Marshall had been Skylar’s good friend, but all of a sudden that changed.
Skylar doesn’t understand why his former friend bullies him now.
Kids can be mean. No, actually I should say, mostly Marshall can be mean. In fact, he had been a fucking asshole since school started in September and nobody knew that better than Skylar. He’d been subjected to some pretty constant put-downs and harassment for weeks. It had never been physical, and although it was one of the last things he would want to do, he often wished it had been, because physical he could have dealt with.
What made him feel worse was that he and Marshall had been good friends and had gotten along great last year. Throughout high school, Skylar had been a quiet keep-to-yourself kinda guy and considered few people more than just acquaintances. Marshall was one of the few. Since he couldn’t understand what had changed, it really bothered him.
Everything started to come together one Monday morning, though. Marshall and his buddies had already made fun of him for the third time, and he’d just had enough. After spending most of third period trying to calm down, he excused himself from class, locked himself in a washroom stall and had a good cry. As he was getting to the point where felt he was feeling less likely to want to do someone in, a group of boys wandered into the washroom.
After hearing a noise, one of the boys asked, “You having a wank?” laughing as he banged on the cubicle door.
“Just leave the poor guy alone,” another voice said. A voice Skylar knew. It was Marshall’s.
“Yeah, just leave me alone,” Skylar said softly, sniffling.
“Dude, are you fucking crying?” the first boy asked again laughing.
“Sounds like that fag, Masters,” one of the other boys said.
Suddenly there were hands at the top of the stall, and Marshall hoisted himself up just enough to peer down at him. For a moment their eyes locked, tears evident on Skylar’s face. Marshal dropped back down. That was all Skylar needed, Marshall seeing him crying. For sure now the harassment was going to get worse.
“So what’s he doin’ in there, Marshall?” one of the boys asked.
“He’s takin’ a fuckin’ shit,” Marshall replied, “and we better get the hell outta here before the smell gets loose and kills us.”
The other two laughed, faked gagging and choking, and they left. After he heard the door close, he just sat there. First, he needed his tears to dry up before anyone else saw them. And second, he needed to think. He fully expected Marshall would have said something to make him look pathetic. Like, he was a fucking faggot pervert and whacking it. He was a little pussy cry baby and crying his little eyes out. I mean that’s what Marshall did, right? But he was taking a shit?
When the bell rang for classes to change, he got up, headed to the sink and gave his face a splash, looked into the mirror to make sure he looked okay, and headed for Bio, his last class before lunch. He didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to whatever the lesson was about though, and as soon as the class got dismissed he didn’t head for the lunch room. Instead, he grabbed what he needed from his locker and left the school.
He had no idea where he was going. Home was out of the question as he’d have to make up some bullshit story for his mom. Naturally, she wouldn’t believe him, and the interrogation would begin. The park seemed like a good idea, but he’d be too visible and have to explain to whomever why he wasn’t in school. A walk through Sanderson’s trees to the river would be perfect, though.
Because of his keep-to-yourself attitude, whenever he looked down or depressed, and a friend or parent would ask him what was wrong, he’d always say he was okay, just tired. Even when there were times that he wanted to reach out to somebody, it seemed like the right person wasn’t around, or it was never the right time. By the river no one would see him, it would be quiet except for the sound of the water, and he’d be able to think, or better yet, not think.
He’d been sitting for almost two hours, just listening to the water and watching it flow by, when he heard the sound of leaves crunching. His first thought was that a rabbit or some animal might be checking him out, so he wasn’t too concerned. As he slowly turned his head towards the sound to see what it was … it was Marshall.
All he could think of was, “How the hell did he know I was here?” followed with, “Why? Wasn’t making his life hell at school enough?” He held his breath and waited for the inevitable. But the inevitable didn’t come. All Marshall did was sit down on the riverbank beside him, and like him, he listened to and watched the water flow by. For several minutes not a word was spoken, and not a sound was made.
Finally, and if the wind had made the leaves rustle even a little bit, he would have missed hearing the words, “I’m sorry.”
He turned, and Marshall was still just staring at the water flowing by.
“I never wanted to hurt you, I’m sorry,” Marshall said in almost a whisper.
