Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake by Colin Kelly

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 49 — A Going Home Party for Kyle

I was tired. It had been a hectic day. I love that word, ‘hectic’. To me it sounds like what it means. I crashed on my bed, intending to sleep until dinner. That didn’t happen, I guess there were too many things for me to think about. I still had to study for the Algebra 2 final. We were having the going home party for Kyle tomorrow. I had to talk to Mom, probably on Sunday, and tell her that I’m gay and find out if that would affect whether I’d move home or not. Don’s sentencing hearing would be Monday morning. Then if everything worked out I’d move home, probably on Monday or Tuesday. Or not at all if she freaks when I’d tell her I’m gay.

I had something more important to do before any of those other things. I needed to talk to Tom about how our relationship would work when I moved home. And if I didn’t move home but stayed with the Williams.

I got up and ran my fingers through my hair to attempt to straighten my bed-head. Then I walked across the hall and into Tom’s room. He sat at his desk, his face close to his laptop display, staring at something. He heard me walk in and looked up, saw me, and smiled.

“Hey, Curt. How’s it hanging?”

“Good, Tom, really good. I hope.”

I walked around his bed and sat near the foot and faced him. He started to get up, but I held out my hand, palm out, and he sat back down. He got a slightly worried expression.

“I want to talk to you about something very important, and if you’re sitting next to me we’ll do something and I’ll forget about it and I’ll have to start over.” I grinned, and he looked a little less worried.

“Tom, I want to make sure you know something. I love you. Actually, I don’t just love you; that sounds like we’re brothers or best friends. Tom, I am in love with you. I want us to live our lives together now and forever.”

He smiled, a big, happy smile, and I saw a tear flow down his right cheek. “Curt, I’m in love with you, too. Totally. And I want us to live our lives together now and forever, too.”

“You know that I’m going to tell my mom that I’m gay. If she’s okay with that, I’m also going to tell her that you and I are boyfriends and we’re in love with each other and we intend to live our lives together. I’m going to tell her that if I move home that you and I will continue seeing each other, and we’ll want to sleep together too. Not all the time, but when we want to.”

“Wow, Curt, that sounds like an ultimatum. Do you think she’ll appreciate you telling her that way?”

“Oh, I won’t tell her using those exact words or in that that tone of voice. I’ll put on my salesman’s hat and sell her on the concepts that I described to you. My job will be to convince her that what I’m telling her is right and proper and appropriate. I’ll tell her about young love, and how wonderful and beautiful it is, and how you and I have fallen in love, and how right it is that you and I start now and live the rest of our lives together.”

Tom shook his head. “I wish you luck. You’ve got the gift of gab, that’s for sure. So when are you going to tell her?”

“Sunday. Of course I’ll have to check her schedule to find out if she’s working on Sunday, and if she isn’t then I’ll find out what time she’s available, and then go home and talk to her.”

“What about taking her out to lunch?”

“That would put us in a situation where we wouldn’t be able to talk about what I’ll tell her. I’ll do it at home, where there aren’t any strangers around.”

“Do you want me to come with you?”

“Thanks for offering, but I need to do this one on one with my mom.”

Tom thought for a few seconds. “Yeah, I agree. That’s best.”

“Now you can come over and sit next to me. I need a hug and a kiss.”

So that’s what we did. We laid down after kissing and cuddled, and we both fell asleep. We didn’t wake up until Mr. Williams came in and told us that dinner was on the table.

After dinner I sat down with Tom and Mrs. W to see if everything was all set for Kyle’s going home party the next day.

“Is there anything that Curt and I can do to help for Kyle’s party?” Tom asked.

Mrs. W got a pad of paper from the counter and read from it. “You can get the pool ready tomorrow morning, then set up the tables and chairs and lounges. The tennis court will need a good sweeping, and the net tightened. When your guests begin to arrive you two can alternate greeting them and taking them outside, showing them where the bathroom is, and where they can change. Then go over the timeline with them so when Kyle and Mark get here they stay quiet until those two get outside. I think that’s about it. Can you think of anything I missed?”

“We have to help Mrs. Hutchins set up her laptop on our TV so Kyle can have the live conversation with his mom,” I said. “I can do that.”

“And there’s the food,” Tom said, “and the cleanup after.”

“Andrea Hutchins and I have the food under control. I’ll assign the cleanup to you two and add it to the list.”

“Are you sure that Mrs. Hutchins will be able to get here first so she isn’t seen by Kyle?” I asked.

“Andrea talked to Mark and he said that he’d waste time getting here so they’ll take at least five or ten minutes longer than necessary. That way they will definitely arrive after his grandmother.”

