by Richard Norway

The rainstorm had been lashing its fury on the small town of Tiburon, California for over two hours and was showing no signs of letting up. It was unusual for this kind of rainstorm to hit the coastline along Northern California as they usually get the drizzly kind of rain that would last for days. But now lightning reigned in the blackened clouds overhead and the crack its sound made was terrifying to all of the dogs and many of the people in the area.

I stood under the awning which spanned over the head of the pier, watching people scramble to their cars to get out of the rain as they left the ferry. I had just before stepped off the Tiburon Commuter Ferry from San Francisco and was waiting for my mom to pick me up for the ride home. I had been in the city that Saturday to see my uncle Adrian, my dad's younger brother, and to do some shopping for my mom.

Most of the commuters were on their way home by now, and the street in front of me was deserted. I did not have an umbrella, so I had to wait under the awning and not venture out toward the road I knew my mother would be coming down.

Before too long I could see the dark blue minivan, my mother drove, make its way through the rain and stop in front of me. I picked up the two packages I had set down on the pavement next to me and then dashed around the stopped car. Before I could reach the passenger door, Mom had it open so I could dive inside, which I did with all the awkward grace of the 16-year-old teenage boy I was.

After I set the packages at my feet, I turned toward my mother.

"You're late, Mom. Is anything wrong?"

"No, sweetie. It's just this rain. Tiburon Boulevard is a mess. Some cars have run off the road making things really slow right now. At times, the rain was so hard that I'll bet those drivers couldn't even see the road."

"Oh," I said as I turned to face the front.

"It may be a slow drive home: I may have to pull over if the rain gets really hard again," my mom cautioned.

Mom put the transmission into gear and started our journey home. She was apprehensive as she drove because of the rain flooding the front window, at times gushing faster than the wipers could handle.

"There was a fender bender at Lyford Drive just up ahead," she said. Some guy hit the rear of the car in front of him. I saw it happen, but it was not anything where someone would be hurt. The front car probably stopped because the driver couldn't see."

As our minivan approached Lyford Drive, I leaned forward slightly to get a better look at the accident, but there was only one car alongside the road. The other vehicle must have left already, I thought, and in the rain, I couldn't tell what kind of car the stranded one was. We passed the vehicle slowly, the traffic and weather not permitting us to go anywhere near the speed limit.

I turned my eyes forward again and noticed someone walking in the rain alongside the road.

"Mom! See that? A guy'd have to be crazy to be out in this kind of rain. He doesn't even have an umbrella."

"Yeah. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes right now."

I had to laugh at Mom's comment.

"Of course, you wouldn't. They're probably soaking wet about now," I said.

I watched the figure as we passed him. Suddenly, my eyes narrowed to get a better look.

"Mom. Stop the car!" I shouted. "I think that's Mitch. What's he doing out here like that?"

Mom turned to look at the figure and also narrowed her eyes.

"Do you know this guy from school?"

"Yeah, I know who he is. Well, we're not friends, but I see him at school a lot. We even have our computer lab together."

"Are you sure, Jordan? It's hard to tell in this rain."

"No, I'm not absolutely positive, but if it is him, we need to help him."

Mom looked back one more time and then turned on her right turn signal and slowly moved the minivan off the road onto the shoulder and turned on the emergency flashers.

The figure in the rain noticed the car stopping in front of him and stopped himself for a moment. He seemed hesitant as he probably didn't know our car or why we were stopping.

Unhitching my seat belt, I got out of the passenger seat, hurried behind me to the middle seat and opened the side door for Mitchell. I stuck my head out the door, and yelled, "Hey, Mitch! It's me, Jordan. Come on, we'll give you a lift."

Mitchell tilted his head slightly trying to figure out who I was. Then he seemed to recognize me. He picked up his pace and hurried toward the minivan.

As Mitchell neared, I slid the door all the way open.

"Hurry up, duffus. You're letting the rain get in the car," I yelled back to him.

Mitchell did break into a trot and then jumped into the car, and we both settled into the minivan's middle bench seat after Mitchell closed the door.

"Seat belts, guys," my mother reminded us.

"What the hell are you doing out in this rain? It's a deluge out there, man."

Before he could answer, I realized I needed to do something first.

"Oh, Mitch, this is my mom. Mom, this is Mitch," I said.

"Nice to meet you, Mitch, or is it, Mitchell?" Mom said through the rearview mirror.

Mitchell grinned, and then looked up at the rearview mirror.

"It's both. I answer to either."

"What were you doing out there?" I interposed.

"Well, I kind of had an accident."

"What happened? Was that your car back on the road?"

"Yeah. I didn't see the guy in front of me put on his brakes."

Mitchell's eyes quickly looked up toward Mom for a split second and then back toward me.

"Heck, I could hardly see the pickup in front of me through this rain. Anyway, I rear ended him," Mitchell said.

"You, okay? I mean you aren't hurt, are you?" I asked.

Mitchell smiled and let out a short puff of air from his lungs.

"No. I'm okay, just a little shaken is all."

"What happened to the other guy? I only saw one car back there," I had to ask.

"He left."

"Huh? He just left? That's like a hit and run, only in reverse."

"No, I meant he just left before I started walking. We exchanged licenses and insurances, and he seemed nice enough. He even offered to give me a ride, but he seemed in a hurry, so just said, that's okay. I don't live far from here." My car won't run now.

I looked quizzically toward Mitchell. "What's wrong with it? It didn't look like your car was that bad. Mom even said it was just a fender bender."

"Yeah, I didn't hit him hard. We were going pretty slow because of the rain, but his trailer hitch went through my radiator, and all the water drained out."

"That makes sense. Funny though. With all this rain and water everywhere, your car is without some of it."

"Yeah. Ironic, isn't it?"

We sat quietly for a moment and Mitchell turned to look out of the side window seeming to try to figure out what to say. After a moment had gone by, he looked up the rear view mirror.

"Mitchell? Where do you live?" Mom asked from the front seat, sensing Mitchell's hesitance. "We can give you a ride."

Mitchell looked toward my mom, back toward me, and then toward the floor to his wet shoes. It was obvious to both Mom and me that Mitchell didn't want to answer her question.

"Do you live here on the peninsula or somewhere else in Marin County?" she asked.

Mitchell didn't answer her question but continued to stare at his shoes.

Mom knew something was wrong. The boy didn't want to go home for some reason. She knew he lived in the area because I had said he went to my school. She also knew, without knowing the boy better, she shouldn't push the point.

"Or is there somewhere else you'd like to go where we can drop you?" Mom asked.

Mitchell continued to watch his shoes for a moment and then looked back up towards her. "Thank you, Mrs. McKinney. If you could take me into Mill Valley, I'll be fine."

Mom thought for a moment.

"Where in Mill Valley would you like to go?" Mom asked, looking at him through the rearview mirror.

"Ah, Strawberry Village Shopping Center would be fine. Thank you."

"Okay. That's right next to the road we're on so, Strawberry Village it is then," she said.

The intensity of the rain was starting to subside as we continued our northwesterly way on Tiburon Boulevard toward Mill Valley. It was really only a few minutes away, so it wasn't much out of our way.

Mitchell was silent for most of the trip, and I was still sensing something was wrong. He would look over toward me a couple of times, and after each time, he would look at my mom for a moment. Had something just happened between the two of them that I missed. I was also wondering if I should say something to him.

I felt this was going on too long and turned toward Mitchell.

"What are you going to do about your car, Mitch?"

Mitchell looked over toward me and smiled.

"Oh, I don't know. I need to change the radiator somehow, that's for certain."

"You know how to do that?" I asked.

Mitchell now had to let out a small laugh.

"No," he chuckled. "But you can get all kinds of "How To Do tutorials" on the internet, even how to fix a car. Trevor does it all the time to fix that piece of shit junk he plans to be driving one day."

Mitchell sheepishly looked up toward Mom, but then back towards me.

"Sorry, Mrs. McKinney," he said thinking about the word that he had used.

Mom smiled at him through the rearview mirror and nodded.

"Trevor? Trevor Thompson? From school?" I asked.

"Yeah. You know him?"

"No, well…yeah. I mean he's a friend of a friend of mine. I've met him a couple of times."

"Who's your friend? Maybe I know him."

"Tim Sorenson. You know him?"

"Not really, but Trevor has mentioned his name a lot. I guess they're friends. I'm still kind a new at school, so I don't know a lot of people yet."

"Yeah. So is Tim. He came here about a month after the semester started."

"We're here, boys," Mom announced as she started the turn into the Strawberry Village's parking lot. The rain had now almost stopped, and the sun could be seen trying to make a hole through the retreating clouds. "Any particular store you want to go to?"

"No, just here is fine," Mitchell answered.


Mom pulled into the first available parking spot and put the transmission into park.

Mitch opened the door, but before he left the minivan, he turned toward my mom.

"Thank you, Mrs. McKinney. I'm really grateful for your help. I don't know how long it would have taken me to get here on foot."

"Are you going to be alright, Mitchell?" she asked, turning back, looking directly into his eyes.

Mitchell's eyes gave him away. His eyes moved slightly downward—not his head, just his eyes—for the briefest of moments before returning to meet Mom's.

"I'm fine. Again, thank you for the ride."

"You're welcome, Mitchell, and it was no problem."

Mitchell left the minivan and started to walk toward the supermarket. He didn't look back.

Mom watched him for a moment as he walked away before she put the minivan into gear and headed out of the parking lot. As we left the shopping center, I jumped into the passenger seat up front.

"That was weird, Mom."

Mom looked toward me for a moment and then returned her eyes to the road in front of her.

"Seat belt, boy, or I stop the car."

Mom pulled our car onto the driveway of our home and pushed the button for the garage door to open. After stopping the minivan inside the garage and turning off the motor, Mom looked at me seated next to her.

"Jordan? Let me ask you something. How well do you know Mitchell?"

I looked back at my mother quizzically.

"I don't, really, Mom. Like I said, I know him from a lab we have together, but I don't really know anything about him. He's not my lab partner. About all I know about him is his name, and that he's getting a good grade in our lab class."

Mom turned her gaze toward the windshield of the car but returned it toward me after a moment.

"Something is bothering him, son. Something big, I would guess. Did you notice how he wouldn't tell us where he lived?"

"Yeah, I got that. I agree, Mom; I had a feeling he was hiding something."

Mom looked at me for a moment, and then smiled.

"Come on, Jordan. It's time I started dinner. Help me carry the bags of groceries and your bags from the van."

I smiled at my mom. I knew she was concerned about Mitchell, but neither she nor I had any answers or any way to get some. I also didn't know what was going on with him, but I would try to get acquainted, try to find out more about him. Mitchell had intrigued me. It seemed something was off with him, like maybe he was in trouble.

"Okay, Mom. You carry the heavy ones. I'll get the light ones."

I smiled.

Mom groaned.

I began shucking my English Literature books into my locker. It was now time for lunch, but I had to grab my Chemistry Lab Manual to be prepared for my Chem Lab class afterward. Just as I was zipping up the back of my book bag, Kim came running up to me.

"Jordan! Did you hear what happened last night? It's, terrible, just awful.

I frowned, not wanting to know who got kicked off the baseball team.

"What happened, Kim," I asked.

"It was all over the news this morning. Tim Sorenson killed himself last night."

"WHAT?" I screamed back at her.

"Yeah. Evidently, he got his dad's gun and shot himself."

I couldn't stand up from hearing that news and slid my back on the closed locker next to mine and sank to the floor. I held my hands over my head, yelling, "No, that couldn't have happened. I just talked to him yesterday."

"You knew him, didn't you?" Kim said softly.

