Sophomore Year

Chapter Ten

By Grant Bentley

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

Sure enough, the next morning as I was approaching the corner to his grandma’s house, Brett appeared. Our routine didn’t change a lot over the next couple of weeks. It was pretty much: school…homework…sleep. Then one morning as I met up with Brett, he announced that Chad would be out of intensive care and we would be able to visit him after school. To say the day seemed to drag on forever would be the understatement of the century. I thought we would never see the day end. When it finally did, the five of us were pretty much the first people out the door. We were all excited beyond words. First, we were going to be able to see Chad, and second, the fact that he was out of intensive care removed all doubt that he was going to be okay.

We arrived at the hospital in record time. The main reception gave us Chad’s room number and we were on our way up to the fifth floor. When we walked into the room, we were met with a huge smile from Chad.

“Hey guys,” he said. “Thanks for coming.”

“Hey, it’s great to see you,” I replied. “You had us real worried for a while there.”

“Yeah, I guess. Thanks for caring,” he said as his eyes misted up a bit. “And thanks for looking after Brett.”

“What are friends for?” Craig replied.

We quickly got into other topics. He asked about the GSA and we told him it was going great. We talked about some of the other kids and what was going on in school. We avoided any conversation about his dad. We talked a lot about what he wanted to do once he was out of hospital. He was especially excited that he would be living across the alley from me. Brett warned him a couple of times that he would have to take it easy for a while, even after he got home. I don’t think he was listening though, as he got right back into all the things he wanted to do and never had the chance to do before. It was good to see that he hadn’t lost any of his positive attitude and zest for life.

Not long after we got there, another freshman and classmate of Chad’s came in. Chad introduced him as Jake and we all said, “Hi.” He seemed like a really nice guy, definitely a little shy and nervous around us. He kinda stood next to the bed and watched the goings on. The only time he spoke was when Chad asked him something, and then it was only short, often one-word answers. I don’t know who else noticed, but he would get a little sparkle in his eyes whenever he looked at Chad. He looked at Chad’s hand several times and a couple of times he rested his fingers on the bed just a few inches away. I’m pretty sure he wanted to take Chad’s hand and hold it.

After about twenty minutes, I suggested we grab something to eat and then come back and visit some more. When Jeff and Craig looked at me, I pointedly glanced at Jake and they got the idea. I guess I wasn’t the only one who sensed something.

“I think Chad has an admirer,” I said as we walked to the elevators.

“So I wasn’t just imagining things,” Brett said with a chuckle.

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

“I’ve never met him or heard Chad talk about having a friend named Jake,” Brett said.

“Maybe Chad getting hurt made Jake realize how he felt about him,” Craig said.

“Or maybe nearly losing him made Jake realize if you care about someone, don’t wait to tell them or you might not get the chance,” Carol added.

“Yeah, maybe,” Brett replied.

When we came back, we were very quiet and as we walked in the room, Jake was holding Chad’s hand and they were talking quietly. As soon as he noticed us, Jake tried to pull his hand back, but Chad didn’t let go. The poor boy looked totally embarrassed and blushed just about as deeply as anyone I have ever seen. Chad, on the other hand, was grinning just about as widely as anyone I have ever seen.

“You’re safe with us, Jake,” I said with a smile as I took Craig’s hand and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

Jake visibly relaxed and gave us a weak smile. He was still obviously nervous. We all found a place to sit on or lean on and started chatting. It wasn’t long before Jake seemed to sense he was, in fact, safe, and began chatting and laughing along with the rest of us. As we talked, we learned that Jake’s father was the minister at the Covenant Church. Although he had never preached against homosexuality or spoken against it at any time, he was very strict and Jake was terrified he would be disowned or shipped off to some rehab centre if he were ever found out. We also learned that Jake was not a new development, he and Chad had been an item for several months. They had obviously been very good at hiding it, though. Jake was devastated because he was sure he had lost Chad. When he learned that Chad would recover from his injuries, he was overjoyed and was determined to be there as soon as Chad came out of intensive care. In fact, if he hadn’t had to go home first, he would have been there before we were. Over the next several days, we got to know Jake pretty well. We talked about the fact that relationships can be very difficult if one person is deeply in the closet and the other one is out and proud and vocal about it. That was definitely the case with Chad and Jake, but Chad was quite willing to keep their relationship secret as long as they needed to.

