At Josh's house, his dad barely spoke to him. Many times when he acknowledged him it was with a disgusted look. Josh walked around the condo on egg shells; he mostly stayed in his room. He didn't even try to talk to his dad yet. At least his dad hadn't thought about taking his phone away. Josh kept it on vibrate so it didn't make any noise that might remind his dad that he had it. He kept his TV volume down so as not to bring the wrath of his dad. One thing he did notice was that his dad seemed to be drinking a lot too, and that scared him a little.
A couple of days later, Dylan called Josh, who was sitting in his room watching TV when it rang. He was lounging on his bed when he heard his phone vibrating on the bedside table. He picked it up and saw Dylan's name on the caller ID. He glanced at his partly open door and answered it.
"Hi Dylan, wait a moment."
He got up and walked over to the door and stuck his head out and looked down the hall. He could hear that the TV in the living room was on, so he stepped back and carefully pushed the door until it was almost closed. He went and sat back on the bed. He kept his voice low.
"Hey Dylan, I'm back."
"How are you doing Josh?"
"Okay, I guess."
"Is your dad still mad?"
"Yeah, he's barely talking to me."
"That sucks. Jamie really wants to talk to you…."
Josh listened for a moment and then got back on the phone.
"Dylan, I gotta hang up. Can I call you late tonight, like eleven?"
"Uh, yeah, I guess so."
"Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, but I gotta go. I'll call you tonight."
Josh hung up the phone and slipped it under his pillow so it was out of sight. He quickly got up and opened the door. Looking down the hall he saw the bathroom door start to open and he quickly resumed his seat on the bed and focused on the TV. He listened as his dad walked back to the living room. Dinner that evening was another silent affair. Josh kept his head down, looking at his plate because he didn't want to see the look that was probably on his dad's face. When he finished, he silently got up and rinsed his plate off. He then started cleaning up after dinner and loaded the dishwasher. His dad didn't say anything to him, but he did bring his plate and put it in the sink while Josh got the serving dishes and glasses off the table. Once he was done, Josh started the dishwasher and headed back to his room.
As he walked by the living room Josh saw his dad had a drink on the table by his side. Josh continued to his room. He plopped down on the bed. He hated seeing his dad drinking like this. When his mom was alive he had hardly ever seen his dad drink, except a glass of wine or two when they went out to dinner. He knew that he drank other things sometimes, because Josh had seen the few other liquor bottles that they had, but they took a long time to be emptied. Now his dad was drinking every night.
He wanted it to be like it used to be when his mom was there. Or even like it had been last Christmas and New Years just a short time after his mom had died. Their first Christmas without his mom hadn't been great. He got presents from his dad and his uncle. Some of them were ones that his mom had bought earlier. His dad seemed to try to make it the best he could, but without Mom, there was just a little something missing. After the New Year, his dad had started to become a little distant. He focused on his teaching job at the college. He had sold the house because it was only the two of them and the house had memories, at least that is what his dad had told him. Besides the condo was easier upkeep than a house would be. So they moved to the condo complex.
While he was growing up, his dad had never really been a, 'let's go out and play catch kind of dad'. He wasn't really sports minded; he didn't care too much for them. He had been several years older than Josh's mom when they married and they had had Josh when his dad had been in his late thirties, while his mom had been around thirty. She would have been forty four this coming year, Josh remembered. Right now he really missed his mom and needed her. She would have helped get his dad to not be so mad at him and Jamie, he was sure of it.
Josh went back to watching TV feeling depressed. He watched until his dad came by the room and snarled at him.
"It's late, shut the TV off and go to bed."
Josh didn't argue, he simply turned off the TV. He heard the slight slurring of the order and looked at the door. His dad had already headed to his room. Josh brushed his teeth and went back to his bedroom, closing the door behind him. He undressed to his underwear and got in bed. He waited for a little while and just listened. He heard his dad stop moving around in his room. Then he waited a little longer, before he pulled his phone out from under the pillow and called Dylan. It rang longer than normal before a sleepy sounding Dylan picked it up.
"Hello?" Dylan mumbled through a yawn.
Glancing at the door, Josh whispered, "Dylan, it's Josh."
"Oh, hey, sorry. I guess I dozed off a little."
"It's okay. Dylan, have you talked to Jamie?"
"Yeah, he really wants to call you but I told him to wait."
"Yeah, probably a good idea. I'm afraid if he knew Jamie was calling me, he'd take my phone away. So far, I'm hoping he kinda forgot that I have one and doesn't take it away. I want to talk to him so bad, but I'm afraid of that happening."
"I'll let him know. Maybe you could call him late like this?"
"Maybe. I want to see if my dad will cool down a little first. Man, I had been hoping to spend New Year's Eve with him. Jamie was going to come over here and spend the night. We were going to stay up late and watch the ball drop in New York."
