The Valentine’s Day Card

by Richard Norway

norway.r@gmail.com

‘Okay, so Valentine’s Day is next week, on Thursday actually,’ I thought.  I’m 15 years old for Christ’s sake, and I don’t send out those silly little pink Valentine’s Day cards anymore.  Why does everyone still want me to do that? Mom and Dad, for instance…

I slowly pushed my plate away, having finished my dinner.  It was their usual Wednesday midweek evening meal, meat loaf.

“Mom, Dad, I’m a little old for that, don’t you think?”

“Well, you do like someone at school, don’t you?  I know it’s silly, but it’s also a nice thing to do.” my mother said before sipping the remainder of her wine.

“Hey, Margaret.  I think he’s right.  A guy his age doesn’t send Valentine’s Day cards anymore, unless it’s to that special girl.”

I groaned to myself as my Dad turned his head and looked at me.

My dad tilted his head slightly, and he had that shit-eating grin on his face that told me that he was about to totally embarrass me.

“I think Jesse’s got the hots for you; you know?” he finally said out loud.

‘Oh geez. Not this again,’ I screamed in my head.

“Dad, she’s not my girlfriend.  I like her, but as a friend.  That’s all.”

“Well, you could still send her a card,” mom said to add to my embarrassment.

I stared at my dad for a moment, not wanting to answer.  Then I looked up at my mother.

“Mom, I have a lot of homework tonight.  Is it okay if I skip helping to clear the table so I can get to it?  I may be up until 11:00 as it is.”

Mom and Dad turned to look at each other. They both had that questioning look on their faces, and I knew that they knew that I was avoiding talking about Jesse.

After a short non-verbal eyes-only conversation between the two of them, Mom and Dad both turned to me.

“Is something wrong Mica?  You seem to not want to talk about Jesse.  Did you guys have a fight?” Mom asked.

I quietly shook my head as I looked at her.

“No, Mom.  We have not had a fight.  Everything’s cool with us.  But I really do have a lot of work to get done tonight.  May I please be excused?”

Mom looked over at Dad, who was still tilting his head in concentration, of me no doubt.

Without looking at me, still staring at my dad, she said to me, “It’s okay.  I’ll take care of it tonight.”

“Thanks Mom,” I said as I grabbed my plate and hurried to the kitchen.   I put the dishes in the sink, rinsed them off and put them in the dishwasher.  I then turned around and leaned against the counter by the dishwasher next to me for a moment, staring at the wall on the far side.

‘I don’t think Mom or Dad have guessed yet,’ I thought to myself while folding my arms in front of my chest for security.  I stayed leaning against the counter while I thought of how they might react once they found out that their son, their precious first-born and only son, is…gay.

The tears started to leak from my eyes as I knew that Mom and Dad must eventually know who I am, who their son is.  They have that right to know me.  After what Dad said about Jesse, I’m sure he doesn’t know me.  The me, who I am.  Mom? I don’t know if she suspects or not.

I finally pulled myself out of my slight venture into depression, turned around and headed up to my bedroom.

“Don’t stay up too late.”  I heard my mom say as I passed the dining room on my way upstairs.

I jumped over my backpack before I tripped as I entered my bedroom.  ‘Damn.  Someone ought to pick that shit up.  Oh…hmm, well, maybe tomorrow,’  I said to myself as I plunked down into the chair in front of my computer.

‘Maybe Eazyrider is on,’ I thought as I looked at the darkened monitor, knowing that I really didn’t have that much homework tonight, but some.

Once I had booted up, and before I had a chance to see if he was online, a dialog box appeared on my screen.  It was from Eazyrider wanting me to join our private chat room.

 

“Oh Yeah,” I said out loud.

 

BOI2015>          wazup man

EAZYRIDER>     been waitn 4 u. guess what.

BOI2015>          what

EAZYRIDER>     I finally got a hot date 4 Vday, 

BOI2015>          so who’s the lucky guy?

EAZYRIDER>     guess

BOI2015>          some guy named Harry, right?

EAZYRIDER>     nope 

BOI2015>          so who is it?

Eazyrider was quiet for a while before he eventually answered.

EAZYRIDER>     well, I don’t really have a date yet, but I know who I’d like to go on a date with

BOI2015>          bet it’s the same guy you’ve had a crush on, huh?

EAZYRIDER>     yeah, but he doesn’t know who I am…that I exist.

BOI2015>          Ya, tell me about it!

EAZYRIDER>     so when r u gonna talk to ur guy…let him know how u feel?

BOI2015>          u crazy or somethin? no way.  Just like you won’t talk to ur guy.

EAZYRIDER>     yeah. we’re hopeless. 

I sat back thinking about what Eazyrider had just said. Yeah…I fear telling Hale how I feel about him. Hale’s probably straight though, and there’s not much that I can do. I can’t be with him.

EAZYRIDER>     still there?

BOI2015>          ya. just thinking is all.

EAZYRIDER>     so what u got ur mind on?

BOI2015>          u know, just about my crush.

EAZYRIDER>     u got it bad, u know.

BOI2015>          shut up. so, do u ass bite.  Ur guy is making u just as sick as me.

EAZYRIDER>     don’t rub it in man.

BOI2015>          sorry

EAZYRIDER>     s’ok but like I said, u and me pal are just hopeless.

BOI2015>          don’t remind me.

EAZYRIDER>     gotta do homework u know.

BOI2015>          ya me too. Laters

EAZYRIDER>     laters

 

I pushed back my chair after Eazyrider signed off and stared at the blank screen.

‘He’s right.  He and I are a couple of losers.  We both have someone that we have major crushes on but are scared shitless to talk to them,’ I admitted to myself.

I had met Eazyrider almost six months ago online.  We had started to talk, and soon it became apparent that, after a month of conversation, Eazyrider was a normal guy and not some pervert.  He was also 15.  I could be fooled, but I didn’t think so.  Neither of us had given the other our real names, as screen names seemed to be enough.  Eazyrider had never asked me for my name, nor had he offered his.

Eazyrider and I had much in common which made for an easy forming friendship.  He liked most of the music I liked, his classes at school, his family, and the sports that I liked, except swimming.  Eazyrider couldn’t swim, never was taught, but I was on the swimming team at school. Eazyrider had once described himself as being 5’-11” tall with medium length brown hair and brown eyes.  That put him an inch taller than me, although my eyes are blue.

‘Come on duffus,’ I said to himself.  ‘Start your homework before Mom and Dad come in to check up on you.’

I finished what little I had to do and crawled into bed lying awake for a short time trying to get Hale off my mind.   That only worked for a few minutes before my eyes closed

∫∫∫

 

“Wait up Hale,” I shouted to my friend as I hurried to catch up with him.  He slowed his walk as I approached and settled into a walk beside him.  Hale towered over my 5’-10” by only one inch.  But we were alike with our hair length, although Hale’s is brown and mine is blond, both of us combed our hair forward with a touch of well-manicured unsightliness.

“Hey Mica.  You ready for Chem Lab this morning?”

“Yeah, right,” I retorted.  “Like I need a sleeper class lecture to get me going in the morning.”

Hale turned to look at me as we continued our walk toward our first class together.

“Yeah, I know it’s too early for real human beings, but it’s not so bad, you know?  Hell, you might even learn something,” Hale chuckled.

Hale is a morning person, and I am not.  I usually need at least two cups of coffee to get my mind open and functioning.  Kids don’t usually drink coffee, but a year ago, I had found the taste and the caffeine to my liking in the morning.

“Yeah, right.  I got up late this morning, so I’m one cup of coffee short right now.”

Hale laughed at his friend.

Hale was silent for a few minutes as they walked but turned again toward me.

“You know, Karen’s having a Valentine’s Day party next Thursday night.  You want to go?”

I did not want to go to any party on V Day.  “I don’t know who to take at this late date, and besides, I don’t like parties anyway.”

“What about Jessica?  She’s hot for you, you know?”

