It Is Story Time

Stories tell you what the pictures missed

The Locker – Chapter 10

Written By: Sex Writer - Sep• 15•07

Chapter 10

Saturday

11:40 p.m.

He could hear his mother in the kitchen as he stared back at his father, seeing something in his eyes but not sure what it was. At first it looked like maybe hate, or anger but then it didn’t feel that way. For a second or two he thought it might even be something like understanding or maybe just wanting to understand. All he knew for certain was that his father had yanked him away from what should have been the best night of his life, the first time when he really felt happy. His own anger was real, he could feel it bubbling away inside churning his stomach.

Nothing really made much sense to him; so many different things were running thru his mind as he sat there, waiting for the shoe to fall. All he knew was that he wouldn’t accept it, that no matter what his parents said he would see Dakota again and they would be together. How he wasn’t sure of, but inside where it mattered he knew it would happen. His face grew sombre as he felt the tension rising, felt his father’s anger or confusion or whatever the hell it was that his dad was feeling reaching for him.

His eyes lifted upwards to stare at the man he called dad. Noah could see the anger flash in the eyes but also he felt the confusion now. It was like his father was waging some inner fight, some war or something and yet he couldn’t quite figure out what it was that had him so pissed. Okay, so his son was gay, why should that matter or make him any less his son? Did who you sleep with really change who a person was? Didn’t his dad understand that who he was right now, this very second, was still the same person he had been this morning?

Okay it maybe was a shock, maybe he should have talked to them about what he was feeling and stuff like that. Trouble was how did you go to your parents and tell them that hey I like guys not girls? Man he could just see the reaction that would have gotten, still maybe he should have thought about it a bit more, tried to find a way to tell them. Noah sat there, his head lowered once more as he tried to figure out why it was so hard for everyone to believe and accept? Would they be this angry with him if they had found out he was having sex with some cheerleader? He kind of doubted they wouldn’t, in fact he kind of thought his dad would be proud, chest out and all while at the same time telling him to be careful, to use condoms but he would be happy inside, so why was this so different?

In some ways Dakota was a catch, hell the guy was hot plus he was an athlete, so why should his father make it seem dirty, seem wrong? It wasn’t like he woke up and said ‘hey I want to do guys now’ or some other shit. He had always felt this way but it wasn’t until just now that he realized exactly what it was he was feeling. Couldn’t his parents understand that or were they so old they couldn’t?

Christ he had to be nuts he thought. What difference did it make what or why, he was about to lose the best thing that ever happened to him and here he was, sitting moaning about maybe he should have talked to them first or something? Fuck was he already giving in or accepting the blame for this? His heart ached as he sat there, afraid that maybe he wouldn’t be able to talk his way out of this, but then he scolded himself for even thinking like that. He hadn’t done anything wrong, so why did he feel guilty? Why did loving another guy need to be such a secret? If it was some girl, he’d have mouthed off without any trouble, any worry really and they wouldn’t have been shocked, wouldn’t have been pissed or angry or anything, so was it wrong? Was he really doing something unnatural as some of those on the news said?

“Noah?”

“What?”

“I am waiting for an answer son”

“Oh… “

“That’s it?”

“I guess”

Nathan stared at his son’s face, seeing the resentment in his eyes. He could even feel the animosity, something he never expected to feel coming form his own flesh and blood, not from his Noah. There was something very different about Noah, something that made him pause, made his heart slow its wild angry beat as he tried to figure it all out. It just didn’t make any sense to him, how a perfectly normal teenage boy could suddenly be queer?

“Look, being insolent isn’t going to help you, now I asked you a civil question young man and I expect a proper answer”

Somehow he never quite expected this moment to be like this. For starters he figured his mother would be in tears and his father would be shouting and waving his fists in the air like a madman. None of that was happening so far which made him uneasy. It wasn’t going like all the stuff said it would, the books and articles he had managed to find. There was no temper tantrums though his father’s face certainly looked it would burst at times. It was all rather calm considering which only made his heart quicken its beat more. The shoe had to fall, there was no way that his dad would take this calmly or quietly. For the first time he grew frightened, wondering what he would do if they tossed him out, wondering where he would go or where he could go.

The idea that he might suddenly be out on the street only got his anger hotter. Why couldn’t they just accept who he was? What difference was it to them anyways, they had their lives and all he wanted was his. Why should they feel they could tell him who he cared for and who he didn’t? Couldn’t they see he was the same Noah, the same son he always was? Did being gay and them knowing suddenly change that? His anger was boiling as his eyes narrowed. He stared at his father’s demanding face as he spoke in a short clipped voice.

“Fine, Yes I am angry, yes I am mad, what did you expect? You think I am still some 2 year old or something. I am not. I am not going to stop seeing him either”

“No one… damn it Noah, why are you making this so hard?”

“ME? What about you and Mom? Yanking me away like I was some 5 year old who dropped his pants, I am 16, I know what sex is”

“Do you? I doubt that, and we didn’t yank you, we have… we needed to, I mean…”

He had never seen his father this confused before. It was seeing a whole new person right in front of him but he didn’t look any different. He still had that same face, the same piercing eyes, the same way of standing when he was angry, yet he looked and sounded so different. It felt strange to him, to realize that something he did had caused this change. For a minute or two he felt sorry for his father then the image of being ordered into the car flashed before him. The anger rose up as he glared even harder. His hands clenched at his side as he spoke, recalling the humiliation he had endured at this man’s hands only a short time earlier.

“Yes? You needed what? To find out if your precious son is a fag? Well HE IS! So now what? Lock me in my room? Send for a shrink? What?”

“With that attitude you just may spend some time alone in your room…”

“Fine, I’ll go now then, at least there I won’t have to listen to any of this”

“You SIT DOWN! NOW!”

“WHY?”

The insolence was too much for him. Something inside snapped as his face grew hot and his hands balled up into fists. His anger was boiling over as he glared back at the defiant stare of his son. Didn’t the kid realize who was the parent here? Didn’t he realize that he was the transgressor? They had been to lenient with him, that was the problem. They should have disciplined him more when he was younger, this was the thanks you got for trying to be a caring parent, insolence. His voice snapped as he raised his voice, hearing its loud shrill tone echo across the room.

“I AM STILL YOUR FATHER… NOW SIT!”

“Fine, but it isn’t going to do any good, you can’t change how I feel, no more than you can change who I am.”

“I don’t… who said anything about changing you? Damn, where do you get all this? Did that… that boy tell you all this? Did he?”

“His name is Dakota”

“Fine, whatever, did Dakota tell you all this?”

“NO, he didn’t tell me anything, I came up with this all on my own”

“How? You can’t know, I mean… shit…”

“Nathan!”

