Brothers by Choice (by Grant Bentley)

Brothers by Choice

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental

I’m Jamie Thomas and, at the time this all started, I’d been gay for seventeen years and ‘emo’ or at least dressed the part for the past three years. I totally loved the emo look and the emotional, sensitive, angsty stereotype that goes along with it. Not to mention the fact that it drove my parents around the bend. Which, for them, was a fairly short trip.

I’ve known I was gay since I was twelve or thirteen. Because my parents would have killed me if they found out, I thought I was doing a reasonably good job of closet dwelling. Still though, a lot of kids were pretty much convinced I was gay and often dropped hints to that effect. Hints that I ignored or laughed off. Thankfully, however they saw me, I was seldom hassled or picked on. Partly, I think, because I was very careful not to give anyone a reason to think I was ‘perving’ on them. And, partly because I was the ‘class clown’. I was a master of the one-liners and could find the funny side of almost any situation. Being ‘small for my age’, I learned that if I was entertaining and funny, other kids would rather laugh with me than at me. I think I got along with a lot with the teachers and kids alike because of my small size, baby face, vivid blue eyes, and permanent smile. In fact, I was once described as being elfish. Life was good.

And then there was Chip. That’s right, Chip. He was everything I wasn’t. He was the personification of the tall, dark, handsome jock. He was also totally ‘full of himself’, and was probably the most arrogant, ignorant, conceited jerk I have ever met. He was the kind of guy who was always surrounded by people but didn’t have a single real friend, just worshippers and cling-ons. If he dropped his pants and commanded, ‘kiss my ass,’ there would have been a fight to see who would get to do it.

He was in most of my classes including P.E. and, as careful as I was, he thought he caught me ‘perving’ on him in the locker room one day. I was actually ‘perving’ on Ricky who was standing behind him, but I wasn’t about to say so.

He smashed me against my locker and whispered, “Listen faggot, one day you’re going to get what you deserve.”

If the coach hadn’t walked in, he probably would have kicked the crap out of me right there and then. I wish he had, because that would have been so much better than what happened later. Unfortunately, I lived two blocks from him, on the same street, so on my way home I had to walk past his house. A couple of weeks after the locker room confrontation, Chip caught up to me in front of his house, grabbed me by the back of my neck, and before I could even think to react, he forced me inside with him. My feet hardly touched the ground until I was in his room.

Once in his room, he pushed me down on the floor and said “Okay faggot, now’s the time.”

He told me I was his. When I resisted, he backhanded me across the face and told me, either I did what he said, or he would beat the shit out of me. I still resisted, so he did just that. In fact, he beat me so badly I lost consciousness. Then, apparently, he raped me.

I’m not sure if he thought he had killed me or if he hoped that I would die without prompt medical attention, but the next thing I knew, I was lying in a ditch on some back road west of the city. Even though I hurt so much I couldn’t move, I knew I had to get help. I tried to get up but I must have passed out again. The next conscious realization I had, I was in the hospital, however I had no idea how I got there. I found out later that some kids, who were out biking, had found me and called 911 on their cell. Within ten minutes, an ambulance was there and fifteen minutes later I was in the hospital ER.

I had three broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a concussion, a ruptured spleen, bruised kidneys and numerous other injuries. I had to have surgery twice and spent seven weeks in hospital. During the first week, I don’t remember seeing any visitors, not even my parents. But then I was in and out of consciousness for the first few days, so I wouldn’t have remembered anyway. The only people I remember seeing other than medical staff were a couple of police officers, and that wasn’t until after I was moved from Intensive Care at the end of the second week. They simply took a statement of what I could remember and left.

Of course, I remember seeing my best friend Randy and his parents. In fact, Randy was there every day. I think he did more to help me get through it all than anyone, including the counsellors. It wasn’t until the third week that others began to come in to see me. I had several teachers and friends from school drop in. But I still never saw my parents. I asked about them but no one seemed to have a reasonable answer as to why they never came to see me. I was actually starting to worry that something had happened to them.

Finally, a social worker came in about the middle of the third week. I don’t know if she was putting it off because it was such a difficult thing she had to do, or if she was waiting until she was sure. At any rate, I was lying there recovering from multiple injuries, two surgeries, and being raped when this poor lady had to explain to me that, on top of everything else, my parents had given up all parental rights to me.

“What do you mean, gave up all parental rights?” I asked, feeling totally stunned. “Why?”

“I’m so sorry,” she replied, “I’ll try to explain.”

According the social worker, my parents had been in to see me the day I was admitted. As the doctor explained my injuries, they were devastated that someone would do that to their ‘precious little boy’. That is, until he suggested there was evidence that I had also been raped. Then their concern turned to anger. First, they insisted that the doctor had made some terrible mistake. When the doctor assured them he hadn’t made a mistake and explained the evidence that led to his conclusion, they wouldn’t accept it. At least my father wouldn’t. He was determined that it was not possible and whatever my father said, my mother went along with.

One thing you have to understand is that my parents are very proud, very conservative and very religious. All their lives, they had been told, by their church, their Republican politicians, and to some extent by the media, that to be good God-fearing conservative Americans, it would be impossible to have a gay son. Combine their beliefs with a small measure of naïvety, or a large measure of stupidity, and you have the recipe for some fairly dodgy thought processes.

