Beyond The Rain

by Grasshopper

Ch 7

Dorothy: "What kind of horse is that? I've never seen a horse like that before."

Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: "He's the Horse of a Different Color you've heard tell about."

Billy Carmedy

I wanted to give Aaron something special for Christmas, but I had no idea what to get. I didn't think his parents would like it if I gave him anything personal and I knew he didn't have a CD player or anything like that anymore.

We had talked a lot about college. I knew Aaron wanted to get away from home so bad. I tried to make him know that things would be better when he was out and away from his parents' watching eyes. He didn't have a choice of schools. His father said he had to go to the church school in the same town where we lived. It would be okay for him there because it was half religious classes and their social life was monitored. Aaron cried when he told me about it. He couldn't see any way around it. At least, he said, he'd be in a dorm and out of his house. I didn't want to tell him that it sounded very much like the place he'd been taken where all his thoughts and dreams would be crushed. I wished so much that he could go to the state University with me. I wanted to be the one who watched Aaron Sorensen grow into the man he wanted to be.

I came up with a plan and a simple gift for his Christmas. The plan he wouldn't know about and the gift was easy.


Christmas had always been a great day at my house. My mom baked a big fat turkey and we all helped with the cutting and slicing and clean up. The presents were always small and not too expensive, but came from our hearts and made us all feel special. I always promised myself that when I was an established architect, I would give my parents fancy gifts for Christmas, for their birthdays and just any time I saw something they would like. Now, knowing Aaron, knowing how much money his family had and the expensive things in their house and how little that all meant to Aaron, I changed my mind about my family. I would always be there for them with all my love and help them in any way they needed. It wasn't the expensive things that mattered; it was the love in the home.

Something had been troubling me a lot since all this with Aaron. I felt like I was living a lie and I wanted to know how my family would react if I told them. I watched everyone; Dad, Mom, Grandma and Grandpa, my two older sisters, Ginny and Marsha. I wondered how they would react if I stood up and said it.

Marsha and Ginny would be cool. I think maybe they already know and Grandma wouldn't care except that I would get hurt. It was Mom, Dad and Grandpa that I worried about. I couldn't stand it if they didn't love me anymore. I looked at my family through sad eyes, knowing I wouldn't say a word. One day maybe, but not now.

I drove over to Aaron's after we ate our turkey and carried a brightly wrapped package to his door. His parents couldn't complain about this gift. It was simple and yet it was important.

Aaron opened the door and his eyes were sparkling. He pulled me into the hall and then further into the living room. I could hear the sound of voices coming from the dining room.

"Elder Clemmons, Elder Franks and their wives are here for Christmas dinner," Aaron said, making a face and a gagging sound. "Merry Christmas to me."

We laughed and shook our heads. It was good to see Aaron try to laugh about all the crap he couldn't change. It was easier to laugh than to cry.

"I have something for you," he babbled, his grin getting bigger by the minute.

I held out the simple thing I had bought for him at the mall. He opened the paper very carefully and pulled out the 2005-2006 calendar. It had pictures of beautiful places around the world. He looked at me with questioning eyes.

"I want you to mark off the 270 days until you're free to be the beautiful person inside of you," I said softly. "Look at September 22, 2006."

Aaron flipped the pages until he came to September. It had a beautiful picture of the Grand Canyon. I had drawn a red line around the 22nd and printed the words 'Free to be me'. I watched Aaron's eyes fill with tears as he traced the red words. "Thank you, Billy. I'll mark them off one by one and know I'm coming closer to myself."

I wanted to touch his face, wipe away those tears with my fingers, but I knew I couldn't. I would wait until a time when it was right. Until then, Aaron was my best friend.

He jumped up and grabbed a big package from behind the recliner. "I got you something too," he grinned. He was practically bouncing as I ripped into the paper. I'm not a saver like Aaron is. When I first saw the Stetson and realized what Aaron had done, I felt hot tears burn the backs of my eyes.

"This is too much, Aaron," I choked. I had wanted this hat forever. I looked at him biting my lip to keep the love from shining through. "I don't know what to say."

Aaron smiled. "Just say thank you."

I'd never had a hat this nice. I swallowed my pride that wanted to say I couldn't accept it because the look in Aaron's eyes made me know I needed to keep it for him as much as for me. "Thank you, buddy," I said, thinking of all the things I wanted to say. I walked over to the mirror and stuck the hat jauntily into my head, turned and grinned. "What do you think?"

It was in his eyes. I read them and everything I needed to know was there.

If I could just hold to my promise for a while longer.

"You look great," he said in a soft whisper. "I knew you would."

"I'll treasure it," I told him, keeping my eyes down and away from his. It took all I had not to pull him close and show him how much this meant to me.

Suddenly, silence swallowed the room and it was awkward. There were words crashing into the walls and not a sound was being made. I had made a promise to myself and I had to keep it.

Voices from the other room came closer and Aaron's parents and their company walked in. The moment was gone as we both fought for control.

