I grunted as I was slammed up against the lockers and punched in the stomach, ignoring the sharp pain in my head and automatically punching back, my fist connecting with his jaw. But that only pissed them off more as he and his friends all took turns beating the life out of me. After a while, I gave up, not letting myself cry, scream or even flinch. Instead, I kept my eyes locked on someone I used to call my best friend.
I kept staring and staring, watching his face morph from a cold mask of hate, to a regret-filled expression. I ignored the last bit of humanity he seemed to have left and showed the pain, hurt and betrayal in my eyes. I didn’t blink. I didn’t move. I didn’t cry. I just stared.
Until one of them kicked the side of my head into the locker beside me.
My eyes popped open and I found myself staring at the new ceiling of my new living room. I sighed and ran a hand through my hair as I sat up and took in the surrounding boxes, reminding me that we moved. I felt tears spring into my eyes, but blinked them away as my mother walked in.
“Charlie?” she asked, noticing I was awake. “There’s pizza in the kitchen and your bed is ready.” I nodded slowly as my eyes caught sight of a box marked “photo albums.” I bit my lip as my stomach churned and my eyes welled up again., knowing two of the people I had trusted with my life, and that had betrayed me, were in there. “My poor boy,” my mom whispered as she sat next to me and wrapped her arms around me.
“You should go back, mom,” I whispered brokenly. “You shouldn’t leave them because of me,” I continued. “I’m nothing special.”
“Don’t say that. You’re my son and I love you, no matter what anybody says, okay? I’m not going anywhere. I’m not leaving you alone.” She ran her fingers through my hair as I cried silently6. “Your dad loves you too. He just needs time to adjust.”
“Then why’d we move? Or why didn’t he come with us?” I questioned, pulling away from her and wiping my tears. “If you think he’ll get used to it, why’d we leave?”
“You don’t need to be surrounded by negative people, honey,” she said, standing. “Get some pizza.”
She walked away after she grabbed the photo albums and made her way up the stairs. I sighed as I stood and made my way into the kitchen. As I grabbed a couple of pieces, I dreaded what would be coming the following week.
The next morning, I sat on my bed scrolling through my newsfeed. Before I had “come out,” I had been pretty popular. That being said, almost everyone I went to school with was friends with me on Facebook, so of course, hundreds and hundreds of people were commenting rude things on my profile. I’d even received death threats in my messages, but brushed them aside, knowing none of them would act on their words.
All talk, no bite.
Even if they did try, how would they even find me? Nothing that they said bothered me, but just as I was logging out, he sent me a message.
‘Be lucky I didn’t let them kill you.’ Shortly followed by, ‘fag.’
I rolled my eyes and quickly deactivated the Facebook, after getting some pictures first of course. I made a new one and added only the people who hadn’t left. My two friends’, Lindsey and Danielle, automatically accepted, but the family members didn’t until later that morning.
Even my most homophobic uncle accepted and sent me words of encouragement, for which I was so grateful of. I knew he’d still pick on me. He couldn’t help it. I was just glad he accepted me; that he still loved me.
I guess the only thing I really lost was my popularity, but I honestly didn’t care. And I’m glad my “best friend” and “father” showed their true colors, so that I didn’t have to live lies.
“Charlie, honey, the neighbors stopped by to welcome us and are coming over for dinner. So be ready by then, okay?” Mom asked, more demanded, as she opened my door and walked in. “And I’m proud of you for closing the account.”
I smiled at her. “Figured I might as well make use of this fresh start, mom. Thank you. I love you.”
“I love you too,” she replied. Glancing around the room, she left her eyes to land on the gallons of paint by my closet. “Are you going to paint soon?”
“I was going to do it after I got in the shower, but I guess it can wait until after dinner or tomorrow,” I told her, standing to pick them up. “I got a blue color for my bathroom, a light brown for in here, white for the trim and I was going to use the rest of the white to repaint the closet.”
“Sounds great, honey. Are you going to unpack after you paint?” I nodded. She hesitated a bit as she looked at me. “They have a daughter and a son.”
“The neighbors,” she sighed. “They adopted the girl a couple months ago.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“She’s from your old school,” she said, grimacing as my face paled. “I recognized her from the yearbook. She’s a year younger than you.”
“Claire Sloan in the yearbook, but it’s Claire Spencer now.”
“Oh, she’s a nice girl; she’s quiet. I didn’t know she was adopted,” I replied, a little in shock.
“She was living in a foster home while she was there. The Spencer’s adopted her a couple months ago. I think they adopted her while you were in the hospital.” I flinched, remembering the four months I spent in that hospital, struggling to keep up with my school work, go to physical therapy and get enough rest to heal myself. I shivered as I made myself a vow never to go back other than when they needed me to get a check-up. “You don’t think she’ll say anything to the people back ‘home,’ do you?” she asked, using quotation marks around “home.”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “She sent me a message on Facebook telling me not to give up because everything gets better eventually. She even added a smiley face.” I smiled at my mom. “If I were straight, I’d totally go for her.”
