Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Call Out Your Name Ch. 05

The World Is So Cold

Readers: Warning. This story takes a definite turn away from happy. Read at your own risk.

I woke up the following morning before my alarm clock went off feeling well rested.

I shouldn’t have been surprised really. The Fine Arts Presentation ended before nine, and Jesse’s mother wanted him to go directly home. Without any opportunity to be alone, especially under the gaze of his family, all he and I could do was speak in general terms. I offered my praise for the good work he’d done on stage in his drama presentations and dances. He thanked me for showing up, and even his eyes were silent lest he give any of his feelings away. There was some lingering curiosity from our fellow-students, but neither of us was inclined to further entertain them by displaying our affection publicly. Our stares across the parking lot spoke our regret for us, and then he was gone.

My dad’s house was… no surprise… dark. It was odd being home at this time of night with nothing to do, so I used the occasion to study for my upcoming finals. We seniors had to take them early due to next week’s graduation and all the end-of-year activities. Jesse sent me a good night text, and I went to bed early enough to get a full eight hours of sleep.

So here I was, awake and thinking about Jesse’s dance from last night and wondering if it was going to change my life here in Calberia. Should I worry or be happy about it? For once I had behaved fearlessly without worry over who knew or what the other students had seen or how it was interpreted. Also with Jesse’s family in the audience, it was as if he was announcing his intentions loud and clear to them, and I wished that courage could carry over so I would be able to proudly introduce him as my boyfriend to my family. But… just no.

Not for the first time I reflected how much easier my life would be if Jesse was female. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m glad he’s a man. I adore his lithe body with all its masculine parts as much as I appreciate how we can be dirty and nasty together. Two male friends who don’t have to worry about offending more sensitive ears with our jokes and bullshitting. I enjoy being with him as two men in love, but there’s no getting around the fact that if Jesse had been a girl I wouldn’t need to tiptoe around my father. And it was going to get worse before it got better.

I was in an almost impossible situation where, as my living arrangements stood now, I’d never be able to do anything other than hide my attraction for Jesse and skulk around to see him, all the while afraid of detection. At least Uncle Carl had added me as a full-time employee over the summer so leaving high school in a week would allow me to cram as many hours on his boats as I could get. Jesse was looking for work too, and I might even have to take on a second job to earn enough money to move out. That was the goal, but once college started in the fall, taking a full load of classes, playing football for the Hope Ranch team and working full time was going to be exhausting. Frankly, I couldn’t see how I’d manage, but in order to live openly with my boyfriend, I would have to find a way.

I arrived at school and very little seemed to have changed for Jesse and me, although we caught a few inquisitive glances. I think our classmates were waiting for us to take the first step, and that we didn’t made some of them second guess what they had witnessed at the FAP. Maybe, they rationalized, Jesse had actually been staring at one of the girls sitting behind me, not at me directly. Possibly my intense scrutiny was due to him being my best friend.

It was a quiet day… until I trotted into the parking lot after the bell rang to find Jesse leaning tensely against his Cherokee reading what looked suspiciously like another stalker note. He hadn’t even heard me approach and jumped when I put my hand out to take it from him. He listened sheepishly when I read out loud.

“Haf fun w/Ur faggot boy 4 now but Ur days are #’d.”

I felt myself go pale. Of the twelve or so threats that Jesse had received over the last four and a half months, this was the first one to ever mention me.

“He must have been at the FAP last night,” Jesse whispered in anguish. “He saw me sing to you and that’s why he’s dragging you into my problem now. I’m so sorry, Shane.”

I shook my head and resisted balling the note in my fist because all of them were evidence against this wacko asshole. “I don’t care about that, Baby. What I care about is getting this guy locked up or whatever it takes so he can’t bother you anymore.”

He didn’t answer me, and I pressed him. “Are you scared now?”

I looked into his pale brown eyes and saw it. He was frightened, but not for himself. For me. Good enough, I’d use it if he was finally willing to talk to someone in authority about the harassment.

“Let’s go see Mr. Peabody right now,” I suggested, knowing the principal was still in his office. “Get the ones out of your locker. I’ll back you up, okay?”

“I can’t today,” Jesse answered, taking the note back from me and folding it into his binder. “I promised my sister I’d come home right after school because she needs me to watch my nephew for a few hours. She has to go to Santa Barbara and buy a textbook for a summer class at the university she’s enrolled in.”

I sighed, hoping this wasn’t one of Jesse’s avoiding tactics again. “Can’t she postpone? This is important.”

Jesse paused in thought, and for a fraction of a second I actually believed he might do it. Then his face fell. “No, I don’t want to ask her to put it off. This can wait one more day.”

“Alright, but remember, you promised so we talk to him no later than tomorrow.”

He smiled, and I swear, the look he threw me was self-satisfied, like he’d once again bargained his way out of trouble. I didn’t want to snap at him and start another argument, but even scared about the threats, he wasn’t going to do anything about them unless I forced him. I was tired of it all. Mostly I was tired of being scared too.

Jesse and I had decided not to see each other that evening. Jenna, his sister, was known for changing plans at the last minute, especially if she had a willing babysitter for her son. Her errand of a few hours could magically expand into running into friends on campus and deciding to go out for dinner and a movie. As for me, it was one of the few nights when I didn’t know my father’s plans ahead of time, so he might arrive home right after work or he might spend the night with his girlfriend. Even if he hadn’t been my boyfriend, it wouldn’t be wise to have Jesse in the house alone with me should Dad bother to show up.

It was 7:30 and my mind was fully engaged in studying for a difficult 2nd period Trigonometry final I would be taking on Thursday, two days away. I had solid A’s in every subject except math where my grade was teetering between a B-/C+, and if I got a high score on the exam I might even get an A- because of the extra credit I’d slaved over for two hours after school.

My phone lit up with an incoming call, and of course it was Jesse. “Watcha doing?” he chirped.

“Cramming for my Trig final.” I stretched out the kinks in my back.

“Is your dad home?”

“Hmm, I’m not sure,” I answered, suddenly curious. I stepped into the hall and listened to silence as I made my way to the living room to peer through the blinds. Except for my Impala the driveway was empty.

“No. He must be with Jillian again.” Usually if my father wasn’t home by seven he wouldn’t be here at all.

“Why don’t I come over then and keep you company? Jenna got back an hour ago and I’m bored. Besides, we haven’t had a chance to spend any time together since last Friday.”

He was right about that. I’d worked all weekend for my uncle on the Sorsha Lynn, including a longer-than-usual charter up the Pacific coastline on Saturday where we didn’t put into port until almost nine o’clock. On Sunday he’d spent the evening with his family at some relative’s birthday party, and last night was the FAP. It had been four days since we’d made love.

Still, the day had been exhausting. I was tired and needed to study. “Not tonight, Jesse.”

“Ah, come on, Blondie. Just for a little while?”

We bickered back and forth while I tried to convince him how important the test was for me and why I needed so much study time for it. When we hung up I thought that was it. Fifteen minutes later I heard a knock on the front door at the same time that my phone buzzed again.

“It’s me outside,” Jesse crowed. “Let me in.”

Groaning inwardly I got up and opened the front door to find him lounging on the porch looking smug. “Hiya, Blondie. I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to see you, so here I am.”

He tried to pull me into a hug and I stood there stiffly. To tell the truth, I was irritated that he wouldn’t take me seriously. He thought he could just come over when I specifically asked him to stay home.

Jesse pouted at me in fun. “Don’t tell me you’re mad,” he said, letting his voice drop seductively. He lifted his backpack off his shoulder. “See, I brought my books too. We can cram together.”

Yeah, like that was going to work. Except for the Brontë sisters project, every time we tried to get together to study, we ended up fucking or going down on each other. It was like we couldn’t be in the same room and keep our hands off each other without a chaperone.

I brought this up. “You know what will happen, Jesse. I wish you would listen to me when I’m trying to be serious and not override my decisions. I meant what I said about my Trig grade. I have to raise it.”

“I know something else you’re good at raising,” he smirked, looking down at the bulge in his jeans.

“See?” I exclaimed in frustration, turning and marching into my bedroom. “That’s exactly what I was talking about. Thanks, Jesse, you have proven my point.”

He followed on my heels, trying to keep from giggling. “I’m just yanking your chain. But honestly, what’s the deal with your math grade? You’re just going to a community college next year. You don’t need straight A’s.”

I was going to retort that the reason I wasn’t attending a university was because of him until I realized I was the one pushing Hope Ranch, not Jesse, and my mouth snapped shut. Part of what he said made sense, but I had perfectionist tendencies, and getting a good grade in Trig was a challenge to me. It was a personal goal.

I made Jesse sit on the chair in front of my computer stand while I took the bed, and for a little while we did get some work done. Presently Jesse began to act restless.

“Hmm, I was wondering if you would mind waiting to tell the principal about the notes until after we finish finals on Monday. That’s only three extra days, and we’d be done with our testing so however he chooses to handle it won’t interfere with study.”

My head shot up. Okay, here we go again. I guess I should have known better than expect him to simply cave in to my suggestion for being the right thing to do, but seriously, the way he was stringing it out terrified me. Nearly vibrating in anger, I settled for giving Jesse a black look.

