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 28 — The Divorce
I sat at the table staring at my mother. How could she drop this ‘Don and I are getting divorced’ bomb on me just two days before Don’s trial? I sure didn’t need anything else distracting me and making me so nervous that I’d forget things when I testified. That could make getting a guilty verdict more complicated.
“I don’t know what to say. Mr. Williams told me that I shouldn’t think about unimportant stuff so I’ll be able to give my testimony without being nervous about it.”
“I understand, Curt. I decided that you should know that Don and I are in the process of getting a divorce in case it comes out at the trial.”
“I think I need to stay with the Williams for now. Moving back home would be a huge distraction.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to move until after the trial is over.”
“Oh. So when did you decide about the divorce?”
“Don and I have been talking since his bail hearing and decided it would be better if we separated. Then we agreed that an uncontested divorce would be the best solution. Our lawyers have worked with us and Don is relinquishing any claim to the house and possessions, and I won’t ask for alimony.”
“That’s interesting. So Don moved out of the house?”
“Yes. He did that right after he got out on bail. He has a new job with a company in L.A. that insures celebrities and bands and he wants to move there.”
“When is the divorce going to be, uh…”
“Final?” Mom interjected.
“Because it’s uncontested and there’s no property involved, it’s been fast-tracked and will be final tomorrow.”
“Wow, that’s fast. That’s like what, only a week?”
“Yes. We didn’t go to court, our case was heard by an administrative judge and only Don, me, and our lawyers were there. It costs the State of California a lot less money, and even more important it saved Don and me a lot of time and money compared to going to a divorce court.”
I put my hands over my face, covering my eyes, for a few seconds, then I slapped them on the top of the table.
“Okay, this is something you’ve told me only for my information that I don’t have to think about or worry about it until after the trial. Can I tell Mr. Williams, since he’s my lawyer?”
“Yes, but no one else, please.”
“That’s alright with me. Will you still testify at Don’s trial?”
“Yes, but unless the prosecutor asks about something else my lawyer says my testimony will be about things like when I met Don, when we got married, and what happened at the hospital.”
“What do you mean, ‘what happened at the hospital’?”
“Don’s lawyer wants me to describe your injuries.”
“And you’re going to tell them the truth?”
Mom looked hurt, but took a breath and replied, “I’m going to say that your arm suffered a serious break and had a large bruise on your cheek and one on your chest. I’m going to say that the attending physician should be consulted about your injuries for a clinical description. That’s the truth.”
“What if they ask what happened to me?”
“I’m going to say that I wasn’t home, so I cannot say what happened to you. I’m going to say that you should be asked that question.”
I thought about what she said, and if that’s what she said during the trial it would be the truth. I remembered something I wanted to ask her about the divorce.
“Does the prosecutor know about your divorce?”
“Yes. Our attorneys decided it was prudent to tell the prosecutor.”
“They won’t ask you about why I moved out?”
“My lawyer doesn’t think they’ll ask about that. He doesn’t think that it’s related to what Don did to you or to the trial. That question didn’t come up at my deposition.”
“Huh. Does that mean you’ve changed your mind about whether Don caused my broken arm and my bruises, and that he did it to me unprovoked?”
“Yes. Don and I talked about it. You probably know that Kyle is gay and that impacted Don a lot. Then Mr. Vanvelick told him that you and Tom were hugging and kissing on our driveway…”
“Jeez, what a fucking liar!” I interjected.
“…and that made him think about Kyle and now with you it looked like the same thing, the gay son thing, starting all over again with you. He snapped, Curt. He’s normally a kind and sweet person.”
Yeah, sure, like I’d believe that. I didn’t say it out loud though. I didn’t want to get into a big fight with her when things were starting to look promising.
We stood up and walked to the door.
“Mom, thanks for letting me know. Let’s talk again after the trial, okay?”