"I want to thank you for taking such an interest in our son," Mr. Sorensen said, holding his hand out to me. "I was just telling the Elders that if there were just more boys like you to help when the youth of today goes wrong, perhaps there wouldn't be so much perversion in the schools. We appreciate you taking the time to try to fix Aaron."

I watched Aaron's face close up, his eyes dulled and the joy of what we had almost said, the intimacy of the sharing we had almost done, was gone.

"I am Aaron's friend, Mr. Sorensen," I said with as much civility as I could work up. "It's a pleasure to be just that. He doesn't need fixing."

I watched Mr. Sorensen's eyes dart from my face to Aaron's and back to me. I had to be careful. "It's fun working at the feed store after school, right Aaron?" Words to diffuse what I had just said.

"Yeah," Aaron said slowly.

Jesus....that man could suck the juice out of a lemon without cutting a hole. He just couldn't let Aaron have a moment's happiness. I glanced down at the calendar Aaron had clutched in his hand and back up to his face. '270 days,' I thought to myself. 'You have 270 days to go, Aaron. Hang in there.'


School rolled on as school will do. Aaron and I worked together at the feed store and the snow banks began to melt, taking the dreary days of winter away with the rush of eddies of rushing water. I could saddle Chaco up and ride out to my favorite place by the stream. I always wanted Aaron to be with me, to see the world through my eyes, to know in his heart that nothing lasts forever and he would be free soon to choose his path.

I worried sometimes that his father would say just exactly the wrong words at just exactly the wrong time and Aaron would give up his fight. He would have days where I knew he was hurting and that the constant harangue of the 'good people' of the church was getting to him. How many times can you be told you are bad or sick or dirty before you believe it and want to stop the words. I tried to leave him every day with a smile on his face.

I tried to feel sorry for his father, but I just couldn't seem to work up any enthusiasm for it. A grown man with so little sympathy for others, including his own son, was just beyond anything I wanted to know; a man who believed totally in his own god....apparently a god who had a chosen few. I had no feelings for a man like that other than contempt and disgust.

It was April and Aaron had 144 days to go. He might have to go to school where he was told because of money but he wouldn't have to go to any dang retreat ever again. I had a calendar of my own and I was counting the days too.

My plan was in effect. I hoped it was percolating. I knew that Mr. Strickland was an alumnus of the state university that I was going to in the fall. He had helped me with my scholarship papers and had even written a recommendation for me. When I had first gone to him to talk about Aaron, he had listened quietly and then said he would see what he could do. I had been really honest with him and told him that Aaron needed to get a fresh start away from everything. I knew that he was a member of the same church as the Sorensens but I had never heard him say the harsh judgemental things they said. I crossed my fingers that he was the man I had always thought him to be. I knew that Aaron had decided that all adults would screw you if they could, but I still had hope.

It was times like this when it was really bad that Aaron didn't have a phone or a computer or a car. When I was worried and just wanted to check on him, I had no way to finding him. He was like a prisoner inside his own life. I could only imagine what was going on inside his head.

At school, he had pretty much closed himself off from everyone except me. People would ask me what was up with him cause they'd see us together and I'd just shrug my shoulders. "He's going through a rough time right now," I'd say vaguely. The sad one really cared enough to look any farther. All his old friends were so caught up in their own lives that someone acting odd and different wasn't part of that life. People just don't look below the surface to what's underneath. It's good in a way cause I sure don't want anyone peering under my surface, but I do wish more people would have cared about what was going on with Aaron. The golden boy I had known before all this shit hit the fan was gone, I guess, forever.


At work, I would talk about how much I wanted to be an architect, designing buildings and bridges; anything that would endure and create a sense of forever. Aaron didn't know what he wanted to do really. He would shrug his shoulders and say that so many jobs he wanted would be cut off now that everyone knew about him. He had wanted to be a fireman but knew that he wouldn't be accepted. I hated that his self-esteem was guttering out and that he was trashing his dreams. I could say a thousand times that he could be whatever he wanted to be but he didn't believe me. His father kept ranting that being gay slammed doors shut. I couldn't make Aaron believe that the man would say anything to make his point.

"Aaron, listen to me," I said. "When you graduate from college and go to job interviews, your father will not be with you. You will be representing yourself and your work, your grades, your personality will speak for you. I truly believe that your father knows that he is losing a battle he can't win. If you will just hold on to your faith in yourself, everything will be okay."

He would look at me with confused eyes and I knew he felt like a ping pong ball being slammed from one side of the table to the other. I knew how much he wanted to believe me.

One day, he said the oddest thing. "Billy, I'm so glad you aren't gay like me. It hurts too much. I know if you were, you wouldn't take it like I have; you'd stand up and fight them all. I wish I could be like you."

I felt like shit. I wasn't any braver than he was. As a matter of fact, he was much the braver. He had tried. He had actually tried to tell his parents. I had taken the easy road while he had not. I began to worry that when we were far from here and I could tell him the truth, he might hate me for it. I had what I felt were noble reasons for not telling him but he might not see it that way. Maybe it would never get said. If I ever saw the look Aaron gave his father in his eyes aimed at me, it would kill me. I was the one thing he believed in. What would he think when he knew?

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