by Richard Norway

I stood at the edge of the cliff watching the surf crashing on the rocks below me. One would think, if anyone were around, I looked like someone who was about to jump. I had to chuckle at that thought. I didn't have the courage to be so stupid. I am not brave, never had been.

The day ahead of me should have invoked a sense of happiness, but it didn't. As I watched the waves come into the shore, knowing their fate was about to be realized, I thought of Terry, Terry Hanson. My unreturned love for him was akin to those waves, their disastrous ending on the foreseeable horizon.

I looked to the sky and felt the waning sun shining down on me, engulfing me in its already meager warmth.

Why couldn't I just have the courage to say hello to him ? I said to myself. I looked down again at the crashing surf, knowing that what I was seeing was exactly how my conversation with Terry, if I ever had one, was going to end up. I wondered why I had even thought of trying.

The sun was approaching dusk, and the air started to cool. I turned around, not wanting to see or feel that crashing sound anymore and headed for home.

"Where've you been, Todd?" I heard my mother ask from the kitchen.

"Out watching the ocean, Mom. You know I do that. It relaxes me."

I started to cross the living room when she appeared at the kitchen archway.

"Something bothering you, Todd?"

"Mom, I'm fourteen. Everything bothers me."

"Wanna talk about it?"

"Not really."

"Okay. Dinner's in about an hour," she said frowning at me.

Not ready to answer more questions about my mood, I said, "I'll be in my bedroom. I've got a little homework to finish before dinner."

"Okay. I'll call you when it's ready."

I closed my bedroom door behind me. I wasn't really in the mood to do any homework; it was just a couple of algebra problems and would take me only fifteen minutes. I lay on my bed, hands behind my head and contemplated the ceiling. Why was I so afraid to talk to Terry? The question tormented my mind. He was one of the cutest boys I knew. His bright yellow-blond hair matched my own. His blue eyes were like pools of fresh water that I'd only seen from afar but still found transfixing and couldn't look away from. And his smile lighted up any room he entered. He was one of the most popular kids at school; was on the swim team and excelled even with his thin build. It wasn't the only sport that he played, though. I had seen him playing tennis at the public courts when I rode my bicycle past.

I let out a sigh as my room seemed to darken with my mood. I thought of the hopelessness of my ever being anything but a throwaway to him. I continued to look upward as tears were falling from my eyes.

At this point, of course, my brother Josh came into my room; I quickly turned away so he wouldn't see me crying.

"Whasup, Little Bro?"

"Nothing," I sniffled out.

The next thing I felt was someone sitting next to me on my bed.

"What is it, dude?" he asked as he put his hand on my shoulder.

"Nothing," I answered slightly more tersely as I again sniffled and shifted my shoulder away from his hand.

"I can tell it's something. You're crying, Todd. Tell me what's going on."

I rolled over to face him, knowing he would see my red eyes, but he didn't move back like I thought he would. Instead, he put his hands to my face and wiped away the tears with his thumbs.

"Do me a favor, Josh. Tell Mom and Dad that I'm not feeling well and won't be down for dinner."

"I tell them that, and you know damned well Mom will be up here in a heartbeat to see what's wrong."

"Can you just leave me alone, Josh, please? I don't feel up to talking right now."

"Not until you tell me what's wrong."

"I can't."

"What do you mean, you can't?"

"I can't because it's too embarrassing."

"Todd, we've always been able to talk, you and me… by ourselves. We've never kept secrets."

I managed to sit up next to him; I faced him with my legs over the side of the bed next to his.

"Todd, there must be something I can do to help you. I've never seen you so out of it like this before."

I didn't look at him. I looked at my hands, wringing themselves in my lap. "There's nothing you can do, Josh. This is something I have to face alone."

"That's bullshit, Todd. We're brothers. I'm here to face whatever it is with you."

I had to turn my head and look at him. I knew that he wouldn't leave this alone. Josh was older than me at eighteen. He wasn't gay, but he could remember and understand that fifteen-year-olds fear everything. I didn't know what to do now.

"Todd, please just tell me."

I had to turn away from him. I didn't want him to see more tears in my eyes.

"Josh, I'm gay," I said to the carpet.

Josh leaned back before turning from me. I heard Josh take a deep breath and feared what that meant. But he didn't leave me. He just sat there turned away from me. I had to turn toward him to see his reaction. I didn't see any. We sat silently for what seemed to me forever. I looked at his face in profile, I saw a slight smile form on his lips.

He turned back to me, surrounding me with his warmth and drew me into his arms. I put my arms around him and returned his hug. I heard him sniffle and looked up at him briefly.

"I'm sorry, Todd. Some of what you were feeling, got to me."

"Now you know how I feel," I said back to him.

Finally, he released me, put his hands on my upper arms, held me outward, and looked directly into my eyes.

"When did you figure it out, Todd?"

"It was last winter, just after I turned fourteen."

"And you've kept it to yourself for ten months, almost a year?"

"Yeah," I said looking at the carpet again.

"I wish you'd have said something earlier."

"I couldn't. I know it was stupid, but I just couldn't bring myself to tell you."

"Why? Did you think I was going to reject you?"

"No. Somehow, I knew you wouldn't. I was just scared, and I really didn't know what would happen."

"I can understand that. But you don't have to be scared anymore. You know that, don't you?"

I looked at him as my tears began to flow again. I grabbed him in a hug and squeezed like I didn't ever want to let go.

He returned my hug, and we held each other for a long time.

We finally broke away and sat looking at each other.

"Before I came up, Mom told me dinner would be ready in five minutes. We're running late, so I think we should go down. Are you ready? Can you eat, now that we've that that's said and done?"

"Give me a few more minutes. I need to wash my face first."

"Good idea," he said with a grin on his face.

He'd seen how I looked.

"Go ahead. I'll wait for you."

When I was cleaned up, we went downstairs together. I had one of the greatest brothers in the world.

Mom was just placing the casserole dish on the table when we entered the kitchen.

"Sorry we're late coming down. What's for dinner?" Josh asked.

"I made dinner simple tonight; tuna noodle casserole and a green salad," Mom said.

"Dad gonna be home for dinner?" I asked.

"No, dear. He's presenting his proposed apartment complex project to the Planning Commission tonight."

I ate dinner in silence while Josh kept Mom entertained with his stories of his soccer field exploits. I wasn't too interested so I kept my thoughts to myself, but they always seemed to drift to Terry. I don't know why he kept coming to my mind. I didn't even know him, but nevertheless, he kept invading my thoughts.

"Todd, you seem to be far away," my mom said.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I was just thinking about school. There's a lot going on. I've got that term paper due in three weeks, and I haven't even turned in my topic outline to Mr. Gardner yet. And there's stuff in other classes as well."

"Any ideas for what you want write about?" Josh asked.

I'd thought about what I wanted to write, but it didn't seem proper.

He saw me hesitate. "Come on, Todd. You must have some idea of what interests you."

I sat for a moment, not answering Todd. Could I tell him? If I did, Mom would hear.

There was something I was thinking about. It was teenage crushes on fellow students; how they affected students' lives, and how much pain they caused when students were unable to tell the objects of their crushes how they felt. With me, it was that Terry would never know, that I'd never have a chance with him. No way could I write about me and Terry.

"You need to come up with something pretty quick," Josh said, "and get it to Gardner tomorrow."

"I know. I better work on it tonight. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna head up my room and come up with something."

"Think hard, Todd. Whatever you come up with, I know it's going to be good," my brother encouraged. "Make it be honest."

I felt like his eyes were impaling me.

I wish I had his confidence , I thought to myself.

When I got to my bedroom, I threw myself on my bed, staring at the ceiling. Do I dare write about what I was thinking?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how possible it was. Every kid, boy or girl, had a crush on someone in high school at one time or another. Each and every of them could relate to what I would write. It would be about the hurt suffered by those kids. I wanted to give them encouragement to be able to tell their someone.

This was supposed to be a term paper, not an essay. An essay is your thoughts, coming from your heart or at least your conviction. Term papers require a lot of research into someone else's thoughts on the subject matter. What sort of information on this subject was available for me out there? I needed to talk to Mr. Gardner. I thought it would be better if I talked to him first before I put a lot of work into an outline. I wished I hadn't waited so long before figuring that out.

I walked into my English class right after Home Room on Monday morning, only a few minutes late, having made a stop at my locker. Mr. Gardner was the only one in the room, and he looked up from his desk at me.

"Glad to see you could make it, Todd," he said.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Gardner. I had to stop by my locker, and it's at the other end of the school. This shouldn't happen again."

"Don't worry, Todd. I won't charge you with being tardy this time."

"Thank you, sir, but where is everyone?"

"I've given the class this whole period to work on their term paper. I think they all headed to the library to do their research."

I looked at my teacher but said nothing for a moment or two. My nerves were kicking in; I was wondering just how I wanted to talk to him about my thoughts on my paper subject.

He looked up at me with a quizzical expression on his face.

"Todd, it appears there's something you want to talk about. You look anxious. How can I help you?"

"Yes, there is, sir. I would like to talk to you about my paper."

"You haven't turned in your outline yet. I've been waiting for it. You do know that the paper is due in just three weeks?"

"Yes, sir, I do. That's what I need to talk to you about, my outline."

"Come over and sit down, and let's talk about it then."

I walked over and took a desk in the front row, looking up at him.

"Mr. Gardner, I've given this some deep thought, probably a lot more than is normal for this assignment. I've got an idea of what I want to write about, but I don't know how to begin. I need your help."

"What's your idea, Todd?"

I continued to look at him without speaking for a few moments, wondering how he was going to react when I told him.

"You look worried, Todd. Why don't you just tell me?"

"I want to do a paper on the high school crushes that many, maybe all, kids have. I want to investigate their feelings, their fears about telling their crush, and their reactions to rejection or acceptance."

He sat back in his chair but continued to look at me.

"This is kind of personal to you, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir, it is."

"I suspect that you have a crush on someone, and this may be a way for you to talk about it. Am I correct?"

I had to sit back and thought. I knew in my heart that this was all about Terry. I also knew my emotions would bleed as I exposed myself.

He saw that I was reluctant to answer, so spoke instead.

"You have a very interesting topic in mind. It sounds to me that this might be more proper as an essay and not a term paper. But, giving it some thought, there might be a way to turn it into a term paper. A term paper requires a lot of research. Having to do research is the reason I gave the assignment. But there might be a way for you to do that research with this topic."

"What can I do, sir? And you're right. I do have a crush on someone."

"Don't tell me her name. We shouldn't try to expose anyone."

Instead of sitting back, I slumped down in my chair. I knew that what I was about to say would expose me to not just Mr. Gardner, but eventually the whole class and likely the whole school. Was I ready for this? No, I wasn't. Maybe there was a way to keep it just between Mr. Gardner and me. That might work.

"Mr. Gardner, it's not a her, it's a him." I instantly dropped my head.

Mr. Gardner again sat back, looking at me.

"Todd, do you really want to do this? You may be exposing yourself to a lot of embarrassment and maybe even trouble."

I looked up directly at him. "Mr. Gardner, you don't know what I've been going through. I'm not a brave kid; I never have been. I realized who I was last year and have lived a life in fear ever since. At some point, this has to stop. I need to be who I am."

"I think I know what you've been going through. Do your paper, Todd. No one's going to see it but me. You're not alone in your feelings, Todd. If your paper is good enough, there are kids out there that could get some help from reading it. But that will have to be your choice."

"I know. My question is how do I proceed? How is it possible to research this?"

"Alright, let's discuss the research part. I want you to find out about puberty, what changes kids go through, not just physical changes but also the emotional changes. Take a look at Kinsey. He has a lot to say about same-sex attraction and will give you a feel for the number of gay men out there. I think you should focus on the emotional side. Another resource would be the school counselor or any other professional counselor you may know," Mr. Gardner said. But don't focus on homosexual attraction. This should be about high school crushes, heterosexual and homosexual ones, unless you want to consider only homosexual ones. It's your topic, your term paper. So, I'll leave that up to you."

"Either way, it seems like a lot of work."

"It will be, but that's what term papers are all about. Get the facts and don't forget to include them in your bibliography. We've already covered the format of term papers in class. Follow it. I think your paper will be great."

I stood up and walked over to his desk.

"Thank you, sir."

Mr. Gardner also stood and offered his hand to me.

"Todd, you may not know it yet, but you are one brave individual. You've just shown me your courage for taking on such a topic. I'm very much looking forward to reading it."

I walked out of the classroom knowing what direction I was going to go in, and maybe, just maybe, having a tiny bit of confidence about how to proceed.

I found my usual spot to eat my lunch, a low block wall at the edge of the school's quad area. This location gave me the quiet and privacy I liked and also allowed me some people-watching time when my inner-concentration slipped. I had my laptop and started my research on puberty, which was the time most major crushes started. I learned a lot. I started puberty when I was ten years old and was now over much of it except for a little more growth and filling out. I was able to come up with an outline to turn in to Mr. Gardner, and since I had enough time before my next class, I decided to run to the computer lab, print it and then turn it in.

