‘I’m your brother’. I had to process that, and couldn’t.
Okay, brain’s back in gear, processing is complete, error report is pending.
“You’re my brother?”
We sat there for a while, maybe 15 seconds, not saying anything, just looking at each other. Suddenly, the light bulb in my brain got turned on. You’ve seen the cartoons where that happens, right? Well, it can happen. I know. It happened to me, at that nanosecond of time, in my bedroom, sitting on my bed, looking at Darryl and him looking at me. My own personal brain light bulb turned on.
Oh, shit! Now I knew why Darryl looked familiar!
“Wait a second. Wait a second.” I stared at him. Then I got off my bed and grabbed his hand. “Stand up, I want to see something.”
Darryl looked scared.
“Please? It’ll just take a few seconds. I just want us to look at something. Please?”
Darryl scooted off the bed and stood next to me. He still looked like he thought I was going to beat him up, or something.
“Okay, we’re just going to walk over here. I need to see something.”
I guided him to my closet. It’s one of those closets that has sliding doors, and the doors are mirrors.
I positioned us in front of my closet, about a foot and a half from the mirrored door. I could see that we were holding hands, his left in my right. I looked at our images, the two of us, standing next to each other. My face. His face. In the mirror. And I started grinning. Now I knew! I knew why he’d looked familiar. And I started to laugh.
I turned and faced him, and sort of pulled him around so he was facing me.
“I kept thinking you looked familiar. I thought maybe we went to school together, like intermediate or elementary school. But now I know. Darryl, I know why you look familiar. We sort of look alike. You even just told me. We ARE brothers. WE ARE BROTHERS!”
I pulled him into a hug, and we held on to each other. I never wanted to let him go, or have him let me go. Now we were both crying, not just tears, but sobs as well. But this was a happy cry. I told you earlier about happy cries, remember? Well, this cry was one of those.
I had a brother! I broke the hug and held on to his shoulders. I wanted to look at him. To find me in him. I mean, brothers are supposed to have some common features, right? And we did! How old was Darryl? Was I the big brother, or was I a little brother? I didn’t care. I’d always wanted a brother. And now I had a brother!
“You gotta tell me all about it! How did it happen? How come we don’t know about you? Where have you been? Shit, Mom must know about you, if you’re my brother! Unless there’s something they never told us in sex-ed. We both giggled at what I said, and that kinda broke the ice.
“Come on, sit down, tell me all about it.” We moved back to my bed, and again sat next to each other with our backs against the headboard. Darryl turned his head and looked at me. Now he didn’t look scared. He looked, well, kind of eager or something.
“This is hard to talk about, Kyle. But let me do it. I want to go through all of it. I’ve been practicing it in my head for weeks. The Roths, my foster parents, found out a lot of the stuff I’m going to tell you, and the rest I know ‘cause I lived it.”
Darryl took a deep breath. “First, how old are you, Kyle? When’s your birthday, what year were you born?”
“I’m 15, I’ll be 16 on October 17th, and I was born in 1991.”
“Kyle, I’m 15, and I’ll be 16 on October 17th, and I was born in 1991. We’re twins, you and me.”
“But we don’t look exactly alike!”
“Remember, there’s two kinds of twins, identical and fraternal. Identical twins are, well, identical. They look exactly alike. Fraternal twins are like two separate kids born at the same time. They might be girl and boy, or two of one kind, and might look a lot alike or not alike at all. We’re the fraternal kind. And we don’t look a lot alike, but still do quite a bit.”
“But what happened? Why doesn’t Mom, uh, our mother, our mom, know about you?”
“Your mom, our mom, knew about both of us. You know where you were born?”
“On a military base in Germany, Landstuhl, where my dad was stationed, uh, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right.”
“Our dad was stationed there 16 years ago. Our mother… Mom… you don’t mind if I call her ‘Mom’, do you Kyle?”
“Since we’re brothers, she is ‘our’ mom, so that’s what you should call her.”
“Okay. Thanks. Mom was pregnant with us. She knew she was going to have twins.