Somehow in his wisdom, what little he had, my father had decided that a man could rape a woman, but a man could not ‘be’ raped nor could he rape another man. Brutally beaten—yes. That was acceptable. Raped—no. That was not acceptable. No ‘man’ would allow himself to be taken ‘that way’ unless he was predisposed to homosexual tendencies. To make matters worse, two days after I was admitted to hospital, my name had appeared under the front-page headline ‘Brutally Beaten and Raped’. So obviously I was gay, and as far as they were concerned, it was headline news. At that point, I guess to save face with their friends and the church, and maybe even themselves, they felt they had no choice but to disown me. I did say 'dodgy' thought processes, didn't I?

I tried desperately to get hold of them. I wanted to convince them that I didn’t want to have sex with this guy, to make them understand that I had been unconscious when he raped me. Eventually, though, I realized it would be pointless. Although it had nothing to do with my being raped, I was gay and in time they would simply disown me anyway. I decided, ‘screw them’. If they didn’t want me as their son, I didn’t want them as my parents. Now, I not only had to deal with the trauma of being beaten and raped but disowned as well. I hardly slept that night or for the next couple of nights. The counsellors at the hospital, the social worker, but most of all Randy, were great though, and they got me through it.

A week before I was to be released, one of the police officers came by to interview me one last time. He told me that Chip had been arrested and charged. The DNA tests from their home proved that I had been there. They had found traces of my blood on the carpet and wall in his bedroom. A DNA test on swabs taken from me had proven that he did have sex with me. The tire tracks they found where I had been dumped matched his dad’s car tires. Also, the soil sample from the edge of the road where I was found and the soil samples taken from their car’s tires matched. The officer said the evidence was so overwhelming he didn’t have a chance.

After nearly seven weeks, I was told I would be ready to be released in a couple of days. Randy’s parents had made it clear that they would be more than willing to take me in, but they already had five kids and a small three bedroom house. Social services made it clear that they felt that Randy's parents taking me in would be an extra burden they really didn’t need. His parents argued the point, but didn’t get very far. My social worker thought it would be a great idea too, but she didn’t have the final say, so staying with Randy’s family was not an option.

She came to see me the day I was to be released and told me that she was looking for a foster home for me, but not all foster homes were willing to take in teens my age. She told me that she would keep looking, but since she hadn’t found a foster family yet, I would be going to a small group home. It turned out to be really good. There were five boys altogether ranging in age from fifteen to seventeen. A couple of the other guys were also gay so we outnumbered the straight boys three to two. The other guys were very accepting anyway, so it didn’t matter.

I wasn’t to start school for the first week I was there. They wanted me to heal a bit more physically. I was also still seeing a counsellor everyday to help me deal with everything I had been through. He also wanted to give me a few extra days to make sure I was emotionally ready to go back to school.

It was Saturday morning when I was called downstairs at the home. When I turned the corner into the living room, I was swept into what I think was supposed to be a gentle hug, but it hurt like hell, and I could hardly breathe. It actually scared the crap out of me, that is, until I heard my brother’s voice.

Let me explain. My brother, Jonas, is fourteen years older than me (I was an accident). He worked for a large computer company and he and his wife, Sharon, had been living in Europe for the last six months. My social worker had been trying to find him since my parents gave me up. She didn’t say anything to me as she wasn’t sure his reaction would be any different than my parents. However, as soon as he was informed of what happened, he and Sharon were on a plane home. He asked her not to tell me as he wanted to surprise me. He did.

“Oh my God Jamie,” he said as he finally released me and stepped back to look at me, “How you doin’ kiddo?” He always called me that. Even at seventeen, I loved it. I don’t know why, but for some reason, it meant he loved me. Dumb, huh?

“I’m good,” I replied, “Or getting there.”

“They told me what happened, everything,” he said, “I can’t believe the folks kiddo. What’s with that?”

“I don’t know,” was all I could think of to say.

“I don’t know?” he asked with a grin, “That’s it? I think I’d have a lot more to say if they’d done that to me.”

“What’s the point?” I asked him.

“The point is you’re their son,” he replied.

“Not anymore,” I said.

“That makes two of us,” he said with an edge to his voice.

“What?” I asked.

“After what they’ve done to you, I can’t be their son,” he said.

He then pulled me into another more gentle hug. I glanced to my right and saw Sharon smiling at me with tears running down her cheeks. I smiled back and she blew me a kiss. I also saw my social worker standing there, smiling with a tear or two as well.

“But I AM gay,” I blurted out.

My heart dropped when I felt him release his grip on me. I expected to see his eyes full of disappointment. I didn’t. I saw a smile and nothing but love.

“So I’m straight. Does that make you love me more?” he asked.

“No,” I answered.

“So should I love you less because you’re gay?” he asked.

“No,” I answered again.

“Right,” he said, “It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference does it?”

“No,” I answered, this time with a big smile on my face.

Within the next half hour he and Sharon signed a bunch of papers to become my legal guardians for the next several months.

As soon as they were done, Jonas turned to me and smiled saying, “Get your stuff. We’re going home.”

I never thought I would be able to say I was going home again. I can’t tell you how good it felt to hear those words. Home, it turned out, was a huge new four bedroom condo on the tenth floor of a luxury high rise. I couldn’t believe it when my brother showed me my room. It was as big as half my parents’ house. It had a queen size bed, desk with a laptop computer and cell phone sitting on it, a stereo and thirty six inch television with a PS3. I even had my own balcony.

I just stood in the doorway staring in disbelief. My brother put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Welcome home kiddo.”

I turned, hugged him and managed to choke out, “Thank you.”

