Beyond The Rain

by Grasshopper

Ch 6

Wizard of Oz: "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others."

Aaron Sorensen

It's funny, but telling Billy gave me courage. For a few seconds, something flickered through his eyes and I had a moment where I thought................but, that would be too much to ask for. I'd always heard that one out of every ten people was gay, but that would just be too easy. I had to not think about Billy that way. I'd just keep telling myself I was glad he wasn't like me. The way I felt about me, why would anyone wish that on anyone else?

I left work at six on the dot and left Billy still sweeping up. I thought about him a lot on the way home. He worked so hard. He could have gone on home when I did, but he stayed to help Mr. Strickland close up so I wouldn't get in trouble. I would have except for my father's ruling. I didn't want to do anything to rock my shaky boat.

It was so hard not letting my anger just fly out, but I couldn't go back to that place and I didn't have any choice in whether I did, one way or the other. My mom was beginning to make peace with me and I hoped we could get back to somewhere like it had been before, but my dad............he would never change.

What I had said in class that day about bigotry; that was my dad. He believed his way and there was no other way. How do you deal with someone like that? I had lived all my life with him, and, until it affected me, I had just tried to ignore it. Now, I couldn't ignore it anymore.

I thought about how I wanted to stand up to him; tell him off. Shout in his face that I was as good as he was....better, because I didn't hate things I didn't understand. I'd tell him to just fucking eat shit and die and then I'd leave forever. I'd go somewhere happy, somewhere that people would care about me and not mind that I was different from them. I'd find someone sweet who'd love me and cherish me. Someday, I'd find my way over the rainbow.

But, for now, I have to be Quiet Aaron. I understand that. I have to dream my dreams and wait. I will never go back to that place in the woods. I have my best friend Billy and he doesn't care that I'm gay. I wish..................


It's much easier to live now. I get up in the morning knowing I have someone to talk to, who will listen and not judge me. Sometimes, I have this really powerful feeling that there are things Billy isn't saying, but maybe like me, he needs time and trust. I know his family doesn't have much money, but he's working so hard to save and he's applied for a scholarship. He wants to go to the state university and study to be an architect. I know for a fact that he'll be the best architect the world has ever seen.

Me? At first, my parents said I didn't deserve to go to college, but they're easing down now. I guess I'll have to go to the church affiliated college near here, but anything will be better than living in this house. I wish I could go with Billy, be roommates and stay his friend. I wish.........

Now that my eyes are open; now that I know how deep my own secrets run; I look around at the other kids at school and wonder what secrets they hold close. I wonder who is gay; who is being abused; who is pregnant; who can't get off drugs. All these silent kids with no one to talk to. I've started smiling at kids whose eyes seem dead just hoping that if someone wants to talk, they'll see it in my eyes.


Billy was tugging a huge roll of barbed wire down the back steps, heavy leather gloves on his hands; his ever present bandana rolled and tied around his forehead to catch the sweat. The days were getting cold, but hard work was still hard work.

"You got a yellow bandana today," I laughed. "You got every color, huh?"

"Yeah," he grinned, "My gramma gives me a new package every Christmas."

I haven't ever been to Billy's house and, big surprise, he's never been to mine. I knew he'd told his family about me and he told me that I was welcome any time I wanted to come over. He smiled sadly when he said it, knowing I couldn't.

Impulsively, I said, "Billy, come to my house. Please."

He stopped and gave me a look. "You sure that's a good idea?"

"I don't know. I only know that you're my best friend and I want you to."

"K," he said slowly.

So, after work, he called his mom, told her where he'd be and we drove in his truck to my house. Stopping out front, he looked at me really hard. "Why are we doing this?"

I didn't know if I could explain. "I have to try to have my life back. Maybe they will let me if I do it right in front of them."

"And if they tell me to leave?"

I didn't have an answer. They could. It was very possible. I was just counting on the kindness I knew was somewhere in my family. I'd seen it so many times when I was growing up. It couldn't have just died....could it?

I opened the front door and heard voices in the kitchen. Deciding to just try it, I smiled weakly at Billy and walked toward the lighted room, him trailing along behind me.

"Mom, Dad, this is Billy Carmedy. He works at the feed store after school too."

