What is it like when those closest to you are not there any longer?
Thursday, March 21, 2019; Evening
Kevin was hungry. He’d forgotten to have a snack when he got home, and by now it was almost time for dinner. He went downstairs to the kitchen. Connie had left a Post-It-Note on the refrigerator door and another on the freezer door. They described what she’d prepared for him to heat and eat.
She’d put two containers with a shrimp, pasta, and veggie dish in the refrigerator, enough for two quick-to-heat meals, and two more in the freezer for the future. He decided that was what he would have. Anything with shrimp was one of Kevin’s favorite foods, and the way Connie prepared this dish it was so good he felt it could be a hit at any fancy restaurant. It took about five minutes to reheat in the microwave; he used some of that time to warm one of Connie’s home-made biscuits in the toaster oven until it was crunchy on the outside; it would go great with his dinner.
After eating, Kevin put the dishes in the dishwasher and went back to his room to continue his homework.
He checked School Loop to see if there was anything else he should do for his Friday block classes.
Chemistry was all set since he was meeting with Alex in the morning. He was up-to-date on his AP Computer Science homework; it was easy for him because this was his favorite class, and this was what he planned to do as a career. He had a powerful desktop PC with all the software he needed so he could do all the coding, debugging, and experiments at home.
Spanish 3 was next;, he was up-to-date on the homework for that class. He’d meet with his tutor, Jason Valle, in the library tomorrow during academy period. He figured that the only thing they’d be working on would be vocabulary and exams.
Then Kevin remembered he had his next session with Dr. Ranse Friday right after school.
After weeks spent grieving and being alone, now suddenly his life was getting complicated and filled with people.
Kevin went back to the World History assignment. He read the intro that Mrs. Weston had posted on School Loop:
‘Analyze the aims and negotiating roles of world leaders, the terms and influence of the Treaty of Versailles and Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and the causes and effects of the United States’ rejection of the League of Nations on world politics. Read pages 598 to 659 and write a report explaining your conclusions and responses to these points.’
That was sixty-two pages of an eleven-hundred-page textbook. He wondered how they would get through the rest by the end of the school year on May 31st. The material would be on the World History final the first week in June. The question was, how much of the textbook would be on the final versus how much of the textbook they’d cover.
He looked at the due date for the assignment. It was next Tuesday, March 26th. That meant he had several days to finish and turn in his response. Still, he should start reading the assigned pages. As usual, he would read it at least twice. Then he would look at the teacher’s guide he had found online that went with the textbook they were using. It didn’t have any answers, but the descriptions of the objectives for each chapter were useful to make sure he understood precisely what Mrs. Weston wanted. He was glad that he’d done all of the assignments while he wasn’t at school, and he’d kept up with the class. It was a good way to keep his mind from focusing on what happened to his family.
Thursday, March 21, 2019; Late Evening
Kevin looked at the clock. It was after eight p.m. He should make his phone calls to his relatives back east before he got involved in reading. Then he realized that it was too late to call them because the three-hour time difference meant it was around eleven p.m. there. He should have done it before he started his homework. He’d call them Friday night. He added a reminder to the calendar on his phone.
British Columbia was in the same time zone as California, so he called his cousin Don in Vancouver. Aunt Bethany answered the phone, and they chatted for about five minutes. She said that she was glad that Kevin was back at school. Uncle Graham got on the line for a few minutes, and they talked about the tennis season and when it would start and how he was getting in shape to be a member of the team. Then Don took over the phone, and he and Kevin chatted for about fifteen minutes. They spent most of that time talking about school and what classes each of them was taking. Don closed by saying he would send Kevin an email later. Kevin wondered why Don would bother doing that; after all, they had just spent a lot of time on the phone. Maybe Don wanted to tell him something he didn’t want his folks to overhear.
Now it was time to call Alex Burney. He thanked him for the reminder and told him he would be in the chemistry lab at seven-thirty in the morning. Kevin gave Alex his cellphone number so they could call and text each other, and he asked Alex to use that number in the future. They also exchanged email addresses.
Then he called Jason Valle. He thanked him for calling and letting him know that they’d meet at the library. Jason said he’d be easy to find because of his bright orange jacket. They exchanged cellphone numbers and email addresses.
Kevin went downstairs to the kitchen before starting his World History assignment. He opened the freezer and took out a pint of vanilla ice cream and dished about half into a bowl, then took it back to his room and sat down at his desk. He spent an hour reading the assigned pages and taking notes. He was satisfied that he had the gist of the assignment and would be ready to complete it after reading the chapter and the objectives in the teacher’s guide one more time.
