Merry Christmas, Elijah Lucas
by DJ Adams
It had been a long week. Much to the dismay of Elijah, he didn't have a single class with the new boy, Bruno. He hadn't so much as caught a glimpse of him all week long. Well, that's not entirely true. Elijah DID have a dream about Bruno the night they met. He dreamt that he and the boy were sitting on his bed and that they were kissing. When his alarm went off the next morning, Elijah woke to find himself with a mouthful of his pillow. Still, it wasn't enough and he simply had to see Bruno again. Thankfully, he hadn't picked up his Mother's gift from Bruno's parents' store, yet.
The bell rang, signaling the end of third period and the start of the first lunch wave. Bruno made his way to the cafeteria. He stood in line for lunch and paid. On his way to a vacant table, Chester, one of the particularly mean bullies of the 7th grade year, decided to slap the tray out of Bruno's hands, sending his chicken nuggets sailing across the floor. The entire cafeteria fell silent and all eyes shifted to Bruno.
"Tough luck, new guy. Better watch where the hell you're going next time, faggot." Chester said with a laugh.
Bruno didn't say a word.
There was a *WHACK* followed by a *THUD* and a *GASP*.
"Fuck you, asshole. I don't take shit from bullies. And YOU'D better watch where the hell YOU'RE going because the next time you try that shit with me, I'll knock your fucking teeth out. By the way, Merry Christmas, JERK."
Another *GASP* followed by spontaneous cheering. Just like that, Bruno went from being the new guy that nobody knew to the cool guy everybody suddenly wanted to hang around with. The cheering was cut short, though, when School Resource Officer McAvoy walked into the cafeteria and came to where Bruno was standing over Chester, who was nursing a bloody nose.
The Officer looked back and forth between the two of them. "One chance. Lie to me and I'll arrest you both. Who started it?" She asked.
Bruno piped up immediately. "He slapped the tray out of my hands but, technically, I was the one who threw the first punch."
The Officer was taken aback. Usually, students tried to lie to her, or beg, or reason their way out of these types of situations. "Okay then. Well, Chester, I want you to go to the nurse and have that nose looked at. When she's done, come find me in the main office and DON'T make me come looking for you. Clear?" She said sternly.
"Yes, Officer McAvoy." Chester said before turning back to Bruno. "I won't forget this." He said, squinting his eyes.
"Better bring your A-game, bro. I don't sweat you." Bruno retorted.
"ENOUGH." The Officer said, putting an end to the exchange before it got out of hand. "GO, young man." She ordered Chester, pointing to the door. Chester complied and left the cafeteria as other kids snickered and giggled. "As for you, young man, what is your name?" Officer McAvoy said to Bruno as she took out her handcuffs.
Bruno's brain clicked back into its usual pleasant self. "My name is Bruno Jørgensen, Ma'am." He said happily as he held out his hand for the Officer to shake. "Sorry we had to meet this way."
Again, the Officer was taken aback but she kept her composure and cautiously shook Bruno's hand. "You're not going to give me any problems, are you, Mr. Jørgensen?" She asked him.
Bruno shook his head in the negative.
"Good. So I won't be needing these, then?" She asked, holding the handcuffs higher so Bruno would understand.
Again, he shook his head in the negative. The Officer put her handcuffs back onto her belt.
"Okay then. Do you know where the main office is?"
"Okay. I'll take you up there, myself. By the way, you can call me Officer McAvoy." She turned and began walking towards the door and Bruno followed suit. As he walked by a table full of girls, somebody reached out and snuck a piece of paper into his hands. Without looking at it, Bruno nonchalantly put the paper into his pocket before Officer McAvoy could notice.
"You're new here, aren't you?" Officer McAvoy asked him on the walk up to the office.
"Yes, Ma'am." Bruno replied.
"So, tell me again why you got into the fight?" She asked.
"Because the other guy slapped my lunch out of my hands and told me to watch where I was going. I've never even met him before and that was the first thing he had to say to me."
"So, you broke his nose for it, right off the bat? Don't you think that was an overreaction?" She reasoned.
"No disrespect, Ma'am, but I don't. I don't tolerate bullies." Bruno said, matter-of-factly.
"Still, violence is not the answer." The Officer said, trying to make her point to Bruno.
"Ma'am, I believe the Allies tried to reason with Hitler during the second World War- It didn't work out too well for them."
"Okay but Chester is not Adolf Hitler, is he?" The Officer asked.
"No, Ma'am, but maybe if someone had punched old 'Dolfie in the nose when he was a kid and showed him that he shouldn't bully people, maybe history would have taken a different route." Bruno retorted.
