A Special place--Part Twenty-four--Matt
When we reached school the next day, Larry met us at the entrance, obviously upset. "Michael, I am really pissed and if you want me to drop out of your campaign, I will."
"Why? What's wrong?"
Larry had been carrying a poster under his arm and when he unrolled it, it was one of Michael's campaign posters. Someone had used dayglo purple and green to spray paint "Faggot Lover" on it. "I think all of the large posters have been spray painted. Some have the same words as this one, others have 'The Queer Party Candidate', or 'Faggot for President' on them. The custodian said he had taken down the worse ones which had 'Assfucker's Support Michael', 'Cocksuckers United Candidate' and 'Fudgepacker for President'. Ms. Jones told him to leave all of them up except those with 'cocksucker', 'assfucker' or 'Fudgepacker' on them. I'm positive someone saw me kiss Eugene and that's what's behind this."
"Oh, I think it's just some of those who were upset by the service for Gregory who see this as a way of getting even for being told their attitude is shitty and sucks. I think that's what's behind it, not something you and Eugene did. And even if someone did see you kissing Eugene and did all this, do you think I would let that make a difference? Man, shit like this is why I agreed to get involved in this race to start with. Hell, fucking no, you're not dropping out. We need to have a little conference here before school as to what we do in response."
While Michael and Larry were talking, Paula, Eugene and Linda walked up. "'Sup? Somebody die?" Eugene asked. Larry simply held up the poster.
As soon has he held it up, Linda said, "That Jock asshole! If Orie didn't do that he was involved."
"But he isn't even running, Linda," Paula said.
"Well, it doesn't matter, his jock friends are and he has been hanging out with some of the jokers who were involved in the Gregory thing. He would be running except he couldn't meet the requirements. Man, I sure hate [knowing] I got involved with that jerk. Besides, he's mad because I am in the Select Few and he told me Matt and Luke were faggots because he saw them holding hands and, Eugene, you and Larry are a couple of buttfuckers because another jock asshole saw you two kissing. So Michael is, at least to him, a faggot-lover, and probably a cocksucker himself."
There were seven mouths hanging wide open. "You mean to tell me Orie told you all that and you said nothing about it?" Michael said incredulously.
"What was there to say? I just told him I didn't have anything to say to him, didn't care to hear anything he had to say and he was still a jock asshole. I didn't say anything to any of you. I thought he wouldn't lie about Eugene or Larry--he wouldn't have thought they were worth mentioning. He wanted to get in my good graces and thought a little gossip about my friends would help, I guess. Same with Matt and Luke. If you're couples--and I have neither seen any reason to think you are nor any reason to doubt you are for that matter--what Orie said makes no never mind to me--except I really did have my eye on you, Matt. But if I'm going to lose out, it's not to some dumb bitch and, Luke, somebody else is just going to have to do without the number two hunk in this group. Personally, I think you're two good looking couples and since I know why Paula and I and my two cousins were snapped up for the prom, I intend to really enjoy myself while those two Lexington babes fall all over themselves trying to get Larry and Eugene hot," Linda laughed.
"Linda, I really need to apologize to you. I have always liked you and enjoyed your company, but I must confess I thought you...."
"Yea, Matt, you just thought I was another dumb blond. Well, we'll go into all that at lunch... no, I'll be busy at lunch, but we don't have time right now. We need to decide how to respond to this jock asshole shit."
"Yea, right. Important things first. What are we going to do about the posters?" Michael asked.
"Suggestion. Leave them alone and, Michael, cut into your spot this morning and apologize for leaving them up and ask if someone low enough to appeal to bigotry and sink so low as to damage campaign posters is who Independence High wants as a leader and as its representative," Linda suggested. "Meanwhile, I'll put on the dumb blond cheerleader routine and butter up Orie and find out who is responsible. He'll definitely know and I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't involved."
"Gal, I double my apology!"
"Linda, you are a blond genius!" Michael exclaimed.
"Political dynamite!" Larry agreed.
"But Linda, you're putting youself in danger because you know what Orie's new buddies can do."
"I think I can handle that," Linda said. "At least I am going to try."
