“It’s just a stupid title,” I said, hoping to calm Brett down yet again. It had been a week since Mr. Hartley had threatened me by threatening my best friend’s future. I had told Brett about it right away. Every time I thought he had finally calmed down about it, he brought it back up.
“No, it’s more than that! You can’t let that asshole do this to you! You just can’t! Not again. I’m so sick of assholes trying to manipulate you!”
“Brett, I get it, and I appreciate your support for me. But I really don’t care about valedictorian. I never wanted it. All it’s caused is a bunch of grief in my life. I don’t want it.”
“So you’re willing to let Sarah win? You’re willing to let all the people who told us that we couldn’t be together win?”
“Yes. Because there’s no one who can keep us from being together, and I don’t give a shit about Sarah fucking Taylor. She’s as much a pawn in this stupid game as I am.”
“Keep telling yourself that while I go kill that jag off for doing this to you,” Brett steamed.
“Brett, no. I don’t want to fight this guy. This is different. Mr. Hartley isn’t like those other people. He’s smarter than them. Everything I could do, he’s already thought of. If I go to the principal, or even the cops, do you think they’ll ever find that video on his phone, or on his computer? It’ll be on the internet. He’s willing to blackmail Mr. Taylor if he has to to get what he wants. What chance does a stupid kid like me have against a guy like him?”
“I still think you should just tell Dustin.”
“What good will that do? It’s entirely likely he wouldn’t even care. Hell, he might even be proud of it. But I can’t do that to him. He’s been through enough. He doesn’t need one more monster to fight. And besides, I really am at peace with this. I don’t need to be valedictorian to prove I’m smart. I’ll have one B plus and a hundred A’s. I’m sure some of those A’s I got a little help along the way, just like Sarah. And I’m already accepted to the college I wanted. I have enough scholarships and grants that I’ll only be in debt for the next twenty years from student loans. I mean, yeah, it would have been nice to have Jack’s internship or your mom’s money to help out, but I’ll be okay. I might be eating Ramen noodles for a few years, but I’ll make it. As long as I’m a student I’ll be on mom’s insurance, so I won’t go without insulin or anything, even though it’ll still be expensive even with insurance. But best of all, I’ll have you!”
“Yeah, about that…” Brett said.
“What now?” I groaned.
“Yeah, so mom’s going to be moving to Chicago after graduation. She told me there’s nothing here for her anymore, now that the cat is out of the bag and her friends have all turned on her. She said I could go with her, but I don’t really want to. So, was your mom serious about letting me live here or what? Because if not, I’ll need to find someplace to live. I’m sure as hell not moving to Chicago with her. Not after she slapped me in front of everybody. I don’t think that bitch is in the mood to buy me a house.”
“Well, I’d have to talk to mom, but she did say you could stay here didn’t she?”
“Well sometimes people say things when they’re in an argument they don’t really mean.”
“We’ll talk to her,” I replied. “Speaking of talking to people, are you still giving your mother the silent treatment?”
“I think I may have nodded when she asked me a question yesterday,” Brett said. “That should count for something. I can't help it if she's got menopause and lost her fucking mind or something.”
“Brett, it’s been a week! I swear you're such an asshole sometimes.”
“I'm hungry,” Brett said, hoping to change the subject.
“You can walk now. Go make something yourself,” I said.
“My leg hurts,” Brett whined.
“Walking will help it feel better,” I replied.
Brett grumbled again as he got up and hobbled out of my room to the kitchen.
“At least we don't have steps in our house!” I called after him.
“Fuck you!” Brett replied as he continued slowly to find food. It was great to see him walking on his own without crutches. He was scheduled for yet another doctor’s visit to get rid of the cast forever at the end of the month, and he would have a walking boot after that. It would be removable, so he could finally shower again, and I wouldn’t have so many bruises on my shins in the morning! He’d pretty much moved in with us anyway since his mom had slapped him. He’d only spent a night or two at his own house since everything blew up. Every other night, he’d slept in my bed with me.
On Wednesday evening we talked to mom about everything. Mom was very helpful with showing us that things could work out, but it would be more difficult than we anticipated.
“I mean, we can make it work if we have to,” she said. “But it’s not as simple as having a four-year-long sleep over. You boys have to eat, you know. And if his mother isn’t willing to support him…”
“I can get a job,” Brett insisted.
“That’s a start. Are you planning to do that and go to school?”
“I hadn’t thought about that.”
“Well Brett, there’s a lot of things you need to think about. If you stay here, it won’t be like you have it at home. We’re barely making it with just the three of us. David and I both work full time just to make ends meet. Billy’s insulin isn’t cheap, even with insurance.”
“If it’s too much trouble I…”
“No, that’s not what I said,” mom stopped him. “It will make things difficult, but it won’t be too much trouble. We can make it work. We will make it work. But it won’t be easy. Now before you two run off, let’s talk about that B in history.”
