On Sunday Jeremy and Mike got up, had breakfast, and did their homework at Mike’s house. That was convenient since the two guys had spent the night there. Then Jeremy went home to get ready for school on Monday. That included studying for two exams, one in Pre-Calculus and one in AP Chemistry. Mike didn’t have either class, so Jeremy was on his own. He wasn’t worried; he was running with a straight-A grade in both classes.
He finished by three-fifteen. That’s when he heard a truck pull up out front of his house. He walked to the living room window and looked outside. The truck’s side displayed the name Arizona-Central Moving Company. The driver got out and rang the doorbell. Jeremy went to the front door and stepped outside.
“Excuse me, can you help me?” The driver asked. “We seem to have the wrong street address. It says 1472 Bearwood Lane. But there doesn’t seem to be a 1472.”
“Didn’t your GPS tell you that address doesn’t exist?” Jeremy asked.
“Nah. Company gives us these piece-of-crap GPS’s that if you put in 1 Bearwood Lane it would prob’ly point to somewhere in North Dakota.”
Jeremy laughed. “My guess is you’re looking for 1427,” he said and pointed toward the intersection at Brighton Way. “It’s about five houses down the street that way and on this side. It’s the only house around here that’s been for sale, so I’d guess somebody bought it and are moving in.”
As if what Jeremy had said caused it to happen, a woman came jogging up the street and called out to the driver, “Hello, hello! Our house is back this way.” She waved her arm pointing down the street.
“Hey, thanks, kid. I think we’re okay now,” the driver told Jeremy. He turned and talked to the woman, then got in the truck and began the task of turning around, which wasn’t easy at the end of the narrow cul-de-sac.
The woman walked up to Jeremy. “Hi. I’m Grace Welter. We’re moving in today. I know, Sunday afternoon isn’t a good time to be moving in, but that van got stuck in the snow coming over the pass into Los Angeles, so it’s a day and a half late.” There was a pause as she stood and grinned at Jeremy. “And you are?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m Jeremy Sievers. I live here with my mom. She’s on a trip to Mexico right now and I’m not sure when she’ll be back.”
“Oh, a vacation?”
“Business and vacation,” he fibbed.
“You’re in high school?”
“Yes. I’m a junior at Las Lomas High.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful! My son, Lyle, is a junior and will be transferring to Las Lomas. He’s sixteen. We have to go there tomorrow morning to get him registered. Say, would it be okay for Lyle to come over and meet you in a couple hours, after everything’s moved in? You can tell him about the high school and whatever else he wants to know.”
“Sure. It’ll be nice to have someone my age in the neighborhood. There aren’t any other kids in high school that live around here. It’s mostly retirees or families with young kids. I can give Lyle some tips about what you need so he can get registered tomorrow. I volunteer to assist during fall registration. The main thing is, you need to bring in something proving you live at your address here and that he’s your son.”
“Thanks, that’ll be a help. We downloaded the forms that we found on the Las Lomas website before we left Tucson. That’s in Arizona.” She blushed, then laughed. “Oh, excuse me, I’m sure you must already know where Tucson is.”
Jeremy just chuckled and grinned. “I think the mover has his truck parked at your house now.”
She turned and looked down the street. “Yes! Well, nice meeting you, Jeremy, and if it’s okay I’ll have Lyle come by later.”
“Any time before eight o’clock tonight will be fine.”
“I’ll see you later!” With that she waved and then jogged down the street to where Jeremy saw that the movers had started unloading furniture and packing boxes.
Jeremy went back inside and put the textbooks he’d need the next day into his backpack. Then he went online and checked his and his mom’s email, and messages from the bank. Nothing from his mother, nothing from the bank other than a mortgage loan offer. There was a text from Mike saying his mom wanted to thank Jeremy for taking the triplets into Walnut Creek. There was also a text from Nikki making sure she had the right address to text him. Part of her message read, “It’s nice having friends so soon after we moved here. I’m glad you’re one of those friends, Jeremy.”
He answered ‘I enjoyed doing it’ to Mike’s text. Then he wrote a reply to Nikki’s message and also sent one to her twin brother Greg, asking both if they were excited looking forward to their first day at Northgate High School, and telling them that Mike would be there with a shoulder they could cry on. He put a ‘Ha!’ at the end to let them know he was kidding. Sort of.
Then he went to his bedroom to look for a book he hadn’t read yet. He got most of his books for free at the give-away that was held each year at the county’s main library in Pleasant Hill. He found what looked like a science fiction story, The Girl, the Gold Watch, & Everything by John D. MacDonald. He took it into the living room and sat down to read. He discovered it was part science fiction, part mystery, and part comedy. Exactly his kind of story.
At about five p.m. someone knocked at the front door. Jeremy was being cautious; he was afraid that his mother’s asshole boyfriend Leo might show up, so he always checked through the peep-hole in the door. It was a kid, probably Lyle who’d just moved in down the street. Jeremy opened the door.
“Hi, I’m Lyle Welter. You must be Jeremy.” The kid was really cute, with red hair, freckles all over his face, amazing green eyes, and a big smile.
“That’s me, Jeremy Sievers. Come on in, Lyle.” They shook hands.
“Thanks. My mom said your mom is in Mexico?”
“Yeah. A combination of business and vacation.” That was the second time today that he’d lied about why his mom wasn’t home.
“So your dad…?”
“Not around anymore. And no brothers or sisters.”
“So, you’re here, all by yourself, and no plans for wild parties?”
“No, sorry. You’ll have to look elsewhere for those.” He grinned and shrugged his shoulders to take the sting out of the words, then asked, “Would you like something to drink?”
“If you have a Coke or something like that, it’d be great. And even if you did have wild parties, that’s not my cuppa.”
“Cuppa?” Jeremy had never heard that word.