The Officer smiled. Bruno had her and she knew it. Obviously, he was smarter than she had taken him for.
"Plus," Bruno continued, "He called me a faggot."
That struck a chord with Officer McAvoy- She knew middle school was a tough time for kids and their identities and to demean anyone like that was a pet peeve of her's.
"I'll have to have a word with him about that." The Officer replied.
Bruno giggled. "Well, I guess I kinda took care of that for you or else we wouldn't be walking together, would we?" Bruno smiled at the Officer.
Officer McAvoy couldn't help but giggle. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be laughing at that. It's not professional. Besides, no one should be calling you a faggot. It's demeaning and it's not something that most kids your age are even sure about."
"Well, you're only half-right, Officer McAvoy. People shouldn't call me that." Bruno said. The Officer scrunched her brows and looked at Bruno. "I AM gay, though. I don't have a problem with being gay, I just have a problem with other people who DO have a problem with it." He said.
Now the Officer was truly floored. This young man was either a genius who was wise ahead of his years or he was a total moron who was just looking to be a social outcast. Still, him admitting he was gay gave her the leverage she needed to invoke a hate-crime statute and threaten Chester with a felony if he didn't knock his garbage off.
They walked into the main office and the phone number for his parents was pulled out of Bruno's file on just his fifth day in the district.
The second lunch wave started. Elijah walked with his friends, Mack and Louis, down to the lunch line. As they took their seats at their usual table, Elijah heard the name 'Bruno' come up.
"Bruno? Bruno Jørgensen? The new kid?" He asked.
"Yup." A girl named Chelsea answered. "He met Chester today."
"Aw, fuck. Really? Chester couldn't just give him a break? Does he seriously have to screw with EVERYONE?" Bruno groaned.
"Actually, Bruno gave Chester the break- A broken nose to be specific."
"What?!" Elijah said incredulously. "Bruno hit him?!"
"Yup. Got himself suspended for the rest of the week, too."
Damn. This Bruno guy really WAS awesome. On one hand, it sucked that he got himself suspended but it didn't make much difference to Elijah because Elijah didn't have any classes with Bruno so, if Elijah wasn't gonna see Bruno in school anyway, it didn't really matter that Bruno was suspended. Now, if Elijah had a class with Bruno and he wasn't gonna get to stare at him for the 80-minute period, THAT would be something for Elijah to be pissed about.
"He's really cute, too. I would totally blow him." Another girl from the table chimed in.
"Yup. Me, too." Chelsea opined.
"Same." Elijah said absently.
The whole table paused and looked at him.
Elijah had fucked up but he quickly fixed the situation. "I mean, yeah, same as every other girl in the school. They'd all blow him, too."
That seemed to satisfy as Elijah secretly knew he'd dodged a serious bullet on that one. With that, a sudden pit appeared in his stomach and he knew just what to do to fill it: Those chicken nuggets on his tray were calling his name.
Bruno's parents had no problem with him being suspended for the rest of the week, given the circumstances. They were actually quite impressed with Officer McAvoy, too. In front of Bruno and his parents, along with Chester, his parents and the Principal, she shared that Bruno admitted how he was gay and that Chester calling him a faggot while assaulting him constituted a hate crime. She gave Chester one warning that, if he bullied again, she would charge him with the felony. The Principal also told Chester's parents that, if Chester told anyone that Bruno was gay, he would personally see to it that Chester was expelled from the school. Even better, Chester's father, a Judge, told Chester that there was a military school for boys that would be happy to accept him if he were expelled.
As for Bruno, his parents were kinda glad that he had been suspended since there were still a few more boxes that needed to be unpacked in the new house. Plus, the store still had some inventory that needed to be made, too. His Mom went home but Bruno and his Father opted to go to the store and put in some extra hours.
Elijah told his Mom all about what happened with Bruno and Chester when he got home. She was shocked to hear it but also glad the Bruno stood up for himself. Elijah was pretty enthralled with Bruno, even though he'd only actually met him once. Still, it was clear to Mrs. Lucas that things had progressed to a point in her son that she had to have a talk with him. She fixed the two of them a snack, to tide them over until dinner, and called Elijah into the dining room where they sat down together.
"Sweetheart, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, Mom." Elijah replied as he took a bite out of his sandwich.
"Do you like Bruno?" She asked nonchalantly.
Elijah stopped mid-bite but quickly recovered. "Sure. I like him. He's seems like a pretty cool guy."
"Are you sure that's all?" She pressed. Yup. Elijah was fucked and he knew it. More importantly, his Mom knew it. Recognizing the panic on her son's face, she continued. "I was just wondering because he seems like an awfully sweet boy and he did seem to like you, too..."
