Queer Bent Bastard (by Grant Bentley)

Queer Bent Bastard

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing or sport seems familiar it is purely coincidental.

Jason and I had just spent the better part of the afternoon skateboarding all over town. Now, reasonably exhausted, we were lounging around on my back deck, drinking Cokes and munching on some brownies my mom had just finished making. It was a typical Sunday afternoon. For the last six years, Jason and I had spent nearly every free minute together, skateboarding, playing one-on-one, driving my mom or his mom nuts, and just doing whatever. There was nothing we didn’t know about each other…well, almost nothing. This was the day I had decided it was time to change that. After years of lying and hiding who I was, this would be the day I told my best friend my only secret.

“Hey Jas,” I said quietly.

“Yeah?” he asked.

“How long we been buds?” I questioned.

“Like forever, man,” he replied, followed by the question, “Why?”

“I dunno,” I responded.

“Yeah you do,” he said. “What’s goin’ on? You’ve been kinda quiet for a few days now. Somethin’ I should know about? I’m here for you man, you know that.”

“I know, man,” I said.

“Well?” he asked.

“I dunno,” I said again.

“Come on man. If something’s bothering you, tell me. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me,” he responded with concern.

“Nobody can help with this,” I replied.

“Bullshit!” he exclaimed.

“No bullshit man. Nobody can help with it. Nobody can fix it. Nobody can change it,” I stated as my eyes started to tear up.

“What’s goin on Chad? You’re startin’ to scare me here, man,” he almost pleaded.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been fightin’ with this for a few years now. I tried everything. It’s not gonna go away,” I replied.

“Years?” he questioned. “Why didn’t you come to me before? Years? Fuck man, there’s no problem so big it can’t be fixed. Together, the two of us can fix anything.”

I almost laughed when he said that, partly because he was so serious and partly because I knew this couldn’t be fixed. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to fix it, as it was that I needed to tell someone. I was so tired of trying to hide it, of being scared, of feeling alone, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed someone to support me and be there for me. That person, I assumed, would be my best friend. That’s why I had started this conversation and that’s where I hoped it was going.

“I can’t fix it. We can’t fix it,” I said as the tears began to make their way down my cheeks and onto my shirt. “It’s not something that can be fixed.”

“You’re not dyin’ or somethin’ are ya?” he asked, sounding really scared. “You don’t got cancer or somethin’ man? Tell me you’re not dyin’.”

“No, I’m not dying,” I replied.

“Then what the fuck’s goin’ on?” he demanded.

“We’re best buds, right? Friends forever, right?” I asked.

“Fuck yeah, you know that,” he stated. “Forever man.”

“Okay. What can’t be fixed, Jas, is…I’m gay,” I almost whispered.

He just stared at me. No expression, nothing. He just stared. After a minute or so, he stood up and simply walked out of the yard. As soon as he closed the back gate, I started sobbing. I sobbed so hard that at one point, I couldn’t catch my breath and almost passed out. It took my mom about half a minute to come running out onto the deck, wrap her arms around me and try to calm me down. We must have sat there for five minutes before I calmed down enough to start breathing without gasping for air. It was another five minutes before I could even think about talking and answering her questions.

“What’s wrong? What happened? Where did Jason go? Did you two have a fight? Baby, what’s wrong?” she asked.

I didn’t know what to do. I just told my best friend of six years I was gay and he had walked out of my life. I couldn’t risk telling my mother and lose her too.

“Jason just left,” I finally choked out.

“I know that,” Mom responded, “but why? And why are you in such a state?”

“I can’t tell you,” I replied.

“Why on earth not?” she asked.

“Because I’ll lose you too,” I said.

“There is nothing you could say that would cause you to lose me,” she stated. “I’m your mother and I love you. Nothing is ever going to change that.”

“Don’t be so sure,” I said.

“Chad Matthew Bryson!” she exclaimed. “Nothing will ever change how much I love you. Nothing!”

I looked up into her eyes, which at this point were also filled with tears, and whispered, “But I’m gay, Mom.”

A soon as the words left my mouth, she smiled and pulled me into the tightest, warmest hug I think I have ever felt. I immediately started crying again, this time from relief, and Mom cried with me. After a while, Mom released her hug and pulled back.

She gave me a big smile as she said, “Baby, you are my favourite child. I love you, and nothing will ever change that.”

“I’m your only child, Mom,” I responded with a small smile of my own.

“Well, even if you weren’t, you’d still be my favourite,” she said with a grin. “Whatever made you think I would love you any less because you’re gay?”

“I’m sorry,” I replied. “I know I should have known better, but I’ve read so many stories where parents can’t accept it. I guess I was afraid you would be disappointed in me.”

“Why on earth would I be disappointed?” she asked. “It’s not like you chose to be gay. And even if you did, it’s such a small part of who you are.”

“Trust me, I didn’t choose to be gay,” I said.

“Yes, I know,” she said with a grin. “I’m not that naïve or uninformed, kiddo.” She then took my hand and said, “It’s dinnertime. Come on, let’s go in and find something to eat.”

We dug around in the kitchen and found some leftovers before sitting down to eat. We talked through dinner and late into the evening about everything: about being gay, my fears of being discovered, Jason’s reaction, that I should be proud of who I am, that I may lose some friends and gain others, HIV/AIDS, being careful, and several other things no guy wants to talk to his mother about. But, all-in-all, we had a wonderful evening and I went to bed that night feeling seventy percent better. The thirty percent uncertainty was because of Jason’s reaction. That thirty percent would prove to be significant on Monday.

The first thing that was unusual on Monday morning was that Jason didn’t stop by to pick me up and walk to school with me; I wasn’t particularly surprised about that. The other thing that was unusual was the absolute silence as I walked into the school. Normally everyone would be talking, laughing, and jostling around; instead, everyone was standing around, but nobody was saying a word. It was eerie. It didn’t take me long to find out what was going on, though. As I started to unlock my locker, there were a few snickers. Then, as I pulled the door open, painted on the inside of the door were the words “queer bent bastard”. I stared at it for a few seconds, then, showing no emotion whatsoever, I quietly closed my locker door and slowly made my way through the crowd of snickering classmates to the front door of the school and outside.

