Drew rolled off the bed as Mum turned and disappeared. He raced out after her. “Mrs. Wakeland, wait up!”
I glanced around the room, hoping that Drew had left my crutches in plain sight, but I didn’t see them. I lowered myself onto the floor and gingerly hopped around the walls towards the door. Before I got there, Drew reappeared.
“Rick, I’m sorry… Wait a sec.” He disappeared again.
I got to the door and was almost bowled over by Drew coming in with my crutches.
“Here you are. Sorry, I hid them.” He glanced down the hallway in the direction that Mum had gone. “I’ll be right back.” He raced off.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, I had to smile. Drew clearly didn’t know where he should be: with me or with my mum. I thought that the sooner the three of us were in the same room, the better.
I didn’t rush as I headed down the hallway. I wasn’t ready for what was about to occur, but I had known it was going to happen. I still hadn’t made up my mind as to what to do, despite the anticipation. I had considered telling my parents the truth, and then getting their advice on how to let Drew down gently while avoiding being ostracised by all of his friends. I couldn’t go that route while Drew was there, though, so it looked like I would have to go with plan G and continue to be ‘gay’. For a moment I wondered if it was possible for me to fall in love with Drew, which would solve everything, but I didn’t know how to do that. He just wasn’t the right gender.
Drew joined me at the end of the hallway. “Your mum’s in the lounge room. She’s a little shocked, but I think she’s going to be okay.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Drew.” I detected his concern for me, but no trace of the anger that had triggered the event. I felt I knew him well enough to consider the earlier incident already forgotten, or at least diminished to insignificance.
We entered the room side by side. Mum was tucked up in one of the chairs, her hands squeezed between her knees. She kept flicking glances in our direction, but she didn’t appear able to look directly at me.
I hopped over and then leant on my crutches while I stood in front of her. “Mum, I think we need to talk.”
“What’s there to talk about? You’re gay and you’ve got yourself a boyfr… a gay lov… you know what I mean.”
She still wouldn’t meet my eye. “Mum, we can’t talk about it if you won’t look at me.”
She shook her head. “There’s nothing to say.”
I was about to try again when I felt Drew’s hand on my shoulder. I glanced back at him and saw a sympathetic smile.
“I’ve been through this myself, Rick. Can I help?”
I grunted. “Be my guest.” I made it over to the couch and dropped onto it. While I watched, I could see Drew preparing himself. His various facial expressions as he got ready would have been amusing at another time.
“Mrs. Wakeland, I know you’ve just received a shock, but I want to tell you that you’ve got a son that you should be proud of. He’s a wonderful guy, kind and considerate, and he’s a credit to you and your husband. My mum already thinks he’s the second greatest thing since sliced bread.”
My mouth dropped open at that statement. I had only met her twice, so I didn’t see how he could say that, though the phrase had a familiar ring, as if I had heard it before. But I could tell he wasn’t lying — we were supposed to be going to their place the next day, and my mum would be able to check for herself what Drew’s mum thought of me.
Mum stared at Drew. A hint of a smile appeared on her face, only to be replaced by a scowl. “He wasn’t gay before he met you.”
I winced, but luckily neither of them was looking in my direction.
“No one knows what makes a person gay. But all the reputable scientists agree it’s not something that you choose. It’s something inside of you, that you’re born with. Just because you didn’t know, that doesn’t make it not true. And equally, he’s still the fantastic son you’ve always had — you just know a little bit more about him than you did before. He hasn’t changed.”
Drew went down on one knee so the two of them were at the same eye level. “Mrs. Wakeland, I’m really sorry that I blurted that out before where you could hear it. This is something that Rick should’ve been able to tell you at his own pace, when he was ready. But, please trust yourself. You’ve raised a great son, and he’s going to make someone a great partner one day. I’m hoping that will be me, but we still need to find out if I’m good enough for him.” Drew chuckled. “My mum doesn’t think so, but she said I might be if I work hard at it.”
Mum blinked a few times and then looked across at me. Her expression appeared conflicted. I didn’t know if she was angry, sad, upset, or just plain confused.
“I’m still Rick,” I said softly as our eyes made contact.
“But who are you?” she whispered as I held her gaze.
“He hasn’t changed,” Drew said.
Mum scowled and stood up. “I think it’s time for you to leave, Drew. And I don’t think Rick should go out tonight. I’ll call your mum later and cancel tomorrow night, too. I think that would be best for everyone.”
I saw red. Mum was effectively telling me that I wasn’t allowed to see Drew. “I’m going out tonight, even if I have to walk to the centre by myself.”
