Chapter 2: Bad Dreams
I was so excited and yet scared to death at the same time. School was letting out in two days for the summer and I and my friends had made lots of plans for fun stuff to do during the break. The very first thing I had to do though, the thing that had me stuck in my bedroom for the last thirty minutes or so, trying to summon sufficient courage, was to talk to my parents. Every time I made up my mind to go downstairs for breakfast and get it over with, I'd get as far as my bedroom door and I'd freeze. My hands would tremble as I reached for the door handle and I'd feel sick to my stomach.
"I can do this! I have to do this!" I said aloud to myself.
Somehow I had been brave enough to tell my two best friends yesterday and was sooo relieved when they didn't reject me outright for it. Stacy just gave me a huge hug and we both cried a little; me from the relief of getting what felt like a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and her in sympathy for what she could sense I'd been going through. She said at the time that she had suspected for a while but didn't want to ask me directly in case I wasn't ready to admit it to myself.
Mike had a different reaction. He was very quiet and just sat on my bed looking at me with an unreadable expression on his face. When he finally looked away, his eyes roamed the room and finally came to rest on a framed photo of the two of us. It was taken last summer when our families had visited a local water park together. We had our arms around each others shoulders and were grinning at each other. We were having so much fun.
"Are you sure? I mean this could just be a phase or something, right?" He suddenly asked quietly without looking at me.
"I'm pretty sure Mike, I think I've known for sure that I'm gay for a while now." I responded. "Do you hate me?"
I could feel my eyes threatening to tear up but I managed to force them down and I looked away from him. I was afraid of what I'd see in his face if he turned to look at me again. I hunched forward on my desk chair, my elbows resting on my thighs, my hands lightly clasped and I stared at my shoes, waiting.
"I couldn't hate you Jon." He said with a sigh. "I just need to think about this. I..I'd better go. I'll call you later, OK?"
He got up to leave and as he got to the door he turned to me again.
"Jon? Don't worry OK? I will call you later." And then he was gone.
I gave in to the tears and covered my face with my hands. "Oh God!" I thought. "What have I done!?" I can't lose Mike, what if he never wants to see me or speak to me again.
Mike had been my best friend since I moved into the neighborhood six years ago and lived in the house just over the road from me. We felt more like brothers than best friends and we did everything together, well nearly everything. We had the same taste in movies and music, were in a lot of the same classes together and on the swim team together. We had the same dry sense of humor and were forever playing practical jokes on each other, each trying to out do the other.
I heard the front door close as he left and I stood and walked to my window. I watched as Mike walked slowly back to his house, his hands in his jeans pockets his head slightly bowed. I watched him until he entered his house and closed the door behind him. The sight of his door closing made me feel even worse and I walked over to my bed and lay down upon it. I buried my head in my pillow and sobbed.
I must have fallen asleep as the next I knew I could hear my Mom arriving home from her studio. Mom's a successful artist and was very busy lately organizing another exhibition of her work in a New York gallery; which was now just a week away.
"Are you home Jon?" I heard her shout from downstairs. I would often be over at Mike's place at this time of day, so she always checked to see if I was at home before phoning me at Mike's to tell me to come back for dinner.
"Yeah Mom." I shouted back. "I'll be down in a minute". I got off the bed and walked through to the bathroom to freshen up. Looking in the mirror I was surprised by how much of a mess I looked. My eyes were red from crying and my hair was in disarray. I splashed some water on may face and tidied my hair a little with my fingers then went downstairs.
When I walked into the kitchen my Mom was putting away some food supplies and had her back to me.
"I was thinking maybe I'd make a Lasagna today, with some of that garlic bread you like so much, what do you think?" She asked me without turning around.
"Sounds nice." I said. There must have been something in my tone of voice because she stopped what she was doing and turned to face me.
"Jon, what's the matter? Are you OK?" She said walking over to me and putting her hands on my shoulders.
"I'm OK Mom." I lied. "I just have a headache, do you have some Aspirin I could take for it?" I was relieved when she let me go and went to find me an Aspirin and pour me a glass of water to take it with. If she'd have kept on fussing over me I would probably have burst into tears again.
"OK, well you go lie down for a while and I'll call you when dinner's ready." She said as I swallowed down the tablet.
I went back upstairs to my room but instead of lying down again I turned on my computer to see if Stacy was online. I thought maybe I could get her to speak to Mike and find out what he was thinking. There was no sign of her so I sent her an email instead. I didn't want to put too much info in the email as I knew her parents checked up on her online activities from time to time. So I just wrote that I had "told Mike the news" and was worried that he was upset about it and if she could call him if she gets this email in the next hour or so and then call me back afterwards.
I looked out of my bedroom window over at Mike's house but I couldn't see any activity. His bedroom window was facing mine but the blinds were down so I couldn't see in. I tried not to read anything into that as the blinds were often down.
To pass some time and to take my mind off Mike I browsed around the web for a little while. Soon enough my Mom was calling me down for dinner. My Dad must have come home in the meantime without me hearing him as we never eat dinner without him, unless he was working late at the college. Dad was a professor of History and was in the process of writing another book on the subject, which often had him spending long hours in the library after teaching all day. I washed my hands in the bathroom and went downstairs.
