Castle Roland

Trials and Tribulations

by Billy

In Progress

Chapter 19

Posted: N/A

Trials and Tribulations

By Billy


After cuddling for thirty minutes by the dying campfire, both Joey and I were starting to fall asleep. The night had been draining emotionally, and the closeness, the intimacy of the cuddling made me at least, if not Joey, too, feel safe and secure. Safe enough to fall asleep out in the open with all of God's creatures, rattlesnakes included. Okay, on second thought, maybe not the rattlesnakes, mountain lions, or the bears. Even though I was barely awake, upon reflection, it didn't seem like a good idea to stay by the fire that was quickly losing it's ability to keep unwanted critters away.

"Hey babe," I gently shook Joey's shoulder. I watched as his eyes blinked bringing him awake.

"Yeah?" He yawned.

As thoughts of snakes, bears and mountain lions ran around my head, I asked Joey with a tone of mild encouragement, "Wanna move to the cave and sleep? With the fire dying, who knows what will come sniffing around us out here in the open."

"No, I'd rather build the fire back up," Joey yawned, "and sleep here with you." He turned in my arms and looked at me with a little smile.

I guess there were other options than just smoothing the fire and sleeping in the cave. That's the problem with trying to decide stuff when you are almost asleep. My hot boyfriend wasn't just a pretty face, he was smart, too. Definitely a plus.

"Great idea, babe. Let me gather some more firewood and build it back up." I rolled off the top of my sleeping bag and stood. I looked back down at Joey on top of his and had an idea. "While I'm rounding up the wood, would you mind zipping our bags together so we can... like..."

"Sleep together?" Joey grinned at my apparent embarrassment.

I nodded. I'm not sure why I couldn't voice what I wanted, since we were almost asleep together before I woke us both. Perhaps it was what happened earlier after I tried to be really intimate with him.

"Sure, sexy. I'll get our bed ready while you're doing your manly thing." Joey said, and then he winked.

I didn't really have to do a lot of looking to find dry timber for us. Once I was back at camp, I was able to have the fire roaring in no time. When I climbed into the sleeping bags, Joey turned away from me, and scooted back against my chest. I wrapped my arm around him, and we both quickly fell sound asleep.

In that place between sleep and consciousness, I had a feeling I was being watched. When I opened my eyes the next morning, Joey laid beside me, propped up, his head rested in his hand, and his focus intensely centered on me.

"How long have you been awake?" I asked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

"Not long," he smiled. "You're so cute and innocent looking when you're asleep."

"As opposed to when I'm awake?" I turned to face Joey with the most innocent look I could muster.

"Naw, you're pretty cute when you're awake, too, for a mountain boy." he leaned in and kissed me. The kiss was soft and sweet, and I wanted it to go on forever. When I felt him pull away, I reluctantly opened my eyes to find him once again staring at me, this time with a big smile on his face. Rubbing his stomach, "Are you cooking us breakfast?"

"The sun is just barely up."

"I'm a growing boy, you know." he smiled, but I knew from my own empty tummy, he was only partially joking around.

I smiled to myself as I thought of our evening together. He certainly was a growing boy, and I knew that intimately. I couldn't help but lick my lips as I thought of what we had done. However, that wasn't the kind of meal Joey was asking for. Real cooking wasn't one of my favorite things to do, never mind, making breakfast. I always seemed to burn eggs when I camped.

"Uh, no. That's Roger's job. He cooks all our breakfasts when we're camping and I do dinners."

"So... I need to go and kiss Roger if I want my breakfast?" Joey grinned.

I smiled, but I was also confused with his teasing. I mean, I knew he was teasing, but that comment and last night's reaction didn't seem to be on the same page. However, my love for him was growing daily, and I knew his love was worth allowing him the time to work through his past and conquer his demons. I decided to just play along with him and follow his lead.

"Sure, if you think that will get him up and cooking."

Nauseated with his head hurting like it never had before, JT tried to open his eyes, but only found darkness and he paniced. For not only couldn't he see where he was, he couldn't move his hands or feet.

He was scared that someone had hit him so hard that not only was he blind, but also paralyzed. Then he remembered what he discovered at home after the game. The memory was enough to cause his empty stomach to lurch into his throat.

His father had been slaughtered like a hog, his throat cut from ear to ear. He had fallen back across his father's legs and right into a pool of his blood.