“No, you’re not. We need to sit down with your father and talk this through.”
I grabbed my crutches and pulled myself upright. “A few seconds ago, you were saying there was nothing to talk about!”
“Rick, mate, settle down. It’s not a big deal, really. We can go out another time.” Drew put a hand on my arm, but I shook it off.
“I made a promise that I’d be there, and I’m going to keep that promise.” I glared at my mum. “I’m going.”
She turned and stared at Drew. “I think you should leave now.”
Drew started to back away. “Anything you say, Mrs. Wakeland.”
“Drew, stop!” He paused long enough for me to reach him. I dropped one crutch so I could put an arm across his shoulders. I then faced my mum. “Mum, this is Drew. He’s my best mate. He’s my best friend. He’s made a huge difference in helping me settle in here. Nothing you can say changes any of that. You know what it was like back at the old place. Things are different here, and that’s because of Drew.
“I want him to stay.”
While I waited for a response, I was feeling amazed at myself. Everything I had just said had come from my heart. I hadn’t forced any of it out. In particular, I really did want Drew to stay. Not as a boyfriend, but simply as a friend. Someone I knew I could rely on. I just wished I knew how to delay the more-than-just-friends part.
Mum was flustered, and she went back to not meeting my eyes. “If that’s what you want.”
I looked at Drew. He seemed uncertain, but willing to follow my lead. “Come on, Drew, let’s go back to my room and finish setting things up.”
“I don’t think you two should be in your room alone.”
Mum’s rushed comment had me turning back to her. “Why? Because we might start doing this?”
I twisted around and pushed my lips against Drew’s. In hindsight, I don’t know why I did it, but Mum’s reaction had me acting without thinking ahead.
I was surprised when Drew didn’t open his mouth to accept my kiss, but pushed me away, instead. “Stop it, Rick.”
He glanced at my mum and then back at me. “Do you realise that’s the first time you’ve initiated a kiss between us? I’ve made the first move all the other times. And why did you do it this time? Not because you wanted to kiss me, but because you wanted to score points against your mum! Do you have any idea how that makes me feel? You used me, and that’s just plain wrong.”
I let go of Drew and slumped against my remaining crutch. The really painful part was that he had spoken without anger. He was simply trying to do the right thing — something at which I was spectacularly failing.
Without saying anything, I bent down and picked up the crutch I had dropped earlier. Once I was stable, I glanced around the room. Both Mum and Drew were watching me. I dropped my gaze to the floor and hopped around so I was facing the hallway.
“I’m going to my room. Maybe you should go home, Drew,” I muttered.
“Rick, are you okay?”
I shook my head. “I’ll see you later, around seven. Have a good driving lesson, Drew.”
I slunk off to my room. Drew’s words had hurt me more than I could have expected. I was using him and it was wrong. I had no ill feelings for him, but I had a ton for myself. I was lying to him, to his friends – I wasn’t sure if I could say that they were my friends, too — and now to my parents. At least my mum. Maybe I could come clean to my dad if Drew wasn’t there.
On that ever so slightly hopeful thought I entered my room and closed the door. I looked at the keyboard lying on the floor and tried to kick it, but missed completely, overbalanced and fell on my backside.
I was picking myself up off the floor when the door opened and Mum stuck her head in. “Are you okay, dear?”
“No. Now go away.”
“Would you like someone to stay with you?”
I glanced over and saw Drew hovering behind my mum. Both appeared concerned, which I thought was a waste of time.
“Drew can stay, if it makes you feel better.”
I looked away. Mum’s tone was painful to me. It seemed to be a begrudging acknowledgement of what she thought was reality, but she was doing it for me, not him. I couldn’t accept that.
“No. I think he’s better off going home. I just want to be alone.”
The two had a whispered conversation while I clambered onto the bed. I closed my eyes, partially to hold in the tears. I put an arm across my face so I wouldn’t have to see anything, and no one would see me crying if I lost control. I was messing everything up, but I was too much of a coward to come clean.
I was startled a few minutes later when I felt the weight of another person on the bed. I opened my eyes to see Drew making himself comfortable. I glanced over at the door and saw my mum leaving.
“What are you doing?” I asked Drew.
He put an arm across my chest and rested his head against my shoulder. “Staying.”
I made a half-hearted attempt to push him away. “I want you to go.”
“I don’t think so. Not until I’m sure you’re okay.”
I rolled over so my back was to him. He just moved in closer.
“Don’t say anything,” I said.
