The Unspoken Code

by D K Daniels

Roman Weisman stirred from his deep sleep, turned onto his side, and sighed. It had to be a joke, one of the guys from class had too much drink and decided his dorm room would be the ideal place for an ill-fated joke at 3 AM. Yet, the bastard , as Roman would put it once he crawled from the bed and gave him a piece of his mind, wouldn't find it too funny afterward. The story would be incredulously different once the man was told to fuck off and go home — even if it came to blows. Roman had friends everywhere, but this asshole wouldn't get the privilege of sleeping on the floor to work off the alcohol in his system.

The knock came again, this time the person more persistent. Roman grumbled as he tossed his blankets aside. If he had a roommate, Roman would have loved to say, "it's your turn."

The voice called out with urgency, "Roman!"

Odd, Roman thought. The voice didn't sound a lot like one of his college friends.

Roman groaned, sliding from the bed; he grumbled, making his way to the door. The young man, newly accustomed to university life, thundered to the door in his underwear. It had better be a good reason for this rude awakening.

"I'm coming, I'm coming… fucks' sake…." Roman murmured, then trailed off.

Reaching out, grabbing hold of the door handle with one hand, Roman flicked the twistable lock and then pulled open the door. The light from the corridor burned at his eyes, and to favour the scorching sensation, he held his arm up, the palm shielding him like one ought to do in the desert.

"What?" Roman whined.

The stranger stood outside peacefully, not explaining why they'd been banging down his doorway at that early hour. Yet, lowering his hand, his eyes somewhat adjusted to the glare outside. Roman locked eyes on Avery. Confusion inundated his mind, then he began to question why Avery was standing at his door in the middle of the night.

Why wasn't Avery at home?

Why wasn't he in his bed or playing on his PC all night long with his friends?

The 16-year-old looked wet and miserable.

Roman scanned over his little brother, his hair waterlogged, dripping, and his clothes saturated. The lads' skin was blue from the cold with the faint lipstick markings and retreating mascara that ran along his cheeks. Avery was stood barefooted, his toes equally a horrific shade of blue. Avery wore the red plaid pajama bottoms he loved, accompanied by a white t-shirt. However, as the teen stood shivering without a jacket either, Roman figured something had to be wrong.

There was an odd spark in the air, either boy too afraid to ask the burning question. Maybe it was the fact that Avery was on the verge of crying, the glassy effect already taking place in the corner of his eyes. Those brotherly instincts kicked in, and Roman genuinely felt concerned for his little brother.

"What happened? Come in," Roman urgently added.

Roman reached out, dragging Avery forward; the youngster trembled and began to sob. The boy fell into his older brother's chest; Roman felt the dampness press against his bare torso. His arms grew moist as he wrapped them around the boy, but the cold is what shocked Roman. He'd felt real cold, having skied nearly every winter in Beaver Creek; it got cold in the northern region. Except, the college boy never felt somebody as cold as this. Roman's heart splurged into his throat.

"God, you're so cold," Roman muttered, even shivering himself.

"Mom threw me out!" Avery cried.

Roman peered down at his younger brother; though Avery was tall, he still was on the smaller side. Roman towered over most people when he stood straight, his chest poking out. Being just over 6'1, Roman assumed his brother to be about 5'9. He'd grown up too damn fast for Roman's liking, but that's what children do: they grow. Avery turned into his older brother, balling at the unmistakable predicament he was now in, and his mother would never want to have anything to do with him again. Seeing his little brother like this, as any older brother would feel, Roman felt guilty for what his mother did to Avery. Yet, all the pieces weren't entirely in perspective, and it didn't make sense.

Why would their mother throw out Avery?

Giving the door a swipe, Roman drove his little brother toward the bathroom. There was a distinctive look in Avery's eyes: 'one that said he'd like to die now, or please don't be mad at me.' Hypothermia would've set in if he didn't get out of those clothes he wore. Roman flicked on the light, and the two brothers stood in the bathroom.

"Why?" Roman asked with confusion.

Why had their mother sent him packing?

Yet, seeing Avery rattling and almost on the verge of passing out, Roman decided his answers could wait. Avery was cold, wet, and pathetic.

"Never mind, it's okay. We need to get you warmed up," Roman said.

