I’m still working on the newspaper, but my heart really isn’t in it any longer. Since Daryl got mad at me, and I didn’t react very well, we really haven’t spoken. Daryl’s brother keeps asking for our mutual interviews, and Daryl seems to have put him off, somehow, because he simply has stopped asking.
We get different assignments and work on them by ourselves. It is very uncomfortable in the newspaper office, and I begin doing all my writing from home and handing in my articles on a memory stick. The less I see of Daryl, the better.
The problem with that is, I still like him. I can’t get him out of my head, but I can’t figure out what to say to him, either. I keep going over and over what happened to make him so mad. He’d decided I wanted to know about him and Ryan so I could discover if he was gay. And unfortunately, that’s what I’d been doing. I can see now that that was a pretty underhanded way to find out something I wanted to learn. Not a bit straightforward, and it might have ended up compromising someone I didn’t even know.
Why hadn’t I just asked Daryl if he was gay without all the pretense? I’d told him I was. I’d thought that would make it easy for him to tell me either yes or no about himself. But it hadn’t, and instead, the whole thing has blown up in my face. I have no idea how to rectify it. If he now doesn’t like me because I’ve been less than honest with him, how can I change that?
What I should do, I know, is simply forget about Daryl. Walk away. I screwed up, and if he wasn’t going to forget that, get over that, then we have no future. We are done.
I did try apologizing. I did it the next day. He looked at me, said, “Whatever,” and turned around and walked away.
With him ignoring me in the newspaper office, it was too hard to go there, which is why I’ve started writing at home. Out of sight, out of mind. Except that doesn’t really work because he has several classes with me: French and math and a couple of others. I see him in those every day.
My mood isn’t as good in school as it had been. Maybe not at home, either, because both Daniel and Foster ask me a few times if I ‘m okay. Terry knows what’s bothering me. I tell him everything. If I didn’t have him as an outlet for my emotional turmoil, I don’t know what I’d do.
Nosy helps, too. It’s hard to be depressed with her licking your face and sleeping next to you. She’s like a live teddy bear. When I’m in bed and think of Daryl and start hurting worse than usual, I can grab a handful of her thick coat and that soothes me.
One thing I’m noticing. When I see Daryl in math, he’s not looking his usual upbeat self. I don’t see him much in French because I sit forward in the room and he sits farther back. In math, where we have assigned seating, I’m a ways behind him and can watch him. He looks kind of like I feel. I can draw inferences from that which might even be true, but how does that help me?
Not at all, that’s how much.
In French, Mr. Lees, which is what I call him in school, tells us at the end of class one day that we’re going to have a fun project. The kids around me roll their eyes. We know what happens when teachers say something like that. We’re high schoolers and well-acquainted with the deceitful ways of teachers.
“You’ve all learned a lot of French this year. For many of you, this will be the end of your foreign-language instruction—unless you have a requirement in college. So, I thought it would be fun for you to put all this knowledge to practical use. Why learn it if you can’t use it?”
He looks around the room smiling at us. He never meets my eyes while doing this, skips right past me. Hmm. Is something going on here? He’s more jovial than usual. Something’s going on here. I sit up a little straighter.
“So what I thought is, let’s do just that. Use all these words you’ve learned, plus your natural teenager creativity. Put them together. How? Well, that’s where the fun is. What I’m going to do is have you write short skits of five minutes, more or less. In French. When we’re ready, you’ll come in front of the class and have dramatic readings of the scripts, with each one in your group reading his own part. All the great shows on TV have writing teams. They bounce ideas off each other and come up with a final script. You can do the same thing. I think three-person teams would be best, and luckily there are twenty-seven of you here, so we’ll have nine plays.
“What are they going to be about? That’s up to you. A murder mystery? A comedy? A romance? Something about high school? Something concerning politics? Who knows? You’ll all figure out what you want to entertain the class with. And it’ll all be in French.”
The class was silent. We didn’t know how to react. He smiled at us again.
“I know some of you are better with French than others, so I’ve made up the teams to give them the best composition of students I could come up with. The students who are more proficient in the language are all on different teams. I’ll hand out sheets as you’re leaving today that show who everyone is teamed up with.”
