by Richard Norway

I was running down the slippery dock as fast as I could, needing to get away from the boy who was chasing me. My heart was pounding in my chest as I tried to breathe, my gasps becoming gulps of air. I was exhaling fast as I could, needing my next breath in my lungs, now! The boats safely tied up to the dock flashed by me in a blur as I ran. Finally, I could see the gate at the end of the dock ahead of me, my escape, my freedom. I knew it had a push button combination lock on the outside, but it only took a push to the bar from inside to open it.

The guy chasing me was tight on my heels as I reached the gate. I swung it as hard as I could, opening it so that it hit the stops and sprang back after I scooted through and knocked my attacker so hard that he fell backward onto the dock. I continued my dash to the street out front and could hear him shouting at me, "This isn't over, Tanner. Don't let me see you back here again, or you'll know what'll happen to you."

Kyle, the boy who was after me, had been my nemesis since I was 14 last year. I'm about average for a 15-year-old now at 5'-9" but I'm skinny, almost scrawny and have no idea how to defend myself. On the other hand, Kyle is much bigger and taller than I am even though we're the same age.

My problem with Kyle this time started about a week after our boat was tied to the dock. My dad asked me to double up line Number one, meaning adding a second line to secure the boat instead of just one. Line Number one is the line that secures the bow of the boat to a cleat on the dock. I was having trouble getting it right, the way my dad had showed me, when Kyle walked up behind me and watched me for a moment before he said in a sarcastic voice, "Don't you know anything? There must be something wrong with you."

I'm not a brave kid. I try to keep to myself under the radar as much as I can but struggling with that line and having him talking down to me in his demeaning voice angered me. I turned my head to him, not getting off the deck, and somewhat defensively shouted, "Hey, I'm still new at this. Give me a break, huh?" and turned back to tying the line to the cleat. That was brave of me, wasn't it?

"God, you're pathetic," he shouted at me.

Ever since then, he needled me for just about anything. He was a bully. I knew the type. I had been harassed by bullies throughout my high school career, and Kyle typified them.

Once I reached the street, I looked back and saw that Kyle wasn't chasing me anymore, so I slowed and eventually stopped running. I wondered about myself, wondering how I would ever find courage to stand up to him, given his size advantage of at least two inches in height and twenty pounds in weight.

I saw a bench under a large eucalyptus tree just outside the marina, looked around again and headed for it. When I sat down, my breathing was still overpowering my lungs, and took some time to stabilize.

The shoreline had a long dock bordering the rock seawall running the entire length of the marina. From that long dock were shorter docks perpendicular to the long one jutting out into the artificial marina. The entire marina was encircled by a rock breakwater with an opening at one end to allow boats to travel in and out. I always thought the breakwater was useless because this was Lake Erie, for God's sake, smooth and calm most of the time. Then it dawned on me that Lake Erie had been known on occasion to become quite angry when the winds came up creating almost heavy waves. I guess the engineers knew what they were doing.

Again, I turned my head to see if Kyle might have returned but could see no trace of him. Making my way back to the dock, I stopped before entering the gate to check both ends of long dock. No Kyle. I let out a loud 'whew', feeling a little safer. I remained vigilant as I made my way back to our boat.

Dad was relaxing at the rear of the boat - the fantail - in a canvas deck chair enjoying his late morning second cup of coffee. He looked up at me as I clumsily stepped over the boat rail and plopped down on another deck chair beside him.

"Did you get line one doubled safely? It looks like there may be quite a wind coming up this afternoon," Dad asked. So, just to be safe we should probably double up the two midships and the aft line as well."

I just love it when Dad talks nautical stuff to me. Dad was a Lieutenant Commander when he was in the Navy and the navigator on an old WWII Destroyer. The ship had been in the Reserve Fleet for almost twenty years and only went to sea once a month when the reservists came aboard for their weekend duty. Dad left the Navy well before his retirement age and settled us in Ann Arbor, Michigan and opened a manufacturing business. I think he wanted close to the Great Lakes so he could be near water. He always seemed to be in a world apart from the rest of us when he was plotting courses to take, setting speeds so he would know exactly when we would be in port at all our destinations on Lake Erie and Lake Huron. Lake Huron was large enough so that you couldn't see land when you were far enough from shore. When we cruised the Lakes, he would sometimes stand at his station on the flybridge smelling the air with a shit-eating grin on his face. He had no fear about not being able see land as he always seemed to know where we were. I think he would have enjoyed it even more if the Lakes were salt water.

Over the past month, Dad has been teaching me how to be a sailor. He calls me his First Mate. Well, I must be first since it's only he and I on board. That makes him the captain, right? The boat is a used 1970 32-foot Bayliner with a king-size bed in the aft cabin that also had a sink and closet space. The forward V-birth sleeps two, also with closet space. There's a small galley - that's a kitchen for you landlubbers, a head, which means a bathroom, with a toilet and, believe it or not, a shower. The inside cabin has a table that seats six and converts into a double bed and an inside helm station when it's too rainy outside.

I love this boat almost as much as Dad does, and I love being with him when it's just us alone.

My mom died a week after Dad bought our boat last month. She was driving home when a drunk driver ran a red light and broadsided her car. She died instantly as did the drunk driver. The police said that he must have been driving well over 50 miles per hour. Mom was a court reporter for our district court.

I miss her terribly, and Dad tries his darndest to keep me sane. Since the accident, he's tried to keep me close to him hence the weekend trips out on the Lakes.

I became quite a chef in that small galley, and Dad would call me 'Cooksey' or 'Slushy' or something that they call culinary specialists aboard a Navy boat. We rarely ate in restaurants when we traveled to ports on the Lakes.

My favorite port was Sandusky on Lake Erie because of the theme park named Cedar Point located on the lake. We were able to tie-up in the park's marina for practically nothing compared to hotel fare and had our own entrance into the park. What 15-year-old wouldn't be thrilled with that? I sure was.

Dad helped me double up the rest of the lines and even showed me again how they were supposed to work. Dad had been right. The winds really picked up on Sunday. Their howling came close to popping my eardrums, or at least it seemed that way.

We stayed inside most of the day, Dad reading a book and me finishing up my essay due tomorrow for my third-period American Lit. class. We had read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and then write an essay comparing the personalities of Atticus Finch to Bob Ewell, two of the characters in the book. They were totally opposite characters but oddly enough they had some similar characteristics. They were both driven by their own differing principles.

Not wanting to make anything for lunch because of the wind, Dad decided that we would have lunch at the Luna Pier Beach Café. It was small but the food was quite good. They had nice outside seating with a view of the Lake, but of course no one was outside because of the wind, remember.

Dad and I both ordered a cheeseburger basket. He had coffee and I had a coke that took no time to arrive.

Then, Dad looked across the table at me.

"So, what happened between you and…what's his name…oh yeah, Kyle, today?"

That question caused me to stop with a fry about to enter my mouth, and I put it down, and glared at him. The very mention of Kyle's name sent shivers up and down my spine.

"Why'd you ask that?" I asked being somewhat defensive, picking up my fry but not taking my eyes off him.

"Well, I heard you arguing with him over something."

"I was having trouble doubling up line one, and he came over and started giving me a rash of shit about how I was doing it. Dad, Kyle's a bully. It doesn't take hardly anything for him to start making fun of people. He's that way at school, too. Last week, Chrissy put her hair in a ponytail for the first time, and he made fun of her. It was so awful that she ran out of the cafeteria crying."

"Sounds to me that with the school's anti-bullying policy, something should have been done to stop that behavior. Has he ever done anything like that to you, Tanner?"

Now, I was starting to feel uneasy. I didn't know how much to tell my dad of some of the stupid things I did at school, and if I did, how much probing he would then do to get me to tell all. I couldn't look him in the eye, so I looked at my lunch.

"A little," I said to my burger and fries.

"Care to tell me about it?"

"No. It's kind of embarrassing."

"Tanner, I was 15 once, ya know? I remember what I went through in high school, and I'm sure you're experiencing the same sort of things. Your grandpa was the only person that I could talk to about things that were happening to me. It was embarrassing, but we grew closer when I did it. I'm here for you Tanner."

"Thanks, Dad. Okay, I'll tell you something that happened. Last year when I was still 14, I was looking around the cafeteria at all the people and wondering who they really were. I knew most of the kids by name, but I was wondering about their stories, you know, who they were, what they would think about. I'd make up stories about them.

"I noticed this kid named Kyle, and he seemed so different to me. Even though he had a lot of kids with him, he didn't appear part of their group. He was different from them and from me too. He was a little taller and weighed more. He was muscular too; way more than I was.