Mr. Gardner was not in his classroom when I walked in but was following me. I turned to walk out and almost bumped into him.

"I've finished an outline for my paper and wanted to turn it in." I told him.

"Well, let's have a look."

I followed him to his desk and pulled the single piece of paper from my backpack and handed it to him. He looked it over.

  1. Why boys and girls have emotional crushes
    1. What is a crush
    2. Why during puberty
  2. What is puberty
    1. Physical changes in boys
      1. When it starts and ends
      2. What physical changes occur
    2. Physical changes in girls
      1. When it starts and ends
      2. What physical changes occur
  3. Emotional changes that occur during puberty
    1. Enhanced sensitivity; embarrassment
    2. Identity confusion
    3. Uncertainty of feelings
    4. Peer pressure
    5. Conflicting thoughts
    6. Mood swings
    7. Enhanced self-consciousness
    8. Sexual feelings
  4. How to handle crushes
    1. Understanding source of crushes
    2. Communicating one’s feelings
    3. Emotional fears

"I can see you took my advice about concentrating on the emotional aspects. This is good, Todd. Now you have three weeks to do your research and get the writing done."

"In today's world, most kids use the Internet to do their research. Is that acceptable?" I asked.

"Of course, it is. Just make sure you document the source. Most sites will tell you where they got their information. Use that."

I was pleased that he was pleased. Now Josh could get off my back.

"Okay, thanks." And I was off to Algebra II.

Gym class was my last class of the day. I always hated gym. I'm not the most athletic person, and this was the class where it showed.

We dressed out and sat in the bleachers awaiting our coach. We had finished our stint with playing basketball last week, and it was time for something new. None of us were sure what would be next. We were asking each other what it would be. Of course, no one knew.

As we waited, I saw a new kid enter the gym. I hadn't seen him in our class before, but my eyes widened as I saw who it was. Terry had just entered the gym. My heart fluttered as I watched him cross the floor and climb to the row of bleachers that I was in. I was at the end, so guess where he wound up sitting? Right next to me! At this point, my heart was well past the fluttering stage. I was even lightheaded.

He looked at me when he sat, and said, "Hi. I'm Terry; Terry Hanson.'

Now, what the hell should I say? 'Give him your name, you idiot ,' that obnoxious voice in my head said.

I looked at him and said, "Hi, I'm Todd; Todd Carson."

"Good to meet you, Todd. I'm a transfer from fourth period gym. That coach and I didn't get along, so I left."

"I like this coach. He doesn't get on my case much."

Wow! I said that and it just sounded normal. I couldn't believe it. I was talking to him.

"That's what I hear. That's the reason I picked sixth period. Any idea what we're going to play? I asked the coach, but he wouldn't tell me. He said everyone will know when he tells us today," and smiled when he said it.

"No one's heard. We're all waiting to find out," I said.

Terry then turned his attention to the gym floor as the coach commenced his walk across the floor, stopping in front of us. There were twenty-four kids waiting almost patiently.

"My name is Coach Silverstein, for those of you who don't know me. I guess you're all wondering what's next in store for you. It's going to be tennis."

I looked over at Terry to see his reaction. I knew he played a lot of tennis. His face had a wide grin on it. I lowered my head, knowing I was about to make a grand fool of myself.

Terry elbowed me in my side.

"That's my game. I love tennis."

"I wish I did. I've never played tennis before," I sort of squeaked out.

"Hey, that's okay. Don't worry, Todd. I'll help."

I didn't know what to do. I've never spoken to him before. I'd never dreamed I'd have an opportunity to talk to him, or the courage to do so, ever. How was I going to look at him and hide my feelings for him? I was dead. I knew I would make a mistake and say something that would get me in trouble. It was inevitable.

"We'll be playing doubles. There are twenty-four of us and the school has eight tennis courts. That means with doubles, we'll use six of them," coach said.

I turned to Terry, and asked, "What're doubles?"

He turned and looked at me with a frown on his face.

"You don't know much about tennis, do you?"


"I've got an idea then. Let's you and me ask if we can take one of the unused courts. That way I can give you some pointers."

"You really wanna to do that?" I asked.

"Sure! We want to have fun out there, don't we?"

"I guess."

"Todd, I know everyone that's in this period class except you. I've seen you around, but we've never spoken to each other before. Let's change that. This will be a way for us to get to know each other, right?"

Oh, Christ. Now he wanted to get to know me. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to get to know him, but I can't open up to him completely. There are some personal things that I have to keep hidden.

"Okay, you guys, pick a partner and let's go play tennis. I have racquets and tennis balls for everyone," coach said.

Terry smiled at me, and said, "I pick you, Todd," as he poked his finger in my shoulder. When we all left the bleachers, Terry first went over to talk to Coach Silverstein while I waited for him.

"I had to go over and tell coach what we want to do. He said it was okay for us to use one of the empty courts. He asked two of the better players in class if they wanted to take our place and play singles. Of course, they jumped at the chance. Let's take the last court. That okay with you?"

"Hey, I don't know what I'm doing. Right now, I'm just following you."

"Well, let's get going then." We walked to one side of the last court.

"Todd, there're only four strokes you need to learn right now to get the ball over the net. The serve will come later."

"Okay. What do I do first?"

"First is how you hold the racquet. Are you right-handed or left-handed?"

"I'm right-handed."

"Good, so am I. Let me see your right hand."

I shoved my hand out to him. He took it in his right hand and turned it slightly.

Oh my God. He touched me. Todd don't get hard, whatever you do! I had to tell myself.

"Look at your hand. See that 'V' between your thumb and your index finger?"


"Now pick up the racquet and place that 'V' on the narrow side of the handle. The racquet face should be up and down."

I twisted the racquet, so the face was up and down and grabbed the handle like he told me, sort of like I was shaking hands with it.

"That's perfect, Todd. See, you're learning already."

I had to smile.

"Now, we're going to work on the forehand shot. When the ball comes at you, turn to your right 90 degrees by either bringing your left foot forward or your right foot back; you'll have your left hip facing the net. Bring the racquet back; and hit the ball. After you hit the ball, your racquet should be facing the net. The ball does not have to hit the ground before you hit it. The important thing to try to do is hit the ball when it is either slightly in front of you or when it's right beside you. Wanna give it a try?"

Terry went o the other side of the net and threw a ball to me, and I swung.

I totally missed the ball.

"I'm supposed to keep my eye on the ball, huh?"

He laughed. God, he laughed, and I couldn't help it; I blushed.

"That's right. You want to make sure the racquet hits the ball. You want to hit the ball in the center of the racquet head. Let's try another one."

We worked on the forehand shot for most of the period, and I became proficient enough to make most of my returns. At first, I hit most of them either into the net or way long and completely out of the court, but more and more I was getting them across the net and into the court itself.

"Wanna take a little break? You've been working pretty hard at this," Terry asked.

"Yeah. I need to catch my breath."

I walked over to a bench and sat down. Terry remained on the court, practicing his serves. A little while later, Coach Silverstein came over and sat next to me.

"Terry's pretty good. I'm glad he's teaching you," he said as we both watched Terry.

"I feel like such a klutz out there," I responded.

He turned to me. "I've been watching you, and actually, you're better than you think."

"It sure doesn't feel like it."

"Don't give up. Take your time and listen to Terry. He knows what he's doing."

"I've seen him playing on the city courts some Saturdays."

The coach nodded.

"Yeah, I know he plays there. I just wish I could get him to play on our school's team."

I looked at him in surprise.

"He doesn't?" I questioned.

"No, he says he doesn't have time. Said he prefers teaching younger kids the game instead."

"He does that on his own?" I asked.

"Yup. He's a remarkable young man."

When the coach walked away, I started watching Terry with renewed interest based on what the coach had told me about him. I guessed I didn't have to worry about talking to him anymore. But I sure as hell wasn't going to tell him about my crush.

I watched him serving the ball. He had taken his tee shirt off at some point while I was talking to the coach. He was lean but had pretty a well-developed chest. He was obviously further along in puberty than I was. His body glistened with sweat He hit one more serve, looked in my direction and came over to me.

"I saw the coach talking to you," he said as he plopped down on the bench. "I suppose he tried to get you to help him get me on his tennis team."

"Not really. He did tell me he wants you there, though."

"I'm not surprised."

Just then, the coach blew the whistle marking the end of the period.

"Hey, let's hit the showers. I'm kind of beat," Terry said.

I'd known this was coming but had tried to put it out of my mind. I wasn't afraid of taking a shower; I'd done that every day after gym before, but this was different. Terry was going to be with me this time. I supposed I could skip a shower and take one at home. Yeah, but why get coach mad at me and Terry wondering? All I had to do was nonchalantly walk into the shower room, get showered, dried off, dressed, and leave. I just had to watch where my eyes fell. With Terry there, that would be easier said than done.

Heaven must have been on my side because the only open shower head was in front of me as I entered, and Terry was on the other side of the shower room.

When the final bell rang, I left school and started down the steps outside the front doors. I hadn't gotten all the way down when I heard Terry behind me.

"Todd, wait up."

I stepped down the last few steps and moved over to the grass to let the other students pass.

Terry walked over to me.

"What's up, Terry?" I asked.

"I don't have any homework tonight and was wondering if you might want to hang out.

"I wish I could, Terry, I really do, and thanks for asking, but I've got a term paper I need to start tonight."

"You must have Gardner for English. A few of his students have mentioned they're doing term papers now."

"Yeah, I do have Gardner."

"So, what's your paper gonna be about?"

I hesitated. Why did he have to ask that, of all things? I couldn't think how to answer him, but I had to say something. So, I did.

"Sorry, but I can't tell you."

"Why not? It's just a term paper."

"What I'm going to write is kinda personal. Mr. Gardner said he was going to be the only one that would read it, so it would be alright for me to pick this subject matter."

I could see questions in his eyes.

"Oh, well okay then."

"I'll see you tomorrow," I said.

"Tomorrow," he replied and walked off.

I felt awful! I hadn't wanted to say no to him. Believe it or not, and I had a difficult time believing it, Terry was becoming a friend! Despite myself, despite how awkward I felt and acted, he seemed to want to get to know me. I felt terrible, having to shut him down like I just had.

It was raining the next day, so I ate my lunch in the cafeteria. As usual, I chose a two-person table by the window. I was watching the raindrops leisurely roll down the window when I heard someone take the seat across from me. I thought it might have been Terry, but when I turned to see him, it turned out to be Kelly. She was the one person that would talk to me, and I considered her my best friend.

"What're you up to these days? I haven't talked to you in like forever," she began.

"I talked to you yesterday. I think old age is catching up on you."

"Right, I'm only one-month older than you are."

"Bodes poorly for me, then, I suppose," I responded with the usual banter.

Terry walked into the cafeteria late, and I noticed him over Kelly's shoulder. I watched him get his lunch, paid with his meal ticket and sat down at the jock's table. He looked up and saw me. I could tell he saw me as his lips smiled at me. I returned it and silently took a deep breath; he wasn't pissed at me.

Kelly turned around to see who I was looking at and then turned back to me.

"Todd, I've seen you staring at Terry a million times. I've seen the wanting look in your eyes; you're crushing on him. Have you ever talked to him?"

"Actually, I did; yesterday. He just transferred into my gym class. We're supposed to be playing tennis, and you know me; I never played before. He's teaching me how to play and is my doubles partner."

Kelly looked at me with her evil eye.

"Is he your boyfriend now?"

"What?" I almost shouted at her.

"Oh, come on Todd. I figured out you were gay last year."

I looked down at my piece of pizza in my hand and then put it down. I looked around to see if anyone heard her and then back to her, and then, "I'm not gay."

"Of course you are, sweetie."

I lowered my head and then, with only my eyes, I looked up at her.

"So, you figured it out?"

"It wasn't too difficult. You ogling Terry all the time was a giveaway."

"I hope you haven't told anyone."

"Of course not. I'm not that stupid. Besides if you want to be out, it's something you'll have to do. On your own."

"Thanks, Kelly," I said to her.

Kelly looked up at me again with that evil grin of hers.

"So, you and Terry are friends now?"

"Sorta. We talked, and he taught me some tennis moves yesterday."

"Have you two been on a date, yet?"

"No, Kelly. We only talked together yesterday for the first time. He doesn't know I'm gay, and I want to keep it that way."

"Okay. I guess Sue and I can't double date with you two then."

My eyes bulged.

"Who's Sue?"

"She's, my girlfriend."

"For how long, and why the hell didn't you tell me before now?"

"Why the hell didn't you tell me you're gay before now?"

I stared at her for a moment.

"Touché," was all I could say.

"I've gotta run to my next class, Todd. I need to talk to my American Lit teacher before class."

"Okay, see ya 'round," I said.

She got up and left.