I phoned Randy soon after I got there to let him know where I was and what had happened with Jonas coming home from Europe. He was over within twenty minutes and we spent the day visiting with Jonas and Sharon, talking and fooling around (not that way) and playing the PS3. He had known Jonas most of his life and I know Jonas saw him as another little brother. Randy and I had been best friends since kindergarten. He was the first person I told I was gay. He isn’t by the way. He treated it as if I had just told him I was short. Kinda like, okay, tell me something I didn’t already know and that was it.

As I said, he was at the hospital every day and I think he did as much to help me deal with everything as the counsellors did. I knew I could tell him anything and he would listen so I told him everything and he listened. He held me, he comforted me, and he cried with me. He made sure I knew that he would always be there for me, that I would always be his best friend, and nothing would ever change that. After everything that had happened, having one person who cared and who I knew I could count on no matter what, did more to pull me through than anything else.

It was Wednesday afternoon when we decided I could return to school Thursday. We decided a two day week would be good to start with. I would get the feel of being back and the other kids would get the feel of having me back. As usual, Randy and I would walk to school together. Of course, we weren’t living next door to each other any more, so Randy had to walk seven blocks to get to our building, before we continued on another five blocks to the school. It seemed like it was taking him forever to get here though. I was afraid we were going to be late but Jonas convinced me we wouldn’t be late. Randy finally got here about eight fifteen. When we left the condo we had fifteen minutes before the first bell.

I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the school. My rape and the Chip’s arrest had made front-page news. I can tell you what I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect a huge banner in the main entry welcoming me back. Nor did I expect half the school population to be there, cheering and clapping as I walked in the door. It was the first time in this whole horrific ordeal that I really broke down. I was standing there with a huge smile and bawling my eyes out at the same time. Now I knew why Randy was taking so long. Just as he was about to put his arm around my shoulders I turned and smacked him on the arm. “You asshole,” I whispered to him. He just grinned. It was then that Jonas and Sharon walked in behind us and Jonas put his arms around both of us. Even they were in on it.

The principal, Mr. Johnson, came forward, shook my hand and welcomed me back as did all my teachers. Then, everyone basically surrounded me. I got more hugs, gentle hugs that is, in the next ten minutes than I got in the first seventeen years of my life. I say gentle because everyone had been warned I still had some healing to do and to be very careful around me.

What we didn’t know was that they had organized a rape awareness assembly before Jonas had called them on Wednesday to say I would be back the next day. The welcome back banner had already been prepared so it was ready for whenever I decided to come back and getting all the kids together was easy. However, they weren’t sure how I would react to the assembly. After everything settled down, Mr. Johnson took Jonas, Sharon, Randy and me into his office where we met a crisis counsellor, and a police spokesman.

He apologized that the assembly had coincided with my return. It certainly hadn’t been planned that way. He said he and the staff had decided that they wanted the students to know that rape could happen to anyone, to give them some idea of the consequences, and to show them some ways to defend themselves. He asked me if I felt up to attending the assembly. He made it very clear that it was my choice and if I didn’t feel up to it, they would simply send everyone to their first class and the day would proceed as usual. They would still have an awareness program and assembly, but it would be at a later date. That would give me the chance to think about whether or not I wanted to attend or even be directly involved. However, I assured him I was up to it and would be more than willing to attend and even take part in it.

Mr. Johnson thanked me and told me he thought, that under the circumstances, I was very brave and selfless for being willing to help my fellow students. We were then led into the gym where chairs were set up. The police spokesman, the crisis counsellor, and of course Mr. Johnson, took centre stage. They all spoke about what rape is and how it can affect the victim. They even had a demonstration of some simple self-defence moves.

As they were wrapping it up, I asked if I could speak. They weren’t sure I should, but I told them I wanted everyone to know how it was for me, an actual victim. It was okay to speak in generalities but I wanted them to know how I felt. I wanted them to know what it had done to me. After a short debate, I was given permission. I spoke for almost thirty-five minutes. I told them everything from the initial terror through every step that had led to my being in the group home. Then I told them how my brother and sister-in-law had flown back from Europe and had taken me into their new home. As I spoke, I could see the many changes of emotion on everyone’s faces. I could see at least half of them, both girls and boys in tears more than once. When I finished, I got a standing ovation. Mr. Johnson still explained that the best thing the students could do for me now, was to treat me normally. If I wanted to talk about it, I would, and they were not to pepper me with questions.

Jonas and Sharon came over and each gave me a big hug and asked me if I was okay before they left. Randy also gave me a hug before he ran off to get changed for P.E. As I was leaving the gym for what would now be our third period class, Bobby Taylor walked along side me and asked if he could talk to me later in private. Bobby was not really a friend, just an acquaintance, but I liked him so I said sure. He suggested that we could maybe meet after school and go to Burger Baron, grab a burger and talk.

After school, I met Randy on the front steps of the school and told him what was going on. He immediately warned me to be careful. As he put it, “You’ve had more to deal with than any guy our age should ever have to deal with. Don’t try to take on someone else’s problems as well.”

I assured him I wouldn’t. I told him that I thought Bobby just needed to talk and said I wouldn’t get involved.

He just smiled at me and said, “Yeah, right. I know you. Just remember I’m here to help out if you need me.”

“I know, thanks. If it’s really serious I’ll let you know…if he says I can,” I responded.

“Be careful. I love you man,” he said as he gave me a hug and started for home.

While I waited for Bobby I phoned Sharon and told her what I was doing. I told her I might be late getting home as I wasn’t sure what might come out of our meeting.