Michael did as Linda had suggested. Ms. Jones came on after the political spots and talked about how upset she was about the prejudice and bigotry shown in the damaging of Michael Andrews' posters. She agreed, she said, with leaving them up so students could see them and decide if the people who were responsible were the kind of people the students of Independence High school wanted to be held up as their leaders and representatives. "But they will only stay up today. Independence has been embarrassed enough already. Others, which had even more offensive language, have been removed by Mr. Vincent, the custodian. I hope many of you will apologize to Michael for what one or more of your schoolmates have done. And, on a very practical level, Michael spent money for nice posters and someone or someones who bought a couple cans of cheap spray paint ruined them."
Lunch was interesting, to say the least. It started soon after Orie got his lunch and sat down. Linda said, in a whisper, "Look pissed off when I start". Suddenly she said, very loudly so practically everyone in the cafeteria heard her, "Well, if that's the way it is, I'm through with you," took her lunch and stormed away, headed for the table where Orie was sitting. When she got there, she glared at a jock sitting by Orie until he made room for her to sit down. We ate, trying not to laugh out loud as Linda gave new meaning to "a woman's wiles" and the "dumb blond cheerleader" routine. Meanwhile, a number of students walked by the table and said how upset and sorry they were that Michael's posters were defaced. Several dropped coins or a bill on the table. The first one said, "I want to help pay for new posters and get you to sign it for me when the campaign is over". She was followed by a long line saying, "Same for me". Michael barely got to eat because he was busy passing out the business card size posters, each of which he signed with a "To" message. He knew most of the students' names, but occasionally needed help or apologized for having to ask.
The last person who came by was a junior, the best and most popular basketball player, Bill Lance, who was running for student body president. He asked if he could sit down and we all pointed to Linda's now vacant chair. As soon as he was seated he said, "Michael, I decided to run for president because I think I have something to offer as student leader". We all nodded in agreement. He was absolutely right. "However, in light of what has happened, I think I have more to offer by setting an example. Tomorrow my video spot will be an announcement of my dropping out of the race in support of you."
"Bill, I appreciate the gesture," Michael said, "but that's not necessary and it will take a good candidate out of the race."
"Well, I would have suggested you drop out and support me," he smiled, "but that would make it appear the assholes who spray painted your posters had forced you out. There's no way that would not be the claim and I'll do everything I can to see that doesn't happen."
"Bill, you're right. Larry, would you do the video spot after school?"
As soon as we finished our school day, Luke and I drove to his studio, picked up the original of the campaign poster, took it in to town, got a hundred printed and drove back to school. We got there just as school was out and soon the Select Few, except Linda, were gathered in the parking lot. Bill Lance was with them. Orie drove past in a car full of jocks and as they passed one of them--I couldn't tell which--yelled, "Look at the Faggots and Fag Hags!"
"Ok, Select Few, we have a job to do. Bill, looks as if you're one of us. Welcome to the Select Few."
Bill bowed and said, "I am honored, Oh Select Ones". We all laughed.
As soon as we walked inside, Linda joined us. "I stayed out of sight until Orie and his crew left so they wouldn't know they are about to be sandbagged. I know the whole rotten mess. But what's up right now? Hi, Bill. What are you doing here?"
"While you were doing your dumb blond cheerleader bit, Bill came by the table at lunch and decided to join the campaign," Michael said and told Linda what had happened.
"Welcome, Sir William," Linda said. Maybe the Select Few will still be here next year. Good feeling."
"Ok, guys, Matt and I went to town last period and got a rush job on a hundred new posters. We are on our way to see Ms. Jones to let her know we're taking down the defaced ones and putting these up so they will be here first thing Monday morning." When we reached Ms. Jones' office, her door was open and we told her what we were doing.
"I was going to let Mr. Vincent take down the defaced ones. He offered to work over because he felt, somehow or other, he was to blame."
"Well, he's not," Michael said, "and we have the time and manpower...."
"And womanpower," Mary Kathryn promptly added.
"Yea, and womanpower to get the job done quickly."
"Michael, I can see you have your hands full at school and at home. It must be nice to have the little woman helping out," Ms. Jones laughed. Michael blushed and Mary Kathryn laughed at him and kissed him on the cheek.
"You better agree, Michael," she said, taking his head in her hands and nodding it up and down.
"Ms. Jones, Bill has made a decision about the campaign that you need to know about," Michael said.
When Bill finished telling Ms. Jones what he had decided to do, she said, "Bill, I know you would have been a good student body president. No doubt in my mind about that, but I also think you will be remembered more for the leadership and the position you are taking than you would as former student body president. I admire your courage and the true leadership evident in your decision."
"Thanks. It is just the right thing to do," Bill said.
"Oh, Ms. Jones, I need to call my mom and tell her where I am," Paula said.