I had to think about that for a while.  I liked her, a lot, but not in the way that most people thought.  I knew that I was using her, and I hated myself for it.  She didn’t deserve to be deceived by what I was doing.

“Mica?”

I turned toward Hale as we continued walking.

“Sorry Hale.  Yeah, I might ask her,” continuing my deception.

“Well, you’d better do it soon.  The party’s next week.”

I lost the thought of Jesse and knew that I wanted to ask Hale to be his date.  But that was out of the question.

I turned toward Hale.

“Who’re you taking?”

Hale then turned his gaze toward me.

“I think I’ll ask Sasha.  She’s been waiting for me to ask her.”

“Yeah, I thought you would.  You’ve been dating her for, what, four months now?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

My eyes bulged, still looking at my friend.

“You should know by now Hale.  It’s been four months man.”

“Yeah, I know, but I don’t.”

“Don’t know if you’re in love with her?”

“No.  I still don’t.”

That was surprising to me.  I had always assumed that Hale and Sasha would eventually get married and have a house full of screaming kids.  I thought I knew Hale but wasn’t so sure now.  ‘Why the change?’ I thought.

After a short silent pause, while still watching Hale, I had to know what was up.

“Is there someone else?” I asked.

Hale looked down at the linoleum tiles passing under his feet before he spoke.

“Well, maybe.”

“Huh?  What are you getting yourself into Hale?  Sasha is so into you, and she’s one of the hottest girls in this school.”

“I know, but…Mica, I’m trying to readjust.  I’m trying to look toward the future.”

‘What are you talking about?’ I thought to himself.

“Okay, are you going to send her a Valentine’s Day Card?  That’ll send a signal toward your future,” I said.

Hale stopped and pulled me to a stop.  It became obvious to me that he didn’t want to answer that question.

“Okay, yeah, I will.  But I haven’t picked one out yet.  They’re usually too mushy, and that’s not the signal that I want to send to her.”

I stared at Hale for a moment, wondering what he was thinking.

“We’d better get to class before we’re late.  Come on, Casanova,” I said.

“Yeah.  Let’s not eat the pizza at lunch today though.  It’s made from horsemeat, I’ve heard.”  Hale laughed as he said it.

‘Where did that come from?’ I thought.  When he doesn’t want to talk about something, he’s a great one for changing the subject immediately.

“Nope.  Now let’s get to class before they suspend us,” I answered.

We both entered the Chem Lab class together and sat in different seats.  We wouldn’t be together again until lunchtime.

 

∫∫∫

 

I looked across the cafeteria table at Hale shortly after we had sat down to eat lunch.  I wondered about him, why he was reluctant to invite Sasha to the party at Karen’s.  I had to grin at my friend, thinking that he’s off his rocker in love.

Finally, Hale looked up at me.  “What are you grinning about?” he asked.

I smirked, knowing what was going through Hale’s mind.

“You,” I said emphatically.

“What about me?”

“Oh, just that you’re in love with Sasha and don’t have the balls to admit it.”  I was almost about to laugh at my friend.

“Shut up!” Hale growled.

I tilted my head to the right, frowning, wondering if something was wrong between Hale and Sasha, so I had to ask.

“Sorry.  Is something wrong?” I asked.

Hale looked up at me and stared at me.  Speaking softly so that our friends at the table wouldn’t hear, he asked, “Mica, can we talk?  Let’s get out of here.”

Something was up with Hale, and I wanted to be there for my friend.

I looked around and finally whispered to Hale, “Let’s go to the park.  It’s close and we can still be back to class before the bell rings, okay?”

Hale lowered his head, but then returned his gaze on me.

“Okay, but let’s get going.  We don’t have much of the lunch period left.”

We looked around the cafeteria before we picked up our lunch trays.

“Hey, where you guys going?” Todd asked from across the table.

I turned toward Todd and shook my shoulders.  I was not about to let on that Hale, and I needed to talk about something personal.

“See you guys later.  I have to go to the counsellor’s office for a second about my class schedule.  I guess Hale is just following me,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders again.

Hale had already turned and was carrying his tray to the window to deposit it as I tried to catch up with him.  Hale deposited his half-eaten lunch tray onto the window as I approached but he stayed next to the opening as I deposited my empty tray.

“Come on Mica, Let’s get out of here.”

I started to feel a little upset as my friend seemed to be in anguish in trying to leave the school and talk to me.  I couldn’t question him inside of the school but knew that something big was bothering him.

We exited the school at the faculty parking entrance and walked silently toward the nearby park.  I wanting to know what was up, and Hale wanting to talk to me about what was up.

We approached the green grassy area overlooking a small lake, and Hale then motioned toward a spot under a large oak tree.

“What’s up?  You seem really upset right now.”

Hale looked out over the lake before answering me.

“Mica, I don’t want to go with Sasha to the party, but everyone wants me to.”

“What’s wrong Hale?”

Hale looked back toward me for a moment.

“I guess it’s because I want to go with someone else.”

“Really?  I thought you and Sasha were tight, that you were made for each other.”

“Yeah, that’s what everyone thinks, but…”

Hale sat down cross legged under the oak tree, turning his attention toward the small lake.  The dark clouds and the rain above the mountains in the distance appeared to mimic the darkness that I felt Hale was experiencing.  I watched him for a moment and then joined him.

“Hale?” I asked, as I looked at him.  “Is there something between you and Sasha?  Is something wrong?”

He looked at me as if I were a being from outer space, someone who couldn’t understand him.

And then he smiled.

“She’s not for me, and I don’t know how to tell her,” he finally let out.

“Is there someone else?” I asked.

“Yeah, there is,” he said, with reservations in his voice.

“Wanna tell me, I mean who it is?”

He continued to watch the lake.

“No.  It’s too soon.”

He waited for a moment before continuing.

“It’s someone at school.”

“Do I know her?

Hale broke into a broad grin.

“Yeah, you do,” he said chuckling to himself.

“You sure you don’t want to tell me who she is?

“No.  Not yet.”

“Well, are you going to send her a Valentine’s card?  It’s a great way of breaking the ice, you know, to tell her that she’s special to you.”

Hale stared at me for the longest time before answering me.

“Yeah, I think I will.  And you’re right.  It just might work.

“Wanna tell me who she is?

“Not yet, my friend.  I don’t want you to freak.”

I smiled as I leaned back against the oak tree.  But Hale looked at me with this devilish grin.

“So, are you going to send whoever you’re looking at a Valentine’s Day card too?

I felt trapped.  ‘I can’t send one to Hale,’ I thought.  What would he think of me then? Geez.

 

∫∫∫

 

It’s Saturday night, and I’m bored. I have nothing to do, and I’m not just bored.  I’m very bored.  I finished my homework this morning, so right now I’m bored out of my frigging mind.

“Mica! Dinners about ready, and you need to set the table,” I heard my mom yell at me from the bottom of the stairs.

“Be right down,” I yelled back.  ‘Well at least that’s something to do,’ I thought.

As we all sat down, Mom had pork chops steaming on the table with apple chutney, scalloped potatoes, a vegi mixture and hot rolls and butter.  As usual, I was the first to dive in. Dad always waits for me to fill my plate before he dives in.  Mom’s a good cook and watches us, waiting to surprise us with her talents.  But tonight, she held off dishing up her plate, looking at me.

“Hon,” she finally spoke.  “Have you given any more thought to Valentine’s Day?”

I looked up at her.  “Yeah, some.  There’s a Valentine’s Day party at Karen’s house next Thursday night.  Hale wants me to go with him.”

Mom and Dad looked at each other with amusement on their faces.

“Are you going to take someone?” Mom asked.

I had to think fast.  “Well, I was thinking of asking Jesse if she wanted to go with me.”  I didn’t know what else to say.

“She’s a sweet girl.  I think you both will have a good time,” Mom said.