It would have been bad enough if he had simply told people…but this? I could picture any number of my classmates being cruel enough to do something like this, but not Jason. How did I know it was him? Jason was the only other person who knew my lock combination, plus he was the only other person, besides my mom, who knew I was a “queer bent bastard”. Unfortunately, after being best friends for six years–‘Friends Forever’–I thought I could trust him with my secret. I was wrong and I felt devastated.

Now, instead of going to class, I was walking home, tears flooding down my face, barely paying attention to anything around me…not that I would have been able to see anything through my tears anyway. That included a dark blue Mustang coming down the street. As I stepped off the curb, I heard the screeching of tires on the pavement and the blast of a very loud horn. The next thing I knew, I had some really creepy-looking old guy, with a piece of what looked like scrambled egg stuck in his beard, shining a very bright little light in my left eye. When I jerked my head back and brought my hand up to push it away, he moved back and smiled.

“Hi there young man. I’m Doctor Rasmussen,” he said.

“Hi, I’m Chad Bryson,” I replied before asking, “Where am I?”

“You’re in the emergency room of Central Memorial Hospital,” he replied. “You had a little run-in with a moving vehicle.”

“Oh yeah,” I responded. “The horn.”

“You are a very lucky young man,” he said. “If he had been going any faster, we might not be here talking right now.”

It was at that instant that my mom came running into the ER. A few seconds later, a nurse came in and spoke to the doctor. In another few seconds, Mom was standing beside my bed, holding my hand and asking me and/or the doctor what had happened, how I was and a bunch of other questions. Within an hour, Mom and I were on our way home. I had a bump on my head and pretty good bruises on my hip and left arm, but that was all. I was, as the doctor said, very lucky.

On the way home, I told Mom everything that had gone on before my close encounter with the Mustang. She was shocked that Jason would do such a thing. Actually, furious is probably a better term. After we got home, we talked about it some more. Not just about Jason, but about school in general. There were three weeks of school left before finals. Mom contacted the principal and explained everything to him. As I was in my senior year and all our finals were provincial exams, he suggested that since I had an eighty seven percent overall average, I could stay out of school, except to write my final exams. Mom and I agreed that would be the best alternative and we both thanked him very much. Mom would pick up my books so I could study. I would only have to go to the school three more times, and not for three weeks. Hopefully, things would have blown over by then.

After we finished talking to the principal, I went up to my room and flopped onto my bed. It wasn’t even noon yet and I felt exhausted. Mom came up to see if I was okay and I told her I was; I was just tired. After about three hours, I finally made my way to the kitchen for a snack. It would have been nice if it had been three hours of uninterrupted sleep, but Mom woke me up every forty-five minutes or so because she was afraid I might have had a concussion, even though the doctor said I didn’t. When I walked in, Mom was busy as usual, baking something that smelled delicious. I poured myself a coffee and got to sample some extraordinary apple crisp, right out of the oven, to go with it. Mom poured herself a coffee and sat down with me.

“Feeling better?” she asked.

“Actually, yeah,” I replied. “It’s not every day your best friend turns against you and you get hit by a car, but yeah, all things considered, I feel okay.”

“The last couple of days haven’t been too good to you, have they honey?” she said.

“Well, I’ve had better,” I responded.

As we were sitting there discussing what had happened, how I felt, and what I was planning for the summer now that Jason and I were not likely to go on our three week trip to the mountains, the doorbell rang. I got up to answer it. As I was crossing through the living room, I noticed a dark blue Mustang parked out front.

I opened the door. Standing there was Kent Logan, the quarterback of the school’s football team. “Hi, come in,” I said, feeling very confused. Why was the quarterback of the football team at my door? It wasn’t that we didn’t know each other, but we were certainly not friends. Hell, we were barely acquaintances.

He just looked at me for a second and grinned before stepping into the foyer. “Don’t look so surprised,” he said with a laugh. “I just came by to see how you were. I guess nobody told you, but I’m the one who tried to run over you. My mom and I went to the hospital at noon, but all they said was that you were treated and had been released.”

“Thanks, you didn’t have to do that,” I said. “I’m fine, except for a couple of bruises.”

“Thank God,” he responded. “It’s not every day I hit someone with my car. I couldn’t even go to school this morning. After the police left, I went straight home. Then, after the hospital said you were treated and released, I went for the afternoon. I was still kinda worried about you, though.”

“I didn’t damage your car, did I?” I asked.

“I don’t think so. Actually, I didn’t even look,” he replied. “What’s important is that you’re okay. When I hit you I was so scared. I mean, I never, ever, thought about what it would be like to hit a person like that. You have no idea how bad you freaked me out, man.”

“I’m so sorry,” I told him. “It wasn’t your fault. I should have been watching where I was going. I mean, I just stepped right out in front of you.”

“Yeah, you did, but it was still totally unreal,” he said. “There’s just something about hitting someone with your car that…I don’t know…affects you.”

“I’m sorry,” I repeated again.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “If nothing else, it taught me to be more aware of other people and what’s going on when I’m driving.”

Just then, my mom appeared. “Would you like to come in? I just made some fresh coffee and apple crisp,” she said, smiling.

“Sounds great. Yeah, I’d like that,” he said.

“I’m Carol, by the way. It was very good of you to stop by to see how Chad’s doing,” Mom said to him as we walked to the kitchen.

“Kent, pleased to meet you,” he replied. “I had to be sure he was okay.”

Mom poured him a coffee and gave him a huge piece of apple crisp before announcing that she would leave us alone to chat, as she had to run to the store for some milk and eggs.

As soon as Mom was gone, Kent said, “I heard about what went down at school this morning. No one should have to deal with shit like that, man. Especially from a friend.”

“Thanks, yeah, that’s kinda why I wasn’t paying attention and why I stepped in front of you,” I replied.

