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Chapter 11: Troubled Waters
Monday morning when Emily and I headed out the door Rob was in the driveway. Getting out of his truck he grabbed his backpack and helped me down the porch.
“I’m going to drive y’all in your Jeep until you’re better Bobby.” I handed him my keys as he guided me to the passenger seat which he slid up so Emily could hop in the back and then helped me in. He took my crutches and wedged them awkwardly in the back by Emily before he started driving us to school. He held open any door that I needed to go through and kept asking me if I needed help to go to the bathroom, which I didn’t. In the cafeteria he made me sit down while he came back with two trays. He was watching over me making sure I had everything that I needed.
“What happened to you Thompson?” I heard as I hobbled into history.
“Sprained my ankle.” I replied, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to run Wednesday coach.”
“Crap.” Mr. Brown muttered. “Well, let’s hope it gets better.”
On Tuesday at lunch I was sitting at the table waiting for Rob to bring me my tray. Katie came up with Rob, took the second tray from him, and handed it to me before sitting next to me with a wink. I wasn’t quite sure what that was about, but I thanked them both before eating.
Wednesday morning when I rolled out of bed I knew that my short track career had come to an end. I could put some weight on my ankle, but I could not put pressure on it, certainly not sprint. Rob’s optimistic look faded from his face when he saw me come out still on crutches.
“I’m so sorry Bobby; I was really wishing you would be better.” The disappointment in Rob’s voice was genuine.
“Coach will find someone to take my spot, it’s not that big of a deal, I was just doing track because I couldn’t swim.” I shrugged trying to brush aside his sadness. After lunch I hobbled to wish the track team good luck before they headed off to the meet. Rob was coddling me so much I was glad when he headed to practice. Emily headed off with a friend and I was in the library working on a college application when he came to find me after his practice.
“Where were you applying?” He asked as I saved my progress and shifted to look at him.
“William & Mary. It’s a great school and not too far from the shipyard.” I said as he helped me up and placed my backpack on his shoulder.
“They’d be lucky to have you.” Rob said as he walked beside me to my Jeep.
I got a text from my friend on the relay team; they got second and qualified for the state meet. I congratulated him and was really glad that they pulled it off. The state tournament was the weekend before Christmas break, in the mountains at a university, and the football team would have their first round match at the same location. I decided I would go and support both teams if I could manage it.
The following Monday my foot was starting to feel almost back to normal. I went to school without crutches and was glad to be free from that burden. Monday was also my first day back that I would have to participate in gym. I went in to change clothes and headed out to the gym. It was cold and windy out so we were playing indoor soccer. I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance on my healing ankle so I volunteered to be one of the goalies. Rob was on the opposing team and I tried my hardest to keep him from scoring. I faired pretty well only letting another on their team score. I blocked two shots from Rob, but I couldn’t help but thinking he wasn’t trying to score, as they both came right to my hands. I watched as Rob glided and maneuvered around the court, I was amazed at how Rob’s body, built for football, ran around court. He was a true specimen and I let another goal in because I was distracted by Rob.
Leaving the hardwood, I was putting on my clothes dazed, thinking about how hot Rob was.
“Keep your eyes to yourself queer boy.” I heard and I jumped realizing I had been staring at Rob. I saw Rob turn around and his face was red. “I knew there was something weird about you, took me a while to figure out you’re a little fairy cock-sucker.” Eric’s voice was filled with venom as he spoke.
“Wha-, Sorry I was just zoned out.” I said trying to cover my actions and anger.
“Chill out man, he wasn’t looking.” I heard Rob try to defend me.
“It sure looked like he was staring at your ass, practically drooling.” Eric said as I hastily finished getting dressed. “You like him staring at your ass or something?” Eric asked Rob.
“Fuck no!” Rob said a little too eagerly.
“Hear that fag? Don’t go looking at us while we change.” Eric said as he walked over to me.
“I would never look at you asshole.” I said as I stormed out of the locker room. I was furious. I couldn’t believe I was so stupid that I let Eric catch me staring at Rob. I couldn’t believe that Rob didn’t do more to defend me. I skipped lunch at went to the library and tried to do some homework, but I couldn’t focus. I was stewing. I decided in the library that I wasn’t going to hide who canlı bahis I was anymore. In history class Rob looked at me with an agonized look on his face. I ignored him. I heard one of the guys who had been in the locker room whispering and snickering with another kid, and I knew they were talking about me. Rob tried to slide me a note; I just threw it away without reading it. When school ended I walked straight to my Jeep and Emily and I drove off, not waiting for Rob.