His wife’s voice startled him as he turned to stare at her. She stood there, her eyes wide open in shock at the scene before her. He could feel her fear too as she looked at him, almost pleading with him to make this all go away, but how? He wished it would to, wished with all his heart that she hadn’t heard Noah earlier, wished she hadn’t gone and talked to the boy’s mother. Trouble was, she had and now he had to deal with it. He couldn’t just ignore it not if he truly loved his son.

“What? I am sorry, but he’s only 16, how can he know?”

“I don’t know, but can’t we just all sit down and discuss this rationally? I mean, we are supposed to be a family…”

“I am sorry, you are right, Noah, look, son, let us just, discuss this like your mother says, okay?”

“Fine, but… fine”

The silence was deafening to her as she watched the rigid stance of her husband and the angry stares of her son. How could their loving family suddenly be torn apart like this? What was it about a boy’s thinking he was gay that could turn loving father and son into enemies? It was only last weekend when the two of them had surprised her and squirted her with the garden hose, laughing and giggling like schoolgirls and now look at them? Could Noah thinking he was gay cause all this in such a short time? If it did, then they had to put a stop to it, she couldn’t live like this.

“Noah, your father and I, we are just trying to look out for your best interests, all this, this talk of uh, of…”

“Being queer?”

He had been about to sit down when his son had said that word. For the life of him he didn’t know why but the sound of that word infuriated him. It was like a red flag or something as he spoke up harshly, commanding the respect that his son should have been showing them both automatically. Hell his own father would have knocked his block off if he had dared talk to him like this. Didn’t Noah realize how lucky he was to have parents who didn’t believe in such things? Couldn’t he see that they cared? Was he that blind or that hoodwinked by some fancy talking horny teenager?

“Noah knock it off, how are we supposed to know what words to use? This is new to us, we never, I never, I mean…”

“Never thought your own son would turn out to be a fag? That’s what you mean isn’t it”

“DAMN IT YES! Okay? Happy now?”

“Nathan…”

“I am sorry dear, but he wants to provoke me, I don’t know, what is it Noah, this what your, your friend suggested? Attack the people you love? Is that it?”

Love? Is that what they called this treatment? Dakota loved him; at least he didn’t force him to do things he didn’t want to. Why couldn’t they see that he wasn’t bad, they didn’t even know him and yet they were judging him. It wasn’t fair and Dakota wasn’t here to defend himself. Noah could feel the hair on the back of his neck standing up as his father’s words struck home. His anger grew hotter as he glared and yelled back.

“NO! Stop making it out like he is some creep, he cares for me, more than you seem to”

It felt like someone had struck a knife into her chest. The anger was so real, so harsh and it didn’t make sense. Why did he suddenly feel like they were against him? Her mind couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to her sweet baby boy and then she glanced at her husband, saw the exact same anger on his face too and she grew frightened. She couldn’t explain it but she felt like her whole world had suddenly exploded in her face. This wasn’t how she imagined it would be as she tried once more to bring peace to the room.

“Noah! How can you say that about your father and me? We raised you, we have always cared for you, maybe you are just too confused right now”

“NO, I am not!”

“Son, you are only 16, how can you know if you are… if you are gay?”

“I just do! Tell me something, would we even be having this talk if Dakota was a girl?”

“Well… no, we wouldn’t, doesn’t that tell you something son?”

“Yeah, tells me that there are two standards, one for all normal types, another for us fags”

It seemed like his son wanted to push the buttons, wanted to anger him and he knew he shouldn’t argue, shouldn’t yell back but he couldn’t help himself. Every part of his body was on edge and the pain in his chest was growing too as he looked into the angry face of his son. How dare he, he thought as his mind tried to make sense, tried to figure out why his son was acting this way. At the same time he couldn’t explain why the harsh angry words struck such a discord inside either. Why should the words queer or fag upset him so much? Could he really believe deep down that Noah was gay and so those words offended him because they most certainly offended his son? Was he that willing to accept Noah being that?

“STOP That! Damn it Noah I don’t want to hear that talk, we are trying, the least you can do is try as well”

“Trying? Trying to what Dad? To convince me to change?”

“Well, I suppose… no, I don’t know, maybe to help your mother and me understand, to uh…”

“I can’t change who I am dad. I am gay, okay? That is who I am”

“Noah dear, how can you know that? You haven’t gone on any dates, I mean, maybe you just think you are because, well because you are shy, and maybe…”

It felt strange to be sitting here and seeing their faces, listening to them as they tried to figure out why he was gay. When did he know he was gay? Was it last week or was it years ago? How could he explain to them when he didn’t know himself? It wasn’t like he woke up one day knowing he was this way but that was what they wanted to hear, hell it was what he’d like to hear as well. Trouble was, he just didn’t know when it happened. All he knew for certain was that he was gay, that girls did nothing for him and boys did. Could it really be that simple and if so, how the hell was he going to explain that to them?

“Come on mom, you know that isn’t true, I just don’t like girls, why is it so hard for you both to accept that?”

“For starters son, because this is the first we have heard of it, why didn’t you come to us before this? Why did your mother have to find out by… I mean did you expect us to find out and just say nothing?”

“No, I guess not, but…”

“But what son? We are your parents, haven’t we always told you that you could come to us with anything? Haven’t we always tried to listen, aren’t we now?”

“Sure, after you dragged me away, you could have waited till I got home tomorrow, you didn’t have to come and embarrass me like you did”

“Embarrass you? Christ… how do you think I felt? Coming home and hearing you are out with some guy, that you were planning to have sex? How do you think I felt?”

“So what, you are saying if I had told you about Dakota and me, you would have let me go?”

“Hell No! oh shit, I don’t know… maybe but no, probably not”

She saw the sudden tensing of Noah’s body and grew alarmed. All this talk about being gay was unnerving to her and as much as she had tried to understand it, she just couldn’t grasp it. How could her son be gay? Her husband was all man, even now after so many years of marriage he still could make her weak at the knees, so how could Noah be gay? It sure as hell didn’t come from her or Nate, so from where did he pick this up?

Her eyes were brimming with tears as she tried to play peacemaker once again. It wasn’t easy either as she realized that in some way she just wanted to send Noah to his room and lock the door until he came to his senses. Another part of her wanted to shake him and make him see sense. It was all to confusing but this was her family, her husband and her son so she sighed and leaned forward, desperate to ease the tension between her two men.

“Noah, what your father is trying to say is that, well, we would have wanted to discuss this with you more, and that, well, maybe for now we would have preferred you not to go, right Nathan?”

“No Rachel, it isn’t like that, I don’t get this, Noah you never, how can you be that way? You played sports, okay so you weren’t good at it, still you played it, you watch the Monday night game with me, how can you be gay?”

