of the Wicked Boys
Knocking. Why was he hearing knocking? Where was it coming from? Why wouldn’t it stop?
“Rafael! Wake up! Rafael!”
It was his mother’s voice. He rolled over and opened his eyes. Where was he? It was dark. What time was it?
A sudden slice of light appeared beyond his feet. It widened and then suddenly the entire room exploded into light. He covered his eyes and cried out, “Jesus! What the hell?”
“Rafael! Get up! Now!”
His mother was glaring furiously at him from the door. He was in the basement, lying atop the bed in the corner, wearing only his dance belt and his shoes.
“What in the hell have you done?” his mother demanded. “Have you completely lost your mind?”
Rafael pulled the covers over him and said, “Mom. Please!”
“Put some clothes on!” the woman ordered. “Grayson Harrison’s here and he’s ready to eviscerate you. Get dressed and get upstairs right now!”
She slammed the door and Rafael sighed heavily. He felt as if he had a hangover. He had no idea how long he had danced overnight. He had placed several albums on the stereo. He had given up trying to do the actual dances and had simply spent hour after hour improvising, moving to the music, moving to express his emotions, his anger and fear, his self-loathing. He didn’t even remember finally passing out on the bed. Yes, it was just as if he had spent the night drinking himself into oblivion.
With a groan, he sat up and grabbed the robe that lay on the floor. He pulled it on as he stood up and, still wearing his dance shoes, staggered to the door and opened it.
Claretta was in the kitchen and had already prepared a glass of orange juice.
“Rafael, you okay?” she asked as she handed the glass to him.
He simply shrugged disconsolately and took a big gulp.
“Mr. Harrison...he be madder than a hornet! He ready to kick your butt. That’s what he say.”
Rafael sighed and nodded as he slowly walked out of the kitchen and through the house to the front room. He found his mother and Harrison just as he had found them before, Harrison on the couch and his mother in the chair across from him. Harrison, however, was clearly not enamored of Rafael at that moment. Gloria looked at him with narrow, angry eyes and said, “Sit down.”
Rafael nodded and walked to the nearest chair without protest or any sign of rebellion. He sat down on the edge, kept his knees together and his robe closed as he drank his orange juice. Harrison gave him a look not unlike Gloria’s and Rafael set the glass down on a coaster on the side table.
“Last night,” Harrison interrupted in a firm and no-nonsense voice Rafael had never heard him use, “Pastor Jimmy Dale McCoy of the Westside Tabernacle was arrested along with four other men at the East Bank Riverside Park and charged with outraging public decency and committing lewd and lascivious acts. He was arraigned in Jackson County Court this morning at nine and bail was set at five thousand dollars. I spoke with his attorney, Marvin Calhoun, who is a member of the congregation of the Westside Tabernacle and one of the church elders. The McCoys don’t have the money for Pastor McCoy’s bail. They can’t put the house up because it is owned by the church and the elders refuse to use church assets. Calhoun also says he cannot represent Jimmy Dale because of a conflict of interest. So, he is being represented now by a public defender. Jane McCoy is distraught and now under a doctor’s care at home, where she has been sedated.”
Rafael was trembling again. In a weak voice he asked, “What about Jeremy?”
Harrison paused a moment as he examined Rafael’s face before replying, “Jeremy and Benjamin are staying with neighbors for the time being until Jane is well enough for them to return home.”
Rafael looked down at the floor and in a barely audible voice asked, “What’s going to happen to Jimmy Dale?”
“Well, if my firm were representing him, he’d be out on bail by now, we’d have a little conversation with the prosecutor and the judge and he’d get six months of probation with mandatory psychiatric help. With the public defender, he’s looking at six months in the Jackson County Jail. I suspect Jane and Benji will be forced to move out of their home when the church fires Jimmy Dale as their pastor either today or tomorrow. As for Jeremy, I’m sure Gloria will get custody. Calhoun is pretty certain Jane will be more than willing to part with him now.”