I heard a contented murmur from behind me.
We stayed that way until Dad got home about thirty minutes later. I guessed Mum had rung him and asked him to leave work early. I knew I would soon be finding out whether she had told him why.
I hadn’t resolved anything, though I was calmer. It felt good to have someone holding me — I’d had too many nights lying in bed alone in the past, after getting upset or frustrated from the cruel barbs sent my way by others.
Despite how much I liked being held, I wished Drew wasn’t with me, because I was thinking I could build up enough courage to come clean, at least to my parents. But I couldn’t hurt Drew by telling him I’m straight — not after he had shown how much he cared for me. I also realised that it was significant that Mum had let him stay, especially after she had just said he couldn’t be in my room with me. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but I knew it was important.
A knock at the door had Drew letting go. We both rolled over to see who was there. It was my dad.
“Can I come in?” His smile showed me that I didn’t have to worry about him.
Drew glanced at me. His expression was largely neutral, but I got a sense that he would do whatever I wanted. I felt I should kiss him, as a way of saying thanks, but Drew’s earlier comment about being used stopped me. Unless, or until, I could do it honestly, I didn’t think I would be initiating any kisses. “Thanks, Drew,” I whispered.
He smiled and then rolled out of bed. “I’m just going to see if Mrs. Wakeland needs a hand with anything.” He nodded to my dad as he went past, and I was pleased to see Dad smile back at him.
Dad then looked at me. “Can I come in?”
My lips twisted into a wry smile. “You’ve already asked that.”
“And you didn’t answer. This is your room, not mine. I don’t think I should come in uninvited. Especially not now.”
I grunted at the last comment. I waved him in and then watched as he brought over the chair from my desk and sat down next to me.
“It was a surprise, when your mum told me, but I want to say that it doesn’t matter to me. Whatever it takes to make you happy is all I want. I won’t say I’m completely comfortable with the idea, but that’s not as important as making sure you’re okay.”
“Thanks, Dad.” I smiled and put out a hand. He clasped it and I was immediately taken back to the times when I was a little boy and he would hold my hand as we walked along. It still gave me a sense of security, even though he hadn’t done that since I had turned ten and told him that I was a big kid. That big kid felt a long way away at the moment.
“Do you want to talk about anything, or would you like to come and join us for dinner?”
I considered the offers. “I’m not ready to talk now, maybe later.” I rolled myself upright and reached for the crutches. “Dinner sounds nice.”
“Whenever you want me, I’ll be there, even if you need to call me at work,” Dad said as he stood up and moved the chair out of my way.
We made our way to the dining room, where we found Drew setting the table. He gave me a tentative smile and I gave him a grin in return.
“Your mum’s made some pasta for dinner. It smells fantastic!”
“Mum makes the best pasta. I think she’s part Italian.” I chuckled at Drew’s surprised look. “No, she’s not, but she cooks like one.”
“I didn’t think she looked Italian.” He glanced around. “Do you know where the glasses are?”
I showed him and then sat back and watched as Mum brought out the meal. She still wasn’t looking at me, but she showed no problems with Drew. It seemed as if she was afraid of me.
The conversation was mainly innocuous. It only strayed to the earlier events near the end, when I asked Drew about his driving lesson.
He grinned sheepishly. “I asked your mum to ring and cancel it. Staying here was more important.”
“Drew and I were both concerned,” Mum said. I must have looked puzzled because she glanced nervously at Drew before continuing. “You had that look about you. The same one you had a couple of years ago.” I stared blankly until she continued. “When we found all those pills in your room. I’ve never forgotten.”
“Oh… OH!” I stiffened. “I wasn’t going to do anything like that!”
“You scared me, too, Rick,” Drew said. “You looked so sad and lost. I didn’t know what to think.”
I made a decision. It wasn’t the best decision I had ever made, but I hoped it was a step in the right direction.
“Dad, remember last Friday when you told me how you and Mum were letting me pick my own way through things? That you’d let me make my own mistakes, but you’d be there for me if I needed you?”
Dad nodded and gave me a curious look. Something made me glance to my side where Drew was sitting. He seemed scared, so I reached across under the table and took his hand. I was watching Drew as I spoke, but my words were for everyone, especially myself.
“Drew’s not a mistake,” I began, and grinned when Drew let out a sigh of relief, “but I’m making some mistakes. I’m not ready to fix them yet, but I may need some help later on. Can I ask that you’ll promise to help Drew, too, if one of those mistakes hurts him?”
