After the police cruisers pulled away, Colton reached down and gripped my hand. “Are you alright?” he asked worriedly. I glanced over at Tiffany. Jerome was holding her in his arms as he tried to comfort her.
I smiled slightly at Colton and replied, “I think so.” Cathy stepped up beside me. She appeared equally worried. I tried to convince everyone I was okay.
I still couldn’t believe what had just happened. There had been total chaos as my father fought with Mrs. Oliver and Mrs. Martin. It was even more alarming that all three had been arrested. As Colton continued to grip my hand, I looked off to my left. My mother was standing alone staring at us. She appeared more hurt than angry. I think she was beginning to realize that I may actually be gay. Otherwise, why would I be holding another boy’s hand? She continued to stare for a few more seconds before sadly shaking her head and then heading toward her van. I wanted to run after her and try to make her understand. But how could I do that? Not once in the past week had she made any attempt to see me other than to try to force me to come home after Mrs. Oliver walked out of my father’s church. Even then, she didn’t want me to come home. She was merely seeking revenge.
Suddenly, Colton gripped my hand tighter and attempted to pull me away. I looked to my right and noticed a reporter followed by a cameraman heading our way. Before we could escape, he blocked our path and stuck a microphone in my face. He asked, “Aren’t you Pastor Long’s son?” Colton tried to step in front of him, but the reporter was insistent.
“How do you feel about seeing your father get arrested?”
I smiled when Colton shouted angrily, “Fuck off!” He then pulled me away. I turned around to see the reporter heading toward Tiffany. Colton and I rushed over and grabbed her and Jerome by the arm. Along with Cathy, we rushed into the building. Mrs. Edwards was standing in the doorway. She ushered us inside and pointed toward a room off to the side.
“In there!” she ordered urgently. When the reporter attempted to enter the building, Mrs. Edwards blocked the door. “These are my students!” she hollered. “You will not be harassing them!” Two men approached from behind and assisted Mrs. Edwards in slamming the door shut.
“My goodness!” she exclaimed as she turned to face us. “Are you children alright?”
I looked at the others and responded, “Yes, Ma’am.” Tiffany was trembling, but Jerome was holding her tightly. Colton let his hand brush lightly against mine. I really wanted to hold his hand, but I couldn’t since we were in a room filled other people.
Mrs. Edwards began to pace around the room. “I just knew something like this was going to happen,” she said. “I did everything I could to try and get the Board to cancel this dreadful meeting.”
Cathy responded, “It’s not your fault, Mrs. Edwards.”
“But I’m responsible for your safety,” she replied as she continued to pace before us.” She walked over and peeked out through the window blinds. She sighed and said, “There’s two more television trucks outside.” The door opened and an elderly gentleman entered. He was Mr. Jacobsen, the president of the school board. The frown on his face indicated he was extremely upset. He walked up to Mrs. Edwards. She defiantly crossed her arms in front of her.
He scowled and looked over at Tiffany. “Is this the young man who is causing all the trouble?” Jerome stepped in front of her in a defensive manner. I had to smile because Jerome was much smaller than Mr. Jacobsen. However, even with his larger size, I don’t think he could have gotten past Jerome.
Mr. Jacobsen snarled, “Things were going along fine until you enrolled here.”
“Mr. Jacobsen!” shouted Mrs. Edwards. “That is enough! You will not talk to one of my students like that!”
He shouted back, “They may not be your students much longer after the mess you created tonight!”
"Me!” For a minute, I thought Mrs. Edwards was going to strike him. “You and Pastor Long are to blame for tonight’s disaster. These students, nor I, had anything to do with it.”
He brushed the front of his suit jacket and said in an authoritative manner, “I will see you in my office, Mrs. Edwards, first thing in the morning.” He then turned and stormed from the room. We could hear reporters hollering out questions as he left.
“Oh, Dear,” moaned Mrs. Edwards as she collapsed into a chair. “What an awful mess.”
Tiffany meekly mumbled, “I’m sorry.” Mrs. Edwards rose, approached her and held her hand.
“It’s not your fault, Dear,” she assured her. “This whole incident has been handled badly. I should have done a better job stopping this meeting from occurring.”
She turned and looked at all of us. “You’ve been very brave tonight,” she said. “I’m very proud of you.” She looked back at Tiffany, and then she looked directly at me. “You took a stand tonight against something that you know is morally wrong. That took courage.” I smiled and nodded.
Cathy asked, “What is going to happen now?”