"Yeah, that's sucks. Me and Ethan are going to do that, and I was going to ask him, um…"
"Before you and he what?"
"Shit…Josh, you gotta swear you won't say anything but…I think me and Ethan are together. I was going to ask him on New Year's Eve to officially be my boyfriend, but that kinda got hosed."
"I won't say anything. But that is so cool."
Dylan paused a little as he decided whether he should say anymore. But this was Josh, his best friend, he probably wouldn't say anything about what he knows, so he decided to go ahead and tell him.
"Hey Josh, you know that we aren't the only ones. Sean and Dakota, and Ian and Logan are couples too. All eight of us are gay."
"How weird is that."
"Yeah, I know."
They went on from there talking about how he knew. He dodged the question pretty well, probably because they were on the phone. In person, he wasn't sure he could fool Josh, at least not for very long. He told him that he noticed how they looked at each other when they were together. He did not divulge anything about his or Ethan's gifts. They were talking and both started yawning a little.
"I guess it's getting late. I should probably go to bed. I sure wish I could say goodnight to Jamie, but I guess not. Goodnight Bro, thanks for talking to me."
"Yeah, you too, goodn….Wait a minute. I just got an idea. Do you think that your dad might let you spend New Year's Eve at your uncle's?"
"I don't know, he might."
"Can you find out and call me tomorrow? Same time would be fine."
"Yeah, I'll try. Maybe if I call my uncle first and then maybe he can ask my dad and he'll let me go. Why?"
"Well, do you think you could ask your uncle if you can have a couple of friends stay over too, but not let your dad know?"
"I don't know, I'll try and let you know."
"Remember you've gotta get him to make sure he doesn't tell your dad. If he says it's okay, then you go over there in the early afternoon and me and Jamie will come over in the late afternoon, just in case your dad stays for a little while. You can text us when he leaves and then we'll come over."
"Yeah, that's sounds like that'll work. I'll call you tomorrow night," Josh yawned. "But now I got to get some sleep, I'm tired. Night Bro."
"Yeah, night. Talk to you tomorrow night. Bye"
They hung up and both were soon asleep. Although Josh was thinking for a little while longer, because he was trying to figure out if his uncle would keep it from his dad if he asked him. He wondered if maybe he told him the truth about what happened, and then maybe that would be reason enough not to say anything to his dad. His one worry was that his uncle had been in the army and the military, until recently, had been against having gays serve. But that had changed now, so maybe his uncle would be okay with it. He hoped so, because then he might help them. If he wasn't okay, then it could be worse with both his dad and his uncle hating him. That gave him pause, but he wanted to see Jamie so bad and hopefully spending the night with him would be better. Well, nothing could be decided until he talked to his uncle, so he turned on his side and was soon asleep.
The next morning Josh made coffee before he got the cereal out to make his own breakfast. He had almost finished when his dad came in and got a cup of coffee. Derrick didn't greet Josh. He just went out and got his paper and upon returning he sat down at the end of the table, read the paper, and drank his coffee silently. When Josh finished he rinsed his bowl and put it in the dishwasher.
"I have to go to my office at the college. While I'm gone, no one is to be here and you are to stay here. Is that understood?"
Josh looked up and saw his dad looking at him over the paper. His look brooked no discussion. Josh nodded and Derrick focused his attention back on the paper. Josh kept his head lowered as he walked back to his bedroom. He flopped on the bed and turned the TV on. He channel surfed for a little while, settling on a channel for a few minutes and then moving on. He heard his dad leave the condo and waited a few minutes more before he made the call to his uncle. The phone rang a couple of times before it was picked up.
"Hi Uncle Eric."
"Oh, hey Josh, how's it going?"
Josh faltered. He didn't know what to say. It had seemed easy when he first thought about it talking to his uncle now he wasn't so sure.
"What's the matter Josh?"
"Um, could I ask you a favor?"
"I know this might sound unusual, but could you ask my dad if I can come over for a little while today and could you come and pick me up if he says it's okay?"
"I'm off today since I worked on Christmas and Christmas Eve, so I could do that. Would you like to explain why?"
"I'm sort of grounded, I think."
"Grounded, then I don't know if I should get in the way of your dad punishing you for whatever you did?"
"I swear it's not really like that. It's just…I just need some help with something and I can't ask my dad if I can go to your house. I need you to ask for me."
Eric was silent as he thought about it. He figured he must have been silent longer than he thought where he heard Josh again.
"Oh, sorry Josh. I was thinking. Okay, I'll talk to your dad. But if you're trying to pit me against your dad, because you don't like a decision that he made, you're going to be in trouble with both of us. I will expect an explanation when you get over here."
"Yes sir, thank you."
"Okay, is he home right now?"