“Okay, that’s cool then.”

“Is there anything else Tom and I can do tomorrow?” I asked.

“I think everything will be under control. It should be a fun party, and Andrea, Mark, and I think that Kyle is clueless.” She grinned.

“Thanks, Mom,” Tom told her. I added my thanks too, and Tom and I went upstairs.

“I think your mom is really enjoying planning this going home party for Kyle.”

“I know she is. She hasn’t planned anything for a while, and she starts getting antsy if she doesn’t have something to do. Speaking of having something to do, what do you want to do now?”

“My Algebra 2 final is in two weeks. I want to start reviewing the chapters so I can get an A. I’m going to spend some time doing that, then I’m going to come to bed around ten. How’s that sound?”

“Fantastic! See you later, boyfriend.”

“See you later too, boyfriend,” I replied as I walked into my room. I turned on my laptop and opened my Algebra 2 textbook. I took a deep breath, pulled up my class notes, then my quizzes from the school computer system, and started reviewing all of it for my final.

~~~<<>>~~~

Tom’s alarm clicked on, playing Can’t Hold Us by Jack Sanders. I woke up. Anyone would wake up hearing Can’t Hold Us with the volume turned way up. I’m the one who turned it way up, just before joining Tom in bed last night. I saw Tom reaching across to try to slap the alarm button off, so I reached over and tickled him. He started laughing and squirming around. I stopped tickling him.

“Time to get up, sweet cheeks,” I said, then started laughing.

“Sweet what? You, Curtis Fischer, are gonna get pounded as soon as your cast is off.”

“Promises, promises. All I ever get are promises.” I leaned over and kissed him.

“Aw, Curt, you know exactly what to do to make me happy.”

“Thanks, Tom. Now let’s get up.”

“I agree, let’s get up. We got a ton of stuff to do this morning, starting with breakfast.” He leaned over and shut off Can’t Hold Us.

“Uh…. Tell you what, I think I should start with a shower. That way I can test out my new waterproof cast.”

“Oh. I assumed that part would be… assumed. So let’s shower and brush our teeth, and those who have a need can shave.” Tom grinned.

We brushed our teeth, separately. Neither of us had a need to shave, and that made me grin. Then we took our showers, separately. My shower took longer because I had to drain the water out of my cast. Let’s just say it’s a much better cast than the one I’d been wearing, mainly because I don’t have to wear a plastic bag on my arm any more. Only thing is it seemed to take forever to drain the water so I wouldn’t leave a trail of liquid following behind me. I solved it by wrapping a dry towel around it, especially around the ends. The towel soaked up the last of the water, and by the time I got downstairs I didn’t need it any longer.

“Morning,” I said as I walked into the kitchen. Tom had already started on his breakfast.

“What would you like for breakfast, Curt?” Mrs. W asked.

“The bacon and eggs that Tom’s having look good. I’d like the same, please. I’ll toast some sourdough bread.”

I poured myself a glass of orange juice and dropped a couple slices of bread into the toaster then sat down. I started eating and Tom poked me in the shoulder.

“Good morning, Curt,” he said.

“Good morning, Tom,” I replied.

“You’re awfully quiet this morning.”

“I’m still tired. I need something to wake me up.”

“A cup of coffee will help.” He pointed to his cup. “This is, as usual, high-test, full-caff, guaranteed to wake the dead coffee. Mom gets it at Peet’s. Must cost a bundle but it’s worth it. It tastes good.”

I looked at him and he grinned.

“Okay, okay, I’ll get myself a cup of coffee, I said.”

“And be sure to drink it black, don’t add any sugar or milk.”

“Curt, here’s a mug of coffee,” Mrs. W said just as I yawned. She put a steaming mug in front of me. “It looks like you need it. Didn’t you sleep well?” she asked.

“Yeah, I slept okay. Thing is, I think maybe the whole trial thing is finally catching up with me. I had dreams about it last night.” I looked at Tom. “Dreams, not nightmares.”

“You know that it will all be over on Monday,” Tom reminded me.

“I know. I’m starting to relax already, and that’s probably why I feel tired this morning. It might take me a few days to catch up.” I yawned again.

“Jeez, Curt, you’ve got coffee right in front of you. Start drinking it.”

“It’s hot, Curt, be careful,” Mrs. W warned me.

I took a sip, and it was hot but not too hot to drink. I finished my breakfast and coffee, and Mrs. W refilled my mug.

“Thanks. I guess the caffeine is doing its job. I feel more awake now. It’s interesting how coffee can wake me up, but tea and Coke don’t have the same effect even though they have caffeine.”

“That’s because they don’t have as much caffeine as two big mugs of coffee,” she said.

“And Coke has lots of sugar in it,” Tom said. “I read that sugar will put you to sleep by itself.”