"I watched him for a moment, wondering what his story might be, and figured the only way to find out was to get to know him better. But, instead of talking to him, I continued to watch him.

"He looked at me, saw me looking at him, and got this frown on his face that I didn't understand. He looked down for a moment but then looked back at me. I could still see the frown on his face, and then he picked up his tray and hurriedly left the cafeteria. Even though he made me a little nervous, there was something about him I wanted to find out about.

"About a week later, I saw him walking in the hall, and I figured he was heading to his next class. I approached him, and said, "'Hi.'" He looked at me as that frown returned to his face, and then, to my surprise, he turned and just walked away from me. I was trying to be friendly, but he left without saying anything.

"I kept seeing him all the time, Dad. I'd see him at lunch and walking in the halls. And then there was this time when I was trying to finish a paper that I was writing for my Creative Writing class. I went to the football stadium to be alone. I sat in the last row so I wouldn't be bothered by anyone. But I couldn't help but hear the voices on the playing field. I looked up and saw the soccer coach yelling at this kid on the field. I stopped and tried to hear what the coach was yelling about, but they were too far away for me to hear anything. When they were finished, the kid turned around, and I saw that it was Kyle. He looked completely dejected.

"The next time I saw him was about a week later. I hadn't seen him all week and was wondering if he was sick or something. He was walking toward me in the hall, and when he noticed me, he looked down so I couldn't see his face. When he looked up at me, as he passed, I saw that his left eye was black and blue. I was shocked and wanted to know what had happened to him. So, I turned around to follow him, and when I had caught up to him, I touched his shoulder lightly to get his attention. He stopped and turned around to see who had touched him. His eyes flashed a combination of fear and anger toward me. Suddenly, he dropped his books and grabbed both my shoulders and slammed me up against the lockers. My back hit a locker handle, and it hurt like hell.

"'I still remember how angry his voice sounded. 'Don't you ever touch me again, you faggot. You keep away from me, you hear. I don't want anything to do with you, and don't you ever look at me again like you did in the cafeteria. You understand?'

"I was in shock, and when he let go of me, I slid down to the floor and my butt hit hard. I looked up from the floor and watched him pick up his books and walk away.

"Dad, I didn't understand what was wrong with him. I didn't do anything to him."

"Sounds to me that this is a boy you might want to stay away from," Dad said.

"I think you're right. I thought at the time he might hit me."

We finished our lunch quietly, but Dad kept looking up at me. I knew that I hadn't told him the whole story about Kyle, and I thought he knew that. Dad kept looking at me, for a long time. He's generally a quiet man, and I noticed him gently nod his head at me. He knew I was holding something back.

"We'd better get back to the boat. I want to see any damage the wind might have caused," Dad said.

We left the restaurant and made our way back to the docks.

Next Monday at school, I was at my locker getting the things I'd need for the day when Kelly came running up to me. She pulled my arm so that I was looking right at her. Kelly is a pretty girl, also 15 years old. We've known each other since the third grade. She was my best friend, but not just because of her looks, which were stunning. Her shinny blond hair matched mine to a T.

"What's up with you and Kyle? Why did he knock you down last Friday?"

"I have no idea, Kelly. I still don't understand it."

"You'd better keep away from him, Tanner. He's not a good person."

"It sure seems that way. Do you know anything about him? I mean, why would he act that way?"

"I don't know. All I know is that his soccer coach has been riding him a lot lately."

"Yeah, but what does that have to do with me?"

"You got me there. Just try to stay away from him, okay? He just seems like trouble."

"I'll try," I said, and with that, Kelly turned and headed to her home room.

Something seemed so wrong with Kyle, and I couldn't figure out what it was. At one point, I had wanted to get to know him better, to be friends with him. Now I didn't know if that was wise.

But the reality was that Kyle still intrigued me. If only I knew him better, I kept thinking, then maybe I could figure him out. Sometimes when I got a thought in my head, it was hard for me to let it go. I just knew that I had to find out why he acted the way he did for my own peace of mind.

A week later, I found out that Kyle had been kicked off the school's soccer team. I'd seen him play a couple of weeks ago, and I thought he was pretty good at it. I asked around and found out it was because he got mad at the coach and talked back to him, using language the coach couldn't overlook. Evidently, the coach didn't feel like he had any choice; and kicked him off the team.

I didn't see Kyle for the next two weeks. He seemed to be avoiding everyone. I'd heard he was eating his lunch outside of the cafeteria, alone. Kelly told me that she had seen him leaving the school after each class and then reappearing at a different door just in time to walk to another classroom. I thought he was going overboard to avoid being seen in the hallways. This was just too weird for me.

Later that week, I had stayed after school in the library finishing another short story for my Creative Writing class. I finished the paper just as the library was about to close at 6:00, but I didn't want to go home yet. I don't ride the bus because I only live three blocks from school and enjoy the short walk home. But today, I didn't want to go home right away because I couldn't get this fixation I had with Kyle to go away. I knew I should just forget him and go on with my life.

I found myself walking around the top of the football stadium by the press boxes. I paused for a moment just standing and overlooking the entire empty field. It reminded me of the happiness and shouts from the bleachers as our teams tried to beat their opponents. I was pretty cheerful about the whole place until I saw a boy, a student perhaps, sitting alone halfway up on the bleachers. He had his head lowered with his hands behind his neck. From his posture, I had the impression that I was watching someone's grief.

I don't know why, but I slowly walked down the steps to the row that this boy was sitting in. I continued to watch him. His head was now lower. He was about 30 feet away from me when I heard him begin crying aloud. I stared at him, wondering what would make him cry like that. I slowly inched my way closer to him. He must have heard me because his head lifted, and he stared at me for a moment. His eyes were red, and his cheeks were tear stained.

It was Kyle. I stared at him for a long time, not moving closer while his eyes continued staying on me.

I inched a few steps closer and stopped about five feet away from him. His face was blank, but his eyes continued to stay with me. I very neutrally said, "Hi, Kyle."

Immediately, he lowered his head and turned away from me.

"What do you want?" he asked, still looking away from me. I could hear his voice choke as he spoke to me.

"I don't know what I want, Kyle," I answered. "But one thing, I think I'd like to see you not so unhappy.

"Don't feel sorry for me," he said as he turned back to me.

I stepped closer and was now only two feet away from him.

"I don't know what you're going through to feel sorry about," I said back to him.

"It's none of your business, Tanner. Why don't you just leave me alone?"

"I can't, Kyle. I can't just walk away from you like this."

Kyle's breathing became more pronounced and faster as if he were forcing himself to breathe. He suddenly lowered his head and started crying into his hands again

I couldn't take it any longer, and knowing it was a risk, I sat down beside him and put my arm over his shoulder, pulling him into me. He put his head on my shoulder nuzzling his face onto my neck and began sobbing uncontrollably. All I could do was hold him tighter.

We stayed like that for the next ten minutes while his sobbing ebbed into sniffles and eventually stopped. I tried gently to pull away from him, but he held onto me tighter, not letting go of me.

"Kyle," I whispered into his ear. "I don't know what's wrong, but whatever it is, I can see you're terribly upset. Please tell me about it. I want to help. Maybe I can do something."

Kyle looked up at me with his red eyes.

"There's nothing you can do, Tanner. My life is over."

"There must be something I can do. Please, Kyle, tell me what's wrong."

"Why are you even doing this, Tanner after the way I've treated you?"

"I don't know, Kyle. I just am. I don't want to see you like this."

Kyle looked out toward the playing field for a few moments, trying to pull himself together.

"You wanna know what happened to me?"

"Yeah. I'm here to listen."

Kyle's eyes stayed glued to the field as he spoke.

"You know I was kicked off the soccer team, right? Everyone seems to know."

"Yes, I heard."

"Coach was asking me if I was gay, and I blew up at him. I couldn't believe he asked me that, and I used some dirty language on him.

Kyle lowered his head slightly, and while not looking at me, said, "What you don't know is that I was kicked out of my home last night. I was told to leave. My bastard dad kicked me out without letting me get any of my stuff - no clothes, no books, nothing." He lowered his head and I saw the tears return to fall from his eyes.

"Oh, God, Kyle. I'm so sorry."

"There you go again, Tanner, feeling sorry for me."

"It's my business if I want to feel sorry for you, Kyle. In my opinion, no one should go through what you've been through."

"Thanks, Tan, he said.

Kyle then looked at me straight on, and I could see the fear in his eyes grip him. He continued to watch me, obviously trying to come to a decision.

