Mr. Gardner was true to his word and picked me up to take me to my foster home, which was in a town that wasn’t very far from where I used to lived. On the way, Mr. Gardner told me that this couple had their own son and another foster son, both of whom were about my age. He also added that they knew nothing about my conviction, because my records had been sealed, and they only knew that a special family situation had left me without a place to live.
I was beginning to think this might not be so bad after all and I may even like it there. We drove a little further when Mr. Gardner pulled into a driveway, beside an older house. Mr. Gardner then took my things out of the back of his car and led me to the front door. Even though I was still a little nervous about this new situation, I realized it had to be better than being in juvenile hall.
After Mr. Gardner knocked on the front door and an older woman answered it. She was very plain looking, a little on the heavy side and wore an old summer dress. Her hair was a bit of mess and she appeared as if she had just awakened. She smiled at us and shook hands with Mr. Gardner, as she invited us inside. She then led us into a room off the entranceway and offered each of us some iced tea, which we gratefully accepted. When she left to get it, I quickly began to look around.
I immediately noted we were in a fairly large living room, at least in comparison to the overall house, but it was sparsely furnished. There was a sofa and the two chairs we were sitting in, but they were all really old and in fairly rough shape. There was also a coffee table, two end tables with lamps on them, an old wooden rocking chair and an older television on a small entertainment center. The drapes on the windows were a faded floral pattern and the white sheer curtains in between were yellowed with age.
The lady, Mrs. Kucera, came back into the room carrying two glasses and handed one to each of us. She sat on the sofa, across from Mr. Gardner, and we began to chat. She started out by telling me her son, Steve, and her foster son, Patrick, were at school and her husband was at work. She said the boys would be arriving home in a couple of hours and there was only one more week of school before exams.
Mr. Gardner finished his drink and set the empty glass on the coaster on the coffee table, before he thanked Mrs. Kucera and explained he had to leave. I followed him to his car to thank him again for his help, and then he assured me he was going to stay in touch. I waved as he backed out of the driveway and continued waving as he drove down the street. Mrs. Kucera then called to me from the doorway, where she had watched Mr. Gardner’s departure, and announced she would show me to my room.
As we headed up the wooden stairway to the second floor, she told me I could call her Sally. She then led me to a room, opened the door and took me inside. There was a double bed against one wall and a single bed against the other, with a nightstand and a lamp placed strategically in between. She then advised me that two of us would sleep on the double bed and the other one would sleep in the single bed. She also informed me that the bottom drawer of the dresser was for my use and if I had anything that needed to be hung, I could put place them on the left side of the closet. So far, so good.
I then followed her downstairs and she made me a sandwich and a bowl of soup for lunch. After I finished with my meal, I went into the living room to watch television for a while and waited for the other two boys to arrive home.
A couple of hours later, a boy came rushing through the door, slamming it shut behind him.
“Patrick, where’s Steven?” Sally asked the newcomer.
“He’s coming,” he answered. “I just ran home, so I could meet the new kid.”
“Well, come here and I’ll introduce you,” Sally offered.
Sally then led Patrick into the living room to greet me and we exchanged hellos. Patrick was a little taller than I was, more broadly built and had this real tough look about him. He wasn’t bad looking though, in a rough sort of way, and had dirty blond hair and blue eyes. He also told me he as going to be fourteen in November and seemed friendly enough, so we sat down and watched television together.
A couple of minutes later, another boy came lumbering through the door and I figured he must be Steve. Steve was very pudgy, with brown hair and brown eyes, and sort of reminded me of a pig. He just had that look about him, especially if you considered his size. He immediately glanced around and spotted Patrick and me in the living room, so he came in to join us. He didn’t bother to say hello or introduce himself and just looked at what was on the tube instead. When he saw what we were watching, he got mad and walked over to change the channel.
“Hey! What are you doing?” I shouted. “We were watching that show.”
“We never watch that program,” he explained, “we always watch this one. Patrick knows that. Just ask him.”
Patrick whispered to me it was true and explained that Steve had to be the boss of everything. He also told me to come with him, up to the bedroom, so I followed him out of the living room. We then went upstairs and left Steve alone to watch his program. Once we were in the bedroom, Patrick sat on the smaller bed and patted the space next to him on the mattress, to let me know I should join him.
“You’ll get used to him. He thinks he’s the king,” Patrick said, referring to Steven. “I used to try to stand up to him, but his parents always backed him up. They said that, after all, this was his home, so I guess we don’t count. I think they only took us in to collect the monthly check, but it’s better than some of the other places I’ve been assigned to though. If you don’t cause any problems around here, they don’t care what you do. I’ve learned to just roll with the punches and then go and do as I please. I’m glad I’ve got some company now, because it sure will be nice to have someone I can hang out with.”