I looked down at my cold pizza for a moment, wondering how my life could get more confusing.

"Mind if I sit here?"

Hearing his familiar voice, I looked up. "Pease! Have a seat, Terry."

He sat down, and asked, "How's the term paper coming?"

"It's coming," I said. "I got a lot of my research done last night from the internet."

"So, you're ready to start writing, then?"

"I should be, but I don't feel like I'm ready."

I reached for my backpack and started putting in the papers that I had on the table. Terry watched me but said nothing. When I pulled my hand out, some papers came with it and fell to the floor. Terry and I both reached down to pick them up. But Terry stopped when he started reading one paper.

He then looked up at me.

"Is this what you're going to write about?" he asked as he held up my outline for me to look at.

I could feel my face catch fire with embarrassment. I didn't know what to say. He had seen my outline. And because of that, I knew I had to be honest with him.

"Yes," was all I could manage to say.

"Boy, have you got guts. This is going to be good."

He paused for a moment.

"Look, Todd, can I help you with this. You're not alone here. I've had a crush too and know I can be a help to you. Especially when you get to Part D."

"Thanks, Terry. Heaven knows I could use a lot of help here with that part, but this is supposed to be my paper."

"I know. But I can help with ideas or mention nuances for what you're writing."

I looked up at him, thinking. I was of mixed mind whether I should let him help me. The crush I was going to describe in my paper was personal and directed at Terry himself. I wouldn't ever let him read that. I decided he could help me write Parts A thru C. I would write Part D, only allowing him to give me minuscule help but very careful in doing so.

"Okay, Terry. You and I can work together on parts A thru C."

"What about the rest of it?" he asked.

"That's for me to work on. Like I said, it's really personal to me."

"Well, I can help wherever you want. This sounds pretty exciting to me, and maybe I'll learn something."

"Thanks, Terry. I've gotta run for my next class. Keep the outline so you can be thinking about it. I'll see you in gym this afternoon."

"You bet. See you then," he replied.

There was that slight curled smile again. It made me feel weird.

Terry joined me at our vacant court in gym class that afternoon, and he looked sharp in his white shorts and white Polo shirt. His clothes looked new, and I was a little embarrassed in my worn shorts and shirt.

"Ready for the next lesson?" he asked as he came up to me.

"What's it going to be today?"

"Yesterday, we went through the forehand shot. Today, we're going to work on the backhand shot."

"Okay. I'm all yours."

Terry looked at me with a slight questioning expression on his face. He then shook his head.

"Okay. The backhand shot is similar to the forehand shot except it's used when the ball comes to your left side. This time you need to turn to your left, again at about 90 degrees to face the ball. You'll need to change your grip a bit because when you hit the ball with the back of the racquet, your racquet will be at a wrong angle, so rotate the racquet in your hand just a little."

I rotated the racquet as he told me, closing the face just a bit.

"No, that's too much. Here, let me help you."

Terry came up to me from behind and put his arms around me. I wasn't sure what he was doing, but the touch made my heart skip a beat, and a cold sweat beaded my brow.

His left hand held my racquet while his right hand held my right hand. Slowly, he moved the racquet slightly clockwise and then tightened his grip on my right hand.

"That's all you need, just enough so when you swing, the racquet will be square with the ball. Try it a couple of times. Turn left and bring the racquet face toward the net with your arm crossing your chest on the swing, bringing the racquet head from below the ball up through it. The racquet should wind up over your right shoulder. Some professional tennis players now use a two-handed backhand shot. It gives them more power for the shot and more control. I want to teach you the basics for now."

I tried, but the backhand shot seemed awkward.

"You're getting it," he said. It feels awkward because you need to hit the ball earlier, not let it get all the way to you. Try hitting it before it gets alongside you. Hitting the backhand out in front of you is the secret to making that shot easy. Do it like that and I'll head over to the other side and throw you a couple of balls," he said as he walked to the other side of the net.

"Here it comes," he told me as he tossed a ball to my left side.

I turned left, brought the racquet arm across my chest, swung and hit the ball right into the net.

"Not bad, Todd. Just remember your follow-through should put the racquet over your right shoulder."

I tried again and, this time, I hit the ball over the net directly at Terry. I laughed as Terry had to jump out of the way.

"Alright Lew. That was perfect."

"Who's Lew? I'm Todd, remember," I said.

"Lew is Lew Hoad. He was professional tennis player back in the '50s, '60s and 70's."

That brought a smile to my face.

We practiced the backhand shot for the rest of the period, and after a while I felt pretty good about it.

The coach's whistle blew, ending our gym period.

"Come on, Todd. Let's hit the shower," Terry said and headed to the gym building.

Don't panic , I had to tell myself.

Terry had already undressed and was in the shower when I got to my locker and opened it. As you would have it, my locker was only 3 lockers away from Terry's. Hey, I didn't plan that. I looked around and saw that some of the other kids were undressing.

Now it's time to face Terry , I said to myself as my fears grew.

I hesitated for a moment and then walked completely naked into the shower room. The shower heads were situated with four heads on each stainless-steel post at right angles to each other. I saw Terry under one of the shower heads at the back of the room. I looked around for an empty showerhead, but the only one that was empty was the one directly across from Terry. I didn't have a choice and walked over to it. Nonchalantly, you know.

Terry was still soaping up, and his eyes were closed. I took advantage of his closed eyes to take in his body. When I turned on the water on my side, Terry opened his eyes, stopped moving for a moment and stared at me. I turned my back to him. I could hear the water splashing off him from the other side of the post. Evidently, Terry took longer in the shower than I did because we finished at about the same time. I headed for the towel station, keeping my back toward him. He followed right behind me.

As we were drying ourselves, Terry stopped and again looked at me.

"Don't take this wrong, Todd, but you have a nice body. I have never seen you up close like this before."

That made me blush.

"No one has ever told me that before," I said to him.

"It's true, you know. You're lean with practically no fat. I can tell you're more coordinated than you think. I could see it on the tennis court."

My blush now turned to the color of a red delicious apple.

"Thanks, Terry."

I had to pause for a moment, then looked up at him.

"You look pretty good yourself," I said.

Now, why in the hell did I say that to him? I thought. That was the gayest thing I could have ever said.

I turned from him, reached in his locker, pulled out my boxers and slipped them on.

"We should get dressed," I said. "I need to get home."

"Term paper?" he asked.

"Yeah. I've still got a lot of writing to do."

I forced myself to lie on the top of my bed when I got home and just stared at the ceiling. I couldn't get my mind around what Terry had told me when we were getting dressed after tennis. Why did he say that? What was on his mind to say that to me? Was he perving on me? I doubted that. Terry wasn't gay. He couldn't be; I just knew it. At a local ice cream shop, I'd seen him with a girl at a nearby table, probably on a date. I'd seen him kissing girls in the school's hallways. Why did he tell me I had a nice body, for Christ's sake?

But what was worse was why did I tell him that he did, too? Did I give myself away to him?

I had to turn over and bury my face in my pillow. I didn't want to cry for Terry, but I couldn't help crying for myself. I may have just ruined any chance I had to be friends with him, my crush. I looked back to when I was watching the surf pounding on the rocks below me. I was those waves, broken .

My state of loathing myself was broken by a knock on my door.

"Todd, can I come in?"

It was my mom.

"It's okay. Sure, come on in."

I rolled on my side, and, as she came in, I could see a dark expression on her face.

"What's wrong, Mom?"

She stepped closer to me and sat on the edge of my bed.

"Todd, I got a call from Mrs. Hanson, Terry's mom."

She put her hand on my shoulder. I knew something terrible must have happened when she did that.

"Terry's been in a bad accident. He's in the hospital," she said.

"What happened, Mom?"

"I don't know any of the details, but the EMT people told me that on the way to the hospital, Terry kept asking for you in the ambulance."

"Mom, would you take me to the hospital, please?" I asked, stressing the word 'please.'

"The way Terry's mom sounded; I'd expected you'd want to be with him. He's important to you, isn't he?"

"More than you could know, Mom," I said.

Mom turned to me every so often while driving to the hospital. I knew she wanted to say something but seemed to be changing her mind each time.

Finally, she asked, "How well do you know Terry?"

"I've not gotten to know him very well. We're tennis partners. He's the one who's teaching me how to play. We've started talking a lot, and he's even going to help me with my term paper."

"Do you know why he would be asking to see you?"

"Not really. I know we've begun becoming friends. Maybe I was the first person he thought of since I was probably the last person he talked to this afternoon."

"Ah, maybe," Mom said.

The waiting room was crowded with people I didn't know. One lady noticed me and began walking toward us.

"Are you Todd? You're the only one here who's about Terry's age, so I thought you might be."

"Yes, ma'am. I'm Todd. And this is my mom, Alicia Carson."

"I'm Carol Hanson, Terry's mother," she said as she shook my mom's hand.

"Do you know anything about what happened to Terry," I asked.

"I know very little at this point. A semitruck ran a red light and hit Terry while he was crossing the street on foot in a crosswalk. The EMT people rushed him to the hospital and that's all I know. I'm still waiting for a doctor to tell me how bad it is."

I could see her red eyes, knowing she had been crying.

"Todd, thank you for coming. Terry thinks a lot of you," she said.

"I think a lot of him, too. We haven't known each other for very long, but we've become friends."

"Just friends? I think it's more than that, the way Terry talks about you."

My concern for Terry now became a real curiosity as to what Terry had told his mom about me.

"Are you Mrs. Hanson?" a man in a doctor's white smock asked.

"Yes, I am." Mrs. Hanson said as she turned to the doctor.

"I'm Dr. Daniels."

"How is Terry?" Mrs. Hanson immediately asked.

The doctor looked at Mrs. Hanson for a moment before speaking.

"Your son is in the OR right now. He was hurt pretty badly when he was brought in and had lost consciousness after initially being awake. His left arm was fractured in two places; one was compound. His left leg was broken above his knee. We fear that he has had a severe concussion from his head hitting the pavement. It also appears that he was dragged under the truck for several feet by his torn clothing and scrapes on his skin."

Mrs. Hanson's lips were trembling as tears sprang from her eyes.

"Will he be alright?" she asked.

"I have to be honest with you, Mrs. Hanson. Right now, we don't know. We don't know the extent of any internal damage he may have suffered or the head injury. He may be in the OR for a couple of hours before being moved to the ICU. You might want to go home; you'd be more comfortable there, and we'll call you as soon as we have further information. "

Mrs. Hanson sank into a chair just behind her. She looked up at Mom and me.

"Terry is my only child," she said, her voice trembling.

Mom sat on one side of her; I sat on the other. Mom put her arm around Mrs. Hanson and hugged her as Mrs. Hanson rested her head on Mom's shoulder. Mom took her right hand and held it in her left hand.

"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Hanson. I know how you must feel. I would feel the same if it were Todd this happened to."

I looked at them, knowing this was a mom thing they were experiencing. I felt so sorry for Mrs. Hanson. I hoped that Terry would be alright. For me, sure, but mostly for Mrs. Hanson.

The two moms held onto each other for at least ten minutes until Mrs. Hanson's sobs started to quiet. She then looked up at me.

"Would you and your mom like to get a cup of coffee? I may be here a while."

I looked at mom and she nodded her head.

"I'm not a big fan of coffee, but I'll have a soda with you."

"I'll have the coffee," Mom said, and we all left the waiting area.

We ordered our drinks. The cafeteria was not crowded so we found a table secluded from the rest of the customers. When we sat down, Mrs. Hanson looked at me for a moment.

"Todd, tell me about Terry. He seemed very close to you."

I didn't know what to tell her. There was no way that I was going to say I wish he were my boyfriend. I wasn't sure he was gay, so my feelings for him needed to remain mine. I wasn't comfortable saying anything.

"You probably know Terry better than I do, being his mom," I managed to say.

"I know what Terry tells me. And being his mom, I only hear what he wants me to hear. I think you may know him better when he's at school with you."

Now my old habit of being tongue-tied was starting to make me say crap like, Aah…ah," etc. Then I remembered what Coach Silverstein said to me.

I looked up at Terry's mom.

"You know Terry plays tennis every Saturday, right?"

"Yes. He rides his bike to the city courts every Saturday morning."

"Do you know what he's doing there?"

"Well, I assume he's playing tennis with his friends."

"No, he's not. He's teaching younger kids how to play the game. That's all he's doing all morning. He's not getting paid to do this. He's doing this on his own."

"Oh my. I didn't know this."

"Coach came up to me after Terry had been teaching me during gym period and told me that. He also told me that Terry is a remarkable young man. And it's true. That's what I know about Terry, and that's what I think about him, too and why I like him so much."

After that speech, Mom turned to me, and said, "I didn't know you two were that close."

"Mom, we're not, but I want to be. In the short time I've known him, I've come to respect him a lot. I wish I could be just like him."

"I can also see why Terry is so enamored with you, Todd," Mrs. Hanson said to me. "You speak your mind just like he does."