Ms. Jones pointed to her phone and asked, "Anyone else need to call home?" Only Bill did. "When you kids get finished with the posters, come back by--you too Bill. We need to talk." Her tone was serious and I suspected what was up.
With all of us working, it took less than thirty minutes to take down the defaced posters and put up the new ones. While the rest of us were doing the posters, Larry and Bill did the video spot for tomorrow when Bill would announce his decision. When we finished, we went back to Ms. Jones's office. She closed the door and asked, "Are all of you in this together? I mean, are you really--what? solid--with each other? What I'm trying to say...."
"All except Bill," Matt said, "and he definitely needs to know what he is getting into. Bill, when you learn the facts, there's not a person in this room who wouldn't support you changing your mind. So you don't get blindsided, Luke and I, Larry and Eugene are couples. We are gay. Luke and I are not...."
"Right now Luke and Matt are virgins, Bill, as if that makes any difference. And in a real sense, that is true of Larry and Eugene. But they are gay and will definitely not be virgins forever!" Cut-to-the-Chase Michael said. Ms. Jones, Larry and Eugene, Luke and I all blushed big time.
"Glad those aren't requirements for participating in this campaign," Bill laughed. "I'd strike out on both counts, but what has that got to do with anything?"
"Ms. Jones, of course we all know about Matt and Luke and Eugene and Larry. Linda was the last to find out--well maybe not, she just didn't say anything," Michael said.
"Ok, I'm going to be straightforward and blunt. We have a real problem here. I have been on the phone with Millie and told her what happened to the posters. Needless to say she was, I believe her exact words were 'royally pissed', does that sound right?"
"Sounds pretty calm and cool to me. I guess it hadn't had time to sink in or she'd have been here ripping things apart," Eugene laughed.
"To tell you the truth, I expected her to do exactly that but, Eugene, your mother is a smart lady. She said if she came out here it would look as if she thought I couldn't handle the situation. She's right, of course, so it's in my hands. Anything you might know about the situation that I might not know?"
Linda said, "It depends on how much you know. I think I know it all. There are actually two things going on at the same time. Orie Greenley is still really pis... ticked off that I gave him a kick in the family jewels when he tried to force me to have sex with him and he was really put out when I told him our date for the prom was off. So he is out to get Matt, who is my date."
Ms. Jones looked surprised for a moment and Paula said, "Yes, and I am dating Luke. See the two guys each met someone they fell madly in love with at a special kind of swim meet, but they can't date them for the prom because there's an age problem and a race problem." Ms. Jones looked as if she was caught up in a crazy dream and kept shaking her head.
Bill said, "The attempt at drowning yourself--it all makes sense now, Luke".
Paula laughed, "Luke's younger than Matt--by twenty minutes--and Matt is of mixed race".
"Well, I was wondering if I had lost it there for a moment," Ms. Jones laughed.
"And just so you'll know the score, my two cousins from Lexington are coming over as Eugene and Larry's dates. I just can't wait to see them try out their man-killing ways on those two guys! It is going to be a real treat!" Linda laughed. "Anyway, the other part of this mess is that Orie and two of his jock buddies have been befriended by three of the jerks who abused Gregory. All are still really angry because of the protest against Mr. Gray since he was slipping them all sorts of help--money, tests before they were given, changing grades--so they could play ball. And they hate Michael because he 'made us real Independence people' look bad. They were all out drinking last night and when they were pretty drunk, Jake Hilliard, the ring leader of the motley crew, suggested they 'get even with them fags,' Orie told me. They called someone, Orie wasn't sure who it was, and made arrangements to get in the school through the gym. They stopped at K-Mart, bought the spray paint and you know the rest."
"But whatever gave them the idea? I can see why they might deface the posters, but why with the words they did?"
"I'm afraid Eugene and I are mostly responsible for that," Larry said.
"You've got to include Matt and me," Luke added.
"Several days ago--a week or so, so much has happened since I can't really remember, Eugene was really down because his dad had landed on him with both feet and he had to sit through another 'faggots will roast in hell' session at church, so I spent as much time as I could with him. To tell the truth, I was afraid he'd do away with himself he was so depressed. I walked him to music class and when we got there, I looked around and was sure no one was around, so I kissed him. Well, Paula did see us and asked Michael to speak to us, which he did, but Paula believed she was the only one who observed the kiss. Well, apparently she wasn't."