Within five minutes, he appeared. “Hi,” he said, “Ready to go?”

“Yep,” I replied.

We walked in silence to the Burger Baron. When we got there and found a table near the back, the waiter came over and took our orders. Once we had our food, he started to talk.

“You have to promise you will tell no one what I’m going to tell you,” he said.

“I don’t know if I can do that,” I told him.

“You have to or I’m outta here,” he replied.

“Okay, I promise,” I said, “This is between you and me. It goes no further unless you say so.”

“You swear?” he asked.

“I swear,” I replied.

“Okay,” he said. “What constitutes rape? Does it always involve violence?” he asked.

“Like we heard in the assembly this morning, it doesn’t have to be violent or involve physical force like mine did. It can be any sexual activity that you don’t want or desire.” I replied.

“Anything?” he asked.

“Yes, anything,” I replied, “If you don’t want it to happen and the person pushes you to do it against your will, it’s rape or sexual abuse which is kinda the same thing. If you don’t fight it because the person who is doing it has some sort of power or authority over you, still the same, and you should report it to someone with the ability to help you.”

“I don’t think I can,” he said as his eyes began to fill with tears, “If I do I’ll lose everything.”

“If you don’t, you’ll have given control of your life to someone else. You need to decide you are worth more than that. You need to stand up for yourself. I think you already know that because you’ve taken the first step by talking to me,” I told him.

“I really don’t know if I can do it,” he said again with his tears now flowing freely.

“Yes you can,” I said, “I’ll be there for you.”

After several seconds, he asked, “You’ll come with me?”

“Absolutely, I’ll be there for you all the way no matter what,” I told him, as Randy’s words quickly crossed my mind.

“Thanks,” he replied with a weak smile.

“That’s what friends are for,” I said smiling as I reached for his hand across the table, “And I swear, I will never let you down.”

“Thank you. You have no idea what that means to me,” he said as he squeezed my hand.

Just then the waiter came over to give us the bill. He glanced down at our joined hands, smiled and winked. It was just what we needed to help us relax us a little, because it made us both laugh as he walked away. We got up, paid the bill and left.

As soon as we were outside, Bobby pulled out his cell phone, looked at me and said, “If I don’t do this right now, I never will. So you ready?”

“Whenever you are,” I replied.

Bobby then dialled his cell. As soon as he asked for Mr. Johnson, I knew things were going to happen and happen fast. He was the best and we all knew he would fight to the death for his kids. Bobby asked if he could come in to the office and talk. Even though it was more than an hour since school got out, within ten minutes, we were sitting in Mr. Johnson’s office. By the time we got there, Bobby was in tears and had a death grip on my left hand. As soon as Mr. Johnson saw us, he knew. After the morning assembly and noting the fact that Bobby was hanging on to me as if his life depended on it, there was little doubt as to what Bobby wanted to talk about.

Once Bobby was finished, he had explained in detail that from the time he was thirteen, his uncle had been sexually abusing him. For almost an hour, Mr. Johnson and I sat listening to Bobby describe how his uncle forced him to have sex with him. Bobby’s parents go to the same church as mine and are just as conservative and religious. Both of them made it very clear how they felt about homosexuals. His uncle had discovered Bobby’s journal and read it. He knew Bobby was gay. By threatening to out him to his parents, his uncle had the power over him to get what he wanted. Bobby was so afraid of losing his parents’ love, he was willing to do whatever his uncle wanted to keep his silence. Mr. Johnson and I were both floored by the last part of Bobby’s story. He told us that over the last few months it had become more than he could bear. He had formulated a plan to kill himself. A plan which he was going to put into motion the following week.

Fortunately, during the school assembly, unintentionally and unknowingly, I had given him hope and something he had never felt he had up until today. I had given him someone to reach out to, a friend who would listen. The next step was to give him the support he was going to need when all hell broke loose.

Mr. Johnson made sure that Bobby understood what he had to do. Bobby broke down completely and it took us several minutes to calm him down again. Once he calmed down, he confessed that he was terrified of what would happen, but he knew it had to happen. His uncle had driven him to plan his own suicide and he had to be stopped.

He looked at me, his eyes red and swollen from crying. I reached over and took his hand. I had no idea just how much help he was going to need. But I had promised I would stand by him to the end and a promise is a promise. However, I decided I needed some support too and called Jonas to come over.

Mr. Johnson picked up the phone, looked at Bobby, squeezed his shoulder, smiled and began dialling. About fifteen minutes later, two police officers and Jonas walked into the office. There was no turning back now. Bobby had to repeat his story. The whole time I had my arm around his shoulders to let him know he was not alone. Jonas had his arm around me to let me know the same. After he had finished, he broke down again and began sobbing. I wrapped my arms around him and just held him until he calmed down again. As soon as he did and they had his signed statement, the police were ready to leave and arrest his uncle.

As Bobby was telling his story to the police, the same social worker I had came into the office. Before the police left, they spoke to her for a few minutes. Then after they left, she moved in and knelt down in front of us. She explained that Bobby would have to go to the hospital with her for some tests that they hoped would support his story. In particular, since his uncle had come into his room that morning, they would be looking for samples of his uncle’s DNA.

Since she had been involved with my parents, she asked Bobby how he thought his parents would react. He told her they would not react well. I added that Bobby’s parents were just like mine and even went to the same church. I was sure they would see it as partly Bobby’s fault or even totally his fault. No matter how it played out, they would assume he ‘wanted’ it just like my parents assumed I ‘wanted’ it.