“Yeah. We lived in Ireland for two years when I was in middle school. I picked up a few local words and even a bit of an accent. Anyway, cuppa means a cup of tea. They drink a lot of tea in Ireland and England. ‘Not my cuppa’ means whatever it is, you don’t go for it.” He followed Jeremy into the kitchen.
“Hey, I hope I’m not interfering with your dinner,” Lyle said.
Jeremy shook his head. “Nope. I usually eat around seven.”
“My mom told me to invite you to come to dinner with us. We’re going out. You could tell us about good places to eat and my folks would pick one. Dinner’s on us. You’ll be our guest. That way we’ll have more time to get to know each other. Mom said you’re the only other kid our age around here.”
“That’s true. My boyfriend Mike lives about ten minutes from here, and he and his new next-door neighbors are the only other teens I know in this area. There probably are more between here and where they live, but I don’t know any of them. I’m the only one who goes to Las Lomas. It’ll be good that you’ll be going there, too. Mike and his neighbors go to the other high school in town, Northgate.”
Jeremy noticed that Lyle was grinning like the Cheshire Cat from Alice and Wonderland, and he wondered what he’d said that was funny. He didn’t realize that he’d outed himself and Mike, but then it became clear.
“I’m so glad that there’s another gay guy, living a few houses up the street from me, who goes to Las Lomas High. I thought I might be a lone wolf, or something.”
“Oh god! I just outed myself and Mike, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, and I gotta tell you how glad I am that you did! I’m gay, and you’re the first guy I’ve ever met who just came right out and said he’s gay. Well, who just came out and said he has a boyfriend, which means you’re gay. Too bad you already have a boyfriend.”
“There are quite a few gay kids at Las Lomas, both guys and girls, who are out. And probably lots of kids who are in the closet. We have an active GSA, and I joined recently. It’s a good place to meet other gay, bi, and gay-friendly kids.”
“Where I went to school in Mountain Lakes, that’s a suburb of Tucson, there was no GSA. That’s even though the student handbook lists a GSA club. I guess it dissolved, and there wasn’t one during the time I went to Mountain Lakes High. I’m a junior so that was two and a half years. Talk about a totally not-gay-friendly school! Kids used gay slurs all the time, and no teachers or administrators ever said anything.”
“What about bullying?”
“Other than talk, there wasn’t much. At least the school was good about controlling physical abuse. If someone shoved you into the lockers or dumped your books out of your arms, other kids would turn them in. There were cameras in all the halls and they’d go back to the day and location where someone was being picked on, and they gave detentions and suspensions. They even expelled a senior for beating up a freshman.”
“Las Lomas is good about stopping bullying. Same thing, detentions and suspensions. While I’ve been there I don’t know of any expulsions. We don’t have a lot of verbal harassment. Kids will say thing like, ‘That’s so gay.’ Hell, I even say it sometimes. But it’s not done in an abusive way.”
“So is the Las Lomas GSA active?”
“It is. They have interesting programs, like a sheriff’s officer came and gave a talk about how to report physical abuse, and all the reasons it’s so wrong to not report it, emphasizing that not ratting out on someone is dumb. The GSA promotes the Day of Silence. Lots of kids participate even if they’re not in the GSA and not even gay. It’s like half the kids are wearing rainbow T’s that day and a badge that has ‘Shhh!’ on it. Some don’t have rainbow T’s so they just wear the badge. The GSA hands out cards for you to give to anyone wanting to know why you’re not talking. The teachers and administration support it too, though they can’t do the silence part.”
“Good luck trying any of that at Mountain Lakes High!” Lyle groused.
“That’s too bad,” Jeremy said. “So you’re a junior. What classes were you taking?”
“Starting from first period, Algebra 2 and Trig; Spanish 3; AP U.S. History; Honors English 3; Robotics; Creative Writing; and PE Varsity Sports. My sports are water polo and swimming.”
“Las Lomas has all of those, except the Robotics class. You should be able to find an elective to fill in. Problem is, you’re coming in after classes are already underway. So you’ll need to find an elective where coming in late isn’t going to make a lot of extra work for you and you’ll be able to pull an A. There’s a web design class that I’m taking. Have you done any web design?”
“That would be a problem then; it’s a one-year class so you’d be too far behind. What about other computer classes like Computer Technology or Computer Applications?”
“I had Computer Applications when I was a freshman. I didn’t have Computer Technology. I assume that’s a full-year class, and I don’t know enough about computers to start in the middle of the year.”
“I don’t remember if you said you’re taking a science class.”
“No, not this year. I took biology last year, and I’ll take chemistry next year. I needed the Algebra 2 and Trig for that. At least, at Mountain Lakes High I needed it.”
“Could be the same here. I really don’t know. I took Algebra 2 and Trig and AP Psychology last year. I’m taking AP Chemistry this year along with Pre-Calc which makes me eligible for the AP Calculus AB and BC and AP Physics classes next year. I’m also taking Honors English 3 and Creative Writing.”
“Whoa! You’re definitely on the STEM track, right?”
“Yup. I’m aiming for a full-ride scholarship to either U.C. Berkeley or U.C. Davis so I can get a degree in computer science. What’s your goal for college?”
“I want to be a writer. I want to go to the University of Iowa. They have the best writing program in the country.”
“So, instead of Robotics maybe you could take Journalism. I’ll bet you could get in that class. You’d probably have to talk to the teacher. I don’t know who that is, but they’ll know in the office, and they’ll tell you if it’s possible.”
“I took journalism in my freshman year. I was on the school newspaper, the Las Colinas. That means The Hills. So maybe I could squeeze into that class and get credit for it.”
“Well, all this is something that you’ll take care of starting tomorrow. Your mom offered me a ride to school with you in the morning. I can help you find the attendance office and then your classrooms. We might even have classes together.”
“Jeremy, why don’t you write down your classes and teachers and when I pick my classes I’ll try to get into the same ones you have.”
