It was a long drive from Boston but we were finally here. We drove through the tiny town of Sanitaria Springs and mom turned down a wide avenue lined with linden trees. We stopped in front of a stately white colonial house with a shiny black door that matched the shutters, a large and well-manicured lawn, a circular driveway that cut its way across the grass and a large black mailbox with the name Kirkwood in an elegant script. It was a beautiful place, the kind of place you read about in stories where the people lead happy lives and never have to face any sort of adversity. I felt terrible knowing my arrival was going to throw their happy lives into chaos.
“Here we are,” Mom smiled as the driver she hired for the trip put the car in park.
“Are you sure this is it?” I asked, stalling for time, doing anything to keep from having to get out and knock on the door.
“It’s the right address,” said Mom. She reached out and brushed the hair off my forehead. “Nervous?”
“It just doesn’t feel right, you know, springing this on them,” I sighed.
“I understand how you feel honey but it can’t be helped. You know I don’t have a lot of time.”
I know, it’s just…” I broke off, looking down and willing myself not to cry. “What if they don’t want me? He’s never been part of my life before.”
“Sean, as I’ve told you before, that was my fault, not his,” said Mom, tilting my chin to bring my eyes up to hers. “What happened between us, it was wrong, we both made a mistake but I got something wonderful out of it, you.”
“But…” I started.
“I knew he loved his wife, he had two small boys, and I didn’t want to hurt their family. As the years went by and I realized how special you were, well, I got greedy. I wanted you all to myself,” Mom explained and not for the first time. “So, you’ll give him the benefit of the doubt?”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “I’ll do my best.”
“That’s my boy,” she said and ruffled my hair. “Let’s go say hello.”
I got out of the car, mom asked the driver to wait with the car then put her arm around my shoulder. She kissed the top of my head and we’d started up the circular driveway when a tall boy, probably about 17-18, with dark hair stepped out of the front door. He was dressed like he was the lead character in some TV show about rich prep-school kids. He wore a pink polo shirt, khaki shorts and brown deck shoes that matched his belt. There was an expensive watch on a leather band wrapped around his wrist and his eyes were hidden by a pair of Ray Bans with tortoise shell frames.
“Oh, hi,” said the boy when he noticed us. “Can I help you?”
“We’re looking for Andrew Kirkwood,” said Mom. “My name’s Cecilia Kelly, I’m an old friend from New York. This is my son, Sean.”
“Hi, I’m Kale,” he took off his sunglasses and shook mom’s hand and then mine. I looked up at him and those eyes; I saw that shade of blue staring back at me every morning. “I was just on my way out but follow me and I’ll get Dad for you.”
“Thank you,” Mom smiled and we followed him into the house.
The foyer was large and dominated by the square staircase and marble floor. I took a cursory look but my eyes were drawn up the stairs as another dark-haired boy walked down. This one was a few years younger than Kale; he looked like he was my age and had the same black hair and blue eyes as his brother and…me.
“Hey, I thought you left. Who’s this?” said the boy as he stepped down the stairs.
“Jamie, this is Mrs. Kelly and her son Sean; do you know where Dad is?” asked Kale.
“Hi,” said Jamie as he leaned around his brother and waved with an impish smile. “Mom and Dad were in the family room playing chess the last time I saw them.”
“Ok, thanks,” said Kale then he looked over his shoulder at us. “If you wait here I’ll go get him.”
Mom nodded and Kale trotted off. I studied the way he moved down the long hall and figured him for some kind of athlete. His movements seemed purposeful with a touch of grace to them. He wasn’t really built like a football player. I thought maybe he played baseball, then smiled to myself - a preppy guy like that, it had to be something like soccer.
“So…” Jamie bounced on the balls of his feet.
“You have a lovely home,” Mom smiled at him.
“Oh, thanks…”Jamie started and then was interrupted as a man and a woman came back up the hall with Kale. The man had dark hair with gray at the temples and looked very dignified. The woman, who I assumed was his wife, was stylish and pretty.
“Cecilia?” the man said.
“Hello Andrew, Evelyn,” Mom nodded at them. “This is my son, Sean.”
Their eyes fell on me, studying my face and an awkward quiet fell over us.
“Right, well, I’m late,” said Kale looking at his watch. “See you guys later,” he kissed his mom on the cheek. “It was nice meeting you Mrs. Kelly, Sean.”
“You too, dear,” said Mom as he walked out the door.
“Jamie, your father and I need to speak with Mrs. Kelly. Would you mind keeping Sean company for a bit?” said Mrs. Kirkwood.
“Sure, Mom,” Jamie smiled brightly, then turned to me. “I just got the new Modern Warfare, wanna check it out?”
“Er, yeah, ok,” I nodded and followed Jamie down the hall. I looked over my shoulder at Mom; she blew me a kiss and then followed the Kirkwood’s into another room.
Jamie took me into the kitchen and then through a door that led to more stairs and down into the basement. The basement was a sprawling rec-room with comfortable overstuffed furniture and a huge flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. There was a PS4 hooked up to it and Jamie handed me a controller while he fired up the system. I sat on the comfortable leather sofa and looked around the room, taking note of the north wall that was dominated by pictures of the Kirkwood boys.
I recognized Jamie right away and noticed for the first time how much we looked alike. It was almost creepy. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we were twins separated at birth but pretty darn close. There was another boy I hadn’t met yet but he was a jock, I could tell from the wrestling and lacrosse pictures, and then I smiled to myself when my eyes fell on a picture of Kale. I’d called it correctly –the preppy played soccer.
“So that guy was your brother?” I said lamely as Jamie sat next to me.
“Who, Kale? Yeah he’s my oldest brother,” Jamie acknowledged.
“Isn’t that a vegetable?” I asked, trying to make conversation.
“Yeah,” Jamie laughed. “Kale’s best friend, he calls him Leafy Super Food.”
“That’s hysterical,” I almost died laughing.
“Don’t tell Kale, he pitches a fit when anyone but Alec calls him that,” Jamie warned me.
“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Over the next hour Jamie and I killed each other more times than I could count while he told me about his life. He was two weeks shy of his 14th birthday; I’d just had mine. We were both excited about high school and he was really looking forward to going out for the football team. He’d spent a lot of time with Kale’s friend Alec who had played and taught Jamie how to catch “the perfect spiral.” I’d been nervous to come into this house but Jamie’s gregarious personality set me at ease, that is until his phone vibrated and he read a text.
“Well, we better get upstairs,” Jamie sighed and shut down the PS4. “My mom wants us to come up.”
“Ok,” I sighed, feeling the butterflies resume their fluttering in my stomach.
I followed Jamie back along the route we’d come by until we arrived at a set of double doors. Jamie knocked and stuck his head inside.
“Hey, Mom, what’s up?”
“Jamie honey,” said Mrs. Kirkwood. “Your dad and I need to talk to Sean and his mother in private. Would you send him in please?”
“Sure, Mom,” Jamie chirped. He turned to me, put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a gentle push through the door. “You’re up.”
“Thank you, Jamie,” said Mrs. Kirkwood. I walked over to Mom and kept my head down.
“Ok, I’m going over to Scotty’s,” Jamie announced. “It was nice meeting you, Sean.”
“Yeah, you too,” I replied, still looking down at my feet.
“Be back for dinner at six,” Mrs. Kirkwood called after him.
“’Kay, Mom,” Jamie shouted and then he was out the front door. The sound of it closing was like the slamming of a cell door resigning me to my fate.
We stood in awkward silence. I didn’t want to look up. I didn’t want to see the looks on their faces. I didn’t want to hear Mr. Kirkwood say, ‘He’s not mine!’ or Mrs. Kirkwood shout, ‘Get out of our house and take your bastard with you!” I stood there with Mom’s arm protectively around my shoulders until she reached over and tilted my chin up.
Mr. Kirkwood’s face was serious but not angry like I expected and Mrs. Kirkwood looked concerned. I was shocked when she reached over, brushed the hair off my forehead and stroked my cheek.
“He looks just like our boys,” Mrs. Kirkwood addressed her husband.
Dinner was weird. Normally we have pretty lively conversations around the dinner table what with Robin and Kale sharing their adventures with their cool friends. It started out that way, Robin telling us a funny story about Lu’s van and something about power steering lines having their period. I didn’t get it but everyone else was laughing. Kale mentioned needing to pick up some sheets for his dorm room –he was leaving for college at the end of the summer, and Mom got choked up. She’d been doing that a lot lately; it was usually followed up with a comment like, “My baby’s growing up.”
Mom and Dad usually engage us in conversation. They ask us questions about our day and try to be involved in the things we’re doing. This was different, and after Kale’s comment about sheets we settled into an uneasy quiet. I’d had just about enough of knives and forks scraping against mom’s china and let out an exasperated, “What?”
“Jamie?” said Mom.
“This is weird. Why are you and dad being so quiet?” I asked.
Mom and Dad traded a look, Dad took a drink of water, wiped his mouth, then folded his hands in his lap.
“Kale, Robin, how much do you remember about our lives in New York City?” Dad asked.
“Uh, nothing,” said Robin.
“A little,” Kale added. “Why?”
“Do you remember your mother and I fighting a lot when you were about three?” said Dad as he rubbed his hands nervously over his trousers.
“No,” said Kale, his face growing concerned. He looked between Mom and Dad and then asked, “What’s going on?”
“Your mom and I went through a rough patch when you boys were little, before Jamie was born,” Dad began. “I was working too much, neglecting your mother, neglecting you boys. Your mother and I were both tired of life in the city and worried about raising you boys there.”
“Okay,” said Kale, urging Dad to continue.
“We were fighting all the time and for a while we didn’t think we were going to be able to make things work. I’m not proud of it but,” Dad sighed, “I slept with another woman.”
“What?” Robin exclaimed, his jaw dropping open in stunned disbelief. Kale’s brow furrowed and he twisted his napkin in his hands.
“It was hard for both of us but your father came to me and told me what he’d done almost as soon as it happened,” said Mom. “It took me some time to forgive him but we moved back to our hometown; it was like starting over. I want you boys to understand we are happy in our marriage. I love you all and your father very much.”
“Why are you bringing this up now?” Robin sniffled. Mom reached over and rubbed his back reassuringly.
“The woman I, uh, slept with,” Dad blushed. “She came to see us today with her son…my son.”
“No way!” I exclaimed. “Sean’s your son? That makes him our brother right?”
“Yes,” dad nodded.
“I can’t believe this,” said Kale, he looked like he was going to cry.
“This is so cool! Sean was awesome and he’s my age. We could be twins! In fact, that’s what I’m going to call him, my twin brother from another mother,” I bubbled excitedly. I thought this was great news. It happened years ago, Mom and Dad got over it and now I had a new brother –how cool is that?
“Jamie, would you shut up?” Kale spat. He was clearly not taking this as well as me but that was no surprise. He was better than he used to be but Kale was wound so tight he could back into a wall and suck out a brick.
“That’s enough, Kale,” Mom admonished.
