After church on Sunday, instead of doing rounds with Mr. Harris, the family went back home and changed out of their church clothes and then piled back into the van to go to one of the town’s small parks. Apparently, as explained to Cameron earlier that morning, the day was a big event for the church. Every spring they had a church picnic. It wasn’t all fun and games though; they were a church after all, and they had to leave their ‘humble servant of god’ mark on the community.
The first couple of hours were to be spent cleaning up the park for the summer. Then afterwards they would have lunch brought by the parishioners and then play games and do other ‘fellowship’ projects. He wasn’t sure why, but he had always hated the word fellowship. He didn’t understand why they had to be all fancy about it. Why not just say ‘hang out’ or ‘visit’, but no, it was always fellowship, and it drove him nuts.
He sat in the back seat of the van wishing he could just go do the rounds. It was nearly everything he could do to take these holy-rollers for an hour every Sunday, let alone all damn daylong. The service that morning luckily had been absent of any damning the homo’s to hell language, but he still was very certain what they all thought.
Once they got to the park it was already surrounded with cars from the other church members. Cars easily identifiable by their ‘Jesus loves me’, ‘Jesus is the reason’, and ‘Marriage: one man one woman’ bumper stickers. He did his best to contain his sigh, really not looking forward to spending the whole day with these people.
He followed Kyle out of the back seat of the van, and then they waited around for the rest of the family to all commune in one spot before Mr. Harris gave the orders.
He and Kyle were sent over to a bunch of rakes. They each grabbed one, then walked together over to a far side of the park and got to work. They worked close together and used the time to talk.
“Did you have fun over at Cole’s?” Kyle asked, as they really hadn’t gotten the chance to talk since Cameron had gotten home.
“Yeah, it was fun.”
“He’s not a druggie or anything is he?”
Cameron let out a laugh and shook his head. “No, I don’t think he’s ever touched the stuff.”
Kyle nodded as he raked at the brown dead leaves. “Does he go to church?”
“I really don’t think he has time to go to church. He’s gotta take care of his mom.”
Kyle nodded, and Cameron hoped that would be the last of the questions. He really hated it when Kyle’s preacher side came out. Luckily it was something that didn’t happen too often.
“You and my dad seem to be getting along better.”
“Yeah, we have actually. He might not be as bad as I thought.”
Kyle turned his head and smiled at him. “Good cause I really didn’t want you to leave.”
Cameron smiled back at him. “I really didn’t want to leave. I like living with you. Even though I think I actually talk to you less now then when I wasn’t living there.”
Chuckling Kyle nodded in agreement. “Yeah seems that way doesn’t it?”
By the time someone called out ‘LUNCH’ Cameron was starving and more then a little irritated. It seemed to him as though the kids were the ones doing all the work while the parents stood around talking while making sure the work was being done and bragging about what a great service they were doing for the community. That would only be true if standing around with your hands in your pockets, watching other people work, was a great service.
His spirits lifted mildly when he and Kyle got to the table where the food was laid out. He didn’t ever recall seeing so much food in his entire life. There was fried chicken, cold cuts, cheese, bread to make sandwiches, macaroni, potato and tossed salads, coleslaw, watermelon and a section of deserts that filled at least a quarter of the large table.
He and Kyle filled up plates and then walked over to one of the parks picnic tables. “God you church goers sure know how to eat!” he said as he sat down looking over his overflowing plate.
Kyle laughed his mouth already full of something.
“Have you noticed the adults haven’t done any work at all? Well ‘cept the women I guess, they had to get all this food ready.” He was a little surprised to see Kyle nod. Figuring he’d surely have some defense for the men.
“Happens every year, and the sickest part is: they go bragging to everyone about what they did.” He shook his head. “I just laugh about it now. It’s never gonna change.”
Cameron nodded wishing he could be as carefree about it as his friend. It just annoyed him to no end. Maybe if they weren’t all so pompous in the first place. He just didn’t understand how they could feel all wonderful for doing nothing more then standing around and watching their kids work. Not wanting to dwell on it and put himself in an even fouler mood he focused on his food and dug in.
After they finished eating, even though he felt like he could barely move, Kyle talked him into playing a baseball game with some of the other kids. He was put on the team that was currently in the field and put at third base, where he basically stood there and did nothing. The infield team apparently couldn’t even hit a ball. He wasn’t about to make fun though he hadn’t picked up a bat in years and really wasn’t sure he could do any better.
