But that’s not what he finds when he looks outside.
I drove the boys to Yan’s and found a space in the nearby parking structure. I’d reserved a booth for the four of us earlier in the day, telling them I was bringing three teenagers, and we needed a booth where we could talk. They put us in a quiet area that offered good privacy. The booth was large enough for us, and it away from other diners, so we wouldn’t be overheard. Now Eric and John could talk about being boyfriends.
I asked, “My first question is, do your parents know that you two are boyfriends?”
Eric looked at John and nodded to him, so he answered first.
“Yes, Mr. Decker, my folks know, and they are okay with it. They make us keep my bedroom door open and no sleepovers. They are sort of old-fashioned.”
I raised my hand.
“John, please don’t call me Mister Decker. Call me, Rick, okay?”
“Okay, uh… Rick,” he replied.
Then Eric told us his side of the relationship. “Uncle Rick, my folks don’t know that I’m gay or that John and I are boyfriends.”
“John, do your parents know that Eric’s parents don’t know about the two of you?” I asked.
“Yes. They were shocked when Eric asked them to please not tell his folks. They said they wouldn’t ever do that. It was Eric’s responsibility to tell his parents. They said he should do it right away. I agree.”
“That’s good,” I said, “and I appreciate what your parents recommended when they talked to Eric.
“Now, Eric, why haven’t you told your parents?”
“I don’t know how they’d react.”
“You’re going to have to tell them, and sooner is better than later,” I said.
“I know. What if they hate gays? Throw me out? Send me to one of those anti-gay camps?”
“Let me respond to your last worry first. It’s illegal in California for parents to send a minor to what you call an anti-gay camp, no matter where that anti-gay camp is located. So, that’s not going to happen.”
“I’ve told him that lots of times,” John said.
“Worry number two. You can move in with Adam and me.” I looked at Adam, “Assuming it would be okay with Adam.”
“No problema. It would be great having an older brother, even if he’s my cousin.” He looked at Eric. “You could help me with my homework.”
“It wouldn’t work,” Eric said. “John lives in Davis, which means we wouldn’t see each other very often. And I’d have to change schools in the middle of my junior year.”
“I have a younger brother and a sister,” John said, “so there’s no bedroom that could be Eric’s at my house. Even though I’d like it, I’m sure my folks wouldn’t let him move into my bedroom.”
“I figured I’d wait until we were in college and sharing a dorm room, then tell my folks,” Eric said.
“That’s over a year and a half from now,” I said. “Can you wait that long, John?”
“If we have to,” he said. He looked at Eric and smiled.
“We love each other,” Eric said. “So I can wait. My grandparents, my dad’s folks, set up 529 plans for Candace and for me. My folks can’t touch them, so my college education will be paid even if they disown me for being gay.”
I turned to Adam and explained, “Candace is Eric’s sister.”
“Aha! Another relative for me,” Adam said, “another cousin!” Then he grinned.
“You’re going to have lots of relatives, especially when my three uncles in Hawaii get married and babies start popping out,” Eric said.
“Okay,” I said, let’s get back to your first worry, which, if I remember correctly, is that your folks won’t accept that you’re gay. I’ve known your mom from the time she was born because she’s my sister. I’ve known Sean, your dad, since he and Bethany dated in high school. They had a gay friend in high school who they helped come out to his parents and at school. That sure doesn’t sound like they’re homophobic.”
“But it’s different!” Eric whined. “I’m their son, their only son, and I’ll never have grandkids for them.”
“We can adopt!” John growled. “I keep telling you that!”
“Besides,” I said, “Candace will get married and have kids.”
“Maybe, maybe not.”
“But that’s what your folks are thinking now, that Candace will get married and have babies,” I said. “They won’t stop thinking that when you tell them you’re gay and you and John are boyfriends. I have another question. John, do Eric’s folks like you?”