“Why didn’t we know about this before, why now?” asked Robin.
“Sean’s mother worked in the US Attorney’s Office with me in Manhattan. We both acknowledged what we’d done was a mistake. I left the office and we moved here, she accepted a transfer to the Boston office and we never saw each other again. She says she didn’t want to upset things between your mother and me so she kept it a secret,” said dad.
“But why, if…” Robin started.
“It’s not important now,” said Dad. “What is important is Cecilia is dying. She has advanced ovarian cancer, she doesn’t have any family to speak of and she doesn’t want her son going into foster care. Your mother and I agree.”
“So what’s that mean?” I asked.
“We, all of us, are meeting Cecilia and Sean for brunch tomorrow. Sean is going to come live with us while his mother goes into hospice care in Binghamton,” said Mom.
“Awesome! He can stay in my room, I’ve got that extra twin bed for sleepovers, all he has to do is move his stuff in,” I gushed. That was when Kale flipped out.
“Are you fucking kidding me!” he shouted and bolted out of his chair. He stood up so quickly his chair fell backwards.
“Kale…” Dad started.
“You went out and fucked some bimbo and now her kid is coming to live with us?” he demanded.
“Watch your mouth young man,” Dad started. “And it wasn’t like that, it wasn’t something we planned, it was…”
“An accident?” Kale shouted. “You were walking around the office with your dick hanging out and tripped, fell into her?”
“Kale, I know you’re upset but you will not talk to me like this,” Dad admonished.
“How could you?” Kale shouted then tears started leaking from his eyes and he muttered a more subdued, “How could you?”
Mom went to him then and pulled him close. She rubbed his back and soothed him, “It’s alright sweetheart, it’s alright,” she whispered.
“I know you boys are upset,” Dad stated calmly. “I don’t blame you, you’re entitled to be upset but please, don’t take it out on Sean. None of this is his fault. He didn’t ask to be born and I beg you to remember that his mother is dying. He’s your brother, he’s going to need all of us. Okay?”
“Yeah, Dad, I’ll make sure he’s comfortable here,” I smiled. I knew Kale was pissed but I didn’t see things the same way he did. I was getting a new brother!
“Robin?” said Dad.
“Yeah, Dad, I get it. I’ll be ok,” Robin sniffled and nodded his head. Dad patted his arm and Robin gave him a weak smile.
“Kale?” said Dad.
He was still in Mom’s arms. I could hear him crying into her neck but he nodded his head.
“So, what’s for dessert?” I asked, trying to change the subject, hoping it might help Kale and Robin.
“I have to go, I need some air, I have to go,” said Kale, pulling away from Mom.
“Kale, please…” Dad stood and blocked him.
“Dad, please, I need to go to Chase,” said Kale, trying to keep himself calm.
“Alright, drive carefully,” Dad reminded him.
“I will,” he nodded and headed for the door.
“Kale, I love you,” said Dad as he placed his hand on Kale’s shoulder.
“Don’t,” said Kale, pulling away.
“It’s alright,” said Dad, backing off.
“I just…I need Chase,” Kale sighed.
“It’s ok sweetheart, go ahead and go,” said Mom.
Kale walked out and I heard his car starting. I didn’t understand why he was so angry but I hoped he’d be careful. We almost lost him a while back when he had some heart problems and though it wasn’t something I was really comfortable talking about, I’d have been devastated if something happened to my big brother.
“May I be excused?” said Robin.
“Sure, honey,” Mom nodded.
“Well, that went about as well as I expected,” Dad sighed.
“They’ll be ok,” Mom assured him. “Just give them time to adjust to the idea.”
“Yeah,” dad resumed his seat and let out a heavy breath.
“I’m not upset, Dad, I think it’s cool,” I smiled.
“Thanks Jamie,” Dad smiled back weakly.
Mom got us adjoining rooms at a hotel in Binghamton. I was just putting on my pajamas when I heard her start to cough. I finished dressing and walked through the open door connecting our rooms and quickly got her a glass of water.
“I’m okay,” she assured me but proceeded to down the glass.
“Are you sure?”
“Fine,” she smiled. “How about you?”
“Ok, I guess, nervous,” I shrugged my shoulders.
“Honey, I promise you everything is going to work out for the best. The Kirkwoods seem really nice and you said you enjoyed your time with Jamie,” said Mom.
“Yeah, Jamie was cool and his parents are handling this whole thing better than I thought they would but still, I don’t know them. What if they hate me once I’m there?”
“Sean,” said Mom as she pulled me to her and stroked my hair. “My sweet boy, there’s no way anyone could hate you once they get to know you.”
“You’re my Mom, don’t you have to say things like that?”
“Ok, so all mother’s think their children are angels but that doesn’t make it any less true,” she grinned and squeezed me tight. “Why don’t you get some sleep? Big day tomorrow.”
“Yeah, night Mom,” I kissed her cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you too, sweetie.”
I walked back to my room and closed the door behind me. I turned out the lights, got under the covers and buried my face in the pillow so Mom wouldn’t hear me crying. I needed to let it out; it had been an emotional day. I met my father and his wife, they seemed to accept me and agreed to take me into their home, but I was afraid. What if they were only doing it out of some sense of obligation or “Christian duty?” Jamie was fun and engaging but what would he think when he found out we were brothers?
I put on a brave face during the day but at night with no one to distract me, I had to face the reality that my mom was dying before my eyes. I knew she didn’t have much time left and I was scared to face the world without her. She’s been my world, she’d raised me herself, loved me, guided me, protected me –what was I going to do without her? The thought was overwhelming and I ended up crying myself to sleep.
I was just climbing into bed when my phone vibrated on the nightstand. The message was from Robin and read, “Come to my room.”
It was late and I was tired but knew he’d keep bugging me if I didn’t go across the hall. I rolled out of bed and padded across the hall in my undies. Kale was already there, sitting next to Robin on his bed, with his arms crossed over his chest.
“What’s up?” I asked, leaning against the door frame.
“Come in and shut the door,” said Robin.
I did as he asked and pulled his desk chair over to the bed.
“So?” I asked as I sat.
“I wanted to talk to you guys about Sean,” said Robin.
“What about him?” I asked, curious.
“I just want to reiterate what Dad said,” Robin began. “I’ve been thinking about it since dinner and he’s right. None of this is Sean’s fault.”
“Is that all?” asked Kale as he moved to stand up. Robin put a hand on his shoulder and pulled him back down.
“Kale, I’m pissed at Dad, too,” said Robin. “But this kid’s our blood, his mom’s dying, what if he was me or Jamie? How would you feel?”
“Robin, I know it’s not his fault and I do feel bad for him. I’m just having a hard time accepting all this,” Kale sighed.
“You met Sean. I liked him,” I added. “Give him a chance.”
“I will, Jamie. I’m not mad at Sean, I’m just having a hard time with it because, well…” Kale trailed off.
“Is this about Sean or does it have more to do with what you and Chase did with Alec and Sasha?” said Robin. Kale shot him a death glare and Robin immediately seemed to realize he’d said something he probably shouldn’t have.
“What are you guys talking about?” I asked, quirking an eyebrow. “What did you and Chase do with Alec and Sasha?”
“Nothing,” Kale and Robin replied in unison.
“Sorry I brought it up,” said Robin.
Kale looked at me for a second then turned his attention back to Robin.
“It’s Dad,” Kale started. “All these years I’ve thought he and Mom had the perfect marriage. I know they love each other, I can see that but then we find out tonight that he cheated. How could he do that? How could he be with some other woman then come home to us and act like it never happened all these years? I love Chase so much but what if…”
“You think because Dad cheated on Mom that makes you capable of cheating on Chase?” asked Robin.
“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘like father, like son,’ what if…”
“Kale, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Robin smiled and shoved him playfully. “Just because Dad did something doesn’t mean you’re going too. Cheating isn’t in your DNA like black hair and blue eyes. Jesus, you’re going to Cornell in a month. If they heard you just now they’d kick you out for being a dumbass before you finished unpacking.”
“I know,” Kale sighed his admission. “I really do, it’s just, after the thing with Alec and Sasha…” he looked at me again… “I don’t know.”
“Seriously, what did you guys do?” I asked.
“Jamie, forget about it,” said Robin. “Why don’t we get some sleep?”
“Whatever,” I agreed and walked to the door. I looked over my shoulder before walking out of the room and saw Robin and Kale hugging. I had no idea what they were talking about, what Kale had done with his friends, but he was clearly concerned about it. It bugged me that Robin knew and I didn’t. I’ve always wished that I was as close to Kale as he and Robin were but it never really happened. Maybe that’s why I’m so excited about Sean, we can be buddies like Robin and Kale.
We were meeting the Kirkwoods for brunch in the hotel. The place was pretty fancy so I made sure to dress nice, putting on a white button-down shirt and some pressed khakis. When we stepped onto the elevator Mom put her arm around my shoulders protectively and I reveled in her reassurance. I wouldn’t have that much longer and I was determined to take comfort from her as long as I could. It was a short walk across the lobby to the hotel restaurant and we found the Kirkwoods waiting for us.
“Good morning, Sean,” Mr. Kirkwood – I couldn’t bring myself to call him Dad, not yet –shook my hand and surprisingly Mrs. Kirkwood hugged me.
“Morning,” I replied, unsure of what else I should say.
“You met Jamie yesterday,” said Mrs. Kirkwood, and Jamie smiled and waved. “This is Kale our eldest and Robin our middle son.”
“Yeah, I met Kale yesterday too,” I replied, then shook hands with Robin.
“Nice to meet you Sean,” Robin smiled.
I don’t usually check out other boys but I was very curious about the Kirkwoods. All of them had black hair and blue eyes like me but each of them had something unique about him. Kale had a serious face, he was a handsome guy but seemed to guard his smile. Maybe he only shared it once he got to know you? Robin had the most incredible eyes of anyone I’d ever seen. They were the same shade of blue as mine and the others’ but something about them made them sparkle. They were dazzling. Jamie wore an impish grin and seemed to have this excited energy about him.
There aren’t a lot of different casual but nice dressing options for boys and we were all wearing pretty much the same thing. Kale wore a pink button-down with his khakis, Robin’s shirt was light blue and his trousers were navy. Jamie had on a red polo shirt and his pants were the same color as mine. It was weird, the four of us together, we looked like, well…brothers.
“Why don’t you guys get us a table while your mom and I talk to Cecilia?” said Mr. Kirkwood.
Kale nodded but didn’t say anything, it seemed like he was giving his dad the cold shoulder. Instead he spoke to the seating hostess and a second later she was leading us to a table. We sat in awkward silence for a moment until Jamie elbowed me in the ribs.
“Why are you so quiet this morning?” he asked.
“I uh…” I said brilliantly.
“Jamie don’t be a pest,” said Robin, then he turned those dazzling eyes on me. “You’ll get used to him after a while.”
“He’s ok,” I defended Jamie. “We spent a little time together yesterday.”
“Speaking of,” said Jamie accusingly. “You could have mentioned you were my brother.”
