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TJ - 12. Chapter 12

Sorry it took so long, but here y'all go! Let me know what you think.


Chapter 12

Robert tried to avoid being in the same room as Sean and me for the rest of the day on Saturday. I’m not sure if it was because of what he walked in on or the fact I asked him why Lori had been at the house so early that morning, which he conveniently neglected to answer. After clearing it with our boyfriends and Jacob, Josh and I decided to let him have the house to himself and we all spent the night at Sean and Kevin’s. We spent the whole evening hanging out, just the four of us. It was nice and we all learned more about each other. We ended up blowing up a couple of air mattresses and setting them up in the game room, where we eventually fell asleep.

On Sunday, after Jacob told us he was going to Aaron’s for the day and wouldn’t be back until late that evening, we decided to hang out with the whole group and threw an impromptu party at Sean’s. We invited Pauly and he and Hunter ended up coming over. Pauly was no longer Rogers. Gone was the overly-cocky-douchebag-fuckhead who tried to make our lives hell. In his place was a nice guy who was trying to right some of the wrongs he had done in the past. He apologized to everyone multiple times. Finally, he accepted the fact we honestly forgave him and stopped apologizing.

At one point, Hunter pulled me aside and asked to speak to Sean and me privately. He seemed concerned about something, so I got Sean and we went in the house. Once the three of us were in Sean’s room, Hunter turned to us and asked, “Can y’all do me a favor?”

I answered, “Probably, depends on what you want.”

He sighed and started, “I’m kinda worried Smith is going to try and get into Pauly’s head. I don’t know how, but he seems to know exactly what to say to get to Pauly. I know he’s tried to message, but as far as I know, Pauly didn’t respond. Just, keep an eye on him, please. Granma would be hella-pissed if he lets Smith manipulate him again and would tan his hide.”

I couldn’t stop the chuckle I let out when I got the mental image of a truly pissed off Doris Rogers taking her anger out on Pauly. Hunter smiled at me and said, “You’re imagining Granma kicking Pauly’s ass, aren’t you?”

“I think I would pay money to see that,” I replied with a chuckle.

Sean shook his head but otherwise ignored our commentary and said, “I think we can agree to keep an eye on him if you’ll promise something in return.”

“What do you want me to promise?” Hunter asked apprehensively.

“Talk to your coach and try to get back on your team.”

“What? I can’t do that. I already quit. Besides, I don’t deserve to play.”

I rolled my eyes and replied, “That’s fucking bullshit and you know it. Answer me this- do you enjoy playing football?”

Hunter nodded. “Of course. But that doesn’t change the fact I targeted Sean with the intention of hurting him. I doubt my coach would even let me play again.”

“But you won’t know for sure unless you ask,” I countered.

“Fine! I’ll talk to him tomorrow and see what he says. Just, please keep Smith away from Pauly.”

“We’ll do our best,” I promised.

Once we were finished talking, the three of us headed downstairs. As soon as we walked in the backyard, the cat calls, whistles, and innuendoes started. I shut them all down when I spoke the truth. “What’s the matter? Y’all jealous y’all weren’t invited? Give us about,” I looked at Sean, questioningly, “ten to fifteen minutes, wouldn’t you say? We’ll be ready to go again.”

They all tried to act as if they weren’t interested, but I know they all wanted me. And, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want Sean? The two of us together would probably be too much for them. They couldn’t handle us.

Eventually, the party started winding down, and by the time Jacob got home at six, everyone was gone. Sean and I hung out in his room while Kevin and Josh hung out in the guest room downstairs (which was Kevin’s room). When I went to tell Josh we needed to head home, they were sitting on opposite sides of Kevin’s bed. He asked me for a few more minutes, so I went back upstairs to give Sean one more kiss. Josh was quiet on the way home. I could tell there was something on his mind but knew he probably wouldn’t talk about it with me until he was ready. I know how surprising this may be, but I decided to be patient and wait for him to come to me.

We drove up to a mostly dark house, only the lights over the stove and the one above the kitchen sink were on. There was a note on the kitchen island from Robert letting us know he was out to dinner with Lori and wasn’t sure when (or if) he would be home and not to wait up for him. I chuckled when I read the note, whereas Josh barely smiled.

Josh and I finished what little homework we had, ate a quick bite for a late dinner, then got ready for bed. About fifteen minutes after I laid down, there was a soft knock on my door. Josh opened the door and asked if I was still awake.

“Yeah, what’s up?” I asked as he came in the room.

“I can’t sleep. Too much going on up here.” He pointed to his temple.

“What are you worried about? Talk to me bub.”

“I don’t know. I’m worried about Kevin and everything he’s going through with his dad. I’m worried about Dad, hoping everything works out with Lori. He deserves someone who makes him happy. I’m worried about you.”

“Me? Why me? I’m fine,” I interrupted incredulously.

