"Hey, grab his backpack," the voice said.
Chase kept struggling the best that he could, but since he was smaller and not very strong, they easily kept him under control as they carried him out of the locker room. He was brought into a room that had the smell of metal, oil and sweat. Once they got him into this room, he heard and felt tape being wrapped tightly around his head and the towel. The tape was wound around his head a couple of times to hold the towel tight onto his head. He didn't know where was, until he was held down onto a padded bench. He heard a kind of clanking sound and then he felt a heavy metal bar placed across his chest. He then figured out that they had brought him into weight room. Because of the weight of the bar on his chest, it became hard to breath, not impossible, just harder. The towel was now taped tightly over his face. His arms and legs were still held tightly.
"Well, well. I guess it has become necessary for us to continue our earlier conversation." Chase heard the voice of the football guy as he called him. "I thought we had an understanding, Chase. You were asked…no…..told…to stay away from Ethan. You're not the kind of person he wants to hang around with anymore. Why can't you understand that?"
The voice stopped talking directly to him and Chase could hear some faint murmuring. He felt the heavy bar taken off his chest, once again hearing the clanking sound of the weights as they were shifted around. Then he felt the hands on his arms pulling him up. Again he tried to kick out, because whoever had been holding his legs and let them go, so that he could be stood up. Then the breath was suddenly driven from his lungs when a fist was slammed into his stomach. He bent over the fist and tried to cough. There was then a second and third punch to his stomach. He slid to the floor boneless. There was now a kick to his stomach, which left him gasping with tears streaming down his face and soaking into the towel, as he cried with the pain.
The football guy leaned in close to Chase as he lay on the floor groaning. "Now Chase. I trust we will not have to have this conversation again. I dislike sullying my hands with a loser like you, but someone close to me asked to make sure that you really understood what I wanted you to do. Back off and leave Ethan alone! You are not wanted, Loser! Don't make me have to have this talk again. You won't like the outcome. Oh, and one other thing. If you tell anyone about this, you're dead meat. You won't know when or how, but I'll fuck you up so bad, you'll wish that I killed you."
Chase tried to say something to get them to stop, but he could barely breathe. There was one more kick by one of the guys who had attacked him and Chase could barely hear them as they left the room. He lay there for another minute or so as he tried to catch his breath. He realized that he was no longer held. He immediately moved his hands up to his head and tried to pull the tape off of the towel. He struggled with the tape until he was finally able to rip the towel off his head. He blinked in the fluorescent light of the room. His vision was a little blurry because of the tears but he was able to stagger to his feet. He tried to stumble to the outer door. Once there, he opened it carefully and in the near distance he saw what was probably the football guy talking to a girl.
He kept the door opened just a crack and wiped his eyes so that he could see. When he did he saw that the girl the guy was talking to was Kristi. When they finished talking, she hugged the guy. He realized who the guy was; it was Kristi's older brother, who was a senior on the football and wrestling teams. The two of them turned and hurried off to their next classes.
Chase went back into the room and found his backpack. On the other side of the inside door he could hear boys in the locker room getting ready for the last period of the day. He should have been getting to his World History class right now, but he didn't feel like it because his stomach hurt. He stayed in the weight room until the boys were out in the fields, then he once again opened the outer door and looked around. There was no one in sight, so he snuck out the outside door, made his way carefully over to the bike cage, got his bike and rode home. He ditched class for the first time in his life. His stomach hurt a lot and he just didn't feel like going to class right then.
As he rode home he worried about what the guy might do to him next and it scared him. He also started to put things together, he remembered the glimpses he had gotten and some of the looks that Kristi had directed at him. He realized now that she didn't like him. He could see how Ethan had not paid a lot of attention to her, especially since he and Ethan had renewed their friendship. He couldn't remember ever seeing Ethan with her before. He always seemed to hang around with just his cross country team mates. Chase just wasn't sure what he should do. He was pissed at Kristi now, but how could he tell Ethan what her brother had done and more important what would her brother do to Chase if he found out that Chase had told Ethan what happened. He was scared and didn't know what to do.
Back at school, Ethan kept looking towards the classroom doorway waiting for Chase to come through it, but he never did. He was worried, because Chase had never missed the class as far as Ethan could remember and he had been there at lunch. He knew that Chase had PE before this class. Maybe he got hurt or something. Ethan hoped he was okay.
At home, Chase went to his bedroom and took off his shirt. His stomach and side were slightly bruised and sore from the blows that he had received from Kristi's brother. He thought a hot bath would feel good to soothe the soreness.
After class, Ethan went to talk to the PE coaches and see if anything had happened to Chase. When he entered the locker room he ran into Coach Henry.
"Hey Coach." Ethan said when he saw him.
The coach smiled when he saw him, "Ethan, how are you doing?"
Ethan nodded, "Pretty good."
Coach Henry looked down, "When do you get the boot off?" he asked.
"Soon I hope. It feels like I've been wearing it long enough."
Coach Henry chuckled a little, "Yeah I know what you mean. Are you going to join the track team again this year?"
Ethan nodded, "I plan to."
The coach clapped him on the shoulder, "That's great to hear. Well, it's nice talking to you. I'll see you later."