“Have you picked out a Valentine’s Day card to send her yet?  It’ll make her more willing to say yes to you, you know?” Dad said as he looked up from his dinner.

‘Not that again,’ I thought as my eyes frowned.

Dad looked at Mom for a second before returning his eyes on me.

“You seem like you don’t want to send her a card, Mica,” Dad said.

“Dad, I’m too old for that!”

“Okay, okay, son.  But it’s still a nice gesture.”

‘There’s no way that I’m going to tell them who I want to send a card to.  They wouldn’t understand,’ I thought.

“May I be excused?”  I wanted this conversation to go no further.

Mom looked at Dad and shrugged her shoulders before she answered, “You’re excused, but don’t forget that that’s two you owe us to help clean up the dinner dishes.” she said while grinning that evil “mom’s” grin.

“Maybe helping me clean the garage next weekend,” Dad chi nned in.  I just glared at him.

 

∫∫∫

 

As I walked into my room, I knew that I had to talk to Eazyrider.  He was the only person that I was out to and someone that I could talk to about this.

I booted up my computer but found that he wasn’t online.  As I waited, I wondered if he was out with someone else tonight.  That thought, running through my mind, was about to cause another round of depression within me.

‘I can’t stop him from dating,’ I thought.  Eazy is probably a nice guy and a date would be good for him.

That thought soured me even more, knowing the problem I had with Hale.  I was about to shut down my computer when an instant message appeared on the screen.  It was from EAZYRIDER.

EAZYRIDER>     I see ur home tonight?  No hot date?

BOI2015>          u 2 I see. 

EAZYRIDER>     ya well, I didn’t want to go out tonight.

BOI2015>          ya me 2

EAZYRIDER>     so what u doin tonight?

BOI2015>,        nada u?

EAZYRIDER>     same

We stayed quiet for a few moments.

BOI2015>          mom and dad want me to send a VD card to a girl.   I think it’s stupid.

EAZYRIDER>     ha! mine 2 but I don’t see the purpose.  I don’t have a g/f.

BOI2015>          jess is not my g/f either.  If I send her a card, she might think we r and I don’t want that.

EAZYRIDER>     who’s jess?

‘Oh shit.  I’m giving too much away.’ ran through my mind.

BOI2015>          ah…she’s a girl at school that Mom and Dad think is my g/f. I’d like to date this boy, but that’s out of the question.

EAZYRIDER>     know what u mean.   my rents think I have a g/f, but I would like to date my guy.  but I think he’s straight ☹

BOI2015>          I think mine is 2.  it’s tough being in the closet ☹

EAZYRIDER>     I know the feeling.

I thought for a while before asking my question.

BOI2015>          is ur guy cute?

EAZYRIDER>     he is the cutest thing that I’ve ever seen. He is so handsome; he makes my skin crawl every time I see him.

I thought for a while before answering.

BOI2015>          mine is 2.  I want to kiss him every time I see him. sigh

EAZYRIDER>     u’v got it bad, u know?

BOI2015>          I’m not alone.  So do u, duffus LOL

EAZYRIDER>     ya, we r both a couple of losers. ☹. I can’t have my guy and u can’t have yours

 

We both stayed quiet for a while.

 

BOI2015>          i should get going.

EAZYRIDER>     Ya me 2

 

We both signed off at about the same time.  I thought I was going to feel better after talking to Eazyrider, but after the conversation was over, I felt an emptiness in my stomach, and it was because I realized that I was in love with Hale, and it could never be.

I laid back on my bed, hands holding my head up off the pillow for what seemed like 15 minutes, when my cell phone chirped on my desk.

‘Geez, I hope it’s not Jesse,’ I thought before getting up to retrieve my phone.

When I picked up my cell, I saw that it was Hale calling me.

“Hey Hale.  What’s up?”

“Hey Mica.  Just wanted to know what you’re doing tomorrow.”

“Not much.  The rents have this huge Sunday brunch around 11:00 in the morning, but after that I’m free.  What you got in mind?”

“I didn’t go out tonight, so I feel cooped up.  Wanna head to the park tomorrow?”

I was thrilled to be able to spend some time with Hale and be close to him.  “That sounds like a great plan.”

“Cool.  What time should I pick you up?”

“You have a car?  You’re only 15, Hale.”

“You know I don’t duffus.  Just have your bike ready to go.”

“Okay.  How about 1:00 tomorrow then?”

“I’ll be there.  Bring your Frisbee too.  It’s going to be sunny tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

After Hale had hung up, I laid back on his bed, dreaming of tomorrow afternoon.

 

∫∫∫

 

During brunch the next morning, my dad looked up from his plate full of Dutch Baby pancakes with strawberry preserves and sausage and asked me what my plans were for the day.

“Hale wants to hang out at the park today after brunch.” I answered, not taking my eyes off my plate. I love Dutch Babies. There’s never enough melted butter, fruit preserves or powdered sugar on them for me.  “I told him that I’d meet him here at 1:00 this afternoon.”

“Just make sure you help clear the dishes before you go.” my mom said without looking up from her plate of Dutch Babies.

I was relieved that Dad didn’t have any menial chores for me to do this afternoon, like cleaning out the garage or some such.

 “Have a good time, son, but remember to be back by dinner time.  Oh, and remember to keep away from that river that runs through the park.  It’s been raining a lot these past few days up in the foothills, so the river is quite swollen now.”

“I will Dad, and thanks for the warning.”

 

∫∫∫

 

Just as he said he would do, Hale came speeding down the street, stopping in from of my house at exactly 1:00 pm. He screeched to a stop on my front yard but only left a six-inch stretch of grass removed.  He had on shorts and a tee shirt, as I had, so we were ready for the park.

“You ready to go?” he asked after taking off his helmet.

“Yup, even remembered to bring my Frisbee.”

“Well, let’s fly then.”

We parked our bikes in the bike rack next to the parking lot and the park’s only restroom and locked them.  We both headed for our favourite part of the park, knowing that Hale and I had the same idea of where to go.  It was a more secluded part of the park, away from the picnic tables and playground for the little kids.  It still had plenty of grass to play on and was also shielded from view of the other people in the park by a stand of pine trees.  Their needle covered branches were so low to the ground that we couldn’t see under them. It was a perfect hideaway.

Hale immediately dropped his backpack on the ground and put his hand out to me.

“Where’s the Frisbee Mica?  Let’s have it.”

“Hold on just a minute, will you?” I said back to him as I took my backpack off my shoulders and dropped it to the ground.  We were standing just behind the stand of pine trees about 50 feet from the river.

I leaned over, unzipped my bag and pulled out the Frisbee.

“Here,” I said as I quickly sailed it toward him.  He was just barely fifteen feet from me, and it caught him unprepared…square in the stomach.

“Oof,” Hale yelled as he doubled over slightly, holding his stomach.

“That was sneaky, you bastard.”

“Sorry Hale, but you were so bent on starting, I couldn’t resist.”

“Well, let me get a ways back from you, and we’ll see who misses the next one.”

Hale quickly stripped off his tee shirt, picked up the Frisbee and started to jog away from me, away from the pine trees into a clearing and toward the river.  I stripped off my tee and quickly moved away from him to the right to give us about fifty feet of separation.

Hale watched me slow down before he sailed one at me.  It was high and to my right.  I jumped, grabbing toward the air where I thought the Frisbee would be in a quarter of a second and barely caught it.  I swung it back to him before my hip and shoulder banged into the grass.

Hale missed it as it was a little too far to his left, but he grabbed it off the grass and sailed a bullet pass toward me just a few feet off the ground.  It was right at me, and I made the catch easily.

We threw the Frisbee back and forth for a few minutes, then I was starting to get a little winded.  We were both getting tired at our fast pace and our aims were getting a little erratic.  My next throw went high and to his left, but even being winded as he was, he jumped with all his might, missed the Frisbee totally, and came down with a splash right into the raging river.

