Scott pedaled furiously through the driving rain. Not even daring to take a hand off the handlebars to brush away the wet locks that were threatening to obscure his vision.
Please... please... please... please... His mind pleaded over and over. Don’t let him be gone.
Rain fell on him in big fat drops, almost painful in the intensity it drove through his soaked t-shirt that still proclaimed cheerfully “Fuck You World!” The pavement was almost lost in the fine spray produced by the raindrops as they exploded on the concrete. The bicycle’s tires cut swathes of white through puddles, sending benedictions of water to drench his hopelessly muddied sneakers. Already, the sidewalk gutters were flooding and a flotsam of dead leaves swirled past him like dirges to his dreams.
Scott’s legs burned at the speed at which they pumped the pedals, but he couldn’t care less. Whitewashed picket fences blurred past him. Relentlessly he sped on. He had to get there before...
Before Tim leaves forever....
Scott choked back a sob, but his eyes never left the strip of pavement ahead of him, stretching out until it was lost in a surreal curtain of gray.
Everything had been gray before. For years he had denied his own true feelings from surfacing. Denied the upwelling of his soul from ever gracing his actions, his words, his thoughts... Denied. He had locked it away in fear. Buried it in a mask of brashness, a mask of mildly conceited posturing, a mask of cynical bitterness. Much easier to let the world hate him for what he was not than let it laugh at what he really was.
Most of the few friends he had left were convinced he was a first class prick. He couldn’t blame them. He had alienated his childhood playmates deliberately. Insulted their efforts of at least maintaining a facade of polite friendship. Ignored the attempts at reconciling him to the group. Even his own parents had professed at barely recognizing the sullen teenager that had once been the sweetest kid in the neighborhood.
The model paperboy who always delivered the morning paper right up to the doorstep. The kid who would shovel snow out of driveways for nothing more than hot chocolate and conversation. The kid that even old man Kinney, the grumpiest man in the neighborhood, smiled at in passing. The kid who even the bullies respected and liked. The kid who was never without a mischievous grin and a wave.
The kid who had fallen helplessly in love at fifteen. In love with someone of the wrong gender. Timmy....
His grades had dropped, not enough to cause real concern, but enough for his teachers to start wondering what had happened to him. Gone were the neatly combed hair, the backpack of books that he had always carried with him to school, the ’normal’ clothes... in its place was a roughly cut mane dyed in places with streaks of DayGlo blue, nose piercings, an earlobe studded with a trio of baroque earrings, t-shirts proclaiming various obscenities, torn jeans... He had changed overnight into someone none of them recognized.
He had dived head on into weightlifting, changing his once slight frame into a bulk of muscle. Not even the varsity football captain, who incidentally was once one of his closest friends, would dare cross his path now. He had built up a menacing aura of concealed hatred and danger around him, until his mere presence was enough to silence a crowded cafeteria. He had changed.
All because he couldn’t accept what he was. Couldn’t accept being what most people laughingly refer to as faggots. Couldn’t accept the truth that nothing he could do would ever change the fact that he loved Tim so much, even his dreams and nightmares were filled with him.
I’m gay. He told himself roughly as he raced on. I’m GAY!
Tears were now flowing freely down his cheeks, unnoticed in the rivulets of rainwater that bathed his face. He kept his mouth set grimly though he wanted nothing more than to draw it back in a rictus of sorrow and wail at his own stupidity like a toddler.
“I’m gay.” For the first time, he whispered those words out loud. His heart was beating insanely from exhaustion, anticipation, and strangest of all, from a release of exultation at the words. He felt a vague warmth spread all throughout his body as he repeated the words louder. “I’m Gay.”
From somewhere within him, he felt his heart reconcile with his mind. Bridging the chasm that had separated the two these past three years. With a gut wrenching sob that almost unbalanced him on the bicycle, he felt his mind wrap itself around the fact. Felt it examine the reasons, and felt it accept. Accept what he had been forcing himself to deny for so long. And he felt something open up inside him.
