“That’s all you have for belongings?” Cameron’s mother asked as they both sat down in the front seat of her car.
“It’s all I got from the Harris’s. He was going to give me the rest but I was too mad to hang around.”
As she started the car she looked over at him and smiled sympathetically. “Do you want me to go over and get it?”
“No!” he snapped clutching the backpack tighter to his chest. “Its stuff they bought me anyways. I don’t want it.” He figured he was probably sounding like a huge brat; but he just was not one bit happy about having to live with her. He was so scared she would just up and leave again he was refusing to let this be a good thing.
“You didn’t have anything you took there in the first place? You’ve only been there a few weeks.”
“Dad wouldn’t give me my stuff when he kicked me out.” Though he wasn’t looking at her face he could tell this bit of news ticked her off a great deal the way her hand tightened on the steering wheel.
“Well I can take care of that, I’ll just go there and get your things.”
He let out a bitter laugh and shook his head. “They aren’t there anymore. He tossed them. ” He glanced back at her hands now seeing her knuckles were turning white as she gripped the wheel even tighter.
“Well, then I guess we’d better go to the store and get you new things.”
“I don’t want you buying me anything.” He snapped again. “I got my own money. I just gotta figure out how to get it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Friggin Harris put it in a saving account; wouldn’t even let me spend my own damn money. I think he’s gotta sign for me to get it out.”
“I can take care of that for you…” but before she could finish he cut her off.
“No, I’ll take care of it. I don’t want you helping me anymore that what you already are. All I need is a place to stay. I don’t need to be babysat.”
“Okay Cameron.” He was shocked as hell that was all she had to say about it, and doubted very highly that was really the end of it. “Do you want to go to school today or just go home?”
“School” He wanted to see Cole, Had to see Cole. The thought of Cole’s smiling face was, he felt, what had gotten him through the last 36 hours or so without completely losing it.
As he sat in his study hall in the library watching the clock tick away the period his heart sank lower in lower as his fear rose on just where in hell Cole was. It wasn’t until five minutes before the period ended that Cole finally walked into the room. He looked rushed, but still smiled seeing Cameron. This warmed Cameron’s heart and made him feel a great deal better.
“I’m sorry I’m late. Damn teacher held me after class.”
Cameron furrowed his brow in confusion. “Why would they keep you after class?”
Cole chuckled, pulling in the chair he’d just sat down in. “She wants me to tutor someone. I told her unless it was in the afternoon study hall I didn’t have time. She wasn’t too happy about it, but oh well.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I got my mom after school, and I’m not giving up this study hall because it’s the only time we get to see each other during the week.”
“That may change.”
Cole’s mouth dropped open giving Cameron the impression that he thought things were going to get worse not better.
“No.” Cameron said quickly holding up his hand feeling bad what he’d said had come out the wrong way and obviously scared Cole. “I mean we may get to see more of each other.”
The look of dread on Cole’s face was quickly replaced with a big smile. “Why? Did Mr. Harris finally haul that stick outta his ass?”
Despite his foul mood about anything to do with the Harris’s Cameron couldn’t help but chuckle at the analogy. He sat back in his chair and sighed not wanting to tell Cole all he had to tell him in the school library. “What would you say if I asked if we could skip the rest of the day?”
“Skip school?” Cole asked as if the end of the world just may happen before he considered such a thing.
“No, just not go to all our classes and stuff.”
Cole cocked his head to one side looking at him like he was a nut. “Why?”
Though he didn’t think he had it in him to laugh, Cameron busted out laughing. Cole was just so God damn cute he couldn’t help it. He’d never met anyone so naïve about being bad. “Dude, ‘course I mean skip school!”
Laughing himself Cole turned bright red and shook his head. “Oh.” Was all he could get out until he controlled his laughter, which took the librarian telling them both twice to quiet down. “Why do you want to skip class?”
Cameron shook his head and sighed. “I had a really, really bad weekend and I just want to spend the day with you. Only you, not 200 other kids.”
Cole looked at him worriedly. “Where would we go?”
“I don’t care if we just go for a ride. I got 10 bucks I can give you for gas.”