“You’re sorry?” Skylar questioned.
“Yeah,” Marshall replied.
“Then why do you do it?” Skylar asked a little more aggressively.
“It was just for fun. You know, to get a few laughs,” Marshall responded, “I didn’t think it bothered you that much, at least not till this morning. I’m sorry.”
“Just for fun?” Skylar asked, “How is humiliating me everyday fun?”
“It isn’t, I guess,” Marshall said.
“No, it isn’t,” Skylar stated.
“Never again though, never again,” Marshall promised.
And that was it. They sat quietly for probably another half hour before Skylar stood up and got ready to head home. As he walked through the trees, Marshall was right there beside him. In fact, even after they left the trees, they walked the eight blocks to Skylar’s side by side.
Not a word was spoken until Marshall said, “See ya,” as Skylar turned up his front walk.
Skylar replied, “See ya,” still trying to figure out WTF, as he walked up to his front door, punched in the code, and walked into the house.
Marshall was good for his word though. Not once during the next few weeks did he do or say anything to humiliate Skylar. In fact, when one of his buddies made an ignorant remark, he told him to back off and leave Skylar alone. It was great. But at the same time, it was weird.
Then one day all hell broke loose. Obviously unknown to Skylar, Marshall had forgotten his phone at one of his buddies, and of course, his buddy had to go through anything and everything he could find on it, like who’s Marshall got the hots for, and so on. As he flipped through everything he could find, he came across several pictures … pictures of Skylar. Maybe that shouldn’t have been a big deal, but the heart emoji on three of the pictures was. It seemed Marshall had the hots for Skylar. When Marshall went back to get his phone he was met with the pictures, a bunch of questions, the word faggot repeated several times, then a punch to the face, and his phone basically thrown at him.
School the next day was a living hell for both him and Skylar. Of course, Skylar had no idea what the hell was going on, or why. All he knew was that he had suddenly gone from being treated with respect, to being called a faggot and Marshall’s butt buddy, among other things. Whenever he saw Marshall, he was alone, had his head down, and was moving fast.
When three of Marshall’s buddies cornered him and threatened to kick his faggot ass, the martial arts Skylar’s dad told him might one day save his life didn’t exactly save his life, but in about ten seconds, one of them was holding his throat and gasping for air, one of them was flat on the floor wondering what hit him, and the third was running for his life.
Marshall didn’t even make it to lunch break before he was out of there. Skylar made it to lunch break, and since he’d seen Marshall walking quickly towards Sanderson’s trees, or at least in that general direction, he decided to hell with lunch and afternoon classes, that’s where he was going. A half hour later, as he entered the little clearing by the river, he saw Marshal sitting there, his arms around his knees, and his head resting on his arms. When Marshall heard him approach, he turned. Tears were running down his cheeks, his eyes were all red and puffy, and the fear in his eyes was obvious.
“I’m sorry,” he said again as Skylar approached him.
Skylar didn’t say a word. He knew something was very wrong, so he just walked over to Marshall and sat down next to him. Marshall completely lost it at that point, turned, buried his face against Skylar’s shoulder and started sobbing. At times he was sobbing so hard he couldn’t breathe. Skylar put his arm around him, just held him … and waited. Finally, after about five minutes, Marshall’s tears slowed down, and he started to breathe somewhat normally again, but he didn’t move. He stayed cuddled up against Skylar.
When he finally did move, he looked at Skylar, and between sniffles, said, “I’m sorry. Oh god Skylar, I don’t know. It’s like everything’s just fallen apart on me. Eric saw stuff on my phone nobody was supposed to see … nobody. I feel like my life is over. I don’t know what to do.”
Skylar still wasn’t sure as to what the hell was actually going on, but he had a pretty good idea as he put the pieces of the day’s events together.
“Marshall, look, I’m here for you man, but I kinda need to know what’s going on,” Skylar said.
“Pictures … he found pictures … of you. Oh god, Skylar, I don’t know what to say. I guess you’re gonna find out soon enough anyway. Skylar, I love you. I always have, and now Eric knows. And he’s told everybody. I’m sorry,” Marshall replied as he turned away and the tears started again.