“I’m sorry, I uh…”
“Dude, I’m messing with you,” Jamie giggled.
“Oh,” I blushed. I thought Jamie and I had gotten on well and that maybe he’d help me blend into his family. For a moment there I was worried I’d blown that chance with him.
“Welcome to the family,” Robin grinned then turned his attention to his –our –big brother. “Kale, you want to say something here?”
“Uh…” Kale came up short.
“Actually can I say something,” I interrupted before Kale was forced to offer some platitude he didn’t mean.
“Sure,” Robin spoke for the group.
“I know this sucks, me and my mom just showing up like this,” I began. Robin tried to interrupt me but I held up my hand and he let me continue. “I just want you guys to know I’m sorry this is all happening and I wanted to say thank you for letting me come stay with you.”
“We didn’t really have a choice but I’m glad you’re coming,” Jamie smiled. His smile was strangely reassuring and I smiled back.
“Look, Sean, we talked about this last night. We know none of this is your fault; there isn’t any point in blaming anyone really. What matters is you’re our brother and maybe we weren’t raised together but that’s ok. You need your family now and we’ll be here for you,” said Robin. “Right Kale?”
“Yeah,” he nodded.
“That’s really nice of you to say, thanks,” I replied.
“You’ll have to excuse Kale,” said Robin, putting his hand on Kale’s shoulder. “He takes a while to warm up but it’s worth the wait.”
“Robin…” Kale started, then he turned to me. “Listen, Sean, I’m not mad at you or anything, I’m just having a hard time with all of this, but I swear it’s not you.”
“It’s ok, Kale, like I said, I know this situation sucks.”
“Whatever, the buffet’s open, let’s get some breakfast,” said Jamie.
I was grateful to Jamie for that. The Kirkwood boys seemed to accept me…perhaps one of them grudgingly, and while we were piling food on our plates we weren’t being forced into strained conversation. Food is like a universal language and as we stuffed our faces Robin and Jamie really opened up and filled me in on their family while Kale ate quietly.
“So if you’re going to be comfortable at our house you should know, Kale’s gay,” Robin started. Kale’s eyes went wide but the look on his face suggested it was from surprise rather than embarrassment. He started to speak but choked and grabbed his water glass instead. Jamie spoke up for him.
“So are you.”
“I was getting to that,” Robin smiled. “We both have boyfriends and our friends are over at the house a lot so I just thought you should know.”
“What about you?” I asked Jamie.
“Me? I’m not gay,” Jamie grinned wickedly. “I’m a smooth pimp who loves the pussy!”
We all laughed at his bold statement then Robin retorted with, “Oh please, the only pussy you’ve ever seen is the O’Donnell’s cat.”
“Yeah well, pimpin ain’t easy,” said Jamie with a wink at me. “Maybe I should tell Sean how you and Kale got caught skinny dipping with your friends in the backyard.”
“Hey, I was proud of Kale for that,” Robin slapped his, our, big brother on the back.
“Bullshit, you should have seen their faces, Sean,” said Jamie. “It was just a couple weeks ago, I was at football camp in Maine and Mom and Dad came to pick me up. We get home and these dorks are in the pool naked with their boyfriends and all their buddies. Mom and Dad thought they were having an orgy.”
I started laughing but noticed Kale turning beet red and taking another drink of his water. The guys continued to tease each other back and forth like that and while Kale didn’t get in on the act he did laugh with us. I was starting to feel pretty comfortable with my newfound brothers by the time our parents joined us.
All to quickly it was time to go. The plan was for me to spend the week with the Kirkwoods while Mom returned to Boston and closed down our apartment. She’d have my things delivered to the Kirkwoods house and at the end of the week she’d check into the hospice in Binghamton to await the inevitable. I couldn’t help it, when she hugged me goodbye I started to cry. I love my mom more than anything and we’ve never been apart for very long. Now she was leaving me with strangers and soon she’d be gone for good.
“I love you Sean, always remember that,” Mom whispered in my ear.
“I love you too, Mom,” I squeezed her tight and said one last goodbye.
The driver Mom hired pulled up with the car and I stood there watching as he held the door open for her. She smiled and waved one last time and then she was gone. I wiped my eyes on the back of my sleeve and turned to the Kirkwoods. Mr. Kirkwood and his wife looked somber but the boys’ faces communicated more emotion. Kale’s eyes met mine and then he looked shyly at his feet, Robin blinked a sympathetic tear from his eye and Jamie’s grin was still present though more subdued. It was Jamie who stepped forward and put his arm around me.
“It’ll be alright,” Jamie whispered as he rubbed my back soothingly.
“Thanks, I’ll be okay,” I nodded.
“Shall we head home?” said Mr. Kirkwood. He was looking at me so I nodded my head and he had the valet get the car.
Jamie and I rode with his parents after Kale and Robin took my suitcases and put them in Kale’s silver Audi with them. It was a quiet drive back to the Kirkwood house and I think that was for my benefit. It seemed like the Kirkwoods were giving me time to adjust rather than forcing conversation on me. Jamie held my hand though. It was a nice gesture and very reassuring considering how worried I was that this family would hate me.
“What’s this?” said Mr. Kirkwood when we pulled up to the house. There was a Chevy pickup and a Volkswagen Passat parked on the circular driveway and when we pulled up a group of boys walked up to the car.
“What’s going on?” said Kale’s voice when I stepped out of the backseat.
“It’s my fault,” said a cheerful looking blond boy who walked over to Kale and put his arms around him. “I just thought your new little brother should meet the whole family.”
“Whole family?” I asked, confused. I thought I’d met all the Kirkwoods.
Before anyone could answer some older kid lifted me off my feet in a bone crushing bear hug and spun me around and round.
“Alec, put him down,” Kale ordered. “He just ate, you’ll make him sick.”
“Alright, alright, keep your pants on, Leafy,” said the older kid, Alec, as he sat me on my feet. I was a little dizzy after all that spinning. “Damn, Judge, that’s one powerful Y chromosome you’ve got there.”
“I beg your pardon? Mr. Kirkwood quirked an eyebrow at Alec.
“I’m just saying, all of your kids look like they won the genetic lottery,” Alec grinned broadly. “Well done.”
“Uh, right, thank you Alec,” Mr. Kirkwood blushed.
“Alec,” one of the older boys face palmed.
Kale rolled his eyes and turned his attention to me. “Sean, this is my boyfriend, Chase Dudley,” he said, squeezing the blond boy’s shoulder. “This is Chase’s cousin Austin Hamilton, we call him the Hamster, that’s Sasha Buchanan, Robin’s boyfriend Lucien Kutsenko and the big dork, Alec, is Lucien’s brother and Sasha’s boyfriend.”
Robin joined Lucien, kissed him on the cheek and put his arm around his shoulder. I was dumbstruck.
“So are you’re all gay?” I asked, they hadn’t assigned a boyfriend to the one they called Hamster.
“I told you, not me,” Jamie chirped. “I didn’t get that gene.”
“Right,” said Alec, “Jamie’s the Lone Breeder. Hey, maybe Sean can be your Tonto, that is if he’s playing for your team.”
“Me, oh, I like girls,” I assured them.
“Awwww Jamie’s got a buddy,” the one called Sasha teased.
“Whatever,” Jamie rolled his eyes and gave Sasha a playful shove.
“It was nice of you boys to come over and welcome Sean,” said Mrs. Kirkwood. “Why don’t you guys hang out in the basement while we let him settle in?”
“Sure,” Chase bubbled. “Sorry Mrs. K, this was all my fault.”
“I think it was very sweet of you, honey,” Mrs. Kirkwood smiled and patted his cheek. Chase smiled a big happy smile, clearly eating up Mrs. Kirkwood’s attention.
“Geez, I swear you like him more than us,” Jamie rolled his eyes.
“Well, more than you,” Mrs. Kirkwood winked at Jamie and ruffled his hair. Everyone laughed at her joke.
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. Come on Sean, I’ll show you where to put your stuff,” said Jamie, grabbing one of my suit cases.
I followed him inside and up the stairs. He led me into a large room with two twin beds. Half of it was bare and immaculate, the other half was tidy but there were clothes strewn about as though the occupant regularly missed the hamper.
“So I figured you could have the bed by the window. I cleaned up that side of the room and cleaned out half the closet so you’d have a place to put your stuff…” Jamie started.
“Wait, this is your room?” I asked. It was such a big house, I figured they’d put me in a guest room or something. I didn’t want to put anyone out.
“No, it’s our room,” Jamie corrected. “Anyway, let’s change out of these dorky church clothes. I’ll help you put your stuff away and then we can go hang out with the guys. They can be a little fruity sometimes but they’re a lot of fun.”
“Yeah, ok,” I nodded. “That sounds good and thanks, you know, for…”
“Hey man it’s the least I could do for my twin brother from another mother,” Jamie smiled.
“Right,” I smiled back.
Jamie might be the fastest dresser I’ve ever met. I took a moment to look around his room, our room, and when I turned back to him he’d already stripped off his good clothes and put on a grey Under Armor t-shirt, black basketball shorts and a pair of white ankle socks. I quickly shed my clothes and started digging through my suitcase for something comfortable when Jamie started laughing.
“What?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.
He reached into his shorts and pulled up the waistband of his underpants, “Check it out, we wear the same undies.”
“Yeah, I guess we do,” I replied as I looked down at my white Jockey briefs.
“That’s so cool,” said Jamie.
“Um, it’s just underwear,” I raised my eyebrow again.
“I know but we have things in common and that’s neat, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, it kinda is,” I smiled.
After that I put on a blue Nike t-shirt and my own black basketball shorts. Jamie came over to help me with my suitcase and we both caught our reflection in the mirror. The resemblance was uncanny to say the least.
“Weird,” I whispered while glancing at the reflection.
“Told you,” Jamie smiled and put his arm around my shoulders. “Twin brother from another mother.”
His smile was so infectious I couldn’t help smiling too. It’s weird how things work out sometimes. I’d always wanted a brother and suddenly I had three.
“Thanks, Jamie, you know, for trying to make me feel so welcome.”
“Well, I think it’s about the coolest thing that’s ever happened,” he smiled.
“Sure, yesterday you were just some guy who came to visit with his mom but now I’m helping my brother unpack his stuff in our room. Isn’t it wild?”
“Yeah, it’s wild, I’m just shocked how accepting you are. What about Robin and Kale, what do you think they’re thinking?” I asked nervously. Robin was nice and friendly, Kale was kind of standoffish, but Jamie knew them well. His opinion was important.
“Well, the thing you have to know about my brothers, or our brothers,” Jamie smiled, “is Robin is all heart. He was kind of upset last night when dad told us about you but once he heard about your mom and everything, his attitude totally changed.”
“Sometimes Kale has a bigger stick up his butt then anyone I know. He’s royally pissed at Dad for him cheating on our mom back in the day but you should know he doesn’t blame you,” Jamie explained. “Kale’s a pretty serious guy. He needs to think about things for a while and then he’ll come around.”