He yawned and stretched. It was almost ten. Time for bed. He brushed his teeth and decided that he could skip a shower since he’d had one in PE just before coming home. He grinned. At lunch, they’d talked about the advantages of having PE first period. There was also an advantage of having it seventh period.
As he was about to get in bed, he heard the notification tone from his cellphone. There was an email message from Don. He opened it:
I want to talk to you about something if you’re available Sunday night. My folks are going to the ballet, and I need to talk to someone. I figured you’re the right guy for me to spill my guts to. I’ll call you, so you don’t have to pay long distance other country rates for the call; just let me know what time.
I’ll be available just about any time Sunday evening. I can call Canada for free, so if you don’t want the call to show up on your folk’s phone bill text me the best time and I’ll call you. Be sure to always call me or text me on my cellphone.
Don’s text reply was immediate:
how about 8pm call my cell nbr. u dont need 2 reply if its ok.
Kevin opened the calendar on his phone and set an appointment to call Don at eight p.m. Sunday. He set a notification for it that played Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself and tested it — it played for almost four minutes; when he got the notification on Sunday, he wouldn’t miss it. Also, this song always made him laugh. He would even sing along with it sometimes. He realized that this was the first time since… in a long time when he’d thought about something that made him happy enough to laugh out loud and sing.
Friday, March 22, 2019; Morning
Friday morning, Kevin was in the chemistry lab at seven-fifteen. He wandered around, looking at the lab benches. He stopped and stared at something that caught his eye. Someone had carved some writing into the front edge of one of the bench tops. It was ‘Kevin loves Susan’ and that made him laugh — he definitely was not that Kevin!
“Hi. I’m Alex Burney. Are you Kevin Young?”
Hearing the voice surprised Kevin. He turned, and his eyes opened as wide as they could.
Alex noticed and said, “Hope I didn’t startle you!”
“No, uh… well, maybe. A little. I guess I hadn’t expected you so early. Sorry.” He smiled.
Actually, Kevin was startled, but it was because Alex was cute… mega-cute. He had bushy curly light blond hair, green eyes, a dark tan complexion, was about six feet tall, and had what looked like a muscular build. He wondered, could this be what love at first sight felt like?
Alex smiled and pointed. “How about we sit down at one of those tables at the back of the room? It’ll be easier to go through what was covered during your last week of school, and you can take the exam you missed. Then we can talk about the chapters Mr. McBride had covered when we review what you missed and work on the exams and experiments you need to make up.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Kevin said.
They sat down. Kevin tried to avoid staring at Alex. But it was hard, very hard, because he was the sexiest looking guy he’d ever seen. Since Kevin was gay, he liked looking at guys, but… wow! Alex was something else!
Alex opened the chemistry textbook. “Shall we get started? Mr. McBride told me how far you’d gotten, and he gave me the first exam you missed. Do you want to do a quick review of that material?”
It took about twenty minutes to complete the review and for Kevin to take the exam on the section he’d missed.
Alex scanned the worksheet. “You correctly answered every question. That is excellent, Kevin. Congratulations!
“I suggest that instead of starting on the first chapter you missed, how about we do a quick preview of this week’s new material so you’ll be able to follow what Mr. McBride will cover today,” Alex said. “There’ll be an exam covering it on Monday, so this way you’ll be prepared for that, too.”
“That’s a good idea.” They worked through what was current and reviewed the homework that was due Monday. Alex asked some questions to see if Kevin retained what they’d covered, and Kevin was pleased that he recalled all of it. That took another twenty minutes.
“You caught on without any problem,” Alex said. “You should be ready for Monday. Tonight you should do the homework assignment. It’s on School Loop.”
When he stared at Alex, Kevin was sure he blushed. That was embarrassing. “No problem,” he said. “When should we get together next?”
“How about tomorrow?” Alex asked. “I know it’s Saturday, but if we can get a good start on the rest of the chapters you missed, it will be easier for you to keep up with the class as Mr. McBride moves ahead. You can take the exams, and we can do the experiments during collaboration period on Wednesdays and Fridays until you’ve caught up.”
“Okay, I’m available. I might have errands to run Saturday morning, but I should be home by ten-thirty, so how about eleven?”
“Works for me,” Alex replied.