He started to leave when Ethan stopped him, "Coach, do you know if anyone was hurt during 5th period PE?"
The coach looked at him with some concern, "No, not that I know of, why?"
Ethan suddenly realized he might get Chase in trouble if he told the coach, the coach might tell the school and then Chase might get in trouble.
Ethan hesitated for a few moments before he decided to take a chance with his coach and shook his head, "No real reason, but a friend of mine wasn't in class last period and he had PE the period before, and I know he was here for lunch, but he wasn't in class last period."
"Wait here a moment and I can check for you. What's his name?" Coach Henry told him.
"Chase Evans." Ethan replied.
The coach nodded and went to the coach's offices to check with them about Chase. He was back a short time later, "Nope, Chase was in class and no one reported any injuries."
Ethan nodded, "Okay, thanks Coach." Coach waved in answer as Ethan headed out to meet his mom.
That evening, as Chase was finishing up some homework, his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and saw that it was Ethan. He sighed and let it ring for a bit before picking it up and trying to inject a smile into his voice.
"Hey Ethan…..Yeah, I'm okay….Oh yeah, I know, sorry….I wasn't feeling good after PE, my, uh stomach was hurting…..uh huh….I just rode home….I'm okay now….Yeah, I'll be there tomorrow….uh huh….okay bye."
Chase was smiling when he put the phone down, then he remembered what Kristi's brother had said to him and done to him. Christmas break started next week, so he had to try to stay away from Ethan as much as possible for the next four days. Then during the break maybe he could figure out a way out of the problem with Kristi.
The next day at school, Chase kept an eye out for Kristi or her brother. He also made sure that Ethan didn't see him. He didn't want Craig to see him with Ethan if he could help it. At lunchtime, he went into the library instead of going to the cafeteria or the patio.
During lunch, Ethan kept looking around for Chase, while Kristi kept trying to get his attention to no avail. Ethan was worried about him and realized how much he missed Chase's company. Kristi was a little frustrated that he was mostly ignoring her, but she knew who he was looking for and figured that if the little creep stayed away for a few days then Ethan would forget about him and would start paying attention to her.
In World History, Chase waited until the last minute before he entered the classroom. He smiled at Ethan and got a smile in answer. He could see that Ethan had questions for him, but the teacher started class and he didn't have a chance to ask them. A couple of times in class, he could see Ethan look at him, but he was glad there was no chance for him to ask Chase anything. After class, Chase got up and left quickly. Ethan called to him, but he pretended not to hear him.
Ethan called out to Chase, but he apparently didn't hear him. Although he thought it was strange that Chase didn't wait for him. He figured he would see him out front. He had to wait for the crowd to leave the room. After stopping at his locker and he went out front, looking forward to seeing Chase.
About the time he got out front, Kristi caught up with him and hooked her arm in his. "Hi Ethan," she said cheerily.
He glanced at her and gave her half hearted smile, "Hey Kristi," he said as he looked around for Chase. He didn't see him and felt disappointed and realized Kristi was saying something.
He looked at her, "Sorry, what did you say?"
She frowned a little, "I was asking if you had decided on whether you were going to the dance this Friday?"
He glanced around again, "I'm not sure if I can. My parents might have plans," he said.
He saw his mom and headed towards her car. At the car door he took his arm from Kristi. "See ya tomorrow Kristi," he said absently.
She smiled, "Bye Ethan."
As he drove away she frowned at the car before going over to meet her brother to get a ride home.
Soon after getting home, Ethan called Chase's cell.
"Hey Chase…What happened to you after school?….Didn't you hear me calling?…Oh, yeah I guess….I didn't see you out front. I was going to ask if you wanted to come over this afternoon….Oh, okay. I'll see you tomorrow…bye.
Ethan closed his phone, and sat there for a moment. Something didn't seem right. Chase seemed evasive. Maybe he'd ask Chase about it the next day.
At lunch the next day, Chase was again a no show and Ethan was confused. It started to feel like Chase was avoiding him. Kristi once again was trying to get his attention and since Chase apparently was not going to join them he tried to pay attention to what she was saying, but his thoughts were still on Chase. He tried to think if he had done anything to make Chase mad at him, but couldn't think of anything. He was going to ask Chase to go home with him after school. Then maybe he could find out if something was going on.
Ethan waited outside the classroom for last period. Chase came up and stopped a moment when he saw Ethan standing outside the classroom. He sighed a little bit and put a small smile on his face as he neared the room. Ethan gave him a big grin and rested his arm across Chase's shoulders as they entered the room.
"Hey Chase, where were you at lunch?" he asked.
"Uh, I was in the library looking something up for a paper I'm working on," he replied.
"Oh. I missed you at lunch," he said.
Chase felt a little thrill inside when Ethan said that, but Craig's warning came back. "Sorry, I just had to get some information for the paper and lunch seemed the best time."
Ethan nodded his understanding. They took their seats as the class began.
When class was over, Ethan placed his hand on Chase's arm, "Chase, meet me where my mom picks me up, okay?"
