Finding Leo (by Grant Bentley)

Finding Leo

By Grant Bentley

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

When Liam loses his life-long best friend, his nineteen year old dachshund, Simon, he goes in search of a new best friend and finds more than just Leo.

How often would you expect your mom to find you the perfect boyfriend? I’m thinking, not very often…actually not ever. At least not my mom. Hell, she couldn’t even pick out clothes I was willing to wear in the dark, never mind in the daylight. She was able to embarrass the living hell out of me on a regular basis though, which she did on a trip to the animal shelter. We were looking for a dog or puppy after my best friend of my fifteen years passed away. His name was Simon and he was a nineteen year old dachshund.

“Oh my Goodness,” Mom exclaimed soon after we walked into the shelter, “He’s gorgeous.”

I quickly looked over to see what dog or puppy she was looking at, only to find her looking at one of the young guys working at the shelter. She was right, he was gorgeous, but there was no way I wanted to be embarrassed into unconsciousness, so I tried to ignore her. However, knowing her, I didn’t have a hope in hell of that working.

“Don’t you dare,” I warned her.

“Dare what?” she asked innocently.

“Embarrass me,” I replied, “That’s what.”

I finally got her attention away from him and onto the dogs that we were supposed to be looking at. Of course, who should come over to help us…him.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“I’m sure you can,” Mom replied, “I’m Marg Wilson and this handsome young man is my son Liam.”

If I hadn’t been so busy turning fourteen shades of red and trying to sink through the floor, I would have choked her right then and there. However, I was.

After a slight pause, I think to give me time to recover, he grinned, reached out his hand, and introduced himself as Daniel Walker.

“Hi,” I said as we shook hands.

“So what are you looking for?” he asked.

“My dog just passed away and we’re looking for a new dog or puppy,” I replied.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said sincerely.

“Thanks,” I responded, “He was nineteen, which is pretty old even for a dachshund.”

“He was your best friend too wasn’t he?” he asked.

“Yeah, you have no idea,” I answered.

“Yeah I do,” he replied, “I lost my best friend last year. He was a fifteen year old miniature schnauzer.”

“I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically.

“Thanks,” he responded. Then after a short hesitation he asked, “So what are you most interested in, a dog or a puppy?”

“I guess a small to medium size dog,” I replied, “We don’t want a breed that’s too hyper and high maintenance but one that has some spark and enjoys being active.”

“Liam is a freshman at Sir Winston Churchill High School,” Mom announced out of nowhere.

“Really,” he replied grinning at me, causing me to blush again, “I’m a sophomore at Churchill.”

“How interesting,” Mom added, “It’s funny you two haven’t met by now.”

“Well it is a big school,” he replied.

“Oh. What’s this little guy?” I asked as I spotted a very cute little dog.

“That’s Leo. He’s a Lhasa Apso,” he replied, “And he’s probably exactly what you are looking for. He’s a year old and was brought in the day before yesterday. His owner went into a seniors residence and had to give him up.”

As soon as he heard his name, he perked right up and came to the front of his enclosure. I walked over and stuck my fingers through the wire to pet his nose. Daniel opened the door and let him out. When he did, Leo came right to me. There seemed to be an instant bond between us. After petting him and fussing over him for several minutes, it was settled. Leo would be my new best friend. When I pulled the leash out of my pocket, he immediately stepped up beside me and then sat looking up at me, waiting for me to put it on. As soon as it was on, he stood, looked up at me, then looked at the door, then back up at me, and his tail began to wag double time.

We signed all the papers, paid the kennel fees and stuff, and were ready to go. In fact, Leo was more than ready to go. He was obviously very well trained though, because he didn’t make a move towards the door. He stood patiently beside me, his eyes darting from me to the door and back again. However, even though he was behaving and standing next to me, he made sure he was between me and the door.

Of course Mom wasn’t done yet either. “You have our address and phone number,” she said to Daniel, “You must come by and visit Leo. I’m sure he would be excited to see you.”

Then looking at me, she said, “You should give Daniel your cell number so you can keep him up to date on Leo’s progress.”

Once again, I was about ready to die of embarrassment and blushed quite nicely. Especially when Daniel replied that he thought it would be a great idea. I gave him my cell number. He grabbed his cell phone and programmed it in and then gave me his number which I obligingly programmed into my cell phone.

“See ya later,” he said grinning, as we headed for the door.

If Leo hadn’t been so excited about getting out of the shelter, I think I might have been giving Mom some serious crap by the time we got to the car. However, his excitement was contagious, and I was just too happy to have him bouncing along beside me to be angry with Mom. On the way home, Leo sat on my lap and watched out the window. As soon as we turned into the driveway, he stood up and his tail started wagging. It was like he knew that this was his new home. Once in the house and off his leash, he looked at me for a few seconds like he was asking permission. When I smiled at him, he slowly and carefully began exploring the house. When he got to my door, once again his tail began to wag. I guess he knew it was my room from my scent. He did a particularly thorough job of checking out every nook and cranny of the room.

After investigating the house, I took him out to the back yard. As soon as we stepped off the deck, he rolled around in the grass before running all over the yard. I don’t think he had a big back yard in his previous home because he was so excited as he ran around exploring. I found Simon’s ball and after nearly half an hour of fetch, he ran over to the far corner of the yard and did his business. Then he ran back to the patio doors and went straight to the kitchen and sat down in front of the sink. I got the hint, filled Simon’s water bowl, and set it down for him. He drank over half of it before he went back to my room and curled up on the mat beside my bed for a nap.

A nap seemed like a good idea, so I stretched out on my bed and was soon sleeping soundly. I managed to get in a nice hour before my cell phone ringing woke me up. I didn’t recognize the number at first. After the third ring, I dawned on me. It was Daniel’s number.

I hit ‘talk’ and cautiously said, “Hi Daniel.”

“Hi Liam,” he replied, “You recognized my number, cool. So how are you and Leo making out?”

I gave him a play-by-play of Leo’s explorations and him choosing my room and mat to have a nap.

“I knew you were his as soon as the two of you saw each other,” he said, “It was like a totally instant bond both ways.”

“Yeah it was,” I said, “I just knew instantly he was the one.”