Skylar pulled him back in, gave him a bit of a squeeze, and after taking several seconds to sort out what Marshall had just confessed, said to him, “Don’t be sorry. I’m not.”
At that, the tears slowed once again, and Marshall made a sound that kind of resembled a loud hiccup before he turned his head and stared at Skylar. Their eyes locked for a few seconds before he once again leaned in and rested his head on Skylar’s shoulder. Nothing was said for the longest time. Then the conversation that seriously needed to happen, began.
And it began with Marshall saying, “I’m sorry, so sorry about before. I so didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I know you are. And you didn’t do it just cause you thought it was fun, did you?” Skylar asked, more or less stating the obvious.
“No,” was Marshall’s quiet reply, “I did it mostly cause I had to stop loving you. I’m sorry. I guess I’ve always loved you, but last year it started to get different. I mean I started to feel about you in a different way, like not just love you but to be in love with you. But I couldn’t be gay. But no matter what I did, all I ever wanted was to love you and for you to love me back. And yeah, I dunno, I just couldn’t deal with it. I’m sorry.”
“Oh god Marshall, you know why it hurt so much when you went out of your way to humiliate me ten times a day. It hurt so much because I wanted that too,” Skylar stated quietly as he gave Marshall another squeeze.
“Oh god,” was all that Marshall could choke out.
After a few more minutes of silence, they did manage to open up to each other. An hour or so, a lot of talking, exploring teammates and others reactions, and exploring each other’s feelings later, and they were both feeling a lot better about pretty much everything, especially Marshall. He was finally able to admit that, yeah he was gay, yeah being gay wasn’t the end of the world, and yeah, sitting there for more than an hour with Skylar cuddling him was pretty amazing, too.
In the end they decided that, with all the shit going down, especially for Marshall thanks to his so-called friends, there wasn’t much chance of him hiding who he was anymore. It still wasn’t an easy decision to make, but Marshall decided that he was going to make it official. He wasn’t going to try to play games. He was going come out, and fuck whoever didn’t like it.
When they walked out of the trees, again they were side by side. This time though, as they stepped out of the trees, Marshall looked at Skylar, grinned, and held his hand out. Skylar gave him an equally big grin, reached over and interlocked his fingers with Marshall’s. They then walked the eight blocks to Skylar’s hand-in-hand. There wasn’t just a simple ‘see ya,’ when they got there either. After standing there staring at each other for a few seconds, Skylar pulled Marshall closer, leaned forward, and gave him a nice little ‘see ya’ kiss … right there, on the sidewalk, for anyone to see. He then turned up the walk and grinning from ear to ear, made his way to his front door, punched in the code, and walked into the house.
True to their word, the next morning they met up at Skylar’s and walked to school together … and yes, hand-in-hand with fingers laced together. They saw heads turn, a few smiles, and a few grins. Skylar kinda wondered if, since they confronted him, maybe his self-defence skills were now a little better known as Eric and his buds seemed extra careful to keep their distance. Needless to say, they became silent strangers, which of course was no big loss. And, in no time, thanks to Marshall being an outgoing kinda guy and Skylar no longer being a silent keep-to-yourself kinda guy, they soon had a whole new group of friends, friends that were actually worth having.
The only, sort of, incident was when Sheila confronted them after school a few days later. It was kind of a weird conversation. Part of which was like, “I haven’t had a date for months, following you around and hoping that if you noticed my boobs, you might want to play with them, and maybe we’d start going out.”
Now I’m not sure serious laughing was exactly appropriate, although Marshall did say, “Sorry.”
I don’t think saying, “I should mention you have other things I’d like to play with even less,” was remotely appropriate either.
Her reply, “You’re a total dick,” did seem somewhat appropriate though.
Still laughing, Marshal answered with, “Aw thanks, Sheila. I like dicks.”
At that point she looked at Skylar, turned and smacked Marshall on the arm, and said grinning, “Yeah well, with that attitude, you’d have been more trouble than you’re worth anyway,” and she was off. Apparently, she’d noticed Reggie wearing some very nice tight jeans, and he’d attracted her attention.