I saw doubt in Drew’s eyes. I wasn’t ready to tell him the truth, but I was hoping to lay a seed in his mind. I decided to add one extra bit. “Drew’s someone special to me, and I want him to be happy. Even if that’s not with me.”
Drew’s mouth dropped open. He was watching me closely as he closed it without saying anything. I knew I would be questioned later on, but that was the price I had to pay.
“Of course we’ll help, if you need it,” Dad said.
I thought that was the end of it until Mum spoke.
“Caring for others more than yourself is a sign of true love, Rick. I hope you and Drew are very happy together.”
My head flicked around, but Mum’s attention was on the empty plate in front of her. She still wouldn’t look me in the eye.
* * *
“Thanks for the lift, Dad,” I said as I got out of the car and Drew handed me my crutches.
“No problem, and I was serious when I said to give me a call when you want to be picked up. There’s no need for your friend to give you a lift back.”
“Thanks, Mr. Wakeland,” Drew said.
After a couple more pleasantries, we watched Dad drive off. I waited, as I suspected Drew wanted to talk.
He surprised me, though, and started moving towards the shopping centre entrance without saying anything apart from a “Come on,” which was accompanied by a grin to show he wasn’t upset.
I caught him up immediately, as he wasn’t trying to walk at his usual pace. I decided to get things out in the open.
“Did you want to talk to me about anything?”
“Yep, but not now. I’m going to wait until you’re ready to talk about some things. At this instant in time, I just want to enjoy your company.” A shadow crossed Drew’s face. “There was a time there when I thought I wasn’t going to get to do that again, so I’m not going to mess things up now by asking dumb questions.”
I grunted. I didn’t think there were any dumb questions at that point in time — only dumb actions, of which I was the main instigator.
“There’s one thing, though, that I think I should say. Give your mum some time.”
I glanced at him in surprise. “Huh?”
“You’ve had how many years to get used to the idea of being gay? She’s had a couple of hours. She’ll need time to get used to the idea. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but don’t write her off too soon. She’s already come along in leaps and bounds, just in accepting me. That’s a good start.”
I couldn’t tell him that I’d only had a week to get used to the idea of being gay, and I still wasn’t comfortable. From that perspective, what he said made sense. Mum would need time — to accept a lie. I concentrated on just moving along, because I knew that if I thought too much over what I was doing to those around me, I might not be able to cope.
We soon found ourselves sitting with the others. Everyone was there, apart from Sharon, but only Claire, Drew and I knew she would be coming. Wondering how that would turn out created another point of stress, but it was a welcome one, because it replaced the stress from the events at home.
I had to endure some expressions of sympathy from Joe and Sue, but I could tell they were sincerely concerned. I just wasn’t comfortable receiving condolences on my getting hurt.
“I’m sorry we didn’t contact you, but Sue left that to me and I just didn’t know what to say, so I kept putting it off.” Joe gave me a sheepish smile, which disappeared when Sue clipped him over the back of the head.
“You told me you’d do it!”
Joe tried to look innocent. “And I just did.”
Drew grinned at them. “Before Joe gets executed, there’s something else you guys should know.” The smile disappeared and he looked down at the table. “I’ve stuffed up, and Rick’s bearing the brunt of it at the moment.”
“What did you do?” Peter asked. He glanced at me and must have seen something because an expression of horror flashed over his face. “Don’t tell me you did it again!”
“If you mean accidentally outing Rick to his parents… yep.”
Because he sounded so downcast, I reached out and put a hand on his arm. “It’s okay, Drew. Dad’s cool and Mum’s getting there.”
He turned to stare at me with a woeful look in his eyes. “Yeah, but I did it, and what’s to stop me from doing it again, in front of others?”
“It was an accident. Forget it. These things happen.”
“What did you do, Drew?” Sue asked. “I noticed that you didn’t take that driving lesson with your dad, so I knew something was up.”
I jumped in, because I hadn’t realised how much his blunder had been eating up Drew inside. It seemed he was adept at hiding things, as well as appearing innocent.
“It was a stupid argument, and he happened to say a few things. He didn’t know my mum was just outside the room. That’s all. It’s not a big deal. I’ll cope, and that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned.”
“Thanks, Rick.” Drew seemed genuinely appreciative for what I’d said, which made me feel even more perversely guilty. He then turned to the others and grinned. “There was one good thing that came out of it.”
“What was that?” Sue asked.
“Rick and I got to spend some quality time in bed together.” Drew winked.
“DREW!” My mouth dropped open as I tried to work out how to deny it.