"Yes, I knew him. He was my closest friend. He always ate lunch with us."

"I'm sorry, Jordan. I didn't know you knew him that well."

"None of you knew him that well. He was always so quiet, never speaking." I was about to cry.

Tim Sorenson had moved to Tiburon only a month ago. His family had been forced to move because of the retaliation his family had faced after incidents at his old school. He had always thought his family loved him, but now he wasn't so certain. The move didn't make sense to him. The incident at his old school involved a bully that wouldn't leave him and another boy alone. His mom finally decided that to get Tim away from that environment, a move would be needed, and so the family left Liberal, Kansas, and relocated in Tiburon, California. It was entirely his mother's idea. Steven, Tim's father, didn't like the idea of moving to a blue state as his conservative ideals didn't fit in with what he perceived to be California liberalism. But he went along with his wife's insistence on this move. He also knew they had to protect Tim. He loved his son, although at times Tim worried him. Tim wasn't growing up to be the man Steven had hoped for.

A week earlier, Tim Sorenson was at school early. He wanted to go see Mrs. Gleason before her class started to find out more about the theater classes. He had heard that the school was going to be putting on the 1956 musical Carousel in the spring. He was just as tall as Gordon MacRae from the movie, if not as good looking, and knew the music. His voice was not as mature as Gordon's, but he was only 16, so he knew he could improve. And he was a lot skinnier than Gordon, but that shouldn't make any difference. This, after all, was just a high school production. Tim, at 5'-10" tall and weighing 145 pounds, was taller than most sixteen-year-olds, but he knew he could make a great Billy Bigelow. Gordon MacRae's hair was almost black in the movie version, while Tim's was a cross between blond and brown. Sandy, he guessed it could be called. It was also longer than Gordon's stretching just over his ears. But then, his movie idol's hair was in the 1956 styles, and, after all, he wasn't playing Gordon; he was portraying Billy.

Tim had never been in a theater production, but this was his favorite musical of all that had come out in the 1940's and 1950's. It was a truly troubling film to him. He had never seen a stage production, only the film, but it was also the most fantastic love story that he had ever witnessed. He cried for Billy Bigelow, because he knew what it was like to find love and then lose it.

Slamming his locker door shot, Tim turned and headed toward the school's theater, hoping he'd find Mrs. Gleason there. He had let this opportunity go for too long. But Tim's pace slowed as he remembered his father's words. "The arts are for sisses. My son needs to do manly things like play football or be on the wrestling team." These words were spoken to him many times and scared him because Tim knew being in a play, especially a musical, was a move that his father would not approve.

Tim stopped in his tracks, momentarily fearing the move he was about to make. "I have to be me," Tim said under his breath, trying hard to bolster his resolve As he took his first step forward after stopping, he said again, "I have to be me," a little louder, and then, "I will be me, no matter what it takes."

Tim didn't know if Mrs. Gleason would be there or not, but he suspected she might be. He had heard she was a dedicated teacher and spent more hours at school than any of the other teachers, so he just felt optimistic he would find her there.

Tim entered through the double doors of the entrance to the theater. It was dark inside with no lights. He was confused. The theater was empty.

Where was Mrs. Gleason, he wondered. I thought she'd be here.

Just then the sound of a door closing behind the side drapes of the stage got his attention. Then the lights to the stage came on. Mrs. Gleason walked onto the stage from between the right-side stage drapes. She was holding papers in her hand, muttering softly, "No, no, no." She walked to center stage and then looked up, seeing a shadow backlight by the open doorway.

"Is someone up there? If you're a student, you should be getting to homeroom."

Tim was elated to find her.

"Mrs. Gleason, my name is Tim Sorenson. And yes, I'm a student here, and I want to talk to you about your theater classes. Would you have a few minutes for me?"

Ruth Gleason looked at her watch before looking back into the darkness of the theater.

"Okay, Mr. Sorenson. You have about five minutes before you need to scurry off. Come down here so I can see you."

Tim almost ran down the side aisle toward the stage. He was excited that she would talk to him; he knew he had procrastinated far too long. As he approached the stage, he could see her standing tall with her arms crossed over her chest. Tim thought she might be angry with him for interrupting her morning routine, but he persevered and climbed the steps into the lights on the stage.

"Hello, Mr. Sorenson. I recognize you now that I can see you; you're new here. What can I do for you?"

"Well, I heard you're planning on doing Carrousel this spring, and I was wondering if there is any way I can be in it?"

Ruth Gleason tilted her head slightly but did not answer.

Tim continued. "You see…that's my favorite musical of all times. I know all the songs by heart. I don't have to have a singing part, but I'd like one. But even more, I just want to be a part of this. I'm here to ask what I have to do?"

"Well, I've never had anyone come up to me with so much enthusiasm about being in one of the school plays before. Have you ever done any acting before?"


"Okay. Do you sing?"

Tim had to think for a moment.

"I think you mean have I ever sung before an audience before, and the answer has to be no. I've sung with friends to a karaoke machine many times before, but I don't think that's what you mean."

"Hm," she thought to herself for a moment. "Mr. Sorenson, would you be available after school today for an audition? We can talk more after that."

Oh, my God, Tim thought to himself. She wants to see me about being in the play.

"Yes; yes. I can be here. What time?"

Mrs. Gleason said, "Be here at 3:30 this afternoon and be ready to show me what you can do. Now, you had better get to your homeroom."

Tim was elated. His dream was about to come true.

"YES!" Tim yelled. "Thank you so much. What…what do I have to do? I mean do I need to change classes to be here?"

Ruth had to chuckle at this student's enthusiasm.

"No, son. You don't have to do any of that. But if we accept you, you will have to attend every rehearsal come this spring and be ready to work."

"I'm ready, I'm ready."

Tim practically ran up the aisle. As he was leaving, he shot his right-handed closed fist into the air.


Ruth Gleason watched Tim Sorenson run up the aisle. She'd had a major problem and thought maybe this boy could solve it. Her lead tenor, the boy who was to play the part of Billy Bigelow, had just been suspended from the football team because of his grades, making him ineligible from participating in other school activities.

Later that evening after telling his parents about the play, Tim overheard his father speaking to his mother.

"That boy is not normal. What he wants to do is be in some stupid musical. Why can't he be like other boys and play sports, have a girlfriend to go on dates with, and do the things that will make a man out of him? He's just not normal, I tell you."

Tim couldn't help himself. He desperately wanted a life for himself, but his father was adamantly against his being part of a theatrical group, performing in a musical. He had tried to make amends with his father, but the rejection was so overwhelming that he wondered if trying to be who he was, was worth it. The contradiction of trying to be himself and trying to please his parents was tearing him apart.

Tim sat crying on his bed that evening after hearing what he overheard his father saying about him. His eyes were fixed on the ceiling, but his mind was elsewhere.

Why do people think I'm not normal? Tim said to himself as the tears rushed down his cheeks.

His eyes closed but the tears continued to flow.

"There's nothing wrong with me," he finally said while still looking at the ceiling.

Mitchell Toller grew up in San Francisco, but his family moved to Tiburon when he was thirteen as a sign to his dad's associates his dad had made it. His dad was an investment banker, working in the Bank of America pyramid tower downtown in the city. Mitchell had everything he had ever wanted. Spoiled? Maybe, but he had growing issues inside himself that were starting to surface at his sixteen years of age that didn't coincide with his parents', especially his dad's, views. He had priorities in his life that were much different from those that his parents had tried to instill in him.

His mother had once studied opera, hoping to become a star, but her star fell when she was told she just didn't have the voice. That rejection shadowed her for the rest of her life until she died of cancer of the throat when Mitchell was only 10 years old.

Mitchell had a hard time in getting over her passing. She was the only one who seemed to care about him. Never had it been his father he turned to for advice while growing up.

The house in Tiburon he lived in was monstrous. Situated high on the hills, it had five bedrooms, six bathrooms, two offices, a music room, and even an indoor swimming pool. Mitchell often wondered why the pool had to be indoors since the weather in Tiburon was ideal for an outdoor pool. He figured it had to be for his dad's ego.

Mitchell Toller played football on the Redwood High School team, although he wasn't all that keen on sports in general. He had tried out for the team when he was a sophomore because Harold, his dad, had insisted on it. He was athletic enough to make the JV team that year. After his first season as a running back, he was offered the position of backup quarterback. Evidently his coach had seen him throwing the ball back and forth with another teammate and saw some potential in him. He loved the control it offered him, and he knew that in his senior year, he would be the starting quarterback. He could have control of his life for the first time. Football had taught Mitchell something his father had never expected. It had taught him self-reliance, and now he loved the game. He was himself on the playing field, not his father's son. Mitchell was finally becoming Mitchell.

But his life wasn't all about football. When his mother was alive, when he was seven years old, she had started him taking piano lessons. The piano gave him his first taste of freedom, as the music he created was his own, not anyone else's.

Mitchell's piano lessons stopped after his mother's death. He tried to continue playing, but without the lessons, his playing slowed to a halt and his dad sold his piano. He hadn't played since then. To his dad, playing the piano didn't seem beneficial in making Mitchell into the man he wanted him to become. For Mitchell's part, he missed the time he could spend at the piano. He felt his freedom to be himself being sucked away from him.

When he moved into the new house, he discovered the music room. As he walked around the house, exploring where he was about to be living, he walked into an unknown room off of the living room, and his heart jumped. There, in the center of the room was a baby grand piano. When his dad bought the new house in Tiburon, the baby grand piano came with house. It was covered with a dust cloth as if it were in storage. He glanced around the room to find windows along two sides of the room, flooding it with sunlight. He knew this was going to be a happy place for him.

Mitchell slowly walked toward the piano, keeping his eyes on it. As he touched the covering, the first tear slowly slid down his left cheek. He now knew he had a friend in this new house.

His right hand grabbed a handful of covering and pulled it back, exposing his dream. Mitchell stared at it for a while, searching out all of its details. The luster of the surface was amazing to him. He walked around the piano, looking at every detail until he approached the bench where he would be seated.

"Oh, my God," Mitchell said out loud as he saw the name on the piano. It was a Steinway.

Mitchell stared at the name for over a full minute, not believing what he was seeing, but his head was full of imagining what had been in the past, and what might be ahead. His heart was crying out for his past dreams, the freedom it had given him, and the encouragement his mother had flourished on him.

Mitchell looked toward the ceiling with hope in his eyes and smiled.

Trevor Cranston grew up in Southern California, but his family moved to Mill Valley when he was twelve years old. Trevor easily made friends at school because he was always the first one to start a conversation with virtually anyone at school. He was the antithesis of Tim Sorenson because he was an outgoing youth, an extrovert. His mother and father often wondered why their outgoing son would become such close friends with that introverted Sorenson boy. Trevor would make fun of Tim for wanting to sing in a musical, but Tim would come back by asking Trevor why he didn't appreciate the finer things in life. Both boys would always wind up laughing with each other. But Trevor also had a dark side; he would become very jealous of anyone he thought was better than himself. He cherished his possessions, be it his grades at school or even his friends. This would eventually lead to his parting ways with Tim Sorenson.

High school started the Monday of February 13, 2012, late for the start of the spring semester due to some construction. Students were gathering their books and notebooks from their lockers to try to be prepared for their first couple of classes before the morning break when they would have a chance to return to those lockers and get ready for their next series of classes. I had just opened my locker when Kim approached and put her arm around my waist.

"Hey, love," Kim Smithfield whispered as she nestled her ear onto my arm.

I looked down at her and smiled while Kim looked up at me, still holding onto my arm. Kim was my best friend in school, but she wasn't my 'girlfriend.'

