When lunchtime came, I left so I could go home and pick up the athletes and drop them off at the high school, before I returned to enjoy our catered luncheon. The boys would have to wait about an hour or so, before their coaches were released from their own meetings, but it was better than waiting around all morning or having to walk the nearly two miles to the school.
They parked themselves outside the locker room door, but weren’t alone for very long. A group of cheerleaders also came down to the school early, hoping I’d have to drop the boys off during my lunch hour. They were excited to see they had guessed correctly and immediately engaged the boys with some small talk, about the weekend and such, before the girls began to gravitate toward the boy or boys they were most attracted to. Kevin grabbed the soccer ball and started kicking it against the side of the building while he waited. Kevin kept watching Dustin the whole time and it was obvious he wasn’t happy with what he was seeing. However, his disposition brightened when the coach also arrived a bit early, as he grabbed his lunch to go and planned to eat it while the boys changed and warmed up. As he opened up the outside locker room door, the boys said good-bye to the girls, telling them they’d hook up with them again, on another day.
The practice was long and hard, as they knew it would be. They began by running drills for over an hour and then worked on some defensive strategies at one end of the field. After that, they were given a short break, before being split up for a full field scrimmage. It was a fast paced and a very physical scrimmage, and the boys all dragged themselves off of the field afterward, happy to hit the showers. While they were cleaning up, they discussed where they should wait for me, since I wouldn’t be ready to pick them up for nearly two hours. After some heated discussion, they finally agreed as to what they were going to do.
After getting dressed, they headed out of the locker room and were surprised to find the girls waiting for them outside. As the girls found their guys, they gave them more than just an affectionate kiss, so my boys asked the girls if they wanted to join them. Most of the girls agreed, including Dustin’s friend, Amy, and this had a severely negative effect on Kevin. He walked off, ahead of everyone else, since he didn’t want to watch the sickening sight of Dustin and Amy sucking on each other’s face. Since they were headed to a fast food joint for drinks and possibly a small snack, Kevin placed his order first and then seated himself in a booth before the others even arrived. There was a great deal of laughing and joking around amongst the others when they did show up, and this just added to Kevin’s overwhelming frustration.
The pairs all sat together, and Pat told me later that Brandon and Danny looked like two fish out of water with their ‘dates.’ He said they were friendly and even kissed the girls occasionally, but emphasized it was easy to tell they really wanted to be with each other, not with any of the girls.
Some of the others, including Dustin, Pat and Ricky, were into the full make-out mode after they finished disposing of their orders, and I guess Kevin was really bothered by this and stormed out of the place, heading back to the school. Brandon followed Kevin out and tried to calm him down, but Kevin was on the verge of tears again, though fighting hard to hold them back, so no one else would see him in such a condition. Brandon wasn’t able to console him, so Kevin went back to the school and sat leaning against the side of the building. This left him quite a bit of time alone until the other boys came back, this time sans cheerleaders. Dustin could see how upset Kevin was, so he thought it was best to keep away from him, at least until Kevin either got over this or decided to approach Dustin instead.
By the time I picked them up, things were still pretty chilly between them and I could tell the minute I saw Kevin’s face that things were not well. As we drove home, some of the boys told me about the practice and their unplanned dates, but Kevin just stared out the window the entire way. Nick even picked up on Kevin’s disposition when we got home and came up to me for an explanation.
“Pop, what’s the matter with Kevin?” he wanted to know.
“He’s upset with Dustin right now,” I explained, simply.
“Why?” he asked, since he didn’t understand the background of their relationship.
“It’s kind of a long story,” I explained, hoping it would suffice.
“I’ve got time,” he offered, since his curiosity needed to be sated.
“But I need to begin dinner and don’t have time to get into it,” I countered, hoping that excuse would get him to drop his persistence.
“If I help you, would you tell me then?” he pressed, so I knew I wasn’t going to get out of this without giving him some details. Since I figured the story might sound better coming from me, I gave in.
“It’s like this, Nick,” I began. “Kevin and Dustin have been close for a long time and Dustin even lived with Kevin’s family for a while. Kevin always thought of Dustin and him as a couple, so now he’s upset that Dustin seems to prefer girls. Kevin feels as if he is losing the one he’s always felt closest to and considered would be his life partner.” I glanced over at Nick and could see a sparkle in his eye, which made me suspect he had just come up with some sort of a plan. The only thing I was certain of was this plan wasn’t meant to get the boys back together.
“Maybe I could help him feel better,” he hinted, none too subtly.