“Timmy, I love you.” He sobbed the words out and felt his heart rise up and rejoice at the declaration. “I love you, Tim.” Amazingly, he was smiling through the rush of tears that clouded his vision even more. Finally, he had to lift a hand and wipe his eyes clear of tears and rainwater. He should have accepted himself a long time ago. Now it just might be too late.
From out of nowhere, a car door suddenly opened in front of him. Too late to brake, he slammed into it unmercifully, his bike skidding out from under him. He felt his head strike the upper edge of the door frame, thankfully padded with rubber. Nevertheless, he fell flailing into the muddy pavement, the skin of his knee scraping painfully through the gap in his jeans.
Fuck it. I’m through with torn jeans, Scott cursed. Picking himself up hastily, he found himself staring at the horror-stricken face of James Rote. James was a junior and went to the same school as Scott. A scholarly introvert, James’ worst nightmare was to give Scott a reason to beat him up. Now, it looked like he had done just that. For a moment, James gaped silently at the drenched and mud-splattered neighborhood toughie before babbling out a stream of apologies. “Scott. Oh God... Scott... I’m so sorry. Scott, I’m sorry... I... I didn’t see y-”
Scott waved a hand in dismissal, and to James’ amazement smiled. He cringed further into the car reflexively as Scott held a hand out to him. “James, right?” He asked in a mildly amused tone.
James examined Scott’s eyes suspiciously for any glimmer of malice before taking the outstretched hand and shaking it weakly. “Y- yeah.” He stuttered.
“My fault, man. I’m sorry.” Scott said. He reached a powerful arm inside the car and gave James a friendly pat on the shoulders, making him actually squeeze his eyes shut as he expected a punch on the face. None came. Instead, amused laughter drifted through the thunderous pounding of James’ heart. He hesitantly opened an eye and saw Scott still standing there, laughing in the downpour. His blue-streaked raven black hair framing his handsome features.
“Dude.” Scott told him, chuckling gently. “It’s alright.”
“Oh.” James whispered, then laughed nervously. “I was just... uh....”
“Never mind, dude.” Scott’s tone suddenly became serious again. He examined his skinned knee through the hole in his jeans and shrugged. “I’m in a hurry.”
“Oh... okay.” James stepped out on the rain, not caring anymore if he got drenched himself. He wanted to clear things up before Scott decided to beat him up another day. “Listen... I’m really sorry... I-” He fell silent as he noticed the almost desperate expression on Scott’s face.
Scott was picking up his bike from where it had wedged beneath the open door. He mounted it quickly. Turning back at James, he smiled quietly, dispelling the anxious expression that had fallen over his face for a moment. “James, it was my fault. I’m sorry. Now, excuse me, I really have to go.”
“Okay...,” James replied uncertainly.
Scott waved a farewell and started off again down the sidewalk. A few meters away, he stopped and called back to James who was still rooted numbly beside his car. “James... hey. I’m in love with Timothy Clark!” Then with a grin he was lost behind the sheets of rain.
James stood in the rain, open-mouthed in shock, for a long time after that.
Scott was nearly there. Pumping furiously, he nearly missed the Coca-Cola billboard that marked the turnoff towards the Clarks’ residence. He skidded to a stop and turned his bike around to the inclined road. He was halfway up the line of houses when he decided that it was too slow pedaling uphill and got off. He pushed the bike’s handlebars as his exhausted legs ran the last few meters into the Clark’s’ driveway. He discarded the bike against the hedge fence screening the house. Hurrying up the driveway, he noted the van packed full with boxes of stuff still in the garage. He sighed in relief as he finally got beneath the eaves of the patio and rang the doorbell.
No one answered. For a moment, he felt his fears that they had already left rise up within him. What if they had already gone ahead and it was just the movers left? Just as he was about to depress the doorbell button again, the door swung open and Tanya, Tim’s six year old sister stared up at him. Her round blue eyes regarded him for a second before she screamed and slammed the door in Scott’s face.