“Yes, that’s fine, Curt.” She grabbed me into a hug, being careful about my broken left arm. I hugged her back. For some reason that made me remember something else that I’d forgotten
“Mom, what did Mark’s doctor say to you in private after we left the exam room? Is his injury really bad?”
“I can’t tell you that, Curt. It’s patient confidential. The only one I can tell is Mrs. Hutchins because she’s his grandmother and is his legal guardian. Thanks for reminding me. That’s something I need to do right now.”
When we got back to the waiting room Mom whispered something to Mrs. Hutchins and they walked outside. I figured that if the news had been real bad Mom would have taken Mark’s grandma to the office that we’d just left so they could talk in private. At least that’s what I hoped. I looked for Kyle and saw him at the drinking fountain, so I walked over to talk to him.
“Hi, Curt. I sure hope Mark’s MRI scan comes out okay.”
“Yeah, me too. He’s had more than enough problems for a whole lifetime already.”
“He’s a really nice guy. Staying in the same house with him for a few days made me realize that.” Kyle smiled. “It’s interesting, even though we met a couple weeks ago, Mark and I talked and decided that we felt like brothers instead of just friends. I guess that’s because neither of us has a brother.”
I grinned. “That’s cool, and I know exactly how that is. Tom and I think and act like we’re brothers, but we’ve known each other for years. We even fight like brothers sometimes.”
“Mark and I were arguing about some stupid movie on TV when I said that we were acting just like brothers. That’s what got us going on the idea that we felt like real brothers.”
“That’s cool. Hey, I have a question. If I’m not being too nosey, when I heard that your mom wanted to get in touch with you I thought it might be because of a problem with getting your textbooks. Was that why she called?”
Kyle shook his head. “Yeah, you are right on but there’s a lot more than just my textbooks. There’s a problem because the stupid school thinks I moved out of the district since I didn’t go in to get my own textbooks. They want to talk to me, in person, face to face. Mom told them I’m in California because I’ve been subpoenaed to appear at Don’s trial and that where it is. They want proof of that, and that I haven’t moved here. She wanted to find out if I could get the D.A. to call the school and talk to them. So tomorrow morning I’m going to call Beth Wolman and ask her to call Mr. Tyson at the district office and tell him I’m here to give my testimony and until the trial is over.”
“That’s ridiculous. What, are there hundreds of kids who don’t live in your district scheming to get into your high school?”
“Damned if I know. Doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think Niles West High School is like at the top of the scale of high schools in the Chicago area. Whatever.”
I laughed. “That’s the first time I’ve heard you say ‘whatever’. You better watch out, Kyle, you’re becoming a Californian.”
“Works for me. The weather’s a lot better here, and I can be out and no one seems to care that I’m gay.” Kyle smiled, “and I’ve found a bunch of good friends here, better than at home. That includes you, Curt, and Tom and Mark and Laura too and Ray. Now all I have to do is convince my mom to move here. I know Melissa will be all for it. She hates the cold and snow.”
We sat down to wait for news about Mark. None of the magazines were of any interest so I pulled out my smartphone and opened the Kindle app. I opened a fantasy book I’d started, Spiritwalk by Charles de Lint. I’d read the first book in the series, Moonheart, and even though I’m not a big fan of fantasy I liked it a lot, so when Amazon had this sequel as a free book of the day I ‘bought’ it for zero dollars. Weird how they do it that way. They have fee books but you have to have a credit card on file to get them. I used the prepaid credit card Mr. Williams gave me.
Kyle looked over at my phone. “What are you doing?”
“Reading. I have the Kindle and nook apps on my phone. It’s better than an actual e-reader because it’s smaller and lightweight and because they’re on my phone I always have something to read with me.”
“What are you reading?”`
“Spiritwalk. It’s a fantasy story based on Native American and Celtic mythology.”
Kyle leaned over to look at the screen, so I held it up so he could see it.
“Isn’t the text kinda small? Wouldn’t it be better on an iPad?”
