Beyond The Rain

by Grasshopper

Ch 8

Wizard of Oz: "You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the impression that just because you run away you have no courage."

Aaron Sorensen

Mr. Strickland has been in the study with my father for over an hour. Why is he here? He didn't mention to me that he was gonna come to my house tonight. Did I do something wrong at work? I never look at anyone. I never flirt...ever. I just do my work and keep my eyes down. Billy knows that. Billy would tell me. Oh God, what did I do wrong?

"Aaron, step into the study please," my father said from the doorway.

I walked slowly in not knowing what I had done or what to expect. I stood silently just inside the door my eyes sliding from Mr. Strickland to my father. Mr. Strickland smiled at me.

"Mr. Strickland feels that the courses at the university might be beneficial to you. He is an alumnus of the school and recommends it highly. You know that I contend that you need more guidance at the church affiliated college here. The only reason I am even considering it is because Mr. Strickland tells me that there is a scholarship opening. That would be money I could then use to support the church."

I held my breath. What? Mr. Strickland was here to help me? I was being handed an escape? My eyes darted to his face and I saw acceptance and the offer of help. Did I want to go to state? You bet your cowboy boots I did.

But, I knew better than to act happy or excited or anything. I stood very still and waited. I had learned so much about my father in these past few months. It didn't even surprise me that he cared more about money for the church than he did about money to send me to school. It hurt, but it was old pain. I could definitely live with it.

Billy's face popped into my head. Billy!! I would get to go to school with Billy! This couldn't be happening. I would agree to any terms, any conditions......just let this happen.

"I would expect you to pray diligently, attend every church service and report to the minister every day."

I nearly choked on my laughter. Right, Dad, like I haven't been praying diligently every day to be out of this house. I know how to pray diligently; just not on the topics you require.

Billy...............I can't wait to tell Billy.

"You will live in the dorm. Mr. Strickland says that he will make sure that you are placed in the appropriate section."

I swung my eyes over to him and I swear Mr. Strickland winked at me. He winked! What was I missing? Did my father think there was a section in the dorms for queers? And that I was not going to be placed there? My mind was flying. I was going to State. I was going with Billy. Could I room with Billy?

I knew not to show what I was feeling. Inside I was yelling with joy. Outside I stood very still and waited for him to finish planning my life.

"We'll talk more on all the conditions and what you need to do to be worthy of this," my father said.

I would have eaten rattlesnakes right then to be 'worthy' of this.

He shook hands with Mr. Strickland and walked him to the door. "Thank you for your concern over our son. We will talk more."

"See you tomorrow, Aaron," Mr. Strickland said as he closed the door behind him.

I couldn't sleep for the excited thudding of my heart. I couldn't wait to see Billy tomorrow. He would just freak.


I overheard mother and father talking as I came down the stairs the next morning.

"It will be a relief to have this burden off our shoulders."

"It will be fine. He will find his path."

"All that tuition money can be used to build a new altar."

I sat down hard on the step. As much as I knew they hated what I was, I never quite believed that they would just want the "burden" of me gone. I felt the tears, but opened my eyes wide and forced them back. Right then, sitting on the fifth step up in the beautiful home where I was raised, I promised myself that when I walked out that front door to go to college, I would never walk back in. I guess people you love have so many caring and faith coupons and when they've used them all up, there's nothing left. Nothing to come "home" to. Home is truly, for me anyway, going to be where my heart is and my heart lives in Billy Carmedy's pocket. He may never feel like that about me, but he's my home.


"Billy!" I called as soon as I saw that cowboy hat.

"Hey," he grinned. "You look like you won the lottery."

"Better," I laughed. "Guess who's going to State with you in August?"

Billy's eyes popped and his mouth flew open. "NO!!!!!!!!! You? How did THAT happen?" He looked like he wanted to grab hold of me and I knew I wanted him to.

"Mr. Strickland was at my house last night and he told my dad about a scholarship and my dad cares more about money than he does about me and they both want the burden of me off their shoulders and I am going to State with you and ..........................oh, Billy!"

Billy did then. He grabbed me and hugged me tight and slapped me on the back with both hands and did a little dance and I was laughing so hard, I had tears running down my face. "I guess this means you're happy for me?"

"Happy? Wow!! This is the BEST news. You and me at State. I can't believe your father caved."

I felt a flush of sadness jolt through me and Billy saw it in my eyes. "Sorry, Aaron, I'm sorry, but your father is a total prick. But".," he grinned, "He is letting you go. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Sorensen."


As soon as I got to work that afternoon, I went straight to Mr. Strickland's office and stood in the doorway. He looked up at me and smiled. "Come on in."

"I just wanted to say thank you so much for what you did. I wanted to go to State so much and I didn't think I had a chance."

Mr. Strickland looked at me and said gently, "I believe that everyone needs a chance to prove who they are and have the chance to prove their worth. You're a good worker, a nice polite young man and I want you to have that chance. I didn't think you could get it if you stayed here."

