Category: The Mighty Ducks (Movies)
Series: The Mighty Queertet
Length: 30-40k words
Date Published: 31 Mar 2002 • Date Updated: 8 Apr 2002 • Chapters: 30 • Words: 36,553
Chapter 1: Deep Freeze by Victory Thru Tears
It’s our first game since the Great Divide, as I’ve started to call it. I’m taping my wrist, and watching everyone around me. We’re wearing our new Eden Hall jerseys for the first time—white, red, and yellow, with the Ducks’ logo. Guy’s upset—they’ve messed up his number, and he’s 10 instead of 00. Orion’s promised to fix it as soon as possible, but he has to play this game with it. He’s sulking in the corner with Connie close by laughing. Charlie and Dwayne are laughing about a movie we’d watched earlier. Russ is still trying to teach Ken how to talk trash. Julie’s just gotten a haircut, and the Bash Brothers are teasing her while she fusses with it.
Coach Orion comes in, and tells us to get onto the ice. For once, Charlie doesn’t lead the way. He lags behind, and is last out of the locker room. Even during warm-ups, one can tell something’s wrong. Half of us are on the right side of the goal, and the others are on the left. The gap is about five feet wide. We move to the bench and into our cluster. Our regular chant is half-hearted, just as it has been for the last week and a half since the dance. Six of us move onto the ice. I’m center, and Charlie and Portman are on either side. Guy and Goldberg are behind us, and Julie’s in the net. The Hoover Academy Tigers take their places across from us. Their center has a determined look on his face, but he’s no match for me.
As the ref blows the whistle, I sail the puck to Charlie. Portman, with the aid of Goldberg, is checking everyone in our captain’s way. Charlie makes a great shot straight into the goalie’s glove. He sends it back out, and we become defensemen. I try to get the puck, but go flying head first over a Hoover player. I scramble back onto my feet and try to make it down to the action. Stick save by Julie, she passes it out to Guy. Guy brings it around the net. He passes to me, and I send it back as two Hoover guys knock me down. Portman helps me up, and I stake towards Guy, who still has the puck. He passes to Charlie. He fakes, and sends it backwards to Portman. Portman shoots, scores.
This time Charlie takes the face-off, and I take his spot at right wing. Guy’s out, Dwayne’s in. Portman’s out, Fulton’s in. Charlie gets the puck, passes to me. I start the breakaway, my mind set on the goal. I shoot, and the goalie blocks it. He tries to clear it, but Dwayne’s in his way. Dwayne takes a shot, but the goalie saves it again. He has a quick glove. The Tigers get the puck again, and even though all of our players are hovering near the other goal, Julie manages to stop the shot. She has a quick glove, too. Fulton takes the puck as Julie the Cat sends it down to us. He passes to Goldberg, who passes to Dwayne. I hear him “yee-haw” loudly, and watch as he slips the puck in right between the goalie’s legs.
I’m still on the right side, and Fulton’s on the left. Averman’s now taking the face-off. Dwayne’s switched with Luis, and Goldberg with Connie. The Tigers get the puck on the face-off, and Fulton grunts loudly as he’s knocked onto the ice. Luis starts on one of his bursts of speed, Connie trailing behind with the puck. Two Tigers are heading in her direction.
“Connie, pass it!” I yell from next to her.
She ignores me, and attempts to give the puck to Luis. The Tigers block her, and they come back our way. I do a 180, and concentrate on defending our goal. The Tigers have made a formation kind of like our trademark flying V. I focus on the center man. He tries to get past me, but goes flying over me as I duck.
“Nice move, Banks.” Fulton passes me the puck.
I turn around, and skate towards their goal. I raise my stick to take my shot, and…
I hit the ice hard. I can feel my lip bleeding from where I had bitten down on it. I look up to see who had caused my fall. Luis shoots, scores. No Tigers are in sight.
My mind is not on the score.
Hooked by my own teammate?
I feel my blood start to boil. I struggle to my feet, and break through the celebratory huddle that Averman, Luis, and Connie have made.
“What the hell is that?” I ask Luis as I shove him again. “I’m on your team, for god’s sake!”
“Hey, I made the shot. I deserved it.” His eyes are cold and mean.
“What the—” I can’t control my anger. I shove him to the ground and get on top of him, punching aimlessly. It takes two refs and Fulton to pull me off.
“Banks, #99… five minutes for disorderly conduct.”
I’ve been playing competitive hockey since 3rd grade. In those six years, I have never ever been in the penalty box.
I let the ref pull me away.
Connie mutters it loud enough for me to hear. I struggle out of the ref’s grip. I’ve never hit a girl in my life, but right now I wouldn’t care if Connie were a newborn baby. She’s going to die.
“Adam, Adam. Take it easy. Don’t screw this up for yourself, you know you want to play.” Fulton stops me.
I nod, not meeting his eyes. I pick up my stick and mask from the ground, and skate by myself to the penalty box. Charlie shakes his head as I pass, but he looks sympathetic. Coach Orion is staring at me, undoubtedly shocked by my display.
Oh well. So there’s one more person in the world that now knows that Adam Banks isn’t perfect.
Chapter 2: Thin Ice by Star
One word. One single word and Luis Mendoza is going out of the window. I just wish we were higher up and he would splatter horribly.
Fulton touches my shoulder. He’s just as mad as I am, but he knows it’s futile to fight, well physically that is.
On seeing his touch Averman wolf-whistles.
I’m going to kill him. Fulton doesn’t remove his hand, and I force myself to calm down.
I look around. Charlie is slumped on the bench. I’ve never seen him so defeated. He was in this team from the very start and now some of his “friends” hate him. Banks has a resigned expression. He’s calmed down since the hooking incident, and has that “this is my life, I’m used to it” look on his face.
Fulton looks just as mad as me but he’s had more practice at holding his temper.
Charlie mutters something in Irish to Averman. That’s possibly the only positive thing that has come out of this whole mess. Charlie has somehow found a way to be friends with Taz. She’s teaching him Irish cusses, perfect for times like this.
Coach Orion stalks in looking almost as mad as I feel. “What the hell happened out there?”
Oh, this is going to be fun to answer.
Coach glares at Luis and Adam then continues. “This is hockey, not a social group. I don’t care about your petty differences. When you step onto the ice you are a team. It doesn’t matter what problems you have with your team-mates.”
Yeah, it doesn’t matter that four of us aren’t “normal.” Sure.
“Banks and Mendoza, come into my office when you’re finished up here,” he barks out, then leaves us alone.
“Hey, Luis,” Averman says in a cheerful tone. “You want us to wait for you? We can protect you if the Queertet tries to ‘convert’ you.”
The Queertet is our new nickname. It’s so tragic that so Goldberg and Averman are failing English, and still have time to play with derogatory words.
Luis grins at him. “Thanks, but I’m used to it. I have to live with the pansy.”
“Not for long,” Banks mutters.
“Has he ever tried it on with you?” Connie asks, taking a seat next to him.
“Shut up, Connie,” Guy says tiredly from across the room. She gives him a venom filled look and turns her attention back to Luis.
“So has he?” She prods. “C’mon, Luis. Fess up. We all know you’re normal.”
“Connie, shut up. You’re not funny,” I tell her. I don’t know why I bother, she’s not going to let up.
“Well, he does stare at me a lot,” Luis says. I feel like punching his smarmy face in.
“Like I’d want you,” Adam snaps. “Believe it or not, Luis, I could imagine anything worse than dating a closed minded, bigoted and, let’s face it, not very attractive, guy like you. I’d rather kill myself.”
“Don’t let us stop you,” Connie says with a smile.
That’s it. I don’t care if she’s a girl. I grab her by her shoulder and pin her to a wall. “Apologize!” I order.
“Get your hands off her!” Guy tells me. Poor Guy, not very proud of his girlfriend, but obligated to defend her. “Portman, you’re twice her size.”
I feel Fulton’s hand on my shoulder. I know it’s him, he’s the only person in the room who’s willing to touch me. “Let her go, man. She’s not worth it.”
Connie smiles smugly at me. I realize my hands are shaking as I let go of her.
I have to ask myself, do I really want to play hockey enough to put up with this?
Then again, leave here, leave Fulton, leave Charlie and Adam when they obviously need our support. I couldn’t do that.
We all get changed in silence. Naturally, Charlie, Adam, Fulton and I are at one end of the locker room, the rest at the other.
Everyone changes quickly, scared of being left alone with the Queertet. Scared we might want them. I don’t even want to know these people.
Charlie and Fulton finish up and leave hoping to catch Taz and Maya outside and indulge in a conversation that doesn’t involve their sexuality or deal with rotten jibes like we have to put up with from the rest of our “friends”.
I wait for Banks, I want to keep an eye on Mendoza. If he can hook Adam in a game, he’s certainly not going to worry about beating him up while nobody’s looking. Thank god he’s switching dorms with Guy tomorrow, one less thing for us to worry about.
I find myself hovering outside Orion’s office. I can’t hear everything that’s said, but I do hear Orion asking what happened on the ice.
“Nothing. It was an accident,” Mendoza tells him.
Adam’s not saying a word.
“Is that true?” Orion asks him.
“If Mendoza says it, it must be,” he responds dully.
“Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you kids, and ordinarily, I wouldn’t care, but this is affecting the game. You’re on scholarships. It’s time to put aside your petty differences.”
“I don’t have a problem with anyone,” Adam says clearly. “Maybe you should ask Luis what his problem is.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do!” Coach thunders.
I wander along the hall, the conversation seems to be going around in circles.
Coach must think so too, because I hear his door click only a few seconds later.
“That was your fault, you fag,” I hear Mendoza say venomously.
“And it had nothing to do with you hooking me for no reason.” Adam responds tiredly. I sometimes forget that he lives with that bigot and is probably used to this hatred.
I round the corner on them. I grin at Luis. “Why don’t you start on me for a change? Share some of that hatred that you seem to have in abundance.”
He pales visibly. “Later, Banks,” he promises, trying to duck past me.
I grab his arm. “No. Not later. You want to offload some of your closed-minded ideas. Please, share them with me, but leave Banks alone for awhile!” I slam him against the wall to punctuate my words.
“You even look at him the wrong way and I’ll mess up your face, ok? Now, how about an apology?”
He looks suitably scared but says nothing.
I shake him and he mutters a pathetic “sorry.”
“Dean.” Adam taps me on the shoulder. “Leave him alone. Some people are just born dumb, you can’t change them.”
I grin at Banksie, then let go of Luis. “Have a nice evening,” I tell him as we walk out.
Chapter 3: Fighting the Chill by Victory Thru Tears
I make sure that Fulton and I are the first to leave. I kept my mouth shut while in the locker room, but any more and I would have blown up.
When I saw Luis hook Adam, I wanted to jump out onto the ice and beat him senseless. I’ve never seen Adam like he was right before he went into the penalty box. I tore me apart to see what the Ducks are making him become.
When they started on us in the locker room again, I didn’t know how to stick up for Adam. It’s because I’m supposed to be Captain. I don’t want to be Captain anymore. I can’t be a leader for those insensitive creeps. It doesn’t matter how many games we win (we defeated the Hoover Tigers 6-2), we’re never going to be a team again.
I’m going to talk to Orion tomorrow, and tell him to hand over the job of Captain to someone else. The Ducks aren’t mine any longer.
We join Taz and Maya, both of whom are wearing concerned expressions on their faces. They know enough about hockey to understand what Luis had done to Adam.
“Everything ok?” Maya asks, taking my arm.
I nod, knowing that I’m unable to speak.
“Where are Adam and Portman?” Taz asks.
“They’re coming.” Fulton answers.
We leave the rink area in silence, heading for the dinner hall. I’m glad that the girls are with us, it’s made things much easier. We know which Ducks are on our side, but they still stick together, leaving the Queertet out.
Taz notices my downcast look, and pokes me in the side.
“What?” I grunt.
“Did you use any Irish?”
I give her a tentative smile. “Yeah, I did. I’m not sure if I said it right, though.”
Fulton chuckles. “Yeah, and you didn’t sound half as terrifying as Taz.”
Taz grins. “What can I say? I aim to please.”
The smile fades from my face as we continue on our way. The small moments of laughter are good, but they never make up for all of the miserable times.
Adam pants as he sets down the last box. It’s the day after the game, and he is finally switching rooms with Guy. Fulton is sitting on my bed, already unpacking one of the boxes. Portman’s down the hall, carrying one of Guy’s boxes to his new dorm. Maya and Taz have lost themselves in our closet. I think that at one time they were trying to put Adam’s clothes away, but now there is just lots of giggling coming from that direction. I can hear Guy coming down the hallway, probably to grab the rest of his things.
None of the other Ducks are around. They’re off around campus, having fun, causing trouble, and being, well… Ducks.
Guy saunters into the room, a strange expression on his face. He looks… sad. He motions to Fulton and Adam.
“Hey, can we have a second?” he asks them cautiously.
“Yeah, sure.” My friends give me an odd glance, but comply. Fulton stops for a moment, and comes back. He rummages through the closet and pulls out Taz and Maya. He puts an arm around their shoulders, and leads them out of the room. The door closes.
“I’m surprised you don’t think I’m going to make a move on you.” I shouldn’t have said it. Guy looks hurt.
“Charlie, come on. You know I’m on your side. I hate what they’re doing to you. You don’t deserve it.”
My heart almost stops as the blond boy throws his arms around me.
“Charlie, you’re my best friend. I’m sorry.”
With that, he runs out of the room.
I’m left stunned. Sure, Guy’s always been a great friend to me, definitely one of my best. But with all that’s going on, I’m surprised that he had the courage to do something like that.
The door opens a few moments later, and Adam comes in.
“The others left,” he says quietly.
It’s going to be awkward. Even though we’ve been dating for two years, we’ve never had to live together. I can’t say that I’m not looking forward to it, though. I’ll finally be able to go to sleep in his arms. I’m about to pull him into my embrace when there’s a knock on the door.
Coach Orion steps in.
“You wanted to see me, Conway?”
I had tried to go to his office this morning, but he had been on the phone. Later I had been tied up with moving and everything.
“Uh, yeah, Coach.” I glance at Adam. I haven’t discussed my decision of giving up Captain with him. I don’t know what his reaction would be. I decide that it’s best for him to hear this, and clear my throat.
Before I can speak, Coach Orion starts speaking again.
“Banks, is this all of your stuff? Have you switched rooms with Germaine?”
Adam reluctantly nods. “I couldn’t stay with Luis.”
Coach sighs, and closes his eyes. “I wish you kids could tell me what’s going on.”
Adam and I exchange a look. He doesn’t really mean that. If he knew, he’d flip out worse than the Ducks.
“Coach, I don’t want to be Captain anymore.” The words come tumbling out of my mouth.
His eyes open in surprise. “What, Conway?”
“I can’t be Captain anymore.”
“Why not?” Coach looks genuinely concerned.
“Damnit, there you go with these petty differences again! What is going on??”
Adam’s looking at the ground. I’m not speaking either.
Orion sighs again. “Alright. You won’t be Captain. Are you still going to play?”
I unenthusiastically nod. I’m not giving up on hockey yet, just the Ducks.
Coach turns to Adam. “Banks, would you like to be Captain, then?”
Talk about irony… the Ducks are even worse to Adam than they are to me. Adam shakes his head rapidly.
Coach exhales. I can tell he’s pissed off by lack of understanding. “Well, fine. I’ll just have to make a decision at practice tomorrow, then.”
He storms out of our dorm without another word.
Adam and I have squeezed into my small bed. His head is on top of my shoulder, and I can feel his breath on my skin. He’s been deep asleep for about an hour. I absentmindedly stroke his hair, and kiss his forehead. He makes a small noise, and shifts his position.
Adam opens his eyes, and moves his head up so that it is level with mine.
“Sleep.” He commands.
He sighs, and slowly moves his fingertip over my eyelid, willing it to stay shut. I laugh, and he kisses my nose. He stays close to me, and within five seconds is dead asleep again. My eyes are still closed, but my senses are wide-awake. I find my mind drifting, thinking about the Ducks. Guy’s probably fast asleep in his new dorm, and Luis is content without the ‘pansy.’ Connie’s probably asleep too, although I wish she were dead. I reach the conclusion that all of the Ducks are sleeping. Why do I even care?
Adam sleepily kisses my shoulder, and I am filled with a surge of love for him.
I wonder if Fulton and Portman are doing the same thing right now.
Chapter 4: Sliding Status by Star
Notes: Victory and I did talk about who would support the Queertet and who wouldn’t. Basically, they’re Disney characters, which means that they’re far more accepting than human beings. We decided to choose people who would surprise you. I personally adore Averman and Goldberg, and Victory’s a big fan of Connie’s… Luis is just a bit slimy and smarmy for my tastes, which is why he’s in the haters group. It’s nothing personal, and it’s not based on a single thing from the movies, it was really just luck of the draw.
Portman’s alarm goes off loudly. He reaches over me and hits it hard enough for it to make a crunching noise. Blessed silence reigns for another two minutes until my alarm goes off.
“You’re nearer,” he mumbles sleepily into my ear.
“You’re bigger. It will take you less time to reach it,” I reply.
We have to set both alarms. Neither of us are morning people, and it’s so difficult to get out of bed when we know it’s the only place in the entire school that’s safe from the narrow-mindedness and downright cattiness of the people we used to consider our friends.
To my surprise, he obligingly clambers over me towards the alarm, however, he takes the covers, making sure that I get up too.
“I don’t like you anymore,” I mutter, reluctantly getting up.
“Sure you do,” he responds cheerily. “I’m wonderful. So wonderful that you can have the first shower.”
I later find out this was just an excuse so he could go back to bed for another few minutes.
“How do you think the newlyweds are doing?” He asks, as we walk down to the rink for practice. I almost like the school this time in the morning. It’s empty save for the few athletes that are duty bound to be up so early.
I grin at his nickname for Adam and Charlie. I expect all the Ducks are having the same conversation this morning, but probably without the affection that we’re using. I’m convinced that us coming out was the best thing to happen to them, they never lack for conversation now. They just get spiteful about us.
“It probably is a bit awkward for them. It was for us at first,” I say. “Still, better some awkwardness that living with Mendoza. What’s his problem? He seems to be taking this far too personally.”
“Closet case?” he suggests with a grin.
“Luis? No. Head case is more like it.”
“Some people are just born dumb, and you can’t change them. That’s what Banks said.”
“He’s probably right,” I agree with a sigh, realizing we’re outside the locker rooms. “Oh well, time to face the angry mob.”
“Let’s piss them off,” he says.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
He takes my hand. I smile, this will certainly give them something to talk about. It might get them to lay off Banks a bit more too.
The room falls silent as we walk in, and I’m glad that Orion isn’t in there yet. Charlie and Adam grin at us, it’s nice to give them a smile every once in awhile.
Everyone stares at us like we’ve grown horns and a devil’s tail. Guy smiles, the only other reactions are from Connie and Luis, who look as if they’re literally going to be sick.
Practice is hard. Coach keeps pushing us to our limits, trying to bond us back together with good playing. It’s never going to work.
Not with Luis flattening Banks every chance he gets. Surely Orion’s going to point out that Luis should learn to stop first and then enhance his enforcer skills.
Orion calls me in and sends Connie out to replace me. I watch as she goes straight for Banks, making sure his wrist gets trapped between her stick and the boards as she crashes into him.
Nice one, Connie. Don’t just be nasty. Be spiteful. Be really petty. At this rate Banks isn’t going to be able to play… then again, that may well be her intention.
Banks hits the ground and doesn’t move immediately.
I glance at Charlie who’s sitting next to me, he looks as outraged as I am, but there’s nothing we can do. It was an “accident.” There have been a lot of “accidents” befalling Charlie and Adam over the past two weeks.
It just goes to show how pathetic they are, they don’t dare mess with me or Portman directly, but they’re happy to torment the other half of the Queertet.
I notice for the first time that Charlie’s not wearing the Captain’s C. I can’t say I blame him.
Portman skates over to Banks who’s still not getting up and offers him his hand. Averman, naturally, can’t let that slide without a wolf whistle. He hauls Adam to his feet and helps him back over to the bench. Orion is exhibiting casual concern by this point.
“Conway, get out there and replace him!” Orion orders.
Charlie reluctantly skates off after touching Adam’s shoulder supportively.
Adam takes a seat next to me and eases his glove off.
“You ok?” I ask him. It’s a stupid question, he’s so pale he’s almost transparent.
He nods slightly. “I’ll be fine. I’d be better if they lay of my wrist.”
It gets really rough on the ice. Charlie and Portman are now gunning for Connie and Luis, it’s entirely personal and I can see Orion’s losing patience.
He finally calls it a day when Luis gets knocked out. Literally. I don’t think he was aiming for Portman, it was just his bad skating. Anyway, Luis’s speed, combined with Portman’s strength really walloped him into the boards.
He was out cold for two minutes. I have to say, it’s the best practice I’ve had for a couple of weeks.
We’re getting changed out of our gear when Orion strides in. He never just walks, he strides; I’m convinced he was in the army before he decided hockey was his thing.
“Team, I have some news,” he announces. I glance around. Charlie and Adam are the only ones who don’t look interested.
“Conway has decided to step down from his position as captain.”
I feel sick as I see Goldberg and Averman exchange a high five.
“And I’m pleased to note that over the past few days one person has truly stood out as having leadership qualities.”
He pauses dramatically. “Your new captain is Connie Moreau.”
I exchange looks with the rest of the Queertet. This is not good at all.
Chapter 5: Cold Front by Victory Thru Tears
Connie had already told me about Coach’s choice to make her Captain. He had talked to her the night before, and she had rushed over to tell me.
I can’t say that I’m thrilled, though.
Coach thinks she’s been displaying good leadership qualities. I wonder if he’d still think that if he knew that the only leading she was doing was in the campaign against the Queertet.
I don’t have a problem with it. They’re the same people.
Also, I’ve known for a while. Since last year’s Ducks Christmas party, actually, by the expression that Adam had on his face when he opened Charlie’s gift, one could just tell.
Yeah, that and I saw them making out later that night.
I didn’t tell anyone for a few reasons: (a) It was none of my business; (b) I knew the Ducks would react the way they did; and (c) I knew they weren’t ready for the world to find out. They’re two of the greatest friends I’ve ever had and I didn’t want them mad at me.
Connie turns to me, her face glowing as Coach Orion leaves the room after making his announcement. I’m almost repulsed by her look. That’s not good. I’ve been dating her for four years, had a crush on her for six, and known her for eight. I shouldn’t be repulsed. I’m supposed to love her.
Our relationship has been on rocky terms since the dance. She’s always told me that she can’t stand gay people, but I thought she’d be able to tolerate our friends. Every time I stick up for them she gets a little bit madder at me. Every time she gets a little bit madder at me, she lashes out at them even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
She stands up, her small frame seeming much bigger to me at that moment.