He pushed down the bile rising in his throat.

Someone had murdered his parent.

His father hadn't been the best father, but he was nonetheless, his father. As far as he was concerned, he hadn't done anything to him, or anyone else that he knew of, that would justify his death. Tears washed his face; sad he would never hurt, fish, or do any of the things a boy and a father did, with him again.

He hadn't seen his mother, so maybe she was still alive. He sure hope so and said a short prayer asking God to look after her.

He tried his hands again and finally realized they were tied behind his back. The realization he had been tied up wasn't much of a comfort. That meant someone could still hurt him worst or even kill him.

He tried to stretch his arms, but the rope cut into his wrists. Almost without thinking, he sucked in a deep breath of air and his chest felt tight.

He had to get away, he tried moving his legs but they were also tied, the ropes dug into his ankles. He forced himself to breathe and take stock of what he knew. He was blindfolded and tied up. The circulation to his arms and legs must had been cut off while he was out and caused and they were numb, but now with his movements, the blood flowed into his extremities. It took a while until his senses strengthened and he had calmed down enough to figure out what had happened. Breathing through his nose he surmised he was underground somewhere, mainly due to the air which was stale and damp. He wiggled his fingers and could feel loose dirt.

A question all of us have asked at one time or another reverberated in JT's mind: WHY ME? What had he ever done to anyone to be here. Or what had his father done for that matter. Suddenly, the image of his father laying in a pool of blood filled his mind again. Oh God, the realization that his father had been murdered like some wild animal struck JT like a hammer. He tried not to cry as the pain came crashing down on him. Here he was all alone in a cold, damp, dirty place, and no one knew where he was.

His whole life was falling down around him.

Just as he was about to fall apart, he remembered something Joey had told him, 'When everything seems dark and hopeless, turn to God, and ask for his help. With that in mind, JT prayed like he had never prayed before. He didn't pray for himself and the situation he was in, he prayed for his mother and everyone he knew; and then he asked God to watch over them and protect them from harm.

Outside the cave entrance that held JT within, two guys stood waiting on a third.

"He's late." The older and rougher looking man said coldly as he stared down the hill.

The younger man stood whittling a piece of wood with his knife. "He'll be here if'n he knows what's good fer'him, n'as soon as he get's his ass here, I'll be head'in back and do what needs to be done. N'then we can get out of here."

The two stood just outside the mouth of the cave. If anyone had seen them they might have been mistaken for characters out of some bad 1950's hillbilly movie. The older one was tall and lean, just over six tall, standing in faded-out over-alls and a scraggly beard. The other man was clean shaven, but on his large frame, his clothes were worn, filthy, and looked frayed, like hand-me-downs.

The silence of the night seemed to close around them as they stood looking into the darkness.

After breakfast we broke camp and headed to Crawford's Lake and on the Bad Branch Falls. By the time we arrived at the falls, I was completely worn out. Roger took one look at me and had me sit down, while Joey looked around clearly fascinated by the beauty of the landscape.

"What's wrong, Andy?" Roger's face told me I must have looked as bad as I felt.

"I dunno, Roger. I'm out of breath and I feel like I could sleep for days." I answered. I was going to say more, but I had a metallic taste in my mouth and spat on the huge rock I was sitting on trying to get the taste out of my mouth.

"Damn bro, tilt your head back, look at me, and open your mouth." Roger took control sounding just like his mother. After Roger checked out my mouth, he had me drink water from his canteen, rinse out my mouth, and spit it out. Then he had me open my mouth so he could take another look.

"Andy," he started, "it looks like your gums are bleeding, but not as much now," He rubbed his chin, much like Uncle Steve does when he's thinking. "Does your mouth hurt any?"

"No, not really." I said, as Joey walked up to us. "My ribs hurt."

"What's going on?" Joey watched carefully.

"We're trying to figure it out." Roger told him, and to me, "Raise your tee, Andy, and lets see how bad it is."

Neither Joey nor Roger could hide the shock when I raised my tee shirt up and over my head. Roger's expression quickly changed as he regained control, but I could see a tear escape Joey's eye. Timidly, I looked for myself, afraid of what I was going to see. Finally, I looked down and found that I had a humongous bruise that covered my whole right side, which I had received when I prevented Joey from falling to his death. Not only that, but I seemed to have bruises in places I couldn't remember hurting.

