After school, we stopped by the hospital on our way to work. We were not too thrilled about going to work since we would still be working on the "cat house", but at least most of the odor should be gone. When we reached the nurses' station, the charge nurse told us Jonathan had asked that Jason see him before Hank and I went in.
Jason went down the hall to Jonathan's room while Hank and I talked with the nurse. She kept telling us that while Jonathan asked to talk to Jason first, he was worried that we might be offended. "I assured him you wouldn't be, and that what you wanted was whatever helped him."
While we were talking, Hank tapped me on the shoulder and nodded toward Jonathan's room. I turned and saw Jason motion for me. When Hank and I started walking toward the room, Jason shook his head. It took a minute for us to get what Jason wanted. He only wanted me. Hank went back to the nurses' station and I walked over to Jason. When I reached him he took a deep breath and said, "Doug, I sure hope you trust me 'cause I have gone' way out on a limb." Jason put his arm around my shoulders and guided me into Jonathan's room and closed the door.
Jonathan was lying on his side, facing away from the door, as usual. His back looked better, but was still a mess. We walked around the bed to where Jonathan could see us. "Jonathan, this is Douglas, my boyfriend, my love, the reason life is worth living." Having said that, Jason took me in his arms and kissed me passionately.
I was shocked beyond belief, and when he broke our kiss I spluttered, "What the hell?? Jason, what do you mean!!! What's going on here?"
Jason and Jonathan took turns relating Jonathan's story. Jonathan blushed and admitted he had a crush on another Coldsprings freshman. "But he doesn't even know I exist," Jonathan said. "I wrote him a love note--really mushy--just fantasizing, daydreaming... you know." I nodded. "Anyway, I had no intention of giving him the note and, in fact, thought I had thrown it away but I hadn't. I put it in my math notebook and forgot all about it."
"Last week I was working on my math project and the note fell out of my notebook without my noticing it. The next day my mother found it and gave it to my father. When I came home from school, my father, mother and Brother Leader confronted me about it."
Jonathan stopped speaking as tears started running down his face. Jason was holding his hand and stroking his hair. "It was obvious the letter was to a guy and not a girl," Jason said. "Had it not clearly been to a guy, Jonathan might have escaped but he didn't. He didn't deny anything, but he didn't admit anything either."
Jonathan took a deep breath and said, "Brother Leader started praying loudly--shouting--and pounding me on the back; he said to beat the devil out of me. He was hurting me and I couldn't stand the shouting and pounding. I just wanted it to stop, so I admitted I had written the note and said I didn't mean it and wouldn't do it again. In spite of all I could say, the three accused me of writing other notes and doing all sorts of things--things I hadn't even fantasized about--with 'some other faggot'." Again, Jonathan choked up.
Jason continued for him, "Brother Leader is what the Circle of God's Chosen, the group in Sadies Cove, call their leader. The 'praying' and shouting got louder and louder as Jonathan tried to escape, but Brother Leader grabbed him and told his father and mother the situation required severe measures."
Jonathan was able to speak again and said, "Brother Leader told my father, 'Your son is doomed to hell's fire unless we can chase the devil out of him and rescue his soul. Scripture says, "Spare the rod and spoil the child"--and sparing the rod not only spoils the child, it also damns his eternal soul to the fiery depths of hell.'"
Jonathan then told how his father had taken off his belt--one of those with a huge, gaudy crucifix on the buckle--and started beating him. Jonathan didn't know how long the beating went on because he finally passed out. When he came to, he was lying on the side of the road, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. Someone--he guessed his sister--had thrown a windbreaker over him. He put that on and started walking. He didn't know how far he had walked before he collapsed in the ditch where we had found him.
"From where he says he lives to where we found him is eight-ten miles," Jason said.
By the time Jason and Jonathan had finished, I was crying. I guess Jason had gotten his crying done before I came in. "Doug, I told Jonathan we will see what we can do about getting him someplace to stay. He knows that he is different from most guys, but not all guys," Jason smiled and kissed my cheek, "in loving a man. I guess we are lucky that we have each other, but he knows the boy he has a crush on is as straight as an arrow. I hope you are not mad because I told him about us."
"No. Not if he can keep a secret."