"Some sleepy bird told me, Kim, you're going to be in the school musical this spring," I said.

She let go of my arm and stood taller. "Yup, I'm going to be playing the role of Julie Jordan. It's so cool. I get to be pregnant and have a kid. Wow!"

Jordan frowned down at her, and Kim noticed the frown as she watched him.

Just then, my attention shifted to a familiar face walking along the school hallway. It was Mitch Toller, and I watched as Mitch and his beautiful face approached me. Mitchell was a good-looking boy, almost too cute for a teen. His hair was a golden brown rather than the dark brown of the other night in the rain. But Michell's eyes were what attracted me the most. They were the most expressive I had ever seen.

Mitchell nodded in recognition of me as he passed. I returned the recognition by also nodding.

I received another shock that evening as me and my family were having dinner.

"Owen, did you hear that another boy from Jordan's school committed suicide last night?"

"No. I hadn't heard that. Do they know who it was and why he did it?"

"No, I don't know why; they didn't say. But I heard his name was Trevor Cranston."

Hearing what Mom and Dad were talking about, I jumped up and ran the table.

The news about Trevor ran unabated through the school the next morning. It seemed that was all anyone wanted to talk about.

"Jordan, did you hear about Trevor? It's all over school," Kim asked after feverishly running up to me.

"Yeah, I heard," was all I said.

"Does anyone know why he did it?"

I sank back against my locker door, looking at the ceiling, shaking my head.

"I don't know anything, Kim. This is so weird, first Tim and now Trevor. What's going on?"

I opened my locker, staring at the inside.


I stopped putting my books into my locker and turned toward the sound, wondering what it was.


My face scrunched as I tried to figure out what made that sound.

"What was that, Jordan?"

"I don't know, Kim. It almost sounded like…"

"Someone's shooting! That was gunfire." Someone down the hall was shouting, and then kids were running past us.


"Jesus Christ, Kim," I screamed.

Screams were now sailing down the crowded hall, and the kids in the hallway had burst into panic. They began running helter-skelter away from the sounds.


Just as I was about to grab Kim's hand and run, I was knocked to the floor, and the side of my head hit hard on the linoleum tile. I was dazed and couldn't move.

Kim turned to help me but couldn't reach me as she was swept down the hall by the sea of panicking kids. Shear pandemonium had erupted in the school as everyone was fleeing with thoughts of being shot.

I lay motionless on the floor as the hallway quickly emptied. As the sounds around me subsided, the deserted hall became quiet. I remained motionless, lying on the floor .


The sounds didn't seem closer, but they had a vague quality, probably because I was only semi-conscious. I tried to roll over but was only able to roll on my side. Blood began flowing down the side of my head, across my cheek, dripping to the floor from my chin.


A few minutes later, a lone student turned the corner of an adjacent hallway, walking slowly, and approached my body. My sight hasn't completely cleared by then, and I could see him distinctly but still not recognizing him. His face was streaked with tears from his crying. He held a gun in his right hand away from his body, pointed at the floor. He stopped abruptly when he saw my body in front of him beside an open locker.

"Oh, God," I heard him mutter to himself as his eyes stared in disbelief. "What have I done?"

He began to move slowly toward me, his eyes flickering up and down the hallway in search of anyone around, but always returning to me lying helpless on the floor in front of him.

He approached me, then stopped abruptly within six feet of me.

"Fuck. Oh, God, Jordan." He looked toward the ceiling as his mouth let out the deep breath he was holding.

He looked up and down the empty hallway, and not seeing anyone, turned and began to run back in the direction from which he had come. He skidded around the corner into the adjacent hall and was gone.

Kim was forced out the double doors at the front of the school as the panic increased. As the crowd thinned around her when kids started to disperse in every direction possible, she was able to break free and stop, turn around, and look at the front facade of the building.

Jordan's still in there, she said to herself as her fear for him grew. She stepped forward toward the front doors as the last student followed by the few remaining school staff exited the building. She stopped and waited for Jordan to appear. Minutes went by as she silently watched, but Jordan did not come out of the building.

Tires screeched behind her as the first of the parents appeared. Kim turned around to see kids scrambling in utter chaos around the drop-off/pick-up area as mothers and fathers began the search to find their children, and the kids trying to find their parents.

"Kim!" a voice shouted from her right. "Kim. Get out of there. Run!" Mr. Delaney, an English teacher, yelled.

As Kim began her run away from the building, the first of the cities' police cars screeched to a stop behind the jam of parents' cars. More police cars arrived, and the first four officers who jumped from their squad cars started ordering the parents to remove their cars from the school property. There were shouted arguments; the officers were mostly ignored.

Lieutenant Marcy stepped from his car, slammed the door and made his way toward the other police officers. He quickly looked around, searching for and then spotting Sergeant O'Hara.

"What've we got, Sergeant?"

Sergeant Bill O'Hara turned around to see his superior approach.

"Hey, Frank. We don't have much yet, but we do know gunshots have been fired inside the school. So far it seems about ten shots were fired. Something like that; you know how eyewitness reports vary. We don't know what kind of gun it was yet, rifle or pistol, and don't know if anyone was injured or killed.

"When the panic started, kids ran everywhere. We're still trying to find out what happened. Some of the kids probably saw the shooting go down. We need to track those kids down to find out what they heard or saw."

"Okay. First off, get this place cordoned off and those parents off of the school property. We need the ambulance to have access. Better yet, get their names and addresses and have them go home. Mill Valley and Sausalito are sending people, so take how many you need of them to secure this place. The priority now is getting help for anyone inside who's been injured and finding and securing the shooter. I want him.

"Second, get a roster of who was in that school today, and start finding out who has left the school. Some kids might be hiding inside, and I want to know who they are."

"That's going to take some time, Lieutenant. A lot of the kids have run from the school to God knows where, and a lot have been taken home by their parents."

Lieutenant Marcy stared at the Sergeant for a moment and then nodded.

"I know, Bill. This is a nightmare, and getting it all together will take some time, but we have to do the best we can to figure out who might still be in there."

Sergeant O'Hara nodded his head.

"I'll do what I can."

"Thanks, Bill."

I lay motionless on the floor, unable to move, for what I thought was over twenty minutes. But then my right hand twitched. Moments later, another twitch came from the same hand. I tried to open my eyes but realized they refused to open. I'd closed them after what I thought had have been the shooter had left me and time had slowly passed. During those long minutes, dried blood had fused to my eye lashes, keeping my eyes from opening. I lifted my arm a few inches off of the floor, just to make sure I was still alive. I found I could do that, and I was able to raise my head slightly as well. I moved my arm and hand and touched my hand to the right side of my head. Pain! It spread over my whole body, but the epicenter was under my right hand.

My eyes suddenly sprang open in panic; memory returning; I remembered falling, remembered hitting my head on the floor. For a moment I thought I had been shot, but then I remembered the panic in the hallway and being knocked to the floor. That was when I hit my head.

But what had happened? Had I heard gunshots? I thought.

I tried to roll over onto my stomach. My mind was telling me to get up, but my body was rebelling. Slowly, I raised myself up with my arms and tried to bring me knees under me to be able to stand. That didn't work as my body went limp and rolled itself over onto my side toward the lockers. My head barely touched the open locker door, but it sent a shock of pain throughout me extending to my toes.

I slowly rolled over onto my back, lying silent and motionless, staring at the ceiling lights for a few moments, waiting for the pain to subside.

Once again, I tried to stand, rolling over onto my stomach, lifting myself with my arms and pulling my knees under me. I remained on all fours for a few moments, gathering my resolve. As I looked at the deserted hallway, I grabbed hold of my open locker door with my right hand and pulled myself up until I was almost standing. Suddenly dizzy, my back crashed into the closed locker door next to my locker, but I held on tightly to my own locker door and was able to steady myself. I looked upward as I tried to catch my breath. I knew I was hurt, but I didn't know how badly. I remembered the football carnage I had gone through when I was fifteen, but this wasn't like that. My helmet had always protected my head during my football games. I'd had no protection here, and blood from my head had dried all over my face, but since my run-in with the locker a moment ago, new blood was now rolling over my face into my eyes. I had to keep wiping the blood out to see. This was new to me. My head was throbbing and leaking blood. I wasn't sure what I needed to do.

I did know I needed help.

With resolve, I pushed away from the locker and started to move down the empty hallway, each step uncertain. I remembered an old Frankenstein movie and wondered if I looked like the monster with its first steps. Occasionally I had to steady myself by reaching out to lockers and placing a hand on them. I moved slowly with starts and stops down the corridor, each step a monumental task.

When I reached a junction with another hallway, I realized I really didn't know where I was. My mind hadn't yet focused on where I was going. I felt I needed to get out of the building, but I didn't know where the doors were to the outside.

Just then I thought again of the sounds in the hallway, the gunshots. Someone is shooting a gun in the school, I thought. But why? Who's shooting, and where is he?

I looked down the empty hallways and started to feel panicky as I realized the school seemed empty except for me…and maybe the shooter.

"Oh, fuck!"

Where is he? I wondered. My eyes searched the empty corridors, but I couldn't see anyone. I knew I needed to get out of there. My eyes bounced around, looking in every direction, trying to figure out which way to run…if I could still run. I couldn't. All I could manage was to stay upright and slowly stagger forward.

I thought the front of the school was down the hallway I was in. Again, wiping the blood from my confused eyes, I could just make out what looked like double doors at the end of the hallway I had just entered, and the light was brighter there. I took a look around, saw no one, and started my trek toward what I hoped was a way out of the building.

Outside of the school, the Chief of Police was well aware of what had happened at Columbine and was terrified of what was happening in his high school. Gun shots had been fired, and he knew his department would react by the book, and that also terrified him. He knew his job right now was to instill reason and calm decision making into the actions taking place.

The chief walked over to the man who'd taken charge of this situation, Lieutenant Marcy.

"Hey, Frank. The building's secured, right?"

Without looking at his superior, keeping his eyes focused on the front of the building, Lieutenant Marcy said, "Like a Ziplock bag, sir."

"Who's left inside? Do we have a report yet on which of the students aren't accounted for?"

Lieutenant Marcy then turned to face his superior. "Not yet, Chief. That may take some time as a lot of the kids ran. We're looking for them now, phoning parents, talking to teachers, trying to put things together. I've had the grounds around the buildings secured; right now, I'm as sure as I can be that the shooter's still inside."

The police chief stared at the main entrance to the school for a moment, his eyes narrowing.

"Frank, that's our future in there, those kids, I mean. Don't let any more of them get hurt."

Lieutenant Marcy stared back at his chief and then nodded. "I'm doing my best, sir."

I continued my move toward the doors leading outside. The excruciating pain in my head was now accompanied by the pain of pure exhaustion. I knew my mind was becoming cloudy as I tried to keep going, to reach the outside. I knew I had to focus on where I was going, focus on where the shooter might be, focus on saving my life.

I had to stop a moment to regain my strength. I lowered my head as I placed my right palm on the locker next to me and bent over slightly to rest.

Where is he? I asked myself. Where's the guy who wants to kill me?

Outside of the school building, a squad from the swat team was searching the grounds for anything on the slight chance the shooter had gotten out or had an accomplice outside. They didn't know what they were looking for, but they had been given orders to search for anyone hiding or anything suspicious. As they approached a black dumpster, the team leader told one of the officers to approach cautiously as the shooter may have gotten outside the school building and could be hiding in there. The other team members fanned out, circling the dumpster.

One officer picked up a four-foot section of 2" pipe he had found behind the dumpster and squatted low in front of it. He lifted the end of the pipe upward to reach the edge of the metal lid and slowly pushed upward to open the dumpster. The other officers in the squad raised their weapons at the ready.

