Sometimes mothers can be overprotective.
What happens when that collides with what their children want?
Mature or distressing themes and strong language. This story deals with what, unfortunately, sometimes happens to teens.
In keeping with our policy of not running from real life issues, we are hosting Gone Missing with this advisory.
It was the day before the last day of the school year. Lorelei Winslow stood at the bottom of the stairs and shouted upstairs to her daughter. “Mel, please make sure Kevin is up and is getting ready for school.”
Mel opened the bathroom door and shouted her reply. “Okay!”
She thought, ‘If he’s still in bed I’ll pull the blanket and sheet off him. He’ll be totally embarrassed having his naked body exposed to me.’ The idea made her giggle.
She checked her hair one last time, making sure none of the cornrows were coming loose, and walked to the door of Kevin’s bedroom. She opened the door and peeked inside. Clothes were everywhere on the floor, as usual. His computer was on, displaying a MozBros screensaver. The blinds were closed, and the bed looked like Kevin hadn’t slept in it. It was neatly made, definitely not something Kevin would do unless their mom yelled at him — and that usually took a couple days of yelling.
Mel walked into Kevin’s room and looked around, then called out in a sing-song voice, “Kevin, Kevin, come out, come out, wherever you are!” Nothing. “Kevin! Where are you?” she shouted. There was no response. She turned and ran downstairs.
“Mom, Kevin isn’t in his room, and he wasn’t in the bathroom ‘cause I was. His bed looks like he hadn’t slept in it, or that he made it this morning. Could he have left for school already?”
“You want something more? Just toast with peanut butter isn’t a very good breakfast.”
Kevin grinned. “You sound like my mom. But no thanks, I’m good.”
Jackson took a bite of his bagel, then looked at Kevin. “I still say it’s sort of weird for you to be gay and in the closet when your twin sister is gay and out. Isn’t it?”
“Yeah. But I still think it would be way weird for me to come out at school. It’d be all, ‘Oh, there goes her brother. Did you know he’s gay, too?’ Or, ‘I hear his sister’s a lesbo and she turned him gay.’ Shit like that.”
“It’s not going to bother you if I came out at school?” Jackson asked.
“What if there are rumors about you and me being boyfriends?”
Kevin thought for a moment. “We just shut ‘em down, tell ‘em we’ve known each other since second grade and are best friends but not boyfriends. One black varsity football player coming out gay is on the edge of what’s okay. Two black varsity football players coming out gay and being boyfriends? No one’s ever gonna think that. Or believe any rumors like that. Almost no black guys who play sports in high school or college admit to being gay. Absolutely no way two black guys who play sports in high school or college are boyfriends. Everyone knows that.”
“We’re an example that proves that’s a crock of shit,” Jackson countered. “I think there are a lot of black guys who play sports and are gay and have boyfriends. And are out, too.”
“Maybe, but I don’t know about any of them and I don’t want to come out until I’m finished with college. Being black and gay means the college recruiters are gonna take one look and say ‘sorry’ and no scholarship. Remember that black basketball player somewhere back east who came out when he was in high school? He was good, I mean really good! The college recruiters all basically said ‘bye-bye’ and he’s doing something totally different with his life. No basketball in college. No basketball in the NBA.”
Jackson nodded his head. “Yeah, I remember that. Guy was a great 3-point shooter like Steph Curry.”
“I don’t plan on going out for pro football,” Kevin said. “But I sure want to play football in college and get a football scholarship at a major school like Stanford or Cal, one that has a great academic reputation. I need the scholarship, otherwise I’ll be going to community college for two years, then two years at San Jose State. So I don’t want to have the college recruiters taking one look and saying ‘sorry’ because I came out as gay in high school. That could mean no scholarship for me.”
“Yeah, I can see your point. Say, what’s that piece of paper sticking out of your shirt pocket?”
Kevin felt his pocket, then glanced down at it and pulled out the note he’d written to his mom.
“Oh shit! I forgot to leave the note when I left last night.” Jackson saw that Kevin seemed freaked about it.
“Is that going to be a problem? Your folks gonna be worried about you?”
“They’re gonna be goin’ ballistic! Mom’s gonna think I’ve run away again.”
“You’ve run away from home?” Jackson asked, surprised at this revelation.
“Yeah. One time. When I was six years old.”
“And they still think you might run away again? How long were you gone missing?”
“The cops found me hiding in a park the next morning and brought me home. You would’a thought I’d been abducted or somethin’ like that.”
“Why’d you run away?”
“Uh… it was somethin’ stupid.”
“Kev? Come on, what was it?”
“I wanted a Tonka toy truck, a backhoe. That’s kind of a special-purpose truck they use when they’re digging a trench. Anyway, I wanted it bad and my mom wouldn’t buy it for me because it was expensive, like fifty bucks or something. So I ran away.”
“You ran away from home? For a toy truck?” Jackson couldn’t keep the laughter from his voice.
“Stop laughing!” But Kevin started laughing, too. “Yeah, for a toy truck. My grandfathers were both truck drivers. Not the long-hall kind, but the special purpose kinds used in construction, like a road grader and a backhoe. I had almost the complete collection of the kinds of trucks they drove, and the Tonka backhoe was the one I wanted the most. My granddads would get together and each give me a Tonka truck at Christmas or my birthday. But I really wanted that backhoe, and didn’t want to wait for it. So when my mom wouldn’t buy it for me, I ran away from home.
“Now, if I’m not around and I didn’t tell my mom where I was going, the first thing she thinks is I’ve run away again. Then she’ll get my dad all excited about it, and then Mel will get all pissed at me about it, and Dylan will be all worried, and then when I come home from visiting a friend or skateboarding at the park or whatever I was doing, all four of them will be all over me. Like, ‘You’re supposed to tell us where you’re going when you leave the house.’ Mel will smart mouth me and tell me that she always tells Mom or Dad, so why can’t I? And so on and on and on for an hour, maybe longer. You’d think that ten years after I ran away they’d have dropped this whole running away thing.”
“Why didn’t they call or text you?”
“I don’t know.” He pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and turned it on. ‘Battery critically low! Outgoing 911 emergency calls only’ was displayed on the screen.
“Fuck! I forgot to recharge the battery. Normally I’d drop it onto the charging pad. Because I was at your house last night I didn’t think about plugging it in. Thing is, I don’t know why they didn’t call your house. Of course, they’d have to look it up, but they know your name.”
“We have an unlisted number so we’re not in the phone book. Most doctors have unlisted phone numbers to keep from getting calls from patients at all hours. So what are you going to do, Kev?”
“I don’t know. I’m royally fucked. I’ll prob’ly be grounded for a week. Maybe longer.”
Jackson thought for a couple seconds. “Okay, you’ve got the note in your pocket. Unfold it and put it back in your pocket so it’s sort of sticking out and some of the writing shows. Then we go to school as usual, and when you see Mel and she starts to go all ballistic, say ‘what’s the big deal, I left a note saying I was coming to school early today.’ When she rags on you about it she’ll see the note sticking out of your shirt pocket. You’ll have a perfect alibi.”
Kevin grinned. “I think that’ll work. Jackson, my man, you are a fuckin’ genius!” He grabbed his boyfriend and pulled him into a kiss. After about five seconds they pulled apart, both breathing hard and a bit hard elsewhere and laughing.
“Let’s get our asses in gear and get to school. And be sure to put your note in your pocket, facing out, now.”
“Yes, Mommy,” Kevin said in a little-kid voice. That got them laughing again as they left Jackson’s house for school.
As they walked Jackson asked, “Hey, I’m curious about something.”
Jackson grinned. “Did you ever get that backhoe truck? Or was it a hhho truck?” he said, pronouncing the ‘hhho’ in a breathy voice.
“Ass-hhhole!” Kevin responded, pronouncing the ‘hhho’ part the same breathy way. “Yes, I got the backhoe, which isn’t called a backhoe truck. My grandfathers got together and gave it to me for my seventh birthday.”
Jackson grabbed Kevin’s arm to make them stop walking. Mimicking Kevin’s little-kid voice, he asked, “Oh, my! Do you see who I spy with my little eye?”