“Possibly, but be careful about getting involved,” I warned him. “You might end up in the center of something you don’t understand and might be the one who ends up getting hurt in the process.”
“Don’t worry about me, Pop,” he replied. “I’m just going to try to make Kevin feel better. I won’t get hurt.”
We finished up dinner preparations and then Nick took off, I supposed to go look for Kevin. I understand the two boys talked briefly, but Kevin was really not in the mood to pay attention to what Nick was saying. Nick looked a little disappointed at dinner, but I knew he wouldn’t give up just because of this one setback.
After dinner I took those hoping to get their driver’s license down for their next lesson, this time getting the cones out and laying out a course for them to navigate through. While we had been gone earlier, some of the younger boys had been busy doing a favor for me and made me a few cardboard ‘stop’ signs and ‘stop’ lights. I now stapled them to a group of tall, slender wooden stakes that the P.E. department used to mark out cross-country courses and took them out with us.
I used the cones to set up a road course, interspersing the stop signs and stoplights at various points along the way. If there were a stoplight placed at the intersection, I would tell them what color the light was or if the light was changing as we approached it. I let them drive around the course several times each, so they could practice taking corners, so they wouldn’t run over any curbs once we started practicing the real thing. They all did fairly well and even Brandon was beginning to get the hang of driving.
When we got home, Kevin asked to speak with me privately, so we went into my room. He told me what had happened earlier in the day and then told me he now knew he had lost Dustin for good. He informed me he was going to sleep on the twin bed in the old master bedroom for now, as he couldn’t handle sleeping with Dustin any more, knowing Dustin would probably end up with a girl instead of him. I told him that would be fine with me, as long as he was sure that’s what he wanted. He said it was, so I let it go at that. Nick must have been waiting for Kevin to come back out and went up to him as soon as he reemerged. Before long, the two of them headed up the stairs to Kevin’s room.
I was puttering around, doing a few minor things, when I heard a knock on the door. Sammy answered it and then I heard him calling out that someone wanted to see me. As I walked over, I was surprised to see who was standing there.
“Hi, Mr. Currie. I wanted to come and see how you were doing. It looks like you’re all better after getting shot.”
“Yes, Frankie, I am,” I told him, barely recognizing this was the same young man I’d had to have removed from my home after he first came here. “It’s very nice of you to be concerned enough to come and visit.”
“I also wanted to come and apologize to you,” he added, while glancing down at the floor. “Not just to you, but also to that boy I tried to take advantage of.”
“You mean Trey?” I asked, almost rhetorically, hoping he would use Trey’s name when he spoke to him.
“Yeah, that’s him,” he answered, looking up at me briefly. I could tell this was difficult for him and he was embarrassed over his previous actions. “I’m afraid I forgot his name between then and now. Is he home?”
“Yes, he is,” I told him, while watching Frankie continue to squirm a little more. This certainly wasn’t the same cocky, abrasive and brash young man I had dealt with when he was here before. I guess that during his time away he’d learned there were also some bigger dogs roaming the junkyard.
“Would you mind if I told him how sorry I was about what I did?” he followed, very shyly. He was still only able to glance up at my face occasionally, as he asked this, and continued to avert his eyes toward some of the inanimate objects in the room or the floor.
“No, I think that would be very nice of you,” I replied. “Just a second and I’ll get him for you.” I went upstairs quickly and explained the situation to Trey. He agreed to come down and see what Frankie had to say. I led him down to the foyer and then suggested we all go to the living room, where we could sit and talk alone. Once we got there, Frankie was still wrestling with how he wanted to tell Trey, but he did managed to summon up enough courage to look Trey in the eye, before he began to speak.
“Trey, I just wanted to come by and let you know how sorry I am about what I tried to do to you before,” he began. “I’ve learned a lot since I was sent away, because I had a group of guys do the same thing to me that I tried to do to you. I realize now how wrong I was and I just hope you’ll accept my apology. I know that’s not much, but it’s the best I can do. Is that okay?”
Trey looked stunned, but he was very gracious in accepting Frankie’s apology. “Yes, and I forgive you completely,” he told him. “I’m also really sorry you ended up going through that, because I know how it can make you feel.”
“Thanks,” Frankie replied. “I’m glad you don’t hate me any longer. And, Mr. Currie, I’m glad you’re better and doing well. I’ll be going now and I won’t bother you guys any longer. I just wanted to say hello and apologize to both of you.”
“You’re not bothering us,” I told him. “It’s just that I really didn’t expect to see you so soon. What are doing now?”