“Okay. I’ll just copy my class schedule card. Our printer is a copier, too.”
While the copy was printing, Lyle asked, “Where do I catch the school bus?”
“Bad news. There is no school bus to Las Lomas. So I usually ride my bike, and sometimes I skateboard to school. If it’s raining I walk to the Pleasant Hill BART station, it’s about half a mile and takes about ten minutes. I ride BART one stop to the Walnut Creek station, then take the number 321 County Connection bus right to school. Las Lomas is at the south end of downtown Walnut Creek. Anyway, riding my bike is a slam-dunk. There’s a paved trail, the Iron Horse Trail, a short distance from here and it goes along the back of the Las Lomas campus. It’s faster than taking BART and the bus.”
“Does it rain much?”
“I guess compared to Tucson it probably does. This is the middle of the rainy season. But, we’re in a drought in California right now, so we’re really behind in the amount of rain we usually get. Even more important is there isn’t much snow in the Sierras, and we get most of our water from snow melt.”
“I have inline skates. Can I ride them to school?”
“Sure. Only thing, once you get to campus you have to take them off and cram them into your locker. Same with skateboards. If you ride your bike to school there are bike racks; you’ll need a strong lock.”
“Can we go off-campus for lunch?”
“Sorry, no. Las Lomas is a closed campus. Our cafeteria isn’t bad, just monotonous. Or you can brown bag it. That’s what I usually do. It’s better and a lot cheaper.”
“I usually bring my lunch, too. The food in our cafeteria was fair to poor. You know, all this talk about food is making me hungry. My mom said to invite you to join us and we’ll go out to dinner; can you come with us?”
“Sure, thanks a lot for the invitation.”
“Great! It’s five-thirty, how about we walk to my house, you can meet my dad, I’ll show you my room, and we’ll go out to eat somewhere.”
When he met Lyle’s dad Jeremy liked him immediately. He was friendly, and didn’t talk down to Jeremy or Lyle. He listened to what they had to say and treated them like adults.
Jeremy wondered why he couldn’t have had a father like Lyle’s dad? Or like Mike’s dad or Greg and Nikki’s dad? Why did his mom get hooked up with that jerk Leo? Why didn’t she know, or even care, who his birth father was? She told him she didn’t know which guy had made her pregnant. On his birth certificate the father’s name was listed as ‘Unknown.’
In Jeremy’s mind that’s the way he’d been treated by his mom: not as Jeremy, but as another kind of ‘unknown.’ It shouldn’t have been that way. He’d missed his mom since she’d been gone, but as the weeks had passed he’d missed her less and less. That was definitely whacked. He could also see that it was going to become a big problem if she ever came back. Why couldn’t he have a mom like Lyle’s mom?
Lyle showed Jeremy his room. It was loaded with packing boxes, most opened but still containing clothes and books and CDs and DVDs and all the stuff that a typical teenage boy would have boxed up for a move.
“Why don’t I help you unpack some of these boxes. That’ll get ’em out of the way so you can actually walk around in here without having to constantly climb over or shove boxes out of the way.” Jeremy grinned.
“You sound like my mother. You don’t look like my mother; nothing personal, but thank god for that! Since you offered, we could unpack these boxes of books until my dad tells us that it’s time to go eat. The books are packed alphabetically by title, so if you can find the box that has an A on the top, in red, let’s start with that one.”
So that’s what they did. Jeremy would open a box from the bottom — that way the books could be unpacked in alphabetical order. Then he carefully removed the books in order by title, and handed them three or four at a time to Lyle.
While they unpacked books, Jeremy thought about how much he liked Lyle. They were comfortable together and had quickly become friends. He thought they would become good friends, maybe even best friends. He had a lot of friends at Las Lomas, but no best friend there.
Jeremy watched Lyle arrange his books in the bookcase. He said he was a swimmer and had been on the varsity water polo team at Mountain Lakes High. He said he was gay. Then he thought about Lyle and Greg. Both had just moved to Walnut Creek. Both played water polo and were swimmers. Both were gay. Even if they didn’t become boyfriends, he could see them becoming friends.
Jeremy decided that he wanted to find a way to get Lyle and Greg together — a plan that would let them meet in some sort of casual way. Maybe doing homework together. Or studying! All four of them were taking AP U.S. History. There was a major exam coming up in his class; it would be the same for Lyle. It should be the same for Mike, Greg, and Nikki at Northgate; AP classes had the same content and were supposed to follow the same schedule at every school. Mrs. Lehman, his APUSH teacher, suggested that they start study groups of five to six students; she said that’s what they did at U.C. Berkeley where she taught U.S. History.
Jeremy grinned. That’s how Lyle and Greg would meet; they’d all get together to study for the APUSH exam. He’d call Mike when he got home and the two of them would set it up. Jeremy would invite Lyle and Mike would invite Greg and Nikki, since they were all in the same APUSH class at Northgate. With all of them in a study group, it wouldn’t seem like they were just trying to get Lyle and Greg together.
“You look happy,” Lyle said, pulling Jeremy out of his thoughts.
“I was just thinking that I’m glad you moved here. I like having a friend just down the street.”
Lyle smiled. “I’m glad I have a friend in my new neighborhood and at my new high school. It’s going to be great having someone who can show me around and help me meet his friends.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “And maybe even a cute gay kid!”
“I’ll point the way, like getting you into the GSA and pointing out a few guys who I know are gay. Other than that, you’re going to be on your own.”
“Geez, someone’s always assigning homework!” Lyle laughed.
Jeremy grinned. “Yup. That’s the bane of a teenager’s life!” he said.
Lyle’s mom stepped into his bedroom. “What would you guys like for dinner?”
“A hamburger. A gourmet hamburger!” Lyle said.
“That’s all you ever want! Jeremy, what about you?”
“I’m easy. Anything’s fine for me,” Jeremy replied.