Kevin looked around. “Who? I don’t see anyone we know.”
“Your sister is about two blocks ahead of us. She was coming down Delta and turned onto Park. That’s when I recognized her backpack, the one with the huge picture of Einstein’s head on the back.”
“Fuck!” Kevin grumbled when he finally saw her. “What’s she doing down here? She wouldn’t be anywhere near here if she was walking to school from our house.”
“She was searching for you, don’chya think?”
“Fuck!” Kevin said, again. He took a deep breath which he exhaled with a moan.
The traffic signal changed and they walked across the street. Mel was continuing to walk ahead of them.
“What’s weird is she isn’t looking around like she’s searching for me or anything,” Kevin said.
“I agree. Maybe she’d been looking for you and when didn’t find you she decided it was time to head to school.”
“Probably that. She’s already another block ahead of us, so let’s get moving so we get to school on time. The last thing we need is to be late and each get a tardy slip on the next-to-last day of school.”
Jackson was incredulous. “Do you think they’d really give tardy slips today? It’s the next to last day of school.”
“I know, I just said that. Thing is, are you willing to test that hypothesis?”
Jackson shook his head. “I guess not.”
As they approached the River Road entrance to the Riverside High campus, Jackson bumped shoulders with Kevin. “Mel’s standing next to the entrance of building 400. She’s waiting to catch you on your way to homeroom.”
“Yeah, I see that.”
“Didn’t you say your note says something about getting to school early?”
“No. What is says is, ‘I decided to walk to school with Jackson so we could plan how we’re going to exercise this summer to stay in condition for football tryouts when they start in July.’ That’s my reason, and I’m sticking to it.”
“Cool. Are we actually going to do that?”
“Fuckin’ right we are! We’ve gotta be on the first string in our senior year. That way we can get our football scholarships, and that means we’ve gotta be exercising and building our muscles.”
“True, that!” Jackson said, glancing down at Kevin’s crotch.
“Not that muscle,” Kevin whispered. “It’ll get its exercise a different way.”
Jackson laughed. “Okay, that!”
As they approached where Mel was standing Kevin could see her glaring at him. If that wasn’t enough, she was pointing at him and didn’t lower her index finger until he was right in front of her. “Kevin Winslow, where the fuck have you been?” she demanded. She jammed her finger into his stomach, hard.
“Ouch!” He rubbed where her fingernail had jabbed his abs. “I’ve been on my way to school with Jackson.”
“Nobody knew where you were. Mom is freaked. Dad said that he’s disappointed. Dylan’s scared. I’m royally pissed.”
“They know that I went to Jackson’s this morning to walk to school with him so we could start planning our summer exercise regimen so we’ll be ready for tryouts in July.”
“And exactly how were they supposed to know that?”
“I left a note on the kitchen table.”
“How did you leave the house without turning off the alarm? Mom says she didn’t hear the beep.”
“It was already off when I left. No one was downstairs, but the coffeemaker was making coffee so I knew Mom had already turned off the alarm. I just walked out the front door and left.”
“Why didn’t you sleep in your bed last night?”
“I did. I made my bed this morning so I wouldn’t get hassled about it again.”
“You made your bed but you left clothes all over the floor? I don’t believe you.”
“I don’t care what you believe. I left my dirty clothes on the floor. No point in picking them up when I’m gonna wash ‘em tonight. Like I always do every Thursday night.”
It seemed like Mel couldn’t think of what to say next, so she just stared at him for several seconds. Then she sneered and shook her head. “So, you left a note on the kitchen table?”
“Yeah, like I always do when I’m going somewhere.”
“So, what’s that in your pocket?” She jabbed her index finger, hard, on his shirt pocket and her fingernail caught the tiny nipple on Kevin’s left pec behind the pocket.
“OW! God damn it! That hurt! You’ve got sharp fingernails.” He rubbed his pocket, hard, and felt the note that was sticking out. He pulled it out and looked at it. “Oh, crap! Well, that was dumb! I forgot to leave my note. Here, you can read it yourself.” He handed it to her, and she read it.
“How can you be so stupid to forget to leave this note?” Mel asked.
“It was early. You know my brain is still half asleep when we leave for school. I left even earlier than usual because I had to walk all the way to Jackson’s house first. He even fed me breakfast when I got there.”
“If a piece of toast with peanut butter could be called breakfast,” Jackson mumbled. “But, that’s all Kev wanted,” he quickly added, so Mel wouldn’t berate him for not providing Kevin with an adequate breakfast.
They heard the first bell for homeroom.
“You better call Mom before she calls the FBI,” Mel told Kevin. She glared at him for a couple seconds, handed him the note, then turned and joined the throng of kids entering the building. Kevin was glad that his little act seemed to have convinced Mel that he’d actually forgotten to leave the note.
“You gonna call your mom now?” Jackson asked.
“Nope. I don’t want to be late for homeroom and be marked tardy or absent. I’ll call her later. How ’bout you loan me your cell since mine’s dead?”
“Here. Just remember to give it back when you’re done with it. Let’s go in an’ grab a couple desks that are next to each other.”
After they took their seats, Jackson poked Kevin in his arm. “Your sister asked a question about leaving the house without setting off your alarm. How’d you do that last night?”
“First, I made sure everyone was in bed and asleep.
“Second, I put a wad of cotton over the speaker grill on the alarm box and held it there to keep it from beeping when I keyed in my window code and pressed the disable button.
“Third, the peak of our garage roof is about three feet below my window. So I went back to my bedroom and climbed out, dropped onto the roof, closed the window, walked to the edge of the roof, jumped down onto the grass, and left for your house. If you look in the waste basket in your bathroom you’ll find a big wad of cotton. My personal low-tech silencer.”
“So they’re not going to be able to tell that your bedroom window was disabled?”
“Nope. My mom turned off the alarm this morning, as usual. Since I’d closed the window when I escaped it had reset so it didn’t show that it’d been disabled. Cool, ‘eh?”
“You’re lucky you live in a house that you can escape from that way. I couldn’t jump from my bedroom window because there’s nothing below it except the concrete driveway.”
“Dufus! Your house doesn’t have an alarm so you could walk out the front door and be gone a hell of a lot faster than it took me to escape last night.”
“Well, I suppose that might work,” Jackson said, followed by a big grin.
As soon as the teacher finished taking roll, Kevin walked up to her desk.
“Ms. Forbes, there was an emergency at home this morning. Could I step out into the hall so I can call and make sure everything is okay?”
“Certainly, Kevin. If anyone asks you what you’re doing, say I gave you permission, okay?”
“Okay! I’ll be right outside the door. Shouldn’t take more’n a couple minutes, then I’ll be right back. Thank you.”
When Kevin talked to his mom and explained that he forgot the note in his pocket, and that Mel had seen the note, that seemed to satisfy her and she calmed down. He returned to the classroom, thanked Ms. Forbes, and told her everything was fine at home. He took his seat and slipped the phone back to Jackson.
Jackson bumped shoulders with him. “Thanks,” he whispered. Then they sort of listened to the principal’s announcements.
“Good morning. This is Principal Phyllis Merrick with today’s Riverside High School daily announcements. Since there’s nothing scheduled for today except your regular classes, I’ll be talking about tomorrow, Friday, the 9th of June, 2017, the last day of the current school year. So, let’s get started.
“Attendance tomorrow is the same as any other day: it is mandatory.”
That was met by a round of boos and laughter. Then Mrs. Merrick continued the announcements for Friday.
Kevin ignored most of what she said because it wasn’t relevant. He did pay attention when she said that tomorrow there’d be free pizza slices during brunch at ten o’clock, and then she said that classes and the school year would be over at noon.
Kevin looked at Jackson and grinned. “A couple of the announcements were more useful than usual.”
“What? I wasn’t listening.”
“Tomorrow we get free pizza slices during brunch and we’re being released at noon and that’s when this school year is over and done with. Unfortunately, attendance tomorrow is mandatory.”
“So what? This whole week is basically useless. We had our finals last week, why do we have to come back and spend these five days in school accomplishing nothing?”