"Oh my God, Andy, is that what you did to yourself trying to save me?" Joey sobbed. His eyes were a bit wide, his face wet with tears, and I could see his hands started to reach out to me only to wrap themselves around his chest a moment later. His face slowly turned pale.

I jumped up and wrapped him in my arms. It was painful for me to do so, and I became quite dizzy for my efforts, but for Joey, I'd do anything; bare any pain.

"Shh, Joey, I'm okay." I held Joey in my arms and rubbed his back trying not to let the pain be heard in my voice.

"Bullshit, Andy, you might try selling that crap to Aunt Alice, but don't try it with me!" Joey pushed me back far enough to look me in the eyes.

The pain I seen in Joey's eyes forced me to look away first. "Okay," I whispered, "maybe I have a busted rib or two."

Joey's face turned red. I glanced at Roger who looked equally upset, so I tried to quickly explained it all away. "Really, I'm not hurting that much. I'm just short of breath from being out of shape and a little tender."

"Tender? Tender you say? Looks more like someone used you for a freaking punching bag." Joey looked at me, shaking his head in astonishment.

Roger spoke up, "I barely have a signal, but I'm gonna try to call Dad and see if he is on his way yet."

I nodded and sat. I felt sick to my stomach. Joey sat next to me, wrapped his arm around me. I laid my head against his shoulder and closed my eyes.

"Okay, dad's already on the way. In fact, he just started down this side of the mountain." Roger hesitated, and I looked up to see why. "Seems, Uncle Sam felt something was wrong. Dad was just fixing to call us, but my call went through first."

"Alright, but I need a couple of minutes to catch my breath." I slid my shirt back on. Joey pulled my head back to his shoulder and kissed the top of my head. It seems our roles were being reversed.

After they gave me a ten minute break, we started back home. With Roger in the lead and Joey closely behind, watching my every step, we took our time descending the mountain.. Uncle Steve was waiting for us by the time we arrived at the meeting point. We packed everything away in the truck and quickly left. I was on my way home to news that would change by life yet again for the foreseeable future.

JT woke to voices in the distance, but didn't recognize the owner's. He could tell that it was a couple of guys, but they weren't talking loud enough to make out any of the words. He was concerned with what these guys planned to do to him, but after praying earlier, he didn't feel as scared as he would have been before.

He had no idea how long he had slept or how long it had been since he was taken. With the blindfold, he couldn't tell if it was day or night. All he knew for certain, he was scared, hungry, and hurting from the blow he took to the back of his head and cramping from the way his hands and feet were tied.

He tried rolling over onto his stomach hoping he could get his knees under himself enough that he could stand, but all he ending up getting was a mouth full of dirt and making himself dizzy from the exertion. After several failed attempts, he finally succeeded in rolling onto his back again before the darkness took him once again.

When JT regained consciousness the first thing he noticed was his head felt like a football that had been kicked around for four quarters. He sat and reached up with his right hand to rub a large bump on the base of base of his head. Then it dawn on him, he was free.

JT took a moment to blink and look around at his surroundings. Painfully, he rolled onto his hands and knees, trying to climb back to his feet, finding small rocks digging into his skin. He leaned against the wall as a wave of dizziness hit, nearly dragging him back to the state of unconsciousness. Determined to get out, he stumbled towards the cave entrance.

The bright daylight nearly blinded him. He wasn't sure if it was hours or days he had been blindfolded in that cave, but he breathed deeply the scent of the pine trees as he stood again in the fresh air. He still had a headache and carefully felt the back of his head where he had been hit. He found a bump, but no blood and relaxed slightly. The fresh air made the dizziness fade and eventually he checked himself over for other injuries. He couldn't find any, but as he stood there in the sunlight the evidence of his father's murder was splattered all over his clothes. He knew he needed to find help.

He decided to try and climb to the top of the hill, take his bearings in reference to Pine Mountain, and then decide which direction to take. He looked up at the sun's location and figured he had about four hours of daylight left.

"Son," Dad began. "Doctor Karthik's office called late yesterday afternoon. You boys had already left by the time they called, and I saw no reason, at this point, in not letting you boys have some fun for the night. However, we'll need to go in Monday morning for some more tests. The results of your last exam came in and showed some abnormalities."

"Abnormalities? What does that mean dad?"

Even though Dad's tone was as matter of fact, I knew there was more to this considering the complications I had on the camping trip.