He did notice for the first time as he stood there that the church had several nice looking young guys as members. He had never really paid attention to anyone else in the church before. He’d kept his head down as much as possible. But standing there with nothing else to do, the warm spring sun beating down on his shoulders, he couldn’t help but pick a few hotties out.
On first base, just across from him, was a tall lean dark haired boy he figured to be at least sixteen. He had a very cute face as far as he could tell, and he looked ever so cute in the red baseball cap he had on. His eyes wandered over the 2nd base where another cutie was standing. Cameron watched him for only a moment before his heart started beating just a little faster in his chest.
He saw with little doubt that the guy was definitely checking out the other guys. He quickly looked away and back at the pitcher, realizing if it was so obvious with Mr. 2nd base, it could easily be just as obvious with him. He looked back at the batter feeling sorry for the guy on second base. Knowing if he was a member of this church, that his parents had to be too; and if he was in fact gay he knew he had a hard road ahead.
The ball didn’t come anywhere near him the entire time he stood on third base. He was relieved when his team finally got their three outs, which wasn’t much effort, just lots of strikes, and he could get off the damn third base and maybe try to hit a ball.
He walked infield with the rest of the team and stood beside Cameron as they were put into batting order by some kid who looked like he’d fit in more behind a computer then taking charge on the baseball field. He was put third in line for bat. Kyle appointed number four stood beside him.
“I’m glad our church doesn’t have an organized team cause we really stink.”
Cameron laughed having noticed that himself, glad someone at least pointed it out since he didn’t feel right about it, still unsure could he could do any better. Nobody on the team looked overly athletic. Yet none of them were in bad shape. He figured it would be hard to go out and play sports, or anything else for that matter, when you had to stay home and study the bible all the time.
He shook his head knowing he was being a snot. That all religious people were not crazed, and these kids, probably most of them, just went to that church because their parents made them. He hoped some of them maybe had a little mind of their own. He had learned one thing from the morning’s work: the kids did what their parents asked. That didn’t necessarily mean they agreed with everything their parents thought though.
He looked to his right to see Mr. Second baseman standing a foot or so away. Instead of checking out the other guys now he was staring down at the ground as he kicked at the dirt with his sneaker. His hands were in his back pockets and Cameron could tell by the look on his face he was deep in thought about something.
Looking around at everyone else, Cameron saw they were all in groups of two or three. Yet Mr. Second baseman was all alone. Now that he thought about it, he hadn’t seen him talking to anyone at all this morning. He looked back at the kid, looking more closely this time. He didn’t recognize him from school. That didn’t mean he didn’t go there. He didn’t know half the people that went to his school.
He took a couple steps toward the kid extending his hand, doing something he’d never done before. “Hi, my name is Cameron.”
The kid looked up at him a certain look of surprise in his eyes as he held out his own hand and placed it in Cameron’s. “Jesse.”
Cameron nodded, not having planned far enough ahead to know what he was going to say after he’d introduced himself. “Ahh, nice day huh?” he rolled his eyes at his stupidness as Jesse grinned at him.
Oh great he’s as bad at this as I am. Cameron thought while trying to think of something else to say. Crazy things came to his mind like ‘how’s it hanging’ but nothing that made any sense to say here at the church picnic on a fine Sunday afternoon. The silence stretched on before he finally thought of something else to say.
“Do you go to Johnson? I haven’t seen you there.”
“Yeah, I’m in 10th grade.”
Cameron nodded, not surprised the kid was a year younger. “I’m in 11th.”
Jesse nodded, looked at the ground for another minute then looked back up, his blue eyes raking over Cameron’s face. He looked just about to say something as Cameron heard Kyle calling his name. He turned back to Kyle who pointed towards home base. “You’re up!”
He nodded and walked over to the base picking up a bat along the way. He was half tempted to spit and adjust his crotch like the professionals do once he got into position on the base, but figured this wasn’t the right crowd for such a thing.
He stood nervously in position, the bat at the ready, hoping he wouldn’t strike out and look as foolish as he thought everyone else looked. His heart sunk lower in his chest as the first ball came; he swung but didn’t feel or hear the bat make contact with the ball. He swore under his breath the regained his stature as the pitcher wound up for another throw.
The ball came again and Cameron’s eyes never left it as he pulled back then swung the bat forward. Excitement rippled through him as he heard the loud crack of the bat hitting the ball. He didn’t waste any time to see it flying out over the pitchers head; he just dropped the bat and ran for first base. Once there he looked to second base and seeing the 2nd base man already getting the ball he stopped where he was, just glad he’d at least hit the damn thing.
