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About GabrielCaldwell

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    music, writing, films and things like that
  1. I’d just hung up from talking to Milo when my bedroom door opened and I spun around, half expecting it would be Mr Trust demanding to know where I’d hidden his son. But it wasn’t Mr Trust, and after my phone call, it was someone I wanted to talk to even less than Milo’s father. “Are you alright Nelson?” my mother asked. “Yeah, Mom. I’m okay,” I said, hastily pushing the phone into my pants pocket. I saw my mom’s eyes fall to my hand, then turn back to my face, and I worried about the next question. “He’s gone,” she said. “Who has?” I asked, completely startled. Did she mean Milo? “Milo’s father.” “Oh,” I nodded, even more surprised that Milo’s father would just leave like that. He didn’t seem the type to give up easily. “Yes,” confirmed my mother. There was a pause, and then she smiled tightly and continued. “He left when I started dialing Ray’s number.” My mother paused again, perhaps trying to think of the best way to say whatever it was she was going to say next. “He’s clearly upset…” “Because he’s not getting his way,” I interrupted. My mother didn’t look impressed by my outburst. “I think he does care about Milo,” she said slowly. “He seems worried.” I was going to argue. All Mr Trust cared about was image; he didn’t care one bit about his son. Milo had told me that, and everything I’d seen his father do only illustrated Milo’s statements. But I knew there was no point in getting into an argument with my mother. I decided just to shrug. It seemed that all we did was argue about Mr Trust and how he treated his son, and I was getting tired of it. And anyway, I had plans. Or so I thought. “Do you know where Milo is?” my mother asked. There it was. A direct question. And unlike when his father had asked me ten minutes earlier, now I did know where Milo was. I had to think carefully how I answered. “I haven’t seen Milo since he went on the trip with his father,” I said—which was true—“and I told Mr Trust I didn’t know where Milo is,”—also true. Now I just had to thread the needle. “I don’t…” I paused, trying to put as much angst as possible into the pause that followed those two words. “…want him to run away.” My mother stared at me for a long moment, her face a mixture of suspicion and curiosity, and then she brightened a little. “Alright, you better come up.” “Come up?” “Family meeting. We need to figure out what we do next.” “Uhh…” I said, not sure what to say. I already knew what I was going to do next, and it wasn’t a family meeting. But my mother was determined, and she practically herded me upstairs. The family meeting—which was just my parents and me—accomplished exactly what I thought it would; nothing. Well, maybe we all calmed down a bit after the excitement of Mr Trust’s visit, and his attempted abduction of me. My parents actually discussed whether they should call uncle Ray, and file a complaint. My mother was all for it, while my father thought it would just escalate the tensions, and not accomplish anything. I had no strong opinion. I didn’t think it would do any good, and anyway it didn’t really matter because I was going to go and meet Milo. If I could just get out of this meeting. Eventually my parents decided to leave things as they were, and then they told me I wasn’t to go near Milo’s house. That was okay with me because I knew Milo wasn’t there. The rest of the discussion seemed to involve a lot of my mother and father telling me that it was a ‘difficult situation,’ and telling me how Milo wasn’t making things easier by taking off like this. “Maybe he’s just gone to a movie or something, and couldn’t be bothered telling his dad,” I suggested. My mother raised one eye-brow. “The note he left suggested something more than that,” she said, and I realized that they knew about the note. Clearly Mr Trust had told them a few things. But I didn’t really care; I just needed to get out of there. An early night seemed like a good idea. I’d tell them I was tired and that I was going to bed early, and then I could slip out my window and go find Milo and his boat. The only problem with that plan was that before I could pitch it, my parents started talking about watching a movie together—meaning with me—and they didn’t seem to want to take ‘how about another time?’ for an answer. Hadn’t they just come back from a movie? But when I asked, my mother said that they hadn’t gone to a movie after all. They had ended up just having dinner, and if I was hungry there were some leftovers I could heat up. At this point I got the distinct impression that they suspected I was planning on sneaking out, and they were being entirely intentional in their actions. Maybe it was guilt on my part, but I couldn’t genuinely fake annoyance—or come up with a convincing excuse that got me out of it—so I ended up watching Iron Man, while eating reheated chicken parm. I consoled myself with the thought that it just meant I’d go find Milo later in the evening. Or so I thought. My concern that they were on to me was only confirmed when—just after I acted out a huge yawn and said I was going to bed—Mom asked me for my car keys. “What?!” I asked, shocked. They’d never taken my keys before. My mother stared at me, that one eyebrow slightly raised again. She seemed to be looking at me with that expression a lot lately. “You’re not going out looking for Milo,” she said patiently. “I’m not going to go looking for him!” I responded indignantly, turning to my father for support. Strictly speaking I wasn’t going out to ‘look’ for him; I was going to ‘meet’ him. Dad just appeared uncomfortable, and I could tell he