When I mentioned the back yard, he said Leo would probably love it. His previous owner lived in a high-rise so the only time he was outside he was on his leash going for walks.

“I just realized I live not all that far from you, I’m on 15th avenue just off 19th street,” he said.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, “I drive right past your place on the way to and from work.”

“Hey cool,” I responded, “Then you can check up on how Leo’s doing whenever you want.”

“Yeah,” he said, “And maybe check up on how his new owner’s doing too.”

I know he couldn’t see it, but I was once again turning several shades of red and was at a loss for something to say.

“You’re blushing aren’t you?” he asked after a few seconds.

“What makes you think that?” I asked back.

“Let me see,” he replied, “Maybe because you blushed three times in less than half an hour at the shelter.”

“If you had my mother, you would too,” I responded.

“Yeah, she didn’t leave too much for my imagination did she?” he stated more than asked.

“Uh…” I hesitated, “No, I guess not.”

“Hey don’t worry about it,” he said.

“I don’t know what she was thinking,” I responded, “I mean she might as well have come right out and told you. What pisses me off though, is I’m not out and have no intention of coming out.”

“Well as far as I’m concerned you are out to one more person,” he said, “I have no intention of changing that. And before you ask, yes I am. And I’ve been out since early last year.”

“Thanks Daniel,” I said, “I know it shouldn’t, but coming out scares the hell out of me. I don’t know how you did it.”

“Having very supportive parents and best friend helped,” he said, “I knew no matter what, I wouldn’t be facing everyone alone.”

“Well I’ve got my mom as you noticed,” I said, “But I’m not too sure about the guys.”

“Yeah I know what you mean,” he replied, “That’s a big one. What’re you doing later? Cause I think you need someone to talk to. Someone who’s been there.”

“I’m not doing anything actually,” I said, “And I’d really appreciate someone to talk to. Thanks.”

“Okay, how about after dinner?” he suggested. “I can come over to see how Leo’s doing,” he added with a chuckle.

“Sounds good,” I replied, “I’ll be looking forward to it.”

“Kay, see you then,” he said, “Bye.”

“Bye,” I responded.

About 6:30, he was knocking on the door. I quickly invited him in. He made a fuss over Leo, I offered him a Coke, and we went out to the deck. Mom actually behaved herself and left us alone, which surprised me. I think we talked about everything about being gay, from first figuring it out to now what do I do. In the end, I felt much more comfortable. First, I now had someone to confide in, which was very cool. Second, all the fears that had been running rampant in my mind were out in the open. Not just out in the open, but talked about, and, I guess not surprisingly, many proved to be totally invalid.

Daniel and I got together a lot and we soon became very good friends. A few times I sat with him and his friends at lunch in the cafeteria. The first time I did, he introduced me to Michael, his boyfriend. That was a touch disappointing but I can’t say I was surprised. When you are genuinely caring and thoughtful, look like Daniel, and are out, it would have been strange if he didn’t have a boyfriend. They had been together since before freshman year and not surprisingly, Michael was just as awesome as Daniel and helped me a lot as well.

Mom was thrilled that I had someone to talk to in Daniel. Of course, she was not particularly thrilled when she found out he had a boyfriend. Her attempt to find me the perfect boyfriend had failed. At least this time. But she was very impressed with Michael when she met him and felt he would be just as good a friend for me as Daniel. As she said, “You can never have too many supportive friends.”

About a month after meeting Daniel, one of my friends, Graham, approached me. I was walking home from school when he called to me.

“Hey Liam!” he called out, “Wait up!”

“Hey,” I said as he came up beside me.

Graham was the class clown. He had something to say about everything and was very seldom serious about anything. He was also one of my favourite people. In fact he was one of everyone’s favourite people including the teachers. During the ten minute walk to my place we talked a little about our English assignment. I invited him over for a Coke and to meet Leo. After playing with Leo for almost an hour, that is until Leo was exhausted and curled up in a corner of the deck after a long drink of water. I grabbed another couple of Cokes and Graham and I stretched out on the grass watching the clouds float by.

“Uh,” Graham finally said, “You’ve become pretty good friends with Daniel lately.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said.

“He lives next door to me,” he commented, “He’s a pretty awesome guy…so is Michael.”

“Yes he…well, they…are,” I responded, “They’ve helped me a lot.”

“Yeah,” he said, “They’ve been my saviours the last couple of years.”

I was pretty sure I knew where this conversation was going, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for it yet. Then I thought about it and realized we had both pretty much said it as we talked about Daniel and Michael helping us. In the next few seconds, I decided that I had been hiding who I was for far too long and had the distinct impression Graham had been too. And, since he had approached me, maybe he was ready to trust one more person…me. As scary as it seemed, I decided to go for it and hope I was right. If not, I would be outing myself…but I did still have Daniel and Michael to lean on.

“I think maybe we just might be able to help each other too,” I said quietly.

He was very quiet for several seconds before he said, “I guess, under the circumstances, I haven’t been that hard to figure out, have I?”

“Not really,” I replied, “At least I hope not.”

“I kinda figured it out a couple of years ago,” he said quietly with a weak little smile, “I was so thankful to have Daniel next door.”

I just gave him a smile and said, “That’s about when I did too, but I just had Mom to confide in and it’s not like she really understood.”

“I had my folks too,” he responded, “But like you said, they just don’t quite get it. They really do try though.”

“So does Mom, but sometimes she gets carried away,” I said, “Like at the animal shelter. She totally outed me to Daniel. It was so embarrassing.”

He rolled onto his side, looked at me and grinned, “Thank God my mom hasn’t done that to me…yet.”

“Speaking of Mom, she’s working late tonight,” I said, “You wanna order out for pizza and eat here?”

“For sure, yeah,” he responded as he pulled out his cell phone, “I’ll call home and let Mom know.”

And that was it. I now had a gay friend who was also a freshman, was someone I really liked, and who was not dating anyone. At least I hoped he wasn’t.

We ordered a couple of large meat-lovers specials and spent a good hour nibbling on pizza and just talking about anything and everything. Especially about the ‘gay thing’.

