Thank you to everyone who sent me feedback about the first part of this story, I truly appreciate it. And thank you for being patient about the posting of this part, life gets in the way of creativity at times, ya know? So again, thanks for the patience and enjoy!
It was my first day back at school. Eighth grade. I wasn't looking forward to it. I'd spent the summer away. Away from home, away from Rachel, away from everything, and especially away from Amy. I did everything I could to get her out of my mind that summer, I threw myself into my journal, I wrote for hours and hours about everything I saw, everything I did, anything to keep my mind off of what I knew couldn't be good.
So there I was, the first day back to school, pretty proud of myself for putting everything out of my mind. I told myself that I wouldn't have any more problems because I'd not thought about her in days, weeks even.
"Here we are kiddo," Ashley smiled at me as we pulled to a stop in front my school. This year she was a senior and didn't have a class early, so she could drive me to school and pick me up. It was awesome.
"Thanks for the ride, Ash," I said, hopping out and slamming the door.
"Hey Kyle?" she yelled. I turned back and looked at her. "This year's gonna be great."
I smiled again and waved back at her as I turned to the school and saw Rachel waving me over. I hadn't seen her all summer, so I ran over to her.
"Hey Ky!" she yelled, wrapping her arms around me in a big hug. See, I knew I wasn't gay! Rachel was a girl, and I could hug her just fine, no not breathing, no freaking out, no nothing.
"Hey" I replied, smiling.
"Always the chatty Kathy, aren't you?" Rachel smiled. "Sooo, how was Stinson? I'm so jealous you got to spend the entire summer at the beach! I bet you saw so many cute guys! Ooo... and look at that tan! I wish I could tan like that..."
Rachel continued to talk the entire way to homeroom. I just let her, like always, thinking that some things would never change.
As we made our way into class, I proved my inelegance once again by tripping over someone's foot. I fell forward onto my hands and knees, and everyone who was there started laughing.
"What an oaf!" I heard Maryanne's voice. I was totally embarrassed. But I was also angry. I stood up and looked down on Maryanne.
"What's your problem?" I asked her.
"N-nothing" she looked up at me and she actually looked a little scared.
"Fine," I said, moving away. Rachel stood next to me, gaping. "What?"
"Umm... you just stood up to Maryanne!"
"She walked all over you last year!"
"Oh." I sat down at an empty desk. Rachel stood next to me, looking like I'd just grown another head or something. She had a strange look on her face, then she started to poke me in the arm. Then my head. Then my nose.
"Hey! Quit that!"
"Sorry, I was just checking... who are you and what have you done with shy Ky?"
"Rach" I sighed, "it's still me."
"Well then I want to know what you did all summer to become this... this... this whole new you!"
I smiled at her and was about to tell her about my journals when I heard Maryanne once again.
"Amy! Girl, get over here!"
Without thinking, I turned towards the door, and there she was. She stood there, clutching her backpack straps by her shoulders, smiling. She looked into the room and caught my eye. I didn't know it could, but her smile grew bigger and she waved at me before walking over to Maryanne and the rest of her friends.
I looked down at my hands, they were clenched. I could feel my heart beating incredibly fast. My breath was coming fast. Oh God. It didn't work.
"Umm... that doesn't really answer my question."
"Well, I needed to set it up a little bit, give you some back story."
"Alright, well, hurry it up then and get to the good stuff." I smile, so impatient. I'll give them what they want.
"Ok, well, a couple of weeks after school started, I thought it might be a good idea to talk to someone about it. Rachel was my best friend at the time, so I thought, why not tell her what's going on..."
Things weren't getting better, they were getting worse. After that first day at school, it was as if the entire summer of boosting myself up had disappeared. All that writing, all that journaling, it was for nothing. Nothing! The only good thing to come out of that first day was that Maryanne started to lay off. But Amy, she kept smiling at me, kept waving in the hall, and sometimes, she'd even stop and talk to me. It was torture. But the worst thing was, I couldn't talk to anyone about it. Ashley had said being gay was being different, and I knew, different was no good. But I couldn't take it anymore.
So I came up with a plan. I was going to tell Rachel. She was always talking about all kinds of different things, and she always seemed ok with whatever we were talking about, so maybe me being different would be ok, too. But I had to be sure. So I came up with a test. If she passed the test, then I'd tell her, if she didn't, then I wouldn't tell anyone. Ever.
It was nearing Halloween. Rachel was excited. She had decided to dress up as a princess, again. Apparently, every year she always dressed as a different princess. Now that she was living in a new town, she could redo something she had done before she moved, so it was easy.