Dinner was awkward for me. I didn't have much appetite and was feeling a little nauseous from worrying about Mike. I tried not to let it show to Mom and Dad and passed off my lack of appetite as the after effects of my earlier headache. I asked Mom to save the Lasagna I hadn't been able to eat so I could warm it up in the microwave when I got home from school tomorrow.
Damn! I had forgotten about school. What if Mike avoids me tomorrow? Or worse, what if he outs me other kids!? No, he said he didn't hate me, didn't he? He wouldn't do that to me. I would die if everyone found out about me! And what if it got back to my Mom and Dad!? What then?
"Jon?" I heard my Dad say. "It's about time you told us the truth, isn't it?" He had a serious expression on his face.
"H..Huh?" I stammered, suddenly panic stricken. "Th..Th..The truth? About what?"
"The truth about you not really liking your mother's Lasagna." He said with a smirk in my Mom's direction. "It's a little spicy for my taste too." He added.
My Mom gasped in mock outrage. "Well! I've never been so insulted! If you two don't like my cooking then we'll have to see what you both can come up with for dinner tomorrow night. I suddenly feel the need for a night off for a change." She crossed her arms and tried to glower at the two of us from across the table.
This had the desired effect and my Dad was soon back-pedaling. "No, No dear! I was just joking, you're Lasagna is perfect just the way it is, isn't it Jon?" This last was delivered along with a couple of elbow nudges to my ribs. It's not as if I needed the encouragement. I had tasted my Dad's cooking before and it's not something I'd be in any hurry to experience again.
"Yeah Mom, I love your Lasagna, really!" I enthused. "I'm just not that hungry at the moment, you know, with the headache and all." I tapped my finger against the side of my head to emphasize the point.
"Hmmm." She said. But she had a smile on her face now, so we knew she wasn't really upset. Mom and Dad liked to have these little digs at each other and it was never meant in any way other than just kidding around.
I asked to be excused and left them to finish their meal. I still felt a bit shaky from what my Dad had said to me. For a second or two there I really thought that he was asking me to confess to being gay.
I was about to head upstairs again when the phone rang.
"I'll get it, Dad" I said as I dashed into the lounge and picked up the handset. I must have been too eager as it slipped out of my hand and I almost dropped it. A frantic little half-dive half-juggling move allowed me to save the phone but left me prostrate on the couch.
"Hello? Stace?" I finally managed to say into the mouthpiece, once I'd turned it the right way around. I was dying to hear how Stacy's call to Mike had gone.
"Hey." Came Mike's reply." I quickly righted myself into a seated position and gripped the handset tightly against my ear.
"M..Mike? Sorry, I wasn't expecting it to be you. Look Mike, I..." I was about to start apologizing to him about our conversation earlier but he interrupted me.
"Listen Jon, can you come over? We should talk about...you know...what you said earlier. Can you come over now?" Mike's voice was oddly unemotional so I couldn't tell anything about how he was feeling.
"S..Sure, I guess." I answered hesitantly. "I'll be there in five minutes, OK?"
After a brief pause then in the same flat tone Mike said, "OK, good, see you in five then." There was a click as he hung up. I sat there looking at the now inert handset for a few seconds then stood up, returned the handset to it's base and went back into the kitchen. Mom and Dad were still chatting over their nearly empty plates and looked up at me as I walked in.
"Who was on the phone?" Mom asked.
"Just Mike, he want's me to come over for a bit, is that alright?" I said. I must have sounded a little anxious or something, although I don't think 'anxious' is a strong enough term for how I felt at that moment, as my Mom's forehead creased into a slight frown.
"Is everything alright honey?" She asked with a concerned tone to her voice. "You look a little frazzled today? You coming down with something?" She had walked over to me as she said this and placed her hand on my forehead in a motherly fashion to check my temperature.
I stepped back a little out of her reach. "I'm fine Mom, just thinking about tomorrow's history test. That's what Mike wants to talk to me about." A half-truth. There was a big history test due the next day, not that I was worried about it though, History was one of my favorite subjects and I always aced the tests. "So can I go over?"
"OK Jon, but be back by 9pm so you can get a good night's sleep. You'll need to be wide awake for your test tomorrow." She said patting me on my arm and returning to the kitchen table. Dad gave me a smile and a little wave and I was dismissed.
I quickly ran upstairs to my bathroom and checked myself in the mirror. I tidied may hair again and splashed a little water on my face to freshen up. Returning downstairs I slipped my shoes on at the front door but didn't bother with a jacket. I was only going to be over the road after all.
I went outside onto the porch and stood there for a few seconds composing myself before heading across the road to Mike's house. I was just about to knock on his front door when it opened and Mike was stood there in front of me.
"Er...Hi." I offered quietly.
"Come on in." He said gesturing with his hand for me to follow him inside. "We'll go up to my room."
I followed him inside and closed the door behind me. I couldn't hear any sound coming from the kitchen or anywhere else so I asked him where his parents were.
"They're working late tonight, some sort of last minute contractual problems so they won't be home until around 11pm. They left me money for pizza again." Mike's Mom and Dad were both lawyers and worked for the same firm. They specialized in business law and often had to put in long hours, especially when putting together contracts for important clients. So Mike was used to having to order takeout food whenever the need arose.
He headed up the stairs and I followed him up. I resisted the temptation this time to take a sneak peak at his butt as he climbed. I didn't think that being caught perving on him would make this evening go any smoother. Instead of going into his bedroom he stopped just outside the closed door and turned to me.