Rafael’s face was burning. Gloria started to speak, but Harrison put up a hand. In a careful and controlled voice, he asked, “Rafael, it is vitally important, crucially important... I cannot emphasize enough just how important it is that you tell me everything that happened last night.”
Rafael took a deep breath and began, “I didn’t...”
“Don’t lie to me!” Harrison interrupted ferociously. “After this conversation, I may no longer be able to speak with you about this matter as it might be a conflict, since our firm represents the Fenwick estate. You may need a criminal attorney of your own or someone to represent you in any civil action that might be brought against you. Do you understand, Rafael?”
Rafael’s face was no longer flushed. His face turned deathly pale. In a weak and quivering voice, he explained in detail everything that had happened, from seeing the car at the park as he rode home on his bike, to recognizing it that afternoon outside the McCoy house, to Jeremy’s phone call, to his riding his bike to the park and the events that transpired at that point.
When he was finished, Harrison thought for a moment. Rafael looked at his mother, who appeared to be on the verge of an apoplectic fit. She looked away from her son, her head trembling with fury.
“Did you at any time offer to have sex with the young man or anyone else you met last night?” Harrison asked in an even voice.
“No, but I’m not the one...”
“Shut up. Did you at any time last night give your name to anyone? Anyone?”
“What specifically did you say to the young man about Jimmy Dale?”
Rafael was feeling defensive and not understanding the degree of Harrison’s anger with him. Defiantly, he replied, “I told him Jimmy Dale hit my friend.”
“Did you say you witnessed him hitting Jeremy or that you heard that he had hit him?”
“Neither. I said that Jimmy Dale hit him.”
Harrison nodded and sat back on the couch.
“I think we will be okay, as long as the prosecution doesn’t mention the conversation between Rafael and this mysterious young man. I don’t know if the young man was an undercover officer or a legitimate teenager being used as bait, but they have no reason to use what Rafael said. They already knew that Jimmy Dale was in the habit of performing lewd acts there. They just needed to catch him in the act. The chances are that they would have caught him last night, with or without Rafael’s misguided attempt to encourage them. And the fact that the young man told you to get out of the way and to ride away as fast as you could once the police moved in means that he probably wanted to protect you. He was feeling you out to see if you were one of the regulars who hang out there. If you are telling me the truth, then he probably realized you were there for a misguided reason of exacting revenge on the man who hit your friend. They have no reason to bring you up and you aren’t in the police report; the public defender won’t even know you exist...unless Jimmy Dale saw you and recognized you.”
Gloria and Harrison both looked at him before the attorney asked pointedly, “Did he see you? Did he recognize you?”
“He was fifty or sixty feet away on the bench watching us. I know he saw me because he was watching us. I don’t know if he recognized me. He didn’t act like it and it was pretty dark where we were.”
“Did any cars drive by and shine their headlights on you?”
Rafael thought for a moment and replied, “One from the back.”
“You have a distinctive profile. Even in silhouette, your build and your curly hair might have been recognizable. If he recognized you, he might try to use entrapment as a defense, though it would still be weak. After all, he was caught completely naked and masturbating with a full erection witnessed by two officers.”
Rafael frowned and angrily asked, “Then, what’s the damn problem?”
“The damn problem, as you put it,” Harrison replied, “is that you put yourself in danger, physically and legally and you could have been the cause of terrible hardship and heartbreak. Just what the hell did you think you were doing? What was your plan?”
Gloria sat forward and snapped, “And, tell the truth, Rafael. Don’t lie.”
Rafael knew he was in an indefensible position. He sighed heavily and replied, “Look, the guy’s a scumbag. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Jeremy or his soul. He was just holding him hostage to get more money from either Mom or the Fenwick estate. Jeremy told me that! Jimmy Dale’s a scumbag who got what he deserves.”
“I know that and you’re right, Rafael,” Harrison responded, “but that’s not the point. What did you plan to do and what did you expect to happen?”
Rafael sighed and said, “Look, I thought that maybe I could offer to... well, you know... do it with him if he’d let Jeremy go. Or, I could threaten him with exposure if he didn’t. Or, if I saw him with someone else, I could call the police from that payphone up at the bridge and get him arrested. It didn’t matter which happened, Jeremy would be free.”
