For Everything You Are

by Westcliff Writer

Chapter 9

Handling the Truth

It was 8am and Jake was at the breakfast table with his parents, crunching his way through a bowl of cereal, the sharp winter sun piercing the kitchen windows, creating a yellow hue in the room. His mother was on her iPAD, looking at nothing in particular.

"I'm thinking of getting a treadmill," she remarked out of the blue, breaking the silence. Jake looked up and creased his head. Alan just moved his eyes upwards, glancing at her before lowering them again. "I'm serious," she added, when no one spoke.

"You can go running in the desert, Jen, there's plenty of it," Alan finally said when she sighed.

"It's a midlife crisis, Dad," Jake said teasingly, earning him a glare from his mother.

"Well, whatever it is, I'm not spending five hundred dollars to run on the spot," Alan said. He was reading through his new contract and had papers sprawled all over the table. He was due to start at the base in three days and needed to hand the signed contract back when he got there. It was also a special day for Jake.

"Excited about your first day, Jake?" his mother asked, putting the iPAD down.

"A bit nervous, but I guess it will be interesting to see how different it will be. The system the school uses though is totally confusing; I'm gonna have a lot of questions," Jake said, frowning.

"Well, your headmaster….or principal, if that's what they call them here, well, anyway, he seems nice. I found it very informative when we went and enrolled you. Did you manage to speak to any of your teachers?"

"A few, yeah, but like I said, I don't really know what subjects I'll be taking until I get there."

"Well, you better go get your bag soon. Do you know where to meet the bus?" Alan asked.

"Yeah its a little way up the track, next to that old shack," Jake replied. Alan thought for a moment.

"Oh, yeah, I know," he remarked, as he gathered all his documents up in a pile and banged them down, straightening them in the process. "Are you meeting Leon and Edward at the pickup?"

"It's Luke, Dad, and I'm not sure. I guess they will be there, but I forgot to ask about that when I was round there."

"What do their parents do for a living, Jake?" asked Jenny.

"Oh, well, his dad is a veterinary surgeon and his mum is a store assistant down at one of the hardware stores. His dad looks after mostly farm animals and stuff. He's a cool guy. I haven't managed to meet his mum yet; she was out when I was there. Luke and Ed are really cool, too."

"That's nice, honey. Good to see you have already made a couple of friends," she said, collecting Jake's empty bowl and placing it in the sink. "You better go, sweetheart, or you'll be late for your bus, not to mention your first day." Jake looked at the clock and nodded, getting up and heading for his bedroom.

"Just gonna get my bag and I'll be going. It's so cool not having to wear a uniform," he called.

Jake grabbed his bag from his bedroom and checked the contents. It only contained his stationery and house keys but he was sure it would fill up as his first day progressed. He reappeared in the kitchen to say goodbye, dropping his trainers to the floor.

"Don t forget your insulin, Jake," said his mother as she kissed him on the cheek.

"Yeah, I'll grab it" he replied, walking back out of the kitchen. He walked over to the side dresser in the hall and pulled out a wallet containing his meds.

"Bye, then," he called from the front door. Jenny went and saw him off, waving as he crunched down the gravel driveway to the gate. He began walking down the dirt track to pick up his bus when he saw Ethen coming out of his front door, waving as he approached Jake.

"What are you doing out here?" Jake asked, surprised, but equally pleased to see him. Ethen grinned at him.

"It just so happens I accidentally wandered out here, you know?" He began laughing. Jake regarded him curiously. "OK, OK, I gotta be at the base at ten but I wanted to walk you to the bus stop to make sure you found it OK."

"Oh, that's OK, I know where it is," Jake said, feeling rather special.

"OK, I admit it. I really just wanted to see you," Ethen grinned, gripping Jake's shoulder.

"Oh?" remarked Jake, smiling innocently.

"So, will you let me walk you?"

"Well, aren't you the gentleman?," Jake chuckled. "Yeah, sure, I'd like that, but I gotta get walking, like now." Ethen looked at his watch and nodded. The two boys made their way up the dirt track to pick up Jake's bus. As they approached, Jake could see Ed and Luke already there, along with another boy and two girls he didn't know. Luke followed Jake with his eyes until turning away, but Jake didn't notice. He was too busy wondering who the unknowns were.

"Hey, Kim", Ethen said, as they both reached the group. "Holly, nice to see you," he said to the other girl. They both smiled and returned the greeting. "And hey, Callum," he said, turning to a shy young man Jake had never seen before.

"Hello, Ethen," replied Callum softly as he just stared at the ground. Callum was short, skinny, with flyweight mousy blond hair. Jake couldn't help wondering if he was being fed enough as he eyed his collar bone, clearly visible through his sweater. His eyes were surrounded by a blue, almost black hue, his face pale. Jake subtly shook his head; he felt for the boy, but felt powerless to do anything.

"Everyone, I would like you to meet Jake," said Ethen, pulling Jake's eyes back to his. "He's just moved here from the UK." The two girls and Callum exchanged greetings with Jake, while Ethen moved and chatted to Ed and Luke. The sound of the bus approaching pulled them out of their conversations. A Blue Bird Vision pulled up and they all got on, leaving Ethen outside, watching. Jake sat with Callum, seeing that the other siblings sat together. As the bus pulled away, Ethen smiled at Jake and waved, causing his stomach to flutter.

The ride to the school was bumpy and when they arrived, Jake was feeling a little queasy. Sticking close to Ed and Luke, he made his way into the school, the busy corridors alive with chatter and locker doors slamming.

