What is it like when those closest to you are not there any longer?
Wednesday, March 27, 2019; After School
After his last class of the day, Spanish 3, Kevin walked back to the computer lab. He needed to update the ‘Things I Need To Do’ list on his laptop. He opened the file and added the date of the meeting with the Walnut Creek Police and the FBI and saved the file. He connected to one of the computer lab printers and printed three copies of the updated list. Then he walked from school to Dr. Ranse’s office.
He assumed the list would be the primary topic during this session. He also wanted to talk about the book he was reading for English 2. Then they could talk about the meeting with the police and FBI on April thirteenth. He hoped she wouldn’t want to continue talking about how his family had been killed. There’d been enough of that during prior sessions, and it would be covered in detail at the April thirteenth meeting.
When they sat down, Kevin handed Dr. Ranse his updated To Do list. She compared it to the copy from their last meeting.
“I see that you’ve included an item that Laura came to stay with you yesterday. Was that useful?”
“Yes, it was. I found that when she left, I wasn’t as lonely as I’d been when no one came home with me. Jeff is coming on Thursdays, starting tomorrow. Laura called Alex, and he said that he’d come home with me on Mondays, starting next week. When Alex comes over on Mondays, we might sleep together that night, too.
“I’ve added the next session you and I will have on Friday. I also marked today’s as complete even though, technically, it’s not complete yet.” Kevin grinned, then continued. “I have my tennis practice schedule, and so far there are no conflicts with our sessions. But I don’t know the list of tournaments we’re going to have and what our team match schedule will be. I should get that next week. Usually, our matches are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If there are any conflicts with our sessions, I’ll let you know.”
“You’ve added the meeting with the Walnut Creek Police and the FBI. Is there a possibility that they might change the schedule?”
“Lieutenant Mack Richardson of the Walnut Creek Police Department confirmed the date. But, I can’t guarantee that something won’t come up that would cause the meeting date to change.”
“I assume that’s not something you can control. If it gets changed, let me know.”
“I will, along with everyone else I’ve asked to be at the meeting.”
“Let’s move on,” she said. “You’ve completed thirty-one of the thirty-nine items on the list. Most of those involve communication with others. These are things that had been taken away from you, and you’re filling in those gaps. Does that make sense? Do you agree?”
“Yes. I’m feeling better, and I’m not as lonely. Having three of my best friends come home with me on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays will be a big help. We’ll do homework, eat dinner, watch a movie, play video games, whatever. Then they go home, and it’s time for me to get ready for bed.
“The Burneys invited me to have dinner with them Monday night. They’ve asked me to have dinner with them this coming Sunday, too. What’s nice is that their family has two boys and a girl, so it was almost like I was with my family.”
Kevin paused, swallowed, and took a deep breath then let it out. The last thing he wanted was to tear up.
“We joked while we ate, talked about the teachers we like and don’t like, what we’re planning to major in when we go to college. Things like that. It was like what my family and I did at home. And Mrs. Burney is a great cook.
“What’s nice is I like them, including their kids. I’d worried that they might not like me, but Alex told me his parents and brother and sister all like me. Everything they said made me think that they did like me, including inviting me back for dinner on Sunday. So I decided that I was worried for nothing.”
“What about your uncles, aunts, and cousins? Have they contacted you?”
“Yes, I’ve talked to them. Two are in the Boston area, another is in Gainesville, Florida, and the other is in Vancouver, Canada.”
“Did they call you, or did you call them?”
“The ones on the east coast called me and left voicemail messages. So I called them back. It took a couple days to get back to them because of the different time zones. I called my aunt and uncle in Vancouver and talked to them.
“I’ve also been talking to two of my cousins. Don Young in Vancouver and Eve Young in Boston. They’re my age, and we’re close — like best friends. We did a group chat call to get caught up.”
“What’s a group chat call?” she asked.
“That’s where all three of us can get on WhatsApp and talk like we’re in the same room. It’s like a conference call. It’s free; all you need is an internet connection.”
“WhatsApp is a computer program?”
“Yes. Some small businesses use it, too. I guess because it’s free. Also, the data is encrypted, so communications are secure. It’s also an easy way to send images.
