by David Lee

Chapter 40

Thanksgiving break was a welcome change for most of the students and staff of Cosgrove High. Carol Croy had her hands full with preparations. This year, she and Doug were going to host his family and hers. The main meal would be served at her apartment where her parents would be sleeping. The more informal times would be spent at Doug's house because there was more room for watching football on his large-screen TV and there were places for undisturbed visiting and card games for those not wanting a marathon of pigskin.

Carol's little brother, Kyle, would be staying at Doug's. Doug had even promised him the use of a spare key so he could come and go as he pleased. He was excited about being in an all-male setting. He hoped Doug's workout area would have the locker room scent he'd come to love. He wondered if there would be any stray sports briefs or jock straps lying around for him to sniff. He found himself hardening up in anticipation.

Zeke was excited about Thanksgiving as well. This would be the first year to celebrate with his little bro/cousin/godson. Young Zach smiled easily and was gaining in personality every day. Thanksgiving was good; Christmas should be a blast!

Bryan wasn't as up for the holiday as his lover, but he would enjoy everything through Zeke's eyes. Zeke was his world; so anything that made Zeke happy made Bryan joyful too.

The Adams' and Stillwell's were going to celebrate together again. It was becoming a tradition. Mary hoped the boys would always remain together. She would hate to see strained relationships in the group which felt like extended family. Todd and Lisa would be there for dinner this year. Mary would have a full house.

As in other holiday preparations, the boys were pressed into service. Despite their extra hours at the store, they pitched in without complaint. After their summer job, the hours of stocking shelves and sacking groceries seemed like child's play. Since their pool was closed for the winter, the boys would often go for a run just to work off some of their pent-up energy.

Lon Peters was not particularly excited about Thanksgiving. He wasn't in the mood. Life sucked. The whole fall semester had been a series of ups and downs for him. He was pissed with Jennifer and with himself. He had abandoned his best friend for an empty-headed brunette who wanted to make him over to her specifications. His friends weren't good enough for her. She didn't like to watch the sports he liked. He was supposed to dress preppy for her. She objected if he wore anything that looked and felt comfortable!

If all of that weren't enough, she wanted to make out until he was so hot he could burst, but everything would come to a halt when he wanted to explore in her panties. He was left with aching balls on a regular basis. Whether he was in the mood or not, he was now in the habit of jacking off before he went out with her just to keep from being in pain.

Because of his preoccupation with Jennifer, his grades weren't as good as they could have been. Coach Newman had been on him about that, and about his "cocky" attitude. Shit! Things were not going well at all.

This afternoon, Jennifer had been especially bitchy because he didn't want to drop what he was doing to go shopping at the mall with her friends and her. She had pushed his buttons and he had reacted. He had told her he was done with being her boyfriend. He was tired of not feeling like he could do anything HE wanted to do. She had cried and carried on, but he had remained resolute. He wasn't going to be remade into her idea of the ideal boyfriend. It was over! He wanted his life back; wanted to be "Lonny" again, hanging around with his buds and being himself.

Now he had to repair things with his best friend whom he had been neglecting. What he needed was a good excuse to see Aaron. Hmm…, there was the big essay coming up in Ms. Croy's class. Aaron was much better in language arts than he had ever been. Lonny needed to raise his grades. That would be his reason. He could go over to get Aaron to help him do some research on the 'net.

Aaron had been in a funk ever since his return from the sleep-over. He had not had much appetite and had slept a lot. Gina was worried about him, but reasoned that if he were sleeping, he didn't have to listen to his father's constant ragging. She was going to have to do something about the situation soon. If they could just get through the holidays, things might improve.

Perhaps she was optimistic, or maybe she didn't want to face up to the inevitable. James still resisted going to counseling with her. He had finally gone to one session, but had left early claiming that everyone was ganging up on him. That was his excuse for never going again.

Aaron was asleep when the phone rang. As a consequence, James answered it. He told Bryce that Aaron didn't want to talk to him now or ever. Bryce was crushed. When Mike returned home from work in the afternoon, he found his son sitting idly in front of the TV not paying attention to the program.

"Hey, son, what's up?" Mike called cheerfully.

Seeing that Bryce was unresponsive, Mike sat down beside him putting his arm around the boy's shoulders. Bryce collapsed into a sobbing heap. Mike wisely kept quiet as he held the weeping kid. He knew Bryce didn't need words at the moment, just love and understanding.

When he got himself under control, Bryce told his dad about the phone conversation. He even told Mike about what Aaron had said in his sleep. He kept no secrets from his step-father.

"Now I've screwed up again. He probably didn't mean to say it and he probably doesn't want to hang around with a queer!" Bryce began to cry again.

"Did he use your name when he said: 'I love you'?" "Did he say, 'I love you, Bryce.'?"

"Yeah, he did. He really did. And he said it clearly."

