Sophomore Year

Chapter Four

By Grant Bentley

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

The next morning, as Jeff and I were wandering in the general direction of the school, we each suddenly had an arm around our shoulders. “Mornin’ guys,” Craig announced.

“Mornin’,” we responded.

“Aren’t you usually at school by now?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I slept in,” he replied.

The three of us walked into homeroom as the bell sounded. Ms. Spencer looked at us and said, “Oh God, you didn’t start recruiting new members, did you?” I just looked at her and smiled.

Thankfully, before I knew it, it was lunchtime. To be honest, I can’t remember whether I even made it to math or history. All I thought about all morning was that kiss. I liked Craig. In fact, I liked him a lot. As I thought about it, I realized I’d had kind of a crush on him for over a year. He had always been smart, caring, conscientious, funny, a little or a lot annoying at times, and, in my eyes, very, very cute. Now that he no longer needed to pretend, I could drop the ‘a little or a lot annoying part’ and replace it with ‘sparkling and happy’. Did I want to be his boyfriend? Hell yeah.

On the way to the cafeteria, I was still in a bit of a daze when Craig pulled me to one side.

“You got a minute?” he asked.

“Yeah, for sure,” I replied.

“I’m gonna tell the guys,” he said.

As we were standing there, he was acting kinda fidgety and nervous again.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Yes and no,” he responded.

“Yes and no?” I questioned. “You know they’ll be okay with it,” I said.

“Yeah, I know,” he said, “but I kinda want to…look, I’m just being stupid, let’s just go eat.”

“Whoa, being stupid?” I asked.

“We need to talk about this…alone sometime,” he said. “It’s not fair to either of us to spring it on you without warning.”

“Does it have anything to do with kissing?” I asked, only to see him turn so red his ears almost glowed. “C’mon, let’s go for a walk.”

I glanced over to our table and saw Jeff watching us. I gave him the thumbs up and waved as Craig and I started towards the side door of the school. As soon as the doors closed behind us, I laced my fingers through his. I gave his hand a squeeze as he looked at me and smiled.

“So, what do we need to talk about?” I asked.

“Well, I wanted to ask you something, but I think you just answered my question,” he said with a grin as he gave my hand little squeeze.

“Ask me anyway,” I said as I leaned against the wall and pulled him around so he was facing me.

He took my other hand in his, looked into my eyes and quietly said, “For years, I haven’t allowed myself to admit this and it’s been tearing me apart. Then the other day when you held me, I knew I couldn’t keep it bottled up anymore. Steven, I’ve been in love with you since middle school.”

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah, seriously,” he replied.

“Can I ask you a question then?” I asked.

“Okay,” he responded as his face began to show signs of concern.

“You want to be my boyfriend?” I asked.

It took him a second or two to register what I had asked, but once it did, he threw his arms around my neck, pressed his face against mine and through his tears, whispered, “Oh God, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I love you so much Steven.”

I wrapped my arms around his waist and pulled him closer. “I love you too Craig,” I whispered back. He pulled his head back and we sealed it with a kiss, a long passionate kiss.

In fact we didn’t break the kiss until we heard a loud whistle. When we turned to see who it was, it was Aaron Smyth, the captain of the football team. ‘That’s all we need,’ I thought. Then he did this silly little jig, grinned, gave us the thumbs up, turned, and ran into the boys’ locker room.

“Okay, that was weird,” Craig said.

“No shit,” I replied.

That little diversion aside, we managed to get in one more quick kiss before the rest of the team came charging around the corner and headed for the locker room too.

“You want to give the guys a little shock?” I asked.

“I thought announcing I’m gay after my meltdown the other day would work pretty well,” he said with a chuckle.

“So will this,” I said as I laced my fingers through his again, opened the door and walked back into the school.

As we walked through the doors into the cafeteria, it was like someone suddenly turned the sound off. Everyone stopped talking at once. We walked over to the side, picked up a tray and were dished up whatever it was that was on the menu for the day. It didn’t look anything like what was written on the menu board, but it looked edible.

“Holy fuck,” were the first words we heard as we sat down.

“Holy fuck what?” I innocently asked.

“I’m putting two and two together here and getting five,” Jamie replied.

“Yeah, did we miss somethin’ the other day or what?” Martin asked.

“Yeah, no shit. One day you’re freakin’ out on him and the next you’re freakin’ with him,” Randy stated.

“With him nothing!” Roger exclaimed. “You do know what you just did, right?”

“Yeah, we just walked into the cafeteria and got, uh, whatever this is,” Craig said, looking at his plate with a grin.

“Yeah right,” Jamie said. “So, you gonna fill us in on the details?”

“Yeah, you sure as hell can't go from, ‘I don’t need some sick faggot drooling all over me,’ to walking in here holding hands with him in front of the whole school without a story to tell,” Randy stated.