“Well, if he can be patient I guess I can, too.”
“He’s going to college at the end of the summer so it wouldn’t be a problem anyway,” said Jamie.
“Where’s he going?” I asked, ready to move on to another topic. I’d give Kale his space and give him time to warm up to me.
“He and his boyfriend, Chase, are going to Cornell.”
“Wow, he must be smart.”
“Yeah, Robin is too. He wants to be an engineer or something,” said Jamie, then he narrowed his eyes at me. “Wait a minute, what kind of grades do you get?”
“Uh, well, mostly A’s and B’s,” I admitted, hoping that didn’t make me a dork.
“Shit,” Jamie swore. “You mean I’m the dumb one?”
“Oh, I’m sure you’re not the dumb…” I started then noticed he was laughing.
“I was just jerking your chain,” he smiled. “I get pretty good grades. I just have to work at it harder than those two.”
“Well, I have to work pretty hard too.”
“Cool, study buddy,” Jamie smiled.
Jamie cleared out way more space in his closet then I needed. I only had two suitcases with me after all but I guessed it would come in handy when the rest of my things arrived from Boston. When we were finished hanging my things Jamie showed me where the bathroom was and where to put my toothbrush, then we went down to the basement. The gang was all there save for Kale and Chase.
“Hey guys,” said Jamie as we joined them. Alec and Sasha were on the couch, Robin and the one they called Hamster were playing Need for Speed and Robin’s boyfriend, Lucien, was leaning against the couch as if he were waiting to play the winner.
“There they are,” Sasha smiled at us.
“Sean didn’t have much to hang up so we finished pretty quick,” said Jamie. “Where’s Kale and Chase?”
“I think they went up to Kale’s room,” said Sasha.
“You know what that means,” said Alec, sticking his tongue against his cheek hinting at a blow job.
“With the Judge and Mrs. K home? Not likely, Love,” said Sasha. “This is Kale and Chase we’re talking about, not you.”
“It’s not my fault I have my parents trained to pretend they can’t hear, right Lu?”
“Huh?” said Lucien.
“See, he’s trained too,” Alec winked at me.
“So sit down, Sean,” said Sasha. “Tell us a little about yourself.”
“Well, there isn’t really much to tell,” I replied shyly as I took a seat, Jamie sat on the armrest next to me.
“Robin told us you’re from Boston?” said Sasha.
“Yeah, well, Beverly. It’s a suburb,” I explained.
“Bet it’s bigger then this town,” said Robin.
“Well, yeah…” I muttered. I’ve always been shy in group situations and I really didn’t know anyone here.
“Anyway, what do you do for fun, Sean?” said Sasha.
“I like to read…” I started.
“Hey, maybe you can teach Jamie how,” Robin quipped from in front of the TV.
“Have I said ‘fuck you’ lately?” Jamie teased back.
“No, I thought you were trying to cut back,” Robin retorted.
“Anyway,” said Sasha, “what else?”
“Like I said, I like to read, play video games, I like music…”
“Play any sports?” asked Alec.
“Well, I like sports but I’ve never been on a team or anything,” I admitted.
“You should totally try out for football with me,” said Jamie excitedly.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I blushed. “I’m sure I wouldn’t be any good.”
“Freshman ball isn’t really about being good,” said Alec. “It’s about being coachable.”
“Alec played and was a team captain when we graduated,” said Sasha. “My brother Bobby is helping the coaching staff with summer training. If you think you might want to give it a try I could talk to him.”
“Come on Sean, it’d be so much fun,” Jamie pleaded. “Sports are great. Kale and Chase were on the soccer and swimming teams. Robin plays lacrosse and he and Lu are on the wrestling team. Alec played football and Hamster, you lift right?”
“Some,” Hamster nodded from his position next to Robin.
“See, everyone played or is playing something,” Jamie added.
“Um, not me,” said Sasha.
“You don’t count,” said Lucien. “You’re just a cool guy with long hair. Every group of friends needs one.”
“Thanks, I think,” Sasha chuckled.
“How about I sleep on it?” I compromised.
“Cool, twin brother from another mother,” Jaime grinned and gave me a fist bump.
“Is that what you’re calling him?” Hamster giggled.
“Yeah, cause that’s what he is,” Jamie flashed me his warm smile and I felt some tension subside in my shoulders. For whatever reason he liked me and it felt good to have someone on my side.
“How cute,” Sasha smiled.
“So are you the guys that got busted skinny dipping?” I asked.
“Not me,” said Hamster.
“Hamster couldn’t take the risk. His fans have been trying to get a dick pic for months now,” Lucien laughed.
“Fans?” I asked.
“The Hamster’s a local celebrity,” said Alec. “We saw his picture on a forum for hot guys in the work place so we went to the burger joint he was working at, next thing we know he turns out to be Chase’s long lost cousin and he lives with the Dudley’s now.”
“Wow, really?” I asked.
“My mom died and I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Chase shamed his parents into taking me in but we’re ok now. We get along pretty good. Speaking of, I know what it’s like, losing a parent. If you ever want to talk, you know, without these guys hanging around, let me know,” said Hamster.
“Um, yeah, maybe, thanks,” I nodded shyly.
Hamster was still facing the TV but I saw him smile in the reflection. After that the guys went on to tell me how they’d all become friends and Jamie was right, they were a fun group. They stayed until dinner time but before they left every one of them hugged me and told me how sorry they were about my mom but how happy they were to know me. It was weird, I’d never met any group, especially a group of boys, who was so welcoming and accepting of new people. There wasn’t any of the usual macho bullshit about establishing dominance.
I was also surprised by how normal they seemed. I know I shouldn’t say that because I really hadn’t known any gay people before and had no basis for comparison but they say there is a hint of truth in every stereotype. Robin saw his friends out, leaving me alone in the basement with Jamie.
“So they’re really all gay?” I asked, just for one final confirmation to quiet my disbelief.
“I know, right?” said Jamie. “You wouldn’t think there would be so many in a small town. Kale once told me it was something in the water and I didn’t drink anything but soda for a month but that was when I was little and stupid and took everything he said literally. Come on, let’s go eat dinner.”
I thought Sean had a good time with Kale and Robin’s friends and I couldn’t wait to introduce him to mine. Sure, I consider Chase, Alec, Sasha, Lucien and Hamster, my friends, too but they aren’t my crew. My best friend, Scotty, was going to blow his mind when he met Sean. I really hope Sean decides to try out for football with me, all of my friends are going out and it would be so great if Sean was on the team too.
Sunday dinner at our house is probably the same as anyone else’s. Mom made pot roast and mashed potatoes, we ate in the dining room instead of the eat-in kitchen, and the conversation was pretty lively. The lone holdout was Kale who sat quietly and completely ignored Dad.
“So Sean, did Jamie get you all settled in his room?” said Dad.
“It’s our room, Dad,” I reminded him.
“Of course,” Dad smiled. “Your room.”
“Yes sir, he really didn’t have to go to any trouble,” Sean nodded, his eyes on his plate. I’ve picked up that he’s kind of shy with people. He was like that in the basement until he got warmed up, then he seemed to enjoy himself.
“I told you, it was no trouble,” I patted him on the back.
“Sean, if you need anything you’ll let us know?” asked Mom.
“Yes, Mrs. Kirkwood,” he nodded.
“Evelyn, you can call me Evelyn,” Mom shot him a smile. “When I hear Mrs. Kirkwood in my dining room I start looking over my shoulder for my mother-in-law.”
Sean gave her a shy smile and then took a bite of carrot.
“Hey Ev, can you pass the mashed potatoes?” I asked.
“It’s still Mom to you, mister,” Mom glared then shot me a wink and passed me the bowl.
“Thanks MOM,” I smiled at her. I love my mom. She doesn’t put up with much of my shit but she’s always cool about how she responds to it. She doesn’t yell at me much even when I deserve it; she finds better ways to handle things. I’m lucky like that. When Scotty’s mom is pissed, well, be somewhere else!
“What are everyone’s plans for tomorrow?” asked Dad.
“I’m taking Sean to meet Scotty and maybe some of the other guys,” I replied. “I mean if he wants.”
“Yeah, that’ll be great,” said Sean. He gave me a genuine smile. I really want him to like me, for us to be close, and so far it seems like we’re off to a good start.
“Me, Lucien and Hamster are going over to Port Dickson to see about some parts for the bus,” said Robin. “He’ll be 16 in October so we’ve gotta step things up a little.”
“You guys are working on a bus?” asked Sean.
“Lucien got this piece of crap VW bus a few months ago and talked me and Ham into helping him fix it up. It’s been a lot of fun,” said Robin.
“What about you, Kale?” said Dad.
Kale pretended not to hear him.
“Kale, answer your father,” said mom, gently.
“I have to work,” Kale sighed.
“Oh, yeah,” I exclaimed and turned to Sean. “Kale, Chase, Alec and Sasha are lifeguards at the country club. We should go hang out sometime and check out the chicks.”
“Ok,” Sean blushed.
“I thought you were embarrassed to be seen there after you popped a boner in front of Stacy Quinn?” Kale smirked.
“I wasn’t embarrassed,” I blushed. “It’s good for them to get a look at it.”
“Boys, there is a lady present,” Dad choked and looked over to Mom.
“Kale, this won’t be so much of a problem for you but Jamie, you’re getting to the age where you’re going to want a girlfriend. You need to be respectful to women, and I assure you they do not want a look at that,” said Mom.
“Sorry Mom,” I blushed.
“Yeah, me too, Mom, sorry,” Kale added.
After dinner Sean’s mom called to let him know she’d made it home ok. It was a short conversation and Sean explained that traveling took a lot out of her. As excited as I was to have him here with us, I felt so bad about what was happening to his mom. I mean, he was going to lose her and from the way it sounded it was going to be soon. I did’t know what I’d do without my mom!
When he got off the phone we watched a movie together in the family room and then went to bed at about eleven. It was kind of early for summer vacation but Sean had had a long day and I knew all this was hard for him so I figured he was tired. Before we went upstairs mom and dad hugged me, and gave me a kiss on the forehead. Sean looked surprised but not upset when they got him too.
We went up to our room, where I stripped down to my underwear and got under the covers. Sean looked for his pajamas for a minute, then when he saw I wasn’t wearing any he stripped down to his undies too. I watched him closely as he took off his clothes and again it struck me how much we looked alike. His hair was a little longer and he sometimes had to brush the bangs off his forehead, he had a splattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks, his ears stuck out slightly but other than that, I’d swear, twins!
“Good night, Sean,” I said as I turned out the lamp on the nightstand. “I’m really glad you’re here.”
“Night, Jamie, thanks,” he replied.
I rolled over on my side and watched his bed. He was silhouetted by the moonlight and I hoped he’d still be there in the morning, that this wasn’t all some cool dream I’d been having. I was just about to drift off when I heard a muffled whimper.
“Sean?” I asked, concerned.
“Yeah,” he sniffled.
“Are you ok?”