No matter what Avery could've done to upset their mother, Roman could never be angry at his little brother. They made a pact when they were three and five; retrospectively, Roman swore no matter what happened, he'd always be there for Avery. Roman pushed the young boy toward the shower cubicle, and Avery waited, wondering what to do while Roman disappeared back into the bedroom. Roman went to his wardrobe, opened the door with a whoosh, removed a towel he had stowed away on the shelf, then raced back to the teenager, leaving the cabinet door swaying wide. Unraveling it, he brought the bath towel over Avery's head and began to dry his little brother's hair.

"You better start ditching your clothes, and we'll run you in the shower to get you warm," Roman added.

Avery didn't think about it. Subconsciously Avery just started undressing; he began to withdraw the drawstrings of his pajama bottoms, let them slide to the floor, stampeding on the wet garments, then kicking them off. Roman removed the towel from his brother's head; Avery was purple, his hair awry, and water accumulated in the bottom of the boy's eyes, just waiting for the next opportunity to burst and cry. Taken aback by this, Roman regarded that this was plausibly the most depressed he's ever seen his little brother. So, in his mind, whatever he was kicked out of home for, it had to be bad. Roman had noticed the makeup, but he decided to ignore it for the sake of getting Avery set up for the shower.

Once the pajamas were removed, Roman nudged the boy into the shower. Helping Avery with his T-shirt, the boy raised his arms above his head. He subconsciously covered himself once he was shirtless, and Roman dropped the wet T-shirt on the tile floor. Even his underwear was soaked through, which revealed some bits of his younger brother he wished he'd never seen. Wanting to get Avery warmed up quickly, Roman leaned forward, twisted the dial on the wall to increase the heat, then started the shower. The water roared to life, seeped from the spout like mini meteorites, then plummeted to the floor, making tiny little explosions.

Roman's arm got drenched with the water spill, but it didn't bother him much.

Avery sagged under the warm torrent and sighed with contentment when it contacted his skin. He shivered, which didn't seem like a big thing considering how cold he was just seconds ago. With Avery heating up, his body began to bring pins and needles to his toes and fingers. Seeing that his brother could stand on his own, Roman let the water rinse over Avery, then Roman decided to give him some space.

Outside in the bedroom, Roman listened for any sign of distress from his little brother, the door ajar as he sat on his unmade bed. Plucking up his phone, he contemplated whether he should message his mother, letting her know where Avery had turned up. More so, he wanted to figure out why she had tossed him to the curb. It didn't sound like his mother; she'd never done anything like this before, and figuring she was all about doing good for people, it didn't make sense. Actually, it went against the church's teachings, and considering her whole life revolved around the word of the gospel, Roman was left scratching his head. Unlocking his phone, Roman went to the contacts, navigated to the speed dial tab, and pressed one to call his mother. It rang out. Eventually, he got the notoriety mailbox statement; perhaps she had her phone off or was in an area with no coverage. Yet, this didn't seem likely to Roman, especially at 3 AM. So, Roman went back to the favorites tab, dialed two, and the phone started to call his father. It felt like an eternity, the tone beeping endlessly. Just as Roman was about to give up, figuring he wouldn't get through to his dad tonight, he'd be asleep because of his business meeting tomorrow, but the other end opened up with a scratch.

"Hello!" a weary voice said.

"Dad, something's happened; Avery is at college with me. I can't reach mom on her cell," Roman began, feeling the panic erupt in his stomach.

"Roman?" Dad asked, seeming confused.

Mr. Weisman was a traveling insurance salesman, and one of the perks of the job was touring monthly around the state. Roman's father had been away on a business trip in Mayau, meaning he was two hours behind. The way Mr. Weisman spoke insinuated that he had just woken up and was now trying to piece together the urgency of the phone call.

"Dad, I don't know what to do…." Roman said.

There was some shuffling on the other end, presumably Mr. Weisman sitting up in his bed, switching on the table lamp by his bedside. Roman reached across to his lamp set on his footlocker, toggled the switch, and it lit up the bedside with the dim glow.

"Okay, slow down, Roman… Did you say something about Avery? Is everything okay?" Mr. Weisman said.

"Yeah, Avery's okay, but he turned up at my college soaking wet, without a coat, no shoes, and said mom threw him out," Roman sobbed.

Roman hadn't realized it, but he'd suddenly gotten very emotional. He could feel the tears lingering in the back of his head, though he tried to ward them off, thinking that if he cried, it would be a sign of weakness. Plus, if he did start bawling, he wouldn't be able to think straight.