Kevin shrugged. “I guess they need to make sure we’ve had the number of days of instruction the state requires. Remember, we had that week off this winter because the gas line ruptured and we had no heat. Also, during finals week we only came to school on days the classes we were taking had finals. I only had to come on three days because of the way my finals were scheduled.”
“I guess that explains it. So, what do you want to do this afternoon, Kev?” Jackson wiggled his eyebrows.
“We can’t go to my house. Mel and Dylan will be there. How about your house?”
“Yeah, the folks went to visit my grandma in the hospital today and won’t be back until tomorrow night. But Steve will be home. He’ll probably bring some friends home with him,” Jackson said.
“He’s graduating from the eighth grade and will be a freshman at Riverside in the fall, right?”
“Does he know we’re boyfriends and doing what boyfriends do when we’re together, like last night?”
Jackson rolled his eyes. “Of course he knows we’re boyfriends. He’s thirteen years old so I’m sure he knows what we do when we’re together. He’s cool about it.”
“Do his friends know about us?”
“I don’t think he’d tell anyone.”
“You gotta lock your bedroom door. Just wanna make sure we won’t get any unexpected intruders.”
“So you know, there is a way to unlock my door from the outside.”
“Does Steve know how to unlock it? Does he ever unlock it?”
“Of course he knows. His bedroom has the same kind of lock. But he won’t try to come in my bedroom unless it’s an emergency, like I’m shouting for help or something like that.”
“Then there’s no problem.”
They were interrupted by the bell signaling the end of homeroom.
“No,” Jackson replied, “no problem at all.” Then he wiggled his eyebrows and laughed.
As Jackson had said, almost all of the classes were useless and boring. The non-useless class was seventh period PE, which was held in Garrison Stadium. It was a thank-you shout-out for each of the graduating seniors who had been on the Riverside High teams during the 2016-2017 school year. That was followed by announcements by the coaches about the fall season team sports, schedules, eligibility requirements, and summer training schedules.
As they walked to his house after school, Jackson asked, “Kev, your mom knows you’re coming home with me and spending the night, right?”
“Yeah. That’s one thing I was sure to talk to her about to get her okay. And I got it.”
“Good. I was just concerned that after the note fiasco you might of forgot about that, too.”
“I didn’t forget! Don’t be an asshole, okay?” Kevin growled.
Jackson grinned. “Ooo… touchy, touchy, aren’t we?” he asked.
“Alright, alright! Enough! Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the note. It worked out a lot better with me forgetting about it.”
“Let’s say I left the note on the kitchen table just after midnight when I snuck out. If my folks or Mel or Dylan had come down to the kitchen to get a snack during the night, they would have seen the note and I would be in deep shit.”
“Whoa! I never thought about that. You’re right, the only reason it worked was because you forgot to leave the note. That is freakin’ lucky!”
Kevin grinned. “I agree. I love it when something turns out perfect even though the planning was all fucked up.”
“Yeah. Like in the Santa Margarita game when Vincent threw that pass right to one of their defenders and before he went two yards you stole the ball right out of the guy’s hands and ran for the winning TD and the Division 2 state title. Ya’ know, you’re on a lucky streak. Just keep it up.”
“Huh,” Kevin mumbled.
“Ya’ know, maybe you should buy a lottery ticket an’ take advantage of that streak,” Jackson suggested.
“I’d buy one, but I’m not eighteen so I can’t.”
“Life sucks when we’re too young to do the things we want to do now.”
“True that!” Kevin agreed. “So, since you brought it up, what do you want to do when we get to your house?” He wiggled his eyebrows and grinned.
“How about something new — a football video game,” Jackson suggested.
“Jeez, we play NCAA and NFL football video games all the time. That doesn’t sound very new to me.”
“This is new. It’s high school football. A friend of mine who goes to Lone Tree High is this super-advanced game developer and he’s only a junior. It’s like the College and NFL ones we’ve been playing but better. It’s got the whole league, all the teams, all the players. The graphics are okay but not fantastic, the names and numbers on the uniforms are correct. Thing is, it never’ll be sold because the players are minors and he wouldn’t be able to get rights from the CIF. He did it as his term project for a night class he’s taking at Los Medanos College. He gave it to me because I agreed to test it. I said I’d play it with you and told him your name, and he said it’s okay. He’s gotta turn the app in the end of next week. So, he let me download the game yesterday after school. So, what do you think about testing it?”
“Are you and me players in his game?” Kevin asked.
“Absolutely! And our uniforms and numbers are right, too! And all of the teams we played like Santa Margarita, Lone Tree, Muir, Serra, Whitney, Lincoln, and the rest of them.”
“This sounds fantastic. We can replay the Santa Margarita game. I was thinking about what would of happened if the pass had been incomplete instead of intercepted. Or if Vincent had thrown it to me instead of blowing the pass play.”
Jackson grinned. “That’s a great idea! Just think if we could show game replays to Coach Reynolds. We could show him the what-ifs for our games. Too bad we can’t do it. I promised Will Rykes that you and I would be the only ones to see the game.”
“I’ll go along with that,” Kevin said. “Hmm… here’s an idea. The video card in my PC includes a program called ShadowPlay. It captures game play, and the instructions say you can start and end it where you want. What if we capture that pass play, once for each of the possible options, then convert the output to MP4 files and burn them onto a DVD. Then we can show it to Coach without using the actual game program. If he wants to he could show it during a team meeting. No one would know what program we were using. If anyone asks we’ll say it’s under an NDA.”
“What’s an en-dee-ay?” Jackson asked.
“It’s a non-disclosure agreement. One night my dad was talking about one of his cases and he said ‘NDA’ and I asked what it meant. So, your friend gave you the game under a verbal NDA that says you can only show it to me. That means it can’t be shown to or discussed with anyone else. But the output of the game play is yours and isn’t included in the NDA because there’s no way to recognize what game program was used. Of course, you should check with your friend and make sure he’s okay with us doing that. How’s that sound?”
“That’s a great idea. How’s this shadow-whatever program work?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never used ShadowPlay. But it’s worth a try once we figure out how to play the game. We’ve got all summer to put it together, don’chya think?” Kevin asked.
“I do. I’ll text Will as soon as we get to my house and make sure he’s fine with recording the game play and showing it to Coach Reynolds and our team,” Jackson replied.
“And after that?”
“We’ll fire up Will’s game and we’ll give it a try.”
When they got to Jackson’s house they saw Steve and his friend Jeff in the family room watching a replay of the NBA championship game. They did the usual greeting thing, then Jackson said, “Kev and I are gonna be in my room testing a new game a friend of mine wrote.”
“There’s a couple slices of left-over pizza in the refrigerator if you want ‘em.”
“Thanks, Steve. Come on, Kev, let’s heat the pizza and after see if we can figure out how to play Will’s game.”
While the pizza was in the toaster oven Kevin suggested that they eat it in the kitchen. “We don’t want to get pizza grease all over your controllers and keyboard,” he said.
The first thing Jackson did when they got to his bedroom was remind Kevin to plug in his phone to charge the battery. The second thing was to phone Will Rykes. After the call he grinned. “You probably figured out that Will said playing a recording of game play is okay with him. He’d like to get a copy of what we record.”
“That’s great. So, have you installed the game on your PC?”
“Not yet. I downloaded it from Will’s website but didn’t have time to install it yet.”
It took several minutes to install the game. “Must be taking so long because of all the graphics,” Jackson said. “Will has it on his website and he gave me the password so I could see it running.”
When the installation finished the game started up automatically.
“Okay, it’s asking for the opposing teams. We have to select the home team first.” Jackson picked Riverside High School. “Now, who do you want to be our opponent?”
“Okay. Also, I noticed that Riverside High isn’t a choice to be our opponent. That means we can’t play a scrimmage game against our second team. I think he should allow that. Just don’t allow us to use any player on both teams at the same time.”
“Unless we figure out how to clone ourselves,” Kevin suggested, grinning.
“That’ll be your next project in your computer programming class.”
“That’ll be our first comment, without the clones.” Kevin wrote their suggestion on his tablet.
“Now we need to pick the squad for each team. The first and second squads are already set up. Let’s just use those, the first squad for each team. Okay?”