“Yes, you. Between what happened over the summer and everything going on with Sean, add in the fact you’re going to be applying for schools soon, it’s got to be a lot to deal with.

“And speaking of the summer, I’m starting to feel guilty about something. I’m sad Mimi and Poppa are gone, but I’m happier you’re here with us. Does that mean I’m happy they’re gone? If they hadn’t have died, then you wouldn’t have ever moved down here, you wouldn’t have ever met Sean, he probably wouldn’t have come out, which means Kevin wouldn’t have come out either, so I wouldn’t be with him now. I have way too much to be happy about and it’s all because they died.”

I put my arm around him and pulled him into a side hug. “I promise you, bub, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. As far as this summer goes; yes, I’m sad about it, but if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have met Sean. I can’t be upset about that. I will admit I’m a little concerned about applying for schools, but I’m almost sure I can get into the schools I plan on applying to. Robert and Lori are still pretty new, but I think they’ll be fine. And Kevin’s strong. He’ll be fine. He has his uncle, you, Sean, Jacob, Robert, Mr. Landrum and me supporting him in anything he needs. The only thing you need to worry about is you. Now, is that everything?”

He hesitated before he shook his head. I had a feeling I knew what was coming and I know why he was stalling before he said anything. He has it in his head I don’t want to talk about all the shit Mel’s put him through. Just because she is one of my least favorite people on Earth doesn’t mean I won’t listen to Josh vent about her. She’s his mom. I totally understand if a small part of him still feels for her.

Finally, after a few moments of silence, he sniffled and quietly asked, “Why doesn’t my mom want anything to do with me? What did I do wrong?”

My arm was still draped over his shoulders, so I pulled him tighter against me. “I want you to listen to me and hear what I’m saying to you. Mel’s actions have absolutely nothing to do with you or anything you might have done. The way she’s acting is totally on her. She’s the one with the issues, not you. I’m sorry you have to go through this. And trust me, I know it’s easy to tell yourself something’s true, but hard as hell to accept it in your heart. It will take time, but eventually you’ll accept the truth that her leaving and not wanting to see you had nothing to do with you and everything to do with her.”

He sniffled a few times, then said in a soft voice, “Thanks Teej, I know what you’re saying is true, but I can’t help but feel like this sometimes. Umm, do you mind if I sleep in here with you tonight? It’s been awhile since we’ve shared a bed. I just don’t want to be by myself tonight.”

“Of course, you can stay in here with me. I love you, bub, and I’ll always be here for you. Now, let’s get some sleep. We have school in the morning and Robert will probably still have to come by and get ready for work.”

With that being said, I turned out the lights and crawled under the covers with my brother. When Josh and I would share a bed, we wouldn’t cuddle or anything. We both liked the fact there was someone in the bed with us. When we were little and still believed in the closet monsters, we would reassure each other by saying we would watch each other’s backs and wake the other up if the monsters came. Sometimes it’s just nice knowing someone’s there to watch your back. The monsters might not be physically real, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

I woke up the next morning when my alarm started going off. I stretched out and opened my eyes and nearly jumped out of the bed. Robert was leaning against my doorframe with his arms crossed and wearing a stupid, silly smile.

I still jerked and let out a little yelp and said, “Jesus-H-Christ, Robert. Creeper much? What the hell are you lurking in the doorway for?”

“I was just admiring my two boys and thinking how lucky I am to have y’all both.”

Ok, this was getting a little too Hallmark for me. So, I gave him a typical TJ Kennedy response. “Yeah, you are lucky to have us. We’re pretty fucking awesome. We both get good grades, are in honor’s classes, you don’t have to worry about us getting some random girl pregnant, and we don’t drink or do drugs. Think of how much worse your life would be if any of those weren’t true.”

His smile got bigger and he said, “There’s the Teej I know and love. Now, is there a particular reason you and your brother are in the same bed?”

To my surprise, Josh answered his question. “Is there a particular reason you didn’t come home on a school night?”

Before Robert could respond, I said, “That might be why he’s smiling. It’s creepy. And now I have the mental image of Robert and Lori having sex in my head.”

Josh backhanded me in the chest. “Did you have to say that out loud? Now I have the image in my head. I need brain bleach.”

“At least y’all didn’t have to hear what we were doing. I really should look into soundproofing these rooms. Neither of y’all nor your boyfriends understand that sound travels and others can hear when you get loud. Now get up and get your butts ready for school. I’ll see y’all there.”

I looked at a blushing Josh and asked, “Did Robert just accuse us of having loud sex? Because, I mean, with the exception of your headboard pounding against the wall every once in a while, I haven’t heard you and Kevin having sex. Are Sean and I loud?”

Instead of answering, Josh groaned and rolled out of bed. He left my room without saying anything else. I decided to take his non-answer as a no, Sean and I don’t have loud sex. I might have to remedy that next time. Not that I want Robert and Josh to hear us having sex, I just like knowing we can be louder if we want.