wasn’t going to be on my side. “Then you won’t need your keys,” my mother responded evenly. I tried my most sullen look, but she wasn’t impressed. “You can give me the keys—both sets—or I can ask you again if you know where Milo is, and this time you can give me a direct answer.” I glowered. My mother looked at me with that frustrated/worried look she’d been giving me a lot lately, and then her face softened. “Is he safe where he is?” she asked, her tone much quieter. I was so shocked by the speed with which the conversation had changed that I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. Was my mother actually angry with me, or supporting me? Did she want me to help Milo…or not? “Uh…” “Should we be concerned about his safety?” my father asked. He definitely seemed more worried than angry. “Uh…he’s okay,” I said, then I paused. “He’s safe…I think.” “You’re sure?” my mother questioned. “Um, yeah,” I nodded, hoping I wasn’t giving too much away. What if they asked me again where he was? What did I do then? “Tell him…” my mother said, “if he comes here, we’ll do everything we can to help…” “What can you do?…We just agreed there’s not much,” I said bitterly. “We won’t tell his father he’s here,” my mother tried. “You won’t?” I gasped. “Not voluntarily. If Ray turns up asking for him we’d have to turn him over, but I don’t think it’ll come to that.” I wasn’t so sure, but I just nodded again, and then—because I didn’t know what else to do—I reluctantly went and got my keys. My dad was waiting at the top of the stairs when I brought the second set up from my bedroom. I held them out, and he brought his arm up and I dropped the keys in to his out-stretched hand, and I was immediately turning to go back downstairs, but he grabbed my arm gently with his other hand. “Nelson,” he said softly. “What?” I asked, annoyed, as I stood stopped at the top of the stairs, not willing to turn back to face him. “If you’re worried about Milo, I’ll come with you and we can go get him…” “I don’t know where he is…” I lied, still not turning to face him, but my dad was pulling my arm gently and I slowly turned to face him. “Nelson, we don’t want anything to happen to Milo or you. We want you both to be safe.” “He’s safe,” I said, not exactly sure that he was. “Alright,” he said. “If you change your mind, let me know. He can stay with us while he works this out with his father.” “It won’t do any good,” I said, angry at his father, not mine. My dad nodded slowly. “Okay,” he said. “Promise me you’re not going to go out tonight looking for him?” I nodded slowly, still frustrated, and then my dad was pulling me into a hug, which almost surprised me more than this conversation. “Get some rest,” said my dad. “Maybe things will seem better in the morning.” “Okay,” I sighed, and he released me from the hug. “And think about what I said. We can go get him any time if you change your mind.” “Okay.” Dad kissed me on the cheek and then I walked slowly back down to my bedroom. Back in my room I called Milo’s number, and he answered on the first ring. “Hey,” I said. “Hey. Are you here?” he asked hopefully. “No, sorry.” “Oh,” he said slowly, and I could tell he was disappointed. “My folks took my car keys,” I explained. “Really?” “Yeah?” “Fuck.” “Are you…are you safe where you are?” I asked him. “Ah, yeah. Yeah.” “You’re sure?” I persisted. “Yeah. I can lock the hatch, and no one can get in. Not that there’s anyone here. Why?” “Just…want to make sure you’re safe,” I said. “Oh…okay,” Milo replied, and I could hear the smile in his voice. “Listen, my mom and dad said, if you come here, you can stay here and they won’t tell your dad.” I left out the part about having to turn him over if they had to. “That’s…that’s nice of them,” Milo said quietly. “But I can’t…I don’t want to get them involved.” “Okay.” There was a long pause, and I thought I could hear him breathing. “So they know…you know where I am?” he asked. “Yeah, kind of. They know I know, but I haven’t told them where you are, and they didn’t ask.” He sighed. “Okay. Well I’m going to be…” “I’m still coming down,” I interrupted him. “Yeah?” he said, the hopefulness clear in his voice, “Yeah, tomorrow when they give me my keys back. Or I’ll get Caleb to drive me. I’ll be down there. Just wait for me, okay?” “Yeah, I’ll wait. Well, at least for tomorrow.” “I’ll be there tomorrow,” I assured him. “You better,” he said, a soft laugh in his voice, but I could hear the worry too. “I’ll be there.” The next morning I was almost surprised to find my keys on the kitchen table. I’d already planned out what I’d do if my parents didn’t give me the keys back; I’d call Caleb and tell him I needed a ride to ‘school.’ But it seemed I wasn’t going to need to do that. I guess my parents were going to trust me to drive to school. For a moment, I thought about calling Caleb and asking him to come with me, but I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I didn’t want to get him into more trouble. Milo and I were making enough trouble as it was. At least it was Friday. The end of one of the most worrying weeks I’d ever had. My mom didn’t say anything about our conversation the night before, or about the keys. She asked me how my classes were going, and I had to spend a minute actually thinking about school work; something that I’d been virtually ignoring. And then, just like a regular school day, I kissed her goodbye and she told me to have a good day. Mom did ask me if I was coming home right after school, and I said ‘sure,’ and I couldn’t help thinking there was an ulterior motive to that question. Maybe I should have felt guilty about lying, but somehow I couldn’t. In truth, I was really confused about what my parents thought I should do. Did they really