“Sounds good to me. I assume that means it’s a lot easier to set up.”
“Definitely. We don’t need to pick eleven players for each team. That would take a long time. But we can change specific players, like to replace Vincent with Cooper, or whatever.”
“How did Will get the squad information for all of the teams in the league?” Kevin asked.
“He got it from MaxPreps.”
“I would never have thought of that. That’s cool.”
Kevin’s phone began playing his ring tone, Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself,’ so he unplugged the charger cord and looked at the screen. “It’s my mom. She probably forgot that I told her I was coming to your house.”
“Kevin, do you know where Dylan is?”
“I want to make sure he’s not late for dinner. Could you check with some of his friends and when you find him tell him to come home, and to come home right now?”
“I’m at Jackson’s. I’ll check with his brother. He goes to Edison too. When I track him down I’ll tell him to go home immediately. If I can’t track him down I’ll call you.”
“Alright. Thank you.” She ended the call.
“A problem?” Jackson asked.
“Dylan isn’t home yet and my mom wants him home on time for dinner, which for her means right now. Maybe Steve saw him after school.”
“He’s probably still in the family room.”
The two boys were still watching the basketball game.
“Steve, did you see Dylan after school?” Kevin asked. “He isn’t home yet.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“I saw him,” Jeff said. “He was carrying his soccer ball and heading toward Delta Park. We got out a half-hour early, so he might have headed over there to meet up with some friends and kick the ball around for a while.”
“Was anyone with him?”
“I didn’t pay that much attention, but I don’t think so.”
“Crap! I gotta go to Delta Park and see if he’s there and send him home. Still, it’s not like him to go somewhere after school without telling my mom,” Kevin said. “I really wish my mom would let him have a cellphone. But she says not until high school.”
“Jeff and I will go with you, if that’s okay,” Steve said. “We’ve seen this game about a dozen times. We were watching it again because we couldn’t think of anything else to do.”
“Thanks. The more of us looking for him, the better.”
“How about we start at Edison and walk the same way that Dylan was going? In case he decided to go somewhere else,” Steve suggested.
“It’s a good idea, but if he went somewhere else then we wouldn’t have any idea where that might be. Like Jeff said, it’s likely he went to the park to meet up with some friends,” Kevin said. “How do we get to the soccer field?” he asked.
“The easiest way from here is to walk down Park Street, hang a right on Kinney, then left at the first road into the park,” Jeff said. “The first thing we come to is the parking lot. At the other end of the lot there’s a building with a snack bar and men’s and women’s restrooms. Just past the building there’s two soccer fields, side by side.”
“Maybe someone in the snack bar saw Dylan,” Jackson suggested.
Jeff shook his head. “Uh-uh. The snack bar’s only open on the weekends.”
“Well, let’s get going,” Jackson said. Call your mom on the way, Kev. Tell her where we’re going.”
It took Kevin, Jackson, Steve, and Jeff about ten minutes to walk to Delta Park. The parking lot was empty.
Steve pointed. “The soccer fields are past the other end of that building.”
As they approached the building they heard someone screaming.
“Jeff, call 911. Tell them….” Kevin was interrupted by another scream, and then, “Oh god, oh god, oh god! Make him stop!” followed by crying.
“Got it,” Jeff said. “I’ll tell them we need the police and an ambulance at the end of the parking lot near the Delta Park snack bar and that I’ll wait for them there.” Jeff ran back to the parking lot to make the call.
“Steve, you better stay here. Jackson, come with me,” Kevin said. Steve ignored him and followed along.
When Kevin and Jackson got to the men’s bathroom Dylan ran out the door. They gasped when they saw that his shirt was covered in blood. Dylan stopped and threw up in the grass along the sidewalk. He looked up when Kevin grabbed his arm.
“Dylan, what’s wrong? You’re bleeding and you threw up blood.”
“It’s not mine,” was all Dylan was able to say. He threw up again.
Steve was shocked by Dylan’s appearance. “Oh my god! Come on, sit down on the bench over there.” He and Kevin helped Dylan to the bench, and they all sat down.
“You guys stay with Dylan,” Jackson said. “I’m going to see what’s going on in that bathroom.”
A guy ran out just as Jackson got to the men’s bathroom door. Jackson stepped out of the way then grabbed the guy by his arm to stop him. He recognized Bruce Waserly, a senior at Riverside High.
“What the fuck is going on?” Jackson growled.
Bruce tried to pull away but Jackson was much stronger and tightened his grip. “I need to call an ambulance.”
“We already called for an ambulance and the police,” Jackson said. “They should be here in a few minutes. You need to stick around.” He pulled him over to the bench then pushed him down so he was sitting on the grass.
“He’s gonna bleed to death in there,” Bruce said, looking up at Jackson and pointing toward the bathroom.
Steve heard what Bruce said. “I’ll go see.” He walked into the men’s bathroom and saw a teenager lying on the concrete floor, crying.
Steve returned and reported what he’d seen. “There’s a guy in the bathroom laying on the floor, crying. His pants and boxers are down around his ankles. He’s holding his hands over his crotch and they’re covered in blood, and there’s blood on the floor. It looks like he might have been knifed.”
Bruce looked up. “It’s Lane Sanders. He wasn’t knifed. He asked that kid,” he pointed to Dylan, “to suck him off but the kid bit off the end of his dick. He might be bleeding to death.”
Dylan shouted, “He didn’t ask me to suck him off. He forced me with your help,” he pointed at Bruce. “I didn’t bite it off, but I think I damaged it real bad. I wish I had bit the whole thing off!”
Jackson and Kevin knew of Bruce Waserly and Lane Sanders. They were seniors at Riverside High and were two infamous bullies at their school.
They heard sirens and a minute later Jeff ran up with two policemen. Two EMTs followed them. When the EMTs saw the blood on Dylan’s shirt one of them went over to see if he was injured. He checked Dylan and determined that, other than the bruise on his cheek and jaw, he hadn’t been injured.
Jeff led Officer Gomez and the other EMT to the men’s bathroom, then he returned to where Dylan was sitting. Steve followed the policeman into the bathroom.
Officer Mills walked over to the kids who were sitting on the bench with Dylan. “What’s going on here?” he asked.
“I was attacked by two guys,” Dylan said. “One of them is there, sitting on the ground. His name is Bruce Waserly. The other guy is in the bathroom. His name is Lane Sanders. Lane tried to force me to suck his dick and Bruce held onto me. I bit the head of Lane’s dick until it was bleeding. This is his blood all over my clothes. I am freakin’ pissed at these guys and what they did to me. I really hope Lane can never use his dick for the rest of his life without it hurting like hell.”
“Dylan, why were you here in the park? Exactly what happened?” Kevin asked.
“Good question. Do you mind if I tape what you say?” Officer Mills asked Dylan.
“I don’t mind. I want it to be recorded,” Dylan replied.
He was interrupted when Officer Gomez returned from the bathroom. He gestured to the other EMT. “There’s an injured kid in the men’s bathroom and he’s bleeding. I’ll go in with you.” He pointed to Steve. “And you, stay out. Understand?”
Steve nodded and returned to where Dylan was sitting.
The EMT entered the bathroom with Officer Gomez and the other returned to the ambulance to get their gurney.
Officer Mills sat next to Dylan and started by giving his name and badge number, the date and time, the location of the interview, and that this was a statement for information only since Dylan didn’t have a parent or responsible adult present. Then he asked Dylan to state his full name, home address, age, and date of birth, and where he went to school.
“My name is Dylan Richard Winslow, I live at 1556 Norwich Avenue, I’m thirteen years old, and I was born on October 22nd, 2004. I’m in the eighth grade at Edison Middle School. ”
Officer Mills then asked, “Dylan, do you agree to have your statement recorded?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Please state, in your own words, what happened here this afternoon.”
“I’m graduating tomorrow, so we got out of school a half-hour early today. I walked to the soccer field here in Delta Park where I met some of my friends to have a little three-on-three kick-around. I can give you their names if you want them.
“We didn’t realize how late It’d gotten until one of the guys told us that it was almost three-fifteen. We all decided it was time to head home.