Jake found his first day very interesting. After a quick meeting with a vice principal, he quickly found out his first class was going to be science; he rushed and found a seat in the back, just before the bell rang and class started. His teacher went over the lesson plan for that day and introduced Jake to the class. His fellow classmates all looked at him, staring when he was asked to stand up and tell them about himself, which he found very embarrassing, but the ice was broken and he started to feel minutely more at ease.

No one talked to him nor did he talk to anyone else during the class, but he knew that this would take time to change, being the new kid and all. So, when second period ended, he had to go to lunch and sit out in the courtyard with no one to talk to and no food, because he was still too nervous to go into the lunch line. He found a vending machine and pulled out some potato chips. Walking back to the courtyard, he kept looking around, hoping to see someone he knew from his neighbourhood.

Lunch ended and he headed to art class, a subject he loved. He was the first one there; not even his teacher was there yet, but he felt pretty pleased with himself when he found the classroom so quickly without any assistance. The school was set over two blocks, each with three floors. Each floor was lettered and each room numbered, meaning it was pretty simple to find his way around.

Jake sat at a desk, got out a sketch book he'd been given at the start of the day, and started drawing some random stuff like he normally would. He didn't notice the rest of the class walking in or the girl that was standing behind him until two hands slammed down on his desk, startling him, and this long blond hair girl yelling, "So whatcha drawing?" The only thing that went through his mind was, thank god, when he saw it was actually Kim.

"Uh, it's nothing, really," he said, pulling the pad away, so she couldn't see what he had been doodling.

"Hey, isn't that Ethen?" she asked, as she yanked the pad from him. His cheeks began to fill with heat as he just pulled the pad back from her without answering. "You're pretty good." She smiled. Jake sat there, relieved she didn't ask him why he was drawing another…. boy.

After art, he started seeing everyone he knew from his neighbourhood in the hallways, each of them stopping and asking how his day was going. Overall, Jake felt pleased with how his first day was going, and by the time he got to geography, he felt like he'd been there forever.

"Class, I have some exciting news," the teacher said as the class was settling down. "I have organised a field trip, orienteering in the desert. It will be held over three days, and you will need to bring some camping equipment, such as a basic tent and sleeping bag." The class erupted into applause. Jake could only sit there, not really knowing how to react. "Settle down, please," he said, trying to get the class under control. "I will need these permission slips signed by your parents," he added, as he placed a slip in front of each student. "The school will supply everything else you need; however, the trip will cost twenty five dollars per student. The trip will be two weeks from today."

The teacher then began his class, and as per previous classes Jake had attended, he had to get up and introduce himself, but by this time, he had gained confidence, even managing to crack a joke or two about his accent and about being British.

The class ended and Jake made his way back to his locker to get his things. His bag did indeed feel heavier, but he was pleased that he had been spared homework assignments, since his teachers felt he needed to settle in first. As he closed his locker, Ed and Luke came by and stopped when they saw him.

"Hey, Jake, how was your first day?" Ed asked, patting Jake on his back. Luke said nothing and just stood there, concentrating on Jake, which Jake noticed.

"Yeah, it was cool, A school day here is very different to what I'm used to, but I had fun, weirdly enough," he chuckled.

"That's great; hey, Kim said you drew some really cool stuff in art; you're really good apparently."

"Not really," Jake replied timidly, still noticing how Luke was staring at him, almost in full glare mode.

"Well, we should get going; the bus will be leaving in twenty and I gotta stop by and pick up my tech piece." Ed started to head off, when he noticed Luke hadn't moved. "You coming, guys?"

"You go; I wanna talk to Jake quickly," Luke said, sternly. Ed just shrugged and moved off again down the corridor, leaving Jake just standing there with a confused look on his face for what seemed like a full minute before Luke spoke. "I need you to stay away from Ethen," he said, without blinking.

"Whoa, where has this come from?"

"I know about you, and like I said, you need to stay away from him."

"And, what exactly do you know about me?" Jake asked, becoming defensive.

"Don't play games, new boy; Ethen doesn't need someone like you in his life."

"Hey, what is all this? You know, it wasn't so long ago I was at your house and we were laughing together, and now you pull this shit on me without so much as a reason why, apart from Ethen doesn't need me in his life. I mean what the fuck does that even mean?"

"Can't you just accept what I have asked and move on?" Luke argued.

"I'm sorry, Luke, but you don't know anything about me, and as for whom I spend my time with, before you start getting all hostile, just remember, it's none of your damn business." Jake was pissed now; he felt slightly intimidated by Luke's behaviour, but this was being overtaken by anger for the way he was laying down orders. "Are we done?" he said, glaring into Luke's eyes.

"Just stay away from him, OK?" Luke replied in a slightly defeated tone. Jake didn't answer; he just brushed past him and went to collect his bus. He got outside and took a deep breath, trying to get his thoughts together about what just happened. He got on the bus and sat next to Callum, just like the morning, but didn't speak to him. He was too angry, too pumped up to have a conversation with anyone at this point.

"Want a piece of chewing gum?" came a soft, timid voice next to him.

"What?...Oh, no thanks," Jake replied, irritated someone had actually talked to him.

The bus stopped opposite the track and Jake rushed off, wanting to just get away from Luke, just in case he felt like having another confrontation. Kim saw him leaving the area at speed and called after him, but he just walked on not looking back.

Arriving at his house, he opened the door and went up to his room. He threw his bag on the floor and himself on the bed. Fucking stay away from him, indeed , he thought, as he lay there staring at the ceiling. Fucking asshole , who the fuck does he think he is? He stewed, his mind now in overtime, wondering how to deal with the situation. He ran his fingers through his hair and thought for a moment.


"Jake, supper!" Jenny called up to him. Jake had calmed a little, but he still felt a twinge of anger seeping out, the more he thought about Luke's demand today. He arrived in the dining room, where his mother and father were chatting. Alan poured a glass of wine and offered a glass to Jake, resulting in a frown from Jenny.