My mom looked frightened for a second but then her good manners overtook her. "Hello, Billy." She looked over toward my father.

"Carmedy," my father said, staring at Billy, "That would be the foreman of the Grissom spread out on Highway 53?"

"Yes sir," Billy answered.

"Billy helps him," I babbled.

My father turned to look at me. "I thought you understood that....,"

I cut him off. "I did, but this is my friend Billy and he knows all about me. He accepts me for who I am and he doesn't care and I brought him to meet you." I stood still, holding my breath.

Dad looked at Billy. "You are aware of the situation with Aaron?"

I saw strong emotion flicker in Billy's eyes, but he answered politely, "Yes, sir, Aaron has told me about his um....situation. It doesn't trouble me. He's my friend and I'm helping him."

My father frowned. "You are counseling him?"

"I don't know about that, sir, but I am giving him my support."

"Are you like Aaron?"

Even my mother found that question offensive. "Mark, that was rude. Of course he's not."

I wasn't sure how Billy would have answered that, but I do know my father was pissing him off really bigtime.

"If you mean, am I seventeen, a senior, going to college in the fall, then yes, I'm very much like Aaron."

My father made a sound in his throat. "Well, you may stay for awhile, but there will be no closed doors."

I pulled Billy into the hall and we fell against the wall, our eyes wide, biting our bottom lips to keep from laughing. We went into the TV room and sat on the sofa.

"I'm sorry, Aaron, but your father is a fuckin' piece of work."

I sighed. "Believe me, I know."

We watched the news and when Mom came in to say dinner was ready, Billy excused himself to go home. I stood on the front porch, watching his tail lights grow smaller and wished I was in that truck with Billy, going to his warm happy house.

"He seems like a smart young man," my mom said at the dinner table.

"He is. Billy listens to me and helps me," I said honestly.

"Well, as long as you keep away from any faggots at your school, I suppose you may have Billy for a friend."

I wanted to throw my water in his face. I wanted to say every curse word I knew; just stand up and yell them, but he still controlled me. I still had 295 days until I was eighteen. I didn't know what would happen then, but it had to be better than this. I did get up from the table and go to my room. I didn't say anything because I so desperately wanted to keep Billy as my friend. But, I just couldn't sit there and I sure couldn't eat.

Lord, I wish I did know just one 'faggot' at my school. I wish I wasn't so alone. He made it sound like some gross disease that you caught from breathing the same air. What makes him so afraid?


It was December 16th and I wanted to buy Billy something special for Christmas. I'd only have the money I'd made from my first paycheck and I didn't get that until the end of two weeks. I didn't get any kind of allowance anymore, but when I found out that Billy never had gotten one, I didn't complain.

Everyday, Billy had on the same cap. He'd fold it and shove it in his back pocket and then take in out to pull it on his head. I liked the way it looked with that creased bill shadowing his eyes. It was an old and sweat stained Justin Boot camp cap. I asked him about it one day and he told me his dad had given it to him. It was important.

I'd seen him finger the Stetson cowboy hats over in the clothes section of the feed store. There was one he kept going back to over and over. It was dark brown suede called a Buffalo Big Horn and when I saw him sneak it on his head and peek in the mirror, I knew what I wanted to get him for Christmas. The price tag read $160, but I figured I'd make around $160 for my thirty-one hours work. I could just afford it.

December 22nd came and I was grinning from ear to ear when Mr. Strickland handed me my first ever pay check. Glancing down, I couldn't keep the frown off my face.

"Mr. Strickland, excuse me, sir, but I thought I got $5.15 an hour minimum wage."

Billy made a rude sound with his tongue and then chuckled. "Look at the other side of the check, Aaron. The government takes a pile out before you ever get any."

Sure enough, I'd worked all those hours and the tax off my check was $24. I earned $160, but I only took home $136. The look on my face must have been something to see because they both teased me.

Mr. Strickland said, "See why you need to go to college, Aaron? You can't live on $272 a month."

Lord, I had been naive. I wanted to get that cowboy hat so bad. I thought about asking my mother, but I didn't ever want to be beholden to them again. I needed twenty-four more dollars plus tax. I did what every kid does when they need money.....I scavenged the house and the car, searching for loose change coming up with a grand total of $3.14. I needed $20.86 to get the hat. I decided to talk to Mr. Strickland.