At this point, Jonas spoke up. He suggested we go with them to the hospital to support Bobby and afterwards, Bobby come home with us, at least for the night. Since we all agree that going to his home tonight was not an option for him, Jonas thought it would be better than taking him to a group home. With us, he would have the understanding and support he needed. The social worker agreed. She would contact his parents and let them know that he would be in her care tonight and for the foreseeable future, depending on their reaction to his uncle’s arrest. So Bobby would be coming home with us tonight.

By the time we got home it was already nine o’clock. Once we got there, Sharon gave Jonas a kiss and hugged him tight. He told her he would explain everything to her after we had a chance to eat. She gave both Bobby and I a big hug and said I better phone Randy as he had called here six times already. I explained that Randy was my best friend and asked Bobby if he would mind if I phoned him and let him know what was happening. I told him Randy knew we were meeting and was probably worried about me. Bobby agreed that it would be okay for me to tell Randy.

I phoned Randy and told him about everything that had gone on. His first concern was that I was okay. I assured him I was. Then he laughed as he repeated my words, “He probably just needs someone to talk to. I won’t let myself get involved,” followed by, “I know you Jamie and I knew you would. Don’t forget, I’m here…for both of you. See ya tomorrow. Good night man. Love ya.”

Thankfully, Sharon kept dinner warm as we were all starving. After we ate, Bobby looked like he was ready to pass out. I asked him if he was tired and he replied that he felt totally exhausted. I asked him if he was ready for bed to which he replied, “Definitely.” I showed him where the bathroom was and one of the spare bedrooms.

He looked at me sheepishly for a few seconds and asked, “Can I sleep in your room tonight. I really don’t want to be alone right now.”

“Of course,” I replied.

“Thanks,” he said with a shy smile.

I took him into the bathroom and found him a new toothbrush and then left him to get ready for bed. After he came out of the bathroom I went in, brushed my teeth, did whatever, washed my hands and returned to my room. Bobby was still dressed and sitting on the end of my bed. I apologized to him for not having any pyjamas as I slept in my boxers. He replied that that was cool as he did too. I asked him if he needed anything.

He replied with a weak attempt at a chuckle, “Sleep.”

“You and me both,” I said as I began to get undressed.

Bobby watched me for a few seconds before he too began to undress.

Once we were down to our boxers, I lifted the blankets and motioned for him to crawl under the covers. As soon as he did, I crawled in beside him. For the first several minutes, he lay there totally motionless. It was like he was afraid if he moved he might touch me or something. Finally, I reached over and held his hand. Then within a few minutes, he slid over and rolled to face me. I put my arm around him and he immediately cuddled into my side. It was about two minutes later that I heard his breathing become slow and regular and I knew he was asleep. I wasn’t far behind him. When morning came, and I woke up, we were lying in almost exactly the same position.

I thought I could tell from his breathing that he was awake.

“Morning,” I whispered.

“Morning,” he whispered back, then after a pause he asked, “Why are we whispering?”

“I didn’t want to wake you in case you were still asleep,” I answered.

“Okay,” he replied with a chuckle, “Umm, I gotta pee and I really need a shower.”

I laughed. “Yeah, me too. You go first,” I said.

Just then there was a knock on my door. It was Jonas letting us know that breakfast would be ready in fifteen minutes or so.

I yelled, “Thanks,” and we both scrambled out of bed. Bobby went to the bathroom, took care of business, showered and was back in about five minutes.

“That was quick,” I said.

“I didn’t want to make you wait too long,” he responded.

“Thanks, be right back,” I said and headed for the bathroom.

Within less than fifteen minutes, we were both downstairs and sitting at the table ready to eat.

“Morning,” Jonas greeted us.

“Morning,” we both replied.

“Sleep well?” Jonas asked.

“I slept better than I think I ever slept,” Bobby told him.

“Yeah, me too,” I said.

“I can’t remember ever feeling so comfortable and safe,” Bobby said, “It was so good.”

“Good, I’m glad,” Jonas said, “You will always be safe here.”

“I know, thanks,” Bobby replied, “I can’t believe you guys are being so good to me. I’m not sure I deserve it.”

“You deserve it,” I told him, “Everybody deserves to feel safe.”

“I guess they do. I just never thought I ever would. Thanks,” he said smiling at me.

“You’re welcome,” I said smiling back.

Just then the phone rang. It was the social worker asking us if we could come down to her office at 1:00. She said they were meeting with Bobby’s parents at 10:00 and she would be discussing the results of that meeting with us. Jonas told her it would be no problem, we could be there by 1:00 easily. He phoned the school to let them know what was going on and Mr. Johnson was more than understanding and told Jonas if there was anything he could do to let him know. I also phoned Randy and let him know what was happening and that I wouldn’t be in school.

When we got there, the receptionist showed us into our worker’s office. The four of us sat down and waited for her. As we sat down, Bobby took my hand and held it. I gave his hand a little squeeze and smiled at him. About two minutes later, she came into the office and she didn’t look happy.

It was not unexpected, as she explained Bobby’s parents and uncle’s reaction. The uncle, of course, denied everything. The parents sided with the uncle and found it impossible to believe their son would fabricate such lies. They made it clear that they thought he must be possessed or at least under some satanic influence. They wanted him to be immediately sent to a spiritual intervention centre. When the social worker explained to them that that was not going to happen, they got all defensive and began threatening to bring in their lawyer and start a law suit against her and her department.