Chase hesitated, but he didn't know how to say no without making Ethan wonder what was going on, so he nodded, "Okay. I gotta get some stuff from my locker," he said.
They headed to their lockers. As Ethan got outside, Kristi was there waiting for him. He almost rolled his eyes, but he didn't because he was thinking about Chase going home with him. He was waiting there talking to Kristi, when his mom pulled up, Chase came up at the same time.
Chase had seen Kristi standing with Ethan and almost turned away, but then Ethan saw him and smiled when he saw Chase. Chase gave him a weak grin as he neared them.
"Hey Chase, d'you want to come over this afternoon?"
Chase shook his head, all the time trying not to look at Kristi, which was probably a good thing, because if looks could kill, Chase would be an oily spot on the ground.
"No, sorry Ethan, I gotta to get home."
Ethan frowned a little, "What's more important than spending time with your best friend?"
Chase smiled when Ethan said that, but he knew that might get dangerous for him. "My mom wants me.…to, uh, go Christmas shopping with her and Matt."
"Oh, okay, I guess that is a good reason. Are getting me something?" Then he laughed.
Chase gave an embarrassed smile.
"Well, I'll see you tomorrow bud," Ethan said as he opened the door.
He bumped fists with Chase and watched Chase walk to get his bike. His reverie as he watched Chase walk away was broken by a voice at his side.
"I could come over Ethan, if you want," Kristi said hopefully. He turned toward her. "My brother could come pick me up later. I'd love to see your house," she continued.
Ethan shook his head, "No, that's okay Kristi. I just remembered I have some things to do too."
Ethan turned to get in the car when her voice stopped him; it had an angry tone to it. "Why do you have time for that little creep Chase Evans, but not me? He's nobody, invisible. Until a short time ago, you didn't even know he was alive and now he's always hanging around. I can't stand him."
Ethan paused in the act of getting in the car and slowly turned around, his eyes tightened as he looked at her, "What did you say?" he demanded.
She realized that she had gone too far and tried to do damage control. She put a smile on her face, "Sorry, Ethan, but I mean he's not one of us."
Ethan tilted his head slightly and his mouth became a grim line. "One of us? What do you mean by one of us?" Ethan snarled.
He pointed in the direction that Chase had gone, "He literally saved my life. He and I were best friends when we were younger and I forgot about him. I never should have done that and I'm glad he's in my life now. He's important to me. He makes me feel good when he's around."
Ethan took a step closer to her. "You want me to make a choice between Chase and you. Fine, here's my choice…you lose…every time. I would prefer it if you keep your distance from me. Find somewhere else to have lunch. I don't care whether you like Chase or not. Listen closely. He…is…my…best…friend. So go fu…."
"Ethan!" his mom said. "Honey, get in the car," she ordered.
She looked at Kristi, "As for you young lady, stay away from both Ethan and Chase! Ethan c'mon let's get home."
Ethan glared at Kristi and got in the car. As they drove away, Ethan let his arm hang down outside the window and flipped her off.
Kristi snarled and turned away, stomping over to where her brother's car was parked. She had angry tears in her eyes, which she quickly wiped away while she waited for Craig. That little creep Chase had ruined everything.
Ethan wanted to talk to Chase, but when he called his cell, it went right to voice mail. He was a little frustrated because he wanted to talk to Chase about what Kristi had said. He wondered if she had said something to Chase that caused him to avoid Ethan. Maybe that's it. Maybe she had said something to him. He'd find out the next day.
At home Chase went to his bedroom, and threw himself down on the bed. He hated lying to Ethan, but Kristi had been right there and he didn't want her to be saying anything to her brother. The more he thought about it, the angrier he got. Pounding his fists into the pillow helped him release some of the anger and frustration he felt towards her. This lying and avoiding Ethan had to stop. He had been happier for the last few weeks since he and Ethan had reclaimed their friendship.
"That's it. No more lying. Tomorrow, I'm going to let Ethan know what kind of person she is. He is my best friend and I'm not giving that up. No fucking way," he snarled as he got up from the bed.
He headed to the kitchen to get a soda. His mother and brother were just coming through the front door when he got to the living room. She saw the angry look on his face and was concerned.
"Honey, are you okay?" she asked him as she walked over to him.
He shook his head, "Yeah, mom, I'm okay."
She put her hand up to his face and caressed his cheek. "Did something happen at school? You looked kind of upset right now." she asked.
Chase shook his head, "Not really, no. There is just this girl who wants to keep me from being Ethan's friend. I don't know why she does, but she does for some reason. Anyway, it doesn't matter. I was just a little mad at her because of her attitude," he told her.
She hugged him and rubbed his back. "Well, don't let her bother you." She let him go.
"I'll try not to mom. Hey Matt, you want play catch for awhile?" His little brother nodded and went to get his glove.
Chase left early for school so he could meet up with Ethan before school. He waited by Ethan's locker. He smiled when he saw Ethan hobbling in his boot.
When Ethan saw Chase standing there a huge grin broke out on his face and hobbled a little faster.
"Hey Chase. How's it going?" he said.
"Morning Ethan, its going fine." Chase replied.
Ethan opened his locker and started getting what he needed for his first few classes. Chase just stood there waiting until he finished.
Ethan closed his locker and gave Chase a smile, "Hey, you busy this afternoon?" he asked.
Chase shook his head, "I have no plans."
Ethan nodded, "Cool, see you at lunch?"
They separated and headed off to their first class. A note was delivered to Ethan's 3rd period class that he was to go to the office after the class. When he got there he saw his mom was waiting for him.
"Ethan, I'm sorry, I forgot to remind you about your doctor's appointment at noon. I came to pick you up." She told him.
"Oh, okay." He followed her out to the car.
At lunch Chase sat at their usual table and waited for Ethan. Some of Ethan's other friends sat down and greeted Chase. When Ethan hadn't shown after awhile Chase was a little concerned. "Anyone know where Ethan's at?" He asked them.
Rick spoke up, "Oh, he left early. I heard his mom came to pick him up."
"Oh, I guess I'll call him later," Chase said. The rest of the day went like any other day. Only one more day until Christmas break.
Later at home, Chase was sitting on his bed watching TV when there was a knock on his open door. He looked up and his face lit up as he saw Ethan leaning against the doorjamb, his arms crossed.
Chase jumped off the bed, "Ethan!" He stopped himself from doing what he wanted to do which was to run and giving him a hug.
"Wait, how did you get here? Did your mom drop you off?"
Ethan shook his head, "Nope."
Chase looked at Ethan's arm and then down to his leg, "Hey, wait a minute. You've got your boot off! You're all healed?"
Ethan nodded, "Yep, except I still have to wear the splint a little while longer. That's why my mom picked me up at school today. I went to the doctor and he said my ankle was healed. He just said to take it easy on the ankle and build it back up gradually. So I rode my bike over."
Chase stepped forward and hugged Ethan without thinking about it.
Ethan was surprised for a moment and then his arms came up and he was hugging Chase back. They stayed like that for a few moments and Ethan found that he really liked it.
Chase realized what he was doing and quickly stepped back, blushing. He went and sat at the end of the bed.
Ethan stayed by the door and just looked at Chase for a few moments, before he joined Chase on the bed. He sat there silently until Chase started to wonder what was going on. He looked at Ethan and saw that he was just looking down at his hands.
Chase started to worry. "Ethan? What's wrong?"
Ethan looked at Chase, "Chase, I need to tell you something," he began.
Chase's worst fear was going to happen. Ethan was going to tell him that he didn't want to be friends with him anymore. He was all healed up and he was going back to hanging around with his jock friends and….Kristi probably. He started to get tears in his eyes as he let his head droop waiting for the shoe to drop when Ethan tells him that they weren't friends anymore. "Please…." He whispered.
"Chase, I don't know why, but Kristi doesn't like you and she said some mean things yesterday when my mom picked me up after school. I told her to go fuck herself…well, I was going to tell her to go fuck herself, but my mom was there and she stopped me." Ethan began.
Chase's head shot up and he looked at Ethan, his eyes glistening. "What?!" Then he started giggling, "You told her to go fuck herself? I would have loved to have seen that."
Ethan grinned, "Yep. She called you a creep and a loser. She said you weren't one of us."
Ethan looked at the boy next to him and reached out to put his hand on Chase's shoulder and his voice got a little softer. "I told her that if I had to choose between you and her, then you win every time Chase. You are my best friend and that will never change."
Chase looked at him and the leaned over and hugged him as hard as he could, burying his face in Ethan's shoulder.
Ethan put his arms around the smaller boy and held him. He felt Chase shaking a little bit and something wet was on his shoulder. Chase had a tight grip on him and Ethan found himself rubbing up and down on Chase's back as he held him, comforting him. He realized that Chase was crying when he heard him sniffle.
"Hey, Chase, what's the matter?" he said as he pushed Chase away a little.
Chase sat back and hurriedly wiped the tears away. "Sorry Ethan. I didn't mean to do that." Chase looked down at the floor. "It's just, I thought you were going to say that you didn't want to be my friend anymore, now that your all healed up," he said low enough that Ethan almost couldn't hear what he said.
Ethan looked at Chase in shock and began to realize how Chase had felt for the last few years. "No, no way bud," he scooted over and rested his arm across Chase's shoulders squeezing his opposite shoulder gently. "Never again Chase. I'm sorry, it took me almost dying for us to be friends again," he chuckled a little as he said that, "But, you are way more important to me than someone who cares more about what people think of her and who she's with."
Chase gave a little laugh. "I'm going to the bathroom for a few minutes to clean up a little." Ethan nodded and let his arm drop from his shoulders.
When Chase left the room, Ethan leaned back on his arms and looked around the room. He saw the picture by the door and got up to get a closer look. He remembered when the picture was taken of the two of them. He ambled around the room touching and looking at a few things, before sitting down at the desk in front of the computer. He saw a scrapbook on the shelf with his name on it. He pulled it down and opened it. He scanned through it and saw the pictures from when they were younger and that there were more recent newspaper articles pasted in it about him interspersed with pictures of Ethan at the cross country meets. He closed the book and put it back. When he did, his arm moved the mouse and the screen saver that was on went off and the computer screen came on.
There was a document file open. He glanced at it and saw a file with his name on it. He knew he shouldn't, but curiosity got the better of him. He clicked on the one titled Ethan Pictures. He saw that there were a lot of pictures and some were pretty good. He looked through them and saw that they were of him at cross country meets or practice. After looking at a few, he closed the file and saw a word document with his name on it and clicked on it.
I know you don't see me anymore, but I still see you. I really miss the friendship we had when we were younger. You were a great friend, and I know that if you could just see me, we could be friends again. We were a great pair.
I'm writing this to put my thoughts down on how I feel about you. Even though we aren't friends anymore, you are still special to me. Since we were twelve I realized that I was different than our other friends. It's probably good that we didn't hang around together, because then you might have found out about me and then you might hate me and I'd hate to have you feel that way about me. Luckily, you won't ever see this, because I could never tell you this to your face.
I love you. I always have. Every time we were together, I felt the happiest. Whenever you smiled at me, it made me all shivery inside. That's when I knew that I truly loved you.
Yes, it's true. This is not 'I love you like a brother or a friend', this is love as in I LOVE YOU. I'm gay and I love you. Even if you don't love me, I still love you. Maybe one of these days we'll be friends again. Until then, I'll just have to worship you from afar.
Anyway Ethan, I wish you would see me and at least be my friend, even if you can't be my boyfriend. You'll always be my first love.
Ethan was shocked by what he had just read. He didn't know what to think.
"What are you doing?"
Ethan turned around quickly and saw Chase standing at the door with a look of horror and fear on his face.
"Chase, I…I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. It just…I…" he stammered.
Chase just stared at Ethan for a few moments. "I think you should go Ethan," he said quietly.
Ethan started to say something, but the look on Chase's face made him just nod and get up from the chair.
He stopped at the doorway, "Chase, I'm…"
Chase just looked at Ethan with a pleading look, "Just go, please…go."
Ethan nodded and turned away. Chase closed the door behind him and went to sit at the desk. He looked at the letter on the screen and read it like he had so many times since he wrote it. He then got up and dropped face down on the bed crying. He eventually fell asleep.
Ethan slowly rode home thinking about what he had read. It had surprised him and now he felt like he had betrayed his best friend. He cursed his curiosity that caused him to open that file. When he got home, he went to his room and lay down on his bed with his hands behind his head. He just stared at the ceiling until he was called for dinner.
During dinner he just picked at his food. His parents could tell something was wrong. His mom started to say something, but his dad just laid his hand on her arm and shook his head when she looked at him. A few minutes later, Ethan asked to be excused and left the room.
When he left the room, Mary looked at Randy, "Something's wrong."
He nodded, "I'll go talk to him in a little while."
At home, Dan knocked on Chase's door and when he didn't answer, he opened the door and looked inside. He saw Chase asleep on his side. When he got closer he saw that there were tracks of tears on his face. He sat down carefully on the bed and gently shook him awake.
Chase groaned a little and stretched. He scrubbed his face and opened his eyes to see his dad sitting next to him giving him a loving smile.
"You want to talk about it son?" Dan asked.
Chase turned his face to the pillow and shook his head.
"Okay, but when you're ready. I'll be here to listen." Dan said and heard Chase mumble something into the pillow.
"What?" he asked Chase while he rubbed his shoulder.
Chase slowly turned his head and looked at his dad, "Ethan read the letter."
His dad was puzzled, "What letter Chase?"
Chase didn't say anything he just pointed to the computer.
Dan looked at the computer and could see the screen saver was on. He looked back down at Chase, "On the computer?"
"May I read it?" his dad asked him.
Chase hesitated for a moment and then sighed and nodded.
Dan went over and moved the mouse enough to turn the screen saver off. Chase's letter popped up and Dan leaned down and read it. When he finished he sat back down next to Chase, who had hidden his face again.
"Ethan read that?"
Chase nodded into the pillow.
"C'mon sit up."
Chase slowly got up and his dad pulled him close with an arm.
"Sorry. You don't….hate me….do you?" Chase asked.
His dad just put his other arm around him, "Never. You're my son. Nothing changes that. Besides, I suspected it. My only worry is that you could be hurt by others because of that. Did Ethan say anything to you?"
Chase shook his head, "No, he didn't really say anything. I kinda didn't really let him. I was so scared. I just asked him to leave and he did. He probably hates me now." Chase started crying.
His dad held and rocked him telling him that everything would be alright.
After a minute or so, Chase got control of himself and sat back up.
His dad used his thumbs and wiped the tears from Chase's face. "Son, why do you think Ethan would hate you. He's your friend. If he's a real friend, that letter won't matter to him. If it does matter, then maybe he's not a real friend."
"But Dad, I meant everything in that letter, I love him." Chase said sorrowfully.
Then something registered that his dad had said. "You said you suspected it?" he said with shock.
His dad nodded, "I don't doubt that you meant everything you said in the letter. I saw you in the hospital room, when Ethan was hurt. I had started to come into the room to tell you it was time to go and I saw you kiss Ethan and tell him you loved him. Your mom and I have noticed that you've been different these last few weeks, especially when you were around Ethan. It was like when you two were younger and we were really happy about that. You've seemed very happy."