“Well hell, why settle for waiting for Monday? Why not until the day we graduate? Or even better, don’t tell anyone at all? Isn’t that what you’re after? Let’s keep this a big secret, and when some ass walks up to you in the parking lot and beats the shit out of you we can pretend like it was a fucking surprise.”

“Shane, that’s not what I meant…”

“Bullshit,” I shouted. “You are so full of it, Jesse. I worry about you every single day. That some whacked out creeper is out there waiting to hurt you, and la-de-da, it’s nothing to you. Just give up some of your macho pride for a change and let someone who has experience with this kind of thing help you instead of carrying it all by yourself.”

“But there is so much going on for the end of school.”

“Not tomorrow there isn’t,” I pointed out. “It’s a normal school day. You can talk to Mr. Peabody either before or after school and get it over with. Just think of how good it’s going to feel to get the weight off your back once you do.”

He nodded but he wasn’t happy. I put my book down and massaged my temples. I hated fighting with him, and with these threats, that’s all we ever did anymore.

“Come here.” I scooted over and patted the bed beside me. Yeah, this was going to lead to make-up sex. Or at least, remind-Jesse-that-I-loved-him-and-convince-him-that-I-knew-what-was-best-for-him sex.

He flew to my side and bounced, landing next to me. He kissed me softly on the lips. I kissed him gently back. Then he crushed me to him tightly, and we shoved our tongues inside open mouths to dance together.

Kissing and touching, we had each other undressed in record time. We stretched out next to each other, our bodies slithering together in joyous abandon, all the parts meshing and creating friction that aroused both of us into sweaty, panting, primitive beings. After the lapse of four days, with the stress of the notes and studying and particularly because of our fighting, I needed to be inside Jesse and show him he was still mine forever.

“I want to suck you,” he husked, tears in his eyes because the need was his own as well. “Please.”

I reached up and gently wiped the tears away, giving him a smile of contentment. Flattening myself on top of the sheets, I spread my legs for him.

His mouth was so wonderfully warm as his lips circled the head of my cock and his tongue lapped at me. He hollowed his cheeks to suck precum from my slit and I swore I saw stars behind my eyelids. Sliding his lips over my balls to pull on them made my groin lift off the bed in rhapsody, and when he began to bob over me, he took the tip almost into his throat before gagging. I could feel his whole mouth stretching for every millimeter of my shaft, and my tingling nuts told me that if he kept this up I was going to cum in his mouth.

“Enough,” I moaned. “It feels too damn good, Baby, and I won’t last much longer.”

Jesse and I exchanged positions, and I fetched the lube and a condom out of my drawer. Even hard and aching as I was, I took time to kiss and nibble all the sensitive parts of his body. That place on his throat just below the hollow and across his collar bones, his brown nipples that shrunk down into such cute little peaks and swirling my tongue in his belly button. He was whimpering and thrashing by the time I reached his ass.

A lubed finger found his rosebud and pushed inside. His channel gripped me in moist silkiness as I opened him up. With two digits I found his prostate and played tag with it, making Jesse moan and the lean muscles of his abdomen clench. I was turning him on with my sly little taps, and his body was humming and taut with anticipation by the time my third finger slipped in.

When Jesse was nearly to the point where the sensations were crashing into him more than he could stand, his eyes would rapidly shift back and forth under his lids and the muscles of his thighs and abdomen would tense. It wasn’t the same as orgasm, but it was a good non-verbal signal that he was tired of me teasing him and needed my dick up inside him.

He was there now, and I unrolled a condom on my erection and lubed up, shivering at my own light touch through the latex. I lifted his ankles to my shoulders and gently pushed against his bud through the muscular guardians into his tight, hot hole.

I knew exactly how long to lie still and allow him to adjust to me, and when he was ready he had a favorite way for me to seat myself. I rolled my hips into him and rotated at the same time.

"Oh god, Shane!" He dug his fingers into my shoulder and moaned once I was fully in.

"What, it doesn't feel good?" I joked hoarsely, teasing him because I loved hearing the answer. I pushed his blue-black hair out of his sparkling latte eyes.

"Oh shit, Blondie, you know it does… it feels so damn good.”

I pulled his legs down and he wrapped them around my thighs, laying himself open for me to plunder. My hips surged forward, in and out of his velvety soft chute. I stared into his eyes, afraid to lose this contact with him and loving the expression of bliss on his face. Harder I drove into him, each jab raking his prostate as he lifted his hips to meet me. I watched shudders race through him.

I reached between our bodies and took his dick in my hand. Stroking it expertly, I watched Jesse’s eyes roll back in his head. “Oh fuck, ooh, Blondie,” he shouted, and he went off like a geyser, spraying cum all over our torsos. His ass clasped around my dick convulsively, and I rode right over the edge with him, streaming cum into the condom with a crescendo of groans, panting gasps and writhing limbs.

“Are you alright?” Jesse asked me after I tossed the condom in the trash and collapsed next to him. “It got pretty wild at the end.”

“I’m always wild around you,” I wheezed. “You drive me wild.”

He snickered. “Flattery will get you everywhere. But we are pretty good together, aren’t we!”

“Perfect is more like it. I love you Jesse.”

“I love you too, Shane.”

We cuddled and kissed, homework forgotten. As usual, I wished he could spend the night with me, knowing we could make it happen if it weren’t for curfews and parental rules. I didn’t want him to go home because I hated sleeping by myself, but all too soon the point was reached where Jesse was going to get in trouble if he stayed any longer. We redressed and I walked him out to his Jeep. We made out for a few minutes of long, sensuous goodnight kisses that would have to suffice for now, and then I headed in for bed.


I arrived at school in the morning and Jesse’s Jeep wasn’t parked at the far end of the lot like usual. In fact, I looked around and didn’t see it anywhere. “Damn it,” I cursed, wondering if this was his newest attempt to get out of turning in the notes to an administrator.

I waited for him until the warning bell rang telling us we had ten minutes to get to class, and I didn’t want to be tardy. I was nearly seething, but I tried to calm myself so I could send him a text message free of accusations and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was sick; a late-season flu bug was going around. I hoped whatever was keeping him from school was over quickly because today was the last regular day before senior finals began. There couldn’t be any more delays getting rid of his stalker.

I sent another text after 1st period and one during nutrition. My call to him before the fourth hour went right to voicemail and almost made me late for Physics. Ooh, my baby was going to hear it loud and clear from me about turning off his cell when I next saw him, especially if he missed school so he could avoid his promise.

It was lunch and I was sitting at the table with the rest of Jesse’s friends from the drama department. Another call indicated his mobile was still turned off, so I idly tried to call him on the Capps’ home telephone. Oh good, it was ringing.

“Hello?” Answering was a breathy, feminine voice that I didn’t recognize at first.

“Hi, is Jesse there?” I almost doubted having the right number, but he had programmed it into my phone himself so it must be correct.

“Who is this?” Now the voice was watery, like she was speaking through a very stuffed-up nose. I still wasn’t positive, but she sounded a little like Jesse’s mother with a bad head cold. Yup, Jesse must be sick.

“Shane Elliott, Jesse’s friend. Can I speak to him?”

“Just a second,” she murmured. I waited, hearing background noise coming from her end: the rumble of more than a few vague voices, some close and others farther away. A door slammed, feet walking. Then I picked up her voice again, and it sounded like she was crying. “Chad, you deal with this, it’s Jesse’s friend.”

I knew who Chad was. Jesse’s favorite cousin, the one who knew he was gay and bought us the beer for our second-month anniversary. “Hello?” he asked, and I could hear the strain in his voice too. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and suddenly I could barely swallow.

“My name is Shane,” I whispered, “Jesse’s best friend. Is he there? He didn’t show up for school this morning.”

Something close to a sob caught in Chad’s throat. “Shane… uh, there’s been an… uh…”

More background interference, and an unfamiliar male voice called, “Chad, the cops want to ask you a few…” The rest of the sentence was cut off by the sudden chatter of a walky-talky radio, the kind the police wear.

Police at Jesse’s house? All of a sudden suspicion punched me in the gut and filled me with dread. I think I yelled something like, “Tell me what happened to him,” into my cell phone. Jesse! I was only peripherally aware of kids in my end of the quad coming to a standstill to stare at me.

I was running. Running and crying. I remembered to pick up my backpack from the lunch table and I was out the gate, tearing across the asphalt to my Chevy and then speeding through town to the Capps’ house. Something awful had happened to my baby there and I wasn’t going to wait around until after school to find out. I started to shake and I kept passing the back of my arm over my eyes to brush the tears away but it was useless and they just kept coming. I couldn’t stop the hopeless panic filling my heart.

Nobody noticed me immediately when I brought my car to a stop next to the neighbor’s hydrangea bushes and killed the engine. In front of Jesse’s house the street was bedlam. Crime scene tape all around the edge of the yard, four Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s cars sitting at weird angles at the curb, one from the Highway Patrol, and people everywhere including more cops than I’d ever seen outside of a television program. A group of sobbing relatives huddled around Jesse’s mother sitting stoically dry-eyed on a lawn chair on the porch.