Harrison shook his head in disgust. His eyes met Rafael’s and he said, “You would have sex with him to get Jeremy free.”
Rafael looked down in shame, fully aware that Harrison knew that this was precisely what Rafael had intended to do Tuesday night with him. In a low voice full of shame, he said, “Stephen used to tell me that there was only one thing I was good for. He said I would never be a great dancer, but... but...”
He choked and was barely able to finish... “I was a good fuck.”
Gloria turned her head and took a tissue from her purse. Rafael didn’t see her dab her eyes with it. Harrison looked down at the floor in pain. After a long moment, he said, “Your stepfather was cruel. He had an opportunity to love and encourage you and, instead, he used you. I’m ashamed to say... I was his friend. But, you are a good person, Rafael. You were willing to sacrifice yourself and put yourself in danger for Jeremy.”
With disgust, Rafael replied, “I was excited, Grayson! I was so horny, I couldn’t stand it! I could have done it with anyone down there! Don’t you understand? Stephen was right! I’m a pervert! I’m worthless! I’m...”
Rafael broke down and ran from the living room. As he did so, he heard his mother softly cry, “Oh, my God! What have I done?”
He slammed the door behind him and lay on his bed, crying great heaving sobs of despair. In the distance, he heard the telephone ring. He cried even harder, pulling the pillow to him and clutching it as a young boy might clutch a Teddy bear. Curled into the fetal position, he lay sobbing and clinging desperately to his pillow.
He had no idea how long he had been lying on the bed crying. Eventually, he fell asleep, but awoke when he cried, “No!” dreaming of Jimmy Dale McCoy naked, fucking Jeremy, who was begging Rafael to save him. Rafael, however, couldn’t move. He could only stand before them, watching helplessly as the disgusting man had his way with the boy he loved.
He rolled over on his back and looked at the clock radio on the side table. It was almost one o’clock in the afternoon. There was a knock on the door as he lay there staring at the second hand moving on its journey around the dial. It was a soft knock, not like the stronger and more assertive knock of his mother, or the polite knock followed by the soft voice of Claretta. He concluded that it must be Grayson Harrison, come to give him more grief over his stupidity and perversion. Rafael wasn’t certain he could bear to listen to more. Nevertheless, he quietly said, “Come in.”
He couldn’t even look at the door. He simply stared at the clock, his robe open and exposing most of his body, including the front of his dance belt.
He looked up upon hearing the young voice, not yet changed by puberty. Jeremy Fenwick stood in the doorway, peering around the door, looking at him with uncertainty and concern. His eyes, despite his obvious apprehension, swept down over the teenager’s exposed body. Rafael pulled his robe together and quickly sat up.
“Jeremy!” he exclaimed with surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“Can I come in?” he asked nervously.
“Of course!” Rafael replied with a quick nod.
Jeremy slowly entered the room and closed the door behind him as Rafael asked, “How did you get here?”
“I walked,” Jeremy replied. “It’s not that far.”
“Are you okay?”
Jeremy nodded and replied, “I’m fine. I’m just worried about Benji and Aunt Jane. Aunt Jane just fell apart and the doctor had to give her some pills to help her sleep. Benji...” Jeremy shrugged helplessly and said, “Benji doesn’t want to see me. He says it’s all my fault. He says nothing would have happened if I hadn’t come to live with them. I tried to say it wasn’t my fault, that his dad... well... Benji got mad and was gonna hit me and then he just started crying. I tried to hug him, but he pushed me away and told me to go to Hell. Benji never says anything like that.”
Rafael nodded and said, “It’s got to be hard to know your dad’s a.. that he’s... well...”
“Yeah. I can’t imagine it,” Jeremy said. “My parents were so good that I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a dad who’s... I just don’t know what to say. The newspaper didn’t have anything about this morning, but it was on the radio. I guess it was on the TV news at noon. It’s got to be horrible to know that the whole city knows your dad’s a pervert.”