"Jon..." he said placing both of his hands on my shoulders and looking me square in the eyes "...we've been friends for years, right?" I didn't get chance to respond before he continued. "I think I know you better than anybody, we're practically brothers after all. So when you told me earlier today that you thought that you were...that you were...Gay, it didn't make any sense to me. I mean, if you were gay then I would have known right? As we're so close and everything I would have seen it." He took a breath and continued. "So 'cause I didn't see it and as I still don't see it now either, 'cause you don't act gay or do stuff gays do, then you can't be gay, don't you see? So this must just be a glitch or a phase or something and we're going to prove it to you."
I was struck dumb by what he had just said. He didn't believe me! Didn't he see how serious I was when I told him, how difficult it was for me to say? He thought just because he couldn't see something it didn't exist? Was he seriously that arrogant? That's so not like the Mike I thought I knew. Wait...what did he mean by "we're going to prove it to you"? I couldn't get my thoughts in order so I just stared at him and said "What?"
"Hey relax Jon, you'll enjoy this I guarantee it! You see when Stacy phoned earlier to talk about it she was sort of convinced that you telling the truth and that you were really Gay. Hehehe, she's so dumb sometimes. Anyway I told here the same thing I just told you and she finally saw things my way. That's when we came up with the idea of how to prove to you that you're really straight."
This was getting to be too much for me. "Wait...stop Mike, what are you talking about...really straight? I'm not..." I couldn't get out what I wanted to say and I was getting frustrated and more than a little mad at Mike for not believing me. And now he had apparently also convinced Stacy that I wasn't gay, what the hell!?
Mike continued. "Yeah, so you know I've got some money saved up and Stacy helped a bit too, so we went online, you know, to some of those sites I like to visit hehehe and that's where we found her. I called her up and when I explained what the problem was she was happy to help us out, said she'd even give us a discount as it would be your first time. So anyway, here you go dude." He said pressing something into my palm and closing my fingers around it. "No time to lose, she's waiting for ya, hehehe. Go get her tiger!!". With that he opened the door and pushed me through into his darkened bedroom. I couldn't see anything and when the door closed behind me I just stood there totally brain-locked.
It was the sensation of the object in my hand that Mike had passed me that I focused on and I felt its contours with my thumb and fingers. It appeared to me a small flattish packet - metallic foil by the feel of it - containing some sort of flexible, squishy ring about an inch and a half across. What the hell was this? WAIT!! What the fuck!! Was this a...a CONDOM!! That was when she spoke from the direction I knew Mike's bed to be in.
"Hello Big Boy, come and get it while it's hot?" Her voice was low, practically a whisper. My head snapped up upon hearing it and I caught the sense of movement in my direction as my eyes were trying to adjusted to the darkness. I screamed, or at least I tried to. What came out was a cross between a squeak and a croak as I turned and madly scrabbled at the door, trying to find the handle. After what seemed like an eternity I managed to find the handle and wrenched the door open, bolting out into the hallway straight into Mike's waiting arms and the sound of his hysterical laughter.
"Hahahahaha, got you again sucka!!" He proclaimed whilst I struggled frantically yet fruitlessly as his grip tightened around me. "Whoa big boy, hehehe! We were just kidding, calm down, take a breath."
I twisted slightly and saw Stacy standing in Mike's bedroom doorway with her hand over he mouth trying, not very successfully, to stifle her own laughter.
"What...Stacy?...who...but..." Ok, I wasn't making any sense, again, but who could blame me under the circumstances. "What the hell is going on!" I shouted at Mike. He and Stacy both stopped laughing and Mike pouted at me. "Aw come on Jon, we were kidding. I think that joke just trumped anything you've ever pulled on me? You'll never beat that, hehehe. Come on let's go inside." With that, he let me go and steered me back into his bedroom. Stacy, already partly in the room went over to Mike's bed and sat down. Mike indicated that I should sit next to her and he took his computer chair, straddling it and crossed his arms over the back of the seat.
"OK, before you start freaking out again let me say something here." He began, holding his hands up in a placating gesture. "Stacy phoned me earlier because she was worried about whether I was OK or not with you being gay. Let me say straight away that I am 100% OK with you being gay Jon. It doesn't make any difference to me, as far as I'm concerned you're just you and that's all that matters, OK?"
"You are? Why didn't you say so earlier when I told you?" I asked him.
"Well, I wasn't expecting it, you caught me by surprise and I was half thinking that it was another one of your pranks. But then I saw how upset you looked over it so I thought I'd go and get my head straight before we talked about it. I thought it might give you a little time to calm down too, guess I was wrong on that count huh?"
"You can say that again!" I shot back at him. Followed quickly by, "Don't you dare Mike!" as he took a breath take advantage of the opening I'd given him and repeat his last sentence. I knew him too well.
"Hehehe, OK sorry." He chuckled then became serious again. "So anyway, Stace and I were worried about you being too stressed over it so we got our heads together and sort of thought that the best way for you to get over it was to blow it up out of all proportion. That way you'd see that it wasn't really that big a deal, for us anyway. We thought if we made a joke out of it you would have to lighten up a bit too, do you get it? He asked with a hopeful expression on his face.
"Well I suppose I get it, but crap Mike I almost had a heart attack when I thought I was stuck in a room with a...a prostitute." I responded running my hands though my hair, a habit of mine when feeling frustrated.