“And, speaking of images, I have pictures of my cousins; would you like to see them?”
“Yes, I would. Thank you for offering to show them to me.”
“Okay, here’s a picture of Eve and her girlfriend, Flo. Eve is the one on the left; she the one who lives in Boston.”
“Is Eve a lesbian?”
“No, she says that she’s gay. For some reason, she hates being called a lesbian.”
“Well, it’s interesting that your cousin Eve is… gay. And that you are gay, too.”
Kevin stifled a grin. “Here’s the picture of Don and Brian. Don is on the left. He’s the one who lives in Vancouver.”
“Is Brian his brother or a friend?”
“Brian is Don’s boyfriend.” Kevin grinned. “Don’t you think it’s interesting that both of my cousins and I are gay?”
“Yes, I do think that it is interesting. This is a topic I should research. What about your other cousins? Are any of them gay?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. Most are younger than me, and they all live on the east coast so I hardly ever see them. If any of them are gay, I don’t know about it.”
“What about your other relatives?”
“The only other relative I have is my grandmother on my mother’s side. She has Alzheimer’s and is in a care home in Scottsdale, Arizona. I pay for her care from my trust.”
“Is there anything that you’d like to add about your relatives?”
“A couple things. Both Eve and Don are out — their parents know they are gay. Eve’s folks know that she has a girlfriend, and Don’s folks know that he has a boyfriend.
“I’m out to my friend Laura and to Eve and Don. I think that’s important. I never came out to anyone in my family.”
“Why was that?”
“I’m not sure. I didn’t have a boyfriend, so I guess it wasn’t something that I thought was important.”
“I see you haven’t joined the GSA yet.”
“I’ve been busy, so I figured joining the GSA isn’t as important as most other things on the list. I decided to look it up, and the GSA meets during academy period on the first Friday of each month. That will interfere with my Spanish tutoring, so I’ll have to wait until I’m caught up with my exams.”
“At our last meeting, we talked about Alex and the problems it could cause if it were discovered that you’re both gay. You said he might stay overnight with you on Mondays. So, can I assume that you’ve found out that he is gay?”
Kevin nodded and smiled, telegraphing his answer. “Yes, Alex is gay.”
“So, I assume there weren’t any problems with your chemistry tutoring?”
“No problems at all. It went very well. In fact, it couldn’t be better. Alex and I are boyfriends. We slept together one night. He’ll come home with me on Mondays, and stay with me the nights before and after the meeting with the FBI and the Walnut Creek police. He says he’ll hold me and, if I need it, he’ll let me cry on his shoulder.
“Alex’s folks and brother and sister know he’s gay. His brother knows we’re boyfriends, but I don’t know whether his sister or parents know about it.”
“I assume that you and Alex haven’t been caught being seen together?”
“We haven’t been caught because we don’t get together at school very often. Once in a while at lunch. And when I do the chemistry experiments and make-up exams on Wednesday and Friday mornings. The main reason we don’t get together at school is our class schedules are totally different. I’m a sophomore, and he’s a junior, so we don’t have any classes — other than PE — together. We don’t see each other in PE, either. I’m on the tennis team; Alex is on the lacrosse team.”
“How do you feel that you’re doing in your classes, Kevin?”
“I’ve caught up with the rest of the class in chemistry. Alex and I are finishing the experiments and exams that I missed, and I think that’ll be done by the end of the month.
“I have a tutor for Spanish 3. He’s a senior. The main things we’re doing are the exams I missed. He said that he’ll help me practice the new vocabulary they learned while I was away, but so far, I’ve been able to do that on my own. Jason is a nice guy. He’s taking Spanish 4, so his Spanish is perfect.
“Laura and I are meeting on Sunday mornings so I can practice for the Algebra 2/Pre-Calc exams I missed. I’ve made A’s on all the makeup exams so far.
“I had a big project for World History that I’ve turned in. I’ll find out the grade I got on it tomorrow. Otherwise, I’m caught up in that class.
