It started with my first kiss. Jacob and I were sitting on my bed, playing RBI on my PS4, when he hit a grand slam off me and moved ahead by one run.
“Big bad baseball star getting his ass kicked by a tennis player. That must sting!” he shouted as his last man rounded third.
“Pure luck. I let you have that one because I felt sorry for you,” I replied, though I hadn’t really. I threw my controller down on the bed and started to get up.
“Don’t pout. It’s just a game,” he said, grabbing my arm and pulling me back down beside him.
“I’m not pouting,” I said, crossing my arms and refusing to look at him.
“Then why is your bottom lip all poked out.”
“Oh yeah?” he said and reached up and prodded my lip with his finger.
“Stop it,” I said, pushing his hand away.
“I can put that lip back where it belongs,” he said.
“Yeah? How?” I asked.
He leaned over and pressed his lips to mine. My breath caught in my throat as I allowed the forbidden kiss to continue. While I’d thought about doing this to him a thousand times, my fantasies never included how his lips would feel. I reached up and ran my fingers through his hair soft brown hair then slid my hand down the side of his cheek. His landed on my knee and began caressing my bare thigh where my gym shorts had ridden up. The feel of his touch brought life to me in a way I had only known in my dreams.
“What the fuck is this?”
We hadn’t heard my bedroom door open or my father come in. Jacob and I jumped to our feet, both terrified at what my dad would do.
“I can explain…” I started to say, but my father crossed the room so quickly I couldn’t complete my sentence. The impact of his fist against my left eye knocked me onto the bed. He was on top of me at once, the second blow landing on my jaw before I could even move to block it.
“Mr. Morrison, stop!” Jacob screamed.
“Unless you want some of this too, you better get out of my house and never come back.” His tone was low and menacing; I’d never been so terrified in my life. Jacob grabbed his backpack and ran out the door. The fear in his eyes as he looked back asked me what he should do.
“Go.” The word was so quiet, he may not have heard me, but he understood, and I could hear the footsteps of him running down the stairs as my father’s fist connected with my arm as I tried to block my face against his anger.
“When did you turn into a nasty little faggot?” he yelled as he pulled back for another punch. This time I didn’t block correctly, and his fist slammed into the side of my head just above my ear.
“What are you doing?” My mother’s shrill voice ripped across the room. “Get off of him!”
“I walked in on him and the Schwartz boy going at it,” he yelled, as Mom grabbed his arm, pulling him away from me. I laid cowering on the bed, terrified he’d break free of my mother and attack again.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” he yelled.
“It was the first time. I didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“It sure looked like you meant it when I walked in.”
“I’m sorry. I won’t happen again.” I was barely able to get the words out through my sobs.
“Get out.” His voice had dropped back to the terrifying, menacing tone. “Now.”
“Don, what are you saying?” my mother asked.
“I won’t have a fag living under my roof. Get your stuff and get out. You have five minutes.”
He spun on his heels and stormed out of the room.
“Mom…” I whispered, reaching for her.
“Margaret!” my father yelled as he stomped down the stairs.
A tear rolled down her cheek, and she covered her mouth to muffle her sob as she scurried from the room.
I shoved as much into my backpack and baseball bag as I could. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. My whole life I’d endured his ranting against gays. I knew if he ever found out about me, he would kill me. That I only got a minor beating was better than I expected.
I made my way down the stairs, hoping to escape without drawing his attention. As I slipped outside and walked across the porch, I could hear the crash of something against the door. I broke into a run, hoping he wouldn’t be chasing after me.
I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going, I just knew I had to get away from my father: out of his house for now, but out of this town as soon as I could. With a month until graduation, I’d have to find some way to survive on my own until I could go away to college in the fall.
My feet took me to Jacob’s house. The front light was still on, but I didn’t want his parents to open the door, so I texted him, I’m out front. I didn’t have to wait long for his reply: Meet me around back.
I slipped into his backyard, staying hidden from view as much as possible. I heard the door creak open, but no porch light came on.
“Where are you?” Jacob whispered.
I stepped out of the shadow, and his gasp told me I looked bad. He ran over to me and reached up to touch my cheek. I flinched at the thought of any contact with my throbbing face, but he took it as a flinch from his touch.
“What did he do?” he said.
“He threw me out. I knew he would.”
“I’m so sorry. This is my fault. I started it.”
“I wanted it, too. Have for a long time.”