Kyle’s turn up to bat got him advanced to second base. Kyle had actually been good enough to hit the ball on the first pitch; which didn’t surprise him all. Kyle had always been pretty good at sports. Cameron watched from 2nd base as Jesse walked up to home plate with the bat.
“Oh here we go.” He heard the 2nd baseman say behind him. He turned and looked at the guy who was staring at Jesse his eyes menacing slits.
“That little faggot isn’t going to be able to hit the ball. He shouldn’t even be allowed to play. I don’t even know why he bothered showing up today. He knows no one wants him around.”
Cameron looked from the guy to Jesse, him being a faggot was no surprise to him. In fact the 2nd baseman’s attitude was no surprise either, but that didn’t stop him from feeling bad for Jesse. He had little doubt that Jesse wanted to be there as little as they wanted him there. He silently willed Jesse to hit the ball, to at least make the guy behind him eat his nasty words.
He nearly jumped up and down and cheered forgetting where he was when Jesse’s bat made loud contact with the ball. He watched as the ball soared into the air well over the pitchers head. He stood watching the ball soar higher and higher into the air, so happy that Jesse had hit the ball.
He swore under his breath, seeing the second baseman catch the ball and stand there full of pride the ball in his hand taking away all Jesse’s glory in one stupid movement.
He looked over at Jesse who was making his way back from first base to the infield. He could see the first base man was saying something to him, by the look on his face something derogatory, but Jesse wasn’t acknowledging him, only making his way back to the infield his head down, staring at the ground in front of his feet.
No one was hungry for dinner that night when they got back to the Harris’. After the huge spread at the picnic, Cameron could certainly understand why, especially if everyone had gorged themselves as much as he had.
He had a quick meeting with Mr. Harris basically just to tell him everything was going good then made his way up to Kyle’s room, as Sunday evenings were usually the only night out the week they actually got to hang out.
Kyle’s door was open and he just walked in to find Kyle sitting up on his bed his History book in his lap.
“You mean to tell me you didn’t finish your homework already?”
Looking up at him Kyle grinned. “I must be slipping.”
Cameron laughed figuring that just may be true as Kyle usually did his homework on Friday nights. Kyle was the type of person that always did unpleasant things right away. He hated to dread things so got them done as soon as possible. History he knew was Kyle’s least favorite subject, him being a numbers kind of guy.
Kyle held up his finger. “I just got one more paragraph, have a seat.”
Cameron nodded and sat down on the bed a little creeped out that Kyle had sounded so much like his father just then. While Kyle read he went over in his head what he was going to say. After seeing what he’d seen with Jesse in the park, he figured that may be a good way to get out of Kyle just how he felt about gay people. He wasn’t about to expose himself so he knew he had to choose his words carefully. He just hated constantly wondering if Kyle would no longer be his friend if he found out that he was gay.
He heard Kyle putting the book back in his bag and turned himself on the bed so both his legs were on it and he was facing Kyle. Before he could open his mouth Kyle did.
“So how was my dad in your little meeting tonight?” he made quotes with his fingers around the word meeting. Something he did around a lot of words that Cameron thought was real cute, making him grin.
“Well short and sweet. That’s always good.”
Kyle nodded, his face filling with a big smile. “I’m SO glad you guys are finally getting along better. I hated seeing you miserable.”
Cameron smiled at his friend loving his big heart. “I didn’t like seeing it either.” He stopped to laugh a little. “Rather feeling it. I didn’t realize you noticed it so much.”
Kyle snorted. “Are you kidding? You may as well have had this huge black cloud over your head when you’re upset. I can read it all over you. The way you walk, the way you look. You’re a very expressive person.”
Grinning, Kyle took a deep breath, and Cameron braced for a good long explanation one of Kyle’s specialties in life.
“You ever hear the saying ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve?”
“Did you ever wonder what it meant?”
Cameron shrugged. “No not really.”
“Well, you wear your heart on your sleeve. I’ve never really heard you complain about your father, well maybe on one or two occasions, but I always knew when things were particularly bad, and I could tell in which ways they were bad. Like if you were mad at him, when you came over you talked in one word sentences. You stood rigidly, like you were tensing all your muscles.” He leaned back against the headboard of the bed and continued.
