Castle Roland


by Eric Aune


Chapter 3

Published: 8 Apr 14

Ethan rolled over onto his back and stretched out his arms for a few seconds. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked around. He found himself in his room. His eyes were drawn to the 3rd place medal from Saturday's meet. He rolled out of bed and stood up, stretching once again. He headed to the bathroom to get ready for school. After brushing his teeth and taking a shower, he got dressed and headed downstairs to get some breakfast.

He paused as he walked into the kitchen, because he realized he didn't see or hear anyone else and normally his parents would be here getting coffee or something. He looked around and started to be concerned. "Mom! Dad!" He started to walk to the front door to see if either of their cars was parked out front. As he reached the door a pleasant voice stopped him. "Hello Ethan."

He stopped with his hand almost on the doorknob. He let his hand drop and turned around to look for the voice. He saw a man in his mid 20's sitting in a chair, calmly gazing at him with a faint smile on his face. The man was dressed in a button down tan shirt and khaki slacks. His brown hair was combed straight back. The man gestured to the couch, "Please, come in and sit."

Ethan just looked at him, worry and confusion on his face. "Who…who are you? Where are my parents?"

The man merely gestured for him to sit once again. "Please. I mean you no harm. I just want to talk." Ethan stared at him, but stayed standing right where he was.

The man looked at him before nodding his acceptance. "Very well, my na…."

Ethan interrupted him, "Where are my parents? What have you done with them?"

The man held his hands up, "Please allow me to explain and I will answer your questions."

Ethan hesitated but stood there waiting.

The man nodded. "As I was about to say, my name is James. Your parents are fine. The two of us are the only ones here. It is important that we talk. I really think you'll be more comfortable if you sit down and make yourself comfortable."

Ethan ignored his suggestion and continued to stand there.

James shrugged, "Very well. You may find this a little hard to believe but this isn't really a real place. This is simply a place in your mind."

"My mind. What do you mean in my mind?" Ethan nearly shouted.

"Ethan, calm down. Here, I'll show you." He gestured to the flat screen TV mounted on the wall. It flickered and an image came on the screen.

Ethan moved around so he could see the screen better. The image panned forward and he saw that it was him lying in a hospital bed.

Ethan moved closer and without thinking he dropped onto the couch to stare at the scene.

James gave a small smile.

Ethan looked at James with a shocked look. "How did you do that? Is it some sort of special effect?"

"Think about it a little bit, what do you last remember?"

Ethan turned back to watch the TV. He saw a nurse come in the room and check the displays on the machine and going to a computer and make an entry. Ethan looked at himself. He saw the cast on his arm and splint on his leg. A vision of him flying through the air came to him and he remembered the pain he felt as he landed badly. He saw the bandage on his forehead and he remembered seeing the rock by the river for a just a moment before his head slammed into it and he fell into the river.

He looked at James with worry, "Am I dying?"

James smiled and shook his head, "No Ethan, you're going to be fine. You're just unconscious right now. Lucky for you, you have a hard head."

Ethan couldn't help himself and little snort of laughter came out.

James smiled at him and continued, "Right now, you're brain is keeping you unconscious while it rests and repairs itself."

" I'm going to alright? " Ethan asked.

"Sure, you'll be okay in a day or two. Except for the arm and the leg anyway. That will take a little longer. But the real reason we're here is that there is something that is kind of important I want to show you." James gestured at the TV, "Let me rewind a little bit."

The picture rewound just as if someone hit the rewind button, until it stopped to show him floating face down in the water. He gasped as he saw himself floating down the river a short distance until he caught up against some bushes along the riverbank. He was riveted to the TV. Suddenly he heard a voice in the distance yell his name. A short time later he saw a smaller kid come into view. The kid waded into the water and grabbed Ethan. He saw the kid had laid him on the bank and looked at him for a moment. Then he saw the kid bend over him and start giving him mouth to mouth. He saw himself cough up the water after a few moments. The next thing he saw was the kid lifted him up onto his back and carried him up the steep slope and lay him down by the side of the road. The kid finally looked up and he could see who it was. It was Chase.

He couldn't help himself, he smiled as he looked at his friend. Suddenly he felt his eyes tear up as he started remembering all the things that they used together. They were best friends then.

