Curtís life takes a turn that he never expected, and he realizes that itís because he forgot something that didnít 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 44 — Doctor Hillyer Part 2
I woke up early on Tuesday, seven a.m. I looked at Tom and almost laughed out loud. He was sound asleep, lying on his left side facing me, a line of drool running down his chin to a wet spot on his pillow. He looked so cute. But I had to pee so I eased myself out of bed and went to the bathroom. I looked at the clock on the sink. Ten after seven. I decided to take a shower and get ready. Mrs. W wanted to leave at nine fifteen.
After dressing I decided I should make an electronic record of the things on my to-do list. I went into my room, sat down at my desk, and opened Excel. Putting it in a spreadsheet would make it easier for me to keep the list updated. I created three columns, Item, Date Due, and Completed. I sorted it by the due date and then by the item. All of the items I didn’t have a date for were sorted together at the bottom of the list. I noticed there was no date for when Kyle would fly home, so I fixed that. I realized that we should be having a going home party for him, so I added that on the Saturday before his flight home. I’d put ‘Curt and Tom sleep together’ and Tom and I officially becoming boyfriends. I could easily delete or hide those rows if I gave it to someone else, like Laura or my mom. I could add new items, too, and change the dates. That’s what’s great about a spreadsheet.
I printed one copy for me and one for Tom.
I returned to Tom’s room. He was awake and sitting up in bed. I handed him his copy.
Tom looked at the list. “Some of these thing are related, like your meetings with Doctor Hillyer. Shouldn’t they be together, like the going home party for Kyle, which I think is most excellent, and him flying home?”
“Yeah, I see what you mean. I should also move seeing Ray’s dad about a new cast so it’s above getting the permission slip for PE, and they should both be above my cast coming off. But what about school starting? It’s just above my cast coming off, and now it would be above seeing Ray’s dad about a new cast. It gets too complicated, I think. That’s why I sorted it by date and if there’s more than one item for a date they are sorted alphabetically. That’s why on Monday seeing Doctor Hillyer is above you and me saying we’re boyfriends officially, even though they actually happened the other way around.”
“You could add a column for the time,” Tom suggested.
“If I need something like that it means this list is way too complicated. I’m gonna leave it the way it is. It’s short enough that I can figure out everything just looking at it.”
“Okay, okay, keeping it your way is fine. But think about this. Here’s your chance to make some money by writing a to-do app for iOS and Android.”
“I don’t know how to write apps for smartphones and tablets.”
“You can learn. It should be easy, tons of high school kids write apps. Hell, even middle and elementary school kids write apps. You might not make a lot of money, but think about your application for college. Saying you write apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets would make it more impressive.”
“Okay, I’ll think about it. Hmm… Okay, I thought about it. I agree with you, it’s probably a good idea for me to learn how to write apps for smartphones and tablets.”
Tom chuckled. “You need to add that to your list, Curt!”
I burst out laughing, then punched Tom in the arm. “Dufus!”
“What? Here I give you a great idea, and remind you to add it to your to-do list so you don’t forget it, and you call me names.” Tom shook his head and looked up at the ceiling. “I never get any respect around here!”
“Alright, alright! I’ll add it to my list.” I went back to my bedroom and did just that, with Tom watching over my shoulder as I entered the item.
“Clever wording, Curt. You wrote it ‘Write to-do list app’ so it’s automatically on the bottom of the list. Must be complicated to re-sort the to-dos as you add them.”
“Sorting the list is easy. I wrote a macro that re-sorts the list with one click,” I replied. “Just watch.” I keyed in a new to-do ‘Ignore Tom’s comments’ at the bottom of the list, then clicked a button I’d labeled ‘Sort’ at the top of my spreadsheet. Tom watched as the new entry moved between ‘Don’s verdict’ and ‘Mark and Parker boyfriends?’ in the list. It happened instantly, and Tom said, “Man, that happened so fast I didn’t even see it happen. Good job, Curt!”
“The real ‘Good job’ belongs to Excel. All I did is set up a button to run a macro that uses the built-in sort feature on the Completed, Date Due, and Item columns.”
“Well, you did something I sure couldn’t do.”
“Sure you can, Tom. I can show you how to create a macro that will sort the columns in a spreadsheet. If I can learn how to write apps for iOS and Android you can learn to write macros for Excel spreadsheets.”