Chase nodded, "It was because Ethan and I were getting to be best friends again, and now this." Chase said as he pointed at the computer.
Dan rubbed his shoulder, "I don't know, I think it's more than you just getting to best friends again. I've seen you two together. I think that if Ethan hated you, he would have said something when he read it. Let's not jump to conclusions and think the worst, okay?"
Chase nodded. "Does Mom know too?" he asked.
Dan nodded, "I mentioned what I saw to her a couple of weeks ago, so yes, she knows."
Chase looked a little apprehensive when he asked the next question, "Is she okay with it?"
Dan rubbed his back, "Of course she is. We love you, no matter what. Now, go clean up and come eat some dinner." He followed Chase out of the room.
In the kitchen he went to Sandy and told her the short version of what was going on and said that they would talk to Chase about it later. She nodded and got everything set out for dinner and called Matt to the table. Chase came in and his mom went over to him and gave him a quick hug, which earned her a grateful look.
Chase said little during dinner, but Matt more than made up for the silence. "Mom, remember the cookies for school tomorrow," he said.
Sandy nodded, "I remember Matt. We'll work on them after dinner is done and everything is cleaned up. You're going to help me right?"
He nodded enthusiastically, "Yeah cool. Chase, you want to help us?" He said smiling at Chase.
Chase smiled at Matt and shook his head. "Sorry bro, I have…some schoolwork to do." He said. Then he leaned closer to Matt with a conspiratorial look, "But I'll be glad to taste your cookies, you know, to make sure that they're not poison or anything."
Matt punched Chase on the arm and giggled.
Dinner was soon finished. Chase and Matt helped clean up while their dad went into the living room to watch some TV. When everything was done, Chase went back to his room and Matt and his mom started making cookies.
Chase was in his room an hour later, absently watching TV, when there was a throat clearing sound from his door. Matt and his mom were standing there. Matt had a small plate of cookies and Sandy had a couple of glasses of milk.
"I brought some cookies to share. Can I watch TV with you and we can try the cookies?" Matt asked him.
Chase grinned at him, "Of course bro. Especially when you bring a bribe like homemade cookies," he told him.
Matt grinned and got up on the bed next to Chase. His mom put the milk on the bedside tables and leaned down and gave each of her boys a kiss on the top of their heads before leaving the room.
The two brothers had a good time watching TV and eating cookies. It did help get Chase's mind off his worries. Matt started getting sleepy, so Chase nudged him and took the plate and the glasses to the kitchen. He said goodnight to his parents and stopped at Matt's room on the way to his. Matt had just gotten into bed and he walked in smiling.
"Thanks Matty," he said.
Matt cocked his head to the side. "For what?"
Chase stepped forward and ruffled his hair. "For being my brother." Chase said.
Matt looked at him and grinned, "Yeah, me too. I'm glad you're my brother. Night Chase."
Chase paused at the door and turned off the light. "Night Matty."
Later after dinner at Ethan's house, Ethan was lying on his back looking at the ceiling. He had been lying there since after dinner, thinking about what he had read on the computer and about Chase. He thought back to when they were kids and were always doing things together. When he had his accident, Chase had been there. His parents told him how much time Chase visited him while he was at the hospital and hardly any of the guys from the team had spent much time visiting. That reminded him of how he had ignored Chase for the last few years because he wasn't an athlete like Ethan was. As he was reminded of that, he knew he hadn't done it on purpose. It had just kind of happened.
He had started taking part in sports and Chase hadn't. They just drifted apart. Now he understood a little of why. Part of it may have been Chase's feelings for Ethan, but Ethan was sure that most of it was his fault. He had just moved forward and left Chase behind. He recognized that Chase was lagging behind in size and was one of the smaller boys in the class, but that had been no reason to just forget him like he had. He thought of all the time that he and Chase had spent together since the accident. Even with him being all gimpy, they had still had some really good times over the last few weeks. He had been so happy when he got the clean bill of health today from the doctor that he just had to share it with someone who he felt closest too, and that was Chase.
His thoughts were interrupted by his cell going off. He picked it up and looked at the caller ID. He found that he was hoping it was Chase, but he saw it was Andy, one of his cross country friends.
"Hey Andy…..no nothing really. Just laying here thinking about something….up yours….No, what about Kristi………She did what?!.....That bitch…..I can't believe she'd do something like that….Man, I'm glad I told her to fuck off yesterday…….Yeah I did…..She said some bad things about Chase…..Hell no, I wasn't going to let her remarks slide……And Chase never said anything about it…..Wait, maybe that's why he's been kind of distant the last several days……Now I think I know why…..If that fucker Craig comes near him, I'll kick his ass….Well, maybe I'll need to get some help, but I won't let him hurt Chase anymore…..Yeah, thanks Andy for letting me know about this…..Yeah, see you tomorrow. Oh hey, the doctor said I was all healed up today….Yep, we'll have to start running, so I can get ready for track…..Okay, seeya tomorrow…..Bye.