"Supper?" Jake said to his mother. "Is that what they call it here in cowboy town? Whatever happened to dinner?"

Jenny chuckled "Well, you gotta get with the lingo, Jake, right, Alan?" she said, grinning.

"OK, but just don't start doing that redneck accent, OK, Mum?" This caused Alan to laugh as he poured Jake a small glass of wine. "Thanks, Dad," he said, taking a sip.

"So?" Jenny said, spooning some peas on to her plate.

"Sooo?" Jake replied sarcastically.

"Your day… tell us about your day, the school, was it fun?" she said excitedly.

"Yeah, school was fine, Mum, you can get down from the wall now, it was good, I really enjoyed it until the point where I was about to leave and got told by that jerk Luke, who I thought was gonna be my friend, to stay away from Ethen, god knows why. Oh, and I need twenty five dollars for a field trip," he added for good measure.

"OK, time out," Alan said, interrupting their conversation. "Who is Luke, why do you have to stay away from Ethen, and where is this field trip?" Jake lowered his head until it hit the table and he sighed.

"We did the Luke thing, Dad. He is the one you called Leon, Leon is Luke….Luke Luke Luke! He's also the bastard who…"

"Jake, language!" Jenney cried. Jake was becoming frustrated.

" Who said I had to stop seeing Ethen," he continued. "And the field trip is for an orienteering camping trip thing with my geography class," Jake finished. "And sorry for cursing, but he is a bastard!" Alan let out a small snigger, much to Jenny's disgust.

"Jake, I did not bring you up to use those kinds of words, and you, you should know better," she growled, turning her gaze to Alan.

"Sorry," came the word in stereo.

"Now, let's eat," Jenny said, trying to get some control back at the table. Alan reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out a bundle of notes, separating a twenty and a five.

"Here you go, son," he said, smiling. "Do you need me to sign anything?"

"Um, yeah, a permission slip."

"Sure."

"I'll get it for you after dinner."


Jake helped Jenny put the plates into the dishwasher and he went into more detail about his day. The doorbell soon interrupted them, as Alan headed to the door, pulling it open. Jake could hear Alan chatting to someone and a twinge of anger again ran through his mind.

"Jake, you have a visitor," his dad called from the hallway. Jake dried his wet hands and went to the door, half expecting to find Luke standing there scowling.

"Hey, Jake, I just thought I'd come over, see how your day went?"

"Why don't you ask your friend, Ethen," Jake snapped, causing Ethen to arch his upper body back slightly. He looked at Alan, who was now looking quite awkward.

"Um, I'll er…I'll leave you to it," Alan said, as he slowly left the area.

"Jake?" Ethen said, causing Jake to turn his eyes from Alan's and fix to his. "Jake, what's this about?"

"Luke, that's what this is about."

"Luke, what about Luke? I'm sorry, I don't…."

"He said I have to stay away from you," Jake replied heatedly.

"And you're angry with me for that?" he said incredulously.

"Well, what the hell did you tell him…I mean about me, about us?"

"What? Nothing, I haven't told him anything. I mean, he never even brought it up… oh, wait a minute!"

"What?" hissed Jake. Ethen let out a long sigh.

"Ed!"

"Ed?" Repeated Jake, "What's Ed got to do with this?"

"He's the one who told Luke, I'm betting. Listen, can I come in, it's kinda cold out here?" Jake just moved to the side, Ethen stepped across the threshold, and Jake closed the door.

"My room!" I said, more of a demand than a question.

"Lead the way," Ethen replied, gesturing with his hand.

"Mum, I'll be in my room….with Ethen," he shouted, the supposedly innocent comment causing Jenny to grin in the other room.

"OK, honey," she called back. Jake led Ethen to his room and gestured for him to sit down on his computer chair. He felt a little regret for the way he had verbally attacked Ethen, but he still had questions, questions that needed to be answered, and now.

"So, you were saying, Ed?" continued Jake. Ethen ran his hands over his face.

"Yeah, so, Ed was asking me about you, and I told him I liked you, and at the time, it was no big deal, you know, and as I said, I'm guessing he told Luke."

"Well, Ed might not think it's a big deal, but Luke sure fucking does, judging by the episode I had to endure today," Jake said, pointing out towards the window, as if towards the school.

"I'm sorry, OK, Jake? You know he has a thing for me - what can I do?"

"Well for a start, you can tell him to lay his jealous arse off me," Jake snapped, again feeling angry.

"OK, OK, I'll deal with it; please, let's not fight." Ethen got up from the chair and stepped towards Jake, who was standing by his door. He took hold of Jake's crossed arms and leaned in, kissing his forehead. "We're… together; you have nothing to worry about," Ethen said softly, slowly rubbing up and down on Jake's arms.

"I know, Ethen; it was just horrible for someone to tell me to stay away from you, that's all."

"Yeah, I get it, Jake. I'll handle it; trust me."

"Yeah," was all Jake said, as he leaned in to Ethen, silently asking for a cuddle. Ethen put his strong arms around him and they stood there in a hug for a while.

"You smell nice," Jake said, slightly muffled against Ethen's chest. Ethen just smiled.

"So, puppy, how was your day, besides Luke?" Jake went on to explain how his day turned out and how he was invited on a field trip with his geography class. He also admitted drawing Ethen in art and how Kim had caught him doing it. This caused Ethen to chuckle and he pulled out of the hug.

"Can I see it?" He asked excited by the revelation.

"Nope, I haven't finished it yet" Jake replied, the anger now completely gone from his voice.

