Thanksgiving - A Time to Give Thanks (by Grant Bentley)

Thanksgiving - A Time to Give Thanks?

By Grant Bentley

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

Again, just in case you are wondering, this is a Canadian story and our Thanksgiving is in October.

It was Thanksgiving again, woo hoo, a time to give thanks for all the good things in your life. Yeah, right. Whether I wanted to be or not—emphasis on not—I was sitting at the dining room table with Mom and Dad, Uncle Ray, Aunt Louise, my brothers Donnie and Taylor, and my cousins Sharon, Jason, Sandra, and Kevin. We sat down and, like every Thanksgiving, all joined hands and got ready to tell everyone what we were thankful for, something I have always hated. We should just tape it once and play it back every year. I mean it’s the same bullshit year after year. Well, until this year. Now, I really wish we had taped last year’s because this year I knew it was going to be totally fucked.

Mom always went first and, like every year, she ran on about how thankful she was for being blessed with such a wonderful husband, friends, home, health, children, and on and on and on. Aunt Louise pretty much repeated the same load of crap. It was enough to make a person want to puke.

Each of the other ‘children’ was thankful for everything including their sports victories, friends, parents and/or wonderful caring family. Nothing new there. When my turn rolled around, I was at a loss. The only thing that came to mind was having good grades at school, so that became my contribution. Not unexpectedly, it got a number of chuckles and a few moans. I mean, good grades? Shit, how pathetic is that?

Uncle Ray was thankful for his loving wife and beautiful children Sharon, Jason, Sandra, and Kevin. Then it was Dad’s turn. Dad was thankful for his loving wife and his boys Donnie and Taylor.

Okaaay, now that obviously raised a few eyebrows and suddenly, everyone turned to stare at me. All I wanted to do at that moment was just sink through the floor.

Kevin started to ask the obvious question, “What about Adam?” but was cut short by my dad saying, “Let us pray.” He sounded like some kind of preacher. Where he came up with that, I don’t know. Probably from some Mafia gangster movie; I mean, the guy had never seen the inside of a church.

Everyone, except Kevin and I, faithfully closed their eyes, bowed their heads, and waited for Dad’s usual ten-minute Thanksgiving prayer. He prayed for everything from the economy to this year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf. Unfortunately, the oil spill wasn’t the only new cause he threw in. This year, he prayed for God’s wrath upon the abomination of homosexuality, including those who chose to live such a perverted lifestyle and refused to change their ways and live according to His will. When he said ‘His’ will, I think he was referring to himself, not God. Throughout his prayer, Kevin and I basically just stared at each other. When Dad started in about homosexuals, Kevin rolled his eyes, smiled weakly, and gave me a sympathetic look.

You see, up until a few days ago everything was normal…not good, but normal. Donnie and Taylor were practically worshipped by my parents. Donnie, the captain of the football team, and Taylor, the captain of the basketball team, were the epitome of what every parent hopes for in their boys. They were tough, strong and masculine all-American sports heroes, destined for the pros. I, on the other hand, was barely tolerated by my parents. In contrast to the other two, I was the scholarly one. I was tall and skinny, with a book in my hand most of the time, and had no desire to participate in sports of any kind. If my dad said ten words to me a week, they were usually orders to do some chore. Occasionally they were some snide remark asking why I couldn’t be more like my brothers…or at least pick up a football. Mom was a little better. Once in a while she would ask me how my day went. I would say fine and she would keep on doing whatever it was she was doing. If I did start to explain something that had happened on some particular day, she would tell me, “Not now dear, I have to finish this. Maybe later.”

Then, a few days before Thanksgiving, everything went to hell. My mom got a call from the school telling her that I had been in a fight and had been sent to the hospital with what they suspected was a broken arm. That, in itself, was a crock of shit and they knew it. I was being bullied in the cafeteria just like any other day. One of the guys from the football team twisted my arm, bent me over a table and another guy wrote “fucking faggot” on my back in black marker. But this time, they had gone a step too far. When I tried to pull free, the guy pushed my arm higher behind my back and there was a audible snap. The three teachers, supposedly on lunch duty, couldn’t turn away and ignore it this time. They obviously had to do something. So, they reported that I had started a fight with one of the football players, and in his attempt to protect himself he had accidentally broken my arm. There was no mention as to how the words “fucking faggot” miraculously appeared on my back.