“Yes, a lot. Eric’s mom hugs me every time I visit his house, and they’re home. She’s always asking me about my folks and my brother and sister. Eric’s dad pats my back or squeezes my shoulder when he sees me,” John said. “There’s something else.” He was grinning like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Last year, when I’d go to Eric’s house, we’d play video games with sort of loud music in the background. His mom would yell at him to close his bedroom door because of the noise. Then Eric and I became boyfriends this past summer. After school started, his mom started telling us to turn down the music and leave his bedroom door open. I think Eric’s folks know that we’re boyfriends, and they’re waiting for him to tell them.”
“I don’t agree,” Eric said, looking down at the table.
I stared at Eric and shook my head. “Sounds to me like John has a bunch of convincing arguments. When you get back to Davis tomorrow, and after you drop off John, you should tell your folks that you’re gay and that you and John are boyfriends.”
“Shouldn’t I be there when he tells them?” John asked.
“Everything I’ve read says that’s not a good idea. It’s Eric who should be telling his parents without his boyfriend present.”
I could tell that Eric still wasn’t convinced.
“Eric, how old is Candace?”
“How do the two of you get along?”
“Good. I mean ‘well’ — gotta keep my English proper and all that.” He grinned.
“What about telling her that you’re gay and that John is your boyfriend?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “She knows. She thinks John walks on water, or something like that.”
“Have you asked her about you coming out to your folks?”
John got the biggest grin ever. He looked at Eric and raised his eyebrows.
“Yes,” Eric mumbled. “And yes, she thinks my folks will be okay with it.”
“So it sounds like it’s only your reticence that’s keeping you from coming out to your folks. Even Candace thinks you should tell them.”
“Yeah, yeah. I hear the same arguments from her that John is always telling me.”
“Sounds like she’s a pretty smart kid,” Adam said, joining the conversation. “What grade is she in?”
“She’s in ninth grade and goes to Holmes Junior High.”
“A junior high? What’s that?” Adam asked.
“Schools in Davis are weird,” John said. “There are three junior high schools and two high schools. The high schools are Davis Senior High and Da Vinci Charter Academy.”
Eric added, “The junior high schools have seventh through ninth grades, and Davis High and Da Vinci Charter have tenth through twelfth grades. Davis High has regular high school classes. Da Vinci Charter focuses on STEM and other specialized classes like art and music that Davis High doesn’t offer. Davis High has about 1,800 students, and Da Vinci has about 600.
“Kids can take some classes at Da Vinci Charter and most of their classes at Davis High.”
“When we moved to Davis,” John said, “it was in May, and the school year in Davis was already over. I was still in the ninth grade in high school in Modesto, and we hadn’t even started finals yet. My folks had to keep our house and I lived there with my mom until the school year was over and then we moved to Davis; otherwise, I would have been screwed. I would have had to take summer school classes. Maybe even some ninth-grade classes in a junior high school when I was a sophomore at Davis High.
“The other thing that was weird but funny-weird was that in Modesto, I went to Davis High School.” He grinned. “Grace M. Davis High School. When I started at Davis High School in Davis, I blew people’s minds when I’d meet them, and they asked what school I’d gone to in the ninth grade, and I’d say ‘Davis High School.’” They’d shake their heads and look at me like I was nuts. I’d say, ‘No, really, I went to Davis High School.’ Then I’d start laughing and explain. It was a cool way to meet people and make friends, too.
“That’s how I met Eric. At first, he did think that I was nuts. But now I think that he’s the one who’s nuts, like how he’s so freaked about telling his folks that he’s gay and that I’m his boyfriend. It’s exhausting.”
“Jeez, John! You’re supposed to support me, not disagree with me!” They laughed.
The conversation about Eric telling his folks was just about over. And that was a good thing because it looked like he had just about convinced himself that he’d tell his parents that he’s gay and that John is his boyfriend.
Adam leaned over to me. “I wonder if they’re always like this with each other,” he whispered. “I think it’s funny! It shows me that they’re really in love.”
“You think?” I asked him.
