The Way You Say My Name Ch. 03bywavyscribe©
Dillon had no time to brace himself for the right his brother delivered to his jaw. He staggered backwards but was able to keep himself standing, barely. He whirled Heath, stopping just short of retaliation. “You no good hypocrite. All I’ve ever heard from you is how bad Mom and Dad are, and here you are, gay bashing just like they do. You wanna kick my ass because I’m gay? Go ahead. It’s not like there’s a damn thing I can do about.”
“You think I hit you because you’re gay? I don’t give a flying fuck about that. You can screw the whole male sector of the Plunkett High Young Republicans League for all I care. Hell, my best friend in high school was Jesse Wade, and he came out in like the eighth grade. Homophobic I’m not.”
Dillon rubbed his sore jaw. “Then why in the hell did you hit me?”
Dillon could see Heath’s eyes flashing even in the dim glow of the street lights. “Being gay isn’t something you can help, but toying with a girl’s affections is a definite choice.”
Toying with a girl’s affections? When did Heath start talking like an eighty-year-old man? And what was he talking about. “Toying with whose affections? Megan’s?”
“Yes, Megan. Who else have you been leading around by a string for the past five months?”
“Whoa. Heath, you’ve got it all wrong. The thing about Megan--”
Heath balled up his fists again. “You’re the one who’s got it all wrong if you think a sweet girl like Megan deserves to be used as a cover while you chase cock behind her back.”
Dillon leaned one hip against the side of Heath’s truck. “How would you know how sweet Megan is? As far as I know, you’ve only met her that one time at Mom and Dad’s Christmas get-together. You wouldn’t even have been there if Mom hadn’t called and guilted you into it.”
Heath shifted uncomfortably. “She volunteers with the Reed Boy’s and Girl’s Club after school. They taught a week long course on fire safety, and I was one of the guys who got roped into helping out.” The furious expression returned. “Anyone who gives up her own free time to help out underprivileged kids deserves a lot better than to be treated like your token girl.”
So it was like that, was it? “For your information, Megan knows all about me being gay. She has from almost the start. You’re right about what kind of person she is. She’s sweet and generous. That’s why she volunteered to help me get Jamie back. We’re friends. That’s all we’ve ever been. If you don’t believe me, call her and ask her.”
Watching the air go out of Heath’s sails would have made Dillon smile if his jaw hadn’t been hurting so bad. “She knows?”
“Oh.” He stared down at his shoes for a full minute and a half before snapping his head back up and saying, “Well, you might have told me before I tried to dislocate your jaw.”
“When was I supposed to tell you, genius? Before or after you nearly knocked me to my knees? And how was I supposed to know you’re carrying a raging hard-on for my quasi-girlfriend?”
Heath shook his head. “It’s not like that. Megan is way too young for me, but she’s still. . .special. I’d hate to see her get hurt.”
“So would I. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but screwing Megan over isn’t one of them.”
“Fair enough.” Heath motioned towards his truck. “Why don’t you tell me the rest of it on the way home?”
“Sounds fine, but instead of taking me home, why don’t you drop me off at my car. It should still be parked in the senior parking lot at school.”
“Works for me. Get in.”
The ride back to the school took just long enough for Dillon to give Heath basically a repeat version of the story he’d just told Brandon and Nathan Nash. To Heath’s credit, he listened without interrupting, and when Dillon was through, he didn’t seem inclined to pass judgment.
Heath pulled up behind Dillon’s Lumina. “For what it’s worth, I hope it all works out the way you want it to.” He paused. “You know Mom and Dad aren’t gonna stand for it.”
“I know, but it can’t be helped.” Dillon grabbed for the door handle. “Thanks for the ride, and for signing me out with the sheriff.”
“No problem. Um. . .sorry about your jaw.”
Dillon shrugged. “No big deal. I’m sure I’ll have a bruise, but I’ll just tell Mom and Dad I got clipped in the fight with Lewis.”
“When are you planning on telling them the rest of it?”
Dillon climbed out of the truck and gave his brother a long, searching look. “I wish I knew, Heath. I really wish I knew.”
Jamie was thankful the sermon didn’t last any longer than it had. It was bad enough that he’d had to spend an entire Saturday cleaning the basement just to appease Aunt Sadie’s wrath, but trying to concentrate on the preacher’s words proved impossible. His mind was still reeling from Friday night.