To make matters worse, at the hospital, they had taken off my shirt to check me over before they sent me to get my arm X-rayed. My dad, besides wanting to know how I could be so stupid as to start a fight with a football player, wanted to know why the words “fucking faggot” were written on my back. I explained that I didn’t start the fight. I was being bullied by members of the football team, among others, and this wasn’t the first time. In fact, they made a point of making my life hell on a daily basis. It seems he didn’t give a shit about me being bullied, though. All he wanted to know was why I had “fucking faggot” written on my back. When I said they held me down and wrote it across my back before they broke my arm, he just shook his head. Then he glared at me for several seconds before telling me that, as far as he was concerned, like any other useless little pervert, I deserved a broken arm and more. I almost thanked him for his concern, but thought better of it.

After telling my mom she could wait for the useless little faggot as he needed a drink, he left—but not without warning me that if I didn’t get my shit together, I would find myself out on the street. No “flaming god-damned faggot” was living under his roof. Mom didn’t say a word. She didn’t even stick up for me; she just sat there with tears in her eyes. After the cast was on, she drove us home and told me to go to my room. That was it.

When he got home, he made it clear that the way he saw it, hard working, upstanding young athletes like Donnie and Taylor would never bully another student. They were proud of their school and always did their best to uphold the school’s good name. When they saw something that would detract from the school’s image, they would obviously go out of their way to correct it. If Central was allowed to become overrun with faggots, it would give the school a bad name. They were simply trying to educate me and show me the error of my ways; show me the right way. Well, put that way, it made perfectly good sense, right? They weren’t bullies; they were educators.

Dad hasn’t spoken a word to me, or about me, since then. Even today, as you probably noticed, he didn’t mention his boys Donnie, Taylor, and Adam. Nope, he mentioned his boys Donnie and Taylor. I had ceased to exist.

Since I had no choice, I did manage to eat with everyone. I knew it was delicious, like every year, but it was all I could do to swallow each mouthful without gagging. As soon as dinner was over, and the ‘women’ cleaned up while the ‘men’ retired to the living room, I slipped out to the backyard and threw up.

I couldn’t take this. My dad had just made it clear he no longer saw me as his son. He had also made it clear that I was, in his eyes, an abomination; a pathetic, hated, homosexual deserving of only one thing: God’s wrath. And he had done it in front of the entire family…without one person standing up for me. I just sat on the deck at the top of the stairs, wrapped my arms around my knees, and cried. As the tears streamed down my face, I could only think of one thing: making the pain I was feeling at that moment stop. Another year in that house, in that school, was no longer an option. I simply wasn’t that strong.

I was trying to catch my breath when a hand squeezed my arm. I froze until I heard Kevin’s voice. Kevin was the oldest of my cousins. He was four years older than me and in his third year of university. Kevin had always made a point of talking to me and trying to include me in whatever was going on and, as far as I was concerned, he was the only one who really cared about me. He was definitely the only one who was genuinely nice to me. Now, he was standing in front of me at the foot of the stairs looking very concerned. I stood up, stepped down the stairs, and collapsed into his arms and cried. He just held me until I stopped crying.

“I wanted to say something in there, but I was afraid it would have just started a war,” he said quietly. Then he held me at arms length, looked into my eyes and asked, “You gonna be okay, man?”

“No,” was my simple reply.

He handed me his bottle of Coke and said, “Here, rinse your mouth out. Then lets go for a walk.”

We walked and talked…well, I talked. I told him pretty much everything that had been happening over the last several years. The bullying at school, being treated either like shit or like I didn’t exist at home; everything. Including the three times I stood in the middle of the eighth avenue bridge and watched the traffic speeding by underneath it. We were walking along one of the trails by the river at that point, and he put his arm around my shoulder, guided me over to the riverbank and sat down with me.

After watching the water flow by for a minute or so, he gave me a squeeze, looked at me and said, “You’re a kid, Adam. You should be having the time of your life right now. It shouldn’t be this way, man.”

“What can I do about it?” I asked. “I’m stuck, Kevin. There’s nowhere else to go.”

After a short pause, he gave me another squeeze and asked, “Can you give me a minute?”