Mrs. Edwards shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m afraid things aren’t going to get any better any time soon.” She walked over and peered out through the blinds. “This is now a major story. The whole community will be watching to see what happens.”
We jumped when someone started pounding on the door. Mrs. Edwards walked over and peered out. She stepped back and let a man enter. He was tall and appeared to be about forty. “Come in Mr. Wilder,” said Mrs. Edwards as she opened the door wider.
“Dad!” exclaimed Colton. “What are you doing here?”
Colton’s father appeared very upset. “It’s not what I’m doing here,” he scolded. “It’s what are you doing here?” He walked up to Colton and stared angrily at him. “Your mother and I were watching television when there was a news bulletin. The next thing I see is you on the screen holding a damn sign.”
He turned to Mrs. Edwards and angrily asked, “Is this how you run a school? Just what the hell is going on?” The principal grabbed his arm and escorted him to the other side of the room. Colton and I watched as they quietly argued.
I worriedly asked Colton, “Are you in big trouble?”
“Probably,” he responded sullenly. “Dad can get pretty extreme when he gets upset.” I looked over to see Colton’s father waving his finger in front of Mrs. Edward’s face.
Tiffany, Jerome and Cathy approached. We just looked at each other. I don’t think any of us could find the words to speak about what had just happened. We knew when we attended the meeting that there might be some altercations. We just thought people might say things to us. None of us had expected my father, Tiffany’s mother and grandmother to be arrested.
Colton’s father approached him and said, “We’re going home.” He started to walk away, but Colton stopped him.
“Dad,” he said as he looked over at me. “Can Bobby come home with us?” His father looked over at me.
His father asked, “Why?”
Colton tried to explain to his father how Mrs. Oliver had been arrested. He also pointed to Tiffany and told him how her mother and grandmother had been taken into custody as well. His father shook his head and asked, “Just what the hell happened here tonight?”
“It’s not our fault,” pleaded Colton. “You have to believe me.”
“I know,” sighed Mr. Wilder. “Mrs. Edwards already told me you had nothing to do with it.”
He looked over at Tiffany and asked, “Are you Tiffany?” She timidly nodded her head. It surprised me when he asked, “Would you like me to take you home?”
She nodded her head and meekly replied, “Thank you, Mr. Wilder.” Jerome stepped forward and informed Colton’s father that he didn’t have a way home, and he was afraid to walk alone by himself.
“Alright,” sighed Mr. Wilder. “It looks like I’m going to be everyone’s taxi driver tonight.” He looked at Cathy and smiled. “I suppose you need a ride too?”
“I can take her home,” responded Mrs. Edwards. “You can’t fit all these children in your car.” We headed to the door, but Mrs. Edwards stopped us.
“We can’t go out this way,” she warned. “The media is still waiting outside.” We huddled together while she devised a plan for getting us out of the building without having to be interviewed by a reporter. She told Mr. Wilder to go to his car while she got hers. He would then follow her around to the back of the building. We were instructed to wait inside the room until she returned. “Don’t open the door for anyone,” she warned us. When they left, Colton quickly bolted the door. We could hear a commotion outside in the hallway as reporters tried to ask Mrs. Edwards questions.
“Shit,” hissed Colton. “Can you believe what happened tonight?” We began an animated discussion as to what we had experienced. Jerome seemed exceptionally excited. I think he was enjoying all the attention. Tiffany, on the other hand, seemed sullen and depressed. When she went and sat in a chair, Jerome and Cathy sat beside her and held her hand.
About ten minutes later, we heard someone knock on the door three times. Though no one had given us any secret instructions, I figured it had to be Mrs. Edwards and Mr. Wilder. When I opened the door, they barged into the room and quickly shut the door. Mr. Wilder stood against the door and said, “It’s crazy out there. You would think that nothing exciting ever happened in this city.”
“I think the media is blowing this way out of proportion,” remarked Mrs. Edwards as she glanced over at Tiffany and Jerome. When they realized she had noticed them holding hands, they quickly withdrew them.
“You must be careful, Dears,” she admonished them. “All we need is for a camera to catch you doing that.”
Jerome’s face reddened as he shyly apologized, “Yes, Ma’am.”
She looked over at Mr. Wilder. “How do we get the children out of here with the cameras outside?”
He shrugged his shoulders, and then he started looking around the room. He opened a closet door and smiled. He vanished into the room for a minute, and then he came out holding five choir robes. Mrs. Edwards asked, “What are you going to do with those?”