"Well son, your blood work showed some possible problems. Therefore, Dr. Karthik wants more lab work to determine if there is a problem or not. So, I'll take you by the clinic Monday morning before school, let you give them some more blood, and then I'll take you on to school. Roger and Joey can ride the bus that morning." Dad said, and then leaned back in his chair behind his desk.

I looked around Dad's home office and Roger nodded to me. I knew he wanted me to tell dad about my problems and Joey's accident, mostly my problems, I was sure. But I wasn't sure I wanted to say anything.

Roger seeing my hesitation, began to speak. "Uncle Sam, I think..."

I didn't want my father to hear it from Roger, so I cut him off.

"Dad, Roger wants me to show you this." I carefully stood and lifted my shirt. "I've also been a little out of breath and a little dizzy at times." I had a bad feeling that all of this tied together some way.

"Come here, son." From his tone I knew he was in Dad mode. Gone was the clinical monotonous voice. His voice was full of concern and sadness. "Pull your shirt off for me, Andy."

His hands softly caressed my bruised upper body, and when I looked into his face, I saw the tears freely flowing down his cheeks. Gently, he pulled me to him and wrapped me in a warm embrace.

I had known from the time I could know anything that my mother and father loved me unconditionally, but here now, at this moment, if there were ever a seed of doubt, it was gone forever. I wrapped my arms around his neck and lowered my head to his, as his tears continued to flow over my naked chest. I don't know why, but I cried with him. He brought my forehead to his lips and kissed me.

"Uncle Sam, his gums were bleeding a little as well, but they seemed to have stopped. From what I could tell, they only bled for about five or ten minutes." Roger paused, and then added, "Unless he is swallowing it all now."

"No." I glared at Roger. "They stopped."

"I'm sorry, son." He said, as he slowly push me back until he could look me in the eyes. "I promise you, on my life, no matter what it takes; I'll do everything I can to make you well."

"Wh.. what's wrong with me dad?" I knew something was wrong with me, and I didn't have a clue what it was, but from Dad's reaction to seeing my bruised chest, it was bad. Even I knew that my fall on the rock shouldn't have caused this much bruising and shortness of breath. Especially since I was sure I didn't have a broken rib. All of this information left me trembling.

Dad pulled me to his chest and hugged me until I settled down.

"We don't know for sure, Andy. That's why you'll have the lab work on Monday. We'll know for sure when the doctor has the results back. Then we'll know what course of action, if any, needs to be taken." He was trying hard to assure me.

Roger and Joey crossed the room and stood beside me. Roger on my left and Joey on my right, both had a arm around my shoulders

Roger looked me in the eyes and said, "We're in this together."

"Andy," Joey started. I turned and looked at him. "Always remember, it's one for all..."

"And all for one!" All three of us finished in unison.

I bathed in the warmth of Joey's love. With their declaration of support. I truly felt that no matter what the test results would show, I had all the love and support I needed to get me through worse of times.

Joey and Roger spent the night with me. I was in the middle again with both of them cuddled up to me. It seemed to have done a lot for me, both physically and mentally. When I looked at my chest, after waking up, the bruising only covered half the area it did yesterday morning. I also felt invigorated, and my mind was clear of any fear of the future. Proof that I was invigorated was my morning wood pressed up against Roger's butt cheeks. I wanted to laugh as I remembered the last time this had happened.

I was warm and content laying there even though I had my morning wood trapped between me and Roger, and I could feel Joey laying behind me with his morning wood nestled between my cheeks. Then in one horrible moment I feared if I moved I would hurt or damage my relationship with the two people that meant the most to me. If I ever lost either one, I knew it would devastate me.

A tear leaked from the corner of my eye and a muted sob escaped my mouth, even though I had tried to hold it back by biting my lower lip. Joey heard it though and tightened his arms around me and kissed the back of my neck.

"What's wrong, Andy?" Joey softly asked, barely above a whisper.

I turned so we faced each other, and brought my right hand to his face, caressing it. "I love you." I said. Then I leaned in, gave him a chaste kiss, and rested my forehead against his. I was mentally drained and I could feel sleep coming for me quickly, but before it came, I heard Joey's words, "I love you, too, Andy."

Joey woke me later with a soft tender kiss and I looked up to his bright smiling face.

"Uncle Sam, said to tell you to get up and eat breakfast, if you still plan on going to the youth social this afternoon." he said, as he sat on my bed, and ran his hand up and down my arm.