“I earned early release for doing so well,” he informed me, “so now I’m living in a foster home on the other side of town.”
“How do you like it there?” I asked.
“It’s okay, but it’s not as great as this place,” he explained, looking somewhat disappointed at the thought of going back there. “I guess I was pretty dumb and really didn’t know how good I had it here, until after they took me away. I really blew it big time. I mean, this place is okay, but the other kids they have are all really young. I just feel out of place there and even have to share a room with a five-year old. That’s not easy, seeing he has to go to bed so early.” I was sure that wasn’t the only reason it wasn’t easy for him, but that was the only reason Frankie gave.
“Dad, why can’t Frankie come back here to live then?” Trey asked me. “He seems sorry about what happened and I think he’s changed. Couldn’t you call Aunt Sally and arrange for him to come live with us again?”
“I don’t have any problems with that, but I’m not sure how much say she’d have about this,” I confessed. “Frankie’s placement is probably in the hands of the court.”
“Then call Uncle Steve,” Trey insisted, and I could tell he felt bad that he had played a small part in Frankie getting kicked out and then later raped – even though none of it really had anything to do with him.
“Well, if you and Frankie would both be all right with it, I guess I could contact Uncle Steve and Aunt Sally, to see if either of them could arrange to have him reassigned here instead. What do you think about that idea, Frankie?”
“I think that would be fantastic,” Frankie beamed, pleased by this unexpected suggestion. “But why would you guys want to do that for me, especially after the rotten things I did while I was here?”
“It’s because we all make mistakes at times, Frankie,” I told him. “Hopefully we learn from these mistakes and don’t repeat them. If we allowed you to come back, I sincerely hope the mistakes you made WOULDN’T be repeated,” I added.
“Oh, they won’t, Mr. Currie. I promise,” he offered, as sincerely as he could. “If you could work it so I could come back here to live, I would make sure I never got in trouble again.”
“If you can make me that promise, then I’m willing to give you another chance,” I agreed.
“But what about the other boys? Do you think they’ll want me back too?” Frankie wondered, concerned the rest of my clan wouldn’t be as forgiving.
“Why don’t we find out?” I suggested. “Trey, go round everyone up and have them come here. We’ll have a family meeting and see what the rest of the boys think.”
Frankie looked a little nervous as the rest of my brood joined us, since he was already convinced they wouldn’t want him to come back and live with us. Once everyone had arrived, I told the boys what had happened and that Trey had suggested we let Frankie return. A few of the boys had questions, which either Frankie or I answered, and then we were ready to make a decision. I asked them if they wanted to do this by a show of hands and they agreed. Therefore, I told them to raise their hands if they were willing to give Frankie a second chance. I think Frankie was holding his breath, since he was still unsure of what their verdict would be, but I think we were both pleased when we saw every hand go up, almost at the same time.
Frankie got pretty emotional after that and told the boys they wouldn’t be sorry they made that decision. He even told them he’d eventually pay them back for whatever he stole from them, although the boys insisted it wouldn’t be necessary. We all talked for a while more and then I suggest it might be best if I gave Frankie a ride back to his foster home, since it was getting late. He accepted my offer and we got into the car.
On the way home I told Frankie that I’d contact Judge Shay and Ms. Swathout the next day and see what I could do for him. I told him I’d let him know as soon as I found out anything and would try my hardest to work this out for him. He must have thanked me a hundred times during that short ride and made sure he shook my hand before he got out of the car. Just as he was starting to let go of his grip, he grasped my hand again and pulled me forward, throwing his other arm around my neck, giving me a very unexpected hug. I was shocked at experiencing such an emotional show of appreciation from him, especially concerning how homophobic he was the last time we were together.
“I hope that didn’t bother you,” he said, as he broke his hold on me.
“Not at all,” I assured him. “It’s just that you surprised me again.”
“I know. I’ve never been a very affectionate person but, being away for so long has changed how I look at things,” he explained. “When I felt all alone and despised at the center, a counselor made me feel a whole lot better with just a simple hug. Since then, I make myself and others feel better the same way.”
“I guess you have changed… and grown up,” I acknowledged. “You’re much more mature than the last time we saw each other.”