Rafael looked away. He couldn’t respond. How could he tell Jeremy that he knew how horrible it was. Well, it wasn’t common knowledge around Greensburg that Stephen was gay, but there were people who knew and people who knew that he and Rafael had done it together. Listening to Jeremy, Rafael knew that Jeremy wouldn’t be able to handle that knowledge. He began to worry that perhaps Jeremy wouldn’t be able to handle living with someone as flamboyant and open as Uncle Teddy. This whole thing was a mistake.
How would Jeremy react when he realized Rafael was gay? Brian made it sound like Jeremy was in love with him, that Jeremy was gay, but was that anything more than just Brian stereotyping all male ballet dancers as gay?
He awoke from his reverie and looked at the younger boy standing before him. He pointed to the chair at his desk and said, “Have a seat, Jeremy.”
The boy nodded and pulled the chair out as he asked, “Rafael, I have to know. Did you do this? I mean, were you behind Uncle Jimmy getting arrested?”
Rafael swallowed. The truth would be hard for Jeremy to believe, he was certain. It was hard for him to believe. He felt responsible for this, responsible for the pain that Jane and Benji were feeling now. He looked down in shame at the floor and replied, “Not really, but I would have been.”
“What do you mean?”
Rafael sighed and replied, “I knew the East Bank park was a cruising area and when I was riding my bike home yesterday, I saw this old ’49 Ford parked there. Well, I recognized it when I came back with Mom and Mr. Harrison and then when we were talking with Jimmy Dale, he was looking me over like he was going to do me right there. So, I thought maybe I could... it was stupid. I was going to set him up and then threaten him or call the police. It was stupid. I wasn’t thinking. It was... I was an idiot. But, then, when I got to the park, the police were already there. I didn’t know, but this guy was talking to me, I think he was working undercover and, well, I told him I didn’t like Jimmy Dale because he hit my friend and that’s when he said for me to go across the street and then when it all happened, I was supposed to ride as fast as I could and get away. I guess he realized I wasn’t one of the guys cruising the park. Anyway, if it hadn’t been for him, I might have called the police to get him arrested or I might have tried to make a deal with him to let you go in return for me not saying anything. It was all stupid. I didn’t think it through. I didn’t think how it would hurt Jane and Benji and, maybe, you. I didn’t think. I was stupid. I could have made it a lot worse. I was just stupid.”
Jeremy pressed his lips together for a moment and then said, “Well, I think it was cool of you to want to do something. It was pretty brave to put yourself in danger like that. You were trying to help me. You were trying to do a good thing. I mean, yesterday morning, I was ready to kill myself and now, it looks like I’m going to be free and it’s all because you wanted to do a good thing. I think that’s pretty cool. I think you’re a pretty special person because of that.”
Rafael shook his head and looked away. “You wouldn’t say that if you knew... Well, don’t jump to conclusions. People can let you down, Jeremy. When you think you know them, that’s when you learn that they’re not what you thought.”
“Like Jimmy Dale? Benji thought his dad was this good and decent man of God and it turned out he was going to the park at night and getting naked in the bushes.”
“Yeah,” Rafael replied with shame. “Kind of like that.”
There was a knock on the door. Rafael looked up and said, “Yes?”
His mother peeked in and asked, “May I come in?”
Rafael was surprised by his mother’s suddenly polite behavior. She had never asked permission to enter his room. Looking at her strangely, he replied, “Sure.”
She came in and stood by the door, smiling at Jeremy and her son.
“Jeremy, I took the liberty of calling your aunt. Your neighbor answered the phone and we’ve arranged for you to stay over here for at least the next few days. I suspect Jane will be signing the papers for you to live with us and go to New York with Rafael, so if you like, we can go out this afternoon and shop for new clothes for you. I suppose you’ll need new dance shoes and dance belts and tights. We’ll get you whatever need. All right?”
Jeremy’s lips started to tremble and his eyes grew moist. “You people are so nice to me. I can’t... I can’t believe it. Thank you.”