“Well, as first act as your Captain, I’m ordering that the Queertet find somewhere else to change. We don’t want to see them go at each other.”
I see Fulton and Portman roll their eyes at each other, but Charlie actually looks hurt. One would think that he’d get used to the abuse, but I’m sure it’s not that easy.
“Whatever you say, Captain.” Charlie grabs his things, and heads to the other side of the locker room. The other three follow him.
I can’t take this. I pick up my street clothes, and follow them. There’s a rustling behind me. Julie and Russ are following.
The seven of us start to change, our backs to each other. I can hear Luis making lurid comments about Russ, but not a word is said about me. I can only imagine how mad Connie is.
People filter out of the locker room until only the Queertet, Julie, and I are left. Russ has made a quick exit to be with Ken and Dwayne; he knows they won’t start ragging on him.
I hear a loud crashing noise and see that Charlie has slammed his mask against the lockers. His sobs are obvious from the heaving of his shoulders.
I’m terrified. I’ve never seen Charlie get like this. Adam is trying to calm him down. It looks as if I’m going to witness my first real Charlie/Adam moment.
Adam has his arms around his boyfriend and is shushing him quietly. Fulton clears his throat, and I realize that I’m staring.
“Sorry,” I mutter, looking away.
Charlie settles down, and finishes getting dressed. Banks and the Bash Brothers are waiting, already fully clothed.
“You’re mine too, Guy.” Charlie gives me a grateful smile before the Queertet leaves the locker room.
I don’t know how, but I know that he was talking about what I had said yesterday. I feel myself blush as the door closes.
Julie is staring at me thoughtfully.
“I’m proud of you,” she says. “It takes guts to stand up to Connie… and we’re in the toughest positions as the best friend and the boyfriend.”
“Yeah, but I don’t know how much longer I can take it,” I confide in her. “It’s getting tougher to even look at her, as pretty as she is. Her inside is just rotten.”
“You don’t have to live with her.” Julie puts her bag over her shoulder, and we start to walk out together.
“How’s Scooter?” I ask, wondering how she’s doing with her own boyfriend.
She shrugs. “Don’t know.”
I glance at her with interest.
“I guess it’s just once a Varsity goon, always a Varsity goon.” She chuckles bitterly. “I thought he was different.”
I don’t want to tread on shaky ground, so I decide to leave it as it is. We part after leaving the ice rink, and I’m left alone with my thoughts.
Questions are flowing through my mind.
Should I break up with Connie?
Do I want the Ducks to separate?
How can I prove my loyalty to Charlie and Adam without getting on the others’ bad side?
I sigh as I reach my new dorm room. I open the door, and am greeted with a venomous look from Luis.
“Look, it’s the recent addition to the Queertet. Are we going to have to start calling you guys the Queertuplets now?”
I throw my bag down in silence, and retreat to the other side of the room, armed with a CD player and a good book.
It’s pathetic that I have to lock myself into the bathroom to be able to get some peace.
Chapter 6: Dry Ice by Star
Notes: We decided we needed a bit of light relief here.
I carefully write out an Irish word on a piece of paper, making sure I spell it the way it sounds rather than the way it’s spelt, and pass it to Charlie.
He passes the note back after jotting something down in his terrible handwriting.
What does it mean?
I smile and write an answer.
I would be expelled if I got caught passing a note with the translation on it! Essentially, it sums up your thoughts on Connie perfectly.
He smiles back. Who’d have thought? One day I’m stabbing him with a pin, the next we’re friends. Two weeks later and we sit together in all the classes we share and pass notes.
I’m not saying we don’t fight. We do. Constantly. Maya and Adam get quite tired of it, although the Bash Brothers find it entertaining. It’s just the malicious intent is gone.
He passes the note back.
I think I’m going to over-use this word.
I grin at him, thinking back to the first time he tried to use Irish.
We were fighting over who got to use Banksie’s red biro—like I said, we fight. Naturally, neither of us really cared about the outcome, but it seemed to be a good way for Charlie to let off steam. Eventually he hurled a word back at me that I’d been over-using during the fight. I was so stunned I collapsed on the floor laughing my head off. He tentatively asked me to teach him some more.
I carefully write out another good phrase. I’m sure my parents would be so proud of my abuse of the Irish language.
guh GREH-muh nuh GRAWN-yoh-guh KYA-luhg-roo-nuh-khuh duh WAHL FA-ruh-guh.
Charlie raises his eyebrows at the length. I then pass him the translation and am rewarded with the biggest snort of laughter I’ve heard from him in weeks.
He turns an alarming shade of purple as he tries to hide his mirth. I can’t look at him without losing it too. It wasn’t that funny, but looking at Charlie with tears streaming down his face I can’t stop myself from laughing either.
Mr. Lawson is not at all interested in Charlie’s laughing fit, because Charlie is a jock, and allowed to do what he likes. He may well be interested in mine though. I calm myself, trying not to look at Charlie. I look straight ahead and try to ignore the spluttering noises.
Every time I catch his eye we both snort with laughter.
We eventually get out of class without detention thanks to Charlie being a jock. As we’re leaving he mutters, “May the malevolent hedgehogs gnaw at your manly parts?”
I grin at him. “I was running out of swearwords.”
“Thank you, Taz.” He self-consciously puts his arm around me. “I really needed to laugh.”
“That’s ok. I was deeply impressed by that snort.”
“Oy! Conway, hands off!”
We look around and see Maya approaching. “She’s mine. You missed your chance with her,” she teases.
“I know. I was too busy being stabbed, tripped over, stomped on and cursed in Irish to really appreciate her charms.”
“Those are her charms,” she points out, taking my hand. “Adam’s on his way. He’s just stopping at his locker.”
“Why don’t you try out your new phrase on Maya?” I suggest.
Charlie obediently reads the words from the note I passed earlier, I correct his pronunciation at times, but really he’s a very good learner.
She blinks several times then decides, “I really don’t want to know what you just said.”
Maya and I have only one class together, also in that class are Connie, Dwayne, Adam and Fulton. A perfect audience. Well, Connie’s a perfect target. She’s been rotten to Charlie and Adam, she’s worse than ever now she’s captain. At first she was just a bitch, now she’s a bitch with power.
To be honest, I’m stunned that someone like her hasn’t spread the word around. The only reason I can think of why she hasn’t is she’s scared it will come back on her, that people will think she’s gay.
Maya and I excuse ourselves and leave the Queertet, as they are now called, to finish their lunch.
Maya pauses, then turns back to them. “We were with you for the entire lunch hour,” she says.
They all exchange a look, then nod, wondering what we’ve got planned. I just wish Portman and Charlie were in our class. They’d really enjoy this.
We get to our classroom before lunch is over and go straight to Connie’s seat. I open my bag and hand Maya the glue I’ve liberated from the Art Department. It’s wonderful stuff, clear—almost invisible, it takes quite a while to form a bond, but when it does only acid will remove it.
I’m already getting giggly, and Maya’s not exactly calm. If we get caught this means big trouble. Possibly a suspension, I’m not sure. It’s going to be worth it to see the lads smile though.
Maya and I talked it over. The guys seem really depressed—with good reason, and it’s our duty to cheer them up.
We finish up and disappear. We’re going to turn up a few minutes late, just to make sure that we can’t be placed at the scene of the crime. We’ve just got to get rid of the glue in case there’s a bag search. I’d really love to ditch it in Connie’s bag just to cause confusion, but she hates us with a fiery passion and we’d never get close enough.
We settle for putting it in one of the trash cans outside.
When we arrive in class muttering apologies, Connie’s already at her seat. I daren’t look at Maya, I might well die laughing.
Fulton and Adam spend the entire hour giving us quizzical looks. I make sure I don’t look at anyone. If I start giggling it will be far too obvious. Instead I gaze out of the window, when I catch sight of a late-season butterfly I’m able to forget where I am and why I keep laughing.
I don’t know what it is about butterflies that I love so much. I have no interest in studying the creatures, I don’t know any of the names of the species in English let alone Latin. I just stare at them. They’re perfect.
I get yelled at for not paying attention. I seem to be giving off the aura of an everyday-garden-variety-Taz with no tricks up her sleeve.
Finally the bell rings and we’re able to leave. I catch Fulton’s eye and nod towards Connie. Maya must have already tipped off Adam because he’s staring at her too.
As we’re getting up Maya “accidentally” spills her pens across the floor, giving all four of us a good reason to stay in the classroom.
We all start picking up pens and pencils, keeping an eye on Connie as she tries to get up. As she stands, the chair comes with her.
Several people laugh at her, and we join them, making sure we’re not the first to laugh.
She tries again and once more the chair follows her. One of her friends walks over to her and tries to assist. She holds the chair down as Connie once again tries to stand.
The whole class, including the teacher is staring at her now. There are tears of laughter pouring down Maya’s face. That does it for me. I slump against a wall and laugh myself stupid.
Finally three people hold the chair down and two people try to drag Connie away from it. With a loud ripping sound she drags herself free, leaving the seat of her trousers behind, and showing her silky heart-covered undies to the world.
The whole class cracks up and the teacher, Ms. Jansen, looks like she’s going to explode.
“Quiet!” she orders. “Everyone be quiet or you’re all on detention!”
Connie realizes that she’s showing her panties to the world and quickly leans against a wall. I can’t stop laughing, tears are running down my face and my stomach actually hurts.
Ms. Jansen is going to kill us all in a minute. Her face has turned bright red and there’s a vein throbbing in her temple. “I want whoever did this to own up right now or everyone’s on detention for a week!”
The class falls deathly silent.
Ms. Jansen turns to Connie. “You can go now.”
Connie frowns. “I… uh… can’t,” she says, not moving away from the wall.
Dwayne walks over and offers her his jacket to wrap around her waist. She smiles sweetly at him, then glares at Fulton and Adam.
“Who did this?” Ms. Jansen turns back to the rest of us.
Surprisingly Dwayne speaks up. “I saw Riley and Cole in here during lunch.”
Maya and I exchange a look.
“Why would they do this?” Ms. Jansen explodes at him.
Dwayne takes a nervous step back. “Varsity vs Ducks rivalry. Connie’s just been made captain,” he supplies.
Could this be more perfect? I give Maya another look, she looks stunned too.
Ms. Jansen reluctantly lets us leave, threatening to report the incident to the Dean, and promising us she will get to the bottom of it.
The four of us walk quickly to the nearest dorm where we can laugh in private. On the way there, as we pass Connie Maya can’t resist giving the jacket around Connie’s waist a tug.
We run off, leaving Connie with her kickers on show to the entire school.
Chapter 7: Preparing for the Storm by Star
Notes: Like Victory Thru Tears said, thanks for the reviews everyone. It means a lot to us. And thanks for liking Taz and Maya, we know that Mary Sues aren’t always popular.
Without warning, the Thanksgiving break is upon us. I guess we’ve all been so preoccupied recently none of us saw it coming. Taz and I do realize how easy we have it compared to how the Queertet is faring, which is why we spend a lot of time with them letting them know that we’re here for them. We both know it’s not the same. It still hurts that kids they’ve known since they were tiny won’t talk to them.
The dorms are buzzing with excited laughter and constant chatter. It always gets like this. Taz has this frantic, almost insane, expression on her face, and is apt to keep picking things up and putting them down again.
She’s always like this before going home, but this time, she’s also a little scared. We all are. Taz and I are going to tell our parents about us, we’ve just decided that now is the time. By strange coincidence, the Queertet have reached the same decision… although I have a sneaking suspicion that Connie may have threatened to tell their parents and they’re beating her to the post.
By the time that Taz has rearranged (read: knocked over) her art supplies for the seventh time I decide that I’m going to take her outside to say goodbye to everyone. Our room can’t survive this kind of abuse.
We’ve already said goodbye to each other, well, the kind of goodbye we can’t say in front of all those teachers, parents and students.
We’re a few feet from the Queertet when Taz spots Charlie. She takes off at a run and hurls herself into his arms. I snort at the surprised look on his face. She’s found out there are rumors about herself and Charlie, so Taz being Taz, she’s playing up to them, mainly to annoy Linda who still can’t work out if, in her words, “the gay thing was just a cover so he could date someone else.”
I walk over and give Adam a more platonic hug. He nods towards our respective other halves who are now hurling Irish at each other. “And she was worried that you and I would get it on?” he jokes.
“She’s just heard the rumors,” I tell him as we walk over to them.
I slide my arms around her waist and gently pull her away. “You’re not straightening out on me, are you?” I tease.
“Thinking about it,” she jokes back.
Charlie looks terrified and hides behind Adam, while the Bash Brothers look on in amusement.
“Bye girls!” Luis calls with mock cheer as he walks past. Since this whole episode, I’ve learnt the names of the team. Luis pauses and looks at Taz and I. “And goodbye… well, whatever the hell you two are.”
“I’ll have you know that men like you are the reason for women like us!” I snap back. Taz adds a word that sounds a lot like “courier” only it starts with a G. Charlie smiles, so I guess he knows what it means.
The guys have given up responding to the taunts, but Taz and I still do.
Luis’s comment has brought us all down, and to be honest, everyone looks terrified once more.
Taz reaches inside her pocket and comes out with a small notepad. I know what it is, she’s spent the past week working on it, she even went so far as to email a few of her old friends in Ireland. The front cover has the words “A Gutter-Mind’s Guide to Irish” on, and she’s drawn a small sketch of Connie glued to her seat for entertainment value. She hands it to Charlie, with the words, “I thought this might help.”
Charlie looks quite touched and highly amused. It’s hard to believe that the two of them spent the entire night of the dance trying to kill each other. He steals her from me again for another hug. Linda chooses to walk past at this moment and gives them a death glare.
It’s hugs all round before we go our separate ways. The Bash Brothers pick myself and Taz up when they hug us, deciding that it’s bad for their backs to lean down a so far to hug a couple of oompa lumpas like us.
I guess it’s now time to go and face the music.
Chapter 8: Break the Ice by Victory Thru Tears
Author’s Note: Before I commence with the angst and confusion, I would like to take a minute to thank Iz, Saturniia, and Dana. You three have been the greatest reviewers ever… I went through Smoke and what we have of Snow so far, and all of you have reviewed more than anyone else. It’s really great to know that we have such avid readers, and thank you so much for your feedback. Star and I really love it.
Oh yeah, that, and I forgot to add in Chapter 5 that Guy’s going to be a slightly bigger character from now on, and will have some chapters from his POV
I’m kind of disappointed that Mom couldn’t pick me up from the bus station. Eden Hall’s not far away from Minneapolis at all, and it was a short ride… but the walk home is a little cold. And lonely, definitely lonely. I can’t shake off the feeling that something’s going to happen this weekend. I wish Adam and I could have found a way to spend it together.
It’s Wednesday night. Mom and I are going to order Chinese food, just like we always do the night before Thanksgiving. Then on Thursday Mom complains about all of the leftovers in the fridge from both days. I think I should have come home sooner, but I didn’t want to leave my fellow queers, I guess. Even if the Ducks make life hell for us, it’s nice to be part of a compact group like the Queertet.
I don’t know why I keep calling us that. It is not supposed to be a nice nickname. But we’ve all gotten used to it by now.
This weekend is going to be hell. We’d reached the decision that we’re all going to come out this holiday. We’re all sick of pretending.
I don’t know how Mom is going to react. Honestly, I think she already knows, but that isn’t going to make it any easier for the words “Mom, I’m gay,” to come out of my mouth.
I shuffle through my pockets for my keys as I stand outside of the apartment door. The heat feels good, especially on my cold ears. Late November in Minnesota isn’t pleasant.
I open the door to find my mother sitting on the couch, a big smile on her face. She gets up as I walk through the door.
“Welcome home sweetie.” She kisses me on the cheek. “I’m so sorry that I couldn’t pick you up… I just got a little bit tied up.”
“It’s ok, Mom.”
I really don’t mind. If anything, I think it’s better. Gas isn’t cheap, and now that she’s on her own again, it’s good that she saves every penny that she can.
She divorced Justin at the beginning of the year. That was the best day of my life, even better than any moment I’ve shared with Adam. It’s not that Justin is a jerk; it’s just that… he and Mom didn’t fit together. Maybe I only think that because I wish she hadn’t broken up with Coach Bombay. I don’t know what happened with the two of them, and I know that it’s not my business. That doesn’t stop my curiosity, though. I’ll probably try to find out when I’m a little older.
“Did you order the food yet?” I ask, setting my bag down in the living room.
“Pick that up and take it to your bedroom.” Ugh, already reverting into typical Mom mode. “Yes. General Tso’s chicken and pork fried rice?”
I grin as I pick up my bag. “Always.”
I haven’t been in my room for awhile. I hadn’t come back home on weekends lately because of games. I look around the walls, which basically hold my life. Pictures of the Ducks are everywhere, even dating back to when we were District 5.
I always stop and think to myself—what would Jesse say about what’s going on with the Ducks now? I should give him a call, I know he’s still in town. He didn’t go to Eden Hall because he didn’t want to be “stuck with a bunch of Cake-eaters.” Adam was a little hurt at that, but he got over it quickly. Both of us really miss him.
There’s a new picture hanging on the wall next to my class picture from Eden Hall. It must have been taken right after our victory over Varsity. We Ducks are wearing huge grins on our faces, and our arms are around each other. Adam’s on one side of me, and my other arm is around Connie. I snort to myself. Just typical.
Mom must have put that one up while I was gone. I’ll probably take it down later, after she’s forgotten about it.
I hear her come into the room behind me. She sits on my bed, and pulls me next to her.
“So how’s my boy?” she asks, ruffling my hair.
Mom and I are close. We haven’t talked a lot lately, probably because I’ve been at school.
I shrug. Mom will probably squeeze the whole story out of me later, but I’m not giving in just yet.
“Oh come on. No stories from school? I’m sure you’ve got something to tell me. Pull any more pranks with the Ducks? How’s that girl I saw you with awhile ago?”
Oh, great. Linda. I shrug again.
“You two still dating?” Mom tilts my chin in her direction, a small smile on her face.
I shake my head. Her smile turns to a look of concern.
“You want to talk about it, honey?”
“Nope.” I say it with enough finality that Mom lets go of my face.
We sit in silence uncomfortably. Come on, Conway… this is the time… tell her about Adam…
My ears perk up as I hear the front door open.
“Hello, anyone home? I’ve got the food…”
I know that voice. It can’t be… Mom wouldn’t have…
Coach Bombay peeks his head around the doorway into my room. “Oh, hey Charlie! I was hoping you’d be back. I didn’t want to have to go searching for you outside.”
I grin at my mother, who is wearing a shy smile. I stand up and hug my old coach, almost making him drop the food that he is holding in his hand.
“Hey, whoa Charlie!” He sets the bag down, and puts his arms around me. “Good to see you too.”
Dinner’s a little bit awkward. I know Mom’s told Coach about my shocking silence about school. Usually I can’t shut up. They’re both giving me occasional glances but I just concentrate on my food.
“So, Charlie.” Coach is breaking the silence for the first time since the meal started.
Why do I still refer to him as Coach? He’s not my coach anymore. From now on, he’s just going to be Bombay.
“How are the Ducks? Have you guys gotten into any more trouble?”
Of course. What else could he talk about except his precious Ducks? Oh, if only he knew the half of it…
“Not really.” The answer is more of a grunt than a response.
He exchanges another look with my mother.
“Everything ok with you guys?” he tries again.
“Couldn’t be better.”
He sighs, and sets down his fork. “Charlie, I don’t like it when you lie to me. And you could at least try to hide whatever it is a little bit more around Coach Orion.”
I look up in surprise.
“Yes, of course I’ve talked to Ted. A lot has obviously been going on. He told me that you aren’t captain anymore, and Connie is now. He also told me that Adam’s switched rooms with Guy. And he mentioned something about a division in the Ducks, and that some of you seem to be gunning for each other in practice.”
Mom doesn’t seem surprised by any of this at all. Coach… I mean, Bombay has probably talked to her a lot about it.
“Yeah, so?” My tone is harsher than I intended.
“I just want to know what’s going on. You’ve known me for a long time, and you know you can trust me.”
“And me,” Mom speaks up. “Charlie, I love you.”
Oh, hell. They just have to pull this one on me. The sad part is that I fall for it every time. I guess I can tell them something, can’t I? I sigh.
“The Ducks are just having internal problems.”
“Like…?” Of course Bombay won’t let it rest at that.
“Some of them are a little bit more bigoted than we had thought, and it bothers us.” Yeah, that’s good… doesn’t tell them too much, but still gives them a legitimate idea of what’s going on. I reach for my Coke and take a sip.
“Does this have anything to do with you and Adam?” Coach’s voice is soft.
I cough, and Coke ends up all over my lap. Once I’m finished choking, I stare at him.
“What?” He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. Please god. He doesn’t know.
“Honey, it’s ok.” Mom is already beside me with a napkin, cleaning up the mess I’ve made on the floor. I know she’s not referring to the spilt Coke.
“Excuse me.” My chair makes a grinding noise against the hardwood floor as I scoot back and leave the kitchen.
As soon as I’m in my room I pick up the phone, dialing the number for Adam’s home in Edina.
I let out a string of cuss words.
I hit the redial button.
I start to lapse into Irish. God, I’m turning into Taz.
“What language is that?”
I spin around. I didn’t even notice Bombay and my mother behind me. I slam the phone down and look around the room… no way to escape besides the window.
“Charlie, please stop. It’s alright. We know, and we understand.” Mom is walking towards me, arms outstretched.
“How the hell do you know?”
“I’ve coached you for years. I know you through and through, and I know Adam almost as well.” Coach Bombay moves to hug both of us at the same time. “You two are teenage boys, and teenage boys are never good at hiding their feelings.”
Have I just come out? It’s that easy? My god, I’ve only been home two hours. I didn’t expect for everything to be told until at least tomorrow.
“I love you guys.” It feels as if a gigantic weight has been taken off of my shoulders.
I can’t believe that I’m not crying. I’ve been doing so much of it lately, one would think that I’d have no problem right now. I can’t believe this. I’m out of the closet. Finally, no more hiding or pretending.
I’ve gotta call Banksie.
Chapter 9: Avalanche by Victory Thru Tears
Author’s Note: I used Aqua Lion’s idea that all of the old Hawks went to Blake. It’s not a big deal or anything, I think there are only a couple lines about it in here, but I wanted to just let her know that I used it. Thanks.
I lay on my bed, watching the Vikings battle with the Packers. Upon Mother Dearest’s orders, I’m dressed in nice clothes, and trying not to wrinkle them. I’ve spent all day downstairs helping her in the kitchen, and listening to her tell me that I should think of a career in cooking if hockey falls through. She doesn’t like the violence of the game at all, and I know she’s glad that my brother Danny gave it up for a career in law.
The Queertet and the girls had made the decision to come out to our parents this holiday.
Do you think I am going to go through with it?
Not with my brother, or my father, or even my mother. They’d completely flip out, and my older sibling’d probably beat me senseless.