"No, he had to go to his office at the college."
"Okay, I'll call his cell. If he says it's okay, then I'll be over this afternoon to pick you up. I have some things I need to do right now. If he says no, I'll call you and let you know."
"Okay, thanks Uncle Eric. Bye."
"Bye Josh. See you in a little while."
Josh ended the call and dropped the phone on his bed as he went back to channel surfing. He was really getting bored with being kept in the house. A couple of hours later, the doorbell rang. Josh jumped up off the bed and went to the door. Standing on the other side was his uncle. Josh let a relieved smile show on his face. Eric noticed something but didn't say anything right then.
"Okay Nephew, are you ready to go?"
"Just a minute, let me put my shoes on and grab my jacket."
Eric nodded and stepped inside the condo by the front door. He looked around and didn't see anything amiss, but he sensed something was going on. He hoped that Josh would shed some light on what was going on. Josh soon came to the door ready to go. Eric led the way out and waited while Josh closed and locked the door. Neither said anything while they went out to Eric's jeep. Eric was waiting for Josh to say something, but he was silent all the way to Eric's house as he tried to calm his fears about coming out to Eric. Eric said nothing as he waited for Josh to say something. Josh wasn't forthcoming, so the ride to Eric's house was silent. He pulled into his driveway and still not saying anything, led the way into the house. He let Josh in and closed the door behind them.
He stood there for a moment and looked at Josh. "Okay, now will you tell me what is going on? Why did I have to be less then truthful with your dad to get you over here?"
Josh dropped on the couch with his hands folded between his knees and his head looking at the floor. Eric slowly took a few steps and then sat down on a chair nearby, waiting for Josh to start. Once Eric was sitting down, Josh looked up and Eric was concerned to see tears in his nephew's eyes. He got up and sat down next to Josh and put his arm across his shoulders. Josh leaned into the hug and Eric squeezed his shoulder as he tried to give him comfort for whatever was wrong.
"Dad hates me."
"Of course he doesn't. Why would you think that?"
"For the last couple of days, since the day after Christmas, he's barely said a word to me. When he does, he always sounds angry."
"Okay, what happened that makes you think he hates you, which I think you're mistaken about by the way. I know he loves you."
"Things have changed."
"How. Talk to me Josh."
"I'm…gay, and Dad caught me and J…my friend kissing on my bed on the day after Christmas. He threw my friend out of the condo and called him names and told him to never come back."
Eric wasn't shocked by what he had heard. Since the barbecue party with Josh and his two friends, he had seen how Josh and his friend Jamie had been together and thought that this must be the person who Derrick had caught with Josh.
"I figure it was your friend Jamie who was with you."
"Maybe it was just a surprise to him is all? Give him a few days and it will probably be okay. He's your dad and you gotta know he loves you."
"But you should have seen him Uncle Eric. His face was all red and the terrible things he said to Jamie and me. I mean, since mom died he's been different. He's not like he used to be. He doesn't really smile much and we don't do anything together anymore. Not that we did a lot together, it was usually me and Mom. Dad was always busy with his teaching and all."
"Josh, I know you and your Dad aren't as close as you and your Mom were. He was quite a few years older than your Mom when they got married, and he was already well into his career as a sci...science professor and we were all surprised when Christine told us that she was getting married to Derrick because he was so much older than her. But she was happy, so we were too."
"I miss Mom a lot. I don't think she would have said the things that he said to us."
"Your Mom was a good person and you're probably right. I don't think she would have said anything like that either, maybe if I talk to him."
"I don't know, maybe, I guess. But I really wanted to ask you a big favor."
"Okay. What's the favor?"
"Um…could you ask my dad if I can stay here for New Year's Eve."
"Yeah, I think that would be okay. I'll ask him if it's okay."
"There's uh, something else. Could I have Dylan and Jamie stay too?"
Eric looked at him as he started to understand what was going on. He saw the pleading on his nephew's face. He could see how much Josh wanted this, but he knew that if he did it and Derrick found out, there would be problems. He got up from the couch.
"Would you like something to drink Josh?"
Eric nodded and went to the kitchen to get something to drink. He returned a few moments later with a glass of ice tea and sat down in the chair across from Josh and leaned back as he took a drink.
"Josh. You're asking me to do something that is against the wishes of your father."
"But Uncle Eric…"
Eric held up his hands.
"Josh. I think I know what you're going to say."
"But Jamie and I were supposed to be spending New Year's Eve together before everything happened. My dad said he was going to transfer me to another school and I wanted to get a chance to spend at least one more time with my friends before he did that. He won't let any of them visit me. He says that they are probably all faggots anyway. That's why he said he wants to transfer me."
"He's going to transfer you from your school away from your friends?"
"That's what he said, the day he threw Jamie out. I asked him not to, but he wasn't listening to me then. I hope he changes his mind."