Now it was my turn to blush. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Mrs. Hanson's brows turn down, like she was contemplating what to say next.

"Todd, you want to be closer to Terry. Is that right?"

No, no, please don't go there , I said to myself. This was getting too personal, and I will not open up my true feelings for Terry. Sure, Mrs. Hanson, I want to go to bed with your boy . I knew that would never happen.

"I think Terry and I are becoming friends. We've only known each other for less than a week, but we're getting quite friendly," I said trying to answer her question. "True friends don't become that in just the few days that Terry and I have known each other. It takes time. We're working on it though."

"I know Terry's working on it. He thinks highly of you, Todd.

Was I ever going to stop blushing?

Mrs. Hanson seemed to be acting like the matchmaker in a musical and wanted Terry and I together. This was getting way out of hand.

"I'm afraid I've got to get home," Mom said. "Rob's going to be home shortly, and I need to get dinner ready."

"Mom, can I stay?" I asked. "I want to make sure Terry's alright."

"Don't worry, Mrs. Carson. I'll give Todd a ride home when I go."

"You sure?"

"He'll probably be asleep when he's moved to the ICU, so I'll probably leave then."

"Okay. You behave, Todd. I'll see you later."

After Mom left, Mrs. Hanson and I returned to the waiting room. It was not as crowded as before. We found seats closer to the front.

It seemed like forever before Dr. Daniels came back. When he did, even he looked tired. He came over to us and sat down next to Mrs. Hanson.

"Terry is out of the OR and being transferred to the ICU. We set his broken bones and patched up his bruises, and the operation went fine, no complications. Now is the time to wait and see how he's doing when he wakes up."

Just then the loudspeaker announced, "Dr. Daniels to the ICU, stat."

"I'm sorry. I've got to run," and turned and left.

"I wonder what that was about," I said.

"It was for something in the ICU they said. I hope it wasn't something for Terry."

"If it was, I'm sure they'll let us know," I said, trying to calm Mrs. Hanson.

Now both of us had something to worry about.

Fifteen-minutes later, Dr. Daniels approach us.

"I'm sorry, but Terry's concussion was more severe than we originally thought. Terry's slipped into a coma. He's being monitored closely, but we have no way of knowing when he'll regain consciousness."

"Have you any idea how long that will be?" Mrs. Hanson asked."

"We really don't know. I've seen patients come out of it within hours."

"And I've heard of patients who take months to come out of it, if ever," she said a little sarcastically.

"Mrs. Hanson, you should probably go home. If anything happens, we'll call you."

"I suppose you're right, Doctor. You ready to go, Todd?"

"Can I stay?" I asked.

"Are you a relative?" the doctor asked me.

"He's Terry's brother, Todd," Mrs. Hanson jumped in.

I looked at her suspiciously.

"Okay. You can stay with him. The big chair in his room folds back so you can get some sleep, if you need," Dr. Daniels said.

"If anything happens, you call me right away, Todd. I don't want to wait for the hospital to call me," Mrs. Hanson said, slipping a small piece of paper with her phone number on it to Todd.

"I'll call you if anything happens," I said, and she walked out of the waiting room.

"I'll show you where his room is, Todd," Dr. Daniels said.

He led me through the double doors and down a long corridor. We passed a room labeled OR A and then past another room labeled OR B. When we passed a room labeled OR D, he turned right into a room with a nurse's station. Behind the nurse's station were four rooms with very large windows. We entered one of the rooms.

I gasped when I saw Terry lying in a bed. He was hooked up to a host of monitors, each one beeping rhythmically. The cast on his left leg was suspended in the air about six or eight inches above the bed. His left arm was in a cast from his wrist to his shoulder. The top of his head was covered with white gauze that looked like a white beanie cap.

"If you need anything, come out and ask at the nurse's station," Dr. Daniels said.

"Okay," I said and turned to look back at Terry. He looked awful. I inched closer to him until I was standing next to his bed.

"How do you feel, Terry?"

Dr. Daniels was still behind me, and said, "He can't hear you, Todd.

I turned to him, and asked, "Nothing?"

"No. They say that some patients in comas do hear what's being said, but in this case, I doubt it."

"Oh," I said as Dr. Daniels left the room.

I looked around the room and saw the large chair that Dr. Daniels told me about. Next to it was a smaller chair. I went over, grabbed the smaller chair, and moved it next to Terry's bed. I stood for a while, looking down at him, before I sat down next to him.

I stroked the top of his hand with my own a few times, and then closed my hand around his. As I did this, my lips started trembling, and my eyes leaked.

"Why did this have to happen to you, Terry?" I said to him. "I know you can't hear me, so let me just ramble. I just want to talk to you, and I'll pretend you can hear me."

"Your mom is a trip. I think she wants us to hook up. She probably thinks we're gay or something. Don't worry; I know you're not. I wish I could say that for myself though."

I looked down at our entwined hands.

"Tell you a little secret. I like holding your hand. You have very smooth hands."

I lowered my head until it was next to our hands on the bed and closed my eyes. Again, my lips trembled. Then I looked up at him. I tried to see if he was smiling, but nothing was there.

"Terry, I'm here with you. I want you to know that. I'm a little wrung out with all that's happened to you, so I'm going to catch a few winks in that big chair over there. I'm not going to leave you, Terry. I'll be here when you need me."

I asked the nurses station for a blanket. They said one was in the closet next to the bathroom. I grabbed the blanket from the closet and settled into the big chair. Before I reclined the chair, I took one last look at Terry.

"I love you, Terry," I said to him. Before I knew it, I was sound asleep, dreaming he loved me back.

When I woke the next morning, Mrs. Hanson was standing next to Terry's bed. She noticed me starting to get up.

"You don't have to get up, Todd. I'm here for just a few moments to check on Terry before I need to get to work. Have you been up with him all night?"

"No, I talked to him some last night, but I couldn't keep awake so they let me sleep here.

"Your mom called me last night wondering where you were. I told her you were staying in Terry's room and that you'd call her tomorrow."

"I totally forgot to call her last night. Thank you for telling her."

"You really care about him, don't you?" she asked.

"Yeah… a lot," I said.

"I thought so. I could see it in your eyes when you talked about him yesterday."

"Am I that obvious?" I suddenly asked.

I knew I was saying too much.

"To a mother, you are. A mother knows these things."

I wanted to bury my head in my blanket.

"Todd, what you are is what you are, nothing more, nothing less.

"Have you told Terry about me?"

"No, Todd. That's for you to tell Terry, when you're ready."

"Do you think Terry might be like me?"

"Oh, Todd. I won't say I know or don't know. Just like you, that is something Terry has to tell you. It's not for me to do."

I'm back at square one , I thought.

"I've got to run, Todd. You'll look after my boy, won't you?"

"I'm here for him," I said.

"And don't forget to call me if anything changes."

"Of course," I said, smiling.

I resumed my vigil sitting next to Terry, my hand holding his.

"Good morning, Terry. Feeling any better today?" I didn't wait for an answer. "I slept here last night, but… I hope you knew that.

I watched him, hoping I would see some kind of reaction from him. Nothing. I guessed this might take some time. Well, I wasn't leaving him.

A large woman entered the room pushing a cart. She was wearing white like all the other nurses. "Ready for some breakfast?" she asked.

"How's Terry supposed to eat breakfast? He's still in a coma."

"This is not for him. He gets his nutrition through that needle in the back of his hand. This is for you."


"You've been here all night, haven't you?"

"Yeah. I slept over there," I said pointing to the blanket rumpled on the chair.

"Well then, you get breakfast. You need to keep your energy up, just like Terry does. Sorry, it's not Eggs Benedict. This is a hospital, you know." She laughed, then placed my tray on one of those rolling tables and pushed it over to me while I was still sitting next to Terry.

"Enjoy," she said as she pushed her cart out of the room and left.

I should have at least asked her for her name. I looked at the tray. The breakfast food didn't interest me, but I did drink the apple juice.

Again, I was interrupted by the door opening. This time it was Dr. Daniels.

"How's our patient doing this morning?" he asked.

"He's just the same as yesterday," I answered.

Dr. Daniels took out a small flashlight from his coat pocket and opened Terry's eye lids. He shined the light in both of his eyes.

"I'll be around to check on him again this afternoon. If there's any change, you let the nurses know, okay?" he asked.

"I will, doctor."


"Well, Terry. You've had a busy morning. Your mom was here first thing to check on you. Then breakfast was served. Oh, I'm sorry. You didn't get any, but the juice was good. Oh, and the last one was your doctor, checking up on you. Now maybe you can get some sleep."

That was stupid for me to say. He was in a coma. It was like he's sleeping all the time. I had to watch my words around him.

"Terry, I'm going to be here with you for a while. I'm not going to leave you, but I need to catch up on my schoolwork. I'm going to have someone bring me my books and stuff. Maybe you and I can work on it together. Give me a few minutes while I make this call."

I got out my cell phone, walked to the other side of the room and called Kelly.

"Todd, where the hell are you? You aren't here today."

"I'll tell you later. Right now, I'm calling to ask you to do me a favor."

"Not until you me what's going on."

"Okay. Terry was in an accident yesterday, a bad one. He's in a coma right now in the ICU. I'm here with him."

"Oh, my God."

"Kelly, you know me and how I feel about Terry. I'm not going to leave him. Would you go to my teachers, tell them where I am, get my assignments, and then go to my locker and get my books? I'm going to try to work here in the hospital."

"Of course, I will. Is there anything else you need?"

"If you have time, I could use a couple cans of diet root beer. My mom will pay you for it."

"You and your diet stuff. Humph."

"Thanks, Kelly. You're a dear."

"And when Terry gets better, you tell him that I'm still waiting for our double date."

"Kelly, I can't do that. Terry doesn't know I'm gay. I'm only just coming to terms with it myself."

"Maybe it's time you told him."

"I will, someday… but not now."

"Okay. I'll be by after school."

"Thanks, Kelly. I owe you one."

"More like two or three," she said, laughing.

"Goodbye, Kelly," I said.

"Bye, love."

"Hey, Terry. I called Kelly. She's bringing my school stuff after school today."

I sat with him holding his hand for a few moments.

"I wish that you could hear me. One day, there will be a time when I can tell you all about me. I hope you'll understand where I'm coming from. Somehow, I think you will.

I stood up when a nurse entered the room.

"There's a woman at our station who says she needs to talk to you. I can't let her in because she's not Terry's family. You'll need to come outside."

I looked through the large pane of glass and saw my mom standing in front of the nurses' station.

"Tell her, I'll be right there," I said.

I knew that my being Terry's brother was going to become an issue when I got there.

"Mom, what are you doing here?" I asked when I joined her.

"I came to see how Terry and you are doing, son," she answered.

"Excuse me", a nurse interrupted us. Are you related to Terry Hanson?" she asked my mom.

"No. The Hanson's are very close friends of ours."

"But you called Todd your son. I thought he was Terry's brother."

"Oh," I interrupted. "Terry and I spend a lot of time with the Carsons, and Mrs. Carson has always called us her sons. We've never thought anything of it. Mrs. Hanson's other son, David, is at our house as much as we're at his, and my mom calls David her son too."

Mom looked at me rather funny.

"Son, why don't we get some lunch? I'm starving. How about you?"

"I am kind of hungry. You can treat me at the hospital cafeteria," I said, smiling.

When we got to the cafeteria, Mom picked out a Caesar Salad while I chose Tuna Salad sandwich and a diet root beer.

"What's going on, Todd? And who is David?" she asked as we were sitting down at a table.

"Sorry, Mom. They weren't going to let me see Terry because I'm not family. Mrs. Hanson told them I was his brother, so they would let me in to see him. I should have warned you about this ruse."

"Yes, you should have. I felt like a fool at that nurse's station."

"I'm sorry, Mom."

"So, how is Terry?"

"He's not good, Mom. They fixed him up the best they could, but his concussion was worse than they thought. When they brought him into the ICU, he went into a coma. That's the way he is now."

My lips began to tremble at the thought of Terry. I had to put my hand over my eyes to try to hide my tears in front of my mom.

Mom came around the table and put her arm around my shoulder.

"I can't help it, Mom. I can't stand to see him like this," I said to her.

I lowered my head onto the table. Mom pulled her chair next to me and put her arm around me again.

"Todd, is this the first time you've cried for Terry?"

"Yes, although I've teared up a few times. I've been trying to be so brave for him."

"You can't keep this in, Todd. If you need to cry for him; you go ahead and cry for him."

My body began convulsing, and my crying turned to outright sobbing. Mom held me tighter.

Mom whispered in my ear, "I'm now realizing how much Terry really means to you. I didn't know, and I should have."

I raised my head slightly to look up at her.

"Terry means more to me than you know. Mom, I'm in love with him."

Mom looked away from me for a moment, then looked back at me.

"Does your dad or Josh know?"

"Josh knows. I haven't told Dad yet."