He handed each of us one, and then he told us to put them on. Once we had done so, he told us to pull them over our heads and make just an opening in front of our face so that we could see. Colton turned to me and muttered, “I feel stupid.”
His father said, “You may feel stupid, but at least it will keep the cameras from being able to identify you.” He had us line up single file. He was in the front, and Mrs. Edwards was in the rear.
“When I open the door,” he instructed us, “Hold on to the person in front of you. We’re going to go pretty quickly, so keep up.” He paused and then added, “And for God’s sake, don’t talk to anyone!”
He counted down to three, opened the door and we rushed out the door. We were immediately swarmed by people, but it was hard to tell who they were. I had my hands gripped tightly around Colton’s waist. Jerome had his arms wrapped around me. He was pressed so tightly to me, I was afraid that he might trip us, and we would all go falling to the floor. Several reporters tried to ask questions, but since we had our heads covered, they weren’t sure who they were talking to. I laughed when I heard someone behind me ask Cathy how I felt about my father being arrested. I giggled when I heard her mumble, “Fuck off.” Since Mrs. Edwards was behind her, I was quite sure she would say something later about her choice of words.
When we got outside, we separated. Mrs. Edwards and Cathy ran to her car, while the rest of us dove into the backseat of Mr. Wilder’s SUV. Jerome ended up sitting in the floor board while Mr. Wilder tore out of the parking lot. I still had my head covered, and I was praying that he didn’t hit anyone as we sped away
I thought Mr. Wilder would drop Tiffany and Jerome off at their homes, but instead, he took us all to Colton’s house. When he pulled into the driveway, he explained, “You have been through a lot. You need to be together to talk about it.” As we headed up the sidewalk to the front porch, he informed Tiffany and Jerome that he would contact their parents to see if they could stay for another hour. He would then take them home.
I was stunned when I stepped inside Colton’s house. It was huge. The foyer was bigger than my bedroom at Mrs. Oliver’s home. “Wow!” exclaimed Jerome as he peeked into the living room to the right. He looked at Colton and asked, “You live here?”
Colton started laughing. “Of course. You don’t think my father came here to burglarize it. Do you?”
Just then, Mr. Wilder entered the foyer and asked, “Burglarize what?”
Colton laughed and replied, “Nothing, Dad.” Mr. Wilder had us follow him into a large study with built-in bookshelves along two walls. There was an ornate desk positioned in the middle of the room. Again, Jerome wandered around with his mouth agape as he looked at the books on the shelves.
He turned to Mr. Wilder and asked him what he did. Colton’s father explained that he was a corporate attorney for an automobile manufacturing plant thirty miles away. It was one of the largest industries in our state. For a while I had considered trying to apply for a job there when I graduated, but I knew my father would never permit me. Now, however, I might just have to.
Mr. Wilder sat down and asked Jerome and Tiffany for their parents’ phone numbers so he could call them and get their permission to stay. Tiffany was worried because her mother had been arrested, and she wasn’t sure how her father would react to what had happened. When he finished, he pointed toward the door and told Colton to show us his room. We followed Colton down a long hallway into the kitchen. As was the rest of the house, it was large. It had a center aisle with a beautiful marble counter. The cabinets were made of cherry wood, and the appliances were stainless steel. It looked like ones I had seen in catalogs that my mother received sometimes in the mail.
“Damn,” muttered Jerome as he looked around the room.
Tiffany giggled and said, “You act like you’ve never seen a big house before.”
“I haven’t,” replied Jerome. “Our whole house could fit in this kitchen.” Tiffany giggled again, and then she reached out and gripped Jerome’s hand.
Colton told us to sit at the counter while he pulled a twelve pack of Pepsi from the refrigerator and placed it in front of us. “Drink up, Guys,” he said cheerfully.
Jerome laughed and asked, “You don’t have anything stronger? After tonight, I think I need a real drink.” Tiffany became upset and questioned Jerome if he really drank alcohol. He insisted he didn’t, but I don’t think she was convinced.
Colton took two boxes of pizza rolls from the freezer, placed them on a cookie sheet and put them in the microwave oven. A couple of minutes later, we were drinking sodas and gorging on pizza rolls. Naturally, our conversation turned to what had happened earlier. Tiffany regretted that her mother and grandmother had been arrested because of her. We had a hard time trying to convince her that it wasn’t her fault. “I should have just wet my pants that day,” she said sorrowfully. We were sullen until Jerome started giggling.