When the lid was opened, they waited, the officer who had opened the lid still crouching in front of the dumpster. He turned his head to his team leader. The team leader listened intently. Satisfied, he then nodded his head.

The officer slowly turned around and raised himself to glance inside. The dumpster was completely empty. "All clear," he shouted. He then dropped the pipe, and the lid came crashing down with a loud bang.

I looked up suddenly as a loud sound came from outside of the building. I didn't know what it was, but it scared me. Was that another gunshot? I thought. I searched the hallway for somewhere to hide but could only see the long corridor in which I was now mercilessly exposed.

A classroom! That's what I needed right now, somewhere to get out of this open space .

I surveyed the hallway, searching for a way to reduce my exposure. The outside doors were ahead of me, but they seemed too far away. Turning to my left, classroom 104 was in front me, and it was the closest sanctuary I could see. After looking up and down the hall again, I tried to race but actually tottered toward room 104.

I grasped the handle of the door and turned it. It was unlocked, and I threw it open and hobbled inside, closing the door behind me. I stopped for a moment, surveying the room. It was a chemistry lab, and it appeared empty, so slowly, painfully, I walked to the far side of the room and awkwardly slipped under a table just below the outside windows.

I pulled my knees to my chest, holding myself in fear. My head hurt, and I knew the spill I had taken in the hallway had been bad. I touched my hand to the source of my pain and looking at it, I saw it was dry. There was no blood on my hand. I continued to feel my face very lightly and felt the crustiness of dried blood. I knew I was a mess but no longer seemed to be bleeding.

I guess the clots have done their job, I thought.

I waited for a long time, but nothing was happening. I didn't hear any sounds coming from outside of the school. I knew the police would be here shortly to rescue me, but I wondered where they were.

I knew I was alone, and all I had to do was wait it out. Someone would be here shortly.

"Don't you dare come any closer!"

My eyes flew wide open. What had I just heard? Was there someone else in the room? I questioned.

I looked up from my sanctuary under the lab table to find a still empty room.

Maybe it's another scared student hiding, I thought. Maybe we could join together and protect one another.

"I'm over here, and I've got a gun."

My fears ran rampant when I heard that. I knew I was about to die and started to cry.

Moments went by with nothing but the sounds of my sobs and sniffles. I had given up. I knew I had entered the room with the shooter, and my young life at 16 years was about to be over.

"Jordan don't cry. I'm not going to hurt you."

I continued to cry, not believing what I had just heard.

"Jordan, I said I'm not going to hurt you. Do you understand?"

I stopped crying; my sniffles continued though. I had just heard that I might be alive at the end of the day, and I so wanted that. I sat still for a few moments trying to get what I had just heard processed in my brain.

And then, suddenly, I lifted his head. My eyes searched the room, trying to find the source of the other voice besides the little voice that was running nonstop in my head telling me to beware. I didn't see anyone.

"Where are you?" I finally asked the voice.

"I'm under a table just like you are, over to your left."

My eyes sprang to my left, searching for the voice. Not seeing anyone, I began casting my eyes under the tables. There, under another lab table in the shadows by the wall, a few tables away from me, was another boy…with a pistol in his right hand, pointed toward the floor.

We stared at each other for a few moments, not moving, not speaking.

The face on the other boy finally smiled at me.

"Hey, Jordan."

My eyes narrowed, trying to recognize him, and then, in an instant, I suddenly knew.

"Is that you Mitch?"

Mitchell watched me for a moments and then looked toward the floor. He closed his eyes for a second before looking back toward me.

"Jordan, I saw you lying on the floor in the hall. I thought you were dead."

I looked at Mitchell for a few moments. I was still afraid of him but less so, now, and kept wondering what I should say to him.

"Yeah, I got pushed when the panic started and hit my head on the floor."

"You, okay? You look terrible, you know?"

I touched my face again, running my hand over the crusty dried blood. I then looked back at Mitchell.

I continued to watch him. Seeing the gun in his hand, I knew he was the shooter, but for some reason, my fear was about gone. Mitchell was talking to me like a friend—well, almost a friend. And he had said he didn't want to hurt me.

"No, not totally. I have a god-awful headache is all."

Mitchell looked down for a second before returning his gaze on me.

"I'm sorry Jordan. I didn't know this was going to happen."

I continued to watch Mitchell, but after a brief silence, I asked, "Are you okay Mitch? You're not hurt, are you?"

"No, I'm okay."

Neither he nor I spoke for a time, periodically looking up toward one another. A standoff was in the making, and it began to make me nervous.

I kept wondering what Mitchell was doing here, with a gun. What was going on with him? Had he killed anyone? I didn't know what to say to him.

Mitchell looked toward me for a few moments more, but then turned his eyes toward the windows on the side wall of the classroom.

I watched Mitchell for a long time, but Mitch just kept staring toward the windows, not looking back at me. He looked as though he was in a trance, watching the sky and the soft puffy clouds outside of the window, transfixed.

I continued to silently watch him, wondering what he was thinking.

"What's going on Mitch? What's happening?" I finally asked.

Mitchell did not respond but continued concentrating on the clouds.

I remained silent after asking Mitchell that question. I didn't think I had ever been as afraid as I had been earlier… never in my life before. Now, I didn't think Mitchell had any intention of hurting me, but I was totally uncertain how I should talk to him. I wasn't about to push Mitchell for fear it might set him off in a rage again, if he'd been in a rage. This whole thing made no sense, but I didn't want to make things worse. If I upset him, I knew that could be the end of my life.

But suddenly, I thought, perhaps he's in more pain than I am. I can see that in his eyes. He's really concerned about something, maybe his own safety, and he's just trying to survive, but it seems more than that. My fears for my life, for my own safety, subsided with that acknowledgement.

I began to build courage within myself as I watched a still Mitchell. I needed to find out what was going on.


Mitchell did not move nor acknowledge my questioning.

I continued to stare toward Mitchell.

"Mitch?" I asked again in a slightly louder voice.

I waited for a few moments before trying to pursue my questioning, but before I could ask again, Mitchell turned his head to face me.

Mitchell's eyes , glistening with tears, told of the fear and pain he was experiencing. He closed his eyes for a moment, and a tear slid down each of his cheeks. Then he reopened them and just stared at me, not responding.

"Mitch, what's happening? What's wrong?"

Mitchell continued to simply stare. I didn't think he was going to respond at all, but then he surprised me.

"Jordan don't ask. Don't get involved. This is something I have to work out, and it doesn't involve you."

I didn't move after Mitchell said what he did. I just continued to watch him.

But the silence and building tension was too much for me. "Mitch, what doesn't involve me?"

Mitchell continued to stare at me but did not answer me.

I suddenly felt I might be pushing Mitchell too fast, but I had to find out what was happening. I had to continue.

I watched Mitchell's eyes for a moment, remembering when I had first seen him so many weeks ago and how those eyes had moved me when I saw him in the hallway.

"Mitch, I don't know what we're doing here, and I don't know what's been going on outside, but I bet the police are here right now, somewhere. With the shooting, they had to have been called," I said.

"I know," Mitchell replied and then returned his eyes to the windows.

Chirp, chirp, my cell phone called to me at that moment.

Mitchell instantly turned and stared at me, his face frowning.

I tried to reach my cell phone in my jean's pocket but fumbling with the tightness of the jeans, I was too late. The call had ended. I quickly pushed the call log icon to see who had called. It was a strange number I didn't recognize.

I looked up toward Mitchell with questions in my eyes.

"If it rings again, can I take the call?" I asked.

Mitchell grinned toward me, and then chuckled.

"I'm not your mom. Answer if you want to. It doesn't matter to me. I'm dead anyway."

I narrowed my eyes toward Mitchell. What did that mean?

"What's going on Mitch? What are we doing here?"

Mitchell looked back toward the windows for a moment but then looked down from the clouds directly into my eyes.

"Damn it, Jordan. What the hell do you think? I took a gun into school and shot all six rounds. What do you think is going to happen to me? There's probably a shit load of police out there right now, and do you think at my 18th birthday party is on their minds?"

Mitchell turned away from me, watching the window again.

I watched as the second tear rolled down Mitchell's cheek.

"I killed him, Jordan, that's what. I fucking killed him," Mitchell screamed at me as he stood up.

"Killed who? I don't understand Mitch."

"Trevor, that's who," Mitchell said in a quieter voice amidst his tears.

It finally dawned on me what he was talking about.

"You didn't kill him, Mitch. He committed suicide."

"And who the fuck do you think caused that," Mitchell angrily replied.

I couldn't speak, my mouth gapping open.

"Why'd you hit him, Jordan?" Mitchell asked.

I jumped up and turned around to face Mitchell. "What are you talking about, Mitch? Why the hell would I have hit him? He was my friend."

"Was he your friend, Jordan? Was he really?"

I sank to the floor, then, remembering my altercation with Trevor. That remembrance now made me burst into tears which streamed down my face. I had put the fact I had hit Trevor completely out of my mind because of the shame I had felt for doing it. Trevor was my friend, and I, in a moment of rage, had completely lost control of myself.

Trevor had told me Tim was not a good person, that Tim hated me. I knew it wasn't true, but I had to let Trevor know what he had just said was dead wrong and had hurt me deeply.

I looked back up at Mitch, unable to focus my eyes because of the tears streaming out of them.

Because Mitchell had just asked that question, I knew he knew why I had hit Trevor. Mitchell knew of Trevor's way of dealing with situations where he might be threatened and would try to hurt me in any way he could.

Nothing was said between us for a long time, Mitchell watching me, while I tried to get a handle on my emotions.

Finally, I looked up toward Mitchell. "You know, don't you?" I asked.

Mitchell could see the tears I still hadn't managed to control.

Mitchell also looked down toward the floor, shaking his head, but after a moment, looked directly into my eyes.

"Jordan, I've known for a long time."

I didn't move for a few moments. I didn't utter a word but continued staring at Mitchell.

"Jordan, you loved him, didn't you?"

I sat back down and looked up at Mitchell with the tears still leaking from my eyes. I grabbed my knees and pulled them solidly to my chest. Anguish filled my face as I stared at Mitchell. My lips pursed and then trembled.

"Yes. I loved him. Tim was…he was…everything I dreamed of. He was gentle and the kindest boy I have ever known. He was smart, he wasn't phony. He was…real. What more can I say about him?" I dropped my eyes from Mitchell to watch the tiles again and began speaking to them.

"I was too afraid to tell him, and now he's gone," I said in a quiet voice that shouted my grief.

Mitchell looked down at the floor for a moment, before returning his gaze toward me.

"Jordan, he loved you, too. I don't know if you knew that."

I looked back up, directly at Mitchell.

"How would you know that, Mitch?"

Mitchell had to chuckle for a moment, but then returned his attention to me. He got up and walked to where I was seated and sat down on the floor, Indian style, in front of me.

"Jordan, he talked about you incessantly. To him, you could do no wrong. Oh God, I knew then he was gay and was madly in love with you."

My eyes now were a flood. I was remembering the best thing that had ever happened in my life was Tim. I remembered the laughing over nothing when we were together. I remembered the silent touches between us, the eyes that looked upon each other with love so deep that the world was about to explode with our feelings for each other. Those feelings had never been stated, and now could never be.

Mitchell put his hand on my knee to comfort me.

I looked into Mitchell's eyes. "It's wrong for a guy to fall in love with another guy, isn't it?" I chokingly asked.

Mitchell lifted his hand from my knee, pulled his knees tightly around himself and looked directly at his arms holding them.

"No, not really," he softly said with a tear in his own eye.

I had to watch Mitchell for a moment.