James smiled as he watched Ethan. "As you can see Ethan, Chase came to your rescue. In fact, he saved your life. If he hadn't been there, you would have died."

Ethan nodded in agreement. "I haven't seen him for…I don't know how long."

"Three years. For three years he's been invisible to you."

Ethan looked at James, a surprised expression on his face.

James nodded, "Three years. The last time the two of you got together was the summer you were both twelve, now you're both fifteen, that's three years."

Ethan looked down at the floor.

"Here let me show you how it happened." Ethan looked up and James pointed at the TV again.

Ethan turned back to watch. For the next few minutes, James showed him how over time, Chase got pushed to the background. He saw that as he got involved with sports, he drifted away from Chase. At the beginning of the pictures that flowed by, Chase was right there nearby, but as time went by, his athlete friends kind of got between them. He saw the look on Chase's face when Ethan ignored him. It seemed that slowly over time, Chase's head and shoulders seemed to droop a little as he walked away one more time after Ethan ignored him. One of the last things he saw was Chase sitting behind him in World History. His mouth dropped open. He hadn't even realized that Chase was in the same class with him. He felt bad that he had treated someone who had been his best friend so badly. There were tears in his eyes.

"You know Ethan, Chase thinks he's invisible. That's how he feels. As you can guess, he really misses the friendship that you two had and he would really like that back. Let me show you one more thing. This is something that is very special." James gestured at the TV once again and the picture flickered again until it showed the hospital room again.

He saw Chase come into view from the side of the picture. He watched as Chase glanced away from his sleeping body and then he took Ethan's hand and held it. Then he saw Chase lean down and kiss him. Ethan jerked upright when he saw that and put his hand to his mouth almost like he could feel that kiss. Next he heard Chase say that he loved him before he walked away. The TV went dark.

Ethan turned to James and pointed at the TV. "He kissed me. Chase kissed me. Is he a g…gay?" he said as he stumbled over the word.

James looked at him before answering. "That is something he will have to answer. I can't answer for him."

Ethan stood up and started pacing. "How am I going to look at him, knowing he kissed me?" He stopped and looked at James. "Do you know that I was going to go over to his house? After I had watched the river for a little while, like he and I used to do when we were younger. That's how I crashed. I was going to pull out my cell phone and call home to let them know that I was going to go over to Chase's house. I wasn't paying attention and I hit something that caused me to crash."

"I know and there's no reason for you not to reconnect with him. He misses your friendship so much."

Ethan looked at him, "But he kissed me. I'm not…that way. I can't be."

James stood up, "Well, that's the beauty of all this. You're not going to exactly remember this little conversation we just had and what I showed you. You may remember the feelings and maybe someday, you may remember some of this, but it will feel like a dream to you even then. Something barely remembered."

Ethan stood there absorbing everything that James had said to him. James walked up and put his hands on Ethan's shoulders. "Ethan, you are the way God made you. Gay or straight or whatever, it doesn't matter to him. All he wants is for you to make the right choices and live the life of a good and kind person. How you do all that is up to you."

James turned away and walked over to the front door. "Ethan, you are good person. You are kind, and you're a heck of a runner." Ethan chuckled. "Deep inside, you will do the right thing. I know that you will. It's time for me to leave you now. Good luck, and have a great life, wherever it leads you."

Ethan watched as James opened the door and waved to him before pulling the door closed behind him. For a moment Ethan thought he saw something white that formed behind James' and flared above and to the sides of his back before the door closed. Ethan suddenly felt real tired and he made his way back to his bedroom and stripped down, got in bed and was soon asleep.

When he got up the next day Chase lay there for a few minutes as he remembered the feel of the kiss he had given Ethan. He dreamed a little of how it would be if Ethan would see him once again and he would not be invisible anymore. He finally groaned knowing that nothing was probably going to change and he got up and got ready for the day.

He saw that his dad and mom were sitting at the breakfast table reading the paper, his little brother was in the living room watching TV. He greeted his parents before he went to the cabinet to grab a bowl and some cereal. He was idly reading the cereal box as he ate and after a moment he felt like someone was watching him. He looked up and saw his dad looking at him as if he wanted to ask him a question.

When he saw Chase look up he smiled, "What are your plans today Chase?"

"I'd like to go visit Ethan. if that's okay," he said.

His father nodded, "Sure. I can give you a ride in a couple of hours if you'd like. We would have to wait that long anyway because of visiting hours."