"I promise I will, Douglas. I promise, I promise," Jonathan said, clutching my hand.
"I know you will," I said, as I started to pat him gently on the shoulder, then realized it had been beaten raw and was not completely healed.
"Jonathan, we have to go to work now. We can't stop back by because we'll smell like tom cats," Jason laughed, then told Jonathan about the "cat house". Jonathan actually smiled at Jason's story.
"We'll stop by as soon as we can, I promise," I said.
As we walked toward the nurses' station where Hank was standing, Jason whispered, "Now we have to come up with a story for Hank. I hadn't thought about that."
When we reached the nurses' station, Jason asked Hank, "Ready to get to work, Bud?"
"We finished here?" he asked.
"Yeah, tell you what we can in the Jeep," Jason said.
When we got in the Jeep, I said, "Hank, Jason didn't mean to push you out back there, but Jonathan is part Indian and he decided he could trust me and Jason. I'm sure he'll trust you soon. Right now all we can tell you is that his family has disowned him and his own father was the son of a bitch who beat shit out of him and left him in the snow to die. I hope you know we just can't talk about things he doesn't want us to."
"I understand, but just knowing what I do, the bastard who beat him and left him in the snow ought to be hanged," Hank said. "I said it before and I mean it: I don't care what Jonathan did, no-one has the right to treat another human being like that. We have a project caring for Jonathan."
I only hoped he meant it should he ever find out what had gone on. What did I mean "Should he ever find out"? He'd find out all right. I just hoped it would not be before we were ready to deal with the question of sexuality-- Jonathan's and ours.
The three of us worked hard scrubbing walls in the "cat house". The chemical used to get rid of the odor had helped tremendously, but it was still pretty bad. Jake had left clean coveralls for us so we once again stripped and put them on. We worked until after 7:00 and when we finished, showered as we had done Saturday.
On our way home, we talked about Jonathan, again. "I meant it when I said we have a project," Hank said. "We just have to find Jonathan a place to live so he can get out of the hospital and then we can tackle other problems. Hey, he can move in with me since you didn't take up my offer, Jason. I'll tell my parents tonight."
"Don't you think you need to know more about his situation before you just jump in, Hank?" Jason asked.
"What do I need to know? He can't go home because his father tried to kill him. He's in the hospital and needs a place to stay. He's a student at Coldsprings, so I don't think he's guilty of some major crime. No, I'll make arrangements for him to live with us if he wants to." True to his usual approach to a problem, Hank just announced it was solved and, so far as he was concerned, it was.
When we reached Hank's place, he said, "Think I'll stay home tonight. I have very little homework to do. I'll watch some TV for a change and then go to bed early. Also talk to the 'rents, of course, about Jonathan. See you two in the morning."
Grandmom had supper ready when we got home and Granddad had done the milking. "Sorry we're late," I said. "We worked on the 'cat house'. Jake wants it done this week if we can. He wants us to work until 7:00 every night if that's necessary."
"That's fine," Granddad said. "I'll take care of your evening chores but I don't want you to allow work to take over."
"We won't," Jason said. "Jake wouldn't stand for it if we did. He keeps telling us to get an education and not end up as he has."
Granddad laughed. "Jake graduated from Chapel Hill in law. After practicing corporate law--very successfully--he decided he wanted to live in the mountains, be his own boss and fly fish when the mood hit. He met a woman who thought that was a good idea, so they married and bought out a tiny cleaning service in Clarksville. They have turned it into a real going concern. In fact, he keeps turning down jobs because he and Gwen, his wife, don't want work to cut into their fishing and roaming the mountains."
"But if he hadn't had the education to practice law, he wouldn't have had the option of doing what he wanted to do," Grandmom said.
"True enough, true enough," Granddad said. "Hear any more about the kid you picked up out of the ditch?" he asked, changing the subject.
While we were eating supper, we told our grandparents what else we had learned about about Jonathan. Well, of course, not everything.
"I can't get over the fact that his family disowned him and his own father beat him half to death," Grandmom said. "Why would a family disown a child? I keep asking myself that and coming up with nothing in the way of an answer."
"How are you going to get out of this one, Jason?" I thought.
"I promised I wouldn't talk about why until he is ready," Jason said.