"Well just make sure you give me big muscles and a neat haircut. So, this little excursion, when is it?" Ethen asked falling in the previous subject Jake mentioned.

"Two weeks. I'm really looking forward to it. I've agreed to share a tent with this really hunky guy and…and…." Jake burst out laughing, unable to talk. Ethen's mouth was wide open and he was frowning, his eyes wide. "Ethen, I'm kidding, chill! And your muscles and hair are fine in real life" He winked

"I should think so," he said seriously. "I'll miss you," he said, pulling his best puppy dog look.

"Oh, shut up, it's three days," replied Jake, squeezing one of Ethen's nipples.

"Ow!" he yelped. "Well, you can go as long as you promise to share a tent with me one night," Ethen teased, running his hands under Jake's sweater, cupping his pecs.

"Any time you want," Jake taunted, making him shudder.

"Anyway, I better leave you alone, you're supposed to be mad at me and I don't want your mother blaming me for your boner she's likely to catch you with if she walks in."

Jake licked his lips lecherously.

They both headed downstairs and Jake got Ethen a can of Coke from the refrigerator, also pulling one out for himself and placing it on the side. His mother floated over and took the can, placing it back in the fridge.

"It's just one Coke," said Jake, incredulously, glaring at his mother.

"It started as just one joint, said the boy in hospital to a doctor, after taking a heroin overdose," replied his mother, glaring back. Ethen smiled, game set and match , he thought.

"Hardly a comparison," Jake grunted to her, folding his arms.

"So, what are you two boys doing tonight?" Jenny said changing the subject.

"I'm taking Jake out tonight; would that be OK, Jenny?"

"You are?," said Jake, surprised. Ethen looked at him and winked.

"Ohh, is this like, a date?" Jenny asked, grinning.

"Mum, you are so embarrassing, I just wanna die right now," Jake retorted, his cheeks blending in with Ethen's Coke can.

"Oh, Jake, I'm just teasing. Go have fun, but no later than ten, OK? You have school."

"Thanks, Jenny," Ethen smiled. "So, what are you waiting for? Get some shoes on," he said, clapping his hands twice.

"OK, I'm going. It's not like I was prepared."

Jake came back moments later with a pair of white Nike trainers on and kissed his mother goodbye. He met his dad outside, returning from the old hayshed which was now used for storage.

"Off somewhere?," Alan asked, dusting his trousers down.

"Wish I knew," replied Jake, shrugging his shoulders. "Bye, Dad."

Jake and Ethen made their way down to Ethen's place, where he opened the passenger door of his Toyota Rav 4 and gestured for Jake to get in.

"You mind if we bring Dolly? I kinda feel guilty I haven't walked her for a while."

"Sure, be glad to have her along, if I knew where we were going and all."

"Cool," replied Ethen, whistling for his dog. Dolly came running up the side of the house and jumped straight on Jake's lap. For a moment, Jake felt special, but then realised his was the only door open at the time and frowned.

"Dolly, girl, in the back," Ethen patted the back seat after getting in the driver's side. He turned the ignition and pulled out of his driveway.

"So, where are you taking me, driver?" Jake grinned at Ethen.

"I'm not actually sure; I only decided we were going out when we were in your kitchen," Ethen admitted, laughing. Jake just eyed him and smiled. Ethen drove for about twenty minutes, pulling the car off down another smaller unpaved road and pulled up next to a large rock face. He turned off the engine and sat there before turning to Jake. "Wanna take a walk? I have a flashlight."

They both vacated the car with Dolly in close pursuit, the air cool, but due to the lack of wind, it was pleasant.

"Let's walk," Ethen said, as he led off along the face of the rock. Every now and again, he picked up a stick and threw it, causing Dolly to bolt into the distance, barking.

"We need to talk, Jake," Ethen said, looking serious. Jake went visibly pale. "I was gonna wait a while longer to have this conversation with you but I had a surge of 'ball growing' at your house and I thought, hey why not now?"

"Are…are you finishing with me?" he asked, swallowing hard. Ethen laughed.

"Whoa, of course not. Hell, Jake, I'm really into you, but something Ed said to me the other day made me think that I really need to have this conversation with you, sooner rather than later, you know, before we get too deep."

"OK, now I'm really worried," Jake remarked, not really to Ethen, so much as to fill the empty space.

They came to a hollow in the rock face and Ethen stopped. "Wanna sit?" Ethen didn't wait for an answer. He sat down and spread his legs, inviting Jake to sit between them. Jake sat down on the dirt and shrubbery and Ethen pulled him in, placing his arms round Jake's stomach. He lightly kissed the back of Jake's head, making him smile. He felt so safe and warm, it was just them and the stars as Ethen began to speak.

"Jake, ever since I met you, I have really had it bad, you know? I mean, I am so into you, it hurts, and that's why I don't wanna go on living with this… this shadow over me.

"Shadow?" Jake asked, turning his head up to meet Ethen's big brown eyes." Ethen let out a sigh, the warmth hitting Jake's face.

"Jake, what do you see when you look at me?" Jake sat for a moment, thinking about the question. The answers to that question had been so easy to come by until it was actually asked, putting him on the spot.

"Well, um….well, you're kind, and generous, thoughtful, and you kinda take care of me," Jake said, the last thing making him blush slightly.

"Jake, there is a part of me…or rather, a part of my past you need to know about and…."

"Do I wanna hear this, Ethen?" Jake said, cutting him off, looking concerned again.

"You need to hear it… and I need to say it. I can't look at you every day, knowing you think I'm a certain person. I wanna know all of you, but I want you to know all of me. Trust, Jake, this is about trust. It's important to me that you can trust me."

"You uh….you better continue, then," Jake replied softly, gripping Ethen's now cold hands.

