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 26 — Laura Apologizes
I waited for Tom and Mr. Williams to get home so I could talk to Mr. Williams about how I began remembering all this stuff, and how it might work against me if I was asked if I was gay during the trial.
I didn’t want to watch TV, but I didn’t have anything else to distract me. I didn’t want to think, I wanted to just blank out. Closing my eyes didn’t work. I had some pain pills left but I didn’t think Mrs. W would let me have one since I hadn’t been complaining about my arm hurting. Besides, they made me sort of dingy and that’s the last thing I wanted. I needed to be sharp to be able to talk to Mr. Williams.
The phone rang. I heard Mrs. W say that I wasn’t here, then say she didn’t know when I’d be here but she could leave a message for me. Then she said, “Yes, as soon as he gets here I’ll have him call you, Laura.” That answered my question about who’d called me.
Mrs. W walked into the family room and sat down across from me.
“Curt, Laura was crying. She said she knows she hurt you by saying something and she’s so sorry and wants to talk to you so she can apologize. I think you might be carrying this being upset with her a bit too far.”
“I don’t want to talk to her until I have a chance to sit down and talk to Mr. Williams first.”
“Are you certain that you need to talk to him before you talk to Laura? What if she comes here to wait for you?”
“I’ll tell her that I just got here.”
She looked at me in a strange way. I think she wanted to ask me what I needed to talk to Mr. Williams about before talking to Laura. Maybe she thought I used that as an excuse to not talk to Laura. But she didn’t ask me anything more.
“Alright, I’ll give her the same answer if she calls again.”
I guess I should have felt bad about making Laura cry. But I didn’t make Laura cry. It was her own fault for saying what she said to me in front of everyone, even if it was a whisper. Of course, it was her birthday and maybe I should give her a break. Thing is, I didn’t feel sorry for her at all, crying or not. She brought this whole thing down on herself and doing it she upset me. She didn’t think before telling me that she knows that I’m gay. I’m not gay!
I heard a car pull into the driveway. I got up and looked out the window, just in case it was Laura. It wasn’t. Mr. Williams and Tom were home. They came in the front door.
“Hi, Curt. Are you feeling better?”
What did Mr. Williams mean by that? Oh… I’ll bet Tom told him I didn’t feel well.
“Uh, yeah. Could we talk? It’s important, about the trial.”
“Sure. Give me a few minutes and I’ll let you know when I’m ready.”
“Hey, bro. I guess you and I oughta talk, right?”
“Yes. Let’s go upstairs.”
“You got it. Go ahead up to my room and I’ll be up as soon as I give a debriefing to Mom. You want something to drink? I’ll bring it up.”
“A root beer would be good. Thanks, Tom.”
“No problemo, bro. Be with you in a few.”
I went upstairs to Tom’s room. I sat down on the side of his bed, then decided that would be a bad idea so I got up and sat on his desk chair. I shook my head. Why the hell did I do that? Why didn’t I sit on the side of his bed? Why did I get up and move to Tom’s desk chair? I thought about it for a few seconds. The reason came to me. I thought it would be an invitation if Tom sat next to me, we’d start doing something together. Kissing. And probably doing more. Did I want to do more with Tom? Did Tom want to do more with me? I was so fucked up I couldn’t believe it. What was wrong with me? This whole thing gave me a headache.
Screw it. I got up and sat on the side of the bed. If something happened then it happened. I’d have something more to tell when I talked to Mr. Williams.
A few seconds later Tom came in and handed me a can of root beer. I took it and held it against my forehead.
“You okay, Curt?” Tom had a worried expression.
“Not really. I’m thinking about all kinds of crap all because of what Laura said to me.”
“What kinds of crap?”
“Like, things about maybe being gay, and remembering stuff that makes me think I could be gay. I can’t be gay, Tom, I just can’t. At least not until after I testify at Don’s trial. If I’m asked if I’m gay and if I’ve ever had sex with a guy I have to tell the truth because if I don’t tell the truth it’ll show in the way I say my answers.”
“Curt, you’re worrying these things to death. First, you haven’t ever had sex with a guy. So as far as you know you’re not gay. You’ve gotta chill, man. Just focus on getting ready for the trial. The way to do that is to calm down.”