“Maybe next time you can wear Depends like my grandmother does,” he laughed. When Tiffany said she didn’t find his comment funny, he pleaded with her to forgive him. Finally, he leaned over and kissed her gently.
“Forgive me?” he pleaded looking like a wet puppy.
Tiffany pretended to be upset, but then she leaned in and kissed him back. Colton looked at me with a questioning look. I knew that Jerome liked Tiffany, but I don’t think Colton was that much aware of it. He had seen them hold hands a few times, but he probably thought it was just to show support. “What?” I smiled. “They can’t show their affection?” It surprised me when he stepped forward and gave me a kiss.
Unfortunately, his timing couldn’t have been any worse. Just as our lips met, his father entered the kitchen. The look on his face resembled someone who had just seen an approaching truck coming at them. He looked away, went over to the refrigerator, took out a Bud Light and then stood before us. He looked at Tiffany and Jerome and informed them that he had talked to both their parents. He told Jerome that his parents said he could stay as long as he wanted. Tiffany became upset when Mr. Wilder told her that her father was coming to get her.
He then turned to Colton and said, “Son, I’d like to speak to you in my study.” When he turned to leave the room, Colton looked over and gave me a worried look.
I whispered, “I’m sorry.” I don’t know why. After all, Colton was the one who had kissed me. I was afraid because I wasn’t sure how his father would react to seeing us kiss. By the look on his face, I don’t think he had any clue that Colton was gay. We had carelessly outed ourselves to his father.
When Colton and his father left, Tiffany broke down in tears. “It seems like I’m always getting everyone in trouble,” she sobbed. Jerome held her hand and tried to console her. We kept insisting it wasn’t her fault.
She cried, “Maybe it would be better if I had never been born.” She got up and headed down a hallway. She went into what we assumed was a bathroom. I told Jerome he should go help her. His eyes were filled with tears as he got up from his stool and left the room.
I didn’t know what to do. Everything was happening too fast. Colton was in his father’s study explaining why he had seen his son kiss another boy. Tiffany was depressed and crying, and Jerome was trying to console her. From what I could tell, he needed consoling as much as she did. I waited several minutes before Jerome returned. From his puffy red eyes, it was apparent he had been crying. I asked, “How is Tiffany?”
“She’s alright, I guess,” he replied. “I just wish she would let me into her world sometime.”
“Give her time,” I said. “After everything she’s been through, it’s probably hard for her to trust someone.”
“I suppose,” he responded sadly as he took a sip from his soda.
I looked over at the door when Colton entered. His face appeared taut. He walked over to me and asked, “Can we go talk in my room?”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied worriedly. I asked Jerome if he would be alright until Tiffany returned. He nodded his head and told us to go ‘take care of business.’
I followed Colton up a flight of stairs and then down a long hallway. When we passed a closed door, I could hear what sounded like several boys shouting. Colton cracked the door slightly, looked in and warned the boys to be quiet. I couldn’t see them, but I could hear them scurrying around the room.
“Little brothers,” he sighed as he closed the door and walked down the hall.
When we got to the end, he opened the door, stepped back and let me enter. “This is my bedroom,” he announced as he followed me in and closed the door. I noticed that he locked it.
I turned when I heard him sigh, “Oh, God.” He then stepped up to me and wrapped me in his arms. “What a fucking night,” he mumbled into my shoulder.
I asked, “Are you okay,” as I continued to hold him.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to come out,” he replied sadly as he pulled away and attempted a smile.
“Are you in trouble,” I asked worriedly.
He walked over and sat on the edge of his bed. I followed and hesitated before I sat down beside him. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t think so.” He reached down and held my hand. “Mom came into his study and we all had a talk.”
He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I don’t know. They seemed okay, but it’s hard to say. I guess they had no idea I was gay. Dad was pretty upset when he saw us kissing.”
“I’m sorry,” I apologized.
“It’s not your fault,” replied Colton. “I’m the one who kissed you.” He lay back on the bed and sighed deeply. “It was going to happen anyway one day soon.” He squeezed my hand tighter.
He sat up and smiled gently at me. “I wanted to tell them about you.”
“Yeah, Dummy,” he laughed. “I wanted them to know about you.”
“Because of this,” he smiled as he lay back. He then reached out, pulled me on top of him and kissed me deeply. I could feel his erection pressing against me. I immediately started to harden. He stopped kissing me and looked into my eyes. “I think I’m falling in love with you, Bobby.” He pressed his lips against mine again. This time I didn’t worry that he could feel that I was getting aroused.