“Yeah, sure,” I replied as he walked several feet down the riverbank, took out his cell phone and talked to someone for a couple of minutes.

When he came back, he looked at me, smiled, and said, “It really doesn’t have to be this way.”

I just stared at him for several seconds before asking, “What do you mean?”

“I have a two bedroom apartment. I can talk to your dad and we can arrange for you to stay with me,” he responded.

“Are you serious?” I asked. “You’d do that?”

“Yeah, I’m serious,” he replied as he sat back down and put his arm around my shoulders again.

“Do you think he would go for it?” I asked.

“Well from what you’ve told me, yeah, I think so,” he said. “Not to sound cruel or anything, but he doesn’t seem too fond of you right now.”

“He never has been,” I responded. “I’m not the sports hero that Donnie and Taylor are. I’m just some pathetic, skinny, bookwormy faggot.”

“No, you’re not. You’re a sweet, kind, caring person, with more strength and a bigger heart than all the rest of them combined,” Kevin admonished me before asking, “You want me to talk to him?”

“What if he says no?” I asked in return. “If he knows I told you stuff, he’ll make my life worse than the living hell it already is.”

“He won’t say no,” he replied. “And if he does, Family Services would love to hear your story. So would the school board.”

“What about school?” I asked. “You live like ten miles from here.”

“Don’t worry about school,” he said. “We have an excellent high school a block from my place. They have zero tolerance for bullying, and I do mean ZERO tolerance, and they have a GSA.”

“How do you know all that?” I questioned him.

“Easy, I did my first session of student teaching there,” he replied. “I even know all the staff and half the kids.”

I can’t really explain all the feelings that were running through my mind at that moment. Just the thought of not being bullied and harassed at school was enough to send a warm surge through me. But to be treated like a person at home was almost too much to imagine. The tears started again and Kevin’s arms wrapped around me again. This time though, they weren’t tears of despair. They were tears of hope.

It was almost ten o’clock when we got back to the house. Everyone was gone except for my mom and dad.

When we walked in the door, my dad looked at us and said, “What, we’ve got two faggots in the family?”

Kevin just looked at him, and after a few seconds, said, “My sexual orientation is none of your business. But, I’ll tell you what is: child abuse.”

Dad instantly turned red, jumped to his feet and charged at Kevin. The next thing I knew, Dad was flat on his back on the living room floor.

“Maybe you forgot. I have a third degree black belt,” Kevin said calmly. “Try that again and you’ll wake up in hospital.”

“What the fuck do you want?” Dad asked angrily.

“I want you to get a lawyer and give me full custody of Adam,” Kevin replied.

“Fuck you,” Dad shouted.

“Fine,” Kevin responded. “I’ll see you tomorrow with a representative from Family Services. By the time we’re done, you should both be facing several charges,”

“Like what?” Dad asked.

“We’ll start with mental abuse, verbal abuse, uttering threats, and failure to supply adequate care and protection,” Kevin said. “Want me to list a few more?”

“Come on, Dave,” my mom suddenly said. “He’ll be happier with Kevin. You’ll be happier with him at Kevin’s. You’ve already said you can’t stand looking at him. The only reason you could have to keep him here is spite.”

“Shut the fu…” came out of Dad’s mouth before he received the most resounding, vicious slap I have ever seen.

“Don’t you ever speak to me like that again,” Mom shouted. “And I’ve listened to enough of your crap about Adam. Now you see to it that Kevin gets full custody…tomorrow. Because if you don’t, I will.”

I had never seen my mom even close to being that angry, and I had never seen dad look so defeated in my life. I knew he worshipped the ground my mom walked on. To have pissed her off enough to get the slap he just got must have almost sent him into shock.

“Okay, okay,” he said quietly to Mom while still rubbing his cheek, then to Kevin, “Tomorrow…you’ll hear from my lawyer tomorrow.”

“Thanks,” Kevin said. “I’ll be by tomorrow to sign the papers and pick up Adam’s stuff.”

I ran to my room and quickly packed a bunch of clothes into a duffel-bag and grabbed my backpack. Just as we were opening the door to leave, Mom ran over to me and hugged me. “I’m so sorry baby,” she said. “I should have stood up for you a long time ago. I’m so sorry.”