He flipped through the channels on the T.V., but couldn’t find anything he wanted to watch. He’d just about decided to surf the net when the phone rang. Normally, Aunt Sadie would pick it up, but she’d had a Ladies Auxiliary meeting after church. Jamie grabbed the extension in his room.
“So, did old lady Banks ground your ass, or what?”
Ben. Jamie laughed. “Nah. I told you she wouldn’t. I had to clean the basement, but I would have had to do that sooner or later, anyway.”
“What about Nora? How bad did she bust you?”
“She was fairly pissed, but she got over it quick. She wasn’t gonna let me back out to see my guy, though, so I waited until she went to sleep and climbed out my bedroom window.”
“Didn’t she hear your car?”
Jamie could almost hear Ben smiling. “Nope. My boy picked me up about two blocks from the house. He dropped me off at the same place about an hour later.”
Jamie couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that to tease his best friend. “An hour? Is that all it takes?”
Ben’s voice lost all sense of levity. “We didn’t even go there, man. He was too pissed over that kiss I gave you.”
“Oh, wow. Wait a minute. He was at the dance?”
“Dude, I’m so sorry.”
“Hey, don’t be sorry. I’m the one that kissed you, remember?”
“I know, but still.” He paused. “Did you guys break up?”
“I honestly don’t know, J. He said he needed time to think things over, whatever that means.” Ben’s voice turned angry. “Where the hell does he get off, anyway? He’s the one that wanted to keep things between us light. Now he’s acting like some jealous ass just because the two of us shared a kiss. I told him you and I were just friends. That’s when he accused me of screwing around behind his back.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“What I always do. The best I can. Which right now includes washing my car.”
Jamie shuddered. “It’s twenty-three degrees outside. You’re gonna freeze your balls off.”
“A small price to pay for giving my car that special glow. Quit worrying, J. I’ll bundle up. Catch you in the morning. That is, if your aunt is still gonna let you ride in with me.”
“Cool. Catch you later.”
Jamie placed the phone back on the charger. He was just about to log on to the net when he heard the doorbell.
He mumbled all the way down the stairs. “What’s a guy got to do to get some peace around here?” He made it to the door just as the bell sounded again. Flinging it open, Jamie came face to face with Dillon Carver.
Seeing Jamie standing in the doorway almost caused Dillon to lose his nerve. All last night at work and all this morning at home he’d planned what he was gonna say. It took him a minute to realize he’d forgotten everything he’d hoped to recite. The fact that Jamie looked less than glad to see him didn’t help. Neither did the half-spoken, half-barked, “What do you want?” that came out of Jamie’s mouth.
Forcing a smile, he pulled the package he held from behind his back. “I brought you these.”
Jamie took the box of chocolate-chunk cookies that Dillon had bought from Hailey’s Café just that afternoon and held it away from himself like it was poisonous. “Why would you bring me cookies?”
Dillon cleared his throat. “I remembered that you liked these. And,” he braced himself, “I was hoping maybe we could talk.”
Jamie looked down at the box in his hand, and Dillon could tell he was thinking it over. Finally, he said, “Come on in the kitchen, and I’ll pour us some milk to go with these.”
Dillon nodded and followed Jamie thru the narrow hall of the old Victorian home. Nothing much had changed. Same bold floral wallpaper, same elegantly outdated furniture. When they reached the kitchen, Jamie pointed towards the table. “You can go ahead and sit down.”
Dillon took a place at the table and watched as Jamie pulled glasses and plates out of the cabinet. He put two cookies on each plate, poured milk into both glasses, and then juggled everything to the table. Dillon met him halfway and took the plates from the arm Jamie had them balanced on, his fingers brushing Jamie’s elbow as he did so. He saw Jamie shiver at the contact, but he quickly covered his reaction.
Dillon returned to the table, Jamie right behind him. After they were both seated, Jamie said, “So, what did you want to talk about?”
That was Jamie. Always straight to the point. “I wanted to apologize for what happened with Lewis. I’m not sorry for hitting him, especially not after what he said about Megan, but I am sorry for getting you caught in the middle of it.”
“It’s over with. No real harm done.” He looked at Dillon over the rim of his glass. “You could have told me all that over the phone. What gives?”