“After my friends left I had to take a leak, so I went to the men’s bathroom. Two guys came in and went to two other urinals. I just learned that their names are Lane Sanders and Bruce Waserly — the one sitting on the grass over there is Bruce Waserly.” Dylan pointed to him. “The one who attacked me is Lane Sanders. I didn’t know them, and I’ve never seen them before this afternoon.
“Lane started talking trash about me. He said I looked like a faggot. I just ignored him. He said I was looking at his dick, and kids like me are faggots and always looking at other guy’s dicks because they want to suck them. I said I wasn’t looking at his dick because I’m straight and I don’t suck dicks.
“They kept up the trash talk and I started to get scared. I decided to get out of there, so I didn’t even wash my hands. When I tried to leave they grabbed me. Bruce held me and Lane tried to force me to suck his dick. When I wouldn’t do it, he hit me with his fist and I blacked out. You can see a bruise on my cheek and jaw and it hurts like hell.” Dylan pointed to the left side of his face which had a large bruise.
“They poured cold water on my head and I came to. Then Lane pulled down his pants and boxers and he was hard. He squeezed my jaw to force my mouth open. With his other hand he grabbed my hair and forced his dick into my mouth. He pumped a couple times and I scraped my teeth on his dick on purpose. He said if I scraped it again he’d kill me.
“He pushed and pulled his dick in my mouth a few times. The taste and his smell — he smelled like he never takes a shower — was making me sick. The next time he started to pull out I chomped down with my front teeth behind the ridge at the back of his dick head. I bit down as hard as I could.
“He was screaming and tried to make me let go by pounding on my head. He yelled at the other guy, Bruce, to pull me away, but I kept biting down on his dick as hard as I could. To stop him from pounding on my head I grabbed his balls and squeezed them as tight as I could. He grabbed my arms to try to pull my hands off, but I held on.
“By then I’d bitten down so hard I’d broken through the skin into his dick and there was a lot of blood in my mouth. Even though I tried not to, I swallowed some of his blood then gagged on it and coughed and opened my mouth and threw up on him. That let him pull his dick out of my mouth. He fell on the floor screaming and crying. I got up and ran out of the bathroom. As soon as I got outside I threw up again. Twice more.
“When I looked up I saw my brother Kevin and his friend Jackson Phelps and Jackson’s brother Steve were there. They helped me move to this bench and I sat down. The ambulance came with the two EMT guys. Then Steve’s friend Jeff Brooks ran up with you two policemen following him. That’s when I felt safe. You’re Officer Mills and you’re the one who interviewed me. The other policeman whose name I don’t know went into the bathroom with the guys from the ambulance to deal with Lane Sanders.
“To make sure you know, I’m not gay, I’m straight, and I want Lane Sanders arrested for sexually abusing me. And because I swallowed some of his blood, I want to be tested for STDs.
“I named everyone who I know was here because it’s important to have their names on the record.
“That’s what happened to me at Delta Park this afternoon, June 8th, 2017.”
The EMTs moved Lane Sanders into the ambulance and left for the hospital. Bruce Waserly was handcuffed and put in the back of the police car.
“Officer Mills, our mother is on the way and will be here in a few minutes,” Kevin said. “Will you tell her what happened, or are you going to leave it to us to do that?”
“I’d prefer to leave it to you to tell her the details, if that’s okay. I’ll tell her Dylan was attacked by two boys and they have been arrested. I’ll tell her that the blood is from one of the attackers, that Dylan defended himself, that he was checked by an EMT but should see his own doctor where he was punched in his jaw, and that he is ready to go home.”
Kevin nodded. “That’s perfect. Do you agree, Dylan?”
“Yeah, it’s the right way. We can tell Mom the details after we get home.”
“I’m going to ask Mom to drop off Jackson, Steve, and Jeff at Jackson’s house on our way home,” Kevin said.
Things became more hectic when Lorelei Winslow arrived. Officer Gomez led her from the parking lot to where Dylan was sitting on the bench with Officer Mills, Kevin, Jackson, Steve, and Jeff.
“Oh, my God! Dylan, you’re bleeding!” she cried out.
“I’m not bleeding, Mom. The blood is from the guy that attacked me.”
Kevin and Officer Mills walked her away from the others to tell her the summary of what had happened.
“Mom, this is Officer Mills.”
“So, have you found the person who attacked my son?”
“Yes, Mrs. Winslow. There are two. One has been arrested; the other is in the hospital and will be arrested when he is released. Your son did a good job of defending himself.”
“Mom,” Kevin added, “Dylan will give you the complete story when we get him home. What he wants right now is to go home. He also wants us to take Jackson, Steve, and Steve’s friend Jeff to Jackson’s house on our way home. Those three were very important in helping Dylan recover once he got away from the bullies who attacked him.”
“So, it was bullies who attacked Dylan?”
“Yes, both were seniors at Riverside High. Something tells me they won’t be at the graduation ceremonies on Saturday,” Kevin said.
“Why was Dylan here, at the park?”
“He was playing soccer with some friends from school. He’ll tell you everything when he gets home.”
“Do you agree with what Kevin told me, Officer?”
“Yes, I do, Mrs. Winslow.”
“So you don’t have any other information for me now?”
“No, ma’am. You’ll hear from someone in the District Attorney’s office. Unless there’s something else, I need to get back to the station.”
“Alright, Officer Mills. Thank you.” The policeman turned and walked away.
Lorelei turned to Kevin. “Alright, collect everyone and let’s get going.”
“Where did you park?” he asked.
“Right over there,” she pointed to the car. “It’s close. Will Dylan be able to walk to the parking lot?”
“Sure. I’ll get him and the other three guys.” Actually, Kevin wasn’t sure Dylan could make it without some assistance.
Dylan didn’t need any assistance getting to the car. The trip home was quiet, before and after dropping the three others at Jackson’s house. Dylan didn’t seem eager to talk, other than saying thanks and goodbye to Jackson, Steve, and Jeff. He said he’d see Steve and Jeff at school the next day.
As soon as they got home Dylan announced that he was going to take a shower and change out of his bloody clothes. After a long shower he brushed his teeth. Three times. Rinsing his mouth and gargling after each brushing. When he finished dressing he took the bloody clothes he’d been wearing and dumped them in the trash bin at the side of the garage, then came back inside. He walked into the kitchen and saw Mel sitting at the table.
“Hey, Dylan, how you doing?” she asked.
“I’m okay. Where’s Mom?”
“She went to Costco. Grocery shopping for dinner. She should be home in about an hour. She said we’d wait until Dad gets home so you tell them both what happened.”
“She took him with her. I think he’ll be getting one of Mom’s third-degree interrogations on the trip to the store and back. About what happened to you.”
“I need a snack.” Dylan opened the refrigerator and pulled out the salsa and poured about half the jar in a bowl, then got a bag of tortilla chips. He sat across from his sister.
“Help yourself to chips and salsa,” he offered.
“Thanks. I will.” She took a small handful of chips. “So, exactly what happened to you? No one’s told me anything except that a bully attacked you.”
Dylan told Mel what happened, almost word-for-word what he had told Officer Mills.
“Oh, my god! You’re not hurt or anything?”
“Just where Lane slugged me. I’ve got a bruise.” He turned his head to the right so she could see it clearly. “It’s sore if I push on my jaw on that side. My clothes got Lane’s blood all over them. Mom’s gonna have a cow about the clothes because I dumped them in the trash. I don’t want them washed because it means his blood would be in our washer. I don’t ever want to wear them, ever again. Period.”
“That’s okay. If she hassles you about it, I’ll have your back and so will Kev.”
For a while there was nothing other than the sound of chips being munched.
“You were sexually assaulted. Have you thought about that part of it?” Mel asked.
“Uh huh. I knew that when it was happening.”
“Are you going to be okay about going to school tomorrow?”
“Absolutely. It’s my last day at Edison and it will be a lot of fun getting with everybody and signing yearbooks. Then tomorrow afternoon we have our commencement in the gym, and our graduation party after. You’re coming to the commencement, right?”