“Yeah, I kinda figured that when I started to hear all the gossip,” he said.

“So, it’s all over school then?” I asked.

“Yeah, pretty much,” he answered.

“You don’t seem too bothered by it,” I stated.

“Why should I be?” he asked.

I wasn’t really sure if I should open my big mouth again or not, but I figured that if he had heard the rumours and still came over, he was okay with it, true or not. I replied, “It’s true.”

“I kinda figured that too,” he said with a smile.

“So the fact that I’m gay doesn’t bother you?” I asked.

“Like I said, why should it?” he responded again.

“It shouldn’t…I guess…but it seems to bother everyone else,” I said.

“Don’t be so sure of that,” he said. “You might be surprised how many people couldn’t give a shit.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah, really,” he replied.

We moved on to other topics and were still visiting when Mom got back. It was almost surreal. We had gone to the same school for seven years and maybe said ten words to each other. Now, after he hit me with his car and found out I’m gay, we were suddenly chatting away like old friends…weird.

Soon after Mom got home, he glanced at his watch. “Oops, I’d better get going,” he said. “I promised my little brother I would help him fix his bike…like an hour ago.”

I walked him to the door. “Thanks for stopping by to see how I was,” I said.

“No problem,” he replied as he held out his fist. We tapped and he was off and running to his car.

Just before he got there, he turned and shouted, “Hey Chad! You doing anything on Saturday?”

“No!” I shouted back.

“Well you are now!” he shouted. “Pick you up at ten! Bring your swimming gear!” and he was gone.

Okay. I thought chatting like old friends was weird. Now he was going to pick me up on Saturday to hang out and go swimming. Wow.

He had also given me a lot to think about from our chat, especially the part about a lot of the kids not caring that I was gay. Was avoiding school really necessary? Would I be okay if I went back? Would people leave me alone? I knew they sure as hell would if I was walking with Kent…but would he be as open and accepting at school as he was here? I was going to stay home for the next few days for sure, anyway. First of all, the bruise on my hip was beginning to really hurt, and second, I wasn’t sure I was ready to face Jason quite yet. Besides, I had Saturday to think about, and Kent. Hmmm, Kent…6'2", dark blond hair, kind of greyish-blue eyes, a gorgeous smile and body to die for.

Yep, I definitely had a lot to think about.

Saturday finally rolled around and true to his word, Kent pulled up in front of the house at exactly ten o’clock. I gave Mom a hug and kiss on the cheek and I headed out to Kent’s car.

“Hey, how’s it goin’?” he asked as we bumped fists.

“Great,” I replied. “Been takin’ it easy this week though.”

“Yeah, I noticed you haven’t been in school,” he said before asking, “You ARE gonna come back, aren’t you?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” I replied. “Mr. Robinson said I only have to come back to write finals, so I don’t know…maybe.”

“I think you should,” he stated. “Don’t let the assholes win, man, and don’t give in to your fears or they’ll take over. You were created gay and God doesn’t make mistakes. Be proud of who you are and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.”

“Wow,” I exclaimed.

“Hey, I ain’t on the honour roll for nothin’,” he said, laughing.

“Obviously,” I responded with a grin.

“So, I never thought to ask before, but you do swim, don’t you?” he asked.

“Yeah, I swim,” I replied.

“Cool, cause we’re going to spend the day in the pool and then barbecue up some of the best steaks you’ve ever tasted,” he responded with a grin.

Fifteen minutes later, we were pulling into the driveway of one of the most grandiose houses I had ever seen. It looked like it should have been on some huge southern plantation in the seventeen-hundreds. It was unbelievable. The fact that there was a four-car garage attached to the east end of it only made it seem that much bigger. As we drove up, the third door opened and Kent drove in and parked.

Just as we were getting out of the car, a high pitched voice rang out. “Kennntt, the chain came off my bike again! I’m supposed to go over to Kenny’s for a sleepover!” I turned to see where the voice had come from, only to see a miniature Kent come running across the front of the garage.

“Okay buddy, where is it?” Kent responded.

“Over by Dad’s car,” the little guy answered.

“This is Chad,” Kent then said to him. “And this little monster is my baby bro, Scotty,” he informed me.

“Hi Chad,” he said, reaching out his hand to shake mine.

“Hi Scotty,” I responded as I shook his hand.

“And I’m not a monster and I’m not a baby,” he corrected Kent with some indignation.

“No, you’re not,” Kent responded as he ruffled his hair and grinned at me. “Now, let’s see what we can do with your bike.”

We spent the next fifteen minutes working on Scotty’s bike, getting the chain back on and then making assorted adjustments to the gears. “There you go bud, it should be okay now,” Kent told him.

Scotty gave us both a big grin. “Thanks guys,” he said as the garage door opened behind his dad’s car, and he was off down the driveway and on his way to Kenny’s.

“Now you know why I had to get home the other day,” Kent said, laughing.

“Yeah, he’s quite the little guy,” I responded with a chuckle.

“Yes he is,” Kent agreed.

“Now, it’s time to hit the pool, catch some rays, and have some fun,” Kent stated with a grin.

We walked back across the garage and through a doorway that led into what I soon learned was the pool house. No sooner were we in there than Kent started to take his clothes off. I just stood there for a second or two before it dawned on me that I should be doing the same thing. Within a couple of minutes, we were both into our swimming trunks and on our way out to the pool. I have to admit though, I did take a few seconds to admire Kent’s body, both before and after he got his trunks on.

Kent also gave me a quick glance before I got my trunks on. “Holy shit, that’s some bruise,” he stated as he looked at the bruise on my hip. “Did I do that?” he asked.

“Actually, I think it was your Mustang,” I replied, laughing.

“Whoa, that’s gotta hurt, man,” he said. “I’ve had some pretty good bruises from football, but nothing like that.”

“It hurt pretty good for a couple of days, but it’s not bad now,” I replied.

“Good, ‘cause I wouldn’t want it to spoil your day,” he said.