“And I’m going to prove to you that it’s not just an act,” he assured me. “I really am a different person now, Mr. Currie, a better person than I was before. I think I owe much of that to you and your family. You showed me in a short time that good places do exist and not everyone looks at you just to see what they can get from you. I guess that’s what I thought before, because up until then everyone always wanted something from me. Either they wanted me to do their work, get money for them or they tried to get me to do other things for them. You were the first people to treat me straight, but I was too dumb to see it. I thought it was just a new tactic, one I hadn’t seen before. I couldn’t believe you really just wanted to help me. I know that now and I’m really sorry for being as rotten as I was.”
“Like I said before, Frankie, we all make mistakes and I truly believe that you’ve learned from yours,” I offered, to ease his conscience. “I promise you I will do my best to get you back with us and I mean that sincerely.”
He thanked me again, got out of the car and went up to his new house. He stopped and waved at me before he went inside, but once he did, I reluctantly drove away. I almost felt bad that I was leaving him behind, since I felt I had just witnessed a miraculous transformation.
When I got home, some of the boys had questions to ask me, mostly about Frankie and where we were going to put him, now that Kevin wanted the last spare room for himself. I told them if Frankie was allowed to rejoin us, which wasn’t definite yet, we’d turn the upstairs office into a small bedroom for him and we’d move a single bed in there for him. I’d have the phone lines moved to the recreation room and we’d move the computers down there for now. Everyone liked the idea, so that’s exactly what I planned on doing. I spent the rest of the evening talking to each of the boys, making sure everyone was ready for the first day of school tomorrow. I reached Kevin and Nick last, since Nick was busy talking to Kevin again about who knows what.
“Dad,” Kevin said as I came up to them, “Nick came up with another idea about how to solve this problem. He said that he would like to share a bedroom with me and Dustin could move in with Pat. Pat’s already agreed to it too, and that way he and Dustin will be able to talk about their girlfriends whenever they want.”
I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or serious. “Is this what you really want?” He nodded his head up and down. “In that case, has anyone talked to Dustin about this?”
“Pat’s downstairs now, asking Dustin if it’s all right with him,” Nick told me.
“Well, if everyone agrees to it, then I have no problem with your suggestion.” We finished talking about the situation and then I asked them about the things I needed to know, concerning their preparations for school. Just as we were finishing up, Dustin came up and asked if he could speak to Kevin alone. I told him I was done and the two of them could talk if they wanted. They went back to their old room together, to iron some of their problems out.
“Kevin,” Dustin began once they were alone, “Pat’s told me what you want and I’ll do it for you, but I wanted to talk to you about it before we did it. I’m sorry if I hurt you, because that’s the last thing in the world I ever wanted to do to you. I still love you, it’s just that now I love you more like a brother, but you’ll always be very special to me. I hope you don’t hate me because of this.”
“I don’t think I could ever hate you, Dusty,” Kevin assured him. It’s just that it hurts being so close to you all the time, knowing we don’t feel the same way about each other any more. I do still love you and I guess I always will, but Dad’s made me realize that I can’t change your attraction to girls anymore than I can change my feelings about boys. I really thought we’d be together forever and it’s just hard to know that won’t be the way it is.”
“We will be together forever, but as brothers, not lovers. I will always remember all of our great times together and you will still mean more to me than any other guy, but I just realized that I wouldn’t be happy living like that. I think I really want to marry when I’m a little older and have children of my own. I just hope that my children will love their Uncle Kevin as much as I do.”
The tears started streaming down Kevin’s face and he hugged Dustin and told him he loved him again. He also told Dustin he would work hard at accepting this and try to be nice to whatever girlfriends he might have. He also said he hoped that Dustin understood why he was doing this. It wasn’t because he didn’t love him any longer – it was because he loved him too much. Dustin told him he understood and the boys helped each other move their things between the two rooms. By bedtime, everyone was where he was now going to be and the house started quieting down again.
That night, Nick didn’t make any moves on Kevin, knowing he was too vulnerable just yet, but he did spend the entire night holding Kevin and reassuring him that everything would be all right. They did a little affectionate kissing, nothing sexual, and Kevin slowly began to bond with his new roommate. I wasn’t sure where this might lead, but Nick seemed to have arrived at just the right time.
I spent the evening pondering the school year, not from just the viewpoint of a principal, but also thinking about what this year might mean to the family. What changes were ahead of us? What problems and accomplishments would we share? What things would change and which ones would stay the same? What would this family be like by the end of the school year and would we still be here together, or would there be fewer or more of us? Much had happened to us over the past year and even more since we first started to come together as a family. What other things were in store for us and would we experience problems in the future that we couldn’t handle? Only time would tell, but I had a feeling this was just the beginning of another interesting period of our lives.
THE END of Book 3.