“Eric is telling everybody you’re gay.” Emily shared in a serious tone as we sat on our porch.
“I know. He’s an ass hat. He’s not wrong, but he’s a shit turd.” I said shaking my head.
“You need to learn how to cuss Bobby.” She said chuckling at my vocabulary, which got a slight smile from me. “What did Rob say during all of this?” She prodded.
“At first he told Eric to leave me alone, but then when Eric told him I had been staring at Rob, and asked if he wanted me to be doing that Rob said ‘Fuck no!.'” I said bitterly as I started to shiver from the cold winter evening.
“He didn’t?” Emily said in disbelief as she held the door open and we headed up to my room to finish our conversation.
“He did, and then in history one of the guys was telling people and snickering and Rob didn’t say anything.”
“Oh Bobby, I’m so sorry.” Emily said patting my back. “You know he’s just scared of being outted too don’t you?”
“I know.” I sighed, “but for someone who is supposed to love me, he sure didn’t act like it.”
“He does love you Bobby, I can see it every time he looks at you. It’s just going to take a little while to work it out.”
At that moment my phone got a message. ‘I’m so sorry Bobby, I should have defended you. I should have done something. I’m coming over.’ I read Rob’s message before typing out my own. ‘Yeah Rob, you should have, but you said “Fuck no!” don’t come over I need some space and time to think.’
“Em, if Rob comes over you or mom tell him I’m not here. I don’t want to talk to him right now.” Emily nodded as she headed downstairs. Twenty minutes later there was a knock on the door and I heard Rob talking to my mom.
“Evening Mrs. Thompson, I need to speak to Bobby please.”
“I’m sorry dear, I don’t know what’s going on, but Bobby said he doesn’t want visitors tonight.” I nodded my head agreeing with my mom.
“Please ma’am, I screwed up, I need to try to fix things.” Rob’s pleading almost broke my heart.
“Just give him time Rob, he’s got a good heart, but it takes him time to forgive. I don’t know what happened, but if you’re serious you’ll figure out a way to make it right.” I heard my mom say before the door closed and I no longer heard Rob’s voice. I was dreading going to school tomorrow. I turned off my phone, not wanting any messages and crawled into bed.
Tuesday morning as i was getting dressed I decided that I didn’t care anymore, I wasn’t going to deny it if I was asked. It was time to let all of me out of my shell and get over the bullshit. Rob’s truck was parked behind my Jeep as we went outside.
“Please Bobby, talk to me.”
“Move your truck Rob.” I stated calmly as Emily and I climbed into my Jeep.” Rob was standing outside of my door staring at me through the window. He looked like he had had about as much sleep as I had. I started my Jeep and pulled forward and turned into the yard before driving over the ditch to get out of the driveway. I knew my parents would be mad at the tire tracks, but at that point I didn’t care.
I knew the rumor had reached just about everyone. The whispering, pointing, and dirty looks started as soon as I was in the parking lot. I held my head high and walked into the school. I heard a couple of ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’ jabs as I walked to my locker, but I didn’t let them bother me. I ate my lunch at one of the tables in the library away from all of the gossipers. I was surprised when Katie came into the library with her lunch and sat beside me.
“I’m sorry Bobby, you don’t deserve this.” She said as she patted my shoulder. “He’ll do the right thing Bobby, he’s a good guy. He looks miserable.”
I looked at her questioningly, “What are you talking about?”
“Rob.” She said plainly. “I know you two have had something going on.”
I put my face in my hands before speaking, “Key word ‘had’.” I sighed and looked at her. “How’d you know?”
“It started at the fireworks, I turned around and saw you getting sick and he was rubbing your back before he helped you walk off. Then the way he was mother-henning you when you were on crutches. The glances you share. It took me a while to figure it out, but once I did, I realized how clear it was.”
“We’ve been together since homecoming.” I admitted and I saw another piece of the puzzle click in her brain. “He wasn’t ready to be out, and I didn’t mind hiding either. When Eric outted me, I guess it was too much for him. He’s been trying to talk to me, but I’m not ready to listen.”