Stacy slung her arm around my shoulders and gave me a sideways hug. "Probably a good job then that I didn't grab your ass like Mike wanted me to huh?" She said giggling.
"Yeah, probably. If you'd done that you might have ended up with more than a cheap feel 'cause I would have crapped myself!!" I retorted.
"Ewww!! That's gross Jon!" She replied releasing me from the hug and slugging me a good one in the arm. She's stronger than she looks.
"So, are we good?" asked Mike. "You know that we know your gay and you also know that we don't have a problem with it."
"Yeah, were good." I sighed. "But are you both REALLY sure you're OK with it?" I asked looking from Mike to Stacy and back again.
Stacy nodded vigorously and smiled at me. Whilst Mike rose from his seat and walked over to where I was sat on the bed and took my hand. "Jon, stand up." He ordered and I rose and stood in front of him.
"This is how much I'm OK with it." He said and laying his hands on my shoulder he pulled me to him and kissed me on the lips lightly then drew me into one of the warmest, most loving hugs I've ever had. "Friends forever Jon." He whispered in to my ear.
When he let me go my cheeks were wet from the tears I'd been unable to hold at bay but they were good tears. I just nodded and smiled warmly at him. "Thanks Mike, you too Stace." I said inclining my head in her direction. She got up then and we three shared a group hug.
"So..." Mike said eventually, "when are you going to tell your Mom and Dad?" I gasped involuntarily at his question. "I think you should," he continued, "your 'rents are great, they wouldn't mind at all, I'm sure of it."
"Your probably right, but it was hard enough just telling you two. I'll have to time it well. But what if we're wrong, what if they kick me out or send me off to some re-programming camp for gay kids or something..." I was starting to panic again.
"JON!" Mike raised his voice to get my attention. "Stop! Don't think about it too much or you'll always be asking 'what if this' or 'what if that'. You know your parents are cool and you know how much they love you, so relax OK?"
"OK, you're right, sorry." I knew Mike had a point but it was difficult not to worry, the last thing I wanted was be a disappointment to Mom and Dad.
"I think you should go and get a good night's sleep and then tell them over breakfast." Mike suggested. "That way, if things get a bit weird, you can go to school and they'll have the day to get used to the idea. Waddya think?"
"I think that's actually a good plan." I told him glancing over at his alarm clock . "I should be heading home now anyway, I promised I'd be back home by 9pm and it's not far off that now."
We all shared another hug and went downstairs. Mike said goodbye to Stace and I at the door with a promise to talk more on the way to school. Stace and I said our farewells at the end of Mike's driveway and she headed down the road to her place whilst I walked slowly back to mine.
I had some serious thinking to do. Should I tell Mom and Dad about me so soon? Would it make any difference to put it off for a week, a month, a year? Probably not. I was brave enough to tell my two best friends and that turned out fine, well apart from the whole heart attack inducing prostitute incident. Hehehe. I'm soooo going to get Mike back for that!! I should tell them and the sooner the better, just not tonight. I think I'll take Mike's advice and sleep on it, I'll be braver in the morning.
So here I was the next morning apparently stuck in my bedroom, too much of a coward to take the plunge. I was just about to try again, my hand reaching for the handle, when my Mom shouted from downstairs.
"Jon honey, you're gonna be late if you don't get a move on!" I flinched back from the door as if she had spoken from the other side of it.
"OK Mom." I shouted back taking a few deep breaths and running my hands through my hair. "Come on Jon, don't be a such a wuss". I admonished myself silently and opened the door. The hallway and stairs seemed to recede away from me as I stepped forward towards my fate. I was shaking slightly by the time I had reached the kitchen. Mom and Dad were both there, Mom just finishing a bowl of cereal and Dad cradling his morning coffee and flicking through the newspaper.
I went to the fridge and fetched myself a glass of OJ and then joined them at the table. I stared into my OJ and couldn't bring myself to look up at them. mentally kicking myself again I bit the bullet and cleared my throat.
"Umm...Mom, Dad? Can I t..talk to you both for a minute." I stammered slightly.
"Sure Jon, what's up?" My Dad said, putting down his newspaper and turning towards me. Now that I had both of their attentions I could feel myself clamming up again so I cleared my throat again to give me a little momentum.
"I've got something sort of important to tell you both." I looked down at my class of OJ again. It was a little easier to talk when I couldn't see their faces, although I could still feel their eyes on me.
"I hope this doesn't upset you too much but I think I might be...no what I mean is, I don't think I am, I KNOW I am...well, you know what I mean don't you? So?" I babbled at them picking up speed the more I said. I closed my eyes and held my breath at the end waiting for a response from either of them.
"Er, what?" Said Dad "Can you try that again in English please Jon?"
I let out my held breath in a rush. "I'm Gay." I whispered.
I held my breath again and waited. Nothing. No explosion, no screaming or wailing, nothing. My chest was beginning to burn from holding my breath. So I had to let it out and take another. As I did I opened one eye and looked first at my Mom and then at my Dad. They were both still staring at me which was really unnerving but not nearly as much as the smiles on both their faces. SMILES!? They were smiling at me! My head snapped up and I looked rapidly from one to the other.
"You don't mind?" I asked timidly. "You're OK with it?"
"Of course we don't mind, why would we?" Mom asked in a gentle tone. "The question is, are you OK with it? You seem to be a bundle of nerves lately, is this what that was all about?"