"I still don't get it. Why are you trying to be friends with me, Tanner?"

"I guess it goes back to when you saw me looking at you at lunch that first day. It's just something that I do. I don't know why, but that day you intrigued me. I wanted to know what your story was. I wanted to know you, and maybe be friends with you. Maybe I got the wrong impression."

"Is that all? Is that the only reason you were looking at me?"

"Pretty much."

"You mean that you didn't want to jump my bones?"

"Huh! No! I didn't even know you then."

Kyle looked down for a moment. "I'm sorry, Tanner," he said while focusing on the bleacher in front of us.

"There's nothing to be sorry about," I answered.

"Yes, there is, Tanner. And you don't know half the story about me."

"Wanna tell me?"


"Why not?"

"Because you may be the only person talking to me at the moment," he said as he became choked up, "and I need a friend right now."

"I'm your friend, Kyle. I've really wanted to be you friend ever since I saw you that day in the cafeteria."

Kyle turned his head to look directly into my eyes.

"It's because I'm gay, Tanner. I know that you probably don't want to be friends with a faggot, and I don't blame you. It's why I got booted off the soccer team and kicked out of my home. But there's nothing I can do about it. It's just something that I'm going to have to live with."

I continued to look into Tanner's eyes and saw some relief in them because he'd finally told someone, but I also saw sorrow, deep, deep sorrow.

"Kyle, I kinda think you might be relieved that you told me."

"Yeah, I am. It had to come out sooner or later, and I'm glad that it was you that I told first."

"You said that it's something you have to live with. But you don't have to go it alone. We're going to live with that together, if you want. I can be part of this."

"You're not disgusted with me?"

"No, Kyle. You're my friend, and I hope you always will be. I'm on your side, man. Why would it matter to me?"

I could see the tears again building up in his eyes now.

"Thank you, Tanner," he said. "You don't know how much that means to me."

"So, your dad kicked you out, because you're gay."

"Yeah, that's why."

"How'd he find out?"

"That's kind of a funny story. Dad read a letter that I was going to send to someone but forgot to mail it. It was on my desk at home, and he read it."

"Well, what was so funny about the letter?"

"I was telling this guy about how cute I thought he was. But that's not the funny part. The funny part is who I was sending it to."


Kyle smiled at me.


I had to back up a moment at that revelation.

"Me? You think I'm cute?"


I wasn't sure what to say. Kyle had dumped more on me this evening than I had ever expected. First that his dad kicked him out, then that he was gay, and last that he liked me - more than liked me. My mouth was standing open as I was trying to digest it all. I looked at him, knowing that I should say something.

"If he kicked you out yesterday, where did you sleep last night?" I had to ask.

"I slept on the bleachers, right here last night. It was a little cold, but, well, this is where I slept."

I stood up and put my hand out to Kyle. "Come on, Kyle. You're not sleeping here tonight. You're coming home with me."

"I can't do that, Tanner. Your folks have never met me before."

"Well, my dad's going to meet you now."

"What about your mother?" he asked.

"My mother passed away a couple of months ago from a car accident. It's just me and my dad now."

"I'm so sorry to hear that, Tanner."

"You called me 'Tan' a few minutes ago. I like that better," I said to him. "It tells me that we really are friends."

"Okay, Tan."

"Now we had better get going, cuz I think Dad's just about got dinner ready."

"You sure you want me to go with you?"

"Yeah, let's get going. Let me call Dad and tell him we have a guest for dinner."

It was a short walk home, and on the way, I had to ask Kyle something I couldn't figure out.

"We live in Ann Arbor, right?"


"What were you doing at our marina? That's at least an hour away from Ann Arbor."

"Oh. My dad works at the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Power Plant. Sometimes I go with him because my mom has something to do and won't be home. So, he drops me off at your marina. I love it there because I get to dream about all the faraway places that those boats go to. Sometimes the skippers will even talk to me."

"So that's why you were there?"


When we got to my house, Kyle hesitated on the sidewalk, staring at the house. It was a moderately large house painted white with dark blue trim. I could see the lights on in the living room welcoming us. I had to take ahold of Kyle's tee shirt sleeve to help move him forward. We went around to the back of the house because that's the way I always came home. When I opened the door, I almost had to push Kyle inside. He surely seemed reluctant to be here.

"Dad," I yelled as we first went through the mud room and entered the kitchen.

"I'm in the living room, Tanner," Dad answered.

As we headed toward the living room, Dad came around the corner before we got there.

"Dad, this is Kyle Hanson. Kyle, this is my dad, Richard Sorenson."

My dad stepped up to Kyle with his hand extended, and Kyle then looked at me for a moment before he shook my dad's hand.

"So, this is the boy who'll be eating dinner with us tonight?"

"Yup," I answered. "Hope we have enough."

"It's just beef stew. I always use more beef than the recipe calls for, so all I had to do was add a few more carrots and potatoes. There's enough to feed an army of teenagers," my dad said with his familiar chuckle.

We sat at the kitchen table. With guests, we usually ate in the dining room, but tonight, it was the kitchen table as was customary when it was just family. Dad sat at his usual place at the head of the table, while Kyle and I sat across from each other next to my dad. Along with the beef stew, dad had a salad and French bread slices. Kyle waited for a moment and then folded his hands and lowered his head.

Dad and I looked at him for a moment before Kyle raised his head.

"Kyle, it appears you were waiting for us to say grace," my dad said. "We don't do that here. If you want to say a grace before eating, you can. We can wait."

"That's okay," Kyle answered. "This food smells so great, I'd rather eat instead, if it's okay with you?"

"Dive in, boys. It's better warm than cold."

I could tell by the way Kyle was putting away his dinner that he hadn't eaten all day. He was starving.

When dinner was finished, Kyle looked up at my dad. "Mr. Sorenson, that was about the best beef stew that I have ever eaten. Thank you so much for this."

I looked at Kyle, wondering where his politeness was coming from. That's not the Kyle that I knew but was sure learning more about him.

"Kyle, why don't you go and relax while Tanner and I clear the dishes, okay?"

"I can help, you know," Kyle said.

"No, you're the guest tonight. This is our job. You relax, put on the TV, if you'd like. We'll only be a minute."

Kyle went into the living room, and we heard the TV being turned on to a football game.

After Kyle had left, my dad turned to me. "Tanner, what's Kyle's story?" Dad asked. "What do you know about him? His eyes showed me that he's troubled."

"Yes, he's troubled. I'm beginning to know a lot about him, but not everything. Dad, he was kicked out of his home last night because he's gay. He cried with me tonight admitting that he's gay and has nowhere to go."

"Do you trust him?"

"I think I do. You should have heard his confession tonight, Dad. When I look into his eyes, I know that he's truthful."

"He is rather handsome you know. Think that maybe that's the reason you asked him home for dinner?"

"Dad! NO. That has nothing to do with this."

"Just checking, son; no reason to get upset."

Dad is always doing that to me, keeps suggesting that I'm gay and looking for a boyfriend for me, but I've never said anything that would give him that impression. I think. I hope.

Dad and I finished clearing the table and went to join Kyle in the living room.

The TV was on when we entered, but Kyles eyes weren't on the game. And I doubted he even realized he was in the living room, for that matter either.

"Hey, Kyle," I said.

Kyle didn't look up but continued looking vaguely out in space.

"Kyle," I had to say again.

This time he turned his gaze to me.

"Are you alright, Kyle?" I asked.

He stared at me for a few moments, until he said with no inflection in his voice, "No," and tears began to fall.

Dad crossed the room, all the time looking at Kyle. I went over and sat on the couch next to Kyle. When I saw the tears, I had to put my arm around him.

He buried his head into my neck again and continued crying.

"What is it, Kyle?"

"Why me?" he almost screamed into the air. "Dad wouldn't even look at me. He's my dad for Christ's sake. He's supposed to care about me."

My eyes were now watering, too, feeling the pain he was suffering. He was in absolute anguish. And I didn't know what to do. I looked at my dad for some help.

"Tanner, just hold onto him. Let him know that you're here with him. That's what he needs right now."

I held onto Kyle more tightly to let him know that I was with him.

He looked up at me for a moment. "Mom didn't do anything to stop him, Tanner. Dad slapped me so hard, I fell backward onto the floor."

Kyle was now visibly shaking.

I looked at my dad for a moment and could tell he was also becoming upset.

"He told me to get out, that I wasn't his son; that he had no son. I tried to get up, but he was standing over me, screaming for me to get out," Kyle continued.

"I looked up and said, 'I'll get my things.' But he yelled, 'No. Get out Now!'"