Jesse’s Jeep was parked on the dirt driveway with the driver’s door gaping wide open, and I sprinted towards it. “Son,” I heard someone say as I ducked under the yellow plastic tape. “You can’t go through there.”

I didn’t acknowledge him. My focus was on the Cherokee surrounded by several police officers but their bulk couldn’t obscure the swaths of black-red flung against the silver paint and the side windows. More of it was puddled on the ground next to the open door. Lots more. It pulled me like a magnet. Oh my god, Jesse.

“Son, stop,” the man shouted.

I heard rapid movement behind me and then I was abruptly tackled to the ground by a burly officer in khaki green. I didn’t really feel any pain on impact, just the rapid whoosh of air being knocked out of me and the agony of trying to suck more in. I was aware of flailing in the cop’s arms, of painful pressure in my chest and being told to lie still. Crying hysterically as I called for Jesse.

In my dimming vision I stared at two pair of black boots approach me. The knot of people had rushed into the yard from the porch. One of the nearby deputies asked, “Ms Capps, do you know him?”

A male in his early twenties answered for her. “That’s Shane Elliott, Jesse’s boyfriend.” I presumed this was his cousin Chad, and if I could have breathed, I would have giggled over how Jesse hadn’t kept his secret very well. He was going to be so stunned to discover his family already knew he was gay and didn’t seem to care. But then darkness swirled in to tug at me, and I passed out.


I regained consciousness to find myself strapped to a paramedic’s gurney with a handcuff on my wrist. Before I even opened my eyes I heard Jesse’s sister, Jenna, pleading with the deputies. “Shane called at lunch asking to speak to Jesse, and Chad talked to him. Didn’t anyone telephone the school and tell them what happened?”

“No, we’ve had a busy morning, Jenna.” The voice was familiar from a faraway memory of a night at the ball park when Jesse and I were doing something illegal in public. “We were hoping to avoid leaking the news until we had a clearer grasp of the situation. If the suspect is a student we didn’t want to alert him or her.”

“But surely, you can understand how much of a shock this must have been to him. Mom says he’s a nice kid and devoted to Jesse.”

“He should have stopped when he was told to,” Deputy Erickson said.

They continued to haggle for a short while longer. I guess it’s a big deal to stumble into a crime scene and not obey the cops when they warn you to stay out. However, Jesse’s family finally prevailed upon the Sheriff’s office to let me go and not file charges.

Honestly, by the time their conversation ended I could’ve cared less whether I went to jail or not. Listening to them made my insides turn to ice, and I felt like I was being crushed. All I could do was sob and count my inhales and exhales as I tried to keep breathing.

Jesse was dead.

Last night after returning home he had been approached by someone with a blade. In the gloom of the front yard he either got caught up in an altercation or was taken by surprise. Or maybe he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were no witnesses. It was so eerily quiet way out here in the boonies at night, so totally black around his house because of the broken porch lamp. As usual his family had slept soundly, mindless of the assault until his body had been discovered by his sister early this morning when she was leaving for work.

Jesse had been stabbed four times in the chest. The deputies, perhaps to make it less traumatic for the family and me, said it appeared that he had died almost instantaneously. Talking of how one wound must have passed through his ribs directly into his heart. The assailant was unknown, and they were collecting evidence and asking for information from family and friends. They hoped the perp had left something of himself behind to process DNA from and promised there would be an arrest.

Once I came to and one of the detectives assigned to the case found out that I was the last person to see Jesse alive, they were all over me with questions. Where we’d been, if Jesse had seemed concerned, what time he departed. I was numb. I must have been in shock because I had no problem telling these officers, strangers all except for Mr. Erickson, that Jesse had shown up at my house around 8:15 and we spent two hours alone in my bedroom studying and fucking.

I answered every single invasive query like a robot. I never felt I was a suspect—my breakdown made it evident that I was oblivious to the tragedy here—and the men were very respectful towards me and probed carefully. They gave me a few minutes to collect myself each time they sensed I was going to fall apart. Someone pushed a cold can of Dr. Pepper into my hands that I couldn’t even open. It’s Jesse’s favorite soft drink.

I brought up the threatening notes Jesse had been receiving and they were keenly attentive. I talked of why he initially suspected me because of the coincidence of my starting week of school, the distinctly homophobic flavor of them and how often they appeared. I asked about his backpack because the last note was inside and said that Jesse had it with him the night before. One of the deputies found it on the floor of his Jeep.

The sight of Jesse’s binder made me start crying again, made it all too real. Latex-gloved hands withdrew the latest printed threat just where I’d seen him place it yesterday, and the officer carefully opened it. “That’s the last one,” I sobbed. “There are lots more in Jesse’s locker at school.”

It was all too late to matter anymore, but pushing through my daze was that by letting Jesse persuade me to keep the notes a secret made me somehow to blame. I couldn’t bear it if this was partially my fault but it sure felt like it was. I should have told somebody months ago. I should have stood my ground after spring break when we realize the stalker wasn’t going to quit. Or last month after I discovered he was hiding them from me. One fucking day! It all boiled down to Jesse having to babysit his nephew yesterday afternoon.

A deputy asked his mother about the notes, and she said Jesse had talked to her in April about being harassed but claimed it wasn’t a big deal. He hadn’t mentioned it recently. My mouth dropped open in astonishment, but I guess I should have expected it. He had just shined me on, lied to all of us and did it to shut me up. I shook my head, disagreeing with what Jesse had told her. No, there were at least a dozen warnings spanning five months. The family totally crumpled in on themselves recognizing too late that Jesse had kept so much vital information to himself.

This all seemed to be happening to somebody else. Maybe my brain was trying to protect me from overload by shunting my pain aside and burying it so I couldn’t feel. I didn’t want to imagine Jesse alone in the dark, in pain and bleeding out. What were his last thoughts of… probably of his family, maybe of me too? Did he regret not taking my advice or were they pleasant ones of how much we loved each other? It felt too raw to wonder if he’d known he was going to die.

But helping the deputies provided me a temporary strength. I discovered deep rage too, fueling the urgency to avenge Jesse by catching his killer. The animal who had stolen something precious from me. I gave the officers everything I could think of about the particularities of finding each note. What I could recall of people like Mark Butler and his gang who had tormented Jesse at school.

Two of the detectives took me to Calberia High to retrieve the threats from Jesse’s locker, and wouldn’t you know it, class had just been dismissed. There’s a certain amount of infamy involved in walking through the main gates of a high school trailed by two uniformed officers, and I tried to ignore the stares. Students quickly shuffled out of the way to make room for us and I could only imagine their conclusions.

We passed two of Jesse’s drama friends who made startled eye contact with me. That was all it took; I started blubbering again and faltered on a crack in the sidewalk. One of the cops kindly put his arm around my shoulders to shield me from everyone else’s observation and make sure I stayed upright, and the other deputy announced, “Nothing to see here, kids.”

We disappeared into the main office, and the principal was called out of his cubicle. Upon hearing the tragic state of affairs, Mr. Peabody gave immediate permission to open Jesse’s locker but we had to wait for a secretary. Fidgeting impatiently, I watched three senior girls who had overheard the request glance between my drawn, wet eyes and the cops’ grim expressions, and at that point the truth must have slapped them across the face. Distressed, they slipped out of the room.

The secretary finally arrived with her list of combinations to the lockers, and I sighed because I could have supplied this without the delay. All things had to go through the proper channels I suppose. En masse, the principal, secretary, cops and I headed outside to find almost as many students still milling around as before. No one had left.

Bad news brings out the curiosity in people. Lots of the girls were crying; even some of Jesse’s male friends had tears in their eyes, and oh my god, the whispering. Jesse’s name was on the wind. My face turned mutinous, and I felt a definite urge to slug someone and tell them to shut the fuck up and stop talking about my boyfriend.

Another set of latex gloves came out, and I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. The cops and principal talked about preserving fingerprints and keeping the chain of evidence intact. I pointed to the zip-lock bag under the hoody in the back of the locker. It was now bulging with notes. When I brought up the fact that some of them had been passed through the locker vent, the detectives asked the principal if he’d allow a fingerprint team in. I wondered what they hoped to find with seven hundred students floating through these halls every day?

I looked at Mr. Peabody who seemed to have aged twenty years in one afternoon. “I’ve tried to get Jesse to take them seriously,” I hiccupped, tears pouring down my cheeks. “But he won’t. Wouldn’t.” He touched my arm and told me I wasn’t responsible, but who else was there? Jesse would still be alive if…

It suddenly hit me full force that there was no more Jesse. No. More. Jesse. All he had been to me, all we had lived for as a couple was gone except for memories. I wanted to collapse against the pillar holding up the roof overhang and give in to bawling like a baby. But I mostly held it together, cognizant of still being watched by students who kept their distance but couldn’t help circling like vultures. It didn’t even bother me how my misery was virtually announcing that we had been lovers. What did it matter now that Jesse was gone?

The sheriff’s car took me back to the Capp’s neighborhood to retrieve my Chevy. I think the shock had begun to wear off because I started sobbing in the back seat of the patrol car. Yesterday I had a boyfriend; today I didn’t. Yesterday at this time we were arguing about the intimidating note on his car; today it appeared that Jesse’s procrastination, and mine, I might add, had cost him his life. I felt traumatized and helpless, and I wished I could curl up into a ball and die too.