"Well yeah, I guess so." I responded, contemplating how stressed out I'd felt recently. "It's just been getting harder and harder to deal with you know, keeping it a secret and all."
"Jon, you've got nothing to worry about, OK son?" Dad said leaning across the table and placing his hand gently on my forearm. "We love you no less than we did five minutes ago. We just want you to be healthy and happy. Who you love doesn't matter in the least from our perspective."
"Oops, look at the time, we're all going to be late if we don't hustle." Mom stood and gave me a hug and kiss. "We'll all sit down tonight and talk it through together, OK? You get off to school and don't worry about a thing honey. And Jon," She took my face in her hands and looked me straight in the eyes. "I'm sooo proud of you for having the courage to tell us."
She let me go and ruffled my hair as she went past me to get her purse from the lounge.
"We're both proud of you Jon." My Dad said as he also got up and left the kitchen leaving me sat at the table nursing my glass of OJ in a bit of a daze. Was that it? I couldn't help feeling a little let down that they didn't have a more dramatic reaction. I know I've been stressing lately and I've imagined all sorts of negative outcomes to my coming out. So when the actual end result is just a simple acceptance, it's sort of hard to think of it as 'no big deal'.
Shaking myself out of my reverie, I finished my OJ and walked to the front door where my parents were getting ready to leave for work.
"What do you say we have a special dinner tonight, Jon? To celebrate." Mom asked as she was rummaging in her purse for her car keys.
"Ok Mom, that would be great." I answered with a grin.
"Well good." She said. "I've got an idea for a special recipe to mark the occasion, but I might need to go to the market to get a few extra supplies. So I may be a little later than usual getting home, OK?"
"Sure Mom, I'll probably be over at Mike's when you get back anyway, so just give me a call." I said as we all left the house. "See you later!"
I left them to retrieve their cars from the garage and I jogged over to Mike's house to collect him for the bus ride to school. I could have got a ride to school from Mom or Dad, as they both drove past the school on their way to their respective workplaces. But Mike, Stace and I always liked to take the bus together.
Mike's Dad's car wasn't in the drive so I knew both his parents had left already. As his parents worked for the same law firm they didn't see the need to run two cars. I knocked on his front door and waited for him to open it. I turned as my Dad honked his car horn at me as he was leaving and gave me a cheery wave. Mom's car was just pulling out of our drive and I gave her a wave as she followed after Dad. I turned back to Mike's front door only to be confronted by him standing right next to me pulling a stupid face.
"Arghhh!" I exclaimed jumping back a little in surprise. "You asshole! Hehehe." I shouted at him but couldn't help but laugh, he was such a doofus sometimes.
"Are you ready or what? We'll be late to collect Stace and you know how she gets if we make her wait on us." I asked him.
"Yeah, yeah! Just let me get my bag and we're all set." He said leaning into his doorway to retrieve his book bag.
"Oh, by the way," I said in a deliberately casual tone. "I came out to my Mom and Dad this morning." He stumbled as he spun around too quickly and caught one of straps of his book bag on the handle of the door which caused the door to swing closed. There was a 'thunk' sound as the back of Mike's head met the wood of the closing door as he comically tried to recover his footing.
"Ow!" He said scrunching his face up and rubbing the sore spot. "You need to work on your timing dude. So come on, tell me all about it. How did you tell them and more importantly what did they say when you told them?" he asked excitedly.
"Let's go get Stace and I'll tell you both about it at the same time." I said starting down the drive."
"Aww, come on Jon! Tell me, I can't wait that long! Pleeease?" He pleaded, trying to pout and make sad puppy dog eyes at me at the same time.
"Hehehe, no way dude, you'll have to wait all of five minutes till we get to Stacy's." I walked on down the road towards Stacy's house less than a block away. Mike made two more, unsuccessful attempts to extract information en route. It was kinda fun keeping him in suspense.
Stace was outside her house waiting for us as we rounded the corner. I could see she was irritated by the way she kept looking at her watch and tapping her foot rhythmically. She kept this up even after she spotted us walking down the sidewalk towards her. She hates being kept waiting for anything.
"Let me tell her OK?" I asked Mike under my breath as we came to a halt in front of her. He silently nodded his assent and smirked at me. He does tend to just bust out with things sometimes, especially other peoples secrets and I wanted to make sure he was clear that it was my news to tell.
"Finally!" She huffed. "I was just about to leave without you two. Come on or we'll miss the bus." With a last disdainful glance at us she turned and started marching off in the direction of the bus stop. I grinned at Mike as we fell into step behind her.
I waited until we got to the bus stop before saying anything. I didn't know how she'd react to the news and I definitely didn't want to do anything to cause her to miss the bus. There were a few other neighborhood kids waiting when we got there idly chatting amongst themselves. Before we got too close to them I took hold of Stacy's arm gently but firmly.
"Just a sec Stace." I said, glancing around to make sure I wouldn't be overheard. "I did it. I told them this morning." I whispered to her.
She raised her hand to her mouth her eyes wide in shock. "Omigod! Really? What happened? Are you OK?" She tried to whisper back at me, only it came out like more of a shriek. It was certainly loud enough to get the attention of the other kids who were now glancing at us and wondering what was going on.
"Shhh! Keep it down Stace!" I hissed, leading her a few paces further away from the bus stop and hopefully out of earshot of the other kids. Mike stayed close to us of course, being just as keen as Stacy was to hear what had transpired.