"Tan, I was crying like a baby. I didn't know what to do, but I managed to get up and ran out of the house. I was crying so hard; I could barely see where I was going. I didn't have a destination in mind; I had no idea where to go. I ran and ran and ended up at the only familiar place I knew: my school."

This time, Dad came over and sat on the other side of Kyle and drew him into a hug.

"Kyle, no matter what's happened to you, I want you to know that things generally work out. You're here with Tanner and me; you're safe now,"

Kyle lifted his head from my shoulder and buried it into my dad's shoulder and continued crying.

Dad continued to comfort Kyle by slowly rubbing his back, and five minutes later, Kyle began to calm down. His tears stopped, and, ultimately, he quieted.

Dad lifted his chin to look at him.

"You know you're staying here tonight, don't you?"

"No, I didn't know," Kyle responded.

"Well, you are. You're in no shape to be going anywhere. We have a guest bedroom that nobody uses. It's all yours tonight, and Tanner will be in the room right next to yours in case you need him. You're pretty strung out right now, so why don't you get some sleep. Okay?"

Kyle sleepily nodded.

"Tanner, why don't you show Kyle where the guest bedroom is? Probably the bathroom, too, eh?"

I looked at Dad, nodded, then got up to help Kyle upstairs. He was like a dead weight because he was leaning into me so much. I opened the door and showed him to the queen-sized bed. When I set him down on the bed he didn't move. I think he was already asleep. I looked over at him with sorrow knowing what he had gone through, and my eyes started to fill with tears again. This kid had hated me and now he had turned into a friend.

His clothes smelled awful because he had worn them for a second day. I undressed him down to his underwear. I didn't know if I should remove them, too, but I realized that I was going to wash his clothes tonight anyway, so they had to come off too.

When he was naked, I took a few moments to look at him. I had never seen such a beautiful boy before.

Snapping out of it, I pulled the comforter over him, whispered goodnight, and grabbed his clothes as I left the room.

When I returned downstairs, I put his clothes in the washer and started it. Dad was still in the living room, so I joined him. I plopped down on the couch, letting out a great sigh.

"How's he doing?" Dad asked.

"He's asleep. He was asleep even before he hit the bed. I undressed him and threw his clothes in the washer. Dad, he has nothing."

"Tanner, are you kind of smitten by him? You've been taking care of him all evening. And the way he looks at you, he needs you right now, you know?"

There he went again with that gay stuff.

"I'm not smitten by him, as you say, but I do care about him very much. I just wish we could do more for him."

"That may be difficult, Tanner. We have no custody rights over him. But I do know this; I have no intention of turning him out on the streets."

"Thanks, Dad. You're something else, you know."

"We'll work something out tomorrow," Dad said. "But now it's time for us to get to bed, too."

I nodded and headed upstairs to my bedroom while Dad went down the hall to his. When I opened my bedroom door, I felt a sudden loneliness. Kyle had been almost hanging on me all evening and I sort of missed that. That feeling surprised me. I walked around my room for a few moments thinking about Kyle but eventually undressed and climbed into bed.

I had been lying in bed trying to go to sleep, thinking about Kyle for maybe 15 minutes when I heard a soft knock on the door. I thought it might have been my dad, so I said, "Come in." The door slowly opened, and I was surprised to see Kyle standing there.

"Can I get you something, Kyle," I asked.

Kyle stood quietly and seemed hesitant to enter my room.

"What is it, Kyle?"

Again, he was silent but finally asked, "This is embarrassing, Tan, but can you hold me tonight. I feel I need that right now. I don't want to be alone."

I looked at him with tenderness and opened the comforter, motioning for him to come in. He hesitantly walked toward me, and I scooted over to give him room. My queen-sized bed matched that in the quest room, so there was plenty of room. He lay down with his back to me, and I covered him with the comforter. Then I felt him move closer to me. I knew instantly what he needed and put my arm around him, placing my hand on his chest. He grabbed my hand, squeezed it and drew it tightly to his body. Kyle must have felt the comfort because in only a few moments his breathing slowed and became regular. He was sound asleep.

I laid awake for only a few more minutes. I was not only comforting him, but he was comforting me as well. Before much longer, I too was fast asleep.


We must have slept that way all night because when Dad woke me the next morning with his usual knock on the door before he headed for the kitchen. Kyle and I were huddled together with my arm still around him. But then I became aware that my morning erection was rubbing on his naked butt. I too was naked, which is the way I always slept, and I knew this would be embarrassing if he woke now. I moved away from him and quietly slipped out of bed. Thank, God, I had an ensuite bathroom. I went in, closed the door and enjoyed my morning piss. I decided to climb into the shower to get cleaned up for the day ahead.

When I returned to my bedroom with my towel around me, Kyle was sitting up in bed with the comforter pulled up to his neck. "Did you sleep alright?" I asked.

"Where are my clothes?" he asked somewhat unsure of himself. "And how did I get into your bedroom?"

"You came into my room last night. Kyle, you were scared last night after what you had gone through and wanted someone to hold you, so I did."

"All night?"


"But where are my clothes? I'm naked."

"I know. I undressed you so you could climb into bed – your own bed in the guest room - and get some much-needed sleep. Your clothes are in the dryer. I'll get them for you."

"You undressed me? Including my underwear?"

"Sure. Why not? Anyway, I had to; they needed washing too."

"You saw me naked?"

"Well, yeah. It's no big deal, Kyle. You've got the same things I've got."

It was obvious that Kyle was embarrassed as he pulled the comforter over his head.

"You can stay right where you are while I get dressed and then get your clothes out of the dryer, okay?"

All I heard was a muffled, "Hurry up, will you, please?"

I got dressed and left the room.

When I came back, Kyle's head was still under the comforter, and I had to laugh at him for a moment.

"Don't laugh at me," came from under the comforter.

Dad was waiting for us when we finally came downstairs. "Good morning, boys. Glad to see you're up," he said. He was at the kitchen table sipping his morning coffee.

"Dad, what are you doing home?" I asked. "It's 11:00 in the morning, and you're supposed to be at work."

"And you're supposed to be in school, Tanner."

"Yeah, I know. But I wanted to let Kyle sleep. He needed it."

"How're you feeling this morning, Kyle," my dad asked.

"I feel much better, and thank you for letting me stay last night, Mr. Sorenson; I needed a shower and Tanner let me have one morning."

"Kyle, my name's Richard. Please call me that."

"Okay, thank you."

"Dad, you never answered my question about why you're still home," I asked.

"After last night, I had a lot to do this morning. I contacted, Mark, my attorney, and I explained to him why Kyle's here with us."

I could see Kyle's face suddenly sadden at the same moment that my dad noticed.

"Kyle," my dad stood to speak to him, "We have no custody rights over you, so it's illegal for us to keep you here for very long. I wanted my attorney to investigate ways so you can continue to stay with us. From what you told us last night and what Mark said this morning, I think there's a good chance that things are going to turn out alright for you."

"You want me to stay here?" Kyle choked out.

"Yes, we do. You need a safe place to live, and we, Tanner and I, want to provide that for you."

Kyle looked at me, then at my dad, and asked, "Do you really mean that?"

"Yes, we do, Kyle."

Hearing those words from my dad, Kyle started to tremble. "But why, sir? You don't know anything about me?"

"After last night, we know enough about you to know that you're a boy worth saving. My wife and I had been fostering parents for several years helping many troubled boys. The one thing that kept us doing that was that we don't believe in throwing away kids. We've seen too much of that.

"Mark told me that he's handled lots of cases with boys that were just like you, thrown out of their homes. He said that he has a lot of phone calls to make and that he should be back to us later this afternoon."

Suddenly I felt Kyle's arms around me. He was hugging me while his tears again flowed from his eyes.

"Tan, I can't believe what just happened. It feels like a light from heaven is shining on me for the first time."

"We won't know for certain until this afternoon, Kyle, but Dad's attorney knows what he's doing. Dad's told me he's seen him work miracles with the foster boys that we've taken in before."

Kyle let go of me and walked over to my dad. "Richard," he softly said. "May I hug you too?"

"Yeah, I was feeling a little bit left out seeing you hugging Tanner. Come here, son," Dad said to him, holding out his arms.

Kyle then let himself be engulfed in my dad's arms.

"What are you boys planning on doing this afternoon?" Dad asked us while breaking his hold on Kyle.

"I suppose we should be getting back to school. We can still make our afternoon classes," I said.

Dad looked over at Kyle, and said, "I think I've got a better idea. Kyle you've only got the clothes you're wearing right now. You're going to be here for a little longer until Mark gets this all sorted out. What say we go shopping for some clothes for you, just to get by until we have a chance to get the rest of your stuff from your house."