“Adam, sweetie, come on down!” I hear Mom calling even over the noise of the TV.
I shut it off. Oh well, I don’t really like football, and Minnesota was losing anyway. I slide off of my bed, and into the hallway.
“Come on, Addie honey, time for eatsies.”
I sigh, and roll my eyes at my eighteen-year-old brother. “Shut up, Daniel.”
“Sorry, Princess. Wouldn’t want to get your sweet Mommy mad at me.” He shoves me down the stairs.
I fall down the first few, but catch myself on the railing. I quickly run down the rest of the way, and into the dining room. My mother and father are already sitting at the table across from each other. I take my seat. Usually there are more Bankses around for Thanksgiving, but my grandparents just moved to Florida, and all of our relatives are down there with them.
Daniel enters the room and sits across from me. He gives me a smile, and I’m faintly reminded of Luis.
No. He doesn’t know about me and Charlie. He’s not after me because I’m gay, he’s after me because he loves to beat me up. Ok. Glad I’ve established that with myself.
We say grace before starting our meal.
Conversation centers around Danny, who is in his freshman year at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis right now. After we’ve heard a sufficient amount about his fraternity and his excellent decision about giving up hockey (I know it’s just a jab at me), Dad turns to me.
“So Adam, how are you liking Eden Hall? Are you glad that you went there instead of Blake?”
I nod. Because of the scholarship, my parents allowed me to go to Eden Hall. I probably would have been able to go there anyway, because money is no object for the Banks family. The private school in our area, though, and where all of my old Hawk friends went, is Blake.
“I talked to the Dean the other day. He told me about the award that you got for outstanding athletic achievement. Did you bring it home?”
Another nod. My dad is pretty good friends with the Dean of Eden Hall, and he undoubtedly calls him to check up on me once a week.
“He mentioned you had a date to the presentation.” My mom has a small smile on her face. I know she really wants to discuss things like girls with me, but it looks like that won’t exactly happen in my life.
“Yeah, I went with this girl named Maya. She’s really sweet.” Hey, it’s all true.
“Are you two dating?”
“Oh, why not?” Yup, Mom’s on a roll.
“I, um… I’m just not ready for a girlfriend.” When in doubt, always B.S.
“Yeah, but you sure are ready for a boyfriend.” Daniel snorts into his turkey.
The three of us look up and stare at him, different expressions on our faces. Mom is scolding, I’m scared, and Dad is surprised.
“Now Daniel, stop.” Mom is the first to speak.
“Oh, come on, Mom. You know Adam’s always porkin’ on other guys.”
I can feel the blood draining out of my face.
“Daniel.” My father speaks in a warning tone.
“I’m being serious. Come on, Adam, tell them!” Danny looks up at me, a malicious gleam in his eyes.
I shake my head and continue to push the stuffing around my plate.
“Tell them, Adam, tell them!” I feel something wet hit my face. I raise my hand just to get hit again. Danny is flinging mashed potatoes at me.
“Daniel, you stop right now!” He’s never going to listen to Mom. He hasn’t in the past, why would he now?
I scoot back away from the table, but the potatoes keep coming. Under any other circumstances, this would be funny. I’m almost cowering against the wall, waiting for the assault, both verbal and physical, to stop.
“Come on, you fuckin’ fag, tell them how you like get your little Ducks in the locker room!” He’s now picking up everything on his plate and throwing it at me.
“Daniel!” My father is about to stride in his direction and stop him.
“Daniel.” My mother is covering her face with her napkin, on the verge of tears.
“Fag, fag, fag, fag, fag, fag—”
“ALRIGHT, I’M GAY!”
It’s hard to believe that my voice can be so loud. Everyone stops, even Danny.
“Yeah, that’s right. I’m gay. I’m a fag. A flamer, a queer, and whatever else you want to call me. I’ve been dating my best friend for two years. I’m in love with him. And… and…”
No other words are coming out. I’ve told them, which is more than I had intended on doing in the first place. I turn and run out of the house, leaving them in shocked silence.
I dial the numbers, and carefully hold the receiver up to my ear. I curse silently, my whole face is already swollen. The blood on my lip is drying, and I can feel the black eye forming. My wrist hurts most of all, though.
After leaving my family at the dinner table, I had gone down to the pond in our backyard to skate off my feelings. I had nowhere else to go. Danny had come a few minutes later. At first I was naïve enough to think that he might be coming with feelings of consolation. He didn’t say a word, just beat the hell out of me. Right before he left he pushed me down, and I landed on my wrist in an attempt to catch myself.
My mom and dad are yelling right outside of my doorway. I’m not even listening to them anymore. At first he was blaming her for this, and she was blaming him. I got tired of hearing them talk in circles.
Somebody finally picks up on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” It’s a male voice, and it’s not Charlie’s.
“Coach Bombay?” Even my voice sounds weird, probably from Danny hitting so hard.
“Yes, is this Adam?”
“Uh-huh. Is Charlie there?”
“Of course. Hold on a minute.”
I can hear laughter in the background. God, I wish I was there with him right now.
“Banksie?” Charlie’s on the phone in an instant.
“Yeah. It’s me. Hi. Yeah.”
“What’s wrong? What’s the yelling in the background?” Leave it to Charlie to notice right away.
“I told them. They’re not happy. Did you tell them?”
“Yeah… I did…” Yup, I figured that Casey would take it quite well. I can tell that Charlie feels bad.
“Adam, are you ok? Your dad didn’t… you know…”
“No. He never does.”
Silence from me. There’s some cell in my brain or something that won’t allow me to lie to Charlie. So, I bargain for silence.
“Adam, did Danny hurt you?”
I nod. What kind of dumbass am I, he can’t see me nodding. “Yeah.”
“You’re coming here tomorrow.” It’s definitely a command.
I can’t do anything but agree. “Ok.”
“We’ll pick you up in the morning.”
After a couple more details in our plan are made and a few I love you’s are tossed around, I hang up with my boyfriend.
It’s three a.m. They’ve finally stopped arguing. I know I still won’t be able to sleep, though.
My heart nearly stops as the door opens. I then realize that it had been locked, and the only one with a key is Dad. This isn’t much comfort. He won’t raise a hand to me, but I try to prepare myself for verbal abuse.
He sits on my bed. I know he can’t tell if I’m awake or not. He moves his hand and I flinch. He rests it on my head, softly stroking my hair. He leans forward, and kisses my forehead.
Is this Dad? Or is some strange man inside of my house?
“Adam. I love you.”
He hasn’t said those words to me in years. I sit up, letting him know that I’m awake.
“You’re my son, and that’s all that matters. I’ve learnt the hard way how much it hurts you when I try to control your life, trying to make you live my life. If this is really what you want, I can only stand by you and wish you and your boyfriend the best of luck.”
“It’s Charlie, Dad.” I whisper.
“You and Charlie, then.” He pulls me into a hug. “Now get some sleep, it’s late. Don’t worry about Danny, your mother and I will make sure that he doesn’t hurt you anymore.”
He exits the room, locking the door again behind him. I’m left wondering if it was all a dream.
I hear their soft voices talking through the wall, and for once I’m grateful for my family.
I’d better call Charlie in the morning and tell him not to pick me up.
Chapter 10: Out in the Cold by Star
“Dean? Fulton’s on the phone for you.” My Mom gives me a grin and I drag my overfed self to the phone.
“Hey, man, what’s up?” I say cheerfully.
“How’s it going for you?” he asks in return. The connection is really weak, there’s lots of background noise.
I grin, I can’t wait to tell him how good things are. “How’s it going? It’s great. I told them. My Mom and I have spent the afternoon giving guys marks out of ten in all the movies that have been on. My Dad is still in the process of working out exactly how much money he has saved by having a gay son, no wedding, therefore no divorce, no grandchildren…”
I hear Fulton clear his throat.
“Chill out, you get a ten. The nearest to that was that guy from Cruel Intentions he got a seven.” I tell him with a grin.
“So your parents are totally ok with it?” He sounds unsure, and kinda quiet.
“Yeah, she’s cool…” I hear a babble in the background, it sounds kind of like the lunchroom at school… except the lunchroom doesn’t announce times for… trains? “Where are you calling from?”
He clears his throat again and replies in a really low voice. “Union Station.”
I’m stunned and have to clarify. “As in, in Chicago?”
“I’ll be right there,” I tell him. “Stay where you are.”
“I can get a cab,” he says softly.
“And pay three times more than you should because it’s holidays? No, we’ll be there soon.”
We say goodbye and hang up. I wander into the living room. “Mom, you’ve not had too much wine to drive, have you?”
She gives me an odd look.
My Mom had waited in the car while I scoured the station for him. When I found him he looked awful, his eyes were bloodshot, he was pale and the worst was that he was covered in bruises. I wanted to ask about them, but he told me not to ask.
“I will ask,” I had responded. “Just not now.”
And now we’re sitting in my room, I’m asking.
I get the worst possible reaction. His face crumples and he starts to cry. I take him in my arms and rock him. I feel awful, so useless like I can’t help him.
Eventually he calms a little. I want to ask what happened, but it’s just such a stupid question. They obviously didn’t react in quite the same way as my parents.
“Mr. and Mrs. Reed no longer have a son named Fulton. He’s dead,” he tells me.
“What?” Maybe I had envisioned a big fight, but to disown him?
“As far as they’re concerned I don’t exist.” He wipes his eyes. “They gave me two hundred dollars, and told me to have a nice life… well, except they didn’t say ‘have a nice life’. They told me not to come crawling back to them when I was struck down with AIDS.” He starts to cry again.
I swear, using a word that would make even Taz blush. I stroke his back, not knowing what to say or do. I feel so helpless. “Maybe they’ll calm down,” I say, but can’t help thinking about what Banks said about some people being born dumb and they won’t change.
He looks at me, his face mottled with bruises and shakes his head slowly.
I run my fingers over his swollen face. “They did this to you.” It’s not a question, it’s an expression of disgust. How could someone do this to their own son? I thought there was no-one I hated more than Connie, that pales in comparison to this.
“My Dad did,” he admits. “My Mom did all the yelling.”
I know his parents quite well. Mrs. Reed is a lot like Taz in temperament, wind her up and set her off and nobody’s safe. Mr. Reed terrifies even me, he’s a huge guy with a deep voice. The thing that confuses me is that they were always so kind to him before. How can they suddenly decided the no longer love him over this? Why are people so hung up on sexuality?
As if to prove that not everyone is evil, my Mom knocks on the door. “Can I come in?”
I feel slightly guilty that my parents were not only accepting, but somewhat delighted to find out I was gay.
I look at Fulton and he nods. “Come in, Mom.”
She immediately goes into worry mode over him, promising to make him something to eat and telling him that he’s more than welcome here. Fulton’s almost in tears again, this has been a rough day for him. One set of parents whale the tar out of him, the next welcome him into their homes with open arms.
She backs off, noticing how upset he is, but pauses at the door. “Fulton, I just want you to know, I’m very glad my son has chosen you as his boyfriend. I can’t imagine anyone better.”
That does it for Fulton, he manages to wait until she leaves before bursting into tears again.
Chapter 11: Into the Warm by Star
I wake up with a headache that comes from too much crying. I was hoping sleep would get rid of it, but it’s still there.
Portman’s still sleeping, breathing deeply but not snoring, his arm thrown over me. We fell asleep in his bed last night. I can’t believe his parents are so welcoming. They’ve not just accepted us as couple, but are completely delighted. Mrs. Portman’s words last night overwhelmed me.
If only my own mother could have been half as kind.
I desperately need a drink and some painkillers, but Portman’s showing no signs of waking. I kiss his forehead and ease out of his embrace.
After getting dressed I wander downstairs and find Mrs. P making coffee. “You want a cup?” she asks with a smile.
“Yes please. Do you have any painkillers?”
She looks at me appraisingly. “Those bruises bothering you, son?”
Strangely I had forgotten about that. The schmuck who said “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” should have been me yesterday. He would have quickly seen the error of his words. “Headache,” I tell her.
“Have a seat.”
I obediently take a seat and she bustles around getting me coffee, painkillers and a glass of water to take them with. Then she brings her own mug over and sits opposite me.
“I’m calling your parents today,” she tells me.
“You don’t want me here?” I ask, knowing that this was too good to be true.
She puts her hand on my arm. “Actually, I like having you here. You get Dean out from under my feet. But I think your parents would like to know that you’re safe.”
“You didn’t hear what they said,” I tell her.
“No matter how mad I was I’d always want to know where Dean was and how he was doing,” she says firmly. “You don’t have to talk to them. I’ve a good mind to give them a piece of my mind about those bruises.” She squeezes my arm as I start to protest. “But I suppose it’s your business not mine.”
I think about this. Maybe they’ve calmed down overnight. Maybe they’re sorry but don’t know where I am. “I’ll call them.” I tell her. “Thanks, Mrs. P.”
“You’re a good kid. You’re good for my big goon of a son.” She ruffles my hair in a motherly way. She’s always been nice to me when I’ve stayed before, but this time… words can’t say how much her kindness means to me.
Mr. P shuffles in and heads straight for the coffee. He smiles at me. “I didn’t get chance to thank you yesterday.”
I frown a little in confusion. “Thank me?”
“You’ve saved me thousands of dollars. No marriage, no divorce, no grandchildren…”
I smile as he shakes my hand and tells me to keep making his son happy.
“They can always adopt. You might get grandchildren.” Mrs. P points out.
Mr. P turns to her and tells her it’s too soon to think about things like that.
I retreat a little, watching the scene unfold. Portman’s parents are kind of perfect. They’re happy together, they’re happy having a gay son, and it’s hard to stay depressed around them.
I feel a pair of arms slide around my waist and look over my shoulder to see Portman.
“You deserted me.” He says reproachfully.
“You were hogging the covers,” I respond. He wasn’t, but he doesn’t need to know that. “And you’re Mom’s coffee was calling to me.”
“How are the parentals this morning?” He nods towards the bickering couple.
“Planning how many grandchildren you and I are going to adopt.”
He rests his chin on my shoulder. “They’re way too happy about this,” he says. “Have they been at the drugs again?”
I pick up the phone and dial my number with shaking fingers. I flub it twice before getting it right. I feel all shaky, like I’ve just got off a roller coaster. I can’t seem to catch my breath.
It rings four times before someone picks up.
I hear a deep sigh. “I don’t have any children, so I find it deeply inappropriate for some queer to refer to me as ‘Mom.’”
At least she hasn’t forgotten my voice already. For some reason this thought strikes me as highly amusing, although I know it’s not funny at all. Again I can’t seem to breathe. “Don’t be like that. I’m your son,” I plead.
“I’ve told you, I don’t have any children. You’re just some faggot.”
And it hits me all of a sudden. I don’t have parents any more. I drop the phone in shock, tears are pouring down my face.
Mrs. P picks up the phone and starts talking to the woman that, until yesterday, I used to call Mom.
Portman takes my hand and leads me back to his room. I follow him numbly. I can’t believe this is happening.
He shuts the door and wraps his arms around me and lets me cry on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry they’re being like this.” He says as he strokes my back to calm me. “If I could swap places with you, I would. I hate to see you hurting so much.”
I cling tighter to him, he’s the best thing in my life. One of the only things in my life.
“Is all this worth it?” I mumble into his shoulder.
Straight away I feel him tense up and I know it came out wrong.
I look up at him, he’s blurred by my tears, but I can tell he’s hurt. “I mean, I know you’re worth it. You’re the best thing in my life.” I wipe my eyes and take in his relieved expression. “But is Eden Hall worth it?”
“You want to quit?” He asks in a soft voice.
I shrug, I’m not sure. I can’t leave the Queertet, who knows what would happen if Portman and I weren’t there to support them, because Portman would leave Eden Hall for me, I can see it in his eyes.
I give him the only answer I can.
“I want it to stop hurting.”
Chapter 12: Flurry of Lies by Victory Thru Tears
Vacation’s over. I’ve been home for two hours, waiting for Taz to get back. My ride to Milwaukee is longer than hers to just outside Minneapolis, but I always reach earlier than she does.
It’s a little bit lonely. None of the Queertet is back yet, either.
It’s easier to call them that. They’re not a part of the Ducks anymore, and who wants to spend the time listing out their names? I sure don’t.
There’s a soft knock on the door, and Portman and Fulton enter. They both look somber, and Fulton has faded bruises all over his face.
“Oh my god!” I jump up and rush over to them.
Portman gives me a look clearly telling me to back off. I know better than to go against Portman; the man could kill me with his thumb.
I sit down on my bed, unsure of what to say.
“Anyone else back yet?” I ask. They would have seen the boys before me.
Two heads shake sullenly.
“Did you two have a good vacation?” Oh, hell. Smart move, Hansen. Portman’s really going to kill you now.
He doesn’t kill me, just shoots a death glare my way. I try to smile apologetically at him, but it comes out looking more terrified than sorry.
Luckily for me, the door opens again. This time it’s Charlie and Adam, both of whom are wearing smiles. Adam, however, has fresh bruises all over his face.
What the hell has happened to my friends over this vacation?
I don’t have to guess to know that their parents were less than supportive to hear about their sexuality.
I didn’t really have a problem with mine. There was a lot of talking, a little bit of discussing, and even more hugging. Am I lucky? I don’t know. My mother kept whining about how she’d never have grandkids all weekend. I had planned on asking Adam if he could get me pregnant just to shut her up, but in the condition that he’s in, I refrain from making jokes.
After my little incident with Portman, I decide not to ask anything about their vacations.
Charlie and Adam are staring at the other half of the Queertet with interest. Fulton and Adam are eyeing each other. I think that Charlie and Portman are trying to have a silent conversation.
Please Taz, come home… break the awkwardness…
The door opens and my wonderful girlfriend waltzes into the room. Thank god for ESP.
“Morning everyone.” She says, setting her bag on the ground.
Yes, Taz. Good morning… no, it doesn’t matter that its six in the evening.
She runs over to me for a quick kiss, but is quickly pulled away by Charlie. He envelops her into a hug.
Ordinarily I would laugh at the way this gay man is stealing my girl from me, but I see the way that Taz winces as Charlie squeezes her. She may be small, but she’s stronger than that.
I notice for the first time that Taz also has a bruise on her face.
“Taz, what happened to you?” I ask nervously.
“What do you mean?” I can’t tell if she’s playing innocent, or actually has no clue what I’m talking about.
“Your face,” Fulton supplies. “It looks like your parents were as thrilled as mine.”
“Yeah, just like my brother, too,” Adam says, smiling sardonically and rubbing his wrist. I notice that his arm is bandaged up. I really need to work on my observation skills.
“Oh, that?” She laughs. “No, no. I just fell down the stairs!”
Taz launches into a fantastic story about how she tripped over the carpeting and landed on her butt.
When she’s finished, the Queertet is beside themselves with laughter over her stupidity. She’s grinning gleefully.
I, on the other hand, am not so convinced with her story. I’ve dated her for too long to fall for her tricks—especially her mediocre ones—so easily.
I’m surprised with myself. By the time the Queertet leaves three hours later, I’ve only spoken four words. Usually, I’m as crazy as Taz herself. Tonight I’m just not in the mood.
As we change for bed later, I decide to ask her how things with her Dad went.
She breezily responds that he didn’t really care.
Uh huh. Sure, Purple Girl.
I climb into my own bed. We used to share one, but I’m a violent sleeper. Taz got sick of me kicking her.
As she comes back from the bathroom, I notice more bruises on her body. I’m too tired to argue with her tonight, but you can bet your bippy that tomorrow Taz is getting the third degree.
Chapter 13: Surviving the Frost by Victory Thru Tears
I sigh, and knock on Connie’s dorm room. I’m there because of obligation, not because I want to be. Why am I still putting myself through this?
Connie opens the door, her face nicely tanned. Instead of spending the holiday at her parents’ house in Minneapolis, she went to California to visit her two older sisters.
“Hi, Giggles.” She wraps her arms around my neck and kisses my softly.
Ugh, not the nickname… I hate that name. At the beginning I didn’t really mind it, but four years later I’m close to killing myself every time I hear it.
“Hi, Connie.” I return her gestures, and we step into her dorm room.
She proceeds to tell me about the weather in California, how she and Russ planned to meet but she never showed up (she “didn’t want to hang out with that pansy-lover”), all the fun she had with her sisters, and all of the new clothes she got.
I’d be lying if I said that I’m listening to her.
“So how was your vacation?” she asks.
“It was pretty cool. Charlie and I got together with Jesse.”
“Oh, really? How is he?” Connie actually looks interested.
“Yeah, he’s great. He likes public school fine. We played a little hockey, but it kind of sucked because there was an odd number.”
“Did you tell him that Charlie’s a fag?” She says it so casually that I almost miss it.
“Um, yeah, Charlie let him know about what’s going on…” I don’t really want to get into it, but the same thing that keeps me with Connie keeps the conversation going.
“So what did he think?”
“He didn’t really care. In fact, he said that he wished he could be here to give whoever is giving them a hard time a piece of his mind.”
“Oh, so you mean that he wanted to beat Charlie right there?” The smile on her face is disgusting. Her comment is pretty stupid, too. Didn’t she hear what I just said?
“No.” I say it so that she knows that I don’t like what she’s saying. “I mean that he was totally cool with it, and he wanted to let you know that you’re being a prejudiced bitch.”
“I mean that he didn’t like hearing about what you’ve been doing to the guys,” I stutter.
“What did you call me?” she asks icily.
“Nothing.” Quick, try to cover it up, try to cover it up… “Connie, I love you.”
Flash the token Guy Germaine smile, she always falls for that.
Her stare is still mean.
“Get the hell out!” She picks up a glass (from Julie’s side of the room, no less) and hurls it at me. I duck out of the way in time, and make for the door.
“Come on, Connie, I didn’t say anything!”
“I’m sick of you sticking up for those queers, why don’t you get some balls and become a real man!”
“Why can’t you just admit that you’re wrong?” I try to ignore the comment about my manhood, but find that it is too difficult. “And you sure weren’t saying that about my stuff before we left for vacation.”
The anger on her face swells and she starts chucking various pens at me. Maybe I shouldn’t have hinted at our sex life.
“You leave that out of it, Guy Germaine! And plus, if I knew you were such a queer lover, we would never have slept together.”
“Yeah, all nine times!” This argument has sort of gotten out of hand.
“What the hell, you—”
She breaks out into a train of curses, searching for things to throw at me.
I’m sure the entire dormitory can hear her yells by now. She grabs a vase and aims for my head.
“You know, I think I’m going to be going.” I exit the room, and stand with my back to the doorway. She’s still screaming and throwing things. This is not the Connie that the Ducks know. I’m used to it. She’s a real sweetheart on the ice, but as soon as we’re behind closed doors she turns into some hideous monster. I miss the old Connie.
That fight erupted quickly, way faster than usual. Maybe it’s a sign that things are ending.