“There was a nurse who worked in the maternity ward at the hospital on the Landstuhl base. Her name was Maria Williams. She was married to a soldier stationed at Landstuhl. She was pregnant, and had a baby around the end of September, about three weeks before we were born. She and her husband were having problems, and he got sent back to the states before she had her baby and didn’t ask for a leave to be with his wife. Her baby died a week after she brought it home. She was very unhappy. She thought that having a baby would help her and her husband stay together. So she decided to get another baby.
“She knew about our mom having twins. The day after we were born she went to the base hospital. Somehow she shut off the main power for the hospital, and in the confusion she went into the maternity ward and took me. She got away, there were no cameras or other kinds of security like that, and only a couple of guards and they were trying to figure out why the power was off. The hospital didn’t have any other maternity patients, and nothing like that had ever happened before.
“After she had her baby she had quit her job. She was coming back to the states to be with her husband. Her flight was on October 18th. She simply took the baby, me, got her tickets and passport and her dead baby’s birth certificate, took me to the airport, and flew home. No one checked the birth certificate to see if the footprints matched. I mean, why would they even think about doing that? She had all the right kind of papers, she was even speeded through customs because of me.
“Of course, back at Landstuhl there was a huge investigation. Where was I? What happened? No one bothered to check on Maria Williams. She had a baby in the hospital. She flew from German to the U.S. with a baby. No one thought that it might be me instead of her own baby.”
“What happened to her baby, the one who died?”
“I guess they never found out. Anyway, when she got to Oakland and met up with her husband he took one look at me and said that I couldn’t be his. He’s a black man, and Maria is a Latina, and I didn’t look anything like either of them. He divorced her. I never knew about that. She never talked about him with me, and didn’t have any pictures of him, so I didn’t know anything about him. She told me to not ask any questions about him. I figured she was still mad at him for something, whatever it was why they got divorced.
“Maria, my mama, raised me. We moved a lot, she took nursing positions that caused her to move from town to town. Finally we moved to Las Vegas when I was 10 years old. I had it pretty good. Mama was not the hugging loving type, but she was good to me, and anything I wanted she’d figure out a way to get it for me. I had friends, and got almost all A’s in school. I think that Mama was proud of me, but she never really showed it. There’s a word, aloof, that describes how she was toward me. Maybe it was because I wasn’t her real child, maybe she felt guilty about kidnapping me, I don’t know.
“Last year Mama went to the doctor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died in January.”
Darryl stopped for a few seconds. He looked sad. I tried to imagine what it would be like to have your mother die of cancer. Even if she wasn’t your real mother, like Darryl, you wouldn’t have known it. It must have been very sad, very hard on him.
“I don’t know what to say. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if Mom died. You must have been really broken up.”
Darryl sighed. “Yeah. She was my mother, the only mother I knew. I cried a lot, and it was really hard going to the funeral. She had some kind of funeral insurance, and they took care of everything. There was no church service, Mama didn’t believe in religion, so everything happened at the grave. I hoped that my father would be there, but he wasn’t because the funeral people couldn’t find his address or phone number. A few people from her work and our next door neighbor and I were the only ones there. That made me even sadder.
“Mama didn’t have any relatives here other than her husband, who I had thought was my dad. The others were in Mexico, I guess. When she died, a social worker met with me. They tracked down Mama’s husband, and set up a meeting at the Child Protective Services office. I was sitting there in this little room with the social worker, waiting to see the man that I really thought was my father, when this huge black man, about 6 foot 7 and weighing maybe 300 pounds, mostly muscle, walked in. He looked at me, pointed to me, and said ‘He isn’t mine’. They did DNA testing, and he was right. They also did DNA testing and found that I wasn’t related to Maria Williams either, the woman who for my entire life I thought was my mama.
“I was so confused! I was still sad because my mama, or, the person I thought was my mama, was dead. I was angry because I’d been lied to by my mama. I had no mother. I had no father. I had nobody. The social worker said I’d be placed with a foster family while they investigated. I moved in with this older couple, the Roth’s.
“Anyway, they found the birth certificate for Mama’s real baby in her papers. They contacted the hospital in Landstuhl and found out about the kidnapping. This took a bunch of time, and if it wasn’t for my foster parents the Army might have dropped it. Mrs. and Mr. Roth pushed them to continue investigating until they got all of the information. Then they had to trace Mom, your mom, our mom, and found out where she was. The Army wasn’t too cooperative, they have this big security thing, but the Roth’s were great and they hired a private detective who knew how to get through Army red tape.