The cops were concerned about me and advised me to get checked out by a doctor and get some kind of medication to help me cope. I told them I just needed to process what happened and, while I wasn’t fine by a long shot, I would rather work this out on my own. I know they disagreed, but there was nothing they could force me to do. They asked me about parents and I lied and said there was someone sympathetic at home I could discuss my grief with.

Once we returned to Jesse’s, a detective asked if I would mind stopping by the substation and answering more questions to which I agreed. Jesse’s mother walked up and held me a tight hug before I left for downtown. It was only natural that being consoled by someone who loved him as I did and had lost just as much as me set me off again.

“I’m so sorry,” I sobbed on her shoulder. “So sorry. This is my fault. I begged him to tell you and when I asked him later, he acted weird and wouldn’t discuss it. I should have known he was lying and followed up.”

“No, no honey.” She pulled me back to look me in the face, and I saw her own sorrow etched in tears and the deep lines around her eyes and mouth. “Don’t blame yourself or it will make you crazy with guilt.”

I looked for recrimination and found none, but I wasn’t going to let myself off the hook that easily. “But there are so many things I should have done. Forced him to go to the authorities from the beginning or stolen the letters out of his locker or…”

“Nobody is to blame here except the person who killed Jesse,” Sandra stated firmly, her mouth set. “Nobody.”

“If only…”

“Shane, listen to me,” she said, and she commanded my attention by gently grabbing my upper arms and giving me a little shake. “Until you entered my son’s life Jesse was living behind a false smile. He has always been a good boy, but he had this secret, and it burdened him. The past four months were the happiest he’s been since he was little. He adored you. From the joy I saw every day in his eyes, I know you loved him too.

“I found out he was gay when he was sixteen,” she stated, wiping her face. “Maybe I should have told him then. But I wanted Jesse to be ready to share it with me, not feel forced.”

“He was getting ready… getting ready to tell you,” I choked out. “He worried only about his grandpa finding out because he didn’t want him to be angry.” It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t seen his grandfather anywhere around.

Sandra saw the question in my eyes. “My father went to pieces this morning once Jenna… once…” She shook her head, clearing the violence seen. “He’s resting at my nephew’s house because this has been such a strain on his heart. But he already knew just like I did. And then we saw Jesse’s dance on Monday.” She smiled.

I smiled too, remembering with all the joy I could drum up the sultry routine he’d sung just for me. How could Monday night, not even forty-eight hours past, feel like so long ago?

“We always had each other’s back,” I agreed quietly, “because our love together was the one thing we could count on. He was helping me because I’ve been so scared to come out, but Jesse… he was making me brave. My parents… my mom and dad…” I cleared my throat, unable to verbalize how much being rejected hurt. “He was everything to me. What will I do without him?”

She hugged me hard again. “You will find a way to go on and make him proud of you. We all will. We have to.”

I was suddenly surrounded by Jesse’s sister, Jenna, cousin Chad and other family members, all holding on to each other and crying, like a group grief session with everyone comforting each other. His family was so different than mine, willing to let their feelings show without shame and so accepting. If only Jesse had been aware that they knew he was gay and still loved him. Would it have made a difference?

I spent two hours downtown with the detectives answering their questions, trying to remember every little detail about the threats or anyone that Jesse might have mentioned that hated him, but nothing more came to mind. I cried through most of it. They were alarmed by my anguish and repeatedly asked if anyone was at home I could talk to. Having no idea what my father’s plans were, their worry made me uncomfortable, so I told them I would be alright. It was six o’clock when I left the station, and as I walked to my car, my cell phone chimed. It was Uncle Carl.

“Shane,” he shouted and I had to pull the phone away from my ear. “I just heard about Jesse. Are you okay?”

His voice, while excited, was empathetic, and I almost broke down again. “Yeah, I’m hanging in there.”

“Do you need anything? To come over? Elaine will make you dinner, and you can talk… or be silent, whatever helps you the most.”

What I wanted most was to be alone. To gather my thoughts and let the events of the past six hours wash over me so I could make some sense of it. My loss was unimaginable, and I had to regroup.

“I’d rather not, Uncle Carl, but thanks. I’m on my way home, and I’ll be okay. I have to study for finals.”

I bit my lip, knowing that was the most lame-ass excuse on the planet, but it was true. Finals began the next day, although I had no idea how I was going to get through school in my condition.

“If you’re sure.” Carl sounded doubtful with my decision. “You shouldn’t be by yourself, Shane.”

“I won’t be,” I lied. “Dad will be home soon. Really.”

We chatted a few minutes longer while I reassured him that I was managing and I needed rest more than anything. Convinced that I had no intention of going off the deep end, he eventually said goodbye.

The house was predictably vacant when I unlocked the door. Dad would be at Jillian’s, although he, like everyone else in Calberia, had probably heard of the murder by now. It was on all the television channels, at least the local ones. In this close a town, every single person should be affected by the tragedy in some way. Despite that, I seriously doubted it would cause the smallest wrinkle in my father’s life because he didn’t have any empathy or the capacity to be bothered with my reaction. He probably didn’t even remember me saying that Jesse was my friend.

I stripped off my clothes and fell into bed, the same bed that Jesse and I had made love on last night. I could still smell him… his shampoo and a trace of his cologne on the pillow. I let the tears come as I wrapped my arms around it and drew it close. Imagining it was Jesse beside me, I cried myself to sleep.


I don’t know how I got through the next couple of weeks.

Thursday was the first day of finals. I tried to force myself to go to school but I broke down in first period. My teacher sent me to the office, and Mr. Peabody ushered me into his cubicle for a talk. The school psychologist was buzzed in too. Half an hour later I was told to go home and not worry about my tests. They would square them away with all my teachers.

I went home, undressed and went back to bed. It gave me comfort to be here and even now the sweetness of our union lingered. I awoke hours later to my father screaming at me. He said the principal had phoned him to verify that I was exempt from my finals.

“What the hell is this bullshit about you going through some fucking hardship and being too overwhelmed by personal issues to sit through exams?”

“Huh?” I asked groggily. For those blessed few milliseconds before wakefulness I’d had peace, but Dad’s query brought it all back. He and Jillian were standing in my bedroom which shocked me because this was the first time she’d ever been in the house. I wanted to rage at him for his insensitivity and tears flooded my eyes.

“Mr. Peabody sent me home,” I stated, pulling my quilt up to cover myself to the chin. I was naked under the sheets and I didn’t want Jillian to see me. Dad’s expression added puzzlement to annoyance. “Didn’t you hear anything about the murder yesterday?”

“Oh, the Capps boy,” Jillian clarified slowly. “You knew him?”

Duh! What a stupid question considering the size of the school. But I wasn’t going to act rude because she was trying to be nice, even helping me out by reporting to my clueless father the news that had ignited fear and concern throughout the western valley. This was the first murder in Calberia in eighteen years. Every resident had learned of it except for him, obviously.

“Jesse was my best friend,” I said simply. I turned my head to the wall. Talking about him hurt too much.

Dad left me alone after that. It was both good and bad. He didn’t ask a bunch of useless questions about my feelings or harp on me for hiding or try to put two and two together on why I was so devastated over the death of someone who was just a friend. On the other hand, he didn’t come home any more often than before and nobody took care of me. I didn’t mind whether I ate or not. Showered or didn’t. Slept or couldn’t. I guess it didn’t matter to him that my world had fallen apart.

I was busy at first even if I never went back to school. I spent another two hours at the station speaking to the detectives on Jesse’s case, and they said to contact them if something came to mind. It was getting to the point where I wasn’t sure if the answers I gave were real or part of the nightmares that troubled me nightly.

Chad called me a couple of times to discuss his cousin, mostly to demand if Jesse had been happy. Of that I was positive, and I always answered yes. Chad talked as if he’d done something wrong, and I assured him that if Jesse wouldn’t listen to my advice he wouldn’t have taken his either. Sandra also called to check up on me. I kept my feelings more or less to myself because I couldn’t stop the self-blaming and I missed Jesse so much. The only help for me was… well, there was no help for me.

My emotions skittered widely from day to day, one moment to the next. Every morning I had a rare few seconds of peace before my memory kicked in to remind me that my lover was gone. A memory would come out of nowhere and level me, and guilt over the notes ate me alive. Sometimes the feelings were so physical, like the stony heat in my eyes when I couldn’t cry anymore or the giant lump sitting in my throat that I could barely swallow around. The only people I could have talked to who understood were Jesse’s family, and they were dealing with their own grief. It probably wasn’t healthy that I was on my own so much but I was getting used to it.

My high school graduation was the evening of June 14, nine days after Jesse’s death. It was also our four-month anniversary, but there was no longer a reason to celebrate or the person to share it with. The evening was supposed to be wonderful for Jesse and me with a big ceremony in the football stadium where I would be exiting high school and figuratively becoming an adult. I had invited everyone in the family from both Calberia and Rancho Martinez. Jesse and I were looking forward to going to Grad Nite at Disneyland afterwards and wandering the theme park while I showed him all the newest rides. For once there would’ve been no fear of Calberia classmates knowing about us.

