The Highschool Years

by David Gaingridge

Chapter 5

"Who's that?" Sam asked still waking up from our nap. He was referring to my cellphone.

I took in a breath and said, "it's Mitch. He's one of my…friends from my last school." Technically it wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the full truth either.

"Why's he calling you?" Sam asked through a yawn.

Good question. I just really wanted to phone Mitch back right now, but I knew that wasn't feasible especially with Sam in the room.

"I don't know. Maybe he wants ideas for his next photography project?" I said scrambling for ideas.

"Is he pretty good?" Sam asked sitting up in my bed.

"Yeah, he is. When he was here he took a really neat shot…"

"When was he here?" Sam cut me off.

"Awhile ago. He just visited for a weekend."


There were so many ways I could take that 'oh'. Was it supposed to be like 'ohhh that's cool," or 'oh I see.. another boy you probably fuck,' or 'ohh you've got a thing for him'.

"What?" I asked.

"Well he sounds pretty cool. I was just wondering why you haven't mentioned him more."

Was Sam purposely trying to block me into a corner. Or why this my own fault for not telling him these things?

"In all honesty I had a really hard time at my old school. That was why I needed to transfer. From the leave I got I didn't expect to keep in touch with a lot of people. And when he visited I barely knew you."

"Oh ok." Again with the mono-syllables.

"Is everything ok?" I asked.

"I just maybe thought you didn't let me meet him because you're embarrassed of me. Or something like that…"

"Sam, I'm not embarrassed or you. Please don't think that. I barely knew anyone here except for my dad and you…kinda."

"Ok," he whispered.

I had resigned myself to the fact that if Sam had anything he wanted to say he would eventually say it on his own terms.

Sam and I just talked for the next hour and then he had to leave. When he left I returned to my room and phoned Mitch back. I was very curious as to why he was phoning me.

He picked up on the third ring. "Hello?" He said.

"Hey, it's me," I replied.

"What's up?"

"Just wondering why you phoned." I took a breath and added, "everything ok?" I didn't know if maybe word of his trip to see me somehow had gotten out.

"Yeah." What's with everyone and the monosyllables today?

"You sure?"

"Yeah." And then I heard someone else and realized he might've been with one of his friends.

"You're not alone are you?"


And then I heard someone on his end ask who Mitch was talking to. Mitch's voice became faint and I figured he had turned away to answer. I did hear the words 'cousin' and 'college' so I figured he was making up a story.

"Call me back when you get a sec, ok?" I said.

"Wait…" Thirty seconds later he came back on the line. "Ok, I can't talk for long. What are you doing for your birthday?"

"Uhh nothing that I can think of, why?"

"I…we, like Dan, Amanda, and I want to throw you a party and steal you away for the day before anyone else gets the chance," he replied.

I laughed. Was he implying something here? Did he somehow find out about Sam? Did I have to mention Sam? I mean Mitch and I only kissed and Sam and I hand't talked about being boyfriends…

"Um yeah I think I'm free that day." I replied.

"Great. We'll talk more I just wanted to make sure you're free. Bye."

"Bye, Mitch." I answered.

As I ended the call I couldn't help but smile. Mitch really was a sweet guy I couldn't believe he was doing this.

I heard rustling in the main part of the house so I left my room and went to go see who was home. Dad and Scott were putting some groceries away when I came into the kitchen.

"Hey dad, hey Scott. Can I run something by you guys?"

They both looked at each other with a knowing glance and then at me. "Ok…what's up?" My dad asked.

"Well, Mitch, Dan, and Amanda want to throw me a birthday party in a few weeks and they wanted me to go back for it. So is it cool if I go?"

"Of course!" My dad said.

"I've already got a mixed CD for the trip," Scott joked. I couldn't help but smile and laugh at that. What a dad thing to do I told him and he laughed at that.

I sent a text to Mitch letting him know the plan was a go and checked my other messages from Keith. Those texts were just him asking how my day was going and what I was up to.

Was he actually just being nice or maybe I was reading too much into this…I figured something was up. So, I decided I'd ask him tomorrow.

Swim practice the next today progressed normally. I sat on the bleachers with Keith both of us doing homework. It had become sort of a routine for us.

