Another EXCERPT from Face Your Fears, my novel scheduled for release in July 2018.
In 1993, the second main character, Jude Totsian, is 15. He and his friend, Todd are cleaning out the high school sports equipment storage room prior to summer practice starting.
Live a double life. Two people have told me that’s what I must do. Told me today. My gut tells me they’re right. It also says it’s not fair……
It was hot and muggy so I pulled my t-shirt off and threw it in the corner. Todd was in a mesh basketball shirt. He kept glancing at me, then looking away. Like I said, I’m pretty fit; farm boys are. We manhandled the last desk outside. Everything big was now outside on the lawn. We walked back into the short hall, closed and locked the metal door, and stood there, breathing heavy. I sensed a tension in me. I really, truly wanted to hug Todd.
Carpe Diem. I turned and put my arms around him and buried my head in his chest. He pulled me into a hug, not a fun bear hug, a gentle, loving hug. We stood there, squeezing tighter and tighter until I thought l might burst.
“I think I love you,” I whispered.
Todd hugged me tighter, then kissed the top of my head. I raised my head and he kissed my forehead. I stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. We tried to kiss on the lips, but our noses got in the way, then we both turned our heads the same way, but our noses still keep bumping. Finally, I twisted my head the opposite way and our lips met. Really met. We broke apart and looked at each other like, what just happened?
(The coach appears.)
We stood there; I felt like my face was still on fire and wondered if Coach noticed. Todd stared at the floor, his face still red, shuffling his feet. Coach turned and pointed his cigar down the short hallway toward a window in a door we barely noticed before.
“That’s my office,” he said. I took a quick glance and realized the other side of that window is what he tapes up schedules and notes on. Except, most of the papers were gone now and I could see directly into his office. We hadn’t realized this hallway ran from his office to outside. I wanted to run away and never stop. Todd looked like he might melt into a big pile of jelly.
“Boys, we need to talk.”
Todd started to sniffle. “I’m sorry, Coach.”
“Quiet,” Coach rasps. “Don’t apologize. Get in my truck, The Missus just ran home and is fixing us lunch.”
“Hi, I’m The Missus.” She smiled as she shook our hands. I was still embarrassed, Todd’s head was hanging, we both tried to smile. “I bet you are wondering why I invited you to lunch.”
….“So, boys, I was helping Coach in the office, taking down his old schedules on the window and saw you two kissing.”….. “Well, twelve years ago…. (our fifteen-year old son) Robert was caught kissing a boy and the word got out. His life became a living hell. He was physically attacked; he couldn’t walk home from school by himself. His friends wouldn’t stand up for him, the teachers turned a blind eye, wouldn’t even tell Coach when they saw something.”
Coach took a swallow of lemonade. “Boys, even in nineteen-ninety-three, this whole area and school still isn’t ready to handle gays in a respectful manner. You must be careful. You must lead a double life. It’s not fair, but it is what it is.”
We were dead quiet on the ride back to the school. Coach lit his cigar. The first time I ever saw him with one lit. “I light them after we win a game,” he said, staring straight down the road. “And when I’m sad. I’m not mad at you two, just sad about this damn world.”