I almost laughed at Hale’s splash until I looked at the water and realized that Dad was right.  The water was flowing at a break-neck speed and the level was almost up to the top of the bank.  This was going to be a good exercise for a swimmer to finally get back to the shore.

Hale’s head came up out of the water, but something was wrong.  He wasn’t swimming. I looked at him for a moment wondering why he was splashing around in the water as the current rushed him downstream.  He wasn’t trying to pull himself through the water toward the shore.

It just suddenly dawned on me that he wasn’t swimming; he was drowning!

I quickly dropped my vision of him swimming toward the shore and took off like a flash of lightening.  I aimed myself further downstream to where he would be when I got to the bank.  In only a few moments I was abreast of him at the bank, and without thinking further, I dove into the river just ahead of him.  He was only about ten feet from the bank, but the edge of the swollen river was at the edge of the bank.  The water must have been 6 to 8 feet deep there.

As my head emerged from the water, I could see Hale’s arms splashing on the surface, but his head was underwater.  He was only 3 feet from me, and I reached out and tried to grab him, but his flailing arms made it impossible for me to get a hold of him.

‘He needs to get some air, RIGHT NOW,’ I said to myself.

I waited for the right position of his arms as they went under for a second and kicked through the water toward him. I grabbed him around his torso while his arms were underwater and held him tightly while lifting him toward the surface.  As I lifted him, my own head went underwater, but I knew I could hold my breath for a long time.  He needed air more than I did right now.

I held his head above water as long as I could while kicking myself and Hale toward the bank.  Each time I came up for air, I could look around to get my bearings.  We were closer to the shore, but still had a few more feet to go before we could touch the bottom and walk ourselves to safety.  I couldn’t help Hale breathe as I was underwater most of the time, but while I was down there, I would pull my arms around his chest so tight that he had to exhale.  He exhaled water the first few times I did that, but on the fourth time, his reflex breathing took over and I felt his chest suddenly expand.

He was breathing!

We had travelled at least 100 feet downstream before I was able to touch the bottom.  It was another 25 feet before we were close enough to get a grip on the bottom and stop our travel downstream.

Hale was almost like a dead weight, completely unable to help himself onto the bank, but I kept a hold of him and, we eventually made it up just enough to drop on our backs to the ground, feet still in the water, but able to relax and breath.

Hale continued to cough and spit out whatever remaining water he had in his lungs, but eventually, he relaxed, and his body went limp.  He continued breathing though…deeply.

I turned my eyes toward him and saw that he had his eyes closed.  He was completely still, except for his chest moving up and down as he breathed.

I was also breathing hard from the exhaustion of our “swim” together.

Finally, Hale opened his eyes, staring toward the sky for a moment before turning his eyes toward me.

“That was stupid, wasn’t it?” he softly asked.

“That you couldn’t swim but jumped in anyway?” I said still looking into his eyes.

“I don’t know why I did it.  I guess I was so wrapped in our game that I didn’t even see the river.”

“Dad told me this morning that the river would be swollen and dangerous, so I should have known not to play so close.”

He continued to watch me.  No, he continued to look into my eyes.  It appeared that he was searching for something, searching for something within me.

“Thank you, Mica,” he whispered.

I looked at his brown hair as the bangs rested on his forehead and the sides covered his ears. It looked darker now that it was wet.

“You would have done the same for me, Hale, if it had been me that had jumped in.”

I continued to look into his brown eyes as he continued to look deeply into mine.

“I almost drowned you know?”

Hale slightly turned to his left, still facing me, and put his right hand on my right arm.

“You’re the best friend I’ve got Mica,” he said while still searching my eyes.

I knew I was in trouble when he slowly moved closer to me.  I could feel the gratitude in him, but his eyes told of his love for me.

I was afraid.  ‘Did he love me the way I wanted him to love me?’ I thought as I continued to watch him.  I wanted him so much that I was about to start crying, the first tear holding back on my left eyelash. I couldn’t help myself.  I couldn’t, as I started to lean in closer to him, to be nearer to him.

Hale also began to lean in a little closer to me. our eyes-only inches apart, watching each other.

“Mica, you really are special to me, you know?”

“You’re special to me too, Hale.  You always have been.”

Hale started to move his head to the side and move in even closer toward me.  I immediately panicked as I knew that I would soon be kissing him.  I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted this so much, but if I kissed him, I knew that he would turn away from me, be disgusted in me, and never want to see me again.  I knew he was getting close to me here on the bank of the river because he wanted to show his brotherly love for his best friend and gratitude for me saving his life.

I closed my eyes for a moment.  I then jumped up and stood over him.

“Hale, this has been a trying day, so I think we had better go.”

Hale looked up at me for a moment before closing his eyes.  A few seconds later, he opened them, but they were not the same. His eyes were sad.

 

 

 

∫∫∫

 

‘As I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my soul to keep.’ That line from a child’s night-time prayer kept going through my mind, ‘I lay me down to sleep,’ that night.  Hale is a God to me, and he could even be my Lord.  And I sure as hell want him to take a hold of and keep my soul.’

‘What was he up to?’ I wondered.  Did he seem to get so close as if to kiss me, or was he just being grateful for what I had done?  I really have no way of judging people, I feel so inept at figuring out just exactly what they have on their minds most of the time, especially Hale.

Did he really want to kiss me?  Was that what he was doing?  If he did, then I sure as hell misjudged him.  I know he likes me, even loves me, but he’s so normal, so how can he love me the way that I need him to love me?

Eazyrider was absolutely right. He and I are just hopeless and maybe even a couple of losers.  Humph.  Eazyrider is the only person that I can even talk to about what is happening to me.  He can relate to me because he’s in the same boat as me without a paddle, going nowhere, drifting.  Oh yeah, he comes across as a strong guy, but he has a crush on a guy that he can’t resolve either.

I pulled the bed covers down slightly to look at my clock and found that it was 2:15 in the morning.  I couldn’t get to sleep with Hale running rampant through my mind tonight, so I slipped from the warmth of the comforter and sat down in front of my computer.  Mom and Dad would be asleep, so I knew that I wouldn’t disturb them at this hour.   I signed on and got a quick flash on my screen,

EAZYRIDER>     what u doin up so late?

 

Oh Christ, that shocked me.  I didn’t expect to see him online at this hour.

 

BOI2015>          nada. but what r u doin up so late 2?

EAZYRIDER       couldn’t sleep, so I figured that I’d just surf.

BOI2015>          I couldn’t either.  so, anything exciting come ur way today?

EAZYRIDER>     oh man yeah. I had a date with my crush today…. finally

BOI2015>          that’s great. did he kiss you finally?

EAZYRIDER>     that’s a bit personal.

BOI2015>          sorry ☹ didn’t mean 2 ask.

 

Eazyrider did not respond for a few moments.

 

EAZYRIDER>     well, we almost did, but i didn’t want to push him.

BOI2015>          same thing happened to me tonight.

EAZYRIDER>     really? u went on a date? don’t tell me it was with your crush 2.

BOI2015>          ya, my crush.  he started to lean in on me.  I was hoping it was 4 a kiss, but I think he was just being friendly…didn’t want to kiss me.

EAZYRIDER>     u know, we need to be more forceful, tell our guys what’s what, u know?

BOI2015>          that’s stupid & u know it.  If we did, we’d lose them.

 

Eazyrider was again silent for a few moments.

 

EAZYRIDER>     I think I’m in love with my guy n I don’t know what 2 do ☹

Now it was my turn to be silent for a few.

BOI2015.           we r hopeless cuz I’m the same way ☹

EAZYRIDER>     why don’t we just become b/f’s then, cuz we’re the same.

BOI2015>          that would solve a lot of our probs.

EAZYRIDER.      Ya cuz u n me can talk...be open with each other.

 

I smiled.

 

BOI2015>          thanks eazy…n ur right though. we can talk openly. I just wish that I could do that with…u know who.

