I'll give no lame explanation, but an apology for the holdup in posting this chapter. Know that I wrestled with words, and procrastrination gave me a chair slam or two.
In chapter 3 Cole steps up with his story. I promise it won't be too painful.
If I never see that bitch again it will be too soon.
Five days ago the academy held the graduation ceremony. Three days ago I
turned 18 and left that horror of a place, and all that bigoted hate-filled
bullshit cloaked in the hellfire religion. Six years of whippings and punishment for something I have no control over, completed, caput, finito!
My grandmother, Isabella and my stepmother Sara met me at the airport. Both greeted me with exuberant hugs and kisses.
“Ya know we’re gonna be eating good tonight, Cole.” Sara beamed at me.
“Gran must be cooking then.” I received a slap to the back of my head. “Oof,” I grinned and rubbed back of my head. “You have a wicked powerful hand Sara.”
My stepmother feigned anger. “She is cooking, but you don’t have to broadcast it.”
“Wow! New car Sara!” We climbed in to the new two tone, turquoise and white Jeep Cherokee. She backed the SUV from the space and we headed toward Lubek and my home. Familiar stretches of road sprung up before us. Gran and Sara chatted, Texas swing music played on the radio, but I was aware of little. My conscious thoughts focused on five years dead friendships as repressed memories surfaced.
. . .
It was Thanksgiving weekend.
Owen had this battery-powered lantern in the center of the tree house and we were on our bedrolls with our backs against the wall. Owen had stripped to his t-shirt and a pair of boxers and I sat against the opposite wall and watched him. His legs were spread slightly, and I could see right up the leg of his shorts. My stomach felt funny and I was well on my way to getting hard. My jockeys tented and Owen grinned at me. I blushed. Owen, being Owen, rubbed my leg. He did not have to utter a word. I knew he understood. A few moments later he turned off the lamp.
Sometime in the night I dreamed.
First it was about Owen and me horse back riding. The next image was of Travis and ne seated similar to how Owen and I had been previously. I wore only a t-shirt. Travis was naked. We faced one another. Travis giggled and stared where my shirt was tented in my lap. I woke as a hot wetness exploded from my groin and experienced an instance of absolute euphoria.
The week after Thanksgiving I flew to Virginia to spend the weekend with Mother. She and dad were in the process of divorce. What I’d overheard through the use of the old ear-to-drinking-glass-to-wall trick: pretty much the only thing left was deciding where I would live. Dad, Isabella, my dogs and I all wanted me to remain in Lubek. Mom wanted me to live with her.
Mom and dad separated when I was 8. By the time I was 12, she was living with a born again Pentecostal preacher near a town called Tyson’s Corner, in Virginia
Each time I visited were the worst memories I had. She made me call him poppa. He was Darin Moses, a few years younger than Dad, and probably Mom too. His face was a grim mask Darin wore whenever I’d been near him. He seemed to barely tolerate my presence, only speaking to me if Mom was around. I could have been invisible otherwise.
Over Christmas, T, Russ, Fuzz and I slept over at the Owen Camp house. We rode horses. We lit a campfire at night. We ate hotdogs and told ghost stories. T’s were the scariest. That little boy brain of his invented stories so scary that all the moms and even T’s dad went inside.
We slept in what the Owens called a common room. There was a stereo, but no TV. There was a fireplace. Its hearth could fit a good-sized bull. The overhead lights resembled a ship’s wheel. Space on the floor was enough for all five of our bedrolls, although Russ and Fuzz slept atop the two sofas. T slept between Owen and I. I turned fitfully in my bedroll. Perhaps it was the hotdogs, or the ghost stories. I lay sleepless, mulling over the changes brought on my friends and I. My voice was high then squeaky, then hoarse and guttural. Hair was sprouting down there. Owen, Ross and Fuzz were changing also. Little Travis, damn him, had actually grown an inch. He had inherited his mother’s beauty. It often hurt for me to look at him.
We both shifted around during the night. Travis moved in his sleep to press his nose against my chest and wrap an arm around my waist. I had reached into his bedroll and tugged him closer, hands on his back. Thank the gods I was in a bedroll. Old faithful erupted that night. I removed my t-shirt to wipe away the evidence. I extricated myself from T’s hold and slid away from him.
