Curt's life takes a turn that he never expected, and he realizes that it's because he forgot something that didn't seem important at the time. He also discovers that others have forgotten things that are important and that turns out to both help him and hurt him.
Mature or distressing themes. This story deals with abuse.
Chapter 25 — Laura Tells Curt He’s Gay
“What!?” I shouted. “You have got to be kidding!” Where did she get off saying that I’m gay?
“Shh!” she whispered, “let’s talk later when we’re alone.”
“I don’t get it, Laura. How can you say that about me?”
She elbowed me in my side, and gave me a look that meant I’d better shut up.
“Just when and where is ‘later’ going to be, Laura?” I whispered.
“I’ll call you tonight after the party’s over,” she replied in an even softer whisper.
“No!” I said out loud, then I continued in a whisper, “We need to talk about this right away, not some time after the party’s over.”
“What are you guys whispering about?” Sara asked. That made everyone else look at us, wondering what Sara meant and what was going on.
“Nothing. Laura and I are just having an argument about something stupid.”
“What’s that?” Tom asked.
“Like Curt said, nothing important,” Laura replied. “We’re just arguing about the normal sort of stuff he and I always argue about.”
That seemed to satisfy everyone. Laura and I were known to banter back and forth all the time. Well, it satisfied everyone except Sara. She leaned around me and asked Laura, “I don’t get it. You guys argue all the time?”
“Yeah,” Laura replied, “Curt and I have known each other for like years and years, and we know each other so well that we know exactly how and when to pull each other’s chain. We absolutely love to pull each other’s chain. But it’s all in fun. Right, Curt?”
I looked at Laura. “Yeah, sure. We like to kid around with each other. Like when Laura called to invite me to her birthday party I pretended that I didn’t know that it’s her birthday. Stuff like that.”
“Oh. It’s more like you’re sister and brother.”
“That’s it exactly! We’re the same age and I’m Curt’s substitute sister ‘cuz he’s an only child.”
I stared at Laura then raised my eyebrows and shrugged my shoulders. She grinned and mouthed, “Later.”
I knew I wouldn’t get anything out of Laura until she wanted to talk to me. So I decided to ignore her and just wait until she was ready. My answer would be very simple: I’m not gay. I sure don’t know where she’d get that idea.
I wasn’t very sociable for the rest of the time we were at the party. I ignored the conversations and when I was asked something I answered with one or two words. Finally I got up and walked around by myself for a while. I ended up going to the barbeque area so they’d think I was getting something more to eat, and from there I walked to The Bowl and then up the hill to the trees up in back. I sat down and leaned against a big oak tree, shut my eyes, and thought about what Laura had said. If she thinks I’m gay, she must have seen me with someone that gave her that idea.
Tom. He’s my best friend and we talk about anything and everything, including personal stuff. We’re together a lot, and we do lots of things together but do lots of things separately. Like he’s totally into baseball and is on the team, and I’m into basketball and swimming, both just for fun. We’re both smart, get mostly A’s and a few B’s. We’re real close, but like brothers. Could she think that Tom and I are together? That we’re both gay? Ridiculous!
Mark. We just met. Way too soon for any kind of relationship. Besides he’s all goo-goo eyes for Parker.
Kyle? Like Mark, we just met. Plus he lives in Illinois, not very conducive for us to fall for each other.
Parker? Yeah, he goes to Los Arcos and I’ve known him since grammar school. I know he’s gay. But he and Mark got together and they’re definitely an item. That’s obvious from the way they’ve been hanging out together and constantly looking at each other today.
Ray? I know him, but not well. Hell, I didn’t even know he was gay until his sister Candice told Laura and Laura told me.
My other friends don’t count. As far as I know none of them are gay. Anyway, this summer Laura wouldn’t have seen me with any of them. I did spend time with them, mostly at the pool at our friend Darryl’s house. Laura wouldn’t have seen us. She went on a trip with her folks that took most of the summer until they got back a couple weeks ago.
In fact, today at her birthday party is the first time I’d seen Laura since she got back. So it must be someone she saw me with here, today. But there’s no one I can think of who might be gay.
So I didn’t get it. Nothing I’d done would give her the idea that I’m gay.