However, their attitude changed when she explained the medical report from the hospital and the police report; specifically with reference to his uncle’s DNA samples and where they were found. At first they were simply shocked. Then they got back on the satanic thing and accused Bobby of coercing his uncle into committing these acts of perversion. They became adamant again that Bobby needed spiritual intervention. When the social worker tried to explain that Bobby had been sexually abused by his uncle against his will since he was thirteen, they wouldn’t believe her. Even after she explained that Bobby had contemplated suicide because he couldn’t think of another way out, they still wouldn’t believe her. After all, his uncle had been an elder in the church for fifteen years. He would be incapable of such acts without Bobby’s Satanic influence.

In the end, the head of the department of social services along with one of their lawyers, had to intervene and explain to Bobby’s parents that lawyer or no lawyer, they were being stripped of all parental rights and a restraining order was being placed against them by the courts. If they had any contact with Bobby whatsoever, or any so-called spiritual intervention was attempted by anyone, they would be arrested and would be facing time in jail. The minimum they would be charged with besides contempt of court and breaking the restraining order, would be tampering with a witness, aiding and abetting a criminal, and obstruction of justice. He suggested it should be good for five to ten years each. At that point, they both got up and stormed out of the office.

Bobby sat emotionless throughout the social worker’s entire explanation. The only thing he did was squeeze my hand every once in a while and I would squeeze back just to let him know I was there.

“Bobby, are you okay?” she asked.

“What’s going to happen to me?” he asked in an almost disconnected fashion.

The social worker looked over at Jonas with a questioning look. He looked at her for a minute, then at Sharon who nodded, then at me and I smiled, then back at her and he smiled. I don’t think I have seen anyone look more relieved than she did.

Jonas reached over and put his fingers under Bobby’s chin and tilted his head up until they were eye to eye, “You are going to live with us,” he said, “If you want to, that is.”

Bobby just burst into tears. About three minutes later, he looked at the three of us and smiled through his tears.

“I can’t think of anyone I would rather live with,” he replied, “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Then it’s settled. Now I suppose we have a bunch more signing to do,” Jonas said to the social worker with a laugh.

“Nothing like becoming instant parents of two teenage boys is there?” she laughed.

“At least I avoided the dirty diaper stage. I did, didn’t I?” Sharon asked looking directly at Bobby and me with a big grin.

“Only the laundry hamper knows for sure,” I replied.

“We know who’s doing their own laundry then,” she responded.

Bobby was just sitting there grinning. I don’t think I had ever seen anyone look happier, even if his eyes were still red and puffy from crying.

After everything was signed, the social worker took us to a storage room and showed us which boxes were Bobby’s. When Bobby asked her how they had persuaded his parents to give them his stuff, and asked how they got it so fast, she just smiled and told him it was amazing what you can do with a court order and two police officers to help you back it up. She then gave Jonas a check to buy Bobby any other things he needed.

A half hour later we were on our way to the mall. One thing he needed was a laptop as he wasn’t allowed a computer at home. Instrument of the devil you know. First thing we did when we got to the mall was hit the food court. All of us where starving. I love mall food courts. The great thing about them is the variety. Whatever artery-clogging fast food you like, you can find it at the mall food court. Once everyone was full, we headed for the electronics store. An hour later, Bobby had his laptop and a cell phone and we were on our way home.

As soon as we got home, we began packing Bobby’s boxes into the condo service elevator. Twenty five minutes later, we had it all stacked in one of the spare bedrooms which was now Bobby’s room. The two of us spent the next hour unpacking and putting everything away and set up his laptop so it would connect to the wireless router.

I noticed that he had nothing but religious posters and statues or ornaments. I asked him if he wanted to put them all up. He picked a couple of posters that he liked and the rest of the stuff we put in the recycling. We decided then and there that we both needed to hunt up some new cool posters for our rooms. That would be tomorrow’s project at the mall. That and getting him an iPod.

As we were sitting back admiring our work, Jonas yelled up the stairs that it was almost time for dinner. We both yelled, “Be right there as soon as I wash up.” We were almost in perfect unison which got everyone laughing.

“I think we had twins,” Jonas joked as we walked into the kitchen. That made me take a good look at Bobby. Jonas was right in a way. We could definitely be brothers, maybe not twins, but brothers. Bobby was a bit more defined and several inches taller than me, but then who wasn’t. He had what is described as a swimmer’s build I guess. We both had brown hair, except mine was dyed black and had been for three years. We both had hazel eyes and dimples.

I noticed that Bobby was looking closely at me too and we both started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Sharon asked.

“Look at us,” I said, “We actually could pass as brothers.”

“You know,” she said, “You’re right. You could. I never really noticed before, but you are remarkably alike.”

“I always wanted a brother,” Bobby said with a big smile, “Now I have one.”

“And a really hot one too,” I said laughing.

He just gave me an evil grin as he turned to ask Sharon if he could help getting dinner ready. Soon, he was making a salad and I was setting the table.

Just then the phone rang. It was Randy. I invited him over and told him if he hurried he could have dinner with us. He was ringing the bell in the condo entrance ten minutes later. I buzzed him in and got a quick hug as I answered the door. He then looked over at Bobby, grinned and said hi as he reached out and they shook hands. As we ate, we filled Randy in on the mornings events. His expression changed from concerned, to angry, then to amused. It ended with a big grin as he mimicked my voice saying, ”I won’t let myself get involved.”

We explained to everyone about our conversation before I met up with Bobby. Jonas laughed and said, “That’s my little bro and just a part of the reason I love him so much.” I almost teared up at that but managed not to, as I grinned at him.