"If I talk to him, he might relent and let you stay at the school."
"I don't think so, but if he does transfer me, it might be the last time we get a chance to spend time with each other. For all I know, he might want to move away and then I'll never get to see my friends again."
Eric was going to say that he thought that Josh was exaggerating but he saw that Josh was scared of that very thing happening. He had seen a similar look of fear in the face of young men who were entering boot camp. The fear of what was going to happen to them. His heart went out to his nephew. He knew that he had to try to talk some sense into Derrick. Maybe he could at least keep him from taking the boy out of his school. He knew he didn't want them to move away, not after he'd just moved so that he could be near the only family that he had left since his parents had died. He let out a resigned sigh.
"Okay Josh. I don't agree with your Dad's decision on this but he is your Dad, so I don't know if I can change his mind. I promise you that I will try. As for your favor, I'll ask your Dad if you can spend New Year's Eve here and we won't let him know that your other friends will be here either, but afterward I will talk to your Dad about not transferring you to another school. That way you'll get to see your friends at school. Maybe he'll change his mind about the other. I'll see if I can talk to him about that, too."
Josh's face transformed and he went over to his Uncle and climbed into this lap to hug him.
"Thanks Uncle Eric."
"You're welcome. Now why don't we have an early dinner? I'm a little hungry, what about you?"
"I'm a little hungry too."
"Okay, let's go to the kitchen, I think I've got some pork chops that I can cook and we'll see what else we can find to go with it."
Josh got up and went with his uncle to the kitchen. They started working together on putting together some dinner. While they ate they talked about New Year's Eve. How they could keep Derrick from finding out that Josh's friends would be there too. Josh finally came up with the idea of having his friends coming over earlier and then Josh could come over later nearer to dinner time. Eric said that he should first make sure that his friends can come over for New Year's Eve. Eric let him use his home phone.
He called Dylan first.
"Hi Dylan, its Josh."
"Josh, how are you doing?"
"Okay, I guess. I'm over at my Uncle's house. I have an idea, if your parents say it's okay, do you think that you could spend the night over here at my Uncle's house on New Year's Eve?"
"I don't know, maybe. I'll ask them. Hang on."
Josh waited while Dylan went to ask. He returned a few moments later.
"Hey Josh. They said it was okay. Is it okay if Ethan comes with me?"
"Cool. Um, sure if you want. Yeah, that'd be cool too. Call him and invite him. I'm going to call Jamie next and ask him too."
"Are you sure that you don't want just him to come over."
"No, well, maybe, but I want you here too, because you're my best friend and…well, I'll tell you later."
"Okay. So when do I come over?"
"Can you be here in the early afternoon? I'll come by a little later. Do you remember how to get here?"
"Yeah, I do. Let me know if Jamie is going too, maybe he, Ethan and I can ride our bikes over."
"Okay. Thanks Dylan. Talk to you later."
"Yeah, bye, see you on Monday."
They hung up and Josh made his next call.
"Josh? Are you okay? Is everything…"
"Jamie! Yes, I'm okay."
"Good. So what about your dad?"
"No change. He hasn't changed his mind about you, well us."
"Jamie, I gotta ask you something. Do you think your foster parents will let you spend New Year's Eve at my Uncle's house?"
"At your uncle's?"
"Yeah, I'm at my uncle's right now. He agreed to let you, me and Dylan and maybe Ethan spend New Year's Eve here at his house."
"What about your dad?"
"I told Uncle Eric what happened…"
"You told him everything?"
"Yeah, he figured it out that it was you. I didn't think he'd go along with it, but he agreed to let us stay here and he says he won't tell my dad. Can you ask if it's okay?"
"Sure, just a minute."
Jamie was gone for a few moments
"They said it was okay."
"Cool. Dylan said to come by his house in the early afternoon and then you guys can go over to my Uncle's house and I'll meet you guys there later."
"Okay, sounds good."
"See you on Monday Jamie."
"Yeah, I can't wait."
"Me neither, bye."
They hung up and Josh looked at his uncle.
"Thanks Uncle Eric for doing this for me."
"You're my nephew and I love you. I'll try to do what I can to help you with your dad. I think it was maybe just the shock of it that bothered him."
"Thanks for doing that. I hope you can."
"Well, we'll see. I should probably be getting you home."
"Yeah, I guess. Thanks for everything."
Eric nodded and gave Josh a hug before getting his keys and leading him outside. They made the ride in silence. Josh just looked out the window. He knew that it probably wasn't going to be pleasant, but he had hopes that his uncle could help. Eric noticed Josh's silence and he was pretty sure he knew what it was about. He wondered if he should say something to Derrick tonight, but he thought maybe it was too early. Next week would probably be better. When they pulled up at the condo Josh got out.