"Marshall Tucker, one of Orie's hangers-on saw them and used that to get into the Jake Hilliard club with Orie. Then there was Matt and Luke," Linda said.
"The day Matt and I came to see you, we were walking down the hall holding hands, not thinking anything about it. When we realized we were, we both looked around and saw no-one. That didn't mean no-one saw us. Michael had taken the wrong book from his locker and was in the hall getting the right one and saw us. Like Paula, he thought he was the only one, but apparently Orie saw us."
"Needless to say, I had hoped that this would not happen, but was afraid it would. I am at a bit of a loss as to where we go from here. I just don't know. What I do know is that someone who has a key to the school let those students into the building. There are very few people who have those keys. I can eliminate three at once, myself, Mr. Allan and Mr. Vincent. Mr. vincent might have been a suspect had I not seen his reaction to the defaced posters. He may be uneducated and not too bright, but he works hard and has a heart of gold. When he saw those posters he kept saying over and over again, 'Look what they done did to my boy Michael's stuff.' I don't know what you have done for him, but he worships all of you. So he's out. Well, that's my problem, not yours. What do you want done about the whole mess?"
"I think the best thing to do is leave the situation in the hands of the authorities. I have no proof of what I told you, but Orie was ready to tell me anything I wanted to know after a few rubs of my knee against his thigh. He had seen me leave the table angry at the Select Few, so he was anxious to let me know he was taking care of them. I even got him to tell me what they did with the paint cans and Mr. Vincent retrieved them for me. They are carefully wrapped in tissue in my locker. A little quiet investigation is bound to turn up more evidence. The paint cans surely will have finger prints and at least the three involved in the Gregory mess have been fingerprinted. As to the name-calling, I say ignore it as well until you have witnesses and drop the Millie rule on them," Linda said.
"Linda, where have you had your brain hidden all this year?" Matt asked.
"I told you we would discuss that when we had time, right now we're dealing with the jocko crap."
"Linda, I think your suggestions are great, but I wonder about the four guys who are going to be, if not officially, effectively outted. Of course the rest of you will suffer as well for being associated with them. You can see that from what has already happened to Michael. Bill, you really need to think about that because you will be a special target as a basketball player."
"Ms. Jones, Luke and Matt have been my brothers since I was born. Now Larry and Eugene have become my adopted brothers--especially Eugene... doesn't mean I like you less, Larry, but Eugene and I have a kind of special bond. I am willing to fight for the rights of anyone to love anyone they please and I am more than willing to take whatever kind of shi... manure... those jock-jerks or anyone else wants to try to dish out. I told Larry this morning that's why I agreed to get into this political mess anyway."
"Don't worry about me, I'm a pretty tough woman," Paula said. "I have suffered worse than the childish pranks of some jerks."
"Don't think I need to even ask you, Miss Mary Kathryn," Ms. Jones said.
"And Linda, you have already proven your mettle."
"Well, I admit this wasn't what I had in mind when I stopped by the Select Few's table at lunch, but I did have in mind setting an example and especially for those who want to represent this school on one of the teams. I'm still in. And Ms. Jones, I have no proof so I won't state it here, but if you want to know who opened the gym, I can give you a 99.9 percent accurate guess."
"Thanks, Bill. I suspect we would agree on who, but I don't want you involved in that. Right now I have a call in to the police. Linda, if you'll get me the paint cans, I'll turn them over to the police. Meanwhile, Matt, Luke, Larry, Eugene, what about you four? You're bound to catch a lot of flack."
"It was bound to happen sooner or later. I wish it hadn't, but it has. Luke and I agreed that whatever came our way we'd handle together and we will, one way or another."
"Larry and I haven't talked about it in more than general terms. We were more concerned about my family finding out and, since I no longer have that family, we'll handle it. In fact, I feel kinda relieved that we no longer have to hide who we are." Larry nodded in agreement.
"That's spoken out of your love for your soulmate, I'm sure, and out of a lot of teenage romanticism. I only hope you're able to remember it when the going gets tough, and it will," Ms. Jones said and gave each of us a warm, motherly hug. "Bill, you just become a part of a group that knows no end of caring for each other. And you have earned that spot," Ms. Jones said as she hugged Bill, who towered over her.
After that, we all piled into the Jeep and Bill's car and went to Mickey D's for drinks. As we settled in, I said to Linda, "Ok, crisis over for the moment. Where have you had your brain hidden, Linda?"