Driving to school, I started getting anxious about Smith and how he would handle Pauly not wanting to be around him anymore. Would he get mad and start something? Would he blow it off like it was no big deal? Would he get loud and start a shouting match? My questions were answered almost immediately as soon as we walked inside. I heard the shouting before we opened the doors and saw a huge crowd gathered by the main stairs.

Kevin was holding a struggling Pauly in a bear hug from behind. Sean had a fuming, red-faced Patrick pinned against the wall. Chasity was kneeling, helping an upset Ethan gather his books. Mark had Smith pinned against the opposite wall with his forearm across his throat. I ran toward the chaos and asked Jenny, Amber, and Castro what was going on.

Castro responded, “That fuck-face pushed Ethan and made him drop all his books.”

Before he could continue, Coach Wilson’s booming voice was heard. “What’s going on here? Kevin, let Rogers go. Same with you, Mark and Sean. I want the six of you,” he then noticed Ethan and Chasity and continued, “plus you two, to follow me to Mr. Kennedy’s office. The rest of you go somewhere else. Now!”

As everyone hurried to follow orders, Amber took over the story. “Patrick and Ethan, plus Kevin, Sean, and those two,” she indicated Jenny and Castro, “and me ran into Pauly first thing this morning and were hanging out here talking. We decided to go to the cafeteria to wait for y’all. We started walking that way while Patrick went to the restroom. Ethan waited for him and Pauly decided to wait with him. We weren’t too far down the hallway before we heard Smith say, ‘Why are you hanging out with this retard?’ I guess he pushed Ethan out of the way or something, because next we heard was Ethan dropping his books and Patrick and Pauly both yelling. We turned around and saw Ethan on the ground and Patrick getting ready to punch Smith. Kevin and Sean ran towards the group just as Mark and Chasity came in the front doors. Right after Patrick hit Smith and was about to throw another punch, Sean grabbed him while Kevin and Mark grabbed Pauly and Smith. That’s when y’all walked in.”

“What made him push Ethan? I mean I can’t imagine Ethan saying anything to Smith to provoke him. I guess I’ll have to ask Sean about it during English,” I wondered aloud.

The only problem was, Sean never made it to English class. I had to pass by the main office on my way to the auditorium for Drama class. I looked through the glass. I could see Sean, Kevin, Mark, Pauly, and Ethan sitting in chairs. There was no sign of Smith or Patrick. Sean noticed me looking and subtly shook his head. I could tell by the look on his face, this wasn’t going to be a good outcome. I didn’t think he was in trouble. The only ones who probably were going to be in trouble were Smith and Patrick.

During Drama, we were assigned a partner and a scene we had to memorize, block, and ultimately act out the following week. My scene partner was Stacey, which normally would’ve been awesome, except she was so distracted the whole time, we didn’t get anything accomplished. I tried asking her what was wrong and all she said was, “Huh? Oh, I’m fine. What were we talking about?” She glanced over at John and Josh, who were scene partners, with a worried look and didn’t listen to anything else I said.

During Yearbook, I worked on my spreads and stories some, talked to Jenny, and tried not to think too much about what was going on in the office. The next period was my free period, so I headed to the front office to see if Robert had anything for me to do. When I walked in, Ethan was sitting outside Robert’s closed door next to a sullen-looking Patrick. Across the room, on the other side of a counter, Smith sat with his arms crossed and a glower on his face. As I got closer to Robert’s office, I started hearing raised voices coming from the other side of the door.

I took a seat next to Ethan and waited for one of them to start talking. Finally, Ethan spoke. “M-m-my p-p-parents are in-in-in there. So is Sm-Sm-Smith’s dad. My p-parents s-s-said something ab-ab-about pulling me out of school. I d-don’t w-want t-t-to leave.”

When tears started falling from his eyes, Patrick took over. “I got two days suspension for throwing a punch. Right now, Smith has a week suspension for bullying and physically assaulting another student, with the possibility of expulsion. Coach Wilson also kicked him off the team. When his dad found out, he immediately came up here and demanded to speak to Mr. Kennedy and Coach Wilson. Mr. Smith was yelling at Coach and Mr. Kennedy, demanding Smith be allowed back on the team. Then when he heard I only got two days suspension and not a week like Smith did, he wanted Mr. Kennedy to extend my time. Mr. Kennedy was explaining the extended suspension was due to bullying when Ethan’s parents walked in. The minute they heard the word bullying, they started talking about homeschooling Ethan again. I know if they are reassured Ethan is safe, they’ll let him stay. I just hope Mr. Kennedy can convince them.”