“Gee I don’t know Dad, didn’t know being gay meant I couldn’t enjoy football or sports, sorry”

Just for a brief instant he wanted to reach out and slap the smug insolent look off his son’s face. That thought scared him more than the idea of Noah being gay did and he shivered a little, feeling the fear inside growing. How could he even think of striking his boy? Was he that sick inside, that angry that he could dare to think of something like that? It frightened him to the point that he leaned back in the chair, his hands digging hard into the arms of the chair, a desperate effort to keep them still.

“That isn’t what I meant, why are you twisting everything Noah? This is hard enough son, please…”

“Me twist everything? What about you and Mom? You think because I like football I can’t be gay? What, you figure gays only like what, knitting and cooking, playing with Barbie dolls or something?”

She had seen Nate’s sudden move backwards and it made her heart skip a beat or two. She suddenly saw stark fear in his face and it made her blink as she wondered what it was he had been thinking. She followed his eyes towards her son’s face and it dawned on her how serious this was. Her own anger suddenly flared up as she fought for the same control her husband had fought for.

“Noah, settle down, your father is trying to understand, so am I and quite frankly, I really don’t know what it is gays like, I never, I never thought about it I guess”

“Either have I mom, all I know is I am gay, I really don’t like girls, I know that you don’t believe me, I am sorry, maybe I should have told you all this sooner, but how? Walk up to you one night and say hey mom and dad I am gay, see you later?”

“No of course not, and I guess it has to be hard to say that, but how do you know Noah? You are only 16, like your mother said, you are shy, maybe you are just mistaking that awkwardness around girls for being, well for being gay”

“Dad it isn’t like that, I don’t… I mean…”

“Go on, what? Tell us?”

“I can’t, I mean, this isn’t… it isn’t the way you think”

At last something he thought as he hunched forward, seeing the sudden easing of his son’s shoulders. He looked like his son now, no more hatred burning in his eyes or was that merely wishful thinking? Nathan peered closer and realized that maybe it wasn’t hatred he had been seeing but fear? Could his son be so afraid of him that he was acting out? Could he be so frightened that they wouldn’t understand him that he was pushing out of fear? It made him pause, weighing his words when his wife broke the silence, her own tearful voice cutting into his heart.

“Noah we are your parents, you can tell us, how do you know? Please, your father and I, we are here for you, can’t you see that?”

“I suppose, it is just… it isn’t what you think…”

“Then enlighten us, you have the floor, tell us, why are you certain you are gay?”

“Okay… cause I … do I have to? Dad… not with mom, hell… sorry, but…”

“Just spit it out, go on”

“Fine, cause I know, I mean, I have tried, honest, I didn’t want to be this way, I can’t help it…”

“Noah, you aren’t…”

“I am trying to, you ever talk to your dad and mom about sex? Was it easy?”

“No, it wasn’t, but my father did talk to me about things, it wasn’t exactly comfortable, but he did…”

“Yeah well think how it would be if you were me? If it was hard for you and him to talk about what everyone says is normal, well…”

“Okay so it is harder, shoot me, I didn’t make up the rules of society, I am trying to understand.”

“I know okay?

The silence seemed to thunder in his ears as he stared first at his father and then his mother. He could feel their eyes peering at him, almost desperate really in their desire to understand. It kind of felt good but it still terrified him as he looked down at his feet. How do you say these things to your parents he wondered and then he heard Dakota’s voice in his ears. He could hear him telling him how he had been afraid of his dad, how after Montana and how as afraid as he was, he found his father was even more afraid. Strange, you never really thought a parent could be frightened of anything; they always seemed to have the answers didn’t they?

Noah stared up at his father from under his lowered head and he could see it now, see that his father was frightened just like he was. In some odd way it gave him a sense of courage as he tried to form the words. His body shivered as he glanced back to his feet, feeling the fear inside. It felt like this was becoming the worst day of his life instead of it being the best but he knew he had no choices left. He wanted Dakota, wanted to smell him now and to touch him and he couldn’t do that unless he convinced them. With that he found his voice.

“I feel different inside, when I see a girl or a guy I feel different, guys do things, I uh, I have never felt that way about girls, I have tried, honest… I have”

Panic tore at his heart as he heard the words, not understanding them for what they were. All he could think of was the hideous news reports about this molester and that one. His anger rose up too as he wanted to kill in that instant, not his son but the vile creature who had touched his son. His voice rose two octaves as he leaned forward in the chair, ready to pounce as he had to know, had to find out who.

“Guys do things to you? What guys? Are you saying that…”

Noah saw the wild look in his father’s face and for a moment he didn’t understand it. He turned towards his mother and saw the exact same look on her face and then it dawned on him. His heart raced a little and for some weird reason he felt a strange warmth deep inside of him, knowing that despite all that was going on, his parents still did love him, they just didn’t understand him.

“No, no not that, I mean inside, when I see a guy on television or such, like how you get when you see those movie stars, that one you like, what’s her name? Zeta Jones or something?”

“Well she is an attractive lady, but…”

“For you she is, not to me, to me she is just a she, for me it is the kid who plays Ephraim on Everwood or the guy who plays the cop on 7th Heaven… don’t you see? The girls, they don’t do it for me like they do for you, it is the guys, that’s how I know, I mean they, they uh, they are what I think of, when, well, you know… when… it is how I always knew I guess, it was how I thought I knew I was different, well how I used to think I knew”

“Used to? I don’t…”

“Yes”

He couldn’t believe his ears. This couldn’t really be happening to him and his family. It all had to be some cruel joke or something but as he stared at his son’s face he knew instantly it was real. His heart twisted and turned as he tried to comprehend the cryptic words. Nathan’s body shook as his mind tried to fathom it all, to make sense out of something that made no sense. He had never for a second thought that Noah was gay or even thinking about such things. How could he have not seen all this? How could he have missed the signs?

“Are you, I mean, you and this Dakota, you two uh, you uh”

“Yes”

She finally realized what her son had said and his soft quiet answer only shook her more. Her hands flew to her face as he felt the stinging tears running down her face. How could this have happened so quickly? She thought they had gotten there in time, that the sounds she had heard hadn’t been from… God she couldn’t even say the words to herself as she cried out in stunned amazement.

“My God!”

“Don’t you know the risks? His brother died from AIDS for Christ Sake, how could you and he… how could you even…”

For a brief moment he thought they understood him, but looking at their faces now only made him feel more miserable than before. He felt so alone, so afraid and yet even as his father’s shocked voice shook out in the room, he felt the anger inside. They were always so quick to say they would understand but look at them he thought? Now all they wanted to do was blame Dakota, to make it all someone else’s fault.