“I’m just miss my mom,” he cried.
“Hey, it’s ok,” I said as I got out of bed and went to his. I sat beside him and put my hand on his shoulder. “I can’t imagine what this is like for you. I’d miss my mom, too.”
“I’m sorry I’m being a cry baby…” he started.
“Dude, shut up,” I replied then kicked myself for not phrasing it better. “I mean, it’s ok. Do you want me to get Dad or my mom?”
“No, I’ll be okay,” he insisted.
I couldn’t leave him and go back to my bed. He was hurting and my heart went out to him. I didn’t know what to do but then I thought about Robin and Kale and how they’d always taken care of me, even when I was a pain in the ass. I settled in next to Sean and put my arms around him.
“What are you doing?” he sniffled.
“It’s ok, just rest your head and cry as long as you need too.”
“Jamie you don’t have to…” he started.
“Shhh,” I rocked him and felt him melt into my arms.
It was early when I woke up the next morning and found the dawn sunlight spreading across the bedroom floor. Jamie still had his arms around me and I felt his morning wood poking me in the back of my thigh. My first reaction was ‘ewwww gross,’ but then I remembered why he was in my bed and how kind he’d been to me the night before. I tried to go back to sleep but I was wide awake and besides, I couldn’t rest with someone’s boner touching me.
I crawled out from under Jamie, careful not to wake him, then threw on my pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. I padded quietly across the hall to the bathroom, took care of my morning business and went downstairs to explore the house. Jamie had given me a pretty comprehensive tour the day before and I was fascinated by all the family pictures. The Kirkwood boys had had such a happy childhood, as evidenced by all the events and smiling faces captured in photographs around the house. Part of me felt sad that I hadn’t been there with them. It’s not that my childhood was unhappy, far from it, but it would have been nice to know my family when I was younger.
When I finished my exploration I found myself in the family room. There was a big black grand piano in the corner and I felt myself drawn to it. I’d seen it the day before and remarked on how beautiful it was. Jamie told me it had belonged to our great grandmother but if I wanted to know any more about it I’d have to ask Kale. I figured it could wait since Kale wasn’t exactly chatty yesterday.
I crossed the room and took a seat at the bench. The word Steinway was stenciled in gold over the keyboard lid and I traced it with my finger. I lifted the lid and ran my fingers reverently over the keys then pressed an F. The tone resonated around me and I pulled my hands away from the keyboard as if it were going to bite me. When no one came downstairs to see what the sound had been I played a scale. I’d taken lessons for a while when I was little but for some reason I can’t remember I stopped before I ever picked up any real skill. I played another scale when a voice behind me said, “What are you doing?”
I slammed the keyboard lid shut, jumped off the bench and turned to find Kale leaning against the wall. He was wearing red swim trunks and a white t-shirt with the word Lifeguard and a cross printed in red.
“I-I wasn’t…I didn’t…” I spluttered.
“Relax,” said Kale as he crossed the room and took a seat on the bench. “You’ve had lessons?”
“Uh, well, yeah but not since I was little. I can’t really play much,” I blushed.
“Sit with me a minute?” said Kale.
“Uh, yeah, sure,” I replied and took the seat next to him on the bench.
“Play that scale for me again,” said Kale as he opened the keyboard lid.
“Ok,” I agreed and played the scale.
“Arch your fingers a little bit more,” Kale instructed.
I did as I was told and it was weird, with the simple increase in the arch of my fingers, the notes sounded better.
“Cool,” I smiled.
“Yeah,” said Kale and when I looked over at him he was smiling too.
“Thanks, you know, for showing me that.”
“You’re welcome,” said Kale. “Listen Sean, I’m sorry I haven’t really warmed up to you.”
“It’s ok, we only really just met,” I excused him.
“Maybe so but you’re my brother. Robin’s reminded me of it, so has Chase, and I’m sorry I’ve acted kind of like a spoiled brat,” Kale admitted.
“Jamie says you’re mad at your dad.”
“Jamie’s both right and wrong. It’s complicated. I’m mad at Dad but part of it is my own hang up. Anyway, I just want you to know I’m sorry and I’ll be better, ok?”
Sure, Kale, it’s ok,” I smiled for him. He surprised me by pulling me into a hug and what was more surprising was how warm it was. He held me in his arms for a second, squeezed me tight and I felt like he really cared about me.
“Now then,” said Kale when he pulled back, “Can you play an A, C, and F for me?”
“Sure,” I smiled and played the requested notes.
“Ok, keep playing those notes,” Kale instructed.
I played through the notes a couple of times and then his hands were on the keys and he filled in the rest. It was so cool! I’d never played a song before, and technically he was doing most of the work, but there I was, seated at the piano with my big brother and we were making beautiful music!
“Bravo,” Mrs. Kir…Evelyn applauded. We turned and found her standing where Kale had stood before, along with Dad, Robin and Jamie.
“Sorry if we woke you,” Kale apologized.
“I was getting ready for work anyway,” said Dad, as he tied his tie.
“Anyway,” said Kale, turning his attention back to me while the rest of the family headed for the kitchen, “if you’d like, I could start you on some lessons, teach you a few things.”
“Really, you’d do that?”
“Sure. Someone’s gotta keep this piano in business while I’m away at school,” he smiled.
“Thanks,” I grinned and he patted me on the shoulder.
After that we joined everyone else in the kitchen for breakfast. Jamie said weekday breakfasts at the Kirkwood home usually meant cereal and we were only getting pancakes because Kale and I had woken the whole household early. Then he grinned and thanked us. He didn’t say a word about what happened the night before and I was grateful. Grateful that he was there for me when I needed someone and grateful that he wasn’t teasing me about it now or telling everyone else what happened. I learned yesterday while hanging out in the basement that Jamie could be pretty brash but I’d also learned he was caring and tender. So far I was glad he was my brother.
“So did you think about it?” asked Jamie, while I put syrup on my pancakes.
“About what?” I raised an eyebrow.
“You know,” said Jamie, as he mimicked throwing a pass.
“Oh, yeah,” I nodded. After what he’d done for me the night before, I’d decided to say yes. It seemed to mean a lot to him and I wanted to give him something back for what he’d given me. “Sure, if you want me too.”
“Awesome,” Jamie bounced in his seat.
“What’s this?” asked Dad.
“Sean’s going to try out for football with me,” Jamie’s smile split his face in half.
“Well that’s great,” said dad. “You’ll need some gear. When does summer training start again?”
“Starts tomorrow and goes through Friday,” said Jamie. “They told us all we need are cleats for now and they’ll give us a required equipment list tomorrow.”
“You still need a new pair right?” said Dad.
“Yeah, mine are too tight,” said Jamie.
“Alright, I’ll come home from work a little early and the three of us will drive over to Dick’s,” said Dad. He seemed excited about the prospect. “Sound good?”
“Yeah, thanks, Dad,” said Jamie.
“Thank you,” I added and Dad smiled at me.
After breakfast Dad and Kale both left for work, Robin went off with his friends and Jamie and I parked ourselves in the basement. We were supposed to go and meet his friend Scotty but when Jamie called him he was reminded that Scotty had a doctor’s appointment in Binghamton and then was going school shopping with his mom. Since Scotty was his best friend, and since I was going to football training with him the next day, Jamie decided it would be more fun to surprise his buddies with me then.
We hung out, played video games and shot the shit all afternoon and then Dad turned up at three o’clock. Evelyn reminded him that dinner would be at six and then the three of us piled into his car for the drive to Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The store was crowded. School was starting soon and all the high school jocks were gearing up for football, track, swimming and all the other fall sports. Jamie cut through the sea of moms, dads and kids to the shoe department and found what he wanted almost immediately.
“Are you sure those are the ones you want?” asked Dad, as Jamie tried on the size 8 Nike Alpha Pro TD’s.
“These are the ones,” Jamie smiled. “My coach at camp said this is the best shoe on the market for receivers right now.”
“Ok, what about you Sean?” asked Dad.
“Uh, well, I don’t know,” I admitted. “I haven’t really thought of a position I’d like to play.”
“You’re built like me so the coaches will probably try you out at receiver, maybe tight end. Either way you’re going to want something built for speed. You should get a pair like mine,” Jamie suggested knowledgeably.
“Ok,” I agreed. After all, while I watched football on TV, Jamie actually played and he’d been to a special football camp, so he probably knew what he was talking about.
The only problem was the store didn’t have my size, 8 ½, on the floor. I tried the size 8’s but they were way too tight and I tried the 9’s but they were loose and Jamie said I’d want them snug to prevent ankle injuries. Dad asked the store clerk if they had any more in the back. She wasn’t sure but said they were unloading a truck and that as popular as the Alpha Pro’s were, there had to be an 8 ½ in the shipment. She asked us to wait a few minutes while she hunted for them.
“Cool, you guys wait for Sean’s cleats, I’m going to grab a new jock,” said Jamie.
“Didn’t you just get one before camp?” asked Dad.
“Yeah but my dick got so big this summer it keeps flopping out of the pouch. I don’t want to be hanging out of my shorts tomorrow,” Jamie grinned wickedly and I snickered.
“Uh huh, and the reality is?” said Dad.
“One of the straps broke,” Jamie admitted.
“Yeah, that sounds more realistic,” Dad chuckled.
“Hey, my dick’s still flopping out of it,” Jamie grinned and Dad rolled his eyes.
“That kid, I swear,” Dad sighed as Jamie took off.
“I think he’s funny,” I stated.
“He’s always been like that, he’ll say anything to make you laugh,” Dad smiled at some happy memory. “Sean, I know this isn’t a good time, here in a sporting good’s store, but we really haven’t had any time alone. I just want to make sure, are you ok with everything?”
“It’s all pretty surreal,” I admitted. “I always wondered about my dad but never really thought I’d meet him.”
“What did your mom tell you?”
“That he was a nice guy, that the two of you made a mistake but that she got something great out of it, you know, me,” I blushed
“She’s not wrong about that Sean. I know we don’t know each other well but I’d like to change that. Your mom told me and Evelyn what a great kid you are, Jamie is thrilled to have you here, we’re all excited about getting to know you.”
“Why don’t you guys hate me?” I asked, looking down at my feet. It had been on my mind since I met them and yeah, a sporting goods store wasn’t the place for this discussion but I wanted to know.
“Why would we hate you?” Dad shot back.
“Ok, you got off work Friday night, came home to the wife and kids and probably had plans to kick back and relax over the weekend. Then some blast from the past shows up and presents your bastard love child…” I started.
“Hey,” said Dad, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t talk about yourself like that. Just because you weren’t expected doesn’t mean your arrival has been a bad thing. I’m a family court judge; I deal with some pretty terrible stuff on a regular basis. You met Lucien yesterday?”
“Robin’s boyfriend? Yeah,” I replied thinking about the boy with the red framed glasses and wondering where Dad was going.
“Did he tell you how he ended up Alec’s little brother?”
“Well, no, I thought he was, you know, born that way.”