“That’s a great idea, but I don’t have a clue how to do it.”
“Maybe you should go to that shrink like what Kyle talked about.”
“Your dad was going to make an appointment for me to see a counselor. I need to ask him if he did that yet.”
“Good idea. Don’t forget, okay?”
“I won’t, Tom. I’m going to talk you your dad in a little while and I’ll make sure that’s the first thing I ask him.”
He sat down next to be on the bed and put his arm around my shoulder.
“I’m here for you, Curt. If you want to talk, I’m your man. You know that, don’t you?”
“I do, Tom. You’re the brother I never had. And what’s cool is that we never had any arguments that real brothers seem to have.”
“True that. Can I ask you a very personal question?”
Oh, my, god! What did he want to ask me?”
“Does it ever bother you that I’m black?”
I looked at him. “You have to be kidding! You’re black? I think you’re pulling my leg. No way, man. You’re Chinese. Or Mongolian. Or something like that.” Then I started to laugh.
“Come on, Tom! Have I ever cared that you’re black? Geez, man, we’ve known each other for years. We’re best friends. We’ve kissed each other. On the lips. You’ve gotta know I couldn’t possibly care about shit like that. In fact, I think that you’re beautiful. Does that answer your question?”
“You think I’m beautiful?”
“Hell yes. Well, maybe not beautiful. Maybe handsome. Or perhaps it’s cute. Yup, that’s what it is, you’re cute.” I smirked.
“Only cute? I would have at least expected that you’d think I’m handsome.”
“I don’t know… maybe. How about doing a runway bit so I can evaluate you like they do on those TV shows.”
Tom got up and walked back and forth between his bed and the closet door. After several passes he stood in front of me with his hands on his hips.
“Well? Don’t you think that I’m handsome?”
I looked him up and down in a very exaggerated way. He turned so I had a profile view.
I stood up and began looking at him close-up.
“Could use a haircut… definitely need a shave… maybe different cologne… perhaps khakis instead of jeans…”
I walked around to his back side and smacked his butt.
“…and a very nice butt. Just the right size.”
By then we were both laughing.
Mr. Williams knocked at the open door and came in.
“I’m glad that you’re laughing, Curt. That’s a good thing because when we get together you’ll be in a better mood. Barbara told me what you told her. I suppose there’s more, some things that you didn’t tell her. She also said you weren’t in the best of moods. So, let’s go downstairs now and we can talk.”
“Alright. See you later, Tom.”
“Good luck, Curt.”
Mr. Williams and I sat down in his office, with the door closed. I brought my root beer with me, took a big mouthful, and swallowed feeling the fizz all the way down into my stomach. It helped stop the queasy feeling that started at Laura’s party just before I left to walk home.
Mr. Williams smiled. “So, Curt, I know part of what’s concerning you. Do you want to tell me the rest of it now?”
“I guess so. You know that Laura whispered to me that she knows that I’m gay. I’ve been totally pissed at her because she told me at her birthday party in front of everyone so I couldn’t talk to her about it. So I came home, this home, and I’ve been thinking about what could have made Laura think I was gay. She went on a vacation and the first time I’ve seen her was today. She said she’d call tonight and I decided that’s when I want to have it out with her. She’s actually called a few times today but Mrs. W told her I wasn’t here, meaning I wasn’t in the room where she was. She didn’t lie.” I grinned.
“I’m not concerned about what Laura said to you. That’s something you’re going to have to handle on your own. It’s what else is bothering you that we should talk about.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what Laura said, that she thinks I’m gay. I know I’ve said that I'm not gay a lot of times already, but I started remembering some things that happened that have nothing to do with Laura. I won’t go into the details, but it’s got me pretty close to thinking that maybe I am gay. That scares me. If I’m asked if I’m gay at the trial and I say ‘no’ and I’m lying they’ll be able to tell.”
Mr. Williams took a deep breath and let it out slowly. That scared me too.