"I expect you to honor that promise," Granddad said. "He needs someone-- or some ones--he can trust... you break that promise and you'll never get his full trust back, I suspect."
"Well I can say he hasn't done anything bad, very little different from what most freshmen boys and girls do but, yes, they disowned him, beat him."
"Grandmom, you should see his back. It was cut to ribbons by a belt with one of those huge gaudy buckles," I said, hoping to get the grandparents off "why" questions. "It almost makes me sick every time I see it. But he is getting better and can be released from the hospital soon, I think."
"Does he have a place to go when he gets out of the hospital?" Granddad asked. "He surely can't go back to his parents."
"Not yet," Jason said. "There's some legal matters involved and he can stay in the hospital a few more days."
"It is a sorry world when parents beat kids and leave them to die," Granddad said. "I can't imagine anything a high school freshman--who is what, fourteen-fifteen or so?--could do to deserve that. I can't imagine a dog deserving that."
We talked a bit longer over coffee and dessert and then, after cleaning up the kitchen for Grandmom, Jason and I went upstairs to do homework. She told us she would clean up, but she and Granddad had taken care of all our other chores and cleaning up the kitchen didn't take that long.
Unlike Hank, we had a load of homework. Jason and I were getting our concentration back--most of the time--and only glanced at each other now and then. We took our usual break and went downstairs for our nightly snack with our grandparents, then hit the homework again. After we finished with it, Jason said, "I think we need a shower before bed."
"After showering this afternoon?"
"Yeah," he responded with a melodramatic leer while twisting an imaginary handlebar mustache. "I want to have my way with you, my lovely."
There was a lot of hugging and kissing going on in the shower. At one point, we were holding each other's ass cheeks, pulling our hips together, grinding our groins into each other. I knew where it was going to end and, sure enough, Jason's climax hit him and it triggered mine.
We both had to hold on to keep from collapsing in the shower. Once we recovered, we washed and dried each other, then got dressed in boxers and a robe. As we left the bathroom, Jason started singing, "I need your lovin'" as he took my hand and led me to the den.
Jason sat on the couch and pulled me into his lap. After a kiss, he ran his finger around my lips, gave a chuckle and said, "By the way, Lover, that was quick thinking this morning. I was ready to panic and very worried about explaining to Hank why we talked to Jonathan without him."
"I was worried too," I replied, "and the idea popped into my head and I ran with it."
Jason was looking at my chest as a finger circled first one nipple then the other. He looked up into my eyes and asked, "You sure you're not angry about my outing us to Jonathan?"
"Not angry, maybe a bit worried. I just hope he can keep a secret. And what are we going to do about him?"
"Hank thinks he has a solution. Maybe yes, maybe no, but we don't have to worry about it right now."
Soon, anything other than each other was far from our minds but, finally, as always, good things have to come to an end. Reluctantly, we embraced for a last, long, wonderful goodnight kiss, then went to our lonely beds.
I am sure the weather--which continued gray, cool and damp--had a lot to do with the definite lack of spirit among students and teachers. Even the best teachers seemed as if they were just going through the motions all day. Class discussions ground to a halt, and both students and teachers were a bit short-tempered. We were all ready for a break from school, but it wasn't in the cards yet.
Beth, Janie and Sandra joined us at lunch every day now. We were already seated with our food when they arrived. Jason told them we had seen Jonathan the day before and that he was better.
"I found out something about him," Janie said. "His family are members of that strange religious cult, the Circle of God's Chosen, that bought land up in Sadies Cove. You know, that bunch who, a couple years ago, decided the world was coming to an end and built a huge platform where they all stood for three days waiting to be swept into heaven."
"So what happened when the world kept spinning?" I asked.
"What do you think? The leader--he's a preacher I guess--they call Brother Leader, immediately announced they had made a mistake in reading the prophecy and the actual date would be revealed to them later. They are religious nuts and, I think, hate women. They--at least the men--are strong believers in women obeying their husbands and fathers. The men are treated like kings and the women like slaves," Beth said.
"Sounds right to me," Hank was fool enough to say and, by time the words were out of his mouth, Beth and Sandra had put him on the floor and were sitting astride him. Beth was tickling him big time. Hank was pleading for her to stop, but I noticed at least one part of him was having a jolly good time from the size of the tent in his pants.