“Lucien was adopted by the Kutsenko’s last December. His father died, his mother went off the deep end and his sister turned on him when they were put into foster care. Then there was Charlie, he was another special boy who came into our lives after his father beat him and threw him out of the house,” said Dad.
“That is terrible but what does it have to do with me?”
“Like I said, I’ve dealt with some pretty terrible stuff in family court. Those are just a couple of the examples that stand out the most because Lu and Charlie have touched our lives so much. The point is, I see families destroyed all the time, so having a son drop into my life, adding to our family, Sean, it’s a happy surprise,” Dad explained. “Sure there will be some bumps in the road, nothing’s ever easy, but now that we know about you, we all want to be your family and we’re happy to have you with us.”
“Thanks for that,” I nodded my head. It was food for thought, something I was sure I’d turn over and over in my head but he seemed sincere.
It was about that time the clerk returned with my cleats. She’d found a size 8 ½ and they fit perfectly. We were just about to look for Jamie and head for the checkout counter when he showed up and tossed a jock strap in my lap.
“Figured you needed one too,” Jamie smiled. “So I grabbed you one like mine.”
“Great, now all of our underwear matches,” Jamie and I laughed and Dad looked at us confused, left out of the inside joke.
When we got up to the counter a pretty blond girl, maybe 17, whose nametag read Sarah, waited on us.
“Trying out for football, huh?” said Sarah as she rang up our purchase.
“Yep, just talked my brother into it this morning,” Jaime grinned widely.
“Talked him into it? I thought twins did everything together,” said Sara as she bagged our shoes.
“Oh, they aren’t twins,” said Dad.
“Really? You guys look just like each other,” Sarah smiled.
“He’s my twin brother from another mother,” said Jamie putting his arm around me.
“Well, you two are just the cutest thing,” Sarah smiled and handed us each a bag. Jamie and I were both blushing red as fire engines.
“Ok, we better hit the road. Mom will kill us if we’re late for dinner,” said Dad as Sarah handed him the receipt.
Jamie and I just stood there staring at Sarah. I think the same thought was running through both our heads, “She’s hot and she called me, er, us, cute!”
“Come on you two,” Dad rolled his eyes, put a hand at each of our backs and nudged us towards the door. “What am I going to do with you guys?”
"Dad, she was HOT,” said Jamie as we exited the store.
“And I’m sure she appreciated your staring,” Dad grinned. “I never have this problem when I shop with Kale and Robin.”
“Well, maybe if the clerk was a boy with a bulge like…” Jamie started.
“Jamie, you’re terrible,” said Dad and we all shared a laugh.
Jamie and I both had to wipe the drool from our mouths as we walked to the car. Sarah was soooooooo hot. Little did I know her memory would pay us a visit that night.
Jamie wanted to get to bed early so we’d be bright eyed and bushy tailed (it’s something I picked up from my grandpa when I was little, don’t judge) for football the next day but it wasn’t meant to be. Chase and Lucien came over to watch The Dark Knight Rises with Kale and Robin. It was one of my favorite movies, Jamie’s too, so we watched it with them. It was well after midnight when we finally went up to our room. I was just drifting off to sleep when I heard a muffled, “Ohhhh,” from Jamie’s side of the room.
“Uh, yeah?” he replied.
“Dude, are you whacking it?” I giggled.
“You are too! I know what it sounds like,” I laughed harder.
“Am not, I’m, er, giving myself an exam for testicular cancer. You shouldn’t neglect your nuts you know,” Jamie burst out laughing. “I thought you were asleep.”
“You are such a perv!”
“Hey, I can’t help it. She was hot!” Jamie giggled.
“The girl who waited on us at Dick’s, Sarah. Her tits were so perfect! I was like, baby you can handle my jock anytime,” said Jamie, trying to make his voice sound sexy.
“Yeah, she was hot,” I agreed. “We have to figure something out though. I don’t want to be lying here while you’re beating your dick like it owes you money.”
“We could tie a sock on the door knob when we need some alone time,” Jamie suggested.
“So everyone knows what we’re doing?”
“Good point,” Jamie agreed. “Kale’s going to college soon; his room can be the spank bank.”
“Pecker palace,” we both roared with laughter. Then I got up and put on my bathrobe.
“Where are you going?”
“To the bathroom, so you and Rosey Palmer can finish your date,” I exclaimed.
“Bullshit,” Jamie laughed. “You’re going to whack it too!”
“It’s your fault,” I shot back.
“Me? What the hell did I do?”
“Reminded me how hot that clerk was.”
“Gimme about 5 minutes,” Jamie laughed as I headed across the hall.
I finally got to sleep after we both finished our, er, nocturnal business. It was weird, I’d never talked so casually about, you know, jacking off, with another guy before. I was an only child and I never had the kind of friends I invited over for sleepovers, never had anyone I could talk to like that without being embarrassed. I wonder what other issues we’ll discover as the result of sharing a room.
When morning came I was nervous. I’d never gone out for a sport before and all I really knew about football was from watching it on TV. At the same time I was kind of excited. Jamie was excited from the moment he woke up. He chattered non-stop about how much fun it was going to be and by the time Evelyn dropped us off at the high school football field I’m surprised she didn’t peel out in her haste to get away for some peace and quiet. She dropped us off at 10:30 and told us Kale was going to pick us up at 3:30 on his way home from work.
I mentioned to Jamie that it seemed like a long day and he said we wouldn’t be training the entire time. The varsity and JV teams were training too so there would be rotations to give every group a turn with whatever equipment or facility. We checked in with the team manager at the field house where we were each issued a helmet, set of shoulder pads and a practice jersey. That was all the padding we’d need for training; because of the heat of mid-July they wanted to make sure everyone stayed cool and no one had a heatstroke. It also explained the rotation of the three teams; everyone would get time to rest. Once we had our equipment we were told to head over to the south end of the practice field and find Coach Buchanan.
“That’s Sasha’s brother,” said Jamie.
“Who? Coach Buchanan?”
“Yeah, he played linebacker, graduated a couple years before Alec and Sasha. Remember, Sasha said his brother was helping out with training,” Jamie explained.
“Right, do you know him?”
“I’ve meet him a couple of times. Alec says he looks big and mean but he’s really a kitten inside,” Jamie giggled.
“I’m allergic to cats,” I replied and Jamie laughed harder.
We reached the field and found a herd of boys in t-shirts and gym shorts carrying gym bags, pads and helmets and we knew we’d reached the right place. We found a place to drop our stuff and then Jamie pointed out a blond kid talking to a group of guys down the field.
“Hey, you see that kid? The tall one with the blond hair?”
“Yeah,” I replied as I looked down the field and used my hand to shield my eyes from the sun.
“I want you to walk up to him and say ‘how’s it hangin’, needle-dick,” Jamie stifled a laugh.
“Jamie! I can’t go say that to some guy I don’t even know,” I gasped.
“It’s totally ok. That’s my buddy, Scotty, and some of our friends. I want to see how long it takes him to notice you’re not me. We always greet each other like that,” Jamie explained.
“I don’t know,” I looked down at my feet nervously. Begin a shy person, this wasn’t how I was used to making new friends.
“Pretty please, it’ll be so funny,” said Jamie. I looked up and learned he really knew how to work the puppy dog eyes.
“Ok,” I agreed and set off down the field.
I tapped the blond boy on the shoulder and as he turned around I said, “How’s it hanging, uh, needle dick?”
“Hey numb nuts,” he smiled brightly then moved forward with his arms stretched out like he was going to hug me but stopped short. “Jamie?”
“Dude, I so got you,” Jamie laughed as he popped out from behind me.
“Um, what’s going on?” said Scotty, confusion on his face.
“This is my brother, Sean Kelly,” Jamie introduced me.
“Brother? But I didn’t know you had…” Scotty started.
“I didn’t either until the other day, it’s a long story, but yeah, Sean’s my twin brother from another mother,” said Jamie, putting his arm around my shoulder.
“Man, twin is right, I thought he was you,” said Scotty. “It’s nice to meet you, Sean.”
“You too, Scotty. Sorry about that needle-dick stuff,” I blushed.
“It’s ok. I know who put you up to it,” said Scotty, giving Jamie a playful shove.
“Come on, if there was a guy that looked just like you wouldn’t you have done the same thing?” said Jamie.
“Totally,” Scotty grinned.
“Anyway, Sean, this is Jack, Brian and Toby,” said Jamie, introducing me to the other boys who had been hanging out with Scotty. They all greeted me warmly and we chatted for a few minutes until the coaches whistle blew.
We gathered around Coach Buchanan who towered over even the tallest kid in our group and listened as he broke us up into offensive and defensive groups. I still didn’t know what position I wanted to play but I knew that at 5’ 6” and 125 pounds I was too small to be a defender. I followed Jamie, Scotty and Jack towards the offense while Brian and Toby, who wanted to be linebackers, joined the defense.
The first thing we did was run laps to warm up and then we donned our pads, practice jersey’s and helmets and broke into smaller groups for drills. I learned quickly that Jamie was a pretty good athlete. We ran this drill where the receiver would run down the field and make the catch while a lineman tried to stop him from scoring. Jamie caught the ball almost every time and every time he caught it he made the touchdown –the defense couldn’t touch him.
“Come on defense, you can’t suck that bad,” said Jamie, taunting the defender after his latest catch.
“Fuck you, man,” said the big kid.
“You’d have to catch me first,” said Jamie, as he trotted over to me and his friends.
“Watch your mouth, Riley,” said Coach Buchanan. “Off the field Kirkwood, you two are slowing down my practice. Next time you’re both running laps.”
“Yes sir,” Jamie and the other kid, Riley, replied.
“Nice one,” said Scotty when Jamie joined us and he and Jack high fived him.
“Thanks,” Jamie smiled widely; he was very pleased with himself.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were so good?” I asked.
“I’m okay, but the defense sucks. If we play against guys like them all season I’m gonna look like a stud,” Jamie grinned.
“That was funny what you said, about him having to catch you first,” I giggled, “but should you really be taunting them like that?”
“It’s just trash talk. He should be motivated to do better so he can shut me up,” Jamie winked.
“Ok,” I giggled in agreement.
“Kelly, you’re up,” shouted Coach Buchanan.
Great, I thought to myself. I’d caught a few balls and scored a couple of points but I wasn’t the athlete my brother was. My play was so inconsistent I had no idea what was going to happen each time I took my turn. Jamie seemed to sense my nervousness and quickly pulled me aside.
“Hey, it’s only your first day and you’re not doing that bad. Just try to focus on catching the ball for right now, worry about scoring later, okay?” said Jamie.
“Got it,” I gave him a thumbs up.
“You can do it,” he smiled encouragingly and slapped me on the ass as I headed for the field.
I took my stance, the coach blew his whistle and I ran down the field. I looked over my shoulder and spotted the ball heading my way. I reached out and realized it was just out of reach. I stretched my arms as far as I could make them go and grabbed the ball as it fell from the sky and into my hands. I was so excited at making the catch I thought for sure I was going to fumble that I looked at the ball instead of looking in front of me. The lineman didn’t need to tackle me, I bounced right off his chest.