Lyle’s folks took them to Cheesecake Factory. That made Lyle happy because they had several different types of ‘gourmet’ hamburgers. That made Jeremy happy because they had his now-favorite dessert, key lime cheesecake. They all enjoyed their meals, and the conversation focused both on what Walnut Creek and Las Lomas High School were like. It was mostly a question-and-answer session, with Jeremy providing answers or saying he didn’t know if he wasn’t familiar with what was asked.
When Jeremy got home he called Mike. He got Mike’s voicemail with a message that it was full. So he called the Butler’s home number. Mike’s mom answered.
“Hi, Mrs. Butler. This is Jeremy. I tried to get Mike on his cellphone but got voicemail. Could you ask him to call me when he can?”
“Mike is spending the evening at his grandparents’ home. He’s installing a new computer for his grandfather.”
“That’s Mr. Butler?”
“No, it’s my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Owusu. They live in Martinez. Mike called and said he’d be late, around eleven or eleven-thirty. I’m sure he won’t call you back until tomorrow after school.”
“Okay. Please tell him I’m not sure when I’ll get home from school, so I’ll call him. Oh, and could you tell him that his voicemail is full?” He chuckled. “And thanks for remembering my long to-do list.”
“I’ll pass on the list to Mike, Jeremy. And you’re welcome. Bye now.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Butler. Bye.” He grinned. So Mike was playing computer tech. He’d have to kid him about that.
On Monday morning Lyle’s mom drove him and Jeremy to Las Lomas High. They went to the office and were directed to the registration clerk. Lyle’s mom had the registration information that she had filled out online, Lyle’s birth certificate and vaccination records, the mortgage paperwork proving they lived in the school district and the Las Lomas High School attendance area, along with Lyle’s transcripts from Mountain Lakes High School and Potrero Middle School.
Lyle and the registrar reviewed the list of Jeremy’s classes and Lyle was able to get the same classes as Jeremy in second, third, and fourth periods. He got into Creative Writing and Journalism. He was assigned to seventh period PE, but he was given a stack of forms from the CIF, the California Interscholastic Federation, that had to be completed. In order to play on a sports team, Lyle’s parents had to prove that he wasn’t transferring to Las Lomas High because he’d been recruited by the school or a coach for that sport, and that the high school was in the attendance area for where he lived. Lyle needed to have a physical exam so he’d be cleared to be on the swim team; the registrar gave Lyle’s mom a list of approved doctors. She told them he’d need to have second physical before the fall semester so he’d be cleared to be on the water polo team.
As Lyle went to his classes, each teacher wanted to meet with him after school to review where he had been in the same class at Mountain Lakes High so that could be compared to where the class was at Las Lomas. So he scheduled two teacher meetings per day starting Monday, his first day of school. That way by Thursday he would know what he needed to do to catch up if that was necessary. He did find out that the midterm exams for his AP U.S. History and Honors English 3 classes were scheduled for the third week in February. Lyle knew he’d need to start studying, especially for the AP U.S. History exam. Advanced Placement classes had exams that were a lot harder than the ones for high school courses because they granted both high school and college credit.
Because they didn’t have their bikes and they were later due to Lyle’s meetings with two of his teachers, Lyle’s mom picked them up for the drive home.
“So, Lyle, how was your first day at Las Lomas High School?”
“Great! Having Jeremy in three of my first four classes was a huge help. He introduced me to a bunch of kids in each class and especially at lunch. I’m meeting with the teachers for all of my classes, except PE. This afternoon I met with my Algebra 2 and Trig and Honors English 3 teachers. I’m in good shape because we’re at the same place as I was at Mountain Lakes. And, I like all of my teachers. So far!” Lyle laughed. “Check back in a couple weeks after I have more experience with them.”
“Why do you need more time?” she asked.
“It depends on how much homework there is and what the tests are like. It takes a couple weeks to find that out.”
“So you met a lot of kids? What are they like?”
“Mom! It’s only been one day. I don’t even remember most of their names yet. Gimme a break, okay?”
“Jeremy,” she said, “How about you answer my question.”
“Since we have three classes together I was able to introduce Lyle to some kids I know in those classes. Then at lunch I introduced him to the kids in my lunch group.” Jeremy turned to Lyle and smiled. “Lyle fit right in. Assuming that’s what he wants, he’s welcome at our table. With Lyle there are seventeen of us who eat lunch together. Everyone liked him. He’s a nice guy.”
Lyle blushed, then added, “At lunch I got a third-degree interrogation. You know, where am I from, what high school did I go to, why did we move here, what does dad do, what do you do, how do I like Walnut Creek, how do I like Las Lomas High, how do I like the cafeteria food? There were more but I can’t remember anything else. I will sit at Jeremy’s table at lunch, and the kids in that group that I met were real nice and very friendly. So that’s about it.
“Wait! I forgot about my most important class. Seventh period PE. My grey shorts and T are okay; we don’t have to buy all new ones. I’m going to have trials tomorrow to see if I can make the swim team. If I do I’ll have to have Speedos and tops and a jacket in school colors — maroon and gold. They’ll give me a list of the stores where they’re sold.
“We have practice during seventh period and after school the day before a meet. We swim four days a week and Thursdays we do weight training. I really like our coach; his name is Steve Mann. I like the idea of doing weight training. What I need is long, strong muscles which means it’s not the typical body-builder look. We never had weight training at Mountain Lakes High.”
Mrs. Welter continued asking questions. Lyle, and sometimes Jeremy, would answer them the best they could. For example, she wanted to know what the graduation rate was for Las Lomas High, the percentage of students that were boys; the ethnic makeup of the student body — which Jeremy recognized as the racial makeup of the student body. She wanted to know the total number of students, how many students were in the eleventh grade, and the average number of students per teacher. Jeremy suggested that Lyle could look up the statistical information on the school district website.