Noah wasn’t sure which way to turn now. His mother was crying and his father looked so white that he thought he might pass out, only adding to his misery. Why couldn’t they just accept him for what he was? Why was it such a big deal to them? Least they were trying, he had to admit that which only confused him more. On one hand they seemed willing to listen, then when he tried to tell them they seemed ready to explode. He sighed as he tried one more time to explain it, to make them see it his way.

“It was my decision, not his… I wanted to, I still do, it is all I can think of even now, don’t you see Dad? I am gay, nothing you or mom can say is gonna change that, whether you understand it or not, it is who I am, and right now, he is who I want to be with, just like you and mom are… how can that be wrong?”

“How? My God I’ll tell you how, you are confused, my God Noah you are just a child, you can’t know about these things, you are too young, there are a lot of things at stake here, for starters there is the health risk, but put that aside, my God what do you think all your friends are going to say or do when they find out?”

“I won’t tell them”

How simple kids looked at life he thought as the thoughts raced thru his mind. He could see it all happening as if he was there and it terrified him. He could lose his boy, didn’t Noah see that? This wasn’t some joke, some game, these kids would haunt him until he left school, they left, or worse, something bad happened for which there would be no coming back from. God couldn’t he see that?

“You can’t hide it from them, that kind of secret, they’ll find out, what then?”

“Then I guess you’ll get your monies worth from all that extra health insurance!”

In her mind’s eye Noah was still her baby, still her sweet little boy. When had he grown up and why hadn’t she seen it happening? Looking at him now, she saw the firm set of his jaw, the spark deep in his eyes when he spoke about Dakota and yes, even the insolence that flared every few minutes. He had grown up, no longer her little baby. Still, she couldn’t help but think of him that way, wishing he still was even. The sadness inside grew as she also realized that this was just one of many possible problems that would now confront her and Nathan. Noah’s smart mouth was something she had never seen before and it angered her. Couldn’t he accept that they were the adults and he the child? Didn’t he know that they only wanted what was best for him?

“Noah! That isn’t called for.”

“Why? I know what dad is really saying, it isn’t about my friends, he knows I don’t have that many friends, what he means is what will his friends and yours say, what will the neighbours say, right dad?”

“That isn’t true, tell him Nathan”

Just for a second, one tiny second he felt a strange sense of pride in the boy. All this gay stuff had at least done something positive, it had given Noah a new sense of courage that he could see in his face, hear in his voice. Funny how these things worked out and as he stared at his son, he realized that it was time to stop thinking of him as just a boy. If what he had implied was true, Noah was becoming a man a lot faster than they wanted but a man is what he was starting to become.

His own instincts wanted to reach out and hold him, to slap him on the back even but his mind was still reeling from the consequences that Noah didn’t seem to appreciate. If he lied to him, made out like how their own circle might react he knew in his gut it wouldn’t help. There was no choice but to be as honest with him as he was trying to be with them. Nate knew that his wife might not like it, but what choice did they have?

“No, he is right, partly, yes I do worry about what they will say, you are too young to understand, but it matters, what I do out there is what pays the bills for you young man, and this, this can effect on how I do that job or how others will let me do it, so yes, I worry what they will say, but I worry more about what your school mates will say and do, I don’t want to see you get hurt, and if they find out and they will Noah, you can bet on that, then you will get hurt and I can’t stop it, don’t you see that? I would give my right arm to keep you safe, but when you go and do something so stupid as this… of course it makes me mad, angry, what did you expect?”

“Nathan how can you say that?”

“Rachel it is the truth, would you have me lie to him?”

“No but, you don’t have to be so harsh”

“I don’t mean to be, Rachel you don’t fully understand how serious this is, not just for him, but for us too. Did you stop and think about that Noah? Did you stop for one second and think about how this would effect your mother and me?”

It wasn’t that his dad looked angry, if anything it was like he was actually scared which was something he never thought his father could be. Weird to see that in his face, how his eyes would move to his mother and then to him and each time they looked so pained, so afraid. It made his own heart ache a bit as he wondered if maybe there was something to what his dad was saying.

“No, not really, but it isn’t about you or mom…”

“But it is son, you have no idea how cruel people get, they might not just be satisfied with painting your locker this time around, they might target your mother when she goes shopping, this house at night when we are sleeping, it isn’t just you Noah, it is all of us, and not just us either, what about Dakota? Do you think they will leave him out of this or his family? He and his sister have to go to that school too, did you think about that?”

“Of course I did, but… I mean they wouldn’t do anything to you or mom, or the house, okay they might do more to me, I know that I guess, but maybe they won’t and besides, if they don’t know they won’t”

Neither of them seemed to grasp how serious this was. His own mind was having trouble fathoming it but as the man of the house it was his responsibility to make them understand. Noah was young, he lived in a world where youth was supreme and trouble always came to someone else, never to them. Trouble was that just wasn’t true. Trouble came to everyone and he could already see some of his neighbours faces if they ever found out, he could see his house covered in graffiti at best.

Looking at his son and then his wife he knew they didn’t see it. He knew that each time she went shopping to the mall she would run the risk of some wise ass, run the danger of being taunted to the point where she would not want to leave the house. And that was a best-case scenario too. He could just see some of those kids that hung out at the mall, how they would think nothing of jostling her as she walked by or even of damaging the car. No, they just didn’t understand how dangerous this was.

“They will know, you can’t hide it, my God Noah they already suspect you from just you being in that stupid play last year, do you really think they won’t guess more?”

God he wished that Dakota were here. He had at least gone thru this; he would know what to say. Thinking of him helped some and also hurt too. Why hadn’t Dakota tried to hold him back, why had he let his father take him from him? Was he that scared of the things that his father was telling him? Noah didn’t believe all the horror stuff, least he thought he didn’t.

Looking at his father’s face though, he could see that he wasn’t making it up; it was really how he felt. Somehow he just couldn’t see any of the kids he knew attacking his mom shopping or coming to the house and doing stuff to it. They might tease him at school or even at the mall, but that would be it, wouldn’t it?

Everything was happening too fast for him to fully grasp it all. His head ached from all the thinking and his body ached too, from thinking that it might never again know the joy of being touched by Dakota. His emotions were all jumbled because his parents had never told him to quit before. They always wanted him to try harder and to never give up, yet right now it seemed like that was exactly what they were saying. It was all so confusing to him as he sat there, his head bowed and his heart aching.

Christ when he had found out that he had to wear a dress last year, his father hadn’t told him to quit, but instead told him to suck it up and not let the idiots stop him from doing what he liked, from being a part of the drama club. Strange, back then when his father thought he was normal he pushed him to go on, now here he was trying to get him to hide who he was? It just didn’t make sense, why should he hide now? What had changed that made this less worthy of fighting for?

“So what? I am supposed to just cave in, just ignore how I feel?”