"New clothes," I shouted.

"Yeah, for Kyle," Dad said.

"Well, what about me? I'm going with you."

"You have a whole closet full of nice clothes, Tanner.

"Dad, I'm only 15 and haven't stopped growing yet. I still have tons of feet left to go."

"Maybe an inch or two, Tanner, not feet. But, okay, we'll all go."

We found our way to Kohl's in Ann Arbor. They have a good selection of clothes just for teenagers at very reasonable prices. As we walked in the front door and turned right to head for our section, Kyle suddenly stopped. He let Dad and me go on ahead but didn't follow us. Noticing that Kyle wasn't with us, I, turned around and saw him about 20 feet behind us with a puzzled look on his face. I walked back to him and asked, "What's the matter, Kyle?"

"I don't belong here," Kyle said.

"Why? It's just a store."

"Mom would never let me shop here."

Dad came up behind me, hearing what Kyle had just said. "Why is that, Kyle?"

"This place is too expensive."

"Where have your folks bought you new clothes before? Kohl's is not an expensive store."

"Goodwill, Savers, places like that," Kyle answered.

Dad looked at me while I looked at him, but then Dad turned to Kyle again. "That's used stuff."

"What's wrong with that?" Kyle asked, somewhat defensively.

"Nothing, really," Dad said. "But I want to buy some new clothes for you, clothes you don't have, and price is not a concern to me. I want good quality stuff for my new son."

Kyle suddenly stopped and looked at my dad.

"What did you just call me?"

"I guess it's a little premature for me to call you 'son.' But that's how I feel about you, Kyle. I like you and am concerned about your welfare, and I'm sure Tanner feels the same"

Kyle's eyes began to mist, and after looking around the store for a moment, he let go of me bolted and began running down the aisle heading to the rear of the store.

"Go after him, Tanner. I think he's consumed with emotions right now. He probably needs you with him."

I nodded and ran down the same aisle that Kyle had. When I reached the rear of the store, I looked around, but no Kyle. Looking up, I saw a sign indicating that the restrooms were down the hall I was facing. I knew Kyle had to be in there, so I walked to the door indicating men. I was a little apprehensive of what I would find in there, but I slowly opened the door. There was no one in the room, but I could hear someone crying. I knelt and saw a pair of legs in the last stall, the handicapped one. As I approached, the crying became a little louder.



"Kyle?" I said again.

"Go away. Leave me alone," came from the stall in front of me.

"I'm not going away, Kyle. Can I come in?"


"Kyle, please. Let me come in with you."

Kyle was silent for a moment, and then I heard the latch slide open. I opened the door and found Kyle seated on the toilet with his knees tightly bound to his chest.

I closed and locked the door and then knelt in front of him.

"Kyle?" was all I got out before he bent over and grabbed me in a bear hug, bawling his eyes out.

"What is it, Kyle? What's the matter?"

He looked up at me as our eyes locked. His were red and mine were dribbling.

"Tan, I understood you would know what the matter is. No one has ever treated me like you and your dad are. He called me son, for cripes sake. You can't conceive of how that made me feel."

I didn't know what to say to him.

"I'll explain it to you. It made me feel wanted for the first time in my life, Wanted! Why? Why? My parents have told me all my life that I'm not worth anything. And then your dad said he does. And you do. I just can't handle that."

I had to hold him tighter.

"I think you're worth it. That's why," I said.

I couldn't believe that I heard a chuckle come out of him just then.

"That's only because you're as crazy as a loon, Tan."

I looked up at him, and a slight smile formed on my face.

"Tan, my dad has never wanted me. I heard him say that to my mom years ago, and I've never forgotten it. I've tried to be the son that he wanted, but he never accepted me. Remember when I told you that you were a fag and never to touch me again?"

"Yeah, I remember."

"That wasn't me, Tan. The way I reacted was because it was the way my dad wanted me to react. I didn't know if you were queer or not; it didn't make any difference to me. I'm so sorry what I said to you."

"It's in the past, Kyle. I know that wasn't you."

"But your dad? He knows that I'm gay, and he just called me 'son.'"

"It makes no difference to him either, Kyle. He even thinks I'm gay."

"Really? Now that's funny." He started to chuckle. Then he looked at me straight on.

"Are you? he asked tentatively.

I had to look away from him for a moment, thinking of how I should answer him, but even while delaying, I knew that I had to answer him honestly.

"The truth is, Kyle, I don't know. I might be or I might not be. I just don't know."

I looked back at Kyle and met his eyes again. Kyle had a blank expression on his face and didn't say anything for quite a while.

He finally nodded his head affirmatively, and I knew that he had accepted what I had said to him.

"You feel better, Kyle? It's always better when you can get things off your chest, and I'm the one you can do it to."

"I've never had a friend like you, Tan. For some reason, you instinctively know how to lift my spirits," he said, smiling at me.

"That's what friends are for, Kyle," I said back to him.

I looked again at him, and said, "Ready We should get back to my dad. I'm sure he's wondering what's taking us so long."

"Yeah, I'm ready.

I got up, helped him up, but before we left the stall, he stopped me, and I turned to him.

"Thank you, Tanner," he said.

He used my full name. That 'thank you' had to have been very important to him, I thought.

"For what?" I asked.

"Just for being you."

I smiled at him, put my arm over his shoulder and we walked out of the restroom. I hadn't noticed Henry Taylor, a student at our school, watching us.

We walked back to my dad with my arm still around Kyle's shoulder. Dad was still in the teen boys' section, and already had a cart full of clothes. Kyle and I walked to him with our eyes focused on what was in the cart. Dad looked up when he saw us, and said, "You guys took so long I went ahead and picked a few things that Kyle might like. He then held up a pair of jeans, and asked, "Well, what'd think, Kyle? Wanna try them on?"

Kyle looked them over, nodded his head, and said, "They're okay, I guess."

Dad frowned and then held up two tee shirts. "How 'bout these," he said and grinned.

Kyle looked at the tee shirts, looked at dad but then was silent.

"Okay, okay. I guess I picked the wrong colors or something," Dad confessed.

"I think we should let Kyle pick out what he wants, don't you think?" I asked Dad.

"Okay. Go ahead, Kyle. It's your choice."

We left Kohl's with three pairs of jeans, three pairs of shorts, three polo shirts, four tee shirts, a pair of sweats, a winter coat, a windbreaker jacket, two hoodie sweatshirts, six pairs of ankle socks, a pair of Nike sneakers, two belts, a ball cap, a beanie cap and six pairs of plaid boxers. Dad wouldn't tell me how much all that cost, but I knew it must have been a bundle.

On the way home, Kyle sat in the back seat going through every bag, pulling out every item, holding each up for inspection and folding each one before putting it back in the plastic bag. You could tell Kyle was a happy camper by the smile on his face.

At four that afternoon on the way home, Dad's cell phone chirped.

"Hey, Mark, can I call you back in like 30 minutes. We're almost home from picking up a few clothes for Kyle. I want to put this call on speaker so the boys can hear too," Dad told Mark,

"Sure, but I'm only here till 5:00."

"Thanks, Mark. Call you shortly,"

We all gathered in the living room while Dad called Mark back on his cell phone and pushed the speaker button.

"Hey, Mark. We're all waiting to hear what you found out."

"Richard, I've been through the ringer this afternoon, but I've got some good news for you. I first called Kyle's dad to verify what he told you about being thrown out, and it appears that it all really happened. I told his dad that I was going to record the call, and I did. He ranted and raved that he had no son, that no faggot was ever going to live in his house."

I looked at Kyle sitting next to me on the couch and could feel his pain on hearing what his dad had told Mark. I put my arm over his shoulder, turned to him, and said, "Let it pass, Kyle. I think everything's gonna be alright."

Kyle tried to smile at me, but I knew it was forced.

"My next call was to Social Services. They weren't too keen on my proposal of having custody of Kyle transferred to you, but when I played the tape to them, many minds were now on Kyle's side. They're going to visit Kyle's dad tomorrow to observe his reaction. Since you and your wife were previously licensed as fostering parents, they agreed to temporarily re-activate your license on an emergency basis. Kyle, if you're listening to me, that means for the present, you can stay at Richard's home."

I looked at Kyle and I saw tears well up out of his eyes. I knew those tears were tears of joy.