Linda blushed and said, "It's kinda embarrassing, but at the beginning of school, I saw Matt sitting with all of you and, of course Sheldon then, and I noticed no-one seemed to have their claws into Matt so I decided I wanted that bod for my own. While I was scheming on how to get into the Select Few, Mary Kathryn and I were walking to the cafeteria together and she invited me to join the bunch for lunch. That was, I thought, my lucky day. When I saw how Mary Kathryn and Paula were, I decided I needed to take a different approach. I figured Matt hadn't shown any interest in Mary Kathryn--Michael wasn't in the picture then--so I did what I do so well; I became the dumb blond cheerleader of the bunch. By the time I realized you were fun loving, but pretty serious kids, I didn't see any easy way to drop the role. When Orie came along, it was the perfect role to get him. When I gave him the kick in the balls and rejoined the group, there was never any reason to be different until today. I really did want your bod, Matt and I'm still jealous of you, Luke. If you were a woman, I'd fight you tooth and nail for that adorable hunk who's obviously in love with you."
"And all the talk, talk, talk was an act?" I laughed.
"Well, some things are just naturally me!" Linda declared.
"If I win this election, you're definitely in my cabinet," Michael said, "and I'll try to pick a few hunks. You can take your pick!"
"Hey, I'm available!" Bill said.
"Looks like you just lost a prom date, Matt," Paula said.
"I wish," Bill said, "but my mom has arranged a date with my cousin from Lexington".
We laughed and Linda said, "Bill, after the prom. We definitely have one thing in common--scheming mammas." We talked and had a great time, forgetting what had happened. Just before we were ready to leave, Luke asked, "Just for the record, Linda, what's your GPA?"
"You know, that was something I had to work hard to keep Mary Kathryn from finding out or she would have blown my cover. I didn't have such a good year last year since I was trying to be a part of THE in-crowd and making grades wasn't tops on their list so it is still pulling my GPA down. I have a 3.6."
We took Eugene to Millie's--to his home--first since it was closest. "I'll walk home after Eugene and I have some time to talk," Larry said as we pulled into Millie's drive.
Millie was waiting for us. Nothing would do but that we go inside. When we introduced Bill, Millie, in her usual tactful manner, asked, "I've seen you play ball, young man. Is that all you can do or do you have a brain as well?"
"He has a 3.7 and takes honors courses with me and Mary Kathryn," Michael said, "but I'm not sure he has a brain". Michael then told Millie what Bill had decided and that he didn't change his mind after he was told about the two couples.
"Young man, you got balls. Glad to have you aboard," Millie said and shook hands with Bill again. "Ok, tell me all we know about this crap at Independence."
We told her all that Linda had found out--and how--and Millie said, "Matt, you're probably lucky you escaped. Beauty and brains is a combination no man can handle. Right Michael?"
"Hey, I'm trapped. You need to be warning Bill who is about to get caught in Linda's web."
"And you'll love every minute of it won't you? Well, anyway Bill, you have an idea who opened the gym? It was one of the coaches," Millie said. "They are the only ones who have keys to the gym doors other than Mr. Vincent, Ms. Jones and Mr Allan. Heads will roll over this--either through the school system or the police or both. Kids, and I include you, maybe especially you, Bill, be careful. Three of those involved have already shown what they are capable of doing and you know how those who suck up to someone will go along with something they would never have the guts to do otherwise. Be careful."
Bill took Linda and Paula home. "I pass both houses on my way home," he said.
When we reached the Larsens', Mary Kathryn got out. "I planned to get some work done today, but I suspect I had better tell Mom and Dad what has happened," Luke said. After a kiss, he said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, it wasn't supposed to be this way."
"But we'll handle it as it comes, Yonghon Tongmu," I replied, kissed him again and said, "Later, Luke".
I took Michael home and he said, "Later, Bro," as he got out.
When I got inside, Mom and Dad were waiting for me. We talked for a while about what had happened. When Dad asked what we planned to do I said, "I know what I'd really like to do and that is get in front of the whole student body and say, "I'm madly, insanely in love with Luke Larsen and he is in love with me. If you don't like that, that's your problem because I don't give a rat's ass what you like or don't like. But I know that's not going to happen. But I am very tired of pretending I am not who I am and that Luke is someone who is nothing more to me than a good friend."
"And just how do you think Luke would react to your doing that?" Mom asked.
"I honestly don't know. I think he might actually be less afraid of doing it than I am."