Instead, I went through the motions. The eighty-something seniors welcomed me, and everyone, even Mark Butler, was sporting navy blue ‘Justice 4 Jesse’ armbands. His killer hadn’t been caught yet… Mark had been thoroughly investigated for the crime but had an ironclad alibi that night… and Jesse’s friends didn’t want people to forget about him.

I didn’t think I was going to make it through the ceremony except that Jasmine, one of my English classmates, gave me half a Xanax tablet because she said I was probably going nuts with stress and half a tab would take the edge off without putting me to sleep. She and another girl ran me through a quick rehearsal of how to walk and when to sit and stand because I missed all the practices. By that time the Xanax was kicking in, and it actually felt good to just dump the pain for awhile. I probably would have sailed through if the school hadn’t made such a big deal about Jesse not being alive to get his diploma.

Speeches by the principal, his dance teacher and some student Jesse didn’t even spend time with on what a great leader he’d been and how hard he worked. What a nice, respectful boy he was, and how students looked up to him and teachers enjoyed having him in class. Praising Jesse’s talent as a dancer and actor and why the world was a better place for him being in it, even for a short while. Everyone’s attention was drawn to the ‘Justice 4 Jesse’ bands to remind them that the criminal was still at large.

By the time his tearful sister came forward to accept his posthumous diploma, my overwhelmed emotions were climbing up my throat. Every sentiment repeatedly pounded into my brain that Jesse was dead. I must have looked as if I was having a nervous breakdown. Wanting to escape, all I could do was put my head down so no one would see me crying. My fellow students were not only grieving over Jesse themselves but freaking out over my bereavement, and I was suddenly in the middle of a large knot of hugs and words of comfort.

Other than finally graduating the only thing I noticed was my guests. Dad and Jillian, Carl and Elaine, of course, but much to my amazement, my mother actually showed up. Without informing me, she flew in at two and spent the afternoon with my uncle— her brother— giving me no chance to talk to her other than a quick hello after the ceremony ended. She left for the airport before the ink was dry on my diploma, airily claiming that she had to get back to Rancho Martinez because Roxie and Suzie were having a huge end-of-school overnight the following evening. So much planning to do and so many things to buy, but it was going to be the party of parties for her girls. She kissed me on the cheek and told me to have fun at college.

Carl saw her off to her car and returned fifteen minutes later. “Some people never change, I guess.” He meant it as an apology, maybe for being related.

“Yeah, well, at least she showed up.”

“Did she?” he scoffed. “I’m surprised she found it in her heart to even make the effort.”

I gasped. That was probably the harshest thing he’d ever said about his sister.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized with a gentle hug. “Are you okay? You look like shit.”

No, I was never going to be okay. But I faked a smile and tried to joke, “Sure, Uncle Carl. It’s all the pomp and circumstance and realizing I’m out of high school. I’m still coming to terms with this being alone crap.”

Alone. Forever without my baby.

Jesse’s funeral was held on Saturday afternoon, two days later. We met at the Eternal Valley mortuary, because only an outside venue was large enough to handle the crowds. The whole school was there. Hell, almost the entire population of Calberia was there.

Everyone was bubbling with the news. Jesse’s killer had been caught.

It was Mitchell Butler, Mark’s older brother, who murdered Jesse. For some reason that only mental illness and drug abuse could explain, Mitchell had been fixated on the younger boy all through high school. He’d been Jesse’s chief bully up until our junior year, the same year Mitchell had graduated. But with his departure, Jesse had made the vow to himself to stop letting people push him around.

No, he couldn’t stop the words that jerks like the Butler brothers used against him, but he could control how he reacted. His first mistake, if you will, was ignoring the bullying, and when Mark complained to Mitchell that Jesse didn’t care what he said anymore, the older boy decided to make him care. But just as Jesse wouldn’t pay attention to verbal threats, he didn’t pay attention to the written ones either. By the time June rolled around, Mitchell was enraged enough to become dangerous. He decided that Jesse needed to learn a lesson.

Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a simple threat with a knife went too far. We would never know why Mitchell became so frenzied that he plunged the blade into Jesse’s chest. Afraid that he was going to start yelling and wake people up, Mitchell stabbed Jesse again and again and again, leaving him to die in the dirt.

I stood silent and tearless as I heard the tale from Kwan and Mi Kyong Park. I thanked them for telling me and made my way across the grass to where a brushed-steel casket sat on a bier surrounded by flowers. Jesse’s framed senior portrait was on a tripod next to the coffin with more flowers. I couldn’t look at it.

What difference did knowing who killed Jesse make other than to assure the killer was punished? Nothing would bring Jesse back. Mitchell was just another homophobic bastard who had used deadly force against his gay victim. Lots of people died from gay bashing. Jesse was the only one who mattered to me.

Crowds began to arrive. I was hanging back alone and scanning groups of attendees, recognizing many from school. Jenna Capps saw me and pointed me out to her mother. The next thing I knew, they were drawing me forward and telling me to sit with them in their row.

The ceremony was short and sad, but I wasn’t listening. I don’t think I cried one tear. Perhaps I was all dried out or my crying was done by the hundreds of others who couldn’t stop. I stared at the little memorandum in my hand that put Jesse’s life into a series of statistics. Date of birth, date of death, his picture and a poem about death. He was so much more than that, but how could I make anyone understand?

The time came when the pastor asked people to say a few words about him, and I couldn’t. I wanted to but I knew nothing I’d utter would make Jesse real to them in the way he was to me. I wasn't able to explain the strangled words of longing that were in my heart. At the end, people walked forward to give their condolences and I heard a thousand versions of “I’m sorry” until I wanted to scream.

I returned home in the late afternoon, and my father was there with Jillian. She was biting her lip but I saw sympathy and anxiety on her face. Dad just looked angry as usual.

“I have been getting quite a few comments from people around the area whom I respect,” he huffed. “They say you have been carrying on obsessively over the Capps boy’s death.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked sullenly. “I’m not allowed to mourn Jesse?”

Jillian put a hand on Dad’s arm. “Perhaps this isn’t the best time to discuss this,” she said, her voice placating and compassionate. “It’s been a rough week and a half for Shane, Ken.”

He wasn’t paying attention. “There is nothing wrong with mourning when it’s done quietly, in a way that doesn’t draw attention. Crying and falling apart at a public ceremony reflects badly on you and me.”

“Dad, I wish you would try to understand. Please just listen.”

I felt wrung out. The person I loved with all my being was now rotting in a grave, and all he was worried about was morals and his standing in the community. Just for once I needed him to see things from my point of view.

Jillian tried to intervene again and turned to Dad with a warning in her voice. “It would be best if you backed off. Let it go for now before you say something you’ll both regret.”

My dad was obstinate if anything and he glared at me. “No, I want to hear what he has to say. Explain.”

“Jesse meant the world to me, Dad,” I whispered. “He was my best friend… well actually, my only real friend here in Calberia. You have no idea how lonely I’ve been since Mom kicked me out and made me move up here. Took me away from my old life and forced into a strange school five fucking months before graduation. And now Jesse is dead because of some asshole kid with a grudge and a knife.”

“He was your boyfriend,” Dad snapped. “Don’t lie.”

“Ken, don’t,” Jillian warned again. Her eyes pleaded with me to stay quiet, but I was done with lying and hiding.

“Yes, he was my boyfriend, Dad. I loved him. What do you want me to say?”

“I want you to tell me why you’re fucking around with some gay kid when I explicitly told you I wouldn’t stand for it when you moved in,” he raged.

I trembled in my shoes before his fury, but I was at the edge of my endurance. My eyes stung with exhausted tears and my heart felt like lead in my chest. I was so tired of being judged by ignorant people and found lacking. The worst was when it came from those who were supposed to care about me.

“Fucking around? I’m bi, Dad. That’s all. I’m not sick, I’m not perverted and I didn’t do anything to make myself this way. What is the matter with all of you? Loving Jesse isn’t a crime any more than being bisexual means I’m a monster, so why does everyone hate on us so much? People like you and Mom are no better than Mitchell inside, you just hide it better. Instead of threats and violence, you call me names and criticize, and not once since Jesse died have you even tried to understand how I feel.”

My breathing was coming out in harsh gasps, and my voice was squeaking several octaves higher than I normally spoke, but I was on a roll. All the pain and loneliness, the despair over being dumped in Calberia with nobody in my corner, I had been holding inside of me for way too long. How it felt to find someone at last who loved me for who I was, and then to have him cruelly stolen from me came pouring out. I couldn’t stop it.

“So what if I was in love with another boy. I was committed to Jesse and he was the only one I’ve been with since I moved here. He was the only one in this world who truly appreciated me for who I am. Jesse was the kindest, most loving person I have ever met, and we weren’t hurting anybody. I can’t help who I fall for. It’s biological, just like you love Jillian and Mom loves Whit. He was…”

My explanation ended in a roar from my father’s open mouth, and I cringed, afraid of his wrath. Like some kind of wild man, he regarded me with bulging eyes and his mouth in a snarl, and I knew enough to shut up. He really was no better than Jesse’s murderer. Like having blinders pulled from my eyes, I knew Dad would never appreciate how hard this was, how empty my life had become since Jesse’s death. I felt like my whole world was imploding.