Chase nodded his thanks since his mouth was full. After breakfast he joined his brother in the living room to watch cartoons.

At a little after ten o' clock Chase and his father left for the hospital. When they arrived they saw that Ethan's parents were there and they smiled when they saw Chase.

"Chase, it's so good to see you again." Mary came over and gave him a hug. When she stepped back she kept her hands on his upper arms and smiled at him getting an answering smile from him.

She started pulling him over to the bed. "Randy, can you get the other chair, so Chase can sit with us."

Randy stood up, "I think I want to go get some coffee anyway. Go ahead and take my seat Chase."

Chase nodded, "Thank you Mr. Hicks."

He patted Chase on the back before turning to Dan. "You want some coffee, Dan, I'll buy."

Dan nodded and followed Randy out of the room.

Chase looked at Ethan. He looked like he hadn't moved since Chase had seen him last. He was still lying on his back with the oxygen cannula in his nose. Chase could see that he was breathing slowly and evenly. Chase looked at Mary, "How is he doing?"

"He's doing okay, really. He just hasn't woken up yet."

Chase nodded and turned his attention back to Ethan. While they sat there Mary asked about how he had been doing and he told her everything was fine.

Five minutes later Randy and Dan came back with the coffee. Mary saw them and she got up to join them outside the room, leaving Chase to sit with Ethan. Once the door was closed he reached out and held Ethan's hand. With his other hand he reached up and brushed Ethan's hair back from his forehead. He let his hand drop and just looked at Ethan.

He took Ethan's hand in both of his. He remembered seeing on a TV show that people in a coma could hear you so he kept talking. "C'mon Ethan, come back to us. You have'ta get better." He glanced down at Ethan's foot. "I guess you won't be running anytime soon, huh bud. Maybe you'll get better before track season. I hope you do. You just have'ta open your eyes, that's all." He leaned forward after glancing at the closed door and once again gently kissed Ethan. Then he laid his head down and rested it on their joined hands. He silently prayed for Ethan to be alright.

After a few moments he felt something change. He felt Ethan's hand tighten a little in his. He lifted his head up and looked down at the joined hands and he saw Ethan's hand close a little more around his hand. He jerked his head up and he saw more movement in Ethan's eyes and then his eyelids started fluttering and slowly, he opened them and looked around. Chase was so excited he let go of Ethan's hand as he jumped up and ran to the door.

He yanked it open and saw his dad and Ethan's parents just down the hall. He ran to them with a huge grin. "He's awake. Ethan's eyes opened."

Randy and Mary hurried past Chase and into the room. He and his dad followed behind them.

In the room, they saw Randy reach over and push the call button for the nurse. In moments a nurse pushed past Chase and his dad. She glanced at Ethan before going over to a phone and calling for the doctor. Once she hung up the phone she gently ushered Ethan's parents away from the bed.

"I need to check him over, would you mind waiting outside for a few minutes. The doctor should be here in a few moments." They nodded and stepped back as the nurse pulled the curtain shut around his bed. A few moments later the doctor came in and the nurse asked them to wait outside.

They gathered there and Chase was having a hard time holding back his emotions, not wanting to embarrass himself. He looked at his dad, "I'm ready to go now since Ethan's going to be alright."

His dad looked at him curiously before nodding.

Dan turned to Randy and Mary. "We're going to get going now. I'll talk to you later. We're very happy for you and Ethan."

They nodded their thanks and shook hands, Mary gave Chase a hug. Chase and his dad turned away and left for home.

Later that evening, Dan received a phone call from Ethan's parents. They gave him the news that Ethan was going to be okay, although he would be laid up for the next few weeks with his broken arm and dislocated ankle while they healed.

That night, before Chase went to bed, he did something he had not done for a long time. He prayed and gave thanks that Ethan was going to be okay. He was happy, but there was a little undercurrent of unhappiness. He guessed that now he would be invisible again at school the next day.

At school, there was talk about how Ethan had been hurt. Some of the rumors were way out there, such as he had been hit by a semi and his leg had to be amputated and that he would never run again. Another was that he had been shot by some gang bangers in retaliation for his beating the runners of a rival school at one of the cross country events, but even wounded Ethan rode his bike to the hospital to get help.

There were a few people that were upset about his injuries, because that meant he would not be able to take part in the upcoming championship and the team might not score as well without one of their best runners. Ethan was popular and not just because of his athletic ability. He was a nice guy, good looking and well built. There were many girls who would love to be his girlfriend and probably a few guys as well, especially one of them, but Chase knew Ethan would not be interested in an invisible person like him.

Chase listened to what people said about the accident, but since he was mostly invisible to everyone, he just kept to himself. No one would believe the truth from him, he was no one special. Some of the stories were so out there that he could barely contain the laughter when he heard them, he merely ducked his head down to hide the smile on his face.

By Tuesday the local paper printed a story about his accident and injuries. It was listed in the sports section, because with Ethan out of the picture the question was posed as to whether the team would do as well without him. When Chase heard about the article he brightened up a little, figuring his name would be in there as having saved Ethan's life. He might not be so invisible anymore. As the story circulated, he was a little disappointed that no one mentioned his name.

Chase never really read the paper other than the comics. Although he had cut some articles about Ethan and the cross country team to put in his scrapbook. When he got home Tuesday afternoon, he excitedly looked for the paper and found it lying on the kitchen counter. He looked through it, but couldn't find the sports section. He figured his dad might have taken it to work with him. He was anxious as he waited for his dad to come home.

When he heard his dad's car drive up he got up from the dining room table where he was doing his home work and as soon as his dad was in the house he went over to him. "Dad, do you have the sports section for today's paper?"

He stopped for a moment, "No, I don….wait, yeah I think I do." He carried his computer case over to the table and opened it up. He rummaged around for a moment before pulling it out and handing it to Chase. "It was busy at work today, I didn't get to read it today." He smiled as he handed it to Chase.

"Thanks Dad."

Chase took the paper and sat down at the table spreading it over his home work as he started scanning through the section until he found the short article.

Madison High Cross Country Athlete Injured in Bike Accident

Alan Masters

Ethan Hicks, the 15 year old sophomore, who is a member of the Varsity Cross Country team from Madison High, who most recently was instrumental in the team's win at the recent Valley League Cross Country Championship, was injured Saturday near the Cooper River bridge when he lost control of his bicycle and fell down onto the rocks of the riverbank. He was found by a young boy who summoned help with the aid of a passing motorist. Ethan's injuries include a broken arm and a dislocated ankle.

With this injury he will, of course, be out of action for the upcoming regional championship. Coach Mark Henry was asked what he thought the team's chances were without Ethan. "We have a strong team, even though the loss of Ethan will be felt, we believe we have the heart and ability to do well in the Regional's. The entire team wishes Ethan a speedy recovery and look forward to his future participation on the team." His parents were contacted and they said that he would be well enough to return to school next week. Ethan was quoted as saying "He couldn't wait to get well so he could get ready for track season."

Chase frowned when he finished reading the small blurb. He was disappointed that all that was said was that a young boy had helped Ethan. His name wasn't even mentioned. He closed the paper and shrugged, he guessed he was still invisible. He thought Ethan or his parent's might have said something about him, but he guessed not. They must have forgotten about him. He went back to his homework.

The next day at school there was a huge get well banner for Ethan on a table in the hall near the administration offices, where anyone that wanted to could sign their name. Chase saw that several of Ethan's cross country teammates were around the banner calling people to come and sign the banner. "Everyone come and sign the banner for Ethan," they yelled.

Chase went over to it and got a pen out of his backpack and wrote "I hope you get well soon, your friend Chase Evans."

He was glad to see so many people were signing it. He heard the team members say that they were going to take it over to Ethan's house that afternoon after practice. Chase thought that maybe he should go, but he looked at the runners and figured that since he was invisible, no one would see him anyway.

Ethan was kept in the hospital until Wednesday morning. The doctors were concerned about the effects of a concussion and wanted to monitor him for a couple of days before he was allowed to go home. After a final round of tests he was discharged with instructions to his parents to bring him back right away if he had any severe headaches or double vision.

Ethan was happy to be home again. He had been fitted with a walking boot to immobilize his ankle and crutches. Once he was home his parents had him lay on the couch with his foot up and the boot off. He soon dozed off.

He woke up later that afternoon when the doorbell rang. His mom answered it and smiled as she ushered in his teammates and friends, Adam, Rick, Scott, Mike and Brandon.

Brandon had a large roll of paper in his hand.

They all came over and bumped fists with him. He looked better, the bruise on his head had gotten a little better, but he was still a little awkward with the cast and the splint on his ankle.

"Hey dude. How're you doing?" Adam asked him.

"I'm okay, a bit banged up, but okay. I'm sorry I won't be with you guys at Regional's."

Scott waved him off, "No sweat dude. You just get well. Which reminds me, let's unroll the banner."

Rick, Scott and Brandon unrolled the paper that Brandon had in his hands. It was about eight feet long and there were signatures all over it.

Ethan smiled as he looked at it. "Thanks guys, this is awesome. Tell everyone tomorrow that I'll see them on Monday."

Mike took his backpack off and pulled out some papers and handed it to Ethan, "This is your homework, so you don't get behind."

Ethan gave them a mock scowl, "Gee thanks guys," he said sarcastically.

They laughed at him. His mom came in with some cokes and chips for everyone. They spent the next hour or so sitting together and watching TV before it was time for them to go home.

After dinner that evening, he and his parents were looking at the banner. "Oh, isn't that nice," she said.

"What mom."

She pushed the paper over to him and showed him one signature. "See, Chase signed it too."

Ethan wrinkled his brow for a moment as he thought about who Chase was until he saw what had been written, "I hope you get well soon, your friend Chase Evans."

He smiled when he realized who it was. "Oh yeah Chase. That's cool. Man I haven't talked to him in a long time."

"That's what he said dear, when we talked to him on Saturday at the hospital."

Ethan looked at her curiously, "He was at the hospital? Is he okay?"

She smiled at Ethan. "Well of course, he only had a few scrapes and bruises, after everything he did. It was so nice to see him and his parents again."

"What happened to him?"

She raised an eyebrow, "You know, how he saved you."

Ethan sat up, "He…he saved me?"

She nodded and placed a hand on his knee, "I'm sorry honey, I thought we told you. It was Chase who found you in the river and pulled you out. He gave you mouth to mouth because you weren't breathing when he pulled you out. Then he carried you up the bank and flagged down a passing car who called 911. If it wasn't for Chase, you might have drowned."

Ethan was shocked. He didn't know how close he came to dying. He thought he had just been knocked out when he fell down the riverbank. In all the bustle of treating him at the hospital, everyone forgot to tell him about Chase.

"Wow. I guess I should thank him when I see him."

His parents nodded. "We are very grateful to him. I hope you will invite him over some time. Maybe sometime next weekend he and his family can come over for dinner. You can ask him next week at school."

Ethan nodded absently as he looked once again at Chase's words.

That evening, back in his room, he rummaged through his closet and finally located a small photo album. He sat back on his bed and leafed through it. In it were pictures from when he was younger. He smiled as he saw him and Chase in many of them. They had been best friends throughout grade school. He was a bit puzzled about how they drifted apart in middle school.

Little by little other pieces started to fall in place. He started thinking and images came back to him. He saw how he got wrapped up in sports and he started hanging out more with the other athletes. Then he remembered more recent events and the blond haired kid kept coming into his thoughts, until he realized that it had been Chase all that time. Cheering for him at the meets and hanging around during the practices. He remembered seeing Chase at school a few times. Then he remembered something else, he figured it was just something that he hadn't consciously thought about, but he remembered that Chase was in his World History class. He was surprised that it hadn't registered until just now that he shared a class with Chase and hadn't even realized it until now. He was a little bummed that he hadn't kept the friendship up, but he told himself that he would talk to Chase on Monday, when he went back to school and thank him for everything he did.

The rest of the week at school was just like every other day for someone as invisible as himself, but Chase was glad that Ethan was going to be okay. He looked forward to seeing him when he came back on Monday. He figured he would have to look at him from afar as usual, but he figured that was the best he could do. Maybe one day things will be different and he would be seen once again.

Ethan got to work on his homework, since it was a little boring after awhile at home. At least he had all of his books at home since the accident had happened on the weekend. Several of his friends came by each day, to bring assignments so that he could keep up. He was able to catch up in no time and as Monday drew near, he was looking forward to getting out of the house and back to school. With practice he was able to move around fairly well on the crutches, even with his broken arm. He found it easier to just use one crutch to help walk than with both, because the cast didn't let him grip the handle very well. Monday morning he was ready to go and his mom gave him a ride to school, since his bike was still messed up and he couldn't ride one yet anyway.