When Jeremy got home the first thing he did was call Mike.
“Hey, boyfriend,” Mike said when he answered, seeing Jeremy’s name on his cell’s screen.
“Hey back at back at‘cha, boyfriend. So how was the first day of school for Greg and Nikki?”
“They seemed to be confused by the open layout of our campus. I guess most of the high schools in Virginia are basically one multi-story building. Greg said our pool is a lot smaller than the one at Yorktown High, but Northgate has about 400 fewer students so it doesn’t need as big a pool.”
“I sent messages to Nikki and Greg and told them that you’d provide a shoulder for them to cry on if they had any problems going to a new school. I guess they were already doing that when they get lost on the Northgate campus.”
“They didn’t really get lost. Their problem was figuring out where the buildings are located. They’d figured the campus out by lunchtime, so I don’t think they’ll have any problems. I introduced them to some of my friends in the classes that we had together. They fit in right away, and both of them have joined my lunch group.
“The biggest problem they’re having is the bell schedule. It works different here than at Yorktown High in Arlington.”
“Your mom told me that you were installing a new computer for your grandfather in Martinez.”
Jeremy heard a big sigh from Mike. “Yes and no. Installing the computer was easy. The problem was my grandfather had some old software he wanted me to install on the new computer. The trouble is, he couldn’t find the original CDs or serial numbers. So he had to buy a new copy of a bunch of programs online. I download all the software and copied his data from his old computer. End of story, right? Wrong. For example, he had version 2002 of Quicken; the one we downloaded is version 2015. He hates the new version because it doesn’t look the same or work the same. Unfortunately for him, he’s going to have to learn the new version. I got on my Kindle account and ordered and gifted him a paperback book on the 2015 version of Quicken. I’m glad it’s finally all installed, and the book should help him figure it out. So, what’s new with you?”
“I have some interesting news. On Sunday a family moved in down the street from my house. They have a kid who’s our age and today was his first day at Las Lomas High. His name is Lyle Welter, and he’s from Tucson. He’s nice, he’s smart, he swims and plays water polo, he has red hair, freckles, the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen, a big smile, he’s cute, and… ta da! — he’s gay!”
“That’s amazing. Let’s have him and Greg meet so they can get to know each other.”
Jeremy laughed. “That’s one of the reasons I phoned you. I want to do exactly that, have Lyle and Greg meet. But I don’t want it to seem like we’re matchmaking or anything like that. So, since the five of us are taking AP U.S. History, I thought we could get together to study for the midterm that’s coming up in two weeks. I assume we all have our midterms at about the same time, so studying together should be a good idea. And our new neighbors can meet and greet and get to know each other.”
“Sounds like a very excellent plan. Lemme check when we have our midterm, and we’ll plan to start prepping like what, about a week before?”
“I was thinking like later this week, maybe Thursday. At Las Lomas the APUSH exam is the third week of February, and starting this Thursday will give us exactly two weeks to study. That way we won’t end up needing one or more all-night cram sessions.”
“How often should we meet?”
“Maybe a couple nights a week, or one weekday night and one day on the weekend. Of course, we need to do this between now and the exam.”
“Okay. We can decide the other dates at our first meeting Thursday night. Let’s do it at my house. We’ve got room to meet, there’s more of us in my neighborhood, and Lyle will be able to see our neighborhood.”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll talk to Lyle after you let me know that Greg and Nikki will be available. Now I need to log on and see my assignments and homework for this week.”
“I’ll check with Greg and get back to you. Later, lover boy.” Mike laughed and ended the call before Jeremy could reply, and that made him laugh, too. It also made him realize all over again how much he loved Mike.
Jeremy went online to the Las Lomas student website and copied all of the assignments he had due from Tuesday through the following Monday into a Word file, which he printed.
He finished the homework that was due on Tuesday. No surprises, except Ms. DePaulo listed a terminology exam for his AP Chemistry class. He went back through the last six chapters in the textbook and workbook and reviewed the material that he thought would be on the exam, writing down each term with its definition.
Jeremy went into the kitchen and microwaved one of the frozen meals then ate his dinner. When he finished he sat down with the list of chemical terms and reviewed them again. The phone rang. “Maybe that’s my mom,” he thought.
“Hi, Jeremy.” It was Mike.
“Oh. Hi,” Jeremy responded.
“Wow, that’s not much of a greeting!”
“Sorry. As usual, I was hoping it was my mom calling me.”
“Then that’s okay, Jeremy. I wish it was your mother, too. I know you’re waiting for her to call you.”
“I oughta get a phone with caller ID. Or you should only call me on my cell. But right now I can greet you the way I should have.” Jeremy paused for a couple seconds, then more appropriately greeted his boyfriend. “Hi there, lover boy!”
Mike laughed. “I love it when you talk dirty!”
“Hey, hey, there’s nothing dirty about saying ‘lover boy,’ lover boy.”
“If you insist. But, in the meanwhile, on a planet far, far, away, we have a study group confirmed for Thursday night after dinner. Except my mom insists on inviting you and Lyle to have dinner here before the meeting. That means be here by five-thirty, and Greg and Nikki will get here around six-thirty. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds good. Let me call Lyle and make sure that works for him, then I’ll call you back.”
“Okay. Later, ’gator.” Again, Mike laughed and ended the call before Jeremy could respond. So he did the next best thing, he called Lyle.
“Lyle? This is Jeremy.”
“Yup, this is Lyle. How you doing after the lengthy interrogation on our way home tonight?”
“No hay problema. At least she didn’t ask you any embarrassing questions with me there.”
“Embarrassing questions? What kind of embarrassing questions would she ask me?”
“Like, are there a lot of cute guys at Las Lomas High, are the guys on the swim team sexy looking in those skimpy little all-revealing swim suits, did you find any nice gay guys to ask if they’d go out on a date with you, did you sign up for the GSA club — those kinds of embarrassing questions.”