"And what about Larry and Eugene? They have additional problems of their own and if you and Luke out yourselves, what will they do or think they are expected to do?" Dad asked.
"I don't know. We haven't talked about it. What I'd really like to do is have a family meeting. Tonight. With Larry and his mom and Eugene and Millie included."
"That comes as no surprise to me," Mom said. "I have already called the clan--and Larry's mom and Millie--and suggested that if that's what you four guys wanted, we would like to have them come here after dinner and all sit down and work out what we are all going to do. Millie and Larry's mom were going to suggest their boys get together and decide if they'd like to do that. I suggest you and Luke do the same. When you have decided, let us know and whatever you decide, we'll support."
I knew what I wanted Luke to say, but I couldn't make the decision for him and I didn't want to influence him one way or the other. I loved him too much to even seem as if I was pressuring him. I drove to the Larsens and walked to the door slowly because I might not want to hear what Luke had to say.
Gabrielle called as I walked in, "Luke's in his room. I'm sorry about this mess," she said as I started up the stairs.
When I walked in, Luke was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. "Luke, Mom and Dad were waiting for me and we had a talk about how you and I--Larry and Eugene as well--are going to handle the school situation."
"You know what I'd like to do? I'd like to have a video in which I said, "I'm Luke Larsen. I'm gay. I'm in love--absolutely teetotally in love with Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf."
I grabbed Luke and gave him the most passionate kiss I could possibly manage. "Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen, I love you beyond all bounds! That's almost exactly what I told Mom and Dad I wanted to do. I'm tired of pretending I'm someone I'm not and I'm tired of worrying that someone will discover the most important thing on this earth to me--that you love me and I love you."
"So what are we actually going to do?"
"The whole family--and Larry and Eugene, Millie and Ms. Watley have been put on alert. Millie and Ms. Watley are going to have Eugene and Larry talk about the situation and, if they want to, to join in a family meeting tonight. That is if you want one."
"Of course I want one. Dad hasn't come home yet. It's a big step for Dad to have to sit down and face the fact that his son is not only gay, but is known to be gay. I just don't know what to expect."
"I guess I'll go back home then so you can talk with Gabrielle and Jens when he gets home. See you later, Yonghon Tongmu."
Luke kissed me softly, looked into my eyes and said, "We'll live through this too, Matt, Babe."
"You better believe it, Light of my Life."
When I got back home, Mom was on the phone. When she finished her conversation, she said, "Millie told me Eugene had gone to Larry's and they were going to talk and then talk to Larry's mom. She is pretty sure Eugene was ready to broadcast his relationship with Larry, but he wasn't sure how Larry would feel about it. Seems to me those two guys have problems enough without this."
"I guess we all do," I responded, "but it had to happen sooner or later. I'm just worried about how Jens will take all this."
"You're not the only one," Dad said.
Supper was a pretty silent affair as I am sure all three of us were engaged in our own thoughts. I know I was. I remembered what Ms. Jones had said about teenage romanticism and I guess I was realizing that she was very right. I had dreamed--literally--of announcing to the world that I was in love with Luke and in my dreams, everyone listening cheered. But this was no dream and I had seem [seen] how some people viewed our love--faggot, cocksucker, buttfucker, fudgepacker. Don't tell me sticks and stones might break my bones, but words would never hurt me. Words cut deep and hurt a lot more than a broken bone or two. And while I would never use the terms buttfucker or cocksucker, I guess they were just crude ways of talking about making love as Michael was crude when he talked about fucking--and I was, damn it, innocent!
As soon as supper was over, I went to my room and lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling. I felt as though my whole world could come crashing down on me any minute. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I almost missed feeling Luke's approaching presence. He climbed through the window just as I realized he was nearby.
Luke came and lay beside me, saying nothing. As soon as I turned to look at him, he faced me and said, "Matt, Dad is really upset. He really wasn't ready for me to be out to everyone and I expected he would give me hell about that, but he didn't. He just said, 'I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. I wish it had been later. Somehow or other I expected it to happen after you were out of high school and didn't have to put up with a lot of shit every day. I'm sorry, Son, I'm really sorry that your last few weeks in high school are going to be hell.' He hugged me and I saw big tears in his eyes. He looked me squarely in the eyes and asked, 'Is it really worth it, Luke? Is it really worth the hell you know you're going to go through?' Matt, I was shocked at his question. I had almost killed myself--hell, I would have except I screwed up and failed--and he wanted to know if loving you was worth enduring what some jock assholes would say--or do. I looked at him like he was nuts. 'Dad, if it was worth dying for, it's sure as hell worth living for,' I said. He hugged me again and said, 'Then, by God, love him and to hell with those who don't know love when they see it'. I almost fainted."