“Absolutely. Riverside has short classes tomorrow and we get out at noon. Kev and I are going to grab something to eat and be at Edison in time to get good seats for your two o’clock commencement.”
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Have you thought about what you’re going to tell your friends at school when they ask about the bruise on your face?”
“I’m going to say a couple bullies attacked me and I got away from them. That’s the truth, right?” Dylan grinned.
“Yes. And that’s much better than going into anything else, like the details of what happened or that the police were involved. What about Steve and Jeff, do you think they’ll keep quiet about it?”
“Yeah. We talked about it while we were in the park waiting for Mom to finish up with the policeman. I’m going to call them later and remind them to please keep what happened to me to themselves. I don’t want it spreading around school.”
“Do either of those bullies have brothers or sisters at Edison?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you have your yearbook? If so, you could look for their last names in it.”
“Hey, that’s a great idea. Lemme go get it.”
Dylan returned in less than a minute with his copy of the ‘Edison Warriors 2017 Annual Yearbook’.
“Okay, there are three sections. It’s by year. The eighth grade section comes first and will be easiest because it’s alphabetical by last name with individual pictures.
“Let’s see, the S’s start here… no one named Sanders. Now the W’s… funny, there’s a lot more W’s than S’s… nope, no one named Waserly. Now for the seventh grade. Man, there’s pages and pages of homeroom pictures. Unfortunately, the names aren’t alphabetical. It looks like the kids are lined up by height in three or four rows, then the names below the pictures go across by row the same way. I’ll go blind searching through all these names.”
“I’ll do it,” Mel suggested.
“Hey, thanks!” Dylan handed her the yearbook.
“Sanders and Waserly. Sanders and Waserly. Sanders and Waserly,” Mel muttered softly. She ran her finger across each row of names below a picture, then to the next picture, and so on.
“Hey, I found an Alicia Winslow. Not related to us, though; she’s white.”
Mel continued scanning. “I found a Gregory Sanders. He’s black. Could that be him?”
“No, Lane Sanders is white,” Dylan replied.
Mel went through all of the names. “No more Sanders and no Waserly in the seventh grade.” She then went back and counted the seventh grade pictures. “There are 34 seventh grade homerooms, alphabetically by homeroom teacher. Each one has about 30 kids. That’s over a thousand seventh graders! Edison sure wasn’t that big when I was there.”
“How about the sixth grade homerooms?”
Mel counted the number of homerooms first. “Wow… there are only 12 sixth grade homerooms. That’s like 360 sixth graders. I wonder why sixth and seventh grades are so different.” Mel said.
“It’s the two new middle schools, Wilcox and Blanchard, that opened this year. I remember reading that they started with sixth grade classes only. We’re growing because of all of those new houses and apartments they built on the other side of the freeway. People moved in and they have kids. So they need more middle schools. Someday they’ll probably need a new high school, too.”
“That explains it then. Lemme look through the sixth grade homerooms for Sanders and Waserly.” Mel scanned the names under the twelve pictures. “No Sanders, no Waserly in the sixth grade, which means none at Edison. Just out of curiosity, I’m going to count the number of eighth graders by counting the number of pages with pictures.” She counted the pages.
“There are 41 pages and 21 pictures per page, that’s… 861 plus 5 more that are listed as not having pictures, so there were 866 eighth graders. So, 866 plus 1,000 plus 360 means Edison has about… 2,226 students. Man, that’s more students than Riverside High has.”
Mel did some mental calculations, “It also means next year Riverside High will have about 300 more students than this year, and it’s the freshman class that’s going to be bigger.”
They sat and munched on tortilla chips and salsa for a couple minutes without talking.
Dylan looked at Mel and grinned. “Thanks.”
“Thanks? What for?”
“Two things. Helping me find out that those two bullies don’t have any brothers or sisters going to Edison. But mainly for going through all of the meaningless stuff about how many kids are going to Edison and how many more will be at Riverside next year. It completely took my mind off what happened. And now I’m not scared about it anymore. Except I am so fucking pissed off about what happened. I want to see that asshole Lane Sanders go to jail.”
“Whoa! You sound real upset. Your mind sure didn’t take much time to get back on what happened!”
“I am upset. It was real and awful and scary and I’m so glad I got away. But really, I’m not scared about it now. I was right after it happened and on the ride home. Man, the tension in the car after we dropped the guys off at Jackson’s house was…. It was coming from Mom. None of us said a word. It was like she had some sort of tension aura that filled the car and clamped down on me and Kev.”
“Do you feel any tension now?”
“Mom’s not here, no tension.”
“Good. We’ve eaten all the salsa. You want more?” Mel asked.
“Nope. If I eat any more chips I won’t have room for dinner.”
“Okay. I’ll put this stuff away. Maybe this is a good time for you to call Steve and Jeff.”
“Good idea. Thanks for cleaning up.”
They got up and Mel grabbed Dylan as he walked past her. She hugged him and he returned the hug.
“You’re welcome, bro!”
Dylan went upstairs to his room to call his friends.
Lorelei and Kevin Winslow had an intense discussion. That’s what Kevin thought it was; his mother thought it was an argument. It ended with her saying, “I’m going to discuss this with your father when he gets home, and we’ll decide what’s best for Dylan. You just keep this topic to yourself. Understand?”
“I’ll keep it to myself,” Kevin replied, “unless Dylan asks me about it. Then I’ll answer his question or give him my opinion. If I didn’t it would be a lie and I don’t lie.”
Lorelei gave Kevin her ‘Don’t you dare’ glare, but she could tell that it didn’t have the desired effect.
“Alright, but don’t bring it up unless he specifically asks about it.”
“That’s what I already said.”
“Don’t get flip with me, mister!”
“I’m not being flip. I already said I wouldn’t bring it up.”
They didn’t say anything else to each other on the drive home. Kevin was fuming because his mother was so wrong. Lorelei was fuming because Keven wouldn’t accept her reasoning about Dylan.
When they got home Kevin helped bring in and put away the groceries. Then he went upstairs to check on Dylan. His door was closed partway, so Kevin knocked on it, softly so if Dylan was asleep it wouldn’t wake him.
“Come on in, Kev. I’m awake.”
Kevin walked in. Dylan was sitting up on the bed reading on his tablet.
“How’d you know it was me?” Kevin asked.
“I spent most of the time you were gone with Mel, and I figured Mom would send you up to check on me. Mel asked me what happened, and I gave her the same story I told the policeman. Then we talked about a lot of things.
“I took a shower, a really long shower, and when I dressed I took my bloody clothes and dumped them in the trash. I don’t want Mom to wash them ‘cause I don’t want any of Lane’s blood to be in our washing machine. Mom might not like that I threw them away.”
“Don’t worry about it. I think she’ll understand.”
“How are you doing, Dylan? Any problems?”
“Actually, no. I’m feeling better. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s the last day of middle school for me and my friends. Then we have our commencement at two o’clock, then after that we have our graduation party.” Mel’s coming to my commencement. I assume you will be coming too?”
Kevin stared at Dylan without saying anything.
“What?” Dylan asked, pointedly. Do you think — no, do you know — if Mom is going to refuse to let me go to school tomorrow? And my commencement? And my graduation party? It’s true, isn’t it, Kev?”
“I’m not supposed to tell you this, but Mom is going to talk to Dad when he gets home and try to convince him that you shouldn’t go to school tomorrow. Or to your commencement or to the graduation party.”
“Bullshit!” Dylan shouted. “I’m going to school, and my commencement, and my graduation party. All tomorrow. Unless they handcuff me I’m going. I’ll walk to school if I have to. If they don’t let me go I’m never going to talk to them again. Ever.”
“Shh! Cool down. I’m going to be on your side on this. And I’m going to talk to Mel. She’ll be on your side, too. Just cool it. Don’t forget, Dad has fifty-percent say in things like this. I think he’ll be on your side. The main thing is, don’t say anything to Mom. Wait until they decide to talk to you. Stay in your room until dinner — unless they tell you they want to talk before dinner. But I think they’ll wait until after. One thing about being older than you, I have some personal experience with this kind of family situation. So just think good thoughts so you don’t give yourself away before you have to tell what happened. Don’t get combative if they say you can’t go to school. Let me and Mel act as your… attorneys!” Kevin grinned. “Okay?”