I sat up, planted a quick kiss on his sweet lips, and darted for the bathroom to relieve myself . As I raced to the bathroom, I called back over my shoulder, "Sorry, I gotta pee." I could hear Joey laughing.

"Do you still want to go?" he called from the bedroom, as I quickly tried to push myself down enough to pee in the toilet.

"Ugh... give me a second." I moaned.

Oh My God! Sometimes the most ordinary, mundane, and a truly everyday natural event of minor significance, such as taking a piss, can bring utter bliss. And right now, I was in total bliss. My bladder must have been totally full; because the force of the stream massaged my prostate on its way to the toilet bowl, which felt nearly orgasmic.

When I finally came out of the bathroom, Joey sat there trying hard not to laugh at me.

Eventually, he got himself under control, cocked an eyebrow and looked at me.


"Well. Did you still want to go to the church social?"

I could tell from the way Joey was nearly vibrating on the bed that he wanted to go.

"Yeah, just let me shower, eat something, and we can decide how we're going to get there this afternoon."

Joey stood up and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"Well hurry up. I'll tell Uncle Sam you are going to shower, and I'll get you a bowl of cereal ready. Oh, by the way, Roger left earlier to shower, eat, and call Mary."

I stood there with a big smile on my face as I watched my boyfriend leave to make me breakfast.

The Presbyterian Church is located on Broadway Street, directly behind the Letcher County Courthouse. It's a three story building that sits at the bottom of a hill that slopes down fifteen feet to the ground floor. There's a sixty foot raised walkway from the sidewalk and street in front of the church to the Fellowship Hall on the right-hand side of the church. The large Sanctuary sits on the left-hand side of the church and is directly connected to the sidewalk by a short ten foot walkway to four steps leading to the front door of the Sanctuary. There's a long seventy-five foot walkway that slopes down the hill to the front door of the ground floor which is where the young adults and children Sunday School classrooms are located, along with the nursery and church offices. The Graham Memorial Church, among other structures that still stand today, was built during the depression, by Italians stonemasons that immigrated here.

We decided not to go to church that morning, and Joey didn't push it. Around three that afternoon, Aunt Alice drove Joey, Roger, and I to the church for the social. It was to last from three until five, giving everyone enough time to get home for evening services. When we arrived in front of the walkway to the Fellowship Hall, where the social was being held, I noticed Sarah and Mary Tillman were waiting outside on the walkway.

I was happy for Roger, because Mary really seemed to like him, and I thought Roger liked her, too. I thought they would make a really cute couple, but I sensed trouble from Sarah. She had the look of a lioness stalking her prey when she looked at Joey, and THAT had my temperature rising, but not in a good way.

Thankfully, just as we climbed out of the car, Debbie, Tommy, and Gary walked out of the Fellowship Hall . When Debbie saw us, she ran over giving Roger and Joey a hug.

I held up my hands, warning her off, "No hugs Debbie. I hurt my ribs Friday and they're still sore."

"You poor baby." Debbie nodded, before giving me a kiss on the cheek.

Mary made her way up to where the other guys were talking, and I heard her softly say, "Hi, Roger," she shyly looked away.

"Hiya, Mary. We made it, like we said we would," Roger said with smile that lit-up his face, like full moon just rising above the mountains on a cloudless night.

I really hope I didn't put on a display like that over Joey. I knew I probably did, but if I didn't control it at school and other public places, I would out us for sure. And frankly, neither of us needed that kind of news to leak out in this small town at this point in our lives. Too many people outside our family knew already. Which meant Sarah's obvious interest in Joey would have to be dealt with very carefully.

I watched Sarah move towards Joey and introduce herself to him again. I was pissed and thought of calling her a bitch, or witch, or a dozen other things. Then with mounting anger, I watched as she leaned in and kiss MY boyfriend on the cheek. I saw red and released a strangled, "Grrr!" and turned on my heels in the other direction.

Oh well, so much for self-control. I stormed off towards the Fellowship Hall, leaving everyone else behind. As I reached the doorway, I heard Sarah ask, "What's wrong with Andy?"

"He's hurting." Roger curtly told her, as he took Mary's hand and followed me into the social leaving everyone else looking at one another.

Roger walked up beside me in the hall. "You okay, bro?"

I looked at Mary by his side and nodded. "There's a lot of people here I don't know."