Ethan closed his phone and muttered some curses against Kristi and her brother Craig. He looked at his phone and thought about whether he should call Chase and tell him about what Andy had told him. He almost called him a couple of times and finally, he gave in and called Chase's cell phone. It went right to voice mail, but he left a message anyway.
"Hey, uh Chase. First, I am really sorry for looking on your computer. I didn't mean to hurt you. I hope you'll forgive me. The real reason I called is that Andy told me about what Kristi's brother Craig had done to you. I'm sorry she did something like that. I feel like it's my fault that he did that and I'm really sorry. If I could take the hurt on me, I would. I don't like that he hurt you. If I could have taken your place I would. I just wanted to say sorry. Bye.
He hung up and found that he had some tears in his eyes. It was because of the thought that someone had hurt Chase. When he saw Kristi, he was going to repeat what he told her Wednesday afternoon. He dropped back down on the bed and went back to thinking of Chase again. He found that he started comparing Chase with his other friends and even the few girls that he had been friends with.
The more he thought about it, the more realized what it was. Chase was special to him and made him feel special too.
A knock at the door got his attention. He saw it was his dad at the door. "May I come in?" Ethan nodded.
He came in and sat at the desk. "So what's going on Ethan. Your mom and I know something's wrong. I mean, you got the boot off. We figured you would be happy. Do you and Chase have anything planned during break?"
Ethan looked down and mumbled something.
His dad leaned forward, "What was that?"
Ethan looked up and there were tears in his eyes. " I said, I think he hates me."
Randy was shocked, "Why would he hate you? I thought you guys were best friends."
Ethan nodded, "Me too, but I did something today that I shouldn't have done."
Randy got a concerned look on his face. "What did you do," he asked.
"I read a letter on his computer." Ethan admitted.
"Well, I'm sure if you apologize, everything will be fine," his dad said.
Ethan shook his head, "I don't know. I feel like I betrayed him by reading it."
"What could be so bad in that letter," his dad asked.
Ethan wasn't sure that he should say anything, but he knew that he had to, because he was starting to realize something about himself as well. His dad waited patiently while Ethan thought about his answer.
"It was a letter to…to me, but I don't think I was meant to ever see it. In it, he said he…..loved me, like really loved me."
His dad looked at Ethan with some more concern. "You said you felt like you betrayed him. Did you say or do anything to him?" he asked cautiously.
Ethan shook his head, "No way, I would never do something like that." Ethan paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "Dad….I….love him too."
"What do you mean Ethan?" he asked.
Ethan looked at his dad and the tears in his eyes dripped down his cheeks. "It means just what I said Dad. Please don't hate me, but I love him."
His dad got off the chair and sat next to him on the bed and hugged him. "Oh, Ethan, of course not. I love you. I will always love you. Nothing else matters to me or your mom. We both love you, but are you sure?" Randy asked him.
Ethan nodded. "I've been thinking about it since dinner. Since we became best friends again, I know how good I feel with him around. None of my other friends or any of the girls I've known make me feel this good, only Chase. So yeah, I think I'm sure."
"Well, we're behind you Ethan, don't worry about that. Now what about Chase? Shouldn't you call him?" Dan asked.
"I already tried, his cell went right to voice mail." Ethan said sadly.
"You could call his house?" Dan suggested.
"I'm afraid he might say he doesn't want to talk to me. I'll talk to him at school tomorrow. Maybe he won't be so mad if he sleeps on it tonight."
Dan nodded, "Maybe so. Well good luck. It's late and you should get to bed. Goodnight." Dan hugged him once more and left the room.
Later his mom came into the room once he was in bed and sat next to him. "Hi honey. You're dad told me. He said you're sure about this. Are you?"
Ethan nodded. "Yes I am. I love Chase. If that means I'm gay, then I guess I am." He admitted.
She smiled, "Okay then. Get some sleep. We love you." She kissed his forehead and left the room.
That night Ethan dreamed of being in the hospital room again. It was like he was watching from the ceiling. He saw Chase come in and take his hand for a moment before leaning down and kissing him gently on the lips. He heard Chase say, "I love you."
The next morning when Chase woke up, he laid there in bed, trying to think up any reason to not go to school today. He knew he couldn't fake being sick.
He was lying there when his dad called from outside the room. "Chase. Time to get up. Last day of school before the break."
Chase groaned, "Can't I stay home Dad?"
Dan slowly opened the door and leaned in. He had a look of sympathy on his face. "Chase, I think you have to go. I think you need to talk to Ethan. I don't think you can let this wait over the break. If you do, you'll be worrying about it the whole time you're on break and you will not have any fun."
Chase groaned again and buried his face in his pillow. "Daaaaadddd. Can't I just stay home, pleeeessee?" he whined.
Dan shook his head, "C'mon Chase, I don't think it will be as bad as you think. Now get up son."
Chase groaned again, but he started to get up as his dad closed the door.
He pouted as he opened the door and went to his and Matt's bathroom. He cleaned up and then went back to his room to put on his clothes and grab his backpack. When he was dressed he went into the kitchen and grabbed some cereal for breakfast. His dad was sitting at the table drinking some coffee and looking at the paper.