“I’m way ahead in my AP Computer Science class. Mr. Curtis gave me the next set of assignments ahead of the rest of the class. This will be my major in college. To boast a little, I expect to get a 5 on the AP exam — that’s the highest score you can get. I need a 5 because it’s what I have to have to get into UC Berkeley and get Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science. That’s what I want to do after I graduate.
“PE is great. I’ll be on the varsity tennis team, even though I’m only a sophomore. My coach made up an exercise schedule for me. I’ll run in the morning, use the equipment in the weight training room, and play matches with the guys on the team. I started my morning run today. I don’t have our meet schedule yet. I should get it by the end of next week, probably on Thursday. If the meets might interfere with our sessions, I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.”
Dr. Ranse smiled. “It seems like you’re at least as busy as you would have been. Does that seem right?”
“Actually, I’m a lot busier because of all the makeup work I’m doing in addition to what’s current in each of my classes. Tennis will be more strenuous because I’ll be on the varsity. I was on the freshman team last year.
“Finally, there’s English 2. We’re doing something now that I’m finding interesting.” He pulled his copy of The Dream Weaver out of his backpack and handed it to her. “It’s this book. We were assigned to read the prologue and chapter one for our English 2 class, and we’ll discuss it tomorrow in class. The book’s an introduction to philosophy that’s written like a novel.”
“Why do you find it interesting?”
“It’s making me think about things… I’m not sure how, or why, exactly, but it’s in a different way. It even made me think about what happened to my family.”
“Can you describe what it is about this book that makes you think in this different way?”
“Philosophy is something I’ve never thought about before. It’s an intellectually more advanced subject than anything else I’ve taken. It’s not offered as a class at Edison or any other high school in the district. I want to read the whole book. But since our assignment was to read only the prologue and chapter one, I decided not to read ahead. I don’t know if Mr. Sommers is going to have us read other chapters. I’ll find out tomorrow.
“There are group discussion questions at the back of the book. They also made me think. There’s one for the first chapter that keeps sticking in my mind.” Kevin opened to the second) question for chapter one, pointed at it, and handed her the book.
Dr. Ranse read the question out loud. “Is there anything that you are completely certain about? How important is complete certainty, in other words, the inability to doubt, in your claiming to know something?”
She sat back and thought for a few seconds, then looked at Kevin. “What was your answer to that question?”
“I immediately thought that I had no doubt that my family was gone. That they’d been killed. I need to be certain about that.”
Kevin had to stop, take a deep breath, and let it out slowly to keep from breaking down. This was the topic that he didn’t want to get into with Dr. Ranse during this session.
“Here’s something else that’s interesting,” she said. “It’s in question one for chapter one. It reads, ‘Can you distinguish between your dream state and waking state? If so, how? Have you ever confused the two?’
“Have you thought about that?” she asked.
“No. The reason is, once I wake up, I almost never remember what I was dreaming.”
“Kevin, could I borrow this book from you? Perhaps overnight?”
“I need it for our discussion in class tomorrow. Also, this is one of the school’s copies, and I don’t know when I’ll have to return it to the library. But I bought my own copy from Amazon. It’s used, but it’s supposed to be in near-new condition. When it arrives, I’ll loan it to you. Is that okay? Maybe after reading the first few chapters, you can help me understand why it’s having such a big effect on me.”
“How much did it cost?”
“Six dollars. A new copy costs just under twenty dollars.”
“Is there a Kindle version?”
“Unfortunately, there isn’t.”
“I’ll look it up on Amazon and order my own copy, and I’ll have it sent by next-day air. I think it will be useful. I’ll read the first few chapters, and if you’d like, we can talk about it during our next session.”
“Yes! I’d really like to do that.”
Kevin’s intensity about this book surprised Dr. Ranse.
“Kevin, I’d like to move to another subject. What are your thoughts about the meeting with the FBI and the police?”
“I’m not sure. It depends on what they know and what they tell me. Could be they don’t know anything yet. Could be that they found and arrested the murderers, and they will go to trial. Or maybe it’s something between those. Or I might not find out very much because there are things they’re not able to tell me.”
Dr. Ranse suggested, “If they don’t know anything, why would they need a meeting to tell you? They could do that with a phone call. So, it seems to me that it’s likely that they know something.”