We hugged each other tightly. "God, Luke, I was so worried, so very worried at what Jens' reaction might be. I knew Mom, Dad and Gabrielle would take it in stride, but Jens...."
"Yea, I know. Me too. But I never expected it to be what it was. Never."
"As if I didn't know, what are you going to do?"
"The same as you, Matt, I'm going on with my life and I am going to love you. I expect to go about my business at school the same as I have except if I want to hold hands with you I will and if I want to kiss you, I will--so long as I don't get caught by a teacher--just as I would if you were the homecoming queen."
"You better not be caught kissing any homecoming queen or you'll get the same treatment Michael would get if your charming sister caught him kissing the homecoming queen!"
We both had a good laugh at the mental picture that conjured up. I kissed Luke and said, "Well, I guess we may as well go down and see what transpires at yet another family meeting about two sons of the family being in love with each other."
"Actually, from what I heard Mom say on the phone, I think this will involve four sons in love. Millie and Eugene, Larry and Ms. Watley are coming. Dad said he told Margaret and David they could skip with their big day coming up, but both said they would be here."
As Luke and I walked down the stairs I said, "Luke, who do you think will be in charge of this meeting since Millie will be here?"
"I'm betting on Greywolf."
"Even money. What's the bet?"
"Winner gets to pick where he sleeps tonight!"
"Make it Saturday night and it's a bet! Think I'll be pretty busy tonight."
When we got downstairs everyone was there. The two couples were sitting on the floor, one sitting between the other's legs. Luke and I joined them with me sitting between his legs. "Before we get into what needs to happen, everyone needs to know just what has and what has not happened," Greywolf said.
Luke leaned over and whispered in my ear, "In your bed tomorrow night, Loser". Man, I like losing bets like that!
Among us, we told the whole story of what had gone on, including our meeting with Ms. Jones and Bill's decision. "He knows about you four?" Greywolf asked.
"He does," Mary Kathryn said.
"I suppose Yong Jin and Greywolf know things we don't," Millie said, "and there are a few aspects of the situation I can address. Others I cannot".
Yong Jin said, "I really know more now than I did before. I guess all I can add is that students seem pretty equally divided between those who were outraged and those who seemed to think it was a funny prank. I heard very little talk I would consider homophobic, but I wouldn't expect to, not only because I am a teacher, but also because I am Matt's mom."
"Well, the paint cans are in the hands of the police and I know the sheriff is hot to get the ones who were involved with Gregory. He saw Gregory after he was raped and was more than a little upset when they got off so light. On the one hand, it's unfortunate that all five have had a birthday since their trial in juvenile court, so their records are sealed and can't be used against them. On the other hand, it's good because this time they are facing hard time," Millie said.
"According to Linda, three of the five who raped Gregory were involved in this--Jake Hilliard, Danny Elrod and Buddy Johnson. Along with them were Orie Greenley and two of his hangers-on, Marshall Tucker and Mickey Hansen. The six messed up the posters after someone left the gym door unlocked," Mary Kathryn said. "She said Orie didn't know who, but Jake called someone to get the door unlocked."
"Well, all the teachers know who has keys--Ms. Jones, Mr. Allan, Mr. Vincent and the coaches. You can forget about Ms. Jones, Mr. Vincent and Mr. Allan. It had to be one of the coaches," Greywolf said. "But which one?"
"That's the big question," Millie said. "We can't just accuse them all. I suspect one--maybe all--resented Mr. Allan's stand at the protest and may well be jealous of his new position. Plenty of motive for wanting to start something, especially if it would make Ms. Jones and Mr. Allan look bad. That's why I have kept a low profile. I don't want to even suggest they can't handle this because I know they can and will," Millie said, then laughed, "Spoken like a real president of the school board. But I think we need to play this down as much as possible because I think, given enough rope, the whole bunch will hang themselves."
"My thoughts exactly," Jens said. "If it can be handled as a non-issue, I am willing to bet the six can't resist something else."
"Jens, I think you are forgetting something. I'm all for catching the rats, but I'm not sure I want these four, or really all five, young men to be the bait. We're dealing with at least three nut cases who have already abused and raped a young man. And I wouldn't be surprised if Orie and his hoods wouldn't go along with whatever the other three decide to do, especially since they apparently have the support of a teacher," Gabrielle said.