Robert’s office door opened, and I heard him say, “Ms. Rowling will get the withdraw paperwork for you. The reason for his suspension and possible expulsion will be included. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Hell, no! Joseph, come on. Let’s get out of here.” He turned to Robert with a sneer. “If you continue to give their kind,” he pointed towards Patrick, Ethan, and me, “free reign around here, they’ll take over. They’ve brainwashed Paul Rogers against my son. They’ve practically taken over the football team. And according to Joseph, it all started because of him.” He jabbed his finger in my direction.

Robert tried to intervene, but I couldn’t stop my response. “What the fu…” I managed to get out before I felt a hand cover my mouth. I turned my head and followed the arm attached to the hand to find Ethan’s face. I was seething but seeing something in his eyes made me calm down. I turned back around in time to hear Robert’s response.

“I think it’s time for you to leave the school grounds. Officer McNair will escort you and your son to his locker. He can gather what he needs from there and then he’ll escort you from the building. Thank you for coming in this morning, now if you’ll excuse me.”

I looked behind Mr. Smith and saw Aaron standing there in his uniform. Is it inappropriate for me to imagine Sean when I see him dressed like this and get a boner? I don’t think it is. He looks like he could be Sean’s older brother. I can imagine what Sean’s going to look like in the future when I see him. I could totally see him wearing a uniform just like Aaron’s. Mmmmm. Anyways, Aaron nodded at me and I used all my willpower to not ask if Sean could borrow the uniform. It was hard, but I managed. I was talking about not asking the question, not my dick, which I will not confirm nor deny the hardness of.

Robert turned from Smith and his father to Ethan’s parents and said, “Now, Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, I hope you’ll allow Ethan to continue here. I can personally vouch for Ethan’s group of friends. They are all mature, responsible people. They’re not partiers or trouble makers. The majority of them are in honors classes. He’s with a good group of people who will look out for him and encourage him. I’ve noticed a major boost to his self-esteem since the beginning of this school year.” I didn’t hear the rest of what he said because he closed his office door and spoke with them for about five minutes.

When the door opened again, Ethan’s parents walked out. Ethan hopefully looked up to them and waited to hear what they had decided. His dad asked, “Do you really want to stay? Do you feel safe here?”

“Y-y-y-yes, I-I-I-I d-d-d-do. P-p-p-please,” Ethan began nodding his head vigorously, too excited to speak without stumbling over every word.

“It’s okay, son. I know what you’re trying to ask,” his dad interrupted with a slight smile on his face. He turned to me and said, “You must be TJ Kennedy. Ethan’s told us a little about you. I hear you’re partly responsible for my son joining the track team, along with Mike Hebert.”

I scratched the back of my neck and shrugged. “I’m not sure how much I really had to do with it. I just suggested he meet Mike and they talk to the track coach.”

“Well, that was enough. Thank you. Yours and Sean McNair’s friendship mean a lot to Ethan.”

“It’s no problem. He’s easy to be friends with. Besides, I don’t think anybody could resist him when he turns on the puppy-dog eyes. He has all of us wrapped around his finger. Especially Patrick. I mean, umm, it’s hard for all of us to say no to him,” I started backpedaling when I realized I might have just said too much.

Ethan’s dad placed a hand on my shoulder and chuckled. “It’s okay. We know how much he has Patrick wrapped around his finger.”

Patrick and Ethan both looked shell-shocked. I wasn’t sure if they were out to their parents or not, but the way they looked told me they weren’t. Before anyone could say anything else, Mr. Marsh continued, “We’ve had our suspicions, both us and Patrick’s parents, but Patrick’s actions today confirmed it.”

He turned to Patrick with a stern look on his face. “Patrick, I think you know how my wife and I feel about violence.” Patrick sheepishly nodded. “You know we don’t approve of violence as a means of conflict resolution.” Again, Patrick nodded. “That being said, what you did today proved how you really feel about Ethan. I can’t say I wouldn’t have had the same reaction if someone were to physically assault either my wife or Ethan in front of me. Thank you for caring about our son. Your friendship, and uh, whatever else is between you two, have helped Ethan tremendously the past year.”

Ethan looked from his dad, to his mom, then back to his dad. “Y-y-y’all knew a-about P-P-Patrick and me? How-how-how l-l-long have y-y-you known?”

His mom pulled him into a hug and said, “Oh, baby, of course we knew. You two haven’t been exactly inconspicuous about it. And I guess y’all both forgot the fact your dad and I can see down into Patrick’s back yard from our bedroom window. You sitting on his lap while hanging out by the pool was a big hint. After speaking with his parents, we all decided y’all would tell us when y’all were ready.”

Patrick’s voice squeaked a little when he asked, “My parents know and they’re okay with it? Are you sure?”

Mr. Marsh placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “It took some convincing on our part, but, yeah, I would say they’re okay with it. We’ve all suspected something for about a year now.”