“Me too. But I wouldn’t have done it if I knew this would happen.”
“Can I stay here?”
His dark brown eyes may have been concealed in the shadows of his back yard, but I could read the answer from a mile away.
“Patrick… He called here.”
“He told my dad he would fire him if he helped you. Dad said I’m not allowed to even speak to you. He’s not upset that I was kissing you, but your dad is his boss. He can’t risk getting fired.”
“I understand,” I repeated. I turned away from him and headed toward the gate.
“Where will you go?” I asked.
I’m not sure if he could see my shrug as I walked away, but he didn’t ask again.
I made my way toward to the high school, not really having any sort of plan. As I approached the baseball field, I decided that was the best place to lay low until I could come up with another idea. I dropped my bags in the dugout and walked the bases, hoping I’d come up with something. Nothing came.
It was well past midnight when I retreated into the dugout. I laid down on the bench with my backpack as a pillow and hoped to fall asleep. I lay there most of the night, trying to figure out what I should do.
When morning came, I snuck into the gym to stash my bags in my locker and take a shower. I thought I’d managed to go undetected when Coach Bateman came into the locker room as I was getting dressed.
“What happened to your face?” he asked, walking up and grabbing me by the chin.
“I fell. I was getting in a morning run, and tripped over a rock. Landed on my face.”
His furrowed brow and the thin line of his lips told me he didn’t believe me, but he only said, “Let’s see if I can get that cleaned up,” and led me into his office and grabbed his first aid kit.
“You fall like this very often?” he asked, applying ointment to the abrasions.
“No. First time,” I said. I knew he hadn’t believed my story.
“You need me to call anyone?”
“No.” I replied, trying to not make eye contact. Besides, who would he call? The bell rang, warning me I had ten minutes until school started.
“Ok. I think this is the best I can do. You probably should head to class.”
I picked up my backpack and started out the door.
“And Patrick, if you fall like this again, I will be calling someone.” I nodded faintly, but said nothing.
I spent the day deflecting questions and trying to keep my head down. Jacob wasn’t in fourth period English, so I wondered if he’d skipped school to avoid me, or if his parents made him stay home. I managed to make it through the rest of the day without too many questions from teachers, but the counselor, Ms. Al Anafi, pulled me aside right after lunch.
“Who hit you?” she asked.
“No one. I fell,” I said.
“Your bruises look like a fist.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. I fell. That’s it.” I said, as the bell rang. “I’m going to be late to Physics.”
I spent that night in the dugout as well, not knowing what else to do. I had finished my homework in the library, but they kicked me out when they started to close. I tried calling Jacob a few times, but it went straight to voicemail each time. I laid down on the bench, and cried myself to sleep.
I developed a pattern of showering in the gym before school each morning. The money I’d saved from my summer job got me breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria, but I didn’t risk burning through my reserves too quickly because I still had a month left of school before I graduated. I just prayed that one of the colleges I’d applied to had accepted me, but I had no idea how I’d find out if they had. Jacob never returned to school. I heard his parents transferred him to a private school. He still had another year before he graduated, so everyone just assumed it was so he could finish somewhere more respectable.
I stopped talking to my friends and hardly said a word during baseball practice. Everyone eventually stopped asking what was wrong when I’d just shrug and say, “Nothing.” Coach Bateman kept a close eye on me, but since no more bruises appeared, he seemed to let it go.
It wasn’t until two weeks before graduation that I was discovered. The janitor saw me sneaking out of the dugout early one morning as he was walking toward the dumpster. I ducked my head, hoping he wouldn’t recognize me. When I got summoned to the counselor’s office during first period, I knew he had turned me in.
“You sent for me, Ms. Al Anafi?” I asked sheepishly.
“Yes, have a seat. How have things been going for you lately?” she asked.
“Fine,” I said, looking down at my shoes.
“Are you sure?”
She didn’t seem to like this answer. She stood up and walked around to sit on the front of her desk.
“I got this in the mail this morning,” she said, picking up an envelope. “I was addressed to me, but inside was this.” She handed it to me, and I could see the handwriting on the outer envelope. It was my mother’s. I looked up at her and opened it. Inside was a second envelope, this one addressed to me. The return address was UCLA. I tore it open and read it quickly:
“Dear Mr. Morrison: Congratulations! On behalf of the faculty and staff we are pleased to offer you admissions…”