“Never mind, forget it,” I said in a low voice and turned away to slump off to my bedroom.

“Come back here, Shane.” And when I kept moving, his tone became demanding. “I said, get the hell back here.”

My ass was saved by Jillian who grabbed her purse and stormed out the door a second later. I only heard her angry, muffled voice yelling, “I can’t believe how insensitive you are to your own son, Ken,” the slam of the door and then my dad going after her to plead his case. They were outside for a good ten minutes of loud arguing before she backed out of the driveway with a squeal of tires and took off down the street. It must have distracted him enough because when he came back inside he left me alone.

I sat in my dark bedroom, moving around in nonsense circles of emotion, aimless and aching for Jesse. I had given up everything for our future, and now it was over. I had even dreamed about it, apart from my nightly nightmares of Jesse’s death. Seeing myself, standing on the end of a long plank over a black pit where every foot represented a loss in my life. Mom, Dad, Jesse.

My conversation with Dad made it painfully obvious that I wasn’t going to be welcomed at my father’s for much longer. My secret was out; I had clearly been ‘fucking around’ with a boy for awhile, and Dad had to realize that part of it was his lack of supervision. What was he going to do? Babysit me to keep me on the straight and narrow? No, I had graduated from high school, so it was a matter of time before he used our relationship as the reason to kick me out like my mother had done five months earlier.

That left me with one unenviable solution which was to try to convince Mom to let me move back in. I didn’t want to, not really, and I wasn’t sure how I would manage it with her lack of concern and evident disapproval of me. I desperately needed to get away from Calberia because everywhere I went was a place I had shared life with Jesse, and it hurt so bad to be reminded of it. I didn’t want to appear desperate but I might even have to throw myself on her mercy.

I called her Sunday evening around 7:30.

“Shane,” Mom squawked in uneasy surprise when she answered her cell for a change. “Where are you?”

Thinking at first it was an odd question right off the bat, it suddenly clicked that she must not be at home and was afraid I was back in town. “Still in Calberia at Dad’s.”

“Oh… good.” She didn’t have to act so relieved. “So what do you need?”

My mouth went dry. I knew she was going to refuse me. But what other choice was there but to ask.

“Listen, Shane,” she interrupted impatiently. “I’m expected an important call from Whit any second. You need to tell me what you want.” Her attitude made me angry because I could tell she didn’t want to talk to me. She never did.

“Um, Mom, I don’t know if you were listening at my graduation. Well, maybe you were… You know, what was said… About what happened to that kid who went to school up here and died. Jesse Capps.”

“Well, yes, Shane, I did listen,” she replied calmly. “It even made the news down here after they caught the killer. An older brother of a classmate, right?”

I decided to get it done with. “Mom, Jesse was my best friend. I can’t stand living up here anymore. It’s all too much. Can I please come home?”

There was a moment of complete silence, and I almost thought she’d hung up. “According to your father, you and this Jesse boy were more than just friends. Didn’t we talk about this in January? That was the whole reason you moved to Calberia. Why would I want you back here after that?”

Damn, I was crying again. “Because… I, uh… Mom, it’s complicated… I wish you…”

The more I tried to plod through an answer, the more I sounded like a whiny kid. I gathered my wits about me to work at sounding lucid. “Because I’m your son, and you’re supposed to love me, even when I mess up.”

She gasped angrily at that, but just like with Dad, I needed to speak up in my defense. “I know you hate that I’m bi. It’s not like I moved up to Calberia with some devious plan to go against you, but I loved Jesse. I met him and fell in love with him. Now he’s gone, I’m stuck here and I can’t stand it.”

“What about college in three months?” she hedged. “You never did tell me what college you’ll be playing for.”

“I’m not going to a four-year college.” I held my breath, waiting for the yelling to start. I hadn’t wanted Mom to ever know of my change in plans, but at this point I was incapable of delaying the admission, even as a ruse to get me into her house.

“Why not, young man? You had better have kept up your grades…”

Oh my god, really? I’m having a mental crisis and she wanted to discuss grades. It was as if neither of my parents had a compassionate bone in their bodies. For fuck’s sake, my boyfriend was dead. Was it all about outward show with them or did they even love me in the slightest?

I was weary of backpedaling so why not spill my guts and give up all my dirty little secrets. I talked about my loneliness and how tough moving in the middle of the year had been, not that I hadn’t told her the same thing ten times already. I said my grades were excellent, straight A’s in fact, and despite the confusion with forms and addresses, I had been scouted. I had simply chosen to give up my scholarship.

“And of course this was all about your boyfriend, I’ll bet,” Mom scoffed. “So now he’s…”

“Mom,” I interrupted, defeated. “I don’t need your self-righteousness or another lecture. I’ve already heard them all. From coaches and scouts, my guidance counselor at school and Uncle Carl alike. All I want to know is whether I can move back home for awhile.”

“No. No, you can’t,” she yelled. “I thought I raised an intelligent young man but I guess not. I raised an idiot. Now that you have no scholarship or any way to go to a university next year, you will have to make due. I’m certainly not paying for you. It’s time you grew up even if it means learning from your mistakes the hard way.”

With that she hung up on me. I stood there for the longest time staring through my bedroom window as the sun went down, not seeing anything.


On the following Tuesday I went back to work for my uncle. It was my first weekday out on the boats, and I threw myself into doing my best. The crews must have learned that Jesse was special to me and gave me condolences like he was family. He was. My family. Except for Carl and Elaine, my only family.

Staying busy kept my mind off my loss, at least temporarily. It all sneaked up on me at times when Jesse’s face would skim across my brain and the grief would overpower me, bringing me to tears. It seemed like I was crying all the time but I couldn’t stop. I knew it made those around me uncomfortable, and several times Carl sidled up to me and asked if I was alright. I wiped my eyes and nodded, and he would ruffle my hair or put his arm around me in a reassuring way. He was giving me time, and I appreciated it.

Another couple of days went by, and I was feeling a deep need for closure. Honestly, there would never be real closure where Jesse was concerned. Mitchell would go to trial and probably be convicted. Years could pass and my life would slowly muddle on. But I would never forget Jesse or stop loving him. I didn’t want to forget him. I wanted to love him forever.

What I needed was something I couldn’t find wandering around Calberia. I wanted a chance to say goodbye in my own way. In a place that was special to both of us, aboard the Sorsha Lynn where we’d first made love more than two months ago. I knew all I had to do was ask Carl, and he’d probably let me take the boat out for an evening.

“Tomorrow night?” he asked when I made my request. “After the Santa Cruz diving charter?”

“Just for a couple hours,” I pleaded. “I’ll give you money for fuel, make sure she’s locked down tight and bring the keys by your house when I’m done. Please?”

Carl looked at me sharply, and I knew what he saw. I was a wreck, emotionally and physically. I couldn’t keep food down, and I’d lost a lot of weight in the past two weeks. My cheeks were hollowed out and my clothes didn’t fit right. I had no energy, and the only reason I was working was to get me out of the house and away from Dad. My eyes were dull and always burning, and my whole body shook in exhaustion and anguish because I only slept in short naps where longer periods of sleep eluded me. I’m sure Carl thought I was losing my mind.

He looked a little abashed and rubbed his ear. “Has your dad said anything about taking you to a therapist or psychologist? You have to be depressed with everything you’ve gone through.” I stared at him defensively. “No, Shane, listen to me. I know Ken doesn’t pay as much attention to you as he should, but you need to speak to someone professionally about Jesse.”

I wiped my eyes and tried to smile. “Let me think about it, Uncle Carl. I know you mean well. You’re probably right, and I’ll talk to Dad. But what about tomorrow night?”

“Okay, Shane,” he finally said in his slow drawl. “Tomorrow after we finish with the charter you can take the Sorsha Lynn out for a couple of hours. But remember we have a very busy day on Saturday with a large group of fishermen. I don’t want any delays. Understand?”

I nodded and smiled, thankful he trusted me. “I promise I won’t leave a mess.”

He slapped my shoulder in affection. “You’re a good kid, Shane. Remember that.”

The next day I had a hard time holding in my impatience to get the workday over. I was polite to the clients and crew, but there was this air of expectancy that buoyed me through the long hours. I think what fueled my anticipation was the belief that in our most intimate place I would finally be alone with Jesse for the first time since he left me.

It was eight o’clock and the pier where the Bayliner was tied, empty except for the birds and a few crabs on the pilings. I was almost ready to sail, having retrieved a backpack of essentials that were vital to tonight from my car. Surprisingly enough, all the accessories I’d taken on our special cruise two months before had been sitting in a satchel in my closet, untouched. I don’t know why I never unpacked it, but I guess it didn’t matter as long as I could use the same candles, listen to the same playlist and drink the Blue Moon beer that Jesse had bought for us.

Ninety minutes later I cut the boat’s engines and listened to the silence surrounding me. It was peaceful out here alone on the ocean. The trawler rocked gently in the water, and I could hear the faint slap of the current against the gunwales. The air smelled strongly of fish, salt and damp. I felt the sogginess of the mist blowing in the wind on my face, and I was cold standing on deck even though it was the first night of summer.