"I told them both over breakfast. It was hard to say, really hard." I explained, recalling how tongue tied I'd been at the time. "But they were actually...cool about it. If 'cool' is the right word? They just said it didn't matter as long as I was happy. Oh, and my Mom's cooking a special meal for us tonight so we can celebrate."
Trying to suppress a squeal, Stacy pulled me into a hug. "Oh Jon, that's so great! I'm so glad it went OK! I mean, we were sure it would be OK but it's just fantastic to hear that you told them and everything was OK." She gushed enthusiastically. "So how do you feel, now that you've told them?"
"OK, I guess." I shrugged, taking a moment to think how exactly I did feel about it. "Relieved that I don't have to hide how I feel from them anymore and that I don't have to pretend to be somebody I'm not. I can just be me, you know?"
Mike clapped me on the back. "Good for you, Jon, good for you."
Luckily the bus made an appearance at this point or I may have become emotional again. We boarded and took our usual seats and for the next 30 minutes just chatted about this and that. Mostly about the fun we were going to have over the summer. We couldn't really talk safely about my coming out to my parents for fear of being overheard and I definitely wasn't ready to be out at school. Hell No!"
Actually, the closer we go to school the more anxious I found myself becoming. Having come out to my parents, would there be anything different about me that would be detectable by the other kids at school. I glanced nervously about the bus but nobody appeared to be paying me any more attention than usual. Phew! 'Ok, just relax, there's no way they know anything.' I kept telling myself. But when we got off the bus and entered the school I couldn't help feel a little paranoid about it.
After dropping off our bags we made our way to our History class. At least Mike and I did. Stacy didn't have quite the same schedule as us so we shared fewer classes together. So she blew us both a kiss and disappeared upstairs for her English class with a promise to catch up with us at lunch.
As expected the History test was a breeze and I had finished with at least 10 minutes to spare. Mike wasn't too happy though, History wasn't one of his favorite subjects. I had tried to tutor him a few times but he just didn't seem that interested, so I left him with the offer of help if he needed it and dropped the matter.
The remaining classes before lunch were uneventful. With summer break fast approaching there was an almost palpable tension building in the student body. Recognizing this, teachers tended to scale back on the work load and so classes the last week before school let out were usually quite relaxed.
Mike and I met up with Stacy outside the entrance to the cafeteria and walking in together we joined the a la carte lunch line. As we were selecting our food there was an announcement over the Public Address system.
"Would student Jonathan Barrett please report to the Principal's Office immediately. I repeat, would student Jonathan Barrett report to the Principal's Office immediately." The Principal's Secretary's somewhat nasal voice requested.
I frowned and looked at both Mike and Stacy in bemusement. "Mike can you take my tray for me. I'll go find out what they want and will be back in a minute OK?" I asked, making sure to give him enough cash to cover the cost of my lunch.
"No problems." Said Mike and, balancing the proffered tray precariously, made his way to the cashier.
I left the cafeteria and made my way to the Administrative wing where the Principal's Office was located. Opening the door to the secretary's office I was shocked to see my Dad sitting in the waiting area. He looked awful. His face was drawn and his eyes looked a little bloodshot.
"D..Dad? Why are you here? What's wrong?" I asked him. I was starting to get some really bad vibes from this situation.
Dad just got up and walked over to me. "Jon, get your stuff, you have to come with me now." He took my arm and led me out of the waiting area, nodding to the secretary curtly on as we left. "I'll explain everything in the car on the way."
"On the way where Dad? Where are we going?" I asked anxiously as we walked to my locker to get my bag.
"Not yet Jon. Wait till we get to the car OK son?" There was something about his tone that scared me but I didn't ask any more questions. When we got to my locker I struggled with the combination lock because my hands were shaking. It took three attempts to open the lock. I retrieved by bag, shouldered it and closed my locker then followed Dad out of the main entrance an over to where he had parked the car.
Getting into the car, I threw my bag into the back seat and waited for Dad to get into the driver's seat. I looked at him expectantly but he just sat there for a few minutes with both of his hands on the steering wheel and his head slightly bowed.
"Jon, we need to get to the hospital, your mother's had an accident." He suddenly said whilst turning to look at me.
"What! What sort of accident, is she OK?" I exclaimed.
His eyes met mine briefly and I could tell this was going to be bad. "A car accident. She phoned me about an hour ago to say she was shutting up the studio early and going to the market for those supplies she wanted for our meal this evening. She said she wanted to get started on it as soon as possible as she also wanted to bake a cake for you and for it to be ready for the time you got home from school." He looked at me again and reached over and squeezed my hand. I don't know if he was trying to comfort me or himself, probably both. "She's in a bad way son. The hospital called me to say she was in Intensive Care and to get there as soon as possible. Jon, they're not sure she's going to pull through."
A whole host of emotions were playing out in my head. Shock and fear being the strongest. I was starting to feel nauseous too and my chest was feeling tight. Every breath felt like it was taking twice the usual effort. I gripped his hand tightly and squeezed my eyes shut to try to get control of the panic I could feel welling up inside me.
After a few seconds I felt a little better and looked at Dad again. "Well let's go then Dad, what are we waiting for?" I said letting go of his hand and fixing my seatbelt.