“Whatever, now I’m ready to go out and get to work setting up for Kyle’s party.” I got up and rinsed my dishes and put them in the dishwasher. “I’m going to take this mug of coffee with me, if that’s okay?”

“Yes, that’s okay. Just remember to bring the empty mug back and put it in the dishwasher.”

“Will do,” I replied. “You ready to rumble, Tom?”

“You got it,” he replied.

When we got outside Tom looked at the pool. “We need to clean the leaves and other stuff off the pool cover before we retract it,” he said. “I’ll get the vacuum.”

He went into the shed and got the vacuum and the extensions and set it up.

“Curt, hang on to the nozzle and I’ll go turn it on. Then start at one end and suck up all the stuff off the pool cover. While you do that, I’m going to get the hose and set it up so we can wash off the dust and dirt.”

We got busy and cleaned the pool cover then retracted it. The pool itself looked clean.

Tom stuck his hand in the water.

“It’s cold. I turned on the pool heater. I hope it warms up by ten thirty.”

I looked at my watch. “It’s exactly eight o’clock now. Why don’t we pull the cover back over the pool so the water will retain the heat?”

“Will that work?”

“I think so. It’s basic physics. If you heat a pot of water on the stove, it’ll boil sooner if the pot’s covered than if you leave it uncovered. Heating the water in the pool should work the same.”

“Okay, let’s do it.” Tom ran the mechanism and in a couple minutes the pool cover had extended and the pool was covered.

“I’ll sweep the tennis court,” I said. “Do you have a brush I can use?”

“Yeah, there’s a couple of them in the shed.”

I got a wide brush, a big dustpan, and an empty plastic trash barrel and got to work. It took me about fifteen minutes to sweep all the leaves off the court and put them in the barrel. I returned the brush and dustpan to the shed, and put the barrel next to the trash cans alongside the garage.

Tom finished putting some chairs and lounges around the pool and I helped him move the tables to the patio.

“What’s next?” I asked.

“We tension the tennis net. Have you ever done that before?”

“No, never. How do we tension the net?” I asked.

“Follow me.” We walked onto the tennis court.

He held up a long stick. “This stick is the height gauge. Hold it next to the net at the centerline. The forty-two inch mark is red. When the top of the net is at that red line, let me know.”

I held the stick and Tom cranked the net up. When it got to the red line I let him know, shouting, “It’s at the line.”

He walked back to where I stood and checked the height, then pulled a strap from the top edge of the net and connected a buckle at the lower end to a loop in the court on the centerline.

“Okay, the center of the net is at thirty-six inches. Now we’ll set it up for singles play. The posts are three feet away from the sidelines, but those sidelines are for doubles play. For singles play we need to put a forty-two inch singles pole three feet from the outside edge of the singles sidelines. There are built-in posts at the three-foot lines on each side. They lay along the court under the net. All we have to do is pull up the net and swing the post up and it hooks into a ring in the top of the net.

Tom pulled the net up and I swung the pole up and aligned the top with the ring. Tom let the net go and it dropped into place. Then we did the same at the other side of the net.

“Now the net is at the proper height for singles play. If anyone wants to play doubles, all they have to do is lower the poles and the net is at the proper height for doubles play.”

“That’s cool, but a lot more complicated than I thought. I’m not sure that when someone wants to play on the courts at school that they mess with setting the height of the net the way we just did.”

“If it’s the team, then they’d set up the tension and height properly. If we were going to play a regular match at school when those two guys showed up and hassled us, I’d have made sure it was set it up for singles.”

“What do we do with the height gauge stick?” I held it out to him.

“Follow me, Curt.”

We walked to one side of the court. He removed a plastic cap from the top of the hollow metal post that held up one end of the net. Then he took the height gauge stick from me, slipped it into the post, and replaced the cap.

“See, built-in storage. The net is properly tensioned and the height at the sidelines is forty-two inches and at the centerline it’s thirty-six inches. Now you know how to set up a tennis court. Well, at least our tennis court. Some have fancy stuff like a real tension gauge on one side post. Some don’t have the built-in singles poles. The courts at school are like what we have but they’ve added a real tension gauge on one side post on each court. Next time you play tennis at school check it out.”

“Anything else we have to do?” I asked.

“Nope. Well, except for retracting the pool cover when the first person gets here.”

“That I think we can remember to do,” I responded.