“It won’t,” I assured him.

As soon as we stepped out of the pool house, I was introduced to his brother, Jamie, who was almost identical to Kent except for his black hair and vivid blue eyes, and then to Jamie’s girlfriend, Karen, who was absolutely beautiful. Next, I was introduced to Kent’s sister, Sandy, who was a feminine version of Kent. We all said, “Hi, it’s good to meet you,” or similar, when someone suddenly popped up out of the water and onto the side of the pool. A few seconds later, I was being introduced to their cousin, Kyle, who, up until that moment, had been swimming the length of the pool underwater.

Suddenly, I was completely tongue-tied and just kind of stared at him. He seemed to be having the same problem. Finally, after about ten or fifteen seconds, I was able to choke out a, “Hi,” and reached out my hand. He responded with a similar rather weak, “Hi,” and reached up so we could shake hands. When I glanced over at the others, all of them had huge grins on their faces. It appeared that our reaction to each other was somewhat entertaining.

Kyle was new at school this year and I knew very little about him. I knew he was in all of my classes. I knew he was very quiet and almost painfully shy. I knew he was drop-dead gorgeous. I knew he had the greenest eyes and deepest dimples on the planet. And I knew I had a huge crush on him. I think I had heard his voice twice in six months, and both times I had almost melted into the floor. This guy was every gay boy’s ultimate fantasy, and now here he was, all tanned and beautiful, sitting on the edge of the pool in nothing but a pair of tiny white Speedos.

Kent asked if I would like something to drink. After a couple of seconds, I was able to get my mind working again long enough to say, “Yes please, a Coke if you have it.” A few seconds later, I had my drink in my hand and was sitting in a lounge chair next to Kent and sipping on a nice cold Coke.

“So, it’s not everyday we get to meet one of Kent’s driving victims,” Jamie said with a laugh.

“Yeah, usually they don’t survive,” Sandy added, laughing.

“Hey, I’ll have you know that Chad here is my first victim…and last,” Kent responded indignantly.

I looked at Jamie and gave him a grin. “Actually, I think it’s more like Kent’s one of my walking victims than I’m one of his driving victims. After all, I did step off the curb right in front of him,” I said in Kent’s defence.

“Okay, we’ll let it go this time,” Jamie responded with a chuckle.

We talked about the accident for a few minutes. All were in agreement with Kent: they couldn’t think of anything more upsetting than hitting someone with your car, even if it wasn’t your fault. The feeling of helplessness when he knew he wasn’t going to be able to stop was something Kent said he would never forget. Again, I apologized to him, and again he explained how it had taught him something valuable, thankfully without serious consequences. The conversation soon moved on to other things and we all became involved in some less serious, fun, back and forth banter.

However, I noticed that Kyle was still sitting on the edge of the pool, kind of staring at the water, and only glancing our way once in a while. Kent noticed too and went over and sat down beside him. He said something to him and Kyle glanced at me quickly and then gave Kent a very small, shy smile. After a couple more minutes, Kent got up and reached out to him. Kyle looked at his hand for a few seconds, then finally took it and pulled himself up. He followed Kent back to the sitting area and sat in one of the lounge chairs. He was just to my right and a little behind me. Kent grabbed him a Sprite and sat back down on the other side of me. We chatted a bit more. Kyle gave one-word answers if he was asked a question, but otherwise he was quiet.

Suddenly, Kent got up and yelled, “Pool time!” He grabbed my right hand and Kyle’s left and ran for the pool, dragging us along with him. He didn’t let go until he jumped into the pool, so Kyle and I had no choice but to follow and jump in on either side of him. Within five seconds, everyone was in the pool, splashing and laughing. Even Kyle had a grin on his face. Just as suddenly as we were dragged into the pool, Jamie slapped Kent’s shoulder, yelled, “Tag, you’re it!” and dove under the water. Everyone splashed Kent and began to swim away from him. I was now involved in a game of water tag, whether I wanted to be or not, so I swam as hard as I could away from Kent. Once Kent had recovered from the splashing and could see again, he began to tread water and slowly turn, watching each of us and how we were positioned, as he plotted who would be his first victim.

He made a sudden move towards Kyle and almost before I could blink, Kyle dove under water and was treading water right beside me. I suddenly realized what an exceptionally strong swimmer he was. I couldn’t imagine moving that fast underwater, and I considered myself a strong swimmer. In fact, I began to wonder if I wasn’t in the pool with the Olympic swim team, as all of them seemed to be excellent swimmers. The game continued for five minutes before Kent was able to tag anyone. It turned out to be Karen.

Now, guys tend to rely on their power and speed, but girls tend to be a little more deceptive. That doesn’t mean guys are all brawn and no brain, nor does it mean girls are all brain and no brawn. It’s just how they use them together that are often different. Oh, and girls cheat. Karen glanced at Sandy, and suddenly dove under the water. Sandy immediately started splashing and making waves. Now we all know that it’s impossible to see people who are underwater when the surface is disturbed by splashes and ripples. Everyone moved away from where Karen had been, however no one knew where she had gone. No one, that is, except Kyle, who immediately dove under the water so he could see her, and stay away from her. It was only thirty seconds before Jamie disappeared as Karen grabbed his foot and pulled him under. Jamie was now ‘it’. The game went on for over and hour. I got caught twice, Kent once, Jamie once, Karen twice and Sandy twice. Of course, no one even came close to Kyle.

I noticed one thing about Kyle: when he was in the water, he was much more confident. I could see it in his eyes. Not only did he have more confidence, but also you could see a sense of freedom. He wasn’t laughing, splashing, daring or taunting like the rest of us, but he was definitely more at ease. He even smiled a few times. As soon as we were out of the water, the shyness took over again. This time, as everyone scrambled for a lounge chair, Kyle and I found ourselves sitting side by side. I had my original chair, but Kyle was left with the one Kent had been sitting in. Kent and Sandy made sure everyone had a drink and we all leaned back and relaxed.