"OK, so the person you are sitting with right now has done some pretty… um, well, I guess sordid is the right word to use. Yeah, sordid. I've done some pretty sordid things in the past, and…"

"Sordid…as in dirty?" Jake interrupted.

"Yeah, OK, so dirty… please, don't speak until you hear me out. I want you to understand before you ask any questions. Just don't bolt on me, OK?"

"Will I have a reason to bolt on you?"

"Jake!"

"Sorry. Please carry on. I'll stay quiet."

"Thanks, so, yeah, I've done some dirty things in the past. I don't know why I did them. Maybe I was lonely, maybe it was a cry for help, or maybe… maybe I'll never know why. But I let people… people I didn't even know do things to me they shouldn't have, and I did things to other people I'm ashamed of."

"Are we talking sexual things?"

"Yeah, Jake, we are," Ethen said, sounding defeated.

"Go on," Jake said, rubbing his hands together.

"I, um, I used to give blowjobs to passing truck drivers for money, Jake. I was… fuck, this is deep." Ethen's voice was shaking, partly through fear of Jake's reaction, and partly through having to re-live those images in his head.

"I'd jerk off people from school without even liking them. I'd let it happen and I had no self-control. I wanted it. I wanted it to happen. I'd just come out and all I wanted to do was prove to myself someone wanted me, just for a while, to be loved, wanted by someone who liked me sexually. That was how it kinda started and then it just became a routine and it got to a point I didn't care who they were, what they looked like. Hell, I didn't even ask for the money; I just took it when it was offered as part of the agreement. I suppose it made them feel less guilty. I really am ashamed and I regret all of it, but I know it's always gonna be there, with me, you know? Jake, what I'm trying to say is, yeah, I'm all those things you said about me, truthfully I am, but I also have a past that I really need you to know about."

Jake sat staring ahead. He'd often wondered whether Ethen was a virgin. He felt kinda numb hearing all this, but he also respected Ethen for being so honest and open about it all. Most of all, he felt wanted. It was a strange feeling to be left with, but it somehow proved that Ethen respected him and liked him enough to put them both through his revelation. They were a new couple, and trust would be the solid foundation for everything else.

"Jake, are you OK?"

"I'm thinking," he said softly.

"Yeah, but can't you say someth…"

"I said I'm thinking!" he said sharply, cutting Ethen off.

"Your thinking scares me," Ethen replied, trying ever so slightly to lighten the atmosphere. Jake uncoupled himself from Ethen and stood up, turning to face him.

"Thank you?" Jake said, with no emotion showing on his face for Ethen to read.

"Thank you, is that it? What, no yelling, no lecture, no…no….?"

"I know how hard that was for you" Jake replied, looking at Ethen thoughtfully. "But I do have two questions that I can't shake out my head."

"Anything!" Ethen replied quickly, getting up and taking Jake's hands in his.

"Is this still going on, and were you careful, you know like they bang about on at school. Were you careful with these people?" Ethen was shocked at Jake's bluntness, but respected his frankness.

"Jake, hand on my heart, no, there is nothing like that going on anymore and…I never went that far with anyone Jake, if you're talking about what I think you are." Ethen held his hand to his chest and gave Jake a pleading look. "This is who I was Jake, not who I am. Although I can't erase the past, I'm not that person, anymore. I'm just a farm boy from a tiny town who felt suffocated and lonely; it was a phase; that's the only way I can explain it."

"Ethen, you don't have to explain anymore, OK? I believe you."

"And I bet I'm a real headache to you now, right?" Ethen asked softly. Jake let out a long sigh.

"No, Ethen, you're my boyfriend. He smiled. "Yeah OK I probably don't understand all this stuff you talk about but how can I judge you on your past when I didn't even know you?" Ethen didn't say anything. "My mum always says everyone deserves to be judged on face value, not by what other people say or what's gone on in the past. I happen to think that makes sense."

"Your mum talks sense Jake, and I hope you can take what I have said and still give me a chance to prove I'm not as asshole?" Jake looked into Ethen's eyes biting him bottom lip.

"Ethen you have nothing to prove to me, Just don't hurt me like Cody did ok?"

"Cody?" Ethen asked surprised, Jake equally as it suddenly hit him he had been so wrapped up in his new life and Ethen that Cody had not even been mentioned. Shit!

"Long Story," Jake sighed

"Bad memories?" Ethen asked putting a hand on Jake's shoulder "Wanna tell me about it?"

"One day, but not tonight, I just wanna be happy for a while… with you." Jake kissed Ethen on the lips, cupping his cheek. "Shall we go, Dolly looks bored," he said breaking the kiss grinning.

"Sure," Ethen replied, feeling altogether relived.


With each passing day Jake was getting closer to Ethen, his revelation back at the 'rock' only seeming to confirm to him that Ethen was a keeper. It took a brave person to risk a bad reaction and possibly ruin what they had, just so he could build a solid base for their developing relationship. He was either completely selfless or just plain mad. Jake took the former as the more likely option.

Jake had not yet told his parents that he and Ethen were boyfriends; he planned to do that after his camping trip. He discussed it with Ethen and they had agreed that he would come round for dinner one evening and they would both spill the beans. Ethen was worried, much to the amusement of Jake, who said it would be fine. Jake argued that as long as Ethen took care of him and treated him right, then they could be together with his parents' blessing, although Jake did admit to himself that was the best case scenario.