Getting the pool and tennis court ready turned out to be dirty work, so we went back inside and cleaned up. When we finished I asked Tom what swimsuit he planned to wear.

“My white one, of course,” he said with a smirk.

“You know you’re probably going to offend Mrs. Hutchins.”

“I don’t think so. Just because she’s old doesn’t mean she doesn’t like to look at a good looking guy.”

“Tom, there’s also going to be four girls at the party.”

“I know. I think they’ll be thrilled, Curt.”

“It’s your funeral.” I shook my head and walked back to my room to put on my swimsuit, a T, and Crocs.

When I walked out Tom’s door was open but he wasn’t in his bedroom. I went downstairs to the kitchen. Tom was standing by the sink talking to his mom.

“Hey, Curt, lookin’ good. Ready to par-tay?”

“Yes. Anything we can do to help, Mrs. W?”

“Thank you, Curt, but everything is under control. It’s ten fifteen, and the kids you invited should start arriving soon. Oh, there is one thing. When they arrive tell them that anything valuable, their wallet or keys or cellphone, they can give to me. I’ll be in the kitchen so they can hand it off as they walk through to go outside. I’ll put their things in plastic bags and keep them secured. Also, they can leave their clothes in the family room. I assume most of them will be wearing their swimsuits under their clothes.”

“Okay, thanks for those suggestions. Now I guess we should wait in the living room for people to arrive.”

Laura and Sara arrived first, at around twenty after ten. I volunteered to walk them to the pool, and Laura stopped in the kitchen to talk to Mrs. W and I showed Sara into the family room.

“I assume you’re wearing your swimsuit under your blouse and shorts,” I said. “Or will you need a changing room?”

“No, I’m good. I just need a place to leave my stuff.”

“Okay. If you have anything valuable, give it to Mrs. Williams and she’ll put it in a plastic bag for each of you and keep it safe. Your clothes can go here in the family room. If you’ve got a small bag or something like that with your sunscreen and any other stuff that you want to keep with you, that’s good. It looks like it’s going to be a warm day with a lot of sun.”

“I have this small bag,” she held it up for me to see, “and it’s got things I want to keep with me including sunscreen. I sure don’t want to get sunburned. I’ll keep my hat and Crocks too. Is it okay to toss my other things on a chair?”

“Sure. So how are you, Sara?”

She smiled. “I’m good, Curt. I’m looking forward to school, believe it or not.”

“Why wouldn’t I believe it? I’m looking forward to going back full time. I’m taking Algebra 2 this summer to get ahead on my math classes. I’ll also be glad when Don’s trial is over.”

“Where does it stand now?” she asked.

“I guess I hadn’t let you know. He was found guilty. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday morning. So we’ll probably have a lunch to celebrate the end of the trial.”

She removed her shorts and top and put them on a chair. I saw Tom leading Janice outside, then I heard the doorbell.

“I’d better go see who’s at the door. Go on out. That girl out there at the side of the pool is Janice Brown. She’s nice, and fun too. I think you’ll like each other.”

“You trying a bit of matchmaking Curt?” she asked.

“Am I what?” I asked. I was trying to compute exactly what she said and what it meant, but by the time my brain restarted, Sara was already outside and talking to Janice. That whole thing was just too weird.

Drew was at the door, and I was surprised that it was Laura who had let him in. She directed him to the family room, and came back to the living room.

“I decided that you and Tom needed help letting people in, so here I am.”

“Thanks Laura. I think you’re right, it’s a bigger job than what the two of us can do on our own. I really appreciate your helping us.”

As if I’d ordered it, the doorbell rang. I answered it, and let Tony and Heather in. Laura led Heather to the family room and I directed Tony there as well. He left his wallet and cell with Mrs. W. Our setup seemed to be working.

Everyone else seemed to arrive at about a minute or two apart, so Tom and I with Laura and Sara’s assistance were kept very busy answering the door, showing them where they could leave their outer clothes or change into their swimsuits, where they could leave anything valuable with Mrs. W, and taking six-packs and twelve-packs of sodas that some brought with them.

When Ray arrived I held out my left arm.

“Tah dah!”

“Hey, Curt, that orange cast looks fantastic, especially with those black trunks you’re wearing.”

“I love the orange with the black. Los Arcos school colors. By the way, thanks for getting me signed up as a current patient with your dad’s office, Ray.”

“No problem. That’s what friends are for, especially friends who have a relative in high places.”

“Hmm… I’m not sure that the second floor is all that high a place,” Ray rolled his eyes and shook his head, and I continued, “but this cast sure helped me out. I like your dad. He explained everthing about my new cast. I’ll show you how water drains out of the cast once I get in the pool. I decided to go back to him to have my cast removed at the end of the month.”