I’m the biggest coward that I know. I compare myself to Adam and Charlie, and Fulton and Portman. They’ve come out of the closet, and in the process lost half of their friends. I saw Banks earlier today, as he was getting out of his father’s BMW. He gave his father a big hug good-bye, something that I’ve never seen him do in the four years that I’ve known him. But even from about thirty feet away, I could see the purple bruises all over his face.
He has to deal with beatings from people that are supposed to love him. He’s going to be dealing with discrimination for all of his life.
I can’t even break up with my girlfriend.
Julie walks down the hallway, dragging a small suitcase behind her.
“Hey Guy… what’s going on?” She looks kind of tired, probably from the long flight.
“Um, Julie, you don’t want to go in there.”
She can tell this by the noise coming from the other side of the door.
“Big fight?” She nods knowingly.
“Definitely.” I sigh, trying to hide my confusion. I don’t want to suck Julie into this whole mess.
“Wanna go for a walk?”
She’s so sweet. I smile, and nod.
We walk down the hallway, the goalie still dragging her suitcase behind. It’s kind of amusing. We situate ourselves on the steps of the dorm building, watching people come and go. I tell proceed to tell Julie everything that has been on my mind. Connie, Charlie, Jesse, Adam…
She shakes her head in disgust when I tell her about the bruises on Adam’s face.
“It’s sick, the way these people can’t tolerate others.”
I sigh. “I know. It’s really hard to be stuck in the middle of people that I’ve known for years.”
“Yeah, I mean, the only New Duck that isn’t on Charlie’s side is Luis, and he’s an idiot. We all know that.” Julie sighs.
“Jesse was really upset when he heard about what’s going on. Especially when I told him about the division.”
“The worst part is Connie.”
I nod agreeably. She’s pretty much reading my mind.
“I mean, Dwayne, Ken, and Russ can pretty much keep to themselves, but I don’t have anyone else to hang out with…”
“Hey, you can always come to me, Jules.” I grin at her, and for a moment she reminds me of the Connie that I fell in love with.
She grins, and blushes.
We’re quiet for a moment, and then Julie looks at me thoughtfully. “Do you think that the Ducks going to end?”
I shake my head. “I really don’t know. I mean, if anything, we’re already over. The only thing that’s keeping us together is hockey. No one cares about old friendships—or relationships—anymore.”
“New relationships are always good too, though. Friendships, I mean.” Julie’s face turns red.
“Definitely. New relationships are great.” I smile, somewhat nervously.
“I’m going to go.” She quickly gets up and walks back into the dorm.
What just happened? Did Julie just insinuate something more than a friendship to me? Did I just respond? Were we just flirting??
No, Guy… that’s your girlfriend’s best friend… your GIRLfriend, not your EXgirlfriend…
I’m such a mess.
Chapter 14: Whiteout by Star
Notes: Saturniia, I have no idea how you have time on your hands to review every chapter, but I for one salute you. Thanks very much, you’re a star! Also, thanks to all the reviewers, it’s so lovely to see that people are enjoying reading this as much as Victory and I are writing it. Thank you.
When Fulton and I get to our history class we find that our evil, slave-driving, minion of the anti-Christ teacher is off sick and a substitute is standing in.
The sub stands up, introduces herself, explains that history is not her thing, and tells us that she can’t make us work through a subject she knows nothing about, but the mature, responsible decision would be to continue with whatever it was we were doing during the last class.
The class thinks it over and comes to the mature and responsible decision to talk to their friends.
“Do you have practice tonight?” I ask him.
It’s not the most tactful question I’ve ever asked. The Queertet are not getting on well with their new captain. We’ve been back almost a week, and the break from school has done nothing to lessen Connie’s hatred of all things gay.
He shakes his head and leans closer to me. “I’ve been benched.”
A few weeks ago I would have yelled “What!” at the top of my lungs, now I just put a hand on his shoulder and ask why.
He tells me that he lost his temper and punched out Luis. I’d seen him walking around with a great shiner and a wounded expression, I figured the Bash Brothers had something to do with it. I guess Coach has told them to keep it quiet, doesn’t want his team to be in trouble.
“You wanna get out of here tonight?”
He looks alarmed. “All of us?”
“No, you and me.” I don’t feel up to company, and more than anything, I want to see my friend smile. I haven’t seen Fulton smile since we got back from Thanksgiving, he’s not talked about it but the fact that he was covered in bruises speaks decibels. Louie from my art class told me that he and Portman had arrived together. Not just at the same time, but got off the bus that came from the train station. Fulton usually doesn’t catch the train. He lives in Minneapolis.
I spent a lot of time cheering Charlie up and now it’s Fulton’s turn.
This isn’t because we have anything in common.
“Portman doesn’t mind me borrowing you?” I ask in a more cheerful tone than I thought I could muster as we walk out of the huge wrought iron gates.
“No,” he replies quickly. “What about you and Maya?”
“I left her a note,” I say glibly.
Ok, so the note read “Study-jam with Fulton,” but what difference does that make?
“So what’s the plan?”
I give him my trademark Taz-grin. “My plan was: Let’s get out of here. Do I have to think of everything?”
We end up going to see a movie. I don’t think either of us paid attention to it. I’m doing a terrible job of cheering us up. In fact, Fulton’s depression is seeping towards me.
In the end I use my last resort. After the second day of Thanksgiving break I went to see a friend of mine who got me a fake ID.
“Stay here,” I instruct, before walking towards the nearest liquor store. I walk in confidently and pick up a bottle of vodka. I plunk it down on the counter.
“ID,” the guy says.
I pull a baffled face and shrug my shoulders.
“ID,” he repeats.
I ask him what he’s talking about. Only I say it in Irish.
He now pulls a baffled face. “ID.” He says again.
I shrug again as if I don’t have a clue what he’s saying to me. In desperation he points to a sign about it being illegal to sell alcohol to minors. I stare at it for a few seconds, then I let a look of realization cross my face. I dig out my ID and pass it to him with the words, “You idiot, I’m nowhere near twenty-one.” Naturally, I say it Irish, and use a tone that sounds really apologetic.
He dutifully takes it, sighs and rings it up. I guess he decides that only a really stupid person as young-looking as me would try to buy alcohol with a fake ID.
I wish him and his family years of suffering from crabs and leave.
I have to say, when I was younger, learning Irish seemed a stupid idea—especially since most Irish use English anyway—but I was wrong about that.
I walk away and motion for Fulton to follow me.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” he says when we finally stop.
“Then why didn’t you stop me?” I ask.
He doesn’t answer so I start walking again. He follows.
She’s drinking way too fast. And way too much. It surprises me how much she can drink, to be honest, it shocked me that she drank at all. I’ve always thought of Taz as the kind of person who’s high on life, I mean, look at the way she acts most of the time, it’s like she’s from another planet.
Tonight I’m seeing a new side of Taz, and I’m not sure I like it. At first I thought what the hell and matched her drink for drink, but I decided that one of us has to keep a clear head to get us back to the dorms. It’s way past curfew, luckily we’re in a park close to the school.
Taz started to tease me about not drinking, and sometimes it’s easier not to argue with her, so I pretended I was drinking by pressing the bottle to my lips but not swallowing anything.
When she tripped over I poured half the vodka away. I’m going to have to take it off her soon. She’s only small, and I know she hasn’t eaten since lunch because we took off straight after school finished.
“Taz, why are you drinking?” I ask her.
She goggles at me as if she’d forgotten I was here. Under any other circumstances, it would be funny. She shrugs finally. “I’m not drinking, I’m getting you drunk.”
I’m not going to argue with her, it’s too difficult. “So why are you getting me drunk?” I take the bottle from her, fake a sip and pour some more away while she’s staring at the tree.
“Cos life’s a bitch.” She nods, pleased with herself for this answer.
“I thought you were happy,” I say. I had noticed that Taz hasn’t quite been herself since we got back, but to be honest I’ve been a little preoccupied.
“I am.” She gives me a big fake grin. “Happy as Larry. ‘Cept I don’t know a Larry. Do you know anyone called Larry? And is Larry happy? Stupid saying…” At this point I can’t tell whether she’s speaking Irish or just babbling.
It’s time to get her back to the dorms. I hold my hand out to her. “Come on.”
She gives me a look and starts laughing. I don’t even want to know why. When she doesn’t take my hand, I take hers. “Let’s go.”
“I’m looking for a butterfly.”
“Taz, it’s winter and it’s night. There are no butterflies,” I tell her in the most patient voice I can muster.
While she’s looking around, no doubt trying to prove me wrong, I pour out the rest of the vodka and toss the bottle away. I tug her along and she stumbles.
I’m going to have to hand-deliver her to her door the state she’s in. She manages to stay upright for most of the walk home, but inside the hallway, Taz flakes out on me and I have to carry her. For someone so tiny, she does weigh a lot.
I carry her to the room she shares with Maya and knock softly on the door, fully aware of how much trouble we would be in if we got caught. I’m already in trouble for hitting Luis, despite Orion’s attempts to cover the situation. Things would only get worse if I was caught in the girls’ dorms carrying a drunken leprechaun.
Maya answers the door, she looks more terrifying than Taz could ever be. Her eyes are bloodshot from crying so much and she’s absolutely fuming.
“How much has she drunk?” she asks curtly.
For a moment I wonder how she knows, then I realize that Taz is flaked out in my arms… and also that Maya knows her.
“Well, thanks for bringing her back.” She moves out of the way and lets me put Taz on her bed. I wouldn’t like to be Taz tomorrow morning. Her hangover will be welcome relief to Maya’s mood.
Maya glares at me. “Portman’s worried about you.”
I nod. I guess it’s time to go have an argument.
Chapter 15: Thawing the Ice by Star
I’m not going to yell. I’m not. I’m going to stay calm and tell him that I was worried. I’m going to hold my temper.
Except I’m sick of holding my temper. I’m sick of putting up with Connie and her flunkies and not saying a word about it. I’m glad that Fulton punched Luis, it’s about time someone did…
No, calm down. I take a deep breath and find myself not even remotely calm. Maya came round about two hours ago thinking that Taz was studying with Fulton. I was under the impression that Fulton was in Taz and Maya’s room.
Which meant they’ve gone out together. And that’s fine. What I don’t get is why they didn’t tell us. Why would he think I would mind? If he wanted to go out with Taz it would be fine, so why lie about it?
And that’s what I’m going to ask him when he comes back.
In a nice calm tone.
“Thanks for lying to me!” I snap at him the minute the door opens.
He gives me a look and moves towards his bed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be out so late.”
“You mean you didn’t mean to get caught?” Damn it! Stop snapping.
He looks me in the eye and shrugs. “No. I don’t know why I lied to you.” He shrugs again. “I just wanted to get out of here for awhile.”
“Well, why the hell didn’t you just tell me that?” I’ve got to lower my voice or the entire floor will be woken up.
“Portman, chill. I screwed up, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, well it’s four hours past curfew, what would have happened if someone had come by?” I’m sounding like his mother now. “You’re already off the team for a week. You don’t need any more trouble.”
He rolls his eyes. “I know, Portman! Don’t you think I know that! I don’t have any god damned parents. You and this damn school is all I have! I hate the school, so all I really have is you, so I’m sorry I screwed up. I need you.”
That does it for me. It’s all been too easy for me, his parents disowned him. I reach for him, feeling like a complete scumbag. What happened to my plan of staying calm?
He wraps his arms around my neck and leans against me.
“What happened?” I ask him softly, somehow regaining that calm that I wanted to use earlier.
“It’s my own fault.” He sighs. “I shouldn’t have called them.”
“You called your parents again?” I ask him.
“No. I called Mr. and Mrs. Reed again. Then I went to class with Taz and she asked me if wanted to go out with her tonight…”
“So why didn’t you just tell me that?” I ask, stroking his hair.
“Because if I said I wanted some time alone, you’d ask why and we’d be having this conversation.”
“We don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to.” I tell him, but really it’s not true. I want to know what’s going through his head.
He completely lost it when he punched Luis, I mean, Luis has had that coming a long time, but this was one of his weaker comments, I think he only said “fag” before Fulton hit him. I know that in a perfect world we wouldn’t have to deal with that, but… in this world we do, and it was an easy comment to ignore because we hear it so often.
I’m really worried about him, he’s been progressively more despondent every day.
“I know. And part of me really wants to talk to you, but I just hate thinking about it… about them.”
Them. The people he used to call his parents until a few weeks ago. I can’t imagine how he feels, and it can’t be good that he’s hiding it from the others.
“I heard some girl talking about her plans for Christmas, and she was talking about her parents and I just missed mine…” He tails off.
I stroke his back, expecting tears, but none come.
“I’m sick of crying over them,” he tells me, as if reading my mind.
I haven’t got a clue what I’m going to say, but when I open my mouth it comes out right. “Then don’t cry over them, and don’t worry about Christmas. You’re going home with me, and we’ll have the greatest holiday ever. My Mom can overfeed us, and guy-spot in movies with us, and my Dad can get drunk and embarrass me horribly by singing and making stupid jokes. If you’re really lucky my Mom will drag out the photo album and show you what an ugly baby I was.”
To my surprise he laughs. “And don’t forget the Bank’s Christmas party. They’re always good fun.”
“And it’s our first Christmas together,” I remind him. “That has to be special, right?”
“Yeah.” One of his hands finds mine and squeezes it. “I’m not just saying this to make up with you, I really mean it.”
I find myself breathlessly waiting for him to continue.
“I think I’m falling in love with you. Big time,” he says. “So don’t hurt me.”
I feel almost dizzy by his confession. “I couldn’t hurt you. I feel the same way about you.”
I still feel stunned as we lie in bed trying to get some sleep before I have to get up for hockey practice.
“Are you awake?” he asks dozily.
“No, I’m sleeping.” I reply, shifting uncomfortably. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, single beds are not designed for two guys the size of us.
“Taz’s plan worked a little.” He tells me.
“Tonight did take my mind of my problems. Now I’m worried about her.”
I sigh deeply. Why can’t things be simple for the six of us? “What happened?”
“She drank herself senseless and passed out.”
“We’ll keep an eye on her.” I tell him. “The Queertet looks after its own.”
He smiles at me. “I wonder if it would piss them off to know we use their name for us.”
I kiss him. “I hope so. Now go to sleep.”
He drifts off quickly, he’s so lucky, he can sleep no matter what. Not me, the slightest problem and my sleeping patterns are screwed.
And I wouldn’t say that any of the problems we have are “slight.”
Chapter 16: Frozen Feelings by Victory Thru Tears
“What are you doing here?” I ask her, sleepily rubbing my eyes.
She pushes past me and steps into the room.
“Put some pants on, you’re teaching me how to play hockey.”
Charlie rolls over to look at whoever has just entered. He gives a groan and pulls the covers over his head. I can’t help but stare longingly at the warm nest we had made. But then I remember Maya.
“Um, why do you want to play hockey? And what exactly are you doing here? It’s Saturday, and it’s… 7:30?” My irritation escalates as I glance at the clock.
I suppress the urge to fall back into Charlie’s arms.
Maya sighs, and falls to our floor. She draws her legs in and rests her chin on her knees.
“Just get dressed,” she mumbles, putting her head down.
If she hadn’t looked so sad, I wouldn’t have listened. But Maya’s done so much for me since I’ve known her, I have to comply.
She gets sort of overlooked, I realize as I dress in the bathroom. When you’re around her and Taz, her girlfriend gets all of the attention. Purple hair, Irish accent, bubbly personality… but thinking about it, there’s got to be a backbone for Taz; and it can’t be anything but Maya.
I open the door, and to my surprise see that Maya is no longer on the floor. She’s lying in bed with Charlie, who is mumbling tired jokes. How cute—an effort to cheer her up while still managing to stay in bed. Maya doesn’t look amused. She eagerly jumps out of bed and leads me out of the dorm.
Charlie waves as I grab my bag o’ hockey junk, and is asleep again before I close the door.
An hour later, we’re finally putting our skates on at the school rink. Maya had realized that she doesn’t own skates, so we had made a detour to Jan’s shop. It hadn’t taken her long to buy some, and we were back relatively fast. I have two of pretty much everything in my bag, so once she is finished lacing up, she grabs a stick and beats me onto the ice.
Despite my constant questioning, I still have no idea why we’re here. I know it has something to do with Taz. Maya’s obviously upset with her. After a week of seeing Taz’s own bruises, I can infer that they hadn’t come from falling down the stairs. Maya’s clearly not dealing with it very well; we are on the ice at 8:30 in the morning.
Coach Orion and his daughter are on the other side of the rink. He’s actually smiling. Charlie had told me about Emily, and my perception of the guy had changed too. It must have been really hard.
I think I want kids someday. I’ll have to talk to Charlie about adopting. No, of course I’m not getting ahead of myself…
Maya is waiting impatiently for me. I sigh, and slowly skate onto the rink. I roll my wrist around a little, trying to make the stiffness go away. I haven’t been allowed to play because of it. It’s feeling better, and I should be able to start in our game next week, but I definitely miss being on the ice.
“So, you wanna tell me why we’re here?” I ask as I move her arms in the correct way to hold a stick.
“Because I’m going to learn to beat things.” She pushes the puck forward. Not bad.
“Why do you need to beat things?”
“Cause life is a bitch,” she responds, going for the puck again.
“Maya, tell me what’s going on…” The statement comes out a little more sing-songy than I had intended, and she responds in an equally mocking tone.
“Why don’t you just leave me the hell alone, Adam?”
I could respond in two ways. One, throw down the stick, and skate off. It’s way too early to be dealing with anyone in this bad of a mood. Two, keep badgering her, because we’re friends.
I decide to settle for scenario Three.
I pick her up and throw her over my shoulder. She weighs less than I had imagined. Instead of kicking and laughing, she reacts by screaming like the devil is after her.
Coach Orion is staring at us. His daughter is too, but she’s giggling.
“Hey Banks, your wrist hurts too much to play hockey, but not enough to take your girlfriend out for a little spin?”
Maya responds for me. “He wishes he was my girlfriend!”
Orion looks confused by her answer, but laughs nonetheless. I set Maya back onto the ice, and she pushes me down.
“Oh, so you want to be an enforcer?” I chuckle as I dust myself off. “Should have asked one of the Bash Brothers to bring you out, then.”
“Yeah, they’re too busy fighting,” she tells me ask she attempts to make a shot.
What did Charlie and I miss last night? We had kept to ourselves, and spent the night cuddling and watching movies. I figured that Maya and Taz had done the same thing.
“Yeah, they’re fighting.” Maya says it so that I know the subject is closed.
After a good half an hour of hockey, we skate onto the bench. Now would be a good time to talk to her.
“What’s going on with Taz?”
She sighs, and for a moment I think that she’s going to avoid talking again. “I don’t know. I think her dad hit her.”
I nod. I thought so. “She hasn’t talked to you at all?”
“No. She keeps avoiding me, and last night she went out with Fulton and got drunk.”
“What!” I’m not expecting that. Maya opens her mouth to give a catty comment, but I cut her off. “Are you ok?”
She looks surprised that I’m asking about her, and not Taz. “I… I guess.”
I put my arm around her. “Charlie would have flipped out if he saw the bruises on my face and I didn’t tell him what happened. I would do the same for him. I know you’re not ok.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I just… I want to kill her! How can she keep something like this from me? A whole year we’ve been together, and loved each other. Doesn’t that mean anything to her?”
“Sometimes people try to keep things from people they love because they think that it will hurt them.” Maya’s cowering in my arms, and I can tell she’s close to crying.
“But I always tell her that I’d rather she tell me the truth than lying to me, even if she’s trying to protect me. And I can help her. I really can…”
I feel so bad, sitting there on the bench with this small girl crying on my shoulder. To tell the truth, I had been feeling really good for the past week. During vacation it hadn’t mattered that every time my parents turned around Danny would give me a quick punch or slap; I still had people on my side. I think my natural high had made me ignore the others around me, like Fulton and Taz and Maya, who are obviously in need.
My eyebrows raise as Charlie and Taz walk into the rink. I hold Maya closer to me. She’s not going to be happy to see them, especially in this state.
The look on Taz’s face is unreadable. She looks a mixture of relieved, sad, hurt, angry, and apologetic.
But she’s approaching quickly. I have a feeling I’m going to find out exactly what she’s thinking.
Chapter 17: Fire and Ice by Victory Thru Tears
“Taz? Taz…” My knuckles were starting to hurt from pounding on the door. I finally resorted to trying to open it.
I step into the room. Wow, Charlie, that was easy.
I find Taz out cold in her bed, still fully clothed. She looks like a natural disaster in human form. I walk over to her, and shake her a few times, muttering her name. The smell of alcohol is strong, and I don’t have to guess to know why Taz isn’t answering. I walk into the bathroom and pour a cold glass of water, and come back to dump it on her face. This manages to wake her up, and she stares blankly at me before muttering in Irish.
“Go bpléasca na míolta crúbacha do bhall fearga.” She turns over, hiding her face from me.
May the crab lice blow up your manly parts. Thanks.
“Yes, Taz, well go mbrise an diabhal do chosa!” May the devil break your legs. She doesn’t respond. How am I supposed to get her out of bed?
“Maya’s mad.” Maybe this will work.
“I know,” she says.
I can only imagine what her headache is like. “Come on, let’s go talk to her.”
I’m surprised that she agreed that quickly, but less than half an hour later we are out of the door. Taz is freshly showered, and has just taken a few Tylenol to ease her headache.
“Where are they?” she asks, still sounding groggy.
“The ice skating rink.”
“She wanted to learn hockey.”
“Hockey?” Taz mutters a curse in Irish that would ordinarily make me smile. At the moment, I’m too worried. We enter the rink and hear classical music coming from the speakers. Orion and Emily are skating. On the other end of the ice, Adam is sitting on the bench with a bundle that looks suspiciously like Maya in his arms. He gives me a surprised look and I see his gaze move to Taz.
Taz marches over to the couple.
“It’s ok, Minx, come here…” She coos, attempting to take Maya from him.
Adam and I exchange a glance. Minx?
“Maya, come on Minx…”
Maya pushes her girlfriend away and buries her face into Adam’s shoulder once more. Adam’s clearly not used to being needed like this from her, and he tries to pass her to Taz. Maya makes a noise not unlike growling, and clings to Adam’s shirt.
Taz starts cursing again, and I can make out the words “stealing” and “scumbag.” I’m reminded of our first meeting in the detention room.
“Taz, calm down. Adam’s not stealing anything from you.” I tell her.
She turns to me, fire in her eyes. “Charles Conway, you stay out of this.”
“Hey, don’t call me Charles, Taryn!” I hate it when people use my full name.
“Never again, Charles. Never again.” Before I can retort an answer, she turns her attention back to Maya. “Come on, Maya. Just talk to me.”
“Just talk to you?” Maya looks up, her face streaked with tears. “Funny you should say that, Taz.” She stands up, and I can see Adam shrink from next to her.