Waving his hand dismissively Cole shook his head. “Don’t worry about the money Cameron I told you that before. I’m just scared I’m gonna get in trouble.” He sighed as he looked down at the table. “But I can’t say no to you either, and I really want to know what happened…So let’s go.”
Cameron’s whole face lit up which made the possibility of getting in trouble more then worth it for Cole.
Five minutes later they were both in the car and heading towards the coast, Cameron still hadn’t spoken and Cole just couldn’t take it anymore. He glanced over at him not wanting to take his eyes off the road too long. “Well aren’t you going to tell me?” He asked putting one hand on Cameron’s knee.
Cameron put his hand down on Cole’s and squeezed. He took a deep breath, then said, “Mr. Harris found out about us.” Despite the look of horror on Cole’s face he continued. “When I got home he took me right to the office, and gave me an ultimatum. Said to go to therapy and get on the right path or I had to move out.”
“So you moved out? Did you go to your mom’s?” Cole was coming up with questions so fast in his head he didn’t know which one to ask first. “How come you didn’t come to my house?”
“Mr. Harris called social services. Believe me Cole if I’d have had a choice I woulda been on your doorstep in two seconds flat. But I knew even if I did get there he’d send social services over soon as they showed up.”
Cole gently squeezed his hand around Cameron’s thigh and sighed. “Where are you now?”
“My mother came and got me this morning.”
“I don’t know some halfway place where kids go between placements.”
Cole nodded as he slowed the car for a turn. “You don’t seem very happy about her coming to get you?” he took the opportunity of the car going slow to look back over at him just in time to see him shake his head. “Why?”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to explain.” He figured he may be able to explain it okay but didn’t really dare say his feelings out loud. He didn’t know how sane they were. Just knew he felt them very strongly.
“You’re afraid she’ll leave again aren’t you?”
He looked over at Cole in complete disbelief; unable to believe once again just how insightful he was. “Maybe a little.”
Cole nodded completely understanding why he would feel that way. “You know though, if she didn’t want this she wouldn’t have come back in the first place. She wouldn’t have turned up at the home this morning to get you. She would have left town soon as she found out there would be a chance you’d be living with her if she didn’t want it.”
“I think maybe she just forgot what a burden I…. I mean kids can be.”
Cole pulled the car into the parking lot of a public beach and shut off the car. “Let’s get out; it’ll be too hot sitting in here okay?”
Cameron nodded and they both got out of the car. It not even being Memorial Day yet and not a very hot day they were completely alone on the beach. Not having to worry about anyone finding out anymore anyways Cameron reached over and took Cole’s hand as they made their way down the beach.
They reached a spot far enough away from the water so they wouldn’t get wet but close enough to feel the salt air on their faces and sat down on the cool dry sand.
“I’m sorry you have to worry about your mom Cameron. I wish I could just say don’t worry about it, that it will all work out, but I don’t even know her. But I can tell you that if you are right and she does leave I want you to come and stay with me. So either way you won’t be out of a place to live. I know that doesn’t help your worries about your mom, but I figure it might help some to know you got an alternative. If you’re mom does take off I doubt she’d have time to call social services first before, like Mr. Harris, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them.”
Cameron nodded and leaned in against Cole so they were touching shoulder to shoulder.
Cole looked over at him and smiled. “Are you going to tell her about us?”
Cole nodded not surprised, but a little disappointed that they would still have to keep things a secret. “Do you think she’d be upset?”
“I got no idea Cole. I don’t even know her.”
When he walked into his mom’s house at nearly ten o’clock that night after getting out of work, his mother stood up from where she was sitting on the sofa.
“Where have you been?” she asked worriedly.
He looked at her a surge of anger running through him at the fact she seemed to think he owed her an explanation. “Working.” He watched her nod looking like she was a little embarrassed.
“I went to pick you up after school, you weren’t there.”
“Why were you gonna pick me up from school?” He asked pulling his pack off his shoulder and letting it dangle near the floor.
“So we could go and get some stuff. For your new room.”
He shook his head narrowing his eyes at her. “I told you I didn’t want you to buy anything for me.”
She hung her head a little and nodded and then walked back over to the couch and sat down. “Come and sit down will you?” When he hesitated she added “Please Cameron?”