EAZYRIDER>     ya. just wish that i could be as open with my…u know who 2.

BOI2015>          hm…why don’t we just send them a VD card?

EAZYRIDER>     what’re u saying?

BOI2015>          it’s simple duffus.  Neither of the guys we want, know about us, so that’s the best way 4 us to tell them.  we can make it anonymous and that way we get our feelings out.

EAZYRIDER>     hmm. u have something there.

BOI2015>          look eazy, I think this will work.

EAZYRIDER>     but if it’s anonymous, they still won’t know about us.

BOI2015>          oh…u got a point

EAZYRIDER>     we have 2 find a way

BOI2015>          hey…that IS the way. we send them cards telling them how we feel, right? and then we watch them.  If they act weird or telling their friends about a card they got from a fag, then we know they’re straight.  But if they start looking around to find us or start talking friendly about getting a VD card from a guy…well then, we know they might be interested.

Easyrider was silent for a while before he finally answered.

EAZYRIDER>     i think that just might work.

BOPI2015>       i know it will. u up for it?

EAZYRIDER>     ya. let’s do it.  it’s Sunday night now, or Monday morning…whatever, but we gotta get our cards in the mail by Tuesday. u know where ur guy lives?

BOI2015>          yup. u know ur guy’s address 2?

BOI2015>          oh yeah. got it memorized.

BOI2015>          wait a sec.  we don’t need to send them cuz the school is having a VD card passing out on VD.  We just need to put them in a VD card box at school.

BOI2015>          ya, good point.

BOI2015>          i gotta go eazy.  it’s 3:30 late and we got school tomorrow.

EAZYRIDER>     ttyl bye

BOI2015>          write that card. bye

EAZYRIDER>     u 2. Night

 

I still couldn’t get to sleep right away, because now I had committed to spilling my emotions all over some dumb Valentine’s Day card.  I had no idea what to write.  Eventually, the grogginess of my brain had had enough and shut me down.

 

∫∫∫

 

I thought I heard a buzzing sound coming from inside of my head.  It was annoying, and it seemed to be trying to not let me sleep.  I hated it, but I didn’t know where it was or how to make it stop.  Then I realized…

“Damn, damn, damn,” I said out loud as I threw the comforter back and jumped out of bed.  The alarm clock beside me continued its absurd waking call as I shut it off…finally.

I stumbled into the bathroom, wondering why I was so uncoordinated.  Then I remembered the late night that I had with Eazyrider.

Oh shit.  I had agreed last night, or early this morning, to tell Hale what I really thought of him, how I had fallen in love with him.

How do I say this?  How do I tell him?  Oh Crap!

The hot shower wasn’t doing its job.  I used to relax under the soothing spray of hot water, but this morning, it wasn’t working.  I was even shaking as if the water was cold.

Get a hold of yourself Mica!  It’s just a dumb card, for Christ’s sake.  But I knew that it wasn’t just any dumb card.  Inside the card, my life would be on the line.  Why in all creation did I come up with this stupid idea anyway?  And why did Eazyrider go along with it?  I’m screwed!

 

∫∫∫

 

I headed for the cafeteria with my head in the clouds.  I didn’t know what to write.  Every time I thought I had a way to approach the subject, it turned out to be wrong, foolish.  If Hale isn’t gay, then I didn’t want to lose his friendship, but if he is gay, I didn’t want to lose his love.

The line in front of the food service area was short today for some reason, so as I approached the salads, I didn’t have much time to think of what I wanted.  I grabbed what looked like a Cobb salad, a milk and headed toward the cashier.  After paying with my meal ticket for my lunch, I glanced over at our table.  Yes, Hale was there, along with everyone else.

As I approached the table, I noticed that the only seat open was my usual, right across from Hale.  I didn’t want to sit there.  ‘What was he thinking about us getting so close to eventually have actually kissed?’ I thought.  I was afraid of him at that moment, afraid of what he might think of me.

I stood just behind my designated spot for a moment, looking at Hale.  He was looking down at his lunch, but then slowly raised his head.  His eyes met mine, and in that instant, watching his eyes on me, I wanted to run.

I was about to turn when I heard a slight sniffle from across the table.  Hale was still looking at me, and then I heard him sniffle again.  His eyes looked away from me and back toward his uneaten lunch.

“Sit down Mica.  You can’t eat your lunch standing up like that,” Hale said while still toying with the mashed potatoes on his plate.

Todd was watching our exchange, silently.  He kept rotating his eyes between both Hale and me, back and forth.  Todd slowly shook his head and continued to eat his lunch.

I took my place at the table but could not bring myself to look at or even try to talk to Hale.  Hale must have noticed my silence, as he too seemed to be avoiding me.

We finished our lunch in silence, and when the bell ring for our next class, I saw Hale pick up his tray and head for the window to pass it through.  As I was about to get up, Todd put his hand on my shoulder to keep me seated.

I looked up at him wondering why he did that.

“Don’t leave yet Mica,” he said.  “Give it a second till they’re all gone.”

I looked around to see the cafeteria empty of students.  When it was clear, I looked up at Todd.

“What is it, Todd?”

Todd looked down at me.  “What’s with you and Hale, Mica? You’ve been friends for like forever, and today you two haven’t said one word to each other.”

I stood up, facing Todd.

“There’s nothing between us Todd.  I guess we just didn’t have anything to say.  That’s all.”

I knew that was lame, but I didn’t know what else to say.  Todd has been our friend for years, and if anything seemed out of the ordinary, I guess Todd would have noticed immediately.  But there was no way that I could tell him how I really felt.  I didn’t even know how to tell myself that the one person that I was so totally in love with was in the process of rejecting me. I was beyond miserable.

“I’m not so sure man.  Look, if you ever need someone to talk to, you know where to go, ok?”

“There’s nothing to talk about, ok?  But thanks for the offer.”

I smiled as Todd looked questioningly at me.

“All right.  You take care Mica.” He said as he turned and walked away.

 

∫∫∫

 

I kept thinking about Hale and his reaction at lunchtime today as I was watching the bare ceiling from my bed.  What I didn’t understand was his silence.  Was he really thinking about our closeness at the creek?  Did he really feel that I was about to kiss him?  I knew I was about to, but I thought better of it in the end.  Just maybe, just maybe, Hale was feeling the same way that I was.  Maybe he wasn’t mad at me for being so close to him.  Maybe he wanted to kiss me, and maybe he was feeling the same way that I was in thinking that I was pissed at him for his being so close. It was me that, after all, broke our closeness.

EAZY told me to just tell him in that Valentine’s Day card, but would I really do it?

I thought for a few moments, and then realized that I had nothing to lose.  The card would be anonymous, and he wouldn’t know it was from me.  I could get all this anguish out of me and tell him how I really feel.  I’d have to watch his reaction, of course.

‘Okay.  Time to go,’  I said to myself.

I jumped from my bed, scrambled to get my sneakers back on as I was hopping toward my bedroom door.  Mom asked me where I was going as I ran down the stairs, heading for the front door.

“Gotta get me a Valentine’s Day card.  You know, for Jess.  I think I’m going to do it mom.”

Mom smiled at me, obviously thinking of the wedding plans she’d have to be making.

I turned from her, hoping she wasn’t going to get soapy on me, and ran out the front door.

Walgreens was only a three-minute bike ride from my house, so in no time at all I was reading the syrup dripping from the cards in the card rack.  It didn’t seem that I was going to find a card to say just what I wanted to say.  I was about to give up when a small card caught my eye.  The front of the card said, “I’ve been trying to say this to you for a long time.”  I opened that card to read,” You’re the one person in the whole wide world that I want as my Valentine. And I want to be yours.”

OMG, it was perfect.  I didn’t have to bleed my heart over a card.  It said it all for me.  I brought it home, signed it anonymous and sealed it with an “X’ for a kiss.  I printed so that my handwriting would not be recognized.

It was perfect.