“No, but are you sure it is real? Maybe you are mistaking this boy’s lifestyle as your own, maybe it isn’t anything more than simple experimentation, because you are maybe more, oh hell I don’t know, maybe because he is a boy, maybe you just feel more comfortable around him so when the idea of sex came up, well…”

“Do you really think I just woke up and decided to be this way? Do you know how many nights I would lay awake and try to make girls excite me, try to make them my dreams? I can’t tell you how many times I bit my lip cursing these thoughts, how many times I would shower hoping to wash them away even.”

It was like a hot dagger slicing his heart into tiny pieces of raw meat as the pain in his chest only grew with each tortured word that his son spoke. His eyes filled with tears as he realized the pain his son must have been enduring all this time and he, the father, the man who was supposed to be looking out for his boy hadn’t a clue. Nathan sat there feeling like a total failure.

How could he have not seen his own boy’s pain? Couldn’t he have noticed and then said something? His eyes were misted as he realized that there was so much he didn’t know about Noah, so much that he had missed which only made his heart ache even more. Nathan had always thought he was a good father, a responsible parent and yet in the greatest time of need he had failed his son. The ache inside grew as he felt his failure.

“I didn’t’ know, how could either of us have known? You never told us or even gave us a hint of how you were feeling.”

“How could I? It isn’t like there is some manual out there telling you how to tell your parents you are gay, hell most of what is out there only makes you want to not tell them. There is no one I could have talked to, if I went to the Pastor he would tell me I am some godless evil person, if I told Rusty or some of the kids, well we know how that would have gone over, so what was I supposed to do? Who could I talk to? Couldn’t go the neighbours could I? Who could I ask?”

“Well you seemed to have found someone”

“Yeah and he thinks we should not see each other too, because he doesn’t want me hurt either, everyone is so worried about me getting hurt, well if I can’t see him, that will hurt a lot more than anything anyone can do to me, I am gay, I can’t help it, why should I have to deny that? Just so your boss or the guys at the office won’t mess with you? Why?”

“It isn’t that simple, it can effect promotions, how much I earn to pay those insurance premiums you talk about, to pay for this house, those clothes you are wearing… so it is a big deal”

“Then screw them, find another way, Mr Northwood did”

“It was different for him, I don’t want that to happen to your mother, or to me, because… because if it does… it means you will have died like their son, I don’t want that”

“What difference does it make? I might as well be dead if I can’t be who I am, if I can’t be with Dakota”

“Stop that, you know that isn’t true, you will get over him, he’s just a crush, a schoolboy crush is all…”

The words felt like a match to dry paper. His whole body grew rigid as he glared at his father’s face, ignoring the pain etched across it. All he could think about was how unfair they were being. The way he felt about Dakota wasn’t like a crush, it was something more but they were too blind to see it. It was his fault maybe; he just didn’t know how to explain it so even they could understand. Panic set in as he felt that he was losing, that what he felt for Dakota would be taken from him.

“NO HE ISN’T!”

“Noah sit down! Look son, maybe you think you are in love, but…”

“But what? You don’t think two guys can love each other like a guy and girl can? Well they can! I love him, I DO!”

To be honest he felt out of his depth. How could any two guys feel for each other what normal people felt? It wasn’t natural so how could it be the same? Noah was only 16, how could he know what real love felt? He sighed a little knowing that he was dealing with teenage hormones and romantic notions that simply were fantasies. How could Noah feel for this Dakota like he thought? Christ from what Rachel had told him they only met last Monday.

“Noah you are 16 God Damn It, you can’t love anyone, girl or guy”

“Why not? You always talk about how you knew Mom was the only girl for you when you were in Junior High, you went steady since you were 15 and got married in college, so why can’t I know? Why can’t it be for me like it was for you?”

“BECAUSE HE IS A HE! That is why, it was different for us, your mother, well… she…”

“She was a she?”

“Yes, yes that is right, it is different”

“No it isn’t dad, it is the same, you just think because Dakota is a guy he can’t feel for me what I feel for him, that what we feel for each other isn’t the same as what you and mom felt, that’s the real reason, hasn’t a thing to do with age or anything, just prejudice”

“Okay, maybe it is, maybe you are right, but you are too young Noah, my God son, do you realize what you are facing if we let this continue?”

“You can’t stop me, no one can”

“Yes, we can Noah, if I have to move us to Alaska I will, is that what you want me to do?”

“Nathan, I am not moving to Alaska

“Oh for Christ’s sake Rachel, we aren’t moving, but I’ll be damned if some son of mine is going to tell me what he will or won’t do, as long as he lives under this roof, he will abide by our rules, and that Noah is how it is”

There it was, just like all the stories had said it would be. The threat, the final solution for parents who thought they could change what is. How could they feel this way? Noah looked at his father’s face and then his mother’s. He could see the tears rolling down her cheeks and the red growing around her eyes. There was fear in those eyes too and yet he wasn’t sure if it was for him maybe being forced out or just out of having to deal with all this. That was the trouble, he wasn’t sure and yet in his heart he felt he was. He felt that he couldn’t live without Dakota but more than that, he didn’t think he could go on pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Couldn’t they understand that? Why did they feel he had to be the way they wanted him to be, hell it wasn’t really like he had wanted to be gay, it just was that he was.

“So what, I become a good straight little boy or I get the boot?”

She was frightened and could feel her legs trembling as both Noah and Nathan seemed bent of tearing each other apart. The words maybe were a bit harsh but they were both agitated, both upset. Nathan couldn’t mean it, couldn’t let their boy leave, not like this. Sure he would eventually leave, but she always believed it would be to college and then to be with some girl, not like this. Where did she go wrong? What did she do to have missed all this? Her heart ached and the pain felt like it would suffocate her as she tried once more.

“Now Noah your father didn’t mean it that way, did you Nate?”

“Of course not, least not how he said it, look son… I know this is hard for you, it is for both of us too, we just, we just need to know that, well, that this isn’t just a mistake, that you aren’t just jumping at something because you think it is how you are, I don’t know…”

“You don’t get it do you?”

“I guess not”

“I am gay, it isn’t any use pretending it will go away or that it is some childish phase, it doesn’t work that way”

“And this you know how?”

“Same way you knew you were straight, you just know”

Looking at Noah now, he realized that all of his arguments were just words. He could see it in the boy’s face as he spoke about this Dakota, about how he really felt. Noah was right, you couldn’t explain why you felt a certain way but you knew it, deep down you could tell how you felt. It didn’t make sense and as much as he wished it would be different, wished that Noah were mistaken, the way he looked told him otherwise. His son was gay and nothing he could say or do would change that.