Dillon took a sip of his milk while he gathered the words. Setting his glass back on the table, he said, “I came over here to say the same thing I wanted to say to you in the bathroom at the dance. I want us to be friends again, James. I miss having you in my life. I’m more sorry than you could ever imagine about the way I treated you two years ago, not to mention how I’ve ignored you since.”
“What will your parents say? And what about the guys you hang out with? How are they gonna feel about you running around with the school fag again?”
More than anything Dillon wanted to reach out and touch Jamie, to hold him in his arms and take that defeated look off his face. But going slow was key. “Don’t call yourself that. As far as everyone else is concerned, I could care less. I want to be with you more than anything.”
Jamie narrowed his eyes. “I thought you said you wanted to be friends. Sounds like you’re looking for a whole lot more.”
“I’m not gonna lie to you, James. I’d like for us to mean what we used to mean to each other. No, scratch that. I’d like for things to be a hell of a lot better than they used to be. But I’ll settle for what you can give me.” He stared down at his plate. “That is, unless you think Ben will care.”
“Why would he?”
Dillon brought his eyes back up to Jamie’s face. “If you were my boyfriend, I wouldn’t want to share you with anybody, even if you were just friends with the other guy.”
Jamie shifted in his seat. “Ben isn’t my boyfriend. He and I are friends, and that’s it. But just so you know, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to pick up where you and I left off.” He paused. “And anyway, what’s Megan gonna say about you spending time with your ex?” His voice turned sarcastic. “Oh, wait. That’s right. Megan doesn’t know about us. Nobody does.”
“Actually, she does. Just like you and Ben, Megan and I are friends. She’s not my girlfriend, and she never has been. And as far as other people knowing goes, I’ve told several people about me, and about us. Namely Brandon and Nathan Nash, and also my brother, Heath.”
To Jamie’s credit, he didn’t call Dillon a liar, but, then again, he didn’t have to. His expression said it all. “Yeah, sure you have. Next you’ll be telling me that you’re getting ready to come out to the whole world.”
Dillon kept his tone steady. “I am.” Jamie started to say something, but Dillon cut him off. “I don’t expect you to believe me, James, but I intend to prove it to you, if you’ll let me.”
Jamie took a bite of his cookie, using the time spent chewing to think. After washing the bite down with a healthy drink of milk, Jamie said, “If you’re serious about coming out, I can’t stop you, but don’t do it on my account.”
Dillon’s heart plummeted. “Is that your way of saying you want me to leave you alone?”
Jamie shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. The thing is,” he leaned forward, “if you’re serious about coming out, it doesn’t matter whether or not the two of us are friends or anything else. Coming out is something you do for yourself.”
“I know that, and no matter what you decide, I’m still gonna do it.” He searched Jamie’s eyes. “That doesn’t mean I’m not hoping the two of us can be together again.”
“Why now? Why, after two years, would you suddenly want me back?”
More truths. “It wasn’t sudden, James. I never stopped wanting to be with you. I just didn’t have the guts to do anything about it. It’s taken me a long time to gather up the courage to be honest about myself and about the feelings I have for you. I know it’s not gonna be easy, but it’s something I have to do, for myself, and someday, I hope, for us.”
Dillon put his finger against Jamie’s lips. “You don’t have to say anything. I’m not gonna rush you, I swear.” He moved his finger to the corner of Jamie’s mouth where a small glob of chocolate had collected. Using the tip of his index finger, Dillon swept the chocolate away and then brought his finger to his mouth. He saw Jamie shudder and felt a little thrill of satisfaction. But he couldn’t afford to push it any more for today. If he did things right, this would be the first of many afternoons spent with the one he loved.
He stood up. “I’ve got to go. My folks will be back any minute and I’ve got to tell them about that fight with Lewis before Mom hears about it at school.” Jamie started to get up, but Dillon stopped him. “I know my way to the door. See you at school tomorrow.” He was halfway to the hall before he turned around and said. “Thanks. For talking to me, I mean.”
Jamie shrugged as if it was no big deal, but as Dillon turned and left the house, he found himself hoping against hope that it had meant something to Jamie, if only just a little bit.
Dillon winced when he saw his dad’s Buick in the driveway. He pulled his Lumina in beside his father’s car. This was bound to get ugly.
He entered the house through the back door into the kitchen, and nearly knocked over his mother as he did so.
Angela Carver put her hand over her heart. “Good heavens, Dillon. You scared me to death.” She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, then went back over to the table and resumed unpacking the groceries she’d brought in with her. “Did you have a good time while we were gone? I understood you to say you were taking that Nash girl to that dance at the school.”
Dillon gritted his teeth. He hated the way his folks referred to Megan as “that Nash girl.” He supposed it was their revenge on Megan for having the nerve to be the sister of gay brothers. Forcing himself to calm down, he said, “Yeah. Uh, about that. I have something I need to tell you and Dad.”
His mother raised her frosted blond head, her hazel eyes boring into him. “I take it this is something we aren’t going to like.”
Angela sighed. “I’ll go get your father. I think he’s out in the garage unloading the car. Wait for us in the dining room.”
The dining room. Nothing good ever came out of those dining room meetings. The formal dinning room of the Carver house was strictly for company, as evidenced by the pristine carpets and the scratch-less wood of the furniture. Family always ate in the kitchen. In addition to company dinners, though, the dining room had one other use: so-called family meetings. A family meeting consisted of either or both of the Carver boys sitting on one side of the table, and their parents on the other, staring them down. Strangely, Dillon wasn’t so worried about this one. What were they gonna do, throw him out? That was gonna happen soon enough anyway. The thought was liberating.
Dillon sat down at the mahogany table and waited. His father came in a few minutes later, stooping his shoulders to keep from hitting the door frame. His graying hair was mussed, something that always happened when he was irritated because he ran his fingers through it, tugging until Dillon was sure he was gonna pull it out. The green eyes behind the round glasses, so like Dillon and Heath’s, found his son in an instant.
“Your mother tells me you have something you want to talk to us about.”
“Yes, sir.” He waited until his mother came into the room and both his parents were seated before beginning. “Friday night at the dance, there was a fight, and I got hauled into the sheriff’s station.”
The horror in Angela’s voice was plain. “You were arrested?”
“No, ma’am. I was brought in for questioning, but no charges were filed. The sheriff was already there because of a possible danger to some of the gay students.”
Angela twitched her finger in the air. “I blame Dan Morgan for that. What did he think would happen when he trotted out all those homosexuals and rubbed them in the face of God-fearing children?” She put down her hand and turned to her son. “Was anyone hurt?”
“No, ma’am. The gay bashing turned out to be a false alarm. I don’t think the guys they suspected even showed up for the dance. The sheriff and his men ended up being called out for nothing.”
Douglas peered at his son over the top of his wire frames. “So since the sheriff ended up with nothing to do that night, you thought you’d give him something to occupy his time by getting into a brawl?”
“No, sir. I know it was wrong, but Ben Lewis insulted Megan, and I ended up punching him. Sheriff Nash and his husband broke up the fight and took us down to his office.”
The expression on Doug Carver’s face was chilling. “First of all, Nathan Morris and Brandon Nash are not married. Marriage is intended for men and women, and men and women only.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Nate changed his name when he and Brandon got married.” Dillon emphasized the word “married.”
Doug waved that away. “I could care less what he calls himself. Those two are not now, nor will they ever be, married. I was against you going to that sham of a wedding in the first place, and if you hadn’t insisted on taking that girl, I’d have been much happier. That aside, Ben Lewis is a hoodlum. Nash has some nerve taking you in for questioning when everyone knows it was probably Lewis’s fault. You’d think Nash would be glad to have someone taking up for that sister of his.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dillon’s voice held a rising anger that caused his father to move back a bit in his chair.
“Don’t take that tone with me, young man. All I meant was, with all the gays in Megan’s family, she’s bound to be the subject of ridicule. Nash should be glad to have someone sticking up for her.”
“The only people who would give Megan a hard time are small minded bigots whose opinions don’t matter, anyway.”
“Now, see here--”
Angela Carver cut her husband off with practiced ease. “Dillon, how did you get out of jail? Did the sheriff release you?”
“James Walker talked Lewis into dropping charges against me.”
“Charges against you?” Dillon’s father was an expert at righteous indignation. “Weren’t you the one who should have been pressing charges against him? You didn’t put that bruise on your own jaw, now did you?”
Dillon wasn’t about to tell them about that one. Instead he said, “Not when I threw the first punch. Anyway, James talked him into dropping the charges, and I was free to go. But since I still live under your roof, I needed a parent to sign me out. I think they call it a custody release.” He shrugged. “You guys were out of town, so he let me call Heath to come and fill out the paperwork.”