“Once we had the address, this address, Kyle, our mom’s house, they decided to drive me here. They wanted to stay with me, to wait until I met my real mother, our mom. But I wanted to do it by myself. I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe she’ll want me, maybe not. Maybe I’ll be going back to Las Vegas with the Roth’s. I wanted to do all that on my own, by myself. We argued a lot about it on the way here, but finally they gave in. They’re at a motel not far from here, and they’re supposed to phone me at six to see how it went. We sort of figured she’d either be home when I got here this afternoon, or she, our mom, would be home sometime after five if she worked.
“The Roth’s are fantastic. I’ve been with them for six months, and I love them a lot. They’re older, like they’re my grandparents. I never had grandparents, Mama said they had all died.”
I grinned. “Darryl, now you’re going to have three sets of grandparents.” He looked a little confused, then smiled as he realized what I meant.
“Wow, I never thought about that, that I’d find my real mom and get real grandparents too. Anyway, the Roth’s brought me here and dropped me off, and here I am. I never really thought about you, either, that I have a brother. My only thought was about finding my real mother. Sorry about that, Kyle. But now that I’ve found you, I don’t….”
Darryl started to cry. Man, this was so emotional! I pulled him into a hug. He sighed, then pulled back and continued his story.
“I don’t know if your mother, my real mother, our mom, will want me. I’m so scared, Kyle! Part of me wants to leave and go back to Vegas. I don’t want to be rejected. Maybe she’ll hate me. Oh, God, I’m so confused and scared. I know she’s going to reject me! I just know it!”
“Bullshit! It’s not going to happen that way. That’s not going to happen to you. I’m sure I won’t have to, but if I do I won’t let it happen that way! If it’s necessary, and I don’t think it will be, I’ll convince Mom that you have to be with us, to live here, with her and with me. Now that I’ve found that I have a brother I’m not going to let us lose each other.”
I scooted over so we were jammed up against each other, and I put my arm around his waist.
“Darryl, Ever since I was a little kid I wanted a brother. When I was little I’d ask Mom and she’d say that I was all she needed, and she’d look sorta sad. I never understood why, but now I know.
“You’re a great guy. I like you, no, I love you, Darryl. We’re brothers, and we’re going to stay brothers. Forever. And brothers love each other.” I looked at him. “We’re not just brothers, we’re twin brothers, man! We have a special bond. Mom’s gonna totally freak when she sees you.”
I thought about that for a few seconds.
“You know, Darryl, I think we should have your foster parents, uh, the Roth’s, here when Mom gets home. When she sees you she could have a heart attack or something. We need some adults here to help explain what happened to you and where you’ve been and everything. Especially if you and I start bawling, which we probably will.”
“Okay, let me call them.” Darryl pulled out a cell phone and pressed one of the keys, he said it was speed dial to Mrs. Roth’s cell phone. He started telling her what happened, but almost immediately started crying. I tapped him on the shoulder and took the cell phone.
“Uh, hi, Mrs. Roth?”
“Yes. Where’s Darryl? Why is he crying? Who are you?”
“I’m Darryl’s brother, Kyle. Kyle Parker. Darryl’s here, with me, in my room at home. He’s crying because he’s so happy.” I started to sniffle. “Look, it’s hard to do this on the phone, can you please come to our house right away? It’s where you dropped him off. We want you to be here when Mom, our mom, gets home from work.”
“Alright, Kyle, is it? Please put Darryl back on the phone.”
I handed him the phone, and he talked with her for about a minute, I guess she was trying to make sure that he was okay and that she didn’t have to call the police.
After the call he explained what he’d been talking about with Mrs. Roth. “They’re on their way, should be here in about 10 minutes.”
We got up and went into the bathroom. I wanted to wash my face so I wouldn’t look like I’d been crying all afternoon, and so did Darryl. Then we went downstairs, getting there just as the doorbell rang. I went to the door and opened it. There was a grandmotherly woman standing there, and a thin, grey-haired man standing next to her. She looked at me and sort of gasped.