"What do you mean threw him out? He's at your college... that's a long way. How did he get there?" Mr. Weisman said, his voice stern.

Roman cast a glance at the bathroom door, listening for Avery, but all he could hear was the water splashing as it hit the floor. Suddenly, Roman felt terrible for some peculiar reason, almost as if he was going behind Avery's back to call his parents to find out what happened. Although he didn't actually know why Avery was tossed to the curb. However, Roman was still figuring things out himself, and he didn't understand everything and just wanted counsel.

"I don't know, dad; I think he walked. Avery just turned up here upset and said she threw him out. I can't get through to mom. I don't know what's going on," Roman said.

There was a pause. Obviously, Mr. Weisman's cogs were turning, and he sighed.

"Okay, I'll try to ring mom. Avery is okay, though, right?" Mr. Weisman added.

Hearing the faucet in the bathroom squeak, the water ceased, and Roman knew it was time to end the phone call. The overwhelming urge to cry became too much for Roman. The dam broke, and tears crept down the side of his nose. Systematically, the lad wiped away the remanence with the back of his hand, also giving a slight snivel from partial congestion.

"All right, dad, talk to you later. Have to go. Avery just got out of the shower to help warm up," Roman said.

Mr. Weisman agreed, telling Roman to call if further developments occurred. Roman placed his cell phone on the footlocker, waiting for his little brother to finish up drying, and eventually, the boy exited the bathroom, seeming sheepish and unsure how he should proceed. Roman figured he'd have to get his little brother clothes. So, Roman sprung from the mattress, paced to the wardrobe, rummaged through the contents before removing a loose-fitting hoodie and sweatpants. Avery would have to free ball, as it seemed weird to give his little brother underwear, combined with the fact that if he did, the lad would probably be swimming in them. Not that Roman was on the large side, but there was a difference compared to his little brother.

Avery glumly sauntered back into the washroom, then resurfaced a minute later wearing his brother's baggy clothing. Nodding toward the bed, Roman plodded along, flopped down on the bed, and patted the mattress next to him. Avery dropped the towel he used by the doorjamb and then meandered toward the bed. Flopping down beside his older brother, Avery knew this was the part where he had to explain what had happened. Seemingly, having to do this horrified and humiliated him, and Avery didn't want to relive the same concurrent events of what his mom had done. Feeling alienated, Avery looked up to Roman, and if his older bro thought his secret was disgusting too, then he'd have lost all the people in his life who he cared about. Being a stickler for detail, Roman reached out, noticing that the hood attached to the sweatshirt was protruding; Roman proceeded to flatten it. Once this was done, he draped his arm around Avery to console the teenager. The boys' hair was still wet, but he could actually feel some warmth radiating from the lad.

"What happened tonight Avery?" Roman asked.

Avery pondered, the silence earsplitting to Roman.

"I'm sure it's not bad; no matter what you say, I'm still here for you, okay?" Roman said.

The boy peered down at his knees, his arms folded on his lap, where he picked his nails with nervous anticipation.

"I'm different," Avery said, feeling the world below him bottom out.

"Different? Like… What's different… or…." Roman ushered, attempting to get his little brother to talk.

"I like wearing moms' clothes, not just moms' stuff… but girls' stuff," Avery said, seeming disappointed in himself for admitting such a thing.

Hearing it seemed strange at first, but it didn't seem to faze Roman. So, what? His little brother liked to wear feminine clothing. Roman didn't see a big problem with that. His mind was too busy trying to connect the dots on why his mother would throw him out, and then it clicked.

"Is that it?" Roman asked.

Avery picked at his nails, then went quiet. Figuring he said something wrong, Roman felt it was best to emphasize that it was okay.

"I mean, that's cool… I mean if you like that. Did Mom get angry about you doing that?" Roman said.