Mary smiled. "Pastor Irvin invited some of the area's youth groups to join us."

"That's cool. I think it's a good idea to have a place where kids our age can get together and not have to worry about booze, drugs, or being pressured for sex." I guess that kiss Joey received was still on my mind.

Just then, I felt someone step up on my other side, and it was Joey. He smiled, and I couldn't help but smile back. He leaned in and whispered, "That kiss meant no more to me than Debbie's did to you."

"I know. I was never mad at you, Joey." I whispered in frustration. "It just... I mean... It made me... I was jealous." I took a deep breath and then everything I have been thinking and feeling came pouring out in a rush. "She was watching you like a hawk from the moment we arrived. There could be no denying what she wanted, and it was you, Joey. I wanted to tell her to get lost, but I knew I couldn't without outing us right on the spot. So, I walked away before I said or did something I would regret. I knew you would handle it."

"You trusted me, uh?" Joey's eyes brightened and danced.

"Yeah, I did." I smiled at his reaction to my confession.

I had a good time after I chose to ignore Sarah overt attempts to woo Joey. She gave up in the end and clutched onto some senior from another high school. Roger appeared to have an awesome time with Mary. They were together the whole time, laughing, dancing, giggling, and whispering. I was happy for him. If anyone deserved to be happy, it was Roger. Well, Joey did too.

After about an hour, I turned to Joey, "I need some fresh air." I was starting to feel warm and a little light-headed.

We walked through the double doors of the hall side by side, out onto the walkway almost to the sidewalk running parallel with the street. I stopped and walked over to the waist high railing that ran down on either side of the walkway from the doors to the sidewalk. I leaned over and rested my head on the railing. I sensed Joey walk up beside me and nudge me. I looked up at him and saw him looking off up the sidewalk.

There sat a kid on the street curb. He looked two or three years younger than us. He had his head between his legs and appeared to be crying. I motioned to Joey to follow me and walked over to the kid.

"Hi, I'm Andy." I said, sitting down beside the kid and reaching out my hand to shake.

With tears flowing down his face, he looked up at me and then at my extended hand. He wiped his nose on his shirt and took my hand.

"Hi, I'm Cody," he said.

It was clear to me this boy was shy, because as soon as he let go of my hand his eyes focused back to the street.

"And I'm Joey." Joey sat down on the other side of the kid. Cody nodded to him.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Why? You wanna beat me up, too?" Cody tossed the questions at us like bombs. "Or fuck me?" He asked, with disgust.

"Oh God, no! Never! Why on earth would you ask that?" I could believe he asked us that.

"Because everyone else does! What make you two any different?" he stared at me directly in the eyes and I got a chance to finally get a good look at his face. He had a black eye and a busted lip.

"Who did that to your face, Cody?" I was angry again and began to feel my blood boil.

"What does it matter?" Cody's voice became sad and forlong. "No one will do anything about it. I might as well be dead. Maybe then people will leave me alone!" he jumped up and ran down the hill towards the basketball court behind the church.

Joey was a lot faster than me in my weakened state. He caught up to him first and wrapped him in a hug from behind before Cody reached the courts. Slowly Joey turned him around and Cody buried his head in Joey's chest. Joey hugged him and was whispering something to him as I walked up to them.

He backed-up a step, looked at Joey, and asked, "Do you mean it? Can he? Will he?" Then they both looked at me.

"I told him that you, we, would help him." Joey said, with his eyes pleading with me.

I looked at Cody and his eyes were pleading with me, too. I also noticed that for the first time since I met Cody, his eyes held a glimmer of hope. "You need to tell me everything and it has to be the truth. If you'll do that, I'll do what I can. Okay?"

"Let's go over here and sit." Joey said, pointing to the back wall of the church.

Once we were seated, Joey started first by telling Cody how his father had beat and humiliated him time and time again. He even told him what happen with the baseball coach and being caught by his dad, in the act. By the time he finished, he had told Cody everything that had happened to him.

"Then my life changed." Joey's own tears were falling now. "I met Andy and Roger. Right away, Andy was there for me. He made me tell him what was happening. Then, he had his father take me to the hospital to have me treated for all the things my dad had done to me. It seemed like all of a sudden, all these people were there to help me and protect me from my parents. Roger's family gave me a home, a place where I felt safe for the first time in years. Not only did they take me in, but they actually made me a member of their family. Alice and Steve ARE my mother and father now. They are my parents and they show me real love and understanding. And Roger, wow, he is truly my brother. I'd do anything for him." Joey finished with the love he felt for the Banks' showing on his face.