However, being the helpful, caring, spontaneous guys we are, Craig and I got the bright idea that we would check out Jake’s dad and to see where he stood on homosexuality. If he was open and supportive, then maybe Jake could come out and it would make things easier for them. Jake had told us that the following Sunday he would be at a youth retreat, so Craig and I decided that that would be a good Sunday to attend Jake's church. His dad was out front greeting everyone as they arrived. Craig and I walked down the sidewalk and up to the front steps hand in hand. To say we got some strange and looks would be an understatement. However, when we approached Jake’s dad he shook our hands and greeted us with nothing less than a genuine welcome. We told him we were starting a GSA and wondered if he would be supportive as we felt it was important that gay kids realized God didn’t hate them. He asked us to meet with him after the service and we agreed to. The service was nothing like we expected. There were hymns and Bible readings of course and the sermon. The sermon was rather interesting, especially to us. It was on judging and throughout he emphasized quite clearly that only God had the right to judge people, and people who judged others would in turn, be judged by God for judging, or something like that.

We had to wait almost half an hour after the service to meet with him as he spent time with each of his parishioners as they left. When everyone had gone, he led us into his study, offered us a glass of juice and poured himself one as we sat down to talk. We talked about the ‘God hates fags’ campaign so many churches seemed to promote. To our surprise, he made it very clear that he found their homophobic campaign to be reprehensible, and nothing more than bigoted lies. He said that nothing they said was inspired by God. He also gave the GSA his blessing and said that anytime we wanted him to come and speak at a meeting he would be more than happy to. We thanked him sincerely and assured him we would definitely have him speak at one of our meetings.

As we were getting ready to leave, he asked, “You wouldn’t happen to know my son Jake would you? He’s a freshman at your school.”

Craig and I looked at each other and I replied, “Yes…actually we just met him. He was visiting a friend in the hospital.”

“Chad Richards?” he questioned.

“Yes,” Craig replied a little nervously as we both began to think this was not our best idea.

“So was your visit this morning really about discovering my feelings towards the GSA, or were you feeling me out for Jake?” he asked. When neither of us answered right away, he laughed. “I thought so,” he said. “And don’t worry, I’ve known about Jake for some time. I’ve been hoping he would talk to me about it. I didn’t think he would be afraid to. Though with all the pseudo-Christian hate floating around and me being a preacher, I shouldn’t be too surprised. Although I’ve never spoken against homosexuality, I’m afraid I’ve never openly spoken for it either. That’s my fault. If I was being a thoughtful parent, I should have. I’m glad he has you boys as friends. Not many would put themselves out there like you did today.”

“Jake has no idea we were even thinking about coming here this morning. And we really are interested in how you feel about the GSA,” Craig said in response.

“I don’t expect you to say anything about Jake,” he said with a smile. “I know that’s up to him. Maybe it’s time we had a little father-son discussion.”

We thanked him for his time and promised we would have him come and talk to the kids at the GSA, as we felt it would be good for them to know that not all churches and Christians were against them and condemning them to hell.

“Damn, I hope we haven’t got Jake into trouble,” Craig said as we left the church.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “From the sounds of it, we may have given him his freedom. I hope so anyway.”

It was a couple of days later when we went to visit Chad that Jake came in looking extraordinarily happy.

“Guess what,” he said as soon as he had given Chad a quick kiss.

“What?” Chad asked.

“My dad talked to me last night and he knows I’m gay and he’s cool with it. He knows about you too!” he exclaimed.

“Really?” Chad asked.

“Yeah,” he replied looking at Craig and me. “Apparently two very nice young men went to church last Sunday to ask him how he felt about homosexuality and wondered if he would speak to the GSA.”

“Oh yeah, I wonder who that might have been,” Jeff responded, laughing.

“I swear, we never mentioned you,” Craig said defensively. “It was your dad who asked if we knew you and then said he had known about you for a while.”

“I know,” he said, grinning. “I guess I gave myself away when I drew hearts all over the inside of my Bible with Chad’s name in them.”

“You did that?” Chad asked as he pulled Jake over for another rather long kiss.

“This is going to take some getting used to,” Brett said, laughing.

We talked about Jake's dad and how cool he was about Jake and Chad for a bit. We did manage to get on to some other ‘less gay’ topics for the rest of the evening and before we knew it visiting hours were over.

As we were leaving, Jake looked at us and said, “Thanks guys. If you hadn’t talked to my dad, I would still be living in fear and he would still be waiting for me to come out to him.”

“I’m just glad we didn’t cause you a lot of trouble,” I said. “When your dad asked if we knew you, I didn’t quite know what to do. He said he wasn’t anti-gay, but he wasn’t talking about his son at the time.”

“Actually he was,” Jake said with a grin. “He suspected you were checking him out for me as soon as he saw you holding hands when you arrived.”

“I’m glad it worked out,” Craig responded. “It was really a stupid idea, when you think about it. It could have been a total disaster for you.”