“Mom I told you…”
“I know, you don’t care about valedictorian. I know you said that that’s the grade you deserve. I just don’t understand why or how you ended up with that grade. It’s okay if you tried your best and that was the grade you earned, but if your teacher…”
“Mom, I’ve told you, it’s not Mr. Hartley’s fault. I had a lot of stuff going on during this grading period, obviously. Something had to give. It’s totally fine. It’s not like I failed the course. I’m still the salutatorian.”
“I just don’t get you,” mom said. “This was something you really wanted and worked four years to earn.”
“It would have been nice but I’ll survive,” I replied. “I honestly never really thought they would let me have it, so it’s not like I lost anything.”
Later that night, Dave knocked on the door with the telephone in hand.
“Brett it’s your mom,” he said, offering Brett the phone. Brett couldn’t possibly have sighed any more obnoxiously than he did. He took the phone from Dave.
“What?” he said. “I saw it was you and ignored it. Why?” He looked at me and rolled his eyes. “No… It’s not rocket science… Well I… Oh for fuck’s sake! Fine.” He made a finger gun with his hand, put it up to his temple and pretended to shoot himself in the head while rolling his eyes yet again. “Maybe, I don’t know. I’ll ask him.” He looked at me. “You want to drive me home tonight?”
“Sure, I guess.”
Brett turned back to the phone. “Okay, whatever. See ya.”
“Not staying here tonight?” I asked.
“Nah, she doesn’t know what to do with Sneaker,” Brett replied. “I figure I should probably stay home for the night, give you guys a break.”
“Oh… Oh no, you’re not bringing that snake here with you are you?” I asked.
“What else would I do with him?”
“Dude, I can’t have a snake in my room,” I said.
“Why not? It’s not like you’re allergic to snakes.”
“I just find it creepy the way he looks at me,” I replied. “I always want to throw a blanket over him when we’re doing it. That snake has seen more of me than I’m comfortable with.”
“Jesus, Billy! I’ve had that snake longer than I’ve had you.”
“I just hadn’t thought about it. Oh, we should probably ask mom about it.”
Days went by, as they always do. May seemed to fly by, and once finals were over there was really no point in going to school. Graduation would be on June 3rd, and that date was approaching unbelievably quickly, and yet it seemed like it was taking an eternity. Before I knew it, it was the last week of school! There was so much going on and not much time left to do it! The school’s attention turned toward the upcoming graduation ceremony. I found out that the salutatorian also had to give a speech at graduation. “Two to three minutes,” I was told, as it was a busy day and there wasn’t a lot of time. In fact, my speech had to be written beforehand and presented to the principal for approval. I didn’t have a problem with that until Dustin suggested they wanted to make sure I didn’t say anything controversial.
“What? I’m going to stand up there and yell ‘fuck’ for two minutes or something?” I asked.
“Kids say stupid things all the time,” Dustin replied. “Could you imagine what Reilly would do with an open mic and two minutes with a captive audience?”
“Oh god!” I replied. “I’d better get it started then. I’ll start with something dorky like, ‘The future…’ Or maybe I’ll just yell that I’m gay and that doesn’t make me evil. Now that would be a controversial speech!”
“I think that’s what they really are worried about when they say they want to check your speech,” Dustin replied.
“Yeah. So, have you heard from any scouts about you playing baseball?” I asked.
“A couple of colleges have asked, but just because they ask doesn’t mean I’m interested,” Dustin replied.
“What do you mean you’re not interested?” I gasped.
“Dude, I only played this year because the coach asked me. I just don’t enjoy it, I never have. It was always more work than fun for me. I like basketball a lot better. I’m retired from baseball.”
“But you’re good!” I exclaimed. “You could be on a real team!”
“Dude, I’m good compared to the competition around here. I’m fast compared to a bunch of jabronis. I’m okay at the plate, but pitchers can figure out a guy like me in no time, and everybody’s fast at the next level. If I were serious about it, I would have had to play in travel leagues and faced some real competition. But I don’t care. I’m glad it’s over.”
“But Mr. Hartley said you might get drafted.”
“Hartley said that?” Dustin asked. Then he burst into laughter. “Are you fucking serious? Dude, he’s just messing with you. He knows I’m done with baseball after this year.”
“No! He… But he…”
“Did you just break your brain or something?” Dustin laughed.
“No… Dude, he had a video of you… He…”
“Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it? I mean, not bad for a cell phone video, right?”
That really did break my brain. “What the fuck? He showed you?”
“Dude, I saw him recording it. It was funny.”
“Okay, obviously there’s something more going on that you’re not telling me,” Dustin said.
“Dude, he said he was going to spread that video around if I didn’t cooperate with him and let Sarah be valedictorian. He said you’d never get drafted by a pro baseball team if that video was out there.”
“Wow…” Dustin replied. Then he started to laugh. “Boy, you aren’t very bright sometimes, are you? Why didn’t you just ask me about it? I’d have told you he was just fucking with you. I love how you always take people seriously when they’re bluffing. It’s the only way to beat you at poker.”
“So you don’t care that he fucked me over?”
“So what? So Sarah is valedictorian and not you. Who gives a crap? What will it ever prove? You don’t need anything to prove you’re a genius. I mean, you have no common sense, but you’re like a human calculator. You can do things that no one else can do, but you can be dumb as a box of rocks sometimes when it comes to people.”