"So yeah, I totally have this great Snow White costume from, like, two years ago... I mean, I'm a litter taller now, but I bet it'll fit again for sure..." she was babbling on while trying to eat her lunch. I chewed on my sandwich, trying to figure out a way to bring up my test. Across the yard I saw Amy; she was standing with her friends by the water fountain. I stopped chewing, losing my appetite.
"What about you, Ky?"
Rachel was looking at me intently.
what was the question?"
"Halloween? What are you going to be? Helloo?"
Here was the perfect opportunity.
"Oh, um, I think I'll be a soldier."
"Huh. That's... original, I guess," she looked at me sideways, "why'd you pick that?"
"Well, because, you know, I saw some people talking about the army on TV and stuff."
"Yeah, they're talking all about that gays in the military stuff right now, aren't they?" she asked, taking a bite of her banana, looking at me.
"Um, yeah," I said, fidgeting with my shoelace a little, "what, um, what do you think about that?"
Rachel thought for a moment, chewing on her banana. For someone who talked so much, she sure was taking her time answering me.
"Well," she paused. Is she trying to kill me? "Well, my mom and dad have been talking about it a lot. They said that it wasn't anyone's business who someone was in love with, but that people shouldn't just go about telling everyone. I guess they like the idea."
My heart plummeted.
"Um... yeah, but, what do you think about it?"
"I guess I agree with my parents, I mean, it's ok, um... as long as I don't know about it."
I could feel my heart falling faster.
I looked at Rachel. She was staring at me, waiting for my answer.
"I..." I didn't know what to say. "I..."
"I guess I just wanted to know," I finished lamely.
"Oh, ok," she went back to eating lunch. I couldn't sit there anymore.
"Umm," I looked around, spotting the bathroom, "um, I've got to go to the bathroom."
"Have fun," Rachel replied, not looking at me.
I stood up and half ran, half walked to the bathroom. Thank god there was no one in there, because as soon as I got through the door, I couldn't hold it in anymore. I put my hands on the sink and started to cry. I was alone. I looked up into the mirror, saw the tears running down my cheeks, my eyes becoming puffy and red, and knew that I was truly alone.
Silence. It's never easy telling this part of my story. It feels like just yesterday. A hand rises.
"So, you didn't tell no one, did you?"
"No, I didn't."
"Was it, like, hard?"
"Hard doesn't begin to describe it. Keeping something like that a secret is incredibly difficult."
"Well, you musta told somebody, cause you're here in front of us now."
"So who'd you tell?"
"The first person I told was myself"
"Wait, what? That don't make sense!"
"It makes perfect sense..."
I went home sick that day. Faked having an asthma attack, worked every time. My mom came to pick me up. When she walked into the office, she looked really mad. I knew she was busy at the office and stuff, so I knew she wouldn't be happy having to come get me. But I couldn't hang around school that day, not after what Rachel had said.
"I'm looking for my daughter, Kyle-Lynne?" my mom said quickly to the nurse.
"Mom, I'm right here," I walked up to her. She looked down at me. People said I was tall, and when they met my mom, they knew why. She was taller than anyone I knew. Her lips were pursed; I could tell she was annoyed. I looked down at my shoes.
"Well, c'mon, let's get you home and started on a breathing treatment," she said, signing the notebook on the counter.
"Yes ma'am," I said, following her out of the nurse's office. We walked out to the parking lot to where she'd parked her car.
"Hurry it up, young lady, I don't have all day."
I sped up a bit, but not to much, I didn't want to give away the fact that I wasn't actually having an asthma attack. Once we got in the car and got going, the lecture began.
"Kyle-Lynne, I don't know how many times I've told you to take it easy at school, I can't be coming out here in the middle of the day to pick you up like this all the time..."
To bad you only do this once a year, mom.
"...and now I have to get a hold of Ashley at school and let her know not to pick you up and that she should just come on over to keep an eye on you. Honestly, Kyle-Lynne..."
I tuned her out. I just watched through the window as the familiar surroundings passed by. I didn't really want to think about anything, but my mind was reeling. Before I knew it, we were home and my mom was telling me to get out of the car.
"Go on, you know where your medicine is," she pushed me towards the hall closet. I was starting to feel really bad, and my mom was making it worse. As I pulled down my medicine I wished she would just hurry up and leave. I grabbed my machine and walked upstairs to my room to get started on faking my breathing treatment. I poured the medicine in the little cup at the top and attached the mouthpiece. I flipped the switch and the medicine became mist. I watched as the mist swirled around in front of me, the familiar hum of the machine tuning out any other sounds around me.