“Cool. I’m not wearing my Speedo.” He held up a skimpy light brown bikini swimsuit. “Is there somewhere can I change?” he asked.

“Go upstairs, the first door on your right. That’s my bedroom. You can change there, and leave your clothes on my bed.”

“How about my wallet?”

“Keep it and when you go through the kitchen Tom’s mom will bag it and put it in a safe place.”

“Okay. I’m gonna go up and change and hit your pool.”

“I’ll see you later, then.”

By quarter to eleven everyone had arrived and got together at the pool and they introduced themselves to each other. Mrs. Hutchins took pictures of the group, and after everyone ended up in the pool. Except for me, of course. I went back inside to wait for Kyle and Mark to arrive.

At ten minutes to eleven the doorbell rang. I wondered why Kyle and Mark were so early, but I’d forgotten about Mrs. Hutchins because that’s who rang the bell. I showed her into the kitchen and she and Mrs. W got to work on snacks and sodas to tide us over until the pizzas would arrive at around one o’clock. She handed me her laptop and I hid it in the family room under the couch.

“Curt, we’re going to hide the snacks and sodas so Kyle won’t see them on his way through the kitchen,” Mrs. W told me.

“Don’t bother. We’ll make it a fast trip past the kitchen so he won’t notice anything. As soon as he and Mark get outside everyone will yell, “Surprise!” anyway.

Waiting for Kyle and Mark seemed to take forever. Finally, at about ten minutes after eleven, they showed up. On cue when the doorbell rang Mrs. Hutchins went outside and got everyone to be quiet and so she wouldn’t be in the kitchen and have Kyle see her and wonder why she didn’t go the the mall the way she’d said she would.

“Hey, guys. Ready to take a dip in the pool?”

“You know it,” Kyle said. “It’s getting hot outside. A nice, cool dip in the pool is going to feel great.”

“Why don’t you come upstairs to Tom’s bedroom and change to your swimsuits and Crocks or flip-flops or whatever?” I asked. His bedroom looks out on the street, so they wouldn’t see or hear the kids waiting around the pool.

So that’s what they did, and I waited at the bottom of the stairs. It only took about two minutes and they were back downstairs and I led them outside.

“SURPRISE!” everyone yelled. Someone had made a long banner that hey held up. It read, “Kyle, we’ll miss you! Have a good trip home and come back soon!” in three lines. It had been signed by everyone except me, Tom, and Mark. Parker held a marking pen for us to add our names.

Kyle stood next to me, and I could see that he’d started to tear up.

“I don’t believe it!” he shouted, and that seemed to be a cue for everyone to rush him to give him hugs and handshakes and pats on his back. Finally he turned around and saw me standing behind him, grinning.

“I’ll bet you and Tom put this together, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said, “but we had a lot of help from others like Tom’s mom and Mark and Laura and whoever made that fantastic banner.”

Parker, Alex, and Laura raised their hands.

It took about five minutes to calm things down a bit, and Kyle looked at the pool. “Outta my way! It’s getting really hot out here and the best way for me to cool off is to do a cannonball into the pool!”

Everyone between Kyle and the pool cleared a path and Kyle ran to the edge of the pool, jumped, tucked his legs and grabbed them with his arms, and did a perfect cannonball into the deep end of the pool.

Everyone else, except Mrs. Hutchins who returned to the kitchen, jumped in the pool with Kyle. Fourteen teens more or less filled the pool, and that started a major round of horseplay including dunking, splashing, shoulder riding, and float riding. Finally things calmed down and a serious game of pool volleyball got started.

Davis walked over and said, “Hi, Curt. Looks like there isn’t enough room for all of us to play pool volleyball, so Drew and I were wondering if we could play tennis.”

“Sure. Did you bring a racket and balls?”

“Yeah, I have mine in my gym bag, and Drew has his too.”

“The court’s all set for singles play, and we tensioned the net this morning.”

“That’s fantastic. Thanks, Curt. And Tom, thanks to you for hosting this going home party for Kyle.” Davis turned and walked toward the tennis court.

I turned and saw Tom standing next to me.

“Are you having fun?” he asked me.

“I haven’t done much except talk to people like Mark and Davis and Laura and Sara and…”

Tom interrupted me, “Okay, okay. How about getting in the pool and getting wet and let’s see if that cast can take it.”

Doctor Curtis told me to take it easy, so I went to the shallow end and carefully slipped into the water. I squatted until my arm was underwater, then I stood and pulled it out. I worked my way up to the coping along the edge of the pool and pulled myself up and sat there. I held my arm down so the water inside my cast drained out into the pool.