"Then I wouldn't give up hope. He may be afraid you'd tell his father. I'd be afraid at that age in his situation if I were he."

"But his dad said Aaron didn't want to talk to me – ever!"

"Yes, his father said it, but HE didn't. Give him a chance to tell you himself. If it's true, you'll have to deal with it, but don't be too sure it is."

Bryce felt a little better. Mike was not a man who ran his mouth all the time, but when he talked it was always worth hearing.

Aaron woke up from his afternoon sleep to a darkened house. No one was around. There was a note on the table from his mom saying they had eaten and were going out to get a jump on Christmas shopping. She had left a plate of food for him in the fridge. All he needed to do was warm it in the microwave. They would be home around 9:30. (Gina figured the time away from James was part of what Aaron needed to lift his spirits)

It was now 6:30. Three hours should be enough time. No sense wasting the food; it didn't appeal to him at the moment anyway. Someone could eat it later. He had used up enough of the world's resources already. Now that he had made his decision, he felt at peace for the first time in ages.

From the back of his underwear drawer, Aaron retrieved the bottle of anti-depressants he had been pretending to take. There should be plenty. He rummaged through the fridge for a can of beer. He'd read somewhere that alcohol would speed up the process. He'd also heard that a person's bowels let loose when the final moments came. He didn't want to leave a mess for his mom to clean up.

The notes he wrote were longer than he had intended. It took several minutes to write out what he wanted to say. He wrote a special one for Bryce and sealed it in an envelope with his name on it. He thought his mom could be counted on to deliver it.

Finally, Aaron settled down in the empty bath tub. (The mess would at least be in just one, easy to clean place.) He had put his favorite CD on his portable boom-box. Now he was chugging down the pills with the beer. His stomach didn't feel very good, but that would not be a problem much longer. Then he closed his eyes to wait for whatever lay beyond. Once more, he was oblivious to the ringing of the phone.

Gina clicked off her cell phone with a worried look on her face. Something didn't feel right.

"Mom, I'm going over to Aaron's house. I'll be back in a couple of hours," Lonny called.

"Okay dear, it's nice you're going to hang out with him. You guys haven't done much together lately. I've missed him this year."

"Yeah, me too." Lonny let himself in the unlocked kitchen door. He got no response when he called out Aaron's name, but he headed toward the source of the music.

Seconds later, Sophie Peters was trying to calm her son enough to make sense of what he was saying.

"Hold tight, I'll be there in a minute," she assured him. "Keep his mouth clear. Make sure he doesn't choke!"

Sophie had to switch quickly to her nurse mode in order to do what was necessary. She had to block out the fact that this was a kid she loved like one of her own. Her training and experience paid off as she pushed out all other thoughts than what was best for her patient.

The smell of vomit was strong despite the fact that Aaron hadn't eaten in several hours. Lonny couldn't take it. He rushed to the pot and tossed his dinner. Sophie didn't let it distract her from her primary duty even though she wanted to help her son. Lonny, to his credit, took care of himself. He rinsed his mouth and got himself under control quickly.

"I wonder how long it's been since he took these," Sophie said aloud as he read the label on the pill bottle."

"The CD has been playing only about 20 minutes," Lonny responded, checking the boom box.

Lonny's brain was beginning to function again. When it did, he was a good problem-solver.

"Good!" his mother said. "Given the amount he has regurgitated, I think this is going to be okay."

"Should I call the ambulance?"

"No! We don't want to wait that long. Get the car keys out of my purse on the kitchen table at home and bring my car to the front. Oh, bring my purse too. I'm going to see if I can get him to throw up a little more. When you get here, we'll drive him to the hospital. Be quick!"

Lonny hurried. He had only a learner's permit, but he could drive some. Tonight he had to.

Sophie had the bottle and the notes in her hand as she and her son half carried, half dragged, the unconscious Aaron to the car. Sophie sat in the back seat holding Aaron and directed Lonny to drive carefully to the hospital.

"Put on the flashers and keep sounding the horn if anyone gets in your way. Don't go through any red lights until you're sure the intersection's clear. We don't have time for an accident! If the police stop you, I'll deal with them."

Lonny used all the quick reflexes he'd gained from sports and video games as he maneuvered Sophie's big Park Avenue through the streets. Fortunately, there was little traffic and few traffic lights to deal with. Most of those miraculously turned green at the right time.

At the ER, attendants jumped into action at Sophie's orders. She quickly briefed the doctor in charge about what steps she'd taken and how long she estimated the drugs had been in Aaron's system. She was near the end of relaying the information when Mabel Miner came rushing in.

"This is highly irregular! We can't admit this boy without someone to assure us that the bill will be paid."

"Mabel, get the Hell out of our way! This boy could be dead before we could locate his parents. He's my neighbor and his records are on file in our computer system from when he was here recently. I will personally take responsibility for him!"