 

∫∫∫

 

Now, I’m in high school for Christ’s sake. You wouldn’t expect that these kids would be sending Valentine’s Day cards to anyone.  But there it was.  A box was placed by each of the entrances for kids to deposit their cards.  I looked around to make sure that no one saw me put my envelope in the box.  Hell, the hall was crowded, and there was no way that I would be caught putting in my card.  I stuffed the card in my History book and continued down the hall to class.

‘When would I have a chance to get my card in the box?’ I thought as Mr. Wilcox’s History class drowned on.

Then a thought came to me as I raised my hand.

The teacher asked, “Yes Mica. What is it?”

“Bathroom pass please? I responded with an embarrassed half smile on my face.

“Thank you, Mr. Wilcox.” I said as I walked down the aisle to get my pass.

Once outside in the hall, I turned toward the entrance door that held the envelope box. I was starting to panic.  Thoughts went through my mind that maybe I was doing the wrong thing, and I began to fear that box.  The fear of losing Hale started to fill my head again.

As I approached, I saw a maintenance man walk toward the box.  I watched him pick up the box and start to carry it down the hallway toward me.  I panicked.

‘This is my last chance,’ I thought.  I knew that the maintenance guy didn’t know who I was, so I stepped in front of him as he approached.  I felt safe with him knowing that all I was doing was sending a Valentine’s Day card.

He stopped, still holding the box.

“Something you want?” he asked me.

“Yeah, well, I forgot to put my envelope in the box this morning.  Can I put it in now before you take it away?”

He looked at me with a grin forming on his face.

“Sure.  Just put it in the box and we’ll make sure it gets delivered during lunch period.”

“Thank you.  I’m sorry I didn’t get it in there before, but, well, there were a lot of people around the box this morning.”  I kind of blushed.

The maintenance guy gave a chuckle like he knew exactly why I couldn’t do it this morning, holding out the box for me.

I slipped the envelope into the slot at the top of the box, turned and said, “Thank you,” and headed back to History.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Mica,” I heard him say as I froze in my tracks.

I turned around to face him. ‘How in the hell does he know me?’ I thought.

He chuckled at me with a grin on his face.

“Don’t worry son.  My boy is Todd, whom I think you know.  I know who you are.”

‘OMG.  This is Todd’s father,’ I said to myself.

“So, you’ve got a sweetheart at school here?” Todd’s father asked.

I fumbled with my words, unable to be coherent, until I was able to get out, “I…I don’t know.”

Geez, I’m lame.

“So, this person doesn’t know that you like her?”

I fumbled again. “I…I don’t know.”

He looked at me somewhat sideways, tilting his head. “That must be a real problem for you, you knowing your feelings for her, and you not knowing her feelings for you.”

I looked at Todd’s father with my feelings for Hale bursting to get out.  I stood staring at him with a tear starting to fall from my right eye giving away how the anguish I was feeling was just below the surface.

He looked at me as I stood watching him watching me.

“Mr. Mica.  Come with me for a moment. I’m not going to deliver this box just yet.  I think you need someone to talk to right now.”

I looked at him again and just nodded my head.  He and I walked down the hall to his supply room, or his office as he called it.

As we walked, I thought of how weak I had become over Hale.  I couldn’t seem to hold myself together anymore. It was becoming too much for me to handle alone.  Todd’s dad seemed like the one person that might understand.

We entered his “office,” and I could see that it was indeed an office with desk, filing cabinets and filled bookshelves.   In front of the desk was a small couch with chairs on each side with a coffee table in the center.

“I know it’s more than most maintenance men have, but it’s something that I insisted on if they were to hire me.  Have a seat Mica,” he said pointing to the couch.

It took me awhile to understand that I was to sit down as my head was still wrapped around my thoughts of Hale.  I slowly sat on the couch as Todd’s dad sat in the chair next to me.

He continued to look at me for a while before he spoke.

“Mica, something is bothering you about this Valentine’s Day card, isn’t it?  I know that you don’t know me, but I have a son, and I’ve experienced a lot in my past life that may be able to help you sort it all out, if you’ll let me.”

I started to be afraid of this guy.  He was asking me to be open to him about why this card was such an issue with me.  I guess that I wasn’t so much afraid of him as I was afraid of myself to be honest with a stranger.

I started to breath heavily.  I was starting to get the courage to finally open to someone, anyone that I could trust.  I think that Todd’s dad might be that person.

I looked up at him.

“I...”

I couldn’t get the words out…just yet.

“I think…I think that…you may have the wrong impression of me,”

I finally uttered, then I looked down at the floor.

“Why is that Mica?  I don’t judge people.  People are just people with all of the differences that makes them just people.”

I looked up at him, sniffling.

“It’s because the card that I wrote isn’t to a girl…it’s to…a…guy.

Todd’s dad looked at me, and then smiled.

“So,” He said. “Isn’t this guy important to you, and that you want to tell him so?

I stared out into the room for a moment, starting a smile.

Looking back at him, I said, “He’s the most important person in my life right now. But he’s not gay. Not Gay.”

I put my hands to my face and lowered my head, wishing that what I had just said wasn’t true.

“Do you know that for a fact, Mica?”

I sat for a while, thinking about that very question. I didn’t really know.

“I know it’s true, but…”

“Mica, be honest.”

Shit. I don’t know squat.  That’s what is eating at me up the most.

“No, I don’t actually know what he’s thinking.  I’m thinking that he may be disgusted with me for being gay, because he may think that I tried to kiss him.  I didn’t.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.”

Todd’s dad watched me as the tears started to seep from my eyes.  He knew that something very emotional was happening to me.

“Mica, what’s wrong with being gay?”

I looked into his eyes after he asked that question.  He was not being judgmental.  He asked the question like being gay is nothing.

“Kids at school look down at gay kids.  They get ostracized, and hateful words get thrown at them.  Hell, they even get beaten up.  Being gay is not nothing.

“Why do you think that those kids react that way?” he asked with a slight frown on his face.

Now he’s forcing me to think of stuff that I have no idea about.  I knew that some kids treat gay kids like dirt.  ‘Why do some people do mean things to other people?’ I had to ask myself.

“Think about that question for a while, but I’ve got a better question for you.  Do you think Hale will like his Valentine’s Day card?

My eyes bulged out of their sockets as I shot him a look that would scare werewolves.

“What…what?” I jumbled the words out as best I could.

“Why did you say Hale? And what makes you think it’s him?” I asked.

“Well, you know that Todd’s my son, and we have a good relationship.  We talk to each other.  He lets me know how school’s going, if anything good happens to him, but also when he feels down about something.  He sees what’s happening between you and Hale, and he doesn’t like it.  He’s pretty worried about you two.”

“What’s he worried about? I don’t get it.”

“Todd sees love in your eyes when you look at Hale, and he sees the same love in Hale’s eyes when he looks at you.  And he also sees an all-encompassing fear in both of your eyes about coming out to each other.”

“So, Todd thinks that we’re both gay?”

“He doesn’t know if you are or not, but he suspects that you are.  He doesn’t really care if you two are gay.  He loves you both and is worried that you haven’t told each other yet.

I looked at Todd’s father for a moment then nodded my head to let him know that I understood what he had just told me.  I stood and approached him to shake his hand.

“Thank you, sir.  You’ve given me some things to think about.”

I left Todd’s father alone and walked to my class in a daze, wondering what had just happened.  It was obvious to me that Todd outed me to his father.  Now I wondered who else Todd outed me to at school.  I was becoming furious with him.

 

∫∫∫

 

I had totally missed my History class, and now it was lunch and time for the Valentine’s Day cards to be passed out.  I headed down the hall, and with every step, my anxiety level began to spike.  ‘Why did let I Easyrider talk me into this?’ rambled through my head, although it was me that suggested it…

I walked into the cafeteria expecting the same loud noise that I always heard in that room, but the room was dead silent.  People were standing around not seated at their table, so I walked over to what was our table.  No one was seated, but there were lunches on the table.