Lyle was laughing so hard it took him a few seconds to recover.
“I’d be soooo mortified! Can you imagine what it would be like if your mom asked you those questions?”
“I’d run away from home. Anyway, I called to talk to you about the APUSH midterm exam. The exam’s coming up in a couple weeks, and Mike and I were talking about studying for it. His next door neighbors Greg and Nikki are also taking it at Northgate. We’re planning to get a study group together. The first session will be Thursday night at six-thirty at Mike’s house. Since you’re taking APUSH I figured you’d be a good candidate to join the study group. We’d walk over there together. Can you make it Thursday night?”
“How long do you think it will run?”
“Maybe an hour and a half.”
“Sure. Lemme go check with my mom.”
“Okay, but before you check with her there’s one more thing. Mike’s mom wants you and me to have dinner at their house at five-thirty. You’ll meet her and his dad and his three brothers. They’re triplets, and they’re thirteen years old. They are cute kids, and they look identical even though Mike says they aren’t.”
“Whoa! Triplets. I’ve never met triplets before. I’ve never even seen triplets before. Now let me go ask my mom.”
Lyle returned to the phone. “My mom says okay, and she’d like to talk to Mike’s mom to make sure it’s alright with her.”
“You mean she wants to know if there’ll be adult supervision during the study group, don’t you?”
Lyle laughed. “Yup.”
Jeremy gave Lyle the Butler’s home phone number. “Mike’s mom’s name is Loreana Butler. And I forgot to tell you, Mike’s next door neighbors are twins. Greg and Nikki Emerson. A boy and a girl. I don’t think they’re identical, but you should ask them.”
Lyle laughed. “If they were identical they would be world-famous! You are a funny guy, Jeremy. Will Greg and Nikki be at dinner too?”
“I don’t know. Maybe, but maybe not. Could be that Mike’s mom wants you to meet her family first. If that isn’t enough reason to go there for dinner then her cooking is.”
“I’ll go because I’m most interested in meeting Mike. Meeting his folks and triplet brothers will be great, too. And his next-door neighbors, too. Hey, that’s two too’s in a row. Do you think that’s too many too’s or…”
Jeremy interrupted. “Stop! Stop! You’re making my head hurt!” Then they both laughed. “You didn’t say you were interested in the studying for our APUSH exam part, but I assume it is,” Jeremy said.
“Oops. You know, there’s a problem with that.”
“A problem with that?”
“Yeah. It’s school work! Hours and hours and hours of school work! And you’re asking me to do it when we’re not even in school!” Lyle groused.
“Uh… but that’s the reason…”
Lyle interrupted, “Hey, I’m just Kidding.” Then he laughed. “So, you said we’re walking to Mike’s house?”
“Sounds weird, but since it’ll be at night around rush hour it can be dangerous to ride our bikes. Belive it or not, it’s safer to walk. I’ll come by your house a few minutes after five.”
“My mom offered to pick us up after and drive us home.”
“That’ll be totally excellent. Wasn’t she starting work on Thursday?”
“Yes, but she gets home by six. So picking us up at eight or whenever we’re finished shouldn’t be a problem. Besides, that’s a way for her to meet Mike and his family.”
“Then we’re good to go. I’ll see you mañana.”
On Thursday night Jeremy and Lyle made the twenty-minute walk to Mike’s house. When they got there, Mike’s brothers opened the front door and grabbed Jeremy in a group hug.
“Hi, Jeremy!” Joe said. Tom and Paul repeated the greeting.
Jeremy returned their greetings. “Hi, guys.”
Then they looked at Lyle. “Hi, you must be Lyle,” Joe said. “I’m Joe. These are my brothers Paul and Tom. Mike’s expecting you. He’s in the family room. We’ll take you back.”
When they got to the family room Mike stood up.
“Hi, Jeremy.” Mike turned to Lyle. “Hi, Lyle. I’m Mike. Glad to meet you.”
They shook hands.
“Nice to meet you, Mike.”
“I’m not going to grill you now,” Mike said. “You’re going to get that at dinner from my brothers. And, to a much less extent, from my mom and dad. So, instead, let me get you a Coke or something to drink. Any preference?”
“A Coke will be fine.”
“A Coke, please.”
“Have a seat and I’ll be right back.”
“You were right about the triplets, Jeremy. They’re really cute kids, and there’s no way that I’d be able to tell them apart.”
“Yeah. I’m not sure what the deal is in deciding if they’re identical or not, but they sure look identical to me. Mike says they switch classes and they’ve never been caught. I think part of the reason is that they’re so smart.”
Mike returned with the Cokes, and they started talking about Lyle’s first day at Las Lomas and how it compared to Mountain Lakes High. Lyle wanted to know how Jeremy and Mike had met. Mike asked Lyle how gays were accepted in Tucson and at his high school. Jeremy asked how the football and basketball teams did at Mountain Lakes High. They wanted to know which classes and teachers each liked best this school year, so far, and if any which they liked least. Then they talked about what music and movies and TV shows they liked. And so on.
The dinner was great. Mike’s dad grilled steaks and his mom fixed baked potatoes, asparagus, and a salad. Jeremy couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a steak, and it was delicious.
He and Mike both stifled their laughter when Mike’s brothers started grilling poor Lyle. He was a good sport and responded to all of their questions.
- “Yes, you are the first triplets I’ve ever met and you three look identical to me. And you’re cute!” (That made the triplets blush and giggle).
- “I went to Mountain Lakes High School in a suburb of Tucson, Arizona. It’s an okay school. I played water polo and I was on the swim team. I swim butterfly and backstroke.”
- “Tucson is a lot bigger than Walnut Creek, but a lot smaller than San Francisco. The weather there is very hot in the summer and warm the rest of the year. I like Walnut Creek and living here so far. But we moved here less than a week ago, so ask me that question in a couple months.”