"It won't do any good if you're not breathing it in!" my mom shouted at me from the doorway to my room, her arms crossed. I jumped, not having heard her come up the stairs and brought the mouthpiece to my mouth, breathing the medicine in. She walked into my room and started moving things around on my desk.
"I swear, young lady, you'd I was raising a pig instead of a daughter!" she mumbled loudly enough for me to hear over the machine. I lowered my head so I wouldn't have to watch her mess with my stuff like she always did. I hated it when she came in to my room. I wonder what she would do if she knew I hated it when my room got messy, but I kept it that way just to make her mad.
"Alright, well, once you're finished with that treatment you can tidy up a bit in here and then take a nap for the rest of the afternoon until Ashley gets here," she was still rearranging things on my desk, "once she's here, I expect you to call one of your classmates from each class and get your homework assignments."
"Es b'ab," I tried to say with the mouthpiece still in my mouth.
"Don't speak with that thing in your mouth," she chastised, "well, if you're settled, then I'm heading back to work. I'll see you tonight."
And with that, she whisked out of my room and down the stairs. As soon as I heard the door close and the lock turn, I pulled the mouthpiece out of my mouth and turned off my machine. With shaky hands, I took apart the apparatus and took the little cup of medicine into my bathroom and dumped it in the sink. I stood in front of the mirror, looking at myself and my shaking hands. The asthma medication always made me so shaky after taking it, I hated that. Taking the pieces of the breathing apparatus, I threw them across the bathroom in frustration and walked back into my room, throwing myself on my bed. I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, but mostly I just wanted to curl up and disappear. I curled into a tight ball on my bed, wishing with everything I was that I wasn't different, that I wasn't weird, that I wasn't... gay.
I don't know how long I lay like that. I know eventually Ashley showed up and came into my room, saying my name quietly. I pretended to be asleep and she left. As I lay there, I watched the shadows shift on my walls, could hear the crickets becoming louder outside with each passing minute. I lay there thinking about who I was, this person who was so terribly different than everybody else, just because of who made me forget to breathe. It just wasn't fair! Why did I have to be this way? Why couldn't I be like everybody else?
That's when it hit me.
I didn't want to be like everyone else. I thought of people like Maryanne and my mom. I didn't want to be like them. I thought about Rachel and Ashley, and even though they were pretty cool, I didn't want to be them either. I just wanted to be me.
I sate up quickly and dove over my bed, sifting around underneath for my latest journal. When I found it, I began to write... and write... and write...
"... and so I wrote... and wrote... and wrote."
"Yeah, but what'd ya write? I mean, you're still not answering the question!"
"Well, I just so happen to have that old journal here with me... and if I read a little bit of what I wrote that day, maybe that will help." I pull out my old and very battered notebook that held some of my earliest ramblings. The cover is torn, the old metal spiral is bent and misshapen, and the pages ear marked and worn. I open the book and immediately find the passage I'm looking for.
"Dear Diary, today I finally figured out something. I spent all summer trying to push this thing away from me that I couldn't explain and didn't even want to think about. But ever since that first day of school, that thing has haunted me, scared me, freaked me out, and made it so all that writing over the summer was stupid and meaningless.
I came home from school today because I found out I couldn't share this with anyone else. That no one, not even my best friend, would understand. But I think I might be wrong. I think I know who understands. And that's me. Yeah, I know it sounds stupid and maybe a little bit pathetic or something, but at least I can be honest with myself.
So here it goes... wow, this is a lot harder to do than I thought it would be. How can writing something so simple be so hard? Alright, here goes... I'm gonna count to three and just write it. Ok, ok. I didn't do it.
I did it.
So there it is. There's my secret. Even as I'm writing I feel a little bit better, cause at least now someone knows. Me. I know. I know it's what makes me different from everybody, I know it's my secret forever, but at least I know. And it's out there. I'm not holding it all inside.
People are different, nobody's the same. And this is what makes me so different."
Silence. I close the book and put it away, then wait for more questions. It takes a moment; it always takes a moment. Finally a hand goes up in the back.
"So, you told yourself, that's good and all, but ya must have told someone else."
"I did, but not for a very long time."
"Well, let's see... when I wrote that in my journal I was just about to turn fourteen... so I guess it was about three and half years later."
"Damn, that's a hell of a long time!"
"Yeah, it sure is."
"Why didn't you tell anyone sooner? Were you, like, freaked or something?"
"Well, I had had a plan my freshman year in high school to tell Rachel again, I was really getting tired of keeping such a big secret."
"So why didn't you?"
"Something happened that year that would convince me to keep my mouth shut for a long time..."
To be continued...
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