I sighed. “I’d like to take offense to that, but I know it’s true. So what? You not only know about the video, but you saw it and you’re actually proud of it?”
“I’d be more proud if it showed off my dick more, but yeah. Dude, Hartley is the best teacher we have here. He helped me to get my scholarship to Cal U. Oh, and it’s an academic scholarship too, by the way. You’re not the only one who is smart around here.”
“God, I’m such an idiot! Anything else you’d like to tell me to make me feel like a total moron? Are you sleeping with him too?”
“I wouldn’t call it sleeping,” Dustin replied with a grin.
“Oh my god!” I replied.
Well, I certainly felt like an ass after that. I guess it was just one final lesson the school needed to teach me. To be honest, I’d always taken school for granted. I’d coasted through so much of it and I rarely felt challenged. In a way, Sarah and I weren’t all that different. Neither of us had worked all that hard to get what we got from school, while Dustin had worked like a dog to improve as a student. He was more deserving of accolades than I was. School hadn’t prepared me for college very well, but it did prepare me for life in ways I never expected.
I wrote and re-wrote that speech about fifty times. How could I sum up everything that had happened at that school in two or three minutes? How could I keep from launching into a tirade about how much I hated so much of what had taken place there? I was ready to just skip the thing and have them mail my diploma to my house while I hid under the bed. Who would miss me?
The last week of school seemed excruciatingly long. I just wanted to get it over with. On Thursday, they had us come to the gym to practice for the graduation ceremony. They had us all line up how we would come in and sit and all that boring stuff. They put us in alphabetical order by last name to sit, which meant I sat two seats away from Brett and poor Ashley Ritchey was stuck between us on my left side. Bobby Rush sat on my right side.
“So, Roberts, how did Taylor screw you out of valedictorian?” Bobby asked as we were standing in line.
“She didn’t,” I replied.
“I don’t mean Sarah. We all know who was really responsible for her success.”
“Dude, I just didn’t have the grades in the end,” I said.
“If you say so,” Bobby shrugged. “If it were me, I’d have fought it.”
“Well I’m tired of fighting,” I said. “You can’t beat them forever. Besides, my dad's dead, and hers is the school board president,” I replied.
Bobby just laughed. “Yeah, I guess you can just hide who you are and pretend you fit in if you don’t like the way they treat you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“It means if you don’t like the way they treat you, you just lie and pretend you’re something that you’re not. I sure wish I had that luxury! The only reason they put up with me is because I help the school win football games. I’ll bet you’ve never been pulled over by the cops for being gay.”
“And have you ever been pulled over for being black?” I asked.
“Three times,” Bobby replied. “And the only reason was because I was in the ‘wrong neighborhood.’ So yeah, I might know a thing or two about feeling like an outcast for reasons that are out of my control. You don’t like someone calling you a faggot so you just pretend to be straight. But McKenzie called me the n-word in front of the whole class and nobody batted an eye. And if I’d have beaten the hell out of him like he deserved I would have been in jail and his life would have just gone on like always. I can’t exactly change the color of my skin and even if I could I wouldn’t. I’m proud of who I am. Maybe you should be proud of who you are and stop whining about it.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, use that brain of yours for good and don’t wait for the world to change. Be the change, man. Be the change.”
I thought a lot about what Bobby had said to me. He was right in a lot of ways. For most of my high school years I’d been walking around in someone else’s skin, trying to fit into a culture that didn’t want me the way I truly was. I’d been pretending to be someone I wasn’t so I could avoid the pain of the real me being rejected. And yet, it was the fake me who had screwed up everything. People actually liked the real me. The kids in my class supported the real me. The most love I’d ever felt from my fellow students was when I was dancing with Brett. I’d wasted so much time hiding myself, when all I ever had to be was myself.
That night, I sat at the kitchen table eating a sandwich when David sat down across from me.
“I’ve got some bad news,” he said.
“Is there any other kind?” I asked.
“There’s a rumor going around the company that another round of layoffs is coming. There’s a good chance I’ll be out of work next week.”
“Wonderful…” I sighed. “What else can go wrong around here?”
“Well, if that is the case, and in all likelihood it is true, then things are going to be even tighter around here. I know you and Brett were hoping to live here during school, but with the money situation I don’t see how we can support both of you on just your mom’s salary. To be honest, I don’t know how we’ll make it even if it were just the three of us.”
“So you’re saying Brett can’t stay here?” I asked.
“No. But I am saying that we won’t be able to sustain things as they are for very long. Whether we like it or not, change is coming. We all may have to move. There just aren’t any jobs around here, and with a bunch of us being laid off, there’s going to be a lot more competition for all of us. You and Brett will always have a place with us, but the way it looks now, that place may be somewhere else.”
“I understand,” I said. “It’s not like you’re throwing us out.”
“No way. We would never do that,” David insisted.