Beth finally extended a hand to her boyfriend, who grabbed it and gave a sharp pull, causing her to fall on top of him. Hank dodged quickly, protecting the family jewels, then quickly wrapped Beth in his arms and planted a kiss on her lips. Not to be outdone, Beth returned the kiss with interest. But both quickly became prim and proper when Mrs. Fox walked up and said, "Decorum, Children, decorum!"
Once "decorum" was restored to everything--well the tent in Hank's pants indicated there was still one rebellious member--Sandra said, "If the display is over for now," cleared her throat and asked, "Isn't that bunch--that cult I mean--in court now over child abuse?"
"I knew I had heard something recently about them," Janie responded. "Yeah, a teacher in the middle school reported suspected child abuse when a sixth grader came in all black and blue and the social worker brought charges after investigating the situation. The preacher claims parents are free to discipline their children as they please. Case hasn't been tried yet."
When we stopped by to see Jonathan after school, the charge nurse said, "I don't know what kind of medicine you guys have, but Jonathan is a new boy. He is responding very well and his spirit is sure helping his body. Thanks."
"Just a little Indian medicine," Jason smiled.
Hank went into the room with us and Jonathan said, "Glad to see you're not mad at me, Hank," extending his hand to the blond "Indian".
We talked briefly and then went to work. Hank's dad needed him at the music store, so Jason and I got a chance to talk as we worked.
"I talked with Ms. Kennedy about Jonathan's situation without going into details of the why, just the what," Jason said. "He's still a minor so his father and mother still have legal control of him. They can cause trouble for the boy if they want to, calling him an out-of-control minor. On the other hand, they can be charged with child abuse, so they probably would just like to forget him. After all, they disowned him. Ms. Kennedy thinks it all boils down to finding foster parents and getting him with them legally."
"You have something in mind?"
"Not really. He said the doctors have told him he will be in the hospital for several more days. Apparently his father or that preacher--Brother Leader-- injured one of his testicles when he was being beaten. The doctors took some emergency measures, but need to do more. Whatever has to be done will have to have time to heal. Ms. Kennedy talked to his doctor and he said he could keep him in the hospital another week, maybe, but no longer. Of course, Hank thinks he has everything solved. Any other suggestions?" Jason asked.
"Well, I know a man and woman who have taken in strays before. Don't know about another one."
"You have to remember, Doug, Jonathan is gay. We're gay. That could make for a sticky situation. Frankly, I wouldn't want us to even consider his coming to live with us until there was some understanding about that. At least among the three of us. And, of course, we don't have the right to make a decision anyway."
We talked about how to approach our grandparents about our own situation. In fact, we did a lot of talking as we scrubbed walls, but reached no conclusion.
Next morning we decided, after two showers the day before, neither Jason nor I needed another one before school. We just brushed our teeth and hair and got dressed. As soon as we had gotten rid of morning dragon mouth, Jason gave me a kiss which curled my toes. We exchanged another one just before we went downstairs for breakfast.
As we were eating, Granddad said, "Sons, your grandmother and I had a talk last night. We don't want to intrude on your territory, but if that young man doesn't have a place to live we'd be happy to take him in. We haven't done too bad picking grandsons so far."
"Thanks, Granddad," Jason said. "Hank was going to ask about his family taking him in, but it's good to have a back up. Maybe we'll learn something today about when he can get out of the hospital."
I guess Hank got a late start because he didn't show up, so when we were ready we drove to his place. I was thinking about Granddad's offer and said, "Jason, if Hank's family doesn't want to take Jonathan in and he wants to come to our place, we're going to have to decide just how much we tell the grandparents. I sure hope it won't make any difference that he--we--are gay, but I don't know."
"Same goes for Hank," Jason responded, "telling him about us and Jonathan, I mean."
Hank was barely in the Jeep when he told us he had talked to his parents and they were happy to offer Jonathan a place to live. "That means my brother will have to sleep in the guest room when he's home, but he's never home except major holidays. Between getting an education and getting laid, he doesn't have time for us."
"Granddad offered to have him come live with us without our asking," Jason said, "so I guess we can be sure he has a place to live."