"Wait. So, you know and you're cool with it?" Elijah asked incredulously.
"Honey, I'm your Mother. Your Father and I have always known and never minded. We were just waiting for you to tell us yourself or for you to fall in love."
Elijah thought about it for a minute as he took another bite out of his sandwich. He scrunched his brows. "Okay. Since I didn't tell you myself, you think I'm... in love? ...With Bruno?" He asked.
"I don't think you're in love yet but you're getting there." She explained.
"What makes you say that?" Elijah asked.
"Elijah, first of all, do you really think I didn't see the way you two were looking at each other the other day in the store?" Elijah blushed hard at that comment. "Besides, if that wasn't enough, hearing you mumbling his name in your sleep while you kissed your pillow was pretty much a flashing neon sign." His Mom chuckled. Elijah laughed, too. Maybe it was pretty obvious. "Just be careful is all I'll say. I know you know about safe sex but I am also saying that you should guard your heart, too. You're a really sweet young man and you'll make a great boyfriend to the right boy- Just make sure you don't dive headfirst into shallow waters, okay?"
Elijah understood exactly what his Mom was saying. They had just finished their snack when Mr. Lucas walked in. They all chatted about their day and Elijah brought his Father up to speed on the whole Bruno situation. Mr. Lucas was pleased that his son had finally come clean about being gay and encouraged his son to do whatever made him happy so long as he was safe.
After the chat, they shared a family hug before Elijah asked his Dad to take him Christmas shopping. His Father happily agreed. In the car, Mr. Lucas asked where Elijah wanted to go first. Was it really even a question?
Elijah and his Dad pulled up in front of the the Jørgensen's store and parked. Elijah was so excited, it took everything he had not to skip into the store. The door opened and the bell rang as the two walked inside. Mr. Lucas was immediately impressed with all the leather craft. Elijah went to the same rack that displayed the pocket photo holder that Bruno had made, so he could show it to his Dad, but it was gone. Elijah was kind of sad- He really liked that little thing and he just knew he should've bought it when he had the chance.
"Welcome!!" Mr. Jørgensen called out to Mr. Lucas and Elijah.
"Hey there!! Quite the selection you've got here." Mr. Lucas said.
"Thank you. We try not to make the same thing twice." Mr. Jørgensen beamed.
"Ah, so you guys make everything in-house?" Mr. Lucas asked, truly impressed. "You do wonderful work."
"So does Bruno!!" Elijah added happily.
"Thanks, Elijah!!" Bruno called out from the back room as he stepped around the corner to see his friend.
Elijah held out his fist for Bruno to bump and he obliged. As the Fathers became lost in their own conversation, Elijah and Bruno became lost in their's.
"I heard what happened with Chester. They said you broke his nose. Nice work." Elijah said.
"Yeah, well, he had kinda had it coming after he called me a faggot. Nothing pisses me off like that." Bruno stated sharply. Elijah flinched when Bruno said the word 'faggot' but Bruno didn't notice, he just continued. "Anyway, when I was following Officer McAvoy out of the cafeteria, some girls handed me a piece of paper but I stuck it in my pocket before I could read it. I checked it out when I got here and look at what they wrote!!" Bruno said, pulling the neatly folded note out of his pocket and gave it Elijah to read. He thought it was a trip how 'easy' some girls can be.
'hey cutie, we think u r hot. wanna hang out some time ;)?'
Elijah read the note and his heart sank. He thought Bruno was flaunting how easy it would be for him to het a girlfriend. Elijah handed the note back to Bruno. Well, there went any hopes Elijah had of Bruno being gay and he quickly became devastated by it. The moment became tense and awkward without either boy knowing what to say. Elijah shuffled his feet and looked at the ground. Without looking up, he spoke softly, "I need to buy my Mom a gift for Christmas. She liked one of the sweaters in here, if you wouldn't mind cashing me out?"
Bruno scrunched his brows. Obviously something had happened to strike a sour chord with Elijah but he didn't know what it was off the top of his head. He did agree to cash Elijah out. As Elijah grabbed the sweater for his Mom, Bruno tried to make some small talk but it seemed like Elijah's mood was shot for the evening so he decided to leave him be. Bruno rang up the sweater, which totaled $59-. Elijah reached into his pocket and pulled out $60. As Bruno printed out the receipt, he scratched something out and handed it to Elijah, who didn't notice the scribblings and simply put the receipt into the bag without a second glance.
Father and son walked out of the store shortly after, leaving Bruno and his Father alone. Bruno said goodbye but Elijah hardly returned the gesture. Bruno and his Father returned to the back room to continue working on their respective projects -An intricately tooled belt for Mr. Jørgensen and a plain holster for a revolver for Bruno.