The bell rang right then. He must have timed his speech to have that happen. I was suspicious. I was also one of the first ones out, so got one of his first handout sheets.
Yep. Just as I expected. I was with Daryl. Our third team member was a girl I didn’t know. But I was with Daryl.
Son of a bitch.
The girl, Becca, turns out to be a live wire. One of those girls with too much personality and no stop button. But she is good at French, much better than I am. We learn her grandmother is from France originally but has lived with them here in the U.S. for years. She talks to Becca in French. Becca is taking the class for the easy A it will get her. All might be fair in love and war, but it also very much applies to getting into the university you want to attend.
I don’t want to talk to Daryl about setting this up and see a way around doing it. If he thought I was devious before, I see no reason not to be again as he already has that idea about me. So I get the girl to set up a meeting at lunch with the three of us in the cafeteria. We sit away from the crowd at a table for four, just the three of us.
Becca takes over. Daryl was usually a pretty boisterous and funny guy, but not lately, and definitely not with me around. So Becca has no competition for the position of group leader.
“I’ve called this meeting,” she starts, then laughs. This might not be too bad, I think. At least she doesn’t take herself too seriously.
She sobers up enough to say, “I think we need to meet outside school so there won’t be distractions and we can talk freely. We can have it at my house if you don’t mind my five brothers and sisters interrupting us constantly.” She rolls her eyes. “Anyone have a better idea?”
I think about Daryl’s small house and my large one. I don’t want to sound uppity, though, like I think my house is better than his, so I do what comes naturally for me. I stay silent.
Daryl does what comes naturally to him as well. “Yeah, we could meet at Rob’s house. Lots of room there and not much to distract us other than an unruly dog.” He smiles at me when he says it. Wow. While I know the smile was for Nosy, not me, it was still his smile. The 1,00-watt one that affects me down in my tummy.
“You two friends?” she asks.
I look at Daryl. He’s looking at his tray. “No,” I say, “not so much. We worked together a while on the newspaper, that’s all.”
“Oh, yeah, of course. The interviews. Hey, you guys are good writers. That’ll help. I’ve got a great idea for a short play, but no way could I write it. I can tell you guys the plot, all three of us can punch it up and make it better, and you two can write it.”
She looks at us for approval. We end up at my house that afternoon. I tell Terry to do something else. He says maybe he’ll call a girl he’s been looking at a lot. I wish him luck.
We are in the family room. Nosy has joined us, of course, but she’s learned she has to be quieter in the house. She learned that by being put outside when she got to playing too roughly inside. She hated being separated from me when I was home and was smart enough about cause and effect to learn how to behave so as not to be to exiled.
Becca loves her right off, and with Daryl, Nosy acts like she’s meeting an old friend.
“Okay,” Becca starts when we’re settled. “My grandmother isn’t your typical grandmother. Maybe that’s because she’s French. What’s risque to us, what pushes boundaries for us, is normal business for her. She’s told me about all plays she saw and loved over there; they were mostly sex comedies. Seems the French love sex comedies, so to be authentic, we should do one. How can Mr. Lees complain? It’s his idea to be very French with this, and being overtly sexual is being French.
“Well, I got an idea from what she’s told me about. You don’t think there’ll be a problem with that, do you?”
“Putting on a sex comedy? At school? Why ever do you think that would be a problem?” When Daryl gets sarcastic, you know he’s being sarcastic. There’s no question about that. This is him being sarcastic.
“Well, that’s why we need to work on it together. Make it just this side of acceptable. Let me tell you what I’m thinking.”
And she does. Her play is going to be about twin, 14-year-old boys, me and Daryl, living in a French chateau. There’ll be a young, upstairs maid played by Becca. The maid is just a bit older than the twins, and she is gorgeous and has assets that would thrill any young boy. These two boys know about her assets because when she takes baths, she leaves the door open. Is that French or what? Anyway, the boys always peek. They get hot and bothered, so hot and bothered, in fact, they want to lose their virginity to her.
She catches them watching, and says, to teach them a lesson, she’ll have sex with one but not both, and they have to decide who the lucky boy will be.