"Thanks again Uncle Eric."
"Sure Josh. See you on Monday."
Josh closed the car door and gave him a wave before he headed into the complex. Eric watched until he entered the complex before driving off. Josh slowly made his way through the complex until he got to his front door. He paused for a moment before putting his key in the lock and opening the door. As he closed the door, he saw his dad sitting in the living room watching TV. His dad looked up and then looked away, obviously dismissing him. Beside his dad was a glass of amber liquid. Josh realized that nothing had changed and he headed to his room. He closed his bedroom door and dropped down on the bed to look up at the ceiling. Tears came to his eyes and he prayed that his uncle would be able to change his dad's mind. He really hoped everything would work out.
Josh's plan was to keep a low profile for the next few days. His dad did not neglect him and he had dinner on the table as usual. Each meal was a silent affair. For the most part, Josh kept his head down. Occasionally he would look up from his plate, some of the time he saw his dad looking at him, usually with a frown on his face. Josh felt bad when he saw this, he hoped that his uncle would be able to change the way his dad was treating him. Another change was that every night, his dad would sit in front of the TV and he was usually drinking. He never seemed to get drunk. At least not so Josh could tell, but there always seemed to be a glass filled with amber liquid sitting next to him while he watched.
Josh kept to himself in his room. He didn't dare call Jamie or Dylan in case his dad heard him talking to them. So far his dad had not taken his cell away and Josh was trying not to bring to his dad's attention that he still had it. Sometimes he would see his dad working in his office, probably on his lesson plans for when the spring semester started at the end of January. When his dad did go out, he told Josh not to leave. During those times, Josh would make a short call to Jamie or Dylan as they planned the New Year's Eve sleepover. He kept it short, just in case his dad came back earlier than Josh expected. They planned to sleep in the den after watching the ball drop at Times Square.
On Sunday, Eric came by to see them. He spent the afternoon and they grilled some hamburgers and watched a football game. Derrick and Eric drank some beer as they spent the afternoon. Eric noticed that Derrick drank two for every one that Eric drank. Eric had thought he might try to get Derrick off to the side and talk to him a bit about Josh, but it just didn't seem to be the time. He noticed how Derrick didn't really talk to Josh. Eric could see how Derrick didn't exactly ignore Josh, but he kept his interaction with Josh to a bare minimum. He decided that it wasn't the time yet, but he knew he would have to say something soon for Josh's sake. He hoped that he could get Derrick to relax his attitude toward Josh. Toward the end of the game he broached the subject of New Year's Eve.
"Derrick, I've got a favor to ask."
Derrick looked at him and Eric could see that his eyes were a bit red as he had had five or six beers by then.
"Would you mind if Josh spent New Year's Eve night at my place. We'll watch the ball drop and all that. It will be my first New Year's in the new house."
Derrick looked over at Josh who was doing his best to be invisible. Eric saw a frown on Derrick's face as he looked at his son. He determined that he would definitely talk to Derrick next week, maybe when he brought Josh back on New Year's Day. He knew that he wanted to help his nephew and although he wasn't real happy about keeping quiet about Josh's friends coming over as well. He thought it was a good idea for Josh to spend some time with his friends.
"He can ride his bike over in the afternoon and I'll make sure he gets back here the next day."
Derrick picked up his beer and took another long drink, finishing the bottle. He got up and raised the empty bottle.
"D'you want another one?"
Eric shook his head, "Nah, I've still got to drive home. It wouldn't look good for me if I got popped for DUI."
Derrick turned to go back to the kitchen. Eric and Josh exchanged glances. Eric could see the sadness on his nephew's face. Derrick returned with a fresh beer and sat down again. He didn't say anything, just drank his beer and watched the game. Eric was about to say something when Derrick spoke up.
"He can go, I don't care."
"Thanks Derrick, I'll have him back the next day. Well, I guess I should get going. Thanks for dinner. Josh I'll see you tomorrow afternoon."
Josh nodded when Eric looked at him. Derrick barely looked up as he absently waved his bottle at Eric. Eric frowned a bit and shook his head. He had never seen Derrick drink this much. Not even when he and Christine got married or for the short time he was here after her death. Josh got up and walked him to the door. Eric gave him a little smile and squeezed his shoulder as he left.
"Bye Uncle Eric."
As Josh closed the door behind his uncle, he turned and saw that his dad was looking at him with slightly glassy eyes and was frowning. Josh let his head drop and headed toward his room.
"I'm going to my room, Dad."