It finally came round to the day Jake was off on his camping trip with his geography class. He was really excited, judging by the big smile he had on his face when he woke up. Leaving his parents' place, he kissed Ethen goodbye at his house and walked to the bus, his newly purchased tent and sleeping bag rolled up and slung over his shoulder. His mother and father had wished him a good time that morning and Alan had slipped a twenty dollar bill in his pocket for any supplies he and his class might stop for on the way. Stuffing his bag in the overhead compartment, he smiled when he sat down next to Callum. He offered Jake a chewing gum. Ed turned round and said hi and Luke…well, he just glared. It's going to be a good day, he thought, shaking his head, grinning to himself.


Back in the UK, Hazel carried the vacuum cleaner upstairs. With Cody at school and Craig at work, she decided to give the house a super deep clean. She got to the top and stared at Cody's closed door, taking in a deep breath and letting it out as a long sigh. The prospect of venturing into Cody's room was not one she found thrilling. She placed the vacuum cleaner down and twisted the knob, pushing it open without moving, the way someone might if they had a gun in their hand searching for a hiding intruder.

"Dear Lord," she said aloud, seeing the pig sty in front of her. She picked up the vacuum cleaner and slowly went in, undrawing the curtains. She proceeded to go round and pick up all his dirty clothes, cringing when finding a pair of semen stained black boxers. "Oh, that's disgusting," she muttered, throwing them into his already full wash bin.

With the floor almost clear, apart from some empty Coke cans, three forks, some plates, and two screwed up bits of paper near the waste bin, she felt like she had made some progress. She picked up the Coke cans and placed them, along with the plates and the forks, outside the door. She plugged the vacuum in and was just about to turn it on when she spotted the waste paper. Picking the two pieces up, she almost threw them away, but thought, maybe, as they weren't in the bin nearby, they might be something important. Placing them on Cody's desk she switched on the vacuum, vigorously motioning back and forward until satisfied the carpet was dust free. She pressed the off button on the vacuum before unplugging it and taking it out of the room. She went back in and took the two pieces of paper from his desk and carefully unscrewed them. Her eyes were tracing what she could tell was Cody's handwriting. There was a certain way Cody did his gees and esses. As she read each line, her eyes became wider, and eventually, her free hand slowly came up to her mouth, finally pressing it against her lips.

She finished looking at the first bit of paper and had to sit down. She felt nauseous, her legs weak. She slowly straightened out the second piece of paper and began to read that. It was similar but more graphic than the last, sexual words and profanity stabbed her eyes as she muffled a scream.

My son is….gay? She thought, as she placed the paper down. She let out a muffled scream in her head as the realisation hit her again. My son is a disgusting, dirty god hating queer , she thought again, as words she never imagined entered her head. She felt betrayed, bitter, angry and dirty, herself. She had given birth to an abomination. She was being punished by God!


"What was that about the other week, with you and Jake?" Ed asked his brother as they sat in the cafeteria. "You've hardly said a word to him ever since."

"What do you mean?" Luke said innocently. Ed was not convinced.

"Luke, you had a face like thunder. What, you don't like him?"

"I don't know him, and Ed, you've had all evening to ask this. Why now?"

"You don't know him because you're not even talking to him. That kinda helps, you know, to talk to a person if you wanna get to know them?

"Well, maybe I'm not bothered either way, Ed!"

"Look I wasn't going to mention this at all until I noticed you have also barely said a word to me all day." Ed regarded his brother for a moment, wondering if he was going to get the truth from him or blown off. "Is this about Ethen?" Luke put his burger down and turned to his brother.

"No, it's about Jake; he's too close to Ethen."

"I don't follow," Ed replied, looking confused.

"I mean Ethen would likely be…"

"Oh, I see where you're going with this and for the record, little bro, you're wrong," Ed said, cutting him off

"You didn't even let me finish!" Luke snapped impatiently.

"You didn't need to; We've been over this - there is no you and Ethen happening, so let it go, OK? He's told you, I've told you. Fuck, Luke, you can't go on like this, man." Ed shook his head at his brother before looking away.

"But what's he got that I don't, Ed?" Luke asked, holding his arms out.

"It…it don't work like that, Luke; it's his choice. You can't force him to like you and, you can't go round abusing the person he does happen to like, OK?"

"What, so you want me to go say congratulations to them both, instead?" Ed sighed at his brother's reply. He just didn't seem to be getting it.

"No, Luke, that's not what I'm saying. Look, this…this crush or whatever it is you have for Ethen will eat you up if you don't accept he likes someone else and move on, OK? No, it's not simple. Yes, it's gonna hurt like shit, but you gotta let go… for yourself, right?" Luke dropped his head.

"It's just not fair, is all." Luke said finally.

"Yep, Luke, you got that right, life is shit sometimes." There was silence as they both stopped talking and carried on eating.


Hazel was in the kitchen, pacing, holding the phone in her hand, not knowing who to call. She had to call someone - the school, Craig, Cody's dirty friend's parents. Did they know, did they condone this behaviour ? she thought, thinking of Jenny and Alan.

She finally stopped and placed the phone down on the side, reaching for Craig's special whisky, stored on top of the refrigerator. Taking a small glass from the cupboard, she poured, hoping to douse her nerves with the potent liquid. Taking the glass to a seat at the table, she rattled it down, obviously full of shock or adrenaline, she couldn't decide which.

She thought about the stained boxers she had found, and ugly thoughts of who caused the body fluid to end up on them invaded her mind. She gagged at one point, not because of the action, but rather, the thought that another person was involved, another male person . Revolting , she thought, as she shakily brought the glass to her pursed lips, taking another sip.

She looked at the phone and took it in her hand, deciding to call Craig. He would have to deal with their son. She dialled and waited impatiently, tapping her fingers on the table and biting her lip.

"Craig?" she said, lurching forward, as he came on the line.

"Hey, honey, what's up? I'm driving."