think I’d bring Milo home? And so I set out for school; via a two hour drive to the marina that Milo had given me directions to. Once I got out of town, most of the trip was highway driving. It was probably the longest trip I’d ever driven on my own, and though it was a pretty simple trip, I was still nervous. The highway part was easy; I just had to drive forever and not miss the exit, and then I needed to make one turn to get to the marina. It was the not-missing-the-exit part that worried me. I didn’t have a map, and if I missed the exit—or the turn—I wasn’t sure what I would do. The only person I could call was Milo, and I didn’t know that he would be much help if I got seriously lost. So I spent most of the time closely reading the road signs and worrying. Fortunately, the exit turned out to be easy to find, and a couple of miles later I saw the turn for the marina; just after the gas station that Milo had told me about in his instructions. It was lightly raining for the last couple of miles, and the soft squeak and thump of the wipers kept distracting me as I tried to keep my eyes peeled for the marina entrance. The marina itself turned out to be impossible to miss—with a large sign and lots of boats visible on trailers—and I was more than elated when I turned into the practically deserted parking lot and parked. I shut off the engine and just sat there for a minute, shaking off the trip. And then I grabbed my jacket and climbed out of the car, pulling the jacket on as I pushed the door closed. All I had to do now was find Milo, which should be easy. It was still winter and many of the boats were out of the water or well sealed up. But there were still dozens of boats tied up to a series of jetties, and even though Milo had given me the name of the boat—Sandpiper—I figured it could take me a while to find him. I pulled out the phone and pressed the recall key, and when he answered I told him I was there. A few seconds later I saw Milo about two hundred yards away, standing on a little boat waving to me. I felt so happy to see him, I almost ran to the boat. “Are you okay?” I asked, coming to a stop on the edge of the dock. Milo was standing on the back end of a small yacht, and as I watched, he carefully stepped onto the dock, and then I was grabbing him into a hug, and he was laughing and obviously as happy to see me as I was to see him. “Yeah, I’m okay now,” he said, and we kissed, and I just wanted to stand there holding him, but he pulled away, smiling. “It’s wet,” he grinned, and I noticed how damp his hair was, and I wondered if he’d been waiting in the rain for me. Before I could ask him, he waved me onto the little yacht. “Come on below,” he said, but I waited for him to go first, and then I followed him onto the back of the boat, and down inside the small cabin. Once we were inside Milo pushed the top hatch cover closed to keep some of the rain out. There was still an opening at the back of the cabin, and he snapped a canvas cover over that opening. It didn’t look very secure and I must have looked surprised. “There’s a wooden sort of door,” he explained, “but it’s more trouble to attach, so I only do it at night.” “Ah,” I nodded. I glanced around. The small yacht must have been about 25 feet long, but the cabin was small and sparsely decorated. There was a bench running along one side of the cabin for sitting or sleeping on. On the other side there was a small table with two small bench seats, and there was another benched area at the front of the boat. All of the benches had thick blue cushions on them, but they didn’t look exactly dreamy-soft. Better than the bare bench, but not much. On the long bench Milo had arranged a sleeping bag, while at the front of the boat there were two bags of what looked like clothes. A paper bag from a supermarket sat on one of the benches next to the table and I could just see the top of a bag of potato chips inside. With the hatch closed we were both hunched over, as there wasn’t much headroom. “It’s not much,” Milo said defensively, but it was actually more than I had expected. I was thinking of something no bigger than a row boat. “Wow, your mother bought you this?” I asked. “It was used,” he pointed out. “Still. Can you sail it?” I asked him. “Not really,” he admitted guiltily. “But it has a small outboard motor, so I can move it around places.” “And you’re planning to live here for the next five months?” I wondered aloud. It was small, and there seemed to be no bathroom, so I wondered what he was using for a bathroom. “Well,” he admitted. “I don’t think I can stay here,” and he waved for me to sit down on the bench with the sleeping bag. I sat down at the end closest to the hatch as he pushed the sleeping bag to the front end of the boat, and then he sat down beside me. It was much more comfortable sitting than crouching. “No?” I asked. “Not at this marina.” “Why not?” I asked, puzzled. “My dad will probably look here at some point. I’m gonna maybe sail around to…” “I thought you can’t sail,” I interrupted. Milo raised an eyebrow and half shrugged. “I’ll use the outboard and I’ll go down to the Keys.” “Milo…” “What?” he said, defensively. “This is…crazy.” “No it’s not,” he said stubbornly. “I’m not going back.” “And if you do this, I won’t get to see you.” Milo looked thoughtful. “You would, if you came with me,” he said shyly. I stared at him shocked. Even though he’d dropped hints before, up until now I’d been panicking that Milo was going to sail away and leave me, and now he was…what? Suggesting I run away to sea with him? I hadn’t brought clothes or anything. Milo obviously saw my hesitation. “I’m not expecting you to,” he added hastily. “Uhh…,” I said, still digesting it all. “I don’t want to loose you,” I