I thanked him for his insights about everything, before I stated that I hoped to get to know him better as well. We then talked about the room and he suggested I would most likely be sleeping with Steve, since he had the double bed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an idea I particularly relished or cared to think about. We talked some more and Patrick asked if I wanted him to show me around the neighborhood. I immediately told him that would be nice, so we went downstairs and slipped out the front door. Steve was still in the living room, glued to his childish program, as we left.
We walked up and down a lot of streets and Patrick pointed out different things of interest as we went along. I knew I wouldn’t remember everything, but at least it was a start. We ended up on a fairly deserted playground and played around on the various apparatus, as we got to know each other better. After a couple of hours, he told me we should head back to the house, because Joe, Mr. Kucera, would be arriving home soon and dinner would be served. If we weren’t there for the meal, they would eat it all, especially Steve, and we wouldn’t get anything to eat.
By the time we reached the house, Joe was already there. We walked in and the family was just heading into the dining room to eat. Pat led me over to Joe and introduced us and then he took me to one side of the table and showed me where to sit. Sally came in and dished the food out onto our plates, but I noticed that Pat’s and my portions were much smaller than the one she gave Steve. Of course, he was fatter and probably needed more to fill him up, so it merely helped to reinforce my picture of him as a pig.
After dinner, Pat and I went back outside and roamed the neighborhood again on our own. As we walked around, I began asking him a whole bunch of questions about himself and he told me he’d always lived in this town. He said his dad had left his mother and him when he was little, so after his mother was arrested for prostitution, he was placed in foster care. He said this was the third family he’d lived with, and even though it wasn’t perfect, it was still better than his first two placements.
Pat defended his mother for being a prostitute by explaining it was the only way she could make enough money for them to survive. He said she didn’t want to do it, but she did what she had to do for them to make it on their own. In a way, I was glad my mother didn’t turn to something like that so we could stay together, because I would have lost respect for her if she had. I’m not finding fault or knocking what Patrick’s mother felt she had to do, it’s just that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable knowing my mother was doing that sort of thing just so we could live on our own. If those were her only choices, then it’s better that she stayed with my grandparents and let me go.
I asked Pat about the school and about the people in the town next and he answered all of my questions with the utmost frankness. When I asked if there were any bikes we could use to go out riding, he told me there was just one very old bike that the family kept on the back porch. He said we could probably use it, since none of them ever did.
We continued to talk until it was nearly dark, when he suggested we’d better head back and go to bed. He reminded me that he had school tomorrow, even if I didn’t, because he didn’t think they’d enroll me with only a little over a week left. I agreed with his logic and concurred it would be kind of silly to have me start at the new school now.
When we got back to the house, Pat and I went straight to our room and didn’t see Sally or Joe anywhere. When we got to the bedroom, Steve was already there, in his pajamas, ready to get into bed. Pat and I both went to the bathroom to wash up and brush our teeth first, before we stripped down to our briefs for bed. Hesitantly, I went over to get into bed with Steven.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” Steven challenged.
“Your mother said that two of us would be sleeping in this bed, so that’s what I’m doing,” I answered.
“No way! I’m not sharing my bed with anyone,” he screamed. “You go sleep with Patrick.”
I looked at Patrick and he shrugged his shoulders, but it didn’t make much sense. He was in the twin bed, which would be very crowded for two of us, while Steve slept all alone in the much larger bed.
“You can if you want to,” Pat offered, “but it’s a pretty small bed.”
I started to just lie down on the floor, since I figured it would be best to just make myself comfortable there. I took the duffel bag that my clothes were sent in and folded it up to use as a pillow, and Pat rolled over to the edge of the bed and looked down at me.
“Come on, get up here. We’ll squeeze in,” he offered. “I’m not going to make you sleep on the floor. I had to do that at my first foster home.”
I looked up and studied his face, because I wanted to be certain he meant what he’d said. Once I was certain, I thanked him and crawled in beside him. We both laid on our sides, with our backs to each other, and went to sleep. I tried my best not to move so I wouldn’t disturb Pat, especially after his generous offer. By the time I woke up the next day, Pat had already left for school.
I went downstairs and there was no one around, so I went to the kitchen, found a box of cereal and poured myself a bowl. When I finished eating, I washed the bowl and spoon and went into the living room to watch television. It was obvious they didn’t have cable, because I could only get three channels, but there was nothing interesting on those channels. Disgusted, I turned off the television and went outside. I was thinking about what I could do when I decided to go get the bike off of the back porch and go for a ride. I remembered a lot about my walk with Pat, plus I had asked him a whole bunch of other questions about how to get around the area. That was it. I was going for a ride.
I took off and pedaled for quite long time, until I finally found myself at the school. I quickly went down the street and hid behind the hedgerow at the end of the property, so I could surprise my target as he walked home when classes ended. I waited until I finally saw him approaching and then bent down behind the shrubs. When he started to pass by, I reached out and grabbed his arm, so I could pull him down with me.
“What the hell? What’s going on?” he said, as he struggled to keep his balance.
Before I got him down with me, he turned and looked me in the eye, so he could see who was attacking him. It took a second for him to recognize who it was, since I wasn’t exactly what he’d expected to find.