"I haven't been through anything like Joey has." I began. "But I have suffered a great loss. My grandparents on my mother side were both killed in an accident when I was nine. See, what made it worse, my grandpa and I were really close, so it felt like my world was turned upside down. Then it really was when I was twelve, my mother died of cancer. It made me really depressed and I isolated myself from everyone else. I kinda wanted to die, so I know the feeling you're talking about. But you have to believe me, life can and does get better. It just that sometimes, bad things happen so good things can." I wrap my arm around Cody's shoulders. "Maybe now, good things will start to happen for you."

"Thanks guys." Cody wiped his face again and leaned against me. "Listening to your stories will make it easier for me to tell mine." I watched as he tried to pull himself together. Cody sat up a little straighter. He looked at Joey, then me, and finally looked straight ahead and told his story. "I'm twelve-years old. My mother died when I was born. So, I never knew her, but I think I know what you meant about your mother, Andy. It's like a part of you is missing. For as long as I can remember, my brother and I shared a room. He's seventeen and a senior in high school now. When I was nine and he was fourteen, I was sent to bed one night and walked in on him while he was playing with himself." Cody dropped his head, his cheeks turned bright red. "You know, down there." He finished embarrassed. "Anyway, he quickly covered himself up with the bed spread when he realized I was in the room. Callan asked me, that's my brother's name, 'How long have you been standing there?' I told him I didn't know. He smirked and told me to get to bed and to stop spying on him."

Cody's body shivered and he wouldn't look up as he talked.

"You told me to tell you the truth, so I will; but when I do, you'll probably hate me like everyone else does." Cody said sadly.

"I promise you, Cody, no matter what you tell me, I won't hate you. I may not approve, but I won't hate you." I assured him.

"Okay, here's goes," he began. "I did see Callan's dick that night and I sure wanted to get a closer look at it, but I knew he would never let me. I know it sure looked huge compared to mine and it made me wonder if everyone was bigger than me. I tried to forget about it, but the image of it was bunrt into my mind. When I was at home, I didn't have a lot of time to think much about it, because I always had a lot of chores to do on top of my homework. See, Callan and Pa has always treated me like a slave. It was me that had to do all the house chores, dusting, cleaning, mopping, laundry, and stuff like that. I think they both blame me for my ma dying." Cody paused.

I figured he was trying to collect his thoughts or the next part was going to be hard on him. So I squeezed his shoulders to let him know it was okay to continue.

"Well, it got bad. Every chance I got I was stealing looks at my classmates while they were peeing. Last year I got caught doing it by this eighth grader. He asked me if I wanted to touch it. I was too afraid to say anything, so I nodded my head. He told me to go ahead. I reached out and wrapped my hand around it.

"Then he said, 'Kiss it fag.' I didn't know what a fag was, since I had never heard the word before, and it sure didn't sound like a nice word. And the way he said it scared me and I quickly let go. He became mad and said, 'Look fag, you were just playing with my pecker, that makes you a fag, and everyone knows fags like to put their mouths on peckers. Now put your fuckin mouth on my pecker and kiss it, or I'll kick your ass.'"

Cody slumped a little and said, "I'll be honest, I did like holding his dick, but now I was afraid of him. It took me about a second to decide to get the hell out of there, so I ran as fast as I could to the bathroom door, swung it open, and ran to my classroom, hoping he didn't know who I was."

Cody sat there very still for a moment. I looked over and could see that Joey was crying. Cody's voice was barely a whisper when he spoke again.

"When I got home, Callan made it very clear to me, that the boy did know who I was and that he had told Callan all about it. He slapped me hard up-side my head and told me he wasn't going to have no fairy for a brother. Callan told me that I had better change or he would kick my ass. He then stalked off leaving me standing there ashamed of myself for what I had done, and crying because whatever love my brother had for me had just been washed down the drain."

I could feel Cody trembling under my arm as he continued.

