“Hey! What are you doing?”
Logan froze, gripping the hand picked bouquet to his chest. Damn it, he was caught.
“Umm… well ...you see…”
The old man climbed steadily donw the steps and crossed the yard towards Logan. The young man considered running but couldn’t seem to make his feet move.
“So you’re the one who's been stealing my flowers. Too lazy to plant your own, hmmm?”
“Oh! No, I swear they’re not for me. It’s just, they are so pretty and Elli always loved Lilies. I couldn’t help myself.”
“Elli eh? So they are a gift for a girl.” The strange man lifted one bushy eyebrow, “I guess girls have always love a bad boy, the rebel without a cause type. You do need all the help you can get to look tough. Well, let’s go then.”
“Go? Go where?” Logan blinked hard, sure he had missed something.
“To meet this girl. I have to make sure she is pretty enough to warrant grand theft flower.”
The old man was halfway to the sidewalk and Logan found himself trailing behind. This was not going to turn out well. He should just take off in the opposite direction, ditch the crazy old coot. What could the old man do; he moved to slow to stop him and the cops really wouldn’t care about a couple plucked flowers. Logan sighed and turned down the sidewalk to follow the old man, his conscience winning out. How could he explain to the man there was no way he could meet Elli? How could he explain while Elli had been very pretty, he was never feminine? And how the hell was he going to explain they were headed to a cemetery?
Logan had never been the courageous type. He was the shy, quiet, stay under the radar and don’t call attention to himself type. His greatest goal in life, at least throughout high school, had been to blend in. To be so absolutely unremarkable that no one would notice him. Of course, this wasn’t how things turned out. Bullies must have some kind of sixth sense that helped them pick up the easiest targets. The ones who will suffer in silence and offer the highest level of humiliating entertainment. No matter how hard Logan tried to hide, to become unassuming and bland, they always managed to zero in on him.
It wasn’t far into freshman year when it started. They teased him for being small, they teased him for being quiet. The teased him because he wasn’t smart enough to be a nerd and because he was horrible at sports. They made fun of his hair and his clothes. And they made fun of him because they thought he was gay. Logan WAS gay, but they didn’t KNOW that. They just assumed it. He tried to deny it at first, but it didn’t matter so he saved his breath. The more they bullied him the quieter he got. His parents tried to intervene, but Logan knew that his parents showing up at the school, guns blazing, would just make it worse. Poor little gay Logan, can’t even fight his own battles, have to call in Mommy and Daddy to save him. He learned how to hide it from them and when he couldn’t downplay it. The first two years of high school had been hell.
“Come on kid, you can’t lag behind, I don’t even know where we’re going. You’re supposed to be the leader!”
Logan was dragged out of his memories when the old man called to him. Looking around he realized they were much closer then he would have thought. Logan turned the corner without a word and cradled the flowers against his chest. He could see the old church down the street, and the wrought iron fence that surrounded the property.
At the start of 11th grade things began to change. A new boy moved into town. The most beautiful boy Logan had ever seen. Elliot instantly became the school’s golden boy. His reputation as an all american halfback had reached the school before he did. At 6ft 200lbs he was the jocks answered prayer and the school's meal ticket to the finals. With a 3.0 GPA, amazing discipline from his military father and boy next door good looks there wasn’t anybody who wasn’t infatuated with him. Including Logan.
He tried to avoid the new kid at all costs. He would go as far as arriving late to class just to avoid having to pass him in the hallway. Logan knew he wouldn’t be able to stand it when the veritable god of his high school joined in on the torture. He knew it would hurt so much more when the guy who charmed everyone singled him out, and there was no way he wouldn’t. He did everything he could think of to hold off the inevitable. Until one day, he couldn’t avoid him.
Logan had been distracted by an upcoming test and was rushing to the library to study when he ran smack into an immovable object. Logan heard himself squeal out as his ass hit the ground and his books went flying. He could feel his cheeks burn as he looked up through his bangs to the sound of jocks braying like hyenas. Logan couldn’t decide if he wanted to scramble to his feet, abandon his books, and run as fast as he could to anywhere but here or lay down where he was a die of embarrassment. Frozen by indecision Logan waited for the remarks. But instead of teasing, the immovable object known as Elliot, helped the smaller boy to his feet and snapped at the jocks to shut their traps. It was the first time anyone had stood up for him, but it wasn’t the last. Turns out Elliot really was a great guy, and he became Logan’s protector. He would not stand for bullying of any kind and whipped his team mates into shape. No one had the nerve to disagree with the super star. He had a way of making people look and feel like fools when they tried to pick on others. But he protected Logan more fiercely than anyone. The two boys became fast friends and soon became inseparable.
Logan stopped at the gate and pushed it open with a creek. The old man looked confused for a moment but his jovial face fell when he realized the implications of where they had come. He followed the young boy silently across the grass. When they stopped at a shiney black tombstone with one name, Elliot, and a short quote ‘Hate does not a man make’.