“Let him talk to you Bobby, he’ll make it bahis siteleri right.” Katie said solemnly. “You can talk to me Bobby, anytime.” She finished as she picked up her tray. “Thanks Katie.” I followed her and returned my tray of barely eaten food back to the cafeteria. I saw Rob watching me as I walked by, but I didn’t look at him.
Rob must have skipped practice because after school his truck was in my driveway. I parked beside him and headed in the house. I didn’t see him so I headed upstairs to my room figuring he’d be there waiting for me. He wasn’t. I put my backpack down and saw him sitting on the dock as I looked out the window. ‘Might as well get this over with,’ I thought as I put on my heavy coat and headed outside. He was sitting on the dock staring into the creek and I sat down beside him, not looking at him.
“Bobby, babe, I’m so sorry.” He said as he turned his head to look at me. I stubbornly stared straight ahead, just listening, not actively participating. “I never want to hurt you, or anyone else to hurt you Bobby. You mean so much to me and I was a real dick. I should have told Eric that I loved you staring at my ass…” He paused for a second taking a deep breath before continuing. “I should have told him that I love you.” I was still upset but hearing his sadness as he spoke of his love for me filled my heart. I was starting to shiver from the frigid air and he pulled me into his side, I didn’t resist. “I’ll come out of hiding for you Bobby, if that’s what it takes.” He kissed the top of my head before continuing. “I can’t stand you being mad at me. I love you so much; it hurts to see you sad.”
I couldn’t help the tears that slipped from my eyes as I looked at him. He gently wiped them away with his thumb as he gave me a sheepish smile. How could I stay mad at this man. “You don’t have to come out Rob. I see how bad some of the kids are. You shouldn’t be harassed just because I am. I love you so much Rob. I was really hurt at what you said.” I squeezed my eyes shut trying to hold back the tears. “So hurt that you didn’t do more to stand up for me. I understand Rob. I know you aren’t comfortable with letting people know. Just so you know, Katie figured it out, I didn’t tell her. I’ll stay in the shadows to be with you, but not if you are going to treat me badly. Not if you make any more “Fuck no!” comments. I forgive you, I do, but if it happens again, I don’t know if I will be able to do it again.” I buried my face in his chest inhaling his aroma feeling comforted as he pulled me in closer.
“Thank you Bobby, I won’t do anything to hurt you ever again. I’m so sorry.” He said as he gently rocked side to side. I slowly lifted my face to look at him; I could see unshed tears in his eyes as he leaned down and placed a soft kiss on my lips. My body warmed at the contact and I just held the chaste kiss.
“Come out when you’re ready, I’m okay with the way we are.” I said as I followed him to his truck. He gave me a hug and kissed my forehead before he drove away.
I let Rob renew his routine and walk with me into school Wednesday morning. There were a couple derogatory slurs thrown at me, but not as many as yesterday. Rob looked at me apologetically as we headed into school. I sat in my usual seat across from Rob in the cafeteria chatting normally until Eric walked by.
“I can’t believe you are still sitting with the queer Rob.” Eric said.
“Fuck off Eric, he’s my friend I don’t care what you think.” Rob spat out.
“Oh I bet that little bitch boy can’t wait for you to give it to him up the ass.” Eric said as he started walking away.
Rob stood up and stopped his retreat, “If I hear you say one more thing about Bobby, you’re going to regret it.”
“If you hit me Rob, you will be suspended and not be able to play this Saturday.” Eric just snorted laughter as he walked out of the cafeteria.
“Ignore him Rob.” I said as he sat back down with a scowl on his face.
“I’m sorry that he’s such an asshole Bobby.” Rob offered.
I was surprised when I was called to the office over the intercom as school ended. I went into the office and there was a small vase with a single orange rose in it with my name on the card. I took it and I headed out to my car. ‘I’m sorry Bobby. Look as much as you want.’ I read on the card and smiled as I walked over to Rob who was standing by my Jeep.
“Who’s the flower from?” Rob asked grinning at me.
“A secret admirer.” I said as I laughed and hopped in my Jeep. Rob came over after his practice and we chatted in my room.
“Do you think you’d be able to spend the night out Saturday night?” Rob asked me.
“That’s states, we’ll be in Harrisonburg.” I replied.
“Well I was thinking, if you drove up Saturday, we could get a hotel and stay the night somewhere and head back Sunday instead of on the bus Saturday night. I have to take the bus up there, but they don’t care how I get home.” Rob said smiling, hoping I would go along with his plan.