“I have an even better idea. When I need a spreadsheet I’ll come to you and have you build it for me.”
“Any time, Tom, any time. But you really should learn. Just think about your application for college. Saying you write Excel macros would make it more impressive, don’cha think?”
I grinned, and Tom shook his head. “NFW, Curt. I’m not a computer expert like you. So,” he asked, changing the subject, “what are we going to do today?”
“I have my next session with Doctor Hillyer at ten. Your mom is driving me. We‘re going to leave around nine fifteen. Want to come along? You and your mom can wander around Clayton looking at the shops. Or you can go for a walk. There’s a park right across the street from the building where Doctor Hillyer has his office.”
“Yeah. Maybe. I’ll talk to Mom. I just want to make sure she’s not planning a morning of looking at clothes and other women’s stuff like cosmetics and whatever. How about after that?”
“I guess if you come along we could go somewhere for lunch. My session with Doctor Hillyer will be over around eleven or a little after. By the time we get back it’ll be around eleven forty-five.”
“That sounds good. Maybe a burger?”
I grinned. “At Counter Burger?”
“Why, what a simply marvelous idea, Curt!”
“You know it depends on your mom, if she wants to come along.”
“If she doesn’t she can drop us off. We can wander around downtown after. Maybe do a little shopping, clothes and other guy stuff.” Tom made an open fist with his right hand them moved his left hand around his fist from the top. He wiggled his eyebrows and started laughing.
“Your Dad was right about you being a comedian. I join him in providing this advice: don’t quit your day job.” Then I laughed too.
Tom picked up a sheet of paper and pretended he read from it. “‘See Tom and Curt the Budding Comedians, now headlining at the Lesher Center.’ How’s that for the announcement of our act, Curt?”
“I reiterate, don’t quit your day job.”
“Since my day job, like yours, Curt, is being a high school student, we can’t quit. In exactly three weeks and two days from today we’re once again going to find ourselves in indentured servitude from eight ten in the morning until three twenty in the afternoon at Los Arcos High School. So our comedy careers are dependent on working nights and weekends. I can see it now. Standing in front of a huge crowd of people who wait for us to cause them to roar with laughter as the result of our witticisms. It’s going to be wonderful!” Tom smiled.
“You know, there’s a way to get out of going to school every day, Tom.”
“Get yourself committed to the Agnews Home for the Bewildered. It’s just a nice drive south of here, about an hour away.”
“As if, Curt. I remember reading about the Agnews Mental Hospital in our California History and Government class. It was converted to the Agnews Development Center for kids with mental problems, then it was closed a couple years ago.”
“Man, you remember the weirdest stuff. Now, I think we’d better go downstairs and have some breakfast. Your mom is going to leave at nine fifteen and I have to be in the car with her.”
“What is the doctor going to talk to you about today, Curt? Maybe I shouldn’t have asked that question. Sorry.”
“No, that’s okay. Hell, we’re boyfriends, we’re in love, and we’re sleeping together. In fact, according to your mom, we’re partners. I want to share with you what’s going on with Doctor Hillyer, and the counseling sessions I’m having.”
“Okay, since it’s okay for me to be in on what you and the doctor talk about, what did you talk about last time?”
“He asked me why I was there talking to him. I said it was because I wanted to talk about having to move back to my mom’s house. I told him how Don beat the shit out of me, and how Mom wouldn’t believe that Don slugged me, broke my arm, and sent me to the hospital. He wanted to know what happened so I told him, in detail. It took over an hour. It was funny, I did almost all the talking. In fact, afterwards he told me that it was usually hard to get teens to talk to him but that I didn’t seem reluctant at all. I guess that he’s young made it easier for me to talk to him.”
“Yeah. Here I thought he’d be an old guy with gray hair and a short gray beard. Instead he’s young, maybe in his late twenty’s. That was a surprise. And before you ask, he doesn’t use a couch either.”
“No couch? How were you able to fall asleep if he doesn’t have a couch?”
“I didn’t have time to fall asleep. I was doing most of the talking, remember?” I grinned.
Tom grinned right back at me. “And that’s different, how?”
We both busted up laughing.
“I have to go down and eat something or my stomach is going to be growling all during my counseling session. You ready to eat?”
“I will be in a few. I still have to get ready. Go on down and feed your face.”
That’s what I did. Mrs. W was already in the kitchen, sitting at the table having a muffin and coffee.