"At least he didn't say anything to pa that night, but I was foolish to think I had heard the last of it. The next day, I noticed my friends were looking at me funny and people in the hallways would stop talking and stare at me when I passed. Once class started, everything seemed to go back to normal, but at recess some of the bigger boys in my class gathered around me and asked if it was true. At first, I didn't know what they were talking about and told them so. Then the biggest one, the class bully, came right out and asked, 'Are you a homo, a faggot?' I told him no. 'That's not what we heard. Didn't you play with David's dick yesterday in the boy's room?' He asked me with his chest all puffed out, like he was the king cock in the chicken yard. I decided that this wasn't a good place for me to be, so without answering him, I turned and ran back to the classroom. As I ran, I could hear the names and the threats that I still hear every day."

"Somehow it all got back to pa and that's when the whoppings started. Every single day now, someone is pushing me, hitting me, spitting on me, calling me names. If it ain't my pa or brother then it's someone from school." Cody was sobbing now as he finished by saying, "I just can't take anymore. This busted lip" Cody pointed to his bottom lip. "Callan did it earlier when I was trying to get a drink of water from the water fountain in the hallway. You know, the one leading off from the Fellowship Hall where the bathrooms are? He came out of the bathroom and slammed my head into the drain. He said he had a pretty girl that was interested in him and told me not to mess up this night for him by going queer on anyone."

I had tears in my eyes now. I also felt that there was more he hadn't told me, yet. I tightened my hug on his shoulders and asked, "Don't get me wrong. Everything you've told us is terrible, but is that the worst of it?"

Without a word, he turned in my arms and raised the back of his shirt. What I saw made me angry. His back wasn't as bad as Joey's had been, but it was clear he had been beaten with a belt, a lot. There were no open sores, but the welts were there, in numbers.

I lowered his shirt and hugged him. "I swear, I'll do everything I can to help you." I turned him back around to face me. "I'll need you to trust me like Joey did and to trust the adults I will ask to help us."

He nodded, and the three of us went to find Pastor Irvin.

After we found Pastor Irvin, a lot of phone calls were made, including one to my dad. By the time I got home, it was late in the evening, and I was worn out; but, Cody was safe now from all the crap he had to live with this past year. Pastor Irvin had called a really nice couple he knew that couldn't have children and were looking to adopt. They were willing to take Cody in and give him the life he deserved. Cody had been up-front with them by telling them he didn't know if he was gay or not. And in my mind, he probably didn't know. I mean for crying out loud, he's only twelve-years old. Thankfully, the couple said they didn't care one way or the other if he was gay or straight.

Miss Anderson, from the Department of Community Based Services (child protective services), quickly approved an emergency foster care placement, since the couple had already been accepted as possible foster parents.

What made my night was the boy that Sarah became interested in and hanging all over all night was none other than Callan, Cody's older brother. I smiled inwardly when Callan was lead to the police car in handcuffs with Sarah standing there wide-eyed. As it turned out, when Cody told Joey and I what had been going on in his life, he left out a lot of details concerning his pa and brother. I figured it was his story to tell, so he could tell it to whom he pleased, and how he pleased. I slept really well that night.

The next morning, dad took me by the clinic for lab work and then on to school. At school, I heard one or two people talking about what happened last night, but since neither Cody or his brother went to our school, not much was really known or said about it. Joey, Roger, and I kept quiet about it. We didn't think it was anyone's business.

When we got home that afternoon, the three of us were planning on an hour or two of video games before homework, but were surprised to find my dad already home.

"Andy, boys, come on into my office and take a seat." Dad said, sounding kinda solemn.

We followed dad into his office and sat down on the couch with me in the middle. Dad pulled up a chair and sat directly in front of me. I knew I was about to hear some bad news.

"Son," Dad started and then paused. He cleared his throat and continued. "The results from your tests this morning are in and they confirmed the Doctor's suspicions."

Joey took one of my hands and Roger took the other. This didn't go unnoticed by dad, and he smiled, a little. He scooted even closer to me and placed a hand on Joey's and Roger's hands that were already holding mine.

"Andy, there's no way to sugarcoat this, okay? This doesn't have to be a terminal illness. That's the good news, but if it's left untreated, it could get very bad. So, we have to allow the treatments for it and follow the doctor's recommendations. The treatments aren't pleasant, but the success rate is very high."

TERMINAL!? Fuck me running. Am I dying? I couldn't tell if he was trying to convince me or himself. And he still hadn't told me what IT was.

"Dad, please just tell me what 'IT' is, okay?" I got tired of hearing 'it' called it. I wanted to know what was wrong with me.

"Andy, you have leukemia."

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