By Wes Leigh featuring the contributions of Rob the Scribe


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Chapter Six


“Are you gay?”

Always before, it had been rude names thrown out with casual disregard. RJ had been able to ignore those. But this was different. It wasn”t hatred or mockery but rather curiosity that prompted the question this time. A few of the bolder kids had asked the same question, but he”d ignored them, turning away and refusing to answer. Not once had he even considered telling the truth, until finally it became too much.

It was Ricky, a boy he barely knew, who asked. In the middle of history class. Completely out of thin air. “Are you gay?”

Before RJ even thought about it, he heard himself say, “Yes, I am. So what?”

Silence fell in the class. Every eye focused on RJ.

RJ slid into his seat and closed his eyes. `What was I thinking?” he asked himself. `I know what”s going to happen now.”

And yet, somehow, it was just what needed to be said. Why should he hide from them? What the hell was so damned wrong with him? He loved boys. Was that an act worthy of punishment?

Between third and fourth period, RJ walked to his locker to swap out his books. He just wanted to be left alone. That was all he wanted. But as soon as he opened the locker door, he heard the sneering voices to one side. They weren”t trying to be quiet; they wanted to be overheard.

“Would you like to get your ass fucked?”

“Hell no! That”s disgusting.”

“I agree, man. That”s just sick. The guy is just sick.”

RJ knew it was about him. There was nothing he could do about it. That was how they would see him from now on. He was sick. Sick for admitting his feelings. Sick because he didn”t want to hide anymore. Sick because that was how he was born.

He went to the next class with a heavy heart. Even as he put one foot in front of the other, anxious thoughts about what was to come weighed him down. His imagination filled him with dread, and unfortunately, his imagination was not disappointed. When he entered the room, there was a huge uproar in the class. Almost immediately he realized why. Someone had written “ROBIN IS GAY!” on the whiteboard in huge letters.

He tried to ignore it, but he didn”t succeed. How could you ignore something like that? It said it right there. In front of him. Mocking him.

He thought about reacting in some way, but decided against it. The insecurity, the shame had given way to a form of defiance.

What did it matter what they thought? Who cared?

But deep inside, RJ cared. As much as he didn”t want to admit it to himself, he cared deeply about the opinion of others, no matter how bad that opinion might be.

At the end of the day, he walked across the school courtyard with his eyes on the bricks in front of him. It had been the longest day of his life.

It hadn”t taken long for word to get around. No time had been wasted. Was there a student who didn”t know? He couldn”t imagine a single one who hadn”t heard. Everyone looked at him. They didn”t bother looking away if he caught their eye.

Stephen and his gang walked in front of RJ, forcing him to stop and look up at them.

“Gay pig,” Stephen snarled.

“Ass fucker,” Toby said, sneering.

“Cock sucker,” added Justin.

With every new verbal attack, a part of RJ seemed to die. It hurt. It hurt more than any slap in the face could have.

RJ clutched his backpack tight against his stomach and walked around them. All he wanted was to get on the bus and to go home.

He hated their words, but he decided to embrace those words. Words hurt like hell, but denying yourself hurt a whole lot more. From that moment on, he was determined to no longer pretend, no longer hide.

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The next morning, Erin Masters poured herself a cup of coffee in the teacher lounge, trying her best to ignore the rampant gossip. One of the eighth-grade boys�she izmit escort bayan had a very good idea which one�had outed himself to the rest of the students. It happened every year, and it always made their job harder.

The school”s official position was that all forms of bullying and harassment were strictly prohibited. That was laughable. The kids weren”t stupid. They didn”t make their snide comments when teachers were around, so they were never caught. It was all done in secret, except for the very public humiliation of that message written on the whiteboard in Jane Matthews” classroom. Jane claimed she was in her storeroom at the time, looking for supplies, but the woman was known for her hateful bigotry, so Erin wouldn”t have been surprised to find that Jane had deliberately stepped out of the class long enough for the disgusting deed to be done.

Erin didn”t know what to do. Was there really anything she could do? Except pretend that nothing had changed and hope against hope that the young boy she”d been encouraging every day hadn”t been crushed by the events of the day before.

`Was there some way to reach out to him?” Erin asked herself. Some way to let him know it would get better one day, despite how hopeless it might seem at the moment. She still remembered that desperation that seemed to swallow you up the day after you shared such a devastating secret.

She”d been older, almost sixteen, when she told a particularly persistent teenage boy that he wasn”t going to get anywhere with her because she didn”t like boys. The problem wasn”t so much how grabby he was being, but that he reminded her of her father, especially when he was drunk and came into her room and touched her in the same way. It wasn”t the boy”s fault that he reminded her of her father, but it was his fault that he wouldn”t listen no matter how many times she told him to stop.