“Oh, my God! You must be Kyle? Oh, my, you do look like you are Darryl’s brother.”
I nodded and smiled, and she pulled me into a hug. She saw Darryl standing behind me, and then he was part of her hug as well.
“Uh, we’d better go in and close the door. It’s still pretty hot outside.”
Mr. Roth laughed. “Son, we live in Las Vegas. You don’t know hot until you’ve lived in Las Vegas for a few years.”
I looked at Darryl. “You didn’t tell me about that part!”
He giggled. “I had to save some stuff to tell you later, didn’t I?”
I looked at the Roths. Mrs. Roth was sort of teary, Mr. Roth looked very happy, he was grinning at me and Darryl.
“Uh, please come in and sit down. The best place is probably the living room.” I looked at my watch. It was almost 6:15. “My mom, our mom, should be home in about an hour. Do you want something to drink? Or eat?”
Mrs. Roth looked at me and smiled, then used a tissue to dab her eyes. “We ate a little something at a café near our motel. But, perhaps a glass of water? No ice, please.”
“Sure, no problem. We have some ice water in the fridge, is that okay?”
“Oh, just tap water for me will be fine. Ice water makes me cough.”
“Okay. Mr. Roth, how about you, something to drink? We also have diet sodas. And Mom has a couple of bottles of beer in the fridge, she uses it to cook pot roast. It’s been there a long time, so it might be a little old, if that makes a difference.”
“Just some of that ice water. That will be fine.”
“I saw you have some root beer. I’d like a can of that, please.”
I went into the kitchen and got their waters, and carried a couple of diet root beers under my arm.
Mrs. Roth took a drink of her water. “Thank you, Kyle. You’re very sweet.”
I blushed, as usual. Damn! I knew she was going to make some comment about it, and I was right.
“Kyle, when you blush it’s so cute!”
“I hate to blush. My ears get all red and hot. It’s very embarrassing.”
“Oh. I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. But it’s still cute.” She giggled. “Now, Darryl, tell us what you think about your afternoon with Kyle. What did you talk about? How did the two of you get along? What have you learned about your real mother? She works, what does she do? When…”
Mr. Roth interrupted his wife. “Dora! Dora! Let the boy answer at least one of your questions, please. He probably doesn’t even remember any of them, you’ve been peppering them at him like they’re coming out of a machine gun.” He and Mrs. Roth both laughed.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Darryl. Now, let’s see, what was my first question?”
I answered her question. “Mrs. Roth, you asked Darryl what he thinks about his afternoon with me.” I turned to Darryl and shrugged my shoulders, sort of asking him to take over.
“Well, I found that I have a brother. And he just said that he loves me.”
He started to cry, tears running down his cheeks, but he kept going.
“Kyle is the perfect brother. He’s so nice, he’s…” He looked at me, and rubbed his eyes with his forearm. “…better than I ever imagined. When Kyle got home from school we had a snack. He made peanut butter sandwiches. And, aunt Dora — Kyle, I call them aunt Dora and uncle Mike — he made them exactly like I like them, rye bread and butter and peanut butter and marmalade. That’s when I knew we were really brothers. We talked, mostly about me and Mama. Then Kyle said you should be here when his, uh, our mom gets home. That’s when we called. That’s about all.”
Mrs. Roth turned to me. “Kyle, tell us a little about yourself.”
“Uh, well, hmm. I’m exactly the same age and birthday as Darryl.” I turned to Darryl. “That reminds me, was Darryl your name when you were born, or was it something else?”
He looked at me a little confused, like he didn’t understand what I was asking. Mr. Roth answered my question, though.
“The name on Darryl’s real birth certificate, the one from that Army hospital in Germany, was Darryl Thomas Parker.”
I smiled at Darryl. “Cool. It would be messy if you’d been named something else and Mom would think of you as that name.