said slowly. “I don’t want you to go away.” “I don’t want to loose you either,” he replied, and he reached out his hand and I took it in mine and squeezed it gently. “How do you keep warm?” I asked him. “The sleeping bag is warm enough, and if I go south it’ll be warmer…” “Milo,” I interrupted, still gently holding his hand so he’d know I was worried about him, not upset with him. “What?” “I just…” “Oh shit!” Milo interrupted, dropping my hand and turning around quickly. “What?” I asked, startled. “There’s someone out there!” “Fuck!” I gasped, now noticing the shadow of a figure through one of the small windows on the side of the cabin, and then I felt the boat move and heard the sound of feet on the hull, and we both froze when we heard a familiar voice. “Nelson?” Only it wasn’t the voice of his father, it was my dad calling me. I glanced at Milo, who looked as surprised as I felt, and then I got up and went and slid back the top hatch, while Milo remained sitting on the bench. “Dad?” “Nelson,” said my dad casually, smiling at me as though he’d just come to visit. “Is Milo here?” “Yeah, I’m here Mr. Larmont,” said Milo, getting up to stand beside me. My dad glanced around the boat. “Nice boat Milo. This a 20 footer?” “Twenty-two,” said Milo as he unsnapped the canvas cover and climbed out of the cabin to stand beside my father. I reluctantly followed. “It’s great. Your fathers?” he asked casually, though I couldn’t help thinking he was checking to see if boat theft had been added to our list of crimes. “It’s mine,” said Milo shortly. My father just nodded. “Nice,” he repeated. “How’d you find us?” I asked him. “Followed you,” said Dad, and he actually grinned at that. “You followed me!” “Nelson, we knew…well we strongly suspected that you knew where Milo was…and we were pretty sure that you’d…” and he trailed off, but then he looked at me and smiled. It was like he was proud that they’d managed to trick me. “So you followed me so you could, what? Take Milo back to his dad?!” I demanded. My dad looked at me as though I was being stupid. “No, we followed you because we were worried about you. Worried that you might do something reckless. And we didn’t want anything happening to Milo either.” And then something he said caught my attention. “We?” I asked curiously, glancing around. “Your mother’s in the car,” my dad said calmly. “Mom? Fuck!” I repeated weakly. “I thought it probably best that the both of us didn’t ambush you,” he said, and then he winked at Milo and Milo turned to look at me, and Milo seemed as puzzled as I was. I just shrugged, I had no idea what was going on either. I couldn’t understand why my dad seemed to be acting so casual about it all. I was expecting a lot more anger and annoyance. “I’m not going back to my father’s,” said Milo hotly, turning back to face my father, and crossing his arms defiantly. My dad just looked at him with an odd grin on his face. “No, you’re not,” he said, which seemed to deflate Milo just a little, before my dad added. “You’re coming back to our place, and then we are going to figure out a solution.” “My father won’t listen to you,” Milo insisted, frowning. “Maybe,” said Dad, still smiling at Milo, and then he clapped his hand on Milo’s shoulder briefly. “Don’t give up yet Milo!” Then he took his hand off Milo’s shoulder and reached out and patted me on the shoulder as well. “Now, come on you two, get your stuff. Do you want to ride with me or your mother?” and he gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze and then dropped his hand. “What?” I blurted out. “I’m going to drive your car back, and your mother is driving back ours. Who do you want to go with?” “We’ll drive mine,” I suggested, “and you can follow us.” “Good try,” said my father, smiling. “Come on. You come with me. I’m going to let your mother know we’re heading back. I assume I can trust you two not to do anything silly?” he said looking at us with a more serious expression. We exchanged glances and then both nodded slowly. “Okay,” said my father. “No hurry,” and he climbed off the boat and started walking back towards the parking lot. I turned to face Milo, who looked dejected. “Fuck,” was all he said. “I’m sorry Milo.” He shrugged. “It’s not your fault,” he finally said. “I feel like it’s all my fault,” I said. “If I hadn’t…” “Don’t be stupid!” Milo said, and he grabbed my hand and squeezed it briefly, and then he dropped it and glanced around. “It’ll take a few minutes to pack up my stuff and lock up the boat.” “I’ll help,” I offered. The first half hour of the drive back was awkwardly quiet. My dad didn’t say anything much, and we weren’t exactly in the mood to talk. When we’d got to the parking lot, I saw Mom in my parent’s car, parked a couple of empty spots from mine. My dad was casually leaning against my car. I waved at Mom guiltily, and I was relieved she didn’t get out of the car and come over and tell us how stupid we’d been. I figured that was going to happen later. Dad took the keys that I held out to him and got into the drivers seat, while Milo climbed into the back seat behind my father, and I got into the front passenger’s seat. As we drove, I kept glancing back at Milo, trying to get his attention, but Milo didn’t seem to want to make eye contact with me. He looked miserable—lost in his thoughts—and I didn’t know what to say to make him feel better. I knew he dreaded going back to his father, and—like me—he didn’t believe that my parents could do anything to stop it. I also didn’t know how much trouble I was in with my parents. It seemed like lately I was always screwing things up and not doing what they told me to, but that was the least of my worries. I was now sure that Milo was going to be sent away. We might as