“Elli was the most beautiful person I have ever met. And not just because of his handsome face. He was good and pure. My Mamma said that was why he was taken from us so young He was too good for this world”
“Was he your brother?”
“No, he was my best friend. And my boyfriend. We only had a few months together before he was taken, but he was my first love and a part of my heart will always belong to him.”
Logan felt the tears begin to pool in his eyes. That summer together was the best months of Logan’s life. They spent as much time together as humanly possible. And on labour day weekend when they shared their first kiss Logan felt like nothing in the world could ever touch him again.
“He was 17.”
It was the obvious question, yet Logan was still thrown for a loop when the old man asked. It was a simple question with a complicated answer. He may not have been the one to land the killing blow, but it was because of him. It was because of Logan the world would never know the amazing man Elliot would have grown to be. Was already becoming.
“We managed to keep it underwraps for months. Sure everyone thought we were going out. Rumors and whispers, but no one was willing to speak out against him. It wasn’t until the end of the semester, just before Christmas holidays, that it was confirmed. Some guys were picking on me, making rude comments and propositions. Elliot got upset and told them they better start showing his boyfriend some respect or they would have to deal with him.
No one was really surprised, but now that it was confirmed they whispered a little louder. Some how it got back to his father. His father was not a good man. Elliott spent most of his time actively avoiding going home until he was sure his father would be passed out drunk for the night.
Over the holidays his father kept him away from me. He would barely let him leave the house and when he did he couldn’t hide the bruises. I tried to convince him not to go back, my parents would have let him stay, but he wouldn’t listen. He said it was only a few weeks and once we were back at school things would go back to normal. We had planned to meet late Christmas Eve, midnight at the swings, to exchange our gifts. I waited all night. When I got home as the sun was starting to rise I was greated by my Mother with tears in her eyes and a Police cruiser.
His Father had caught him trying to sneak out.”
Logan and the old man stood in silence for a long time. Logan allowed the tears to fall freely down his face. Elliot had died because he came out to protect Logan. He died because he was trying to leave the house to come see him. He died because he loved Logan.
The old man broke the spell by reaching over and gently taking the flowers from Logan. He placed them next to the tomb stone gently, laid his hand over the name and crossed himself.
“It’s nice to meet you Elli, your Logan brought me to meet you. You were a courageous boy and the world has lost what would have a been a great man. But fear not, you will not be forgotten.”
The old man stood again and wrapped an arm around Logan’s shoulders and let the younger man cry. They sat for a long time next to the grave and Logan told the old man, Heath, their story. It felt good even as it hurt to talk about Eliot again. Logan told Heath that because of Elliot, Logann had devoted his life to following his late boyfriend’s dreams. He volunteered for number of outreach programs and not for profits working with abused children, LGBTQ+ youth, retired vets with PTSD, and anti-bullying. He worked part-time at a youth shelter for LGBTQ+ youth whose family homes were dangerous or toxic and we in school to become a counsellor.
There were so many ways this tragedy could have been stopped if people would just open their eyes and victims had a safe place to tell their stories. It was important work and Logan was proud to do it, but it took up a lot of his time.
“The quote on his tombstone, that’s what we use as our slogan. Elli used to say it to his friends all the time. Hating other doesn’t make you a man, it makes you a coward.”
“I think it’s fitting. He would be proud of you Logan.”
“Maybe. I just hope it’s enough to repay him for everything…”
“Logan, please, tell me you don’t blame yourself for this.”
“If he hadn’t been sneaking out to see me…”
“No, no no no, Young Elliot is probably rolling over in his grave hearing you talk like this. That boy loved you and he wanted you to be happy, that would not have changed. You are in no way at fault for this. You did not control his father’s abysmal actions, you had no way of knowing how he would react. You were just a child, you are not to blame for the actions of an adult.”
“I try to come see him as often as possible, but I’m not in town anymore and it’s getting harder and harder to come back. I wish I could spend more time with him, he always loved flowers and I wish I could bring them more often for him.”
“Don’t you fret none, I have a lot of free time, I will bring him flowers and spend some time with him. It would have been a honor to meet such a brave young man.”
“Hush now, it’s settled. I am an old man, stubborn as a mule. No point arguing with me.”
“Why, why would you do that?”
“There was once a time when I would have seen things as his father had. It has taken many years for the sense to get knocked into my thick skull and almost losing any possible relationship with my own grandson. I’m not proud of my behaviour, but I won’t deny it. I was closed minded and full prejudiced. But it seems an old dog can learn some new tricks. Hate does not a man make, and I almost learnt it too late. I wish I had been as wise as your friend, I have a lot to make up for.” Heath paused for a moment before continuing with a sad smile, “I’m too old to fight with you so let an old man help how he can. I will watch over Elliot while he rests and you fight the good fight. For everyone who can not fight for themselves. And when you can you will come and visit us, and tell Elli and I all about the battle.”