After dinner, the three of us cleared the table and did the dishes before we went up to Bobby’s room to play with his computer. He was not totally unaware as far as using a computer was concerned as he had used one at school. But he hadn’t spent much time online and didn’t know a lot about surfing the net. By the time we were done however, he was ready to surf with the best of us. Before we realized it, it was nearly midnight, which explained why we were all getting tired. I wished Bobby goodnight and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

As Randy and I headed down the hall he looked at me and grinned. It took me a second to realize what the grin meant and I was quick to let him know that I had no romantic inclination towards Bobby at all. As Randy was staying the night, when we got to the door of the spare room, I stretched up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before running to the safety of my room and locking the door behind me.

The next morning we all slept in. It was almost 10:00 when I got out of bed. Randy was already up eating cereal. It was neatly 10:30 before Bobby showed up for breakfast. Within an hour, we were ready to hit the mall. We arrived at the mall about noon and just spent the first hour wandering from store to store looking at everything. We grabbed some food at the food court and then went back to do some serious shopping. Since we had already looked at nearly everything, we knew just where we were going and just what we wanted. We left the mall about an hour later. Bobby and I had half a dozen posters each, Bobby had his new iPod, and Randy had at least three CD’s and a couple of DVD’s. We got home just in time for Bobby to make another salad and for me to set the table for dinner again.

“So, you guys have a good day?” Jonas asked as we sat down to eat.

“Yeah, the best day ever,” Bobby replied.

“Yeah, for sure,” I said, “You’re gonna have to check out our rooms once we get our posters and stuff up.”

“Just let us know when you’re done,” he said.

Again, we cleared the table and did the dishes before we headed to our rooms. We went to my room first and the three of us decided the best arrangement for the posters on my wall. I of course leaned towards the emo theme and a couple of my favourite bands. We then did the same with Bobby’s room. His posters also included a couple of bands, one really cool abstract something or other and two of his favourite divers. Once we were done, we called Jonas and Sharon up to check out our handiwork. They were quite impressed or at least they said they were.

We hung out for a couple of hours and got into some heated games on my PS3 before Randy had to go home. We went to the door to see him out. Just as he was going to close the door, he turned, grinned, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Then laughing he said, “See ya,” and closed the door. I just stood there for a second, felt my cheek and then laughed. There was one more reason he was my best friend.

When we were picking out the posters at the mall, Randy and I learned that Bobby was a member of the local diving club and on the school diving team. He even had a couple of trophies from diving competitions. I now had a new spectator sport since I would naturally be going to all his competitions. Brothers have to support one another right? Boys in Speedos, hmmmmmm.

We also learned during our time at the mall that he had his eye on one of his team mates. It was Jeff Rand. I knew Jeff from a couple of my classes. He wasn’t someone you would pick out as a model for a fashion magazine. He was kind of ordinary looking, maybe a touch nerdy but looks are secondary. He was one of the most decent, caring, genuine guys I knew. If you were looking for the perfect friend, he should be at the top of your list of prospects.

Up until then, and with all the drama we had been dealing with lately, the topic of significant others had never come up. Now that I knew he was interested in Jeff, I would have to see if I could get them together. I knew Jeff was gay. Everyone knew Jeff was gay. He had come out two years ago when he was a freshman. I knew Bobby was gay, but I was one of a few people who did and I didn’t know if he wanted to come out. We had never talked about it.

So that would be phase one. Talk to Bobby about coming out. We had gone back to Bobby’s room after Randy left to play on his computer some more. After about half an hour we got bored with it. I walked over, flopped down across Bobby’s bed and patted a spot beside me indicating that I wanted him to do the same. As soon as he did, I started phase one of my plan of action.

“Everyone knows I’m gay and now, all of a sudden, you’re living with me. Did you ever wonder if people are going to think you’re gay too?” I asked him.

“I never really thought about it,” he replied.

“Would it bother you if they did?” I asked.

“You know, the idea of coming out scared the hell out me before. But that was only because of my parents. Now, it doesn’t bother me. I know from seeing the way everyone treats Jeff, Terry, Matt, you, and the other kids who are out, that there is nothing to fear anymore. At least not at school. Besides I can only imagine what my parents are telling everyone about me,” he responded.

“So, on Monday then, are you going to join the out crowd?” I asked him laughing.

“I don’t think I’m going to ask Mr. Johnson to call an assembly but I’m not going to hide it anymore. After everything I’ve been through trying to hide who I am, if nothing else, I learned that it’s not worth it. Life is too short to live it in fear. So, yeah, I’m going to join the out crowd,” he said grinning.

I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and smiling said, “I’ll be right beside you. Brothers together forever.”

“Yeah, brothers together forever,” he repeated as he gave me a huge smile.

“So, you want me to invite Jeff over to play some PS3?” I asked him.

“Don’t you dare,” he replied.

“Aww come on,” I pleaded, “I could get you started on a game and then disappear. Then you could put your amazing charms to work.”

“I don’t need your help,” he said.

“Oh really?” I said laughing.

“Isn’t it past your bedtime?” he asked with a grin.

“Okay, I can take a hint,” I replied as I got up, “Goodnight Bobby.”

“Goodnight Jamie,” he said.

I left his room feeling good that night. I felt like I really had a new brother. So much had changed for both of us and I knew that our lives were only going to get better. And they did.

Bobby and Jeff did get together. They were well known as a couple through the rest of high school and into university. Today, Bobby, besides being my brother by choice, is a youth counsellor with social services and Jeff is a family doctor with the Southside Medical Clinic.