The boy had stared at her, momentarily confused, then wrinkled his brow as he realized what she was saying. “You”re a dyke?” he had asked.

That question had infuriated her even more, almost as much as his roving hands. “No,” she had snapped. “I”m a lesbian. Now let me go.”

From that moment on, her life had been both easier and tougher. Easier, because the boys had quit hitting on her. Tougher, because the girls had tried their best to make her miserable.

Erin sighed. Things hadn”t changed. Not in the least. Despite all the talk, all the parades, all the politicians making empty promises, people were still the same. Still hateful. Still mean and ugly. Poor RJ. What could she say to help him through this?

It really wasn”t a surprise that he had come out to the other kids. She”d expected it. After reading his essay on the tightrope walker, her heart had gone out to him. It would have been better if he had waited until he was a little older, but he was such an intelligent young man, it was bound to happen sooner rather than later.

Well, it was done now. And Erin Masters was going to do everything in her power to support and encourage RJ. If only the other teachers felt the same …

͠ ͠ ͠

Mickey was miserable because RJ was miserable. They stood next to each other, waiting for the bus, staring straight ahead, not saying a word.

One of the girls sneered at them when they got on the bus, but Mickey glared at her until she huffed and looked away. Mickey wasn”t going to abandon his friend, not now, not when he needed him the most, no matter what anyone said about him sitting next to a gay boy.

RJ slid into a seat. Mickey sat beside him, nudging RJ to move over a little more. RJ scooted against the window, looking at Mickey slightly surprised. Mickey gave him an embarrassed smile. They both stared out the window as the bus began moving again.

Mickey knew it would be bad. It was what he”d tried so hard to tell RJ without actually saying it. And now Mickey could only sit next to RJ, making it clear with his continued presence that he wasn”t rejecting his friend, even if everyone else did.

RJ knew what Mickey was doing, and he appreciated it. He wished there was some way he tell Mickey how grateful he was, but RJ was paralyzed with fear. Even a simple hug would be taken the wrong way by all the watching eyes. There was nothing he could do about it, so he accepted Mickey”s quiet support and hoped his friend knew how much it meant to him.

When they reached the school, they parted at the front entrance. Mickey turned left, headed for his homeroom. “See you in Math,” izmit escort he said, over one shoulder.

“Yeah,” RJ replied. “See you.” RJ paused and called, “Umm, Mickey.”

Mickey turned around, eyes silently questioning.

RJ gave Mickey a sad smile and said, “Thanks.”

Mickey nodded. “You”re my friend,” he replied. And that was all that needed to be said.

͠ ͠ ͠

As RJ walked down the halls, he played a game in his mind. He pictured Angelus, the powerful being in his story, walking behind him. Every time the other kids gave him a nasty look, RJ imagined Angelus lifting his hand and sending a beam of light to strike them, blinding their hateful eyes. When they whispered a rude comment, Angelus would pull his sword and slice out their tongues, leaving them mumbling in the halls. If any of them tried to touch him, Angelus would lift him up in his powerful arms and carry him far, far away, where they would no longer be bothered by these cruel humans who could never understand love.

Angelus understood. He would take RJ in his arms and hold him, kissing him gently, telling him he was adored and wanted. Those strong arms would protect him. Those powerful legs would carry him to safety. Those pale blue eyes would stare into his own, silently confirming what RJ suspected all along, that Angelus truly loved him.

It didn”t matter what these other foolish mortals thought. They were nothing. Their opinions were dry dust. Their words were hollow notes in a forgotten song.

His face gradually brightened, and he was actually smiling when he walked into his homeroom class and sat down at his desk.

The other students glanced at him, confused and struggling to understand why he seemed so happy this morning. It didn”t make sense. RJ was so weird.

͠ ͠ ͠

Coming out of the restroom after third period, RJ suddenly found himself surrounded by Stephen McDermott and his gang of jerks. RJ studied them carefully. Surrounding each of the boys was a dark aura, filled with grasping shadows. He shuddered, suddenly chilled.

“Your restroom is over there,” Stephen growled, pointing across the hall to the girl”s restroom.

The other boys snickered. “Good one, Stephen,” said Toby.

RJ pictured Angelus swooping down and grabbing the ninth graders in his strong hands, yanking them off their feet and throwing them down the hallway. He stared at Stephen and said, “Get out of my way.”

Stephen”s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “What the fuck did you say?” he asked.