Ray pulled out of the water and sat next to me. “How’s the cast working for you, Curt?”

“So far okay. Somehow I never thought about how much water would be held inside the cast. I discovered that it took a lot longer to drain after my shower this morning. I was leaving a trail of water wherever I walked, so I wrapped the end of the cast at my hand in a towel and that soaked up the water. The instructions said I could use a blow dryer set on cool to help get the water out. I’m going to have to borrow or buy a blow dryer and try that.”

“I have a suggestion. Buy a blow dryer that has a really powerful fan. That way you’ll get more water out faster.”

“Cool. I’ll remember that. I’ll go shopping for one tomorrow. I just have to decide where I can get one for the cheapest price.”

“You have a Costco card?”

“No. Maybe Mrs. Williams has one, though.”

“Their prices are good. So are BuyMart’s prices.”

“BuyMart sells hair dryers?”

“Yup. They have a big bath and bed department where they have that sort of stuff.”

“We’re going to Martinez for Don’s sentencing hearing on Monday morning. I’ll ask Mr. Williams if we can stop at BuyMart on the way home.”

We sat for a few minutes looking at the others enjoying themselves in the pool.

“You’re awfully quiet, Ray.”

“I’m sorry Kyle’s leaving. I think I’m falling in love with him. I know a cross-country relationship won’t work. We’ll probably lose touch.”

“Man, that’s too bad.”

“Yeah. Life sucks sometimes.”

“Do you think he feels the same about you?”

Ray grinned. “Yeah. He’s the one who said the words first.”

“Words?” I asked, knowing what he meant.

“He said ‘I love you’. And you knew that, didn’t you.”

“Yup. I wanted to hear you say it. Did you actually say those words to Kyle?”

“Yes.”

I looked at Ray. He stared across the pool, looking at Kyle.

“Get out of here. Go over there and spend the rest of the day with him. And I have another suggestion.”

Ray turned and looked at me. “What’s that?”

“Stay with him tonight, too.”

“Where?”

“Ask Mark if he thinks it would be okay with his grandma if you have a sleepover with Kyle. He has his own room there, you know.”

“Yeah.” Ray started smiling. “I’m gonna do that. Thanks, Curt.”

He got up and walked over to where Mark stood talking to Tom. He pulled him away, and they started talking.

Tom saw me sitting on the edge of the pool and walked over. He slid into the water and stood in front of me, a hand on the coping on each side of me.

“I love you, Curt,” he said, out loud.

“I love you, Tom,” I responded.

“I knew it!” I heard in back of me. Laura sat down next to me, her feet in the pool. “You two are an item, aren’t you!”

“Yes,” Tom replied. I just nodded my head and grinned.

“And you two made me buy you lunch at El Ribolo. You owe me, big time!”

“We don’t owe you. You told me I was gay in front of everyone, and that’s back when I wasn’t gay. So there.”

“You can’t be not gay one day and gay a couple weeks later.”

“Sure you can,” Tom told her. “Curt might have been gay all along, but truth is he didn’t know it until a couple weeks after we had lunch with you. A very good lunch, too. And very sweet of you to treat us. And very nice of your mom to drive us there and back.”

“So Curt truthfully didn’t know something he was born with? Like his brown eyes?”

“No,” Tom said, “it’s more like his broken arm.”

“That’s ridiculous, Tom!”

“No it isn’t, Laura. Curt has a broken arm. Don pushed him over the edge so his arm broke, and it hadn’t ever broken before but he sure realized when it happened. When it heals he’ll still have his arm and he’ll always have those healed up breaks in his bones. And if someone asks him fifty years from now if he ever had a broken arm he’ll say yes. It just took something to make him realize it happened.

“Now, Curt might have been born gay like being born with his brown eyes, but he didn’t know it until something, like his broken arm, happened to him and pushed him over that edge that made him realize that he’s gay. And if someone asks him fifty years from now if he’s gay he’ll say yes. It just took something to make him realize it happened.”

“Alright, I’ll play along. And, Thomas, what was that something that made him realize that he’s gay?”

“Me.”

“You? What did you do that pushed him over that edge?”

Tom grinned. “I kissed him. That’s all it took to push him over that edge. Wham, bam, thank you Tom!”

Tom took a handful of water and tossed it at Laura. I ducked just in time otherwise I’d been in the line of fire.

“I’ll get you for that, Tom!” Laura shrieked. She kicked her feet in the water and started a splashing fight with Tom. She got the best of him because her feet were in deeper water. I pulled my legs up and scooted out of the way, then stood up to watch the fun. Suddenly Tom went under water, and I could see him move over to where she sat. Then he jumped up and was able to splash her with enough water that she ended up soaked everywhere, including her hair. Laura shrieked. Tom pulled himself out of the pool and ran back to where I stood and ‘hid’ in back of me.