“The text would be bigger on an iPad, but actually it works great on my cell. The text size is adjustable, and this size is perfect when I cross my legs and rest my hand holding my cell against my thigh. It’s comfortable to hold, where an iPad would be too big and too heavy to carry and use when I’m away from home. My cell is small and perfect for times like sitting here in the waiting room or at home when I’m watching TV and what’s on is boring. Add to that, I have my cell with me almost all the time, and unlike an iPad it fits in my pocket.”
“So you’re saying you don’t want an iPad?”
“You gonna give me one for my birthday?” I grinned, “Hint, hint!”
Kyle laughed. “Fat chance, Curt. Like I can’t even get one, so me giving you one, even for your far-off sometime-I-dont-know birthday, is like totally off the deep end.”
I looked down with what I hoped was a crestfallen expression and shook my head.
“That’s that story of my life, nobody ever gives me anything good. I’ll probably get underwear for my birthday. Again!” I let out a big sigh, but I couldn’t help grinning.
Kyle pulled his cell out of his pocket and turned it on.
“When’s your birthday? I want to add it to your contact info on my phone.”
“And you’ll be what, sixteen?”
“Okay, got it. I made a note, ‘No underwear’ in your entry.”
“You’re a good friend, Kyle Campbell. Thank you!”
“Don’t thank me until you see what I get you.”
“Oops… maybe I spoke too soon. Hey, when’s your birthday?”
“I’ll be sixteen on the tenth of March. I’m lucky, my birthday’s always on the same day every year.”
“Really? I didn’t know birthdays worked that way. Go figure.”
“Hey, aren’t you going to put my birthday into your cell?”
I took a deep breath, rolled my eyes, and shook my head. “Pushy, pushy, pushy!” Then I started to laugh as I pulled up the contact screen on my cell and added his birthday. I asked him for his home address, home phone number, and his email address then added that information as well. He already had my home address and the Williams’ home address, but didn’t have my email address so I gave it to him and he added it to his phone.
I looked at the time on my phone.
“Man, it’s getting late. It’s almost eight thirty. I wonder how much longer it’s going to take to finish Mark’s MRI.”
I’d barely finished saying that when Doctor Nordine walked into the waiting room and told us Mark had been moved to room 411, and we could go up and see him until visiting hours were over at nine. It seemed like I’d made the doctor come out to tell us. Weird.
We followed Mom who knew how to get there the shortest way, and in less than five minutes we were in Mark’s room.
I’m not sure what I expected, but Mark sat in a chair at one of those rolling portable tables that they usually use to feed you when you’re in a hospital bed. His grandma walked over and stood right in front of him then looked at him like she wanted to see if he’d been damaged by the MRI scan.
“Are you alright, Mark? How do you feel? What was the MRI like?”
“I’m fine, it wasn’t a biggie. The test was a little noisy and I had to hold my head steady, but otherwise it was easy. Most of the time I just waited around for them to get me prepped and the equipment set up and ready. They put something into my IV, then took the IV off and put me in the MRI machine. It was sort of interesting, but I couldn’t see much. I still have my headache, but it’s not as bad as earlier.”
“Oh, I’m so glad! Your friends have been waiting for your MRI to finish. It’s nice that you have good friends like these boys.” She stepped back so we could see him.
Mark looked at the three of us. “Hi. You guys want to have some dinner with me?” he said, grinning. “The food’s okay, but that’s probably ‘cause I’m hungry.”
Kyle walked over and looked at what Mark had for dinner.
“Looks like chicken broth and some kind of sandwich.”
“You’re right,” Mark replied, “it’s chicken soup and a turkey sandwich. It would be better if they’d used more mayo, but other than that it’s actually good. And I have a cup of orange sherbet for dessert, and a carton of milk. Not really gourmet, not very much to eat, but I’m not complaining.”
“Huh!” Kyle growled. “I think you should complain. I’ve seen what you normally eat for dinner, and this is like an appe-teaser for you.”