I thought Taz was scary when mad.
“Minx, come on, just listen a little.”
“Oh, please. Enlighten me with whatever crap you’ve come up with now!”
“Crap? What do you mean, crap?”
I turn around to make sure that Orion is gone. He is. It’s a good thing, too, with what Maya says next.
“Crap as in why you aren’t telling me how you really got those bruises on your face. Crap like why you’ve been avoiding me for the past week. Crap like why you went out and got drunk with Fulton last night!”
“Do we really have to do this in public?” Taz looks as frightened as the rest of us.
“Why, you don’t want to have to lie in front of these two? You have enough already, why are you worried about it?”
“I’m not lying about anything!”
“YOU DIDN’T FALL DOWN ANY STAIRS!” Her voice is so loud that Adam almost falls off of the bench.
Maya shakes her head, her eyes brimming with tears again. “I’m done.”
She turns and leaves the rink, Taz close behind her, trying to get her to talk to her again. I sigh, and sit down next to Adam. We have practice later, and I figure I might as well just hang around until it’s time.
“Never seen anything like that before,” he remarks.
“Let’s not fight like that ever, ok?” He lean his head on my shoulder, and I smile, putting my arm around him.
“Sure, honey. Whatever you say.”
Chapter 18: Cool and Collected by Star
I follow Maya out of the rink desperately trying to keep up. “Maya!”
She pauses and throws a look of annoyance over her shoulder. “I don’t have anything to say to you.”
I run to catch up with her, grateful that she stopped, albeit momentarily. “I do.”
“Nice. Thanks. It’s only taken you six days to hold a conversation with me. I’m honored. Do I bow, or do I curtsy?”
“Um, either.” I feel like slapping myself. Sometimes I just don’t know when to shut up.
She glares at me in irritation and storms off again.
“Maya, I’m sorry.” I take off after her and grab her arm. “I really am.”
She stands still, so I take this as a sign to continue.
“I don’t know why I’ve been avoiding you. And I don’t know why I lied about those bruises.” I shrug, it’s true. I don’t really have a concrete reason, however, I’m going to try and explain to her the little things that set me off.
“I just walked into our room and everyone was there, so I couldn’t tell you.”
“You could have told me after they left.” She points out.
“No, but I wanted to talk to you about it. Just you. And then someone asked me, and I looked around and half the room was bruised. I felt like I’d walked into a battered queers meeting or something. Everyone looked so depressed, and I didn’t want to make it worse.” I take a deep breath. She’s still here.
“And then when they left, I knew that you’d caught me. I can’t lie to you. I meant to tell you, but by that point I’d almost convinced myself that I had fallen down the stairs.”
“Oh, Taz.” She sighs softly. “Why didn’t you just wait around the next morning? We could have talked.”
“I don’t know. Once I had said that I’d fallen down the stairs I couldn’t take it back.” I look her in the eyes. “I didn’t mean to start lying to you. It’s just… things were bad enough already. Adam and Fulton looked worse than I did.”
“Your bruises looked newer.” She says, her voice is neither hard nor soft. “And there were some on your legs that looked days older than the others.”
Time for the truth. All of it. “My Dad,” I tell her. “He did it. I didn’t fall down the stairs. Every day of break he asked me if I was gay. Every time I said yes I got a new batch of bruises.”
Her eyes fill with tears. “Why didn’t you lie? You could lie to me quick enough.” She claps her hand over her mouth. If the conversation wasn’t so serious I would laugh. Sometimes Maya can’t shut up either.
“I lied to protect you. I couldn’t lie about you.” I take her hand and she lets me. “Maya, I love you. I’m crazy about you. Do you really think I could lie about that?”
She sighs, it’s a sigh I know well, it’s part amusement at my logic and part irritation. “Taz, you lie about all the wrong things!”
I take a step back. I think she’s channeling me for that comment.
“If you had to lie, you should have told your Dad it was a wind up, then told me the truth.”
“It’s done now,” I tell her.
“If you lie to me again, my dear Tasmanian Devil, I will hang you from the flagpole by your gaudily colored hair. Is that understood?”
“That’s not enough, Taz. I want you to promise on our relationship that you’ll tell me the truth at all times,” she says firmly.
I blink, I’m not a liar by nature, but this seems like a huge commitment. “What if someone tells me something in confidence?”
“Then you tell me that you can’t tell. You don’t lie about it.” She squeezes my hand. “I’m serious, no lies in our relationship.”
“I promise,” I say, and I mean it. Nothing is worth losing Maya over. “I promise on our relationship that there will be no more lies.”
“Good.” She gives me an impish grin. “Now, let’s go back to our room and make up!”
I follow her eagerly. She gives me another grin. “And don’t for one moment think you’re going back to your Dad’s over Christmas. You’re coming home with me.”
“How are your parents going to feel about that?” I ask as she unlocks our door.
She gives me a gentle look. “They’ll be more welcoming than your Dad.”
All of a sudden I’m crying. I’ve not been holding it in, I was just kind of numb, but her kind look, paired with the word Dad and I feel my world crumple.
“Taz…” She takes me in her arms and quickly shuts the door behind us.
“I’m not upset,” I tell her. “I’m angry. He lied to me.”
“What did he say?”
“When Mum died he promised that he’d never let me down, and he has.”
We lay down on her bed and she holds me while I cry.
“He told me if I stopped being gay things would be ok.”
“People like that make me sick,” she says venomously. “They’re wrong.”
“I know. If this felt even slightly wrong I wouldn’t have told him.”
“I love you, Taz.”
“I love you too, Maya. Even if you do have the most resonating snore in the building!”
She grins at me, seeing my humor return.
Now, some people think I call her Minx because of something sexy. Which isn’t entirely wrong. But really it’s mostly because of how cat-like she looks when she pounces on me and tickles me.
The look that she has right now.
Depression! Come back!
Chapter 19: Free from the Cold by Victory Thru Tears
I take a deep breath and knock on Connie’s door. This is it. Now or never.
It’s been two weeks since our fight after Thanksgiving vacation. Two weeks of Connie-hell. We made up quickly, but it didn’t ease my disgust with her. After a few sleepless nights and a lot of battling myself, I’m finally here to break up with her.
Julie opens the door. Looks like life is feeling contrary today.
I try to give her a small smile. She sees through it, and holds up her shoes.
“I was just leaving.” She quickly escapes from the room, her feet clad only in socks.
I turn to Connie, who is sitting on the bed. She’s not smiling, either.
“You know why I’m here,” I say quietly, closing the door behind me.
“Are we going to draw it out?”
“Let me just ask you. What happened?” This is not the reaction I’m expecting from her.
“I don’t know. Things changed. You changed.” I sit down on the bed next to her.
I nod. “You aren’t the Connie I fell in love with anymore. I’m sure that I’m not the same Guy, either. And maybe the new Guy and the new Connie just don’t belong together.”
She nods, agreeing. I can still see the tears behind her eyes. I pull her over to me, and she slides her arms around my waist. This is a familiar position.
“Is it because of the Queer—I mean, because of Charlie and Adam?” She whispers.
“Yeah.” I’m not going to lie to her. “Ever since then I just haven’t felt the same.”
She draws in a deep breath, and I know that she is smelling me. She always used to comment on how good I smelled.
“I can’t help what I believe in,” she says, trying to justify herself.
“Neither can I. And I believe that you’re taking it too far. Let them do what they want, it doesn’t concern you.”
“It does concern me, they’re my team.”
“No, Connie. They’re not your team. They’re Charlie’s team. And you took that away from him.”
The wall is between us is being built again. She stands up, her hands in her pockets. I do the same, preparing to leave.
“Yeah, you should go,” she says softly. I can tell that if I stay, we’ll start arguing again.
“Yeah. I’ll see you later at practice.”
I stand outside of their door, unsure of what to do. For the first time since fifth grade, I’m Guy Germaine. Not a part of Connie-and-Guy, or Guy-and-Connie. Just Guy. The first thing I want to do is talk to my best friend, Charlie.
When I started dating Connie, the bond between Charlie and I had started to break. It wasn’t intentional, and we had never meant for it to happen—it just did. We had just joined District 5, and Coach Bombay soon took my place in Charlie’s life. Then he and Adam started to get close. At the time I thought that he was just getting a new best friend. Sure, I was hurt, but I had a girlfriend to go to. By the beginning of our freshmen year we barely talked. I was busy with Connie, he was busy with Adam.
I’m going to get him back into my life.
I knock on the door, more nervous than when preparing to talk to Connie. Charlie opens it. I search the background for Adam, but find that he’s not there.
I step into the room before he can invite me.
“Sure, Guy, come on in,” he says sarcastically, closing the door. “What’s up?” He flops down onto his bed.
“Um, a lot. Where’s Adam?” I ask, sitting myself down in a chair next to their desk.
“Out with Maya. They’re going Christmas shopping for me and Taz.” He gives a grin. “What Adam doesn’t know is that I’ve already got his gift.” He holds up a small velvet box, and I take it from his hand. Inside is a silver ring.
“Awww. When’s the wedding?” I grin at him. He grabs it back from me, and puts it in his pocket.
Silence reigns for a few moments.
“I broke up with Connie.” I finally speak what I had come to tell him. He looks up with interest.
“Wow. Four years.” I’m sure he wants to say more, but is refraining.
“How do you feel?”
“Kind of empty, kind of free at the same time. I don’t like it. Hopefully it’ll wear off soon.”
Charlie nods. “I know the empty feeling. When Adam broke up with me, I was so mad that I tricked myself into believing I was free. But I was a mess for days.”
“You and Adam broke up?” I didn’t know this…
“Yeah, back when he was on Varsity. Right after the unofficial game.”
“Wow. No wonder you were being such a jerk right after that.” I smile, letting him know that I’m kidding.
“Yeah, but I won him back with my manly charms.” Charlie flips his hand at me, obviously trying to look gay.
“I don’t even want to know what Connie’s going to be like at practice tonight. Or even the game tomorrow… Adam’s going to start playing again today.” Charlie says it all casually, but I can sense the underlying worry.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine on the ice. And if she’s not, we can always talk to Coach Orion. You know, try to get you be Captain again.”
“I don’t want to be Captain, Guy.” Charlie looks sad. “When I fought for that position, it meant something. Now it doesn’t.”
“They’ll come around sooner or later, Charlie. The Ducks mean everything to all of us. If it weren’t for the Ducks, we’d be nothing.”
He shrugs, and I let it go. After a few more minutes of silence, I sigh.
“You ok?” He asks.
“Yeah, just thinking about Connie. The old Connie.”
“Do you want the hat?” Charlie asks mockingly. He’d always made fun of me for my old green hat. I thought it was pretty cool.
“You’re gonna get it Spazway,” I growl. He grabs a pillow and throws it at me. I throw it back, and we’re soon engaged in an all out war.
Looks like I have my old best friend back.
Chapter 20: Dethroning the Ice Queen by Victory Thru Tears and Star
I’m first to enter the locker room. Luis is right behind me, and he pushes me hard into the lockers. Fulton goes after him, but Portman holds him back. Adam is at the back of our line. The Queertet makes their way to the back of the locker room, our area as designated by Captain Darling. Guy follows us. The gay-haters have started gunning for him too, since his break up with Connie yesterday. I start to take off my jersey, trying to get dressed as quick as possible. Coach and Captain aren’t going to be happy.
We lost the game 11-1. Highlights include Goldberg checking Adam into the boards right after he made our only goal, Adam falling to the floor and not being able to play for the rest of the game on account of his wrist. Oh, and I can’t forget when Connie stole the puck from Fulton just as he was gearing up for his shot… oh, and when Luis made Guy pass out from the hip check he gave him. That was pretty, too.
“Let’s all give a round of applause to the Queertet, who managed to lose that game for us,” Connie says loudly as she enters.
Luis, Averman, and Goldberg boo heartily.
“They were too busy checking out the other players to pay any damn attention to the game. I swear queers shouldn’t be allowed to play!”
Portman is starting to get angry. Fulton puts a hand on his shoulder, and I can see the rage draining out of him. Adam sits down on the bench, starting to unwrap his hand.
“Aside from being fucking unnatural, they’re now screwing up our chance of making the JV playoffs. I say they should leave.” Connie continues, glaring in our direction.
Her comments fly right over my head as I watch Adam take the bandaging off. I haven’t seen his wrist unwrapped since the incident with his brother over Thanksgiving break. I mutter a curse when I catch a glimpse of it. I sit down beside him, cradling his arm in my hands. It’s bruised a horrible shade of black, darker than I thought any mark could be. Adam meets my eyes, and I make a helpless noise. It’s almost like I’m feeling the pain for him.
“Oh please, Charlie. Don’t start getting teary on us, we don’t need any gay action in here. Leave your boyfriend the alone, get your clothes on, and get the hell out. We hate you fucking queers.”
Connie finally notices the silence around her. Coach Orion is standing in the doorway of the locker room, staring at her with a great deal of intensity. He lets the door close behind him, and slowly walks to the center of the room.
“Ideally, Adam Banks would be able to play with an unblemished wrist. His own teammates wouldn’t be trying to further his injury. Fulton Reed would not try to punch out Luis Mendoza at the drop of a hat. Guy Germaine wouldn’t have passed out for the third time this season. Ideally, we wouldn’t have lost that game. But you would realize the way that you’re tearing yourselves apart. Ideally, I would not have heard Connie Moreau make those comments. Although, in a perfect world, she would not have said them. She would not be captain, and that is something that I’m changing right now. Charlie Conway would be your captain. But he doesn’t want it that way. We obviously do not live in a perfect world.”
I’ve never heard him so calm, and so sad sounding. He has his hands in the pockets of his blazer, and he is staring at the floor.
“Banks, Conway, Fulton, Portman, Moreau… come into my office as soon as you’re done.”
The locker room is silent as he leaves. No comments about saving Connie from the Queertet, no comments on the tears coming down Adam’s cheeks as he rewraps his wrist, no comments on the kiss I give him.
The five of us finish dressing at the same time, and leave the locker room for what is going to be an interesting discussion.
This is not going to be fun. I take Portman’s hand as we walk towards Orion’s office, Connie notices, but says nothing. I think even she realizes she’s said way too much today.
I squeeze his hand, silently begging him to understand, we’re going to have to tell Orion the truth. That doesn’t mean we talk about my paren—Mr. and Mrs. Reed.
Charlie knocks and we all walk in to his office. Connie looks terrified, for the first time, she’s completely outnumbered. She’s not sorry for what she said, just that she got caught, any idiot knows that.
“Have a seat,” Orion offers. There are only three, Connie gets one because she’s a girl, and despite our hatred of her, we’re all too well mannered not to offer a girl a seat. Adam thankfully sits down, from the looks of him he’s about to pass out, whether from fear or pain I wouldn’t know. I guess thinking about it, it must be pain. Adam may be reluctant to speak about his problems, it doesn’t mean he’s scared.
Portman and I offer to stand, letting Charlie take the seat next to Banks.
I’m still holding his hand.
Orion takes a deep breath, and begins to talk in the same calm, sad tone he used earlier. “For the past couple of months I’ve watched this team fall apart. At first, to be honest, I thought it was boys and their egos, I’m aware of exactly how wrong I am, but I want to hear the whole tale from you.” He glares at Connie. “All of you.”
I look around. Charlie’s our leader, but he’s saying nothing, just staring at the floor. Adam, who was so vocal at the dance, is silent—and truthfully, he looks as if he’s just working on not passing out. Connie glares at the wall, refusing to make eye contact.
I wonder if I should say something.
“Talk to me,” Orion insists.
I feel Portman squeeze my hand, and then he speaks. Just one sentence, but it’s the start of a huge discussion.
“Five of the team,” he sneers the word team, “are homophobic.”
“Tell me more.”
“We’re the Queertet.”
Portman’s words astound me. Not what he said, but the pride he said it with.
He grins at Connie who ignores him, keeping her gaze focused on the wall. “Some people aren’t supportive, to the point where we’ve been called, and I quote, ‘fucking unnatural’. Anyone who’s gay, or doesn’t openly join the hate crusade has been picked on. Banksie and Charlie have had it the worst, they don’t have the gall to pick on me or Fulton quite as much.”
“How long has this been going on?” Orion asks.
Charlie speaks up. “Everyone found out at the dance. All the nastiness started then.”
Orion now turns to Connie, who is pale with fright. “And you’ve spearheaded this campaign?”
She doesn’t speak. She doesn’t move. She won’t meet his eyes.
Not so proud of yourself now, huh Con?
“I asked you a question, Connie.” His voice takes an icy tone.
I wouldn’t be her for all the money in the world.
She still doesn’t say anything.
“Have you been heading a hate campaign?” He thunders.
She finally meets his eyes. “Look, I can’t help what I believe in.”
“If you believe in your convictions so strongly, why did it take you so long to admit to them?” he counters. “You must surely know that you were being prejudiced, or you would have answered immediately.”
She looks… confused of all things, she shakes her head.
“Your actions were very wrong, and don’t think I’m not going to talk to the other four, I have a good idea who they are.”
“I’m suspending you from the team.” He continues.
“What?” She looks deeply shocked.
To be fair, I think we all are. We weren’t expecting this.
“You can’t do this to me! What am I going to tell my parents?”
“How about the truth?” Adam suggests in a hazy voice. I’m thinking if this meeting ever ends we’re taking a trip to the hospital with him. “You were quick enough to tell us how immoral it is to be queer. Tell your parents, I’m sure they’ll be very proud of you.”
I have my first smile of the day.
Goldberg is a really big guy. Very strong. Very very big and very very strong.
God, I can’t think straight. It feels like I have a weight sitting on my right arm, and every single bone is slowly being crushed into oblivion.
Charlie’s holding my other hand as we sit in Orion’s office, and I’m trying to keep my eyes open and my head clear. It’s not really working.
I answer Connie when she asks what she’s supposed to tell her parents, and I can tell that speaking wasn’t a good idea. I feel my head spinning again. Charlie squeezes my hand, and I slump in my chair.
“Banks, you ok?” Coach takes his mind off of our discussion for a moment.
I shake my head. No sense in lying.
“Take some Tylenol for now, and then we’ll take you to the nurse in a little bit.” He hands me a few pills and Portman gets me a cup of water from the cooler next to him.
I swallow them gladly.
“Moreau, I do think that I’m finished with you. You’re suspended until further notice, and I’m stripping you of your title. You may leave.”
Connie gets up and exits the small room, tears in her eyes. Somewhere in my heart I feel pity for her. She used to be a sweet girl, she doesn’t deserve to be rotten.
Coach now turns to us.
“I don’t know what to say to you four.”
Is he going to throw us off of the team, too? Orion may have had some hard times with his daughter, but he might be just as prejudiced as the others.
“I’m disappointed that you weren’t able to talk to me about this.”
Charlie, Fulton, and Portman all look at each other in surprise. I would have joined in, but I’m too dizzy to move.
“I understand that I’m not always likeable, and that you’ve only known me for a few months. I’m no Coach Bombay. But I can try to be a friend to you, as well.” He looks each of us in the eye before continuing. “My younger brother is gay. Our family did not treat him well, especially my father and older brother. I love Jim. He’s my brother, and his sexuality doesn’t matter at all. If you four boys decide that being gay is who you are, then you shouldn’t take any garbage for it.”
Older brother and father? Sounds slightly familiar. Fulton puts his hand on my shoulder, squeezing it lightly. I would turn around and smile at him, but right now that’s out of the question.
“I’m going to extend the offer to make you Captain again, Conway.”
Charlie swallows audibly. He’s clearly shocked by Orion’s kindness. He slowly shakes his head.
“I want to, but I can’t. They’re not my Ducks.”
Coach sighs, and runs both of his hands through his hair. I hadn’t realized that this was taking so much out of him.
“But I do know who you should make Captain,” Charlie speaks up again. “Guy Germaine. He deserves it.”
Coach Orion pauses for a moment, and then nods. “Yeah, I think he’s worthy for me to use my third ‘C’ on.”
He laughs. “I just hope he doesn’t pass out again.”
We try to laugh, but it doesn’t come out quite right.
“Let’s get Banks to the nurse now.” He says, standing up. Charlie and Fulton help me up, and I lean on them as we leave his office.
Six people really shouldn’t be crammed into such a small space. And five people certainly shouldn’t be crammed onto one bed.
We’re in Charlie and Adam’s room, Adam has been given some amazing painkillers by the nurse and is contentedly passing out, waking up, saying stupid stuff and passing out again in the luxury of his own bed.
The girls waited for us after the game, they got quite worried having to wait for so long, but on hearing the news they decided we had to celebrate.
They went to get pizza and drinks while we took Adam to get drugged up.
It’s not comfortable being scrunched up on a single bed with four other people, but it’s not unpleasant.
None of us can quite believe how things turned out. Connie being suspended, I never saw that coming, but the real kicker is Coach Orion. Fulton told me that the team, mainly he and Charlie, hadn’t got off to a good start with him, so they must be even more shocked than me.
Taz is scribbling away in her notebook. I hope it’s not more Irish. It started out funny, then became endearing when she taught Charlie, now it’s just irritating. Only she and Charlie know what she’s talking about.
She tears out the page and hands it around. It’s not Irish. It’s a sketch, a good one too. She’s drawn the Queertet in their hockey gear, with her and Maya either side in cheerleader outfits, holding a banner aloft that reads “The Mighty Queertet”, instead of a Duck symbol on our uniforms, there’s a rainbow triangle.
“A toast.” Maya says holding up her can of coke. “To the mighty Queertet, and their fabulous Coach.”
We clink cans, except for Banks, who has managed to wake up again. He stares at us, mutters “Purple… should have known.” He sighs deeply and passes out again.
I snort. Ok, he’s finally managed to identify all of us now. He saw Charlie (“Love you”), passed out, saw Maya (“I don’t wish I was your girlfriend”), passed out, Fulton, (“You threw me in garbage!!”), passed out and then saw me (“Hello, Dean”).
I’m wondering if I should be offended that I didn’t get a more interesting comment. He’s the only person on the planet (except for my parents) who calls me Dean.
“I wish I was on the same thing as Banks. He looks quite happy,” I comment. I shift, trying to put my arm around Fulton and manage to knock Maya off balance. She grabs Taz and they both crash to the floor.
“That’s it! Lesbians, stay off the bed, you’re taking up too much room!” I tell them.
“Too much room? Me and Maya combined are only half the size of you!” Taz responds.
Banks wakes up due to the noise, frowns at us and mutters something incomprehensible, then passes out again.
Fulton turns to me. “You really should learn not to annoy her.”
“Taz, shh. We’ll stay down here.” Maya tugs on her arm. “There’s more room on the floor, we can snuggle.”
Taz gives us a grin and turns back to her girlfriend.
“Great!” Charlie rolls his eyes, “Now everyone’s hugging but me! How come I end up with the comatose boyfriend?”