The next day was the perfect time to ask because Billy had a dentist appointment and would be late getting to work.

"Sir," I said hesitantly, "I really want to buy that Stetson over there for someone for Christmas. I have $139.14. Could you maybe take the rest out of my next pay check?" I was so afraid he'd say "No'. I had lost faith in anyone's kindness.

"I tell you what, Aaron," he smiled, "Since I know who it's for because Billy loves that hat, I'll make you a deal."

"Yes, sir, anything."

"You load that feed over there, carry it out to the Lawson place, help Mr. Lawson pack it away in the barn and I'll call the hat even."

I wanted to hug him. "Oh, thank you so much, Sir," I cried as I shook his hand really hard. "I'll do a good job. I promise."

"I know you will, Aaron." He smiled again, handed me the keys to the truck and walked back to his office.

I loaded up the feed bags, got the invoice from Mr. Strickland and headed out Hwy 68. It was a forty-five minute drive each way, but I thought I had enough time. Mr. Lawson met me at the barn and more talked than helped as I unloaded the heavy sacks of feed. He was a lonely old fella whose wife had died a number of years ago and his kids were all grown and gone. He wouldn't take 'No' for an answer when I said I didn't have time for coffee.

I know how it is to be lonely and need to talk. I listened politely, let him tell me about his grandkids and his crops for the spring. It was late by the time I got back to the feed store and Billy was pacing the loading dock.

"Aaron, you're late. Jump in the truck and I'll get you home."

Even with Billy's help, it was going on seven by the time I hit the front door. My father was standing in the living room, an angry look on his face.

"You are late."

I wanted to just say "Duhhh', but I'm not that stupid. I tried to answer calmly. "I had to deliver some feed to Mr. Lawson. I got back as soon as I could."

"Go to your room. You will not have dinner at the table."

Like I cared. Sitting at that table wasn't exactly the highlight of my day. I was really hungry, but it was a tiny price to pay for the twenty bucks I'd earned. I jumped up the stairs, two at a time, a big grin on my face. I had enough to buy Billy that hat.

I lay on my bed, sighed a satisfied sigh and knew that at least one thing in my life was good. My friend Billy would have a happy Christmas and I had worked really hard for it.

I had realized a few weeks before that the nameless boy I used to always talk to in my prayers, the boy out there that would love me and cherish me, the faceless boy who would hold me tight and protect me when the world closed in....that boy had a face now. He had a name. His name was Billy.

I knew my dreams were useless; my wanting was just that....wanting. He couldn't love me the way I wanted him to. He was so perfect in my eyes and that meant that perfect boys were not gay. I would never tell him how I felt and he would never have to feel guilty for my falling in love with him. We were best friends. That was enough. My mind knew it; only my heart cried.

My stomach grumbled and growled and I flopped over onto my belly to try to get to sleep. I heard a rattle at my window. And there, again. I jumped up and peered out into the snow to see a bundled figure bouncing up and down.

Sliding my window open, I stuck my head out into the falling flakes. "What are you doing out there, you nut?" I whispered really low.

"Brought you some food," Billy called softly. He knew me so well. He picked a coil of rope up off the snow and trailed several lengths through his hands. "Catch the rope," he said.

He swirled the loop of the lasso above his head and tossed the loop up towards my window. Leaning out, I caught it and pulled it over my window ledge. He tied the other end to the handle of a cooler and motioned for me to hoist it on up. I got it up there and tugged it through my window.

"Thanks, Billy," I called.

"No prob. See you tomorrow. Night, Aaron." He stood there for a minute, looking up at me and I could have sworn he wanted to say something more, but then he was gone in a swirl of snowflakes. I watched his tail lights disappear into the darkness.

I plopped the box on my bed and opened the top to find a thermos of hot chocolate, a box of Kentucky Fried, and a big piece of apple pie. There was a note stuck in the top:

"Smile,'re the best friend a guy could wish for"

I felt a huge smile break across my face and, as I ate my chicken and my stomach filled up, my mind knew I had a very best friend; only my heart cried for more.

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