The weekend before Easter I stayed over at Marty’s, who lived across the street from Travis. We slept in his bed, and thank heavens it was a King. At one point in the night I woke, breathing heavily, with a flash of an exquisite feeling down there just as I opened my eyes. Marty was spooned against me. My pajama wrapped painful erection pulsed against his bottom. I was also aware that sometime recently I spewed my stuff into my Spiderman shorts. Luckily he was still sleeping. I was certain of that by his tiny cartoon snore. I tugged off my t-shirt to clean myself. The next morning Marty appeared oblivious to the previous evening’s heat.
At home that Sunday, Dad and Isabella sat me down in Gran’s little parlor. She had her own apartment, bed, bathroom, living, dining room, kitchen and a small parlor. She may have been his mother-in-law, but Dad called Isabella mom.
“I signed the final papers Wayne. Once I return them, your mother and I will be divorced.” Isabella draped an arm over my shoulders. “The thing is Wayne…” he coughed and rubbed at his nose. He began to cry. “You won’t get to live here when the papers are turned in.”
I buried my head in Gran’s bosom.
“Your mother,” he choked again, “is coming to take you to her home on Friday.”
I couldn’t stop it. I turned to face him, my body wracked with rage.
“I hate them Dad.” I wiped at an eye.
“Darin always treats me like I’m not there.”
He regarded me with red puffy eyes. “The decision is made, son. The court says I have to give you up. I don’t know what else we can do.”
“We’ll get together every other weekend and the holidays Wayne.” Gran rubbed my back. “I’m supposed to get you Wednesdays. Your mother knows that won’t be possible, so next summer you will be here for a month then we will stay at Isabella’s beach house for a month. At Christmas break you’ll be back here for a month as well.”
I could not hold back the tears.
. . .
Monday at school my head wouldn’t stop spinning. Beyond thoughts of my imminent departure to live in Virginia, and abandoning all my friends, lay a physical truth that my glands had kicked in to overdrive and were pumping my body and mind full of clouds and daydreams. I couldn’t think clearly. Masturbation, both alone and in the company of a certain other boy was among the varied and rapidly shifting thoughts that impaired my ability to concentrate in the classroom.
That night I realized something. I was twelve years old and would probably never get to see my best friends again. Owen, Fuzz, Russ and Travis would become mere acquaintances. The dearest friends I’d ever had. They were my secret keepers, fellow adventurers, and well, blood brothers.
Something else came to the fore. I’d harbored possessive and intimate thoughts around one of my friends. He’d always been the object we all protected. He had endeared himself, and become treasured by me.
I shook my head and pounded the mattress beside me. I should have been thinking of girls, and baseball: of the hunt and of spirituality. There should not have existed the possibility I could ever love another boy. I’d listened to Darin preach about this in his church. He had shouted from that pulpit: “Hell was waiting for all those queers.” Once, riding home from his church, Darin had slipped a tape in the Bentley’s cassette player, a recording of one of his sermons. He spoke from the tape how the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament condemned homosexuality, and how it was an abomination unto the Lord. There was no way I would ever love another boy.
The next day at school I bumped into Travis repeatedly: on the steps before school, after homeroom, heading to Music, and leaving the lunchroom on my way to gym class. Each time I saw his shy smile and bright eyes, they taunted me.
He asked me things like:
“Cole. Are you going to the movies with us tomorrow?”
“Do you want to spend the night some time this weekend Cole?”
He always tried to connect with me. I had said no to the movie, and that I would be out of town so I could not spend the night. He was genuine and extremely likeable. We had never, and I include Owen Russ and Fuzz in this, had harsh words between us. I mean, none of us ever argued or had a fight with T. He was just that kind of guy. Travis was only 10 years old, but he talked and behaved like the rest of us in 7th grade.
Wednesday was significant for me. It was the last day of school before Easter Break and it would be the last time I saw Russ, Owen, Fuzz and Travis as friends, for the next five years. I would never step in the halls of Samuel Lemming Intermediate, and for a far longer period than I ever wished possible, I would be living with Mom and Darin Moses.
In Home Room I was all mopey, head downcast, eyes red, with a runny nose. Owen, Fuzz and Russ caught on that something was off. Each dogged me in an attempt to draw it out.
Music was my next class. That classroom was in another wing, at the far end of the building. This being a half-day, there would be no practice. Only Owen shared that class with me, and followed me from the room. The two of us headed down the hallway. We’d walked a short distance before Owen grasped my forearm tightly, his face taut with determination. He shoulder clipped me and dragged me to a bench nearby.
“I’m tired of this Cole?” His eyes prodded mine clouded by doubt and confusion. “Just say it.” He had my back pinned against the cold tile wall; his face barely inches from my own. His eyes begged for an explanation. “What is wrong?”
“ You can’t ever tell anybody,” I spoke in a loud whisper. “Swear Owen!”
He raised his open hand. “Okay Cole, I swear!”
I sat a minute or two. The second bell rang. We would swing by the principal’s office to get a late pass after.
“Owen.” I just looked at him. “Mom and dad got divorced.”
“Well yeah,” he screwed up his eyes at me. “That’s been going on since we were 8, Cole.”
“No, Owen. The divorce is final.” I wiped my eyes on a hand. “I’m going to live with Mom and Darin in Virginia.”
“That’s crappy, Cole.” He released my arm, and rubbed my leg right above the knee.
“I’m supposed to leave Friday.”
Owen rubbed his nose with a finger. He wiped a palm across his eyes.
“Jeez Cole.” His sad eyes pierced mine. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Just don’t ever tell anyone.” I told him. “I only get to come home at Christmas and for a month in the summer.” I coughed. “It’s never going to be the same Owen.”
The final bell sounded. I leaped up. “Owen. We need to get to the principal’s office.” He stared at me for a second then stood and we two were running back the way we came.
I stood before the school secretary Doris Kane, a diminutive woman of strong will and great patience. When I had started school, Mrs. Sylestine had babysat us in Kindergarten; Miss Kane had been her aide.
“How can I help you Wayne?” Owen stood behind me. He coughed to cover a laugh.
“We need a pass to band class Miss Kane.” She saw Owen and nodded.
“Russell” She bit her bottom lip, to hide a grin.
Owen stared at her. “Its Owen, Grams!”
Miss Kane shook her head grinning as she scribbled on a pad. She peeled the top sheet off and repeated her scribble. Brandishing a rubber stamp Miss Kane gave the two notes her hallmark hammering smiled at us both and slipped our passes across the countertop.
“That should do the trick.” She said. “Owen dear, you head on to class.”
“Fran- Cole,” her face was solemn. “Your parents, I mean your mother. She called, Cole. She and your stepfather will be here to pick you up at 10:30.”
I couldn’t breathe. My legs and feet were non-responsive. I had a thought, more like I felt a lessening of the atmosphere around me. I faced her.
“May I call home please?” She gave a very small tilt of her head and smiled faintly. The phone was an office phone with all those buttons and extra lines.
“Let me dial.” Miss Kane took the handset from me. “Hello, yes, Isabella?”
She glanced up; I thought to give me the phone,
“This is Doris Kane.” She spoke plainly, not authoritatively. “Wayne is here with me in the office and wishes to speak with you.”
“Gran,” I held the handset tight to my ear. “Mom and Darin are coming to get me.”
“Wayne, we know she’s coming.” My grandmother paused. “She called before you got up this morning. We didn’t tell you because she didn’t know what time they’d land in San Antonio.” Isabella stopped. She sniffed before she continued.
“We’ll ship your other clothes, but Wayne we want you to be happy. But you must know, by law you must live with the two of them. Your dad and I think you’ll have a great adventure making new friends.”
My tears formed two pools on the countertop.
“Your dad and I won’t get to see you again before the summer, Wayne, but know we all love you.” I heard her sob into her fist. “Have a safe trip and we’ll talk real soon.” My grandmother hung up on me.
I snatched up the note and ran from the office.
“Don’t run Cole!” Miss Kane called after me.
I remember running for a bit. I found the boy’s restroom, entered and washed my face. Once locked within a cubicle I hunkered with elbows on knees. My chin was held in splayed palms. I was angry and hurt. My father and Gran didn’t want me. I’d never see my friends again.
I never heard end of class bells. I was blinded by anger and self-pity. I reached for the door to leave just as it was pulled open. I swung my arms to drive the intruder away and realized an instant later that I had just struck T. He’d fallen and lay on the floor clutching his nose.
“Damn Wayne! What the hell?” He bawled.
“Oh god,” and then shouted “Shit!” I blindly shoved and pushed by everyone in my way. I rushed down the hall, until I became aware I stood only a few steps from the entrance to the school’s office. As I approached the glass doors I saw Mother and Darin enter from outside.
. . .
I blinked and opened my eyes. Isabella and Sara were in the front seat. I sat in the back. We turned onto Highway 90 and had bypassed Hondo. Gran looked back through the rearview mirror.
“I sure have missed you this last year Wayne.” I smiled.
“Me too Gran, I mean Isabella!” She snickered. Her eyes turned to the road. I lay my head back.
. . .
Miss Kane was turned toward my folks and didn’t hear my entrance. My mother spotted me first.