"I want you to know something, Todd. I don't care if you're gay or not. But you need to know that your dad and I love you and always will."

I lifted my head some more to look at her.

"Mom, do you mean that?"

"With all my heart and soul, son."

She paused for a moment, looking at me.

"Would you like to come home now?"

"Not really. I need to stay with Terry."

"Okay. Todd, does Terry know how you feel about him?"

"No. I was too afraid to tell him."

"If you care so much about him, don't you think he has a right to know?"

"Mom, if I do tell him, I'm afraid I'll lose him."

"Maybe. But I think he should know. If you lose him, then he wasn't much of a friend anyway. But if you don't lose him, he just might be a good boyfriend. Think about that."

I lifted my head all the way up.

"Mom, that's all I've been thinking about."

"Hi, Terry. I'm back. Sorry I took so long but you know how moms are. They just love to hear the sound of their own voices. Well, that's not entirely true. We did talk through some stuff, though.

I took Terry's hand in mine.

"I should tell you that I told Mom about us. She knows I'm gay now. She took it very well and is going to be very supportive of us. She wants me to tell you about me. Well, I guess, I already did. I want you to accept me, Terry. I know this might be difficult for you, but I love you, Terry. I don't want you to leave me.

"Has the doctor been in to see you yet today? I like Dr. Daniels. He really seems to know what he's doing, and I trust him. I know he's going to take good care of you. I love you so much."

Terry's hand moved in mine.

"Oh, my God, Terry. You moved your fingers and gripped my hand.

"Nurse," I yelled out loud. "Nurse!" I yelled again. When no one came in, I grabbed the button and pushed it to get someone's attention.

Oh, Jesus, I saw it! I fucking saw it. I saw a tear slide through his left eye lash and travel down the side of his face, heading to his ear.

"Nurse," I screamed again.

The door slammed open.

"What is it, Todd? What's going on?" the nurse asked.

"Terry moved his hand. He gripped mine," I said. "But more than that, he cried. I saw his tear."

"Get Dr. Daniels," the nurse said to another nurse.

Dr. Daniels was in the room within mere minutes. "What's happening," he asked the nurses.

I couldn't wait for their answer, so I told him what I felt and saw.

Dr. Daniels took out his flashlight and examined Terry's eyes again. This time he saw it too as another tear escaped Terry's eye.

"Have you been talking to him?" he asked me.

"Yes. I've been telling him everything that's been going on: school, his parents, mine, everything."

"Did you say anything specific to him just now?"

I looked at the doctor for a moment. I knew I had to tell him.

"I told him I loved him."

The doctor looked at me and then back at Terry.

"I may have been wrong, Todd. I think he does hear you. It depends how deep the coma is, and perhaps Terry's wasn't as severe as I thought. But the movement of his hand could be nothing more than a reaction to having been still so long. It could have been just a muscle twitch. The tear surprises me, though. It tells me that Terry's mind is still working. He felt an emotion, and more than likely it came from what you told him."

"Is he waking up?" I had to ask.

"Maybe, but maybe not. It's too soon to tell. I'm putting Terry on a more intensive watch. Todd, if you see anything more, let the nurses know at once. If he's waking, I need to be here."

"Thank you, doctor. You've given me some hope."

"You're a good man, Todd. I'm glad you're here with him."

My emotions were kicking in, and I was about to cry again.

"Take care, Todd. I'll be back later to check on him again."

"Thank you, doctor. I'm doing my best," I said.

"I'm sure you are." With that, he and the nurses left the room.

I sat in the chair next to Terry and took his hand in mine. My mind was filled with hope that he might be waking up. The doctor told me that I shouldn't get my hopes up too much. But what does he know? I was the one that felt Terry's hand move, and he also saw the tear. I guess he does know.

It was obvious to me that Terry heard me, and that gave me some consternation. I realized that I had outed myself to him. Was the tear because he didn't want me? Or was the tear because he did? If he did want me, that meant that Terry might be gay too. But then I remembered the doctor had told me not to get my hopes up too high. At this point, I had no idea what to think.

Kelly brought me my schoolwork, but schoolwork was the furthest thing from my mind. All I wanted to do was hold Terry's hand.

"Wake up, Terry. Please wake up. I need to explain things to you."

Then I realized again that maybe he could hear me. Perhaps this was when I should try to explain myself to him.

"Terry, I hope you're not mad at me. Yes, I said I love you, and I meant it. Truth is, I've been in love with you for a long time. You caught my eye two years ago, and I've been dreaming about you ever since. I hope I don't sound like some lovesick puppy-dog to you. Well, maybe I am, I don't know.

"I came out to my mom this morning, as you probably know. I've been trying to hide myself ever since I realized I was gay last year. Now Josh, Kelly and my mom know too. I guess my closet door is opening. I don't feel bad about it, though. In a way, it makes me feel somewhat liberated. Living a lie is not easy."

I looked up into Terry's face. What I saw gave me hope that I'd gotten through to him. I used my thumb to wipe the tear that was falling from his eye.

"Terry, I hope that was a tear of joy and not one of sorrow. One day, you'll be able to tell me. Keep thinking that; I do. No, I don't think about that; I know it. You're strong, Terry, more than I am. We'll get through this, you and me together."

I sat back in the chair, watching him but had to lean forward to wipe away another tear.

"I love you, Terry. I hope you won't get tired of hearing that. I know I won't get tired of saying it.

"I'm going to step away for a little while. I've got some homework I need to get done. Well, I hope you won't mind if I do my homework here on your bed. Kelly left it for me but couldn't stay-said she'd be back to fill me in on what the teachers said. I'll do my homework this way rather than on the table, so I can still be close to you."

I got up from the chair and moved to the other side of his bed.

"Terry, I'm going to move you over a little to make room for me."

Then, thinking the better of it, I opened the door and asked the nurses for help.

"What kind of help do you need?" one of the nurses asked.

"I want to move Terry over a little to make room for me. I need to do some schoolwork. I want to be able to talk to him, show him my books so he can help me."

The nurse looked at me with skepticism.

"You know he can't talk to you?" she said.

"Yes, he can," I answered. "We do communicate."

"Let me ask the doctor if it's okay to move him. I'll be right back," she said and left.

Within minutes, Dr. Daniels entered the room.

"What's this about you wanting to move Terry?" he asked.

"I need to do some schoolwork, and I may need his help."

Dr. Daniels looked at the nurse with a questioning expression.

"Let the nurse help you. I don't want you to be too rough with him."

I smiled at him. "Thank you, doctor."

"I just want to know how he's going to be able to talk to you."

"He doesn't have to talk to me. I just know what he's thinking," I answered.

Dr. Daniels smiled and shook his head.

When Terry and I were finally alone, I gathered my books and notebook and crawled onto bed with him.

"I should have thought of this before, Terry. I like being close to you. Now where do we start? Let's do my Algebra first. I know you're much better with numbers than I am, so help me out whenever you can."

I opened my textbook to the page with the exercise questions for the chapter on equations. I showed it to Terry.

"Number one looks easy," I said to him. "3X = 24. That's easy, just divide both sides by 3 and X = 8. It took me a while to understand what the equal symbol meant. To keep the equality true, what you do to one side, you have to do to the other side. Knowing that makes these problems simple, you agree?"

I looked at him and almost detected a slight grin on his lips. I knew it wasn't really there, but I knew he was thinking about it.

Problem number 4 was more difficult to figure out, 14(X – 7) = 28X.

"Okay, I think I need to find a way to make X stand alone. What do you think? I think I should multiply the 14 with everything inside the parentheses. You agree? That gives me 14X – 98 = 28X. Now I need to subtract 14X from both sides, right? That gives me -98 = 14X. Now dividing both sides by 14 gives me X = - 7. Wow! Terry. I don't know if I'm doing it or you're helping me do it, but I think I'm finally getting the hang of it."

We finished all thirty-six of the problems, although the teacher only required us to do the first ten. It must have been after 10:00 by then, and I was getting tired. My eyelids were telling me it was naptime. I got up, put my school stuff on the table and turned to look at Terry.

"I hope you don't mind, Terry, but I want to sleep with you tonight. No fooling around, okay? You keep your hands to yourself."

I had to smile as I watched him. I felt that he too was getting tired. I retrieved my blanket from the chair and brought it to the bed. I was about to put it over me and lie down but suddenly stopped myself. I watched him for a long time trying to make up my mind. Do I sleep with him or just lie next to him? The decision was not hard to make. I looked out the large window; all the nurses were looking the other way, so I quickly took off my shoes and socks, slipped off my shirt and took off my pants. All I had on was my boxers. I laid the blanket across the foot of the bed and slipped under the sheet. I was now right next to Terry. I could feel his leg next to mine; his hospital gown had moved up to his waist. I rolled over on my side, propping my head in the palm of my hand and watched him. He looked so peaceful. I moved my head closer to his and raised mine so I could feel our lips touch. It was a feeling that I had never experienced before in my life. His lips were the softest things that had ever touched my mouth. I pulled back slightly to see tears fall from his closed eyes, this time one from each eye.

"I love you, Terry. I know you can hear me. Just feel the love that I have for you."

I cuddled up to him, my head on his shoulder and my arm across his chest. I could feel his chest move up and down as he breathed, and then his breathing picked up its pace. Terry knew I was here with him. I was so content that sleep was on me in just moments.

I was awakened the next morning by the door opening.

"Have a good sleep, Todd?" the nurse asked.

"One of the best that I've had in a long time."

"Terry had us a little concerned last night."

"Why? What happened?" I asked, slightly panicky.

"Terry's breathing became erratic last night around 11:00, so we called for the doctor on duty. When he saw you two sleeping like you were, he was elated. He said that Terry's breathing was a good sign, that it suggested he could feel you next to him and was reacting to you being there. Todd, he felt you."

Just then. Dr. Daniels walked in.

"How's my patient doing this morning?" he asked. "I understand there was a little crisis last night," he said to me.

"That was my fault, doctor. I slept with him last night."

"Yeah, I read it in the night nurses report. Todd, you know you're still in bed with him, don't you?"

"Yes, sir. I don't want to get up right now because… because…"

"You're still naked, aren't you?" Dr. Daniels asked, smiling.

"Kinda. I do still have my boxers on."

"I think everyone here has seen a lot more than that. You'd better get up and get dressed. There's someone here to see you."

"Who?" I asked.

"She said her name was Kelly. She didn't give her last name."

"Tell her to give me time to get dressed, and I'll be right out."

"You really want me to tell her you're naked in here?"

I looked at the doctor for a moment.

"Don't worry about me. Knowing Kelly, she'll understand."

Dr. Daniels looked at me, shook his head, muttered, "Teenagers," and left the room.

"Aren't you moving a little fast, Todd?" Kelly asked as soon as I walked through the door.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"You taking advantage of that poor kid in a coma, that's what."

"Kelly, would you like a cup of coffee? It's free in the cafeteria."

"Changing the subject, are you?"

"Damn right. I just think that this conversation needs some privacy, that's all."

"Okay, but I want all the details."

"I'll tell you what you should hear and no more. Follow me."

I walked toward the elevators with all the nurses watching me. I just knew that they knew.

When we had settled at a table away from most of the customers, Kelly just stared at me like it was my turn to speak.

"Kelly, I slept with Terry last night. I… "

"Did anything happen between you two?"

"Just shut up. Let me tell this."

"Okay. I'm all ears."

"I slept with Terry, okay, but I still had my boxers on. The doctor told me early on that Terry couldn't hear me talking to him. I've been talking to him almost nonstop since he was admitted into the ICU. I've been telling him everything, about me, about school, my mom, everything. Then something amazing happened. After I told him that I loved him, he cried. Tears actually came out of his eyes. Dr. Daniels said he was wrong as it appeared that he could hear me. But not just that, he could hear me and react emotionally. My God, Kelly. Do you know what that means? He's going to come out of this. I just know it."

Kelly looked at me for the longest time, watching my eyes film over at my feelings for Terry.

"Todd, you are a trooper. You've stuck by him all this time," she said to me. "And it's not just me saying that. A lot of your teachers are saying that, too."

"What have you told them?"

"Pretty much everything, Terry's accident and his almost dying, you being with him this whole time, you wanting to do your schoolwork here in the hospital to be with him, and that you may be here for a while."

"What did they say?"

"Your gym coach felt that you should stay with Terry, no matter how long it takes. He told you once that he thinks Terry is a remarkable young man. He told me to tell you that he thinks you're a remarkable young man, too.

"Mr. Gardner said that he's seen your outline and the results of some of your research. He also told me that he thinks it's good that you're here by Terry's side. He's figured out who you've been crushing on, by the way. And he's cancelling your term paper assignment. He said you've learned enough about crushes and the emotional impact they have on kids by being with Terry. He's giving you a B+ on it for your information."

"It just seems to me that everyone wants me to hook up with Terry. I only wish that Terry could be one of them."

"What does that mean?"