well drive him to the airport. “That’s a nice boat Milo,” said my father suddenly. “You sail much?” “No,” Milo admitted, and then after a long pause he continued, “I haven’t really taken it out.” “You haven’t?” Dad asked, surprised. “I only got it last year, and we did take it out once last summer, but my father hated it. I think because he had no clue what to do. We just untied from the dock and used the outboard to go out a little way and then went back. He almost fell in trying to tie it up.” My father laughed when Milo said that, and even Milo grinned a little, though when he’d said it, I don’t think he’d meant it to be funny. “Why’d your father buy the boat?” my dad asked, obviously curious. “He didn’t. My mother did.” “Oh,” said my father. There was a long pause, and then my father added. “Yachts are fun. I sailed a little in college.” “You did?” I asked, surprised. He’d never talked about sailing before, though I guess it wasn’t something that might have come up in everyday conversation. “Nothing big,” my dad explained. “It was a little dinghy really, with a single sail. Fun though, and a good way to learn the basics of sailing. You boys should take some sailing classes.” Milo let his breath out in a puff, which suggested he thought it was highly unlikely we would get the opportunity anytime soon to take sailing classes. Dad must have thought that Milo was worried about the cost, because he added. “It probably isn’t that expensive either.” Milo gave a small smile, but then turned and continued to stare out the window. I kept glancing at him, hoping he’d face me, but he just stared out of the window, and even though I could only see a bit of his profile, he looked miserable. “Where is your mother, Milo?” my dad asked, and when I glanced at Dad, even he appeared embarrassed by what he had asked. “I mean,” he added nervously, “I hadn’t heard your mother mentioned before…” “Oh, she travels a lot. I don’t see her much.” “Ah,” my father nodded. “But she bought you the boat?” “They buy me things because they feel guilty about not spending time with me,” Milo said, his voice bitter, though he was still starring out of the window. He clearly didn’t want to make conversation, but his basic politeness wouldn’t allow him to say so. I could tell that Milo was getting more upset by the questions, and I just wanted my dad to stop talking, but I didn’t know what to say to get him to do so. He was probably just trying to distract Milo, or make him feel comfortable. The only problem was, it was having the opposite effect. “Does your dad have sole custody of you?” my dad asked, a question that seemed to have nothing to do with the boat, and I was about to ask him to stop, but Milo looked around, obviously puzzled. “What?” he asked, glancing at me, and then back at my dad. “I just wondered what the custody arrangement was. Does your father have full legal custody, or is it joint?” Milo was still puzzled by the question, and I wondered if he even knew the difference. I only knew the difference because uncle Ray had talked about it once when there was some court case he had to provide evidence for, and Mom had once talked about how my Dad was now my legal Dad. I hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to it at the time. This happened years after he’d married my Mom and by that time Dad was Dad, and the legal stuff wasn’t of any interest to me. “Ahh…I don’t know,” Milo finally said. “What would it mean if he does, or doesn’t?” I asked. “Well,” said my dad, “if it’s joint legal custody, then Milo’s mom would have a say in things like what school he went to.” I glanced back at Milo, who actually looked curious. “Could you find out?” my dad asked him, still sounding casual. “Ah…I can’t ask my dad,” he said slowly. “You can’t call your mother?” I asked. “I guess…I’m not sure how to reach her. Most of the time she doesn’t get messages for weeks and we only have an emergency number for her,” said Milo, seeming to dismiss the idea. “Her son running away, that probably qualifies as an emergency, don’t you think?” said Dad. I glanced at my dad and he grinned at me. I wondered if he had always intended to ask about Milo’s mother, or whether it was just something that came to him. But now all I was thinking about was what custody arrangement they had, and whether Milo’s mom could stop his father from sending him away. And for the first time that day, I actually felt better. A little hopeful. Maybe there were other solutions. I turned back to Milo, who was looking thoughtful. “But I don’t have the number,” he said slowly. “Who would?” Dad prompted him. “My father. Ah…Juanita.” “Can you call Juanita?” I asked Milo. “Only by calling home, and she never answers so…” “Well, we’ll figure something out,” said my dad casually. “You boys hungry?” he asked—another sudden change of topic—as he pulled off the interstate and turned the car into a Burger King drive through. “Dad?” I asked, puzzled. I’d thought we were in huge trouble, but Dad was being casual and relaxed, and now it looked like he was treating us to lunch. “What?” replied my dad, acting like it was a perfectly natural thing to do, and I guess it was. “You have to eat,” he pointed out as he pulled up to the drive-through window. “What do you want Milo?” And then I realized that it was lunch time, and I was really hungry, and even Milo, who was his usual shy and reluctant self when my father asked him what he wanted, decided to get a shake. My dad ordered for the three of us, getting Milo a burger and fries as well as the shake, and even though Milo pouted when I handed them to him, he inhaled the food. The whole experience was starting to feel surreal, especially as I could see Mom following us through the drive-through in