“So Chad, you and Kyle have all the same classes, right?” Kent asked.

“Yeah, actually we do,” I answered.

“Then you and Chad must already know each other pretty well.” he said to Kyle.

“Not really,” Kyle responded quietly.

It was then that Jamie called out, “Truth or dare.”

“No way,” Kyle and I said almost simultaneously, getting a laugh from everyone.

“Nothing stupid or childish…I promise,” Jamie said.

“Yeah, just friendly, innocent, fun,” Sandy stated. “And, you can always refuse a question or dare if it bothers you.”

I glanced at Kyle and our eyes met for a split second. I smiled and shrugged.

“Okay,” he said, again very quietly. “But if you try to embarrass me, I’m outta here.”

That was the most I had heard him say at one time, ever. And, yes, I almost melted into the chair.

Jamie started. His first question / dare was aimed at Kent.

“Truth or dare?” he asked.


“Have you ever been in love?”


“That’s it? Yes?” Jamie asked incredulously.

“That’s two questions.”

“Yeah okay,” Jamie laughed. “Next time I’ll rephrase my question.”

The game went on for probably a good half hour. Everyone was being very diplomatic and no one was asking really personal questions or giving too embarrassing dares. The questions were all simple, ‘get to know each other better’ types of questions–something I was very grateful for. The dares were all things that any of us would feel comfortable doing, too. They were things like ‘do a half pike from the high diving board’. Even Kyle began to relax and get into it. He dared Karen to kiss the love of her life. Of course, she immediately got up and kissed Kent. That got her thrown into the pool by Jamie, giving everyone a good laugh.

Then it was my turn again, and I found myself at the mercy of Sandy. I chose truth.

“How long have you known you’re gay?” she asked.

“Since I was thirteen.”

“Wow, and you kept it a secret all this time?”

“That’s two questions.”

“Oops, sorry.”

“That’s okay; yeah, I kept it a secret all these years.”

Our truth and dare game kind of came to an end at that point and turned into a conversation about what it’s like when you first realize you’re gay, living with the fear of being discovered, and how your ‘best friend for life’ can turn against you. I was amazed by the support I was receiving from everyone. Their questions were sincere and so were their responses. The only one who remained quiet, of course, was Kyle. When I told them how supportive my mom had been, I’m sure I saw a tear roll down his cheek. It made me wonder why he was now living with his aunt and uncle; I wanted to reach out or say something to him, but thought better of it.

I think Kent noticed, too, because he announced he was getting hungry and suggested that we should fire up the barbecue and get everything going for dinner. Suddenly, everyone was up and we were all given a job to do. I was asked to make a salad. Karen took me into the kitchen and showed me where everything was. Kyle was given the task of washing the potatoes and doing whatever it is you do to get potatoes ready to be baked on the barbecue.

I’m not sure if it was planned, but Kyle and I ended up being the only two in the kitchen. As we were working, I couldn’t help but notice that Kyle kept glancing at me. A couple of times, I noticed him pause and his glance actually become an intent gaze. I tried to be careful not to give him the impression I was watching him, but I was. I’d had a crush on him before, based on looks alone, but now as I got glimpses into who he was as a person, I began to realize how easy it would be to fall in love with him. He was gorgeous, yeah, but he had a quality about him that defied explanation. He was sweet, gentle, vulnerable, obviously hurting, and yet strong and determined at the same time.

We must have worked in silence for about ten minutes when he stopped and gazed at me with an almost concerned look on his face. It took me a second or two to realize it, but when I did, I stopped, set down the knife I was chopping veggies with and returned his gaze.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

“Sorry?” I questioned.

“We’ve been classmates for over six months and I’ve never spoken to you,” he replied.

“That makes two of us,” I stated with a smile. “In fact, if anyone should be apologizing, it’s me. You were the new guy and I should have stepped up and made you feel welcome.”

“I didn’t exactly give you or anyone else the chance,” he said. “I made a point of isolating myself and letting everyone know I wanted it that way.”

“Yeah, I guess you did,” I said. “I just took it that you were really shy and left you alone.”

“I didn’t used to be,” he responded. “It’s just…I don’t know…stuff has happened.”

“I know what that’s like,” I said.

“Yeah, Kent told us what happened to you. I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said with a smile. “It hasn’t been easy.”

“I know,” he replied. “Been there, done that.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “No one should have to lose people over something so trivial. What is it that people are so afraid of?” Then, realizing what I had just said, I added, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to insinuate you were the same as me.”

“Don’t be,” he responded as he took a deep breath. “I…uh…I…meant exactly that, when I said ‘been there, done that’. Actually, for me it was worse. I lost my best friend and my parents.”

“Oh, God,” I said. “I can’t imagine losing my mom.”

“My dad tried to kill me,” he added as his eyes filled with tears.

It took me about two seconds to move around the island and pull him into a hug. When I did, he wrapped his arms tightly around me and began to sob uncontrollably. I just held him and stroked his hair as I tried to comfort him. As we were standing there, I glanced over and saw Kent watching us. Within a minute, Jamie, Sandy and Karen were standing beside him. All of them were in tears as well. Kyle and I must have stood there for at least ten minutes before he began to calm down. I felt his grip on me loosen up a little.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

“Don’t be, it’s cool,” I responded. “We all have to just let it all out once in a while.”

Finally, he pulled back a little for a couple of seconds before resting his head on my shoulder once again and just holding me. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“Any time,” I said. ‘I’m just glad I was here.”

He pulled back a little and again looked into my eyes. He smiled. I gave him a little squeeze. He rested his head on my shoulder again and squeezed back. After a few more minutes, he stepped back, grabbed a towel and wiped his eyes. Then he handed it to me. It wasn’t until then that I realized I had been crying right along with him.

“I can’t believe I just did that,” he said, still smiling. “I’ve felt like a time bomb waiting to explode for months. Kent and Jamie and everyone have done everything to get me to open up to them. Then, you come along…somebody I hardly know, and boom.”