And if you’re wondering about parents and family. Well, Skylar’s parents and family had known for years. In fact, he came out to them when he was thirteen. Did they have a problem with it? Not in the slightest. They didn’t play the ‘you’re too young to know card’ or anything else as far as they were concerned, Skylar knew who he was, and the idea of challenging that didn’t even occur to them.
Marshall, on the other hand, hadn’t been out to anyone. However, his Uncle Leo and his cousin Hunter were, and it was clearly no big deal to his mom or his dad. So for Skylar, it was basically out to the world. For Marshall, it was, out at school done, out to parents and family next. Well okay, since they went to the same school, it was out at school and younger brother Chad done, out to parents next.
And the only reaction he got from Chad was a big grin, a pat on the back, and “You got bigger balls than I do.”
To which he replied, before getting a rather painful punch in the arm, “Well, obviously.”
Even though he wasn’t particularly concerned about his parent’s reaction, it still took over a week to build up the courage. It was the next Friday evening when Marshall, his mom, dad, and Chad were sitting down to the evening meal that he decided it was time.
Of course, the one thing he didn’t know was that coming out to the parents would just be a formality. You see, his dad and mom had been shopping for groceries on Monday, and guess whose house they drove by on the way home? Yep, Skylar’s. In fact, it took his dad most of the day to recover from the jab he got when his mom noticed them walking to Skylar’s hand-in-hand. And they hadn’t missed the ‘see ya’ kiss, either.
But, obviously not having been informed of their observation, Marshall glanced at Chad, got a big grin and a nod, and then started with, “Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something,”
“Okay dear, what is it? Nothing’s wrong I hope,” his mom responded.
“You know, like Uncle Leo and Hunter,” he said with a pause.
“Uh yeah, we know Uncle Leo and Hunter,” his dad said with a bit of a smile.
“Well, I’m kinda like them,” he said staring down at his plate.
“Kinda?” Chad remarked, laughing.
Before Marshall could respond though, his mom got up, walked around the table, and gave him a big hug.
“We know dear,” she said, “And you’re still our favourite oldest son. And we love you to pieces … always will.”
“And nothing will ever change that,” his dad added.
“You know?” was his immediate question.
“Well when we saw you and a particularly cute young man walking down 8th street holding hands a couple of weeks ago, we kind of assumed, dear,” his mom replied.
“And you didn’t say anything?” he asked.
“Well we thought that was up to you,” his dad replied.
“Yeah I guess,” he said before adding, “And thanks for still loving me.”
“Oh baby, of course we still love you. What’s being gay got to do with it?” his mom said giving him another hug.
Then glancing at Chad, he said, “Thanks, man.”
“For what?” Chad asked.
“For being there for me and not outing me to Mom and Dad,” he replied.
“Hey man, like Dad said, that was your call, not mine,” Chad responded, before asking, “So when are Mom and Dad going to meet that particularly cute young man?”
“Still, thanks bud,” he responded, and then with a grin added, “Skylar’s gonna be here in about half an hour. We’re going to a movie.”
After a couple more cuteness comments, the conversation switched to favourite movies before everyone focussed on food consumption. As they were eating his mom did glance at her watch several times, and at the back door a few times. As the half hour was almost up, there was a knock on the door. His mom almost knocked over her chair jumping up to answer it, which of course got a big laugh from everyone else. Then when she opened the door, she did it so fast it seemed to actually scare Skylar.
“Come in, come in Skylar,” she said with some enthusiasm, “Jerry and I have been dying to meet you.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Vance,” he said, giving a questioning look to Marshall, “I’ve … been … dying to meet you, too.”
And so began a rather amusing ‘meeting the son’s boyfriend for the first time’ conversation. At least Chad found it amusing. In fact, as he mentioned later, it was more fun than playing any of his video games could ever have been.
Finally though, when all was said and done, the boys were able to escape to Marshall’s room to hopefully regain their sanity and breathe. A half hour later and they were on their way to the theatre, something they’d been looking forward to for basically the whole time they’d been together.