She chuckled as she nodded and leaned down to pick up a box. I swallowed the lump that formed in my throat as she read the side of it and, after a moment, set it back down. “I’m going to bake. Cookies or brownies?”
“Hi, I’m Charlie,” I said to the Spencer’s as I let them in.
“I’m Marie,” the older woman said, eyeing the bruise on my jaw. Yeah, four, almost five, months and I still have a damn bruise. But it was yellowing, which meant it would go away soon. Hopefully. “This is my husband, our daughter Claire and our son Blake,” she continued with a smile.
“Hey Claire, how’ve you been?” I asked her, avoiding the curious looks I received from her family.
“Been great,” she replied, smiling at her family, before looking at me with sympathy, at which I cringed at. “How’re you?”
“You know each other?” Marie asked, interrupting me.
“Charlie went to my old school,” Claire informed her. “We never really talked.”
“Correction: you never talked. Like at all,” I stated with a chuckle.
“Well I didn’t want to talk to the most popular guy at school,” she huffed with a smile. “Didn’t want to be eaten up by a rabid species known as ‘cheerleaders.’”
“Not very ‘popular’ now, am I?” I asked, a frown forming on my face.
“Please,” she scoffed. “Whether it be good or bad, you’re all they talked about Most don’t even care that you’re-“
“Dinner’s ready,” mom interrupted. I jumped at the sound of her voice and accidentally knocked into Blake.
Everyone snickered as Blake helped me to stand again. “Someone’s jumpy,” he whispered In my ear huskily, hands low on my hips still. I shivered as he looked into my hazel eyes with his blue, almost gray, ones.
“Let’s eat already. I’m starving!” mom said excitedly, leading them back into the kitchen.
After a few seconds, Blake smiled at me as he followed them and I slowly followed behind him. My mom and Marie sat next to each other, with Jason (Marie’s husband) at the end of the table, while Blake took the other end and Claire and I took the side across from our mothers.
“What do you play, Charlie?” Blake asked curiously. I raised my eyebrows at him, making him chuckle. “Obviously you play some kind of sport. You’re really in shape,” he said making me blush. “And you’ve got a few bruises, so you must be good,” he continued, eyeing me.
I bit my lip and looked down at my plate. “I was the star soccer layer back at school. I was captain and I loved playing. Especially with my best friend,” I muttered.
“Loved? You don’t like it anymore?” he questioned. “I play soccer too. I’m co-captain though.”
“Something happened back there, which is why Charlie left,” I heard Claire say. “Go ahead and tell him, Charlie. He won’t judge you. Trust me,” Claire encouraged.
I glanced over at him before taking a deep breath. “After a soccer game, my supposed best friend and I went out for dinner like we always do, or did, after a game. I noticed I was attracted to him.” I paused, feeling everyone’s eyes on me. “Two months after that, we went to the same diner after yet another game. I told him I was gay. He didn’t talk to me after that for almost two weeks.” I stopped, reliving those two weeks in my head.
“That explains why you blush when I say things to you, but that doesn’t explain why you moved,” Blake said, smiling softly at me. I stared at his dimples as someone kicked him under the table and eyed Marie afterwards, seeing as I was the only other person sitting next to him. He grumbled and reached down to rub his shin.
“He finally did talk to me,” I said, sadly. “To tell me I was disgusting and that he was going to kill me,” Marie and Blake gasped as I said it so bluntly and I looked down. “The day after that, everyone knew and he and the rest of the soccer team started pushing me around in the halls. When I finally said something about it to him, they literally almost beat me to death.”
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t during school. It was afterwards; it was after their practice too. They waited for the coach to leave. I got a call in the morning from the school telling me my son was in the hospital,” mom said.
“That’s terrible!” Marie shouted, eyes welling up with tears, at the same time a concerned Blake asked, “Are you okay now?”
“It’s been four months,” Claire whispered, eyes watering.
“Yeah, it was tough, but we’re here to get a new start,” my mom whispered, smiling watery at our new friends.
“Where’s your dad and brother?” Claire asked me.
I pursed my lips. “My dad is ashamed and my brother went to college last year, remember?”
“Do you want me to stay home and help you paint tomorrow?” Blake asked from my window seat. “I don’t mind helping you unpack either.”
I bit my lip. “If you want,” I told him. “But don’t you have school? It’s Friday.”
“Early weekend.” He shrugged. “I can go ask mom and tell her that when we’re done, I want to show you around. She’ll understand,” he said with a smile as he stood up. “So do you want me to, Chewy?”
“Chewy?” I asked, furrowing my eyebrows at him as I bit my lip. A nickname already?
He smirked as his eyes dropped to my lips. “You chew on your lip a lot. Which is really attractive by the way. Keep that up and I might think you’re on to me,” he stated with a seductive wink.
“And if I am?”
It slipped out before I could stop it and I found myself blushing furiously as his eyes widened a little in shock, which he shook off and immediately replaced with that smirk of his. “I’m going to go ask. I’ll text you what the answer is.”
“I don’t have your number,” I replied as he stepped through the door.
“Check again,” he hummed. “Goodnight, Charlie.”