“Curt, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to tell that you’re lying if you say you’re not gay if in fact you were gay. You’re going to be so nervous on the stand no one will be able to detect if you’ve been truthful or not.” I shook my head and started to say something, but he put up his hand. “Notice I said if you’ve been truthful or not. Curt, at this point can you say, absolutely, that you are gay?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s a ‘no’ then. But let me ask you a question that might be embarrassing, but that you might be asked at the trial. Have you ever had sex with another male?”
I guess I blushed about twenty shaded of red because Mr. Williams started to laugh. I didn’t say anything.
“That’s a good start to your answer. Blushing is good. Now, what is your answer?”
“No, of course not. I’ve never had sex with another male person. Ever.”
“Have you ever had sex with a female?”
“No, I’ve never had sex with a girl. I’m only fifteen years old!”
“Perfect. Your answers are exactly what I would want you to say. You’ll find that the defense attorney will complain to the judge that you’re embellishing your answer by saying more than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and he will do that because a hostile witness cannot say more unless specifically asked for a reply that requires a statement. If you’re asked these questions at trial I want you to say something like what you just answered.
“Now, about being gay or not. I don’t care if in the future you figure out that you are gay. What I have to say is don’t do anything before the trial that will make your ‘no’ answers a lie. Right now, Curt, I don’t think that you figured out if you’re gay or not. Is that correct?”
“Yes, I haven’t figured it out yet. I guess.”
“You don’t have to guess. You won’t be able to figure it out unless you start having sex with another boy and like it so much that it convinces you that you are gay. So my rule, which you must observe, is that before the trial do not have sex with anyone, male or female. That also means don’t do anything with Tom. If you need to relieve the pressure, take care of it yourself.”
That made me blush even more. And that made Mr. Williams shake his head.
“Curt, you should realize that all but a tiny fraction of men masturbate when they were boys. Think about it. You know your friends do it. You do it. And you’re all going to grow up and become men. So basically all men did it when they were boys. And most men continue to do it when they are all grown up. You shouldn’t be embarrassed to find that out. It’s one of those things that you’d figure out on your own if you just thought about it long enough. In fact, it should have been covered in your Health class in school.”
I nodded because it had been covered when I took Health in the eighth grade. That’s another thing that I’d forgotten.
“Alright, what are your concerns about what you might learn from Laura? I don’t want to get involved in talking to you about your discussion with her, just how you could be affected by what you might hear from her.”
“I’m worried that she’s going to say she thinks me and Tom are, you know, boyfriends or maybe are just messing around with each other.”
“Are you? Messing around with each other?”
“No. But I started remembering that we’ve kissed a couple times. I mean real kisses, on the lips.”
“Could Laura have seen the two of you kissing?”
“No, because it was here at home both times.”
“Then what’s to worry about? Kissing doesn’t mean you’re gay. Even if you and Tom liked kissing each other, or even decided that you wanted to, as you put it, mess around with each other, that doesn’t mean you’re gay. Maybe you’d just be experimenting. Or maybe you could be bisexual, liking to mess around with both boys and girls.”
“I haven’t done anything more with Tom. I don’t think he’d be interested in doing anything more with me.”
“Curt, I think all of this is because you’re stressed about the trial. It’s coming up on Tuesday. Other than the worry about being gay and being asked if you are, you probably haven’t been thinking about it at all, right?”
I thought about that for a few seconds. He was right. I hadn’t thought about the trial except being asked if I was gay. I let out a breath and sat back.
“You’re right. I’ve blocked out everything else about the trial. Like what lies is Don going to tell? Is my mom going to be a witness and what will she say? Could Don get off? Stuff like that.”
“Now are you feeling better about things?”
“Yes, I am. Boy, do I have a messed up mind.”
“No, Curt. You have a fifteen year old mind, and it’s still trying to figure out the world and your place in it. You’re going to be just fine at the trial. By the way, I received a confirmation that the trial will begin on schedule.”
“How should I dress for the trial? Do I need a suit? The only one I have is back at Mom’s house, and probably won’t fit.”
“I want you to look like the fifteen year old teenager that you are. Just wear the same sort of things you wore at the bail hearing.”
“Alright. I can wear a different shirt or pants so it doesn’t look like I only have one outfit to wear.”