I couldn't help but notice that Keith would occasionally look up at the swimmers. Was he looking at them? Or was he just looking at how fast their times were?

"He's pretty good, eh?" I nodded in the direction of Sam.

"Yeah, he's one of the fastest on the team."

I couldn't help but notice Keith bit down on his lip a little bit the same moment Sam got out of the pool.

"Next week is the last sensitivity training course for you guys," I said casually.

"Oh yeah?" He said not taking his eyes off Sam.

"Yeah. But it's welcome to everyone. It is the gay-straight alliance for a reason," I smiled at him.

He didn't say anything.

"It's not just for strictly gay people or strictly straight," I said then took in a deep breath, "it's also for transgendered and…bisexuals."

Keith clenched his jaw a little bit. I think I had guessed correctly that Keith was bi and I think I had hit a nerve with him. I don't think he was ready to accept that side of himself.

"I've gotta get going," Keith said as he gathered up his belongings and shoved them into his bag.

"Keith! Wait!" I shouted chasing after him.

He was a bit faster than me, but I saw he had decked into the cafeteria by the way the door was slowly closing.

"Keith!" I shouted into the big room. My ears turned to the sound of someone sniffling at one of the tables in the corner. Even though he had his head in his hands I could tell from his build and what he was wearing it was Keith.

I slowly walked over to him and said his name in a whisper. Like an animal that might be in danger was the best way to put it. I just didn't want to startle him and have him run away again.

I sat down beside him and just started rubbing his shoulder. "It's ok," I cooed. And I kept repeating that over and over again. "It's ok, it's ok, it's ok."

I heard him sniffle some mor and I figured that he was crying a little. I just pulled him into a hug.

"I just thought," he whispered trying to compose himself, "that I could just push that attraction down y'know. That I could just date girls and be happy." I just rubbed his shoulder more. "But when you came everything changed. You were so confident in yourself and…" he sniffled again. "You showed me that being… that" he breathed in when he said 'that' then continued, "was normal".

"Hey listen to me," I said to him. "I didn't get this confident over night. I'm not normally like that. I was just sick of that word and I wanted Sam to know that there was someone there for him like my friends back home were there for me." I took a breath and continued, "I saw how uncomfortable you were with the situation. It takes time to accept yourself."

Keith just sniffled again in his hands.

"Please look at me," I said.

Very slowly Keith took his face out of his hands and turned to me. His eyes were bloodshot from the tears and he was sniffling. I knew what he was going through and I wanted him to know that everything was going to be ok.

"You have Sam and I and probably a lot of the guys won't give a shit." I don't know if I actually believed it from my own experience, but I did know that it's better to surround yourself with real friends than just a lot of people. "You just have to stop giving a damn about people who don't give a damn about you. If people give you shit that's discrimination and tell the coach or the principal. This doesn't change you. You're still the same guy. Ok?"

I could tell he was still processing what he was saying.

"If you want to come out or if you don't I fully support you either way. No one should be forced out of the closet. Do it on your terms." I said rubbing his shoulder again.

"Is everything ok?" I looked up to see Sam standing there. It looked like he had just thrown on sweats since he was still dripping water.

I wasn't going to out Keith. I knew what that was like and it wasn't easy. Keith didn't say anything either.

So Sam came over, hugged Keith, and said, "whatever it is. It's going to be ok."

The day had finally arrived where I was going back to my hometown for my birthday with my friends. True to their words dad drove and Scott had made a CD with a song from every year of my 18 years. I just hugged him when he gave me that and joked how cheesy and dad-like it was.

I had told Sam that I was going home for my birthday. I wished that he could've come to met everyone, but Mitch hadn't said anything about bringing others. And also I didn't know if I wanted Sam and Mitch to meet just yet… Besides Sam said he had to work anyways so fate seemed to be looking out for me.

"So, where are we going?" I asked as the song from 2004 began playing. Apparently everyone had been informed about the plan for today except me.

"You'll see," my dad replied.

Ugh what a dad thing to say. I just rolled my eyes at that. Scott looked back when I did that and just laughed.

Awhile later we took the exit to my home town and drove down the main street. Pulling into town almost seemed surreal at this point. Everything might have looked the same, but I was still expecting an angry mob to come out with pitchforks and banish me once again. Of course that didn't happen. I guess there's just something about being in a car that provides so much protection.