Avery sat quietly, contemplating, and instead of offering up an answer, began to tremor with regret; soon, another whimper came from the boy. Roman pulled his brother into his shoulder, letting the boy cry, and he wondered how he'd approached his mother about this scenario. Could she be so close-minded about Avery wearing clothes? He had never felt angry toward his mother, not even when he was a kid, and she wouldn't let him do things, presumably to stop himself from getting hurt. It never registered to him, but she had done an excellent job at raring Roman, but now it made no sense to the 19-year-old why she would abandon Avery when she was such a good mother to Roman. There was a bit of contempt there and a bit of a niggling feeling that something did not add up. Yet, if his mom did toss his little brother out, who is more interested in playing video games, wondering what shirt goes with what pants, and whether birds have feelings. Then the knowledge that she could be so heartless about something so mediocre bothered him in a way he didn't know how to feel. Sure, if Avery dressed in women's clothes, he didn't quite understand it, but it wasn't enough to make him hate his brother. Though a simple analogy, he was able to look over this without much effort and brought about genuine distaste for his mother, who'd sent Avery packing with no shoes or coat over something so minuscule.

Pressed against Roman's shoulder, Avery murmured into the confines, "I'm sorry… I don't know why I do it; I just do it. It makes me feel good."

This broke Roman's heart. Avery had nothing to apologize for, his mother had been in the wrong, and it was her problem. Nestling his head on top of his brother's damp hair, he shushed him while stroking Avery's shoulder for comfort.

"You've nothing to apologize for what you are doing; it's beautiful, just like you. Don't be ashamed for being different; sometimes we need beautiful people to lead the way to something more wonderful than we could ever understand," Roman said.

Roman went quiet, Avery's sobbing softened, and for a second, Roman pondered. It all seemed philosophical for a moment. He found himself wondering if there was some sense to what he spoke about. How the world's innovators are all defined by their quirks and oddities, that being different, or beautiful as he put it was not such a bad thing. Roman held his little brother, squeezing him probably a little too tight, to which Avery groaned, complaining like he always did.

"You're crushing me," Avery spluttered.

To prove that his love was not altered, Roman squeezed Avery tighter, provoking the boy to wail with discomfort. With that sign of pain, Roman released Avery from his grip, and the younger boy leaned back, his eyes glassy, his face beginning to get some color back in his cheeks. Roman giggled, and the two boys sighed.

Eventually, the two boys found themselves lying back on the bed, the two of them hugging, talking into the early morning hours. Roman began to wonder if he could get up for morning classes, but on the off chance, he'd try calling to tell his professor that he was sick. The talking soon turned to soft purrs; Roman glanced across to Avery. He'd fallen asleep. Staring at him, he saw that he looked tired, fraught with worry, and knew he'd feel better tomorrow. If you could age 5 years in one day, the stress of this altercation proved to be evident that Avery wouldn't want to live through this ordeal again. As the final thoughts tumbled around inside Roman's head, he contemplated how he'd head home, get talking to his mother to find out what really happened. Yet, it baffled him how she never bothered to call back, which gave him a sickening feeling in his stomach.

The 19-year-old closed his eyes, hoping sleep would take him, then remembered that he had forgotten to lock the door, so he peeled himself from the tangle with his brother, plodded to the door, secured it, and returned to bed. Eventually, Roman lay back down, cuddling against his little brother, and ultimately, sleep took him too.

Roman stirred in the bed the next morning; his cell phone vibrated on the bedside locker. Rousing, he reached out and picked it up. The caller ID suggested that it was his dad, so Roman grabbed it, quietly slid from the bed, and went to the bathroom. Mr. Weisman stated that he got through to Roman and Avery's mother. According to a brief conversation, Avery also came out to his mother, supposedly which accelerated the whole debacle.

Mr. Weisman apologized to his own son for the actions of his partner. His dad said he'd be on the next flight back from Mayau and that he was proud of Roman for sticking up for his little brother. So, with some time to kill, he thought he'd get breakfast. Yet, Roman remembered Avery was asleep in his bed. Usually, he'd come and go as he pleased, but now he felt some pressure. Roman didn't want to leave his little brother alone.

What if he woke up and thought Roman abandoned him?

Peering out the door, Avery slept soundly in Romans' bed. The pair had cuddled all night, seemingly sleeping the whole way through without any issues. Plus, Roman didn't want to disturb Avery; he looked so peaceful. He recalled how he turned up at his door last night, shivering, wet and miserable, and he felt irritated. Everything seemed to be black-and-white. Roman wanted to go back to his childhood house, to speak with his mother to find out how it all transpired. However, he didn't want to get into an argument. Now his mother was homophobic, but as much as it pained him to admit it, he'd willingly choose his little brother over his mother. Roman believed if you throw the ones' you love out of their home, repress who they are. They don't deserve your love, much less your time. Therefore, he figured that since he'd get antsy sitting around the room waiting for Avery to wake up, he'd grab his car keys and drive down to the local bodega to get breakfast.