At this point the comatose boyfriend looks at Charlie lovingly and mutters something that sounds suspiciously Irish.
Charlie and Taz burst into hysterical laughter.
“When on earth did he learn that?” she asks between giggles.
Charlie shrugs. “I practice a lot.”
“I have to ask, what did he say?” Fulton asks.
“He said, I hope the Tadpole God fire-bombs your home.”
We’re laughing so hard we almost don’t hear the insistent knocking on the door.
Captain. Captain Guy Germaine? It’s not right. But I’ll deal with it, I guess.
Coach came to back in to talk to us after he was done with the others, and Adam was taken to the nurse’s. There had been a nice fight in the locker room while the Queertet and Connie were in Coach’s office. Averman’s glasses broke, I ended up with a hefty shiner, Goldberg cut his lip, and Dwayne’s nose started to bleed. I don’t care though. We still won the fight.
He told us that I was going to Captain. Surprisingly, there hadn’t been any comments objecting to it.
I’m still kind of iffy about it. I don’t like having power—it’s just not my thing.
I knock on Charlie’s door again, hoping that they can hear me over the noise they’re making. A few moments later a short girl with bright purple hair greets me. Taz, I think it is. I’ve seen her with Adam, Charlie, Fulton, and Portman, but I’ve never actually spoken to her. She’s always with Maya, this girl from my gym class. I recognized her as Charlie’s date to the dance.
“Hello there,” she steps aside to let me in. Maya’s on the floor, Banks is on his own bed passed out, and the other three are smushed onto Charlie’s bed.
“Hey Guy!” Charlie grins. “I hear you’re Captain!”
I nod. I figured that Charlie had something to do with it.
“Why don’t you take a seat?” Charlie scoots over to make room for me on his already overcrowded bed. I reluctantly sit down.
“See Charlie, now you have someone to cuddle with!” Fulton jokes. Charlie laughs, and puts his arm around me. I know he’s kidding around, and play along.
Adam wakes up on the other side of the room, and gazes at me thoughtfully for a moment.
“You know Adam, you’re really looking different these days.” He says before passing out again.
We stare at each other in amused shock. Does he think that I’m… him?
“He’s drugged up pretty bad.” Portman tells me, starting to laugh.
We chat a little bit for the next few minutes, and I find that I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve never really been around Fulton and Portman with so few people around, and they’re a lot cooler than I imagined. The girls are really great too. Taz and Charlie seem to have an intense love-hate relationship with each other, and keep flinging insults at each other in some strange language. Maya watches the scene thoughtfully, laughing occasionally. After a little while, the conversation dies down.
“I think I’m going to go wake up Adam, and get him to change into some other clothes or something.” Charlie gets up and crosses the room to his boyfriend. He mumbles a little bit, and Adam rouses. He mumbles something back to Charlie, who starts laughing. All of us are eagerly trying to listen to their conversation. Charlie heaves Adam to his feet and starts to lead him to the bathroom.
“… You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life… Oooh, see that girl, watch that scene, diggin’ the dancing queen…”
Charlie closes the door behind them, and we stare in shock for a moment, before bursting out with laughter.
Adam is never going to live this down.
Notes: Victory and I would just like to state for the record that we were sober when we wrote this chapter. You’ll notice when we write chapters together we tend to try for big laughs. Hope you enjoyed this as much as we did. We’re trying to get Adam stoned again real soon!
Chapter 21: Consumer Blizzard by Star
Notes: Yes, I know this is in 3rd person, past tense. Victory and I couldn’t face another multiple-POV chapter straight after the last one. They’re hard work!
“Hold up! Everyone shut up!”
Everyone stared at the source of the loud voice, including more than a few patrons of the gaudily decorated mall they were standing in.
Maya smiled at them calmly. “Taz, you’re buying for me, so you can shop with anyone but me at the moment.”
“Except for the Bash Brothers. I still don’t have their gifts either,” the small purple girl replied.
“So it’s Charlie or Adam. Are either of you buying for Taz?” Maya asked.
“I’ve already got Taz’s gift,” Charlie told her.
Maya grinned. “Wonderful. Charlie, Taz, get lost, blitz your money. We’ll see you back here in two hours.” Maya turned to the remaining three. “Ok, Fulton, what do you need to buy?”
“Adam and Portman’s present,” he replied obediently.
“Wonderful. Looks like I’m shopping with you. Do either of you have problems with that?” she asked the other two.
The shook their heads, slightly intimidated by her assertiveness.
Portman and Adam “I thought her girlfriend was the scary one,” Portman said in a hushed tone.
“You should see Maya lose her temper. Her rage puts Taz’s to shame,” Adam replied.
“I’ll take a rain check on that, Taz scares me enough.”
“Actually, you’ve never seen her really lose her temper either,” Adam said thoughtfully.
“That’s because I like being alive.” Portman grinned. “So, are we going to discuss the feisty lesbians all day, or are we going to shop? I for one don’t want to be late back, Maya might kill us.”
Adam nodded and began to follow him. “You know the reason she’s being so assertive, don’t you?”
“Does it have anything to do with the Christmas tree that Taz painted on the wall of their room?”
Adam grinned. “You’d think by now that girl would learn to paint on paper. Luckily, that’s what Charlie has got her, a huge sketch book.”
“You think that will stop her?”
“I don’t know, I hope so. I’ve bought Maya a hockey stick, maybe she can threaten Taz with it.”
“Now there’s an image I can’t deal with. Them fighting each other… with weapons.” Portman laughed.
“Maybe I should take it back,” Adam considered.
“Come on cake-eater. Which shop are we going to first?”
Adam blushed. “I just need to get a small gift for Charlie, I’ve already got his main present.”
Portman took a deep breath. “So which shop are we going to for this small gift?”
“I was thinking of getting him underwear.”
Portman considered this carefully, then decided, “You are so middle-aged.”
Fulton and Maya “So what’s the plan of action?” Maya asked as they walked.
“Did anyone ever suggest you’d do well in the army?” he replied.
She gave him a look that made him wish he hadn’t spoken, then she laughed.
“Sorry, Christmas makes everyone crazy. I try to keep my head. You try living with Taz and trying to stay sane.”
“I heard about the Christmas tree,” he said warily.
Maya snorted. “I’ve been trying not to laugh about that all day. If I laugh it only encourages her, and I’m sick of having to repaint our room every couple of weeks. And you don’t want to be around Taz when she’s high on paint fumes!”
“She’s one of a kind.”
“I think the world isn’t ready for another Taz.” She grinned. “C’mon, let’s go spend some money!”
Taz and Charlie “Charles Conway, move your ass!”
“Taryn Anne McDonald, don’t you use that tone with me!” He glared at her. “And I’ve told you before, don’t call me Charles.”
“Well don’t call me Taryn!” She snapped back. “And how do you know my middle name?”
“Me? You started it!”
“Go dtachta neach neamhshaolta do thóin bheagmhaitheasach!”
He frowned at her. “You haven’t taught me that one!”
She smiled back. “I know. So are you coming in here or not?” she gestured to the shop they were standing outside of.
“Not,” he said firmly.
“That wasn’t really a question. Move it!”
“Taz, one of the reasons I’m glad I’m gay is shops like this. I don’t want to go into a lingerie shop.”
Taz grinned. “Come in there with me or I’ll make a scene.”
“You don’t think you’re doing that now?” He countered.
“This? This is the warm-up. Wait ‘til I get going. I’ll do the heartbroken girlfriend thing.”
“You wouldn’t,” he said, but without much hope.
Taz exploded. “How dare you! You fool around behind my back, I take you back—like the schmuck that I am and now you…”
Whatever Taz was planning to say was cut off by Charlie clamping his hand over her mouth and tugging her inside the shop.
She grinned at him. “See, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“If I wasn’t so scared of Maya, I would happily kill you,” He muttered in her ear.
“You love me really.” She wrapped an arm around him.
“Like I love syphilis.”
“You have syphilis? That’s what you get for tarting around behind my back!” She grinned and he stepped on her foot.
“Nasty.” She tried to pout at him, but neither could keep a straight face.
“So what are we in here for?” He asked, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on Taz and not the lingerie around him.
“Can I help you?” A sales assistant with a bright smile greeted them.
Taz’s grin got bigger and Charlie began to worry.
“My boyfriend’s buying me pajamas for Christmas, buy you know what men’s taste is like, so I’ve come along to choose them.”
The assistant’s eyes dimmed slightly, working out that it would only be a paltry commission. “This way.” She instructed with a less bright smile than before.
“So, what are you two looking for?”
“Do you have anything resembling a straightjacket?” Charlie asked with a perfectly serious expression.
Taz glared at him.
Let the games commence.
“So, did everyone get what they wanted?” Maya asked, slipping back into drill sergeant mode.
“Charlie and I got kicked out of three stores!” Taz supplied brightly.
Adam raised his eyebrows at his boyfriend, Charlie shrugged and pointed at Taz, insinuating that it was all her fault.
“That’s nice,” Maya responded tiredly. “Can we go home now?”
Halfway home it occurred to them that nobody bought wrapping paper.
Chapter 22: White Christmas I by Victory Thru Tears
As I open the door, he’s already out of the car. He runs in my direction and crashes into me, throwing his arms around my shoulders. I’m nearly knocked off of my feet.
He repeatedly kisses my cheek, finally landing on my mouth.
I start laughing as he pulls away from me.
“You act as if you hadn’t seen me three days ago,” I tell him as I try to make him come inside. He doesn’t loosen his embrace.
“I’m just glad that I’m able to do this in public. Oh right, and I missed you,” he says, kissing my cheek again.
His mother and Coach Bombay walk up slowly behind him. They’re clearly amused by Charlie’s display of affection.
“Hi Adam.” Bombay affectionately ruffles my hair.
“I’d hug you, but Charlie can’t seem to move himself,” Casey smiles.
“Uh, yeah!” I laugh, and Charlie tightens his grip around my waist.
“Casey, Gordon, Charlie!” My father comes down the stairs and claps a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t let Adam make you stay out in the cold, come on in!”
My parents have graciously invited Charlie’s family—yes, family—to our house for Christmas. I think it had something to do with my constant begging and pleading. My exact words were—“I will be the greatest son and in the world and do extra chores for a month if you do this.” Charlie used the same tactic on his parents, who weren’t too keen on “imposing on the Banks.”
But here they are. I’m definitely content. I get to spend Christmas with all of the people I love.
Danny decided to stay in Minneapolis for the holiday. Actually, I think my parents decided for him. Oh well, no loss.
Fulton, Portman, Maya, Taz, and some random Ducks are coming in a couple days. Every year my family lets me host a party. The Goldbergs have the Fourth of July, Conways on Memorial Day, and Banks on Christmas. Duck tradition.
I’m sure that not everyone will show up this year. But we have a few additions (Taz and Maya), so the party should still be great.
We sit down to dinner shortly. My mom and Casey bustle to and from the kitchen, getting the food. My father and Coach Bombay are conversing about law stuff. That’s what we get for putting two very successful lawyers in one room.
“Guess what,” Charlie whispers in my ear excitedly. “They’re engaged. Bombay’s gonna marry my mom. I’m finally gonna have a dad.”
Charlie’s face shines with joy. I find his hand and squeeze it. He deserves this. He and Bombay are meant to be father and son. I’m so glad Charlie’s going to get the happiness he so clearly has earned.
Charlie and I make a quick exit after the meal, hoping not to get caught and be stuck with dishwashing duties.
He sets his bag down onto the bed as we enter my room.
“Your room’s a lot cleaner than last time I saw it, Cake-eater.”
“I cleaned it just for you, Spaz, my sweet,” I tease, setting my hands on my hips.
He flops down onto my bed, and motions to the sleeping bag, blankets, and pillows on the floor.
“That where you’re sleeping?”
“Yeah right, I only put those there so Mommy Dearest wouldn’t get suspicious. You’re stuck with me.”
“Yeah, too bad. I’ll never get to sleep with you around.” He grins.
We stay in silence for a moment, until he spots a wrapped package on my dresser.
“That for me?” he asks, pointing to it.
“Yeah, but you gotta wait until tomorrow morning.”
This’ll drive him nuts. Patience is not one of Charlie Conway’s virtues.
“Please…” He juts his lower lip out in an attempt to look innocent.
I always fall for it.
“Ahh, no, not the face, anything but the face…” I pick up the package and throw it at him. He catches it, his innocent look turning into a triumphant grin. He motions for me to come near him, and promptly pulls me down onto the bed when I do. He’s already tearing into the package.
Buying gifts for Charlie sucks. The kid doesn’t have any interests besides hockey, food, and swearing in Irish. I have this battle with myself every year over what to get him. I finally decided on hockey tickets and, well, underwear.
And no matter what Portman says, I’m not middle aged.
Charlie is trying to suppress his laughter as he turns to look at me.
“Underwear? I may have the gutter mouth, but you definitely have the gutter mind, Banksie.”
I blush, and he continues.
“Yeah, my girlfriend should love these.”
“Yeah, that would be funny, Conway, except if I’m not mistaken you had a girlfriend for a few weeks in the beginning of the year, and you’re also very close to convincing a lesbian into marrying you.” I tell him, a grin on my face.
“Awww, I’m hurt.” He rolls over on top of me.
“Ow!” I try to restrain my yelp, I know that it’s sort of ruining the moment.
Charlie moves back to his original position. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry… I didn’t mean to get your wrist…”
“It’s ok,” I tell him, kissing him.
“Now it’s time for yours.” Charlie pulls a small unwrapped box out of his pocket. Any idiot can tell that it’s a ring from the shape and size of the container that it’s in. I open it, and sure enough, it’s a silver ring.
“Charles, you always find a way to make me feel so inadequate,” I tell him as he puts it on my finger.
“Shut up, don’t call me Charles, and don’t make that stupid face, it’s supposed to be subtle and manly.”
I’m not sure how he manages to say that while keeping a straight face. He looks indignant when I start to laugh.
“It seems more like a proposal,” I tease.
He shrugs, and turns over so that he’s on his stomach. “Maybe it is.”
“So what are you proposing?” I ask, moving so that I’m in the same position.
“Don’t start laughing at me again,” he says, not meeting my eyes.
I promise, now completely serious.
“I’m proposing that you don’t stop loving me, because I don’t know if I could deal with that,” He tells me quietly.
“Oh, Charles…” I kiss his forehead. “Like that could ever happen.”
He grumbles as he finds a way to roll on top of me without touching my wrist.
“Don’t call me Charles…”
Chapter 23: White Christmas II by Star
We walk slowly home from Midnight Mass. While Portman’s parents aren’t entirely religious, they believe very strongly that the meaning of Christmas should be completely forgotten.
His parents are walking some distance in front of us. Every so often his Mom turns around and grins at us, and his Dad will tug at her arm and say, “Leave them alone, Carol.”
Yet again Mrs. P called my mother, I didn’t ask her what was said, she’d obviously tell me if they had rethought their decision about me. She’s been extra nice to me (if that’s even possible), since the call, so I know for certain there was just more name calling.
I just hope it gets resolved somehow. I’m still a minor, which means I need parents, and while Mr. and Mrs. P are great, they’re not mine, and can’t be expected to put up with me for every single school holiday for the next two years.
Portman squeezes my hand and brings me out of my sobering thoughts. I realize we’re outside of his house, and his parents are shuffling in.
Mrs. P gives us another grin and tells us to behave, before Mr. P drags her inside.
Portman grins at me. “I think my Mom is a gay man trapped in a woman’s body.”
I laugh, it sounds about right. I look around, “Aren’t we going inside?”
He shakes his head. “No, I’m going to give you your Christmas present, it can’t wait until the morning.”
“It comes with a time limit?” I joke nervously. I’m really worried about this. There’s no way what I’m going to give him will measure up. I don’t have a lot of money, and I had even less inspiration.
Strangely Maya gave me the idea, then she and Taz kidnapped Portman for several days so I could work on his present. He couldn’t get within ten feet of our front door without the two of them grabbing him and dragging him off somewhere.
He got quite tired of it, and finally picked them both up, one under each arm, and deposited them outside of the guys dorms with the words “Just stay out!”
He puts his arms around me, and I realize I was spacing out again.
“Look up,” he instructs softly.
I comply and stare at the sky. “What am I looking for?”
“Pick a star.”
I look back down at him and he smiles. I look up again and chose one. “Ok.” I point to it, “I like that one.”
I’m speechless. I don’t have a single thing in my head to say, I’m stunned.
“Well,” he grins. “It’s probably not, there’s a chart inside that tells you which one is yours, but I couldn’t figure it out.”
“You bought me a star?” I ask in amazement.
He nods. “Maybe Mr. and Mrs. Reed don’t think that Fulton Reed exists, but I know he does, and now he always will.”
I feel the tears start to run down my face. I can’t believe he’s done this for me.
He looks alarmed. “I didn’t mean to bring them up, I didn’t want to upset you on Christmas day.”
I wipe my eyes. “I’m not crying because of them,” I tell him. I am the biggest softie on the planet, I’ve barely stopped crying for the past month or so. “I just can’t believe you got me a star… Thank you seems like such a useless reply.”
He kisses me softly, and when we break apart I know what would be a better reply. It’s been going round in my brain for a few weeks now, and I’ve been looking for a time to say it.
“Loveyou,” I whisper. I shake my head. I know I can do better than that. I take his face in my hands, and look into his eyes. “I love you.” I tell him.
A huge smile crosses his face. “I love you too,” he replies.
My grin is threatening to split my face. He loves me. “I’ve got your gift inside.” I say. “It won’t measure up to…” I nod at the sky. How can I top that?
He shrugs indifferently. “I didn’t get you a star because I wanted something in return, I got you a star because…” he grins, “I love you.”
He takes my hand and leads me inside. I sit down in front of the Christmas tree and I try to find his present in the pile of gifts. I notice several with my name on them from Mr. and Mrs. P and I’m touched.
Portman turns on the twinkle lights and turns out the main light. I grin at him.
“I can’t help it,” he says. “I get all sappy around Christmas.”
“I don’t mind. It hides my lousy attempts at wrapping this.” And hopefully how this gift pales in comparison to what he got me.
He sits down next to me and I hand him his present. I put my head on his shoulder as he carefully opens it. Portman’s always like that with presents. You’d think he’d be the type to rip off the paper, but he never does. He considers it a failure if it comes off in more than one piece.
He smiles at me and opens the scrap book.
I worked hard on it. I went to the rest of the Queertet, Bombay, Charlie’s Mom, even Mrs. P for photos for it. I got Taz to do some sketches when I couldn’t find the photo I really wanted. There’s news clipping, and underneath I’ve written what I was feeling at the time. It’s a catalogue of us meeting, and all the things that have happened since.
“I know it’s not a lot, but—”
He presses his finger to my lips, cutting me off. “If you apologize for this I will break up with you. This is amazing.”
We go through it slowly, pointing to various photos and laughing about them.
And despite everything, I think this is the best Christmas I’ve ever had.
Chapter 24: White Christmas III by Victory Thru Tears
We sit out on the ice together, our breath making clouds in the cold air. He leans against me, wrapping his arms around my waist, and laying his head on my shoulder. Probably trying to huddle for warmth. That’s my Banksie.
After exchanging gifts, Adam and I decided to go out for a quick skating excursion on the pond. We only skated for the first fifteen minutes, and then started to wrestle on the ice. Now we’re sitting in the middle of the pond, looking at stars. Sure, I’m cold… but it’s worth it to have a moment with him.
We’re all coupled up. Even Adam’s parents have gotten more cuddly since my arrival—I think otherwise they felt left out.
Mom and Bombay told me about the engagement this morning. I have a feeling Gordon only did it last night, after I went to sleep.
I’ve never seen Mom so happy. Maybe it’s just me, but she seems even happier about this than she did about Justin. I for one think that Bombay will make a much better Dad.
Dad. I wonder if he’ll let me call him that. I haven’t called anyone that since, well, never. My mom and I left my real dad a long time ago, when I was two. I don’t remember him at all. Mom has a couple pictures, and when I was younger I really wanted to find him. But now I don’t. I just want a new life, with Mom and Bombay.
I think she should change her name. She didn’t when she married Justin, but it’s time now.
She’d also better let me and Adam be in the wedding.
Banksie sighs contentedly. This is only our second Christmas together, and the first time that we’ve spent the actual holiday together.
I can’t wait. My plans for the rest of the night include drinking some hot chocolate while listening to Mrs. Banks tell me about all the embarrassing things Adam did when he was younger, maybe watching a scary movie, and finally falling asleep with my boyfriend around three a.m.
“I think I’m stuck to the ice.” Adam murmurs into my ear. “Frozen, at least.”
I laugh, and get up, hauling him to his feet. We grab our skates, and go back into his house. Our parents are sitting in the living room, laughing over something. I’m about to head up to Adam’s room so we can do a little more cuddling, but Adam stops me. He stares into the living room, a look of horror on his face.
“What?” I ask, concerned.
He ignores me, and quickly walks over to his mother. I curiously follow him.
“Mom!” he yells. “Do you have to show the naked baby pictures every year?”
I laugh, and sit down next to Coach Bombay. This sounds interesting.
“And here I was, thinking you were lying when you said you were a creepy looking baby.” Adam hits me in the side as I tease him.
“Shut up, Charles. Watch the movie.”
“Are you going to be calling me Charles all night?”
“Maybe, if you don’t stop provoking me.”
“I’m not provoking you.”
“Then shut up.”
“Ok, Dancing Queen.”
The smell of the cookies baking is enough to make me let out a trickle of drool onto the counter. I voice this thought, and the kitchen sounds with groans of disgust.
“You’re so gross, Charlie.” Connie wrinkles her nose from across the room.
“Want some dough?” Goldberg asks, taking a big glob onto his finger and licking it off.
“Back off, it’s mine.” Adam growls as he puts his arms around the bowl protectively. I’ve never seen him so defensive of something. He meets my eyes, and grins.
“Of course, Charlie can have some.” He holds the bowl out to me, and I gladly take a big handful.
“Why, cause he’s your boyfriend?” Averman teases. Banks and I exchange a glance.
“No, cause he’s Captain. And also cause his mom is married to an asshole, and he needs cookie dough.” Julie sticks up for us. You’d think that she knows about our couple-dom, but she doesn’t. She’s just sweet by nature.
Adam nods in agreement. He then proceeds to throw a handful of dough at Averman.
Averman wipes it off of himself and throws it back at Adam.
“Eat cake, Cake-eater!”
“Too bad its cookie dough, not cake mix!” Adam laughs, taking another handful and flinging it at him. Les, in true Duck fashion, dodges it. The mess hits Russ on the head.
“Oh hell no!” He yells. He grabs a handful of chips from next to him and throws them in Adam’s direction.
“Don’t waste the food!” Goldberg yells in despair from the middle of the kitchen.
We’re engaged in an all-out food fight when Mrs. Banks walks into the room. She looks at us for a moment, and we stare back at her, completely silent.