“Okay, let’s see. My full name’s Kyle Alan Parker. I’ve just started my junior year at Hillcrest High School. I’m getting straight A’s, and I like school, so I guess that makes me sort of a geek. I play tennis, and I’m on the tennis team, and I love to swim but just for fun. I’m pretty active at school, I was in the sophomore class play last year, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and I loved doing that, it was a lot of fun. I love computers, and want to go into software or web design. I’m making sure my grades are good enough to get into UC Davis. Uh, that’s the University of California at Davis. Near Sacramento. Hmm. Oh, I love to eat, and I like almost everything. My favorite kind of food’s Mexican. I can cook, too, I make a mean chili, Mom calls it ‘10 alarm’ for the number of fire engines that she has to call to put out the flames in her mouth after eating it!” I started laughing, and Darryl interrupted me.
“I love hot foods! Mexican and Thai are my favorites.”
“Oh, yeah, I love Thai too.” I giggled. “That sounds funny, ‘Thai too’. I made a rhyme!”
I saw that Darryl rolled his eyes, but the Roths were laughing, so at least someone appreciated my sense of humor.
“Oh, yeah, and I have a great…” I paused and glared at Darryl, “…sense of humor. I love to laugh, and tell jokes, and make other people laugh. My favorite kind of movies are comedies, and I love science fiction, too.”
“Yeah, I love science fiction too,” Darryl said, “and Kyle has a huge number of sci-fi books in his room. And his CD’s are the same kinds of music I like, a lot of the same bands and singers. One thing where he’s different is that he’s a neat freak. His room’s so clean you could eat off the floor. Oh, the one thing I didn’t see in his room is a game console.” He turned to me. “Do you have PS3 or X-Box or a Wii maybe?”
“Nah. I’m not into computer games much. I have some for my PC, like Madden football. Oh, I love football, to watch. I’ve gone to every one of the HHS games, home and away.”
Mrs. Roth looked confused. “HHS? What’s HHS, Kyle?”
“Oh, sorry, Sometimes we call my high school HHS. Hillcrest High School. Get it?”
“Yes, thank you. You teenagers speak a totally different language than we adults do.” She let out a sigh. “Having Darryl with us for the last six months has been a real education. Let’s see now, where were we. Oh, yes, Kyle, tell us about your mother.”
“She’s a nursing manager at Valley Hospital. Oh, let me get her picture!”
I got up and went into the family room. There was a great picture of Mom and Dad and me. It made me a little sad seeing Dad’s picture. He’d been killed in Iraq, and I really missed him. Fucking war! I took that picture and one of Mom by herself back to the living room, and sat down on the sofa.
“Here’s my mom and dad. He was killed in Iraq in March of 2005. And that’s me. This was taken the Christmas before….” I sort of choked up, and realized that Darryl had grabbed my hand and was squeezing it. I passed the picture to him, and he stared at it. “This one’s of Mom. I love this picture because she looks so beautiful. It’s my favorite of her. I took it myself, with my digital camera.”
Darryl had passed the first picture to the Roth’s, and was studying the one of Mom. He held it in both hands. I could tell this was something very emotional for him. This was the first time he’d ever seen pictures of his mother. I put my arm around his shoulder, and he pushed into my side, like he needed the contact with me and the support I could give him.
He looked at me. His voice was quiet. “She is so beautiful.”
No one said anything. This was perhaps the second most important thing for Darryl, seeing his mother’s picture. The most important would be when Mom got home and he actually saw her, real and alive. I wondered what that would be like. I wondered how Mom would react. This was such a strange thing to happen to her, and to Darryl, and even to me.
I think almost five minutes went by. Darryl just sat and looked at Mom’s picture, rubbing his thumbs on the frame on each side of the picture. It was like he wanted to touch her, to connect with her.
I heard the garage door opening. Mom was home! Oh, God! She's early! It was about to happen! My brain went into overdrive. Maybe I should have phoned her, given her some warning about Darryl being here. And I forgot to tell her about Kendall being closed. Maybe I should meet her as she came into the house, go to the laundry room and head her off. I thought that maybe I should stand up, so I did.
I turned and looked at Darryl. He looked panicked. He was white as a sheet. I was afraid he was going to faint.
“Darryl, you okay, bro?”
He looked up at me. “I’m so scared, Kyle. I can’t keep from thinking she’s going to reject me, send me away.”
“That won’t happen! I told you that already.”
I heard the laundry room door from the garage open.
“Kyle, I’m home!”
I walked through the dining room to the door into the kitchen. Mom was putting a bag of groceries on the counter. She turned and looked at me and smiled.