“Thanks Mom.” I replied and returned her hug. As I turned towards Kevin and he and I left, I don’t think either of us failed to notice the fact that she hadn’t said ‘I love you.’

A half hour later, we were walking into Kevin’s apartment.

As soon as we opened the door, a voice called out from the kitchen, “Hi Hon. You’re kinda late. How’d things go?”

Kevin just looked at me and grinned. “I think there’s someone you should meet,” he said to me as we walked into the kitchen.

I couldn’t help but grin back. You see, the voice from the kitchen and the vision now standing in front of me…who had just given Kevin a rather intimate kiss…was not female.

“Adam, I’d like you to meet my partner Chad,” Kevin said with a grin.

“Hi Adam,” Chad said with a smile as he pulled me into a hug. “Welcome home, kiddo.”

“Hi Chad,” I replied. “Thanks.”

Within thirty seconds, there were two glasses of wine and one glass of apple juice on the table, as well as an assortment of cheeses and fruit.

“So, fill me in on the details, boys,” Chad ordered with a grin.

And, fill him in we did. By the time we were done, he had tears rolling down his cheeks, and had leaned over at least three times to give me a hug.

“Oh my god,” he said. “You are so strong. I can’t believe you were able to take it for so long. Why didn’t you come to Kevin and me sooner?”

“Well, I never thought of it,” I replied. “I don’t see Kevin all that often. I know he’s my cousin and all, but I never thought to come to him for help. I mean, your family is your family. They should be there for you. I guess I never thought about turning to someone else…and I never knew about you,” I added with a grin.

“Well you should have turned to someone,” he said. “What about the youth crisis line, the Trevor Project Hotline? They could have helped you.”

“I guess I just figured I could tough it out. I know that’s stupid, but it seemed like the only thing I could do,” I responded.

“You’re too young to tough it out, sunshine,” he said with a smile. “You’re a kid and kids shouldn’t have to deal with that shit.”

“He won’t have to anymore,” Kevin announced. “As of today, he’ll get to see what being a kid should be like.”

I just grinned at him, stood up, walked around the table and gave him a hug. When I turned around, Chad was standing there waiting for his, so I gave him the biggest, tightest hug I could.

“Thanks guys,” I said. “I don’t know what else to say. You won’t be sorry. I promise.”

“I know we won’t,” Kevin replied with a grin.

“Besides, I always wanted to be a dad,” Chad said, smiling. “Speaking of which, I think it’s past your bedtime. You’ve got a full and exciting day at school ahead of you tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” I said with a big grin. “Uhhh…maybe you could show me where my bedroom is…please.”

That got a chuckle from both of them as they led me down the hall and showed me my new room. I could almost taste my excitement as I looked around. It was huge, with a queen size bed, desk, and huge bookshelf filled with books. It even had its own ensuite bathroom and shower. But that wasn’t what made me feel most excited. It was the anticipation of looking forward to a new life. A life where I would be loved, cared for, and respected. There was a little anxiety to go along with it, though. Tomorrow I would be starting at a new school. I would be the new kid, something I wasn’t sure I was looking forward to.

I got two more great hugs as we said good night. As I got myself all tucked into bed, resting from the day’s events and waiting to fall asleep, I realized that, in this one afternoon and evening, I had received more hugs and more love and affection than I had received in the last five years. I was alive and well…and somebody actually cared.

Kevin woke me up about 7:00 the next morning. I got up, showered, brushed my teeth and got dressed in my best, most fashionable jeans and shirt. I wanted to make a good impression when I arrived at Western Collegiate. I was nervous as hell, though. In Central, being ‘the new kid’ was seldom a good experience. But this wasn’t Central, and from what Kevin had said, things would be good and I had nothing to worry about.

Chad had breakfast all set out when I wandered into the kitchen. There was bacon and eggs, hashbrowns, and a steaming cup of coffee waiting for me. Oh, and a hug. As soon as we had finished breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen, it was time to head over to the school. Thankfully, it was a two-minute walk, so I didn’t have time to get too wound up. As we walked up the front sidewalk, at least ten kids said hi to Kevin. A couple even asked if he was back to teach and seemed genuinely disappointed when he said no. He said I was his cousin and would be starting at Western today. I was surprised when they introduced themselves and welcomed me. None of that would have ever happened at Central. Then again, the kids at Central wouldn’t have given Kevin the time of day, even if he asked for it.