"Mitch…Mitch! What do you mean, not really?"

Mitchell looked up at me, his eyes continuing to fill with tears. He was deep in thought and seemed to have come to a decision.

"I guess you don't see it do you, do you, Jordan?"

"See what?"

"Shit, Jordan. You don't get it, do you? I was in love with Trevor!"


Mitchell continued to stare at me, but just then a thought seemed to come into his mind.

"Was it because of what Trevor said to you about Tim? Mitchell asked. "He trashed him, didn't he, and you weren't going to let him get away with it. That's why you hit him, wasn't it?"

"NO!" I yelled.

I stared at Mitchell for a long moment.

"Yes." I said in a much quieter voice.

Mitchell lowered his head to his knees for a moment, but then looked up directly into my eyes.

"Jordan, I don't know if you'll understand me when I say this, but Tim is the whole reason for my existence. He's the reason I am who I am today. He told me to be me.

"I told Trevor what Tim and I had talked about. He became quite jealous of Tim, and when Tim mentioned you to Trevor, Trevor exploded and hit Tim. Trevor was so embarrassed and afraid of what he had done that he just ran away."

I folded my arms around my knees, tightly pulling them close to my chest. I looked out the window across the room momentarily before returning my gaze toward Mitchell. I slowly tilted my head to the right.

"How so Mitch? I didn't even know you knew Tim that well."

"Jordan, Tim was into theater. He wanted so desperately to be in a musical that was his all-time favorite, Carousel, and the school was going to put it on this spring. He was going to sing the part of Billy Bigelow in the most heart wrenching love song he had ever heard, his soliloquy. But Tim's father wouldn't allow it. That was when he told me he had to be himself for once in his life. Tim taught me something the night we spoke and was if we can't or won't be who we are, then we are nothing. What he said, forever changed my life. I told Tim I so wished I could be as brave as he was.

"That was when he told me he's not brave. He was afraid of his father. His dad came to the theater where they were rehearsing one night and told Tim he had to go home and shouted "Now" at him. Tim was so embarrassed that night he started crying in front of the whole cast. His dad grabbed him by his arm and led him off the stage, up the aisle and out the door."

"I knew about Tim being in the musical, but I had never heard what his dad did," I said.

"I told Tim to be himself and do the play," Mitchell said. "He also told me his fear of his father was overshadowing his desire to be himself.

"That's the night Tim shot himself," Mitchell said with tears in his eyes now along with mine.

I didn't want to hear what Mitchell just said. I didn't want to hear those words, not ever again.

It was more than I could take. My emotions were already ragged by what I'd been through since that first gunshot was fired. I released my knees from my grip and flung himself prone on the floor, sobbing hysterically while pounding my fists on the floor.

"No, no," I repeatedly screamed."

Mitchell moved over to be next to me, placed his hand on my back and slowly rubbed my back up and down to relax me.

I'm not sure how long it took for me to finally relax, but even then, the sniffles continued.

I turned to look at Mitchell in the face.

"I sorry, Mitch. I loved Tim so much, and this was hard for me to remember. I'm embarrassed because I'm such a crybaby."

"No, you're not, Jordan. You've been holding this in ever since you heard about Tim's committing suicide You deserved this cry, and I'm glad to see you finally let it all out."

Mitchell removed his hand from me, clenched his knees to his chest again and looked down at his arms. He did not look at me but spoke to himself.

"Jordan, something happened to me last month. It's something I'm ashamed of, but I know I shouldn't be."

Mitchell turned his focus to my eyes at that moment but then he looked back at his arms tightening on his legs.

"I was raped."

"WHAT?" I shouted.

Mitchell had to close his eyes so as to not see the scorn in my eyes he seemed to perceive would be there. He must have thought this revelation was about to end the friendship that was starting to become real to us.

I stared at Mitchell for a moment.

"Mitch, I don't know what to say to you. All I can think of to say is I'm sorry that happened to you, but it doesn't seem to be enough."

Mitchell looked up at me and I stared at him for a moment.

"Thanks, Jordan. But why haven't you asked me who did it?" he asked.

"Because, it's not important. What's important is how you're going to get on with the rest of your life."

Mitchell watched me for a long time, still clinging to his knees.

"Jordan, it is important to me, because that's the reason I'm here right now. It was my fault for introducing Trevor to Jeremy. Later that night, Jeremy raped Trevor. The next day, Jeremy came on to me, too. He found out Trevor and I were more than just friends and figured I would go along with the sex. I couldn't, and he had to force himself on me. I tried to fight him off, but he's way bigger and stronger than I am."

Realizing the grief Mitch was showing right then, I asked, "You loved Trevor, didn't you?"

"God, Jordan, you have no idea how much I loved him. He was my knight in shining armor; he was an angel sent from God to protect me; his face had the beauty of the first daffodil to break ground in the spring, he was everything to me."

"Mitch, you know what we are?"

"No, what?"

"We're just a couple of love-struct fools that are hurting too much right now," I said.

"How right you are, Jordan."

"Jeremy Crandall, the captain of our football team, huh?" I suddenly asked.

Yeah, the one and only."

I lowered my eyes for a moment before looking into Mitchell's again.

"Oh fuck, Mitch! I'm so sorry." Now it was my turn to put a hand on Mitchell's knee and look up into his eyes.

After looking at the palm of my hand on his knee, Mitchell turned to look up at me. "Thanks, but Jordan, I did a bad thing today. I was going to kill Jeremy. He's the reason Trevor is dead right now. He didn't pull the trigger, but he was in Trevor's room that night in spirit. It was all Trevor could take. The torment Trevor went through forced him to end his life."

My eyes were glued to Mitchell's. Suddenly my eye's burst into tears again.

"Ah, ah, ah, that's why Tim killed himself, too," I slobbered through my tears. I was finally able to admit what happened to both Tim and Trevor and the shame they both must have felt.

"Jordan, those shots you heard in school today…they were half mine. I was so angry with Jeremy and wanted him to die that I stupidly was telling everyone what I intended to do. Jeremy had heard through the school grapevine that I was out to get him, and he went home and brought his own gun to school."

"But Jordan, something happened to me later this morning. I remembered what Tim had said to me. Tim said I had to be myself, and I knew at that moment I was about to do something that wasn't me. I had let my anger overshadow who the real Mitchell is. I couldn't do it, Jordan. Killing Jeremy wasn't who I am.

"I had decided to leave school and take the gun home, and as I was about to leave, Jeremy came around the corner and saw me. He stood watching me for a moment until I saw him pull his gun out from under his tee shirt. Jordan, he fired that gun at me. I was scared to death, because I knew he wanted to kill me. I panicked and ran around the corner to protect myself, Jeremy fired again as I rounded the corner, and I could hear the whistle of the bullet as it passed my ear. Then I remembered the gun I had and pulled it out from my jeans. I looked around the corner and fired my pistol three or four times, I don't remember which. He fired back at me again. I remember looking around the corner again. He was running toward where I stood. I emptied the last rounds from the gun at him and watched him fall as his last shot was fired. He hit the floor and the bullet missed me. I knew what I had just done. I was done. Over with. I was as good as dead. I'd brought a gun to school, and I'd fired it. Fear gripped me so terribly I began shaking."

Again, tears streamed down Mitchell's face as he lowered his head into his hands.

"But, Mitch, how did you get the guns past the metal detectors?"

He briefly looked up at me through his tears. "There are ways, Jordan," was all Mitchell said.

There was no doubt in my mind that Mitch was trying to disguise his emotions as he wiped the tears from his cheeks with his shirtsleeve. Whatever was happening to him right now was not only about what he had done, but who he was, this boy that used pride to hide his anguish.

I sat quietly with my head lowered into my knees. I hadn't moved from where I was sitting for the past hour, and my ass was getting sore.

"My dad doesn't like me," I heard from Mitchell.

I slowly looked up at him and saw him again looking toward the windows in the classroom's side wall. I wasn't sure if I wanted to ask him why, but I sensed what he was feeling was deep inside of him, and he was finally searching for a way to get it out. I couldn't, nor did I want to, stop him. This seemed to be his moment of truth, and he was opening up.

"Why doesn't he like you, Mitch?" That felt like the lamest thing I could have ever asked, but I'd heard the emotion in his voice when he'd stated his father's dislike.

He finally turned his head to look into my eyes. He chuckled for a moment before he focused his eyes directly on me.

"Can't you guess why, Jordan? I just told you and it's not just that I love playing the piano, either."

I didn't want to answer him because I now knew it was because he was gay. Then a question crossed my mind and hit me like a ton of bricks. What is it with people who can't love their son, no matter what?

"Dad can't understand me, understand who I am," Mitchell said.

I couldn't stand it anymore. I moved over to sit next to Mitch and wrapped my arms around him and held him tight. Mitch grabbed hold of me, returning my embrace as he lowered his head to my shoulder and sobbed, crying as if his life had just left him.

"God, Mitch. I'm so sorry, and I don't know what to tell you," I whispered into his ear.

Mitchell raised his head and said, "I guess this makes crybabies out of both of us, huh?"

Just then, Jordan's cell phone chirped.

"Jordan?" he heard from his cell phone.

"Yeah, it's me."

"Are you all right, Jordan?"

I looked back toward Mitchell before answering, and I saw the fear in his eyes.

"I'm fine. Who am I talking to?" I said to my phone.

"I'm Lieutenant Marcy. I'm with the city's police department. Can you tell me who's with you?"

Again, I had to look over toward Mitchell, and I knew he wasn't alright. He was seated on the floor with his knees pulled up tightly to his chin. Mitchell was crying.

I turned my attention back to the cell phone.

"Lieutenant, I'm here with only Mitchell. He's not hurt, but he's scared right now."

Lieutenant Marcy cuffed his hand over the cell phone and turned to Sgt. Jamison. "Find out who this Mitchell guy is, and right now.

The sergeant turned and ran to his squad car, picked up his radio and started his inquires.

"Jordan, are you able to come outside?"

Again, I had to look at Mitchell.

"No sir. I can't."

"Jordan, is he holding you hostage?"

"Oh, no, God, no. And you can't come in here, either."

"Jordan, we need to have this situation come to an end, and…

"No! I shouted. You're just going to kill him," I screamed.

Tears started down my cheeks and wouldn't stop. I pursed my lips in determination.

"Is he the shooter, Jordan? Look, we need to make sure you're safe. Please, Jordan, work with us here. We're here to try to help you."

"Lieutenant, if you try to come in here right now, you'll be killing two people. Don't you fucking understand that?"

"Why, Jordan? What is it that's going on in there right now?"

"I'm talking to Mitch. That's all. And we need to finish our conversation."

"We have to end this, Jordan. Why don't you two come out? If he's not armed and shows us that, he's not going to be shot. As long as he's in there with a gun, no one's safe. Come out now, Jordan. With or without Mitchell, but you must come out. You can talk all you want out here when everything is settled down. We can have counselors here to talk with for both of you."

"Lieutenant, our conversation is just between Mitch and me, and no one else."

I looked toward my friend again. Mitchell was looking back directly into my eyes. Mitchell slowly nodded his head in approval at what I was saying to the police.

Lieutenant Marcy was about to give Jordan an ultimatum of coming out and letting the police handle Mitchell or they were going to be forced to come in forcibly when a hand touched his arm. Marcy turned around, agitated, and saw his police chief standing there.

"Frank, I've been listening on a feed of this phone call. Let it go. I know this kid, and his head is screwed on straight. I don't want anyone dead, especially these kids, if we can help it. Understand? They're only talking, and it doesn't seem like anyone's in any danger right now."