The next morning at school, Daniel and Michael saw us walking together down the hall. They saw us eating lunch together, and, after school, they saw us walking towards Graham’s together. When we got to Graham’s house, Daniel’s car was parked in front of his house, but he and Michael were sitting on Graham’s front porch. Graham invited them in, grabbed some Cokes and we went out onto their back deck.

“To avoid any misconceptions,” Graham started, “Yes we know, yes we are, and no we’re not…yet.”

Daniel just burst out laughing before looking at Michael and saying, “Well that saves us all the trouble of trying to get them together.”

Michael just grinned and replied, “Thank God.”

“Well actually you did get us together,” Graham said, “When I saw Liam with you guys, I wondered. So yesterday I talked to him and, well, it didn’t take long before we figured each other out.”

“So you know about each other, you’re friends, but not boyfriends…yet. Right?” Michael questioned.

“Yeah, you pretty much got it,” I replied.

“Whether you just stay friends or do become boyfriends at some point,” Daniel said, “You guys are going to be good for each other. We’re happy for you.”

“Thanks,” we both said at once.

We chatted for about an hour before it was time for dinner and homework. Since Graham’s mom and dad would be home from work soon and unexpected guests were not their favourite thing, I left with Daniel and Michael. When I got home, I had a very happy Leo to entertain in the back yard until dinnertime.

When I mentioned Graham to Mom over dinner, she got almost as hyper as Leo did when I picked up his ball. She wanted to know everything about him. When I told her that she had already met him and that he had been over with the other guys several times, she made me describe him at least three times so she could figure out which one he was.

Finally in frustration, she said, “All your friends are tall and slim, have their ears pierced, and have brownish-blond spiky hair.”

“Yes, but you’re not really listening. Only one of them has green eyes and freckles across his nose,” I said.

She thought about it for a few seconds before exclaiming, “The cute funny one with all jokes?”

“That’s him,” I said laughing.

“Oh, he’s such a sweetheart,” she said, “You have to invite him over for dinner sometime real soon.”

“I will,” I said, “But only if you promise to behave yourself.”

“What on earth do you mean?” she asked innocently.

“You know exactly what I mean,” I responded and she just smiled.

I was about halfway through my math homework when my cell phone rang. It was Graham and he was calling partly because his Mom wanted to invite me to their place for dinner on Friday, but mostly because he wanted to chat. When I told him Mom wanted to invite him over to our place too, he asked me to hang on for a minute. When he came back, he said his Mom was inviting both of us over. Then laughing, he said that if we have all the parents together at the same time, they’re more likely to behave themselves and not ask embarrassing questions. I had to agree with him. We talked for another half hour before his Mom asked him if he had his homework finished. That finished our conversation and we were both back to doing our homework. Of course, a good homework session isn’t complete without a having a ball dropped on your foot twenty times, followed by a rousing game of fetch on the backyard.

Mom and I did make it to Graham’s for dinner on Friday and it was a very pleasant evening. He was right, they did behave themselves and nothing embarrassing happened. Mom had them over to our place too and again, it was a good time for all of us. By the time Graham was at my place alone with Mom and me, or I was at his place alone with him and his folks, there were no embarrassing questions to ask.

As for Graham and I, walking to school together quickly became part of our routine. That, and stopping at my place to play with Leo, doing our homework together, eating dinner at his place or mine, spending weekends together, hiking, going to the theatre, or just hanging out. We had our alone time too, but most of the time you would find us together. Quite often we were with Daniel and Michael, especially at school.

Naturally, considering we were already good friends, had tons of things in common, and were spending that much time together, we couldn’t help but become closer. It was four weeks to the day that we officially, to us, and to Daniel and Michael, became a couple.

We weren’t quite ready to come out to the whole world. At least we didn’t think we were. However a couple of weeks after we ‘officially’ became boyfriends, our relationship became a topic at lunch one day. It was just Graham, me, Shelly, and Todd at the table that day. We were boyfriends and although we maybe weren’t exactly aware of it when we sat down, we were apparently ready to let some people know, specifically, two of our closest friends.

It took a while before Shelly looked at us and said, “You two have been spending a lot of time together lately.”

“Yeah, I guess we have,” I responded glancing at Graham.

“And a lot of time with Daniel and Michael,” she added.

“You guys are becoming very observant,” Graham said with a grin.

“Uh…” Todd hesitated, “Some of the guys are kinda wondering.”

“Wondering about what?” I asked.

“Well…” Shelly hesitated, “Like, are you guys…like…well…together?”

“You mean are we friends?” I asked.

“Well…no…we already know that,” she responded, “I guess we’re asking if you’re more than friends…I guess.”

“More than friends?” Graham questioned.

“Fuck!” Todd exclaimed, “You’re going to make us come right out and say it aren’t you?”

“Why should that be a problem for you?” I asked, “It’s not your ass on the line.”

“It’s not yours either,” Shelly replied, “We’re all totally cool with you, whatever you say. All of us.”

“Okay,” Graham responded, “So, what you really want to know is if we’re involved in a relationship?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Todd replied.

“Well what have we got to lose,” I replied, “You’ve got us figured out anyway so yeah, we’re together.”

“Thanks,” Todd said.

“Thanks?” I questioned.

“Yeah thanks,” Shelly replied, “Thanks for trusting us enough to tell us.”

“You had us figured out anyway,” Graham said.

“Yeah, but you coulda lied,” she responded, “But you didn’t. You told us the truth. That took some courage.”

“Thanks,” Graham replied.

“And thanks for sticking with us,” I said smiling, “You have no idea how good that feels.”

“All the rest of the guys are on your side too,” Todd said with a grin.

“So you guys have been talking about us?” I asked.

“Well duh. You were pretty obvious, so yeah,” Shelly replied grinning.

“You can’t hide shit like that from your friends,” Todd said laughing, “We know you way too well.”

Just then the bell rang and we were on our way to class. But not before Todd gave me a thump on the arm and a big grin.

“That was a bit scary,” Graham said as we walked down the hall to English.

“Yeah,” I responded, “But it feels great. Like no worries anymore.”

“It does feel good doesn’t it,” he replied grinning.

