Sophomore Year

Chapter Eight

By Grant Bentley

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

In the next three weeks, the GSA had a couple of social events and we were up to fifty-five members, including Chad. We weren’t breaking any records for popularity, but we were progressing. Our next event was a dance open to anyone in the high school. On request, we were allowing kids in from other schools as some of our kids dated kids from the other schools. Everyone was excited and hoping for a good turnout.

The day we were putting up the posters for the dance, we started hearing a rumour all over school about one of the freshmen being shot. Some were saying his brother had outed him. His father had gone ballistic, grabbed his revolver and shot him five times. He was in critical condition in hospital and was not expected to live. About an hour after first hearing the rumour, Adam came up to Craig and me. He said that, according to several other freshmen who were in his classes, it was Chad. We felt total disbelief. We hadn't known Chad all that long, but he had really worked his way into our hearts with his humour, enthusiasm, cheerfulness and zest for life. The thought of him dying was overwhelming.

Even though we didn’t think they would tell us anything, Craig, Jeff, Carol and I decided we would go to the hospital after school and see if we could find out anything more. We all phoned home and let our folks know we might be late as we were going to check on Chad. As we walked down the hallway towards the intensive care ward, we saw his brother sitting on the floor in a corner. He was sitting with his arms wrapped around his legs and his head resting on his knees. It was pretty obvious, as we got closer, that he was crying. My first instinct was to go over and kick his ass. However, when he looked up at us as we approached him, he was so obviously hurting and totally devastated by what had happened that, instead, I walked over, knelt down and touched his shoulder. He instantly wrapped his arms around me, pulled me into him and really started sobbing.

He kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” over and over and over again, between sobs.

I just repeated, “We know you are,” back to him.

Finally, after a few minutes, he loosened his hold on me and sat back.

“This is not the way it was supposed to happen,” he said as he let out a stifled sob. “She said if we told my parents, they could get him help and I believed her.”

“Oh man,” I said. “I’m so sorry.

“Then, after Dad shot him, she said he was better off dead,” he sobbed. “She said that all fags deserve to die and we should rejoice because the world was a better place without him. Can you believe that?”

“Actually, yes, I can,” I replied, “but I wish I couldn’t.”

“What was I thinking, dating that crazy bitch?” he asked.

“You had no idea where things were going,” I said.

“I shoulda known,” he stated. “She talked more about him being 'a fag' than she talked about us.”

Finally, I had to ask, “Have you heard how Chad is doing?”

“He was in surgery for seven hours,” he said. “Now they’re just waiting. The doc says he’s a fighter because he should never have survived the initial shooting.”

“Well that has to be a good sign,” I said.

“Yeah, I hope so,” he replied.

Just then a nurse came down the hall. She smiled as soon as she saw us. “Thank goodness someone is here, finally,” she said. “We were afraid we were going to have to admit him so we could sedate him and put him on an IV. We haven’t been able to get him to drink, eat or sleep since they brought Chad in yesterday afternoon.”

“We can fix the eating and drinking part,” Jeff said. “What does everyone want? Carol and I will run over to Harvey’s.”

“I don’t have any money with me,” he said, looking up at Jeff.

“We didn’t ask if you had money. What would you like?” I asked him.

He looked at me for a second and then back up to Jeff. “Would a burger and Coke be okay?” he asked.

“You want fries with that?” Jeff asked with a smile.

“Please, if that’s not too much,” he replied.

We all basically ordered the same, then Jeff and Carol were off. As they disappeared down the hall, I stood up and reached out a hand. He looked at it for a second before he took it and pulled himself up. He was a little wobbly and stiff at first. I guess he had been in that same position in the corner for almost twenty-four hours. I led him over to some chairs in a little alcove and he, Craig, and I sat down.

We were quiet for the first few minutes before Craig finally said, “You know, we don’t know your name. All we know is you’re Chad’s brother.”

“Sorry, it’s Brett,” he replied.

“I’m Craig and this is Steven,” Craig responded.

“I know who you are,” he said. “Sorry about that stupid remark at the assembly.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Craig said.

“I’m sorry about so many things right now,” he said as the tears started again. “Chad might die. My dad’s going to jail. My mom’s…God, I don’t know what my mom’s gonna do. My whole family has been destroyed and it’s all my fault.”

“You can’t blame yourself,” I said. “You were doing what you thought was the right thing. You had no idea your dad would react the way he did. If this is anyone’s fault, it’s your dad’s fault and what’s-her-name’s.”

“Why are you being so nice to me?” he questioned. “You should hate me for what I did.”

“If you had been trying to hurt Chad because he’s gay, maybe,” I said, “but you were brainwashed into thinking you were helping him. We’re not going to fault you for that.”

Just then, Jeff and Carol returned loaded down with food. Once we got everyone’s order sorted out, we sat quietly for the next several minutes and just ate. As we were disposing of all our wrappers and sitting back finishing our drinks, I glanced at Brett. “Feeling better?” I asked him.

“You have no idea,” he replied. “Thanks, not just for the food, but for being here. I just felt so alone before you came.”

“Hey, you’re welcome,” Carol said. “It must have been awful, not knowing what was going on, and having no one to lean on.”

“Yeah, it was,” he replied.

We heard footsteps and looked up. It was a young guy in a white lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck. I assumed he must be one of the doctors looking after Chad.

“Which one of you is Brett Richards?” he asked.

“I am,” Brett answered, looking absolutely terrified.

The doctor then smiled as he said, “I don’t know how to explain this, because it shouldn’t be happening, but Chad is being upgraded from critical life-threatening to critical but stable. He still has a long way to go, but I’m feeling fairly positive at the moment. You have one very strong, determined little brother.”

“Yes I do, thank you,” Brett exclaimed. “Can I see him?”

“For a few minutes,” the doctor replied. “He’s not going to look too good with all the machinery hooked up to him. So just remember, he’s better than he looks.”

“Will you wait for me?” Brett asked, looking at us.

“Yeah, we’ll be here,” Craig replied with a smile.

As we were waiting for Brett to return, a lady who looked like she had just come through a tornado walked slowly towards us. She looked like she hadn’t bathed or changed clothes for days, and appeared to have been crying. She walked up to the ICU front desk and began talking to the nurses. Just then, Brett came out of the ICU. He had obviously been crying again, but he had a slight smile on his face. That is, until he noticed the lady at the front desk.

“Be right back,” he said as he rushed over to her.

When she saw him, she threw her arms around him and the two of them stood there crying for a minute or two. As a nurse came out from behind the desk, he took her hand and they followed the nurse towards the ICU. As they passed us, he stopped.

“This is my mom,” he said to us, “and these are my and Chad’s friends, Craig, Steven, Jeff and Carol.”

She half smiled and said, “I’m so pleased to meet you. Thank you for being here for Brett.”

“Pleased to meet you too,” I said with a smile, as they turned and walked into the ICU.

A few seconds later, Brett reappeared. “Sorry about that,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting her to show up.”

“Not a problem,” Jeff said. “You still want us to wait for you?”

“Thanks anyway, but no,” he replied. “Mom needs me right now and I think, maybe, I need her too.”

“We understand that,” Craig said.

“Will we see you tomorrow at school?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’d kinda like to be here tomorrow.”

“We’ll see you here tomorrow after school then,” Carol responded.

“I’d like that, thanks,” he replied as he gave a little wave and disappeared back into the ICU.