“I can have Connie fix lunch for both of us. What do you eat, and what do you not eat?”
“In the same order, almost everything and almost nothing.” Alex laughed. “The almost part of nothing is I don’t like things like liver and innards or squid and octopus tentacles. And no raw oysters or clams, either. Just about anything else is okay. Even sushi.”
“How about spicy?”
Alex grinned. “That works for me. I love spicy.”
“Connie left a note that she would make tacos for my lunch tomorrow. I’ll have her make double the amount.”
“Sounds good. Where do you live?”
“159 Sutter Drive.”
“I live at 162 Magnolia Court. Our backyards are probably adjacent to each other. Here, let me bring up the Zillow map of our neighborhood on my phone.”
They looked at the map. “Your backyard is one house past where my backyard is,” Kevin said. “So, unfortunately no jumping over or crawling under the fence to get from one yard to the other.” He grinned. “Still, they are close. Are you near that house where….” Alex stopped when he saw Kevin’s expression change. “Shit. I didn’t know.”
Kevin looked down. “I suppose now you’d rather not come to my house,” he said.
Alex looked confused. “Why not? Let’s do it like you suggested. Even if being able to help you get up-to-date in chemistry weren’t enough of an incentive for me to get together with you tomorrow, a home-made taco lunch seals the deal.” He smiled.
Kevin was relieved and glad that Alex seemed eager to come to his house despite what happened to his family there. “Okay, then we’re scheduled for eleven a.m.”
“I’m really looking forward to seeing you tomorrow,” Alex said.
Kevin was sure that Alex had just blushed. He asked Alex what class he had next.
“English 3 with Sommers.”
“I’m taking English 2 with Sommers. He’s my favorite teacher.”
Alex smiled. “I like him, too. Okay, I better head out. See you tomorrow.”
“I’m really looking forward to seeing you tomorrow,” Kevin said, using the same words that Alex had used. “See you later.” Alex left for his class and waved on his way out the door.
‘Damn,’ he thought, ‘it’ll be hard if I’m staring at Alex all the time we’re together tomorrow.’ Then he realized his double entendre and laughed. He realized that was true, too.
He was thirsty, so he went into the hall to the nearest drinking fountain. When he returned his lab partner, Donna Garcia, was sitting at their lab bench.
As soon as she saw him, Donna jumped up and hugged him then said, “Welcome back, Kevin! I’m so, so glad to see you. Especially since I desperately need your help with the experiments. How are you going to catch up? Do you need any help?”
“I have a tutor for Chemistry who’s assigned to help me work through what I missed. His name’s Alex Burney, he’s a junior, and he took AP Chem last year.”
She frowned. “That means he took AP Chemistry when he was a sophomore? He must be a chemistry brain! I didn’t think you could take AP classes until you were a junior.”
“You’re right,” Kevin responded. “I guess if you’re a brain, you can get approved to take them early. Alex and I got together this morning, and we went over the first week that I missed, and I took and passed the exam covering that material.” Then he told Donna what had been arranged, so he’d be able to be caught up with everything.
“That sounds like a lot of work.”
“True that! But I’ve got to get caught up. With an A in Chemistry, it’ll be easier to get into the UC Berkeley Computer Science program.”
“What’s it like working with a junior?”
“Same as working with a sophomore. He’s just a regular guy. The only difference is that he’s taller than me.” Kevin positioned his hand about a foot above his head — an exaggeration — and grinned.
“Is he cute?” she asked.
Kevin wasn’t sure why Donna asked that. “I guess so. He’s got curly, light blond hair and smiles a lot.” Maybe she wondered if she should show up while Alex was tutoring him and find out if he was dating material.
That’s when Mr. McBride came in, greeted Kevin, and welcomed him back. That made all the kids turn around and look at him. Some said, ‘Hi,’ and everyone smiled and waved. Kevin smiled and waved, too.
Mr. McBride started his lecture, and Kevin had no problem following along. He was glad Alex had covered the material. That helped him understand the material. He felt that he’d be able to get a good score on the exam.
When the Chemistry class was over, he walked across campus to the library to meet Jason Valle for his first Spanish 3 tutoring session. There was a guy in a bright orange sweater standing just outside the entrance to the school’s library. Kevin walked up to him.
“Hi. Are you Jason?”
“Yes. You must be Kevin.”
“That’s right.” They shook hands, and Kevin looked around. “I guess we can’t meet in the library. We’d get kicked out for talking. Any idea where we can meet? There oughta be an empty room somewhere that we can use during academy period.”