As we were leaving school that afternoon, we ran into Daniel and Michael and told them about our lunch hour chat. We both got a hug as they told us they just knew things would work out for us. It was kinda cool actually. We were now an out couple. The second out couple in school, so we were right up there with Daniel and Michael. Well maybe not quite, as we were only out to our friends, not the whole school. But we were on our way. Getting hugs from the two of them in front of the school wouldn’t hurt our coming out one bit either.

As we were walking away, we overheard some kid saying something about fags. He barely finished the word fag, when four of our friends, Todd, Reg, Smitty, and Lane, as well as Daniel and Michael had him and his buddy surrounded.

“You got a problem with my friends?” Todd asked.

“Uh…no, why?” the kid asked innocently.

“See to it that you don’t,” Lane warned.

“Yeah,” Smitty added, “Narrow-minded little shits like you really piss me off.”

“Trust me. I ain’t got no problem with no one,” the kid replied as he slipped past Todd and Reg, and quickly walked away.

“I think I’ll suggest he sign up for remedial English next time I see him,” Todd said with a chuckle.

“Not a bad idea,” Reg said laughing.

“Thanks for backing us up guys,” I said.

“Hey,” Smitty responded, “Don’t take any shit from anyone. We all got your back.”

“We knew you would,” Graham said, “Thanks.”

I should mention that both Smitty and Lane are on the school’s football team and also play hockey for one of the cities elite minor league teams. Reg is captain of the junior basketball team and stands at 6’ 7”. So they are not guys you want to mess with. With that said, except for Daniel and Michael, who headed for Daniel’s car and then work at the animal shelter, we were ready to head home. We were immediately joined by Shelly, Linda, and Karen and the nine of us started walking towards home. People gradually split off from group as we passed their streets. In the end, it was just Graham, Reg, and me. As we were walking past my place, I invited Reg in for a Coke. As soon as we each had a Coke and a bag of chips, we went out onto the deck.

Of course Leo was more than a little excited. He had three people to play with and didn’t waste any time finding his ball. We took turns throwing the ball for him as we tried to carry on a conversation between throws. We hadn’t been there more than ten minutes when a voice from next door called my name. It was Ian, our neighbours’ twelve-year-old. His dad wouldn’t let him have a dog, so he had become a regular visitor since I got Leo. I walked over and looked over the fence.

“Hi,” he said with a big grin.

“Hi,” I responded.

“Can I come over and play with Leo?” he asked.

“Yeah, of course,” I replied, “Make sure your mom knows where you are and then just come around to the front door.”

He was gone in a flash and by the time I had walked into the house and across the living room, he was already at the door. I let him in and he followed me into the backyard. The next time Leo came running up with his ball, Ian grabbed it and ran out onto the lawn with Leo right behind him. The two of them were soon tearing up the backyard and the three of us were able to carry on a conversation without being interrupted every thirty seconds. Ian’s mom did come out and look over the fence to watch them. After a few minutes, she gave us a big grin and a wave before going back into the house.

Part of our conversation revolved around Graham and me. It was kinda funny because Reg thought it was totally cool that two of his friends were a gay couple. It also made us feel totally at ease. Not only did our friends accept us but they thought it was cool. After Reg left, the two of us talked about how silly we were to have doubted our friends. It wasn’t long before Leo made his way onto the deck, had a big drink of water, and flopped down by my feet.

“I think he’s all pooped out,” Ian said as he flopped down on one of the deck chairs, “I am too.”

“You need a drink?” I asked him.

“Yeah please,” he replied, “Water or juice though please, cause I’m not allowed to drink Coke.”

I ran into the kitchen and got him a big glass of Mom’s special juice mixture.

“Thanks,” he said as I handed it to him.

“You’re welcome,” I replied, “Thanks for entertaining Leo.”

 “Leo’s fun,” he said, “I wish I could have a dog though. I’d take real good care of him if I did.”

“I know you would,” I said, “But then Leo would miss you.”

“Yeah I guess,” he responded with a big smile. Then he looked at us for several seconds like he was deep in thought before asking, “You guys are in love aren’t cha?”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You guys,” he replied, “You love each other…like girlfriend and boyfriend…except your both boyfriends. Right?” 

“Uh,” I started, not sure how to answer exactly, since he was only twelve.

I didn’t have to worry though, because Graham took over and replied, “Yes we do, very much.”

“Cool,” Ian said with a big grin, “I’m gonna have a boyfriend when I get older.”

“You are?” I questioned, as thoughts of his father killing me if he told his folks he wanted to have a boyfriend like I did.

“What made you decide that?” Graham asked cautiously.

“Well duh,” he replied grinning, “Cause I’m gay like you guys.”

Just then his mom came out of their house and walked over to the fence.

“So did you tire poor Leo out?” she asked Ian, before turning to me and asking, “You boys didn’t feed him I hope…Ian that is.”

“Yep,” Ian replied.

“Nope,” I replied, “Just gave him some of Mom’s juice.”

“Good, thank you Liam,” she said, “And as for you young man, you have fifteen minutes before dinner.”
“Okay,” he replied as she walked back to the house and disappeared into their kitchen.

“And I didn’t decide I want a boyfriend when I get older,” he said to Graham, “that’s just the way it is. You know that. And please don’t say I’m only twelve so ‘what do I know’. Dad tried that and it didn’t work for him so it won’t work for you. I just know. Okay?”

“I’m sorry if it sounded like we doubted you Ian,” Graham said, “We know you know.”

“And we know you didn’t decide,” I said, “We’re born this way.”

“Yes we are,” he said with a big grin, “But I better get home and wash up for dinner or I’m gonna catch crap.” And he was off.

“Wow. Nothing like coming out to your parents at twelve,” I said.

“Seriously, his ‘Dad’ remark blew me away,” Graham said with a grin.

Since Graham and I were on our own, we made our way into the kitchen and did what any self-respecting young guys would do. We picked up the phone and ordered two large meat-lovers pizzas. Half an hour later, we were sprawled out on a couple of recliners on the deck with tall glasses of Mom’s juice, working our way through a very tasty dinner. We both commented on how the thing with Ian was actually kinda neat. We had Daniel and Michael to lean on and now Ian had Graham and me to lean on. We both also realized that we would have to be very thoughtful and protective with him.