“Wayne, sweetie!” Miss Kane eventually turned my way. My mother swept across to engulf me in her embrace. I watched Darin peer about, taking in the ambience. His face had that bad smell mask. He definitely did not approve of
Sam Lemmings Intermediate.
That was when it all happened.
A light blinked on the phone. Miss Kane picked up the handset.
“Yes Mr. Brittnacher?” Darin’s face was a mask of serenity.
“Yes sir. I’ll call an ambulance immediately.” She pressed a button on the phone. “Doris Kane speaking?” her glance shot daggers at me. “Yes, he is.” She stabbed another button, and pressed 911 on the keypad to summon an ambulance.
Mr. Brittnacher left his office. He stood a good deal taller than Darin. He had a thinning thatch of red-brown hair, a parboiled but pasty complexion, and a small but noticeable belly, on an otherwise thin frame. Small gold tinted and copper framed glasses were perched on his hawk-like beak. His face was etched with frown lines around the mouth, complimented with a scowl deeply etched in his brow; his eyes shaded by a bushy uni-brow.
“You are Cole?” He pointed at me.
“Yes sir.” I stood slightly to the side of my mother, who’d finally released me.
“Did you just come from the restroom down the hall?” I watched Darin’s eyes.
They twisted to stare inquisitively at me.
“Yes sir I did.” Miss Kane on hold with EMS scowled her disapproval.
“And did you strike Travis Allen?” Harsh anger slashed the principal’s face.
“What did you do!” shouted my stepfather. Mom tugged me close to her but I could feel her nails, claw-like at my neck.
“Yes sir-But you don’t understand, sir.”
“That will be enough Wayne.” My mother said; her red-painted nails pressed divots in my skin.
“Mr. Brittnacher, isn’t it?” She looked up at the man.
“That’s correct,” he said, flatly.
“I’m Portia Francis, and this is Darin Moses. We’re here to collect Wayne.” She stared at the man a moment. “Let the boy’s father deal with all of this.” She turned toward Miss Kane. The principal stood blinking in disbelief.
“Our flight's at one,” she glanced at Miss Kane before she continued. “Can wejust get Wayne checked out of here?”
The principal’s splotchy complexion whitened further. He stepped up to speak.
Miss Kane cut in. “How about the four of us,” she motioned to Mom, Darin and me, “go clean out Cole’s locker.” She took my hand and walked through the double glass doors into the school hallway. I was nearly dragged, my folks tagged behind to the rack of lockers. I unlocked and opened mine. Everything was stacked neatly. A Captain & Tennille poster covered the louvered vents of my locker. Darin gave the poster his best evil eye. Miss Kane and I attacked the removal of the locker’s effects.
The 10:50 bell rang. The halls became a river of students. One group of kids stood watching our progress.
I heard a girl:
“He’s the one.”
Someone else muttered;
“He really broke his nose?”
“And he kissed him!”
I felt steam venting from Mount St Moses, my stepfather Daren. Miss Kane and I stood up with all my belongings in hand. We faced the way we’d come. The bell for the next class sounded. The halls were barren. My mother and Daren obstructed our passage.
“What’s this all about Wayne?” My mother’s ‘in control’ mask was gone. In its place was shame, maybe disgust?
“After I hit him, I reached down and just touched him mom. I promise.” A tear slid down my cheek.
Darin’s face was a mask of anger and pure hate. It was an expression cast often from him, mainly when he and I were alone.
We returned to the office. I felt things would calm a bit, but it was not to be. Four students, three boys and a girl stood where Owen and I had been a little over an hour ago. Mr. Brittnacher subbed for Miss Kane.
One of the boys said it:
“He came running out and hit the kid, knocking him down. Then he bent and kissed him on the mouth. Right on the mouth!” The others all agreed.
Miss Kane turned to my mother. “I think Cole’s father can handle the paperwork,” she turned to Darin. “If you will send me contact information for the school Cole will attend, we can forward transcripts.” Darin, face veiled by shame just nodded. “Now, you all better get going.” She smiled bitterly but winked at me.
. . .
The car was on highway 83, a few miles north of Sabinal the next time I became aware. Gran was driving. Sara had taken a spot next to me in back. My head was on her shoulder. She lightly stroked the back of my hand with hers. I heard music. I thought it might have been the radio, but I was mistaken. It was Sara humming.
Thank you to my editor Louis. His efforts make me proud.
Chapter 4 is but a zygote as I write this. As you may surmise, next chapter will be delayed....
Thank you reader for your kind attention. Please take the time to leave a review.