- “Las Lomas High is great, a lot better than Mountain Lakes High, and the coach and teammates on the swim team already made me feel like I’m one of them.”
- “My favorite classes are Creative Writing, Journalism, and English. But I’ve only been at Las Lomas for four days so far, so ask me that question in a couple months, too.”
- “I want to be a writer, so I want to go to the University of Iowa and take their writing program. It’s rated the best school for writers in the country. Of course, that’s assuming I’m accepted.”
- “The kind of movies I like are science fiction, adventure, and comedies, but definitely not horror or zombie or vampire movies.”
- “Hmm… my favorite movie of all time. Wow, that’s tough. I liked The Lord of the Rings a lot. Science Fiction… well, I liked the Star Wars movies, and Interstellar, too. But my two favorites are Galaxy Quest and Young Frankenstein because they’re science fiction and comedies all in one.”
- “I don’t watch a lot of TV. Mostly sports and movies. Series, I like The Fosters and CSI Cyber. I watch a lot of things on YouTube and Vevo, like Marques Brownlee who does great reviews of smartphones, tablets, and laptops, movies like ‘The Mars Underground’ and series like ‘Childhood’s End’ and ‘The Colony.’”
- “Okay… the kinds of music I like. I guess anything except Mariachi because I heard enough of that in Tucson. Well, maybe not quite anything, because I like specific songs, not every song by a band or on a CD, you know what I mean?”
- “No, I do not and did not have a girlfriend. I had a boyfriend in Tucson, but he moved away last year. And before you ask, I know that Mike and Jeremy are boyfriends because Jeremy accidentally told me.”
- “My dad works for Safeway; he’s a planner for new stores and for remodeling existing stores. My mom works for Reebok in the marketing department.”
- “I’d have to ask my mom if she can get you a discount on Reebok shoes.”
That’s when Mike’s mom shut down the inquisition. “Guys, you shouldn’t ask Lyle a question like that. That’s something that you should ask his mother. It puts Lyle in an uncomfortable position.”
“Okay, Mom,” Joe said. “We’re sorry, Lyle. We shouldn’t have asked you about that.”
“It’s okay, guys. You’ll meet my mom when she comes to pick up me and Jeremy tonight. You can ask her then, and she won’t mind.”
“Alright,” Mike’s mom interjected, “It’s almost time for Greg and Nikki to arrive. Let’s get the dishes into the dishwasher so the table will be ready for you guys. And you three,” she pointed to the triplets, “remember, don’t bother them while they are studying. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mom,” Joe replied for the triplets, as usual. They ran upstairs, followed by her shout, “Don’t run in the house!”
Lyle laughed. “Now I see what it’s like to have little brothers.” That was followed by a shout from the stairs by one of the triplets: “We’re not little!”
Greg and Nikki arrived and met Lyle. They chatted for a few minutes while Mike went upstairs to get his laptop.
“Okay, we know that we’re using the same textbook in both schools,” Mike said when he returned. “We’re at the same place in our APUSH classes at both schools. We’re taking our midterms on the same date at both schools, two weeks from this coming Monday. That means our study group will be very effective if, and let me emphasize this, if we actually study. That means we need to decide how often we’re going to meet and then divide up what’s going to be covered on the exam. That way we’ll know what to study before each meeting.”
Jeremy added, “Mrs. Lehman, our teacher at Las Lomas, suggested we create a study group like they have at U.C. Berkeley. She also teaches U.S. History there. She told us a study group will work best for us if there are no more than five or six members in the group. Turns out we’re right-on with that. She also said the study group isn’t a substitute for studying on our own. The study group lets us review what each of us has covered and can show places that we’ll need to review again. She posted the study group guidelines she uses for her students at Berkeley. I printed enough copies for each of us.” He handed them out. “I suggest we look this over right now, then talk about these steps. Then we can decide where, when, and how long we want to meet.”
After they’d reviewed the guidelines, Nikki had a suggestion. “Let’s talk about the topics we need to cover and how much studying each of us has done already.”
After discussing the topics and tests that each of them had so far, they agreed that they had more studying to do. They decided they should meet on Sundays and Thursdays, with the next meeting at Jeremy’s house on Sunday, then Greg and Nikki’s on Thursday, Lyle’s the following Sunday, Mike’s the following Thursday, and Jeremy’s on the Sunday before the midterm exam which was on Thursday, the nineteenth. That made six meetings. They also agreed that if the majority wanted to drop one of the meetings that could be done, but only one time. They also agreed that they’d eat dinner at home before each Thursday meeting, and lunch at home before each Sunday meeting.
Because distance was a problem at night, they all agreed that they’d get a parent to drive them when the Thursday night meeting was on the other side of Treat Boulevard from where they lived; Jeremy said he didn’t think his mother would would have returned from her trip by then, so Lyle said his mom would drive them. On Sundays they decided they’d ride their bikes unless it was raining.
The rest of the meeting was spent talking about what they’d each studied so far that they expected would be on the midterm exam, and what they should study before the next meeting. They also briefly talked about their personal APUSH strengths and weaknesses.
After about an hour and a half Greg stood up and stretched. “It looks like we have a little over a half-hour left. Let’s take a break. I want to chat some more with Lyle about water polo and swimming for a few minutes, anyway.”
“Okay,” Mike said. “Let’s take a bathroom break or whatever. Greg, you and Lyle can sit in the family room to talk about playing the kind of sports where you get wet on purpose. Let’s get back together in ten minutes.”
Greg and Lyle went to the family room and sat next to each other.
“So, you’re going out for both swimming and water polo. That’s cool. When will you know if you’ve made the swim team?” Greg asked.
