Justin is accused of doing something he says he didn't do.
Will he be cleared, or will he be found guilty?
As soon as I got to my room I took out my cell and pressed the icon to speed dial Ryan.
“Hey, Justin. How they hanging?”
“What’s with the ‘CALL ME’ in all caps?” I growled.
“Geez, you sure gotta burr in the seat of your pants. Take a couple deep breaths and let ‘em out slow, my man. You’ve got some tenseness you need to shed.”
“Goddamn it, Ryan Lerner! Answer my question!”
“Ask nice. Say ‘please,’ please.”
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Okay. Please tell me what you meant when you sent me that IM with the ‘CALL ME’ in all caps which meant you were shouting. That totally freaked me.”
“I didn’t notice that the caps lock key was on and I didn’t bother retyping it in lower case. The reason I wanted you to call me is that my folks want to sit down with your dad tomorrow night if he’s available. They’re going to invite the two of you to come over for dinner first, then talk about the Tuesday and Thursday study sessions after we eat.”
“Geez, boyfriend, you really had me worried with that IM.”
“Sorry about that. I really am sorry. I meant my message to let you know that we’ve got a good thing now. My folks have bought into the Tuesday-Thursday idea, Justin.” Ryan laughed. “I never thought they would without a lot of debate.”
“Did they bring up anything about us having sex?”
“Whoa! You spell it right out, don’t you!”
“That’s what my dad said to me when I suggested it to him. His exact words were, more or less, ‘I think it’s a very clever plan you’ve come up with so you two can have sex two nights a week.’ I think I’ll remember that for as long as I live.”
“Shit! What did you answer?”
“I said that he was right, and that we are going to have sex whenever we can, anyway.”
“If he says something like that then it might just submarine the whole idea.”
“No worries. I did ask him if he was going to bring it up, and he said no, only if your folks bring it up.”
“Okay, that’s better. I don’t think my folks will bring it up.”
“Do they know that we’re messing around?”
“Probably, but I think they want to avoid the topic. As long as it doesn’t come up tomorrow night we should be okay.”
“So I should tell my dad we’re on for dinner at your place tomorrow night. What time?”
“How about you get here at six o’clock? Or if that’s too early, six-thirty should be okay.”
“Sounds good, but it’ll be up to my dad.”
“I figure he’ll work it out with my mom. By the by, does your dad drink wine?”
“Yeah, maybe a glass with dinner.”
“My dad wanted to know. I think he’ll open a bottle for the adults when you come for dinner.”
“What do we get? Anything special?”
“Milk. Three or four kinds of sodas. Water. Lots of choices.”
“Sounds like the usual, just like here. So what’s your mom going to fix for dinner?”
“Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. Green beans. Salad.”
“Mmm. Sounds good. I’ll tell my dad he’s to call your mom. How late can he call?”
“Nine-thirty. Actually, anything before ten o’clock should be okay.”
“You finished your homework?”
“Uh huh. You?”
“Same. Hey, let me go talk to Dad so he won’t have an excuse to avoid calling tonight and drag it out for another day. Or two. Or three.”
“Ya got it. Later, boyfriend.”
“Later, boyfriend. And Ryan, I apologize for overreacting to your IM.”
“Hey, it was wrong at my end. I caught the all-caps and should’ve rewritten it.
“I still shouldn’t have yelled at you. Anything else?”
“Nah. I want to do some non-textbook reading for a while. See you at school mañana.”
“Mañana back atcha.” I ended the call and walked back to the living room where Dad and Aunt Beth were still talking. As soon as they paused I interrupted.
“Anything new?” I asked.
They looked up and Dad replied, “Nothing about your situation, if that’s what you meant.”
“I was more interested in hearing about Thanksgiving plans.”
“Oh. Well, since Thanksgiving is over six weeks from now, let’s talk about the preliminary plans.”
So that’s what we did for the next few minutes. Basically, we’d be having Thanksgiving dinner at Uncle Dennis and Aunt Nora’s house with my mom’s side of the family. It was always sad for me to think that Mom wouldn’t be celebrating the holidays at the end of each year. Aunt Beth said that Aunt Nora told her that there’d be almost twenty-four people for Thanksgiving. Lots of relatives and some friends, too.
Aunt Beth left at about nine o’clock. I followed Dad into the kitchen.
“I talked to Ryan. His folks want you and me to go to their house for dinner tomorrow night to talk about our Tuesday-Thursday study sessions and sleepovers. Ryan’s mom is fixing fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a salad. He said we could be there at six, or as late as six-thirty.”
“Six-thirty would work better for me. I don’t think I have Ryan’s home number.”
“I’ll give you their number. Ryan’s mom’s name is Gloria; his dad’s name is Kevin; their last name is Lerner. Here’s their phone number.” I’d written their names, phone number, and address on a piece of note paper. I handed it to him. “Here you go.”
“Is it okay for me to call them this late?”
“Ryan said you could call them any time before ten o’clock.”
“Okay, let me go do that now.”
When I got to school I saw Devin Wong standing at the entrance to building 300 where our homeroom was located. When he saw me he waved. I smiled and walked over to talk to him.
“Morning, Dev,” I said. “You look sort of unhappy this morning. Did your dog eat your homework or something?” I grinned, trying to improve his mood.