“No fair!” Laura yelled, drawing a lot of attention. I saw her rushing to get at him, and I was in the middle. Not a good place to be, I realized.

“Be careful!” I shouted, “I have a broken arm here!”

Everyone gathered around.

“Cat fight!” Mark shouted.

That made me start laughing, and Laura came up to me and tried to reach around to grab Tom who stepped back so she couldn’t reach him.

“Tom, come out and fight like a man!” she said though it was mostly unintelligible. That’s because she’d started laughing, then so did Tom.

“That was fun,” Tom said. “Let’s do it again.”

“No way. I’m too tired,” Laura said. “I’m going to rest on one of those lounge chairs now and dry my hair.”

“Think of the positive side, Laura,” he said. “Now you won’t need a shower when you get home.” That made Laura laugh. She grabbed a dry towel from Sara and started rubbing her head.

“Let’s go chat with Kyle,” I said. “Come on Laura, and Sara, you too.”

We walked to the other side of the pool where Ray and Kyle were chatting and laughing. We joined the conversation along with Mark and Parker, and pretty soon everyone joined in to hear Kyle talk about what it’s like living in Illinois and what Niles West High School is like.

Mrs. W and Mrs. Hutchins started bringing out the food, and Tom and I went to the kitchen to help. The pizzas needed to be sliced, and because Tom had lots of experience slicing pizza, or so he claimed, he took on that task. After he said he had ‘finished’ slicing the first pizza and all he’d done was cut it in quarters, I had him cut each slice in half, then each of those in half again. They were still awfully big — these were extra-extra large pizzas — but we were hungry teens so I decided that would work. I brought each pizza outside as Tom sliced it, and everyone sat around and enjoyed the food and sodas.

When we finished eating, and everyone who’d been in the pool had dried off because of the warm weather, Mark made an announcement.

“We have a surprise for Kyle. There are two more guests at his going home party, and they are in the living room. Everyone come on in, and I’ll bring Kyle in last. We want everyone to see the surprised expression when he sees these surprise guests.”

It worked perfectly. Kyle’s mom and his sister Melissa were ‘there’ on the big screen TV, courtesy of Skype, and they could see all of us, especially Kyle.

“Mom! Melissa! Wow, I am surprised. What a cool way for my friends to see and meet the two of you and for you to see and meet my friends.”

His mom smiled. “Okay, everyone sit down on the floor in a semicircle inside the outline Mark made on the carpet using police tape. Most of you don’t know us. I’m Kyle’s mother, Dorothy Campbell. This is Kyle’s sister Melissa. Now how about you introduce yourselves, one at a time, starting with Mark on our left.”

We all introduced ourselves, including Mrs. W and Mrs. Hutchins who sat in chairs behind the rest of us. Tom, Mark, and I gave our names in a loud voice leaving a few seconds in between. The rest of the group caught on and followed our lead. That way Kyle’s mom and sister were able to hear and understand our names.

“Thank you, all of you, for coming to this great going home party for Kyle. Melissa and I are both looking forward to having him home. We’ve missed you, honey!” When she said that Kyle blushed and everyone clapped and laughed.

“We thought that after you’ve been swimming and playing tennis and hanging out you might like to relax and enjoy a little slide and video presentation. It’s titled ‘Kyle at Home’ and we hope you enjoy it.”

Kyle put his hands over his face and groaned loudly.

The presentation stated with some still pictures of Kyle. The first showed him as a little baby, naked, laying on a fluffy white rug. Laura whistled, Ray shouted, “I want to see a close-up!” and Kyle groaned again even louder. Then he yelled, “Why do parents always have to embarrass their sons?” and Laura hollered “And their daughters, too!” and everyone laughed.

Then there were a bunch of pictures of him as he grew up, followed by a video of him when he started kindergarten holding onto his mom’s legs and crying. That generated a lot of laughs and more groans from Kyle. The next videos showed him in the snow, throwing snowballs toward his mom but never reaching her even though she stood less than ten feet away from him. There were videos of Kyle playing basketball, soccer, and football, swimming, and ending with his middle school graduation. It was a very professional presentation, and lasted about ten minutes.

We all applauded, and someone, I think it must have been Alex, shouted “Speech, speech!” and everyone picked up on that.