“Then you’re all set. Is there anything else you want to talk about?”
“No, I think you made me realize why I was stressing on the gay thing, and that might be because I’d pushed thinking about the trial out of my mind.” I grinned. “I’m good to go now. Thanks, Mr. Williams.”
We both stood, and I walked over and gave him a one-armed hug and he hugged me back.
“Oh, yeah, Tom reminded me about my appointment with the counselor. I forgot, did you make it for me?”
“Curt, you have an appointment with Doctor Hillyer at four thirty on Monday, July 30th.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember now. I even put it in the calendar in my cellphone. That’s another thing I forgot and it clears it up.”
“Thank you for being so outgoing with me about your worries, Curt. Come to me anytime you have something bugging you.”
“I will. Now I’d better go up and see Tom and find out what happened at the party after I left. And we can talk about what strategy I should use when I talk to Laura on the phone tonight.”
As I headed upstairs to see Tom I thought about one thing I’d told Mr. Williams that I wasn’t sure about. I said Tom wouldn’t be interested in doing anything with me. That’s something that Tom and I would have to work out together, privately. I also realized that none of the gay thing worried me. What would be would be if and when it happened. As long as it happened after the trial.
I got to Tom’s room but he wasn’t there. I checked the bathroom and the door was open. I went back downstairs to the kitchen. Tom had a big dish of ice cream that he was demolishing. I sat down across from him.
“How can you be eating again when you had so much to eat at Laura’s party?”
“Hey, I’m a growing boy. I need my fuel.”
“You keep eating stuff like ice cream, you’re going to get that fat butt we’ve kidded you about.”
“You whacked my butt a little while ago. It’s the perfect size, all muscle, and be-uti-fully shaped. It’s so hard that you probably got a bruise on your hand for whacking it so hard. Or maybe you even broke a bone in your hand.” He grinned at me.
“No bruise, no broken bones. Your butt’s fine now, but you keep eating like that,” I waved my hand at his now almost empty dish of ice cream, “and your butt will get all fat and flabby. Just sayin’.”
“Never happen. I work it off playing basketball with you, and running, and going out for baseball practice, and playing on the team. What you suggested can’t happen, won’t happen.” He took another big bite of ice cream. In few seconds he‘d finished off the bowl and put it in the dishwasher.
“Now, let’s go upstairs and talk about the conversation you’re going to have with Laura later tonight.”
“Okay, lead the way, Macduff!”
As we walked upstairs Tom flexed his butt muscles so I could see him doing that. So I hurried up behind him and goosed him.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
I couldn’t answer him because I was laughing.
“Man, some day I’ll get back at you, Curt. But right now we’ve got bigger thing to plan.”
We sat down on his bed, next to each other, both cross-legged and leaning against the headboard.
“First I want to tell you that your Dad made an appointment for me with a counselor, Doctor Hillyer, at four-thirty on Monday the 30th. I even put it in the calendar on my cellphone. So, now tell me what happened after I left the party.”
“Okay. Laura started looking for you after I said Dad was picking us up to go home. I went to the pool house and she came in and asked me where you were. I said that you had a stomach ache from eating too much and went home. She asked me if I was sure, and I said that I thought so. I put a little mystery in what I told her so she might worry. Man, did she worry! As I was trying to get Kyle and Mark to get their stuff so we’d be ready when Dad got there, Laura came running to me and said that my mom said you weren’t there, so you must still be at the party and she couldn’t find you. She tried to call your cell and told me it said you weren’t available and went to voicemail. I said you were probably just on your way home, and she tried your cell again with the same result, and called home again and Mom told her the same thing, so then she started to freak. I talked to you on the phone and she saw that, so she asked me who I was calling and I said I’d called home and she wanted to know if you were home and I said no. She was crying, saying she’d messed up when she talked to you and she wanted to apologize. I said if I saw you or heard from you I’d have you give her a call. She called again while you were in with Dad, and Mom told her you weren’t here. Mom told me she was crying. That’s about it.”
“Good. I hope she realizes how she fucked up our relationship.”
“That’s pretty harsh, man.”