Realizing that Noah was gay didn’t ease the fear inside though. Both boys were so young, so vulnerable and someone had to tell them that, had to show them what lay in store for them if they exposed themselves openly. Couldn’t Noah see that? Surely anything he was feeling now couldn’t be half as bad as going through life being teased, whispered about, or worse, threatened?

“Okay, maybe you are, have you thought this through son? Not for us, for you? What about this uh, this Dakota, have you thought about how this could hurt him?”

“I haven’t thought of anything else really, but what can I do? I don’t even know if he will still want me, not after tonight”

In some ways it was like listening to himself years earlier. He looked hard at Noah, seeing the pain deep down in his soul and knowing that pain as if it was his own. Hell it had been his own when he too had doubts, had worried if he was worthy enough for someone except in his case it was for a woman. He at least had friends he could talk to about it, confide in and help him see the truth but as he sat here he realized his son had no one.

Nathan’s heart reached out for his son’s, wanting to hold him and cradle him in his arms but he didn’t move. His eyes looked deeply into Noah’s, feeling the doubts that rested there and all he could do was try to make him understand something for which there really were no words. How do you tell someone that the other person doesn’t always return what you feel deep inside? How do you explain to your own son that what he feels for this Dakota may not be what Dakota feels for him, or worse, that this Dakota isn’t as strong as Noah? What do you do, what do you say?

“Noah, look at me son, look at me… I can’t begin to understand all this, I am sorry son, I don’t, but if what you say is right, if you and this, this Dakota do really have these feelings then what happened tonight won’t change them, and if it does, then son, as much as it may hurt you to admit it, but if tonight changes how he feels for you, then it wasn’t as you thought, I am sorry, but I think you know that too.”

“It is real, I know that Dad, but you don’t get it, there is so much against us, it is hard to know what to do, he is afraid, so am I really, but it just, I mean… it just feels right being with him, how can that be so wrong?”

“I don’t know, maybe it isn’t wrong, maybe it is just that people have been conditioned to think it is, either way you aren’t going to change them, least not those who don’t want to change.”

“Which are you dad?”

“Noah, your father is trying to…”

“It’s okay Rachel, he has a right to ask, and to be honest Noah I don’t know which I am. Part of me wants to shake you until you come to your senses, another part says you are my son and I love you, then there is the part that just plain is scared, for you, for your mother, and yes for myself too and even for your friend. I know you don’t believe that, but it is the honest to God truth. As to which am I? I am here listening aren’t I? That should be your answer, it’s about the only one I can give you for now”

“You aren’t going to throw me out of the house?”

“Throw you out? Have I said that? Of course we aren’t, Noah I get mad, but you are my son, which can never change. Yes I am not happy about this, for a while back there I didn’t like you even, but it didn’t make me stop loving you, that can’t ever change, not if it is real and son, you may not believe it right now, but it is very real, very.”

“And Dakota?”

“I don’t know Noah, there are a lot of issues for your mother and I to discuss, and you too.”

He couldn’t figure it out. The way his father spoke at times he was certain that he was never going to spend another night in his own bed or live in this house again and then there were times like right now. It felt like his father would cry even and several times he had seen tears welling but so far his dad had kept them back. It just didn’t make sense, if his father did accept who he was then why couldn’t he let him see Dakota? Why did there always have to be some conditions set or more talking? He wasn’t going to change how he felt about Dakota, surely they both knew that?

“I won’t stop seeing him Dad, I won’t”

“Then we may have a problem Noah, look, I can’t stop you, I think we both know that, I can make it tough though, and if that is what we decide, well… it is what we will do. This isn’t about you being gay either, not totally, I mean, I don’t really like the idea of you having sex, and I don’t care who it is with, whether it is this Dakota or some girl even, I think at your age you are too young.”

“Did you wait? You were dating mom since you were both 15, did you wait till you were married?”

“What happened between your mother and I isn’t the issue here, this is about you and this boy Dakota.”

“No Nate, It is important, he should know.”

“I don’t see how it makes any difference Rachel, things were different then, we were different…”

“Maybe, in some ways it was easier then, other ways it wasn’t Nate, he needs to know.”

“Fine if that is how you feel”

She gave her husband a weak smile as she turned to face her baby boy. She couldn’t help it but think of him that way even with all this happening. Strange how a mother always thought like that while the men couldn’t wait for the boy to grow up and instead of being a son become a buddy. She had watched the way Nathan had always made it a point to do something each weekend with Noah, knowing that he took pride in each upward move that Noah made. How proud he had been when Noah went from crawling to walking to running. The same pride showed when Noah got his first bike and then when the training wheels came off. Now here he was, taking another step forward only this step was a lot bigger and tougher. Would Nate still feel that pride this time?

“No Noah we didn’t wait, maybe we should have, and at the beginning we did, but no, we didn’t wait till we got married, but we weren’t 16 either, we held out till we were 18”

“Rachel… well, you held out, you are right Noah, I didn’t want to wait, your mother made me though, she wanted to be sure I was the right person, and since then, since before then really, there hasn’t been anyone else for me, but I don’t think you and this uh, this Dakota…”

“Why? Because he’s a guy?”

“Yes I guess, I mean, I don’t know, do two guys love the same way a man loves a woman? I don’t know, do you?”

“No, I guess not really, but it feels like it, least I think it does”

“Think you do? You have to be certain, more certain than your mother and I ever were, my God Noah I read the papers, I watch the television news, I know the risks you and this boy take each time you uh, you uh…”

“Have sex?”

“Yes… have sex. Jesus Noah his brother died from that disease, how can you be certain he isn’t infected, that he won’t infect you?”

“I don’t, he gets tested though, and is clean, I suppose I’ll have to start that too, but it doesn’t matter, I just want to be with him Dad”

“And that is supposed to make it all okay? You want to, that is it?”

“Wasn’t it that way for you and mom?”

“That isn’t the same thing, can’t you see that?”

“All I see is that you don’t want me to be with Dakota, if he was Darlene or something I don’t think you’d be saying all this, would you?”

The room grew silent as his son stared at him. Nathan could feel the eyes boring down on him and he could also feel that Noah believed he already had the answer. Funny, he could fell his wife’s presence too as if she too knew what his answer would be, but they were both wrong. This wasn’t about Noah being gay or not, not when it came to sex and the risks involved.

He had used the same arguments with her that Noah was using now. For almost 3 years he had tried to get her to see it his way but she had refused. Partly from fear of becoming pregnant but mainly from the fear of what her parents would say and do if they ever found out. At least Noah no longer had that to deal with, both sets of parents obviously knew, but that wasn’t what worried him.

The world had changed over the years. Life wasn’t as simple or as black and white as it used to be. There were a lot more disease out there that could ruin a person’s life or worse, end it. How could any parent today be accepting of their child having sex? All the risks out there were too much but even as he could tell what his son felt, he knew in his own heart that he would be just as upset if Dakota was a Darlene.