Although he didn’t want to he walked over and sat down in the chair adjacent to the couch. He set his pack on the floor beside the chair crossed his ankles and looked at her.
“What’s going on?” she asked. “We were getting along pretty good until this morning when you found out you had to move in here. What’s wrong? Why the sudden change?”
“I don’t know what you mean.” He fully knew what she meant but was stalling for time because he didn’t know how to answer.
She leaned forward a little bit narrowing the gap between them. “I mean your complete opposition to let me help you, your having me take you to school then just leaving, and then there’s your overall attitude. It’s completely changed.”
He sat there wringing his hands together still not knowing what to say. Tons of thoughts were racing through his head yet none of them were ones he wanted to share with her. He didn’t want her to know how scared he was of losing her again.
“Are you really that unhappy about staying here? Do you want to take your chances with a foster home? I don’t want to see you so miserable.”
Thinking she was already giving up on him he looked up at her sharply though he was pissed as hell he could feel tears burning at his eyes that he refused to let fall. “What’s the difference may as well get it over with sooner rather than later.”
She shook her head in confusion. “What do you mean?”
His mouth opened and closed several times his mind battling over whether or not just to spit it out, or to continue and keep his fears to himself. He honestly didn’t feel she had the right to know his inner feelings and didn’t feel even if he told her that she’d be able to offer any solution as she herself probably didn’t have any thoughts of fleeing yet. But he knew that could change any moment. Despite his inner thoughts his mouth opened again and he spit it out.
“You couldn’t hack living with me before, what makes you so sure you will be able this time? And when you do leave where’s that gonna leave me? Will you give me any warning or will I get up one day and you’ll just be gone like last time?” He stopped and took a deep breath but started in again when she started to talk. “I was okay when I was just going to be coming to visit you now and then. I wasn’t your responsibility; I didn’t have to rely on you sticking around for a place to stay.”
“I’m not going to leave Cameron.” She started shaking her head but he quickly cut her off.
“How do you know that? How long did you plan it when you left before?”
“I didn’t plan it, but I wasn’t happy. I am happy now. I am so happy that you are going to get to live here. I wanted you to from the moment I heard you weren’t living with your dad anymore, I just knew it was too early to ask. I wanted you to be more comfortable with me and know me better before I suggested it.”
She sighed, crossing her arm across her stomach and sat back a little bit on the couch. “I love you Cameron.” She held up her hand as he started to argue. “I understand you don’t believe that, but I do. I never stopped loving you. I made a mistake, a HUGE mistake; no matter how much I think on how, there’s just no way I can change it. All I can do is try to make it up to you now. But you’ve got to try and let me.”
Cameron’s heart ached at her words. He wanted so badly to believe them, wanted to think all this time all these years that even though she wasn’t there she still thought about him, that she had still loved him all that time. Somehow that would make the years of hell with his father seem just a little easier. To have that thought that he was loved even though he’d hadn’t even known it. A tear began to slowly streak down Cameron’s face.
“I so want to make this work Cameron. I don’t want you to be scared of waking up and me being gone. All I can do is give you my solemn promise and maybe over time you’ll see I’m not going anywhere.” She said as she reached over and wiped the tear from his face. Then she stood half up and gave him a half hug. Cameron put his arms around her out of reflex and returned the hug.
After a few seconds their awkward embrace ended, she returned to her seat and Cameron nodded, not sure of what else to say. He was still scared she was going to leave, but she was right she couldn’t do anything to prove that she wouldn’t. Perhaps he’d been wrong in acting like an ass. Thinking on it now he wondered why he’d been acting that way in the first place. Acting like an ass would certainly drive her away sooner rather than later. He would just go on being the kid she’d slowly been getting to know before he moved in and hope for the best. Really there was nothing else he could do.
When he didn’t say anything in the next few minutes his mother stood all the way up this time. “I started to setup your room at the end of the hall. Right now there’s only a bed, a dresser, and a bureau in it. I’d really like if we could go out tomorrow after school and get you some stuff to make it more yours. And maybe make you more comfortable here.”
“I still have to try and get my money.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to call Mr. Harris?”
He shook his head sure he didn’t want that, yet at the same time sure he didn’t want to call himself. It was something he had to do though. He wasn’t going to just forget the five hundred plus dollars that were sitting in the bank.