“I hope so. But I’ve been thinking about it for a day and a half, and I’m still not sure. So I guess I’ll have to wait until April thirteenth.”
“I’m glad that you invited me to be there with you, Kevin. Then during our session on the following Wednesday, we can talk about what we found out at the meeting.
“Now let’s talk about our next session.
“I have some questions that I’d like you to think about and answer so we can discuss them on Friday. Don’t bother writing them down; I want to tell you what they are, then I’ll give you the list.
“First, how have you been sleeping? Are you waking up during the night, or sleeping straight through to the morning? You said you seldom remember any of your dreams. But, if you’ve remembered one or more dreams, what were they about? And, have you had any nightmares?
“Second, are you tired during the day? Do you feel like you need a nap while you’re at school, or right after you get home?
“Third, are you eating enough? Have you lost or gained any weight?
“Fourth, have you been or felt ill, and if so, how has it affected you?
“Fifth, do you ever feel anxious or stressed, and if so, what about and when does it happen?
“Sixth, how is your mood? Are you happy most of the time, and if not, how would you describe how you’ve been feeling? Have you been sad, and if so, when does that happen? How often do you laugh? What makes you laugh?”
She handed him six sheets of paper, each with one of her questions.
“Please write your answers on the same pages as the questions.”
“Can I do it on my computer?”
“I’d rather you write your answers by hand.”
Kevin quickly reviewed the questions.
“Wow! These are interesting questions. I’m going to have to think about them.”
“Good. That’s what I want you to do; think about each question, then write your responses. Do you think you’ll be able to answer all six questions by Friday’s session?”
“Alright, I’ll see you for our next session on Friday. And you should update your list, too.”
Kevin stared at her. “I guess. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to add to the list, though.”
“There are a lot of things you can accomplish. Go through the list and do things that aren’t finished. There are enough easy ones that you should be able to finish, like going into your sister’s bedroom. Then think about things that aren’t on the list and add them.”
Kevin shrugged his shoulders. “Okay. I’ll try.”
He stood and picked up his backpack, then smiled. “I’ll see you Friday.”
Dr. Ranse said goodbye, and Kevin left and walked back to school. He got his bike, and while he was riding home, he realized that Dr. Ranse was right. There were a lot of unfinished items on the list and a lot of items which hadn’t been added to the list… yet.
He also thought about her six questions. Maybe she was trying to discover if he was depressed. She’d mentioned that one time in an earlier session. How he answered the questions might show whether he was or wasn’t.
When he got home, he found a thick envelope in the mailbox. It was from Amazon.com and contained the copy of The Dream Weaver he purchased. He added a reminder on his phone to bring it with him to school on Friday. That way he could loan it to Dr. Ranse if the copy she said she’d order from Amazon hadn’t arrived by then.
He checked the house phone for voicemail messages. There weren’t any. Then he remembered that he’d turned on airplane mode on his cellphone while he was with Dr. Ranse; he turned it off, and there were several voicemail messages.
The first was from Jeff, confirming that he’d go home from school with Kevin on Thursday. Kevin sent him a text saying he was looking forward to getting together. Since he’d fix dinner for them, he also asked if Jeff had any food preferences, especially things he didn’t like.
The second was from Laura, saying she had the last of the practice exams for Algebra 2/Pre-Calc ready for him to take. She confirmed that she’d see him Sunday morning at eleven, as usual.
The third was from his Uncle Graeme saying he shipped the floor plans via FedEx overnight. He closed that sentence by saying, “But don’t hold your breath.” That made Kevin laugh. He got the impression that his uncle wasn’t confident about the speed of shipments from Canada to the U.S.
The last call was from Ted Gering. Kevin had been at Ted’s birthday party while his family… they were being killed. Ted wanted to know if Kevin would like to go to a movie on Saturday. Kevin thought about the date. It was March thirtieth, two weeks before the meeting with the FBI and Walnut Creek Police. Going to a movie was a good idea, and he was glad Ted had called. He and Ted were part of their regular lunch group, and they sat together most days. But — like Kevin and Jeff — they didn’t have any classes together this semester.