"Chief, this Mitchell kid could go off again at any time. He may be calm now, but we don't know what he'll do in the next 30 seconds. We need to move to protect Jordan."

"Sorry, Frank, but the answer's no. Give him the space he needs. I'm listening in on what is going on, and if I feel Jordan is in danger, I'll give you the go ahead. But right now, I don't think he is."

Lieutenant Marcy looked down, scratched his forehead for a moment before looking back up toward his chief.

"Okay, Matt. It's your call. I don't agree, but we'll play it your way for now."

Police Chief Langley smiled, nodded his head and turned to return to his car.

Lieutenant Marcy put the cell phone back to his ear. "You still there, Jordan?"

"Ha! Yeah, I'm still here, and I heard what the police chief told you."

"Okay, Jordan, it's your play for now. But you need to keep us informed of what is going on in there, what's being said."

"I'm sorry Lieutenant, but like I said, this conversation is between Mitch and me. It's none of your business. And if Mitch wants to talk about it later, that's his choice."

"Alright, Jordan. I'll be talking to you again. Keep this line free, okay?" Lieutenant Marcy said.

Lieutenant Marcy closed his phone, stared at it for a while, and then let out a sigh.

I hope this kid has it together like the chief believes, he thought to himself.

I closed my phone and again and looked up toward Mitch.

"They want to kill me, don't they?' Mitch asked.

"No. I think they only want to get this thing over with," I said, hoping I was telling him the truth.

"But, Jordan, I brought a gun into school. They think I killed people."

I was out of my league right now. I didn't know what the police were doing, but more importantly, what to say to Mitch. I felt helpless beyond measure.

"Mitch, I don't know what's going to happen. I'm as scared as you are."

Mitchell looked up into my eyes and a slight grin formed on his lips.

"Jordan, you just told the police to basically go fuck themselves, didn't you?"

I had to grin at that too. I looked down for a moment before returning my gaze to Mitch.

"Yeah, I did, didn't I?"

Mitchell grinned and even chuckled for a moment, but then his face frowned. He looked up toward me with his head tilted to the side.

"Jordan, why are you like this? Why are you trying to help me? You don't have to, you know?"

I instantly became beside myself. I hadn't really thought about what I was doing or what it all meant to me. Then it came to me, remembering what Tim had told both Mitchell and me. I looked to the ceiling, and my eyes clouded over. The tears couldn't stop themselves.


I looked down at the floor, but then returned my gaze to the ceiling. Finally, I looked directly into Mitchell's eyes.

"Mitch, I've learned this from Tim. I'm becoming me. Mitch, it's who I am."

Mitchell nodded his head, but then a shadow entered his face.

"Jordan, I don't want to die. I'm scared." Mitchell let another tear fall.

"What do you want to do Mitch?"

"I don't know what to do, Jordan. If I walk out of here, I'm a dead man."

I thought for moment, a long moment.

"Mitch, would you be willing to walk out there with me if you knew you would be safe, if nothing would happen to you other than being taken into custody?" I asked, a bit afraid of Mitch's answer.

"How's that going to be possible? They're going to see me with a gun and start shooting."

"Not if you leave the gun here and I'm with you, protecting you," I said with a smile.

"What do you mean, if you're protecting me?"

"I'm going to be walking with you. We'll be together. Arms around each other's shoulders. No one's going to shoot you if we're like that."

"You think that'll work?"

"I'll call the lieutenant, tell him we're coming out together, you don't have your gun, the only shooting you did was in self-defense, and you're no risk to anyone. I'll also call the newspaper and tell them the same thing, and they need to have a photographer here taking pictures as we leave the school, that we'll be coming out in fifteen minutes, so they'll have time to get people here to witness it. I don't know if it will work or not, but at least it's something to try."

Mitchell looked down at the familiar tile floor then looked up at me.

"Will you hold my hand, Jordan? I'm scared."

"Yes, of course I will. One arm each around our shoulders, our other hands reaching across our bodies clasped together."

I made my phone calls. The lieutenant wasn't happy, but rather than argue, I ended the call and then phoned the newspaper and gave them my message.

After fifteen minutes, Mitchell took and held my hand as if his life depended on it. We walked together out of the classroom and headed toward the front door.

"Hold on a second, Mitch," I said as I stopped within ten feet from the door.

I pulled out my cell phone and called the police outside.

"What is it, Jordan?" Lieutenant Marcy asked.

"Mitchell and I are coming out the front door in a moment, and here's what I want: I want a bull horn sitting on the top step of the door we're about to come out of. You know which door I'm talking about. It's the one right next to the chemistry lab. Next, I want your entire team to back away from the school by at least one hundred feet. You can count to one hundred, can't you lieutenant?" Without waiting for an answer, I continued. "We intend to only talk to the Chief of Police. I want him waiting for us at the bottom of the steps."

"Jordan, we can't meet all of those requests," the lieutenant said.

"Lieutenant, I don't think you understand me. This is NOT a request," I said to the cell phone with force in my voice. "The newspaper reporters are going to be watching. This can all be resolved peacefully, but we'll do it my way."

There was a long pause, and then: "I'll see what I can do," replied the Lieutenant.

"I'll be waiting for your call of confirmation," I said and closed my cell phone.

Within four minutes, my cell phone began chirping.

"Yes, Lieutenant?" I asked.

"The chief heard our conversation in his car and has agreed to what you want. He's on his way right now with the bull horn you requested. However, you'll need to give us a few more minutes to get all of our people away from the school."

"Agreed. Let me know when you're ready."

Within only a few minutes, my cell began chirping again.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"We're ready when you are."

"Okay. I'll be coming out first to get the bull horn and then I'll be going back inside for a moment. Understood?"


I let go of Mitchell's hand for a moment and moved to open the door but held it open for a moment while I looked outside. The Chief of Police was standing at the bottom of the steps and the bull horn was as it should have been at my feet. I also noticed photographers lined up behind the police lines with cameras on tripods aimed at me. I bend down and picked up the bull horn, turned it on and stepped back inside.

"Are you ready, Mitch?" I asked.

"No, but we need to get this over with," was Mitchell's reply.

Mitchell again gripped my hand as I open the door and kicked the rubber door stopper in place to keep the door open while I spoke into the bull horn.

"Mitchell and I are coming out now. He will be next to me; we'll have our arms around each other. We'll both be unarmed. If anyone tries to shoot him, you will have two dead kids on your hands. Mitchell had a gun with him that was left in the chem lab. You'll find it there. Neither of us are any risk at all to anyone."

As we stepped outside, we saw the sunshine for the first time in hours. We stopped for a moment for our eyes to adjust to the sunlight. After waiting a moment, we started down the steps. On the way down, I whispered to Mitchell, "The chief will probably have handcuffs for you. Don't worry though. Once you're in his custody, nothing more can happen to you."

Mitchell nodded with angst oozing from him. Once we reached the bottom of the steps, we saw the chief had his handcuffs out.

I spoke to the chief. "That really isn't necessary. Mitchell is completely innocent and is giving himself up freely."

"I understand," the chief said, "but I want everyone to see he's in custody and can relax. It's been tense out here as you can imagine, Jordan."

The chief slipped the handcuffs on Mitchell, then laid a gentle hand on his shoulder and led him away. Mitchell was crying. My lips quivered and then my tears fell, too, as I watched my friend being led away.

Watching me standing alone at the school entrance, my mom could wait no longer. She broke through the police line and ran to me, enveloping me in her crushing hug. No one from the police followed her, allowing her to be with me, knowing who she was.

"Oh Jordan," she passionately exclaimed. Are you alright?" Then she looked at me, and asked, "Where'd all the blood come from? What happened to you?"

"I may look like a mess, but I'm fine, Mom. But I'm terribly worried about Mitch. It turns out he was one of the shooters."

"You spent all those hours alone with a school shooter?" Mom questioned.

"It's not what you think, Mom. I learned a lot about him, and he learned a lot about me. We talked almost the entire time, we laughed together, we cried together, and I came away from this with a far better understanding of who I am than I ever imagined."

"Let's go home, son. Thank God, this is all over," my mom said.

It took an entire day for the police to go through the school before declaring it safe to re-enter. I returned to school the following day, resuming my normal routine. As I walked past the Chemistry Lab, I had to stop, remembering what had happened in there. My eyes glassed over as I remembered the anguish and joys both Mitchell and I had gone through.

When I was about to walk away, Kim ran up to me, embracing me in a tight hug.

"Are you alright Jordan? That must have been a terrible thing for you to have gone through," she stated.

"I don't think you'd quite understand what I went through, Kim. It was an experience I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. It was horrible, joyous and totally enlightening.

"I need to get to class, Kim," I said as I turned and walked away leaving Kim not understanding what I had just said to her.

"Mom, do you know what's happening to Mitch?" I asked my mom at breakfast one morning a week after school restarted.

"I know that horrible kid is in jail right now where he belongs," Mom stated.

I lowered my head for a moment and then looked back up at my mom.

"Mom, I want to go see him."

"Why would you want to do that? He killed someone in that school and deserves what he'll get."

"You've got this all wrong, Mom. Mitch killed someone who truly deserved to get killed," I said to her. "Mitch only shot him to keep from being killed himself."

I don't think she even heard me. Ignoring what I'd said, she gave me a look and said, "I get the impression this Mitchell guy really means something to you, Jordan."

"You don't know the half of it, Mom. Yes, he means a lot more to me than you can imagine. In a way, he's my hero," I said in my and Mitchell's defense.

"I don't understand why a killer can be a hero to you, Jordan."

"I can understand what you feel, Mom, but you've got it wrong. Can I go see him?"

Mom had to think for a moment, but finally relented.

"I suppose you can go see him. I'll make the arrangements for a visit with him," she said.

I looked at my mom for a moment.

"Thank you, Mom."

I waited in the lobby of the county jail for what seemed a lifetime but was only ten minutes. Finally, an officer came out to get me. I was shown to a room that had four glass widows with chairs in front of each. Mitchell was seated behind one of the glass panels and I walked over to him and took the seat in front of his window.

"How are you doing, Mitch?" I asked.

"I'm fine," was all Mitchell said. His voice was flat, as were his eyes.

"You don't look fine."

"Well, I guess I'm not. Jordan, I'm scared. I can't sleep at night wondering what's going to happen to me."

"Do you have a lawyer?" I asked.

"Yes. Dad hired a lawyer, and he came to see me yesterday. His name is Jack Turner, and Dad tells me he's very good.

"How did that go?" I asked.

"I told him everything, about Trevor, about Tim, about Jeremy and about you."

"Wow. That must have taken hours to tell."

"Jordan, I cried the whole time we talked."

I raised my hand and placed it on the window as I looked into Mitch's eyes saying nothing.

Mitchell followed my gesture and placed his hand on his side of the window over mine and held it there. We looked at each other as tears ran down both of our cheeks.

After regaining our composure, Mitchell said, "My attorney wants to put you on the witness stand."

"Why does he want to do that?" I asked.

"He seems to think you may have a lot to say to the jury."

Just then a jailor came into the room and said, "I'm sorry but vising hours are over. You came in a little late, and I can't let it go past the hour.

I looked into Mitchell's eyes and said, "Be brave, Mitch. Everything will turn out okay," not believing any of the words I had just said to him.

The morning of Mitch's trial, Mom, Dad and I all went to the courthouse, and as we entered the courtroom, we found it practically empty except for Mitchell's dad, who was seated in the front row. We filed in next to him, Dad first, Mom second and me sitting next to Mom. We made some small talk with Mitch's dad, but it was short-lived. The entire experience was extremely somber, and we sat quietly until the jury entered the courtroom from a side door. There were fourteen of them, two being alternates.