Roman fired off a message to the Dean, telling him that a family emergency had come up and that he won't be attending classes today. Covering Avery with an extra blanket, Roman tore a page from one of his notebooks, jotted down where he'd gone off, and then left the dorm, heading for the student parking lot. Before setting off, he'd adjust his mirrors, realign his seat, which had been adjusted the previous night when that college girl got into his car and gave him the blowjob of a lifetime.

Afterward, Roman drove seven blocks toward Zillow Hills, parked on one of the side streets, and headed back to the pedestrian street where the store was located. The queue was long, the morning commute and all that, but he quickly got his order. As he was back in his car, he refrained from taking a sip of his Caffè macchiato or devouring the bagel he bought. There was a hot cup of coffee for his brother, which Avery oddly liked, and a BLT. Roman couldn't be sure of the last time his little brother ate anything, so he thought it was best to get some food.

The thought of his mother abandoning Avery lingered in the back of his mind, so Roman pulled into a Walmart parking lot, put the car in park, and sat in silence. For a while, he watched the vehicles around him pull in, come and go and the occasional observation of some soccer mom loading the back of her van with groceries. Fingering from his jeans, he removed his cell phone then swiped to his contacts. His thumb hovered over the call button, the profile belonging to his mother. Finally, the 19-year-old tapped the icon, and the phone began to ring.

With the phone pressed to his ear, he figured she wouldn't answer, but it surprised him when the other line opened up, and it was his mother.

"Roman?" Mrs. Weisman said.

"Mom… Tell me it's not true. Did you kick Avery out?" Roman asked.

His heart sunk, somehow knowing the answer already. He couldn't figure out why Avery would lie about such a thing. Here he had the woman who kicked his brother out of his home, and she was on the phone. There was a silence, then a sigh.

"I won't be talking about that… You need money for college?" Mrs. Weisman said.

Hearing how Mrs. Weisman could just shrug off her own son like it were nothing infuriated Roman. Roman curled back his lip in disgust, and there was an audible intake of air. Reaching out, Roman placed his hand on the steering wheel to calm himself. Though he wasn't at a boiling point yet, he was trying not to fly off the handle.

"What do you mean you're not talking about it? Avery's homeless; he's sixteen. Pretty sure that's illegal, mom," Roman said.

"I won't have a gay son," Mrs. Weisman said.

Roman's grip on the steering wheel tightened, his skin spread taut then the white seeped through. Inside Roman's mind, the statement played on a loop.

I won't have a gay son. I won't have a gay son. I won't have a gay son.

Suddenly feeling hot, Roman pressed the button for the electric window to let some fresh air circulate the vehicle. Cool air drifted through the compact car making the air freshener dangling from the mirror sway. Roman felt those niggling sensations brooding at the back of his eyes. Now he was aware he was on the verge of crying.

"Mom, do you hear yourself? This is Avery we're talking about… The same boy who's afraid of cats, who's the sweetest person you'll ever meet, and the best little brother I could ever ask for… Are you telling me that you are shutting him out because he's… gay?" Roman said.

There was an audible stillness from Mrs. Weisman's end. Roman peered around the parking lot, realizing that daylight was finally upon him and that he must've been sitting in the car for a lot longer than he had assumed. And he'd been holding the steering wheel a lot tighter than he wanted to, which he reluctantly let go off after it began to hurt.

"Avery's not the same boy anymore. He's not right… I knew it was a bad idea letting him go to all those concerts or let him get his hair dyed and put that rainbow flag up in his bedroom," Mrs. Weisman added, her voice eventually cracking.

"It wasn't a phase; mom, we all seen it coming for ages. I thought I knew you, but I don't understand how you could do that," Roman said.

"Well… What's done is done. Let's drop it now. I expect you to be at church on Sunday, and you have to help me volunteer at the soup kitchen," Mrs. Weisman added.

Roman couldn't believe it; she cared more about her own self-interests, how she looked, in the mundane lives of other people than her own son.

"I won't be there," Roman said.

"Yes, you will. Stop all this foolishness and go back to class," Mrs. Weisman said.

"You really think I'm in school after what happened?" Roman said.

"Why wouldn't you be?" Mrs. Weisman added.