When we got to the principal’s office, we were welcomed with a smile by a very pleasant receptionist. She made a quick call on the office phone and then led us into the office. The principal was a younger looking guy who immediately stood up, came around his desk and shook Kevin’s hand and then mine.

“It’s good to see you Kevin,” he said. “When you phoned this morning, I was afraid it was to tell me you weren’t going to take us up on our offer.”

“Well I didn’t think there was any doubt: I’m in,” Kevin replied with a grin.

“Good,” he said before turning to me. “I’m Mr. Cornett. Welcome to Western Collegiate, Adam. I understand you’re living with Kevin now, right?” he said to me.

“Yes sir,” I replied nervously.

“There’s no need to be nervous, Adam,” he said.

“Sorry,” I replied.

“There’s no need to be sorry either,” he said, grinning.

I just smiled and replied, “Okay.”

“We got your marks and information from Central,” he said before adding, “Not very friendly over there, are they?”

“No, not really,” I responded.

“So Adam,” he said. “Since you don’t seem like the type who would take on a football player, do you want to tell me how your arm actually got broken?”

“A guy twisted it too much,” I replied.

“He was bullied in the cafeteria by a couple of members of the football team,” Kevin added.

“That’s what I thought. Well that won’t happen here,” he announced. “And if anything remotely resembling bullying does happen, it won’t happen twice. I’m sure Kevin has told you of our zero tolerance policy.”

“Yes, he has,” I said.

“Good,” he responded. “Now I have your schedule here. If you are ahead or behind in any of your subjects, be sure to let the teacher know and we can make arrangements for you to catch up or look at reviewing material you have already covered. The receptionist will give you a locker assignment on your way out. I think you will find life a lot different here, Adam,” he reassured me.

“Thank you,” I said.

He picked up the phone and asked the receptionist to send Simon in. A second later, a very cute kid, who appeared to be maybe a year younger than me, walked in the door.

“Simon, this is Adam Smith. He’s new here and has the same schedule as you,” he said. “Adam, this is Simon Franks. He’ll show you around for the day, explain how we do things here, and help you become familiar with the school layout and what we have to offer in the way of clubs, teams and volunteering.”

“Thanks,” I said as I stood up and reached out to shake Mr. Cornett’s hand and then Simon’s. Kevin then gave me a quick hug and said, “Have fun.”

“So, you went to Central?” Simon asked.

“Yeah, since freshman year,” I replied.

“I don’t know how you did it, man,” he responded. “I was there for two weeks before my parents pulled me out and moved near here. That place is a hole.”

“You got that right,” I said with a chuckle. And so my day began.

As soon as we walked into the hallway, I could sense the difference. It was noisy, but quiet, if you know what I mean. No one was pushing or shoving. Small groups were standing around visiting. It was a totally different atmosphere. A few people glanced at me, but I didn’t feel like I was a spectacle…the new kid…someone who needed to be checked out and tested. Simon introduced me to a few people and soon there was a group of us walking along and chatting. We found my locker and I put my jacket and backpack in it. Then we wandered to our first class, English Lit. Simon introduced me to Ms. Wainright and she signed out the books I needed and then pointed out an empty desk for me. We talked about what the class was doing and it turned out the book they were studying was one I had already read. In fact, I had read all of the books they had studied so far, so I was not going to be behind and have to make up a lot of reading.

The procedure was pretty much the same in each class. I only had to introduce myself and say something about who I was in one class. Everyone was being cool and the day went along smoothly. Simon filled me in on all the clubs and stuff as we walked from class to class. At lunch, he and I sat with the same group of kids we had been talking to earlier. It was awesome. I was fitting right in, and best of all I was not victimized once.

However, just as we were leaving the cafeteria, this big guy came over and stood in front of us. My first thought was ‘Oh no, here we go.’ Well, it turns out, I assumed the worst a little too soon. He just grinned and asked Simon if he was going to introduce him to the new guy or what. Simon did just that. It turns out his name’s Ryan Resch. He was the captain of the wrestling team and one of the nicest guys you could meet. Things were definitely going to be different here.