“What would you like for breakfast, Curt?” she asked as I walked past the table.
“I’ll have a bowl of cereal. Tom said he would come with us and walk around Clayton with you while I’m having my session with Doctor Hillyer. Oh, that’s as long as you’re not going to be shopping for clothes or any other women’s stuff, he said.”
“I had no intention of shopping for any women’s stuff, as he called it. To be honest, I’ve never been to Clayton before. I’ve heard good things about it, that it’s a cute town with some interesting little shops and a nice civic park right downtown. I thought I’d take a walk around town while you were busy.”
“If you want to take a walk in the countryside, there’s a park right across the street from Doctor Hillyer’s office that has a paved walking trail.”
“That sounds like it could be a nice break. I could use the exercise.”
We heard Tom coming downstairs. He walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table.
“Okay, what’re you having for breakfast, Curt?” he asked.
“Cereal. Milk. A muffin.”
“Sounds good. I’ll have the same.”
“This is a self-service facility,” Mrs. W told him. “You’ll have to get up and get your own breakfast.”
“As I planned.” Tom grinned and stood up and got his cereal and put a muffin in the toaster oven.
After we finished breakfast Tom and I went upstairs to use the bathroom and get ready to leave. On the way out of my bedroom I thought about my to-do list and grabbed the copy I’d printed for myself. I didn’t know if Doctor Hillyer would be interested, but I decided to bring it anyway. We were back downstairs by nine fifteen and Mrs. W was waiting for us, jiggling he car keys.
“Are you ready, Curt?” she asked.
“Yes, I am.”
“I am too,” Tom added.
The drive to Clayton took about the same amount of time as yesterday afternoon. I thought it would take longer because of morning rush hour. Mrs. W said because we left after the end of rush hour we didn’t encounter any traffic that slowed us down.
“Do you want me to come in with you?” she asked.
“Since I’ve already been here I’ll be fine. You and Tom should see the town.”
They said ‘bye’ and I went upstairs to the office. Since I’d arrived early Doctor Hillyer had another client and I had to wait until my ten o’clock appointment time. I pulled out my smartphone and opened the Kindle app. I’d started reading Spiritwalk by Charles de Lint a week or so ago, but hadn’t gotten very far. It’s a great story, a fantasy based on Native American and Celtic mythology. If you’re going to read this story, it’s best to be into fantasy. Which I am, so I got absorbed in the story. It startled me when I heard the nurse call my name. I looked up and she smiled.
“Sorry for interrupting you. How are you today, Curt?” she asked.
“I’m good.” I saved my place in the story, then turned off and put my cell in my pocket.
The nurse escorted me into Doctor Hillyer’s office and I sat down across from him.
“How are you, Curt?” he asked.
“I’m good. I’m curious about what we’re going to talk about today.”
He chuckled. “Once again I’m surprised about how different you are compared to the usual teens that I counsel. You’re ready to get going. That’s a good thing, and it’s very refreshing. As I told you yesterday, I want to ask questions, and I expect that today’s session will be more intensive for you. Is that okay?”
“Sure. You’re going to focus on whether I should move back home with my mom or stay at the Williams’ house, right?”
“Yes, that’s correct. We’re also going to explore somewhat afield from that topic, but we’ll get back to your focus about moving in with your mother or staying where you are. Let’s get started.
“Curt, tell me about your father. Not your stepfather, your birth father.”
“My dad, my real dad, my only dad, was a great guy. He was one of the first U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan. That was six years ago when I was nine years old. Before he was called up we did everything together. We played baseball, football, and basketball. We went to Giants and A’s baseball games, 49’ers and Raiders games, and Cal, St. Mary’s, and Warriors basketball games. He taught me how to swim. We’d go to the pools at Larkey Park and Heather Park, and to the ocean at Santa Cruz. He taught me how to ride my bike and how to skateboard. He was a really good skateboarder. He took me to the ice skating rink at Civic Park and neither of us knew how to skate so we both fell down a lot.” I grinned. “That was a lot of fun! He took me skiing at Squaw Valley. We went fishing. We went hiking and even went backpacking a couple times. He took me to my first rock concert at the Concord Pavilion. God, I really miss him.”
“Do you think about him often?”