We turned off the main strip down towards the diner where I had originally reconnected with dad not so long ago. A lot more snow had covered the town compared to the city and the diner's sidewalk was almost indistinguishable from the snowbank. Everything seemed about the same other than that. How strange it is how the last time I was here I was feeling so unsafe and scared…and now, just a few months have passed, and I feel so different.

As we drew closer I noticed there was another car parked in the lot. In fact, it was the only car in the entire lot. I immediately noticed Amanda's feminist bumper sticker ("behind every successful woman is herself") and figured she must be here already.

From the glare off the snow I could just barely make out a couple of figures inside. In a flash I saw them run towards the exit. My eyes focused even more when I saw Dan, Amanda, and Mitch come running towards the car.

I tore off my seatbelt and jumped out of the car. I was so excited to see them I couldn't wait any longer! I heard dad shut off the engine and then he and Scott jumped out to greet them as well.

"Happy birthday!" Dan and Amanda screamed in unison and then hugged me. Mitch came over after the excitement had settled down and wished me happy birthday as well. I saw that Mitch was back to his usual home town attire sadly. It wasn't that he didn't look good because he always did. I just wished he felt comfortable enough to express how he really wanted to look.

Maybe it was the excitement of seeing all of them or maybe it was because I still wanted to see how Mitch was feeling about 'us' I hugged him and then subtly kissed his neck. He didn't recoil, but he didn't return the kiss. Was it because he didn't want to be open with Amanda and Dan about his sexuality and fear having it get back to his school? Or had he changed his mind about me?

I resigned myself to the fact that whatever I thought we were we weren't and whatever I thought we could become wasn't ever going to happen. But Mitch was a good friend and I didn't want to lose him. And this day was about me so I wanted it to be a good day regardless.

After I ended the hug with Mitch, Dan and Amanda wanted to know everything about my new school, my classes, if I had heard back from any colleges yet. I filled them in all that was going on with me and asked them the same. Amanda had heard back from two out east and Dan had heard back from one out east as well. While Mitch was talking to my dad and Scott I also told them about Sam and Keith. I think they wanted to say something, but my dad said we'd better head inside since it was a freezing day today.

We moved inside the diner and grabbed a round table for the six of us: Mitch and Amanda beside me, Dan beside Amanda, and then Scott beside Dan, and my dad beside Mitch. Looking around at all these faces just made me so happy. I know that sounds so cheesy, but these people had stuck by my side and I couldn't imagine spending today with anyone else.

A few minutes later Dottie came over with a homemade cake and set it in front of me. It was a beautiful black forest cake with the words 'happy birthday Sid' spelled out on top with the chocolate shavings around it. My dad had started off singing happy birthday and everybody else joined in. Mitch was a little off, but I loved that he sang to me and wasn't acting weird about it or just mouthing the words. In fact I love that all of them sang to me! I just smiled at these cheery faces surrounding me.

When they had finished I made a wish and then attempted to blow out the candles. I had missed 2 out of the 18, but hey that was only like 5% or so right? (Did I mention that math is not my subject?)

When Mitch saw that he teased me and said, "looks like you're gonna have 2 kids."

I grabbed Amanda's hand and said, "well, now that you mention it Amanda and I do have an announcement." We all just laughed at that.

"I'll donate the egg, but no baby is coming out of me," Amanda joked.

I got her to sign that on a napkin and we all just laughed again.

After we finished our cake we spent a while just talking and catching up with one another Texting is good, but there's nothing like face to face conversation. Mitch had always been nice, but he was really engaging with Dan and Amanda. Even dad and Scott were joining in on the jokes.

I really didn't want it to end, but Mitch said it was getting late and we'd better move on to part two of the birthday plan. Everyone immediately got up and began putting on their winter attire.

"Guys, where are we going?" I asked as I followed suit.

"You'll see," Mitch teased.

At that moment I just happened to look over at Scott who'd given my father a knowing look. Before I got a chance to ask Dan ushered me out the door.

I started to climb into my dad's car when he said I could ride with my friends if I wanted. Dan, Amanda, and even Mitch jumped at that idea. So, Amanda got in the front seat of her car with Dan in the passenger seat which left Mitch and I in the back seat. There were definitely some things I wanted to do with Mitch in the back seat of a car, but I figured now was not the time.