“Dude,” said Jamie when I rejoined the guys.
“Go ahead and say it,” I sighed.
“Hey, you caught the ball,” said Jamie encouragingly.
“Yeah and then bounced off that dude like he had a force field or something,” I pouted.
“You were excited you made the catch, give yourself a break,” Jamie patted me on the back.
“Thanks Jamie,” I smiled in appreciation of his positive outlook.
After that we each had another turn. I caught the ball again and this time I made it a few feet towards the end zone before getting tackled. The coach blew his whistle and dismissed us for the day and when Kale picked us up I almost fell asleep in his car. That night at dinner Dad and Evelyn asked us all about our day and everyone offered their encouragement after I told them about my lackluster performance. I talked to my mom that night and she was excited for me, told me how proud she was of me and I decided to try harder the next day.
I wasn’t woken by Jamie’s whacking off that night and I didn’t wake him with my crying. We were both so tired that when our heads hit the pillow we went out like light bulbs.
The next day started off with laps and then conditioning. Conditioning SUCKS! We spent half the day doing bear crawls, wind sprints, gut busters, and these things called burpees where you drop down from a squat into a pushup then back on your feet. I HATE burpees and by the time we finished I thought I was going to pass out! It was like that for the next couple of days and I was glad when we reached Friday.
When we were finished our exercises on Friday, Coach Buchanan gave us a ten minute break to drink water and restore some electrolytes before we started running drills. Once again Jamie was the standout and the coach pushed him harder than the rest of us to see what he could do. He had the quarterback throw a long pass deep towards the end zone. This time the defender, that Riley kid, was in front of Jamie and once Jamie had the ball, Riley dove for his feet. I don’t know if it was instinct or if Jamie saw it coming but he leapt over Riley with the grace of a gazelle and scored the touchdown. They were too far away for us to hear what they were saying but the way Riley kicked at the ground when Jamie left him suggested it wasn’t pleasant.
“What did you say to that guy?” I asked after I fist bumped Jamie and told him how awesome that play had been. He just winked at me.
I was having a pretty good day myself. I didn’t expect to catch up to Jamie’s level overnight but my brother and his friends were very encouraging, I listened to everything Coach Buchanan told me and it paid off. It was gradual but I was improving. Throughout the week I caught more balls then I fumbled.
We kept running the drill and Jamie was up again. This time he caught the ball and Riley was behind him. Riley grabbed the back of Jamie’s jersey which threw off his stride and he almost tripped. Jamie slapped Riley’s hand away, recovered his gate and scored. When it was over he marched up to Riley and this time we were all close enough to hear their exchange.
“What the fuck did you think you were doing?” Jamie demanded.
“Trying to keep you from scoring, what did it look like, dickhead?” Riley spat.
“Looked like pass interference asshole,” Jamie retorted.
“You think you’re such hot shit,” said Riley. “Fucking queer!”
“What did you say to me?” said Jamie, his face turning red.
“You heard me.”
“I thought you called me a queer but you should know better than that, your mom sure does,” said Jamie as he reached down and adjusted himself. Now it was Riley’s turn to turn red.
“Fuck you,” said Riley as he shoved Jamie.
“Fuck you,” Jamie said in kind and shoved him back.
They continued to shove each other like a pair of bucks trying to assert their dominance until Coach Buchanan ran up and got between them.
“That’s enough, break it up,” said Coach Buchanan.
“But he called me a…” Jamie started.
“I don’t want to hear it,” said Coach Buchanan. “You need to stop acting like your shit doesn’t stink, Kirkwood and Riley, you need to toughen up because I promise you opposing teams are going to talk more trash then Kirkwood ever could. Got it?”
“Yes, coach,” they both replied.
“Now, Riley, you’re done for the day…” Coach started.
“But you said…” Riley objected.
“I’m not sending you home for this little shoving match you girls had, I’m sending you home for pass interference. We don’t play like that on this team. I want you to think about that before you come to practice when school starts,” said Coach Buchanan. “That goes for all of you,” Coach Buchanan addressed the rest of us. “I don’t care how good you ladies think you are; we’re good sports on this team, first and foremost. Got it?”
“Yes sir,” we replied.
Jamie was quiet when he rejoined us but you could tell by the look on his face he was still pissed about what Riley said. We ran the drill a few more times and then Coach Buchanan dismissed us for the day.
“Are you okay?” I asked Jamie as we returned to the field house to check our equipment in.
“Yeah, that guy just pissed me off,” said Jamie.
“Because he called you a…” I started.
“I love Kale and Robin and I don’t care that they’re gay but just because they are doesn’t mean I am too,” said Jamie.
“I don’t know, I mean it wasn’t cool that he said that but do you think he was really calling you gay or just using that word as an insult?” I asked reasonably.
“It doesn’t matter, he shouldn’t say things like that anyway.”
“You’re right. I just don’t want you to get in trouble,” I said, expressing my concern.
“Ah, Coach Buchanan wouldn’t really kick us off the team for that. Sports are intense, sometimes guys get upset and push each other around. Part of the game,” Jamie shrugged his shoulders.
We reached the field house and handed in our pads and helmets. Jamie said he was going to take a leak and I told him I’d meet him in the parking lot.
“Good job today, Sean,” said Scotty as I passed him.
“Thanks, Scotty,” I smiled, feeling proud of my improvement. “See ya.”
“Later,” Scotty waved and I walked out to the parking lot.
I was standing their waiting for Kale to pick us up when I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. I thought it was Jamie, returned from the bathroom, but when I turned to look at him, Riley punched me in the eye.
“Fucking queer,” Riley spat and I knew what happened. You couldn’t tell me and Jamie apart from behind and Riley was still pissed about being kicked off the field.
He raised his hand again and started to lean towards me for another strike but before he could hit me again Jamie tackled him around the waist, knocking him to the ground. He must have seen what happened on his way to join me in the parking lot.
“Knock it off,” I shouted at them as they rolled around on the ground throwing wild punches at each other.
Other kids saw what was happening and raced in to watch. I couldn’t get between them. My face hurt from Riley’s punch and my eye was starting to swell.
“Get off me,” Riley shouted when Jamie wrestled his way on top of him.
“You touch my brother again and I swear to God I’ll…” Jamie began but Riley threw a punch and connected with his jaw.
Jamie rolled off of him, it must have hurt but he rebounded quickly and hurled himself at Riley.
“Someone stop them,” I shouted. I didn’t want Jamie to get hurt. Riley was much bigger than him but the other kids just cheered them on. My face hurt and I wanted to cry but held back because I knew if one tear leaked from my eyes I’d be branded a cry baby for the rest of my high school days.
I was on the verge of panic when a big swarthy kid pushed his way through the crowed with a couple of older boys. Based on their size they must have been varsity players.
“Break it the fuck up,” the boy ordered as he grabbed Jamie and pulled him off. One of the other older boys grabbed Riley. “What the fuck is going on here?”
“He hit my brother,” Jamie wriggled and writhed, trying to break the older boy’s grasp.
“I didn’t mean too,” Riley shouted back. “I wanted to hit you asshole.”
“Let me go, Zap,” said Jamie.
“Both of you knock it the fuck off,” the older boy, Zap, shouted.
Jamie and Riley both struggled for a moment but gave up, the bigger guys were too strong for them to break free.
“You assholes are lucky we stopped you because I’ll tell you right now if the coaches caught you, you’d both be off the team,” said Zap. “You,” he said turning to Riley, “I don’t know you, but get the fuck out of here. Go home and cool off.”
“Yeah, and tell your mom I said hi,” Jamie taunted.
“Fuck you, Kirkwood,” Riley replied.
“Jamie, shut the fuck up,” said Zap, then he turned his attention to Riley again. “Outta here, now.”
Zap held on to Jamie until Riley walked away and rounded a corner.
“Thanks, Zap,” said Jamie, when Zap let him go.
“Don’t thank me, I’m calling your brother,” said Zap as he reached for his cell phone.
“Hold on, Zap,” said Kale. He must have driven up while our backs were turned and parked when he saw the commotion. “What’s going on?”
“Hey, Kale,” Zap gave him a fist bump. “I was just coming out of the field house and I caught this one fighting with one of his team mates,” he nudged Jamie with his shoulder.
“Jamie, God damn it,” Kale swore.
“It wasn’t my fault!” Jamie protested. “That guy’s been an asshole all week and look what he did to Sean!”
Kale turned to me for the first time and saw the swelling and the black eye on my face. He took my chin in his hand and turned my head so he could get a good look at the damage.
“Jesus, are you alright, Sean?” said Kale.
“I’m ok,” I replied.
“Does it hurt?” he asked gently.
“It’s not so bad,” I held back a sniffle.
“Ok,” said Kale, putting a protective arm around my shoulders. That made me feel a little better. “Thanks for breaking it up, Zap. I better get these guys home.”
“No problem, Kale, and good luck at Cornell,” Zap smiled.
“Thanks, man,” Kale smiled back.
“Stay out of trouble, Jamie,” Zap warned and then took off with his friends.
“Do you even want to hear my side,” Jamie pouted.
“Jamie, right now all I want to do is get home and put an ice pack on Sean’s eye. You can tell your story to Mom,” said Kale.
“Whatever,” Jamie crossed his arms over his chest.
I sat quietly in the car. My face hurt and my heart was still pounding in my chest. Call me sensitive but the fight scared me. I’d never been hit before and I was so afraid Jamie was going to get hurt. As it was I could tell he was nursing his jaw from where Riley hit him. No one said anything, we sat quietly and it was all I could do to keep from crying.
When we got home Kale marched us inside and when we entered the foyer he shouted, “Mom.”
Evelyn came out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a towel. “What happened to you two?” she sighed.
“I’ll let Jamie fill you in,” said Kale. “He’s anxious to tell someone his side of the story.”
Kale headed for the stairs and Jamie petulantly stuck his tongue out at Kale’s back. Evelyn didn’t see it; her eyes were drawn to my injury.
“We better get an ice pack on that eye,” said Evelyn.
“For what it’s worth I got punched in the jaw,” Jamie pouted.
“We’ll get you one, too, and then you’re going to tell me what you did,” said Evelyn.
“Yeah, Mom, it’s always my fault,” said Jamie.
Evelyn ignored him for the moment and led us into the kitchen. She filled two zip-lock bags with crushed ice, wrapped them in paper towels and handed one to each of us.
“Thanks,” said Jamie, as he applied the ice pack to his jaw.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t feel like I could hold back my tears anymore. If I said something they’d start tumbling out.
“Sean, are you alright?” asked Evelyn as she put a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“I’m ok,” I replied and sure enough, just like I thought, the tears started rolling.
“Honey, it’s alright,” said Evelyn putting her arm around my shoulders and that’s when I really started sobbing. “Jamie, go upstairs and wait for me in your room.”
“But Mom…” Jamie protested.
“Now please?” said Evelyn.