the other car. I think we both felt better after eating, and my dad didn’t ask Milo any more difficult questions after that. We managed to idly chat the rest of the way back. Milo even managed a couple of small grins at me while my dad talked about business, and the problems he had been having getting one of the ovens repaired. My father asked Milo how he’d gotten down to the boat—a question that hadn’t even occurred to me—and Milo revealed that he’d taken a bus part of the way, and hitchhiked the rest. Dad didn’t say anything at the time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Milo got a lecture about that later. Growing up, my mother was always warning Chad and I not to hitchhike, and she’d even had uncle Ray once give us a lecture on the dangers of hitchhiking. By the time we got home I think we’d both calmed down a lot. It was such an odd trip; I think because I kept expecting Dad to tell me that I shouldn’t have gone to see Milo, and to tell Milo that he shouldn’t have taken off like that, but he didn’t. He didn’t even mention it. Back at home things rapidly turned awkward again as we climbed out of the car. Mom pulled up behind my car, and then she got out and came up to us, her face serious. I couldn’t tell if she was worried or if she was just angry. I was expecting some kind of rebuke, but instead all she did was hug me tightly, and then—without a word to me—she turned to Milo. “Come on Milo, you can put your things in the guest room. Nelson, help him bring his stuff in,” and then she and Dad walked into the house together, leaving us standing in the driveway. Milo glanced at me nervously. “They’re just leaving us out here?” he asked sheepishly. I shrugged. “Dad took the keys,” I pointed out. Milo nodded. “You’re staying, right?” I asked him. “I didn’t think I had a choice,” he said. “You have a choice. We’re not making you stay,” I said, even though the ‘we’ was me, and I wasn’t sure my parents felt the same way. Probably they didn’t. Milo rolled his eyes at me—clearly he thought I was talking shit—and slung one of the bags over his shoulder. I reached out and took the other bag from his hand, while he carried his sleeping bag. “Come on,” I said. Entering the house we got the next surprise when we heard my mother’s voice, talking to someone on the phone. “Hello Emily, it’s Pamela…” I glanced at Milo, and it was clear he’d heard the name too, and he looked like he wanted to go hear what was being said, but I gently guided him towards the guest bedroom. After a moment’s hesitation, he reluctantly went where I steered him. “So this is the famous guest bedroom?” said Milo, as we dropped the bags on the floor. “Yep,” I agreed, putting my arms around him and hugging him to me. For a moment he just stood there stiffly, glancing at the open door behind us. I dropped my arms, turned and walked over and gently closed the door, and then I turned around and walked back to Milo; who hadn’t moved a muscle as he stood there watching me. I stepped up to him and gently put my arms around him again, and then it was like he melted into me as he put his own arms around me, and put his head on my shoulder, and sighed. We just stood there holding each other. “Come on,” I finally said, “we better go see what they’re planning.” “I spoke to Emily and she’s going to contact Juanita and let us know,” said my mother. The four of us were sitting in the kitchen, and my father had made us coffee. Milo—as he often seemed to do at my house—was holding his mug and swirling it slowly in his hands, but he seemed to show no interest in actually drinking from it. When my mother finished speaking he looked up from the coffee he’d been studying and sighed. “If my mother’s traveling it could take a while to reach her,” Milo said quietly. “What happens to Milo until then?” I asked my mother. “For the moment he stays here. Hopefully we’ll hear something soon.” I guess I should have been excited about Milo staying at my place, but I knew it wouldn’t last. I was already worried that Milo’s dad would turn up at the door and drag Milo away. “But what happens if we don’t?” I asked plaintively. “I don’t know Nelson. Calm down,” said my mother, and I felt Milo’s hand grabbing mine and squeezing it. But I was upset, and I didn’t like this idea of just sitting around. For all we knew his father could be on the way over right now. “At the moment his father doesn’t think he’s here,” my mother continued. “And no one is planning to tell him.” “What about Emily Hill?” asked Milo. “She won’t tell him Milo,” my mother tried to sooth him, but Milo looked unimpressed. He was never impressed by Emily Hill. “This means Milo has to stay here,” my father cautioned. “He won’t be able to go to school, and you can’t tell your friends he’s here. And if you guys go out…” he trailed off. “No school? Lucky me!” said Milo, softly smiling. “So we just hide him here for the next five months?” I asked. “It’s not going to be like that, hopefully just a few days” said my mother. “I think we all need to be patient and wait while things are sorted out.” I didn’t like the sound of that. But before I could open my mouth to complain some more, my mother added “Why don’t you two go and get some rest? You must be tired.” “I’m not tired,” I said, sounding very much like a cranky five-year old. My mother raised an eyebrow, looking unimpressed. “So you two don’t want to go and make out?” she said flatly. I think Milo’s eyes grew three sizes when my mother said that, and my Dad almost choked on his coffee. “Are we encouraging them?” asked my dad curiously. “Just as long as you keep your pants on,” said my mom to me. Milo had now gone a hot pink color, and I was worried what the next thing out of my mother’s mouth would be. I