“An appe-teaser. Sort of an appetizer, but only enough to be a teaser. If you don’t get enough to eat you’re going to lose all that fat from your butt. You’ll end up having skinny-butt syndrome.”
“Are you saying I have a fat butt?”
“Hey, I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em. Personally, I like well-rounded butts, like yours.”
Tom and I were trying to keep from laughing when Mom interrupted their little butt-fest.
“Excuse me, boys, you’re not alone. I’m here and Mrs. Hutchins is here, and this discussion is a bit off the deep end for us. Understand?”
“Sorry, Mrs. Clarey, sorry gran’ma,” Mark said.
“Um, I guess I sort of forgot you were here,” Kyle added.
Mrs. Hutchins put her hand on my mom’s arm. “Virginia, I hear this sort of teenage joking all the time, and I rather enjoy it. You understand, I’ve been an empty-nester for the past twenty-some years and having teens around, especially boys, makes me feel young again.”
“Well, if you don’t mind and as long as they keep what they say clean, I guess I can tolerate their banter.”
I looked at the clock on the wall in back of Mom.
“I’m starting to get hungry too. It’s almost eight forty-five, and visiting hours will be over at nine. I thought the doctor would have been here with the preliminary results from Mark’s scan by now.”
The doctor walked in as soon as I’d finished saying that sentence, just like what happened in the waiting room. Weird. Maybe I had one of those secret powers. Not a very valuable one, calling a doctor whenever I say I wonder why he’s not there yet.
“Mrs. Hutchins, would you prefer to have me give my preliminary assessment privately?”
“I think that’s Mark’s decision,” she replied. “Mark?”
“These guys are my best friends. We have each other’s backs. I’d tell them anyway, so it’ll be easier and more accurate if theyre here listening to you saying your preliminary assessment.”
“Is that acceptable, Mrs. Hutchins? Because youre Mark’s guardian and because of his age I have to have your assent.”
“It’s alright with me that these friends of Mark can be here when you tell us about his scan results.”
“It appears that Mark has a mild concussion. This is based on Mark’s symptoms including a brief loss of consciousness, headache, no amnesia, and the physical aspects at the wound site. Its a positive factor that he had no nausea and no loss of memory. The preliminary analysis of the MRI scan confirms his symptoms. We want to hold him overnight and evaluate his condition in the morning. We’re looking for a decrease in his headache, no loss of consciousness, no amnesia, and no nausea. We’ll put a new dressing on his wound, and review the final analysis of the MRI scan. I anticipate that we’ll release him mid-afternoon tomorrow. Mark, Mrs. Hutchins, do you have any questions?”
Mark raised his hand, just like he would at school. “I have a question. Is it okay for me to lie on my right side where the wound is on my head? I might turn on that side when I’m asleep.”
“Does it hurt if you lie on that side?”
“Then it’s a good idea to avoid turning on your right side. It’s the bump on your head that’s causing most of the pain when you lie on that side. The nurse can put extra pillows along the right side of your body. That will help prevent you from turning over on that side. I’ll put in a request to make up your bed that way. You can do the same thing when you get home.”
“Okay, thanks Doctor Nordine. Gran’ma, do you have enough pillows to do that on my bed at home?”
“Yes, I have lots of pillows we can use. I have a question, doctor. How often will Mark’s bandage have to be changed?”
“Mark’s contusion is not serious, and we used elastic polymer stitches to close the cut. Before he’s released the nurse will show you how to change his bandage. The cloth stitches will come off naturally as he showera.”
“When can I shower? I guess when can I wash my hair is what I’m really asking.”
“I recommend that once you get home you avoid washing your hair for four or five days, then after that it depends on how you feel and how the wound looks. Mrs. Hutchins, I will give you some advice about that before Mark is released.”
“Thank you, Doctor Nordine,” Mrs. Hutchins replied. “A question, if I may. Will these elastic stitches need to be replaced?”
“No, they shouldn’t need replacing. By the time they fall off the cut will have healed.”