He figured he could call him the next day at school, with Cole right there beside him. Cole always made him braver.
He awoke the next morning to the smell of coffee floating into his room. He sat up slowly and rubbed at his eyes, it taking a minute for him to get his bearings and remember just exactly where he was. He smiled remembering where he was then admonished himself for it still sure he wasn’t going to allow himself to get too comfortable. His attitude towards her would change he’d made up his mind on that the night before, but inside he was not quite ready to let himself get too happy or comfortable there yet.
After taking a shower and getting dressed he walked into the kitchen where his mother was standing over the stove with a spatula in her hand. She turned as he walked in and smiled. “How do you like your eggs?”
He just couldn’t help but smile back, seeing his mother there, a smile on her face, up early just to make him breakfast. “umm over easy please.”
Her smile got even bigger, obviously glad he seemed in much better spirits that morning. “Have a seat; it will be ready in just a minute.”
He set his book bag on the floor by the table and then sat down in one of the chairs. He was used to just sitting around and waiting for food after living with the Harris’s. He hadn’t been used to that at all back with his father. He had always made his own meals; and not very good ones at that. Usually he made things that didn’t require any heating, or maybe some toast every now and then.
A couple minutes later she walked over and set down a plate of eggs, sausage and toast in front of him. “Do you like sausage?”
He nodded picking up his fork. “Yeah a lot, thanks.” His eyes lit up at every bite. His mother was a great cook which surprised him. He had never thought someone that would run out on being a housewife and mother would be very domestic.
By the time the plate was empty he was absolutely stuffed and felt more like going to bed than going back to school; as usual though the thought of Cole got him motivated. He wasn’t one bit surprised and actually a little relieved when his mother got her keys and led him out to the car obviously planning on giving him a ride to school.
“You don’t have to work tonight, do you?” she asked as she drove towards the school.
“No.” he said shaking his head.
“Can we go shopping tonight then, Even if you don’t get your money today? You can always pay me back if you want to. Though I say again, I really would like to buy this stuff for you.”
“No, I’ll pay you back. But yes we can go shopping.”
They pulled up to the school and he got as she told him she’d pick him up that night. He nodded as he closed the door then turned around to walk up the path nearly bumping into Kyle who apparently had just gotten dropped off as well.
He looked at him to see the same look on his face that he’d had Sunday night when left the Harris home. “Sorry.” He said quickly wanting to apologize for nearly crashing into him.
Kyle held up his hand, his eyes narrowing even more. “Don’t even talk to me Cameron.” He hissed before turning and hurrying up the walk to school.
Cameron’s shoulders sagged as his heart ached as he watched his former best friend turn his back on him and hurry away. As if he was some leper or murderer or something. Like the one little thing about him that was different was worth throwing everything they’d had and shared together over the past several years away.
He looked over at the student parking lot and smiled through his inner pain seeing Cole’s car pulling into the parking lot. He turned away from the school and headed over the lot making it to Cole’s car just as Cole was locking up the vehicle, not seeing Cameron coming. Just as he turned around Cameron wrapped his arms around Cole and held him tightly breathing in his scent, feeling his lithe body in his arms his body filling with warmth replacing the hurt that Kyle had put there.
“Dude!” Cole said hugging him back. “What are you doing? Aren’t we supposed to play straight at school?”
“Ahh fuck it!” Cameron said, squeezing him a little tighter. He didn’t care what anyone else thought anymore. All he cared about was Cole, and if hugging Cole here in the school parking lot made him feel this good then he was not going to stop doing it for anyone.
Not letting go of Cole he looked to his right where Kyle’s girlfriend was walking by with a group of her friends. “Oh my god!” he heard her say. “Kyle was right!” she leaned into the group and whispered what Cameron figured was the tale Kyle had passed on and the group started giggling like the girls they were as they walked off.
Cole leaned back so he could see Cameron’s face, but not far enough so that he left his arms. “Kyle went spouting off huh?”
Cameron nodded miserably. Not that everyone was going to know, he’d already decided he didn’t care about that, but the fact that Kyle had run his mouth off. He wondered exactly what he’d said as he told his girlfriend the news. He wondered just how badly his former best friend hated him