“ Billy, it’s you! How the hell did you get here?” he wanted to know. “God, how I’ve missed you.”
“It’s all right, David, I’m back, at least for an hour or so,” I assured him, as I wrapped my arms around him.
Yes, I had done the unthinkable. I had ridden the bike to my old town to see my lover. I had worn a sort of a disguise on my way here, but I took it off before I’d grabbed him. It was only an old baseball cap that I’d pulled low on my head and a cheap pair of sunglasses, but it made it hard for people to tell who I was. Now that we were together again, we walked back farther along the hedge and away from the road, so we wouldn’t be noticed.
No sooner had we faded into the shrubbery than David started to kiss and hug me and I couldn’t resist, so I kissed and hugged him back. When we finally stopped, I explained where I was living and why I was there, before I slipped him a piece of paper with the address and phone number of my foster home on it. I had written the information down before I left on this trip and confessed I wanted him to have it, since I didn’t know how often I might be able to sneak away to see him. I also informed him that he couldn’t call me often, because I didn’t know the family very well yet and wasn’t sure how they’d react if they found out about us. I explained they didn’t know the full reason about how I had to come live with them, so I wasn’t certain how they’d react if they knew I was gay.
David and I talked for a really long time, as we tried to fill in the gaps since the last time we had been together. Even though he didn’t want to leave, he knew he should be heading home now. He told me his father was just beginning to give him a little more freedom again and he didn’t want to lose it by being late. He said if he weren’t home by dinnertime, then the old guy whom his dad had hired would come looking for him and report the episode to his father. I didn’t want him to get into any more trouble than I already caused for him, so I told him to get going. Before he left, we hugged and kissed some more, as we repeatedly confirmed that we still loved each other. We also agreed we would find a way to get back together again.
Before he left, however, David took a few more minutes to apologize for the role he had played in what happened to me, but I assured him I understood why he had done it. I went on to tell him that if I had been in his shoes at that time, I probably would have done the same thing, so there was nothing to forgive. He thanked me for my understanding and told me it only made him love me even more, although I wasn’t sure if that was humanly possible, considering how strongly we felt about one another.
As he started down the street, we repeatedly waved at each other, and then I pulled the baseball cap down over my eyes, got on the bike and pedaled back to the foster home. The ride back seemed to go a lot easier than the ride there, but it was probably due to the fact that I was floating on air after having seen, touched and kissed the other half of my soul again. For a brief moment, I had felt whole again for the first time in many months. By the time I reached the foster home, everyone else was in bed, and as far as I could tell, I hadn’t really been missed. Therefore, I washed up, brushed my teeth and squeezed into bed next to Patrick.
Just as I was about to close my eyes, Pat rolled over and whispered in my ear.
“Where have you been?” he wanted to know.
“I went to see an old friend,” I answered. “Did anyone miss me?”
“No. Nobody said a word,” he answered. “Just do me a favor. Next time you go, let me know beforehand and I’ll go with you.”
“Yeah, maybe after school is out,” I replied, “but for now, you’re still tied up.”
“Yeah, okay, but don’t forget,” he followed.
Pat then rolled over and went back to sleep, but all I could think was that if Pat went too then David and I couldn’t be intimate with each other. Then, I realized Pat had been very good to me. In fact he seemed to be the only one here that actually cared about me, so I decided I would take him along. It would have to be enough just to see David and be with him again, and I felt I could live with that. I’d tell David about my decision to bring Pat along the first time he called.
After Patrick talked a friend into letting him use his bicycle once in a while, he and I went to visit David several times over the summer. I filled Pat in about how David and I had been best friends, but his father didn’t want him to see me any more, but I didn’t tell him the real reason why David’s father kept us apart. I didn’t want to admit I was gay, because I didn’t want to take a chance on how he’d react. David and Pat seemed to like each other, but David and I both suffered a little, since we weren’t able to show any affection while he was there. We always managed to slip letters back and forth on each visit, so we used those to express our love, even though we wished we could be intimate.
As the end of the summer approached, I told David that we would have to devise a way we could be together on our special days. He said he would make that his first priority and promised he would find a way for us to be together. We made these plans while Pat was investigating the various places where we met up with David, because we always picked a different spot to meet. I also always attempted to disguise my appearance, so no one I knew before would recognize me.
In a way, my visits with David felt cheap and dirty, because we had to hide and do everything in deceit, but I still needed to be with him whenever I could, no matter how dirty or cheap it felt. My biggest concern was about protecting David and keeping his father from finding out about our little rendezvous.
I was getting in pretty good shape too, from pedaling all that way back and forth, because the bike I was using was an old single-speed bike. That made the trip a real good workout, and as a result, it firmed up a lot of my different muscle groups. Pat was also benefiting from it, but the bike he was using had several gears, so the ride was much easier for him to make. Good old Steven, however, just kept getting fatter and fatter.