"My next call was to Judge Marsdan," Mark continued. "He was not happy after I played the tape to him. Judge Marsdan is one judge who seems to care about the kids that come before him and has ruled against Social Services many times. He hates deadbeat parents. He also plans to have Social Services have a visit with him in chambers tomorrow. Depending on what they tell him, I believe that tomorrow he may revoke the parental rights of Kyle's parents. We'll need a court hearing to do that. I don't know that for a fact yet, but he seemed so inclined, depending on what Social Services tells him. I tell you guys; this took most of my afternoon, and I think I've covered all the bases."

"Thank you, Mark. You've just made one boy's day," Dad said

"I can hear some crying in the background, and I think I know who it is. If you can hear me, Kyle, you now have a new parent, temporarily at least."

When Kyle heard that, he grabbed me, put his head back on my shoulder and continued crying. Dad came over and sat on the other side of Kyle and put his arm around him. Kyle partially rose up away from me, put his free arm around my dad, and we had a joyous three-way group hug.

Kyle and I returned to school the next day, and my first task would be to introduce him to my friends. At lunch period, Kyle and I got our lunch, and I walked Kyle over to the table where I normally ate.

"Guys, this is Kyle Hanson, a new friend of mine. Kyle, that's Kelly Thompson, and she's glued to Steve Erickson sitting next to her. He's the noisy extrovert of our crowd. In front of me is Randy McAllister. He's the short one at 5'-3" but don't ever call him short unless you want your shins kicked. He's feisty. Last is Shelly Fredrickson with the blond hair and blue eyes, just like mine. These are all my friends, at least the ones I talk to." I said as I sat down at the open chair in front of me.

Kyle rounded the table and was about to sit in the open spot across from me, when Steve stood up and stuck out his hand to Kyle. "Good to meet you, man," he said as they shook hands. "I saw you at soccer practice the other day. You're good. I don't know what the coach's problem is, but he sure was raising hell with you."

Kyle looked at me, and I nodded.

"Well, I'm not on the team anymore." Kyle replied.

Steve looked at him with surprise.

"It's a long story, Steve," Kyle said.

Kelly was frowning at Kyle. "If you're a friend of Tanner's, you sure fooled me the way you acted the other day."

I jumped in and said, "That's all over with, Kelly. We're friends now."

Everyone was now looking at me to explain myself.

Just then, Kyle stood up and said, "I think most of you know me or have heard shit about me. I've been quite an asshole to most of you, and for that, I need to apologize. I don't want to say anything about why I acted that way because it's complicated and quite embarrassing. I've gone through a lot of shit, and because of that, I have changed. A lot of that change is because of the guy sitting across from me."

Now, everyone was looking at me. "Look, guys. Kyle's apologized, so let's just drop it," I said.

"I'm good with that," Steve said, and everyone nodded.

I was glad to see that Kyle's self-esteem was returning. It took a lot of courage to say what he did to our table.

Friendly banter then invaded us, and I was glad to see that everyone was beginning to accept Kyle.

For a moment, it seemed that the cafeteria was quieting down. I looked around to see what was happening and noticed everyone at the jock's table was looking at us. This confused me, but that confusion turned to something else when I saw Henry Taylor get up and started heading in my direction. That something else was turning into fear as I saw loathing in Henry's eyes. He stopped in front of me, and I looked up at him.

"So, this must be the fag table," he said.

Steve tried to stand up, but Kyle put his hand on Steve's arm to tell him to sit down. He did, slowly.

"Did you all know that this creep's a homo?" Henry said as he pointed his finger at me. I looked at Kyle for a brief second and saw that his face showed no emotion.

I was being confronted by Henry, and I knew that I should say something, but I didn't know what. Henry was about two inches taller than me and outweighed me by at least 20 muscular and frightening pounds. I knew if we got into a fight, I was headed for a horrible beating. Was I scared? Damn right I was scared.

I glanced over again at Kyle, and his face was still blank except for his eyebrows; they were rippled downward as his eyes glared at Henry.

I tried to stand, but Henry pushed me back into my chair, hard.

"I saw you coming out of the restroom at Kohl's with your arm around that other fag," as he jabbed his finger toward Kyle. "I kept wondering what you two faggots were doing in there, something disgusting, I'm sure."

I tried to stand once again, but he pushed me back down even harder as he stepped closer to me. I knew that I was about to get hit.

It didn't happen, though. Kyle stood and walked around the table and stood next to me and Henry.

"Is there a problem here?" Kyle asked somewhat softly.

"Yeah, there's a problem here. I'm going to show this homo what happens to fags. I don't want him or you in this school."

"And you're going to do that by taking on Tanner, who's half your size, instead of me? Really brave, Henry, really fucking brave. But this is not the way it's going to go down. You can just walk away, and this will all be over. Or, well, I'm standing here, and you could try me instead of Tanner," Kyle said to him, then smiled at him. "Go ahead. I'm ready."

I could tell Henry was growing angrier by the red tint spreading across his face. Most bullies, when confronted, just walk away. They're generally cowards and only pick on kids smaller than themselves. But I didn't see that Henry had any intention of backing down.

Just then, a slight movement on the floor caught my attention. Kyle had moved his right foot backward slightly so that the toe of his right shoe was even with the heel of his left shoe. He then lowered his body almost imperceptibly. What the hell was he doing? I wondered. Then it hit me that Kyle was getting ready to get hit.

I knew that the shit was now about to hit the proverbial fan.

It all happened so fast that I'm not sure if I can remember it all. Henry balled his fist, drew it back and swung at Kyle. Kyle threw up his right arm, knocking Henry's fist to the side while at the same time jetting his left fist straight out. He hit Henry square on his nose.

Henry's head was thrown backward from the punch and his nose started to bleed.

Even before Henry had a chance to recover, Kyle bent his left knee fully as he dropped down and threw his right leg straight out to the side. He then pivoted on his left foot, sweeping his right leg forward, cutting Henry's legs out from under him so that he crashed to the floor.

My eyes bulged at what I had just seen. The entire fight was over in no more than a heartbeat.

Kyle then knelt beside Henry, and said, "This didn't have to happen, Henry, if you had walked away. Neither of us wanted it to end this way. But I'm going to tell you that if you ever come after Tanner or me again there are other parts of you that can break just as easily as your nose. Now get up and go to the nurse's office to get your nose cleaned up."

Kyle stood, turned around and looked at me. "Are you okay, Tan?"

I couldn't say anything as I was so flabbergasted. Our entire table was on their feet now and as they were looking at me, it finally hit me. Kyle was protecting me. My friend, my friend and knight without shining armor, WAS PROTECTING ME! I thought I was about to cry, but I couldn't in front of my friends.

"Where did you learn all that, Kyle?" I had to ask him.

"Just around. I'll tell you later," he said.

The cafeteria seemed to come alive with most of the students standing and clapping and many moving our way. I noticed that the kids coming toward us were the smaller kids who had been bullied before. They surrounded Kyle saying, thanks, while patting him the back. It was a wonder to see the admiration that these kids felt for Kyle; I felt the same.

Kyle whispered to me, "We need to get out of here. I can't take any more of this. It's embarrassing."

Lunch period wasn't over, but Kyle and I weren't hungry anymore anyway, so we thanked his fans, and then we departed the cafeteria.

We had only gone a few steps before I had to stop him and ask again, "So where did you learn all that?"

"Well, since I was kicked off the soccer team, I had nothing to do during sixth period, so I asked the wrestling coach if he would teach me some judo to help me defend myself. It was only two weeks ago, so he hadn't time to teach me much, but he did show me how to block punches. I guess it came in handy today."

"But what about that leg thing that you did. Where did you learn that?"

"I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to laugh at me, okay?"

"Okay," I promised.

"I saw that move in a Karate Kid movie. I've seen all three of those movies."

"You're kidding?" I said trying my damnedest not to laugh.

"Yeah, I did. I wasn't going to use it, but when I saw Henry just standing there, I thought I'd try it out on him. It worked pretty well, didn't it?"

"Oh, my God. It sure did," I said.

My dad was an architect with his own firm. I knew he worked hard during the week, but he always came home to make dinner for us. He made us spaghetti that night. It's an easy dish for him and didn't take too long to make. He also threw together a salad and French bread garlic toast to go with it. Dad had his glass of red wine, and Kyle and I had our sodas.

After dinner as we were watching a movie on TV, Dad paused the movie and asked us if we wanted to spend the weekend on the boat.

Of course, I jumped at the chance, but Kyle was a little apprehensive. He asked, "If we're staying for the whole weekend, where are we all going to sleep? Do you get a motel or something?"

I'm sure he was picturing a rowboat.

"No, we sleep on the boat. It has two staterooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Let me show you a picture of it," I said. I pulled out a picture album from the bookcase and showed him.