Before anything else could be said, Robert interrupted, “Sorry to budge in, but I need to speak with Patrick in my office. Thank you for expressing your concerns about Ethan, I’m glad he’s staying with us. If he doesn’t feel like staying the rest of the day, y’all can take him home now. Otherwise, he can hang out in here with Teej till lunch starts. Y’all have a nice day.”

Robert motioned for Patrick to go into his office and followed him in. Once the door was closed, Ethan’s mom asked if he wanted to go home with them. She reluctantly agreed to let him stay when he told her no. After his parents left, we sat outside Robert’s office and waited for Patrick. Ethan was obviously upset by what Smith had done to him as well as Patrick’s suspension.

When I asked him why Smith pushed him in the first place, he shrugged and said, “I-I-I’m not t-t-totally sure. H-he asked t-to sp-speak to P-P-Pauly, but I-I t-t-told him n-no. I-I said, ‘P-Pauly d-doesn’t w-w-want anything t-t-to do w-w-with you.’ I t-t-told him t-to l-leave and that’s w-w-when he p-p-pushed me a-a-and c-called me a r-r-retard. I’m g-g-glad he’s g-g-gone. One less b-b-bully to d-deal w-with.”

He told me how upset he was about Patrick’s suspension. I drew him into a side-hug and said, “He’ll be alright. He’s still on the team and he’ll be back in school by Friday, so he can play. We’ll look out for you and take care of you.” I said the last part raising my eyebrows suggestively. He laughed and hit my arm, telling me to behave. I let him know how much fun he wasn’t.

Patrick exited Robert’s office and went to hug Ethan. He let us know Monday was going to be considered his first day of suspension. He would be back in school on Wednesday. Patrick left for home while Ethan and I headed for the cafeteria. We met Sean, Josh, Kevin, and the rest at the table. Immediately, Ethan was bombarded with questions about what happened and what the outcome was. He got a panicked look on his face and shot his gaze towards me. I knew he wouldn’t be able to answer any questions without stuttering, so I spoke up and answered the questions, letting them know about Patrick’s suspension, Smith’s withdraw, and Ethan’s parent’s decision to let him stay in school.

I noticed Pauly had a weird look on his face when I mentioned Smith withdrawing from school. I decided not to call him out in front of everyone and let it go for the moment. Once we were finished with lunch and started heading out, I told Sean to go ahead. He looked at me and I guess he saw me watching Pauly because he told me to go talk to him.

I walked over to Pauly and asked, “Hey, do you have a minute?”

He nodded but didn’t say anything. We walked in silence for a bit till I finally said, “You know it’s alright for you to be upset about Smith. You’ve been his best friend since y’all were how old?”

“Five years old,” he quietly answered.

“That’s almost thirteen years. It’s a long time. It’s hard to lose someone who’s been in your life that long. But, did you hear what I asked first?”

“You asked how long we’ve been best friends,” he responded with a speculative look my way.

“Wrong,” I quickly replied, “I asked how long you were his best friend. I never said anything about him being your best friend.”

“What do you mean? If I’m his best friend, wouldn’t that make him my best friend?”

“Best friends don’t treat each other the way he’s treated you. You said it yourself. He’s always manipulated you into doing what he wants.”

“Yeah, I guess. It’s just …” His phone started vibrating and he pulled it out of his pocket to check the message. Then he continued, “I guess you’re right. He was never really my friend.” While he was talking, he was typing a response. After he hit send, he said, “Here read this.”

I took his phone and read the messages.

Smith- hope ur enjoying spending time with the fags…can’t believe you chose them over me…I’m moving to live with my grandparents to get away from perverts like them…and I guess you too now…have they fucked you up the ass yet? bet you enjoyed it…have a nice life fag…

Me- you know you have a lot to say about fags…just thought I’d remind you I remember the summer between seventh and eighth grade and everything that happened. You started it every time…goodbye

I reread the last message three or four times before looking at Pauly with a raised eyebrow. “Is there something you want to tell me Pauly?”

He chuckled and said, “Nothing to tell. We were teenagers and started jacking off together. That led to jacking each other off, which led to blowjobs. I stopped everything after he asked me to fuck him the first time. I told him I was straight, and I thought we were just having fun. He played it off like he was joking. We decided to not let what happened get in the way of our friendship. That’s all there is to the story.”

The look on my face must have been humorous, because Pauly started laughing. Finally, I found my voice. “That’s all there is to the story?” I asked incredulously. “How can you drop a bomb like that on me and say, ‘That’s all there is to the story,’?”

He shook his head, still smiling. “What? We were young and I thought we were just playing around. I never thought it was anything more than just getting off. When he asked me to fuck him and I said no, we went back to being friends. When school started back, we were busy with football and schoolwork, so nothing happened again.

“I mean, there have been a couple of times in the past few years when he was drunk, he would start hinting at wanting to do it again. But they were spaced out so far from each other- I’m talking like once or twice a year- I thought nothing of it. He never came right out and asked for anything, he would just hint at things. The couple of times I reminded him I’m straight, he would laugh and say he was only fucking with me.