Roman felt the tension in his shoulders. He rolled them forward to ease some of the stress. He couldn't believe what he was hearing; a flush of heat struck him in the face, then the anger boiled up.

"Are you fucking kidding me? Stop playing mind games. You're not going to pretend that everything is okay after what you did. I won't have a homophobic mother. You might as well disown me if you hate my little brother that much…" Roman said.

Usually, Mrs. Weisman would have corrected her son for using profanity, but the woman just listened to the teenager rant. The restlessness of the conversation began to crumble when Roman ran out of things to say. Nobody wants to know about world problems, that is until it is on your own doorstep. Yet, what surprised Roman the most was that his mother hung up on him. It seemed profoundly odd, something she'd never done before, and that hurt. Maybe he had gone too far, but if Roman didn't stick up for Avery, who would. An older brother must stick up for their younger siblings, no matter how much they annoy or pester. The type of annoyance that you would love nothing more than to strangle the life from their bodies, but with this privilege is the code. The code that entitles you to choke you out, but I'd still stand up for you.

And with that, Roman looked to the store, watching the Walmart shoppers depart the premises. An idea loomed as Roman watched the people come and go. With this knowledge, he rolled up his window, vacated the car, and walked to the front entrance of Walmart. Roman followed the suspended signs clinging from the ceiling until he found the women's apparel inside the store. He knew where this was going. It was bound to be the finest fuck you. The everyday essentials, grocery shoppers, and check-out aisles soon drifted into the background, replaced by swimwear and bras, eventually leading to clothes and then the shoes. If he'd gotten his facts right, Avery had been tossed out after he had been caught dressing in women's clothes. Then, he came out of the closet in the heat of the moment, and Mrs. Weisman reacted appallingly. Now it was Roman's turn to act appallingly. The young man stopped in front of the shelves stocked with platform pumps.

Cautiously Roman peered around, gauging if anybody was watching. Carefully, as his heart gallivanted in his chest, he slipped off his shoes. Stooping low, the boy took a pair from the shelf, slipped them on, and almost fell over. He stumbled forward, trying to get his bearings.

Roman wondered how the fuck women walk in these?

After some perseverance, he got his footing and some sweet smiles from some young women. He didn't understand what that meant, but Roman would admit he'd wear high heels more often if it got attention from the ladies. With his knees bent so he wouldn't fall over, he wobbly made his way to a mirror. This action would be the bullet leaving the gun, the train blowing through a junction, and a plane plowing into the side of a mountain. Roman wanted to stand up for his little brother, so he took out his phone, held it up to the mirror, and took a snapshot. Once he got a good look at himself, he figured it wasn't all that bad. This was for Avery; it had to be.

What followed next was perhaps the most senseless act of all. Roman sent the picture to his mother, but he also posted the picture online. I guess he just wanted to do his bit, figuring that it wasn't such a big deal. Roman couldn't have known that his picture would eventually be circulated 250,000 times and make the local news. Yet, all this attention didn't phase him, and he gave his brother the spotlight to shine.

When Roman had gotten back to the apartment, Avery complained about the cold BLT that he'd gotten. It seemed that the youngster had returned to his old self and somewhat forgotten about the previous night. Though it was there, they both acknowledged it, but they chose not to talk about it. That is until Avery checked his social media and saw that his big brother was wearing high heels in the middle of Walmart. Of course, seeing this made him crack up. It gave him a good giggle.

And Mr. Weisman made it home and went straight to St. Clement Technical Institute to be with his boys, leaving his wife to sit out the shit show all alone. Roman wouldn't speak to his mother again for another three years, but the boys had moved on by then. Life would be good, Roman would complete his studies at the institute, his little brother would graduate from high school with a 4.0 GPA, and Mr. Weisman would retire, choosing to work from home on occasion to spend more time with his boys. After the filed divorce with his wife, Mr. Weisman had gotten custody of Avery. That would be about the sum of it, where the three men lived in harmony, in a small apartment on the outskirts of St Clement. Well, that was until one day somebody brought home a stray cat, which of course, Avery detested.

The End


This story is part of the 2021 story challenge "Inspired by a Picture: Going Out". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 17 Dec ember 2021 to 7 January 2022 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

The challenge was to write a story inspired by this picture:

2022 Inspired by a Picture Challenge - Going Out

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The Unspoken Code

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