Just then, Mr. Peterson, the vice principal walked on the stage at one end of the cafeteria carrying a large cardboard box, larger than the one that I had put my card into.  He was accompanied by three students that I recognized as on the Student Council.  l Instantly knew what was in that box, and my anxiety returned in full force.

“I can see that everyone is a little anxious to see if they got a Valentine’s Day card.  Well, here they are.  First off, I’d like everyone to find a seat.”  Then began a loud shuffling of chairs as everyone was scrambling to sit down.  When the noise quieted down, Mr. Peterson said, “I’m going to read off the names, and when you hear your name, raise your hand, and one of my three assistants will bring it to you.”

I was wondering why they decided to do this in the cafeteria.  Everyone would now know who got Valentine’s Day cards and who didn’t.  That would make for a lot of disappointed kids.

I pretty much tuned out the calling of names, fairly sure I wasn’t getting one.  I mean I’m 15 years old for Christ’s sake.

Just then, Todd nudged me in my side.  “Raise your hand duffus.  They just called your name.”

I looked up briefly, blinking my eyes, and then slowly raised my hand.  ‘Who in the world is sending me a Valentine’s Day card,’ I thought.  One of the assistants came over to me and handed me an envelope.  I turned it over in my hands trying to figure out who would be sending me this.

“Well, are you going to open it?” Todd asked enthusiastically.

“Hold your horses, man.  Of course, I’m going to open it.”

I opened the envelope and pulled out the card.  I starred at the front cover reading the words. The front of the card said, “I’ve been trying to say this to you for a long time.”

I looked at the front of the card reading those word repeatedly. Then the words from my memory hit me.  This was the same card that I bought for Hale.  Then I hurriedly opened the card.  It read, “You’re the one person in the whole wide world that I want as my Valentine.  And I want to be yours.”

OMG.  This was the same card, but it was signed with three x’s, and whoever sent it to me misspelled “anonymous,” I chuckled. I then looked around the room trying to think of who might have sent this card.  I laid the card on the table face up in front of me.  Hale looked at it with a questioning look in his eyes.

Just then, I heard Hale’s name being called.  He raised his hand and got his card.  When he opened it, he looked down at my card on the table then looked up at me.  Hale gently laid his card on the table next to mine.  He opened both and they were identical.

Both Hale and I started to laugh.  “Whoever it was, must have shopped at the same store,” Hale said.

“I think the cards are cute, but I wish I knew who sent them,” I responded.

 

∫∫∫

 

When lunch was over, I started down the hall heading for my Study Hall classroom when Todd came up beside me.  I was still angry with him.

“What’s your next class Mica?”

“I’ve got Study Hall. Why?”

“Good.  I’ve got Gym.  Can you miss Study Hall this time?  I’m up for missing Gym.”

“What for Todd?”

Todd looked around for a second, and then said, “Can I talk to you, just you and me?  We can go to the soccer field, just away from the school.”

I knew Todd wasn’t trying to get me away to hurt me.

“What’s this about?  Is it important?”

“Yeah.  I think it is important.  I think it’s about you and Hale.”

That instantly got my attention.

After my talk with his dad, I was very curious to what Todd had to say.  I held my anger at bay against him as we walked to the soccer field in dead silence.

He walked to the goal net on one side of the field and sat down. I followed, but I didn’t sit down.  I stood over him and stared down at him,

“So, what do you want to talk about Todd?  You said it was about me and Hale,” I said with still a touch of anger in my voice.

Todd looked up at me.  “You sound angry Mica.  What gives?”

“I just had a little talk with your dad.  That’s what gives.”

“Oh,” he said as his eyes turned down and searched the soccer field.

Todd finally looked up at Mica.  “What’d you guys talk about?  After a short pause, he added, “But I guess I know.”

“You outed me to your dad,” Mica said not hiding his anger.

Todd remained silent.

“Didn’t you?”

Todd jumped to his feet and faced Mica.

“You know what you are?  You’re a crying little baby!  And I’m getting tired of you not being man enough to admit what’s in front of everyone.  I didn’t know for certain until just now that you’re gay.  And it’s no big deal.  Who gives a rat’s ass?” Todd’s anger showing.

I stood quietly for the longest time and then slowly sank to the ground sitting cross legged with my hands shaking in my lap.

Todd then sat next to me.  As my hands began to shake even worse, Todd put his arm around my shoulder and drew me closer to him.  I then rested my head on Todd’s shoulder.

“Todd.  I’m so afraid.  I’m starting to lose my mind because I can’t think anymore,” as my tears started their run down my cheeks.

“I know Mica. I know how you feel.”

“I don’t think you do Todd, not exactly.”

“Mica, we’ve been friends since grade school.  And I must tell you that you’re the best friend that I have ever had.  I love you like a brother. It kills me seeing you and Hale not having the courage to be yourselves.  You two are so in love with each other, but you’re afraid to tell each other.”

“I’m afraid of his rejection.  That’s the whole truth of it.  I get goosebumps every time I see his face, and I can’t tell him.  I’m dying a slow death inside.”

“What makes you think that he’s going to reject you?”

“I don’t know.  I know I’m terrified that he might.”

“Look at me Mica.”

I lifted my head slowly, wiping the tears from my face.

“From what I’ve seen of you two, I don’t think he’s going to reject you.”

Now, I began focusing my eyes on Todd.

“What makes you so sure of that?”

“No one can be sure of anything in life Mica, but I have a huge hunch that’s growing.”

We parted as friends again.

 

∫∫∫

 

As I walked home after school that day, my mind was racing to come up with an answer to the question ‘Was I going to come out to Hale or not?’  I was still conflicted and scared to death all at the same time. I was becoming increasingly agitated at myself over this fear that I harboured.

I sat, or should I say plunked, down on my bed. My hands came together to hold one another for a moment. Shortly after holding hands with myself, my eyes looked up toward the open window across from me, and my eyes started to produce tears, ever so slightly.

              I continued to watch the elm tree outside my window bend with the breeze as I thought of the way that I had bent today.

              “Fuck,” I shouted at the elm tree.

              I was now unable to hold the tears back as my cheeks became a channel for the flood that my emotions were producing. I began to shake as I thought of Hale and watched the elm tree in the window shake along with me as the wind picked up.  I knew that I was about to lose myself.

              ‘Stop it! Get off It, Mica.  It’s time to be a man,’ I had to tell myself.  ‘It’s time to stop bending.’

              I stopped.  I stopped shaking.  I stopped being this emotional dreg that I had been since last year, and I looked across the room towards the mirror hanging from the outside of my closet door.

              I looked back at me.

              “You dick,” I said to myself in the mirror.  “You completely fucked up dick.”

              I stared at myself for another 2 minutes, not saying anything, just engrossed in the image of me.  I hated me.  That image disgusted me and made me think of how much this fear has enveloped my life.

 

              I wanted to throw a book at the mirror to break that image of myself that I so loathed, but instead, I closed my eyes.  I couldn’t look at myself anymore.

 

 

∫∫∫

 

 

It’s Friday night and I wondered if Easyrider is online.  I booted up my computer and sat back to wait.  As soon as my computer was ready, I saw that Eastrider was on.

BOI2015>          hey guy. not out tonight?

 

EAZYRIDER>     ya not much to do.

 

BOI2015>          hey...ur guy get his V/D card?

 

EAZYRIDER>     oh did he. but it was weird.

 

BOI2015>          how so?

 

EAZYRIDER>     I’ve got a friend at school that got the same card.

 

BOI2015>          me 2 he got the same card as I did.

 

I sat back in my chair looking at the words that Easyrider had just said as I remembered what had happened to me at lunch today. That was really a coincidence.

 

              EAZYRIDER>     Boi. I think I’ve reached a major decision. I’m tired of being a loser.

 

              BOI2015>          what are you thinking of doing?