“And how was school today? You had your club rush. How did that…”
My expression finally caught her attention.
“…Kyle, what’s wrong? You’re looking so strange. Did something happen to you?”
“Uh, Mom, some people are here to see you. Someone special. Can you come into the living room with me?”
She gave me a strange look, and followed me as I walked back into the living room. Darryl was standing up next to the sofa. He had one hand on the back of the sofa, holding on. It looked like it was the only thing keeping him from falling onto the floor.
Mom and Darryl just stood there for what seemed like the longest time, staring at each other. I was watching Mom. After a bit I saw tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Yes, Mom. I’m Darryl.”
Suddenly Mom rushed over to him and grabbed him in a hug.
“Oh, my God, oh my God, oh my God! How did… where were… oh God! Darryl, my son, Darryl, oh my God!” She rushed to Darryl and pulled him into a tight hug, and he held onto her. They just stood there, holding on to each other. It was like they were trying to make up for the almost sixteen years they’d been apart.
I could hear Darryl crying. I was crying too. Mrs. Roth came over and stood behind me. She put her arms around me and held me loosely, and whispered in my ear. “This is so beautiful, Kyle. A mother being reunited with a son she hasn’t seen since the day he was born.” Mr. Roth joined the two of us, and he put his arm around his wife’s back and a hand on my shoulder. It was a nice feeling.
Needless to say, the next few hours were chaotic. Mom didn’t have a heart attack, but it was a huge shock. I was amazed that she actually recognized Darryl. I guess that a mother knows her son. And he did look something like me. Darryl, with my help, told his story to Mom. I thought she’d be furious at Maria Williams for kidnapping Darryl, but she just seemed sad about what had happened to her baby, and to Darryl. Mrs. Roth went into our kitchen and found stuff to fix dinner for us, but I noticed that Mom didn’t eat much. She was too busy looking at Darryl and at me. We sat side by side at the table. I, for one, was starved. Mrs. Roth is a fantastic cook, and she made a killer meatloaf, actually better than what Mom makes (though I’d never tell Mom that). Darryl only finished part of his dinner. He was too busy telling Mom more details about his life with Maria Williams. I learned a lot more about him listening to his stories about birthdays, and Christmases, and summer vacations, and school. Also, his food likes and dislikes. It turns out he’s a lot fussier eater than me.
It was almost midnight when Darryl and I started yawning so much that we couldn’t carry on a conversation. The Roth’s looked tired, too. And Mom, she looked totally exhausted. She called the hospital and told them she had a family emergency and couldn’t go in on Friday.
Mom wanted to set up the guest bedroom for Darryl, but he asked if he could sleep with me, that he didn’t want to be alone the first night in a different house. So, we went to my room. I pulled out a pair of PJ’s for him, but he said he just wore his briefs and if that was okay that’s how he’d like to go to bed. I told him that’s how I slept, too, in my bikini briefs. We went to bed, and Darryl immediately rolled onto his side and pulled me into a hug. That’s how we fell asleep, and that’s how we woke up Friday morning, in exactly the same position.
** **** **
Darryl had just started his junior year in Las Vegas, so it wasn’t a big deal for him to transfer to Hillcrest. He’s made a lot of friends at school, some are mine too, and some are his own. He’s making straight A’s, so am I, and we do our homework and study together. We walk to school together, and we usually walk home together unless one of us has some after school thing to do like a club meeting. Like me, Darryl also likes to swim, so Mom’s having a pool put in our back yard. Very sweet!
We’ve become very close with the Roth’s. They came to visit on Christmas, and now I think of them as my third set of grandparents.
Oh, yeah. Darryl says that he isn’t sure if he’s gay or straight or bi or whatever, so he’s joined the GSA club. Maybe he’ll figure it out for himself, and he can always talk to me about it. He knows that I’m gay, and it’s totally okay with him. He also knows that I have a boyfriend now. It’s Bobby Fuller. And now I know why Bobby has a Southern accent and his parents don’t. But that’s another story for another time.
So, that’s our story, about how a brother that I didn’t know I had, found his real mother and his brother. His twin brother. Me! Darryl is the brother that I always wanted.
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