"Come home, Craig, Come home now!" she replied quickly.

"I am coming home, but I'm about a hundred miles away. I gotta drop the truck off at the depot first. Haz, what's wrong, has something happened?"

"I..I can't even say it," she said, choking up, as her emotions were starting to falter.

"Say what, honey? You're scaring me now. What has happened?"

"He's gay, Craig, gay, a queer. It's disgusting. What are we going to do? I found the letters, the letters, Craig, and all the time, I bet they knew, they knew all…"

"Who, who are you on about? Who is gay, I don't under…."

"Your son, that's who, our child, Cody, Cody is gay. Oh my god! Craig, I will not have a gay son, you hear me? Not here not in my house." The line was silent, Craig obviously absorbing the information. Then, to Hazel's surprise, all she heard come over the line was Craig laughing.

"Heh heh…hey, honey, good one, you…y-y-you got me there," he said between giggles.

"WHAT!!" she shouted down the phone, her face contorting. "Craig, this is not a joke! Just get home, OK?" She hung up on him and knocked back the remaining whisky in her glass.

Hazel jumped, the sound of the front door clicking bringing her from her thoughts as Cody came padding through to the kitchen.

"Hey, Mum," he said, pulling on the refrigerator door, taking out the carton of orange juice. Hazel stayed silent, just following him with her eyes. "I need some new football shoes. I have a crack in mine after my class today," he said, his back to her. She remained silent. Cody turned round to face her after noticing he was being somewhat ignored. "Mum, you OK?"

"I didn't think your kind played football," she said in a low growly voice.

"Huh?" he replied, sitting at the table with her. "Hey, I might see Kit tonight, is that OK?"

"I've packed your things; you can stay tonight, but then you need to leave this house," his mother said, softly but angrily. Cody dropped his glass of juice, spilling it all over the table, his mother not even flinching. She just looked as it ran in multiple directions, dripping onto the floor.

"Is…is this, is this a joke?" Cody asked, his eyes wide with a sudden fear. Hazel got up and left the room, returning moments later with two crumpled pieces of paper. She placed them on the table at the same time, sliding them closer to him.

"Unless you call this…this sick crap a joke, then no, this is not a joke." Cody stared at the papers in front of him and then looked up at his mother, his face pale. She knew, she fucking knew. "Like I said, you need to leave this house; you are not welcome here with your father and I, and as of this moment, I do not have a son," she said calmly,.

"But…but, where will I go?" he said, his voice shaking, along with his body.

"I don't know. I'm sorry, I'm sure you will work it out. Like you seem to have done with your…your lifestyle," she said, like she was talking to a lodger she had grown tired of. "I want you to leave no later than 8am, which should give you enough time to sort something out. You better make some phone calls; you can use the house phone if you need to," she said coldly. "Oh, and you can cross anyone from this family off the list. I would rather this didn't get out."

"Does Dad…."

"Yes, he does, but I won't be telling him the full story till after you've gone. I'm sure you know why."

"Generous of you," he replied sarcastically. She moved in close to him, her eyes wide, angry.

"Just be thankful I haven't told him everything, already, and that I have given you time to sort things out."

"Sort things out, Sort things out? You're my mother and you're kicking me out for…for something I have no control over," he said, anger creeping into his voice.

"No control? Of course, you have control, you deal with your feelings, and you try and change, Cody. You do not write love letters to your best friend!" she said, raising her voice.

"They were not love letters; it was one letter, and it was to say goodbye."

"Yeah, you certainly did that, alright. 'All my love. You have no idea what I feel for you bla bla bla,'" she reeled off. "And him, that…that corrupter. How long was this going on?

"There was nothing going on; nothing ever happened."

"I don't even want to hear it, Cody; it's disgusting, it's against the church, and it's against God."

"Oh, here we go, yeah, I'm going to hell, I'm a sinner, well, just shoot me now, Mum."

"Don't call me that, please," she blurted, squeezing her eyes with fingers.

"What, Mum? Cos when I left this morning, that's what you were."

"I think you should leave, Cody, now. I can't even look at you anymore."

"You know, Hazel, I think you're right. I actually thought about the day when you might find out and I knew it was gonna be bad, but the thing what has amazed me is how I'm not as upset as I thought I would have been. Oh, I probably might have been, but then when you turned into the biggest fucking spineless cold hearted bitch on the planet, I knew right then I couldn't be upset." He was about to carry on when he felt a searing pain on his cheek, as she slapped him hard across the face, making him fall backwards.

"Get out! Get out of my house now." Cody felt the intense urge to cry, but he forced it to the back of his mind. Instead, he just let a cold grin appear on his face.

"You know, I pity you," he said, as he walked away from her, watching as she was now in tears and shaking. "I'll leave, but know this: Don't ever come begging for forgiveness when you suddenly realise that your God does not care about people's sexual preference or when your small closed mind suddenly opens up to the real world. Some people are gay, so fucking get over it." With that, he walked out and went to his room. He pulled out his cell and called Kit.

Cody was holding it together better than he expected; even when Kit answered, he calmly explained his situation and asked Kit if he could crash at his place. His aunt wasn't keen but Kit convinced her to let Cody stay a couple of nights - just until he got something sorted. He collected some of his essential belongings and called a cab.

As he came down stairs dragging a big black holdall behind him, his mother came into the hall. Cody wondered whether she was going to apologise or at least change her mind about kicking him out.

"Your keys….I would like your keys, Cody." Cody pulled them out from his pocket, looked her in the eyes, and just dropped them where he stood and walked past her. He opened the front door and got into his waiting cab, not looking back; his mother's actions, in his mind, were unforgivable.