“You did kinda explode,” I said with a chuckle.

“Oh God,” he said with a big sigh.

“You okay?” I asked.

“You have no idea,” he replied. “I feel…I dunno…lighter…or something. It’s weird.”

“So you’re good then?” I questioned.

“Oh yeah,” he responded. “I haven’t felt like this since…well…since forever.”

I pulled him back into a hug, gave him an extra squeeze and said, “Well, I’m here for you anytime.”

As we pulled apart, it was like looking at a new person. His eyes had a sparkle in them that I had never seen before, not even in the pool, and he had a grin on his face that could have lit up a city.

“Oh, fuck,” he exclaimed with a laugh. “We’re gonna be in deep shit if we don’t get this stuff ready.”

“Oh, I think they’ll be cool with having to wait a little while,” I responded as I glanced at the patio doors and saw four more very big grins.

Kyle started washing potatoes again and I moved back to my side of the island and started chopping veggies. This time, when I glanced up I didn’t see an anxious young man giving me furtive glances, I saw a relaxed young man giving me a big smile.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked.

“Sure, what?” he responded.

“In the water you seemed, I dunno, more confidant or at ease,” I said.

“My dad can’t swim,” he replied. “I know that sounds weird, but I guess it’s like… maybe, subconsciously, I feel safe in the water.”

“Actually, it makes sense…I think,” I said. “It’s amazing how the subconscious mind works.”

“Yeah, it is,” he responded with a grin.

Just then, Kent came wandering to the kitchen. “You guys doing okay?” he asked.

“We’d be doing a hell of a lot better if you guys were in here helping instead of standing outside the patio doors gawking at us,” Kyle responded.

Kent just stood there for a second before his face lit up like a five year old’s on Christmas morning. In an instant, he had Kyle wrapped up in a smothering hug. A minute or so later, when he finally released him, Kyle gave him an equally big grin and asked, “Do you always grab people who are holding sharp knives and hug them? ‘Cause if you do, one of these days you won’t have to worry about having kids anymore.”

“Shut up and hand me those onions,” Kent replied, laughing. He then looked up at me and as tears momentarily reappeared in his eyes, he mouthed, ‘Thank you.’ I just smiled.

About an hour later, we were picking our steaks off the barbecue and sitting down at a picnic table on the deck. Anyone walking in on us would have thought we were all tapping into some spiked punch. The air around the table was absolutely festive. Everyone was laughing and joking and giving each other a hard time. Kyle was right there in the middle of it all. That was one more thing to take note of: he was definitely NOT shy. After we finished eating and cleaning up, everyone grabbed a drink and flopped down on the lawn. We were all in that ‘I just ate the best meal of my life’ mode, and just lay there quietly looking at the stars.

I can’t describe how I was feeling as I lay there with Kent and Kyle and everyone. It was like we had known each other and been friends since birth. I was so comfortable and so at ease. It was hard to believe I had only really met most of them a few hours ago. I felt completely on top of the world. That was, until I felt Kyle’s fingers brush mine. I turned my head to see him looking at me, smiling. Even in the dark, his eyes sparkled. Okay, maybe NOW I was on top of the world.

I don’t think either one of us was conscious of the fact that we were moving closer together. At least, not before our lips met. I can honestly say that if I were asked to explain how I felt at that moment, I wouldn’t be able to. As Kyle slowly moved away, he wasn’t smiling anymore. He was grinning from ear to ear and was soon moving in for another kiss. It was during that particular mind-blowing experience that somewhere off in the distance, we heard what sounded like someone clearing their throat. When we finally decided to pay attention to our surroundings again, we were looking into the smiling face of Kent.

“I really don’t want to put a damper on an obviously tender moment, but Mom and Dad are home,” he said with a chuckle.

He had no sooner spoken the words when a very distinguished-looking couple walked out onto the deck.

“Hi Mom, Dad,” Kent called out.

“Hi honey,” his mom replied.

“Hi kids,” was his dad’s response.

“So how did your evening go?” Jamie asked them.

“Same as all those pathetic fund-raisers, boring as hell,” his dad answered. “How about your barbecue? I see you cleaned everything up. Thank you.”

“Couldn’t have been better,” Sandy replied. “Right Kyle?”

“Right,” he answered with a grin. “Couldn’t have been better.”

“Kyle?” their mom said with more than a touch of surprise in her voice.

“Yes, Auntie?” Kyle responded as he tilted his head to look at her.

“Kyle!” she suddenly exclaimed. “Oh my God, Kyle.”

“You keep calling my name like that and someone’s going to think there’s something wrong with me,” he said with a chuckle as he rolled over and looked up at her.

“You’re back sweetie,” she said as she knelt down and pulled him up into a hug. “Oh my God, you’re back.”

As soon as she broke the hug, she looked around and her eyes settled on me. Suddenly I was feeling just a little nervous.

“Mom,” Kent said as he stepped over and knelt beside me, “this is Chad, the guy I tried to run over the other day.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Chad,” she said. “How are you, dear? I hope you weren’t injured too badly.”

“Hi Mrs. Logan,” I replied. “No, I’m fine, just a couple of bruises.”

“I’m so pleased to hear that,” she said sincerely.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Wait a minute,” she said as she seemed to suddenly clue in to something. “You’re not THE Chad are you?”

“Auntie, don’t,” Kyle said in a pleading voice.

“I think it’s time we left the younger generation to themselves, dear,” their dad said. “I’m too old to be up this late. Come on, it’s time for us old folks to call it a night.”

“Thanks Uncle Bob,” Kyle said with a grin, which his uncle returned.

“Come on, dear,” he said as he reached down to help her up. “Good night kids,” he said as he led their mom towards the house.

“Good night,” their mom called out as she was led away.

“Good night,” we all called after them.

As soon as we were alone again, I pulled Kyle back down beside me. “THE Chad?” I questioned in a whisper.

“Oh God, this is so embarrassing,” he whispered as he gave me a quick kiss.