Mabel left in a huff. Someone had to watch out that the rules were obeyed. No one else seemed to care. Mabel was the self-appointed guardian of those rules.

Lonny's brain was still on high alert. His mom had seen to it that Aaron's care was under control and he wasn't one to sit idly by when things needed doing. He looked up Bryce's number in the phone book in order to place a call.

It didn't take long for Lonny to explain the situation to Bryce. He was careful in choosing his words so as not to unduly alarm the kid. Bryce's voice sounded unsteady, but he seemed to be rational.

In a very short time, Bryce and his mother were sitting with Lonny waiting for any news on Aaron's condition. When Sally excused herself to go to the restroom, Lonny slipped Bryce the envelope Aaron had left for him.

"I don't know what's in it, but I thought maybe you would like to read it in private."

Bryce nodded. Then he headed for the men's room. Seated inside the locked stall, he opened the envelope.

"Hey Bryce, I don't want you to be sad about what I've done. It's really better for everyone. I DID mean it; what I said in my sleep. I'm sorry, I know you're straight and it must have been awful to hear me say that I love you. I hope you have a good life. Tell Mom I want you to have my model cars. I know you thought they were cool. You have been a good friend. If there is anything beyond life, I hope to see you again in a few decades. Don't hurry on my account.

Love, Aaron."

Lonny heard the sobbing when he went in to check on Bryce.

"Come on out. He's evidently out of danger and I think they're going to move him to a room now."

When Bryce came out, he looked so distraught that Lonny decided not to ignore him like Jennifer would have considered the manly thing to do, but instead he enveloped the weeping boy in his strong young arms. As a result, he ended up with dampness on his shirt and warmth in his chest. It felt kind of nice.

"I love him so much," Bryce cried. "How could he do this?"

"I love him too," Lon replied.

Then realizing how Bryce must have meant it, he added:

"He's like a brother to me – has been since we learned to walk."

Aaron was now convinced that there is an after-life. Through the slits of his eyelids, he saw a mocha-colored angel. But the angel was dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans. No matter, he was absolutely beautiful!

Other faces began to come into focus. Most of them were friendly. Then, Aaron saw his father's scowl. He closed his eyes firmly as if to block out what he didn't want to deal with.

Aaron heard Bryce's soft voice whispering in his ear:

"I love you too, Aaron."

Aaron smiled in spite of himself.

James and Gina were just close enough to overhear the words and see the smile.

Gina pulled James out into the hall before he could make a scene in the room. Of course he railed so loudly that no one in the entire ward could miss what he said.

"That's disgusting! No son of mine…"

"That's right! He's not your son anymore!" Gina cut him off mid-sentence.

Gina whipped out her cell phone and hit the speed-dial number for her lawyer.

"Sorry to bother you at home, Charles. I know you weren't planning to work tomorrow, but could you go ahead and file those papers? Great! Yes, I'm sure."

Then, turning to her husband, she said, "You'll need to find a place to sleep from now on because you are NOT spending another night in MY house! If you try, I'll get a no-contact order!"

Mabel Miner came around the corner to investigate the ruckus just in time to see James slap Gina across the face. Her call to security was one of the few good things she had done in her short tenure.

"You, sir, are a bully and an abuser. I will not tolerate that in MY hospital!"

Mabel was on a roll. Being already pissed at how things had been going that evening, she dressed James down in no uncertain terms until security came to take him away in handcuffs. He was almost relieved to see them.

Back in the room, Aaron had mixed feelings. He guessed he was glad to be alive, but he felt like his actions had destroyed his family. It seemed obvious from what he'd overheard that his mother was divorcing his father; Aaron felt guilty. To top it off, his stomach felt like someone had stomped on it.

On the other hand, Bryce had said, "I love you." Wow, that was the best thing he could have heard. Lonny was there on the other side of him holding his hand. His two favorite guys were there for him. He did have a reason to live!

It was beyond visiting hours; the adults began to gather their things to leave, but Lonny and Bryce were not making any move to do so. They insisted they were spending the night. Despite the half-hearted pleas of parents, the boys were resolute.

"I'm not going anywhere," Bryce insisted. "They'll have to drag me out screaming and kicking!"

Lonny agreed. He was not moving either!

Ms. Miner came in to remind the crowd that visiting hours were long past. When she overheard the boys' plans, she balked. Having teens stay the night was probably against the rules. Sophie challenged her and Mabel backed off.

"Okay, I know, you'll take responsibility."

"Now you're reading me loud and clear, lady," Sophie smiled.

Gina wanted to stay with her son, but she knew he would be happier to have his buddies watch over him. She had two more kids at home who needed her as well now that she had sent James packing.