As the day wound down and we finished our last class, Simon and I went over what I had to do. I was okay in English Lit, Chemistry, and French, but behind in Math. It was only one chapter and Simon offered to go over it with me to help me catch up. He asked me what would be a good time. I was pretty much open to any time. He said he had a club meeting to attend until 5:00, and asked if we could get together after that. I told him I only live a block away and asked if he wanted to come over after dinner.

“You live in Rockyview Towers, right?” he asked.

“Yeah, I just moved in with my cousin,” I replied.

“I figured you were living with Mr. Smith since he was with you in the office this morning. So he’s your cousin?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Oh wow, I had him for the second unit in Chemistry. He’s the best,” Simon exclaimed.

“Yeah he is,” I replied. “He saved my life.”

Simon gave me a look like he understood and then shook it off and smiled. “I don’t suppose you want to come to the meeting with me?” he questioned.

“What kind of meeting?” I asked.

“It’s a GSA meeting,” he replied quietly.

“Sure, why not,” I replied. “I’ll call Chad and let him know I won’t be home till, what, about 5:30?”

“Okay, let’s go,” he said with a big grin as I closed my phone after talking to Chad.

The first person I saw as we walked in the room was Ryan Resch. I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“What?” Simon asked.

“I guess I just didn’t expect to see Ryan here,” I said.

“Hey, we’re not all skinny, sports-allergic bookworms you know,” he said with a laugh.

“Yeah, well I am,” I said, laughing along with him.

Just then, this really cute guy came jogging over to us and planted a big kiss right on Simon’s lips, turned to me and said, “Hi, I’m Rahid Nayer.” He said his name like ‘Raheed’.

“Hi, Adam Smith,” I replied as I reached out to shake his hand. Instead of a handshake, however, I got a hug.

“I thought you had a dentist’s appointment,” Simon said to him. “I didn’t expect to see you today.”

“I did, but Mom dropped me off on the way home so I could come to the meeting,” Rahid replied.

“Come over and meet some of the guys,” he said, grabbing my hand and leading me across the room. I glanced back and Simon was right behind us. He just shrugged and grinned. I guess dragging new guys around was not an unusual behaviour for Rahid. We ended up at a table with about eight guys and girls sitting around it.

I can’t even begin to remember the names of all the kids I met over the next hour. Well, there was one name that seemed to stick with me: Skye…Skye Finch. Skye was, I guessed to be, about my height. He was sitting, okay, so it was hard to tell. He had a very well developed upper body and he had a letter jacket hanging over the back of his chair, so I assumed he was into football or basketball. He had black hair, the bluest eyes I have ever seen and the most amazing smile. He also had a rainbow pendant around his neck. A gay jock, I thought…cool.

We seemed to hit it off instantly and got into some pretty deep discussions, about bullying and homophobia and some not so deep discussions about football and the assholes he played against from Central. It wasn’t until we decided to go over and get something to eat that I realized he was in a wheelchair. We had just been talking about him playing football, so thankfully I was looking at the menu and just caught him out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know for sure, but if I had been looking directly at him I likely would have looked shocked, or at least surprised, and he might have taken it the wrong way. I don’t know, probably not, but this way I had a few seconds, and when I did look at him it was with the same grin I had when we were joking about Central. Once we had our snacks, we went back to the table. This time I made sure I was sitting right next to him rather than across the table.

“So, you live close by?” he asked.

“Yeah, just a block from here in Rockyview Towers,” I replied.

“I live in Rockyview Towers,” he said. “On the fifth floor.”

“Okay, this is too weird,” I said laughing. “I live on the fifth floor, 503.”

“We’re in 508,” he said. “I live with my sister.”

“You don’t live with your folks?” I asked.

“My dad said it’s too expensive to build ramps into the house or to add a main-floor bedroom,” he replied. “Actually, I think it’s bullshit. He just doesn’t want me around. He hasn’t been to see me or phoned me since the accident, and that was eight months ago.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Well, to explain the chair,” he responded, “some friends and I were skiing out-of-bounds at Fernie and I hit a tree. My spine was partially damaged somewhere in the lumbar region. I have some sensation in my legs, but it’s very limited. I was in hospital for three months and I still go to physio. They say I’ll never walk again, but I’m going to prove them wrong.”

“You know, I think you will,” I said with a smile.

“Damn right I will. Oh, and in case you’re wondering,” he said, grinning, “everything else down there works just fine.”