At lunch the six of us talked about Jonathan having a place to live, and there was a lot of guessing about why he had been beaten and thrown out of his home, but no-one came close to guessing the real reason. I'll admit, Jason and I gave the other four some interesting paths to follow, leading nowhere near the truth.
At the beginning of last period, when the three of us usually left school, Ms. Kennedy paged Jason and me. Hank went to her office with us and she invited him in as well. "I've been busy trying to get something in process for Jonathan," she said. "Social services went to see his parents again along with a couple of police officers. The long and short of their visit was the parents signed papers essentially dissolving any relationship to the young man. It's almost like giving him up for adoption.
"The police backed up a threat to jail mother, father and preacher unless they took care of his hospital expenses. When he gets out, there will be a problem with finding a place for him to live. Social services could put him in a group home, except there is simply not an opening right now. Ideally he should be placed with someone who assumes legal guardianship, even better with legal adoption in the future. Any suggestions, since you guys seem to be his guardian angels?"
"Actually, we have already got that worked out. He will be living with us," Hank said.
"And if that doesn't work out, Granddad has offered to have him come live with us," Jason said.
"Gee, I bet social services would like to put you guys on the payroll," Ms. Kennedy laughed. "Hank, I'll call Mr. Dennison and see about getting papers drawn up for your mom and dad to take over legal guardianship of Jonathan if they will. You guys are great."
"We're also good at cleaning up 'cat houses'," Hank ventured.
"Am I sure I want to go there?" she asked with a laugh. Hank told her about our working on the apartment. "Wish we had more guys like you around here. All honor students, holding down a job and doing other things. You three are special."
When we had finished talking with Ms. Kennedy, we drove to the hospital. We didn't see Jonathan since he was in surgery. The nurse said he wouldn't be out for a while and would probably sleep until the morning. We had forgotten about his testicle.
Hank said his dad needed him at the store again, so we dropped him off there and went to the "cat house". We were making good progress on it, which was good because I was really tired of it. I know the cat odor was mostly gone but I could still smell it--probably only imagination, but cat piss does stink. When I said something about wanting to get through, Jason reminded me that I hadn't spent as much time as he had smelling cat piss because I had swim practice for an hour three days a week before I went to work.
We had been working for about an hour when Jason said, "Break time." I was standing on a ladder, taking down light globes to be cleaned. When I turned, I saw Jason at the bottom of the ladder with a can of coke.
One of the first jobs we had done when we started on the kitchen was to clean the refrigerator and stove. Jake told us the lady who lived in the apartment wasn't strong enough to do anything requiring a lot of effort, and didn't see well, so her cleaning left something to be desired. The stove and refrigerator proved that beyond a doubt! Once we got them clean, we had brought a carton of cokes and put in the fridge.
As I climbed down the ladder, Jason said, "We forgot to buy cokes. There's only one. Want to share?"
I laughed and asked, "Aren't you afraid we might catch some strange coke- transmitted disease?"
"From sharing a coke? Not a chance. From this I might catch something," he said as he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a kiss which became more and more passionate. His tongue was all over the inside of my mouth and the taste of Jason filled my being. He broke our kiss, downed about half of the remaining coke and handed the can to me. I finished it off and tossed the can into the sink.
I was leaning against the ladder and pulled Jason to me. Our legs entwined, we were wrapped in each others arms, grinding our hips together as our tongues did battle. I was breathing through Jason's mouth and getting hotter and hotter.
I finally broke our kiss and said, "God, Jason, I love you so much."
"No more than I love you, Doug," he said, his eyes dancing, that special smile of his melting me. He tilted my chin up, looked into my eyes and slowly brought his lips to mine again.
I unzipped the front of his coveralls, slid my hands around him, feeling his bare skin, his tight muscles, his wonderful body. My lips covering his, my tongue invading his mouth, I started to slide his coveralls off when I heard, "What in the fucking hell is going on! Just what are you two up to? Are you two fucking fags??"
Jason and I jumped apart as Hank stormed into the room.
"Shit, I'll leave and let you two suck dick or fuck ass. You guys are supposed to be my friends and you're up here carrying on like fucking faggots. Fuck you two anyway!"