He phoned Ted.
“Hey, hi, Kev!”
“Hi, back atcha. I like the idea of seeing a movie this Saturday.”
“Anything in particular you’d like to see?”
“No. I haven’t paid much attention to what’s come out recently. Laura came over on Tuesday, and we watched Love, Simon.”
“Yeah, I saw it, too. I liked it.”
“So did Laura and I. I’d read the book before seeing the movie.”
“I didn’t read the book. Actually, I didn’t know there was a book.”
“Yeah, it has a weird title, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And it was written by a woman.”
“Whoa! A gay story written by a woman? Is that a first?”
“Probably not. I can’t quote any other titles or female authors of gay stories, but there probably are some.”
“Have you seen Black Panther?”
“No. Have you?”
“No. I’d like to see it if you’re interested.”
“I am. Where is it playing?”
“The Century 14 downtown.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“I assume you’ll need a ride. I think my brother will want to see it, too. He’s 19, so he can drive us. Lemme check.”
There was a pause, then Ted returned to the call. “Brad wants to see it, too. We can pick you up. It’s in XD, so it’s showing at either two o’clock or four forty-five on Saturday. Any preference?”
“Do we want to eat before or after seeing the movie?”
“If we have lunch first, the two o’clock show would be good.”
“I agree. We could go to Gott’s Roadside for burgers and be finished in time for the two o’clock. It’s about three blocks from the Century theater. Or we could go to Habit; it’s a little closer.”
“We’d need to buy our tickets before we eat. The XD movies have reserved seats.”
“Okay. We could park in the theater parking structure and buy our tickets, then walk to Gott’s or Habit.”
“Okay, let’s do it that way. And let’s go to Gott’s. I haven’t been there yet, and I’d like to try it. Brad and I will pick you up at noon at your house. Is that okay?”
“That’s perfect,” Kevin replied. “I’ll see you on Saturday at noon.”
They said goodbye, and Kevin leaned back. This was perfect. It would be the first time he’d be going out and doing something with other kids since he’d returned to school. He needed to add this to his To Do List and talk about it at his session with Dr. Ranse next Wednesday. He added it immediately so he wouldn’t forget.
He heard the notification tone from his phone. It was a text from Jeff. Kevin laughed. It advised him, in all capital letters, that liver was at the top of his ‘I HATE’ list. What surprised him was Jeff didn’t like fish, either. Neither would be a problem.
That reminded him about his conversation with Uncle Graeme about the floor plan. Kevin had said it was needed by April thirteenth for the district attorney to get the case ready for trial. Damn… he’d said there would be a trial and the way he said it implied it would be soon. Maybe even April thirteenth — though Kevin didn’t have a clue when it would actually be scheduled. His uncle might guess it would be around that date and wonder why he hadn’t been asked to be there.
Kevin hadn’t told his uncle about the meeting with the FBI and the Walnut Creek police. If he had, his uncle might want to fly to the Bay Area to attend the meeting. Kevin thought about that. Why would he want to avoid telling his uncle about the meeting? He wasn’t sure. At first, it was because of the travel time and cost, and that Don might want to come, too. But now those weren’t valid reasons for Kevin to avoid telling him about the meeting. He just didn’t know why he was still secretive about it.
This was important. He needed to talk about it with Dr. Ranse at their Friday session. Maybe she could help him figure out why he hadn’t told his uncle about the meeting. And how to explain his reason, whatever that might be. He added this to his To Do List and highlighted it in red so he’d be sure to ask her about it first.
He also wondered about Ted Gering. Could he be gay? He’d told Kevin that he’d seen Love, Simon. He referred to it as a gay movie, and he said he liked it. With Brad along, that wasn’t a subject Kevin would bring up. He didn’t want to out Ted to his older brother if he was gay and his brother didn’t know. Also, just coming out and asking Ted if he was gay would be weird and inappropriate. If Ted was gay, it was up to him, and no one else, to tell whomever he wanted to tell.
Why did it seem that so many of the people he knew were gay? Or was it only in his imagination? This was something else to add to his To Do List.
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