“Well it couldn’t have worked out better. Even if it had been a disaster, your heart was in the right place,” he replied.

“We won’t be doing anything like that again any time soon,” I said, grinning.

“Yeah, maybe not. It might not work out next time,” Carol said, laughing.

It was another three weeks before we were told Chad would be released from hospital. If Brett had seemed excited when Chad got out of intensive care, I’m not sure how to describe how he seemed knowing Chad would be home tomorrow. When we left the hospital he was on cloud nine. It was all he could talk about on the way home. When we left him at his grandma’s, he told us he wouldn’t be in school the next day as he would be going to the hospital with his mom to pick Chad up.

The next day after school, the four of us went straight to their grandma’s house. Mrs. McMillan met us at the door. She gave us all a great big hug and invited us in. When we walked into the living room, Chad, Brett, and their mom were all sitting on the sofa looking at some old photo albums. Their mom was looking so happy and so much better. In fact, every time we had seen her over the past few weeks, she looked happier and younger. The four of us ended up on the floor in front of them looking at the pictures of Chad and Brett when they were just little. Of course, we weren’t there more than two minutes when the doorbell rang and Mrs. McMillan was leading Jake into the living room. Chad got up and gave him a hug and a quick kiss. He, of course, got to sit on the sofa next to Chad. We visited for about an hour and made fun of both Chad and Brett as we worked our way through the photos.

Unfortunately, Chad had missed so much of the semester he would have to repeat it. Since that was the case and there were less than six weeks left, his mom decided to keep him home until the next semester started. She felt it would allow him more time to heal and regain his strength. She also felt it would give more time for the whole thing to lose its newsworthiness before he had to face a school full of overly excited kids wanting a piece of him and his story.

At about 5:00, we decided we should head for home, dinner, and homework. Tonight was Craig's and my night to eat at Craig’s house. Over the last several weeks we had worked out a schedule of days at my place and days at his. It was kinda nice not to have to go up to the hospital anymore, even though over the last two weeks we hadn’t gone every night. Chad had Jake to keep him company and a lot of his other friends were going to see him, so he was seldom alone. Once we had our homework done, we just curled up in front of the TV and watched Glee. After playing some video games, at about 10:00 I headed for home; school tomorrow.

The next morning we all made our way to school. Ms. Spencer was actually getting used to us showing up a few minutes early for homeroom instead of rushing in the door as the bell rang. She was also getting used to seeing Craig and I holding hands, and would give us a smile as we entered the room. After another stimulating morning of classes, we met up with Adam, Greg, Ari and Pete as well as Jeff, Carol and Brett on our way to the cafeteria. Roger, Randy, Martin, Jamie and Joey were already at our table, or I should say tables, as we had moved a third table in to fit everyone. They were eating whatever it was on the menu when we joined them. I looked at mine and it appeared to be the right colour and texture, so I assumed it was what the menu said it was. When Jake walked into the cafeteria, I waved him over and he joined us. I think we were now the largest single group in the cafeteria.

Most of our conversation revolved around Chad being home. Brett was still walking on cloud nine and he was still totally wound up about having him home. Some of the guys said they would make a point of visiting him now he was home. We did manage to bring up the GSA. With all that was going on with Chad, we had neglected it just a little bit. Adam brought us up to speed with everything. We now had eighty-four members and there would be a dance next month to sort of end off the semester. I told them that Jake’s dad would be pleased to come and talk to the group about his church’s stand on homosexuality. Since Jake was gay and his dad accepted him unconditionally, everyone thought it would be a great idea. It would be nice and refreshing to hear a well-respected church leader tell us that God, in fact, does not hate fags. Adam said he would talk to Mr. Jameson and maybe they could set up a date when Jake’s dad could speak to us.

All too soon it was time for afternoon classes and we all slowly made our way out of the cafeteria. The end of the day seemed to take forever to arrive for some reason. When it finally did, I was thinking how good it felt to be done with all the trauma, despair, and drama of the last few weeks. I just wanted to relax, cuddle up with Craig and enjoy a few quiet, intimate moments with my boyfriend. As we turned up the walk to my front door, that thought quickly vaporized. There was someone sitting on our front veranda almost completely hidden by our big pine tree…a very sad, anxious, battered and bruised looking someone. It took me a few seconds to recognize him as he was so thin and bruised up. It was Joel Tomlinson. He had been an acquaintance, sort of. His mom had died a couple of years ago and he had become quiet and withdrawn after that, seldom speaking to anyone unless he absolutely had to. Joel had gone to school with us until about a year ago. One day he was in school and the next day he wasn’t. We still saw his dad around town, so they hadn’t moved or anything, but Joel had just disappeared. We were about to find out why.