I heard something. I watched Tom walk up the hill, coming in my direction.
“Hey, Curt. You sulking about something?”
“Yeah, you could say that.”
“What is it? I mean, you’d been having a great time all day, until you got into that little shouting match with Laura. Is that what it’s about?”
“Yeah. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Bullshit. You and I are tight, man. We tell each other everything. So talk.”
I shook my head.
“No is not a workable answer.” Tom sat down next to me. “Talk to me, Curt.”
I sat there for a few seconds then turned and looked at Tom.
“Laura said I was one of her closest friends and that she’d go after me except that I’m gay. I’m not gay!”
“Where the fuck did Laura get that idea?”
“Damned if I know. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure it out. She must have seen me with someone, but the only person she’s seen me with is you, and you’re sure as hell not gay. There’s no one else. She went on that trip, and today’s the first day we’ve seen each other since she got back. And here I thought she’s my friend.”
“Maybe she still is, Curt. Let’s go ask her what this is all about.”
“She said she didn’t want to talk about it until the party is over. She said she’d give me a call tonight. Bullshit. I want to leave. I don’t feel in a party mood anymore. I don’t want to see Laura until I talk to her and this stupid gay thing is over and done with.”
“Okay. Why don’t you walk home and I’ll see you there later. If anyone asks I’ll say you weren’t feeling so good. If Laura calls you before I get home don’t talk to her. Turn off your cell, now. Tell Mom that you don’t want to talk to anyone except me, and she’s to say you’re not available.”
“Your mom will lie for me?”
“No, She won’t be lying. It’s just that you won’t be available because you’re gonna make yourself unavailable. Just like my dad does when he doesn’t want to talk to a client. You’ll see, Mom’s used to it, she’ll do it for you. If you need an excuse tell her about Don being here and you’re stressed because of it and that’s why you came home early. I’ll distract Laura to give you time to leave without her seeing you. That’ll make it easier for you.”
I grinned at him. “You should be a lawyer, Tom. You definitely have all the moves down.”
“It’s enough having a Dad who’s a lawyer without me ever having to be one. I’ve been able to pick up all of the interesting tips and tricks.” He looked at his watch. “I’ll phone my dad in about a half hour. He should be home by then. I’ll ask him to pick up the rest of us.”
“Okay. Why don’t you go back to the picnic area and I’ll head out in a couple minutes. I’ll go around the caterer’s tent so no one sees me leave.”
We got up and Tom started to leave when I remembered something. I pulled out my cell and put it in airplane mode. When I put it back in my pocket I felt something and pulled out the locker key. “Hey, Tom, wait! Here’s my locker key. Would you get my stuff out of the locker in the pool house and bring it home? Mark and Kyle’s stuff is in there, too. Okay?”
“Okay, absolutely, same time I get mine. Oh yeah, and I’ll remind Mark and Kyle so they’ll get theirs too. See you at home, Curt.”
I got out without Laura or Sara or anyone else seeing me, and I walked home. Strange, that word ‘home.’ My real home, where my mother lived, wasn’t my home any longer. I was living at a new home, the Williams’ home, with Mr. and Mrs. Williams and Tom.
When I got back I told Mrs. Williams what Tom had suggested, that I didn’t want to take any calls except from Tom, and anyone else should be told that I wasn’t available.
“I guess you’ve been getting some pro bono legal advice. All I have to say is: Beware the source!”
“I trust the source. And one of the best things about the advice is that the source provided it free.”
“All I have to say about that is: You’ll get exactly what you pay for!”
“I’ll keep that in mind. But for now that’s all I could afford. So if anyone calls, you’ll tell them that I’m not available? Except Tom, of course.”
“What if I tell them you’re not here, defining ‘here’ as the room I’m in?”
“That’s perfect. Thanks, Mrs. W. I’m going to leave ‘here’ and go upstairs to my room.”
“Curt, you seem upset. Would you like to tell me a bit about your sudden desire for isolation?”
“No… yes. I guess.” I thought about it for a minute or so. “Can we sit down?”
We sat and I looked at her. I wanted to tell her, but how was I going to tell her?
“How about something to drink while you’re telling me what happened?”