“I was planning on taking the pep bahis şirketleri bus, but I’ll ask my parents if I can do that.” I answered.
“Let me know babe.” He said as he placed a quick kiss on my lips before heading out the door.
Saturday morning I was ready early to make the four hour drive to Harrisonburg. The busses pulled out of the school parking lot at 6:30 AM. I followed them most of the way, enjoying the drive in the mountains. As I reached the top of Afton Mountain, snow started to fall and I noticed lights embedded on the road as traffic slowed in the low visibility. I took my time and used my GPS to guide me to the designated parking lot on the campus of James Madison University, which was in the Shenandoah Valley. The campus was unique; it had old traditional bluestone buildings on the original campus and futuristic new buildings on the new side of campus. I met up with some kids that had taken the pep bus up and we ate breakfast in one of the dining halls. I headed over to the track which was on the new side of campus across I-81.
I walked over to Coach Brown and he let me stay with the team as they got ready for the races. I found my relay guys and went over to chat. I talked to the three I had been running with all year and I wished them luck. I noticed the guy who took my spot was glaring in disgust at me.
“We don’t care if you like guys Bobby.” One of them said patting my back.
I chuckled, “Well thanks for that. Run your asses off!” I told them as I headed to sit in the bleachers as they smiled and headed over to the new guy. I brushed the snow off of my seat and was surprised when Katie came up and sat by me on the bleachers.
“Feeling better Bobby?” She asked.
“I am Katie, thanks.” I replied pulling her into a hug. We sat and chatted watching and rooting for the few track kids from our school that made it this far as the snow tapered off.
“Most people don’t care ya know.” She said as I nodded. “There are a few d-bags around, but they aren’t the majority.” I smiled at her as I heard the gun go off, signaling the start of my relay team. Katie and I stood up screaming and rooting for our team. The new guy went first and we were in third when he handed the baton off. The rest of the team didn’t hold anything back and I was ecstatic when they came out with the win. Katie and I ran over to congratulate them and my three friends shared a hug with me while my replacement stood off to the side. I really appreciated the fact that these three didn’t abandon me. I slapped them on their backs as I headed off to the football stadium. Katie headed to the locker room to get ready to cheer and I smiled as I left her to it.
The game wasn’t going to start for an hour or so, so I decided to walk around the campus for a little while to pass the time. I stumbled across a small lake tucked away behind the stadium and just sat on the bank watching the geese swimming and the large illuminated fountain splashing on the surface. I noticed ice starting to form on the edges. I sat thinking how good of a friend Katie was being to me. I felt bad for not telling her sooner. I shivered as I headed to a concession stand to get a slice of pizza and a large hot chocolate before I headed up the stands of the newly renovated stadium.
“Don’t sit over here gay boy.” I heard as I saw a snarling Eric.
“Hey Bobby, come sit over here.” I was relieved to see some of my track friends and I went over to sit with them.
“Thanks.” I said settling down into my seat.
“No worries Bobby, don’t listen to Eric, he sucks.” I nodded along and focused on the teams as they ran out onto the field. There were flurries starting to fall again and my classmates and I cheered loudly as our team trotted onto the field. The school we were playing was from southwestern Virginia and seemed to have more fans, probably because they were only a couple hours away from home.
The game was a nail-biter. With three minutes remaining in the contest we were down three points and they had the ball with 3:48 remaining on the clock. They ran the ball on first and second down and our defense held. 3:01 was on the clock as their quarterback dropped back for a pass over the middle. Rob was in coverage and he jumped the route and intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown. Our fans went crazy. I was jumping and screaming as we had a 4 point lead with fewer than 3 minutes to play. After the kickoff they were on their 28 yard line and their quarterback dropped back for a pass, Rob was in on a blitz and sacked the quarterback for 4 yard loss. The crowd erupted at Rob’s second great play. The opposing team threw up a Hail Mary as time expired and when the ball was batted to the ground our fans ran out onto the field to celebrate with the team.
I was jumping and celebrating when I felt someone grab me from behind and lift me into the air. I knew it was Rob and when he put me down I gave him a hug through all of his equipment and padding before we continued celebrating. Next week the team would play in the semi-finals. I waited for Rob to come out of the locker room and we headed with the rest of the students towards the parking lot. We slid away from the crowd and slipped behind the busses to my jeep unnoticed.
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