"All rise," the bailiff said as the judge entered the courtroom and sat behind the bench. The bailiff continued, "The District Court for Marine County, California, is in now in session. Judge Jackson Moore presiding."

"Be seated," the judge said.

"We're here today to hear docket 625-12, a case of voluntary manslaughter as defined by California Penal Code 192(a), against Mr. Mitchell Toller. Are all persons having standing in attendance," the judge asked.

Mitchell's attorney rose, and said, "Yes, Your Honor. I'm Jack Turner, and I will be representing Mr. Toller seated next to me."

"Prosecution?" the judge asked.

The County Prosecutor rose, and said, "I'm Mary Anne Henderson, and I will be representing the State of California. Seated next to me are two of my assistant prosecutors, Mr. James Lowery and Ms. Nancy Newcome, Your Honor."

"Thank you. We'll now hear opening arguments. Ms. Henderson?"

Mary Henderson rose and faced the jury. "This a simple case in that Mr. Toller has admitted what he did, but it's not that simple, either. We had originally charged Mr. Toller with premeditated murder in the first degree. Our charge against Mr. Toller was modified to be voluntary manslaughter for reasons the defense will go into detail on. I ask the jury to not be fooled by some of the emotional evidence that will be presented to you. Penal Code 192 is very specific as to what voluntary manslaughter requires. Do your best to follow the rules of Penal Code 192. Thank you."

"Mr. Moore?"

"Thank you, Your Honor." He then turned to the jury. " We intend to prove that Mitchell Toller did in fact intend to act with malice when he entered the school that day, but circumstances for him changed before he was confronted by Jeremy Crandall. Mitchell Toller's malice left him, and he was confronted with a new danger, because Jeremy Crandall intended to kill him. You will hear all the evidence from witnesses as this trial moves forward. I ask you to keep an open heart as well as an open mind for what Mitchell Toller was facing. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen."

"Okay, call your first witness, Ms. Henderson," the judge said.

"I call Ms. Kimberly Smithfield to the stand."

Kim walked into the courtroom through the rear door, walked to the bar, opened it and proceeded inside.

The bailiff held a bible out to her and asked that she put her right hand on it. She did.

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

"I do," she answered.

"Please have a seat, Ms. Smithfield," the bailiff said and held his hand out motioning to the witness chair.

"Ms. Smithfield, please state you full name for the record," the judge asked.

"It's Kimberly Marie Smithfield," Kim said.

"Thank you. You may proceed, Ms. Henderson," the judge said.

"Kimberly, oh, may I call you Kim?"


"Kim, do you know Mr. Toller?"

"Yes, I do."

"And how do you know him?"

"We go to the same school together."

"I'd like to refer to a conversation you had with Mr. Toller the morning of the shooting. Do you remember conversation?"

"Yes, ma'am, I do."

"Can you tell us about that conversation, please?"

"Well, Mitch was upset because a close friend of his was sexually attacked. He said he intended to get even."

"Who was this friend, and how was he attacked?"

Kim looked at me sitting in the front row, almost pleading for an answer from me. I nodded my head toward her.

"The boy that was attacked was Trevor Thompson."

"And how was he attacked?"

Kim hesitated for a moment.

"Ms. Smithfield?" the prosecutor asked.

"He was raped," Kim emotionally said.

"And do you know who raped him?"

"Mitch said it was Jeremy Crandall."

"Did he give that name in your conversation with Mr. Toller?"


"That's all I have, Your Honor."

"Cross, Mr. Turner?"

"I have no questions, Your Honor."

"Your next witness, Ms. Henderson," the judge said.

"I call Mr. Jason Eldridge to the stand."

Jason, as Kim did, entered the courtroom from the rear door. He was accompanied by his parents, who sat in the second row of seats, while Jason crossed the bar.

The bailiff swore him in, and Jason proceeded to sit in the witness chair.

"Please state your full name for the record," Judge Moore asked.

"I'm Jason Ray Eldridge."

"Thank you. Your witness, Ms. Henderson."

"Thank you, Your Honor."

"Jason, may I call you Jason?"


"Jason, do you know Mr. Mitchell Toller?"

"Yes, I do."

"Where do you know him from?"

"We were on our school's football team together. He was a running back until they promoted him to backup quarterback."

"How would you describe Mr. Toller's attitude toward football?"

"He was a good player, but he used to get a little rough sometimes."

"What do you mean by a little rough?"

"Well, sometimes when he got tackled too hard, he became angry."

"What would he do when he got angry?"

"Sometimes, he'd just push the tackler out of his way, and a couple of times, he would get into a fight and start hitting the other player."

"How many times did you see him get into a fight?"

"I saw it twice, but never with the guys on our team; it was always the team members we were playing against."

"Thank you, Jason. I have no further questions."

"Cross, Mr. Turner?" the judge asked.

"Thank you, Your Honor."

"Jason, when Mitchell Toller had those fights, was he provoked in any way?"

"Yeah, you could say that. Every time he got into a fight it was because he was fouled in some way. One guy yanked his helmet completely off his head."

"I have no more questions, Your Honor."

"Redirect, Ms. Henderson?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

"Jason, when Mr. Toller had those fights, was he enraged at the other player. I mean did it seem to you that he was out of control?"

"No, mam. He knew what he was doing. He told me once that the other guy just needed to be taught a lesson."

"No further questions, Your Honor."

"Recross, Mr. Turner?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

"Jason, you did say that before each fight, Mr. Toller was provoked. Is that correct?"

"Yes. Each time."

"Thank you, Jason. No further questions, Your Honor."

"You're excused, Mr. Eldridge,"

"Ms. Henderson?"

"No, Your Honor. The State rests."

"I'm going to call a recess until after lunch. Court will reconvene at 1:30 this afternoon. Court is adjourned until then," Judge Moore said and banged his gavel,

After the trial was adjourned, Mom, Dad, Mitchell, Mr. Turner and I went to an attorney's conference room adjacent to the courtroom. It had a small conference table with six chairs and a small kitchenette counter with sink and a coffee maker. The coffee pot was half full and it looked to be still warm.

Mom, Dad and I set at the sides of the table, while Mr. Turner sat at the head of the table.

"How did it go this morning, Jack? I'm a little confused over the testimony so far," Dad asked.

"The prosecutor wanted murder one, but I explained our case to her, and she finally agreed with voluntary manslaughter. The statutory rules for voluntary manslaughter are very specific. There must be no 'malice aforethought.' That means Mitchell had to think about killing Jeremy well before hand. That's what she tried to prove with her first witness. The second witness was there to prove Mitch was not in a 'state of rage.' It's a little confusing because she thought Mitch was calm when he shot Jeremy.

"I can't put Tim or Trevor on the stand for obvious reasons So what I want to do is put Jordan on the stand. He's the only one who knows what went on in that classroom."

"Who are Tim and Trevor? I don't know either of their names." Mom asked.

"They are two boys that are a major part of this story. This story is a tragedy that Jordan will be telling.

Jack Turner turned to me.

"Jordan, this may be the most difficult thing you will ever do. Mitchell told me everything you two said to each other. Some of it was scary and emotional. I know you both cried a lot. I need you to go first to collaborate what Mitch will say when I put him on the stand."

Jack then turned to my parents,

"Mr. and Mrs. McKinney, when I put Jordan on the stand, you may hear some troubling things about your son. But believe me, you're going to be proud of him.

"Are you ready for this, Jordan?"

I looked at my mom and dad, hoping they would say no, that I couldn't go up there. I knew I would have to say things that were private between Mitch and me, that were no one else's business. But then I knew Jeremy had made it everyone's business, and it was up to me to help save Mitch.

"Mom, Dad, I'm going to say I'm sorry for what you may hear today. Some you may like, but there will a lot you won't like. I'm sorry for that."

"Mr. and Mrs. McKinney, I need your permission to put Jordan on the stand because he's only sixteen."

"Jordan has said a few things to me that don't make any sense, but I'm seeing and hearing things that might shed some light on what's been going through his mind lately," Mom said.

Mom turned her attention to me, and asked, "Jordan, do you want to testify?"

My breathing was starting to get heavier.

"Mom, if there was any way I didn't have to testify, I'd love to take it. But, I can't. Mitch does not deserve what's happening to him, and if I can stop it in any way, I will do just that."

My heart was now pounding like a freight train running over broken tracks. This was something I had to do, to be me.

"Your first witness, Mr. Turner," the judge said.

"I want to call Mr. Jordan McKinney to the stand."

Mitch turned around and looked at me as I walked past the bar. He had uncertainty in his eyes. I smiled at him hoping to make him understand everything was okay. He knew what I was about to say would embarrass him.

After I was sworn in and seated, Mr. Turner began.

"Jordan, first I'd like you to tell us who Tim and Trevor were, in your own words, please."

"Objection, relevance," the prosecutor said.

Mr. Turner responded. "Your Honor, these two boys, Tim and Trevor, have major relevance here. Their part in this story will become clear as Mr. McKinney's testimony continues."

The judge thought for a moment.

Ms. Henderson, I'm going to overrule this objection, but only for the moment. Mr. Turner, be careful. Mr. McKinney you may answer the question."

"Okay, I said. Tim Sorenson was a quiet boy…"

I went on to tell what I knew about Tim, and in their turns, Trevor and Mitchell.

After I was done, I looked over toward Mitchell. Mitchell was shaking his head back and forth with his eye's closed.

"Thank you, Jordan. Now, I'd like you to start from the beginning and tell us in your own words what happened at your school that day."

"Okay. It all started for me when I heard gunshots in the school…"

Jordan went on to tell the court everything that had happened to him and to Mitchell. He left nothing out, including the emotional and tear wrenching revelations between him and Mitchell, about their loves and about the hopeless tragedies that had occurred.

When he was finished, Jordan was openly weeping.

I looked over at Mitchell and saw him with his head in his hands on the table, also crying. I was crying for Tim, and I knew he was crying for Trevor.

"Jordan, I know this was a gut-wrenching experience for you, not just in that classroom, but also here in this courtroom. I want to commend you on your bravery for telling us this story," Jack Turner said to me.

"Your Honor, I have no further questions for this witness,"

"Cross, Ms. Henderson?"

"Before we do, I'd like a continuation of this trial until tomorrow to consult with my office. This has been a long and tiring afternoon."

"Granted. Court will adjourn until 3:OO tomorrow afternoon. The witness is excused until tomorrow afternoon."

With that, the gavel sounded.

I got up from the chair and watched Mitchell come around from his table. He ran to me, and we threw our arms around each other, him engulfing me and me engulfing him. We both continued our cry, believing it would last for centuries, but the bailiff said he had to take Mitchell back to his cell. We had to break our hug and I again had to watch him being led away.

I turned around and found my mom crossing the bar to get to me. We collided and I continued bawling. My dad and I hardly ever spoke to one another, but I found him hugging both my mom and me. Dad was also crying with massive tears running down his cheeks. I was drained.

Dad drove us home that evening and the car was quiet except for Mom's sniffling. Dad kept glancing in the rearview mirror at me, and every time he did, his smile radiated throughout the whole car.

"Dad, is everything alright? You keep looking at me," I asked.

"Son, you have no idea how 'right' everything is right now. Let's get home to talk, because I think your mother is about to burst with things to ask and to say to you."

I had barely made it in the door when Mom was at me, holding on to me with every ounce of strength she had.

"Jordan, you have no idea how proud your dad and I are of you. We didn't know how hard this was going to be for you, but you stood up and spoke the truth as you knew it, no matter how hard it was," Mom said.

"You weren't upset the find out your son is gay?"