He got no answer and he left the living room. In his room, he flopped on the bed and turned his TV on. He made sure that the volume was low. He finally got tired and turned the TV off and stripped down for bed. He went to the bathroom. He looked in the living room and saw his dad asleep in the chair. He carefully went into the living room and turned off the TV. He took a blanket from the linen closet and carefully covered his dad. He saw the empty beer bottle on the table beside his dad. Josh could smell the strong odor of alcohol every time that his dad breathed out. He looked at his dad with sad eyes; wishing things could go back to how they had been last week. He left his dad there and went to bed.
The next day Derrick woke up with a little bit of a hangover. When Josh got up a bit earlier, he saw that his dad was not in the chair and the blanket was thrown on the couch. He must have gotten up sometime during the night and gone to his own bed. Josh picked up the glass and the empty beer bottle that was on the table and took them into the kitchen. He picked up the blanket, folded it and put it back in the linen closet. Josh got some cereal for breakfast. He was watching TV in the living room when his dad got up. Josh had made coffee and his dad headed to it to get a cup. He also got some toast going to have with it. He swallowed a bunch of aspirin before going outside and getting the paper to look at while he drank his coffee. Josh didn't look at him, he just watched TV.
After Derrick finished he went into his office but paused in the living room, "Turn that damn thing off. I've got a headache."
Josh quickly turned it off and went to his room. He didn't turn the TV on. Instead he picked up a book to read so he wouldn't make any noise to make his dad mad. His biggest worry right now was that his dad would change his mind and not let him go to his uncle's house. He really wanted to see Josh. It had been tough not being able to spend time with him this last week. Around noon he heard his dad go out the front door. He left his room to see if his dad had left or had just stepped outside. He saw that his dad's coffee cup was still on the table next to the open paper. It looked like he had just stepped out so he headed back to his room. He checked the time on his cell and saw that it was about noon. He figured he would leave for his uncle's house in about three hours. It would probably take about twenty or thirty minutes to get there, so that should be a good time to leave. He picked up his backpack and packed some clothes and things in there to take with him.
Jamie looked with a little longing at the condo complex that Josh lived in as he rode by. He contented himself with the knowledge that he would see him later today. After he passed the complex he sped up to make it to Dylan's house quicker. He did not see Josh's dad pull out of the driveway. He also didn't see the scowl that he got from Derrick when he spied Josh riding by, before Derrick turned to head to the store.
A few minutes later Jamie pulled up in front of Dylan's house. He knocked on the door and Dylan answered it and invited him in. Jamie greeted Dylan's parents as he followed Dylan to his room where he was packing his backpack to take with him. As soon as it was packed, he hoisted it on his back and went to the living room. They had just come back into the living room when they heard the doorbell rang.
Dylan's mom answered it, "Hello Ethan, are you going with the Dylan and Jamie too?"
"Yes, Missus Robinson."
Dylan and Jamie walked up to the front door.
"Hey Ethan. Right on time. Bye Mom, bye Dad."
"Bye boys. Remember to behave at Mister Barrett's, Dylan."
"You know I will Mom."
She smiled and let Jamie out the front door. Dylan went through the garage to get his bike out. His mom closed the door behind him. He joined the other two out front. They rode off and headed toward Josh's uncle's house. They were in no hurry and made it a leisurely ride to the house.
Josh heard his dad come back in the house. He heard the TV turn on after a little while. It was about an hour later that he heard his dad walk down the hall to his room. Josh looked up as his dad came to the doorway.
"I saw your faggot friend this morning ride by."
Josh didn't say anything. He did notice that his dad had a full glass of what looked like whiskey or something similar.
His dad sneered at him, "Did you hear me? Your fag boyfriend was riding by this morning when I went to the store."
"Yes, sir. I heard you."
Josh's voice was barely loud enough for his dad to hear. His dad turned and went back to the living room. Josh checked the time again. It was one thirty. He turned his attention back to the TV, hoping the time would go faster. He wondered if he ought to leave a little earlier. His dad had told him that he could go at three and that he was to go straight to his uncle's house. He could hear his dad moving around from time to time. He wanted to leave early but his dad had said three so he waited so as not to make his dad angry.
He was getting anxious for three o'clock to get there so he could get going, so he kept checking the time. Finally it was time. He turned off the TV, picked his backpack up, and slipped a strap over one shoulder. He then made his way through the condo. He slowly entered the living room area. He didn't see his dad sitting there and thought that maybe he had gone to sleep it off; because he knew his dad had been drinking.
"Where do you think you're going?"
Josh turned toward his dad's voice that was coming from the kitchen. He saw his dad standing there. He had a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand and there was a glass on the counter that he appeared to have just filled from the bottle.
"I…I was, uh just heading…out to leave for Uncle Eric's."
Derrick put the bottle down and picked up the glass to take a drink. He looked at Josh with a scowl. When he spoke his words were slightly slurred, "Why don't I believe you? You're probably heading over to that faggot's house."