decided that retreat was the best idea. Also, I’d just been given permission to take my boyfriend to my room and do things with him. I grabbed Milo’s hand and pulled him gently after me down to my bedroom. “So you want to make out huh?” asked Milo, almost giggling, as we entered the room and I pushed the door closed. “With you? Always,” I whispered. “Your mother said we had to keep our pants on,” he pointed out. I leaned over and whispered in his ear “She didn’t say anything about them being up.” “What do you think your mother will say?” I asked Milo. We were lying in bed, holding each other. The sweat on Milo’s forehead had dried, and I could feel the soft hairs of his skin as I ran my hand slowly along his bare arm, and up and over his bare shoulder. I slowly trailed my hand down his chest, as his emerald eyes stared at me intently; doing their best not to glance down and see where my hand was going. “I don’t know,” he finally said. “She doesn’t know I’m gay.” “No?” I asked, gently squeeing his soft penis. “Nope,” he said, giggling a little and pulling back. I reached around and gently slapped his ass before pulling him slowly towards me, his genitals rubbing against mine. “Are you going to tell her?” I sighed. Milo looked unsure, and then I saw small tears forming in his eyes, and thoughts of more sex dissolved from my brain. I just wanted to hold him and make him feel better. “It’s okay,” I said gently, running my hand up to his back. “I don’t know what she’ll think,” he whispered shakily. “She may want to send me away too if she finds out…” “Really?” “I don’t know! I don’t really know her!” “She won’t,” I lied. I had no idea, but I didn’t want him to lose hope. “You know,” I said slowly, “I could call Caleb.” “Call Caleb? Why?” he asked puzzled. “He could come pick you up. Take you back to the boat if you want to try…” I trailed off. I didn’t want him to go, but it was up to him. Milo looked thoughtful, and then he shook his head. “I’m gonna wait and see what my mother says.” “You’re sure?” “Yeah. Your parents are being really nice to me and, well, I don’t want them to get mad at me.” “They won’t get mad at you,” I assured him. He shrugged. “You said it yourself. In five months I can come visit you, so I want to keep on their good side.” I was still not convinced. “And anyway, I’m tired of running,” he said, like some life-time criminal, and then Milo grinned and I realized he was joking. Milo glanced around my room, an odd expression on his face, and then he tuned back to me. “Why do you think your parents are letting us do this?” he asked. “Do what?” I asked, not sure what he meant. They hadn’t let him run away, what did he mean? “Make out in your bedroom,” he clarified. “Oh,” I said, not sure. “I think they probably think we’re….” and I trailed off. I’d been about to say ‘making out,’ but then it occurred to me that they probably assumed we were doing more than that. “Uh…” I began, and then I shrugged. I didn’t know why my parents had sort of turned a blind eye to the possibility that I was having sex with my boyfriend in my bedroom. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t have let Chad do this with a girlfriend. Not until he was in college. “I think they know whatever happens, we’re probably not going to see each other for a while,” said Milo quietly. I felt my stomach drop when he said that. “No,” I said. “No, I don’t think that’s going to…” Milo turned and now he was very close to me. “What’s the best that can happen?” he began. “I go live with my mother?” “No…you could…” and then I paused. What was the best—or even an acceptable—solution? It seemed impossible to imagine Milo going back to his father now; if nothing else because it was clear his dad would never allow us to see each other. “Maybe your parents will let us visit each other?” he offered hopefully. I smiled at him, trying to be as positive as possible. “I’m sure they’ll be okay with that,” I said, and I kissed him on the lips, and then I reached down and pulled my white comforter up to cover us both, tucking it around Milo. Milo watched my arm moving and then snuggled close to me. “Cozy?” I asked him, and he smiled and nodded. “You know,” I said, “I could get used to this.” “Yeah?” he grinned. “Yeah. Maybe I’ll hide you under my bed.” “For five months?” he asked skeptically. “It’s just a thought,” I grinned. “I’d like that too…” he said hugging me, and he leaned forward and gently kissed my lips. Then he pulled back slightly and looked into my eyes. “I’m not sorry,” he said. “Sorry about what?” “About coming out. Even about my dad going mental. I’m just glad I got to…” and he pursed his lips. I leaned forward and kissed him. Milo looked at me, a curious expression on his face, and then he seemed to relax, as though he’d made some decision. “I love you,” he said softly. Eventually, Milo and I fell asleep, holding each other. It was around six when Milo gently shook me awake. “Huh?” I grumbled. “Your Dad says that dinner will be ready in ten minutes,” he whispered softly. “Okay,” I said, staring at him groggily. “Did he come down here?” “Yep,” said Milo, and then I realized I should have known the answer to that question. Milo’s neck and face were noticeably redder than his bare chest. He was blushing. We were both under the covers, but it would have been obvious that we didn’t have shirts on, and maybe little else. Somehow we hadn’t even managed to follow the ‘keep your pants on part of your body’ rule, though I was pretty sure my foot was touching some article of clothing scrunched at the bottom of the bed. “He say anything else?” I asked. “Not really,” said Milo. “Not really?” “He sort of raised an eyebrow,” explained Milo, and then he grinned bashfully and I snorted. “We should