He gave me one of his angelic smiles. “Well, I certainly enjoyed it, even if you didn’t. I’m looking forward to the next time, when maybe I can lie there and let you do all the hard work.”
“Whoa! That’s too much information!” Angus held up his hands to fend off an imaginary attack. “We don’t need to know that sort of thing.”
“Nothing happened!” I turned to Drew. “You tell them. We didn’t do anything.”
“If you say so,” he said nonchalantly.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hit him or laugh. I decided on the latter, and was very happy when I felt a weight lift off me. Drew seemed to have sensed that I needed to relax, and he had chosen that way to help.
“You know nothing happened. You’re making this into something it’s not.”
“Who here believes Drew, and who believes Rick?” Joe asked. “Hands up everyone who believes Drew.”
Drew stuck up his hand.
“And who believes Rick?”
Everyone else stuck up their hand.
“I’m wounded.” Drew clutched at his chest. “I’m dying from the injustice of it all.”
“So, what really happened?” Claire asked me.
“I had a fight with my mum, and I then headed to my room for a lie down. Drew came in and lay down with me. He held me until my dad got home, and that’s it.” I glared at Drew, which was a complete waste of effort, based on the grin he gave me in return, but I knew it was expected of me. “Nothing happened!”
“You left out the bit about being naked and rolling on your side so I could snuggle up against your back.”
“I wasn’t naked!”
Drew seemed to sense that he had pushed it as far as he could go. “You were in my dreams, even if not in reality.”
Most of the others chuckled, though Peter just shook his head. “We don’t really need to know what goes on inside that head of yours, Drew. Some of us want to keep our sanity.”
Drew shrugged. “Since I was the one who outed him with that stupid fight, I had to do something to make it up to him. I can’t help it if I enjoyed it.”
“Your mum caught the two of you in bed? Is that what happened?” Peter asked.
“Nah, the bed was later,” Drew said. “As Rick said, we had a stupid argument and I said some things that his mum wasn’t supposed to hear.”
“What was the argument about?” Angus asked. “That is, if you can tell us.”
Drew and I spotted Sharon approaching. She was less than a minute away. We exchanged glances and then turned our attention to the others. We must have had the same idea — that if we could keep everyone’s attention, Peter wouldn’t notice who was coming up behind him.
“Rick invited someone to join the group tonight, but I didn’t know about it for two days. I got upset when he finally told me, but I shouldn’t’ve, and that was it.”
“Who did he invite?” Peter asked.
Sharon was right on cue. She walked up and stopped between Peter and Angus. “Hi, Rick, Claire. Hi, everyone. I hope I’m not late.”
Peter looked up and then fell off his chair, drawing everyone’s attention, especially Sharon’s.
“Are you okay?” Sharon asked as she reached down to help Peter up.
Peter looked at the proffered hand like it was a tiger snake. “Umm…”
He scrambled to his feet. “I’ve got to go…”
Drew and Angus exchanged glances. Angus jumped up and clamped an arm across Peter’s shoulders. “You can’t go! A lady has just arrived.” He grinned at Sharon. “Pleased to meet you.”
“You’re Angus, aren’t you? And you’re Peter,” she said, rather than asked.
Angus grinned. “Correct on both counts.” He shook Peter gently. “Isn’t she, Peter?”
“Umm… Yeah, I guess.”
I didn’t think Peter was making a good first impression, but the night was still young. I was hoping that once he got over the shock, he would be his normal, amiable self.
“Hi, Sharon. I’m Sue, and this is my boyfriend, Joe.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Sharon cocked her head. “Haven’t I seen you around, somewhere? Did you used to play netball?”
Sue seemed surprised. “Yeah, I did, but that was a few years ago. I don’t remember you, though — sorry.”
“I didn’t play, but my sister did and I went to the games. That’s where I’ve seen you before.”
Sharon looked around. “Is Brandon coming tonight? I was hoping he’d be here.”
“Nope. He works on Friday nights. Sorry,” Angus said.
Sharon seemed disappointed. “Too bad. Maybe I’ll see him another time.”
Claire and I exchanged glances. I had an uneasy feeling that things weren’t going to go to plan.
Copyright Notice — Copyright © December 2008 by Graeme.
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.
Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
A special thank you to Ray, Kel, C James and Shadowgod, and also to everyone at The Mail Crew. The help they have given me with this story has been fantastic. Special kudos go to Aaron and Rain of The Mail Crew for doing a brilliant job of editing. I can thoroughly recommend their website to all teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bi or not sure.