“It’s a long story,” Craig said. “Maybe one day when we’ve all got a couple of free hours we’ll get into it.”

“It has something to do with good old Grandpa Tom, doesn’t it?” Martin asked.

“How’d you guess?” Craig responded.

“He came to the campsite we were at last summer, remember? And those two young guys had their camper next to ours,” Martin replied.

“Who could forget? He didn’t shut up about it for weeks,” Craig said.

“Well, whatever the story, I think congratulations are in order,” Jamie said with a grin. “I think you make a real cute couple. In fact, I bet most of the kids in this room think so too.”

“Well thanks,” I replied, grinning. “We think so.”

“Hey, have they figured out if Debbie’s pregnant or smuggling watermelons yet?” Craig asked to change the focus of our conversation.

“It ain’t no watermelon,” Randy replied with laugh. “It’s a Milne. Apparently Walt is the father, so I guess it’s a waltermilne.”

He got more moans than laughs for that one, although I thought it was a rather good play on words. But maybe I’m more easily amused than most. Of course, that’s when the bell rang for afternoon classes. I think Craig and I had managed to eat almost half of whatever it was we were eating. The rest went into the garbage as we made our way out of the cafeteria and headed to class.

As we were walking down the hall, Dan Peters and his buddy Ross blocked our path. One of them gave Craig a push as he said, “We always knew you were a faggot.”

That’s as far as he got because, in the next instant, Aaron Smyth, Jas Jonson and three other guys had surrounded them.

“Did you say something about faggots?” Jas asked Dan.

“No. No, I didn’t say nothin’,” he answered.

“Cause it would be a shame if you had. We’d hate for you to trip over your own mouth and get hurt,” one of the other guys said.

“No, we didn’t say nothin’ like that. We got no problem with guys bein’ gay do we Ross?” he responded.

“No, no problem at all,” Ross replied.

“Good. See that it stays that way,” Aaron said. “Oh, and if anything happens to either one of our friends here, we’ll come looking for YOU. Got it?”

“Yeah, got it,” Ross replied before the two of them rushed off.

“You guys let us know if anyone gives you any shit,” Jas said. “They won’t do it twice.”

“Thanks Jas,” I responded.

“We really appreciate you guys standing up for us,” Craig said.

“No sweat,” Jas replied. “We heard about your entrance at lunch today, and anyone with balls enough to do what you two did is cool with us.”

“I don’t know if it was balls or stupidity,” Craig responded with a chuckle.

“Either way, don’t take any shit from anyone.” he said.

“Thanks, we won’t,” I said.

“We got thirty seconds,” Jas said, laughing. “I think we’re gonna be late.”

“Sorry,” Craig and I said as we all ran towards our next class.

We rushed into class just seconds after the final bell. Mr. Jameson looked at us and simply said, “You’re late. See me after class.”

I immediately thought, ‘Oh shit, detention,’ but I didn’t say anything. We quickly sat down and got our books out, ready for an interesting study of the genetics of fruit flies. I actually paid attention to every word Mr. Jameson said and probably took the best notes I’ve ever taken in any class. I even answered a couple of questions…correctly, too. As soon as class was over, Mr. Jameson motioned for us to come up to his desk.

“I was in the cafeteria at noon. You boys made quite an entrance,” he stated with a smile. “I also noticed Aaron and Jas and some of their teammates give Dan and Ross a few words of friendly advice. I’m pleased to see you have some very influential classmates on your side, but I would prefer it if you would come to me, or one of the faculty, if anything happens. We have zero tolerance for violence or abuse of any kind. Unfortunately, that would also apply to members of the football team protecting a friend.”

“We understand,” I responded. “I would hate to see anyone get into trouble because of us.”

“Good,” he said. “Here’s a late slip for your next class. Take care boys.”

“Thanks,” we both replied and started out for our next class. When we got to the class, the door was closed so I knocked.

“You’re late, go to the office,” Mrs. Lawson snapped as she opened the door.

“We have a slip from Mr. Jameson,” I responded as we both handed her our late slips.

“Very well. Sit down,” she ordered, “You’ve wasted enough class time.”

Another hour of her grating voice and it was time to head home. We made our way to our lockers, stashed most of our books, grabbed our homework and started towards the front doors. Just as I was about to open the door, I was grabbed from behind and spun around.

“You asshole,” I exclaimed as I looked into Jeff’s grinning face. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“Nice to see you too,” he responded as he wrapped one arm around my shoulders and the other around Craig’s.

“Wanna double date this Saturday?” he asked.

“To where?” I asked.

“Carol and I are going to see Inception at the Odeon,” he replied.

I glanced at Craig; he nodded. “Yeah, for sure. We’d love to go,” I said.

“Cool. I gotta meet Carol at the drama club,” he said with a grin. “Catch ya later.”