Of course that made me blush a rather deep shade of crimson, which turned his grin into a laugh.

“Sorry, but I could see the wheels turning,” he laughed. “At least you had the decency not to ask.”

“How do you know I wasn’t just about to?” I asked, grinning.

“Because you’ve got more class than that,” he replied, causing the blush that was slowly beginning to fade to flare up again.

“Thanks,” I responded.

“Now to explain my Dad,” he said, “I guess in simple terms, he’s a homophobic asshole and I was skiing with the guys here. It didn’t take him long to figure out if I was a member and skiing with other members of the GSA, I must be a faggot or a faggot lover. Either were good enough reasons to disown me.”

“That sucks,” I said.

“If you’re living with Kevin, what’s your story?” he asked.

“I told you about the guys writing on my back,” I said. “Well that was enough for him. He simply assumed I was gay. He figured the bullies were within their rights to ‘educate’ me in the error of my ways.”

“You’re kidding!” he exclaimed. “Some assholes write ‘fucking faggot’ on your back and that’s enough to prove your gay?”

“For him it was,” I replied. “But it’s all good. It got me away from Central, away from home, in with Kevin and Chad and I couldn’t be happier.”

“And you met me,” he said, laughing.

“Yeah, and I met you,” I said.

We heard a warning bell at that point, letting all the clubs meeting that afternoon know it was 5:00. We all headed for our lockers to grab our stuff for a fun evening of homework. Simon, Rahid, Skye and I slowly made our way down the east hall to where our lockers were. Once we got our books and jackets, we were on our way home. As we got close to Rockyview Towers, Simon reminded me he would see me after dinner to work on the math, then he and Rahid gave us each a quick hug and turned south towards their respective homes. Skye and I continued on to our building.

As we got off the elevator, Skye asked if I wanted to meet his sister.

“Yeah, I’d like that,” I replied.

“Sara, John, I want you to meet someone,” he called out as we entered their apartment.

Two very surprised looking people appeared out of the kitchen. As soon as they saw me, their faces lit up with huge smiles.

“Sara, John, this is Adam. We met at the GSA meeting. He lives in 503,” he announced with some excitement. “Adam, this is my sister Sara and my brother-in-law John.”

“Hi, pleased to meet you,” I said as I held my hand out.

“Hi, I’m very pleased to meet you,” Sara said as she bypassed my hand and gave me a hug. I got pretty much the same greeting from John, but he chose to shake my hand.

“We were just going to sit down to dinner,” Sara said, “but you’re more than welcome to join us.”

“Thanks anyway,” I responded, “but Kevin and Chad will be expecting me. And I have a ton of homework. New kid in school, you know.”

“Well you’re welcome here anytime,” she said as she looked back and forth between us, grinning.

“I leave for school about 8:15,” Skye said. “If I’m not at the elevator, just bang on the door.”

“Okay, see you at 8:15,” I said as I leaned down and gave him a quick hug.

“Nice meeting you,” Sara said as I turned to leave.

“Nice meeting you too,” I replied.

I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by Sara and John’s excitement at meeting me, but chalked it up to them being really nice people. After all, they had taken Skye in and were obviously more than willing to give him a place to call home. Not every recently married big sister would be willing to do that.

As I unlocked the door and walked into the kitchen, Kevin was busy mashing the potatoes and Chad was tossing a salad.

“Hi, anything I can do?” I asked as I put my backpack down.

“Grab some knives and forks and set them out, please,” Kevin replied, which I did. Five minutes later, we were dishing up what looked like some pretty awesome food: pork chops, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and garden salad.

“So how was your first day?” Kevin asked.

“Totally awesome,” I replied. “It’s so different from Central. I already got to know a bunch of guys. And I met Skye from down the hall at the GSA.”

“He seems like a nice kid,” Kevin said. “Very quiet though. But then, he’s had a lot to deal with this year.”

“He wasn’t quiet today,” I said. “I’m meeting him in the morning so we can go to school together.”

“Really? You and Skye talked?” Kevin asked, sounding surprised.

“Yeah, we talked about all sorts of stuff,” I replied. “He’s really cool.”

“That’s great,” Chad said. “Maybe you’re just what he needs. Someone new who isn’t falling all over themselves, feeling sorry for him.”