“Well, mom might have before you moved in,” I replied. “I honestly thought that’s how this would all end. I’ve got to say, you surprised me. When mom married you I thought you’d be even worse than she was about me and Brett. I always thought of you as one of Carl’s minions. But you aren’t, and I’m glad mom married you.”
David smiled. “And I’m glad I got to know you, Billy. I wish you still had your dad to get you through this year. But I’m glad that I could walk alongside you and support you. Your mom is an amazing woman. She would walk through fire for you. You know that, right? Everything she did, she did because she thought it was right. But she’s not afraid to admit she was wrong and change her mind. You’re a lucky man to have her for your mother. As you get older you’ll appreciate her more.”
“Yeah,” I replied. I was finding that to be the case just in the last year. I’d spent so much time butting heads with my parents that it was sometimes hard to remember that they loved me more than I could ever know.
I had trouble sleeping that night. It felt like all of the hopes and dreams I had for living happily ever after with Brett were evaporating. I had options. I could get an apartment closer to Pittsburgh to go to school. I could find someone to move in with. I could switch schools and go someplace closer to home, even though the goal was to get out of the Mon Valley, not be sucked further into the black hole. No, I needed to get out, and I needed to bring Brett with me. I just needed money, that’s all. Money that I didn’t have. Suddenly, it made sense to me why my dad had robbed a gas station.
There is no bigger waste of time in all of creation than the last day of school for a senior. Brett had skipped the day entirely, along with most of the graduating class. I would have skipped it myself, except I had to turn in my speech to the principal. It was as boring and pointless of a speech as had ever been written, so of course it was approved.
There were no classes that day. The student body just went to the football field and there were various activities for the kids to do, like play football or do track and field stuff. I found some friends and just talked about life and stuff until it was time to go home. And that’s how my days at Mon Valley High School ended. No more classes. No more books. No more teachers with videos of my best friend getting blown in a bathroom by the school board president’s son. Just one more event and I would be free! I just wanted it to be over. I never wanted to see that place again.
And so the night came at last. We all put on our dorky robes and stupid little hats with the pointy little corners and lined up to march in. I can’t hear the graduation song without thinking of the Macho Man Randy Savage, because that was his theme song. Brett had everyone convinced that he wasn’t wearing anything under his robe, but I knew he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I was dumb enough to wear black pants and a shirt and tie, so by the time we marched in to be seated I was already drenched in sweat. I was a bit disturbed that they let Pastor Carl begin things with an opening prayer. I could have sworn we had separation of church and state in our country, but I guess in small town America they just did whatever they wanted.
It was pretty boring, to be honest. I spent most of the time looking around at the crowd, trying to find familiar faces. I found my mom and Dave in the stands. Bobby’s mom and family were easy to find as they were one of the few black families in the crowd. Joey’s mom and dad were sitting in the section reserved for the school board, though they looked like they'd rather be anywhere else than sitting together. It took me a while, but I eventually found Dr. Reilly in the crowd. Then I found a face in the crowd that I didn’t expect to see, but I was so glad I saw her!
“Holy shit, it’s Miss Winston!” I whispered to Bobby. Bobby turned to look where I’d indicated and sure enough there she was in the stands sitting next to Susan. When she noticed Bobby and me looking at her, she smiled and gave us a thumbs up.
The superintendent’s voice snapped me to reality.
“And now with the salutatorian’s address, please welcome William Roberts.”
The crowd broke into mild and polite applause. I rose from my seat and walked to the stage. It wasn’t until I got to the podium to begin speaking that I truly realized the size of the crowd. That was also when I realized that I had left my speech sitting on my chair. I panicked and looked at Bobby, who held the paper up for me to see, and then tore it into pieces! My eyes widened like saucers! I looked around at what seemed like millions of eyes staring at me. I felt naked! I thought about just walking back to my seat and crawling into a hole to die. My neck tie felt tight, like it was choking me. I reached up to loosen it, and in doing so I felt the necklace that Brett had given me around my neck. I looked out into the crowd and saw him sitting there, smiling encouragingly at me. I knew I wasn’t alone. I found my voice.
“Please forgive me. I’ve left my preapproved remarks at my seat,” I began.
The principal squirmed in his seat.
“I don’t really have a lot to say. I guess… Well, there’s a lot I could say about this place, but my grandma used to tell me if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.”
The crowd laughed politely.
“I just… I’m really glad this chapter of my life is over. I think I really learned who I am while I was here. I don’t think any of my classmates really got to meet the real me until we were almost done here. I spent most of my time here pretending to be someone I’m not so I could fit in. But when I stopped trying to be someone else, and started being me, that’s when you all showed me that that’s who I should have been all along, and not some fake-ass phony.”
The student section exploded in applause. It took me by surprise.
“So I guess as we leave this place and go out and start living real life, that’s what I’ll take with me from here. My dad used to tell me that life is never easy, it’s just less hard sometimes. I guess it’s taken me eighteen years to figure out what he was saying to me. I guess if you never let people get to know the real you, you might avoid the pain, but you’ll have missed the opportunity to truly live. Sometimes you just have to take the risk and dance with the one you love. This place taught me not to sit back and let evil and injustice have the last word. I love you Brett! Thank you!”