And yes, Marshall had met Skylar’s folks on day two of their, at that time, almost-relationship. Of course, Skylar having a boyfriend was not only not an issue, but something they’d apparently been looking forward to for some time. And of course, following a little, ‘I’ve been waiting so long for this movie to come out and I so want to see it, and I actually have someone special to take’ begging, Skylar’s dad had gone online and bought them tickets to Call Me By Your Name.
To say the boys enjoyed it would have been an understatement. In fact, they spent a considerable amount of time convincing both sets of parents to go and see it, and parents meeting parents night then consisted of an evening meal out and a trip to the theatre. It being a trip for six as Marshal and Skylar quite wanted to see it again. Chad, however, opted for an evening of Warcraft with his buddy Geoff.
It wasn’t long before it became quite obvious both families were more than happy to have a new family member. And being thoughtful young men, they shared their time pretty much equally between the two homes. Unfortunately, both sets of parents were quite apprehensive about sleepovers. Like who woulda guessed?
Well, they weren’t both A students for nothing, and after giving it some thought, they decided a weeklong camping trip during spring break would be in order, including Chad and Geoff of course. I mean what could possibly be wrong about getting out into the wilderness and being close to nature? Taking Marshall’s family’s six-man tent, and having the other two boys join them couldn’t help but make it perfectly honourable and legit. The emergency two-man tent in Skylar’s backpack was, well for emergencies only, like if Geoff maybe snored or something like that.
And yeah, the week was awesome for many reasons. They’d hiked for miles pretty much every day, and they’d seen a few deer, three elk, a couple dozen rabbits, and a black bear. Without a doubt, it seemed it was a very successful camping trip, and the four of them made it very clear that it wouldn’t be their last.
Then about a week after spring break, when they were sitting quietly under an old oak tree in the park, two of their classmates, Grayson and Kyle, approached them.
“You mind if we sit?” Kyle asked as they sat down beside them.
“Nope, not at all,” Skylar replied.
“So were you scared?” Kyle asked.
“Scared?” Skylar questioned.
“Yeah,” Grayson replied, before clarifying, “Like scared to come out.”
“You have no idea,” Marshall responded, “I was terrified. In fact, I couldn’t even come out to myself for years. Not until the shit hit the fan a while ago, thanks to Eric.”
“Yeah we kinda saw that go down,” Kyle said, “I don’t think I coulda handled it like you did,”
“I didn’t handle it,” Marshal replied, “Skylar did. In fact, I’ve never said this to anyone but him, but I think he saved my life that day. If he hadn’t followed me to the river, I’m not sure what I might have done.”
That immediately got him a big hug from Skylar accompanied by, “And you have no idea how glad I am that I did.”
“I think maybe,” Marshall replied with a smile and a little kiss.
“We’re sorry guys,” Grayson said, “We didn’t mean to bring back old memories and upset you.”
“Not to worry,” Skylar said, “You didn’t upset us.”
“I’m glad,” Kyle said, before looking at his feet for several seconds and then adding, “Grayson and I … well, we’re …………… together.”
“Cool,” Marshall responded.
“I think you already figured that, though. Right?” Grayson replied with a chuckle, “But thanks. And yeah, we’re just kinda thinking about maybe we want to come out.”
‘Yeah,” Kyle added, “We’re so tired of hiding, and lying, and pretending, and trying to play the straight best buds thing. Like you double think everything you do before you do it. It sucks.”
“Yeah, big time. The thing is though, if anyone fucks with you they know they could get their asses kicked,” Grayson said looking at Skylar, “But what about us? Will we just end up getting our asses kicked on a daily basis by the likes of Eric and his buds?”
“Well, I gotta tell you,” Marshall replied, “Before I came out, I was worse than miserable, borderline depressed even. You have no idea how much better my life is right now. I mean I am who I am, I don’t care who knows anymore, and I love who I love … with all my heart by the way. I couldn’t be happier.”
“There’s a freedom after you come out that’s hard to explain,” Skylar added, “Like you said the hiding and pretending are gone. You can relax and just be you. All that double thinking is done with, too.”
“Tell you what,” Marshall said, “Think about it. When you decide enough is enough and you’re ready, let us know. We’ll have your backs any way we can, okay? Skylar will even kick some ass if he has to, ha-ha.”
“Oh god, thanks guys,” they both said at once.