It was a few days later when Graham and I were playing fetch with Leo in the back yard when Ian’s dad came out and walked over to the fence. Graham and I immediately walked over with Leo right behind us, jumping up and down with his ball.

“Hi,” we both said.

“Hi,” he replied.

“Sorry,” I said as I grabbed Leo’s ball from him and threw it across the yard.

“Ian loves that little guy,” his dad said laughing.

“Yeah he does,” I responded.

“Ian talked to us last night and told us he’d talked to the two of you the other day,” he said.

“Yeah he did,” I replied, “He kinda surprised the heck out of us.”

“Surprised you?” he questioned with a laugh, “I don’t think surprised is the word Marie and I would use.”

“I bet,” Graham said laughing.

“I thought I should let you know though,” he said, “And if you’re not out, don’t worry. We’re not about to tell anyone. We explained to Ian that he can’t go around outing guys unless they tell him it’s okay, or himself for that matter. There are too many haters and bullies out there. But mainly, I just wanted to tell you boys I’m glad Ian has the two of you to talk to,” he said, “Marie and I love him unconditionally and we’ll support him in any way we can, but we won’t be much help when it comes to answering some of the questions he’ll have.”

Just then, Ian came flying out of the house and over to the fence.

“Hi guys,” he said before asking, “Does Leo have his ball?”

“Yes he does,” I replied as his dad picked him up and lifted him over the fence. Instantly he and Leo were off chasing all over the yard.

“We’ll be here for him as much as we can,” I replied.

“I know you will,” he said, “And I’ve known you since you were in diapers, and you’ve known him since he was in diapers, so I know you’ll always do right by him.”

“He’ll always be safe with us,” Graham said.

“He wouldn’t be over here if I had any doubt of that,” he said with a smile, “And thanks boys. I’m sure he’ll need you, especially as he gets a little older. And, if you have any questions or any issues don’t be afraid to talk to us either. Okay?”

“Okay, thanks Bill, ” I responded.

“Yeah, thanks,” Graham added.

“Well, I better get going. I’m supposed to be firing up the bar-b-que,” he said laughing, as he turned and walked over to their deck.

That was also our que to fire up our bar-b-que as Mom had steaks marinating in the fridge all day and would be home anytime now. I no sooner had the bar-b-que lit when I heard Mom’s car pull into the driveway. Graham and I met her in the kitchen. After we both got a quick hug, we were helping get everything together for the bar-b-que. Graham got the job of getting the potatoes ready for baking. Mom started building a salad and I got the corn on the cob ready. We were just heading for the deck when Ian came bounding in and announced he had to go home and get cleaned up for dinner.

A half hour after starting the potatoes, we put the corn on. Then a few minutes later, Graham and I were ready to start the steaks. Now I’m no expert at bar-b-queing steaks. In fact I’m clueless, especially since Graham likes his medium rare, I like mine medium, and Mom like hers medium well. So I immediately turned things over to Graham. Mom’s went on first. Then a few minutes later mine went on and a few minutes after that, Graham’s went on. I watched carefully as Graham moved and flipped them. Then he poked them with a fork and somehow seemed to know how done they were. His came off first, then mine and then Mom’s, and they were done just right. I still have no clue how he knew though.

To say dinner was good would have been an understatement. It was amazing. The steaks almost melted in your mouth they were so tender. And the flavour…wow! Not only was the food wonderful but so was the conversation. We talked about everything and anything, except school and work. In fact we talked well beyond finishing eating. Mom was quite surprised when we told her about Ian’s revelation and our chat with his dad. She said she was proud of us when we told her we would be his confidants and protectors. She said boys his age were too often left feeling scared and isolated when they began to realize that they were gay. We laughed when we reminded her that Ian was not like most boys. He had no qualms about being gay or about saying so.

Our first opportunity to support our little friend came sooner than we anticipated. One day as we were tossing the ball for Leo, Ian came over to the fence. I was shocked when I saw him. He had a black eye and a cut lip.

“What happened?” I asked him.

“Some asshole at school punched me a couple a times,” he replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“He said faggots like me shouldn’t be allowed in school with normal kids,” he replied.

“Really?” I questioned.

“Yep,” he responded, “Dad’s gonna raise hell at school tomorrow. Can I play with Leo?”

“Oh yeah, of course,” I said as we both started for our front door.

A good half hour later as Leo collapsed on my left foot and Graham had a glass of juice for Ian, we asked him again about his black eye and the bully who gave it to him. We also learned that it wasn’t likely his school principal would be very helpful, even if his dad did raise hell. Apparently some parents had pulled their kids out of the school because the bullying ‘problem’ wasn’t a bullying ‘problem’ in his school. Just kids being kids.

“Okay, if your principal won’t do anything, then maybe you need an escort to school tomorrow morning,” I suggested.

“But Dad’s taking me tomorrow,” he said.

“Then you’ll need an escort home,” Graham said, “We get out earlier than you do, so we can be at your school when the bell rings.”

“Yeah, that would be totally cool,” he responded with a big grin.

Not only were Graham and I there to meet him, but Smitty, Lane, and Reg were with us. Since confronting the little creep on school property might not have been a good idea, we set ourselves up just a bit away from the school. We saw Ian come out the front gate and sure enough, before he made it ten feet down the sidewalk, some kid stepped in front of him.

“I thought I told you we don’t want faggots like you here,” the kid shouted as the five of us moved in behind him.

“You got a problem with our friend…dickhead?” I asked loudly, causing him to spin around to face us. He just stood there with his mouth open for several seconds as he looked up…waaay up…to the angry scowl on Reg’s face.

“Uh,” he hesitated, “No.”

“Funny, we all just heard you call him a faggot and tell him you don’t want him around,” Graham said as he turned to us and asked, “Didn’t we guys?”

“Yeah,” we all answered.

By this point, we had him surrounded and he looked scared shitless. 

“Did you give him that black eye yesterday?” Reg asked.

“It was an accident,” he replied, his voice quivering.

“An accident? Yeah right. Do we look stupid?” Lane asked.

“No,” he replied.