I met the man of my dreams in university. He was on the university diving team with Bobby and Jeff. Boys in Speedos, hmmmm. His name is Mark. He’s now a paediatrician and works in the same clinic as Jeff. I decided to go for a degree in computing science. Developing computer games just seemed more emo to me than becoming a doctor or lawyer or teacher.

Randy met the girl of his dreams in university as well. They were both in veterinary medicine when they met. Now they run a vet clinic here in town. They have two boys. Jamie is seven and Danny is five. They are the cutest little guys and best of all, we are Uncle Jamie and Uncle Mark. Of course there’s also Uncle Bobby, Uncle Jeff, Uncle Jonas and Auntie Sharon. And even though Mark is my partner for life and I love him more than life itself, Randy will always be my best friend.

Jonas and Sharon have two girls now. Sandra who is sixteen and Bev who is fourteen. Jonas works on program development with me and Sharon works with us as a director on the ranch. Jonas and I developed and patented a couple of video games and an accounting program that made us wealthy beyond our wildest dreams and allowed us to pursue our wildest dream, the ranch.

The ranch is just five miles from town. We have three houses on the ranch as well as a barn, corrals, hay shed, machine shop, and all that other ranch stuff. Our house is the biggest. It has ten bedrooms, six bathrooms, an indoor pool, a fully outfitted weight room, games room, dining room that seats thirty six, a commercial kitchen and a family room you could fit thirty people into comfortably, forty if they cuddle up. Bobby and Jeff’s house is in the same yard, just forty or fifty feet away from ours. It has six bedrooms and four bathrooms, a regular kitchen, a games room and a large family room. Jonas and Sharon’s house is the original four bedroom home that was on the ranch. It has it’s own yard and is about two hundred feet behind the other two.

We also have an eight car garage with four apartments on the second floor for the live-in staff. We have a staff of six; a cook, a housekeeper, a registered nurse, two counsellors to assist Bobby, and a ranch hand. We have fourteen horses, four Shetland ponies, two llamas, and two donkeys.

Now I know you are wondering what kind of dream requires all that.

Well, it’s simple. Although I still work on program development to some extent, I spend most of my time working with Bobby at social services dealing with ‘displaced children’, mainly teens. By that, I mean kids who have been kicked out of their homes or otherwise become homeless, usually because they are gay. We give them the chance to be loved and cared for, to finish high school and go to college or university, into an apprenticeship, or whatever suits them best.

Some of them come to us through a program called Getting Back. Getting Back is a one-year program designed for long-term street kids who want to get off the street but need to work through the conversion process from street life back to ‘regular’ life. The norms, behaviours, and expectations of street life are far different than the norms, behaviours, and expectations of ‘regular’ life. In most cases, taking them directly from the street to the ranch would mean too many adjustments to make too quickly. Unfortunately, there is also the problem of addictions to deal with in some cases. If they have been on the street for a short period of time, they can often come directly to us. We tend to have more success than regular group homes or foster homes. Partly because we have the personnel but mostly because we have a large support group of their peers with much the same background as they do.

It is our hope that no child should ever be homeless or have to live on the street. Unfortunately we can’t help them all. I wish we could. To date, including those presently with us, we have had forty seven kids stay with us. Neil was the youngest and has stayed with us the longest. He was eleven when he came to us. He’s now in his senior year of high school. We are the closest thing to a family he can remember.

Other than the fourteen living with us at the moment, all but one of them has completed high school and gone on. The one that didn’t, Lance, is now our ranch hand. He completed high school and is happy doing what he’s doing so who are we to tell him otherwise. And he is great with the kids who all think the world of him.

Right now, we have eleven in college, eight in university and six in apprenticeship programs as well as seven college or university graduates and, of course, our ranch hand. Seldom a week goes by without at least five or six of them coming home for the weekend, often with their boyfriends or girlfriends. It truly is ‘home’ to all of them. It’s always fun when they all come home at the same time, like for Christmas or Thanksgiving. Lots of air mattresses and sleeping bags get put to good use.

Of the ones living with us now, three are girls and eleven are boys. They range in age from fourteen to nineteen. The girls live with Bobby and Jeff and the boys live with Mark and I. We all eat together in the common dining room in our house. After dinner, everyone usually does their homework in their rooms. Afterwards they can spend their evening swimming, working out, playing in the games room or helping around the house and/or yard if it’s their ‘work’ day. Some of them go riding or help Lance with the animals. There are also counselling sessions available on request—sometimes the request is theirs and sometimes it’s ours.

We regularly have weekend trail rides and campouts for those who enjoy the outdoors. We also do trips to the theatre. We have both a movie theatre and two live dinner theatres in town. Trips to the mall are always fun. And, whether something is planned or not, it never gets boring.

When we get a new addition to the group, the others always make sure that the they are made to feel like part of a family. It doesn’t usually take the newcomers long to feel at home with us and begin to look upon the others as brothers and sisters. It’s amazing to watch the transition from timid and fearful to confident and self assured or angry and wounded to calm and contented. I can’t say it’s always easy. There are often bumps and hurdles along the way. Some of them can be pretty big, but it’s worth it. That first genuine smile or hug is priceless.

The ranch is our part of the dream. The rest of the dream is, of course, to keep them all off the streets. For that to come true, the way I see it; we have helped or are helping forty seven kids (so far) and if each one of them helps just five other kids and so on, maybe one day…who knows.

You do the math.

47 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 = 3 671 875