Chase was excited to be able to see Ethan again and waited near the entrance after he locked his bike up in the cage. He saw Ethan's teammates nearby as well. Finally, Ethan got out of his mom's car and put his backpack on. He then put the crutch under his arm and made his way up the walk to the entrance. Chase watched as Ethan's friends ran up to him and quickly surrounded him, slapping him on the back and bumping fists. Ethan was smiling and laughing with them as they made their way into the school. Chase gave a little wave, but Ethan was distracted by his friends and didn't see it. Chase shrugged, still invisible and went off to his first class.

At lunch, Chase went over to where he usually sat down at the outside lunch patio. He looked up at a commotion at the cafeteria exit and saw Ethan coming outside, surrounded by his friends, which included a couple of the sophomore girls, one of which stayed by his side and smiled at him. They sat down together and seemed to be having a good time. The girl, Kristi Jenkins, was sitting close to Ethan. Chase looked away after a little time and looked down at his lunch.

Ethan felt good to be back with his friends. He was laughing and joking about things, when he noticed, sitting at a table at one end of the lunch area, his blond haired friend. He looked at him and saw why he had kind of dismissed him as a sixth grader when he had seen him at practice and the meets. Chase was small for a fifteen year old, because he knew Chase was only a couple of months younger than Ethan.

As he looked at Chase a strange thought came to him, Chase was cute. He shook his head, ["Where did that come from."]. He looked at him for a few moments longer before Kristi got his attention.

"What?" he said as he looked at her.

"I said why don't we go to the movies on Saturday."

He glanced at Chase for a moment, "Uh, I can't, I've got a family thing on Saturday."

She pouted a little for a moment before she smiled, "Okay, maybe next weekend?"

He nodded absently, "Uh, yeah maybe. Look, could you excuse me, I gotta do something."

She was confused, "Sure, I guess."

He smiled as he extricated himself awkwardly from the table.

Getting his crutch under his arm he hobbled up to the roofed, small stage like area at one side of the lunch area. His friends watched in confusion as he climbed up the short steps. Ethan held onto one of the metal roof poles as he looked over the area. He noticed his friends looking at him with a WTF look on their faces. He lifted his crutch and started banging on the pole. It took a few hits to get everyone's attention, but finally it got quiet enough.

He saw that everyone, including Chase was looking at him. Once again he got that strange thought about how cute Chase looked, especially when he smiled like he was right now. When their eyes met, he saw a wary hopefulness behind that smile. He shook his head for a moment and looked away. He failed to see the smile falter.

"Hi everyone." A lot of the kids smiled and waved and he heard cries of "Hi Ethan." He waved a little. "You're probably wondering what I called you all here for." That got him a few laughs and he grinned at everyone. "I'm sure everyone knows what happened to me, although from some of the stories I heard, it's amazing I'm actually standing on two feet, since I supposedly had my leg torn off by a semi when it slammed into me." More laughs.

"Anyway, in truth, I did almost die. When I crashed, besides breaking my arm, dislocating my ankle and finding out that luckily, my head is as hard as a rock and it can take a licking and keep on ticking." He said as he tapped himself on the head and gave everyone a goofy smile, getting him some more laughs. "I also fell into the river unconscious." There were several shocked faces after that pronouncement.

He nodded to acknowledge that what he had just said was true. "Yep, I almost drowned and if I hadn't had someone looking out for me, I would have. That someone was not my guardian angel…or maybe he was. Someone was there that afternoon and he pulled me out of the water and gave me mouth to mouth resuscitation, because I wasn't breathing when he pulled me out. It was lucky for me that he just happened to be there that day. This person is actually one of the best friends I ever had, especially now. But that was something I kinda forgot about for awhile and for that I'm sorry. I can't change what's in the past, but I'd like to make a change now."

He turned to look at Chase, who sat there with a huge grin on his face and Ethan couldn't help but match him with an equally huge grin. "Chase will you come up here."

Everyone's eyes looked to where Ethan was facing and when he realized everyone was looking at him, he turned bright red.