“All the time. When I do something that I think is cool, I think about how he’d tell me that he thought it was cool too. When I get straight A’s at the end of a semester I think about how he’d always say he’s proud of me. I think about him when I’m playing a sport or skateboarding and how he’d watch me and be smiling. I think about him when I’m doing lots of things, all the time.” I could feel myself start to tear up. Talking about my dad was very emotional.
“What would he think about you and Tom being boyfriends?”
“I think about him when I’m hugging Tom and I know that he’d tell me that he thinks Tom is a great guy and he’s happy we’re together. My Uncle Jeff, my dad’s younger brother, is gay. Dad would tell me about him and how Jeff had a hard time in school and Dad told him that he’d always have his back. Dad didn’t have a homophobic cell in his body. He didn’t have a racist cell in his body either. He made sure I understood that people are people regardless of their race or religion or sexual orientation, and that I should judge people on what they do and say and if they’re trustworthy, what’s in their hearts and what’s in their minds, not on superficial stuff like being gay or black or Asian or having blue eyes or whatever.”
“Have you talked to Tom about your dad?”
I sat for a few seconds thinking about that question. That’s a question I totally didn’t expect.
“Not much, and I should a lot more, shouldn’t I,” I stated. “That’s something I need to add to my to-do list and put at the top.”
“You have a to-do list?” Doctor Hillyer asked.
I chuckled. “Yeah. Tom and I were talking Sunday night and he asked me what I had to do this week. I told him all the thing I had to do or would be happening and made a mental list of them. Then this morning I keyed the list into a spreadsheet and printed it. I gave a copy to Tom and brought a copy with me today. Would you like to see it?”
“Yes, thank you.”
I handed him the copy of my list. It was complete, except for the item about telling Tom about my dad.
“Why did you decide to create a to-do list, Curt?”
“I have a lot of things going on now, and I want to make sure I don’t forget to do any of them.”
“That shows that you’re well organized. I’ll ask you about some of these later, but now I’d like to get back to your dad and telling Tom about him. How well did your dad know Tom?”
“My dad and Tom didn’t know each other at all. My dad was killed a couple years before Tom and his folks moved here. It was when we were in the sixth grade.”
“How do you think Tom will react when you tell him about your Dad?”
“He’ll be interested. He’s interested in everything. He’ll have a lot of questions about my dad. Of course, he knows I had a dad, a real dad, and that he was killed in Afghanistan. I never told him many of the details.”
“Why is that?”
“We were in middle school, and kids our age didn’t talk about stuff like that. Even that long after he’d been killed, I was afraid that I’d start crying if I talked about my dad. That’s like the worst thing you can do in middle school, cry in front of other kids. Kids were always afraid they’d cry and other kids would think they were crybabies.”
“Your dad’s brother, your Uncle Jeff, how well do you know him? Do you see him often?”
“He visited us a lot when I was a little kid. He’d come for holidays and went along with us to baseball games. He’s a baseball fanatic. When I started middle school he was transferred to Adelaide in Australia for his job. He works for a big software company and heads up their Australian office. I’d love to go to Australia to visit him and see that country.”
“Did you mother and your Uncle Jeff get along?”
“Yeah, I suppose. She never seemed enthusiastic when he came to visit. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think she’s very accepting of gays. She never says anything, but I can tell from her body language. Like when she’d be hugged by Uncle Jeff and she’d sort of get stiff like she didn’t like being hugged by him.”
“All of these places you went with your dad, did your mom go along?”
“To a lot of them, but not to things like fishing and hiking and backpacking.” I grinned. “She always joked that her idea of roughing it would be to stay at a Motel 6 instead of a fancy hotel.”
“Does Tom know your Uncle Jeff?”
“No, he never met him. I guess you’re going to ask me if I ever told Tom about my Uncle Jeff and that he’s gay, the answer is no. Again, because saying you have a gay uncle isn’t going to go over very well in middle school, and Uncle Jeff lives in Australia now and I never see him. Now that we’re in high school, I never thought about telling him.”
“How did you get along with your stepfather?”
“Don and I never really hit it off. He’s a jock, played football at Duke and talked it up like he was a big star or something. I looked up Duke football during the time he played there and he didn’t get any headlines. He took me to one baseball game and I thought we got along great, but he never offered to take me again even when I hinted about it. We’d never toss a football or baseball around, and when I’d tell him about how I did at a track meet he didn’t seem interested. It was the same about how I was doing in school and my grades. The only time he asked me to do anything for him was once when his company laptop was running real slow and I cleaned out his temp files and the registry and defraged his hard drive. It improved performance a lot. He said thanks and that was it.”