“What’s your name?” Reg asked.

“Trevor,” he replied in almost a whisper.

“Okay Trevor,” I said sternly, “If anything happens to our friend again…anything…we’re gonna come looking for YOU. You got it?”

“Yeah,” he replied almost in tears at this point.

“Good, cause we’d hate to have to mess you up,” Smitty said.

“What if it’s not me?” he asked meekly.

“Then you’d better make sure nobody else touches him either,” Reg growled, “Hadn’t you?”

With that, I put my arm around Ian’s shoulder and we walked off, leaving Trevor standing there trying to sort himself out. It seems he had gone from being Ian’s persecutor to being Ian’s protector. Assuming he didn’t want to see us again that is.

“Thanks guys,” Ian said grinning, “I think you almost made him pee himself.”

“You’re welcome,” we all said at once.

“Make sure you let us know if he does or says anything again,” Graham told him.

“I will,” Ian replied.

Our plan worked though. Over the next month, not only had Trevor left him alone, but twice he had warned other guys to leave him alone. Needless to say, Ian was no longer nervous about going to school.

But that’s not the good part…or maybe the weird part. Apparently while protecting Ian, Trevor had got to know him and they had become friends, or that’s the way is seemed. One afternoon, probably a couple months after our chat with Trevor, Graham and I were entertaining Leo in the back yard when who should come wandering out onto the deck next door? Yep, Ian and…Trevor. As per usual, Ian came bounding over to the fence. Trevor followed rather slowly with his head down, looking very nervous.

“Can we play with Leo?” Ian asked excitedly…already knowing the answer.

“Meet you around front,” I replied with a curious glance at Trevor, who was still focusing on the ground by his feet.

Graham gave me a grin as I turned, glanced at him, and shrugged, before heading for the front door.

When I met them at the door, Ian grinned at me and said, “You remember Trevor. Right?”

“Yeah,” I replied to Ian before saying, “Hi,” to Trevor.

I got a very quiet, “Hi,” in return, before he quickly followed Ian, who was already halfway across the back deck. Two minutes later, both boys were chasing around the yard playing keep-away with Leo, who seemed to be enjoying this new game as much as the usual throw and fetch. It didn’t take Trevor long to get into the game, although he still seemed a little nervous and glanced our way every few minutes.

It wasn’t too long before Leo and both boys were ready for a rest. Leo was busy emptying his water dish as I asked the boys if they wanted some juice.

“Yeah please,” Ian replied as he flopped down on one of the deck chairs.

“Trevor?” I questioned.

“Yes please,” he replied.

When I came back out with their drinks, Trevor had moved a chair close to Ian and was sitting tentatively on the edge of it.

“Sit back and relax,” I said to him as I handed him a large glass of juice.

He cautiously sat back and sipped his juice. Ian, on the other hand, was totally relaxed and was soon chatting about his day at school and anything else that came to mind which for him could have been anything from Kim picking her nose and eating it to the threat of nuclear war.

Finally Graham couldn’t take the suspense anymore. We had spent a over half hour watching the bully and the bullied chasing each other and Leo all over the yard.

He started off by asking Trevor how he was doing.

“Fine,” Trevor replied, still somewhat focused on his feet.

“So,” I started, “You and Ian seem to be getting along better than last time we saw you.”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“So you and Ian are friends now?” Graham asked.

“Yeah,” he replied again.

It was reasonably obvious that this conversation was going nowhere, and he wasn’t going to give more than one-word answers to any simple questions we asked, so I decided to ask the obvious question both Graham and I had.

“So how did you and Ian become friends?” I asked.

At first he stayed focussed on his feet and didn’t say anything.

“You can talk to these guys,” Ian said to him, “They’re good guys and they won’t say anything to anyone…promise.”

After several more seconds, he looked at me with a tear in his eye, and said, “My dad would kill me if he knew. He won’t allow me to be like this. I tried really, really hard not to…but I can’t help it…I like Ian.”

Okay, it seems things with Ian were getting more interesting by the day and it seemed, just maybe, that things with young Trevor might be getting more interesting as well.            

“So your dad doesn’t allow you to have friends?” Graham asked a little ‘tongue in cheek’.

“Now you’re just being silly,” Ian admonished, “You know what he means.”

“Yeah, we know what he means,” I said as I reached over and turned his head so he was facing me, “Trevor, you will always be welcome here and you will always be safe.”

“Thanks,” was his simple reply. That, and a big smile, as we saw him noticeably relax.

We talked some more about Trevor’s home life and fears before we got into some nice easy-going, fun, chatter. After about an hour, he announced that he had to go home for dinner and homework. Ian stuck around for about a half hour more until his mom stepped out on their deck and called him for dinner too. That was also Graham’s que to head for home, but not before we discussed the fact that Trevor’s situation sounded pretty scary and he may need us more than Ian. Ian didn’t care who knew and had his parent’s love and support. Trevor didn’t want anyone to know and was terrified of his father finding out. He was convinced there would more likely be violence than support. 

Things seemed to be going well with the boys and they were now Leo’s regular playmates. He would light up at the sound of their voices and race to wherever he had left his ball. Graham and I had quickly become a side attraction to fill in time until his real buddies showed up. I was still the one he turned to however when his water dish was empty or his food dish, and either Graham or I were still his cuddle buddies when he was tired and needed someone to sleep on.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t more than about a month later we had a terrified Ian banging on our front door. Trevor’s dad had heard him talking on the phone to Ian. When he grabbed the phone to tell the ‘girl’ Trevor was talking to that Trevor hadn’t finished his homework yet, he totally freaked when he heard a boy’s voice on the other end. Since their conversation had been more than just friendly chatter, Ian was sure Trevor’s dad was going to kill him.

We immediately set out running towards Trevor’s home. In the mean time, after his dad stormed out of the house because he needed a drink, Trevor was slowly picking himself up off the floor. We were almost to his place when we met up with a battered, bruised, and crying Trevor as he was trying to make his way to Ian’s. Since he was having trouble walking, Graham and I helped him the rest of the way. Ian’s folks weren’t home yet so we took him to my place. Mom was home when we got there and she was all over him in an instant, fussing, cuddling, making an icepack for his eye, and cleaning up blood. She had me phone 911 to get the police and an ambulance. He was beaten badly enough that she was afraid of internal injuries, broken ribs, or a concussion.