Josh's heart leaped in his throat, wondering if his dad somehow knew that Jamie was going to be at his uncle's. He knew his uncle wouldn't have said anything, so he shook that thought off.
"No Dad, I'm going to Uncle Eric's, remember?"
Derrick slowly walked over toward Jamie with the drink in his hand. He stopped when he was standing in front of Josh, "Do you think I'm senile and forgetful?"
Derrick looked at his son as he took another drink, "I've been thinking about this and I'm not sure I can trust you to go to your uncle's. You'll probably go to the faggot's house."
"But Dad, you said I could go. It's only Uncle Eric's house. I swear, I'm not going anywhere else, just straight there."
Josh wasn't ready for the sudden move on his dad's part as he grabbed the backpack and pulled it off Josh's shoulder.
"I should probably check this to see what you've put in there."
Josh wanted to reach out for it, but he had to restrain himself as he knew that would probably set his dad off. Derrick carried it over to the table while Josh stood there. Derrick put the glass down and opened the pack. He started pulling the clothes and other things out of the main part of the pack and dropping them on the table. He gave them a cursory look before turning his attention back to the pack. He opened a couple of other pouches and didn't see much other than a couple of pens and other school supplies.
He checked the other pockets and pulled out something with a cry of triumph, "Ah, of course, I forgot about your cell phone. Let's see if you've been calling anyone?"
Josh cringed as his dad starting looking through the phone. He saw the look on his dad's face and he knew what it meant. His dad had seen that he had called Josh a couple of times.
He looked up, his face turning red and he became angry. He pointed behind Josh, "Go to your room. You disobeyed me. You're not going anywhere. I'll teach you to disobey me."
Tears came to Josh's eyes as he turned and quickly headed to his room. Once there he sat on the bed and let the tears flow. A short time later his dad came to his room holding the phone.
"I told you that you were not to talk to that faggot, but did you listen? No, you went behind my back. Well you're grounded."
"But Dad, I had to tell him not to come over today. Remember that…"
"Shut the fuck up. I don't want any back talk."
Derrick threw the phone at him, but missed and it hit the pillows on his bed.
"You make me sick and quit you're sniveling. You're too old to be such a cry baby."
Derrick left the room, leaving Josh devastated. He tried to stop crying but he couldn't help himself.
His dad stormed back in the room, "I told you to stop crying. You make me sick. It's probably your fault your mother died of cancer?"
Josh looked up completely shocked.
"It was that fucking experiment, we should have said no, but you're mother wanted to be a part of it."
"What, huh, exper…"
"I bet all the rest of them probably died of cancer too. That fucking upstart Brett, he was too young to be put in charge of such a project. I bet he knew this would happen. He knew the women would get cancer and die."
He looked at Josh with a little disgust on his face, "And what did I get left with? A sniveling faggot for a son."
Josh didn't know what to say. He didn't know what his dad was talking about and his words cut deep. He was both hurt and bewildered since he didn't know what his dad was talking about. The tears still flowed.
This seemed to enrage his dad who rushed over to him and slapped him across the face, "I said shut up."
Josh raised his hand to his face, where he could feel the heat from the slap. This caused him to cry even more. Which seemed to cause his dad to get angrier and he took several swings at Josh with his open hands. He hit him a few times on his face with his open hand. The slaps were loud and the surprise at the vehemence of the attack caused him to stop crying, but it did reduce him to whimpers and moans. Then his dad started to hit him with closed fists. Josh put his arms up to protect himself. Finally, one of his dad's fists got through his feeble defense and hit him in the jaw, which knocked him back to the bed and dazed him. As Josh rolled on the bed holding his cheek where his dad had hit him, Derrick reached down and grabbed Josh's arm to pull him back up, planning to hit him again.
Moments later he pulled back with a yell and let go of Josh's arm, "OW! FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO?"
Derrick looked at his left hand that had grabbed Josh and saw that his palm was a deep red and he could see blisters starting to form. The pain was sudden and intense. He looked at Josh's arm and saw nothing. Josh looked up at him with fear. His face, where Derrick had slugged him, was swollen and hurt a lot.
Derrick was standing there looking from his hand to Josh and back to his hand, there was a slight look of fear and confusion on his face, "What did that bastard do? He killed my wife and made my boy a freak?"
Derrick stumbled from the room. He went to where he had left his drink. He took a long swallow. He stood there trying to figure out what was going on. He kept looking at his hand and willing the whiskey to numb the pain in his hand. How did he burn his hand when he grabbed Josh? Then he thought back, more to the experiment and the events later than led to his exile here in this backwater town. He should have been a top immunologist working for the CDC or some research facility. Instead, because of that fucking Brett MacLeod, he and his wife had to go into hiding. Now he knew why, Brett had somehow made his son, no, not son, abomination a freak.