“But if you were sad, you didn’t really talk at all, and your head was always down and your shoulders sagged. Like totally the opposite of when you were mad.” He tilted his head to one side and sighed. “I think that made me hate you drinking and doing drugs even more.”
Cameron looked at him sideways. “What do you mean?”
“I couldn’t tell after that. All I could tell is that you were hung over or that you were high. I couldn’t see your real feelings, and since you never really told me anything I had no idea how you were really doing.”
Though the entire explanation had totally unnerved him, he found himself feeling bad for all his drinking and drugs. He figured he must have known, on some level, how much Kyle could read him. How else would Kyle always have known how to put him in a better mood? He realized with Kyle it was okay. That really didn’t bother him. He just hoped that not everyone had this ability to read him that Kyle seemed to possess.
“And this past week.” Kyle continued. “I’ve never seen you so happy. I don’t think that is just ‘cause my dad stopped being Mr. Strict though. Is it cause of Cole?”
Fighting to keep his eyes from bugging out Cameron cleared his throat feeling his cheeks getting hot and knowing there was nothing he could do about that. There was no way Kyle could know. He’d been so careful.
“He seems like he’d be a real good friend.”
Cameron nodded starting to feel a little relief. Okay gross over reaction there! He thought as he took a discreet deep breath. “He’s a really nice guy. I had a lot of fun over there on Saturday.”
“What did you do?”
“Pigged out and watched movies.” He grinned at Kyle. “Pretty much what we always do.”
Kyle nodded. “Do you miss it?”
“Drinking and the drugs?”
Cameron shrugged. “No, I can honestly say I don’t. And I definitely don’t miss the hangovers. I miss my freedom, but that’s getting better.”
“If you had freedom again do you think you’d start drinking again?”
Looking over at the wall Cameron thought about it. He really didn’t figure he would, maybe on occasion, but not every night like he had been. He had Kyle and his family to thank for breaking him of the habit, but he also knew he had Cole to thank for not even feeling like he wanted to anymore. Cole gave him a reason to look ahead, to want to be a better person, to want to be worthy of Cole.
Cole, at least in his eyes, was the epitome of a good person. A person so good it made him strive to want to be better. He didn’t want Cole suffering with a boyfriend that had issues. Cole deserved to have the very best. He knew he couldn’t possibly be the very best but that wasn’t going to stop him from trying to be the very best he could be.
Cameron turned back to Kyle almost completely having forgotten that he was there. “Oh sorry, what?”
“I asked if you had freedom again would you start drinking again?”
Shaking his head Cameron was now pretty sure of his answer. “No.”
The smile that washed over his friends face made him feel very good. It was a nice feeling to make someone so obviously happy. It was also nice his well being was such a concern to anyone. He’d always been able to count on Kyle for that.
“Today was fun.” He said after a lingering silence, once again focused on his mission.
“Eh,” Kyle shrugged. “It’s better then sitting home I guess.”
“The baseball game was fun.”
Kyle laughed. “Yeah I guess. It is funny to watch people who suck at sports try to play.”
Nervous as he was he couldn’t beat around the bush any longer. He had to get it out before he lost his nerve. “People didn’t seem to like that Jesse kid much. Is there something wrong with him?” he looked nervously at Kyle hoping his nervousness didn’t show, hoping he looked casual.
Cameron’s eyes widened a little, feeling hopeful that Kyle had used the word gay and not faggot, which seemed to be so popular among the other members of the church. “The church allows that?”
“The church is trying to correct that.”
Not wanting to spout off the nasty words going through his head, Cameron bit his lip. “How?”
“Reverend Carson is his uncle. Jesse’s actually from Colorado, his parents sent him out here to live with his uncle to hopefully set him on the right path again.”
His gut aching, Cameron nodded, doubting he ever felt sorrier for anyone then he did for Jesse at that moment. “How long has he been here?”
Kyle looked to his right and thought for a minute. “Umm I don’t know, a couple months I guess.”
“And he’s still on the wrong path?”
“I really don’t know. I don’t talk to him.”
“’Cause he’s gay?”
Kyle shrugged; drawing his knees up to his chest he wrapped his arms around him. “No he just really doesn’t talk to anyone, and I’m not the type to go up to some stranger and start talking.”
“You don’t think it’s nasty?”
Kyle looked back at him, scrunching up his face. “I really try not to think about it. Not what they do. And as far as what they believe themselves to be, well they’ll answer to that on judgment day.”