"It means after all I've told him about how I feel, I still don't know if he wants to be with me."

"You've been told, Todd. Terry's already told you."

"How? He can't talk."

"He's told you with his tears, Todd. That's how he's told you."

I had to put my head on the table to hide the tears falling from my eyes. Yes, Terry had told me, and I so wanted it to be true. Mr. Gardner was right. I was feeling overly sensitive and uncertain. I had conflicting thoughts, mood swings, and sexual feelings… toward Terry. I'm a classic example of a teenager going through puberty.

"Kelly, I don't know what I'd do without you. You make me think, sometimes too much, and you're by my side no matter what crap I pile on myself."

"Todd, you'd better get back upstairs. I think there's someone up there who's wondering where you are."

"Come back again, Kelly. When Terry's awake, I need to introduce you to him and him to you.

It was early afternoon when I walked into Terry's room and saw a hoard of people in white smocks all staring at Terry.

"What's going on?" I asked no one in particular.

Dr. Daniels broke from the crowd and came up to me.

"Todd, you'd better see this," he said as he stepped aside to let me through.

I walked up beside Terry and saw his tears unabashedly flowing from his eyes. It wasn't one or two. He was openly crying.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Look closer, Todd. Speak to him and then watch his reaction."

I leaned over and spoke softly to him. "I'm here, Terry. I only had to leave for a few minutes to give Kelly the homework we did last night. I'm so sorry, Terry. I forgot to tell you where I was going. I'm never going to leave you again like that."

All the doctors leaned in to see Terry's reaction to what I said to him. They all saw it. Terry had stopped crying. I leaned in and wiped the last of his tears from his face. Dr. Daniels came through the crowd and stood next to me.

"One of the nurses unwittingly told Terry that you had gone without saying where or why, just that you had left. That's when he started crying. I don't think she understood what you meant to Terry. We didn't know what was going through his mind either."

"Then it dawned on me, Terry's tears from you admitting that you loved him. If you can help it, don't leave his side. You may not know it but because of you, Terry is coming out of his coma. You're bringing him back. He's not there yet, so please don't stop being with him. Bring him back, Todd."

I moved over from the crowd of doctors and found my easy chair. I sat and buried my face in my hands. After a moment, I looked up at Dr. Daniels.

"Doctor, I knew this was happening. Terry has been telling me of the emotions he's feeling through his tears, the emotions he's expressing being the only way he knows how. He's told me volumes without saying one word. It's more than that though. I feel what he's feeling."

"You gentlemen may all go now. Terry's show is over. I need to talk to Todd for a moment… privately," Dr. Daniels said.

I remained seated, and Dr. Daniels brought the other chair and sat next to me.

"What I said was true Todd. You are bringing him back. In all my years as a physician, I have never seen anything like this before. You and Terry have a gift of communication and insight into each other that is beyond me. And it's unspoken. That truly amazes me. If I'm out of line, you tell me. I suspect that you're gay and Terry is probably going to be your future boyfriend. I suspect that Terry is having fits right now because he can't tell you how much he loves you in his own words. Be patient with him. On one day, he's going to talk your ears off."

"You really think he loves me?"

"I'm pretty sure he does."

"Doc, I'm only fourteen. I was doing a term paper on puberty and one of the things I found out is that kids going through what I'm going through are uncertain about everything. No matter what you tell me, I'm still uncertain what Terry really feels about me."

"Todd, I know you're uncertain about Terry. It can go either way. Which way do you want it to go?"

"I want him to love me back like I love him."

"Then, focus on that. Believe that he's your future boyfriend. Don't become depressed over any other alternative."

"I understand you, but I'm still fourteen. I'll try though."

"Good. Get some sleep. You're going to need it in the coming days. And don't forget, it's you and me as a team that is going to get Terry to wake up. He's already showing good signs of that."

"Doc, why are you always so positive?"

Dr. Daniels chuckled, and as he got up and said, "It's because I came out of puberty years ago."

Alone again, I watched Terry for a moment. I retrieved my chair and moved it close to his bedside and held his hand in mine as the afternoon slipped by.

"I'm here, Terry. I know you can hear me, and I think you can feel my hand holding yours. When you wake, I want to hold your hand all the way out of this hospital. I want everyone to know who we are.

"You feel like helping me with some homework tonight? It's for my American Lit class. I know, you've told me that you're no good at Lit. Well, guess what? I'm not, either. It's my worst subject in school. What d'ya say, can we just skip it for tonight? We can watch a movie if you want. I know you won't be able to see it, but you can hear it. I can tell you what's going on in the film. We could play checkers. You not being able to see the board is the only way I could beat you. Dumb idea, huh? I've got a better idea. Let's just go to bed. I want to cuddle with you today, right on through the night. But like I said before, you've got to keep your hands to yourself."

My blanket was still on his bed, folded at the end. I pulled the top sheet back and sat down on the bottom sheet. This time I didn't care if the nurses saw me undressing. They should be used to it by now. I undressed like I had yesterday and was about to climb in, but I paused. I wanted so much to do this. I knew I was going to get in trouble in the morning, but this wasn't for me. I'm going to do this for Terry.

I slipped off my underwear, pulled the top sheet and blanket over me and moved over to touch Terry.

"Terry, I know you can hear me and maybe you can feel me close to you. I hope you do, because it feels so good to me touching you."

I was about to tell him that I was completely naked, but then I had second thoughts. How would that knowledge make Terry feel? If I were in his place and wanted to touch me and couldn't, I'd feel terrible. No. Not now. I don't want him to feel frustrated because he couldn't return my favor.

So, I cuddled as close as I could to him, put my head on his shoulder and my arm around him. This was no good. What would happen if I got an erection? If he could feel me close to him, he would feel all of me.

"Terry, I've got to pee," I said to him. "I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere, okay?"

I slipped out of bed, put on my underwear, walked over to the bathroom and flushed the toilet. I then returned to lay next to Terry as I had before. I knew that boxers were no security for keeping an erection down, but this was a chance I had to take to be next to him.

Again, I raised my head just far enough to touch his lips to mine. I will never get over how soft his lips were. I wanted him to kiss me back but knew it was too early. I snuggled closer to him, and whispered in his ear, "I love you, Terry. Know that I always will." Knowing it was coming, I wiped the single tear from his face.

His left leg was still suspended off the bed, so I scooted my left leg under his. I couldn't go too far as his right leg was still blocking my way. I was satisfied to have my knee up against his butt. This will do me for a while. I then raised my head and tenderly kissed him on his cheek.

The rest of the day I just lay there, next to Terry, occasionally kissing him, talking to him, and nibbling a bit of food when the nurses later on brought another hospital dinner for me. There were the odd interruptions as the nurses checked on Terry, but mostly the day just passed with me hugging Terry tenderly. Eventually the window showed it getting dark outside, and I was ready to go to sleep.

"Good night, Terry. See you in the morning," I told him and slipped into another night's sound sleep.

Morning for me came too early, probably because I had lain in bed much of the previous day. I could see that no morning sunshine had reached the window yet. Besides the sun not being up, I noticed something else. I had an erection pressing onto Terry's hip. I moved slowly away from him without him noticing. When I was clear of his hip, I looked up at his face. Terry was obviously telling me something as a tear slipped from his eye lash. Was it because he wanted me there? Or was it because he felt sorry for himself that he couldn't respond? I realized that my two questions were exactly what Dr. Daniels wanted me to understand. The answers to both of my questions were that Terry wanted me there.

Can you get an erection while in a coma? I didn't know. On one hand, getting an erection is because of emotions, consciously or unconsciously. But on the other hand, they have physical component too. The body has to pump blood where it's needed. Terry's body hadn't moved, so I doubted that he would get an erection, but I should probably ask Dr. Daniels to be sure. I think my second idea was the correct one. Terry was frustrated because he couldn't respond. I looked up at him again. I know his mind was working, and I felt his pain at not being able to react to me.

I couldn't go back to sleep after thinking my thoughts. I stayed away from his hip while still resting my head on his shoulder, hoping that sleep would return. It didn't.

The greatest thought running through my mind was worry about what would happen when Terry would wake from his coma. Dr. Daniels seemed confident that it would be soon. My fear was that it could be months or even years. That thought sure made me downhearted. I had to be patient, I knew, but patience is not part of fourteen-year old's makeup.

"Why's it so dark in here?"

"Because the sun's not up yet," I said to the person who had asked the question.

I sat up and looked around, but no one was there. I glanced down at Terry, and his eyes were open. HIS EYES WERE OPEN! HOLY SHIT, HE'D WAKENED UP! I jumped out of the bed and "ushed the button next to Terry repeatedly in a panic trying to get someone's attention.

"What's the matter?" the nurse asked when she entered the room.

"He's awake,' I yelled back at her. "His eyes are open, and he spoke to me."

"Let me get the doctor on duty. I'll right back," she said and left.

Within minutes, Dr. Daniels walked into the room. I was a little confused seeing him because he usually didn't get here this early.

"What are you doing here so early," I asked him.

"I'm covering for another doctor. What's with Terry?"

"I think he's woke up." I answered.

Dr. Daniels walked over to Terry and looked in his yes, this time without his flashlight.

"Terry? Can you hear me?" Dr. Daniels asked him.

"Yeah, I can hear you. Who are you?"

"I'm Doctor Daniels. I've been taking care of you while you've been asleep."

"I remember you. I'm sorry, my eyes are still a little bit blurry."

"Don't worry. That's normal. Your brain is now taking over control of your body and doing the job it's supposed to do. Your eyes should be back to normal in just a few minutes."

"Doc, Where's Todd? I need to see him."

"I'm right here, Terry," I said as I almost pushed Dr. Daniels out of the way to get to him. "Can you see me, Terry?

He turned his head and looked straight at me for a moment.

"You're clearing up now," he said and continued to look at me for a while. "Do you know that you talk a lot? I can remember every word you said to me while I was asleep."

"We'll talk about that later, okay?"

I saw Terry smile at me.

"Excuse me, Todd. I need to find out some things about how he's coming out of his coma."

I stepped aside for the doctors, and Terry's eyes followed my movement.

Dr. Daniels placed his hand on Terry's side.

"Do you feel my hand?"

"Yeah, I can feel it."

Then, Dr, Daniels pinched him there, hard.

"Ouch! Why'd you do that?"

"First, I watched your eyes as Todd moved away. Second, I needed to find out if you could feel when someone touched you. The pinch was to find out if you could feel pain."

"Well, I sure felt that."

"Terry, you're coming out of your coma just fine."

"I was in a coma? How long?"

"A few days."

"Do you remember what happened to you?"

"Not really. I do remember waking up in a hospital with a cast on my leg, but that's all."

"That must have been when you were coming out of the anesthesia after your operations on your broken leg and arm."

"I figured something must have happened to me because of the way I'm casted and strung up."

"Terry, I won't lie to you. You were unconscious when they brought you in, and I wasn't sure you'd make it. You were hit by a semi-truck. We patched you up, but when you were recovering in the ICU, I think your mind said 'I've had enough of this trauma. I'm shutting down and going into coma mode.' You've been that way ever since. I'm glad to see you're coming out of it just fine, though. I did have help though."


"Yes, from that devoted kid standing on the other side of you."

Terry looked over at me.

"I know what you did, Todd. You didn't just keep my mind awake listening to you. You made me not just see you but see myself too. I want to have that conversation with you alone.

Terry turned from me to face Dr. Daniels. "When can I go home? he asked him.

"Maybe in a couple of days. There are still a lot of tests we need to run on you, , not to mention that arrangements will have to be made for your care, since you cannot get up with both your arm and leg in casts.

"I' really hungry. Wanna have lunch with me?" Terry asked me.

"Can he eat solid food yet?" I asked Dr. Daniels.

"Not yet. He'll have to ease into it. Only juice for now. And, Terry, I'm going to have a wheelchair brought up for you. Your legs are going to be pretty weak from no activity over the past few days, and the bones in your left leg haven't fully healed yet; you need to take it easy for at least another month or more.

"I'm going to leave you two to get acquainted again. I have other patients to see."

"I don't have to get acquainted with Todd," Terry said. "After this time here, I think I know him pretty well," he said as he winked at me.

"I suspect so. I'll come and check on you this afternoon."

I pulled my chair up to Terry's bed and sat down. This time, Terry reached for my hand and held it.

"Todd, there's a lot you don't know about me, and I'm aching to tell you. One part is that I don't have any friends."

"But, Terry, you're popular at school. You must have a ton of friends."

"Maybe that's what you see, but don't mistake the difference between acquaintances and friends. I have a lot of acquaintances but no real friends. I'm a loner at heart. I don't hang with the people I know. I spend my time usually at home or the library, doing homework or just plain reading. I guess because of that, I've gotten straight A's since I was in the fifth grade."

"You have no friends?"

"Actually, I do. I have one friend."

"Who is it, if I may ask?"

Terry looked across the room.