“I don’t think the classroom my Spanish 4 class uses during fourth period is being used by anyone during academy period. When the class was over, there didn’t seem to be anyone trying to get into the room at the same time we were trying to get out. I think we can use it until the end of academy period. It’s room LA-117.”
“Let’s take a look,” Kevin said. They walked to the Liberal Arts building, which was also known as Building 400. LA-117 was on the ground floor, near the main building entrance.
Jason was right; the room was empty. They walked in and sat down.
“Did Mr. Contreras tell you what I’ve missed and what I need to make up?” Kevin asked.
“He said you’d missed your classes for seven weeks, and the main things you needed was to review the new vocabulary and grammar, turn in your homework, and take the exams. Is that it?”
“Yes. I’m keeping up with the current homework and sending it to Mr. Contreras on School Loop, so I’m not far behind in the new vocabulary — except I have to keep looking up words. So practice to help me memorize the new words would be a big help, and learning word families and origins would help, too. I think I’m in good shape with grammar. Where I’m behind, besides the homework I missed, are the exams.”
“Okay. Let’s do this,” Jason said. “We’ll review the chapters you missed during the two academy periods each week. We’ll practice the vocabulary to get you up-to-date and cover any new grammar. Then you’ll do the homework you missed, and each academy period, not including this one, you’ll take one of the exams you missed; we’ll do them starting with the earliest one. There’s always one exam each week, so you missed seven exams. That means with two academy periods each week, you’ll be able to catch up in four weeks.
“The tough part is you’re going to have to do the current work as well, including the current homework and an exam each week on Mondays. Is that going to be a problem?”
“I don’t know. I think we’ll know by the end of next week if I’m able to make up what I missed and keep up with the class, or if I need some more time.”
“That sounds reasonable. I looked over your exam results, and some of the translations you did for homework, and I can see why you’re getting an A in the class. I think you’ll do great on what you missed.”
Kevin blushed. “Thanks. I hope I can keep up and get the make-up homework and exams done as soon as possible, and keep up with the current assignments and exams. I should be able to keep up with the current homework.”
“I think you will. Now, let’s start on what you need to study for the first exam you missed.”
When his tutoring session was over, and after the review, Kevin decided that he’d go ahead and take the first exam he’d missed. Jason said Kevin correctly answered every question, and he posted it on School Loop. They agreed they’d meet next Wednesday, in room LA-117 same as today, during academy period.
Kevin went to his fifth period AP Computer Science class in the computer lab. Mr. Curtis welcomed him back, and the others in the class said ‘Hi’ or waved. He smiled and waved back. It was just like what happened in his Chemistry class. The class was still working on coding an application using PHP. Kevin had finished his assignment a week ago and he had posted it on School Loop. So he talked to Mr. Curtis and asked him what he would assign next.
Mr. Curtis handed him a page with the next five assignments. “I think some of these programs will be a little more challenging. But I’m sure you won’t have any problem with them.”
“Thanks. I like the PHP language. I can see how it could be used in web applications.”
“Then you’ll enjoy the last two assignments; they’re web pages with embedded PHP. But don’t skip the first three assignments. You’ll need the results from them to be able to complete the last two assignments.”
“Okay. Thanks for these in advance.” He went to his computer station and started working on the first assignment. As the class ended, he saved his work to his School Loop page.
Then he went to his locker and got the lunch Connie had fixed for him, and walked across campus to the cafeteria. He met Laura and Jeff for lunch, and their table quickly filled with their other friends. Everyone said they were glad he was back. No one asked him any personal questions. Instead, there was a lot of joking about some senior girl who had a ‘clothing malfunction’ that exposed her breasts when she leaned over to pick up part of her speech that fell on the floor next to the podium during her Public Speaking class. Apparently, she was doing a girl’s equivalent of going commando — at least the above-the-waist part.
After lunch, Kevin went to his last class of the day, Spanish 3.
Kevin took his regular seat as the class was getting started. Mr. Contreras greeted Kevin, and everyone turned around and waved and said ‘Hola!’ Everyone read a paragraph of a story written in Spanish from a handout and translate it into English as they read it aloud. Each student received a different paragraph, and they all seemed to be about the same length. Kevin didn’t have any problem translating and reading his paragraph. Their homework assignment was to take the Spanish paragraph they’d read and incorporate it — without changing it in any way — in a two-page short story of their own — written in Spanish, of course. It was due in one week. Kevin thought it would be easy and fun.