Mark raised his hand again. “I have another question. I’m taking summer session classes to catch up because I just moved here. When can I go back to school?”
“If you don’t have any symptoms, and your fellow students don’t mind that your hair isn’t washed, you should be able to return to school on Tuesday. Mrs. Hutchins, I’d like you to make the decision whether Mark goes back to school then or waits another day or two. I suggest that someone drive Mark to and from school until week after next.”
“I’ll watch Mark, and I can drive him to and from school starting Wednesday or whatever day he returns to school.”
We heard a chime, then an announcement, “Visiting hours are over. Please move to the front or garage exits.”
“it’s time to let you get some rest, Mark. I’ll have the nurse come in and set up those pillows in your bed. You know about the call button if you need anything?”
“Yes, a nurse showed me and it’s right here at the end of this cord.”
Mrs. Hutchins hugged Mark and kissed him on his forehead. The rest of us said goodbye and that we’d see him tomorrow when he’s home, and we left his room.
No one said much on the drive home. I think we were all tired and hungry. Mom dropped me and Tom at his house, and I told her I’d see her on Tuesday at the courthouse.
When we got home Mrs. W made grilled cheese sandwiches, two for each of us. She put sliced tomato in them and they were wonderful with a bowl of tomato-basil soup and a glass of milk. I surprised myself by eating everything. I guess I was a lot hungrier than I’d thought.
We thanked Mrs. W and Tom went into the family room to watch some TV.
“Mrs. W, is Mr. Williams in his office?”
“Yes, and the door is open so you can go right in.”
Even though it was open, I knocked on his office door to let him know I was there and wanted to talk.
“Hi, Curt. How is Mark?”
“Okay. He got an MRI and they’re keeping him at the hospital until tomorrow. They want to watch him to make sure that he’s alright. He has a minor concussion and a cut on the side of his head where it hit the faucet. They used something called polymer stitches to close his cut and put a big gauze bandage over the stitches. The doctor expects he’ll be released to go home tomorrow afternoon.”
“That’s excellent. How does he feel?”
“He still has a headache but its not as bad, and other than that I guess he feels alright.
“I have something to tell you, Mr. Williams. Is it okay if I close the door?”
“Certainly. I also learned something today that is of interest. But you go first, Curt.”
“Okay. My mom told me that she and Don are getting a divorce. She said it would be okay to tell you, but no one else. She says she told Beth Wolman. The divorce is supposed to be final tomorrow.”
Mr. Williams laughed and shook his head. “I should have realized your mother would tell you. That is what I planned to tell you. One of Beth Wolman’s assistants called to let me know about the divorce. What do you think about it, Curt?”
“I think it’s a good thing. What surprised me is how fast it was done. I always thought getting a divorce is a long drawn-out process in a court.”
“They show them that way on TV for entertainment value. In reality the majority of divorces in California are uncontested.”
I grinned. “Thanks for telling me about the divorce, even though I already knew. I’m going to watch a little TV before going to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Good night.”
“Also thank you for telling me what your mother told you. Good night, Curt.”
I went to the family room but Tom wasn’t there. I scanned the TV channels and didn’t see anything interesting so I turned it off and went upstairs. Tom’s door was open so I walked in. He stood in front of the mirrored closet doors wearing only his yellow bikini brief, doing poses.
“Hey, stud. How’s it hanging?”
“Dude, knock before entering, okay?”
“Tough to do when the door to your room is open all the way.”
“Oh. I guess I forgot to close it. Would you close it, please?”
“Sure.” I closed the door and we sat down on his bed. “I wonder what tomorrow’s lunch with Laura is going to be like. The conversation part, I mean. Should I get into it with her about saying I’m gay? What do you think?”
“I say go for it.”
“You know her mom’s coming with us and thats because Laura can’t drive without an adult with her. Mrs. Rosas is meeting a friend and theyre also having lunch at El Ribolo. The problem is, if her mom is sitting close to us in the restaurant she might overhear our conversation, especially if it gets, um, heated, if you know what I mean.”