“I think,” he replied. “I also think the argument is over, and Eric will tell his folks when he gets home on Sunday.”
Eric had ‘overheard’ this exchange between Adam and me.
“Okay, okay, okay! I’ll tell them Sunday evening when I get home. And after I’ve dropped John off at his house.”
The food arrived. The waiter had seen that we had been in an in-depth conversation and didn’t turn in our food order until it looked like we were ready to stop talking.
“Whoa! This is good!” John exclaimed. “Eric was right! This is better Chinese food than any I’ve had in Davis.”
“I agree,” Adam added. “Dad, we can come here anytime you want.”
I saw Eric and John grin at the ‘Dad’ reference. I liked it, too.
After we finished eating, John leaned back and patted his stomach. “You said Yan’s was great, and that is true.”
Yan’s isn’t known for their desserts, so Adam talked us into going to San Francisco Creamery. Their ice cream is excellent, and the regular servings are large, so I agreed with Adam.
John looked at Adam. “Adam, you said San Francisco Creamery was great, and that’s true. Now I’m stuffed. I need to do some running when we get back to Rick’s house,” he said.
“Sounds good to me,” Eric said. “assuming you’re not going to make it a race. We walked to the parking structure and drove home. We sat down in the family room because the boys wanted to continue talking. This time it was about sports and schools and classes.
“Do either of you guys go out for any sports?” Adam asked.
John answered for both of them. “Nope, neither of us. We’re concentrating on getting good grades so we can go to The University of California at Davis.”
“How about you, Adam? Do you go out for any sports?” Eric asked.
“I’m on the varsity wrestling team.”
“So, Adam, you’re a sophomore, right?” John asked.
“Nope. I’m a freshman — the only one on the varsity team. I’m in the 120 weight class. I weigh 115 — though maybe not right now after everything that I ate for dinner!”
“How are you doing at your meets?” John asked.
“I’ve won all of my matches so far, and our team has won all of our meets. Our varsity season has just started. We started with a non-league meet then a multi-team meet. Then we had our first league meet last Wednesday. My boyfriend, Brian, is in the 138 weight class, and he’s won all of his matches, too.”
Eric leaned back, and his eyes widened. “You have a boyfriend?” he asked.
“Uh-huh. I’m gay. I’ve been out at home and school since I was eleven years old. My boyfriend is gay, too.” Adam grinned.
That made both Eric and John burst out laughing.
Then Eric asked, “Since you’re out at school, were there any troubles with bullies?”
“Yup. There were these three guys on the varsity football team who were bullies and real pricks. And the former vice-principal wouldn’t do anything about it. I guess he didn’t want to do anything that would keep them from playing because the varsity football team was winning, and those three guys were a big part of that success.
“That’s when I found Rick’s house — I guess that’ll be our house now. It was raining, and I ended up on Dad’s front porch. He took me in. The best thing is he got the bullying to stop. The three bullies were suspended for one week and one day, and they’re off the football team. The other football players I’ve heard talking about it are glad that those guys aren’t on the team anymore.”
He looked at me. “You should have seen Dad with old man Cavalli, the former vice-principal. He caught him in a bunch of lies, like the video cameras in the hallways and cafeteria didn’t work when all of them did, and there were no witnesses when there were, and it wasn’t those three guys who did it when it was on video. He ended up getting switched to one of the roughest schools in the district, and we have a new vice-principal who just started and is working with our principal who had just started a couple months ago. They’ve solved the bullying problem.”
“You’re lucky it got taken care of,” John said.
“How about Davis High. Is it okay for gay kids?” Adam asked.
“Yeah, it is,” Eric said. “Do you agree, John?”
“Yes. There’s an active GSA, but it’s not called the Gay-Straight Alliance anymore. Instead, it’s called the Genders and Sexualities Alliance. What is weird is the club name on the school website misspelled it ‘Allience’ and that, according to my dictionaries and Google, is not a word! What makes it funny is that the club’s advisor is an English teacher!”