Kyle stood up, stepped in front of the TV, and looked around at the group of us sitting there. “Unaccustomed to giving extemporaneous speeches, I only have a few words that I can say in response to your overwhelming response to my responses to my mom’s magnificent presentation of the most embarrassing elements of my life to date.”

He stepped over to the coffee table which had been moved to the other side of the room and pulled out a large magazine, and folded the cover underneath so we couldn’t see what it was. He stepped back in front of the TV screen and faced us.

We heard Melissa yell, “Hey, get out of the way, we can’t see anything except your back and your butt!”

Kyle looked over his shoulder. “This is a response to my friends and I need to face them. You’ll be able to hear what I say.”

He turned back to face us, and gave one of those smiles like I’ve seen on politicians when they’re about to give a speech. “Friends, Romans, and Countryme… oh, sorry, wrong section.” He turned several pages of the magazine, squinted and stared at the page, then looked up and smiled his politician smile.

“Here we are. Friends and relatives and hangers-on, we are gathered here today to witness and celebrate the union of… uh, sorry, that’s still not my carefully prepared speech. Just one moment please.” He kept turning pages and studying each for a couple seconds. Finally, Ray started to boo, and the rest of us took it up. Kyle got what he thought would be a mean look, but really wasn’t, pointed at Ray, and shouted, “Alright, for starting the booing there’ll be no cake for you. The rest of you take that under advisement! Booing equals no cake.”

Of course, there was no cake anyway, just pizza and wings and salads and cut up pieces of watermelon. Kyle finally continued.

“Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, we are gathered here today to witness and celebrate the leaving of Kyle Campbell, who will fly almost unaided into the heavens and eventually return to Chicago’s O’Hare Intergalactic Airdrome otherwise known as ORD and located in the Chicago metroplex, to be met by his loving mother, Dorothy Campbell, and his doting sister, Melissa Campbell, to be whisked to the lovely town of Niles, Illinois, to return to that nemesis of his young life, Niles West High School. I want to thank all of you assembled here today to wish me bon voyage, good luck, toodle-oo, and break a leg.”

Kyle stopped and looked around the room, and changed from joking to serious.

“I’ve had a great time while I’ve been here, and I’ve met a fantastic group of people who’ve made me feel at home. I’m really sorry that I have to leave. I wish I could stay. But school starts in a couple weeks and even though I’d rather be going to Los Arcos High, I’m going to be stuck in Niles West High. I’m going to talk my mom into coming here for a vacation next summer, and I’m going to talk her into letting me stay the entire summer. Mrs. Hutchins has already said I can stay with her and Mark.

“Mark, you’re my new brother. Curt and Tom, you’re my new best friends. And Ray, you’d be my boyfriend if I could stick around here, and I’d like to see if we can make a long distance relationship last. The rest of you have been fantastic friends. I’m going to remember all of you forever. I love you guys.

“Mrs. Hutchins, I got dumped on your doorstep when my Aunt had to go to Australia and Japan on business. You took me in and gave me a home, and I’ll always remember you too. Mrs. Williams, I want to especially thank you for hosting this fantastic party today.

“Okay, enough of that. I’m sure that my mom and sister have questions for me and all of you, and you might have questions for them, so this is the time to get the Q and A session started.”

He returned to where he’d been sitting and waited for something from his mom and sister. Melissa got things started.

“Kyle, how do you know so many kids? You’ve only been there for a real short time.”

“I met Mark, Curt, and Tom at the trial. We went to lunch each day with Mr. Williams, Tom’s dad and Curt’s lawyer. I met Laura, Sara, Parker, and Ray at Laura’s birthday party. The others here I met at school because I’ve been going to Mark’s classes and auditing them. It’s fantastic that Mr. Rodino, the principal of Los Arcos High, and each of Mark’s teachers gave me permission to sit in on all of his classes.”

Kyle’s mom said she had an announcement. “Kyle, I know you wanted to be at the sentencing hearing on Monday. Because you have an open return ticket I was able to change your flight home from Monday to Tuesday.”

Everyone cheered when they heard that.

“That’s fantastic, Mom. Thank you, thank you!”

There were questions from the ‘audience’ wanting to know embarrassing things about Kyle, like how long did it take him to learn to ride a bike, what injuries did he suffer from crashing his skateboard, what’s the dumbest thing he’s ever done, and lots more.

All in all, Kyle’s going home party was a huge success. There were a bunch of us who wished that he didn’t have to return to Chicago. We will miss him, a lot.

 

[Continued]


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