I left the stage to the roaring standing ovation of my classmates, and to the polite applause of most of the crowd. I noticed Miss Winston and Susan standing with tears in their eyes as they applauded. When I got back to my seat, Ashley Ritchey and Brett had switched seats, and Brett kissed me right on the lips, to even greater applause from my classmates.
“I love you too,” Brett said, smiling from ear to ear.
We all sat down, though the crowd was certainly buzzing.
The principal rose to the podium. “That was certainly… interesting. And now with the valedictorian’s address, Sarah Taylor.”
There was polite applause from the crowd as Sarah made her way to the podium. Her father was beaming.
Sarah laid her prepared remarks in front of her. “The future…” she began.
“You know,” Bobby whispered. “That was a much better speech than this one.” He handed me the torn up pages of my prepared and approved speech. I’ll bet you’re the first salutatorian in school history to swear in his speech.”
“I swore?” I gasped.
“You said ‘fake-ass phony’” Bobby replied. “Before you declared your love for Reilly.”
“Oh shit!” I replied.
Sarah’s speech droned on for what seemed like eons. Something told me she hadn’t been told to keep it to two or three minutes. To be honest, I had no idea what she said. After she spoke, they brought in a former student who had gone out and started a business and made a bazillion dollars to give us our commencement address. And then it was time to give us our diplomas. As school board president, Mr. Taylor read the names while the principal handed us our diploma and shook our hand. The names flew by in a blur, except for a few names that had significant meaning to me.
“Emily Margaret Barnhart.”
“Mary Elizabeth Caldwell.”
The names rolled by, with polite applause for each one, and you could tell where the families were sitting from where the loudest cheers were coming. I felt a twinge of sadness when Jerry Freemont wasn’t mentioned. Last I’d heard about him, he was moving from military school to the Marines.
“Joseph Quinn McKenzie.”
Our row stood up and got into line to prepare to make our way across the stage.
“Hannah Marie Redman.”
“Anthony Brett Reilly.”
Brett walked slowly across the stage, his limp barely noticeable since he had been diligently doing his rehab with nurse Paula every day. He grinned as he shook hands with the principal. The principal leaned in to tell Brett something and Brett laughed. He took his diploma, walked toward the edge of the stage and held it aloft, like Link in Legend of Zelda when he finds something good. Then he left the stage, clutching his ticket to academic freedom.
“Ashley Michelle Ritchey.”
“William Aaron Roberts.”
The applause of the crowd surprised me again. I walked up to the principal. He shook my hand and leaned in close to me.
“That was an interesting speech, Mr. Roberts. If I wasn’t retiring, I might be angry with you. But, oh well! Good luck, Billy!” He handed me my diploma. I looked at it and felt like bursting into tears. I’d done it!
“Robert Ezekiel Rush.”
I walked down the ramp at the other end of the stage and returned to my seat. I found mom in the crowd and held up my diploma to show her. She was wiping tears from her eyes and mouthed ‘I love you’ to me. I turned and found Miss Winston in the stands. She gave me a big thumbs up.
“Douglas Ian Sanders.”
Dougie proudly walked across the stage and accepted his diploma. He had decorated the top of his cap with rainbow colors. After a few more names I saw a tall auburn-haired young man approach the stage.
“Dustin Dwayne Smith.”
Dustin smiled broadly as he approached the principal and accepted his prize. The principal made a motion like he was swinging a bat to him, but Dustin just laughed and shook his head. Happily retired.
“Sarah Elizabeth Taylor.”
Polite applause. Mr. Taylor left his spot at the podium and practically knocked the principal out of the way so he could personally hand Sarah her diploma. I guess it was appropriate. He’d handed her valedictorian. Why not her diploma as well?
After that nonsense, Mr. Taylor continued through the rest of the names. The principal declared us high school graduates, and then we threw our stupid pointy hats in the air despite them warning us no to do it because we not only had to return them to the school, but we also might poke somebody’s eye out. And so it was finished. Our high school days were over. And true to my word, I never saw the inside of that place again.
There was a flurry of activity afterward, as everyone went off looking for family and saying goodbye to each other and promising to be life-long friends and all that shit. I would probably never see most of those people ever again, and that was okay with me. Some I would miss, but most I didn’t care.
Mom and David found me in the hallway and insisted on pictures of me in my cap and gown, and pictures with them, and pictures with Brett, and pictures with Emily and Dustin, and… Well, you get the idea.
“I know your father is smiling down on you today,” mom said. “He would have been so proud of you.”
The crowd began to thin out as folks began to head off to their lives. Many people congratulated me on my speech. I looked around for people I knew and in the midst of the hustle and bustle, Kenny Taylor found me.
“Hey, thanks for that speech,” he said. “That was awesome.”
“You think so?” I asked.
“Yeah, I know exactly what you were talking about. I can’t wait to get back to school so I can be me again. Don’t let this town get you down. It’ll eat you alive if you let it. There are so many places out there where you can be free. Don’t give up. Okay?”
“Yeah,” I replied.