“Looking back now, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to see everything. I never cared if someone was straight or not. I said and did the things I did because it was what Smith wanted. I didn’t want to lose his friendship. I didn’t think of how I was hurting people at the time. I would feel bad later and when I told Smith about it, he would laugh and call me a pussy. So, to save face, I went along with him. It wasn’t until after Sean was hurt and Granma called me out, I realized actions have consequences. I’ve been happier the past few days than I have for the past few years. I was Smith’s only friend really. We didn’t hang out with anyone else.” He patted me on the back and continued. “Thanks for…well, just thanks for everything,” he finished with a grin.

I handed him back his phone and I saw he was typing something. I asked, “What, are you going to send him another message?”

He shook his head. “Nope. I’m blocking his number. He’s gone from my life and I’m moving on. Now, do you know any single girls I can ask to Homecoming? It’s the week after next, you know, right?”

That brought me up short. I stopped in the middle of the hallway and looked at him. Why hadn’t I realized Homecoming was going to be soon. I had noticed the posters in the hallway announcing the dance on some Saturday night. I just didn’t bother to look at the date. I hadn’t heard anyone in the group talking about anything to do with Homecoming; but I hadn’t been hanging around everyone for the week prior during lunch. I was at Sean’s house everyday during my free period and lunch. I guess with everything that happened with Sean, neither of us realized Homecoming was coming up so soon.

I started wondering if I should wait for Sean to ask me to be his date, or if I should ask him. Would he even want to go to the dance? That’s when I realized he would probably have to go to the dance. He was Sean McNair. He was probably going to be nominated for Homecoming King or something.

I was pulled from my thoughts when Pauly placed a hand on my shoulder and asked if I was alright. I shook my head to clear the cobwebs and said, “Yeah, I’m fine. I need to talk to Sean. I didn’t realize Homecoming was so close. But I don’t know if I know any girls for you to ask. I’ll keep my eyes open and let you know if I see anyone. Isn’t there anyone you know that you’d like to ask?”

He shook his head and said no, but from the way he blushed, I thought he was lying to me. I determined my new mission - to find out whom Pauly’s crush was and somehow get them together. How hard could it possibly be?

Later that day, when Sean and Kevin came over after practice, I asked Sean about Homecoming. He immediately pulled his phone out and looked at his calendar and said, “Oh, shit! That’s in two weeks.” He looked at Kevin and asked, “Have you asked Josh to go with you yet?”

Kevin shrugged, looked at Josh, and said, “We talked about it this past weekend. He’s going to be my date for the game and the dance. I was going to order his boutonniere next week. Haven’t one of y’all asked the other yet?”

I groaned and shook my head. “No, I didn’t even know it was coming up so soon. And Sean’s had other things on his mind. Well, technically, if he was following the doctor’s orders, he shouldn’t have had anything on his mind since they told him not to think too much. I mean, come on! Seriously? Don’t think too much? All that would do is make me think about the fact I’m not supposed to be thinking too much. Like all the time. That would be the only thing I could think about. Which would lead me to thinking too much.”

Sean grabbed my chin with his left hand and kissed me to shut me up. When I quieted, he said, “Focus, please. You went off on a tangent before you could ask me to be your Homecoming date.”

“What?” I asked with fake indignation. “Why do I have to ask you? Didn’t you want to ask me? What if I wanted you to ask me? Did you think about that?” I paused and thought for a moment before asking, “Won’t you probably be nominated for Homecoming King or something like that?”

He chuckled. “We won’t know who’s nominated until week after next. The nominations have to be made by Tuesday before school ends and then voting is done by an online poll which closes Thursday night. The results are instantaneous. I may or may not be nominated. Who knows? All I know is I would love to dance with my boyfriend to a slow song in the gym on a Saturday night. So, TJ Kennedy, I would like to know if you would be so inclined as to accompany me to the Homecoming game and dance. I would be greatly appreciative.”

I was speechless for a moment, just looking at him with what had to be a punch-drunk grin on my face. Finally, he said, “I’m going to take your silence as a negative,” with an exaggerated frown. “Guess I’ll stay home that night.”

I shook myself out of whatever trance I was in and pushed his shoulder. “Shut the fuck up, asshole. You know damn well I’ll go with you to both the game and the dance. And,” I added with another shove to his shoulder, “we both know you WILL be nominated for Homecoming King. Hell, I’ll probably nominate you myself.”

“Too bad you have to be a senior to be nominated for Homecoming King. I bet you would look hot as hell wearing a crown while all dressed up,” Kevin said to Josh. “Who knows? You might be voted into the Homecoming Court.”

I couldn’t believe this. Homecoming Court? Did schools actually do Homecoming Courts? I know there’s supposed to be a Homecoming King and Queen, but a whole court? “You can’t be serious. A Homecoming Court? What the fuck?” I shot Kevin’s way.