By the end of the second night, Kit was under pressure from his aunt to tell Cody he needed to make other arrangements. Kit came back to his room with some drinks and crisps and an envelope.

"I know what you're gonna say and it's cool, Kit." Kit looked at his friend and sighed.

"I'm sorry, man. I tried all I could, but she's not having any of it. She says you need to call your family, and if not, she thinks she should call the authorities."

"No!" he shouted. "No, please don't let her do that," he said again, more controlled.

"Look, take this; it's all I have, but you need it."

"No, Kit. Look, I have a little money, you know, from pocket money. Please, I can't take this." Cody regarded the envelope that had £590 written on it, probably by the bank.

"Cody, take it, it might buy you a few days at a hostel or something." Cody thought about that, shrugged, and let out a long sigh.

"You know, Kit, I can't actually believe I've ended up here, I mean, in this situation. It doesn't seem real. I'm…I'm actually…homeless." Kit placed a hand on Cody's and regarded him with sorrow.

"I know, man; it's wrong and your mother's a bitch."

"What mother?" he turned and said angrily. "No mother does this, Kit. No human being does…this!"

"Take the money, Cody, and call me, OK? Let me know you're safe."

"Yeah, I will, and thanks." He got up and left Kit's room. Kit saw him to the door and he stepped out into the icy wind, rain now falling as he stood on the doorstep. "Say thanks to your aunt for me, will you?"

"Cody, I'm…"

"It's OK, Kit, you did what you could. I'll work it out." Cody walked down the driveway; he turned, giving Kit a small wave as rain began saturating his winter coat, his hair dripping. He walked to the end of Kit's road and took cover in a bus shelter. He took out his cell and scrolled down his address book and back up it again. There was no one, no one who would take him in, just school friends and family. He stopped on a number he had yet to ever call. In desperation, he pressed the green button and held the phone to his ear, listening as long tones could be heard.

"Hello?" came a female voice. He started to cry upon hearing it.

"Uh, um, hey, Jenny," he said, trying hard to compose himself so she wouldn't hear his emotion.

"Cody, is that you? I mean, wow, how are you? It's been so long since I heard your voice. Oh, sorry, you probably want Jake; he's on a camping trip for a few days, sweetheart." She stopped as she heard muffled sobs coming down the line. "Cody, honey, are you OK?"

"Jenny, I-I-I'm in trouble. I'm in trouble and I don't know what to do," he replied, as the full realisation of his predicament came flooding into his mind, making him sob uncontrollably.

"Shit," Jenny said, the word uncharacteristic for her. "Your parents, they know, right?"

"How…how d-d-do you know?" he said, now heaving from the sobs.

"Because, sweetheart, I knew this day would come." She sighed. "Where are you?"

"Uh, in a bus shelter at the end of Taylor street. Mum kicked me out, told me she had no son… Jenny she said the most evil things to me." Jenny was silent for a moment. She was thinking intensely, twirling the phone line in her hand.

"Cody, how much money do you have on you?" she finally said.

"Uh, well, I have five hundred and ninety pounds in cash; that's what Kit gave me, and about nine hundred in the bank."

"Cody, can you get to London, can you get a train to London?" she said quickly.

"Yeah, but…."

"Hold on, Cody!" he could hear her talking to someone, but the voices were muffled, as it sounded like she had her hand over the mouthpiece. "Cody?"

"Yeah…yeah, I'm here."

"Listen very carefully to me. I want you to get the next train to London and take the London Underground to Heathrow terminal 5. When you get there, call us….oh, wait a second." More silence as Cody shivered in the cold wind, numbing his already wet hands. "OK, when you get there, you need to try and get yourself on the twenty three thirty five flight to Reno. Alan is booking it for you now."

"Reno? You mean Nevada Reno?" he said, shocked.

"Yeah, and please tell me you have your passport."

"Uh, yeah, I do, I picked it up in case I needed ID for anything"

"Good. I'm sorry, Cody. I made a promise to your parents we would always take care of you should something ever happen. I just didn't know they would be the fucking cause," she cursed, surprising herself.

"But…but what about school and…."

"Cody, listen to me. I know you're scared and overwhelmed, but look around you. Look where you are. I'm guessing, as you are in a bus shelter, you must be out or close to being out of options right now. I need you to be mature about this and be brave. You have a long journey ahead of you and you are on your own until we can get you. Do not talk to anyone and do not stop for anything until you are through that terminal, you understand?"

"Yeah…yes, I think so."

"OK, good, now what's your passport number? Alan needs it for the booking."

"Um, wait a sec." Cody pulled his passport out from his bag and read the numbers out to Jenny, who relayed them to her husband.

"OK, good, now get moving; your flight is booked. Call us when you reach the airport, or before, if you need anything."

"OK," he replied, nodding into the phone. "Oh, and Jenny?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks, and I'm really sorry," he said, as he started to softly cry again.

"Just get here safe, Cody, We'll have time to talk about this later." She hung up the call and left Cody sitting in the bus shelter, still alone, homeless, but with light at the end of the tunnel. He got off the bench and slung his holdall over his shoulder. Making his way to the train station, he saw his dad drive past. He quickly pulled his hood up and turned away. Too late, Dad, Mum's fucked it all up on her own, he thought as he quickened his pace, not bothering to see if his dad had actually slowed down. Not that he cared much to see him under the circumstances.

Cody got to the station just as a train was pulling in. He quickly bought a ticket and ran through the barriers just as the train started bleeping, which meant the doors were about to close. He made his way to an empty seat and sat down, putting his bag under his chair. As the train pulled off, he leaned his head on the window and watched his reflection as a tear escaped his eye.

What the fuck has just happened? he thought, as he closed his eyes, physically and mentally exhausted.

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