We drove off down the highway for a few more minutes with my dad and Scott following us. We were all just talking about tests, projects, and colleges as soon as we left town. It was also at this time when Mitch slowly took hold of my hand and just held it. He didn't do anything else. He just kept talking about the schools he applied to.

Why was he doing this? Why is he so hot one minute (well he's hot every minute!) and cold the next?

Dan kept talking about a college out east that all of us had applied to and how exciting it would be if all of us went. It was during this time that he looked back at us and saw our hands entwined in one another. He just kept talking, but there was a smile spreading across his face. I think he knew what was going on and he just wanted us to be happy.

After a few more minutes we pulled into the next town. It was actually quite a bit bigger than my hometown just driving through it. We pulled up in front of a bowling alley and got out. I did love bowling because it was just such a fun and easy game. I was later told that the recent heavy snow had done a number on the one from my hometown, or at least that's what Mitch said.

The bowling alley was virtually empty except for a mom bowling with her two kids and the man behind the desk renting shoes. It was still early in the day that not many would be bowling now anyways.

We got our shoes and decided to play in pairs of two.

"Amanda's on my team," Dan exclaimed as soon as we decided to pair off.

"We know she is," I joked.

"What? I'm not good enough to be your partner?" Mitch asked. Was I reading too much into this or did it sound like Mitch was implying something else?

"You've never seen Amanda play she'll wipe the floor with your sweat and tears," Dan replied.

We laughed at that and split off into our respective teams: Amanda and Dan, dad and Scott, and myself and Mitch. Oh, lucky day! Fate certainly is smiling down on me.

Just as Mitch was about to start he picked up a bowling ball, turned to me, and whispered so that only I could hear, "you think you can handle this ball?" He winked afterwards and my heart skipped a beat.

As expected Amanda and Dan did win by a landslide (though it was mostly all Amanda). But we didn't really care because we all had a lot of fun. We did end up beating my dad and Scott though.

We left the bowling alley after returning our shoes and left to the last stop. We just drove a few blocks and pulled into a drive-in theatre. It seemed a little unconventional to have a drive in playing with all the snow, but they actually had a huge tent set up so that the ground was completely barren. And since it was tented it was actually a decent temperature.

Once again we were the only ones there apart from my dad and Scott. We got some popcorn and waited for the movie to play — a classic teen film from the early 2000's that we loved quoting. Mitch had only seen it once, but he joined in whenever he could.

During the movie I once again felt Mitch slip his hand over to mine that was resting on the seat. I looked over at him and he just kept looking straight ahead. I took his hand in mine and squeezed it. I swear I saw him smile a little. Oh how I wanted to just press my lips against his as I once did not so long ago. I didn't want to freak him out, what with having two other people in the car, so instead I just squeezed his hand.

Later that night after I had thanked my friends we had decided to get a hotel room since it was too late and we were too tired to drive back. I let Mitch, Dan, and Amanda know about this so I could pop over before I left in the morning and said goodbye.

So, my dad, Scott, and I decided to stay at one of the hotel's in town. Dad had given me my own room since he knew I'd want the privacy and he knew he could trust me.

"We'll just be in the room across the hall," Scott said. "Phone or come get us if there's anything you need."

I said I would and wished them a good night.

"Love you, son," my dad said.

"Love you too, thanks again for everything." I replied.

"Sid, Scott nor I did any of this. It was all Mitch. He got the plan together, he organized what was going on. He even made that cake!"

"What? Actually?" 
"Yup. It was all him. Dan and Amanda helped, but he was the one that put everything into motion."

I couldn't believe this! Mitch this adorable hunky guy did all this. I just wanted to kiss him and thank him profusely again for everything!

"Well, have a good night son." My dad said before closing the door behind him and Scott.

I returned to my room and needed to gather my thoughts. Was Mitch serious in taking the next step with me? Or was he just being nice since his name was the reason I was forced out at my high school?

I was brought back to reality by the sound of someone rapping on my door. I thought it was dad so I just walked over and opened the door.

There stood Mitch with a bow on his shirt.

"I didn't get you a gift, but I thought maybe you could unwrap me," he said with a sly grin on his face.

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