“Okay, Kev. I’ll be good. I won’t growl at Mom. I won’t give her the evil eye.” Dylan laughed. “Thanks for having my back. Mel said she’s got my back, too. Say, do you two need a retainer to be my attorneys?”
“Yeah, I think so. Dad always talks about that. Let’s see… how about two shiny new dimes, one for each of us? That way it isn’t a negligible amount, and should hold up in our family court.”
Dylan dug into his pocket. “Sorry, I don’t have two dimes. How’s two quarters?”
“Ooo… that’s even better.”
Dylan handed Kevin two of the new state quarters, both Rhode Island.
“You want to talk about what happened today?” Kevin asked.
“Nah. I don’t need to. Mel helped tamp me down a ways. I assume you’re going to sneak out again tonight to see Jackson.”
“Yeah, sneak out. Like last night.”
“Why do you think I snuck out last night?”
“Kev, you didn’t realize that when you closed your window the unit started flashing the bypass code number for that window. It just happens that I got up and when I went downstairs I saw the flashing on the alarm box. I went to your room and you weren’t there and you’d made your bed. So I went back downstairs and un-bypassed the window. You owe me, Kev.” Dylan smirked.
“I know you, Dylan. You wouldn’t turn in your favorite brother.”
“I know. Just pulling your leg. About you owing me, not about the flashing code number on the alarm box.”
“Shit. Now I have to find another way to escape.”
“It’s easy, Kev. Do what you did, but don’t shut the window.”
“I know what you said. That shouldn’t work. And how do you know that it works?”
“You’re not the only one who sneaks out of the house. That’s all I’m gonna tell you. Don’t shut the window. Leave it open at least an inch; that way the sensor won’t register that you closed the window.”
“Okay. And, by the way, I’m not going to Jackson’s tonight or tomorrow night or this weekend. I’m sticking close to you. You’re very important to me. You’re my only brother, and I love you, Dylan.”
Dylan grabbed Kevin and hugged him. “You are the best brother anyone could have, Kev. I love you, too.”
“Thanks. Now, lemme go talk to Mel. About you-know-what that I’m not supposed to talk about.”
Mel was in her bedroom. Kevin knocked on the doorjamb then entered and closed the door behind him. He outlined what he’d discussed with their mother, and what he’d discussed with Dylan.
“Mel, we’ve gotta get the folks on Dylan’s side. I know Mom won’t let us sit in on her conversation with Dad, but when we see they’ve finished, I think we should corral them and talk to them before they talk to Dylan.”
“I agree. We should hover with a sight-line to whatever room they pick to talk. When they come out we can interrupt them and say we’ve got to talk with them, privately.”
“Can you watch up here? If you leave your door open you can see their bedroom door. I’ll watch downstairs to see if they use the living or dining room to talk.”
“That sounds like a good plan. I agree with you that Dylan absolutely has to go to school tomorrow, including his commencement and his graduation party.”
Kevin looked at his watch. “Dad is normally home around five-thirty. That’s in about twenty-five minutes. I’ll offer to help Mom with dinner. I do that a lot anyway, so I don’t think she’ll find it unusual. That way if they go somewhere downstairs to talk I’ll be able to watch them and I’ll text you. If they’re in their bedroom you can text me when they come out.”
“Sounds like a good plan. Leave my door wide open when you leave.”
“Okay. Oh… there’s one other thing. Dylan has hired us as his attorneys for the insurrection that might need to happen tonight. We’ve each been paid an equal retainer. Here’s yours.” He handed her one of the quarters. They looked at each other and chuckled.
“An insurrection, ‘eh?”
Kevin decided to sit in the family room because from there he could see the kitchen and the living room. If their parents met in the dining room he could go into the kitchen and see the dining room and the family room from there. In neither case would he be accused of spying on them.
He helped his mom get things ready for dinner. She had bought a roasted chicken, so she cut it up and made some gravy. She asked Kevin to boil the potatoes. He did that, then mashed them and put them in the microwave on the keep-warm setting. He was still in the kitchen when his dad got home at twenty after five.
James Winslow said, “Hi” to Kevin, kissed Lorelei, and went upstairs to change. A couple minutes later she followed her husband upstairs.
Kevin sent a text to Mel:
And got one back:
Apparently they were having their discussion. Kevin decided to get some veggies ready for dinner. He picked the ones the three Winslow kids liked the best: carrots and zucchini. He put the carrots on the stove on low, and left the zucchini whole and ready to put in a pan he had ready for them.
About a half-hour later they came downstairs, and they arrived at the same time as Mel’s text to Kevin:
Kevin saw that Dylan was already downstairs, setting the table for dinner. Kevin realized that eliminated the plan for him and Mel to talk to their parents before their meeting with Dylan. He sent a text to Mel:
forget plan dylan here helping mom
It took about ten minutes for Lorelei to finalize everything, then dinner was on the table.
James Winslow said, “Let’s eat before we get Dylan to tell us the details of what happened at the park today, okay?”
“That works for me,” Dylan said.
Mel and Kevin both said, “Okay.”
Their mom didn’t make any comment.
After eating Lorelei said, “Let’s clean up the kitchen before we get into other things.” That took the three kids about 20 minutes. When they were finished they stood looking at their dad.
“Let’s sit around the table and Dylan can tell us what happened today,” James said.
“I’m going to tell you exactly what I told the police. Some of the language you might not appreciate, but I’m not going to change it from how I’ve said it already. Okay?” He didn’t mention that Mel and Kevin had already heard almost exactly the same story.
“I think that’s best,” James said. “If you try to sanitize it for me and your mother some detail might be missed. And there are probably no words that you could say that both of us haven’t already heard. We were your age once, you know.”
“Are you sure you can remember everything that you told the police?” Lorelei asked Dylan.
“Absolutely. I have a very good memory and I retain things that I’ve said.”
“Alright, go ahead,” James said.
Dylan told his folks what happened, almost word-for-word what he had told Officer Mills and with a few additional details about what happened when he’d initially been grabbed by Lane Sanders and Bruce Waserly, including that they took his soccer ball and he never got it back and he wanted it.
Kevin and Mel noticed that Lorelei seemed uncomfortable and sometimes flinched when hearing the words Dylan used to describe what Lane Sanders had done to him and what he had done to Lane Sanders.
“How do you feel now, Dylan?” his dad asked him after he finished telling his parents what happened.
“I feel okay. My jaw is still a little sore if I push hard on the left side, but like tonight during dinner chewing on my left side didn’t hurt at all. The only thing that’s really strange is it seems like it was days ago that this happened when it was just this afternoon.
“I don’t feel frightened at all any more. Just really pissed at Lane Sanders and eager to see him go to jail for sexual abuse of a minor.
“I’m worried about getting an STD from his blood that I swallowed. Even though I threw up three times, it’s possible if he had something I could contract it. I’ve been thinking that maybe we should sue him for the cost of my being tested for STDs.
“I was wondering if I need an attorney in case Lane sues me for almost biting off the head of his dick. I don’t know if that’s something you could do, Dad, be my attorney. Or should I have an attorney who specializes in sexual crimes against minors?
“There’s another thing I wondered about, which might be another reason for me to have an attorney. It’s something I said out loud at the park before the police and Mom got there. I said I wished I’d bit the head of Lane’s dick off completely. Bruce Waserly was there and he heard me say it.”
Dylan leaned back and looked at his dad, then at his mom.
James was surprised as he realized how informed and aware Dylan was. Dylan wasn’t anything like a 13-year-old; he was more mature and closer to being an adult, and that made James proud. James realized that he needed to spend more time with Dylan. And Kevin and Mel, as well.
Lorelei was stunned by what Dylan told them. Perhaps part of the shock was that she realized that he was no longer the little boy that she liked to remember. The way he described what happened and discussed needing an attorney was adult-like. Lorelei felt a strong sense of loss for that little boy.