It was a fight, but Ian stayed with me while Mom went to the hospital with Trevor. As soon as Ian’s mom got home, he was freaking out all over the place and scared her half to death. Once I explained what was going on, we were on the way to the hospital as well. A half hour later, we were in emergency at the Foothills and talking to the police. Ian filled them in about his part, then Graham and I, and finally Mom. As there was no parent there, and the parent was apparently the reason he was there, the police authorized whatever care he needed. In the meantime, Ian was going nuts waiting. An hour later, he was admitted for a couple of days for observation and almost immediately Ian, and his mom and dad were in his hospital room talking to him. When Ian’s mom and dad came out, Mom, Graham, and I waited for a bit to allow Ian some time with him. Once Ian’s mom and dad convinced him that Trevor would be okay, and that they needed to let him rest for while, they went downstairs for something to eat.  The rest of us entered the room and talked to him for a few minutes. As we were talking, a social worker showed up.

As soon as the social worked started to talk group home, I spoke up and made my opinion of gay kids in a group home quite clear. When the social worker replied that there was no other choice under the circumstances, I looked at Mom.

“He can’t be put in a group home Mom,” I said, “They’ll make his life hell. Couldn’t he stay with us. We have a spare room and I always wanted a little brother.”

Mom looked at me for a few seconds, then at Trevor, and then at the social worker. “Is that a possibility?” she asked.

The social worked gave us a big smile and replied it most certainly was. She would have to do a quick check to make sure Mom and Dad were safe to foster kids and Trevor would be ours. She phoned someone. I don’t know who it was but she asked them for an eligibility check on Mom and Dad. Within a half hour, they phoned her back and I had a new little brother. I also got a big teary hug from Trevor. When we appeared downstairs and told them Trevor would be living with us, Ian almost fell off his chair he was so excited. Once he regained his balance, I got a hug, then Graham, and finally Mom. Since we were all hungry, we sat down with Ian and his folks and had something to eat before we headed home.

Trevor was fairly quiet the first few days. He set the table, he cleared the table, he did the dishes, he swept, he vacuumed, he dusted, he washed the floor, and you name it. The house had never looked so clean. Finally, after three days, mom sat him down and explained to him that, as much as we appreciated everything he was doing, he was now part of the family and he didn’t need to be doing everything. We all had chores to do. Not just him.

“But I need you to like me,” he responded, “I don’t ever want to have to leave here and go back to my dad’s or a group home.”

Mom pulled him into a big hug and said, “Hun, you will never have to leave here if I have anything to say about it.”

He just wrapped his arms around Mom’s neck and cried his little heart out. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but wonder how hard his life must have been with an abusive asshole like his father obviously was. He had suffered more in his thirteen years than most people do in a lifetime. Justice was done however. His wish came true and he did become my permanent foster brother. His dad was given a ten year sentence for attempted murder as a hate crime. The defence attorney fought to have the charge reduced to simple assault but the judge disagreed rather strongly. Of course they appealed the decision, all the way to the supreme court, but were shot down every time.

Five minutes after the big hug, Ian knocked on the front door, Trevor wiped his eyes on his sleeve before answering it and as Ian walked in, Leo was bouncing up and down like a yoyo. Seconds later they were all three dashing across the deck to see who could get to Leo’s ball first. Of course, Leo did, and the chase was on.

It wasn’t long before Graham showed up. After a quick kiss, we grabbed a Coke each and went out onto the deck.

“I definitely think we’ve been replaced,” he said laughing as the boys and Leo tore up the back yard.

“Ya think?” I replied laughing.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “And it’s probably a good thing because there’s no way I’d have enough energy to keep up with Leo like those two can.”

“Me either,” I had to admit.

“So, how’s being the big brother working out?” he asked.

“Great so far,” I responded, “Actually Mom had to sit him down and tell him to slow down this afternoon. He was doing everything from setting the table, clearing the table, washing the dishes, vacuuming, dusting, you name it.”

“Wow, handy little guy isn’t he?” Graham said grinning.

“Yeah, but you know what he told Mom?” I asked.

“No, what?” he asked back.

“He told her he needs us to like him, so he won’t ever have to leave here,” I replied.

“Oh God,” he said, “That poor kid. He’s so lucky your folks are such good people.”

“Yeah,” I said with a grin, “Him and me too.”

Just then Daniel and Michael stepped out onto the deck, Cokes in hand. Obviously Mom had let them in.

“So how’s it goin’ big bro?” Daniel asked me.

“It couldn’t be better,” I answered.

“How’s the little guy doing?” Daniel asked as he looked towards Trevor.

“Some scrapes and bruises and, as you can see, a black eye,” I replied, “But otherwise he seems okay.”

“Well he’s not short on energy,” Daniel said laughing, “Damn, did we have that much energy when we were twelve or thirteen?”

“I had a dachshund when I was thirteen,” I replied, “I didn’t need that much energy. Speaking of which, you knew how hyper Leo was when you picked him out for me didn’t you?”

“If I remember correctly, you picked him out yourself,” Daniel said laughing.

“Well thank God for Ian and Trevor,” I said, “I’d be dead by now if I tried to keep up with him.”

That was no sooner said when the boys staggered onto the deck and flopped onto the nearest lounge chair. Leo made his way over to his water dish, emptied it and flopped down by my feet. Graham disappeared into the house and a minute later had two big glasses of juice for the boys for which he got a big, “Thank you.”

As they lay there cuddled up sipping their juice, Michael grinned and remarked about how it’s not that often you see two kids that young who feel that close to one another, and how cute they looked together. Of course, we had to agree with him. When you looked at them, it was obvious there was a deep bond there.

Thursday was Trevor’s first day back at school. Ian, being Ian, made no attempt to hide the fact that he and Trevor were now boyfriends. I’m not sure Trevor was quite ready for that designation just yet, but he didn’t deny it or try to make light of it. He went right along with Ian. They certainly drew some attention, both negative and positive. When a couple of boys decided to make an issue of it, they discovered very quickly that Trevor wasn’t about to take their crap. Both boys were picking themselves up off the ground in a matter of seconds. That immediately put an end to any name-calling and any other bullying attempts. 