Gloria smiled and then said to Rafael, “After you shower and dress, Rafael, I would like to talk with you. We have to discuss some changes.”
She smiled when she said it. Ordinarily, Rafael would have expected a lecture and something painful or humiliating. However, with the unusually kind and loving smile on her face, he wasn’t certain what to expect. He swallowed and replied, “Well, all right. Okay.”
She nodded and left the room.
“I think you’re mom’s a wonderful woman,” Jeremy said.
“I don’t think that was my mom,” Rafael replied. “I don’t know who that woman was, but it certainly wasn’t my mother.”
Jeremy grinned and said, “Moms are usually nicer people around others. She’s cool.”
There was another knock as Rafael stood up. His mother looked in again and added, “I forgot to tell you. Grayson says that Jimmy Dale’s still in jail and the church elders are meeting this evening to fire him. Your aunt and Benji are probably going to have to move, but I promise you, I’ll help them out. We’ll take care of them.”
She closed the door and Rafael stared back in stunned silence until he muttered, “Now I know that’s not my mom.”
Jeremy giggled as Rafael shook his head and said, “I need to shower. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
When he returned, back in his robe, Jeremy was standing with his back to the door, gazing at the picture of Nijinsky.
“Where did you get this?” he asked.
Rafael frowned and replied, “My stepdad gave it to me.”
“How cool! Nijinsky. You know Madame Pulchova knew him.”
Rafael nodded as he removed his robe. He stood naked before his dresser and as he pulled out a drawer and saw Jeremy staring at him with wide eyes, he suddenly realized what he was doing. He quickly turned and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
Jeremy had turned pale and his lips had parted in shock. Rafael realized that, here he was, Jeremy’s idol, and he was standing naked before him. A rush of excitement washed over him as he pulled a pair of briefs from the drawer. Slowly, feeling he was doing something forbidden, he turned and faced the younger boy. His penis had begun to swell and lengthen. Jeremy gazed at him in awe. Slowly, Rafael lifted first one leg and then next and he pulled the briefs on and then pulled them up.
“Sorry,” he said breathlessly. “I’m so used to dressing and undressing in front of the other guys at Ballet Academy that I didn’t think.”
“It’s okay,” Jeremy said hypnotized as he started at Rafael’s body. “I...um, I have to get used to that, I guess. At GBS, it’s just me and Timmy Heath. I...have to get used to being around other guys.”
Rafael smiled as he opened another drawer and pulled out a pair of khaki shorts. As he pulled them on, he said, “It’s almost like heaven when you get to Ballet Academy and you have a couple dozen other guys in your level and you realize you aren’t a freak anymore and they’re all just like you and love dance and understand. It’s... heaven.”
“I can hardly wait,” Jeremy replied breathlessly.
“So, if you’re going to be staying over here for the next few days,” Rafael said as he took a Navy Lacoste from the next drawer and pulled it over his head, “we can starting working out in the basement and get a head start on getting you ready for your audition.”
“I can dance today?” Jeremy asked with sudden excitement. “Today? Here?”
Rafael smiled and nodded. “I have a dance floor downstairs in the basement. I work out and practice there every day. You’ll love it.”
Jeremy’s lips began to tremble again and, as a tear made its way down his cheek, Rafael walked up to him and wrapped his arms around the younger boy. He held him tightly as Jeremy lay his head on Rafael’s shoulder and began to cry.
“I can’t believe this is going to happen,” he whispered as he sniffed. “I just can’t believe it.”
“I know. I understand,” Rafael said. “I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through for the past few months, but I promise you won’t have to go through it again.”
Jeremy looked up into Rafael’s face and smiled gratefully. “Thank you. Thank you, Rafael. Thank you.”
Rafael felt tears in his eyes, as well, before he suddenly broke the embrace and stepped away declaring, “Well, let’s go get you some clothes.”