His dad looked at him and gave him a reassuring smile. Chase frowned and sat down to eat. His mom came up behind him and rubbed his back. "Chase, if you have any problems at school, call me and I'll be right there to pick you up."
Chase nodded absently. Matt came in and got some cereal as well. When they finished breakfast, Matt, with his cookies in hand, followed his mom out to the car for the ride to school.
"Can't I just stay home today Dad? Chase asked one more time.
Dan got up and gave Chase a hug, "Sorry bud, I really think you need to go. Would you like a ride?"
Chase shook his head, "I'll ride my bike Dad."
Dan gave him one more squeeze before grabbing his case and waited for Chase to proceed him out the door and through the garage. His dad watched as Chase left the yard riding slowly.
Chase was in no hurry, so he rode slowly today. Whenever he saw other kids he kept his head down and passed them, without saying anything. At school he locked up his bike and glanced around to see if anyone was looking at him, but he didn't see anything out of the ordinary, so he finished locking up and headed inside to his locker. Before he went inside, he checked his cell before he turned it off. He saw that he had a voice mail. He hesitated for a moment before he listened to it. It was from Ethan. When he finished with it, he was quiet for a few moments as he thought about how Ethan had sounded on the message. He hadn't seemed mad or anything, maybe he wouldn't say anything.
He turned the phone off and as he walked to his locker he kept glancing around at the other kids. His muscles were tense waiting for the first blow to fall or the name calling to start. So far no one had said a thing, which he was grateful for. He had been invisible for a few years now, and maybe that was working for him once again. He kept an eye out for Ethan, so that he could try to avoid him, just in case. Maybe if Ethan didn't see him, then he wouldn't be reminded of what he had read and he wouldn't say anything to anyone. Although that voice mail seemed to him to mean that Ethan wouldn't say anything.
His morning classes went okay and it seemed to be okay, nobody said anything. As he walked the halls to his next class he would tense up again, expecting the worst, but nothing happened, it was just like it used to be, he was invisible. As the morning went on, he started to feel a little better. It seemed that even if Ethan didn't like him anymore, it appeared that he hadn't said anything. He dropped his stuff off in his locker and started toward the cafeteria. As he got closer he slowed down, as he realized that if he went in there he might see Ethan and then…he didn't know what would happen. He turned around and thought he might grab something out of the machines in another part of the school and go sit somewhere that he might not be seen by anyone. He nodded to himself at the decision and headed away from the cafeteria.
He had just turned the corner of a hall when someone grabbed him. He realized that he was in a mostly empty hallway. The person who grabbed him, pulled him around a corner and more guys were there. He saw letterman jackets and he started to get scared. He knew it had been too good to be true. He thought for sure that Ethan hadn't said anything, but it looked like he had and now he knew he was about to get beaten up. They lifted him up and carried him away. He tried to struggle, but they were all bigger and stronger than him and there was nothing that he could do. He tried to keep the tears from coming. He started to cry out, but a hand clamped on his mouth. They still had not said anything and they kept so close to him that he couldn't see who they were. He heard laughter from kids as they went by. They eventually went outside and he figured they were going to take him to the weight room again to beat him up. Then he heard the noise of a lot of kids.
His kidnappers stopped and let him down to stand up. He turned to face them, tears still threatening to fall and looked at them. He saw it was some of the guys from the cross country team. They were standing in front of him looking stern. He started to shake a little bit and then someone grabbed his shoulders from behind. He flinched when that happened and tensed up, shutting his eyes. The hands held him firmly and instead of being hit he was turned around slowly and then the hands stopped directing him and let go. His shoulders were still hunched up when he slowly opened his eyes.
When he did, he saw that he was at the outside patio. There were kids all around looking at him. Then he noticed something across the patio. On the far side of the patio on the raised stage like area was Ethan. He was standing there under a banner of some kind and he was smiling. Chase let out the breath he was holding. Ethan was just standing there and pointed upward. Chase was puzzled and started look up in the sky until he realized that Ethan was pointing at the banner above his head.
Chase finally looked at it and the tears that had threatened to fall when he was scared started to drip down his cheeks, only now, they were tears of happiness.
The banner read:
Chase, will you be my boyfriend? Ethan.
Chase just stared at it as his heart filled to bursting. He started to walk forward almost in a daze. When he looked back down from the banner to Ethan, he saw that Ethan had a nervous smile on his face and was biting his lower lip. As he walked towards Ethan he couldn't help but let a huge grin break out on his face. When he was just a few feet away, he threw himself at Ethan and wrapped his arms tightly around him, causing Ethan to stagger a little.
Chase didn't trust himself to say anything, so he just held on tight, not wanting to let go.
Ethan held him close laughing. They stood there for a moment before Ethan said something. "So I guess that means yes?"
Chase pulled back a little and looked up at the taller boy, his face transformed by the happiness that filled him, he could only nod.
Ethan still had the smile on his face but his tone was serious and he put a lot of feeling in what he said next. "You're not invisible to me. I love you Chase."
Chase nodded, "Thanks for seeing me, I love you too."
Ethan laughed, "Yeah, I know."
Chase punched him on the chest and they both started laughing as they turned and walked away from the patio hand in hand.