Soon after that, I ran into Miss Winston and Susan. We exchanged hugs.
“So, salutatorian, huh? What happened to valedictorian?” Miss Winston asked.
“It’s a long story," I replied, just as Mr. Hartley walked by.
“Well done, Mr. Roberts,” Mr. Hartley said. “You managed to only slightly embarrass the school with your speech.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
“Still harassing the students, Jeremy?” Miss Winston asked. “Some things never change.”
“Still living with your ‘roommate’ Pat?” Mr. Hartley replied. “You’re right, some things do never change.”
Miss Winston smiled politely. “I hear you’re going to be the next principal around here. Congratulations.”
“Yes, I can finally work in the school system and not have to put up with students all day,” Mr. Hartley replied. “It’s a teacher’s dream.”
“Only the bad teachers,” Miss Winston replied.
Mr. Hartley just smiled. He started to walk away when I called out to him.
“Hey Mr. Hartley!”
“What is it Roberts? I’m a busy man.”
“I was just wondering if I could see that video again? I’ll bet Miss Winston would like to see it too.”
Mr. Hartley looked disgusted. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Roberts.”
“Oh you know! The video you recorded of…”
“That’s enough Mr. Roberts!” Mr. Hartley snapped. “There is no video. Now go enjoy your life.” He walked away quickly. He found Mr. Taylor and the two exchanged a friendly handshake, the kind of handshake that told me that Mr. Hartley really had been bluffing and had no intention of trying to blackmail someone with Mr. Taylor’s resources.
“What was that about?” Miss Winston asked.
“Oh, nothing,” I replied. “Just a little unfinished business. I’m just glad it’s over. I’m glad you came.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it. I’ll bet you’re relieved to put this place behind you.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “But the idea of that jerk being the principal around here just makes me sick.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Billy,” Miss Winston replied. “There are always people who will stand up for what’s right. You didn’t do such a bad job of it yourself today.”
As things began to settle down, I realized I hadn’t seen Brett in a while. I turned in my cap and gown and then I started looking for him. I found him back in the gym on the bleachers arguing with his mom and Jack McKenzie.
“Oh, it all has to be about you, doesn’t it?” I heard Brett snap at his mother.
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Dr. Reilly replied.
“Christ! I can’t even graduate from fucking high school without you being a bitch about something!”
“Brett, I really don’t want to talk about this in public!” Dr. Reilly begged. “Please!”
“That’s fine! Because I don’t want to talk about anything with you either in public or in private ever again! To hell with both of you!” Brett stormed away as best he could on one leg. He saw me and came my way. “Let’s get the fuck out of here!” he said.
I didn’t say anything, I just walked with him to his car. He sat in the passenger seat and punched the glove box door so hard it popped open. I sat in the driver’s seat next to him.
“So should we go somewhere or…”
Brett snapped. “They’re fucking! Can you believe that? They’re fucking each other! It’s like the last eighteen years were a big fucking joke to them! And it’s not recent either! They’ve been fucking since we fucking moved here!”
“Are you fucking serious?” I asked.
“Why would I not be serious about something like that? All those years of fucking lying to my fucking face and he would come over to my fucking house when I wasn’t there and fuck that cunt!”
“How did you find this out?” I asked.
“Joey’s mom told him and he told me. They’re getting divorced. Jack is closing up his law practice and moving with my cunt of a mother to Chicago! Fuck! Even when they said they were going to tell the truth they fucking lied! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Brett punched the glove box again. “I’m fucking done with both of them! I’m done! I hate both of them! I’m moving in with you tonight, Billy! She can keep my fucking stuff! She can burn the goddamn house down for all I care! Eighteen years of lies and they were fucking in the room right next to me all along! I could fucking strangle both of them!”
“Uh… You still have my coin collection at your house... And your clothes…”
Brett just looked at me. “Fine, take me there,” he snapped. “I can’t even throw a fit without Mr. Logical pointing out all the obvious flaws in my plans.”
“Sorry,” I laughed. “You know, you’re cute when you’re apoplectic.”
“What does my appendix have to do with anything?” Brett replied. “Just drive.”
I pulled into the driveway and went with Brett into his house. It was difficult for him to go up and down stairs, so I had to do all of the work. Brett showed me where the coin collection was in his closet. I took it out to the car. And then for the next hour I loaded up his car with his computer, his snake, a whole bunch of his clothes, his electric guitar, his keyboard, a few boxes of random trinkets, and a box of video games. And then we drove to my house. We had talked about Brett moving in with us, but we hadn’t expected the time to come so suddenly! It would take a few more trips to completely move out, but we had the essentials.
Back at my house, I unloaded all of that stuff and took it to my room. My dad’s old coin collection ended up on the bed. Thankfully, I had been keeping my room clean and in order since my last birthday, so there was room to put all of Brett’s stuff. We were both exhausted after such a long day, and we ended up laying on the bed together, with me laying from the top down and Brett laying the opposite direction with his feet on the pillow next to me. We just lay there for a while resting.
“What a day!” Brett sighed. “I can’t believe I just moved out of my house!”