“Okay. I think I’ll get a root beer.” I started to get up.
“Sit down. I’ll get it.”
I sipped my root beer and wondered if I would make a mistake by telling Mrs. Williams about Laura saying she knew I was gay. I looked up and saw her looking at me, and that look made me feel comfortable.
“Laura told me that I’m gay. I don’t remember her exact words, but it was something like if I wasn’t gay she’d go after me to date her. I’m not gay!”
“Then tell her that, Curt. Ask her why she thinks that you’re gay.”
“I will. She said she’d call me tonight after her party is over.”
“Then that’s the time to talk to her, tell her you’re not gay, ask her why she thinks you are.”
“That’s what I planned to do.”
“Then why not take calls now? What if she calls in the next few minutes when she finds out you’re not at the party?”
“A couple reasons. I need to think about what she said. And I’m pissed at her… please excuse my language… I’m really, really angry with her.”
“Because she whispered it to me at her party, while we were all sitting together eating and talking. Why would she pick that time, when I couldn’t ask her why she said it and why she would think that it’s true? She should have waited until we were alone, or she could have called me tonight instead.”
“I agree with you Curt. I can see why you’re so upset. That’s the third thing you need to ask her, why she decided to tell you at a time when you didn’t want to talk to her about it.”
“Yeah. Another thing is that I don’t want to talk to her until I can calm down so I can talk to her without yelling at her.”
“That makes sense. I understand why you don’t want to talk to anyone while you’re trying to calm down. I’m wondering though, why will you still take calls from Tom?”
“I told him what Laura said and he’s the one who said I should leave the party and come home… uh… here, your home. He might call to tell me he’s leaving, or that Laura is asking why I’m not there.”
“I understand. One other thing. Please remember that this is your home, Curt, and it always will be whenever you need it. You’re like a second son to me and Michael and a brother to Tom. We love you, Curt.”
That made me tear up, and I got up and then so did Mrs. Williams and we hugged.
“I love all of you too. You are like a second mom for me, a mom who I can always depend on.”
We pulled back from the hug and she looked at me.
“Go on, get out of here so I can be truthful if someone calls and I tell them you’re not here. Go watch TV or surf the internet or read a book.” She smiled, and so did I. I liked her suggestion about reading a book, so I got a book I’d found in the bookcase in Tom’s room and came back downstairs to the family room and sat down to read.
I liked the title of the book, Leave Myself Behind. It sounded like me, leaving the old myself who’d lived at home with his mom until Don showed up. Now I left all that behind, making a new myself, not living at my old home but living at a new home, just like Mrs. Williams told me.
I gasped and then started laughing out loud after reading the first two lines of the story:
“I’ve never wanted a different mother. I just wanted my mother to be different.
“Get in line, right?”
Oh my god! This author, Bart Yates, totally nailed me in those two lines. I decided that I was going to memorize those sentences. They defined my current life and my relationship with my mother so perfectly. I kept reading and laughing because so much of this story is LOL funny. I looked up and saw Mrs. Williams looking at me from the kitchen and smiling.
When I got about a third of the way through chapter two it sounded like Noah, the protagonist, is unsure whether he is straight or gay. Oh my god! I kept reading and near the end of the next page I stopped after reading these two sentences: “I hate thinking about this kind of stuff. It’s too fucking complicated.”
That made a door in my mind open and I realized what I’d been doing, and why I got so pissed at Laura for what she said. I’d been subconsciously trying to decide if I’m gay or straight. I closed the book and put it down. I couldn’t be gay, I had to be straight.
‘At least through the trial,’ my subconscious told me.
‘Shut up!’ I told my subconscious, ‘Not just through the trial!’
My subconscious replied, ‘Bullshit! You just forgot that this is something you’ve been worrying about.’
‘Fuck off!’ I yelled at my subconscious.
I sat there and made my mind a blank. Of course, as long as I was conscious my mind couldn’t be blank and it kept on thinking, but I didn’t pay any attention. I wanted it to be blank, so I pretended that it was blank and tried to push any thinking into my subconscious. Assuming such a thing could even be possible.