A few minutes elapsed before the door opened again, this time more cautiously, with the chain in place. Another pair of dark blue eyes peered out at him. Then chuckling as the chain was disengaged and Tim came into view. Tanya was still clutching her brother’s knees and was glaring up at Scott in challenge.
Scott felt dizzy as he realized that he was finally face to face with Tim. Dizzy with joy at having caught him before they left, dizzy with apprehension at how he would react to his confession, and dizzy with grief at their impending separation.
“Scott!” Tim greeted him hesitantly. “Sorry. Tanya came to me screaming about robbers on the doorstep.”
“Is he a robber, Timmy?” Tanya asked earnestly, not taking her eyes off Scott.
“No. Tanya.” Scott answered for Tim gently. “It’s me, Scotty. Do you remember me?”
Tanya kept silent for a moment as she squinted her eyes up at the tall, muddy stranger. “Scotty?” She piped up. “Scotty with the licorice?” She still pronounced it as ‘lickrish’ and Scott laughed and nodded. Tanya’s eyes lit up then gingerly she reached out a tiny hand and clasped Scott’s large ones. She gave him a vigorous handshake. Wiping her hands on the seat of her pants she smiled brightly up at Scott, “I’d give you a hug, Scotty. But you’re all messy!”
Scott and Tim both broke out into laughter. Frowning, Tanya slapped both of them on the legs and ran back inside the house.
“She always hates being laughed at.” Scott murmured fondly.
“Yeah. I love that kid.” Tim agreed, still chuckling softly.
“It’s good she still remembers me.” Scott said, an almost wistful tone creeping up into his voice.
Tim was silent for a moment. Without a word, he stepped out on the patio and closed the door behind him. “Scott....”
“I know, Tim.” Scott replied to the unspoken question in Tim’s eyes.
“It’s been three years since you last came here.” Scott couldn’t meet Tim’s eyes. “You don’t answer my calls. You don’t hang out with us anymore. You start dressing up like a punk... acting all mad and all that shit. What happened to you, man?”
Scott could hear the anger in Tim’s words. He knew he couldn’t blame him. God knows, he had been acting like a jerk to them. The first year, he had ignored them pointedly to their faces until they had finally stopped talking to him.
He still remembered an incident two years back when he had deliberately bumped Tim roughly in the corridors while Tim was busy adjusting the strap on his backpack. He didn’t know what made him do it; he just remembered a vague yearning to touch him again. And he had to do it like a jerk. He hadn’t helped Tim up either. He still remembered the look of hurt and anger on Tim’s face and the conflicting emotions of shame and love that had washed over him at that time. He still felt ashamed about it even now.
Scott ran his hand through his wet hair and turned away. “Tim, I....”
Where would he start? He asked himself. There’s so much I want to say... so little time. Why did I have to be so fucking stupid? He felt tears well up in his eyes again. Not daring to wipe it off and not daring to turn around and face Tim, he just stood there quietly, his shoulders slumped tiredly.
He felt his breath catch in his throat as a gentle hand settled on his shoulders. “Scott?”
“Tim, I’m sorry.” Scott blurted out. Unable to keep the trembling from his voice.
“Scott...” Suddenly he felt Tim slip his arms around his back. His slightly shorter and thinner frame molding itself to Scott’s. “Scott. It’s all right.”
For a while, Scott just leaned back against Tim’s warmth. Sobbing quietly as he let out all the loneliness he’d bottled up all these years. The anger, the shame, the emptiness.
Sniffling gruffly, he brought a hand up to his face and wiped the tears from his eyes. Disengaging himself gently from Tim’s hug, he took a deep shuddering breath and turned around to face Tim. Tim’s eyes were damp too. Before he could stop himself, he had reached out and gently rubbed the tear trails from Tim’s cheeks.
Wordlessly, they gazed into each other’s eyes. Scott found himself getting lost into the blue depths. Found himself overwhelmed by the years of suppressed yearning. Unthinking, he leaned in closer until he could feel his breath gently fanning his lower lip. Closing his eyes, he gently kissed Tim on the tip of his nose.