“Yes I would, surprisingly I would Noah, because maybe the risk for AIDS is less with a ‘Darlene’ than a ‘Dakota’ but there are other risks, such as STD’s, such as pregnancy, which are just as serious, so yes Noah, we would still be having this conversation”

“It’s my choice to make, mine and Dakota’s”

“In the end, yes it is Noah, like I said, there is no way we can stop you from being with him, all we can do is put as many obstacles in your way that we can”

“Will you?”

He wanted to say yes and to end this and yet he also wanted to say no. There was so much at stake here that he didn’t know which way to turn. There was no parent handbook he could do and for a second he knew exactly how his son must have felt all that time, wondering how to tell them. It only made him sadder to realize that his son had gone through such pain but that was then, this was now. How could he just let him do what he wanted? How could he not let him?

“I don’t know, I just do not know, how can I? I don’t know him, and all this gay stuff, it is all very confusing to me”

“So what am I supposed to do? Sit around while you try to figure it out? Cause if you think that is what I’ll do, you are wrong. I am going to see him, tomorrow or the next day or the day after, whenever I can…”

She couldn’t understand his defiance? Didn’t he realize that they were his parents, that they knew so much more than he did about life and all of its complications? Why couldn’t he just accept that and let them do what was best for them all?

“And if your father and I say no? Are you prepared for that Noah?”

In a way he had been expecting this but hearing it come from her shook him a little. His face grew even more sombre as he looked over at her, wondering if she could do what was left unsaid? Could he really fight them on this if they made it plain and simple, do what they said or leave? The fear was there, he could almost taste it in the back of his mouth and then he felt the strange warmth inside, that same warmth he felt when he and Dakota had been together. Suddenly there was no question in his mind about if he could or would he because the answer was in his heart.

“If I have to be, yes I am”

“You have never acted like this before son”

“I never had to I guess, or maybe it is just that, well he is that important to me”

“Seems that way, you know what the consequences can be? I mean really know?”

“I think so, for the most part”

“And still you are willing to risk it?”

“Yes”

Was this how a captain felt when his ship was slowly sinking under him? As much as he wanted to not let his ship sink, as much as he tried to stop the flooding did he know inside that it was useless but still try to change the inevitable? The stubborn look on Noah’s face told him all he needed to know but he refused to accept it. How could he? Wasn’t it part of the job really, to try and make his son see the dangers that laid ahead even if he was unwilling to listen? Could it be a false sense of hope on his part or was he maybe just hoping that if he kept at it long enough some miracle might happen and Noah would see things his way? Whatever it was he couldn’t let it rest, not yet anyhow.

“And what about school?”

“What about it?”

“What if they find out about you and about Dakota?”

“They won’t”

“What if they do Noah? What will you do then?”

“I don’t know, whatever I have to I suppose”

“Can you go through a whole year of being picked on? Can you go through a whole year of not knowing if you are going to be roughed up, teased, called names? Can you?”

When Dakota has said all this it hadn’t sounded quite so horrible but now it did and yet he refused to accept it. For starters neither his dad nor Dakota knew for certain what would happen. Besides that, it was just as likely that no one would even notice or find out, so why should he be so afraid? Okay maybe his dad was right, maybe even Dakota was right about what could happen, but that assumed that they would find out. If he was smart, if he controlled himself no one would find out so their arguments weren’t real, were they?

He couldn’t help feeling the doubts inside but they also made him angry too. Why did everyone have to always assume the worse or think he couldn’t look after himself? Okay maybe he wasn’t Joe macho but he could look after himself. He could throw a punch like anyone else could if it came to that. As for the name calling, wow, like that would stop him? Didn’t his dad get it; he didn’t care about any of that if he knew that at the end of it all he had Dakota to be with? That would make it all okay, just like his dad had his mom. Why did he assume that it would be different for him and Dakota?

“If I have to, I guess”

“You can’t guess, you have to know, this isn’t something you can take back, this isn’t something you can start over, once it is out, it is there for good, it will follow you to college and beyond, are you prepared for that?”

“They won’t find out, and even if they do, so what? I’ll handle it”

“How? Can you defend yourself?”

“Nathan…”

“No Rachel, let it be… well? Can you Noah?”

“I don’t know, I suppose”

“This isn’t like the time Cory and you fought in the sandbox, this is for real Noah, think about it, can you defend yourself? Do you know how to stop someone from hitting you in the head? Do you know how to stop someone from breaking your ribs when they are kicking you?”

“Stop it Nathan, you are scaring him”

“Scaring him? Christ Rachel it is what can happen, what most likely will happen, he has to see it, to know it now… do you Noah? Do you understand all this?”

“Yeah I do, and no I guess I don’t know how to stop someone from kicking my ribs in, or smacking me in the head, but I’ll learn fast enough if I have to”

“Will you? It only takes one time Noah, just like the sex, only one time and you can be left for dead, left a vegetable, do you realize that?”

“Yes, okay? I realize it and no it doesn’t change how I feel or anything either, ‘cept maybe made me more scared, is that what you wanted to hear?”

“No, no it isn’t son, but as angry as you are right now, what I said is real, it is what you can expect, I wish it wasn’t like this, but it is.”

“Well I’ll just be extra careful, so they don’t find out, it isn’t their business anyways”

“No it isn’t, but these things, they have a way of being found out, trust me on that, have you talked about it with uh Dakota?”

“Sort of…”

“And?”

“And what? We talked about it, okay?”

“No it isn’t okay, what did he say? Come on, what did he say?”

There was no way he could tell him what Dakota had said. For sure he’d jump on it and try to use it to keep them apart. He gritted his teeth wishing he hadn’t said what he had but there was no way out. His mind was confused too because he really hadn’t thought it would be like his dad said. Okay maybe he had known it might turn out that way, but Christ this was 2003. It wasn’t the dark ages or anything and besides that, the school wouldn’t let it happen, would they?

“He was scared, so was I…”

Nathan could tell that something wasn’t right, that Noah was holding back something. His heart ached as he had spoken about what could happen but he really believed it would. He couldn’t help but feel that way but the way Noah sidestepped him, kept pushing off what Dakota felt confused him. He had naturally assumed that Dakota had been the one pushing for all this, this gay stuff and sex but now he wasn’t so sure. Could it have been Noah who was the instigator? Was Dakota as sure as Noah? From what Noah was saying he began to have his doubts, wondering if maybe he should find out, if maybe he should talk to Dakota or at least to his father.

“Maybe the two of you need to take some time apart, to think about this, sounds like he does, doesn’t it?”