I was far beyond the shoreline, and tonight through the swirling fog I couldn’t see the distant lights coming on in the homes up in the hills above town. No stars either. Or maybe it was the tears spilling out of my eyes that kept blurring my vision. Not that I missed the twinkling points. Not that I wanted their cheer, it was just in passing that I noted the absence of any signs of life except me. Me and the Sorsha Lynn creaking in the swells.

I didn’t throw out an anchor. It was an odd thought. My anchor was missing, my Jesse. The boat didn’t need one either. If I could go rudderless for the night, so could my uncle’s ship. This was a special place for us and I had to be here. Like nobody would ever understand, this was where I felt closest to him. Where we’d first made love more than two months ago. I could surrender myself to his ghost—talk to him, cry for him, live with him without anyone judging me.

I wondered if Jesse was watching me shut down the engine and listen in the darkness for the stillness I knew would engulf me. If he would sustain me through the oncoming ordeal as I sought to remember and forget at the same time. Did he feel the agony of my loss inside me and know how I had cried for him every day since his murder? I even cried in my sleep, finding no peace in my dreams. Jesse, oh Jesse…

I stepped down into the galley, crossed it and quickly entered the stateroom. The scene of the crime, so to speak, if falling in love could be considered that. I guess to people like Mitchell and my parents it was. I thought of the pack of items from April and it felt like eons ago. I remembered thinking that the candles, the rose and the music would woo Jesse and entice him to know that I was his forever. That he was mine. Funny how forever had such a short fuse.

Digging into the bag I came up with a handful of dried rose petals. I was not aware that the rose I gave Jesse ended up inside, but it felt like a deeper sense of déjà vu. I set the candles all around the berth, using the drips of candle wax on the surfaces to guide me. I guess Uncle Carl had not been in the stateroom since Jesse and I took the trawler out or he didn’t notice the leftover drops of wax. I set up my iPod and brought up my favorite playlist, including the songs Jesse and I loved by The Offspring. The first loaded song, Want You Bad, Jesse’s favorite, wailed from the speakers.

If you could only read my mind…

The sheet we’d used to cover the bed was still in a wad in the bottom of the bag and I brought it out in amazement and then felt stupid at my surprise, as if I’d forgotten its existence. Spreading it out over the bed, my fingers touched the stiffness of the semen stains, and I nearly lost it in paroxysms of grief. My Jesse and me, our mixed essence spotting the fabric like a gift to remember us by. I held the roughness against my cheek. I cried harder, if that was even possible, wetting the cotton with my tears.

Checking the bag again, searching frantically, no? Yes, Jesse’s brown t-shirt that we had used to wipe our bodies down after we made love, the one from the Broken Wings tour, was at my fingertips. Bunched up and enclosed in the tiny, airless space of the bag, the musky mingling of Jesse’s sweat and his sweet scent wafted around me when I shook it out, and I almost screamed in delightful relief. I lifted the shirt to my nose and inhaled sharply. If I closed my eyes and breathed in slowly, letting the music rise and swell around me, I could almost imagine…

I smoked a blunt one of my crewmates had given to me on Monday to calm my nerves and took my time drinking three of the last Blue Moons, Jesse’s favorite beer. Vaguely I heard Denial, Revisited blasting in the background. A piece of me felt like I was floating and I welcomed the sensation. It allowed all the good times to come back like the favorite melody of a song on our playlist.

My first glimpse of Jesse’s magnificence across the patio at the high school five months ago, and the day he first talked to me with his beautiful voice and learned I wasn’t his stalker. How we gazed at each other with joy and excitement from across that table in the library. The feel of his muscular body in my arms that same night when he came over to my house. The wonder of undressing his golden brilliance, the way the light emphasized every single pore until I was lost in him. Making love over and over and over, different days, different locations but each one a masterpiece. The plans we’d made to go to Hope Ranch and transfer to a university where I could take him with me before living the rest of our lives and be together always.

And if you go I won't believe that it's forever. And you can go, but I'll never leave ‘cause it's not over.

There were the not-so-pleasant memories too, ones that made me cringe. How afraid I was at school to show him affection because I didn’t want news to get back to my father that I was sleeping with a guy. I remembered him wanting to go to prom with me as his date, and the sadness in his eyes when I said no, again because of my selfishness. I refused to acknowledge his pride in me or allow him to give me the strength I needed. I left him to bear the stalker burden alone except for making demands and getting angry at him. And then that final night when we wasted all that time fighting about his insistence in seeing me; a moot point since he was already there. Had I just shut up and let it go, maybe he would have left earlier, and maybe he never would have encountered Mitchell.

My throat ached, and my eyes felt shriveled up, feverish with torment. Stripped down to my bare skin to lay back against our sheet covering the bed, my mind just spinning from one dream to the next and feeding myself on the best memories of him. Michael Buble’s I’m Your Man started up in the iPod, and I smiled in recollection. The night of the Fine Arts Presentation at school when Jesse had danced and lip-synced this song directly to me, showing the world that he was my man and I was his.

If you want a lover I'll do anything you ask me to. And if you want another kind of love I'll wear a mask for you. If you want a partner take my hand, or if you want to strike me down in anger, here I stand… I'm your man.

Slowly at first, then frantically, I began to jack off to the song, my nose pressed against the softness of his shirt as I drank in his scent. The Cool Water cologne that was uniquely Jesse and smelled so much better on him. I felt the pull of my hand against my rigid, slick cock and recalled Jesse’s soft lips taking me into heaven, the way he knew exactly how hard to suck and his gentle fingers sliding around my balls. I could believe he was there, could feel him all around me, and I wanted to live in a universe where Jesse was my lover and we would always be together.

His lips, his wet, sucking mouth, those golden eyes that would look up at me in adoration as he blew me and the black hair falling into his face that I’d smooth back and run my fingers through. Holding onto his face tightly when I could no longer stop the orgasm that crested over me in fierce waves, and he’d drink me down like I was the essence of life he needed for survival.

Just as now as I felt my balls lifting, the roiling of my burning seed inside traveling up my shaft. Like catching the tail end of an emotional comet riding high before plunging into obliteration. With uncontrollable snaps of my hips, I was spurting all over myself and crying out.

“Jesse,” I sobbed over and over, my heart tearing from my chest in miserable ecstasy. “Jesse.”

Then it was done, and the rapture was gone, leaving the desolation. I hated him for leaving me, and I hated that his death made me angry and for blaming him. I knew it was Mitchell’s fault but at the same time, it was all so senseless how Jesse didn’t have to die. If he’d only listened to me he might still be alive. If only I had obeyed that tiny voice inside me whispering that this would end tragically.

Ah, the moon’s too bright, the chain’s too tight, the beast won't go to sleep. I've been running through these promises to you that I made and I could not keep…

On top of everything, I had to ask why? Why Jesse? Why us? For the first time in my life I had someone to care for who cherished me back. I was finally in love and happy. Understood and protected by this man who wasn’t afraid to adore me and made me believe in a forever commitment. He listened to me and made me feel important, and I appreciated him in the same way because we complimented each other.

But amid the love and acceptance he gave me, self-loathing bloomed. I felt such deep guilt that I had done nothing about the threatening letters until it was too late. I wasn’t there to protect Jesse from Mitchell, and I was furious over the fucking unfairness of it all. I wished it had been me who died. Why not me instead of Jesse, my shining star? Why, when I couldn’t live without him?

His death left me hollow inside. Just empty with no way to fill the void.

I used a clean corner of the sheet to wipe the drying cum from my chest and stomach and then put Jesse’s shirt back over my nose so that every breath I took in was of him. The Offspring’s Gone Away switched on, and in anguish I turned my wet eyes to stare at a glowing candle as it melted its way into my eye sockets.

I reach to the sky and call out your name, and if I could trade I would. And it feels, and it feels like heaven's so far away. And it stings, yeah it stings now. The world is so cold now that you've gone away.


The next morning…


An earnest young man with close cropped brown hair and an eager-to-please attitude sat at his radio console, his headset in place. He was a seaman with the US Coast Guard in a cutter off the coast of California, and his hard-boiled captain stood over him listening intently. The kid was still learning.

“Base,” the radioman repeated. “This is the USS Coast Guard Cutter Bayonne, WYP51429 out of Santa Barbara, come in?”

“Go ahead, Bayonne, over.”

“Base, we are approximately ten nautical miles north by northwest of your position. We received a report at 0-seven-thirty this morning about a missing trawler, a Bayliner 3388, vessel number YHSG4916, the Sorsha Lynn out of Calberia. The vessel has been located, drifting and unoccupied at our position.”

“Say again, Bayonne.”

“Bayliner 3388, vessel number YHSG4916, stated as the Sorsha Lynn is at our position. It was drifting and appears to be abandoned. Vessel has been searched, showing signs of recent occupation, but no violence noted. The dinghy is still attached.”

“Stand by, Bayonne.”

“Standing by.”

The young radioman sat back in his chair and looked up at his captain who nodded at him, pleased by his responses.

“Sir?” A midshipman appeared next to the two military men waiting for permission to speak. The captain nodded at him.

“Sir,” the midshipman stated. “One of the weighted buoyancy control devices is missing.”