Suddenly realizing what he had done, Scott’s eyes blinked open. Realizing he had betrayed his true emotions, he let out a strangled moan and turned on his heel to run off into the downpour. But before he could reach his bike, Tim tackled him in a flying leap and he found himself face-down on the mud.
Tim turned him around roughly and Scott found himself staring up at the dark blue eyes ablaze with anger. Here it comes, he thought. The part where he screams ’faggot’ at me.
“Fuck you, Scott!” Tim screamed at him. His hands clenched on Scott’s shirt. “Fuck you! What the fuck was that?”
“I’m sorry.” Scott began. The rain was hitting him full on the face and he couldn’t speak clearly without getting a mouthful of rainwater. “Tim....” He choked and spat out as water hit the back of his throat.
“Scott....” Tim’s voice had grown gentler. To Scott’s amazement, he was openly crying above him. His tears mingling with the rain and dripping on Scott’s chest. With a start, Scott realized that he was sobbing too.
“Scott....” Without warning, he leaned forward and captured Scott’s mouth in his. Hungrily, Scott met the brutal kiss with equal passion. Not caring for bruised lips. Tongues ravenously seeking each other. Moaning, Tim collapsed on top of Scott, their bodies mindlessly seeking full contact with each other. Hands ran through hair, desperately pulling each other closer, while the rain continued unabated about them.
Both of them couldn’t think of anything but the kiss. The whole world faded away as they devoured each others’ lips. The storm battering on top of them, a minor inconvenience as they gave themselves up to the surge of love that had risen to consume them. The unexplainable joy that now fluttered awake in each others’ hearts.
Finally, they broke the kiss. Out of breath and half-drowned in the rain, they stared at each others’ eyes in wonder at what just happened. Unblinking until a bead of water trickled down Tim’s nose and plopped right on Scott’s. Splattering their eyes into closing. Giggling, Scott mischievously reached up again and kissed Tim once again. This time slower. Tenderly molding his lips against Tim’s own. Their tongues meeting briefly before he fell back down in the mud.
“Tim, I love you. I’ve always loved you.” Scott whispered. “I was scared all these years. I... I didn’t want to be gay... but now I don’t care. I just know that I love you.”
Tim rested his cheeks against Scott’s gently. “I love you too, Scott.”
They could feel each other smile. Their hearts beating steadily now against each other. Tim placed a sweet kiss on Scott’s cheek before getting up. “You look like a drowned rat,” he declared, laughing.
“So do you.” Scott replied before taking Tim’s outstretched hand and pulling himself up. Briefly he drew Tim back into his arms again and gave him a peck on the lips. “A handsome rat.” He added. Giggling like schoolchildren, they ran back to the shelter of the patio, their hands held tightly in each others’ grips.
Collapsing against the door, they just sat there, still amazed at what just happened. In a while, Tim’s head drifted to closer to lean against Scott’s shoulder, and Scott’s arms automatically wrapped themselves around him comfortably.
The rain was starting to ease up. Scott stared happily out at the outlines of the neighborhood houses just beginning to appear through the thinning downpour. Drunk on love, he was just about to start whistling happily when he caught a glimpse of the remains of a soaked cardboard box on the driveway. The reason for his earlier frenzy returned to him like a sobering splash of cold water.
Tim was moving away.
Scott’s chest constricted painfully at the thought. This could be the last time he’d ever see Tim again.
“Tim?” He whispered numbly.
“Mm?” Tim answered softly, snuggled contentedly against Scott’s collarbone.
“You’re moving away....” Scott felt hollow as the words left his mouth.
He cursed the treachery of fate. Why do I have to lose this when I have just found it? He thought angrily. Is this how the fucking world works? He felt the return of his earlier anger. He wanted to lash out at something. For fuck’s sake, WHY?
Then he heard Tim chuckle softly.
“What’s so fucking funny, Tim?” Scott demanded. “You’re going away. I may never see you again!” His voice had taken a desperate tone behind it.
Tim was still smiling. “Scott, shut up.” He told him with a laugh. He cupped Scott’s face gently between his hands. “We’re only moving to the Pritchers’ place.”