“I know, but she shouldn’t have told me she thinks I’m gay when we’re sitting there with a bunch of people, and I couldn’t respond or ask her why she thinks that I’m gay. She could have called me at home or said she wanted to meet me somewhere or anything else better than where and when and how she did it.
“That reminds me, I better go down and tell your mom that if Laura calls to tell her to call me on my cell.” I pulled out my cell and turned it on, then looked at Tom. He looked uncomfortable.
I asked him, “Something wrong?”
“Uh… well… I sorta already told Mom to let you know if Laura calls because now you’ll take the call.” He put on his ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression and I started to laugh.
“Dork! I don’t need a call screening service.”
“Dufus! You don’t know it, but you do… uh, need a call screening service.”
“Someday, Mr. Thomas Williams, you’re going to wake up naked and tied down to the floor with chocolate syrup all over your body and no way to lick it off.”
“Starting to get kinky now, are you? But as usual, it’s just promises, promises.”
“Enough! I’ve gotta get downstairs and tell your mom what to say to Laura when she calls.”
I did that, and came back upstairs and peeked into Tom’s bedroom. He was lying on the floor pretending to be tied down, but thankfully fully clothed.
“Where’s the chocolate syrup? Here I am, all ready to be anointed, and nothing! That’s the story of my life. I never get anointed when I’m ready for it to be done to me.”
“Where do your strange ideas come from?” I shook my head. “I’m tired. I’m going to lie down and rest for a while. You want me to call you when I hear from Laura?”
“Yeah, but tell you what, I’ll come and lie down next to you. I’m tired too. I’m getting too old for these never ending parties.”
“Tom, you’re only sixteen years old. You shouldn’t be tired from a sedate party like the one today.”
“My Uncle Jeff told me that after my sixteenth birthday it would all be downhill. My life, as I knew it, would be winding down to its conclusion. I can feel it winding down as I lie here. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Winding down, down, down.” He closed his eyes, but he was grinning.
“If you remember, according to that T-shirt that Mark got at the party it’s fifteen years old, not sixteen.”
I nudged him with my foot and put out my right arm to help him up.
“Come on, if you’re going to wait with me then you’ll have to get up.”
He scooted to a sitting position and, with my help, got up on both feet. We went into my bedroom and laid down, with me on the left and Tom on the right. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The next thing I knew my cell ringtone was playing.
“Curt, wake up. That must be Laura calling you.”
I grabbed my cell off the nightstand and answered the call. Caller ID read ‘Unknown’, but I knew it must be Laura.
“Curt? Is that you?”
“Who else would be answering my phone?”
“Oh, my god, I’m so sorry Curt. I don’t know what I was thinking and why I said what I said to you with everyone else around.” Laura started crying. “I’m so sorry, so sorry. Will you ever be able to forgive me?”
“I don’t know. I need to hear why you think I’m gay and why you thought that it’s necessary to tell me when and where you told me.”
There was the sound of sniffling on the line, so I motioned to Tom to close the bedroom door then pushed the speakerphone button.
“Laura, are you going to answer my question?” Yeah, maybe a little harsh, but she deserved it.
“Yes. Wait, am I on your speakerphone?”
“Yes. Tom’s here and I want him to hear this.”
“Noooo… no, he can’t hear this!”
“Yes he can. I want him to hear it. Laura, he’s my best friend and he’s like my brother. We’re living in the same house. If you want me to accept your apology then I want him to hear why you think I’m gay.”
“But he can’t…”
“Laura,” I interrupted, “if you’re not willing to let Tom listen to what you have to say, then let’s just end this call now. Well, what’s your answer?”
There was a long pause, maybe ten or fifteen seconds. I was tempted to say ‘Laura’ a couple times, but I didn’t. I just waited.
“Alright. I’m probably going to piss off both of you, but it would end up that way anyway, so what the fuck.”
I was surprised. Laura almost never used the f-word.
“Okay. First, let me get one thing taken care of. I already told you how sorry I am for whispering it to you at the party. Let me say it again, I’m so sorry, Curt, that I tossed this bomb into your lap with everyone sitting around.”
Tom hadn’t heard her say she was sorry, so it was good that she repeated it. There was a pause while it sounded like she blew her nose. I didn’t say anything.