“That isn’t funny. It’s embarrassing!” I said. “I’ll bet they get that fixed real soon. Are you members of the GSA?”
“Yes, both of us,” Eric said. But now that the word ‘straight’ isn’t included, a lot of straight kids won’t join because they think it means anyone who’s a club member is something other than straight.”
John asked, “Where do you go to school, Adam?”
“Lincoln High. Like all of the schools around here, it has grades nine through twelve. It also has a GSA, and it’s still named the Gay-Straight Alliance. I’m a member. We get maybe sixty to eighty kids to our meetings, and we have two meetings each month. There’s always an interesting topic that’s not necessarily gay-oriented. Like someone came from the Walnut Creek police department and talked about bullying and why the ‘don’t snitch’ rule isn’t a rule and shouldn’t be followed.”
“Bullying. That’s a cool subject. Our GSA hasn’t had anything like that. Yet,” John said.
“Yeah,” Eric said. “That’s something we should suggest at the next meeting.”
“Adam, you said the bullies that bothered you were suspended for a week and a day. When are they coming back?” John asked.
“Do you think they’ll go after you again?”
“No. The new principal and vice-principal are enforcing anti-bulling rules. The former vice-principal didn’t enforce those rules even though it was his responsibility.”
“What do you guys want to do tomorrow?” I asked.
“Go to a movie?” Adam asked. “Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is playing at the Century 14 in downtown Walnut Creek.”
“Sounds okay to me,” Eric said.
“Me, too,” John said.
“I’ll check on the times,” Adam said. He pulled out his phone and looked up the theater website. “Okay, there are three showings. Eleven-twenty, two-twenty, and five-forty.”
“How about two-twenty?” John asked. “We can go earlier, grab some lunch, wander around downtown Walnut Creek which I’ve never seen, then go see the movie and have time to rest up before we eat dinner.”
“I can take us to the theater and bring us back when the movie’s over,” Eric said. “What time do you want to go downtown?”
“If we leave here at noon, it’ll give us plenty of time,” Adam said. “If we park in the theater garage, we can buy our tickets for the two-twenty show in advance, go somewhere to have lunch, then wander around downtown and be back at the theater by two o’clock. They have a separate line based on the time you bought your advance tickets, so we’ll get to go in before most people.”
“I like that!” John said.
“Is it okay if I call Brian and ask him to meet us at the theater at noon?”
“He’s your boyfriend, so that’ll be fun,” Eric said. “I’d like to meet him.”
“Me, too,” John added.
“Okay. I’ll call him now.” Adam got up and went into the kitchen to place the call. I watched, and when he finished the call, I got up and went into the kitchen.
“Are you going to be okay going to the movies with them?” I asked.
“You mean because of my mom, right?”
“I’m over being sorry and sad. I’d never been that close with her. I remember when I told you that a word that describes her is aloof, and that’s how she always was with me. I have a new life with you. You’re not aloof. You love me, Brian loves me, and I love both of you.”
“I remember that conversation about her being aloof,” I said. “I just wanted to make sure you’re okay and that going out for the day tomorrow is what you want to do.”
“Yes, your honor!” Adam saluted me and laughed, and I laughed, too.
“Where did you get that ‘your honor’ thing?” I asked.
“I watch a lot of shows like Law and Order. When they’re in court, they say the ‘your honor’ thing a lot.”
“Adam, do they ever salute the judge?”
“Just make sure when we go to court on Monday you don’t accidentally salute the judge!”
He looked shocked. “I’d never do that!”
“Okay. My next question is, are you going to tell anyone about your mother?”
“No. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me when I’m not feeling sorry for myself. Do you think Mr. Wong told Brian about my mom?”
“No. He said he wouldn’t tell Brian and that it was your decision. Will you tell Brian?”
“Yes, but only when I can have some private time with him. And he’s the only person I’ll ever tell.”
“You blew off the concern that those three bullies will return to school on Monday and could attack you. Please eliminate my concern about that,” I said.