"A friend to me is someone I trust with my secrets, and knowing they will be kept, someone I can talk to about anything, someone that I look after, and he looks after me. Even when I don't hang with this friend, I know he thinks about me. There's a closeness that I feel for this friend that I've never felt before with anyone."

"You don't want to tell me who he is; do you?"

Terry looked back at me.

"Todd, it's you."


"Yes, you. Ever since I started teaching you tennis, I saw something special in you. I didn't know what it was then. When you showed me the outline for your term paper, I saw courage in you. You weren't like anyone else I had ever met. At that moment, I knew I wanted you as my friend."

I was a little shocked at what he just said. I didn't think it would ever happen to me, but what he said fit perfectly into my dreams; he wanted me as his friend, not his acquaintance. I smiled at him and held his hand tighter.

"You know I'm gay, don't you?" I asked.

"Yes. You told me."

"I guess you did hear me, then."

"You hid that fact, didn't you?"

"Yeah, for too long. Kelly knows, my mom knows, my brother knows, and they've been great."

"Todd, I have to tell you something. I'm gay, too. I never thought I would ever come out. You gave me the courage to tell you that."

I looked at him and couldn't hold back my tears. Terry saw my tears, released my hand and placed it on my cheek. It was his turn to wipe away my tears.

"Todd, I want to kiss you. I know you've already kissed me twice, but I never had the chance to return those kisses. I want to do that now."

I leaned over him, my lips inches from his. I held that distance for a moment and then slowly placed my lips on his. This time he reacted and kissed me back. My heart was pounding at the shear delight of this intimate moment. TERRY WAS KISSING ME BACK!

I pulled my lips from his, and said, "Terry, I love you. I've loved you ever since I saw you two years ago. Remember my term paper on crushes? You are mine."

Terry chuckled for a moment.

"It's not funny, Terry."

"Yes, it is because I've had a crush on you for the last two years too."

Now, I had to chuckle.

"I was afraid to tell you, Todd."

"Just like I was afraid to tell you."

"We're a couple of fools, you know?" Terry said.

"Why's that?"

"Because we've wasted two years of being together, that's why."

"One of the things I was going to say in my paper was that if someone has a crush on someone, that someone needs to tell his crush. I guess I didn't follow my own newly realized advice."

"Yeah, you and me both."

"It's after noon. Do you wanna go outside, for a bit, if the doctor allows it?" I asked.

"Not really. You and I are getting to know each other better right here. Besides, I hate wheelchairs."

"I agree. It's pretty private here anyway."

"Todd, I want you to kiss me again. I've never been kissed on the lips before, not even by my mom. I can't get over how wonderful you felt."

"You're the only one I've ever kissed on the lips, too. And you're a boy."

"I know. Come over here, my boy."

I stood from my chair and leaned over him.

"Do you know how beautiful you are?" I said to him.

I wetted my lips and softly touched those lips that I had craved over the years. We kissed for a moment until I felt his tongue try to pass through his lips into mine. I knew what he wanted to do, and I let him. His tongue explored my mouth, backwards and forward, side to side. I entered his mouth and our tongues played like we were in a sword fight. I felt ecstasy from his tongue playing with me. I knew I was getting an erection, and I hoped he was too.

We broke our kiss, and I asked him, "Where did you learn to do that?"

"I didn't. I've never done that before. I've heard some of the guys talk about it, but I never thought about doing it."

"But, why me then?"

Terry looked into my eyes for a moment.

"Because it was you. I never knew how wonderful it would feel to be exploring you. Like I said, I did it because it was you."

My lips curled with joy at what he told me.

A knock came from the door, and Dr. Daniels walked in. He saw me almost on top of Terry, and I tried to get off him.

"Why did I know this was going to happen?" Dr. Daniels asked.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I was just enjoying my alone time with him."

"It's my fault, Dr. Daniels. I asked him to kiss me," Terry said.

"I can see he didn't refuse. Look, guys. I knew there is love between you two, and I'm very happy for you. And I'm sorry for barging in on you. Next time, I'll wait for you to say, 'come in. That okay?"

We both smiled and nodded our heads in approval.

"I'm just making my rounds and dropped in to check on Terry, and to let him know that I've got quite a series of tests to run on him. He's going to be gone most of the afternoon."

"Can I go with him?" I asked.

"No, Todd. You'd only be in the way."

I almost pouted. "Maybe, I'll go see my mom, then."

"Which mom, Todd?" Dr. Daniels chided me.

"My real mom," I answered.

"The orderlies should be here to take Terry down for his tests shortly. That should give you alone time for about three minutes."

Dr. Daniels winked at us and left the room.

I gave him a quick kiss. "Sorry. We don't have more time."

"Just wait till this evening when we're alone again," Terry said to me with a wink.

I called Mom, and she was able to give me a ride home. She told me that Dad was home and had been about to come to the hospital to see me.

Dad was sitting in his favorite easy chair when we walked in the front door. He at once jumped up and grabbed me in a bear hug. He does that a lot, sometimes making it hard for me to breathe, but I love him for it.

"I'm so sorry to hear about Terry," he said first off, before asking about me. "How are you holding up?"

"I'm fine, Dad. Terry woke up from his coma yesterday, and he's doing much better now."

"That's good to hear. I'm sorry for not being able to see you this week. The Planning Commission approved my project, meaning that all the detailed drafting of plans has to start now. I'll have to continue spending all my time there like I have been."

"I can attest to that, Todd. He comes home at night, eats a quick dinner and goes to bed. Rob's been getting up at 4:00 every morning."

"How come you're home now?" I asked.

"I got the team organized, and they can do their own work for a few hours. So, I decided to take the time to come see you. I'm glad you were able to come home."

"Terry's got a lot of tests planned for the afternoon, and they told me that I would only be in the way. So I also took the afternoon off."

Dad looked at me for a moment.

"Todd, have a seat."

I knew he was going to ask me about what was going on with Terry. I sat on the couch while he returned to his easy chair. Mom sat next to me.

Dad waited for a while before he spoke to me.

"Tell me about Terry. It seems that you two have gotten pretty close."

I looked at Mom next to me. She shook her head, no, meaning she hadn't told him what Terry means to me.

I guess it was time.

"Dad, there's so much to tell you about me and Terry. It all started about two years ago. I first noticed him at school, but I'd never spoken to him. I'd dream about him, wishing he were my friend. Dad, I've had a crush on him ever since. That probably tells you that I'm gay. I am. I figured out that I'm gay about nine months ago."

"Did you tell Josh or your mom?"

"I came out to Josh almost two weeks ago and Mom this week at the hospital."

"Why didn't you tell us sooner, Todd?"

"There's only one answer to that question. Because I was scared. I was scared of disappointing you."

"You shouldn't have been, you know? We're a family, and we stick together. Todd, I'm not disappointed in you at all. Do you love him?"

My lips trembled as tears appeared in my eyes.

"Dad, I love him with all my heart."

"Is it two-ways? Does he love you back?"

"I know he does. He's extremely happy to be with me. But more than that, I know how he feels when he kisses me. I know you don't want to hear that, but I don't know of any other way to answer you."

Dad sat back in his chair, looking at me and then at Mom for a moment.

"Are you happy, Todd? Does he make you happy?"

"You have no idea how happy he makes me feel."

"That's good enough for me. When can I meet this young man?"

"I wish you could come to the hospital with me, but there's a problem with that."

Dad frowned.

"What's that?"

"I'm not a relative of his, and neither are you. His mom knew what Terry meant to me and lied to the nurses. She told them I was his brother so they would let me be with him. That's why I was able to be where I've been this past week. Honestly though, I think Dr. Daniels has told them to let me stay there, even though he knows I 'm not his brother. "

"Your mom's told me why Terry's in the hospital. I guess he was pretty banged up after being hit by that truck."

"Yeah, he was. They didn't know if he was going to survive. Dr. Daniels is a wonderful doctor and is taking great care of him."

Dad, again, leaned back for a moment.

"What's Terry's last name?"

"It's Hanson," I said.

"I wonder. There's a Franklin Hanson sitting on the Planning Commission that approved my project. I heard one of my drafters saying that Franklin has a son who was badly hurt by a truck last week. I wonder if he's the same man that's Terry's father."

"I don't know. There was a man with Mrs. Hanson when I first got to the hospital, but he didn't speak to me. Mrs. Hanson pointed him out to me, but he was sitting on the other side of the room with his head in his hands. I didn't feel I should disturb him," I said.

"Dinner's ready," I heard from the kitchen. "I made dinner early in case you wanted to get back to the hospital to find out how someone's tests went."

"You read my mind, Mom. What's for dinner?"

"Your favorite, Mac and Cheese with bacon."

"I guess you really can read my mind."

"After dinner, I'd like to go with you back to the hospital," Dad said.

"I'd like to go, too," Mom said.

Terry's parents were both at the nurse's station when we arrived. Mrs. Hanson saw me and rushed over and wrapped hers arms around me in a hug.

"Terry's climbing the walls. Well not actually, but he's been asking where you were," she said to me.

Mrs. Hanson walked over to Mom and said, "Thanks for coming again. This is my husband, Franklin. Frank, this is Alicia Carson and her son, Todd."

"So, you're the boy my son's fallen for. I'm really glad to meet you, Todd," Franklin said.

"This is his dad, Robert Carson," she said pointing to my dad.

"Robert Carson. You were the architect presenting an apartment complex to us last week."

"Yes, that was me."

"I must say that no one's ever had a project so completely presented in one meeting that was able to get approval that night. Usually, our questions have them coming back for more meetings. You obviously did your homework."

"Thank you, sir. We brought Todd back to see Terry and my wife and I thought we'd like to find out how he's doing as well."

"Terry can see us through that window, and if we don't let Todd go, we're going to catch hell for it," Mr. Hanson said.

"We've already been to see Terry, so why don't the four of us go down to the cafeteria and get a cup of coffee," Mrs. Hanson suggested.

I was starting to fidget, hoping the parent's talking would end. Mr. Hanson must have noticed because he motioned for me to go in. I couldn't get there fast enough.

They all left after Mrs. Hanson waved to Terry.

The first thing I did when I was beside Terry was to plant a wet kiss on his lips.

He smiled at me, and said, "Miss me much?"

"You bet I did. So, how'd the tests go?"

"I don't know. Dr. Daniels is still evaluating them. He said he'd be up to let me know when he's finished."

"Did any of the tests hurt?"

"Only when they stuck a needle in my arm. It was for some iodine to help the scan they took to show stuff. The X-rays didn't hurt at all."

"So, you're okay then?"

"Mostly. He wants to keep me here for a couple more days because of my head concussion. He also wants me to see their physical therapist to get me ready for that wheelchair. He said he changed his mind and is sending a motorized one, one that lets me keep my leg cast elevated until the casts come off my arm, and my arms are strong enough."

"Are you going to be able to go back to school?"

"Not right away. I'll be home for a while, I'm afraid."

"Don't worry about any schoolwork. I'm going to help you with that."

"You know, when we were doing Algebra on my bed in the hospital, I was frustrated because Algebra is one of my favorite subjects and I couldn't help you. But you didn't need it. You were great at figuring it out."

Knock, knock came from the door, but no one entered.

Terry and I could see that it was Dr. Daniels through the window.

Knock, knock came again.

"Why's he just standing there," I asked.

"Because we didn't tell him to come in. Remember his promise?"

"Oh, yeah. Come in," I called toward the door.

"I could see that you two weren't fooling around through the window, but I did promise I wouldn't come in until you said it was okay," he said when he walked through the door.

"We were just talking about school for when he comes home," I said.

"I'm here to let you know how your tests came out. I already talked to your folks at the nurses' station. You're healing fast for your age; however, the casts will need to stay on your arm for another two weeks. Your leg cast will take another month. The blood tests show that your kidney function is normal. I want to keep you here for another day just to make sure there are no complications from your concussion."

"Then I can go home?" Terry asked.

"No. The problem is with your arm in a cast. Until that cast is removed, and your arms are strengthened, you'll not be able to lift yourself in and out of the chair. The physical therapist should be here later today to show you how to use the motorized wheelchair and give you some exercises to start strengthening your arms."

"Can Todd help me get in and out of the chair?"

"He'll have to be with you 24/7 until that happens. That's asking a lot from him."

"No, it's not," I jumped in.

Just then, Terry's mom and dad entered the room.

"How're my two boys doing?" Mr. Hanson asked keeping up the ruse about relatives.

"Dad, I can't come home yet," Terry said with a pout. "I need to be ready to use that wheelchair. Doc Daniels doesn't think I'll be strong enough. I know I'll still have to stay in bed for a little longer, but Todd is going to help me keep up with my schoolwork and help me with the chair."

"How long do you think that will be, Doctor?" Mr. Hanson turned around, and asked Dr. Daniels.

"That's hard to say. I'm thinking around 3 weeks, though. That's for his arm cast and another week to regain some arm strength. His leg cast will need to be on for at least a month or possibly longer. "I've got to finish my rounds, but I'll be back later to check on Terry."