Sean answered for him. “He’s completely serious, Teej. I was the Representative to the King’s Court my sophomore and junior years. Kevin was the Representative our freshman year. Let’s see, our freshman year, Rachel was the Representative to the Queen’s Court. Jenny was our sophomore year. And, last year was Amber.”

I stared at them like they had three heads each. What the fuck kind of school was I going to? Morbid curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask, “What exactly does the Homecoming Court do?”

Josh shrugged his shoulders and said, “Nothing really. The King and Queen get these big, elaborate, almost gaudy crowns and a sash. They each get robes draped around them and are shown to their thrones. The rest of the court, well, the girls get small tiaras and the guys get little crowns. They all get sashes and capes and take their seats next to the King and Queen.”

I was stunned. “Okay, but why? What’s the point?”

Sean answered, “Well, mainly because it’s a tradition. It’s the way the school’s always done it and I doubt it will change any time soon. If you haven’t noticed, the whole community takes school pride and tradition very seriously. Ten years ago, some of the school board wanted to do away with the dance. They said it was outdated and a waste of school funds. When some former students found out what was being proposed, they went nuts and started a petition. It generated over eight thousand signatures and the tradition stayed alive.”

I shook my head and chuckled to myself. “I swear sometimes this place is more like a cult than anything.”

The other three could do nothing but nod and agree with me. Then we all started laughing and went to do some homework for a while. Before Sean and Kevin left, Kevin’s phone rang. It was Mr. Landrum letting him know he would bring Kevin to the DA’s office on Wednesday morning. After he hung up, he was quieter and seemed to be stuck in his own head. The three of us tried our best to keep him distracted, but it was barely enough. He made sure to apologize to us before he and Sean headed home.

The next day was uneventful. We all went through the day with nothing exciting happening. Wednesday morning, Josh and I met Sean in the cafeteria. Josh looked at Sean and asked, “Did Mr. Landrum pick him up this morning?”

Sean shook his head and said, “No, my dad went with Kevin to meet him at the DA’s office. He’ll drop him off here at school when they’re finished.”

Josh nodded. “Okay. Your dad is doing a lot for Kevin. You know how much he appreciates everything y’all are doing for him, right?”

Sean grinned. “Yeah. He let’s us know every night before we all get ready to go to sleep. He’ll look at the two of us and say, ‘Thank you both for everything y’all did today. And in case I forget, thank you for everything you’ll do tomorrow. I can’t tell y’all how much it all means to me.’ We both tell him it’s nothing, but he insists on saying it every night.”

By the time lunch came around, Kevin was back. After we all sat down, Kevin told us what happened. He said he had to tell them how his dad treated him growing up, how much his dad drank, if he was ever scared of his dad, if his dad ever physically harmed him, and then what happened the night his dad showed up at the house.

When I asked what all his dad was being charged with, he said, “Child endangerment, interfering with the duties of a peace officer, resisting arrest, and possibly assault of a police officer- he tried to kick one of the arresting officers in the balls. I do have some bad news for y’all though. The DA wants you, Josh, and Sean to also give them a statement about what happened that night. Mr. Landrum asked me to let y’all know he’ll set up appointments for y’all and he’ll go with y’all.”

We all let him know it wasn’t a problem and we were happy to help the case against his dad in anyway we could. The rest of the week passed by with ease, with two exceptions. First was Stacey’s continued distracted behavior. She seemed preoccupied most of the time. Secondly, Josh had to be assigned a different scene partner because John wasn’t in school the rest of that week. Or the following week. Lori asked me if I thought I could handle two scenes. After she told me I would only be graded on the scene I did with Stacey, I told her yes.

Josh asked Stacey if John was sick and she told him no. He asked why he wasn’t in school and Stacey stammered out, “I’m, umm, not really sure what’s going on with him. I’m kinda worried about him. You saw who he started hanging out with after the fight he had with TJ and Sean, right?”

Josh nodded. I decided to tune them out since I didn’t give a good-goddamn who he was hanging out with, as long as it wasn’t anyone I cared about. For all I knew, he was hanging out with the druggies and addicts; honestly, I couldn’t care less.

Friday night, Patrick led the football team to another win, with Sean on the sidelines calling plays. That night, Pauly let us know Doris wanted us, along with Robert and Jacob, to go to her place on Saturday afternoon for an early dinner/late lunch. When we asked him why, he grinned and said, “She has something up her sleeve, I’m not sure what it is though.”

We went to the football party at one of the player’s house. We didn’t stay long though, it was too loud and too many people getting drunk or smoking pot. Kevin and Sean spent the night and we met Jacob at Doris Rogers’ house, well mansion to be honest, at three on Saturday afternoon. From the way Jacob and Robert were smiling and talking to each other, I had a feeling they knew what was happening.