She sighs. “Oh, just go ahead.”
The noise commences as we continue our war.
We’re piled into the Banks’ living room, Poltergeist playing on the big screen TV. I’m wrapped in a big blanket with Adam, and Julie is leaning against me on my other side. Six of us are squished onto his couch, so close that no one looks twice at Adam and I. I, of course, don’t care if they did think something. I really like Adam, and it’s hard not to jump on the couch and yell it out. Of course, Banksie would kill me if I did that, and some of the Ducks would probably never look at me the same again.
No. That’s not true. They’re my Ducks, and they’re going to be the same even after they find out about me and Cake-eater. We’re friends.
We laugh as Dwayne shrieks at the movie. I didn’t know that he got scared so easily. Portman claps a hand around his mouth, trying to get him to shut up. Dwayne does so gladly—he’s still scared of Portman, even after going through the entire Goodwill Games with him.
Adam finds my hand under the blanket. I’m surprised. Usually he doesn’t take the initiative, especially not in front of the Ducks.
Both he and Julie cower against me as a scary part comes on. I put my free arm around the Cat, laughing. I know Adam’s just doing it for show—he just wants to be near me.
I’m not complaining.
“Stop moving,” he commands. I thought he was asleep. Looks like I was wrong.
“I can’t help it. I’m not used to such a big bed.”
“Get used to it. You’re sharing with me for life.”
I laugh. “You’re feisty tonight. What’s your problem?”
“You.” He rolls over and slides his arms around me. “You’re the biggest problem in the world.”
“I’m still your problem.”
“I didn’t say you weren’t.”
“Are you getting mushy on me, Spazway?”
“A little, Dancing Queen.”
“How come I get stuck with all of the weird nicknames?”
“It’s not my fault. You’re the one who was singing it while making me change you into your pajamas.”
“You were undressing me—I felt like singing. Plus I was totally drugged out.”
“I’m going to sleep.”
“No one’s stopping you.”
“Uh huh. You’re stopping me.”
“Night Banksie. I love you.”
“I love you more.”
“No, I love you more.”
“I love you more.”
“Nuh-uh. I love you more.”
Chapter 25: White Christmas IV by Star
I sigh as Maya rummages through my bag. I take a seat on her bed and force myself not to start picking things up, I’ll only break them.
“Ah-ha!” She says triumphantly, holding three paintbrushes aloft. She gives me a warning look, then goes back to poking around in my bag.
She’s still pissed off about the Christmas tree. I couldn’t help it, Charlie and I had just watched Gremlins and if that doesn’t put you in the holiday mood, what will? In case you were wondering, Charlie and I were cheering on the Gremlins… in Irish.
And it really wasn’t my fault, Maya should have been in our room when I got back. I think she was out with Adam learning how to beat things with a hockey stick.
Maya sighs deeply as she pulls out a couple of tubes of oil paint. It’s odd, I very rarely use oils. I’m not lying when I tell her I don’t know how they got there.
“Taz, honey. I love you dearly, but please don’t paint on my walls.” She tells me in a very firm tone, pulling out yet more art supplies.
“I promise I won’t. But I can’t help it. At home I’m allowed to.”
It’s true. Each of my four walls at home have a mural on them. One is based on Lord of The Rings, (pre-movie), one covered in butterflies and roses, the next is Sleeping Beauty and the final one is covered in drawings of my friends.
The ceiling is divided in half, one half is the sky by night with a big sleepy moon smiling down kindly with a little man sitting on him, the other is by day with big fluffy clouds and a smiley sun.
I’ve drawn a tree in each corner, the branches stretching out along the top of the wall and painted the roots onto my plain wood flooring, surrounded by flowers, fairy rings and toadstools. There are pixies, fairies and leprechauns running around the bottom of the walls, getting into all kinds of mischief.
It kind of intense when you walk in there, it gives my aunt a headache, but Maya loves it.
Whenever I got bored I’d just add something else to it, but I keep forgetting I’m not allowed to do that at school. Doubly so at Maya’s house.
She finally finishes going through my stuff and hands me a sketch book and a pencil. “Can I trust you to only use the sketch book?”
I grin and not. “I promise. I’ll be on my best behavior.”
“Good. Stay here while I go and hide all this art stuff.”
I flop back on Maya’s bed. I love her room, it’s so calm compared to mine. And so big compared to our dorm at school.
Christmas here will be fun. I get on ok with her parents. They think I’m a little odd, but everyone thinks that.
I called my Dad before I left, told him I wasn’t going home for Christmas. He was mad, but Maya told me he’d only get madder if I saw him. And she’s right.
But as always, I’m focusing on the positive. I’m spending Christmas with my girl, and that’s the best present of all.
Speaking of… I check my bag. Yes, I did remember to pack her present, and it’s still wrapped up, so she doesn’t know what it is.
This is our second Christmas together. I can’t believe she’s put up with me for so long, then again, the day she met me, she knew what she was getting herself into…
I sigh and pick up the paintbrush. This is horribly unfair. It wasn’t my fault.
There’s a knock at the door, “Come in!” I yell over the music.
A pretty girl with brown hair and strange orange streaks enters the room. She gives me a look of confusion and tentatively asks, “Are you Taryn McDonald?”
“No,” I tell her firmly, paining the wall and splattering the two of us with cream paint. What is it with schools, why can’t they paint dorms with interesting colors?
“You’re not Taryn McDonald?” She attempts to wipe the paint off, but only makes it worse.
“No, I’m Taz McDonald,” I tell her. “I don’t answer to Taryn. Who are you?”
“I’m Maya Hansen, your roommate. And I have to ask, why are you painting the wall?”
I sigh and dip my brush in the paint can. “It’s a long and involved story, and I have to finish this wall before the inspection in two hours. So, you have two options, you can either pick up a brush and help me paint and I’ll tell you, or you can disappear and leave me to finish in peace.”
“Are you always so rude?” she snaps, but picks up a paintbrush and joins me.
“Yes,” I tell her. “To new people I am.”
“Has it occurred to you that we’re going to be sharing a room for the next year and you should at least make an effort the first time we meet?”
“It occurred to me,” I concede. “But then I got in a bad mood when I was told to repaint the wall, and I just couldn’t be bothered.”
“So, why are we repainting the wall?” she asks.
“Because I drew a Cheshire Cat on it…” I’m embarrassed to admit this part. “I, uh, watched Alice in Wonderland yesterday.”
She laughs at me. “That’s your ‘long and involved’ story?”
I glare at her. “Well, sod off then!” She flicks paint at me. I’m shocked.
“You’re so rude!” She tells me, but she’s laughing.
“Well, you’re not making much of an impression either!” I flick paint back at her.
Two hours later the room is covered in dripping paint. Our parents have been called. We’re on detention for life.
And I’m very glad that Maya Hansen is my new roommate.
“So what did you get me?” she asks me eagerly.
We’re sitting by the Christmas tree in her parents living room. It’s two minutes past midnight and officially Christmas day.
“Who says I got you anything?” I reply with a grin.
“Charlie. He threatened me. He said that if I didn’t like what you bought me he was going to kill us both.”
I snort, I guess he’s still sore over being kicked out of all those stores with me.
“In that case…” I hand her the present. You’d think if I can draw the way I do I’d be able to wrap a gift properly, but I can’t. So I asked Charlie for help and he was worse than me. He held the paper in place while I attacked it with a whole roll of sticky tape.
Maya gives me a look and reaches for the scissors that she knew she’d need when faced with a gift from me.
“Hey, where’s my present?” I ask.
She grins and hands me a tiny present and a big squashy one. I open the big squashy one first. It’s a Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. At times she reads my mind.
She opens her gift. It’s not quite as meaningful as her gift to me, but I know it’s what she wanted. A pair of satin shortie pajamas. Inside them is a picture I drew of the two of us.
I open the small gift. It’s jewelery, I know that much. Inside the velvet box is a silver butterfly pendent.
“I thought it would keep you going until they appear again,” she says in a shy tone that I very rarely get to hear.
“It’s beautiful,” I tell her. “Thank you.”
“And you. I love the picture, and I’m going to feel all slinky wearing these tonight.” She holds up the PJ top to herself.
“I love you, Hansen,” I tell her.
“You’re not so bad yourself, McDonald. I probably love you too.”
Chapter 26: ‘Tis the Season I by Star and Victory Thru Tears
I dress carefully. I don’t know why I’m making the effort. I don’t want to go, and I can’t imagine that I will be welcomed into the Banks’ household with open arms.
I could tell my parents the truth. I could tell them that I’m off the team because I’ve been suspended, instead of pretending I’m injured. I could tell them that I’m no longer captain because of the way I was, instead of pretending that I wanted Guy to be captain instead. I could tell them that my scholarship hangs in the balance instead of pretending that everything’s fine.
I could tell them a lot of things.
But I don’t want to.
I don’t like pretending either. But it’s better than having to explain.
I suppose I could go tonight and pretend that I’ve changed my mind. That I think it’s ok for the Queertet to be the way they are. But I can’t. I’m good at pretending, but not that good. It makes me feel ill every time I think about it.
Maybe I shouldn’t think about it so much. But it’s hard playing hockey with them, seeing them and not thinking about it.
I think that maybe things wouldn’t have gone so far if I hadn’t had backing from certain people. Luis seems to have the same outlook as me, he can’t deal with them at all. Not that I blame him, or any of the others that agreed with me.
It just seems so wrong that my friends are gay. Not that they’re my friends any more.
I apply one more coat of lip gloss and appraise myself in the mirror. Not bad.
I hear a knock at my door. “Can I come in?” It’s Luis.
He enters my room and shuts the door behind him. He looks me up and down and I feel kind of sick, like he’s mentally giving me a score out of ten.
“You look amazing,” he tells me, his custom charming smile in place.
“You too,” I tell him with about as much sincerity has he gave me. “So why are you in my room?”
“Your Mom called up to you, but you didn’t hear over your music.” He gives me another smile. “So, are we ready?”
“Almost.” I move to pick up a light cardigan to cover my shoulders, but Luis gets there first, holding it to slide my arms into. He presses his lips to my neck as he helps me into it.
I turn around to face him and wonder why we do this. He’s still with his cheerleader girlfriend, and to be honest, I don’t really like him.
Maybe it’s because he’s a guy, and generally considered good looking, and I miss being somebody’s girl and will take what I can get. Even if it’s a smarmy two-timing snake like Luis.
He presses his lips to mine and his arms wind around me, pulling me closer. I lose myself in the kiss, imagining my fingers are tangling in blonde hair, not black.
We break apart, he straightens his hair and I reapply my lip gloss.
I guess it’s show time.
I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that Taz slept the whole way. It’s good because while she was asleep, I was left in peace to read or write. It’s bad because now she’s awake and re-energized for the party. We’ve only just entered Adam’s neighborhood, and Taz is already going nuts. Wealth intimidates her, and when she gets intimidated, she becomes even crazier.
My parents were glad to drive the six hours to Minnesota for us to stay a few days with the Banks’. They have friends in St. Paul that they can stay with, and are enthusiastic on having a nice holiday by themselves, too.
Plus, my mom confessed to me that Taz is making her go insane.
We stop in front of the house that Adam had given me directions to. It’s huge. My father pops the trunk and instructs us to “Get out and have fun.” He’s getting annoyed with Taz, too. She’s been awake for the last half an hour, and hasn’t shut up.
We grab our bags and Taz bounds up to the doorstep. My parents have already pulled away, eager to get away from us.
My girlfriend rings the doorbell repeatedly, hopping up and down. I roll my eyes, trying to smother my laughter.
“I bet that’s Taz.” I can hear a voice on the other side of the doorway.
“Who else would it be?” Adam asks as he opens the door. He’s standing next to Fulton, and they both look amused.
“Here, Butler, take our bags. Where’s Charles?” Taz shoves her bag into Adam’s arms and runs off to find Charlie.
“Who wound her up?” Fulton asks as he closes the door behind me.
“She slept the whole way. I doubt she’s going to shut up the entire night.” I tell him, following them to wherever Taz has run off to.
We find her in a large room filled with chairs and sofas, on Charlie’s back.
“Will someone get her off?” he whines as she giggles.
I grin, and attempt to get her to stop riding him like some sort of animal. He grins at me thankfully, and sweeps my girlfriend off of her feet in a hug.
As much as Charlie adores Taz, I don’t think he likes me much. Maybe it’s just my own paranoia, but he just doesn’t seem to enjoy being around me.
I look around the rest of the room. All of the Ducks seem to be there, except Guy, Connie, and Luis. I doubt the latter two will show up, and I’m surprised to see Les Averman and Greg Goldberg sitting in a corner, conversing quietly. Adam wasn’t lying when he said it was Duck tradition.
“So how was your Christmas, Dancing Queen?” Taz asks Adam.
I grin. We’ve been calling him that since the painkiller incident a few weeks ago. Adam gives her a look, and is about to answer when Charlie cuts him off.
“You can call him ‘Material Girl’ too, he was singing that a few nights ago.”
“Charlie!” Adam looks happily pissed off. Charlie laughs, and runs off. Adam chases after him, leaving Fulton, Taz and I.
“So where’s your boyfriend?” I ask him. It comes out sounding stronger than I had intended, and Fulton gives me a scared look. I think he’s still sore from the shopping expedition where I had basically pushed everyone around.
“He’s in the kitchen, getting drinks for everyone,” he answers cautiously.
“Ok.” I grin at Fulton to let him know that I’m not in drill sergeant mode.
“I’m going to explore,” Taz announces, starting to walk up the stairs.
“Come on, I don’t trust her in a house this big, with all this breakable stuff around.” I pull Fulton along with us.
“Hello!” Taz peeks her head into a room, and we see two bewildered looking adults staring back out at us. “I’m Taz McDonald. I’m sure Adam has told you all about me. Are you his parents? You look exactly like him! You must be very proud of him, he’s an excellent lad. So good at hockey, excels in his studies—”
“Actually, I’m Charlie’s mother.” The curly-haired woman smiles.
“Oh, really!” You can see Taz’s eyes light up. She takes a seat, and starts to chatter away.
“You know, I’m Charlie’s girlfriend. We have big plans to get married soon. Has he talked to you about them? He was going to get you to sign a release so we can have the wedding the minute he turns sixteen. I’m already of age—been nineteen for four months now!”
Mrs. Conway is beside herself with giggles. Taz has definitely charmed them. She turns to Charlie’s father.
“Has anybody ever told you that you look like Charlie Sheen?”
He laughs. “I get that a lot. I’m Charlie’s old coach, Gordon Bombay.”
“Oh, you’re Coach Bombay! Yes, Charlie speaks of you all the time.”
I decide that now would be a good time to pull Taz out of the embarrassing situation that she’s already created for Charlie.
“Come on, Taz, let’s go put our bags away.” Fulton helps me grab her, and we drag her away.
I’ve lost my boyfriend. From the noise and Charlie’s occasional anguished yells I would surmise that Taz has arrived.
This house is huge and it’s easy to lose people in. I decide to head down to the main room where most people are congregated. As I set out on my search for Fulton the doorbell goes again and Adam walks past me to answer it. I follow out of curiosity, I thought we were all here.
Adam opens the door. Connie and Luis are standing there. I exchange a look with Adam. He finds the words before I can.
“What?” I ask.
He elbows me in the ribs and I obligingly shut up.
“Come in,” he repeats and usher them in. Connie, Luis and I are wearing identical expressions of shock.
“Have a good time,” he adds cheerily as they wander into the main room.
I turn to him completely baffled. “Banksie, what the hell was that? Why didn’t you slam the door in their faces.”
He smiles at me. “I’m not going to sink to their level. This is a Ducks tradition. And besides they made the effort, they might have changed their minds.”
I have to hand it to him, he doesn’t just have money, he has class too.
“But just in case they haven’t, you have my permission to throw them out as violently as you like at the slightest hint of their usual behavior!”
I smile at him. “That’s a good deal.”
“Now, come with me and help me pry Taz from my boyfriend.” He grins. “I can’t take her on by myself.”
I follow him and we find Taz sitting on Charlie’s knee, talking at a mile a minute. It occurs to me that if she’s sober now, I never want to see her drunk.
Maya comes up to us before we reach them. “Don’t let her have anything with caffeine in, so no Coke or Pepsi—actually, no fizzy drinks at all. All that sugar isn’t good for her either.”
I laugh at Adam’s worried face. This party is going to be interesting to say the least.
I walk over to Taz and Charlie and tap her on the shoulder.
She gives me a thousand watt smile and bounces off Charlie’s lap into my arms. “Portman I’ve missed you!”
I see Charlie laughing, and most of the other Ducks looking either astonished or amused.
I try to disentangle myself from her with very little success. I feel her being tugged away from me and realize that Fulton’s come to my rescue.
“Taz,” he says. “You do realize that you’re not straight, right?”
She nods enthusiastically.
“Then go find your girlfriend.”
I snort as Taz bounds off towards Maya for yet another hug.
“Thanks for the bail,” I tell him.
“Oh that wasn’t for you,” he assures me. “I don’t like to share you.”
I take his hand expecting a hush to fall over the room. It doesn’t. The Ducks look fairly indifferent. Connie and Luis are making sure they only look at each other. I’m still shocked they came.
“Didn’t think they’d be here,” he says, following my gaze.
“Banksie says they might have come because they’ve changed their minds about us.”
Fulton snorts contemptuously. “People like that never change.” I know he’s thinking about his parents.
“Well, we have permission to get violent with them if they’re nasty,” I tell him.
He smiles. “Well, that’s ok then.”
I look on in horror as Taz downs the rest of her soda. Thank god Maya’s not in the room—she would have a cow. The small Irish girl bounces around the room. She pulls Dwayne up from the floor and loudly asks him to teach her to square dance. The cowboy laughs, and obliges. I feel like I’m watching some sort of movie.
Portman and Fulton exchange a glance and walk towards her. Portman, the bigger of the two, picks her up and throws her over his shoulder. He walks towards the door, which Fulton opens for them. I follow curiously. Portman sets Taz down on the porch. Surprisingly, she’s silent. Instead, there’s a big, sugar induced, grin on her face.
“If you can’t be calm, you’re going to stay out here all night. You hear me?”
Taz nods. Portman comes back inside, leaving her on the front step. Taz throws herself against the closed door, singing what must be an Irish folk song. The Bash Brothers and I exchange glances, and shake our heads.
I let out a breath of relief as I enter the kitchen. Adam’s sitting on the counter, giving me a cool stare. I was supposed to meet him in there about ten minutes ago, but Taz had once again gotten me tied up.
“Sorry about that.” I tell Adam, hopping onto the counter next to him. “Taz got into some fairy lights, and managed to fully tangle herself in them. She’s kind of like a puppy.”
He nods and shrugs. Uh oh, two indifferent responses at the same time? Besides that, you try nodding and shrugging at the same time… it’s hard work. Banksie’s upset about something…
“What’s up?” I ask him, reaching for a coke.
“Nothing.” He doesn’t meet my eyes when he says it.
“We could play this game for awhile, but lying doesn’t really suit you. It makes your eyes get all fishy looking.” I tell him, making it up off of the top of my head. Can eyes really get fishy looking? I don’t know, but Banksie always gives in when you insult him.
“So whose boyfriend are you? Mine or Taz’s?” he asks.
“Oh come on, Adam.” I roll my eyes in disbelief. He’s not serious?
“No, really. You’re only spending time with her; you always only spend time with her. You’re always in her dorm, you’re always talking to her in lunch and dinner, the only time you spend time with me is at hockey practice, or at night, when you have to because we share a room. How do you think I feel about it? Oh, but I doubt you ever thought of that!” he finishes bitterly.
I’m not sure how to defend myself. I shouldn’t be opting for arguing, but I can’t help it. Everything he’s just said is completely untrue.
“What about you, you’re always with Maya!” I snap back.
“Yeah, because of lack of choice. She hangs out with me because her girlfriend is off gallivanting with you.”
“Look, I’m not going to fight. If you want to ruin Christmas, you do that. But I’m going to go have fun with my friends,” I say, getting off of the counter.
“Yeah, that would be just like you, run off at the slightest sign of tension!” Adam calls after me. I spin around, fuming.
“Don’t start with me. You don’t have to start acting like a baby just because I wasn’t around you for five seconds.”
“Whatever.” Adam hops off of the counter and walks into the hallway.
Maya comes in as he’s leaving. She gives me a look, letting me know that she’s heard some of our quarrel.
“What?” I snap at her.
She backs up a little, her hands up in a defensive gesture.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to look at you.” She walks to the refrigerator, and takes out a soda. “Taz is looking for you.”
I don’t like the snooty tone in her voice.
“Oh, give me a break,” I sneer as I leave the kitchen.
Chapter 27: ‘Tis the Season II by Star and Victory Thru Tears
Notes: This chapter was supposed to be posted at the same time as ‘Tis The Season I. Unfortunately, Star flaked out because she’s 6 hours ahead of Victory. She did stay up until almost 1:00 a.m. for the love of this story though!
I see Portman striding towards me and quickly run in the opposite direction. I’m not going outside again! It’s cold out there. The only reason I got back in was because Guy arrived, and when someone—Ross or Russ, maybe?—answered the door he didn’t realize I was supposed to be outside.
I know I’m hyper. I can’t help it, Christmas does this to me. Usually I’m at home and my Dad is used to me, but these poor people clearly aren’t. Even Maya’s losing patience.
I think Charlie’s the only one who’s not yet come close to beating me to a pulp. I bounded up to Maya earlier, and she just snapped “What?” at me. I was so shocked I just mumbled something about looking for Charlie and walked off.
I spot Adam and run to his side. “Will you come outside with me?” I ask.
He glares in response. “Why?”
“Because Portman’s going to throw me out in a minute for being hyper and if you come outside with me people will let us back in,” I explain.
“Why don’t you ask Charlie to go outside with you?” he spits out in a venomous tone.
“What?” I ask in confusion. “I’m asking you. A simple ‘no’ would do if you don’t want to.”
“Fine. I don’t want to.”
“Why not?” I ask. “I know I’m annoying, but I need to calm down.”
“Then go outside and calm down by yourself. And if you stay out there all night I don’t think anyone would mind.” He storms out, then pauses in the doorway. “Well, Charlie might.”
Ok, that’s the second Charlie reference in only a few minutes. Sugar-highed I might be, but stupid I’m not. I charge after him and grab his arm.
“What’s your problem?” I demand.
“You,” he says simply.
I feel a lump in my throat. I don’t want to be disliked, not by anyone, especially not a member of the Queertet. “You think I want Charlie?” I ask.
He shrugs, nods, shakes his head. I feel like shaking him for an answer. “Well do you?” He says finally.
“No!” I explode. “I’m a lesbian!”
Note to self: Don’t make a habit of shouting that when there are parents present.
“Then why do you spend all of your time with him?” He asks. “I see you with Charlie more than I do with Maya. I’d rather not see you at all.”
