Sophomore Year

Chapter Three

By Grant Bentley

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

I have never seen anyone move that fast in my life. One second, Craig was cuddled up peacefully in my arms, and the next he was pressed up in the corner where my headboard meets the wall with the most scared look I have ever seen on his face. He just stared at Jeff for at least a minute before the tears began. I slid across the bed, pulled him out of the corner and into my arms. He wrapped his arms around me and sobbed. A couple of times, he actually stopped breathing for several seconds, which scared the hell out of me.

Jeff just sat quietly watching us. I really don’t think he knew what to do. I’m sure he had never seen anyone breakdown the way Craig just did. I know I sure as hell hadn't. It must have been five or even ten minutes before he began to calm down and release his hold on me and I began to relax my arms a little. He didn’t let go though. Finally after another minute or so, he released his hug and just stared over my shoulder at Jeff. I released my arms and slowly turned a little to see Jeff. He looked somewhere between concerned and panicked.

“You gonna be okay?” I whispered in Craig’s ear.

“I dunno,” he whispered back.

Finally, Jeff quietly said, “Craig, look man, nothing leaves this room. You have my word.”

At that point, I couldn’t hold it any longer. “I’m sorry, but I gotta pee so bad,” I said as I jumped up and ran to the bathroom. When I got back, Craig and Jeff were still sitting exactly as they were, just staring at each other. Then, suddenly, Craig scrambled across the bed and ran to the bathroom.

“Craig?…Craig?…You and Craig?” Jeff managed to squeak out.

“It’s not what it looks like,” I responded, “but I can’t say anything. That’s Craig’s move.”

Just then Craig came back into the bedroom with his head down staring at the floor. He stood by the bed for a few seconds. I think he was trying to decide if he should just run for it or sit down and talk to Jeff. In the end, he decided to talk and crawled back up onto the bed.

“We watched Prayers for Bobby last night,” he said.

“I watched that with Steven and my mom last year,” Jeff responded. “I’ve never in my life cried watching a movie…till I watched that one.”

I put my arm around Craig's shoulders and pulled him into a long deep hug as he leaned his head on my shoulder. Then, we talked…about my reaction to being gay…about being happy and proud…about wanting to run out and tell world…about his reaction to being gay…about being devastated…about wanting it to go away…about wanting to end it because it wouldn’t go away…about how much better he felt right now…about almost everything. After we finished, his relief was totally obvious. Talking to me was one thing. I was gay. I understood. Talking to Jeff, someone who was important to him and someone who was not gay, was totally different.

When we finally ran out of things to say, he looked at me and then at Jeff, took a deep breath, smiled, and said, “I’ve never actually said this out loud to anyone…and felt okay about saying it. Guys…I’m gay.”

I gave him an extra squeeze and Jeff just smiled, reached out and ruffled his hair.

We had been talking for almost two hours when Dad tapped on my door and came in with a huge plateful of sandwiches and three cans of coke. I suddenly realized that none of us had moved since Craig returned from the bathroom. It was 3:30 by the time Craig and I got dressed. We decided we needed some fresh air, so we went for a walk. We walked down to the park, sat beside the pond, took our shoes and socks off and just dangled our feet in the water. The water was freezing cold and was kind of refreshing. It seemed to bring us down from the emotional high we had been on all day. It wasn’t long before we were chatting and joking and laughing as if the last few hours hadn’t existed.

As we sat there, I noticed something different about Craig. He had always been loud and full of himself, telling one-liners and jokes till one of us would finally tell him to shut up, but sitting with us right now was a different person. He wasn’t being loud, firing out his stupid one-liners, or trying to dominate the conversation. Even his posture and body language were different. Then it hit me. He wasn’t pretending to be someone he wasn’t anymore. He knew that we knew the real Craig Forbes. He could relax and be himself and he was doing just that. Even his smile and his laugh were different. The most notable difference, though, was in his eyes. They were no longer the dull greeny-grey they had always been, even when he was laughing and joking. They were almost a bright green and they sparkled. They literally sparkled, like someone was shining a light into them. It was amazing to see the change in him. He was so totally relaxed and happy…it was like he was more alive.

Suddenly, Jeff pulled his feet out of the water. Right on the top of the big toe on his right foot was a huge leech. It must have been three inches long. I’d like to say he freaked out, screamed, jumped up and down, and tried to shake it off, but he didn’t. In fact the three of us spent several minutes just watching it. It soon became obvious it didn’t like being out of the water, as it scrunched itself up into a little ball. When he dipped his toe back into the water, it let go and disappeared. After that, and since Jeff didn’t feel like donating any more blood to the wildlife, we put on our socks and shoes and slowly began to wander back to my place.

As we walked in the door, Dad yelled, “There’s enough food to feed an army–well…enough for you three anyway–in the oven.”

“Thanks,” we all yelled back.

Half an hour later, we were all sprawled out on my bed feeling too full to do anything else. Suddenly, Craig sat up an exclaimed, “Oh shit! Mom and Dad will be home by now and wondering where I am.”