“If it makes you feel any better,” I whispered before I returned his kiss, “I’ve had a crush on you for months.”

“You’re joking,” he said.

“Nope, I’ve been lusting after you since the first time I saw you,” I said, laughing.

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better,” he said with a grin.

“Nope,” I responded.

“Oh my God,” he said as he pulled me over on top of him and gave me a kiss that curled my toes.

“Not the only two people here,” came a voice from just beside us.

“Sorry,” we both said as we turned to see Sandy’s grinning face.

“Don’t be,” she said, laughing. “I am so happy for the two of you. And Kyle, you have no idea how happy I am to have you back. You really had us scared for a while there, bud.”

“Thanks,” he replied. “I had me scared for a while there, too. It’s good to be back.” He gave me another quick kiss.

“This is going to take some getting used to,” Kent said, laughing. “I’m not used to seeing two guys make out.”

“Well you’d better get used to it,” Kyle replied, laughing as well.

“Not to worry,” Jamie said with a chuckle. “We will.”

About two o’clock, everyone started yawning. Jamie announced that he was taking Karen home and would be back shortly. Kent asked me if I was ready to call it a night. I looked at Kyle and smiled, then back to Kent and said, “Yeah, maybe I should.”

“You mind if I drive him home?” Kyle asked Kent.

Kent just grinned at him and handed him his keys. “If you’re not back in an hour, we’re sending out a search party,” he announced.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be careful,” Kyle responded, grinning as he took my hand. “See you in an hour.”

We held hands all the way to my place. As we pulled up in the driveway, Kyle released my hand and brushed his fingers across my cheek. “I can’t believe this is for real,” he said. “I didn’t think it was possible to feel this good.”

I took his hand and kissed it. “Neither did I,” I responded as my eyes filled with tears. Needless to say, we spent the next twenty minutes saying good night to each other before we finally decided he should get Kent’s car back before they really did send out a search party. So, after one last prolonged good night kiss, I finally opened my door and ran up to my front door. I stood there watching and waving until he disappeared down the street. I can’t explain how I felt as I unlocked the door and quietly slipped up to my room. I don’t think I had ever felt so alive.

When I finally woke up Sunday morning, Mom was sitting at the kitchen table, sipping on probably her tenth morning coffee and reading the paper. As soon as she looked at me, the first words out her mouth were, “Okay, spill it. What did you get up to last night? You look far too happy.”

“Well, you remember that kid I told you about who always looked so sad and shy in my class?” I asked.

“Yes, I think so,” Mom replied with a little apprehension in her voice.

“Well, he’s Kent’s cousin, and I got know him last night,” I responded.

“Got to know?” she queried.

That’s when I told her the whole story of my evening at Kent’s and with Kyle. Several times, Mom interrupted me with things like, “Oh that poor boy.” At least, she did until I got towards the end. Then she just stared at me in disbelief.

“You’re boyfriends?” she questioned. “That’s moving a little fast isn’t it.”

“Not really,” I replied. “We’ve secretly been in love with each other for months…or at least had a crush on each other.”

“You be careful,” she said. “I know how intense young love can be and I don’t want you getting hurt. You’ve been through enough with Jason.”

“Mom, I have never been so happy in my life,” I told her. “I know we won’t hurt each other, ever. But if it does happen, it will still have been worth it to experience what I am feeling right now. I can’t even explain how I feel right now.”

She just held her arms out and I stepped into them. “I’m so happy for you sweetie,” she said. “And I really do hope it lasts.”

After she let me go, I poured myself a coffee and sat down. Mom was staring at me with this weird grin on her face.

“What?” I asked.

“I can’t believe my little boy has a boyfriend,” she replied. “This is going to take some getting used to.”

I laughed as I told her she wasn’t the first person to say that. Just then, the phone rang. I quickly picked it up and answered it. The first words I heard were, “Hey babe, I didn’t wake you up did I?”

“No babe, you didn’t wake me up,” I replied as I watched my mom roll her eyes and grin at me.

‘Ask him over,’ Mom quickly wrote on a piece of paper.

“You want to come over?” I asked him.

“Yeah for sure,” he replied. “Your mom wants to meet me, doesn’t she?” he added.

“You guessed it,” I said with a laugh.

“Can you give me half an hour? I’m still running around in my boxers,” he asked.

“Hmm. Maybe I should come over there,” I said, laughing.

“Hmm. Maybe not. I’ll see you in half an hour,” he responded.

“Okay, half an hour then,” I said.

We both said goodbye and the first thing I did was turn to Mom and beg her not to embarrass me or say anything about his past that might upset him. She gave me her word that she would be nice. Within half an hour, Kyle was pulling up in front of the house. It looked like he had his Aunt’s car, a fairly new silver BMW, something that impressed my mom. I met him at the door and gave him a quick kiss as I invited him in, something that also didn’t go unnoticed by my mom.

“Mom, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Kyle,” I announced with a big grin.

“Pleased to meet you Mrs. Bryson,” Kyle said as he reached out his hand towards Mom.

“I’m very pleased to meet you too,” Mom replied as she took his hand and then pulled him into a little hug. “And you can call me Carol or Mom. Mrs. Bryson is a little formal, don’t you think?”

“Okay then…Mom,” he responded with a little blush.

“Mom’s been baking again,” I said as I took his hand and led him into the kitchen.

“Do you like coffee? Or would you prefer tea or a soft drink?” Mom asked.

“Coffee sounds great, thanks,” Kyle replied.

We spent the next hour sipping coffee and munching on a variety of Mom’s baking. Kyle complemented her a number of times about how good her baking was. He even made her blush once. We chatted about all sorts of things, from how we met, whether he liked school, what his career plans were, and so and so on. Mom was true to her promise and didn’t embarrass me or Kyle. We began to run out of conversation topics, so I invited Kyle down to see my room. After checking things out, we flopped back on my bed and spent a considerable amount of time just cuddling and making out. At about five-thirty, Mom tapped on my door and asked if Kyle wanted to stay for dinner. He replied that he would love to, but needed to phone his aunt first, which he did.