I heard the phone ring and looked into the kitchen. Mrs. W shook her head, meaning the call wasn’t for me. After a few minutes the phone rang again. This time she nodded, the call was for me. She mouthed ‘Laura’ and I heard her say ‘he isn’t here’ and some other stuff. Perfect.
I switched on the TV. There was a replay of a high school basketball game from somewhere in Georgia. Mindless TV, just what I needed.
After maybe ten minutes the phone rang again. This time she nodded and called out, “Curt, it’s Tom for you.” I got up and walked into the kitchen. I heard her tell Tom that she’d call Mr. Williams at his downtown office and tell him they were ready to be picked up, and to hold on for me.
“Hey back at ya, Curt. I suppose you heard me tell Mom that Dad can pick us up now. Laura’s been frantic since she couldn’t find you. She asked me if I knew where you were and I said ‘no’ of course. Poor Laura looked like she might start crying.”
“She called here, your mom told her that I wasn’t here. Meaning that I wasn’t in the kitchen where she was. Clever, ‘eh?”
“That’s what happens when you’re married to an attorney. Ditto when you’re the son of an attorney. You gotta be careful when you ask any of us a question. We’ll be very literal when we answer.” Tom laughed.
“I’m not going to take Laura’s call until you get here. I want you to be with me when I talk to her.”
“Okay, whatever you want, bro. Hey, gotta get the peeps all rounded up for our return trip and get everyone’s shit out of the locker in the pool room. See you in a bit.”
“Thanks for calling. See you when you get home.”
We ended the call and I hung up the phone. Mrs. Williams stood there looking at me.
“Is everything okay, Curt?”
I took a deep breath. Should I tell her about what I’d just been thinking about, the ‘could I be gay’ thing? I decided not to.
“Yeah. I hope Laura doesn’t call until Tom gets back. If she does, will you still tell her I’m not here?”
“Of course. Do you want a snack?”
“No, I’m not hungry. We had so much to eat at the party I won’t want anything for dinner. I don’t even think that Tom will want anything when he gets home.”
She grinned. “I thought you knew Tom better than that.”
I started laughing when I realized what she meant. “You mean Mr. Hollow Legs?”
“I prefer to call him Mr. Insatiable Appetite, but either works just fine. I think you’ll find that he’ll want to have dinner, a regular Tom-sized dinner, when he gets home.”
I grinned and walked back to the family room and picked up the book I’d been reading. I decided to return it to Tom’s room. I didn’t feel like reading any more, but I wanted to talk to him about it when he got home. I went into my room and lay down on the bed. I closed my eyes, waiting for Tom. I really needed to talk to him.
Lying there I started to remember stuff I’d forgotten. Maybe it was what Laura said to me this afternoon. Maybe it was lying down in the room that I’d moved into when I arrived at the Williams’ home. Maybe it was both.
I remembered that on the day I moved in Tom and I had kissed. A bunch of times. And Tom had called me ‘boyfriend’ at least twice. Damn! I also remembered that Mr. Williams had seen us hugging and kissing, serious kissing. He didn’t say anything, just smiled. Later that day he talked to me about my being called as a witness, and that I might be asked if I was gay and how important it was that I answer the question truthfully. I remembered telling him that I wasn’t gay, and I told him that kissing Tom was like kissing the brother I’d never had before. There was more, and I remembered that it was very embarrassing. I remembered that he told me that Tom and I had to wait until the trial was over to decide how we were going to relate to each other.
Then I remembered the conversation I’d had with Tom after he’d talked to his dad. Tom told me we had to be more circumspect until after the trial. I told him that being circumspect wasn’t enough, that we had to be celibate, and he agreed. What we’d been talking about was having sex. Oh my god! I’d totally forgotten about that conversation.
In fact, I’d forgotten about all of this stuff. All I’d remembered is that I had to be able to say I wasn’t gay at the trial and that it absolutely had to be the truth. Forgetting this stuff could be a big mistake. Remembering it could be an even bigger mistake. I didn’t need to wait to talk to Tom when he got home. I needed to wait for Mr. Williams to get home so I could talk to him about how I began remembering all this stuff, and whether… no, how it might work against me if they asked me if I was gay during the trial and I hesitated or stumbled when I answered.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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