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27. A Miracle on Long Street →

26. Breakfast on Saturn

Sean J Halford%s's Photo   Sean J Halford, 27 Jan 2012

 

The Cape Town HeraldJune 24, 200-

Jonathan Missing

 

Staff at the Predator Reintroduction Project at the Fitzpatrick Nature Reserve are devastated that their star project, Jonathan the white lion, has gone off the radar. Rangers suspected as much when his radio-collar signal was found to be static a few days ago.

It appeared Jonathan was successfully being reintroduced, but all tracking is now impossible after his collar was found - with no sign of Jonathan in sight - near a waterhole in the bush. Trackers have thus far failed to spot the famed white lion, who caused a sensation last year when he escaped from the Peninsula Zoo in Cape Town.

‘We are worried that he has not developed the requisite hunting skills to survive in the bush,’ said Marc McClarty, deputy manager of Fitzpatrick. ‘Thus far Jonathan has not brought down a large kill and until he is spotted we have no way of knowing where he is.’

While small by comparison to its neighbour, the Kruger National Park, Fitzpatrick is comprised of 600 square kilometres of bushveld.

- Seth Rabinowitz, Staff Reporter

*

 

In many ways the hardest part was deceiving my father.

He was surprised that Chris had left, but when I told him that he was getting ready for his mom returning home, he seemed to buy it. I even faked conversations with Chris on the phone. For the rest of the week, I would get up, shower and put on my school uniform and cycle through Newlands until my dad had left for work. After two days I’d had enough and pretended to have flu.

‘How long do you think you’re going to be able to keep this up?’ asked Bella as we sat on my bed. Radiohead was wailing in the background. Rob came in bearing coffee and rusks.

‘Bella is right,’ he said, sitting down. ‘You have to tell your dad.’

‘He’ll go nuts,’ I said. ‘He’ll storm straight to the school and raise hell, which will just make things worse.’

‘Cal, you can’t suffer in silence,’ said Bella. ‘I feel like going to the Major myself.’

‘No, please don’t,’ I said, a little too desperately. ‘They’ll ruin Chris. Mr Dawkins said so.’

‘The fucker is blackmailing you,’ said Rob. ‘Besides, Chris can fend for himself. Why has he been so fucking silent? I’m sorry, your boyfriend is being an asshole.’

‘I don’t think he thinks of himself as my boyfriend anymore,’ I said miserably.

‘This is so fucking messed up,’ said Bella. ‘Because of a little kiss! I mean, it’s not great you were outed like that, but the story needed to come out sometime.’

‘I’m a freak.’

‘Bullshit,’ she said. ‘Then we’re all freaks. Just because we think outside the box.’

Bella took a deep breath, and then I saw her teeth.

‘Oh my,’ I said. Her braces were off, and her teeth were perfect. ‘Your braces…’

‘Yeah, I know. Came off yesterday. Don’t change the subject now, Cal; there are more important things…’

‘No!’ I snapped. ‘I want to change the subject. I don’t want to talk about this any more.’

‘Easy, tiger,’ said Rob soothingly.

‘Sorry, Bell.’ 

‘No worries,’ she said. ‘Drink your coffee.’

‘Yes, Aunty Bella,’ I said, managing a weak smile.

‘Cal,’ said Rob, ‘please think about what we’ve said. I’ll leave it now.’

‘Ok,’ I said, knowing I was lying. ‘You guys promise you won’t blab about this?’

‘I promise,’ said Bella, but Rob looked away. ‘Come, let’s go watch that DVD.’

I wanted to be alone, but they were being so sweet. I felt a little guilty, wallowing in misery, when I had two friends like this. But I couldn’t ignore the ache, the deep, deep weal etched across my heart. Wherever I looked, there was a Chris-shaped hole in my life. I could smell him on my pillow. Some of his clothes were still about, as was his shaving foam in the bathroom. I used it, torturing myself. I desperately clung to whatever he had left in the house. I didn’t change the sheets. I wore his boxers. After three days he hadn’t replied to any of the messages I’d sent or left on his voicemail. Deep down I was angry, but I didn’t want to admit it. I was wrong, you see. I was the little noxious fairy who’d messed with a decent boy and corrupted him, and the heartache was well-deserved punishment. I was a fool for believing I could have my Prince Charming. I hadn’t asked for it, and this was the price of getting intoxicated by a dream. A beautiful, stupid, toxic dream.

It was clear - my mind was weak: I should have resisted my heart’s coup that day in Theewaterskloof.

 

*

 

I was dozing on the couch later that evening when I was startled by my phone ringing. I didn’t recognise the number, and answered it with surprise, as it was past ten.

‘Hello?’

‘Caleb?’ asked a deep, rich voice.

‘Speaking. Who is this?’

‘It’s Mr Mazibuko.’

‘Sir… hello,’ I said, shuddering, and bracing myself for a torrent of admonishment.  ‘How can I help  you?’

‘I hope you don’t mind me disturbing you so late, but I’ve been busy making a lot of sudden decisions about the gala on Saturday.’

‘Sir… I’m sorry…’

‘No, Caleb. You have nothing to apologize for.’

‘Sir?’

‘I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’ve decided to withdraw St Francis from the tournament.’

‘Sir! What do you mean?’

‘I can’t enter my team without my star swimmer when he’s the victim of prejudice.’

I was stunned.

‘It’s ok, my boy,’ he continued. I of all people should know what it’s like to be discriminated against. In this country we have a long and proud history of protesting hatred. In fact, most of the team don’t want to enter without you in it, and I shall be submitting my decision to Mr Dawkins tomorrow.’