After dinner, we went back to his place and spent a couple of hours in the pool and lying around the patio, chatting with Kent and Jamie. Somewhere in there, Kent and Kyle convinced me that I should come back to school, so at ten, we decided to call it a night. Kyle drove me home and we spent fifteen minutes saying good night. As I watched him drive off, I thought about how much had happened over the last week. I had lost my best friend of six years and I knew I was going to miss him terribly, but I had made some great new friends who accepted me and cared about me. And, above all else, I had a boyfriend. Not just any boyfriend, but I had Kyle. Kyle, who I’d had a crush on for months. I couldn’t help but grin and do a little happy dance on the front steps as I opened the door and went inside. All-in-all, life was good.

The next morning, Kent and Kyle picked me up for school. When we pulled into the parking lot of the school, we got some stares. But, when Kent, Kyle, and I walked up the steps to the front doors, you could have heard a pin drop and, once again, it felt totally eerie. There wasn’t a sound, and I knew everyone’s eyes were on us. I noticed Jason leaning on the far railing. When I glanced towards him, he quickly looked down. If it was his hope to be the hero and turn everyone against the ‘queer bent bastard’, it wasn’t working. Instead, I was walking into school, talking to, and laughing with, the most popular and respected guy on campus, the national championship-winning quarterback. Not only that, but instead of cowering in fear, or hiding at home, I was walking proudly, head held high, and hand in hand with my boyfriend.

The next two weeks were amazing. If I wasn’t at Kyle’s, he was at my place. It wasn’t all fun and games, though. We both had the same classes and the provincial finals were coming up. Most of our time was spent studying and helping each other prepare. When we were at Kyle’s, Kent was usually studying with us as he was taking a couple of the same courses we were. When final exam week rolled around, we were definitely ready for it.

Kyle and I finished our last final on Thursday. Kent had one final to write in Advanced Calculus on Friday and then all of us were done. Needless to say, a celebration was planned for Friday night. However, Kyle and I had a little celebration of our own planned for Thursday night. Not only were we finished finals, but I turned eighteen on Thursday and Kyle was taking me out to celebrate. We were going to the Vintage Chophouse for what could very well be the best steaks on the planet, and then to The Twisted Element to dance all night.

During dinner, we talked a bit about final exams and the freedom we both felt now that we had both finished our final year of high school. The rest of the time, we talked about us, our plans for the summer and university in the fall, but mostly about summer.

As we were finishing up dessert, Kyle pulled out a small box and placed it on the table between us.

“Happy Birthday,” he said quietly.

Grinning, I replied, “Thanks.”

I slowly reached over, picked it up and carefully removed the wrapping. It was a small jewelery box. I opened it. Inside were two matching rings, each with a single diamond.

“Oh my God, they’re beautiful,” I exclaimed as a couple of tears escaped and rolled down my face.

He then reached over and lifted one of the rings out of the box. He took my right hand in his and gently slipped the ring onto my finger as he said, “I love you Chad. I want you to think of me every time you look at this ring.”

It took me a couple of minutes to get myself together after that and to think of what to say. Once I did, I lifted the other ring out of the box, took his right hand in mine and gently slipped the ring onto his finger as I replied, “I love you too Kyle, and I want you to think of me every time you look at your ring.”

We then leaned across the table and sealed it with a short, loving kiss.

We then left the restaurant and drove over to the club. As soon as we opened the front door, the music was pounding in our ears. We showed the doorman our ID, then Kyle took my hand and we headed up the stairs into the club. I was so excited. We walked over to the bar and ordered a drink and then found a small table near the dance floor. There were only a few couples dancing, but within ten minutes the dance floor was nearly full. As we were watching, Kyle poked me and pointed across the dance floor. I looked where he was pointing and then back at him and grinned. Two of the couples were guys from our class; guys we had no idea were gay. No sooner had we seen them than one of them saw us. Of course, they knew about us. Everyone did. They immediately came over to our table and we got a hug from each of them. We talked, or shouted to each other, for a few minutes. I’m not sure how much of the conversation any of us heard over the music. Soon we were all on the dance floor having an amazing time.

In fact, the whole evening and night were amazing. It was almost three in the morning by the time Kyle dropped me off at home; more like three-thirty by the time we finished saying good night. I was walking on cloud nine as I glanced at my ring, grinned, and made my way up the front steps. Just as I was about to unlock the door, I noticed a slight movement to my right and realized someone was standing there, leaning against the railing. I froze for a second and I could feel the adrenalin rush. You don’t expect someone to be standing on your front step at three-thirty in the morning. Bracing myself, I slowly turned to see who it was. It was Jason.

He didn’t say a word. He just extended his hand towards me, palm up. I glanced at it. Lying on the palm of his hand was a tiny box. My glance became a stare that lasted at least a minute. He didn’t move and I didn’t move. He didn’t say anything and I didn’t say anything, although I did hear a tiny sniffle. When I glanced at his face, I could see his tears as they reflected the light from the streetlight. Finally, I slowly reached out and took the box from his hand. I held it and looked at it for, again, at least a minute. Finally, I decided to open it. I slowly peeled the paper away from it. Then, I slowly opened it and lifted off the little piece of padding. Inside was a thin black cord with a simple circular pendant.

“Read it,” he whispered. “Please.”

I held it up to the light so I could read it. On one side it had the words ‘COMPASSION ACCEPTANCE UNDERSTANDING’. On the other side it had the words ‘ERASE HATE’.

My eyes instantly filled with tears as I turned to face him.

“Happy birthday Chad,” he whispered.

I didn’t have to think, even for a second. I had my best friend back and he was instantly in my arms.

“Thank you,” I whispered in his ear as I felt his arms wrap around me, completing the hug.

A very special thanks to Azy for his time and hard work editing this story for me.

COMPASSION ACCEPTANCE UNDERSTANDING and ERASE HATE are the inscriptions on the Matthew Shepard Erase Hate Pendant.