“I can’t eliminate it, but I can tell you that I’ll be protected from them, and I don’t think they’ll try anything.”
“I think they could be angry with you because they aren’t playing football at Lincoln High any longer. They could be planning something covert to get back at you.”
“Yes, it means secret or hidden. Like, they find a place where you go on Monday where few kids would be around, grab you and do something damaging. Like, knifing you. I’m thinking about calling the school, either Marcus Richardson, the new vice-principal, or Allison Gibbons, the principal, and request that you’re protected from attack by Arvin, Beazley, and Kilpatrick.”
“You remembered their last names! I’m amazed.” Adam thought for a while, then had a suggestion. “I have an idea about what we can do instead of calling the school. Since you’re driving me to school Monday morning, why don’t we go in and talk to Mr. Richardson in person instead of you phoning him? If we get there around eight o’clock, we should see him, or Ms. Gibbons or both of them, and I’ll still make my first period class at eight thirty-five.”
“Okay, let’s do it that way. Also, remember that I’m picking you up at exactly three o’clock so we can be in Martinez for the four o’clock court appearance to approve my non-related legal guardianship application to protect you and your assets.”
“I’ll ask Coach Green if I can skip wrestling practice on Monday. That way, I can be waiting for you by two-thirty. I’ll tell him it’s because I have to go to court since I’m in the foster system, and there’s a legal approval that has to be issued. I’ll send you a YES text or a NO text.”
“Okay, that’s a good idea. That means I’ll be in the pick-up area at two-thirty. I’ll write a note for your coach so it’ll be official.”
We went to my home office, and I keyed in a quick note and saved it on my laptop, then printed it on CPS letterhead and signed it. I handed it to Adam. Then we returned to the family room where Eric and John were watching a rerun of an NCIS show that I’d never seen.
“Okay, Brian’s going to meet us at the theater at twelve-fifteen,” Adam said. “If we’re there earlier, we can go ahead and buy our tickets, and I’ll buy his and mine.”
“Is he cute?” John asked.
“Oh, yeah!” Adam said. Then he looked up and glared at John. “Hey! Hands off, and no leering.” He laughed, and the other boys joined in. “I’ll show you his picture.” He showed them pictures of Brian during wrestling practice and selfies of the two at school. “By the way, Brian’s a sophomore. He’s fifteen,” Adam explained.
“I’m surprised a sophomore and a freshman are boyfriends,” John said.
“Why not? He’s only a year older than me. I’m fourteen, and he’s fifteen. We’re both on the varsity wrestling team, so we’re around each other a lot, even though we only have two classes together that are the same.”
“I guess I was thinking how freshmen and sophomores aren’t ever in the same classes together,” John said.
“Sure they are, at least at Lincoln High,” Adam objected. “Both freshmen and sophomores can take lots of the same classes at the same time — in fact, some of them by juniors and seniors, too. There’s PE, of course; foreign language classes; Geometry; Algebra 2 and Trig; Digital Arts and Web Design; many of the music, art, and drama classes; Media Studies and Creative Writing; and lots more. I can show you the course catalog, but it’s probably about the same as what you have in Davis.”
“I forgot that you have freshmen in high school,” John said. “I was thinking about Davis High, where ninth-graders are in their last year in junior high school, not the first year in high school. What classes are you and Brian in together?”
“Two, Digital Arts and Web Design and PE Varsity Wrestling. What do ninth-graders do if they’re on a JV or varsity team at Davis? Do they have to travel from the junior high school to Davis High every day for practices? Or do they only play on a freshman team at their junior high school?”
“I don’t know how it works,” John said. Maybe that ninth graders can only be on a freshman team. Do you know anything about it, Eric?”
“Nope. I don’t remember seeing anything about it in the course catalog, either.”
“Well, I’m sure glad that we don’t have that problem at Lincoln High,” Adam said. “I know that there are some freshmen on varsity teams besides wrestling. That includes cross country, swimming and diving, water polo, and tennis.”