‘Sir… I thought you were told that I was ill.’

Mr Mazibuko chuckled. ‘During the bad old days I could smell a police raid coming on a mile off. I just knew something was up when the Deputy Headmaster told me, and I only had to listen to two minutes of schoolgirl conversation to put the whole thing together.’

‘I don’t know what to say, sir.’

‘You don’t have to say anything. I can’t get directly involved right now, but I think it’s shocking the way you’ve been treated. I can’t do anything until the Headmaster returns next week. If anything, you should have just gotten detention at most, you know, we can’t have students sucking face on the school premises. But I was a teenager once too.’

I let out a bitter little laugh. ‘You’re not… you’re not horrified… that I’m… I’m…’

‘For goodness sake, my boy, you’re eighteen and I don’t care what you do with your private life. The only thing that horrifies me is the way you had to be… what’s the word… outed? Yes. That and the cowardly way the staff are not saying anything to Mr Dawkins. So I thought I’d let you know that I’m thinking of you.’

‘Thanks, sir.’ I hadn’t expected this; my thoughts were winded.

‘You’re a good man, Caleb, and you deserve better than this. Just sit it out until you’re back at school; this will blow over.’

I wished I could believe him.

He rang off, and I lay for a long time on the couch, astonished that someone had come through for me when I least expected it. But nothing was healed: if anything, the little rush of comfort was but a thin membrane that was straining as it was stretched across a great festering burn wound of hurt and shame.

A little flame of anger took hold that I hadn’t heard anything from Chris. I picked up my phone and scanned through the messages I had sent him, hoping that I hadn’t sounded too desperate.

I was very calm as I typed out a final SMS to him:

 

Chris. I know you’re avoiding me. This is not how I want things to end. At least let’s do it face to face. We owe each other that. If this was a giant mistake, and you want me out of your life, I can respect that, but look me in the eyes and tell me. Caleb.

 

Cubby was still on my nightstand as I collapsed heavily into bed, and I tortured myself a bit more by holding him close to me, but it seemed the obsessional thoughts were a little less frantic as I drifted off.

Sometime, during the night, I thought I heard a car start and drive off, and later I could have sworn I heard muffled voices downstairs, but I figured my dad was watching the all-night movie channel so I just turned around and went back to sleep.

 

*

 

I awoke at around ten, and lay for a few minutes in that foggy stupor where you don’t know what time it is, who you are or where you’ve been. The conversation with Mr Mazibuko filtered in, and I turned around and realised again that Chris wasn’t next to me. Still my body stretched, as if with muscle memory, around the bedclothes to find him. Love, I guess, is as much a way of life as it is a constellation of feelings: you become used to each other, you become each other’s habits. I tried not to think about it - perhaps Chris would slowly wane inside me, atrophy, and desiccate. Whatever would happen, I knew two things: I wouldn’t survive him being ripped out of me all at once, nor would a part of him ever leave me, even if it remained as a scar.

I was startled to see my father casually reading the newspaper at the breakfast table.

‘Oh, you’re finally up,’ he said pleasantly. ‘Can I get you some coffee my boy?’

‘Dad? What are you doing at home?’

‘Oh, I thought I’d take the morning off and told my two very understanding patients that I had something important to attend to.’

My heart beat in my throat. ‘Oh?’ I said, trying to sound casual.

‘I guess you must be pretty bleak that this flu has knocked you out of the tournament.’

I nodded, looking away. I couldn’t bear this much longer.

My father gave me an enigmatic smile. ‘Which is odd, because you wouldn’t be swimming anyway. Because I hear St Francis isn’t competing.’

‘Dad? Oh God… Dad… I…’

He came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder. ‘It’s all right, my boy, I know everything. And I’m furious as hell - not with you - but with the whole situation. But I haven’t ripped off Dawkins’s head… not yet… but I want you to know I’m very close to doing so.’

I shook my head. ‘Dad… how did you…’

‘Perhaps it’s better that Chris tells you from the beginning.’

‘Chris?’

‘Behind you, Cal,’ said my father, pointing.

I looked around. There he was, standing in the kitchen doorway. His eyes were bleak and moist and, dappled in the weak winter sunlight, he looked like a wounded angel. He had dark rings under his eyes and his white T and cotton pyjama trousers looked tragic with crinkles.

‘Cal…’ he gasped. ‘I fucked up again. I’m so sorry.’

‘I - I don’t understand,’ I said, stammering. I was balancing precariously on a cliff of hope that yawned down to a dark valley of desolation.

‘Perhaps this will make you understand,’ he said, as he walked up and folded his arms around me. The kitchen dissolved and then there was only him, his deep wonderful scent, his warm chest against my head, his stubble against my forehead. His breaths were like a high tide, and his sobs were a warm breeze.

At least a minute passed as we hugged each other, until we broke apart as my father quietly cleared his throat.

‘Don’t mean to interrupt,’ he said kindly, ‘but I think you two need to catch up. I think I’m going to work in my office a bit, but I want to speak to you guys a little bit later.’

‘Ok, dad,’ I said breathlessly.

‘There’s eggs and bacon in the warmer,’ he said as he walked out of the kitchen. ‘And no, I didn’t burn them.’

I couldn’t help smiling, and Chris grabbed two plates and started dishing up for us.

‘Better eat up,’ he said quietly, ‘we’ve got a lot to talk about.'

I shook my head in disbelief. I thought I might as well be having breakfast on Saturn.

 



To Be Continued


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Copyright © 2011 Sean J. Halford; All Rights Reserved.

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27. A Miracle on Long Street →