Jeremy’s emotions were a jumble as he climbed into the back seat of the Cadillac. Rafael sat in the front, much to the younger boy’s relief, being afraid the older boy might notice the rise in the front of Jeremy’s shorts. The younger boy’s erection had stubbornly remained hard since Jeremy saw Rafael naked in his bedroom. The slim, but strong fifteen year-old was even more beautiful than Jeremy had imagined even in his most lurid masturbatory fantasies. Muscled thighs and calves, strong arms, a sturdy, v-shaped back, lightly olive skin, small tufts of black hair under his arms and around his penis... He had been correct in guessing that Rafael was uncircumcised. Long and thin, the older boy’s penis had hung down perhaps three inches. Rafael made him think of a youth painted by a Renaissance artist, with his almost feminine face, his long, black curls, and his slender, but masculine body.
Jeremy gazed out the window at the jumble of concrete, steel, and glass rectangles that made up Rafael’s home as Gloria Hampton backed the car out of the driveway and onto Somerset Drive. In addition to gratitude and excitement, he was feeling fear and trepidation. What if he wasn’t good enough to get into Ballet Academy of America? What if he was unable to get back into shape properly before the audition? What if... what if Rafael discovered Jeremy was gay and didn’t want a gay boy living with him? Rafael had surely been around a lot of gay dancers, so maybe he wasn’t prejudiced. He was certainly a kind and generous person, as was his mother, one of the nicest women he had ever met.
From the back seat, he gazed at Rafael as the teenager turned his head to look at his mother. His nose was strong, his cheekbones strong, his eyes dear-like, his thick, long curls falling about his head so beautifully. Jeremy felt his erection throb in his cheap, denim shorts and anxiety grip his heart. How, how in the world was he going to keep his attraction to Rafael from being obvious?
He wasn’t gay. He had to keep telling himself that. Jeremy Fenwick was not gay. He wasn’t. He liked girls. Someday, he would find a beautiful ballerina and have wild sex with her and marry her and he would father lots of beautiful, dancing children. Yes. He would. He would.
Jeremy was startled from his reverie when he saw Rafael grinning at his mother and the humorous irritation on the woman’s face.
“What? I didn’t say anything,” Rafael replied.
“You were going to. We’re not going to discuss it,” Gloria declared.
“Discuss what? The complete and absolute transformation of the dreaded Cruella de Vil into a kind and compassionate lover of Dalmatians and children?”
“I told you, Rafael,” she replied, “I don’t have a sense of humor and I never, absolutely never watch Disney movies. They’re bad for the intellect. They make people soft and... weak and...”
The woman shuddered with dread as Rafael grinned.
“I love you, Mom.”
“Shut up. We’ll talk when the child isn’t around.”
Jeremy looked with wide-eyed confusion from Gloria to Rafael, who turned his face to the backseat and said, grinning, “I think she’s referring to you.”
Jeremy blushed and Rafael added, “Don’t worry. She doesn’t bite as much now as she used to. I think you’re safe, but just to make sure, don’t make any comments about the weather in London or ask too many questions about her younger brother.”
“Older!” his mother declared forcefully. “Teddy is not younger than me! Teddy is older. I’m only thirty-nine.”
“Mom, you’ve been thirty-nine since...”
“Don’t push my sudden good nature, Rafael,” she interrupted. “I still have ways of punishing you that you cannot even begin to imagine.”
Rafael winked at Jeremy and turned back around as they drove into downtown.
Surprisingly, they found a parking space directly in front of the most expensive department store in downtown Greensburg. As they walked in, three sales people approached them. They went into the young men’s department and a young salesman approached, gazing with barely concealed hunger at Rafael before he noticed Jeremy behind him.
“Jeremy! I haven’t seen you in here for months!” he declared. “I was so sorry to hear about your parents. They were such wonderful people.”
“Thanks, Jeff,” Jeremy replied with a polite smile.
“So, are we getting our new uniform for Breckenridge this fall?”
“No, Jeff,” Gloria replied. “We need an assortment of casual summer wear and a few things for autumn.”
She turned to Jeremy and asked, “Do you need a new blazer?”
“No, I still have my old one and it still fits,” Jeremy replied.