They can’t decide which one will be lucky and which one won’t; this is grossly unfair, they tell her. They can’t decide, they tell her, because whoever it is, the other will be mad at forever. So they do come to a decision: neither of them will take her up on her offer.
These two boys are both very cute and very sexy, and the maid is horny. She wants to sleep with one. So she tells them she has a solution to the problem. She has a sister who will sleep with one boy and she with the other.
The boys think that’s fair, until they realize something might be up. They ask her if her sister is ugly. She laughs and says she, too, is a twin, and like the boys, they’re not identical twins. Then she says: but don’t worry. I’m the ugly one. The boys end up cheering. C’est la vie! The End.
I look at Daryl. He looks at me. I say, “Let’s ask Mr. Lees.” Daryl says, “Let’s write the script, then ask him if it’s okay and then try to tame down any part he doesn’t like.”
We vote on it, and Daryl’s suggestion wins, three to nothing.
We write the script. We make it raunchy and suggestive and filled with innuendo. It’s funny as hell. We three are laughing hard half the time. We all add lines to the script. We each will have a part when we read the script. I’ll be Marcel, Daryl will be Maurice, and Becca will be Mitzie. We each have great lines. I doubt we’ll be able to get through it without laughing our heads off.
We write it in English. Daryl and I are both getting A’s in the class but aren’t anywhere near being in Becca’s league. She does the translation. She uses many words that we’re not familiar with as the class does not have a section that deals with French bedroom farces. I’m wondering if Foster will even know some of these words. I know the class won’t and will use that as a selling point if Foster balks too much.
While all this is happening, I think Daryl is loosening up towards me. It sure feels that way. All the laughter we’ve been doing might be part of that. He’s talking to me now without reservations. I’m seeing him again as I did earlier, seeing how much fun he can be. He’s got a very witty mind that at least now is running toward the racy, risque and ribald. He’s hilarious.
I’m encouraged to think maybe he’s finding out something like that about me, too. I’m nowhere close to being as funny and outgoing as he is, but some of my jokes do get into the script, too, and he laughs as hard at mine as I do at his.
It all seems like progress. I want to think so, and so I allow myself to. I’ve been feeling better since we started to do this.
We hand in the final script to Mr. Lees along with everyone else. We decided there was a better chance of it passing inspection that way. He might just skim it and miss the more questionable parts. And we think it’ll be much better than the other scripts, making it difficult for him to reject it.
I’m shocked when Mr. Lees gives it back to us with an okay on it. He winks at me and says, “Let’s hope most of the kids in here won’t understand it. But it’s too good to censor.”
We go last. Eight plays, about five minutes or so come first.
Our turn, with only enough time to read it before the period is over. We’ve rehearsed it at my house several times. It takes between five and six minutes. We get up and move to the front of the class.
Daryl and I put on berets. Becca takes off her sweater to the delight of the class. Her low-cut blouse coupled with a push-up bra might not meet school standards—well, blows them out of the water, actually—but is perfect for her part. She’s a well-endowed girl, made to look more so by her slender frame and support undergarment.
We give our performance. It takes longer than we’d thought. In our rehearsals we hadn’t allowed for laughter. The class is laughing a lot, there’s a little whooping, and it all takes time. The bell rings and we still have two minutes left in our skit. We stop, and no one gets up. There are a couple of shouts of ‘go on.’ So we do and finish. We get a standing ovation, and only the fact they have to rush to their next classes ends it.
We too have to hurry. As we leave, Daryl grabs my arm. “We have to talk,” he says. “Your house. After school.”
I say fine and then Becca is with us. “Can we celebrate at your house after school, Rob?”
“Sure. Uh, my friend Terry always shows up. Is that okay?” I look at both of them. Daryl looks uncertain, but Becca smiles. I see Daryl’s uncrtainty and say sure to Becca, then tell Daryl it’s okay if he wants to bring Ryan, too; that’s it’s a celebration.”
Becca hurries off to her next class, and Daryl and I have to, also.
Becca, Terry, Daryl and I are all at my house. Ryan isn’t; Daryl doesn’t mention him. I’ve gotten them all drinks and munchies and we’re sitting on the patio. It’s almost warm enough that no one needs a jacket, but not quite. We all have a light one on. Terry looks like he feels a little out of place, but not that it matters much. I still wish I had his self-confidence. I doubt I ever will.