“Yeah, like I told you yesterday he’s very homophobic. That’s why he attacked me, he thought I was gay. And I found out even more when his son from a former marriage came here to testify at his trial. Kyle’s my age and Don virtually kidnapped him and took him to one of those X-Gay camps.” I told Doctor Hillyer about what happened to Kyle and after how his mom divorced Don and found out she couldn’t have him arrested because he was Kyle’s father.
“Your mother divorced your stepfather?”
“Yes. She told me during his trial. It was an uncontested divorce so I think it might be finalized by now.”
“Did you testify at your stepfather’s trial?”
“Yes, I was the key witness since I was the one he attacked and beat up. Like I told you yesterday, he broke my arm and I had big bruises on my face and chest and shoulder from where he slugged me, threw me down the stairs, and into a glass topped table in the living room and that’s how my arm got broken. He’s a huge guy, and I’m a hell of a lot smaller than him. I didn’t have a chance. My testimony was crucial to his conviction. We’ll know when the Judicial Panel returns their verdict. I hope that’s soon.”
“You said when the Judicial Panel returns their verdict. What’s a Judicial Panel?”
“It’s sort of between a judge making the decision and a jury, but closer to a jury. Sometimes a Judicial Panel is used when the defense wants to fast-track a decision. Don’s attorney wanted a quick decision. It takes less time to select a Judicial Panel than a jury. There were three judges selected to be the members of the Judicial Panel in Don’s trial. They sat just like a jury would.” I went into some of the details about how the Judicial Panel is selected, and how the prosecution and defense could challenge one of the members of the panel.
“I guess I have to update my file on judicial matters. The Judicial Panel is something new to me. Thank you for the description. By the way, your description was very thorough.”
“That’s because my attorney is Mr. Williams, and he and Beth Wolman, the Prosecuting Attorney on the DA’s staff, explained the process very thoroughly.” I grinned. “Also, I have a very good memory.”
“Well, let’s get on with some other questions. Did your mother testify at the trial?”
“And what was her testimony?”
“She didn’t know anything about Don attacking me because she was in San Jose at a meeting. She’s a nursing manager at Valley Medical Center. That’s where the ambulance took me after the police rescued me from Don.”
“You have a lot of animosity toward your stepfather, don’t you.”
“First, he’s not my anything-father. My mom divorced him, so heís not even remotely related to me any more. And I refused to change my last name to Clarey even though my mom did. I guess I subconsciously figured out that things with him wouldn’t work out. Second, I don’t have any animosity toward him, I hate him. Third, I never want to see him again. Fourth, I want him out of my life, permanently and forever.” I sat back and grinned. Seems like I was doing a lot of grinning this morning.
Doctor Hillyer wrote on his notepad for about fifteen seconds. I counted them, one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, all the way to one-thousand-fifteen. Alright, that’s not very accurate, but it’s not too far off the mark.
He took a deep breath. “Well, remind me never to get on your bad side.”
“That wasn’t my bad side. That was my good side. I think it’s best to tell the truth, let it out, not let it stay inside and fester.” I grinned again. “Fester. That’s something my dad told me about. So I never let anything fester inside me.”
I sat there waiting for Doctor Hillyer to say something, to ask me another question. But he just wrote on his notepad. Fine with me. I smiled and watched him write.
He took another deep breath. “I think it’s time to move on to another question. Tell me about your relationship with your mother both prior to and following your being attacked by your step… by Donovan Clarey.”
So that’s what I did.
“My relationship with my mom was great before she got married to Don. It wasn’t exactly the same following the marriage, but it was still very good.”
I went into the details of our arguments about whether Don attacked me or not, whether I attacked him with a baseball bat I didn’t have, why I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t believe that Don attacked me, that she said Don would move back in with us when he was to be released on bail.
“I told her that if he moved in I’d move out. And then we had a big argument and I left the house. I went to Mr. Williams and told him what happened. He got a court order for temporary guardianship for me to live with them, and a restraining order to keep Don away from me.
“That’s what I want to discuss with you today,” I told doctor Hillyer, “whether to move back home with my mom or stay with the Williams assuming they’d let me stay with them and could extend the temporary guardianship. It’s only good through the end of the trial.”
“When will the trial be over? When the verdict is issued?” Doctor Hillyer asked me.