“You have no idea how much that means to us,” Grayson added.
The conversation quickly became more light-hearted, covering everything from Call Me By Your Name, to Love, Simon, to who’s the biggest asshole in school, besides Eric, of course. Oh, and speaking of camping, there would now be a group of six going.
As Skylar and Marshall were walking to school the next morning, before they got halfway there, they had Grayson and Kyle walking with them, hand in hand, with big smiles on their faces. And did the boys get hassled? Once. But it seems that after Skylar walked up and asked the bully boys if there was a problem, suddenly there wasn’t.
And that was just the beginning. Seeing Marshal and Skylar out and left alone was one thing. No one was about to challenge either of them, but seeing Grayson and Kyle out, and seemingly unchallenged was another. Within a few weeks there were seven couples feeling the freedom of being themselves, Andy and Greg, Jesse and Lars, Ginny and Sheila, Nelson and Wayne, Beth and Jenny, and of course, Grayson, Kyle. Marshall, and Skylar. Plus, Grayson and Kyle were well on their way, with the help of Mr. Laramie and Ms. Gibson, to setting up the school’s first ever GSA.
Then it was final exams, then summer break, and the first camping trip of the summer was in the works. Six-man tent, six young men, perfect, right? Of course Marshall and Skylar had to again be prepared for a possible snoring emergency, and apparently, after talking to Skylar, so did Grayson and Kyle. I mean you never know, right? Chad and Geoff, on the other hand, had no fears of an emergency arising.
However, poor Kyle was told he had to spend the first maybe two weeks of the break helping his dad finish building their new deck. With all kinds of apologies, he and Grayson told the others, since it wasn’t fair to make them wait, they should just go without them. Well to Kyle’s joy, it only took four days to finish the deck. In fact, his dad was quite amazed at how much work six boys could do when the mood was right. And nobody lost a finger, a toe, or any other body parts.
The excitement on the drive out was running high, especially for Grayson. This would be his first ever camping trip, as his family’s idea of roughing it was renting a condo in Cancun or Maui. The whole idea of having an open fire to cook over or just sit around, sleeping in a tent, hiking in the forest, seeing wild animals, was going to be totally new to him. Even having some wild critter visit him and Kyle in their tent came to mind. Then again, maybe not. To his delight, they once again hiked for miles pretty much every day, saw deer, elk, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, and an eagle sitting in a tree watching their every move, but sadly, no bear this time. And to hell with Cancun or Maui, this was going to be a memory he’d cherish forever, and the six of them, especially Grayson, made it very clear it was definitely gonna happen again. And it did, twice before the summer break was over.
The rest of the summer they enjoyed laying around doing nothing, swimming at the pool, skateboarding all over town, the trampoline park, and a bit of whatever else came to mind. And of course, when it came time for their final year of high school, they couldn’t wait to get back to their studies … ya, right. But, then again it was their last year, so that was, I guess, a bonus.
And speaking of bonuses, the weekend before school was to start, Marshall and Skylar were going to have their first sleepover. After a reasonably long discussion, their parents, both sets, had come to the realization that they were both basically adults and there was probably nothing they might do at a sleepover that they hadn’t already done.
And as Chad put it when he walked in on the last bit of their discussion, “It’s not like either one of em’s gonna get pregnant, anyway.”
His mom just happened to be close enough to give him a smack upside the head and tell him she didn’t appreciate his crude sense of humour. The dads though, were, it seems, fighting to keep a straight face, and they lost the battle when Chad responded with, “Well, seriously … and ow, that hurt.”
And yes, they had slept together many times in their two-man tent, but this night felt different. As they cuddled up in Marshall’s bed they both felt it, and they knew at that moment this was for forever.
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This story may contain occasional references to minors who are or may be gay. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG13 (in a more enlightened time it would be rated G). If reading this type of material is illegal where you live, or if you are too young to read this type of material based on the laws where you live, or if your parents don't want you to read this type of material, or if you find this type of material morally or otherwise objectionable, or if you don't want to be here, close your browser now. The author neither condones nor advocates the violation of any laws. If you want to be here, but aren't supposed to be here, be careful and don't get caught!