“Well, after what you found out, I don’t blame you. I’m sorry your mom’s a bitch.”
“Not as sorry as me. Anyway, I was doing some thinking as I was packing stuff up. I’ll bet we could raise some money by selling some of my old games and stuff. It’s not a lot, but I don’t play them anymore and everything helps.”
“I just wish we had a source of money that could at least help us get started,” I said. “I don’t think the reality of you actually moving in with us has hit me yet. Mom and Dave might need to move themselves if Dave gets a job somewhere else. The way things are going, we might all have moved out of town by the time summer ends.”
“Well I hate to bring it up, but there is a way you could make some quick cash if you needed it,” Brett suggested.
“And what is that? Prostitution?”
“No,” Brett replied. “You could sell the coin collection.”
I sat up and crossed my legs. “No way. No. That belonged to my dad, and my grandfather before him, and my great-great grandfather before him!”
Brett rolled over and swung his feet off the bed and onto the floor. Then he stood up and began to pace. “Look, I’m not saying you should. I’m just saying that if we’re in a pinch it’s something to consider.”
“There’s nothing to consider, Brett. No amount of money would be worth selling it.”
“Look, I’ve looked into it and if you sold some of the really old stuff you could make like ten thousand dollars. You’ve got some really rare ones.”
“Holy shit! Did you say ten thousand?” I gasped.
“Seriously, dude. I’m not shitting you.”
I felt sweaty. “Yeah, but dad told me never to sell it. It was really important to him. He said you would be the key to figuring out…” I paused. “Holy shit! What if this is what he was talking about Brett? What if my dad knew that if you messed around with the coin collection you would figure out what it was worth? I mean, he specifically told me that I should let you mess around with it! What if he knew that you would figure this all out?”
“I don’t know. I just know that if you want to sell it some of it, I could hook you up. But look, it’s late. It’s been a long day and it’s almost midnight. Let’s just worry about it later. We don’t have to make such a big decision right now.”
“I don’t know, Brett. I mean, I’m going to be up all night thinking about this. I won’t be able to sleep.”
“I swear, you must be obsessive compulsive or something.”
“Yeah, I kind of am.” I replied.
“Oh right, the whole autism thing,” Brett laughed. “That’s so weird, and yet, it makes so much sense why you act like you do. Okay, I’m just going to have to take your mind off of things until morning.”
Brett grabbed the back of his shirt and tugged it up over his head.
“You want to fuck at a time like this?” I asked.
“No, I want you to fuck me,” Brett said, yanking his pants down, and then his boxers. Within seconds, all he was wearing was his walking boot and knee brace. He climbed onto the bed on his knees, his dick bobbing up and down with his heartbeat. By the time he reached me, he was fully engaged. “Now let’s see what you’ve got under here?” Brett said, tugging at my belt. Brett managed to loosen my belt and forcefully yanked down my pants and underwear.
“See, I’m not even hard yet,” I told him.
“The key word being ‘yet.’ This won’t take long.” Brett pulled me closer to him and sucked my dick. Okay, I had to admit, looking down at his naked body as he sucked me was definitely turning me on and making me forget what I’d been worried about. I took my shirt off and kicked off my pants. Brett stopped sucking and admired his handiwork.
“Nice and hard. Perfect.” He reached over to my nightstand and found the lube. Before I even knew what hit me, he had me flat on my back on the bed and he was slathering lube in all the right places.
“You remember the time you about killed me when you came in my face on the couch?”
“Yeah,” I replied.
“Well payback is a bitch!” Brett said. He knelt down on top of my hips and lined up my dick with his ass. He plunged all the way down to the base.
“You are way too good at taking my dick!” I said lustily.
“You’re just jealous because you still while like a little bitch when I fuck your ass,” Brett replied.
Brett began rapid-fire humping himself against my hips. Good god! His ass was amazing! He wouldn’t let me put my hands on his hips, because he knew I would try to slow him down. He was determined to make me lose it, and before too long I groaned in ecstasy and fire the contents of my balls up into him. But that wasn’t enough. Brett kept right on pounding his ass against my hips. His knee brace was rubbing my hip raw, but Brett kept up the pressure, thrusting himself onto me faster and more forcefully. He steadied himself by putting his hands on my chest. The bed squeaked with every thrust, even though I had tightened it enough that it wasn’t as bouncey as it had been in the past. In fact, even though we were fucking about as vigorously as we’d ever done, the coin collection remained in place on the bed. Brett was trying to get me off twice, and he was succeeding. I think I went cross-eyed with pleasure. I was right on the edge until Brett pinched my previously pierced nipple. That did it.
“OH GOD!!!!” I cried, probably loud enough for the neighbors to hear. My poor balls! My nuts fired with even more forcefulness than before. “AAAAAAAARRRRRRGHHHHH!!!!!!” I exclaimed. Gripping Brett’s hips, I thrust myself up into him with everything I had, pushing Brett up onto his knees. Having expelled every ounce of energy into him, I fell limp to the bed. I closed my eyes, exhausted. But then I heard the distinctive slap of a wrist against hip. I opened my eyes to see Brett was aiming his dick right at my face, like looking down the barrel of a gun.