Jamie let out a sigh but did as he was told.
“Wanna tell me what’s the matter?” said Evelyn when we could no longer hear Jamie’s footfalls.
“I’m sorry. I’ve never been in a fight before and I just got a little overwhelmed,” I sniffled.
“You were scared?” said Evelyn.
“I’ve never been hit before and I thought Jamie was going to get hurt,” I sobbed again.
“It’s ok, you’re both fine,” said Evelyn while she hugged me and rubbed my back soothingly.
“Thanks,” I said once I calmed down.
“Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“Well, Jamie was doing really great with this drill we were running at practice. This kid, Riley, he was the defender, and he got mad because Jamie was making him look bad. They kept trash talking each other and it got out of hand. The coach sent Riley home early but he was waiting for us in the parking lot. Jamie went to the bathroom, Riley saw me, thought I was Jamie and hit me,” I explained.
“That boy and his mouth,” Evelyn shook her head. “What else?”
“Jamie must have seen Riley hit me because he came running to my rescue. Some kid from the varsity broke them up and Kale brought us home.”
“Ok,” Evelyn sighed. “You sit here and keep that ice pack on your eye. It’ll help with the swelling. I’ll go upstairs and deal with Jamie.”
“Deal with? But it wasn’t his fault, he saved me,” I protested.
“Maybe so but it sounds like you wouldn’t have been in that position if it wasn’t for his mouth,” said Evelyn.
“Please don’t be mad at him,” I begged. “I don’t want him to think I was down here tattling on him.”
“Don’t you worry about that. I’ll make sure he knows who is responsible.”
She hugged me again and looked at me with those kind eyes. I understood what Dad had explained to me at the sporting goods store. In the end I’m his son and I could see why he’d accept me but everything I’d ever seen on TV or in the movies about situations like mine suggested Evelyn should hate me. I had to know why she didn’t. It didn’t make sense.
“Before you go, can I ask you something?”
“Of course you can,” said Evelyn, remaining in the seat next to me.
“Why are you so nice to me? I asked Dad, er, Mr. Kirkwood…”
“You can call him Dad. He’s your father, Dad’s ok,” said Evelyn.
“Well, I understand his reasoning, why he’d accept me but I can’t figure you out. Aren’t you supposed to hate me?”
“You expected me to be a wicked stepmother who would lock you in the attic and make you do all the household chores?” Evelyn smiled.
“It’s kind of the impression I got from TV,” I blushed. It sounded kind of stupid when I said it out loud.
“Well, TV doesn’t always get the story right,” said Evelyn.
“Yeah, but still…”
“You really want to know?”
I nodded my head.
“We lost our little boy,” Evelyn sighed.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“It was after Robin was born. Andrew and I were so happy with Kale and Robin, we wanted another baby. I got pregnant but three months into the pregnancy I had a miscarriage,” said Evelyn.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…” I spluttered.
“Of course you didn’t,” she smiled and patted my shoulder.
“Anyway, that’s what caused a lot of the problems in our marriage. We were both upset and neither of us knew how to express it so we fought about everything. I don’t excuse Andrew for what he did but I understand it was a mistake. I love him very much and I forgave him for what happened. Shortly after I became pregnant with Jamie, we moved here and we’ve been happy ever since,” Evelyn explained.
“Then I came along,” I looked down at my feet.
“Then you came along,” said Evelyn, tilting my chin up to meet her eyes. “And do you know what I think of when I see your face?”
“No,” I shook my head.
“I look at you with that Kirkwood hair and those Kirkwood eyes and it’s silly but it makes me feel like our lost little boy has come home,” Evelyn smiled.
“Wow,” I replied. It was such a brave thing to tell a virtual stranger, to put your feelings and emotions out there like that. “Thank you for that, it makes me feel…I don’t know, good?”
“I’m not your mother, Sean. I’d never try to replace her but if you like, you can be my son too.”
“Thank you,” I hugged her tight.
“You’re very welcome sweetheart,” she patted my back. “Now, I better go deal with that brother of yours.”
“Sean tell you what happened?” I asked when I heard the door open. I was standing in front of the window, looking out at the lawn, but I knew it had to be mom.
“He said he got punched by a boy who thought he was you,” said mom.
“Yeah, I saw him hit Sean so I tackled him and I’d do it again. What was I supposed to do, stand there and let him beat up my brother?” I demanded.
“No, you did the right thing and I’m proud of you for defending Sean. That said, I think we both know you put him in that position to being with.”
“But mom, I didn’t do anything,” I protested.
“You said this boy mistook Sean for you. Why did he want to hit you? Was it your turn, you just had it coming?”
“Mom, you know how it is. We were trash talking on the field and he couldn’t take it,” I explained.
“So, you mouthed off to this kid and upset him enough to resort to violence and your brother got hurt in the confusion?”
“Exactly,” I crossed my arms over my chest.
“This is my fault,” mom sighed.
“What? How…” I started.
“Jamie, that mouth of yours. I’ve let you get away with it for too long because you’re the baby of the family and I overindulged you. I brushed it off as a phase I thought you’d grow out of.”
“But, Mom, I…”
“I understand trash talk, Jamie, I’ve raised three boys and I’ve been around Little League and Pop Warner, I know how boys are when they play. That’s no excuse. You’ve gotten away with letting your mouth run ahead of you and that needs to stop. You’re a big boy now and you need to understand that the things you say have consequences.”
“You ran your mouth, probably pushed too hard against this other boy because you didn’t stop to think about what could happen and Sean got hurt. He’s going to be in school with you, how many times is he going to have to pay for your mouth because he looks like you?”
I’d never thought of it like that before. Kale and Robin were both older than me. I hadn’t been in school with them for years, no one ever bothered them because of the things I said but Sean was different. He was with us because his mom was dying, he was vulnerable and I should be protecting him, not putting him in a position where he could get hurt.
“You’re right, it’s my fault, isn’t it?” I admitted.
Mom was right. My mouth did get me into trouble sometimes and looking back at the events of the last few days, Sean got hurt because of me.
“You bear the responsibility for your actions but your father and I share in it for indulging you all these years. That has to stop now, Jamie. I know what a sweet boy you are on the inside; it’s time to act like it.”
“Is Sean ok?” I asked.
“He’ll be alright, it’s just a black eye but he’s never had brothers to tussle around with before. That fight scared him, he was afraid you were going to get hurt,” mom explained.
“I didn’t mean to scare him. I wanted to help.”
“I know but it goes back to thinking before you speak or act. I’m going to let you think about that and we’ll discuss a suitable punishment when your father gets home, ok?”
“Yes, mom,” I nodded, accepting my fate.
Mom hugged me and left the room to be replaced by Sean who came in with his ice pack.
“Are you ok?” I asked.
“Yeah, the swelling’s going down,” said Sean.
“Look, I’m really sorry about what happened.”
“It’s ok, it wasn’t your fault…” he started.
“Yeah it was. I was too hard on that Riley kid. Yeah, he said some shitty things but only because I drew it out of him. I’m sorry you paid for my mouth,” I sighed.
“It’s ok,” said Sean.
“Are you sure? Mom told me the fight scared you. I don’t want you to be scared around me Sean. I want us to be best buddies,” I admitted.
“Jamie, it’s ok. Yeah it scared me but I’m ok. Just be more careful?”
“I will, I swear I will. Mom and I talked, she pointed out some things, made a lot of sense,” I stated.
“Then we’re all good,” Sean smiled.
“Thanks,” I replied, I was so happy that I had to hug him and I was relieved when he hugged me back.
“So, how do I look?” said Sean, when we broke our embrace and he tilted his head into the light to give me a look at his eye.
“I gotta say, you can take a punch. That’s a nasty shiner.”
“I look like a raccoon,” said Sean, spotting his face in the mirror behind me.
“Girls like dangerous guys, maybe we should go back to Dick’s and see if Sarah thinks it’s sexy,” I replied. We both had a good laugh at that.
Mom and Dad grounded me for a week and told me if I got caught fighting anymore the coaches wouldn’t have to kick me off the team, they’d pull me off. Dad gave me the same lecture about my mouth that Mom had and again I had to admit he was right. I spent the night thinking about the way I act and I felt pretty bad about it. It wasn’t just that I’d gotten Sean hurt –that was the worst part –but it extended to the way I treated my friends. I introduced Sean to Scotty by having him call Scotty needle dick because that’s how we greeted each other. How could I expect people to be friendly with me if that’s how I treated them?
The next morning I got up and after breakfast Mom and Dad took Sean to Binghamton to see his mom. She’d arrived at the hospice center the night before and Mom and Dad would drive Sean over there to visit her three times a week. Sean asked me if I wanted to come with him and I wanted to but said no. His mom doesn’t have much time left and he should have every minute with her he can get. He didn’t need me tagging along, instead I hugged him and told him to have a good visit, that I’d see him when he got home.
I waited for Mom, Dad and Sean to leave then grabbed my bike from the garage. Technically I shouldn’t have been leaving the house, being grounded and all, but I’d reached a decision last night. There was something I had to do and while I thought Mom and Dad would understand, maybe even be proud of me, it was something I had to do alone.
We’d each been issued a team roster with everyone’s name and phone number on the second day of training. Last night while Sean slept I hopped on the computer and punched Jason Riley’s number into a Google search. It took me about 20 minutes to peddle across town to his house.
“Hi, can I help you?” said Mrs. Riley when I knocked on her door.
“Hi, um, is Jason home?”
“He’s in his room, wait here and I’ll get him for you,” she smiled.
I stood out on the porch and waited. I could hear Mrs. Riley shout up the stairs, “Jason, you’ve got a friend here to see you.” A moment later the door opened and Jason stepped out.
“You? What the hell are you doing here?” he demanded.
“I came over to say I’m sorry,” I offered.
“What?” said Jason, he looked confused.
“Look, we got off to a bad start. I shouldn’t have flipped so much shit at you during training. I’ve got a smart mouth and it’s been pointed out to me that I need to take responsibility for the crap I say. So, I’m sorry.”
Jason studied me for a moment as if he were trying to decide whether or not to trust me, then his features softened, “Thanks. Is your brother ok?”
“You gave him a pretty nasty shiner but he’s alright.”
“Would you tell him I’m sorry?”
“I will,” I nodded. “One last thing though, I can’t leave here without saying you shouldn’t have called me a queer, me or anyone else.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jason admitted. “I didn’t mean anything by it, it was just the first thing that popped out of my mouth.”
“I’ve got two other brothers, they’re both gay and they’re the greatest guys I know.”
“I didn’t know that. Forgive me?”
“Apology accepted but don’t let it happen again,” I smiled.
“Yeah,” Jason smiled back and offered me his hand. “Shake on it?”
“Sure,” I replied as we shook hands.
I chatted with Jason for a few more minutes but I wasn’t supposed to be out hanging with friends. I grabbed my bike and peddled home thinking he was a pretty nice guy and hoped we’d be able to become friends. Whatever happened I was determined my mouth wouldn’t get in the way.