“If the verdict is guilty, then there’ll be a sentencing hearing. Until that happens the trial is still on. If the verdict is guilty, then the defense has the option of immediately filing an appeal. If that appeal is approved then as far as the guardianship is concerned the trial will continue through the appeal. Otherwise the trial is over and so is the guardianship, and I’d be required to move back in with my mom.
“So when the trial is over I have three options.
“One, I move back home with my mom. She has no problem with me and Tom being boyfriends. I continue to live at home and I can see Tom whenever I want and we can have sleepovers.
“Two, I move back home with my mom. She has a big problem with me and Tom being boyfriends, but realizes there’s nothing she can do about it. I continue to live at home and I can see Tom whenever I want but we probably can’t have sleepovers at my house because my mom would prevent that.
“Three, I move back home with my mom. She has a big problem with me and Tom being boyfriends, and says we can’t see each other. I tell Mr. and Mrs. Williams and they agree that I can move back in with them and Tom. Mr. Williams gets a court ordered guardianship. Getting the court to agree is iffy.
“Mr. Williams explained that I’ll have to move in with my mom if she says that’s what she wants. So I need to find a way that I can convince her that it’s okay that Tom and I are boyfriends and we can see each other any time we want. My question is, what can I say to convince my mom?”
“That’s going to take some more exploration, Curt. Our session is over for this morning. Can you be here tomorrow at ten for our next session?”
“I have my Algebra 2 class tomorrow morning, from nine to noon. Can our session be in the afternoon?”
Doctor Hillyer checked his schedule. “How about three o’clock?”
“I think so. I’ll have to find out who can drive me. Mrs. Williams should be in the waiting room. I’ll go check.”
“I’ll have my receptionist bring her to my office.”
Mrs. Williams joined us and Doctor Hillyer introduced himself.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Williams. Please have a seat. Curt and I would like to hold another session, tomorrow at three. Will you or your husband be available to drive Curt here to my office and then home after?”
“Yes, I can do that, and while Curt is having his session I’ll drive to Sun Valley Mall and do some shopping.”
So my Wednesday was scheduled. I needed to make another update to my to-do list.
We walked outside and Tom was sitting on the bench at the entrance to the park across the street from Doctor Hillyer’s office.
“Hey, Tom,” I hollered, “we’re ready to leave.”
He got up and crossed the street and joined us. We walked to the lot where Mrs. W had parked her car. On the way I asked her, “Tom and I want to stop at Counter Burger for lunch. Would you like to join us?”
“Thank you, but I need to head on home. I have a long list of things I need to do this afternoon. I’ll drop you off on the way.”
“Okay, thanks Mrs. W,” I responded.
“Yeah, thanks, Mom,” Tom said.
We were early enough that the business crowd hadn’t started to arrive at Counter Burger. We picked a table outside, checked off what we wanted on our burgers, and gave the waitress our order cards. She brought our fries and a Coke for Tom and water for me. We sat there munching fries while we waited for our burgers.
“How was your session today, Curt?”
“Good. We talked about two things that are very important in my life that I’d almost forgotten about. My dad, that’s my real dad, and my Uncle Jeff, my dad’s brother. I’d like to tell you about both of them. Is that okay?”
“Sure. I never knew your dad, Curt. I’d like to hear about him. And you never mentioned your uncle.”
I took a deep breath. I didn’t want to get all emotional talking about my dad.
“My dad was a fantastic guy. You’d have liked him a lot, and he would have liked you a lot too…” and I continued telling Tom almost exactly what I’d told Dr. Hillyer.
“Unfortunately, when I was nine years old he was one of the first U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan.”
I picked up my napkin and wiped the tears from my eyes and cheeks.
“Would he be okay that you’re gay, Curt, and that you and I are boyfriends?”
“Absolutely. He wouldn’t have any problem with me being gay. You know, I think about him when I’m hugging you, Tom, and I can feel in my heart that he thinks you’re a great guy and that he’s happy we’re together as boyfriends. He’d love you as much as I do. I can picture him standing behind you right now with a big smile, his hand on your shoulder, like he’s letting me know that you’re absolutely the right guy for me.”
I could see tears glistening in Tom’s eyes. “You know, I can feel something like that too, Curt, like someone is telling me we’re right for each other.”