Daryl is Daryl, smiling and happy. He’s gone through a period where he wasn’t, just like I did. He’s seems much better now.
Becca is, as always, Becca. Lively, full of life, outspoken, sometimes outrageously, and fun. I really like her. She keeps looking at the pool. Finally, she asks, “Is that just ornamental, or do you swim in it?”
Terry, of all people, laughs and says, “Yeah, but they have weird rules here. Swimming is fine. Bathing suits aren’t. So swimming here is only for the immodest.”
“Really? So if I’m going to swim here, I have to be naked?”
I’m interrupted by Daryl. “Yeah, he made me get naked before I could swim in it.”
Becca scoffs. “So what? That has to be easy for you gay boys.”
That wakes up both Daryl and Terry. Both speak together: Terry: “I’m not gay—” Daryl: “Who said I was gay?”
Becca is smiling. “Hey, I know you’re both gay. Terry, you’re Rob’s boyfriend, and Ryan is yours, Daryl. Everyone knows that. You couples are always together. But no one cares. I don’t care. And as for swimming, I have three brothers and two sisters. We have one bathroom. Nudity means nothing to me. Two of my brothers are older, one younger, and I see them all naked every day. In all states, if you know what I mean. The pool’s warm enough to swim in now?”
Terry is the one who answers her. “Sure,” he says. “But to make it clear, Rob and I aren’t boyfriends. We’re just really good friends. Rob doesn’t make friends that easily, so I think I’m the only one he’s got. That why we’re together so much.”
I’m surprised when he’s answered by Daryl. He’s looking a little shell-shocked. “You’re not gay? I was sure you were and you were with Rob.”
I finally put two and two together. I turn to Daryl. “So maybe you are gay? And you weren’t really mad at me for asking if you were? You were upset because you thought I already had a boyfriend and I wasn’t available, and if that were true, why was I messing around asking you personal questions? So now you know the truth. I’m gay and was asking because I wanted to know if you were available. I did want to know that, because I liked you.”
Daryl is looking at me, and one of his patented, sun-obscuring smiles breaks out. “Yes and yes,” he says and laughs. “I’ve been crushing on you bad since you showed up at the newspaper recruiting table. But I was sure you were already hooked up with Terry.”
He’s sitting right next to me and reaches out and takes my hand. I’m smiling hard enough that I’m afraid my lips will break.
Becca says, “So now you two are together? Uh, what about you, Terry? We’ve known each other for years. I always though you were cute.”
“Not only cute—cute and available. Rob keeps telling me I need to find a girlfriend. Now, you understand, I’m sure, that that’s hard to do sight unseen. Like a Christmas present: you don’t know if you’ll like it till the wrapping paper comes off. It’s pretty and exciting on the surface before the unwrapping, but you really need to see what you have with the paper off.”
Becca looks at him hard, then smiles. “Uh, are you hinting at what I think you are?” she asks.
“Well, you did say you wanted to go swimming and that your lack of modesty fits this pool’s rules perfectly.”
“And you’re coming in, too?”
Terry stands up and begins taking off his jacket. Becca immediately follows. Just then, Foster sticks his head out the kitchen door. “Hey, kids. Great job today. Wonderful.” He then sees Terry pulling his tee shirt off. “Uh, what’s going on?”
“Swimming,” Terry says once his shirt is up and off his face. “We’re all going swimming. Pool rules.”
Foster’s face changes to puzzled astonishment. “Swimming? All of you? All?”
Becca is taking her shoes and socks off. She looks up at Foster. “It’s not an orgy. It’s swimming.”
Daryl starts laughing and undressing. I just sit there for a moment, wondering how this has all happened so fast. Foster evidently figures he’s much better off not being involved further and pulls back inside. I hear Daniel’s voice.
“What’s going on out there?”
“Mixed-gender swimming. In the nude. You don’t want to go out there. Plausible deniability is everything.”
I hear Daniel groan. Then, “I think I’m going to move back to Calabasas. Life was simpler there.”
Foster says, “I’ll come with you.”
Great thanks to my editing team as usual. Wonderful job, wonderful people.
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