I stayed as long as Mia did and I walked her home just like we used to. Well not like we used to, she wasn’t trying to hold my hand or cuddle up next to me. Her jackass of a boyfriend had left after football practice without giving her a ride home. He merely yelled ‘I’ll call you’ from the hall as he and his friends ran past.
Drew was sitting on his door step when I walked Mia up. I smiled, he nodded, “No yelling yet. I haven’t heard any crashes either. Maybe he’s not home.”
I shook my head. “I’m never so lucky. Besides Ry’s home and he’ll have tattled.”
“You have a shitty brother sometimes.”
“Ry’s just looking out for me. He knows Dad will get pissed if he finds out later.”
“He might never have found out at all. Sneak in.”
I shook my head, “No I’ll take my lumps. Even if it’s gonna mean missing homecoming.”
“I wonder if your dad will still throw the after party?”
“Probably. Probably make me stay in my room while Ry and Luc have fun.”
“Ant left before you got home.” Drew added.
“He had to get back to the dorms before they kicked him out.” I said. “Or so his text said.” I sighed, “I better get inside. I’ll call if I can.”
“If not we can talk through our bedroom windows like we did as kids.”
I nodded. “If he even lets me out of his sight.” I laughed. But it wasn’t likely far from the truth.
I opened the door and I didn’t make it any quieter or louder than usual. Lucy was sitting in the living room reading a book and I heard Ryan’s music in his room, he was playing off key and it hurt my ears. He thought he was going to be a great guitar player but he truly and utterly sucked.
I walked into the kitchen with my back pack slung over my shoulder and my Mom looked up with a smile and handed me a cup of lemonade. “Your father is in the back yard.”
I sighed and set my book bag down on the stool and gave my Mom a hug before I stepped out the sliding screen door and saw my Dad cleaning the pool. “I had every mind to make you do this.”
“I still can. It looks like you just started.” I handed my dad the glass of lemonade and took the net’s handle from him and started cleaning the pool. It was hardly a punishment. It was just a random chore.
“I thought I told you to be home straight after school.”
I nodded as I scooped leaves out of the shallow end. “I know. Mia begged me to help decorate for Home coming. You know I can’t say No to her.”
“She’s not your girlfriend anymore son.”
I laughed, “It was never about Mia being my girlfriend. She’s my best friend’s kid sister who I adore. And just like my own sister I’d do anything for her.” I paused in my straining to look over at my father who was sipping his lemonade and watching my work. “Absolutely anything, Dad. And that included disobeying you.”
He sighed and I continued working on the pool. The silence was strained. “You are still grounded.”
“For even longer now.”
“I know.” I said again.
My dad sat down in the shaded lawn chair by the pool, “What’s this year’s theme?”
“You sure you want to know?”
“I’m going to find out later aren’t I?” He said rhetorically.
“Be Proud. Mia says its in honor of my official coming out. As if I just came out to the world, when it was only you that just found out. So lots of rainbows and colors. But I convinced them it’s not about coming out, it’s about proud of who you are as a person. That we shouldn’t just focus on the whole coming out thing. We all need to be proud of who we are.”
My dad chuckled, “Always the diplomat. I don’t understand.”
“I know.” I agreed. “I can’t explain it to you. But girls never have in any slightest fashion made my heart beat faster. Except to make me uncomfortable, and not in the sexy fun kinda way.”
“But boys do?” my father asked without looking at me.
I nodded. “Yes. You remember Dylan back in grade school?”
My dad laughed, “You and him used to play football together. He was your center for a while until he moved.”
I nodded, “They moved because Dylan’s dad found out I liked boys. And he didn’t want his son playing center to no fucking faggot.”
“How come I never heard about that?” He stood up and looked at me, “What else have people been keeping from me?”
“They didn’t tell you cause they know how you feel about gays. And they didn’t want you to go down your father’s path.”
“Because my son is gay?”
“You grounded me because I’m gay.” I shrugged. “So it’s not a far leap to think you might beat your son if you drank too much.”
“You honestly think I’d hurt you?”
“No. I don’t think you would. But that’s why people didn’t tell you. I knew you’d be pissed. And you’d punish me for it. But I never once thought you’d break your sobriety and beat me cause of it. I believe you beat that, I have faith in you and what I know of my father.” I finished cleaning the rest of the leaves out of the pool while my dad stood there staring at me, the water, whatever was in front of him while he was lost in thought.
“I’m gonna go take out the trash, and then help Mom with dinner.” I said. And when he said nothing, responded with nothing I broke down the net and put it in the shed before heading inside.