Factory image of Bayliner 32 Flybridge underway courtesy of Bayliner

"Oh, my, God. That's your boat?"

"Yup. Dad and I spend a lot of weekends on her."

"Her?" Kyle questioned.

"Yeah, all boats are considered female; I have no idea why."

"Kyle. You need to pack a bag before we go tomorrow, because we'll be heading to Cedar Point. You'll need shorts, a couple of tees, your windbreaker and your new Nike's. I'll pack the food and drinks. Tanner, you show Kyle where the bags are," Dad said.

"Come on, Kyle," I said as I got up.

"I've heard about it, but I've never been to Cedar Point before," Kyle said as we headed upstairs."

"You'll love it. We dock in their marina and even have our own entrance into the park from the marina. I think Dad wants to cook in our galley because he said he's bringing food, and that means he's probably going gourmet."

When we arrived at the marina, I had to give Kyle the grand tour of the boat. I showed him the aft cabin where Dad would sleep, and he was impressed with the king-sized bed. Walking further forward, I showed him the galley and head, but cautioned him that we use the bathroom facilities in the marina if we could wait. I then showed him the forward V-birth where we would sleep.

We left our marina at about 9:00 the next morning. We had to cruise slowly out of the marina because of the 5 miles per hour speed limit, which was easy to follow as Dad has a GPS on board. Once we left the marina, Dad boosted the speed to about 15 miles per hour. Dad had already posted his course into our GPS system, and all he had to do was follow the course and control his speed as the GPS told him when to slow down or increase speed. It was a two-hour cruise, and at this hour the water was calm. I was glad for that because I didn't know if Kyle ever got seasick or not. I wanted to go below to relax, but Kyle was so entranced with the boat and where we were going that he stayed on the flybridge with my dad, observing everything and questioning Dad about it all. I looked at Kyle just before I headed below and could tell that he was having the time of his life.

When North and Middle Bass Islands appeared on the horizon, Kyle screamed, "Are we there yet?" to Dad.

"Not yet, Kyle. Calm down, we need to go past those islands to get to Cedar Point. Don't worry, we'll get there," Dad said.

As we approached Cedar Point, Dad called the marina on our radio and requested a slip for the night. When they gave him the slip number, Dad said, "Roger," and we headed into the marina, again at 5 miles per hour.

Kyle asked Dad, "Why so slow?"

"Because our wake would toss the other boats around, and their owners would not like that because of possible damage to their boats," Dad answered to him.

Dad maneuvered the boat into the slip after I had secured the fenders to both sides. Then I had to jump to the dock with a line in hand to secure the bow. Lyle helped me with the midship and stern lines.

After we were secure, Kyle asked me, "You really know all this nautical stuff, don't you?"

"It's only because I've been around Dad. He's an ex-Navy man and knows all this stuff," I answered.

Dad served us bologna sandwiches and pasta salad that he brought from home for lunch. After we changed our clothes in the V-birth, we were off to the park. Dad told us to be back by 7:00 for dinner.

Kyle didn't seem nervous on any of the rides we took. He was just like a kid in a candy store, wanting everything. I'd been here before so knew the park, but it seemed that all I did was run after Kyle. It seemed like he was having the best day of his life. The day was intensely sunny, so I bought him a pair of sunglasses.

We arrived back at the boat at precisely 7:00. As we entered the cabin, I saw that dad had already set the table in the main cable. I noticed that he had set out salad forks and soup spoons along with the rest of the dinnerware and two lighted candles. The candles told me we were in for a feast. Dad loved to do this, but first it was cocktail hour. Dad had his martini while he had made Shirley Temples for Kyle and me. He had us gather in the covered aft section of the boat to converse and enjoy our cocktails.

"So, tell me about your day in the park," he asked us.

I couldn't get a word in edgewise as motormouth Kyle had to go on and on about every ride that we went on. When Kyle finally ran out of words, I asked dad how his day went.

"That's why I love these trips so much," he said. "I finally got a chance to sit back and read a book that I've been dying to read for a long time."

"Which one was that?" Kyle asked.

"It's one of Mark Roeder's earlier books titled A Better Place."

Kyle looked at me with suspicion in his eyes. "I've read that book," he said.

Now dad turned to look at Kyle. "You know Mark Roeder's books?" he asked.

"Yeah, I've read most of them," Kyle answered.

Mark Roeder's books are all about gay teens, and I was wondering why dad was reading them, so I asked.

"Why were you reading that book, Dad?"

Dad looked at me for a moment and then turned his attention toward Kyle.

"Kyle, I know you're gay and I wanted to know all about the hell you boys have to go through. I know these books are fiction but reading them has been an eye opener for me.

Kyle looked down at the deck for a moment then looked up directly at my dad.

"Sometimes life isn't fair," was all Kyle said.

My impression of this boy was growing leaps and bounds for the insight that he just displayed and his knowing the truth in his words.

Dad looked at Kyle and nodded his head in understanding.

We sat quietly for a time, digesting what just took place, when Dad asked, "How about some dinner? I know I'm famished."

Dad set a Crab Louis salad in front of us as a first course followed by a lobster bisque soup, that you could die for. He served hot rolls to go with the first courses. He even had pats of soft butter in front of each of our plates. Dad had a glass of Pinot Chardonnay while Kyle and I had each a cola.

The main course was Beef Wellington with a Béarnaise Sauce, asparagus smothered in hollandaise sauce, and a baked potato with sour cream, bacon bits and chives. My, God, how did he do this using the small galley that we had, I had to question. Dad had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with his meal while we had milk.

And I couldn't believe the end. He served us Tiramisu for dessert.

I had to question how he could make tiramisu in our galley, but he confessed that he had bought it. I didn't care because Tiramisu is my favorite dessert. Dad had a small glass of Drambuie to go with his dessert; we had milk again.

With that fabulous dinner completed, we sat on the aft deck while dad enjoyed a cup of coffee. It was now past 10:00 in the evening and I was getting tired. A lot of food does that to me. I could tell I wasn't alone when I heard Kyle yawn.

"Dad," I said. "I'm beat and think I'm going to head to bed."

Kyle said, "Me too. That park, and that fabulous dinner, took a lot out of me."

"Sleep tight, guys. I'll have pancakes and sausage for us in the morning. You'll have time to hit the park again tomorrow before we have to leave."

"Good night, Dad," I said, as did Kyle, and we headed below to our V-birth.

We laid out our sheets and comforter with our pillows in the bow of the boat and then stood looking at each other.

"Tanner, I don't usually sleep naked, but I know that you do. I'm still a little nervous sleeping with you. You know that I'm gay and that you still don't know what you are, so I want you to know that tonight is just for sleep, okay?"

The remembrance of me seeing Kyle completely naked the night I brought him home was going through my mind. I also began wondering if this was the night that I was going to figure out if I was gay or not. Kyle had come a long way from when I was with him in the bleachers; a sort of dread destroying our bond was crossing my mind. Kyle had to come to me; I couldn't go to him.

"It's for sleep, Kyle," I answered him, and we both slid under the sheets, keeping our distance.

I slept soundly that night mostly due to all the activity we had that day in the park. When I woke the next morning, I noticed that I wasn't alone. Kyle was nuzzled to my back with his arm around me. For some reason, I knew I couldn't move away from him because it felt so good. I moved my arm and held his hand in mine. We laid that way for another 30 minutes until I heard my dad banging around in the galley. I think Kyle was beginning to hear the noise too as he began to move slightly.

Suddenly, he raised his head and looked at me.

"I'm so sorry Tanner. I didn't mean to do this. I think I rolled over to you while I was asleep."

I gave him a grin. "Don't worry, Kyle. Truth be told, I kinda liked it. You made me feel comfortable."

Kyle moved away from me then. "Maybe, but I shouldn't have done that," he said to me.

My knight without shining armor was still protecting me. How could you not love this guy?

I had to stop my dreaming and come back to reality. "I can hear Dad in the galley. We should get up and head to the marina showers."

"You're right. I can smell sausage cooking, and I want to be back for that."

We picked up a change of underwear, our towels, clean shorts, toiletry kits and headed for the showers. Each shower had its own private stall with an anteroom to change clothes. After brushing our teeth, we stepped into the soothing warm water, Kyle taking the shower next to mine. We were the only ones in the shower room, so I could hear the water playing over his body. Was I really trying to listen? Well, yes, I was!

We both stepped out of the shower at the same time, dressed in only shorts, and stood looking at each other for quite a few moments. Why is my heart racing so much, I wondered? No guy has ever captivated me like Kyle has. The thought of not being gay was closing in on me. Dad had his usual black coffee in hand as we came back from the showers.