 

              EAZYRIDER>     I’m going to tell my boy that I’m gay.

 

              BOI2015>          wow r u sure you wanna do that?

 

              EAZYRIDER>     ya I’m tired of being afraid.

 

              BOI2015>          funny u should be saying that cuz I’ve been thinking the same thing.

 

              EAZYRIDER>     u 2 huh, but I’m still scared.

 

              BOI2015>          me 2 when u gonna do this?

 

              EAZYRIDER>     tomorrow, I think.

 

              BOI2015>          u think?

 

              EAZYRIDER>     ya I just don’t want to chicken out.

 

              BOI2015>          I hear ya.

 

              EAZYRIDER>     when u planning on telling your guy?

 

              BOI2015>          I’m thinking this weekend.

 

              EAZYRIDER>     u know what this means, don’t u?

 

              BOI2015>          no, what?

 

              EAZYRIDER>     it means we won’t be losers anymore.

 

              BOI2015>          u got it, that’s true.

 

              We signed off telling each other that we want to hear the whole story of how it went.

 

∫∫∫

 

              It’s Saturday morning, and I keep wondering why my alarm clock hasn’t gone off yet. ‘You duffus, I said to myself.  ‘It’s Saturday, that’s why,’ I looked toward my alarm clock, and it said, it’s 7:30 AM.

 

              Then my guts started to feel weak as I remembered what I was going to do today. Today is the day.  For, today is the day that I become honest with Hale.  But my gut was having different thoughts as my fear was starting to show its ugly head.  I can’t let this get to me.  I just must be strong.  But I also knew that I wasn’t strong.

 

              I slowly climbed out from under the sheets and duvet and headed to the bathroom.  I was not moving fast as I was trying to hold off my doom.  I just know that he’s going to reject me.  But Todd’s dad asked my how do I know that?  I didn’t know…for certain anyway.  This is supposed to be a happy day, but why don’t I feel happy?

 

              When I was finished cleaning up, I came back to my bedroom.  On my desk sat my cell phone, and I watched it sitting there for the longest time.  ‘I need to pick it up,’ I said to myself.  Okay, you loser, pick up the damn phone.  But still, I waited.

              The ringing of my cell brought me out of my quandary. I picked it up and saw that it was Hale.

              “Hey buddy.  You’re up early this morning.  What’s up?”

              “Hey Mica.  I just wanted to talk to you. That’s all.”

              There was silence on the phone for almost 15 seconds.

              “That’s nice.  I was thinking of calling you this morning also.”

              Again, there was silence.

              “Ah…Mica…can we get together this morning?”

              “Sure. What’s it about?”

              “Ah, it’s kind of personal. I don’t really want to talk on the phone.  I’d rather talk to you in person.”

              “Okay.  This sounds serious.”

              “It kinda is.  Can we meet at our park?”

              “Sure, What time?”

              “Is 10:00 okay with you?  I need to get dressed and have some breakfast first.”

              “Okay, I’ll be there.”

 

              After we ended our short call, I threw myself on my bed, and the tears would not stop flowing.  I knew it.  I just knew it.  Hale’s going to dump me.  I sat crying with my head under my pillow to muffle the sounds of my sobbing.  I knew something was bothering Hale because our phone calls usually last for hours.  This was short and to the point.  I don’t know what I’m going to do if he leaves me.

             

∫∫∫

 

I rode my bike to the park hoping to be early by a few minutes.  I wanted to be there waiting for Hale. But when I arrived, I saw that he was already there waiting for me.  I let my bike fall to the grass and slowly approached him.  He was facing away from me watching the soft ripples on the lake.

“Hi Hale,” I said from behind him.

He didn’t turn around, still watching the lake.

“You wanted to talk to me about something?”

Hale turned around, and I could see the dried lines of tears on his face.

“I’ve been here for over an hour, thinking of how I’m going to say something to you,” he said with a choking voice.

“What’s wrong Hale?”

“That’s just it.  Nothing’s wrong or it might be all wrong.”

“Tell me, please.”

Hale walked over to me and took one each of my hands in one each of his.

“Mica.  Let me speak first.  I’ve rehearsed this for hours, so please don’t interrupt till I’m finished, Okay?”

“Okay Hale.”

“Mica, we’ve known each other for most our lives.  And over that time, I’ve never had a better friend than you.”

Now my eyes were stating to tear because I knew what was coming next.

“Mica I’ve grown to love you with all my heart. And this is the hard part.  Mica I don’t just love you, I’m in love with you.”

I was furiously blinking my eyes to stop the tears trying to understand what he just told me.  I couldn’t stop my heavy breathing and I thought I was going to faint.

“What did you just tell me?” I somehow managed to get out.

“I told you that I’m in love with you.  Mica you can probably now guess that I’m gay.”

“Oh my God, you’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Yes, with my whole heart and if you feel that you don’t want me around, that’s okay too.”

I couldn’t believe my ears because Hale just smashed my fears into oblivion. Slowly I drew Hale closer to me.  I dropped his hands and put my hands on either side of his hips drawing him closer.  I could feel his breath of my face now, and slowly I turned my head slightly and pressed my lips onto his.  His were so soft, just like I imagined they would be.

Hale didn’t react immediately, but soon enough he started pressing his lips gently on mine.

That was our first kiss and it made me think of our almost kiss next to the river that he had fallen into.  This was far better.  We broke our first kiss reluctantly.

“Hale, I think that I should tell you something about me.”

“I’m not sure if I can speak right now,” Hale said to me.   “Give me a minute.”  Hale put his head down and shortly after that, he started to breath normally.

“So, I take it that you’re gay too,” he said with a grin from ear to ear.

“Yes I am.  And I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time, but the fear that you might reject me weighed me down.  I didn’t know how I would go on without you.”

Hale was back in my arms again holding me ever so tightly.

“That’s exactly how I felt too.  I have a friend that I talk to online.  He’s in the same boat that we were.  He loves a guy but has been afraid to tell him that he’s gay.”

“Really? Me too. I’ve been talking to a guy online for a long time, and he’s been crying on my shoulder about how scared he is about telling his fried.”

“Does he go to our school?” Hale asked.

“Yes, but he won’t tell me his name. I don’t know who he is.”

“Well, he must have a handle that he goes by.”

“Yeah.  It’s Easyrider.”

Hale loosened his grip on me slightly and looked me in the eyes.  His eyes were wide open like grapefruit.

“What did you say his handle is?”

“It’s Easyrider.”

“Oh my God. That’s my handle online!”

“What? Easyrider is you?”

“Yes!” Hale answered emphatically.

“So, I’ve been talking to you all this time.”

“Ah…What’s your handle?” Hale asked.

I smirked at him knowingly. “It’s Boi2015.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No. That’s me online.”

Hale stepped back from me laughing so hard he had to double over.  When he finally got control of himself, he looked up at me.

“We’ve been talking to each other and didn’t know it was us all this time. What a hoot.”

With that we both fell to the ground laughing. We laid on the grass facing each other.

“So that was you that made us send those Valentine’s Day cards, huh? Hale asked.

“Yes, and I loved the card that you sent me. Funny how we both picked out the same card.”

“Yes, but they were perfect.”

“Does this mean that we’re boyfriends now?” I asked.

“Yes.”

We both walked around the park holding hands for the first time in public.  Some people noticed and smiled at us while others didn’t even notice.  It felt so good to be holding hands with my boyfriend and not caring what the world thinks.  My fears have left me, and I wonder how I could have been so stupid to have doubted Hale.

We both planned the next step on the way to my house. First, we’re going to tell our parents because they have a right to know.  And second will be to tell all our friends at school.  With our fear gone, we look forward to these new experiences with new hope in our hearts.

 

 

The End

I couldn’t have written this story without the tireless work of my editors.  I am indebted to them.

 

If you liked this story, or if you didn’t like it, please let me know.

 

 

 

Richard Norway

 

Norway.r@gmail.com