Actually, the presence of the two teens in Aaron's room saved the hospital some hassle too. When the reason for his admission had been established, he'd been placed on suicide watch, but since he had two companions, it was not necessary to check as often. After the adults left, the boys spent awhile talking.

"I heard about what you did, Lon. I guess I owe you. But I wonder if it would have been better if you had just let me die."

"No way!" Bryce insisted. "I'll thank him forever for not letting you go. I love you. I mean it! You're precious to me just like Jennifer is to Lon."

"Well, maybe that's not a good example," Lonny grinned. "I broke up with the bitch this afternoon. As far as I am concerned, she can get fucked – but not by ME! And now that I'm free from her evil clutches, I want to be called "Lonny" again."

All three guys giggled over the way he expressed himself, but Aaron had to stop because his stomach was too sensitive to continue.

Pretty soon, a cute nurse came in to make sure they were going to get at least a bit of sleep. After Aaron told her how Lonny had lost his dinner, she went off to make toast for him. A few minutes later, she returned with the toast, chips, juice, and crackers for the boys. She had brothers of her own who were about the same age. She knew that they were perpetually hungry. Aaron felt hungry too, but the thought of food made his stomach churn. He sipped a little water while the other two snacked.

When the sofa bed in Aaron's room had been pulled out, Lonny and Bryce lay down together to sleep. The nurse had pulled two pillows and a blanket from the cupboard. It wasn't the Marriott, but it would do.

Aaron was sleepy, but stayed awake until his friends' breathing patterns changed. His eyes filled with tears. He loved them both. Yes, he still loved Lonny, but now it was more like a brother. Lonny was straight, but seemed to be understanding. He seemed like his old self. Aaron's best friend was back! And Aaron had someone new in his life whom he loved, and who loved him in return.

Rusty and Bobby were spending the holiday with Bobby's mother, Linda. She had invited Helen to come for dinner and Helen had accepted. Her divorce from Rusty's father was final and she had been thinking that she would be alone on Thanksgiving. She was delighted to be included in the extended family.

On Tuesday night, Bobby's mother was off to play bingo. She had told the boys that she wouldn't be too late so they had better not make love where she would be likely to catch them in the act. Both boys blushed, but appreciated the heads-up as well as her understanding about their feelings for each other.

They were making out in the living room when they heard a noise which made them think she had cut her outing very short indeed. But instead of Bobby's mother, they found themselves face to face with Ted brandishing a small hand-gun.

"You two queers are coming with me. We have a score to settle," he hissed through his wired jaw. "Donny has my car out front waiting to take you to our old barn out in the country."

Bobby figured that Ted couldn't keep the same gun trained on both of them. If they could get separated enough, one of them distract him and the other could take him. If they were driven to an isolated farm building, there would be less hope of escaping unharmed.

Ted wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he knew enough to keep his victims in line.

"Any false move and Rusty gets it!" he said.

Bobby looked behind Ted.

"Mom, don't be crazy. Get out while you can and call the police!"

Ted snickered. "You don't expect me to fall for that old line. I've seen too many movies."

"Want to bet your pair on that?" Linda's soft female voice sounded menacing behind him.

At the same moment, Ted felt the presence of cold metal in the lower part of the crack of his butt.

"You wouldn't pull the trigger," Ted laughed nervously.

"You want to bet the left one or the right? Of course at this range I can't guarantee that I won't take out both. Now, hand the gun to Bobby very slowly, butt first."

Ted did as he was told. The steel in Linda's voice was as cold as the barrel of the rifle she held.

"Gee, Mom, we didn't expect you home this early, but I'm thankful you are!" Bobby exclaimed.

"Well, luck was against me, so I gave up. As you know, I don't part with money easily. Maybe there was a divine reason that I wasn't winning tonight."

"Linda, you're terrific! I can't believe what you just did. You've got bigger balls than any of us!" Rusty exclaimed proudly.

"Well, I can't have anyone hurting my boys," she replied. "I do run a pretty good bluff if I say so myself. I'm not sure this old thing is even loaded after all these years."

As she said that, she dropped the gun, butt-first, into the corner of the kitchen. The resultant blast and small hole in the ceiling laid to rest any doubts that the rifle had live ammo.

Rusty, Bobby, and Linda all jumped. Ted fainted dead away. Outside, they could hear the screech of tires from a car speeding from the site.

Author's note: Aaron was slated to die. I had planned his memorial service, but Lonny came along and saved his life. It's funny how characters sometimes have minds of their own or how some unseen hand seems to guide events.

I recently heard statistics that show suicide as the number three cause of teen deaths. I think it's probably higher among gay teens. It is hard to know for sure because when they are gone, in many cases, we can't know if they were gay.

Please be kind to anyone who is down. Please be supportive. But if you fail to save a life, don't feel guilty. Sometimes we just can't. At least try to be a loving, non-judgmental friend. We can all use those! And, as they say: What goes around comes around.


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