The drive to the hospital was tense. It only took 10 minutes or so but every traffic light was torture. It felt like every other driver was conspiring against us to delay us as much as possible. When we finally got there Dad parked and we made are way quickly into the hospital and went straight to the reception desk to find out where Mom was. We were given directions to the Intensive Care unit on the 4th floor and after a short elevator ride we were walking up to yet another reception desk. Dad spoke to the nurse on duty, giving his and Mom's names and asking for information about Mom's condition.
The nurse showed us to a waiting room and told us that the doctor would be through to speak with us very soon. She handed Dad a bundle of forms to fill in and went back to desk. How the hell could they expect Dad to fill in forms at a time like this? I expect they were for insurance but I couldn't see given the angle Dad had them on his knee. It was probably only 10 minutes before the doctor finally appeared and approached Dad. I couldn't read anything in his face to indicate how Mom was doing.
"Mr Barrett, I'm Dr Charlton. Would you care to come with me please to one of our meeting rooms so that we can discuss you wife's condition?" He said indicating to several doors down the hall with a wave of his arm.
Dad and I both stood and made to follow the doctor as he turned and led the way. When he saw that I was also coming along he paused.
"Um, Mr Barrett, maybe it would be better if we were to speak alone at this time." The doctor said with a concerned look in my direction.
Dad looked at me and then back at the doctor. "No." He said emphatically. "Anything you have to say to me you can also say to my son."
The doctor didn't appear too keen on the idea but acquiesced to my Dad's request. "Very well Mr Barrett, this way if you please." He continued down the hall and opened one of the doors and ushered us both inside.
The room was small and spartanly furnished. There was a row of three chairs on one side and two on the other with a small desk in the corner. The doctor took on of the chairs in the row of two and Dad and I took seats opposite him.
"Mr Barrett I don't know what information you've received about your wife's accident but I'll sum up what I know from the ambulance crews' verbal report. You wife was involved in a car accident a little over an hour ago. Her vehicle was struck on a crossing by another car which had apparently run a red light. The other car was traveling at a considerable speed and impacted your wife's car on the driver's side. You wife received the full force of this impact. When she arrived at the Emergency Room she had several serious injuries the most severe of which were a fracture to the skull, a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. Her left arm was broken in several places and her left knee was dislocated. We were able to re-inflate her lung and stop the internal bleeding and have reset her knee and stabilized her broken arm." This was all delivered with the practiced efficiency of someone used to being the bearer of bad news. "Of most concern to us at the moment is the head injury. An initial CT Scan indicates that there is significant swelling of the brain caused by the blunt trauma. We are currently keeping your wife in a chemically induced coma to limit the effects of this swelling. We are monitoring the inter-cranial pressure and may still have to operate to relieve the pressure if it gets too high. Do you have any questions?"
"Can we see her." Dad asked quietly.
The doctor nodded. "Yes, although as I said, your wife is currently in a coma and will be unable to respond to you. I must also warn you that her appearance my be shocking for you and I would strongly advise you to see her on your own in the first instance." Dad looked at me and I shook my head at his unasked question. I wasn't going to wait outside. I wanted to see her regardless of how she looked.
Dad turned back to the doctor. "We'll go in together doctor, thank you." He said placing an arm around my shoulder and giving me a sideways hug.
The doctor stood and opened the door. "Very well Mr Barrett, please come this way and I will take you to your wife."
We both stood and Dad kept his arm around me as we followed the doctor further down the hall to one of the ICU patient rooms. Before he showed us inside he turned to my Dad again and placed his hand on Dad's shoulder.
"Please let me know if you have any further questions or if I can help in any way." And with that he opened the door and we were presented with scene from my worst nightmare.
I gasped when I saw her and involuntarily clasped at my Dad's arm for support. It was horrible. She hardly looked like Mom at all. What I could see of her face looked raw and swollen. Both of her eyes were blackened, moreso on the left side and her head was swathed in bandages. Her left arm had some sort of metal frame around it and there appeared to be metal wires fixed to the frame that were actually piercing my Mom's arm. There was also thick bandaging on her exposed left leg, all the way from her ankle to her hip. She looked so broken and vulnerable I felt like sobbing but fought back the tears. If I started I might not be able to stop.
There were banks of monitors and what looked like yards of plastic tubing and wiring. There was a thick tube in Mom's mouth attached to what I assumed was a ventilator. I had seen this kind of scene in lots of TV shows but I never imagined I'd ever get to see the real thing. It's not something I'd ever want to see again either.
We approached the bed and the nurse who was taking readings from the various monitors stepped out of our way so we could get closer. We went around to the left side of the bed and Dad took Mom's uninjured right hand in his.
"Julia? Julia, we're here sweetheart." Dad said softly and his voice broke a little. I looked up at him and there were tears in his eyes. I don't think I've ever seen my Dad cry. In some ways it was more disturbing than than the sight of Mom's battered body. Dad had always had a quiet strength, a calm self-assuredness that I had taken for granted I suppose. To see him on the brink of emotional breakdown was massively discomforting.
"It'll be Ok Dad, Mom'll be back on her feet in no time, you'll see." I said the words in the hope of bolstering my Dad's flagging spirits, but looking at my Mom I didn't know whether I believed what I was saying.
Dad offered me a weak smile and just squeezed my shoulder again.