It ended up being Robert, Jacob, Josh, Kevin, Sean, Pauly, Hunter, Coach Wilson, Mr. Landrum and me enjoying a delicious lasagna for the main meal, followed by cheesecake for dessert. Once we were finished eating, Doris asked for everyone’s attention. Pauly and Hunter both wore grins that matched Robert and Jacob’s, as well as Coach’s and Mr. Landrum’s, letting me know they were all up to something.

“First,” Doris began, “I want to thank you all for coming and keeping an old woman company.” When I went to say something, she stopped me by saying, “Keep the smartass comments till I’m finished, please,” causing everyone to laugh.

“Now, for the reason you’re all here. First, Sean, TJ, and Josh, I want to thank y’all for everything you’ve done for my Pauly. I know it’s not easy to forgive and forget. As a thank you, and because I’m rich and can do this and y’all aren’t allowed to say no, you’re each getting one-thousand dollars for every semester you’re enrolled in college. The first deposit for TJ and Sean will be in August, as long as you’re enrolled in classes. Josh, you’ll have to wait till the following year.

“Kevin, the other night at dinner, Jacob and Robert told me about your situation after I asked why you were staying with Sean and Jacob. My heart went out to you and I started thinking of what I could do to help. I later contacted your uncle and Jacob. They both let me know the one thing you’re most concerned about is college next year. More specifically, how you’re going to pay for it. I want you to know, you have nothing to worry about. You are officially the first recipient of the Doris Rogers’ Scholarship benefitting youth who display leadership, compassion, and integrity. The scholarship will cover tuition, room and board, books, and any technological devices needed for your classes. Additionally, you’ll get an allowance of one-thousand dollars for general expenses every semester.

“Now, I don’t want to hear anything about this being too much and how none of y’all can accept this. I’m old and have more money than I know what to do with. I discussed this with my grandchildren since it’s their inheritance this is affecting, and they are happy to help. Now, does anyone have any questions or comments?”

Nobody said a word. We were all too concerned by the muffled sobs coming from Josh’s chest where Kevin had his head buried. Josh had his arms wrapped around Kevin’s head, holding him as close as possible. Sean and I went over to them and we each knelt down by Kevin and placed a hand on his back, letting him know we were there for him.

After he calmed down and stopped crying, Kevin pulled away from Josh. Josh’s shirt was soaking wet from the tears, but he didn’t care. Kevin, with an awed look on his face, stood up and went and hugged Doris as tight as he could. He must have started crying again, because she started patting his back and whispering to him. Sean, Josh, and I looked at each other and silently came to the same conclusion. We stood up, crossed the room to Kevin and Doris, and drew them into a group hug.

I whispered in Doris’ ear, “You’re only doing this for the tax write-off, aren’t you?”

She could tell I wasn’t serious from my smile. So, she said, “If I wanted to do it for the tax write-off, you all would’ve gotten a full-ride scholarship. Don’t be daft. I did this because I’m a benevolent old lady who has too much money.”

I laughed. “Daft? Benevolent? Who uses words like that? You could’ve just said, ‘Don’t be a dumbass, TJ. I’m a nice and generous old lady.’ But, no. You have to pull out your old rich woman dictionary and use words like daft and benevolent, making you sound all fancy and shit.”

She grinned and said, “I’m just trying to expand your vocabulary. Now, say, ‘Thank you for being such a generous and lovely person, Doris. I appreciate this gift and will do my best in school.’”

I laughed some more. “Thanks for the money, old lady. When can I get more?”

She groaned and rolled her eyes. “It’s a good thing I appreciate smartass teenagers who need to learn to just say thanks and leave it at that. Otherwise, I’d take the money back. Well from you at least. I’d give half to Sean and half to Josh. In fact…”

I interrupted her before she could say anything else. “Thank you for being a generous and lovely person, Doris. I appreciate this gift and will do my best in school.”

So, what do you think? Were you surprised by Smith's exit? Who's Pauly's crush? Can you believe what Doris did for them? Let me know!


Thanks to @Kitt for her wonderful editing skills.

Copyright © 2017 JayT; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

22 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

I freaking love Doris! As for Smith, bye bye bitch!

Like I've said, the boys needed some grandmotherly type in their lives and Doris fits the bill. She's rich, nice, and can put TJ in his place. I figured it was time to tie up a story line and I couldn't imagine Smith going anywhere except off the deep end and too many stories have that already. 

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On 7/15/2019 at 7:38 AM, mfa607 said:

Great chapter!

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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On 7/15/2019 at 8:28 AM, jaysalmn said:

Great chapter! Absolutely love Doris!!

I love writing the interactions between TJ and Doris. Thanks.

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On 7/15/2019 at 9:31 PM, crazyd said:

Love love loved it!!!!!! Keep'em coming.

I'm working on Chapter 13 now. I should hopefully have it done soon.

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