“Coach Mann had me swim some laps yesterday, and he told me that I’ll be on the swim team once I have my CIF clearance. Seems he needs someone else crazy enough to go out for fly and backstroke. Now it depends on whether I passed my physical. My mom took me to the doctor after school yesterday. I assume that I’ll pass the exam here since I passed the physical and was on the swim team at Mountain Lakes. Why aren’t you going out for swimming?”
“My folks said I need to make sure I get all A’s, and moving to a new school makes that harder. So I had to choose, either the water polo team or the swim team. Water polo is my sport of choice.”
“I assume you’re going to be swimming most of the time during PE, though.”
“Yup. Just no after-school and weekend practices, no meets, and so on. It’s actually fine with me. Makes my folks happy, and makes me happy because I’ll be doing what I love to do.”
“Well, in the fall we have a couple games against you guys, even though our schools are in different leagues.”
“Lyle, what was it like being an out gay kid at your high school in Tucson?”
“I wasn’t out at school. I was out to my family and my friends, but otherwise I was tight in the closet at school. My friends knew that, and they never spread the word.”
“How about your teams?”
“Again, I was out only to the guys on the teams who were my friends.”
“So nobody ever outed you at school?”
“Nope. Maybe I was lucky, but I went to school with my friends starting in first grade. We were really tight.”
“Do you miss your boyfriend?”
“Yeah. Tyler was a great friend, and totally sexy. His dad got promoted and they moved to Orlando. So, what about you? Anything on the boyfriend front?”
“Nah. I haven’t been at Northgate long enough to figure out who’s gay and who’s cute but not gay. Mike is helpful, and we’re going to the next GSA meeting.” Greg grinned. “But why should I have to wait for that? I met a really cute redhead tonight who, rumor has it, is gay.”
Lyle blushed. “You and I have a lot in common, Greg. How about we do something this Saturday, like see a movie?” he asked.
“I’d like that. I’d like that a lot. We can go to the theater in Walnut Creek, or the one in Pleasant Hill. I vote for Walnut Creek because the town’s a lot more interesting and the theater is a lot closer.”
“You like sci-fi?”
Lyle nodded. “Yup. I love sci-fi movies. Why?”
“There’s a new movie that’s showing at the Century 14 in Walnut Creek, Project Almanac. It’s a time travel movie where a bunch of teens find a time machine and go back and totally fuck up their lives. I saw a review in the Sunday paper.”
“Okay, I’ll find out the times it’s playing and I’ll text you.” Greg grinned. “Uh… I guess I’ll need your cellphone number and email address and all that.”
They exchanged their information, and just in time because Mike walked in.
“Time to get back to our study group, guys.”
Lyle’s mom arrived to pick up Jeremy and Lyle. She met Greg and Nikki Emerson; Mike, Loreana, and Alex Butler; and the triplets. As expected, this took quite a while as the adults talked. So Jeremy and Lyle had about a half-hour to chat with Mike, Greg, and Nikki. This time they talked about things like music, TV shows, movies, and what they liked to do for fun. They didn’t mention school or the study group.
On the way home Lyle’s mom was full of questions. “Well, how was your study group? Is it going to work?”
“Yeah, it’s great, Mom. We’re going to meet on Sunday afternoons after lunch and Thursday evenings after dinner. We’ll switch between the four homes. It’ll be at Jeremy’s this Sunday. I’ll give you the schedule including when we’re having it at our house.”
“So how’s Mike’s neighbor? He’s in your study group too, right?”
“Yes, Greg and his twin sister Nikki. They aren’t identical.” He grinned.
She laughed. “Somehow I expected that old joke. Lyle, you must have had a good time since you’re smiling.”
“I did. Did you have a good time, Jeremy?”
Jeremy laughed, then he replied, “You’re asking me that question after we just finished spending two long hours studying Advanced Placement United States History? Lyle Welter, I think you had too many Cokes tonight, way too much caffeine.”
“You are kidding, Jeremy. Aren’t you?” Mrs. Welter asked.
“Yes, I was joking. It just seems funny to say we had a good time studying.”
“Hey, Mom, I have a surprise to tell you about.”
“And what’s that?”
“I invited Greg Emerson to go out on a date with me on Saturday. We’re going to see a movie, Project Almanac. It’s a science fiction movie. We’re going to the… uh, Jeremy, what’s the name of that theater in Walnut Creek?”
“Century 14.” Jeremy smiled. It looked like the plan he and Mike had concocted had worked, without needing any pushing to move it along.
“Yeah, that’s where we’re going. I figure we’ll have lunch then see the movie then wander around town looking at what there is to look at.”
“That sounds like it will be a fun day. Do you have plans for Saturday, Jeremy?” she asked.
“Mike’s coming over and we’re going to do our homework. We have some of the same classes even if it is different schools. We usually do that on Saturdays, alternating between his house and mine.”
“That’s nice. Have you heard from your mother about when she’ll get back?”
That’s a question Jeremy did not want to be asked. But he had to answer. “No, she’s still tied up in Hermosillo. She’s not sure when she’ll be back.”
She pressed the subject, to Jeremy’s dismay. “You seem to be doing pretty well for yourself. Aren’t you lonely?”
“No. I get along by myself. Mom left me money for groceries and to pay bills. I have my own credit card. Greg’s granddad, Roger Butler, checks in on me from time to time. I have a lot of friends at school. I spend a lot of time with Mike and his family, and with Greg and Nikki now that they’ve moved next door to Mike.”
“And you’ll be spending a lot of time with me and my family now that we live down the street,” Lyle added.
Jeremy grinned. “And I’m glad you and your folks moved down the street, Lyle. So anyway, I’m okay. I just wish my mom would finish up what she’s doing in Mexico and get home.”
Everything Jeremy said was true with some twisted a bit and some a lot. He was getting along by himself just fine. He was eating well. He was keeping the house neat and clean. The bills were being paid. But he did hope his mom would get home soon. And without her idiot boyfriend, Leo. Whatever happened, or didn’t happen, he was okay.