“Uncle Rick, can I talk to you in private?” Eric asked, almost in a whisper.
I nodded, got up, and we went to my home office. After we entered, Eric closed the door.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“Can John and I sleep together?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“Oh. I thought you wouldn’t want us in bed together. Or something.”
“I don’t control you, Eric. You’re old enough, and I assume John is old enough, too, to make your own decisions. Just be quiet. Adam is younger, and I don’t want him to be kept awake by talking or other noise from your room.”
Eric grinned. “Okay, thanks, Uncle Rick. There’s something else.”
“I still have a problem with my AP Psychology class. Do you have time to talk about it tonight or on Sunday before we leave?”
“Either is fine. Talking about it now is good because if we need more time, we can continue on Sunday.”
“Okay, that sounds great. So let me get my backpack.” He got it and returned to my home office, this time with the door open.
We talked about the problems students were having with his class and the teacher.
First, he didn’t like the teacher, and he said the other students in the class didn’t like him, either.
Second, he was having a problem following the lectures. The teacher talked too fast and wouldn’t answer any students’ questions in class, only during his office hour, but he was never available then.
Third, the teacher’s lectures had material that wasn’t in their textbook.
Fourth, exams seemed to be based on a different textbook based on the way questions were worded and their content.
Fifth, a lot of the material on exams wasn’t covered in his lectures.
He showed me his extensive notes. They were well-organized.
“I also started recording his lectures in the second week because I was having so much trouble following what he was saying. Then I found out that I wasn’t the only one having that problem.”
“Do you have the recordings with you?”
“Yes.” He pulled them out of his backpack. They were also well-organized.
I looked over his notes and listened to three of his recordings.
We talked about it for almost two hours. When we were finished, I agreed with Eric about the teacher. “When I talked to you on the phone I suggest that you meet with a couple other students and talk to your teacher about the problems you’re having. Instead of meeting with the teacher, I have another suggestion.
“With three or four other students who have the same counselor, meet with that counselor and talk about the problems you’re all having with this teacher. I think that will work out better for you and everyone in the class.”
Eric sat and thought about that for almost a minute. “Okay, I like that. It’s totally non-confrontational which it might be if we were meeting with him.”
Finally, Eric yawned.
“Since you’re yawning, I think it’s time we all think about going to bed. Do you agree?”
He nodded. “Yeah. This has been a heavy-duty day. But a good day, too.
“I’ll talk to John, and we’ll get unpacked. Can you tell Adam so we don’t bump into each other using the bathroom?”
“Sure. I’ll do that right now.”
I knocked on Adam’s doorjamb. He was watching the TV in his bedroom. “Eric and John need to use the bathroom to get ready for bed. How about you use it first?”
“Okay. I’ll brush my teeth and take a shower. That way, Eric and John can take their showers in the morning.” He smirked. “They’ll need a shower in the morning a lot more than tonight!” He wiggled his eyebrows.
I tried to suppress a grin but wasn’t able to. “Maybe I should remember your line about needing a shower in the morning for the next time Brian is sleeping over.”
Adam looked shocked. “Hey, I was just kidding!”
“Yeah, as if!”
Adam stared at me, then laughed. “God, I love living with you, Dad!” Then he jumped up and grabbed me in a hug.
“I love you too, Adam.”
“I know. It’s the first time I’ve ever known an adult who loves me. And that’s you. It feels so good.”
I kissed him on his forehead. “Better get in the bathroom before Eric and John decide to take it over.”
“Is the bathroom door still open?”
I turned and looked. “Yes.”
He said, “See ya!” and ran into the bathroom, closed the door, and I heard him lock it.
I went to Eric’s room and told them that Adam was taking his shower tonight, and he and John could shower in the morning. They were okay with that.
Eric yawned again, then so did John. I laughed. “Yawns are contagious. You’re going to have a busy but hopefully more relaxing day tomorrow.”
“Easy for you to say!” Eric said. That made John Laugh.
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