Back in his room, Josh's face was swollen and he was dazed. He was scared and knew he needed to get out of there, but how he could get past his dad, he didn't know. Then he remembered his cell phone. He crawled up the bed to where his dad had thrown it. He hoped it wasn't so damaged that he wouldn't be able to call his uncle. After a little fumbling and searching he found it and scrolled through his contacts until he found his uncle's number. He selected the number and made the call. He lay on the bed with the phone next to his ear.
At Eric's house, he, Dylan, Ethan and Jamie were lounging in the living room. Eric was getting to know Ethan and they were watching a movie on TV.
A few miles away at Ian's house, Logan was lying back next to Ian on Ian's bed as they were watching TV. Logan suddenly stiffened and sat up. Ian felt the sudden change in his boyfriend and looked over at him.
Logan held up a hand to stop him. He closed his eyes for a few seconds. When he opened them Logan looked at Ian.
Ian saw that there was a great deal of concern on his face, "What?"
"I gotta make a call." Logan picked up his cell phone and called a number. He soon ended the call because he had gotten a busy signal. He looked at the phone for moment before looking through his contacts for another number. He found it and called that number.
At Eric's house, Dylan rubbed the side of his face as it suddenly started to hurt like he had bumped into something.
His rubbing got Jamie's attention, "What's wrong Dylan?"
He was still rubbing his face as he looked over at Jamie with a bewildered look, "I don't know. The side of my face started hurting all of a sudden."
"Maybe it's a toothache?"
Jamie glanced up at the clock that was on the wall behind Dylan. He looked over at Eric, "When is Josh going to get here?"
Eric looked at his watch, "In just a little bit. He was going to leave his house at three and it shouldn't take too long to get here, so I expect he'll be getting here soon."
"Good, I can't wait. This is going to be so cool. Thanks again for having us stay here tonight."
At that moment Dylan's cell phone rang. He lifted his butt up from the couch so that he could get his hands in his front jean pocket to get the phone out. He looked at the face of it and was surprised to see Logan's name. He put it up to his ear, "Hey Logan, surprised to hear from you! What's going on?"
"Hey Dylan. Um, have you seen Josh today?"
"No, but he should be here in a few minutes, why."
"He's coming to your house?"
"No. Me, Jamie and Ethan are at his uncle's house. You know the cop, uh police officer. He told you guys about him. Where are you?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm at Ian's house. Um, I know this might sound weird but, is Josh okay?"
"Okay? Yeah, he is. Why?"
The three others were looking at Dylan now as they listened to him talk. Eric had turned the TV down a little so that it was easier for Dylan to hear Logan. The side of the conversation they could hear sounded a little strange and they were looking at Dylan and Jamie was mouthing 'What's going on?', Dylan absently shook his head as he listened to Logan.
"You're sure he's okay?"
"Yeeaaah. As far as I know. Why Logan, what's going on?"
"Um, I tried to call him a moment ago and all I got was a busy signal."
At that moment Eric's phone rang. He got up and went to grab the handset to answer it. He picked it up, "Hello?"
On the other end of the phone he heard a whimper, "Who's this?"
"Josh? Josh what's wrong?"
There was a sound of the phone being dropped and the sounds coming from the phone were a little harder to hear. He thought he could hear yelling. When Eric said Josh's name, Jamie and Dylan both whipped their heads around and looked at Eric with concern. He shook his head trying to tell them he didn't know what was going on.
Dylan turned back to his phone, "Logan, let me call you back. I think Josh is calling on his uncle's phone."
"Okay, don't forget to call me back."
"Yeah, gotta go," Dylan hung up.
The three boys were looking at Eric. They were straining to hear what was coming from the phone. Eric was concentrating as he tried to hear what was going on.
At Josh's house, Josh way lying on the bed with his back to the door as he tried to talk to his uncle. He barely registered his father entering his room again.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING? TURN THAT THING OFF!"
Josh turned around to face his father and his eyes opened wide as he saw what his father had in his hand.
"I'm going to end this now, and then I'm going to try to find the rest of the freaks and take them out too."
Derrick raised the .38 cal Smith and Wesson revolver and pointed it at Josh. He was swaying a little bit as he pointed. Josh dropped the phone in shock.
"No daddy, please no…"
For Eric there was no mistaking the sound that came through the phone, muffled though it was. He had heard it plenty of times in the twenty years he had spent in the army. The three boys standing next to him heard it too, but weren't sure what it meant. Eric's face paled as a couple of gunshots rang out. At the same time, Dylan suddenly let out a cry of pain and fell down holding his stomach low on the left side. He lay on the ground groaning. Ethan dropped down beside him trying to help his friend, not understanding what was going on as he looked back and forth between Eric and Dylan. Eric stared at the phone and Dylan was sweating like he was in pain and he was holding his hands to his side.