“You’re right, that would restrict our topics of conversation. But not to worry, Curt, we’ll find out what’s what when we go to lunch tomorrow. Its not the end of the world if you dont talk to her about the calling you gay thing. You can do that some other time and some other place where itll be more private. On the other hand, maybe you will be able to talk about the gay thing.”
I took a deep breath. “Yeah, I don’t know why I’m stressing about this so much.”
Tom got this sort of smarmy grin. “You know stressing is so gay, don’t you?” He busted up laughing. I wasn’t going to let him get away with that, so I jumped up, twisted around, and threw myself on top of him.
“I’ll show you what’s so gay!” and I started tickling him. His arms were free so he started tickling me. We thrashed around on his bed until, somehow, I pinned his arms along his sides with my legs and sat my butt on his crotch. I held up my right hand and wiggled my fingers.
“Now, Thomas Williams, I have you under my control! Prepare to be tickled nonstop!”
I started tickling his stomach and he started laughing. But he didn’t make any attempt to throw me off, which he could have accomplished very easily, or to get his arms free and tickle me. Instead he began twisting his hips around. That’s when I felt what was pressing against my butt.
I lifted my butt off of him and shouted, “Oh my god!” and Tom flipped me off so I was lying alongside of him.
“See what happens when you tickle me? I get hard when I’m tickled too much. So beware, Curtis Fischer!”
“You enjoyed every minute of me sitting on it, didn’t you, Tom!”
“Yup. And if you hadn’t noticed and kept it up for a little longer, things would have gotten messy. Very messy.”
I stated to laugh, then turned and looked at him. “I think you were the one keeping it up.” I lifted up a little and turned to my right so I could look at him. “And I see that you’re still keeping it up and it’s starting to show a bit of messy right there.” I pointed at his crotch then flopped back down alongside Tom. “And you’re very impressive, if I do say.”
“Hey, I’m always impressive, no matter what it is that I’m doing.”
“Okay, enough fun and games. It’s almost ten thirty and I’m bushed.” I got up and looked at Tom. “I’m heading to bed. This has been a very good day combined with a very stressful day. The stressful part’s got me totally worn out. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
He got up and grabbed me in a hug, then pushed me away and held onto my shoulders at arms’ length.
“I’ll see you at breakfast. Around eight thirty, okay?”
“Okay. See you then.”
I laid in bed thinking about what happened with Tom. Was he coming on to me? Probably, I decided. Was I in love with Tom? Absolutely, I decided. But it’s complicated. I know that I love Tom like a brother. But my feelings for him that other way, that more personal and intimate way, were just as strong. No, I shouldn’t lie to myself. Those feelings were much stronger than the ones that I felt for him as a brother.
I realized that thinking about Tom and my feelings for him didn’t stress me the way it had earlier today. Because of Laura accusing me of being gay, I should be stressed and bothered by what just happened with Tom. But I realized that it didn’t stress or bother me at all. I thought about that. I enjoyed what happened, a lot. I laughed about it. I liked looking at him. I liked having my butt on him that way. It didn’t embarrass me at all.
So, the biggie. Does that mean I’m in love with Tom that way? Yup, positively, absolutely. Does that mean I’m gay? That’s the ‘it’s complicated’ part. I’m not gay in that I don’t perve on guys wondering if they are gay. In fact, I don’t stare at other guys at all. Other guys don’t turn me on. I don’t have any desire to look at gay porn, either. But Tom turns me on. So the answer is yes, I’m in love with Tom that way. And I don't have to be gay to be being in love with Tom that way.
Is that going to screw up my testimony if I’m asked if I’m gay? No. Am I going to lie about it? No. The fact that it’s complicated means I haven’t made up my mind whether Im gay or straight or bi. I’ll leave that for me to figure out after the trial is over. I’ll leave it until Tom and I can figure it out together.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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