"Point well taken," David said. "I was just going to say we need to remember that spray painting posters might have been a prank had it not been for the words and who did it. Those three are capable of just about anything."
"Matt and I were talking about being relieved that we didn't have to hide any more. Man, I guess Ms. Jones was right about teenage romanticism. I know that I was thinking we'd just walk in and say, 'We're in love!' and everybody would think it was great. Shit!"
"Just about the same thing Eugene and I were thinking. Damn, even his dad beat him to a pulp and we thought school would be all rosy. We're four dumb-shits, aren't we?"
"No, you're just teenagers in love. That's all. You live in a dream world a lot of the time--it's normal--but right now, it's also dangerous," Margaret said.
That brought six teenagers back to earth in record time as evidenced by the sudden quiet in the room and the fact that all three sitting behind their beloved had put their arms around them and pulled them close. "I never thought about there being any danger beyond words," Mary Kathryn said. There were five nods of agreement.
"I want you six to realize just how much danger there might be--and you really need to talk with Linda because I believe she thinks she knows what Orie may decide to do if she keeps leading him on, but it's worse than that. Sheriff Putnam is so worried about what the six are capable of doing, and might do, that he is putting four people in the school undercover. He borrowed them from the hate crimes force in Lexington. Two are "new students" who look the part. It just happens one plays on one of the police league's basketball teams. The other is obvious football material and will surely be approached soon by one of the football coaches. The others are older and are new custodians. They will do their best to keep an eye on you six," Millie told us.
"What is Mr. Vincent going to think about that?" I asked. "Won't he think his job is being questioned? I sure don't want that to happen to him." Again five heads nodded agreement.
"He knows all about it by this time. Ms. Jones called him in and told him how much she appreciated what he was doing in regard to this crapola," Millie said. "He will help keep the two placed where they are most valuable. Now you six listen to me and listen very carefully. You are to appear as normal as possible, but avoid any place where you might be trapped. Guys, you're just going to have to hold it until two or more of you can go. Michael, that's going to be most difficult for you because you are in classes without any of the others--sorry, I forgot the new member of the gang, Bill. Anyway, hold it until you see a custodian around and he--or she if necessary--will make sure the toilets are safe. Eugene, watch going to music. The band room is almost by itself down that long hall. How well do you trust Mr. Smith?"
"All the way. To tell the truth, I suspect he is gay, but I know being gay makes no never mind to him."
"I'll see what we can work out with him about keeping a lookout. Kids, we're doing everything we can to accomplish two things: first and foremost, keeping you safe; and second, catching those jokers who are responsible. I guess that's all I can say right now."
"Guys, how have you decided to handle the situation?" Greywolf asked.
"I know what we would like to do, but it wouldn't be wise even in ordinary circumstances--we would all like to be as open as Mary Kathryn and Michael. But even before Millie pointed out just what we were up against, I think we pretty much decided we would just carry on as if nothing had been said. We'll still be careful about showing our true relationship and if people ask, well, I think we'll just ignore that too," Luke answered for the four of us and we all nodded.
In the end, I felt good about the support we had, and especially from Jens. When the family meeting broke up, everyone went home expect the Gang of Four. I turned out the porch light as the four of us went outside to say our goodnights. Before our final kiss, Luke whispered in my ear, "I'll be collecting my bet tomorrow night, so be ready. Now I guess I better get moving since I've got to get to Lexington as early as I can so I can get back for the rehearsal." Our last kiss was long and passionate, but tender and filled with love. Why did people resent that? Why did people hate us for loving? I just didn't understand how anyone could see anything wrong or evil with the unquestioned love I had for Luke and he for me.
When I got up the next morning and looked, the Jeep was no longer at the Larsens'. I dressed and went down for breakfast. After breakfast, Mom took me in to town and we picked up Eugene and Paula. The three of us worked at St. Mary's until lunch. Once again we got more accomplished than I dreamed we would. When Mom came to pick us up, I asked that she take Paula and Eugene home and come back by for me. I wanted to just walk around a while by myself. She came back and picked me up and when we got back home, lunch was ready. Just after we sat down for lunch, the doorbell rang. "I'll get it," I said as I got up and went to the door. When I opened the door I couldn't believe my eyes. I just stood there with my mouth open until I was finally able to ask, "Michael, what on earth has happened to you?"