“The Pritchers?” Scott echoed.
“Yeah, man. Remember Anna and her parents moved back to Florida last week?” Scott nodded. “Well... Dad bought their house. It’s bigger and much closer to his workplace. Come to think of it... it’s closer to your house too.” He laughed in amusement as Scott’s face slowly changed from despair to excitement in a matter of seconds.
“Well... I heard you were moving and...” Scott explained.
“...And hurried here to confess before it’s too late?” Tim finished for him, erupting into laughter.
Scott blushed and punched Tim on the shoulder. “Shut up, dude. If I knew you’re just moving a few blocks then I would never have....” He trailed off.
Tim sobered at the realization. “Oh shit... yeah.” He agreed. His expression turning serious before cracking an amazed smile. “Things do work out, don’t they?” He added quietly before Scott ruffled his hair and pulled him back into his arms.
“Yes, Tim. They do work out... beautifully.”
“So... does this mean we’re going to get our old Scott back?” Tim asked.
“Well...” Scott teased. “I kinda like my rep and my getup. Gotta keep them kids quaking in their boots, ya know.”
“Oh... shut up.” Tim chuckled along with him.
Without warning the door suddenly swung open and both guys found themselves hitting their heads on the doormat painfully.
“OW!!” They exclaimed at the same time, their arms still entwined around each other. They stared up at a pair of spindly six-year old feet. “Mommy!” Tanya screamed delightedly. Tim’s Dad was just rounding a corner when he caught sight of the three of them.
Tim and Scott froze in each other’s arms. Mr. Clark blushed to the tips of his graying hair. “Uh... Sorry, boys. I... uh... hope I didn’t....” He started mumbling awkwardly before he caught sight of Tanya standing haughtily above them. “Tanya!!! You little imp!”
Mrs. Clark was just coming down the stairs. Seeing the situation, she immediately snatched Tanya up in her arms before smiling apologetically at Tim. “Sorry, Timmy.”
“Uh... Scott, is that you?!” Mr. Clark blurted out in delayed recognition. “My God, what happened to your hair?!”
Tim burst out laughing. Mrs. Clark sent a glare at her husband’s way then apologized to Scott. “Sorry, Scotty. Same old husband!” Laughing cheerfully, she took her husband by the arm and led him back upstairs. Setting down Tanya to follow her father up, she called back to the boys. “Still got some packing to do.” Then after a meaningful pause, “Timmy, Scotty... you guys...?” She let the question trail off.
Tim and Scott looked at each other awkwardly then smiled back at Mrs. Clark, both nodding shyly. She smiled back gently. “Well, guys... Scotty, we already know about Timmy and it’s good to see him find someone we’ve known since he’s been in his nappies.” She chuckled. “We’re right here, remember that, both of you. And Scotty, if you need help talking about this to your parents, we’re here too. We had to go through the same thing ourselves when Timmy came out.”
“Aww... Mom.” Tim groaned out, burying his face against Scott’s shoulders.
“Boys, just remember. Stay safe, okay?” Mrs. Clark turned pink at what she had just said while Scott almost choked. Tim was giggling quietly against him. “I guess you guys still have a lot to talk about, if I’m not mistaken?” Both of them nodded. “Well, we’ll leave you alone for now, boys. Bye Scotty. I love you Timmy.” She winked before starting up the stairs herself.
“Love you too, Mom.” Tim called out as she disappeared from their view.
“What was that?” Scotty demanded in a low voice. They could still hear Tim’s parents talking quietly upstairs. Obviously still discussing them.
Tim shrugged “Parents....” He said dismissively then kissed Scott again.
“Daddy, what’s a condom?” Tanya’s loud voice came from upstairs. Murmurs of hushing and giggling as Mr. and Mrs. Clark silenced their daughter’s inopportune curiosity.
Tim groaned in embarrassment as Scott just laughed and held him tighter.
“I love you, Tim” He said quietly.
Outside the rain had trickled down to a fine misty drizzle. Just above the trees behind the house next door, they could just see the end of a rainbow.