Dr. Daniels left the room. Mr. Hanson then turned around and looked at me.

"Todd, I've spoken to your parents, and we've arranged for you to stay with us for as long as it takes for Terry to be up and around again. Is this okay with you?"

"I'll be staying with you guys?" I asked.

"Yes. I hope you don't mind, but because we don't have a spare bedroom, we've put you with Terry in his room. There's a mattress on the floor by his bed that slips under his bed for more room," Mrs. Hanson said.

looked at Terry to see him smile with eyes bright.

I think he was thinking of me sleeping with him. Think I'd mind? Oh, hell no.

"When Terry can move around a little better, we'll move in another desk for your schoolwork. Todd, your dad said that he'll bring your computer over, so you'll have that. Tell him what books you'll need, and he'll bring those too."

"I think this brotherly ruse is about to turn true," Mrs. Hanson added.

"Todd?" Mr. Hanson spoke. "We haven't talked about this, but we think everyone knows. Terry is gay, and we suspect you are too. We understand, that being fourteen-year-old teenagers, you two might fool around. That's normal and to be expected. But we ask that you be discrete about it, okay?"

I blushed, but not as badly as Terry did. I couldn't believe what his dad just asked us. This was the first time an adult had spoken to me about sex.

Terry and I looked at each other for a moment until I said, "Of course."

Terry and I slept together in his hospital bed again that night. The bed was small for two people but that just made the closeness better for me and, I'm sure, for Terry, too.

Terry got the okay to go home from Dr. Daniels exactly 3 weeks from when he said it would happen. His dad had leased one of those vans with a hydraulic tailgate lift for Terry's wheelchair. The physical therapist had to keep telling Terry to slow down in his wheelchair. He was not to drive like an Indy 500 race.

I don't think Terry listened too well.

Their house wasn't large; everything was on one level. The doorways were just wide enough for Terry's wheelchair to slip through, and his dad had built a ramp to the front door.

I had never been in Terry's bedroom before. It was not large and seemed just perfect for the two of us. He had a queen-sized bed, and I noticed my mattress under it. He had a floor-to-ceiling bookcase that was loaded with books and video games. His desk held his computer, a printer and his PS3 game console. Across from the bed was a forty-five-inch television screen. What I was also happy to see was an ensuite bathroom. The bathroom had twin sinks, a tub and a separate shower. I didn't relish the thought of having to run down the hall naked to get to the bathroom.

"What do you think?" Terry asked me.

"This is a great setup, Terry."

"It works for me. Do you have earphones or ear buds? We need to keep the noise down because Mom and Dad's bedroom is right next door."

"I have both," I gushed.

Before dinner, Terry and I lay on his bed to catch up on our homework. The queen size bed gave us ample room to stretch out. I could see why Terry got all A's. I think he was teaching me more than I was teaching him. Surely my grades were going to see an improvement.

His mom called when dinner was ready.

Mrs. Hanson turned out to be a great cook. Her menus always had a protein, a starch and a vegetable. We didn't always have a dessert. Mr. and Mrs. Hanson always had a glass of wine with dinner; Terry and I usually had milk.

She and my mom must have talked because my first dinner there was Mac and Cheese with Bacon. I was in double heaven.

Mr. Hanson asked us at dinner how our homework was coming.

"I'm far from being caught up," Terry answered. "But we made a good dent in it tonight. It's probably going to take us a couple more weeks to get me caught up."

"I talked to your school counselor today. You two have been the talk of the school. Every one of your teachers is supportive and cheering for you. They have our address, so you should start receiving get well cards soon. A lot of the students are rooting for you, Terry."

Terry's used to being popular. It just makes me nervous.

The next two weeks went by quickly. We'd settled into a routine where we spent at least half a day on schoolwork and another half playing video games, watching a movie or just reading. Terry and I were becoming closer and closer. I knew what he was thinking and would finish his sentences for him, and he would do the same for me.

We never did pull out my mattress; I always slept with him in his bed. Mr. and Mrs. Hanson knew we slept that way, but never brought it up to us. Terry was solidly my boyfriend.

Being teenagers, we did fool around a little. Terry's brain had taken over and he was able to have an erection. It took me by surprise one night when I was cuddling with him. He moved my hand from his chest further down and asked me to feel him. What can I say? I did it. Use your imagination for the rest.

Terry had a doctor's appointment after his third week at home. His arm cast was removed, and Dr. Daniels gave him the okay to return to school but still in the wheelchair, mostly because of his leg cast.

Mr. Hanson drove us to school that Monday morning. What I saw when we approached the school entrance absolutely floored me. The front of the building was packed with teachers and students all standing outside. When the van's ramp went down and Terry started to roll down, the entire crowd started applauding and yelling "Welcome back," and, "Terry, Terry." Terry was filled with emotions and tears flowing down his cheeks. I stepped behind him and started pushing his wheelchair, but he stopped me. He wanted to use the motor to move and then held my hand as we made our way through the crowd.

The school's principal stepped in front of Terry.

"Terry Hanson, we are so happy to see you again and even happier that your recovery is coming along just fine. But there is someone else that I need to recognize."

The principal turned toward the crowd.

"Todd Carson has been with Terry this whole time. He's supported Terry throughout this ordeal. He's slept in Terry's hospital room at night to be with him. He went home to see his family only once during the whole time that Terry was gone."

He then turned toward me.

"Todd, you are a remarkable and caring young man. You've been a major factor in Terry's recovery. It took the strength of both of you to get through this."

The crown burst into applause and shouts again, yelling, "Todd, Todd."

I gripped Terry's hand tightly, hating this kind of recognition.

"Take it easy, Todd. You deserve this," Terry said to me while gripping my hand even tighter.

I walked with Terry as he motored to his Home Room. I opened the door for him as he wasn't quite used to doing that from his wheelchair on his own yet. He went in and I headed for my Home Room. I wasn't twenty feet away when I heard the chant again, "Terry, Terry."

I had to smile for him, but knew he was also smiling.

Mr. Gardner's welcome was with his arms around me. It was a little embarrassing in front of the whole class.

"We're finishing up our term paper assignment this week, so I'm asking the class to go wherever they'd like, the library, the cafeteria or the school grounds to put on their finishing touches," he announced to me and the class. Stick around, Todd, for a couple minutes."

The class emptied while I sat in a front row desk. Mr. Gardner returned to his desk.

"I didn't tell the class about you being excused from this assignment. Your initial research seemed sound to me, but I think you learned a lot more in the weeks you spent with Terry. Did you finally tell him that he was your crush?"

"How'd you know it was him?"

"It wasn't very hard to figure out."

"Yes, I did. We talked about it a lot. I went through every one of the things in my outline on the emotional effects on kids who have a crush on someone. I related to all of them, and still do. And you were right. It all has a lot to do with puberty and being a teenager."

"I wish the rest of my students could be as bright and intuitive as you are," he said to me.

Of course, I blushed. I forgot which letter this was on my outline list, but I know it was there.

"We're going to start reading the term papers for those who wish to do so on Wednesday. I wish I could excuse you from class till then, but I can't. Regulations say you have to be here. But I think you'll enjoy hearing what the other students have come up with."

I walked to the football stadium to watch the gym class in progress while waiting for my next class. Some of those kids were pretty athletic and coordinated. Then there were those like me; enough said about that. I noticed some really cute boys out there, too, some I might have even crushed on. But that wasn't what I wanted anymore. I had what I wanted.

Finally, lunch period came around, and I waited for Terry in the hall outside of the cafeteria. I could see him motoring his way down the hall as people gave way for him.

"How'd your day go?" I asked him.

"Not bad until this last period. Seems that my old soccer buddies didn't like seeing you and me holding hands."

"Did they do anything to you," I asked with concern in my voice.

"Just a lot of name-calling. One of them, John Freeling, said, 'At least we don't have to worry about this crippled fag perving on us in our locker room anymore.' I felt like punching him… if I could get out of this chair."

I was pissed. I'm not a fighter by any means, but maybe I would have hit him, or at least pushed him.

"Don't let it bother you, Todd. We're probably gonna hear a lot of that in the days to come. It's only their dumb hate words, that's all. Most of the kids here are fine with us."

I was still seething when we got into the food line. For Christ's sake, I thought. Terry was in a wheelchair. What kind of animals were they?

I looked around when I heard someone say, "Hey guys. There're those two fag lovebirds. I don't feel like eating lunch with them."

I didn't feel like eating lunch with them either, so I asked Terry if we could get our lunch and eat outside.

"No," he said. "We have every right to eat our lunch here in the cafeteria. Let's get something. We don't have to sit anywhere near them."

They were serving meatballs with mashed potatoes. I ordered but had no stomach for eating. Terry had the same lunch. After each grabbing a carton of milk, we made our way to a table that seated four people. I had to sit next to him so his cast leg would stick out and fit under the table.

It didn't take long for John Feeling and three of his goons to come up to our table.

"I thought I told you I didn't want you eating with us. You and your boy toy had better leave," he barked at us.

"Why don't you just leave us alone? We haven't done anything to you," I said quietly, but I was seething inside.

"You gonna make us leave, huh?"

Terry and I sat quietly, saying nothing.

"I'm talking to you, fag," John screamed.

All heads from around the cafeteria were now turned in our direction.

John grabbed Terry's food tray and dumped it in his lap spilling gravy on his shirt and pants.

I immediately jumped to my feet. "That was totally uncalled for," I angrily said to him.

"What's uncalled for is you two eating here."

He then took Terry's tray and slammed the edge of it on Terry's cast. Terry let out a scream of pain and grabbed his leg.

I was seething red and had had enough. I moved around the table to come up to John's face. Terry needed my protection from any more abuse and pain. It was now my sacred duty. I wasn't a fighter, but Terry needed me, and that was what mattered.

"Someone ought to smack you right in the nose for what you just did," I yelled at him.

"Well, who's going to stop me? You? Har har," John said.

He grabbed my tray, spilling my lunch on the floor and was about to hit Terry again.

I stepped between them. "Like I said, someone ought to hit you, but I won't." I turned slightly around as if I were leaving. "But I won't," I said again.

Before John could hit Terry again, I turned back to him, and said, "Like hell I won't," and swung my fist hard, as hard as my anger was, and hit him high on his cheek bone. As he was stumbling backward, I brought my left fist up and crashed it square on his nose. He fell backward to the floor. His blood sprayed over my shirt, but it was of no concern to me at all. I simply didn't care; I was as angry as I had ever been. I looked at the blood on my knuckles.

"No one does what you did to Terry without dealing with me," I shouted at John, who was lying stunned on the floor.

One of John's goons came up to me and was about to hit me, but I saw him and kicked him in the balls, who fell to the floor next to John, moaning. And he was down.

"Anyone else?" I yelled at the other two, and they backed off.

I knelt down beside John Freeling, and said to him, "You ever come close to Terry again, I want you to remember, you have bones that break just as easily as your nose. Now get the fuck out of here. Take your goons with you!"

I got up and walked over to Terry just as the room monitors were rushing over to us.

"Are you alright, Terry?" I asked.

"I'm okay. But what you just did was impressive. I didn't think you were a fighter, but you showed em who's who, who are you?"

"I told you in the hospital that I'll always have your back."

Of course, I was almost suspended. I had witnesses who told the Vice Principle that I was protecting Terry from being hit again, but that it wasn't exactly self-defense as I did throw the first punch, he cancelled my suspension by calling it in defense of others. The other boys didn't fare so well. John and the goon that was going to hit me were expelled. The other two were suspended for a month each for violating the school's anti-bullying policy.

O f course, we were covered in food and blood and I had to leave the school right then. I called Mrs. Hanson and told her what had happened, and she picked up both Terry and me. I called my mom and told her what had happened, too. Mom applauded my bravery for protecting, but of course, was also pissed at me for being in a fight. Dad agreed with Mom, but I could tell over the phone that he was smiling. He took the phone from her and told me he was proud of me. I hadn't expected that.

Mr. Hanson was more than smiling when I saw him that evening. He congratulated me for standing up for and protecting Terry. I told him I really didn't have a choice.

"You did the right thing, Todd. I'm really proud of you."

We returned to school the next day. Mr. Gardner didn't hug me this time, but I did notice a wink from him as I crossed the room.

Terry's leg cast was removed four weeks after the fight. I think he spent the rest of the day scratching the itches he couldn't reach before. He was walking again but with the help of a cane.

Two years later, we graduated from high school with all the fanfare it required. With Terry's grades, he was the Valedictorian. Terry and I were each other's dates for the Senior Prom. When we danced a slow dance together, everyone backed off to let us dance alone. When the song ended, the place erupted in applause. I discovered I was finally getting used to this recognition.

Terry and I were able to go to the same university, and of course, we roomed together in a dorm. With the privacy we had, we finally consummated our relationship, wondering why it had taken so long.

The End

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