The captain looked at the two men sadly and sighed, his heart heavy with regret. He didn’t want to say what he was thinking to his subordinates, but in his long military experience certain signs stood out sometimes, and this was one of them.

The radio squawked.

“Bayonne, addition information received on the Sorsha Lynn, Bayliner 3388 YHSG4916 out of Calberia. Owner Carl Weatherby reports vessel was allegedly taken with permission by his nephew, Shane Elliott, age eighteen, at approximately twenty hundred hours last night. Mr. Elliott was supposed to return the vessel to port and return the keys to him. He has not been heard from since. Mr. Weatherby says he has been despondent over the recent death of a close friend, and the family is concerned about him.”

The seaman got back on the horn. “Base, I repeat, Mr. Elliott is not on board the Sorsha Lynn but we have reason to believe he was. Would advise that a search and recovery dive team be sent to our location…”


To my readers: not every story has a happy ending, and some of you are probably hating me right now for doing this to the boys. Believe me, it made me cry as the author to write the scenes of Jesse’s death and afterwards, so I know how you’re feeling. Thinking about how hatred and intolerance shapes our world I hope one day we find a better way. If you need that HEA and believe in an afterlife, keep reading.

Beyond the Cosmos…

“Shane, what are you doing here?”

The inquisitive voice came from off to my right and behind me and, while the speaker was so far invisible, I knew who it was. I was in a warm place where although there was no bright, white light like I’d been taught as a child, I could still see. I felt at peace, with no hunger or thirst, none of the terror or pain of my final moments on earth. Up until now I had been a little overwhelmed, but hearing Jesse speaking calmed me down considerably. I smiled, feeling lighthearted and tranquil now that he had found me.

Even as an idea of creating some answer that wouldn’t make me sound fucking pathetic flickered randomly through me, I found that I had no option but to be completely truthful. There’s no lying in the afterlife.

“I couldn’t live without you, Jesse. I was too lonely, and I missed you.”

I felt a warm hand touch my arm, and there he was, Jesse… but not Jesse. He was completely naked and the sight of him was familiar and comforting. His hair was just as black, his latte eyes lit up in that old familiar way, but he was different too. His features seemed more pronounced, his muscles more delineated, and his smile was huge on those upturned lips of pink. Even with the surprise in his voice, he seemed pleased to see me.

I put my hand on his shoulder to push him back just a bit so I could admire him. Actually, since I was incapable of falsehood, I am forced to admit that I was looking for the damage to his body that Mitchell had caused. But he was the picture of health. The stab wounds were gone and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I looked down at myself to find my own body naked, and I wondered if I was in heaven. If we both were. At least we were together.

Jesse looked into my eyes and smiled gently. “I put such a burden on you by leaving.”

“It’s not your fault,” I whispered. “We’re together now, and that’s what is important.”

Jesse started to tell me not to be angry, but there was no capacity for anger, and we read each other’s minds.

I looked around again. I felt solid under my bare feet but it wasn’t like a floor. There was a mist without damp; bright as the sun but not hot. A gray that blended into deep blue beyond infinity. Altogether weird.

“I would say I missed you, but it doesn’t feel as if I can because you’re already here,” Jesse said.

“I’m glad I am.” I smiled. “Do you know your way around?”

Jesse nodded and took my hand. “Let me show you.” His eyes were twinkling.

“First things first.” I took him into my arms. “There’s something I have to do right away.”

I kissed him very softly and stared into his eyes, relaxing into their beauty. Then he kissed me back.

“That feels nice,” I whispered. “I’ve missed kissing you.”

“And holding you,” he added. “I love you, Shane.”

“I love you too, Jesse. Forever.”

“For eternity.”

The End

(To be continued... if you also want to read chapter 6.)


  1. No! I made the mistake of scrolling down to get to chapter four and saw the ending. I'm definitely a HEA person, and I don't know if I can read it. Much depends on my mood, and right now, I think it'd get me more down than I am. I will read it soon, but wow!

  2. Wow! Was not expecting that ending! Thanks for the addition tho. :o) sorta wished for some pain from the rents, but that would have detracted from your wonderful story telling. We have to take bigger steps whenever we can to stop the hate and pain and waste.

  3. Wow! Did not expect this. It has been a long time since a story brought tears to my eyes, but this one definitely did. Great story tho, just not what I expected.

  4. I read this earlier but couldn't comment. I wasn't expecting this! I cried! I actually cried. Thanks for sharing with us

  5. I posted this story at Lit and few people left comments about the parents. I'll go ahead and post my reply I left since you are asking the same thing.

    I'll tell you, I was really sweating bullets with the story ending and wondered if it was too dark. I appreciate your kindness and that you didn't hate it.

    As for the retribution for Shane's parents, I already foresaw that but didn't put it in the story. It would have been too melodramatic and long.

    Shane left a letter on board the boat in which he asked to be buried next to Jesse. His parents try to refuse but Carl, Jillian and Jesse's family argue with them until they give in. Jillian breaks up with Ken, Shane's dad, over his harsh, unloving ways. Carl, who feels very guilty for not standing up for Shane to his mother and father, not noticing how deep his depression was and letting him use the boat, never speaks to his sister again. Whit, who had a soft spot for his stepson but had agreed years earlier to let Lisa be in charge of his parenting, is also highly critical of his wife and they almost divorce over it.

    Again, thank you very much for the love you have shown the boys.

    1. Love the story it made me cry, and I like this extra info, but what about the sisters?

      can't wait for your next story just hope it's not so sad

    2. Karol, I would assume that Roxie and Suzie would probably only be fed their mother's warped version of what happened to Shane, and part of their parents' arguing would have to do with telling the girls the truth. They might never learn it, considering that they have no ties to anyone who knew Shane in Calberia. Maybe once they grew up, Whit might level with them if he dared.

    3. Thanks Cliffgirl, have a great weekend, read you soon

  6. Thank you for a wonderful story. I started to cry when Jesse died and got steadily more grief stricken toward the end. Haven't wept at a story as much for a long time. Thank you for showing that the world isn't always full of happy endings and that we should make it our goal that no one should have to endure such hatred and cruelty in the future.

  7. I hate you Cliff. Now I have to explain to everybody why I'm crying.

    A beautiful story as always. This one I'll never forget, and has probably been the only story to actually make me cry.

    It was absolutely wonderful, yet painfully horrible. It's a little scary how much the two of them remind me of myself and my boyfriend...

    I absolutely loved the story. All I can say right now.

  8. This story made me cry. I loved it although I know I could never read it again because it hits to close to home. Thank you for sharing this story and the story of the two beautiful souls that are no longer here to the left. Thank you for giving people like them and people like us a voice when we can't do it ourselves.

  9. I think from the beginning of the story I could feel that this one was a bit darker than your typical love story. It was almost as if the whole world was overcast.
    Still a beautiful love story. It really does comfort the reader that at least they got to be together in the end

  10. I think in all the crap that happend Jessie and Shane sort of got to be together in the end. I cried when I red the ending with Shane dying but not all stories have a happy ending. RIP for the fictional characters. I just wish more people were tolerant of us GBLT people.

  11. Forgot my name Casey 1988 (

  12. An unexpected ending...
    I've been a fan of your writing for a while now, and I just can't get enough of your stories. They are so well written and thought out that I feel there is no way anyone could not love them. The characters are very well developed and relatable. I just love all of your stories.

    Now, for information about me. I am a 20 year old male. When I was 10 or 11, I was taught how to masturbate by my cousin. After that point, I found various websites where I could read information and stories, mostly I started to define my sexual orientation. I was interested in all the male/male stories that people had to offer, and I was aroused by the images those stories conjured. I decided that I was probably gay. Then I got to the age where people around me were starting to have relationships. I wasn't interested in anyone, sexually speaking. Through research, I found the term 'asexual', and chose that way to describe myself. This lasted throughout high school. For years, I had many crushes on different individuals, male and female, but could never bring myself to act on them. In my junior year of college, I got close to someone who I had known since entering college, and eventually asked her to be my first girlfriend. As our relationship progressed, we began to have sex. After that point, I was still unsure how to identify. I just go with Bisexual now, because it works for me. I've realized that having a term to identify with is not as important as just being happy.

    This story makes me grateful for the relatively easy life I've had so far. I still haven't actually told anyone but my girlfriend that I am Bi, because I feel that it is a fact that my family doesn't need to know right now. Stories such as Jessie and Shane's, or Kendal and Emery's make me wish for a well enough future for myself that I can actively try to improve the lives of troubled teenagers in the future. As it is right now, I do the best I can to help those who are around me deal with their own problems, and I try to actively show support for all kinds of people, be they straight, gay, bisexual, transsexual, or otherwise. In the end, we're all people.

    Thank you Cliffgirl, for supporting my late-night readings with your wonderful stories, providing me with some good release of tension, and for telling the world about Kendal and Emery. Their story needs to be heard.

  13. Both made me cry for different reasons. The original because it was so sad. The alternate tears of joy because it gave Shane and Jessie the Happy ending they deserved. Realize that the original ending is how things sometimes end up in real life.
    Casey 1988 (

    1. OOPS! I left my comment on the wrong one let me fix that.