get up there promptly,” I said. “Hopefully nothing will be said.” And when we went up to dinner, nothing was said. And it was so clearly not said, that it was obvious my father had told my mother that he’d found us naked in bed, sleeping together, and they’d decided not to say anything. For the moment. That was probably going to come back and bite me in the ass later. Dinner was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy and peas, which is usually one of my favorites, but my appetite wasn’t great. I blame the two burgers I had for lunch. Milo wasn’t hungry either. He pushed the meatloaf around—much like he did the meal we’d had at Thanksgiving—until my mother told him that unless he ate some of it he wouldn’t get any dessert. Milo actually looked chastened by this, though my mother smiled and reached out and briefly patted his hand to let him know she wasn’t really angry with him. Milo turned to me, and I raised my eyebrows to comfort him, and let him know that she was just kidding him, but he did actually start eating a little. “Did Emily say when she’d call?” I asked, maybe for the third time. My mother looked up from her own plate and sighed. “She said she’d get in touch with Juanita one way or another and get the number,” Mom said, as though explaining it to one of her students. “She know’s we don’t want his father to know. Be patient Nelson.” “And what if she doesn’t?” “Then we’ll figure out something else,” said my father. Milo sighed, and I looked at him and he dropped his eyes, and I realized that he probably wanted me to stop going on about it as much as my parents did. We all went back to our own thoughts. And then the phone rang, and it sounded so loud. It sounded louder than I’d ever heard it before. Maybe it was because we’d been so quiet through the meal. We all froze for a moment. There was a brief silence and then the bell rang a second time, and if anything, it sounded louder. Finally my mother got up and answered it, while we all watched her; wondering who it might be. “Hello?” my mother said. There was a long pause as she listened to whoever it was. My mother listened closely, and then said “Oh yes, just a moment,” her expression remaining neutral, and then she took the phone handset and walked out of the room. I glanced at my dad. “Probably one her student’s parents,” he suggested. I wanted to go and remind Mom to not make it long, as we were expecting a phone call, but I didn’t want her to accuse me of over-reacting. But she seemed to be gone forever, though maybe it was only ten minutes before my mother came back in, holding one hand over the mouth piece of the cordless phone. “Milo?” she called out gently. Milo looked up, surprised. “It’s your mother,” said my mom, holding out the phone towards him. Milo looked shocked. He just sat there for a moment, and then he gathered himself together and slowly stood. “You can take it to the bedroom if you like,” suggested my mother. Milo nodded, but he was still just standing at the table, and then he turned to me. “Will you come with me?” he whispered. “Sure,” I said, getting up quickly and following him to the guest bedroom. Milo was standing in the middle of the bedroom, the phone in one hand, held to his ear, while with his other hand he held on tightly to my hand. I was a step away from him, trying to give him some measure of privacy, even though I could hear every word he said. I just couldn’t hear what was being said to him. “Hi, hi, Mom?” he’d said faintly when he’d first put the phone to his ear. There had been a really long pause, and then he whispered “I’m okay…” and then there was another long pause. “I dunno….not so good.” Another long pause. “Yeah, I just…it’s been really bad…” and there was another long pause. “Mom…what custody…do you have joint custody of me?” another long pause. “I just…Dad hates me…he does…I’m always fighting with him, and he wants to send me away to this school, and there’s no reason. I’m doing fine in school.” There was another long pause. Milo was hunched over and I could see tears rolling down his face. I squeezed his hand, and I knew he felt it, as he held my hand tighter, but he didn’t otherwise acknowledge me. “No, I just…its not fair,” he continued. “I don’t want to go and he’s just…” I could feel Milo shaking and the tears were flowing freely down his face, and he was almost gulping air. “I’m okay…” he said. “I’m okay,” though he sounded nothing like it. At least not to me. I had no idea what this woman on the other end of the phone was saying or thinking. Couldn’t she understand he was upset? “I just…Mom….I’m….Mom I’m….I’m…” and then he finally whispered “gay.” And I thought he was going to completely break down. “He hates me because I’m gay,” he whispered, the words coming out in a rush. I couldn’t take it any more, and I put my other arm around his shoulder and pulled him to me, and he sort of curled down under my chin as he leaned against my chest, still clutching the phone to his ear and softly crying. I ran my free hand up and down his back, trying to comfort him. “Yeah?” I heard him mumble, squeezing my hand quickly, and he suddenly straightened up. He was still in my embrace, but I could see his face, and though it was red and tear streaked, now he looked almost startled. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked—almost demanded—though he seemed much happier. There was another long pause as he stood there, listening intently, and nodding his head every now and again. “Okay…yeah…I know, I know…yeah. Um, okay. Yeah…Bye.” And he hung up, and I stood there, looking at him, feeling horribly confused, but Milo was hugging me now and it was clear he was happy. To be continued...
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