We managed to stay with Mom for another 30 minutes before the ICU nurse suggested it would be better for Mom if we left her to rest. I kissed Mom on the cheek and told her that I loved her and as we left the room I paused in the doorway, looking back over my shoulder.
Sensing my hesitation Dad squeezed my shoulder again. "Come on Jon, let's have another word with the doctor and then we can head home. She's in good hands."
We found the doctor at the ICU reception desk flicking through some papers. Dad approached him and asked how soon it would be before they knew whether Mom was out of the woods. The doctor told Dad that they would perform another CT Scan in the morning and if the brain swelling had reduced sufficiently they would bring Mom out of the coma and allow her to wake up slowly. They would then perform a battery of tests to evaluate if there were any functional problems.
He had actually said 'functional problems' but I had heard 'brain damage'. I dismissed that notion though as soon as it entered my head. Nope, not my Mom. Dad thanked the doctor again who assured us he would do everything he could to ensure Mom had a positive outcome.
The drive home was quiet, Dad and I both lost in our own thoughts. Before I knew it we were pulling into our drive and Dad was switching off the engine. Neither of us made any move to get out of the car.
"Are you hungry?" Dad asked. "You missed lunch didn't you?"
"I don't know." I responded unable to really recall much of what happened before Dad picked me up, it all seemed a bit hazy. My stomach rumbled noisily at this point. At least a part of me knew how it felt.
"I'll take that as a yes, come on I'd better eat something too. Your Mother will skin us alive if we don't take care of ourselves while she's unable to." He forced a smile and I forced one back. We weren't fooling each other but we went through the motions anyway. We both got out of the car and went into the house.
I sat at the kitchen table and allowed Dad to fix us a bowl of cereal each. Apart from the crunching of cereal as we ate the meal was a silent one. When I finished I just sat there staring into my empty bowl until Dad had finished his.
"Why don't you go and have a nap Jon? I bet you're as exhausted as I feel." As he said it I suddenly felt a wave of tiredness wash over me and, nodding in assent, it was as much as I could do to drag myself upstairs to my room. My limbs felt leaden and my eyelids kept trying to stay closed when I blinked.
Reaching my bed I collapsed upon it and curled myself into a fetal ball, my arms hugging my knees and my head tucked in. I was out like a light.
I don't remember if I dreamed, but the next thing I knew I was opening my eyes and my room was dark except for the faint moonlight shining through my window. I lay there unmoving for a few minutes, listening for any sounds of life. Nothing. No distant sound from the TV or activity in the kitchen. Then it all came flooding back, Mom had been in an accident and she was in the hospital seriously hurt. I jerked up off the bed and stumbled slightly as my joints felt a little stiff. I must have slept in one position for...how long had I slept? I didn't know what time it was when I came upstairs but worked out it must have been around 3pm and it was now...looking at my alarm clock the digital display read 11:15pm...shit! I'd been asleep for over eight hours!!
I left my room and headed downstairs. All the lights were still on so I assumed my Dad hadn't gone to bed yet. The kitchen was empty so I poked my head into the lounge. My Dad was sitting on the couch in front of the TV which was on mute. He had the phone in his hand and was just sitting there staring at it.
"Dad, are you OK?" I asked causing him to start slightly but he kept his eyes locked on the phone. He blinked a few times then looked at me.
"She's gone." He said flatly and turned back to stare at the phone.
"What? Dad? What are you talking about?" As I said it I realized that I didn't want him to answer me.
"The hospital just phoned. They said that the pressure on her brain suddenly increased and by the time they were ready to operate it was to late, too much damage had been done. They couldn't save her. She's gone, son. She's gone." He seemed to shrink in upon himself as he spoke and by the time he'd finished the floodgates had opened and he was openly sobbing. He dropped the phone and covered his face with his hands.
I ran over to him and wrapped my arms around him. As what he had said sunk in, I too was now crying freely. She's really gone. My Mom was really...dead and I was never going so see her again. This can't be happening. She was fine this morning, we were happy. We were going to have a nice meal tonight...Oh God! She was going to the market to get supplies for the meal when the accident happened. This was all my fault!! If I'd never told them about me then Mom wouldn't have gone to the market and she wouldn't have crashed and she wouldn't be dead now. What have I done?!
"D..Dad?" I said between sobs. "I'm s..sorry Dad, I didn't m..mean to Dad. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."
"Jon, it's OK son, it's alright..." I could hear Dad's voice but there was a roaring in my ears and I couldn't stop. This was all my fault. "...I'm sorry, I'm sorry.."
"JON, WAKE UP!!" I felt myself being shaken and then Dad was there holding me with a concerned look on his face. "Jon, it's Ok son, you were just having a bad dream."
"Huh?" I glanced about the aircraft cabin. I realized that the roaring noise I had heard was just the sound of the jet engines. Some of the nearby passengers were looking at me with curiosity. Even the boy from a few rows down was looking back at me again. I turned away from their gazes and looked back at my Dad. "Dreaming? Yeah, just a bad dream. Sorry if I disturbed you."
"Are you OK son? Do you want a drink of water? We'll be landing soon enough and we can have a bite to eat before we continue our journey." He asked with that concerned tone I'd gotten so used to in the last few months.
"No thanks Dad I'm not thirsty and don't worry about me, I'm fine." I lied, I was very fucking far from fine. "It was just a bad dream."
To be continued...
This is my first attempt at a story. Any feedback would be gratefully received.