Dad's breakfast was what we needed this morning, topped off with cold orange juice. "Still want to spend a couple of hours in the park before we need to head back? he asked.

"Yeah." Kyle said. "I can't get enough of it."

"Well, you guys head out, but be back by noon. We'll have lunch and then it's underway for us."

"What are you going to do, Dad?" I asked.

"I'm going to finish the book that I started yesterday."

We were back at noon after spending a couple of hours in the park, Kyle running to each ride, and me, as usual, chasing after him. Dad had tuna fish salad sandwiches with a pasta salad for lunch waiting for us.

The day had glorious warming sunlight shinning down on us as we slipped out into Lake Erie. The water was calm with only slight swells to almost rock us to sleep. Kyle and I were with Dad on the flybridge, trying to keep awake. Dad noticed and said, "Why don't you two go below and get some sleep. You're not being very good lookouts, and I think I can handle this myself."

Dad's right. He's an old sailor and knows what he's doing, so Kyle and I went below.

We both undressed and slipped under the sheets in our V-birth. I was barely awake when Kyle again snuggled up to me and put his arm over me. I knew that he wasn't asleep because when I turned my head to look at him, his eyes were open.

"I'm sorry, Tan, but I have a hard time keeping away from you," he said to me.

I rolled over so I was facing him. I couldn't help but look into those soft brown eyes of his. I then knew I was going to do this, not being able to stop myself. I continued looking into his eyes as I moved my head closer to his. I put one leg over his to be closer to him, continuing to look into his eyes. It was now time. I lowered my head and softly touched his lips with my own. Kyle put his arms around me, pulling me closer to him. Oh, my, God, his lips were so soft, so inviting that I couldn't help but press my lips closer to his. I held him in my arms, never wanting to let go.

I now, just, with that kiss, knew that I wanted him to be mine forever and ever. He broke our kiss and slightly pulled away from me.

"Tan, do you know long I have waited for you to do this? I thought I was becoming happy, but you made me the happiest that I have ever been just now."

"Kyle, I don't know why I waited so long either. I guess I've figured out if I'm gay or not."

"And?" he asked.

"I think I just showed you. I can't get enough of your kisses. I want to kiss you again."

We frolicked in the sheets for a long time, our lips never parting.

When we heard the boat's engines slow, I knew we were getting close to our marina.

"We need to get up and help Dad tie up the boat," I said.

Before we got out of bed, Kyle asked, "Can I call you my boyfriend, now."

"You damn well better," I answered and kissed him one last time before we went topside.

Dad noticed the smiles on our faces as we climbed to the flybridge to join him.

"You boys seem pretty happy. Did you get a good nap down there?" he asked.

"Not really," I said. "But dad, there has been a change I should tell you about."

"Okay, what's the change?"

I looked at Kyle and then back to dad. "Let me introduce you to Kyle, my new boyfriend."

Dad smiled and said, "Well it's about damned time you two realized that. I've known for quite a while. You see, you can't fool dads too easily.

Monday morning, Kyle and I headed to school, and I was so tempted hold his hand while we walked, but I also knew that would be a bad idea. Instead, I just looked at him and smiled.

During Home Room, while the day's announcements were being broadcast over the PA system, one of the secretaries came into the room and went to our teacher and told him something that I couldn't hear. He looked up and then walked over to Kyle, who told him that the Vice Principal wanted him in his office. Kyle looked at me apprehensively.

"What's this about?" he asked the teacher.

"I don't know, but he wants to see you right away."

I watched as Kyle got up and left the room.

Home Room only lasts for 15 minutes, and when Kyle wasn't back when the class ended, I made my way to my Creative Writing class. The class had hardly begone when the same secretary came in the room and walked up to our teacher. The teacher looked at me and then toward Kelly, indicating with his index finger for us to come to the head of the class. We both looked at each other, wondering what was going on but eventually joined him at his desk.

"Looks like the Vice Principal wants to see both of you in his office."

"Do you know what this is about," I asked.

"Haven't a clue. she wouldn't tell me."

So, Kelly and I made our way to the office. On the way, I asked her if she had any clue to what this was about.

She said, "I don't know, but I bet it has something to do with Kyle. He was asked to go there first."

"God, I hope not," I answered.

When we got to the office, I couldn't see Kyle. The receptionist looked up at us and said, "Mr. Gillespee is waiting for you in his office. You can go right in."

Again, I looked at Kelly, who just shrugged her shoulders, and we walked toward his office. Instead of just barging in, I knocked on the door first.

"Enter," I heard through the closed door, and Kelly and I walked into his office. Immediately, I saw Kyle sitting in a chair in front of Mr. Gillespee's desk. He had a smile on his face. The lunchroom monitor was sitting in a chair alongside Mr. Gillespee's desk.

"Have a seat, please." he said to us.

With only one extra chair in front of his desk, I offered it to Kelly and then went to the conference table and pulled out another for me to sit in.

"Do you know why you're here," he asked Kelly and me.

"No." I answered, while Kelly shook her head.

"Kyle was reported by one of the lunchroom monitors to have been in a fight, and that he threw the first punch."

I looked on in amazement at what he said and jumped from my chair.

"That's not true," I almost yelled at him.

"Sit down, Mr. Sorenson."

"But, sir," I said before he cut me off.

"Sit, Mr. Sorenson."

I was still angry but sat back down anyway.

"Mr. Hanson told me that he didn't throw the first punch and that he has witnesses to that. He named you two, so that's why I called you. Mr. Sorenson, why don't you tell us what happened?"

I looked at Kyle for a moment, smiled at him then turned my attention back to Mr. Gillespee.

"Henry Taylor is a bully; we all know that. He's had it in for Kyle and me and was giving us a ration of sh…of his hatred for us."

"Why was that, Mr. Sorenson?"

Oh, man, I just knew that the only way to answer his question was to out Kyle and me. I looked toward Kyle, wishing for some help.

"It's okay, Tanner. It was going to come out eventually anyway, and I'm okay with it. You can tell him," Kyle said.

"Okay. Here goes nothing. Mr. Gillespee, Henry saw Kyle and me walking in Kohl's the other day. What got to him was that I had my arm over his shoulder. Kyle is my boyfriend."

Kelly almost jumped out of her chair when she abruptly turned to look at me. Her eyes were bulging.

"Henry was accusing us of being homosexual in not so very friendly terms," I continued. "I tried to stand, but he pushed me back down, twice. His face was seriously red.

"Kyle then stepped up to Henry and asked him to leave, but he wouldn't. Then Henry tried to hit Kyle, but Kyle just pushed his arm away and then hit him in the nose. This all happened pretty fast, Mr. Gillespee, Kyle was only defending himself. Henry threw the first punch."

Mr. Gillespee turned toward the lunchroom monitor. "Is that what you saw, Mrs. Olson?"

"Mr. Sorenson is right. It happened so fast that I was only able to be there after it was all over. I only really saw Mr. Taylor go down with Mr. Hanson standing over him."

"Kyle, did you use some kind of karate thing on him? It that the reason that it happened so fast?" Mr. Gillespee asked.

"I've only learned a couple of defensive moves, you know, to protect myself. And it's jujitsu."

"Do you have some kind of black belt."

"No, sir. I've only just started learning."

"I had to ask that question because if you were skilled in some form of martial art, you would have had to warn him beforehand."

"I've only learned how to block a punch. Most kids learn that on the streets."

"Miss, Thompson, do you want to confirm what Mr. Sorenson has said?"

Kelly hadn't taken her eyes off me after I admitted that Kyle was my boyfriend, but now had to face Mr. Gillespee.

"Yes sir. That's exactly what happened," she said.

"Well, that settles it. Sorry for having to put you through this, Mr. Hanson, but we had to get to the truth. And thank you two for coming here to back up what Mr. Hanson has said. You may all go back to class now," Mr. Gillespee said.

As we were leaving his office, I heard Mr. Gillespee on the phone saying, "Would you have Mr. Henry Taylor report to my office."

"Okay, out with it," Kelly said to me on our way down the hall.

"Out with what?" I had to ask.

"How long have you two been boyfriends? You surprised the hell out of me."

"Just a couple of days, now," I said.

"So how many people have you kept in the dark besides me?"

"You're the only one that knows, Kelly, besides Tanner's dad," Kyle said.

Kelly's mouth then showed her evil grin.

"Boy, have I got a world to tell," she said.

Both Kyle and I let out a massive groan.

The End

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