Not feeling as hopeful as he’d been a minute earlier Cameron nodded, “So if he talked to you, would you talk to him?”
“Yeah, sure, long as he was nice.” He answered nodding.
“You wouldn’t be afraid he’d try and make a move on you or something?”
“No,” he laughed a little. “Why are you?”
Cameron shook his head it irking him that Kyle would think that even for a second. He couldn’t blame him though; it wasn’t like he knew the truth.
“I don’t agree with anyone being gay, but at the same time I don’t think they’re as bad as my dad does. I don’t think anyone’s out to recruit and I don’t think every gay person is the uncontrollable hornily charged up person, but I do know it’s wrong. And that’s why I say they’ll answer for it come Judgment day.”
Cameron went to bed that night with mixed feelings. As he lay in bed waiting for sleep he couldn’t get his conversation with Kyle out of his mind. He was pretty confident that Kyle would not ditch him as a friend if he were to find out, but wasn’t too pleased with the fact that Kyle would be thinking what he did was nasty.
He knew he shouldn’t be surprised; Kyle sat in that church every single week, had sat in it for as long as he could remember. The beliefs Kyle had iterated earlier were the beliefs of his ‘beloved’ pastor. Kyle was such a good person he found it hard to believe he would be so callous about the whole judgment day thing if it weren’t drilled into his head every week.
As he rolled onto his side and pulled the blankets up over his shoulder Jesse flashed into his mind. He could not imagine the poor guy living day after day with someone he knew hated what he was. And he could not imagine being shipped off to such a man by his own parents. He wanted to do something for Jesse. He didn’t know what, and he didn’t think it would be much, but he at least wanted to try and be his friend. He imagined Jesse could really use a friend about now.
Before falling asleep Cole’s face appeared in his mind and brought a smile to his face. He couldn’t wait to see him at school the next day. Cole had said he’d make sure to show up in his study hall and they would get to eat lunch together. Even though that only totaled to a whole hour and a half he had to take what he could get. He didn’t want to be pushy with Mr. Harris about going out after school, and he had to work at five the next night anyways. As long as he got to see him, if only for a little while, he’d be happy with that, while anticipating the upcoming Friday night!
Instead of just grabbing anything out of the closet the next morning he spent a long time in front of his closet looking over every outfit. He’d never had such nice clothes to choose from. He’d always been a jeans and T-shirt person, never thought he’d have a desire to be anything else. Now though the way Kyle dressed wasn’t so funny anymore. He liked having his own nice clothes to wear. Not whatever clothes he could find cheapest so he’d still have money to go out partying.
He decided on a pair of tan pants and a dark green pullover sweater. He pulled them out of the closet then left his room and went to the bathroom. He’d just sort of fit into the Harris’s bathroom schedule in the mornings. Mr. And Mrs. Harris had their own master bath off their bedroom and the twins didn’t have to get up for another hour.
He took extra time in the bathroom that morning. Spending much of that time cursing at his reflection in the bathroom mirror as he still badly needed a haircut and his hair just wouldn’t lay flat no matter how much he pushed it down with his hands.
He was frustrated by the time he got downstairs he didn’t care about being polite about it anymore and blurted out. “I gotta get my hair cut!” the minute he walked into the kitchen.
Kyle who was already at the table started laughing which didn’t really help his frustration at all. “Good morning Cameron!” he said in his ever so cheerful voice.
Fighting the urge to say ‘bite me!’ Cameron muttered a good morning back, and then looked at Mr. Harris. “Can I get it done before I go to work tonight? Rather then coming home and you taking me back to work?”
“You don’t have to pay for a hair cut Cameron.” Mrs. Harris spoke up. “You come home right after school and I’ll cut it for you. I actually used to be a hair dresser.”
Cameron nodded actually remembering that now that she said it. He sighed with relief as he smiled at her kicking himself in the ass for not asking about it earlier, wondering why he’d been so shy about it. “Thank you ma’am.”
She walked over with his plate of toast and fruit and squeezed his shoulder as she set the plate down on his spot at the table. “No problem, I’m sorry I didn’t think to give you one sooner.”
Cameron sat down at the table just glad to finally be able to get his hair cut. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had it so long. He quickly ate all his fruit and toast and then went back up the stairs and grabbed his book bag. He’d done all his homework on Saturday night, and again liked the feeling of not having to be nervous about going to classes and looking like a fool for not having any of his homework done.