"Absolutely not, especially the way you described your feelings for Tim. It was absolutely beautiful. And we are so sorry you had to lose him."

I couldn't help the tear sliding down my cheek, hearing Tim's name…and remembering. And in no time, I was bawling.

Dad rushed over to us and put his arms around the three of us.

"I'm sorry, but I can't get Tim out of my mind, I said. "I loved him so much. And the most aching part for me is I never got to tell him."

"I think Tim knows," Mom said.

With that, my bawling went over the roof.

"Jordan, I think it would be a good idea if you got some sleep about now."

"I need that, Mom. I'm wrung out. I don't want dinner; I just want sleep."

With that, I made my way to my bedroom and was asleep even before my head hit the pillow.

Jack Turner requested we meet in the conference room at 1:30 PM. He said he had a few words for us, and when we got to the conference room, he was already there waiting for us.

After we all sat down, Jack turned to me and said, "Jordan, what you told the Jury yesterday was nothing short of amazing. The amount of detail you gave was over the top. I don't know how you were able to remember so much. You not only proved our case, but we now have an opportunity to have the whole case thrown out of court."

"What do you mean?" Dad had to ask.

"I mean what Jordan said to the jury is now a perfect case for self-defense. I talked to Mitchell last night and again earlier this morning. I have to put Mitchell on the stand to corroborate what Jordan said in his testimony. But the way Mitchell feels right now, I don't want him to be cross-examined. I want the prosecution to see the solid case for self-defense and drop this case. I'm afraid Mitchell might not even remember what he told you, mostly because he can't get Trevor out of his mind."

Mom looked at me.

"Mr. Turner, I know exactly what Mitch is going through, because I'm going through the same thing with Tim," I had to say.

"You two have gotten pretty close, haven't you?" Mr. Turner asked.

I looked over at my mom and dad for a moment before turning my attention back to Mitch's attorney.

"Mr. Turner, Mitch and I are more than just brothers. What we went through makes us much more than that," I said.

"Well, we'd better get to the courtroom before the judge fines me for contempt. "

With that, we all headed down the hall.

"All rise," the bailiff said as Judge Moore entered the courtroom.

"Is the prosecution ready for cross-examination?" the judge asked.

I looked at Mitch, who had fear in his eyes.

"Yes, Your Honor, we have a few questions for Mr. McKenny," Ms. Henderson said.

"Mr. McKenny, please return to the witness chair, and remember you're still under oath," the judge said to me.

I sat in the chair, waiting for their questions.

"Mr. McKenny, did you witness the gunfire with your own eyes?"

"No. I only heard Mitchell describe it to me."

"So, you weren't really there?"


"I have no further questions for this witness, Your Honor."

"The witness is excused," Judge Moore said.

As I was returning to my seat with Mom and Dad in the front row, I looked over at Mitch. He had his head in his hands on the table.

"Your next witness, Mr. Turner?"

"Thank you, Your Honor. I'd like to call Mr. Mitchell Toller."

I watched as Mitch shakingly rose from the table and walked toward the witness box. After he was sworn in, he sat in the box.

"Mr. Toller, would describe how you were feeling the morning of the shooting?"

"I was angry."

"What were you angry about?"

"I was mad at Jeremy Crandall."

"And why was that, Mitchell?"

Mitchell put his hands to his face, quiet for many moments, seeming to not want to answer that question.

"Mitchell?" Mr. Turner said.

Mitchell exploded.

In a loud and angry voice, Mitchell said, "It was because he raped Trevor and then me. He was responsible for Trevor killing himself!"

I could see tears running down on Mitch's cheeks as he said that.

"I know that was hard for you to say Mitchell. But, how did you know it was Mr. Crandall who did this to him?"

"Because Trevor told me he had had sex with Jeremy and that he didn't want it, but Jeremy forced himself on him."

"You also said Jeremy had raped you. Is that correct?"


"How did that happen?"

I heard Mitch let out heavy sigh.

"Jeremy told me because Trevor and I were more than just friends, my boyfriend, I would want it too. I said no, but he's a lot bigger than I am, so he forced himself on me."

"I thank you for that Mitchell. I'm sorry for having to put you through that again, but the jury had to hear it.

"Would you please describe to the jury what actually happened when Mr. Crandell fired a gun at you?"

"Objection, Your Honor. Who fired the first shot has not been established." Ms. Henderson said.

"I'll rephrase the question, Your Honor."

"Before I rephrase the question, let me take you back to that morning. Did you have a change in your attitude that morning?"

"Yes. That morning I had remembered what Tim Sorenson had said to me. He told me I had to be me; In essence to live up to who I am. Killing Jeremy was not who I am. I had thought, when I got to school, I was going to kill him, but as the day went on, I kept remembering Tim and decided to be who I am, I had to take the gun home."

"When did you first see Mr. Crandell that day?"

"I was about to leave the school to go home when I saw him come around the corner in the hallway.'

"What happened then?" Mr. Turner asked.

"We both saw each other at about the same time. I saw him pull a gun out from under his tee shirt, and he fired it at me. I was so scared I ran back to get around the corner of the hall. He fired again, and as I rounded the corner, I heard the bullet's whistle as it flew past my ear."

"And then what happened?"

"I knew he was trying to kill me. Then I remembered I still had my gun and pulled it out of my jeans. I knew I had only six rounds in the magazine. I put my arm around the corner without looking at him and fired my gun about three or four times; I don't remember how many times. He fired one more time, and I knew this was a now or never thing happening, so I looked around the corner and saw him coming toward me. I fired my last two rounds at him and saw him fall backward. His gun went off one more time as he was falling."

"Did you go over to him?"

"No. I knew what I had just done. I had killed him. I was so terrified at what I had done I was shaking. I started walking away from him, walking around the school in a daze. I was afraid that I was now a dead man, because the police would kill me for what I had done.

I started looking for a place to hide, until I saw the chemistry lab classroom and went inside to hide."

"I have no further questions, Your Honor. And, I must thank Mr. Toller for being brave enough to tell us what happened. That was not easy for him."

"Cross Ms. Henderson?"

"Not at this time, Your Honor, but we reserve the right to recall this witness at a later time."

"Granted. Your next witness, Mr. Turner?"

"I call Dr, Keith Nelson to the stand."

I looked back and saw a middle-aged man dressed in a three-piece grey suit enter the courtroom from the rear door. After he was sworn in, he took a seat in the witness box. I had never seen him before and wondered who he was.

"Dr. Nelson, could you describe to the jury where you practice and what you specialty is.?"

"Yes. I practice at Mercy Hospital, and my specialty is forensic science."

"Could you explain to the jury what forensic science is?"

"Yes. When a crime has been committed, we're asked to investigate the circumstances around that crime."

"Did you investigate what happened to Jeremy Crandell?"

"Could you please tell us what you found out?"

"Mr. Crandell died of a single gunshot to the heart. He had three other wounds that were not fatal, one to the upper part of his left leg and two to the left shoulder. These three wounds had just barely scratched the skin."

"Did you also trace the trajectory of the bullets that were fired?"

"Yes, we did. We found a Smith and Wesson 38-caliber snub nosed revolver lying next to Mr. Crandell. We found three 38-caliber bullet holes in doors of the student lockers and one in the linoleum floor close to Mr. Crandell's body."

"What other bullet holes did you find?"

"We found six more bullet holes in the walls of the hall. They were all nine-millimeter bullets. One bullet was the one that went through Mr. Crandell's body. It was deformed and carried some of Mr. Crandell's blood."

"Thank you, Dr. Nelson. I have no further questions."

"Cross, Ms. Henderson?"

"Thank you, Your Honor."

"Dr. Nelson, could you tell us the timing of each bullet; when each was fired?"

"I'm sorry, but we would have no way of establishing the timing of each shot fired."

"Thank you, Dr. Nelson. I have no further questions," Ms. Henderson said.

"The witness is excused. Your next witness, Mr. Turner?" the judge asked.

"I call Mr. Johnathan Kepler to the stand."

I know John, I thought. He's in my US History class and also swims on our team.

After John was sworn in and seated in the witness box, Mr. Turner approached him.

"My I call you John?" Mr. Turner asked.


"Do you go to the same school as Mr. McKenny, Mr. Toller and Mr. Crandell?"

"Yes. I know all three of them."

"Where were you when the shots were fired?"

"I was in the hall heading to my geometry class."

"Did you see Mr. Toller and Mr. Crandell in the hall?"

I was walking next to Mitch, but then I saw Jeremy walk around the corner and come into the hall I was in."

"Could you tell us what happen after that?"

"I saw Jeremy pull out a gun and train it toward me and Mitch."

"And then what happened?"

"Jeremy shot at Mitch…twice. I knew that was a gun, so I dove to the floor. I was scared shi…to death. Mitch ran around the corner to hide himself, I suspected.

"And then what happened?"

"Then Mitch pulled out a gun and fired four times around the corner without looking. I think Jeremy was hit in the leg and arm, but he still came toward Mitch. Then Mitch stepped out from around the corner and fired two times at Jeremy. Jeremy was hit hard by one of the bullets and went down. There was blood everywhere, and when Jeremy went down, his gun went off again,"

"Thank you, John. You've been very helpful. I have no further questions, Your Honor."

"Cross, Ms. Henderson?"

"No, Your Honor, but may we approach the bench?" Ms. Henderson asked.

Both Ms. Henderson and Mr. Turner walked up to the judge's bench.

"Yes, Ms. Henderson?"

"Your Honor, my office would like to drop our case against Mr. Toller."

Judge Moore starred at the prosecutor for a moment.

"Okay. Let's discuss this in my chambers," the judge said to the two attorneys.

"I was wondering when we would get around to this, Ms. Henderson," Judge Moore said. "Last night I had a chance to review Mr. McKinney's testimony and today I heard Mr. Toller's testimony. I'm reading a clear case for self-defense," Judge Moore said.

Mr. Turner?"

"We agree, Your Honor. That was the defense we were planning to bring."

"Ms. Henderson?"

"Our office came to the same conclusion last night, judge."

"Okay, if we're all in agreement, let's get back into the courtroom and let that boy go home."

"Ms. Henderson, you may proceed," the judge said.

"Mr. Toller, there is no reason for you to continue your testimony," she said.

Mitch now had questions in his eyes.

"Your Honor, the State is withdrawing its charges against Mr. Toller. It became clear, with Mr. McKinney's and Mr. Toller's testimony, what happened to Mr. Toller and Mr. Crandall was a clear case of self-defense."

Mitchell put his hands on the wall in front of the witness stand and very slowly began rising to his feet.

"Thank you, Ms. Henderson. This case is dismissed. Mr. Toller, you are free to go.

Mitch's eyes now were as large as hot air balloons. His grin was returning to that wonderful smile I so admired.

I then walked past the bar to Mitch as he exited the witness box and gave him a bear hug, which he returned.

I grabbed his hand and we walked toward where his dad was standing in the aisle, but Mitch stopped and looked at me.

"Jordan, Tim told me something. He told me there's a song lyric I should hear. And then he told it to me: When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don't be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm there's a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of a lark. It's from the musical that Tim was going to sing.

I looked over at Mitch, and asked, "When did he tell you that?"

Mitch looked at his dad and said, "Just now!"

We continued our walk toward Mitch's dad. He looked down at our held hands, looked back at his son, smiled and took Mitch's' other hand. The three of us, followed by my mom and dad, walked out of the courtroom. We walked out of courthouse, to a golden sky of the of the evening sunset and a lark's sweet sound.

The End

I couldn't have written this story without the tireless work of my editors. I am indebted to him.

If you liked this story, or if you didn't like it, please let me know.

Richard Norway

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