Ethan just stood there with a pleading puppy dog look on his face that looked so pitiful that Chase started giggling. He stood up and walked quickly to join Ethan on the platform. Ethan put out his hand and Chase went to take it to shake hands with him. As soon as their hands met, Ethan pulled him forward into a hug. Chase was shocked for a moment before he tentatively put his arms around Ethan and closed his eyes as he reveled in the feeling of the boy he loved holding him.

Ethan could smell the scent of the shampoo that Chase used on his hair and in his mind he thought it was the best scent he had ever smelled. For a second he almost started rocking the smaller boy, but he caught himself in time and gently pushed Chase away and gazed down at him. He felt himself drawn to Chase's light blue eyes, but again he shook his head as he noticed that Chase's eyes were a little wet. He smiled and maneuvered Chase to stand by his side and draped his arm across his shoulder.

"Everyone, this is my best friend Chase Evans. We've been friends since kindergarten and if it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here. Can I ask you guys to clap for my friend?"

People started clapping, a few even stood up. The teachers who were lunch monitors were clapping as well.

Chase was having a hard time keeping his emotions under control as he looked at everyone clapping for him and the feel of Ethan's arm on his shoulder felt so good.

Ethan looked down at Chase and once again, was drawn to his good looks. He shook his head a little, "Chase, why don't you come and join us?"

Chase looked over at the crowded table and shook his head, "I don't think there's any room."

Ethan looked over at the table and saw that Chase was probably right. "Maybe you're right. Then I'll come and sit with you."

Chase smiled up at him and nodded.

"Cool," Ethan said. "I'll grab my stuff and I'll be right over there."

Chase walked back to where he had been sitting. As he passed some of the tables, people smiled at him and said things like, "Great going Chase," or "Cool, dude." He sat back down and tried to hide the blush to his face. He just wasn't used to all this attention, for a moment he wished he was invisible again, but he quickly dismissed that thought. This way, at least, he was visible to Ethan and that's what counted.

When Ethan got to the table where is friends were sitting, he started gathering his stuff up and Kristi placed her hand on his arm causing him to pause. "Where are you going?"

Ethan smiled at her and shrugged, "I'm going to go sit with Chase."

She felt a little resentment and glanced at the smaller boy sitting across the patio, but she realized that saying anything would not be the right thing right now. She hadn't snared Ethan yet, but she would. She gave him a smile and took her hand off his arm.

He smiled, "I'll talk to you guys later."

Kristi watched as he walked over and sat down next to Chase and the two of them started laughing about something.

Ethan greeted Chase on his way to his seat in World History. During the class Chase got distracted looking at the back of Ethan's neck and smiled. He had a hard time concentrating. After class he walked with Ethan out to where his mom was going to pick him up.

Kristi caught up with them and smiled sweetly at Chase as she looped her arm in Ethan's, "Thank you Chase, for saving Ethan for me. I'm glad you were there to help him. I would be so upset if something had happened to him."

Chase had a tight smile on his face as he answered, "I'm glad I was there. I would feel bad if anything happened to him too."

She gave him another sweet smile and then gave Ethan a peck on the cheek and smiled at him.

Ethan looked at her in surprise and she giggled at him.

Mary drove up about that time and Kristi jumped forward to take his crutch and backpack while he got in the car, before Chase could move. He thanked her for the help.

Chase shrugged and smiled at Mary, "Hi, Mrs. Hicks."

She smiled and waved, "Hi Chase, it's good to see you again." She turned to Ethan, "Did you ask him?"

Ethan got a sheepish look and turned to Chase, "Sorry, I forgot mom," he said before looking at Chase. "My parents want to invite you and your family over for a barbecue on Saturday. Do you think you can come?"

Chase nodded, "Probably, I'll ask tonight."

Ethan smiled, "Cool."

Kristi stood there with an expectant look on her face and Ethan smiled at her, "Thanks for the assist Kristi, see you tomorrow."

He smiled at Chase, "Hey bud, see ya."

Chase nodded, "Yeah see ya."

They bumped fists and Chase waved to Mary again before heading over to the cage to get his bike.

Kristi frowned as she watched Ethan drive away with his mom. Then she turned and glared at Chase's back as he made his way to the cage. She turned around in a snit and headed to the parking lot to get a ride home. She was incensed that Ethan had not asked her to go to the barbecue. He had all but ignored her and instead was all smiles for that little creep. Her lip curled in disgust when she thought of Chase. She wasn't done.

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