“NO! I know what you are trying to do, he isn’t that way, he cares about me, it was why he thought we should not see each other, he didn’t want me to get hurt, so see, he does care”

“I didn’t say he didn’t Noah, I just think you have maybe gone a bit too far too fast, maybe you both need a bit of time to cool off, let your minds get over the first flush of excitement, that isn’t asking much is it?”

“Your father is right Noah, you two barely know each other, how can you be so adamant about this, you have only known him for a week or so”

“I know that… But it is like, well like I knew it the second I laid eyes on him, I can’t explain it, I just know, so does he.”

“Noah I am not happy about you and him having sex, I am sorry, I think you are way too young still, and the whole gay thing, has me deeply worried, I know what you say, I know you think you can handle it, but son, when you get hurt, when some kid hits you, and it will happen, it is your mother and me that have to deal with it, not your friend Dakota, us. We don’t want you to get hurt, it is that simple”

“I won’t, besides you always told me a man has to do what he has to do, you are the one who told me to be true to how I feel inside, well that is what I am doing, or didn’t you mean it? Does it only apply if I am straight?”

“Of course I meant it and yes it applies whether you are gay or not, I just know that with you being this uh, this way, there are added problems, and I don’t want you rushing into danger, that is all”

“So I have to hide because some asshole can’t accept me being gay? That doesn’t sound right”

God he wished he could tell him it was different, tell him that the world was full of nice kind thinking people but it wasn’t. Kids shouldn’t have to know these things but you couldn’t not tell them. The world wasn’t a fantasyland, it was very real and at times very cruel, something he wished he could spare Noah but there was no getting around it.

“It isn’t, but it is life”

“Yeah? And how is it supposed to change if I hide? Didn’t you tell me that a man had to stick up for what was right, no matter the cost? Why should I hide, I haven’t done anything wrong”

“No, I guess not, at least in your eyes you haven’t done anything wrong but there are some who don’t see it that way”

“Tough for them”

“No, tough for you because right now they are the one’s calling the shots son, not you”

“Then I’ll change it”

“How? This isn’t like changing channels on a television set when you don’t like the show, this is life, you just can’t wave a wand and presto everything changes”

“So what, I have to not be happy because some religious nut doesn’t like my being gay? Fuck them”

“Noah your language please”

“Sorry mom, it is just that, I know you both mean well, I know that it is kind of scary really, I know all that, but I know that if I don’t do this, if I run and hide like you want, I won’t be much of a person, I sure as hell won’t like me and if I don’t like me, how will anyone else? Say Dakota isn’t the one, say I am wrong about him, how will there ever be a right one for me if I hide now? How?”

“You don’t know that sweetie, besides you are 16, you will have lots of time to…”

“No Rachel, he is right. Damn it he is right, but it doesn’t help any Noah, being right is one thing, paying the price for being right though, that can be a very expensive price and I don’t mean in money son, I mean it can cost you your life, I don’t want that to happen, I’d rather you be alone and sad than dead, I am sorry, but I am your father, I love you, what else can I say?”

Why couldn’t they just love him for who he was? Why did they have to bring up all this hate stuff? Sure it wasn’t fun or nice out there, he had seen the news too but that wasn’t here, wasn’t where he lived. Things were different here, there were laws and stuff to protect him and others who were different, least that’s what the teachers all said. Why did his father have to try and make it out like they lived in a ghetto or something worse? All he wanted or needed was for them to be there for him, wasn’t that what a parent was supposed to do?

“Say that you will stand with me, say, I don’t know, say that you and mom will be there to pick me up if I do get beaten up, that if I do get hurt you will be there, that no matter what I am still your son, that is what you can say”

“I don’t have to Noah, you should know that”

“Then, if that is true why all this?”

“For that same reason son, because you are our son”

“I don’t get it, if none of what happens changes anything, why are you trying to stop me from being who I am?”

“I don’t know if that is what we are trying to do, maybe delay it? Maybe try to make sure it is what you really want, or maybe it is just that we don’t want you to get hurt. I can’t tell you why, I can only tell you that as parents, we only want what is best for you, I don’t think you being involved with a guy, being sexually active at your age is good for you. I am sorry, it is how I feel”

“So, I can or I can’t see Dakota?”

“I don’t know”

“But…”

“Noah, let us sleep on it, please?”

“It won’t change how I feel Dad”

“No, I suppose it wont, but you have given your mother and me a lot to think about, we need the time to digest all this, please, let us just sleep on it and we can pick this up in the morning”

“I can’t, I have to go see Dakota”

“You can talk to us first… then we’ll see after that”

“I am going to see him Dad”

“Noah, tomorrow morning we will finish this, until then, let’s not get into a I will he will kind of thing, okay? I told you, we need some time to think, to talk and to just try and digest all this, okay?”

“I suppose… just as long as you…”

“I know”

He leaned back in the chair as his son slowly stood up and made his way towards the hall. There was no mistaking the hostility in his face or even in how he moved towards his room. You could see it the way his shoulders were set and how he took each careful deliberate step to leave and yet something else was there too. Nathan could see it in the eyes as he saw his son stop at the hall.

There was a brief sagging of his shoulders but Nathan watched with a sense of pride really as Noah collected his thoughts and straightened his stance up once more. He could almost feel the boy’s determination and will as he turned to stare back at them both. The way his face was drawn and white only made his heart twist even more and made the pain a little sharper. He heard his wife sucking in her breath and the small sound of a sob escape her lips as she too stared out at her son.

“I know you both love me and you think you are trying to do what is best, I really do Dad, but you have to know, I love him, it isn’t something I can explain, it is just how I feel inside. You and Mom can sleep on it and we can talk about it tomorrow and the next day and the next, it won’t really make any difference cause I love him that much, so much that nothing is going to change that or keep me from being with him again, guess it is how you were Dad, it took you 3 years, maybe it will take me that long too, but I don’t care how long it takes, I am going to be with him again, I have to.”

Noah turned from them and walked out of the room and down the hall towards his own bedroom. Nathan heard his wife crying but he couldn’t move for the moment. What his son had said echoed within his head and his heart as he too felt the tears finally rolling down his face. His eyes felt heavy like his heart as he glanced upwards, wondering what the man upstairs thought about it all? Even as he wondered he knew what he would do come the morning, the only question was how would Rachel react to his decision? He turned to her now and cocked his head to one side and then slowly he stood up and walked over to her, gathering her in his arms and letting her head rest on his shoulder.

For the first time since he had heard the news about Noah, Nathan felt at peace with himself. At last he had reached a decision and he was calm as he let his wife cry on his shoulders, his own tears rolling unheeded down as his cheeks. Noah was his son no matter what and maybe he had failed him before, but he knew that he couldn’t risk failing him now.

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