When the boys got home that afternoon, Graham and I got a play-by-play description of their first day as boyfriends at school including Trevor’s kicking Kirk and Tom’s asses. As we chatted, Leo sat patiently at Ian’s feet with his ball in his mouth, which was actually something new. The bouncing up and down and tail wagging was noticeably absent. That is until Ian’s hand came close to his ball. Then the game was on and stayed on until Ian’s mom called him for dinner. It was only a few minutes later that Mom called Trevor, Graham, and me in to get ready for dinner as well.

When we walked into the kitchen I suddenly had a huge smile on my face. Sitting at the table was my dad. I immediately ran over and gave him a big hug as I asked him when he got back. He laughed and replied he’d been back for about an hour. Of course Leo was right in there looking for his bit of attention. As soon as he was finished fussing over Leo, I introduced him to Graham and Trevor.

Graham walked over and shook his hand and said, “Pleased to meet you,” and Dad returned his greeting.

Trevor hesitated for several seconds and when Dad reached out to him he flinched and took a step back. Again, I had to wonder what his life had been like. Even Dad glanced at me with a surprised look on his face.

“You must be my newest son,” Dad said smiling as he held out his arms inviting Trevor into a hug.

Trevor moved cautiously towards Dad and Dad pulled him into a hug. He just lit up when Dad did that and gave Dad a rather tentative hug which quickly turned into a big warm hug. He was still grinning from ear to ear when they broke the hug and he stepped back. He looked at Graham and me as a tear rolled down his cheek in spite of his big grin. Just then Mom called us to dinner and we made our way into the kitchen. Mom looked at Trevor and then at Dad and gave him a big knowing smile.

Once were all sitting at the table and the food started it’s way around we soon got to chatting with Dad about his trip to China where he had been overseeing the building of a high rise office tower he had designed. He had been gone for three months and it was sure good to have him back. Being the kind of guy he is, he made sure he included Graham and Trevor in the conversation. The normally quiet Trevor actually surprised me as he started peppering Dad with questions about China. Questions Dad was more than happy to answer. Graham and I were able to get a few of our own questions in, in between Trevor’s. It was good to see Trevor so open and I think he saw my Dad as the dad he always dreamed of. A dad who cared and took the time to show he cared, who included him as part of the family just as he did Graham and me.

As soon as dinner was finished we all helped clean up and moved to the deck with a coffee, Coke, or Pepsi. Not surprisingly, it was barely an hour before Ian was over with a glass of Mom’s juice in hand and right in the middle of the conversation. Even Leo had made himself comfortable on Dad’s lap and seemed to be paying attention. After hearing as much about China as Dad could tell us, he suggested we go into his office and he would hook his camera up to the computer and show us all the pictures he had taken. Ian asked if he could go get his mom and dad so they could see them too. When Dad told him he could, he was gone in a flash and five minutes later he was back with them right behind him. He had every one of us mesmerized in minutes as he went through his photos and told us about each one. Once he was done, Ian immediately wanted to know if, on their next vacation, his mom and dad would take Trevor and him to China. His dad just laughed and said maybe when they were older and had jobs, the four of them might be able to afford to go.

We all moved to the deck as Mom and Ian’s mom put some coffee on and dug out some cookies and snacks. Ian and Trevor went to the fridge and poured themselves some juice. Soon we were all nibbling on cookies, sipping coffee or juice and chatting about Dad’s trip and umpteen dozen other things that came to mind. Since dads weren’t on the top of his ‘to be trusted’ list, it was good to see Trevor totally at ease with both my dad and Ian’s dad. He even turned his sense of humour on and gave Dad a couple of good verbal jabs when dad said something he found amusing.

Six months after he moved in with us Mom and Dad took him aside and asked him if being their foster son was working out for him. I know he thought they were going to send him away as his expression went from smiling to devastated. Seeing that, Dad though he better explain the question quickly.

“The reason we’re asking you that Trevor is, we were wondering if you would prefer being our adopted son,” Dad said.

He just stood there staring at them. In fact I thought he was going to faint or something. Finally he managed to squeak out a very faint, “Yes.”

He and Mom and Dad were quickly in a mutual hug when the tears started and he got his voice back. “You have no idea how bad I want this. I even asked God once if He could make you my real mom and dad.”

Two days later, he was officially Trevor James Wilson. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid so happy. Within an hour, everything he owned that had his name on it, including his school notebooks, had his old name blacked out and Trevor Wilson written on them in very noticeably big clear printing. Later that evening, when I showed him my new ID bracelet with my name on it, he was quite impressed. When I showed him an identical bracelet with Trevor Wilson written on it, he hugged me so hard I had trouble breathing. He was literally vibrating when I put it on him, and he immediately had to run over and show Ian.

It wasn’t long before Trevor and Ian had friends over. You could almost see Leo pout when they played catch and he didn’t get to play. Of course one of the boys would ‘accidentally’ miss the ball and the chase was on once again.

Not that it bothered me, but Leo gradually became Trevor’s dog, especially after I started university, as I wasn’t around that much. Trevor graduated from high school and went on to university. Like me when I was in university, he lives at home. Not surprisingly, at least to us, he and Ian stayed together throughout junior and senior high school and are still together today. Ian is in pre-med studying to become a doctor. Trevor is in education studying to become a teacher and counsellor. Graham and I are also still together and we have a dental practice in town where we’re doing very well. Daniel and Michael have opened a veterinary clinic and also run the animal rescue shelter where I found Leo. Leo is not quite as active as he used to be, but he can still tire us out when he gets going.

Graham and I have a condo in a downtown high-rise close to our office. Daniel and Michael have a acreage just a few miles northeast of the city. On one of the few weekends we were all together at my parent’s home, the six of us were sitting around reminiscing. We laughed as we looked at Leo standing there with his ball in his mouth, tail wagging, and looking totally innocent. Graham snatched his ball and threw it as he questioned, “Ever wonder where we’d all be right now if it wasn’t for finding Leo?”

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.