“Hey, Justin. Umm… do you know when you went to the office on Monday?”
I laughed. “Yeah. I was there, so I think I do know when I was there.”
“Seems like there’s a story going around about you and the cops.”
“No. I wish I was, but a few people know that we’re friends and they’ve been asking me if it’s true.”
“If what’s true?”
“Justin, you’ve got a problem. I heard something about you from several people. Yesterday when you had to go to Vice Principal Pearson’s office a guy overheard one of the cops talking on his cell out in the hall. The guy was saying that you raped a girl and they were going to arrest you but they couldn’t for some reason. The story is going viral. You need to have something to say that counters the rumors.”
“Shit! You said rumors, plural. What’s that mean?”
“There’s all kinds of variations that are getting started. Like you were arrested, that the girl is your sister — and I know you don’t have a sister — and that she’s pregnant. Rumors like that.”
“Let me tell you the real story. Please keep all this to yourself. I don’t want any more to get into the rumor mill.”
“You know me, Justin. We’re best friends. Whatever you tell me will stop with me. Let’s go over there where there aren’t a bunch of kids hanging around and we’ll be able to have a private conversation.” Devin pointed to the area at the other end of building 300. Not many kids would be around because there wasn’t an entrance to the building there.
When we got there I told him about Susan Carver. “There’s this girl who apparently looks like me. She supposedly claims I’m her brother….”
Devin interrupted. “She claims you’re her brother? Bullshit. We’ve known each other since we were like one year old. You don’t have a sister.”
“I know that. Besides, she’s fifteen, so how could she be my sister who looks like me unless we were twins? My dad was there when I was born and he says my mom gave birth to only one baby, me. She couldn’t be my step-sister or half-sister because if she was we wouldn’t look alike.
“She goes to some other high school, and lives somewhere in this area. She says she saw me at that DVC summer program this year. I never saw her there, but there were a couple thousand kids and lots of classes, so I’m not surprised that I didn’t see her. I’ve been thinking that maybe we don’t really look like twins, it’s just in her mind.
“Anyway, even though I’m supposed to be her brother, she claims that I raped her. I’ve never had sex with a girl, ever. I don’t know when this rape was supposed to have happened. Anyway, my Aunt Beth is working on it for me. She’s an assistant district attorney for the county, and she’s already done some digging. She found out that the girl is a foster kid and has been with her foster family since she was ten years old.”
“Do you know her name?”
“Yeah, and it’s weird. It’s Susan Carver, same last name as mine. Her foster parents’ names are Brandon and Linda Gage. He’s a cop, a lieutenant with the Shell Ridge police department. He filed a complaint charging me with rape. I think it’s some sort of scam to get money from my dad.
“Anyway, this Lieutenant Gage sent two Shell Ridge cops to arrest me. I told them they had no basis for arresting me — I’ve picked up a lot of legal stuff from my dad — and told them to call Beth Wolman in the District Attorney’s office. She’s my aunt, but I didn’t tell the cops that. One of them went outside the office to make the call so I wouldn’t hear his end of what was said. That’s when that guy who’s spreading the rumors heard what the cop said during that call. Anyway, Aunt Beth must have reamed him a new asshole because he came back and said they couldn’t arrest me and that I could go back to class, but I’m not supposed to leave the county. So we’re working with my Aunt Beth to find out why this Susan Carver is claiming I raped her.”
“Did you look her up on Facebook? Or look up their address on Google?”
“No. I guess I could do that. Well, actually I can’t. Aunt Beth already told me not to contact her or try to find her, even just to see what she looks like, and I promised I wouldn’t. If she saw me she might make other claims, like I’m stalking her or something.”
“Why don’t I look them up? I can find out the school district where they live and what high school she goes to. Then I’ll see if I can find her picture on her school’s website. Then I’ll try to find her Facebook page and see if she’s on Instagram and some of the other photo sharing sites. That way you’re not involved at all.”
“You’d do that? It sounds like a lot of work.”
“Sure. Why wouldn’t I do it for my best friend?”
I smiled. “That’s great. Thank you!”
“When I see you tomorrow I’ll tell you if I found anything.”
We heard the first bell and headed to our homeroom.
I saw Ryan in homeroom and he said he heard the rumor and was telling kids it wasn’t true and that I’d never raped any girl and that he should know because we were both gay and we were boyfriends.
Kids I knew asked me if the rumors were true. I said I never raped any girl, and being gay meant I was very unlikely to ever do something like that. I said the whole thing sounded like a scam to me. No one mentioned that she was my sister, so that must not have been something that cop said during the call that was overheard, or whoever was passing the story around school didn’t repeat it to everyone he told. My friends agreed that it sounded like a scam.
That night when Dad got home I told him what happened at school. He was furious, and he called Aunt Beth to tell her the cop’s conversation had been overheard and the rumor was going around Los Arcos High. He told me she was upset about it, but that it was done and we couldn’t do anything to make it go away. He said I should tell anyone who asked me about it to say that it didn’t happen and nothing more.
Then we left for Ryan’s house for dinner and the talk with his folks about our Tuesday and Thursday night ‘study’ sessions.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Justin Carver
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