I handed him the phone and said, “Here, just call them.”

His dad answered and Craig explained where he was, that my dad had fed him too much, and that he wouldn’t be able to move for at least an hour. I guess his dad was fine with the explanation, because he soon said, “Right. Home by 10, got it.” As soon as he hung up the phone, he sprawled out across my bed again.

We were quiet, each lost in thought for a minute or two when Craig simply said, “Thanks guys.”

“It’s what friends do,” Jeff responded.

“I’m going to tell Mom and Dad tonight when I get home,” Craig announced.

“You sure you want to do that?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “I’ve been lying to everyone, even myself, for too long as it is. I can’t do it anymore. Do you have any idea what this afternoon was like for me? It’s the first time in probably three years that I’ve felt comfortable enough to let my guard down. You guys showed me what it’s like when I allow myself to be me. You gave me my life back today. If my friends can do that for me, it’s the least I should expect from my parents.”

“What if they’re like your grandpa?” I asked.

“I don’t think they will be,” he replied. “I’ve thought about it as we were wandering around today. My mom is always talking about something she saw on the Ellen Degeneres Show. She even watches Glee every week. And Dad’s nothing like my grandpa. I’ve never heard him say one thing against gays, ever. In fact he tore a strip off my grandpa one day for saying fag. He told him to never to use that word in our home again, ever, and to keep his bigoted opinions to himself. We didn’t need or want to hear that crap. Hell, he even watched Glee with Mom once.”

“Well if you need me, I’ll be there with you,” I said.

“Yeah, me too,” Jeff added.

“Thanks, but I gotta do this myself and I gotta do it tonight,” he replied.

“Want us to wait outside then?” Jeff asked.

“Yeah, maybe,” he replied with a little smile.

At about nine-thirty, we started out for Craig’s. The closer we got, the more nervous he became.

“You know if it all goes wrong, you can always stay with Dad and me,” I said.

“Thanks,” he replied.

Before we knew it, we were standing beside their front gate.

“You sure you’re gonna be okay,” Jeff asked.

“No…yeah…I don't know…yeah,” he replied. “I gotta do it…now…and yeah, it's gonna be cool.”

“We’ll be here,” I reassured him and gave him a little hug.

It had been fifteen minutes since he entered the house, and we had heard nothing. Not a single sound. At least there was no shouting or screaming, but it was still getting scary. Then, all of a sudden, the front door opened and his dad was standing there looking at us.

“You boys a part of this?” he yelled.

“Yes sir, I guess so,” I replied meekly.

“Well you better get your asses in here now. I want to talk to you,” he ordered.

As soon as we were in the front entry, he put one arm around my shoulders and the other around Jeff’s. I thought for sure he was going to bash our heads together and bury all three of us in the backyard. As we walked into the living room, he broke out into a huge grin and gave us each a squeeze.

“I understand you two may very well have saved my son’s life this weekend,” he stated.

“We did?” I asked, as I noticed Craig sitting beside his mom with a huge smile on his face.

“Yes you did,” he replied. “That asshole father of mine won’t know what hit him next time he comes over.”

Apparently, his parents had not only wondered, but had discussed at length the possibility that Craig was gay and how they felt about it. They had both come to the conclusion that gay or straight, he was their son and they wouldn’t love him any more or less either way. They were both extremely angry and hurt that he had put himself through hell and even thought of committing suicide because of ‘the natterings of a bigoted old fool,’ as his dad put it. Also, they were obviously a little hurt that he was afraid come to them for help.

We sat and talked about our weekend for the better part of an hour before Jeff said, “We’d better get going. It’s after eleven and there’s school tomorrow.”

“You have no idea how grateful we are,” his mom said as we got up to leave. “Thank you so much for being such wonderful, caring friends to Craig. He should feel blessed to have you in his life.”

“I agree,” his dad said with a grin. “Sorry about the entrance I made, but you two looked scared shitless and I couldn’t resist.”

“In that case, I hope Craig got his sense of humour from his mom,” I replied.

“Touché,” he said with a laugh. “Good night, boys.”

As we left Craig’s, he stepped out onto the porch with us. He pulled Jeff into a hug and whispered, “Thank you,” into his ear. Then he pulled me into a similar hug and repeated, “Thank you.” Then he pulled back a little, looked into my eyes, and quickly leaned in and gave me a gentle kiss right on my lips. Then he stepped back, grinned, and said, “See you tomorrow. G’night.”

“G’night,” we responded.

“Ewww,” Jeff said as we opened the gate and started for home. “Am I gonna have to get used to that with you two around?”

“Hmmm,” I replied as I punched his arm. “I dunno, maybe.”

Once I was home and safely tucked into bed, I started to think about Craig’s kiss. Was it a thank you kiss, because I’m gay and he knew it would be okay to kiss me? Was it an, ‘I want to be your boyfriend,’ kiss? Did I want to be his boyfriend? If he does and I don’t, or I do and he doesn’t, how will that affect our friendship? Needless to say, I didn’t think about it for long. I was asleep about two minutes after my head hit the pillow.