I wanted to be totally honest. "You know about my ummm, problem and still you helped me."

"Something is only a problem if you build it into one," he said. "I only hope this has not taken away your faith in God."

I knew he was expecting a truthful answer. "No sir, not in the God I have always believed in; one of love and compassion and fairness. I have to be honest and say that I don't believe my father and I believe in the same God."

"There is only one," Mr. Strickland smiled ruefully, "And I believe in the same one you do. Now get out there and get to work. I know you and Billy have lots to plan."


Billy and I finished the last bit of work for the day, grabbed sodas and sat on the edge of the loading dock dreaming our dreams.

"Aaron," he said carefully.


"I want to be sure you know you haven't run away from problems or hidden from them. It took courage to do what you did; to tell your parents, even if it came out badly and you've suffered hell for it. I'm very proud of you. I always have been and I always will be. I wish I..............................," he stopped and ducked his head.

"What, Billy?" I wanted to touch his shoulder. He was hurting.

"Nothing," he laughed it off. I am just so dang happy. I've wished and prayed for this to happen and now it has. You'll find yourself again. I'm gonna tell you something and you're gonna laugh at me."

"I'd never laugh. What?"

Billy sighed, "I used to envy you. You were the golden boy. You had everything I wanted and on top of it all, you were a damn nice guy. You didn't deserve anything that happened to you. I just wanted you to know that."

I blushed. "Golden boy," I snorted, "Some golden boy. I ruined my parent's lives and lost all my friends. I went to a hole they call a retreat so they could 'cure' me. I thought of all the ways I could just kill myself and have it over with." I heard Billy's sharp intake of breath.

"But, you know what stopped me? You know what made me keep trying? Gave me faith in myself and courage to go on? You. The day you talked in class and then I came to work with you and you let me be your friend. You saved my life. I owe you so much."

"I just did it cause I care."

"I know. I've learned a lot these past months. To have the respect of other people, you have to respect yourself and be the kind of person people can look up to. I always thought my father was a well respected man but I've learned that his feet are on really shaky ground. I kinda think that if God was gonna talk to anyone lately it might have been me cause I know he loves me and I've been close to hell. So, I've gotta believe that he hasn't been on the phone with my father or the Elders either. It puts us on equal footing. I have to work out my own beliefs now....not what I was taught but what I believe to be true."

I felt Billy's hand on my shoulder and the warmth of it healed the last little bit of hurt in my heart.


My parents made out a list of what I needed to take with me. Then, they gave me the money to buy the things on the list. I knew that Billy wouldn't have a lot of money to spend on stuff like blankets and sheets, so I crossed some of the dumb junk off the list and bought two of stuff we would both need. I mean, who needs a rug when you can get two sets of sheets?

Billy and I worked up until graduation and then most of the way through the summer.

Graduation was an emotional time. For me, it was total joy that high school was over, I would be eighteen in 104 days and I was gone from here.

Billy's whole family attended the graduation and I finally met them. I could see where Billy got his good looks and his quiet sense of right and wrong. I loved his mom right off and felt like his dad wouldn't have been like my dad was...but then, I had trusted my dad too, so who knows?

As summer closed down and it was time to move our stuff, we got letters telling us that, by some stroke of luck, we could actually be roommates in the freshman dorm. It was like Christmas all over again.

"I guess you'll be out looking for a boyfriend as soon as we get there," Billy teased me.

I flinched, but I couldn't say anything except, "Yep, and I guess I should warn all the girls."

I had thought about this a lot. I love Billy, but he isn't gay. He's my best friend. I guess part of what I have to do is find myself and to find myself I have to find other gay guys to have for friends. I don't really want to. I just want to be with Billy, but I don't know what the answer is. At least we'll be roommates and still best friends.

My hair has grown out, my parents gave me some money to buy clothes and I finally feel like a normal guy again. Mr. Strickland gave Billy and me a computer for the dorm room. He said we'd have to share and that's cool with us. I owe that man so much. One day, I'll find a way to pay him back.

It's funny, not haha, but sad funny. My parents have been nicer to me since I'm going to be leaving. It's like since the burden is leaving, they can afford to be nice. I will miss my mom. She tried to help me even though she wasn't strong enough. I will not miss my father.

My life has been hell for the last eleven months. It all could have been avoided if the people I loved and trusted had loved and trusted me back. I know one thing, if I ever have any kids, they will be the most loved and trusted kids in the world.

I think I know what I'm going to do with my life. I think I'm going to get all the training I can and then I am going to be one hell of a good counselor. I never want what happened to me to happen to another kid. We deserve better. We deserve to be trusted and believed in and held and loved. I'll help see that it happens. There will be no 'retreats' in my work; no drugs, no battering of self-esteem. There will be only warmth and listening and acceptance. Trust me.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead