Tenderness Ch. 07byCruel2BKind©
*I said I would post this before April was over, and I was right! I posted this on the 30th, so it counts! ^_^
This is the end of Tenderness, my last dangling plot, and I have new ones up my sleeve, but I want to finish them or at least get further along before I start to submit. It might be a little while until you hear from me again, but no worries! I will keep writing!
Also, the song mentioned in the end of this submission, I advise you to pull up a youtube video and take a listen as you read. It really helps to convey the mood.
I hope you enjoy, and thank you for following!*
Daniel was sleeping on top of me again.
I sighed. It happened every time. The big lump would always be sleeping on top of me if (and only if) I had to pee like a racehorse.
The trick was to get out quick, squirm away before he subconsciously hugged me or got woken up unceremoniously. I took a deep breath, puffing out my torso as much as I could.
I breathed out as fast as I could and squirmed out. I skidded on some jeans that tangled my feet and nearly crushed a sleepy surprised Zoe.
She hissed at me. "Sorry! Sorry!" I yawned, pulling up my boxers. It was five thirty, and I had to be at the building for the last day of school at six thirty.
I stumbled to the bathroom and picked up the red toothbrush from the cup he kept by the sink. Despite my sleep-clouded mind, I grinned with delight. I had a toothbrush over here. I slept over here two or three times a week now, sometimes more. I also had pajamas (though I rarely wore them) a robe, slippers, and a couple of sets of clothing.
I finished brushing and ran the shower on the cold side of lukewarm so it would wake me up.
Damn, but he was turning me into something of an early riser. I could hear the shower sputtering against the tiles. I got an idea, and I grinned to myself, rolling out of the bed and wincing as I accidentally stepped on a shirt full of sharp little buttons. The clothes strewn around my once-neat floor made me grin. He had been a wild little man last night.
I pulled on boxers and jeans, stumbling down the hallway to the kitchen, moving fast. I managed to get the bread into the toaster and the eggs cracked in the pan before he padded down to the kitchen, wrapped in his soft blue robe with one of my towels draped over his head as he rubbed his hair dry.
He squinted. "Do my blind eyes deceive me?"
He ran back to the bedroom and came back, giggling and unfolding his glasses. He put them on. I loved how cute he looked with wet hair. "They don't! Daniel is in the kitchen!"
I snorted. "Watch your tongue there, mister... I've been cooking my own meals for eight years now..."
He laughed. "Yup, and the last time you tried to make me breakfast you burned the hell out of it. Thanks Daniel."
He came up behind me and hugged me around the waist, rubbing his cheek against my back. "No problem Sugar..."
"Hmm... that one wasn't very silly." He was walking down the hall, nudging Noel out of the way with one foot. Noel loved Aaron. Following him everywhere. We had to close the door when we messed around in the bedroom, because the old codger would try to come in.
I flipped the eggs, cussed when I broke one of the yolks, and buttered the toast. Sure it wasn't the omelet that Aaron had given me on monday, or the home-made donuts the week before... but hell, I didn't have his magic hands in the kitchen.
He came back looking so professional. He was wearing his red shirt and the black tie. His black jacket was slung over his forearm and his hair was combed in a slightly layered look. Not like that little squeaky rat Bieber... but more like Jason Behr, in Dragon Wars.
I chuckled, I was watching more bad scifi movies then ever before.
He ate hungrily, smiling at me from across the table. He was so confident. He had gone to another of those meetings, this time without me. His dad had been leaving him alone, and the bruises were all but gone.
He sopped up the last of the egg yolk with his bread crust and snatched his laptop case and jacket. "Bye! Love ya!"
He closed the door behind him and Noel whined softly before padding over to his doggy bed and collapsing with a sigh. Zoe was curled up on top of the TV. The reptiles were all in the living room, arranged from the biggest cage (Malcolm) to the smallest cage (Geoffrey). I liked reptiles, and they had all been rescues. I had gotten Zoe and Noel in pet stores, but the rest I had gotten from a reptile rescue. Too many people bought them, thinking they'd be cool and then getting rid of them when they bit someone, or when they got bored of them. Reptiles are too big of a responsibility for most, they live for a long time.
I started to feed them. Pellets and zucchini for Malcolm, lettuce and pellets for Geoffrey. Kit and Kat hadn't eaten in a week, so it was time for their meal. I dropped two pinkies in the cage and watched them. It was almost a zen thing, watching them slowly ingest the little frozen mice. Noel whined, looking at me miserably.
"Don't worry, you fuzzy lump." I snorted. "I'll get to you in a minute."
I jumped when the key scraped in the door and Aaron came in, panting and flustered.
"Dammit, I'm sorry Daniel, but I need a ride! Shit, I'm gonna be late!"
I got over my pounding heart and put the top back on the aquariums. "Kay Babe, can you feed Zoe and Noel while I grab my shoes?"
He gave me a harried but radiant smile and dashed for the closet, Noel lumbering at his heels.
"Did you flood it again?"
I heard the can-opener racheting. I had brushed Noel's teeth regularly since he was a puppy, but they were still getting worn enough so I had made the switch to wet food a few months ago.
"Nah, I think it finally bit the dust this time. It's completely dead and it wont make a sound. It's sixteen years old. I'll just have to take the bus until I can afford a new car. DAMMIT!"
I chuckled a little, but not loud enough for him to hear, he was upset. I walked to the door with my keys in my hand and my shoes on my feet just as I heard the cat food tinkling into Zoe's dish. Aaron put the bowl on top of the TV and hurried out of the door with me.
I had never actually seen where he worked. It was a big building made of grey bricks with a football field in the back. I drove him up to the front.
"Thanks a million Daniel... I owe you one." He leaned in and gave me a quick kiss on the lips. I was surprised, he was pretty tentative to show affection in public. It was really sweet.
Then he was scurrying towards the doors, his tie flapping over his shoulders in the wind. I chuckled and started up the car, driving to work.
I was still an hour early for class, but I had plenty things to wrap up. I was in my classroom, drinking coffee, updating grades and clearing out my desk when Rachel, the Principal came in.
"Hey Rachel." I murmured. "What's up?"
She had a bundle of papers in her hands. "It's time for your student evaluation. All of the students get to fill out a half sheet of these for every teacher. It doesn't have a huge bearing, but it helps teachers to improve their technique. But this is a unique case. Normally you would be here for a semester and then all of your students would turn in an evaluation of you as a teacher that has slightly more bearing. You only had a month or so, so all of your students including the seniors will fill out one of these for you."
I took the hefty block of papers from her and put them on my desk. I took the top sheet and looked at it. It was just three questions, and a space at the bottom for notes.
--Did this teacher make you feel stimulated and engaged?
--Was this teacher a competent speaker, could you understand everything that s/he said?
--Would you have this teacher again?
--Notes, thoughts, suggestions.
Rachel sat down with a sigh. "I'm pretty sure you'll pass with flying colors. You're not supposed to look at the sheets, TAs will be doing the rounds during the end of each period. I'll be tallying your score and reading all of the notes." She gave me a wry look. "I'm sure you'll get a pass from all of the girls."
I was so startled that I nearly sprayed her with coffee. "Wh-what?"
She covered her mouth with her hand and laughed silently behind it. "I'm surprised you haven't noticed. I'm the principal, I don't even see many kids on the daily basis, but I hear the girls in the lunchroom talking about you, in the halls, even the bathrooms."
I was flushed. It honestly made me a bit uncomfortable. "Well, I hope I can come back next year on my own merit, and not just because there are no other male teachers below thirty five."
Rachel laughed extra-hard at that last comment.
The schools were all pretty lazily run, so the last day of school was basically a day for the teachers to work their asses off wrapping everything up while the kids just goofed off and got their friends to sign their yearbooks. For my first American Literature class, I just put an episode of 'The Office' on the projector and let them have fun. I handed out the evaluation cards and told them to put them in a pile on the empty desk by the door when they were done.
Now that my eyes were opened, I did realize (with an undercurrent of embarrassment and alarm) that many of the girls kept looking at me out of the corner of their eyes. I may have been paranoid but I could have sworn that the group of giggling girls in the back were talking about me.
A shy Asian girl asked if I would sign her yearbook, and after I signed hers I was surprised and touched when the rest lined up. Most of the class let me sign their yearbooks.
My freshman class was louder and more frantic. I was glad to get back to my juniors at third period. I was starting to get writers cramp from signing yearbooks. My right hand had a smear of multicolored ink down the pinky and wrist from resting against bright pen and sharpie ink.
I had all of my remaining stuff in a cardboard box to bring home. Daniel was being a lifesaver and had offered to give me a ride home. I was weighing the pros and cons of running to get another coffee from the lounge in my head, when one of the senior girls rushed in. She was early, most of the kids didn't come in until a minute or so before the bell. I blanked on her name for a second, but then I remembered. Her name was Savannah, a short pretty blonde girl who was always very vocal during the discussions. Her face was flushed and she looked like she was about to cry.
"Mr. Beck... I'm sorry, I didn't m-m-mean t-to!"
I stood up, startled. "Savannah, what do you mean? Are you okay?"
She glanced frantically at the door, we were alone in the classroom. Tears spilled from her eyes. "Savannah,--" I murmured.
"I saw you this morning." She whispered, wiping her eyes roughly with her sleeve. I saw you get a ride from that man... and he kissed you in the car. I thought it was kinda cute."
I felt the blood draining from my face.
She let out a choked sob. "I... I told my friend, Jessica. But I didn't know that she would get so freaked out. She told everyone!"
The door opened as one of the boys, a skinny nerdy kid named Quentin, shouldered in. Savannah promptly shut up and ran to her desk, wiping her eyes. She looked perfectly miserable. My mouth felt very dry. Quentin was busy digging in his backpack for his yearbook, looking shyly at Savannah. I put my hand up in a way that I hoped was reassuring, and I left the room with my coffee cup, my mind racing.
I was paranoid. But even accounting for my paranoia, something was up. A group of senior girls, Jessica among them, was whispering and talking. When I walked past, she pointed at me. A boy in my class, one of the basketball kids was staring at me intensely from where he leaned against his locker.
I went into the teachers lounge and put my mug under the spout of the coffee machine. No one else was here, so I took a few deep breaths and sat down. I kept my eyes closed and cupped my head in my hands, simultaneously thinking and panicking.
By the time the machine beeped to tell me that my mug was full, I had calmed down somewhat. I just had to get through this class. I had no idea what it was going to be like, but after this I would get to see Daniel. Just fifty minutes.
I took a sip of my strong bitter coffee and walked back to class.
I'm not sure who-all Jessica told, but she had almost certainly told most of the class. While I was in the lounge, they had obviously been talking about it, because several groups of students shut up when I entered the room. I could hear barely-muffled whispers and all of them were staring at me. Savannah's eyes were red and socketed. I was shocked by how miserable she was. I gave her an encouraging smile even as I felt beads of nervous sweat forming.
When the bell rang and there was little to no yearbook activity, and all of the students were just staring and whispering, something snapped, and I stood up from my desk. I strode in front of their desks with a determined expression on my face and a sick feeling in my stomach.
"It looks like we might just have one more day of discussion." I announced.
I took a deep breath. "I'm gay."
As I had expected, the room broke out into a dull roar of whispers. I spoke over them. "I was serious when I said that this would be a discussion. Please keep the whispering down and ask your questions and make your statements one by one. Just because I'm gay doesn't mean that I am no longer your teacher."
The whispers quieted. Savannah raised her hand high, determined. I nodded in her direction. I could feel the crushing weight of their gaze.
"I just want to say, I was the one who told Jessica, and I regret it. I don't know what she told all of you, but being gay isn't bad. My little sister is lesbian."
She looked down, finished with her statement and flushing bright red.
No hands came up, so I spoke. "Maybe you knew this, and maybe you didn't. But I applied to this school two years ago. The former principal found out what you do now and he made it very hard for me to get a job. There is a stigma for any LGBT people who want to get a job working with kids. There's a stigma against LGBT people in almost any workplace."
I was surprised at the next kid to raise their hand. Joey Temple was a certified ladies man. A loud joker and prankster, popular and well liked. I had heard him joking with his friends, calling them 'faggot' or 'gay' or 'retarded' whenever they were joking.
"What does that stand for?" He murmured, tentatively. "The LGBT?"
"It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender." I answered.
"Transgender, that's like, transvestites right?"
I shook my head. "Transgender is when you are born as one sex, but you identify with another. They may not necessarily be gay or lesbian depending on what gender they identify with, but they get lumped with the rest of us."
As the questions continued, I began to relax. They were curious. With the exception of a few kids who kept silent and glaring, many of them were just curious.
"Are you a Christian?" One of them asked. Another asked if I had ever had a girlfriend. We ended up discussing LGBT's in politics, and gay marriage across america. I ended up lecturing a bit about stonewall and the marches on Washington.
A timid girl in the back asked. "Um, a couple weeks ago you had a really big hickey on your neck..." She never got to finish her question, the class dissolved into laughter, myself included.
"Yes." I chuckled when the laughter died down. "That was my partner, Daniel. He gave me a ride this morning because my piece-of-shit car bit the dust." I saw what time it was. "Listen, you have the rest of class to do what you should have been doing. Yearbooks and my evaluation card. When you're finished, please put them on the empty desk by the door."
I hesitated. "I had a lot of fun teaching you all this year. I hope I get to come back next year, and I hope that you all have a great summer. This is your last year in high school, so I hope that whatever you plan to do afterwards, you exceed at."
Savannah resolutely stood up and stalked to the front of the room with her yearbook and a fluorescent purple marker. I signed it.
Thanks for the opportunity, there is nothing to forgive, Have an amazing life.
I ended up signing all but three yearbooks. Jessica, her boyfriend, and the kid who had stared at me so rudely in the hall, Jason. When the bell rung, they filtered out of my class to go to their last hour.
I sighed, exhausted. The last hour had really taken something out of me, I had been so tense. I gathered up my last few things, closed my laptop, texted Daniel, and and got ready to leave.
I let out a startled gasp when I realized I wasn't alone. I put my hand over my pounding heart and looked up at Jason where he stood in the doorway. I felt a twinge of uneasiness. He stood a good half-foot taller then me. A lot of kids here were taller then me, but Jason also outweighed me by a good forty pounds or so. Mostly muscle.
"You're going to be late Jason." I murmured. I put my laptop case over one shoulder and turned around to pick up the cardboard box. The uneasiness jolted straight up to panic when I turned around and he was right there, towering over me, his muscles straining the t-shirt he wore. I dropped the box and took a step back, bumping against the desk.
His tanned serious face broke into an expression of embarrassment and concern. "Shit! Sorry Mr. Beck." He knelt down and helped to put the stuff back in the box, babbling an apology. His cheeks were flushed.
I knelt down to help, feeling embarrassed myself. For a single horrible moment I had thought... I shuddered and tried to get rid of those thoughts.
He picked up the box. I had strained to hold the heavy mishmash of papers and binders, but he carried it like it was empty. "Um, can I help you with this? Walk you to the parking lot?"
"Uh, sure." I answered.
We were walking through the hallways, empty except for the hall monitors and a few people scurrying to their classes. Jason walked next to me. We didn't say anything, and I could feel myself sweating.
I blinked in the bright sunshine. The sky was a hot dry blue and the sea of teenager cars winked into my eyes. I couldn't see Daniel anywhere. I checked my phone quick.
Jason sat down on the curb with the box loosely cradled in his hands. "Um. I'm sorry I made you jump back there Mr. Beck. I... I want to tell you something but I just don't know how to say it."
He ran a hand through his hair. I made an off-hand observation. He was very handsome. He was a tall slim boy with dark hair and a serious face. He always had girls after him.
I sat down on the curb next to him, close, but not too close. "Well, how about you just say it. I'm hardly in a position to judge."
He sat with his arms crossed and his elbows resting on his knees. He ducked his head between his arms and said. "I don't know who else I can tell. I'm--" He took a deep breath. "I'm gay, Mr. Beck."
He let his breath out in a nervous gasp. "That's the first time I've said it out loud. I wasn't sure who to tell."
I felt something in my chest loosen up. I had misread him. I had been so sure that he hated me for my confession today. "Well, that's a good first step. I know how hard it can be."
He nodded, rubbing his face with his hands. "I... I just wanted to be able to say it out loud. No way I'll be able to tell my parents, or my friends. I just needed to tell someone or I'd go crazy."
I hesitated. "You don't want to go through life like that, trust me. I can understand being afraid to tell your friends or family. What are you going to do after school?"