“He will walk again,” I responded.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Kevin said.

“He will, I know he will,” I insisted. “He’s very determined.”

“I hope you’re right,” he said.

We were just finishing clearing up when the intercom buzzed. It was Simon with his Math books in hand. As soon as Simon and I sat down at the kitchen table, he looked at me and grinned.

“What?” I asked.

“Skye likes you,” he said. “I mean he REALLY likes you.”

“Yeah right,” I remarked.

“No, I mean it,” he said. “He talked to you the whole time tonight. He smiled, he grinned—hell, he even laughed. Usually we’re lucky to get three words out of him, and once in a while a half-smile. Since the accident, he hardly talks to anyone.”

“You serious?” I questioned.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Everybody noticed.”

I just grinned and blushed.

I met Skye the next morning for our trip to school, and every morning after that. It wasn’t long before we were recognized as a couple throughout school. Skye was no longer the quiet, reclusive kid he had become after his accident. In fact, it wasn’t long before he was laughing and joking with the others as well as me.

I went with him to his physio appointments. I watched everything the therapist was doing, including how he controlled each exercise and how long each one lasted. When he noticed how carefully I was watching him, he showed me how to do exactly what he was doing. The idea was to strengthen Skye’s leg muscles to keep them from atrophying and to keep his blood circulation up. It wasn’t long before, on the days he was at home, Skye and I were doing the same exercise routine he did in physio. Eventually, I would hold him up and he would try to put some of his weight on his legs. It failed miserably for the first few weeks, but gradually, he could support himself better and better. Some evenings, we would spend three or four hours working non-stop until we were exhausted. But we never gave up.

Our relationship wasn’t all work and no play, either. We went to the movies, ballgames, GSA events, even to the beach. Over the summer, we travelled with Kevin and Chad to Vancouver pride and had a blast. We even went to a couple of GSA dances. We both danced most of the evening too. I danced on my feet and Skye danced in his chair. I can’t begin to tell you how many people took pictures of us. A couple even took videos and gave them to us. We were having the time of our lives together. If you believe in being soulmates, that’s what we were.

All of a sudden, it was Thanksgiving again. I was amazed at how quickly the time had gone by. It was already coming up to one year since I moved in with Kevin and Chad. It was also the beginning of a new Thanksgiving tradition. Since our families no longer welcomed half of us, and the other half didn’t have family living in the country anymore, we decided we would spend Thanksgiving together. Maybe it also had a little to do with the fact that Skye and I had been a couple for the last ten months or more, and had both been pestering our families like crazy for us to spend it together. At any rate, we were all sitting around the table at Sara and John’s, getting ready for the feast of a lifetime.

As we were passing the food around and everyone was loading their plates with a little of everything that went by, Skye suddenly announced that we had forgotten the cranberry sauce. With that, he stood up, turned and walked slowly and carefully to the kitchen counter, picked up the bowl of cranberry sauce and walked back to the table.

Up until that moment, everyone had been chatting rather boisterously about school, work, and who was going to win the Grey Cup this year, whatever that was. Now, suddenly, the room fell totally silent.

“What?” Skye questioned as he stood there with a huge grin.

“Oh my God, you’re walking,” Sara exclaimed, as she almost knocked her chair over, in her haste to get to him and give him a hug.

Kevin, John and Chad just stared at him. After several seconds, huge grins appeared on their faces.

“I told you so,” I said, looking directly at Kevin.

“Yes you did,” he replied as he stood up to hug me first and then Skye. The food was forgotten for the next several minutes, as everyone marvelled at the fact that Skye was walking again. John and Chad had to take their turns giving out hugs as well.

“How…when…” Sara questioned.

“About three weeks now,” Skye replied with a grin, before she could finish.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” John asked.

“We wanted it to be our Thanksgiving surprise,” Skye replied.

“Well you succeeded there,” Kevin said. “I’m so happy for you.”

“I couldn’t have done it without Adam,” he stated emphatically, pulling me close.

Needless to say, I was the last one to hug Skye. We whispered, “I love you,” into each other’s ear and even snuck in a little kiss.

For the first time in as long as I could remember, I felt truly thankful at Thanksgiving.

A very special thanks to Azy for his time and hard work editing this story for me.