We were startled by our waitress who put our burgers down in front of us.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I couldn’t help overhearing what you just said. That’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever heard. I think you two are perfect for each other. My name is Cathy Johnson. I’ve seen you around school. I’ll be a senior at Los Arcos this year.”
“I’m Curt Fischer, and I’ll be a sophomore.”
“I’m Tom Williams, also a sophomore this year.”
“I’m one of the officers in the GSA. Why don’t you guys come to our first meeting? It’ll be the first Thursday in September, that’s the sixth, at three-fifteen. And since you’re probably wondering, I’m not gay. It’s the Gay-Straight Alliance, so there are both gay and straight kids. Enjoy your burgers. Let me know if you need anything else.”
She walked back inside the restaurant.
I looked at Tom and grinned. “That was very cool, and she is very cool.”
“Sounds like we should sign up for the GSA.”
“Or just go to that first meeting to see what it’s all about. I heard that you don’t have to be a member to go to meetings.”
We spent a few quiet minutes eating our burgers and, at least in my case, thinking about Cathy and her reaction to what she’d overheard and that maybe joining the GSA might be a good idea.
I looked up and saw Tom grinning. “Tell me about your uncle,” he asked.
“Uncle Jeff, my dad’s younger brother, is gay. Dad told me he found out that Jeff was getting hassled at school about being gay. He told Jeff that he’d always have his back, and after knocking the heads of a couple bullies he said things did get better for him. Uncle Jeff visited us a lot when I was little. He’d come for holidays and go with us to baseball games because he’s a baseball fanatic. When I started sixth grade he was transferred to Adelaide in Australia for his job. He works for a big software company and heads up their Australian office. I’d love to go to Australia to visit him and see that country. It would be fantastic if we could both go. We’d see my uncle and Australia looks like a fun place to visit. We could even learn to surf.
“I’m concerned that my mom and Uncle Jeff were never close. She never seemed enthusiastic when he came to visit. Thinking about it made me realize that my mom might be homophobic.
“My dad didn’t have a homophobic or racist bone in his body. He taught me to understand that people are people regardless of their race or religion or sexual orientation, and that I should judge people based on what they have here,” I pointed to my head, “what they have in here,” and I pointed to my heart, “what they do and say, and how they treat other people. He taught me that superficial stuff like being gay or straight or black or Asian or Catholic or Muslim has nothing to do with how I should judge a person.”
Tom smiled. “You turned out like your dad, Curt. He taught you the things that are important. When we moved from Pleasanton when I was in the seventh grade I switched to Parkview Middle School. You took one look at me and decided I needed a friend and that you were going to be that friend. You were the first kid I’d met on my first day there who was friendly. That’s something your dad taught you, how to be a really nice guy who was friendly to everyone. I think that’s when I decided that you were the brother I’d always wanted. I think it's also the day that I fell in love with you.”
“Thanks for saying that, Tom. That’s just about the greatest compliment I could ever get. You turned out to be the brother I’d always wanted. And a lot more, because I’ve fallen in love with you.”
We looked at each other and smiled, then finished lunch and walked downtown.
“You want to do a little shopping?” I asked.
“Sure. I live to shop. No, that makes me sound like a girl. So change that to I love to shop.” Tom grinned.
“Where do you want to go shopping?”
“Dufus, we’re already downtown. Where do you want to go shopping, and by that I mean what stores?”
“How about Jeans City? I’m starting to outgrow most of my jeans. They had an ad on TV last night that they’re having a sale. Buy two pair, get one pair free. That’s a pretty good deal, if you ask me.”
So we went clothes shopping. I didn’t really need anything, so I acted as Tom’s sidekick as he tried on jeans at Jeans City, Lacoste, Macy’s, Gap, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Tilly’s, and some others I don’t remember. He ended up buying ten pair of jeans and two T’s that were free for buying jeans at one of the stores; which one I don’t remember.
By the time we got home it was time for dinner. Mr. Williams had gone to Back 40 Barbeque on his way home and picked up ribs, and Mrs. W added baked potatoes and a big salad.
Tom and I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, then I went upstairs and reviewed the material for my Algebra 2 class. This would be my first day in the classroom since Don attacked me. I did the problem set for each chapter and figured I was as ready as I could be. I put what I’d need for the next day into my backpack.
Tom was downstairs watching TV with his folks, so I went down and said goodnight to them. I got ready and climbed into bed. I think I was asleep as soon as I closed my eyes.
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