"Did I do something wrong?" Bruno asked.
"Son, I already told you that I'm proud of you for standing up for yourself today." Mr. Jørgensen grinned at his son. Bruno didn't smile back.
"I mean, did I do something wrong with Elijah?"
Mr. Jørgensen became perplexed. "Why would you think that?" He asked in earnest.
"Because we were talking and laughing and he just got really quiet. He didn't seem to be interested in talking to me anymore and he barely said goodbye to me!!" Bruno said as his eye began to water.
Mr. Jørgensen quickly realized that there was more than what met the eye for Bruno between him and this Elijah. "Do you like him, Bruno?" He asked.
Bruno squeaked as he nodded his head and fought back the tears.
"Okay, son." Mr. Jørgensen said as he put down his tools and hugged his son. Bruno let it go and the tears rolled down his face.
"I don't know what I did. It was like, he went from being happy to see me and then to suddenly like he didn't even want to look at me." Bruno explained.
"Well, son, sometimes people can be depressed for no particular reason- It's just the way they are wired. It's also entirely possible that you let it show that you like him and, maybe, he was put off by it. The vast majority of men and boys are not gay and some people choose to dislike gays for whatever their reasons may be." Mr. Jørgensen explained to Bruno.
"So, what do I do?" Bruno sniffled.
Mr. Jørgersen smiled. "Be his friend. Just don't get too close, is all. Treat him with respect and just be a friend to him. To have him as a friend would surely be better than to not have him at all, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah. I guess." Bruno conceded.
"Good." Mr. Jørgensen said. "Now, why don't we pick this stuff back up tomorrow morning and go home for tonight? I think a cup of hot cocoa is in order."
Bruno smiled at that thought. His father always knew just how to cheer him up. They locked up the shop and set off.
When they got home, Elijah thanked his Father for taking him shopping before retiring to his room for the night. He brought the sweater with him so he could hide it in his closet- Elijah wanted it to be a surprise for his Mom. Before he put it away, he laid it out on the bed. It was quite pretty, actually. When happened to glance in the bag, he noticed some scratching on the back of the receipt. It was a note from Bruno.
'Hey dude. I don't know what's up but I think you needed space. When you can, let's hang out :). Bruno.' Also scribbled across the bottom was Bruno's cell phone number. The feelings came back to Elijah and, now that he was in the privacy of his room, he let loose and balled.
It took him a few minutes to recover but he managed to fold the sweater neatly and stash in his closet. He crawled into bed, still sniffling, and tried to put the thoughts of his unrequited crush out of his head. Elijah tossed and turned for several hours thinking about Bruno. It was crazy: He only had two conversations with Bruno but he already managed to fall in love with him and have his heart broken. Finally, Elijah conceded that his affection for this boy was his own issue and that Bruno shouldn't have to pay a price just because he was straight and Elijah didn't like it. Elijah resolved to be a good friend to Bruno anyway and that he wouldn't let his emotions make him bitter like the did earlier that night. After making peace with himself, he finally drifted off to sleep. Thankfully, it was friday and Elijah could sleep in the following day.
Bruno finished his hot cocoa with his parents and went to bed early but, first, he needed to shower. While in the bathroom, under his scalding water, he performed the same ritual he had, every night since he met Elijah: He jacked off to the fantasy of having this boy he really came to like, all to himself. When he was finished, he sighed dejectedly. Hopefully, he hadn't been too inadvertently aggressive towards his straight friend and, maybe if Bruno was lucky, Elijah wouldn't hate him and would want to hang out some time.
Bruno dressed himself and climbed into bed. He said his prayers, thanking God for allowing Elijah into his life and promising to be the best friend he could be to him, if Elijah would have him. Bruno snuggled with his pillow and was just about to fall asleep when he heard whining outside his door.
"Shadow." He smiled as he got out of bed to let Shadow in. As Bruno opened the door, a large black German Shepherd came into his bedroom.
"Hey, buddy." Bruno cooed.
Shadow wagged his tail in response as nuzzled Bruno legs.
"Ya wanna come to bed and snuggle with me, tonight?" He asked. Shadow just looked at him and cocked his head to the side. Bruno giggled. "You're funny, Shadow. C'mon. Let's get some sleep."
Both Bruno and his dog climbed into bed. Bruno pulled the covers over himself and Shadow. Shadow laid with his head on the pillow and his back spooned into Bruno's chest. Bruno loved it when Shadow cuddled with him. His fur was always so soft and he could always feel his heart beating- Not in a weird way, Bruno just appreciated the company. Before long, the boy and his dog fell asleep.
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