Gloria turned to Rafael and asked, “Does the Manhattan School for Student Professionals have a uniform?”
Rafael shook his head and Gloria declared, “Well, that should do it then. Shorts, casual shirts, casual pants. A nice variety.”
Jeff seemed almost as excited at the prospect of such a big sale as he was at fitting Jeremy. He took Jeremy over to the full-length mirrors as Gloria wandered among the clothes on display. Jeremy blushed as Jeff knelt before him with his measuring tape. The young man’s face was even with the boy’s crotch and his eyes grew wide as he spied the thick rise in the front of Jeremy’s denim shorts. He looked up and grinned.
“Rafael is beautiful, isn’t he?” he whispered.
Nodding to the young man, for the first time in his life, Jeremy admitted to someone other than Benji that he found another male beautiful. The young man whispered, “You’re so cute when you blush. Your face almost turns the same color as those precious freckles!”
Rafael was standing directly behind him and cleared his throat. Jeremy almost burst out laughing at Jeff’s consternation. Rafael winked at the salesman, who relaxed, though he was still obviously embarrassed.
It took an hour to try on all the various clothes Gloria insisted on buying for Jeremy and when they finally left, with two sales people carrying everything out to the car, the boy was speechless.
“I don’t know how to thank you for your generosity, Mrs. Hampton,” he said humbly as they pulled away from the curb.
“What generosity?” Gloria replied. “Surely, your mother took you here for clothes.”
“Sure, but, it’s still very kind of you.”
Jeremy could see that Rafael’s mother was unaccustomed to these kinds of compliments. Rafael smiled back at him and Jeremy relaxed. He grew excited again, however, as they stopped in front of a small store near the Greensburg Ballet School. As they walked in and looked around at all the dance clothes and supplies, Jeremy stood in the center of the store and closed his eyes with a joyous smile on his face. Rafael placed his hand on Jeremy’s shoulder and the younger boy opened his moist eyes.
“I feel like I’m home,” he whispered.
Rafael nodded and said, “Just wait until we start practicing at Ballet Academy.”
They purchased several pair of tights in grey, black, and white, leotards, dance belts, and shoes, along with some shorts and t-shirts and when they left, Jeremy’s excitement was palpable as they climbed back into the car.
As Rafael leaned over the front seat and grinned at him, Jeremy grinned back and said, “I want to dance. When we get back, I want to put on my dance belt and leotard and tights and I want to dance!”
“We have to eat dinner first,” Gloria declared firmly, “but then the two of you have the dance floor for the rest of the evening.”
Jeremy nodded, unable to suppress his grin as Rafael cocked his head and remarked, “It’s so nice to see you smile after everything you’ve been through.”
Jeremy nodded happily, though he sighed and said, “I feel guilty being so happy when Aunt Jane and Benji are going through so much pain.”
Rafael nodded and his mother looked in the rearview mirror at the younger boy.
“Don’t worry, Jeremy,” she said. “We’ll take care of them. I know this must be a horrible and embarrassing time for them, but we will help them as much as we can. You can be sure of that.”
Rafael stared at his mother in wonder, smiling faintly. The woman took a deep breath and said quietly, “We’ll talk later, but suffice it to say that I’ve had a couple of conversations with Grayson and Teddy about you and Stephen. I... I have a lot to atone for.”
Rafael looked down as Jeremy watched, wondering what she meant and knowing it was something personal and deeply painful for Rafael. Discreetly, he looked out the window as they drove through Hampton Park.
He felt a quickening of his heartbeat as they passed the house in which he had lived until just a few months before. The house was for sale and tears came to the boy’s eyes as they passed it.
Rafael looked back and Jeremy said, “This is the first time I’ve seen it since I left to live with Aunt Jane.”
Rafael nodded and said, “We’re going to do what we can for you, Jeremy. You can be happy again.”
Jeremy nodded and smiled. He just hoped that he didn’t ruin everything by messing up his dancing... or revealing his secret to Rafael! And, he was certain that was going to be harder than he realized!