“I love Maya.” I say in a shaky voice. “You know I do. Yeah, sure, I like Charlie, he’s great but I’m gay and he’s gay so I think it’s probably the most platonic friendship in the god damned world!”
That statement doesn’t come out all powerful like I expected. It comes out petulant and I’m so close to tears.
“Yeah, right.” He doesn’t seem to have a good argument, so resorts to sarcasm.
The tears spill and I wipe them away angrily. I hate crying in front of people. “Fine, you know what Adam? You’re not paranoid! I’m totally hot for your boyfriend. I just woke up one day and thought I’m going to pretend to be gay for a few years, get myself into a serious relationship and then convince a gay guy to date me!” I snap.
I hear someone clear their throat and whirl around. Fulton and Guy are standing in the doorway, both looking highly uncomfortable.
“Sorry.” Fulton shakes his head. “Um, we’re, um… maybe now’s a bad time.”
“No kidding.” I’m a mess, tears are pouring down my face and I know my face is bright red, I always get red when I’m mad.
“Can we help or anything?” Fulton offers.
I can’t be here. “Yeah, you can get out of my way.” I push him out of the way as I storm out of the room.
I run into Charlie while trying to find a place to pull myself together.
“Taz? What’s wrong?” He puts his hands on my shoulders.
All of a sudden I’m mad at him too. “Don’t touch me!”
“We don’t want people getting the wrong idea!”
I push off his hands and walk towards the front door and let myself out.
If I’d have just let Portman throw me out things would be ok.
That thought would usually make me laugh, instead I take a seat on their porch and cry.
No matter how angry I am, I don’t like making people cry. And I usually don’t. I’m usually very calm, quiet, and laid back. Something just snapped inside of me during that little ‘chat’ with Taz. I know she doesn’t really want Charlie, I just can’t help feeling incredibly jealous of how much fun they have together. Charlie never comes to me except for when he needs something, be it help with homework or someone to fulfill his lust for the moment.
Ok, that was a little mean. But pity me—I’m just a jealous boyfriend. I bet if I was straight you’d pity me.
Fulton and Guy shift uncomfortably in front of me. They’re clearly shocked by the scene that they’ve just witnessed. I don’t feel like talking to them, so I turn and follow Taz. I’m not really going after her, it’s just the only exit for the hallway we are standing in. I watch Charlie put his hands on her shoulders, trying to get her into a hug. She pushes him away, and goes outside. Charlie meets my eyes, and I glare at him. He sighs and rolls his eyes.
Lucky for me that my house is big. I can stay far away from both Taz and Charlie. Julie, Portman, Dwayne, Russ, and Ken are all in the main room, watching tapes of the Goodwill Games. Right now they’re acting as if they hadn’t even played them, oohing and ahhing over all of the great moves we make. Averman, Goldberg, Connie, and Luis are in the dining room. I don’t know what they’re doing, and really, I don’t care.
I wonder where Maya is. I haven’t seen her in awhile, not since we had our little conversation on how pissed off we were that our other halves were ditching us for each other. I walk into the kitchen, and am surprised to see her on the floor, drinking a soda.
“Your girlfriend is freezing her tail off outside.” I say, taking a seat next to her.
She nods. “Your boyfriend was in here muttering a couple minutes ago. I don’t think he saw me.”
“Probably not. He’s tall, you’re short.”
“Did you fight with Taz?”
“Yup. It was pretty bad. I made her cry.”
“You made her cry?” Maya sets down her soda and hits me on the arm. “Adam!”
She makes an irritated noise and gets up, presumably to go outside. “You weren’t supposed to make her cry!”
She leaves the kitchen, looking very annoyed. I see her stop as she exits the room, but can’t see who she’s talking to.
“He in there?” I don’t have to guess to know the voice.
“Yeah.” She sounds as mad as I feel.
Charlie enters, his hands behind his back. He gets on the floor next to me. I’m not meeting his eyes.
“Adam, one of the key reasons I enjoy being gay is because then I don’t have to put up with the mood swings that girls have. But you are acting so girly right now.”
I glare at him indignantly. I’m not acting girly, he’s just being a jerk! He sighs, and holds his hand up above our heads.
He lightly kisses me. I’m not giving in that easily.
“Banksie…” he groans. “Come on. I’m sorry.”
“Keep going,” I order calmly.
“Fine. I’m sorry that you’re jealous of Taz. I’m gay, and I don’t want to get in bed with her. She has a girlfriend, I have a boyfriend. That boyfriend is you. I love you. Was that good enough?”
I sigh. I’m won over far too easily. “Yeah, that’s fine. Now where’s that mistletoe?”
Charlie laughs, and kisses me again. We hear someone clear their throat above us, and look up to see my father and Coach Bombay looking down at us. Whoops. We grin charismatically, and they both give us identical stern looks.
“Want some?” Charlie holds out the mistletoe for them, and they start to laugh.
That’s my Charlie.
“Hey!” Portman catches my arm as I walk down the hall.
I stop and slide my arms around him. “I was just looking for you,” I tell him. “You missed the one and only fight of the party.”
“I think I’ll live,” he answers, then looks up. “You do realize there’s mistletoe above almost every door in this house?”
I look around, he’s right. We shuffle over to the nearest doorway with our arms still around each other.
“I love you,” I say.
“Good.” He grins. “I’d hate to be in love with someone who didn’t feel the same.”
He leans down to kiss me. We break apart only seconds later to the sound of an anguished yell.
I turn expecting so see Connie looking horrified. What I actually see is Maya, followed by Charlie carrying Taz. It appears that he turned to talk to Adam and knocked Taz’s legs into a wall.
“Sorry,” he mutters to the half-comatose girl in his arms.
“You know,” Adam grumbles, “in an alternate universe, she’s your wife.”
“Let’s be glad we live in this universe then,” Charlie replies.
“Look, I would have asked someone else to carry her, but I don’t really know anyone. And the Bash Brothers keep putting her outside,” Maya tells them.
“That’s horribly untrue,” Portman objects. “I only put her outside once.”
The strange procession continues and we’re alone again.
I move towards him, and once again we’re interrupted by a strangled gasp. I turn around and this time it is Connie.
“Sorry.” She mutters and vanishes at the speed of light.
Portman and I look at each other. She’s sorry?
There’s a muffled thump and Kenny comes shooting into the hall, looks around and runs between us, muttering, “You never saw me!” as he goes.
Only seconds later Russ appears asking which way Kenny went. We obligingly tell him that we haven’t seen him.
Then Charlie and Adam come back teasing each other.
Portman rolls his eyes, takes my hand and leads me outside. I have to laugh, sometimes it feels like there are just too many Ducks around.
It’s cold outside, and I wrap my arms around him for warmth. I sometimes can’t believe it’s only been a few months we’ve been together. It seems so much longer.
“I still can’t believe you bought me a star,” I murmur.
He pulls me closer and tells me I’m worth it. We say a few ‘I love you’s and finally get an uninterrupted kiss.
It’s the second kiss that is broken by someone clearing his throat.
We turn around to see Coach Bombay standing in the doorway. I’m mortified. Ok, so he knows about Charlie and Adam, but he hadn’t known about us. I see that Portman doesn’t look even slightly bothered.
“Are you kids coming in?” Bombay asks. “Mr. Banks wants to lock up and it’s time for you to pick which side of the door you want to be on.”
That’s it? No comment on the two of us?
As we walk past him into the warm Bombay comments in a low voice to Portman, “I told you he missed you.”
It’s pretty much quiet, besides the occasional thumping on the other side of the wall. Maya and Taz must be having another tiff. At least they aren’t running around like they were a few hours ago… Connie was getting really pissed off. I think it’s like her own personal hell having to room with Julie and the lesbians. I can only imagine how they’re tormenting her up there.
I didn’t think she would get over me that fast. But sure enough, she’s already moved on to Mendoza. I’d seen them kissing right before she went upstairs to go to sleep.
I may be interested in another girl, but I wouldn’t even dream of making my move yet. Connie and I dated for four years, and we only broke up two weeks ago. I’m sure there’s some kind of ratio involved that would make me look even more right, but it’s late, and my brains not keen on math right now.
I roll over. I’m sandwiched in between Adam and Russ. Usually we use two rooms to spread out the eleven guys. This year Luis, Averman, and Goldberg took one room, and the other six of us spread out on the floor of the other one. Fulton and Portman were taking up way too much space, so we let them have the bed.
I close my eyes, and can already feel myself falling asleep.
I’ve been Captain for two weeks. We’ve had two games under my leadership, and have won both of them. Our record is now seven wins, two losses, and one tie. We’ve definitely made it into the JV playoffs; we just need to win our next two games to be absolutely certain. I think I can do that for us. Luis has also been suspended, and we’re down to eleven players. That’s barely enough for two lines. It’s hard, but we’ve made it. We have a renewed spirit, and it kind of feels like we’re the Mighty Ducks again.
Julie says I should keep being Captain until we make it to the playoffs. She thinks that getting that far as a team will make Charlie have Duck pride again. I’m not sure, but I’m going to do what she says. Julie’s a very smart girl.
Pretty, too. Very very pretty. Long blondish hair, big beautiful green eyes… great body…
I roll over, my tired thoughts now on the new girl of my dreams. I feel warmth against me, and I gladly open my arms for Julie. She lays her head on my chest, breathing softly. I run my hands through her silky hair. It feels a little shorter than I had imagined, but who cares. I kiss her head lightly.
“Night, Julie,” I mumble against her hair.
“Night, Charlie,” she murmurs back.
Wait a minute. Charlie???
My eyes spring open, and I look down to see Adam laying in my arms, the same look of alarm on his face.
“Oh my god—I am really sorry,” I stutter.
“Me too, me too!” he whispers. His unease slowly wears off, and he looks at me with an amused look on his face. “Julie, huh?” he asks me, grinning.
I glance around to make sure that no one else is watching. They’re all asleep. I reluctantly nod.
“She’s not bad at all. If I was straight, I’d easily say that she’s a fine catch.” He admits.
It’s my turn to grin. “She’d probably love to hear you say that—she had a crush on you for awhile. Big shock for her to hear about you and Charlie.”
His mouth drops and he laughs. “Nice to know I’m wanted, I guess.”
We sit in silence for a few moments, and then Adam speaks again.
“You know, I’m sure Connie would be fine with it. You dating Julie, I mean.”
I sigh. “Yeah, of course she’d be fine with it. I know you saw her and Luis earlier. But the thing is, I’m kind of content on being single right now. Honestly, I’m not over her yet.”
Adam nods. “I wasn’t really over Charlie when we broke up either. Ok, I wasn’t over him at all. But maybe it’ll help to know that it would be fine with Connie.”
I shrug. “A little. Julie broke up with Scooter a while ago too, but I don’t know if she’s interested in me.”
“I don’t know either. But I could find out, if you wanted. I’m sure she’d gladly talk to me.”
“Sure. That’d be great.” I get down in my sleeping bag again, preparing to actually fall asleep. Adam does the same.
“You know, Guy. I know we’re not exactly good friends, but we have to have some kind of connection. After all, I am sleeping with your best friend.”
Ok, that wasn’t the best visual to give me, Adam… before I can tell him this, he laughs.
I smile, and close my eyes to let dreams filled with Cats take over my mind.
Chapter 28: Calm After the Storm by Victory Thru Tears
I slowly open my eyes, blinking in the sunlight. We should really have closed that window shade last night. I sit up, looking around. Nobody else is awake. Taz is covered with blankets next to me, snoring lightly. Connie is on the bed by herself, a pillow over her head. Julie is on my other side, a content look on her face.
I grab a hair band and pull it around my mess of a hair. I hate sleepovers for one simple reason—you always wake up feeling like you’ve been run over.
I have no idea where the bathroom is. I think it’s attached to the other room, the one where the boys are sleeping.
I walk through the door, and am greeted by eight boys, all dead to the world. I can’t help but stop and stare at them for a moment. Adam and Charlie are wrapped around each other, their faces barely inches apart. All the boys I’ve shared beds with said that they hated cuddling. It must be a gay guy thing. Fulton and Portman are also close together on the bed, each with a few limbs hanging over the edge.
There is going to be a huge fight for the showers later. I’m glad that I’m the first one awake.
Taz and I easily made up last night. After yelling at Adam for making her cry, I went outside and tried to calm her down. I convinced her that I wasn’t mad at her, and then went back inside with a happy lesbian.
And I guess that it’s true—I’m not mad. Just jealous. Very jealous.
Adam and I have had this conversation many times. Taz and Charlie, Charlie and Taz—the dynamic duo. It’s so annoying. I get the idea that Adam doesn’t think that Taz likes him much either, but I think he’s too embarrassed to tell me that. I understand that. I’d never tell him about my suspicions about Charlie not liking me.
I don’t think Taz has ever really thought about Adam. I mean, she hated him for the few hours in between him kissing me and our detention a few months ago, but after that he just wasn’t really something she was worried about. So of course she likes him.
I know she was upset to find out that Adam doesn’t exactly love her. But she got over it quickly. She always does. Taz doesn’t dwell on things. That’s more of my way of thinking. I hold the worst grudges sometimes, mostly because I don’t know how to deal with things.
I brush my hair after my shower, dressed in new clothes. I open the door to find a line of very sleepy looking boys.
“I should have guessed it was a girl,” Fulton mumbles from the front. He pushes past me and gets into the bathroom.
“Took you long enough. Did you put on a new face or something?” Portman asks, now the front of the line.
I’m awake, he’s not, and he’s annoying me. They come together to form an easy solution. I throw my shoulder against him, causing him to stumble backwards. He tries to catch himself, but lands on his back on the floor. The boys snort with laughter.
“Portman’s a wimp!” Kenny yells. Portman stands to tower over the small Asian boy, who gives him a polite grin.
I roll my eyes and leave the boys to do whatever they want. I enter our room again. Taz’s snores have gotten louder. I’m not going to wake her up. ‘Taz asleep’ is a synonym for peace. Julie’s sitting on the bed, and Connie is nowhere to be seen. Julie smiles at me, and I smile back. I’d only gotten to know her last night, and I found that she is a really cool person. I think I’ll enjoy her company.
“Guy’s awake,” I tease her, sitting down next to her and brushing the rest of my wet hair.
“Shut up,” she mumbles, her face turning a deep shade of red.
It’d taken her hours, but she’d finally admitted to having a crush on her old best friend’s ex-boyfriend. Connie hadn’t been in the room, she had been downstairs making out with her new flame, that snake Luis. Taz had been downstairs also with (who else?) Charlie.
I’m going to keep encouraging Julie. Guy’s a cool guy, and is so obviously interested in her too. She insists that he’s not, but I beg to differ. I’d like to think I can read people fairly well.
Julie excuses herself as Connie enters the room. She’s also freshly showered. I don’t want to be stuck in a room with Connie either, so I kick Taz a few times to wake her up. She groans as she rouses.
“What?” She’s always so grumpy in the morning.
“Wake up,” I command.
“No.” She rolls over, pulling the blankets over her head.
“If you don’t, I’ll get Charlie in here to torture you.” When in doubt, use Charlie.
She jumps out of her bed and runs off into another room. That was easy enough.
Chapter 29: Icicles by Star
We enter the locker room to get ready for our game against the Blake Bears. The team is kinda hyped for several reasons. The first is that the Bears were the first to humiliate the team when they started here—so Fulton tells me. The second is that we’re finally working as a team again. The third is quite obviously that this is the biggest game of the season.
It’s more relaxed around here without Connie and Luis hurling abuse, Averman and Goldberg have become positively docile without Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun dictating. They can even play on the same line as the queers now without attacking us. They don’t like us, they just don’t have the nerve (or the inclination since their talk with Orion) to go after us.
The Queertet is allowed to change wherever we like now. Except we still change in the corner like they wanted us to. Only now there are a few people surrounding us. Julie and Guy seem to be the most eager to associate with the Queertet.
“Fulton!” Orion strides in. You know, I’m beginning to agree with Fulton’s theory about Orion being in the army.
Orion tosses him a jersey. “We’ve finally got a jersey with your surname on.” He smiles. “It’s only taken about three months, but here it is.”
Fulton looks at Reed emblazoned across the back of his new jersey, his face pales and I know exactly what he’s thinking.
He hands it back to our Coach and mumbles about sticking with the one he has.
I put a hand on his shoulder.
Orion looks baffled. “You’ve been after me for ages to put this right.”
“I’ve changed my mind, alright?”
“Just forget it, ok?” He throws down the jersey and walks out.
Orion looks stunned, everybody does, actually. That includes Adam and Charlie.
I quickly follow him, throwing the words, “I’ll be right back,” over my shoulder.
I find him crouching in the corridor leaning against the wall.
“Not my best exit,” he says without even looking up. “They think I’m crazy as well as gay now, right?”
“They’re worried.” I correct. “Especially Adam and Charlie, I don’t get why you won’t tell them. It’s not like they wouldn’t get it, they’ve figured most of it out for themselves with the bruises and all.”
He meets my eyes, there are tears in his, unshed, but there nonetheless. He wipes them away. “Guess I’m not done crying over them yet.”
“Fuck ‘em.” I say, and he looks slightly shocked. “They think you’re not good enough to be their son? They’re wrong. They’re not good enough to be your parents.”
“What would you know? Your parents love you,” he snaps.
I’m taken aback. I’ve seen how hard this is on him, and I know that it must be worse knowing that my parents were delighted.
I kneel down so I’m the same level as him and take his hands. “I’m sorry,” Is the only thing I can think to say. I take a deep breath and see what else I have. “I can’t help the way my parents reacted any more than you can. I’m sorry that your parents have taken this badly, and I’m really sorry that you’re hurting.”
He brings my hand to his mouth for a kiss. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”
“That’s ok. It’s what I’m here for,” I reply easily. And it’s true. Rather me, who knows what’s going through his mind and why he’s being the way he is, than someone else who doesn’t.
Besides, the making up is fun.
I drag him to his feet. “Right! You’re going to get in that locker room, put on your Fulton jersey, and then you and I are going to flatten every single Blake Bear on the ice, ok?”
He gives me a weak grin.
He can do better than that. “And you get bonus points for breaking something—or someone—with that slapshot of yours.”
That gets me a proper smile.
He puts an arm around my waist. “Let’s go. We’ve got a game to win.”
Chapter 30: Melting of the Frost by Victory Thru Tears
Who’d have thought it would be like this? Tied, 9-9. Just like our first game against the Bears. Is that dramatic, or what?
No one even remembered the playoffs, really. They snuck up on us, like a Cat or something.
The weight of the game is heavy on my shoulders. I wonder if this is how it was for Charlie during the Goodwill Games. Of course, it was much more intense then, we were playing at international level. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again—I don’t like being Captain.
Charlie gasps audibly as Adam is hit hard on the ice. I pat his shoulder comfortingly, as Banks gets up and steals the puck from the player who checked him. We both stand up and cheer as our Cake-eater skates down the ice, ready to tap the puck in. He’s checked again, just as he gears up for his shot.
“You going to call something, ref?” Coach thunders from beside us.
Orion starts shouting obscenities as the buzzer goes off, signaling the end of the second period.
We trudge into the locker room for a between periods pep talk. Coach comes in, looking somewhat deranged.
“You guys are doing excellent out there. I’m so proud of you.” He chokes out.
I exchange a glance with Dwayne, who happens to be next to me. Orion—getting teary?
“You’ve come together for one final battle, and I have no doubt that you will go out with a bang. Some of you may not realize it, but this may well be your last game together. Many of you will be moving up to Varsity next year, and will be continuing your hockey career with Coach Wilson.”
Charlie and Adam look at each other, horrified. We all know Banks will be the first to leave us for Varsity, and no one wants to see him go.
“But let’s concentrate on the here and now,” Coach continues. “You’re doing great on defense, but for once your offense is lacking. You need to get together and score! What’s that motto that you always use? Ducks fly together!”
He pauses for a moment and sighs. “Although, you don’t have any surprise players that might suddenly show up like Portman, do you?”
This gets a slight chuckle out of everyone, but Averman turns to Charlie.
Charlie looks more surprised that Les is talking to him than by his question.
We look up in shock as the door bangs open. But it’s not Jesse Hall. It’s Connie Moreau. She walks up hesitantly to Coach Orion.
“Coach. I’m sorry for my behavior. It was inexcusable. I wish I could take back everything I said and everything I did, and the minute they create a time machine, I will.”
She turns and looks at Adam. “I just want to play hockey.”
We stare at each other with utter and complete disbelief.
Coach Orion turns to look at us. “I’ll let you back on one condition. If the team says it’s ok.”
Connie bites her lip nervously. I should say something.
“I think the Captain should decide.”
Everyone looks at me in confusion. I know they’re thinking, Yeah, so decide, Captain…
Thank god for these sticky C’s. I rip it off of my jersey and reach over Dwayne to slap it onto Charlie.
“Decide, Captain.” I’m fully prepared to stare him down.
He smiles at me, and I know he’s accepted. He stands, and crosses to Connie.
“Welcome back.” He holds out his hand for her to shake, but she looks at him with fear in her eyes.
“Some things never change,” Fulton mutters from my other side. I think he’s wrong.
Connie pushes Charlie’s hand away and hugs him fiercely. He stands numbly for a moment, and then wraps his arms around her.
She pulls away, beaming. “I gotta get ready.”
Coach Orion’s face looks like it’s going to split from the grin. “That’s right, Moreau. Team, drink some water, and then get back on the ice to kick some ass!”
We stand and cheer. We’re finally on our way to being the Mighty Ducks again.
We beat the Bears, 11-9. One goal made by Fulton, unassisted and way out from just past the centerline, and the other made by Banksie, assisted by Connie.
Right now we’re in the locker room, yelling our brains out. Guy looks blissfully confused sandwiched in between Connie and Julie. Fulton has cheered up a lot since the incident in the locker room before the game, and is now continually chest butting Portman. Adam is attached to me, and hasn’t said a word since the end of the game. He’s smiling so wide I think his face is going to fall off.
Connie pushes through the crowd and jumps on me, pulling me into a hug again. I hug her back, and kiss her forehead.
“I’m sorry Charlie!” she yells.
“Don’t worry, Connie.”
I know she hasn’t changed. Maybe she’s done a complete 180 so she can play hockey, but she still has kept her old beliefs. That’s fine with me. I don’t mind having her as a superficial friend. I guess I’d rather have that than an enemy.
Through all of the madness I turn to Adam.
“I love you,” I say it loud enough so that he hears me.
“I love you too.” He kisses me, just as Coach Orion comes in with a big bucket of ice.
“No time for that, Captain!” he roars as he dumps the cold cubes on top of Banksie and I.
I laugh, and look down at the C on my jersey. I kinda missed it. I’m glad that it’s back, actually. Mostly, I’m glad that we’re the Ducks again.
Look out for Breeze under the pen name of StalkyStar.