When the class was finished, Mr. Contreras called Kevin’s name and motioned for him to walk up to his desk.
“I’ve arranged for Jason Valle to provide tutoring help for you so you can get caught up. Have you met him?”
“Yes. We met during academy period, and we reviewed the first part of what I’ve missed. I took the test for that chapter, and he submitted it to you on School Loop. He said I answered all of the questions correctly on the test.”
“Do you think you can complete the work you missed and complete the current work without falling behind?”
“Jason asked me the same question. My answer was, I think we’ll know by the end of next week if I’m able to make up what I missed and keep up with the class at the same time, or if I’ll need more time. I’ll also let you know by the end of next week.”
“That’s fine. I know that you have the same situation in all of your other classes,” he said. “Please let me know if it seems to be a problem. The sooner, the better. Okay?”
“Okay, I will. And I’ll be sure to let Jason know, too.”
Friday, March 22, 2019; Afternoon
Kevin almost forgot that he had a session with Dr. Ranse when school was over for the day. He rushed to his locker to make sure he had the textbooks he’d need when he got together with Alex on Saturday and Laura on Sunday, and the others he needed to do homework that had to be turned in on Monday. He laughed. That was every textbook other than the one for his Computer Science class.
Then he left for his second session with Dr. Ranse at her office. He wasn’t eager to get into what happened to his family, but he knew that would be the most important of this afternoon’s topics.
Doctor Jennifer Ranse sat at her desk with Kevin Young’s folder open. His file included the notes that she’d taken during his session on Wednesday. She knew that today’s session would probably be very emotional for him. She wondered how he would react., there were no guidelines that described how kids would handle the sort of situation that confronted Kevin.
Kevin arrived at Dr. Ranse’s office and sat down in the waiting room. After a few minutes, she came out and seeing Kevin, smiled. “Come on in, and let’s start your session.”
As usual, he sat in the guest chair on the other side of Dr. Ranse’s desk.
“So, how were yesterday and today?” she asked.
“Good. When I got home Wednesday night, there was a message from my counselor, Mr. Langer. He said you phoned him; thanks for doing that. He suggested that I should meet with him after school yesterday. I did, and we reviewed my classes.
“He arranged for a tutor for my Spanish 3 class. He’s taking Spanish 4 now. He’ll help me with memorizing the vocabulary and taking the exams I missed. I met him today, and I’ll meet him on Wednesdays and Fridays during academy period, until I’ve caught up.
“Mr. Langer also arranged for a tutor for my chemistry class so I can get caught up on the material, experiments, homework, and exams. There’s just one problem.”
Keven paused and saw that Dr. Ranse looked confused. “Doesn’t he know enough about the material in your chemistry class to help you get caught up?”
“Alex is a chemistry wizard, a junior who took AP Chemistry when he was a sophomore. But knowing the material isn’t the problem. The problem is…” Keven took a deep breath and let it out slowly “…he is really good looking. Extremely good looking. I could totally fall for him — I think that I already have a major crush — and I have no way of knowing whether he’s gay or not.
“So, the problem is, what if Alex is gay? What if we click and get together and go out? And maybe more? He’s my tutor. If anyone found out we’re together, they’d suspect it could affect the tutoring he’s doing for me.”
Dr. Ranse thought for a few seconds. “So you mean, if your instructor or counselor found out that you two are boyfriends, or even just going out, then they would assume that he’s helping you do the experiments and helping you with the answers on the exams?”
“But isn’t he already helping you do the experiments?”
“I haven’t done any of the experiments yet. That’ll start on Wednesday.”
“So… what’s the problem?” she asked.
“If anyone finds out, they might say Alex is helping me pass the exams and solve the experiments. I mean, it’s okay if he’ll give me the same information that Mr. McBride would have. But he shouldn’t give me hints beyond that when I take an exam or do an experiment. That’s where it could become a problem, even though we’d never cheat. It would be whether we’re believed or not.”
“All right, let’s say it happens. You and Alex come out to each other as gay and get together. What are your options?”
Kevin had hoped she’d ask something like that, and what she’d asked was so perfect it was like it had been scripted.
“I figured out there are a number of options. The result of each option could either cause a problem or not cause any problems. I gave it a lot of thought to it last night. I wrote down the options and which ones I think could cause a problem. I’ll show you what I came up with, and maybe you can give me some advice.”
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