“So, I’m really looking forward to going to school tomorrow, and our commencement and then the graduation party. I need to be with my friends and signing each other’s yearbooks. It’s my last day of middle school. In the fall I’ll be in the ninth grade, a freshman at Riverside High School.
“I already asked Mel and Kevin and they’re going to be at my commencement. I want to make sure both of you will be there, too.
“Oh, one other thing. I won’t need to bring a lunch tomorrow, Mom. We’re getting free pizza, sandwiches, salads, and drinks for lunch.
“So, are you going to be there? Mom? Dad?”
Lorelei hated to be boxed into a corner, and Dylan had accomplished that masterfully. She noticed that James was trying to hide a grin, and not very effectively.
“Dylan, your father and I have discussed this and we feel that what you went through was so stressful and… so horrific, that you’d be better off staying home tomorrow.”
“Mom! This is the time when everyone I know will be at school signing yearbooks and talking about things we’ve done. Right after school we’re having our commencement. I’m graduating from middle school. I’ll walk to the front and they’ll give me my diploma and my Honors plaque. After that I’ll go to our graduation party. I have to be there!”
“You can get together with your friends during the summer. The school will mail you your diploma and the Honors plaque. I think it’s best that you stay home where…”
Dylan interrupted with a loud shout, “NO! I AM going to school tomorrow. I HAVE to go to school tomorrow! You don’t seem to understand how important this is! It’s a really big deal for me.”
“Your health is more important than…”
Dylan interrupted again. “My health is just fine. There is no reason for me to stay home tomorrow. I AM going to school tomorrow and I AM going to my commencement and I AM going to my graduation party.”
“You are going to do what I say, Dylan Winslow. I’m your mother and what I say is you are not ready to go back to school tomorrow. You’re going to be questioned by everyone at school about what happened to you at the park today and you’ll be reliving the entire horrible episode.”
Dylan made a great effort to calm his anger. He knew his mother well, and knew his being angry would only set her off. “That’s not going to happen. Only two people know about it, Steve Phelps and Jeff Brooks. I talked to them and they aren’t going to say anything about what happened to me at the park. They wouldn’t say anything — they’re my friends and friends don’t spread rumors.”
Before her mother could say anything else, Mel jumped in to support Dylan. “Mom, I agree with Dylan that he should go to school tomorrow. I spent a lot of time talking with him this afternoon while you were out shopping. He is fine. He will be fine at school tomorrow. He’ll have Steve and Jeff there supporting him. This is important for Dylan. You have to let him go.”
“I agree with Mel and Dylan,” Kevin added. “This is Dylan’s day to be with all of his friends and celebrate and have fun. Deny him that and you’ll force him to spend the day reliving what happened and just getting mad all over again. That’d be like forcing him to be hurt twice by what happened. He doesn’t need any extra punishment. Please don’t take his best day of middle school away from him.”
“You two don’t seem to understand how what happened to Dylan could have affected him,” Lorelei said. “Dylan, your father and I have discussed this, and I’m adamant about it. You will have to stay home tomorrow.”
“I don’t need to stay home tomorrow. I will not stay home tomorrow. I’m going to go to school tomorrow. I’m going to be with my friends tomorrow. I’m going to my commencement tomorrow. I’m going to my graduation party tomorrow. You’ll have to put handcuffs on me and chain me in my room to stop me from going to school tomorrow.”
“You will stay home, and that’s the end of this discussion!”
“How are you going to stop me? I’m going to school tomorrow. Period.”
Dylan stood up so fast his chair tipped back and crashed on the floor. He picked it up and angrily shoved it back in its place. “I’ll be in my room!”
Mel and Kevin stood up simultaneously.
“I’m going to Dylan’s room,” Mel said.
“Me, too,” Kevin said. “Mom, you and Dad need to rethink this. If you don’t, Dylan’s going to hate you and things are going to get very tense around here.”
Mel added, “Dylan will go to school tomorrow, and you know he will. There’s no way you’ll be able to stop him. So stop fighting him and give him your permission. Then you can go to his commencement and applaud when he gets his Honors plaque for the outstanding grades and academic success he achieved, and after the commencement you can congratulate him and hug him and he’ll love you for your support.”
“What Mel says is right, Mom,” Kevin said. “I know Dylan, and so does Mel, and we know that he has a wide stubborn streak, one that he inherited from you. If you don’t give him your permission then he’ll be furious and it’ll take a long time to restore your relationship with him. I don’t think you want that. Dad, please talk to Mom about this!”
Kevin and Mel went upstairs to talk to Dylan, and to let him know what they had said to their mom after Dylan had stormed out of the room. They also commented about how their dad hadn’t said anything during the discussion. They thought this might be a good sign.
It was a good sign because James and Lorelei started to talk.
“Honey, I believe that what Kevin said about Dylan shunning you is accurate. You’re going to lose him by being stubborn. He will stop talking to you. It will take a long time and a lot of work to rebuild your relationship. We might have to resort to sending him, and you, to counseling.”
“To a shrink? Do you really think it would go that far?”
“Yes. And I think you know that’s true.”
“Oh, God! I’m so afraid for Dylan! What if those boys or their parents or brothers come after him? He could be hurt much worse. He could be killed!”
“No one is going to try to hurt Dylan. You fear threats that exist only in your imagination. They aren’t real. Those two bullies have been arrested. Dylan is going to be surrounded by his friends at school, and the teachers and staff will be there too. There’s no logical reason to prevent him from going to school tomorrow. You’re overreacting.”
She shook her head. “Everything tells me that he shouldn’t go to school tomorrow.”
“Lorelei, I think you’ve gone too far trying to protect Dylan. He’s not sick, he’s certainly doesn’t appear to be traumatized, he’s not depressed, he’s alert, he’s fine. I think you need to tell him that you’ve thought about it and reconsidered and you agree that he can go to school tomorrow. If he goes, that means we’ll all be at his commencement and we’ll see him get his diploma and Honors plaque. After the commencement he’ll be able to be with his friends at the graduation party the school is putting on. You need to let him do this so you don’t turn him away from you.
“Think about it. You have to choose one of two actions. Please choose the one that is going to let you hold on to your excellent relationship with Dylan.”
James got up and went to the family room and turned on the TV.
Lorelei sat trying to excise her fears and take what she knew was the only course with an acceptable outcome. After five minutes of mental anguish and conflict, she made up her mind and joined James in the family room.
“Let’s gather the kids and I’ll tell them my decision.”
“Don’t I get a preview?”
“No. I want everyone to hear my decision at the same time.”
“Okay. I’ll go upstairs and ask them to come down to hear what you’ve decided. Do you want to talk to us here in the family room?”
“Yes, having it here is fine.”
James and the kids came in and sat down.
Dylan asked, “Mom? Dad said you made a decision about my going to school tomorrow.”
Lorelei took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yes, I have. I realize now that I’ve been trying to protect my little boy — that’s you, Dylan — but you’re not a little boy any longer. You’re a teenager and you’ve shown that you’re able to protect yourself. There’s no reason that you shouldn’t go to school tomorrow.
“Dylan, I’m so proud of you, and your father is too. Mel and Kevin, we’re very proud of you, too. We have the three very best kids possible. Sometimes I get a little over-protective. Don’t I, Kevin?” He nodded, grinned, and shrugged his shoulders.
“You’re going to come to my commencement, Mom? Dad?” Dylan asked.
“Of course,” Lorelei said. All four of us will be there. Then you can go to your graduation party. And I promise that none of us will try to go to the party with you.”
Dylan smiled. “Thank you! Thank you! Now I’ve gotta decide what to wear tomorrow. Something nice for when the commencement is over and I go to the graduation party.”
“Will you come home before the commencement?” Mel asked.
“Nope. I go to school in the morning and we’re there all day until the graduation party is over. So I’ve gotta wear something that will be good all day.”
“If you want, I’ll help you choose,” Kevin said.
“Great! Let’s do it,” Dylan said. “Now tomorrow really is going to be the best day of my life!”
“It will be the best day of your life so far,” their father said. “There’ll be lots more best days in your future, too.”
A big Thank You to Cole Parker for his outstanding job of editing ‘Gone Missing’
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