“Time for revenge, bitch!” Brett said, and then I was blinded by a stinging hot blast of Brett’s load, right into the bridge of my nose and into both my eyes.
“Oh fuck!” I cried in both pain and pleasure. Too late, I realized I still had my contacts in! I didn’t have time to process it when the next shot went right up my nose. “Ugh!!!” I gasped. Then Brett’s dick slapped me right in the face and another blast covered my face with piping hot goo! When I opened my mouth to breathe, Brett shoved his dick into my mouth and yet another shot poured down my throat. I definitely understood why he’d been so pissed when I’d done this to him because it did sting my eyes, but at the same time, it really turned me on! Maybe I’m just weird? It was worth the pain to experience the pleasure.
“Holy fuck!” Brett cried, his dick still twitching in my mouth. “Dude, I just came all over your face. God it looks so hot covered with my load!”
Brett pulled out and pushed himself off of me, and I heard a tremendous crash.
“Oh fuck!” Brett cried.
“What the fuck was that?” I asked, still blinded by Brett’s semen in my eyes.
“Dude, I just knocked the coin collection off the bed with my stupid fucking boot!” Brett cursed. “I think I broke a couple of the cases open.”
A few seconds later there was a knock on the door.
“Everything all right in there?” I heard mom’s voice through the door. I searched in vain for something to mop up my face.
“Uh, it’s fine. I just knocked something over!” Brett explained. “Sorry about the noise!”
I found what I thought was my shirt and tried to wipe up my face.
“Dude, don’t wipe your face with my shirt!” Brett cried.
“Oh, sorry!” I said.
“No, I don’t care. It’s not like I’ve never cleaned up cum with my shirt bef… Holy shit!”
“What now?” I cried. I’d cleaned up most of the mess, but everything was still blurry.
“Dude, there’s like, all kinds of money on the floor,” Brett said in hushed tones.
“No shit, you knocked a fucking coin collection on the floor.”
“No, Billy, I’m serious, there’s fucking thousands of dollars on the floor.”
I wiped my eyes as best I could and leaned over the bed. Through my blurry vision, I could see a sea of green on the floor, along with the sparkling light reflected from the coins that were scattered on the floor.
“Where the fuck did that come from?” I asked.
“One of the boxes broke when it fell on the floor. The newest one that didn’t have any coins in it yet. It had a hidden compartment under the display. Dude, it’s seriously all hundred dollar bills!” Brett knelt on the floor and examined the broken case. He lifted it up and even more money fell out of it, and an envelope.
“There’s got to be like fifty thousand dollars here!”
“FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS?!?!?” I exclaimed. I almost fainted.
Brett examined the envelope. “It looks like there’s a letter here.”
“Well read it!” I replied.
Brett opened the envelope and pulled out a piece of paper. He began to read it.
“’Dear Billy. You’re probably wondering where in the world all this money came from. These are my winnings from thirsty’… Sorry… ‘thirty years of playing in higg skates… Higg skates?’” Brett squinted at the paper. “Higgy skates poker torture nets?”
“I think it says ‘high-stakes poker tournaments,’” I explained. My vision was clearing.
“Oh, that makes sense,” Brett said. “High stakes poker tournaments.” He continued reading carefully, one word at a time. “’Don’t worry, I won all this money legally. No gas stations were robbed. I planned to give you this money when you turned eighteen, but if you are reading this then there’s a good chance that I’m dead and never got the chance to give it to you person anally.’”
“Personally,” I corrected.
Brett squinted again at the paper. “’Per-son-al-ly.’ Could you imagine if you did get the money anally?” Brett joked. “Any way… ‘Knowing you, Brett is probably somehow re-spon-sib-ile for discovering this. I know you boys will take good care of each other, and I hope this money will be a blessing to you both as you begin your life together. Don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t be together. You were made for each other. I hope you will be happy together. I love you both, dad. March 1, 2003. P.S. Has Brett figured out Jack McKenzie is his father yet? If not, please point him in the right direction.’”
“Well shit!” Brett laughed. “Is there anything that man didn’t know?”
My eyes were blurry again, but this time it was from the tears that were forming in them. “Holy shit, Brett. There’s enough here to start out on our own! I’ll be able to afford insulin until we get established. We’ll be able to rent a place! We’ll be able to eat!”
“We can invest it in Google stocks!” Brett replied.
“Google stocks?” I asked.
“Joey’s mom works for an accountant. She can invest it for us! We’ll invest most of it and only use what we need to get by until we’re out of school. If we play our cards right, it could be worth twice as much in a few years!”
“Wow, that’s like, really responsible and mature, babe,” I said, smiling.
“Yeah, the only thing I would change about this is that I wouldn’t be naked and dripping cum out of my ass if I’d have known I was going to be reading a letter from your father from beyond the grave. Shit, I can’t believe he figured out who my father was before he died! I wonder how he figured it out?”
“I don’t know, but I think the letter’s worth more than the money,” I replied. “I’m glad you were the one to read it to me.”