“I’ve been wondering why you never asked me out. I thought I gave you enough hints but nothing. Then at my party I realized why. I saw the way you and Tom looked at each other. It looked like you guys are gay and are boyfriends. That’s what I saw, and I think I’m right. I’ve got pretty good gaydar. Then you had the idea for that gay teen exchange website, Curt. So it all came together and I just blurted it to you. Well, I whisper-blurted it to you. Aren’t the two of you gay?”
“No, I am not gay.” I replied, and Tom added, “And neither am I.”
Again, there was a long silence.
“I fucked up, didn’t I.”
“Yes,” I said, “that’s a good definition of what you did.”
“Will you each accept my apology? I do apologize, I’m so sorry I was so stupid to make up my mind without thinking it through, and then telling you in front of others, Curt. I can see that even if I whispered it to you, it was done at the wrong time and in the wrong place. I’m so very sorry. And Tom, I made the same assumption that you’re gay, just like I assumed Curt is gay. Can you forgive me?”
“I’m going to put my phone on hold. I want to talk to Tom, then we’ll come back on and talk to you. Will you hold on for a couple minutes?”
“I’ll hold as long as it takes. You guys are important to me, and I don’t want to lose our friendships.”
I pushed the ‘Hold’ button on my phone, made sure the display read ‘Hold’, and turned around and looked at Tom.
“I say we accept her apology. Do you agree?”
“I agree, Curt. I think her explanation makes sense, dumb as it makes her look.”
I grinned. “It makes sense even though it’s dumb. That’s a great combination. I’m going to tell her that.”
“Don’t tell her I said it!”
“I won’t. You’ll see.” I pushed the ‘Hold’ button.
“You there, Laura?”
“Yes, Curt. I’m here.”
“We think your explanation makes sense and is really, really dumb. So, on that basis, we accept your apology.”
“Oh, my god! That’s wonderful! I’m so relieved. This isn’t going to affect your relationships with me, is it?”
“Not as far as I’m concerned, Laura,” I replied. “Ditto for me,” Tom replied.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I owe you big time. Tell you what, how about coming over for lunch tomorrow. We’ll go wherever you want. Is that okay?”
I looked at Tom and he nodded.
“Sure. What time?”
“How about eleven thirty?”
Tom nodded again, so I replied “Yes, that’s fine.”
“I guess there’s nothing else to say right now, is there. So I’ll see the two of you tomorrow at eleven thirty. I love you guys! Bye.”
“Goodbye, Laura.” I ended the call.
“Well, that was fast and simple. Actually, faster and simpler than what I expected.” I looked at the clock on the nightstand.
“It’s almost six forty five. I’m surprised that your mom hasn’t called you to dinner.”
“Yeah, me too. She was probably holding off knowing that we were talking to Laura. Let’s go downstairs and find out what’s cooking.”
“Yeah. Of course!”
I shook my head. “Your mom said you have a hollow leg. I believe it.”
“Like I always say, I’m just a healthy, growing boy and I need my fuel.”
We went downstairs and Mrs. Williams had some cold chicken and a green salad ready for us. I was still full from all the food I ate at the party, but the salad looked good so I got a small bowlful.
“So, Curt, how did your talk with Laura work out?” Mrs. Williams asked.
“Good. She explained how it was all a mistake, she apologized, and we accepted. She’s taking us to lunch tomorrow. Anyplace we want to go. That brings up the question about where we want to eat. Tom, you have any suggestions?”
“How ‘bout Mexican? I think that I’ll be in the mood for some Mexican food tomorrow. How about you?”
“Mexican sounds good. Now, where?”
“I’ve heard that El Ribolo is very good,” Mrs. Williams offered. “The chef is from Columbia, but the food is Mexican. My sister and her husband eat there regularly.”
“Where is it?”
“In Clayton. It’s about a half hour drive from here.”
“I’ll Google it and see what kind of reviews it gets. It they’re positive, I say it’s a go. How about you, Tom?”
The phone rang and Mrs. Williams picked it up. I didn’t pay any attention until she called out my name.
“Curt, it’s your mother. She says it’s very important.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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