“Move. You”re in my way,” RJ said.

“Ooooh, better do what he says, Stephen,” Justin warned. “He might hit you with his purse.” Justin tugged on RJ”s backpack, causing it to slide down off RJ”s shoulder.

“Is there a problem here?” Erin Masters asked, coming around the corner.

The boys quickly stepped back. “No, ma”am,” Stephen replied. “We were just using the restroom.”

“Then I suggest you hurry up,” Erin replied, checking her watch. “The tardy bell rings in three minutes.”

Stephen and his friends squeezed around RJ into the boy”s restroom. RJ watched them go inside, then turned to Erin Masters and smiled. She wasn”t Angelus, but he was still glad to see her. “Hello, Ms. Masters. Did you finish reading my essay for the contest?”

“I did. It was astonishingly good, RJ, but pretty much what I”ve come to expect from the best writer in school.”

His face lit up. “Really? You liked it?”

“RJ, it was a fantastic essay. The problem is going to be convincing the judges that an eighth grader wrote it, but I”ll let them know it came from an amazing student, the best I”ve ever taught.”

RJ”s heart pounded in his chest. He wanted to hug Ms. Masters, but that wasn”t allowed, so he settled for giving her the biggest smile he could.

“Shouldn”t you be headed for your next class?” she asked, pleased to see RJ”s happy expression.

“Yes, ma”am,” RJ replied, turning and waving as he headed down the hall.

Erin watched him go. His smile had been precious, bringing joy to her heart, for a moment. She moved to the other side of the hall and waited for Stephen McDermott and the other boys to come out of the restroom. They saw her watching them from the other side of the hallway. She wasn”t smiling now. They gulped and hurried down the hall, avoiding her icy stare.

͠ ͠ ͠

As the boys left the locker room and headed out into the gym, they realized they wouldn”t be going outside today. It was overcast izmit kendi evi olan escort with a threat of a Spring thunderstorm, so their PE teacher had decided to keep them inside to play dodgeball. He divided the class up into two teams and sent them to opposite sides of the gym, then positioned three large balls along the center stripe. When he blew his whistle, boys charged the center line to grab the balls and the game was on.

Mickey loved dodgeball. He was short and fast and hard to hit. And despite his small size, he could launch the ball with deadly accuracy at the other team.

RJ hated dodgeball. He couldn”t throw hard enough to get anyone out. He certainly couldn”t catch the ball either. In almost every game, he was one of the first players eliminated, so he spent most of the game sitting on the sidelines, daydreaming as he watched Mickey dodging, weaving, and launching counterattacks.

The first game was no different from every game of dodgeball RJ had played in the past. He was eliminated in the first minute of play. But there was one change. It seemed the players on the other team were ganging up on him. They waited until they had all three balls, then targeted RJ specifically, throwing all the balls at him at the same time, aiming for his face and groin.

RJ was pummeled by the balls, taking one to the shoulder, one to the stomach, and one in the groin. The teacher saw, but said nothing. He blew his whistle and pointed at RJ, indicating he was out of the game.

As RJ walked to the sideline, one of the boys on the other team threw a ball that hit him, unexpectedly, in the side of the face.

“Hey!” Mickey shouted, rushing the other boy.

The teacher blew his whistle and yelled, “Back on your side, Mickey. Toby, you”re out for the rest of this game and the next one too. You know better than to throw a ball at a player who has been eliminated.”

Toby complained, “Come on, Coach. I didn”t know he was out!”

The teacher shook his head and pointed at the sidelines. “Take a seat, Brewer. MacMahon, you”re back in the game.”

RJ sighed, turned around and walked back to the rest of the boys still playing. Mickey walked up to RJ, concern in his eyes.

“You okay?” he asked. RJ was surprised to see a golden aura surrounding Mickey”s body.

RJ touched the side of his face where the ball had hit him. It stung. “Yeah. I”m fine.”

“Stand behind me,” Mickey said. And for the next five minutes, Mickey kept RJ in the game, until a ball neither one of them saw caught RJ in the hip, knocking him out of the game again. It was almost with relief that RJ scurried to the sideline and watched as Mickey almost single-handedly won the game for their team.

The next game went much the same. RJ wasn”t an asset to his team, though he tried, but Mickey kept him in the game much longer than he usually lasted.

Finally, the teacher blew his whistle in a long, loud blast. “Hit the showers.”

The boys trotted into the locker room, stripped down and headed into the shower room. There were five shower heads along each wall. Mickey took one. RJ took the one next to him. The rest of the class took the shower heads on the opposite side of the room, doubling up and tripling up in one case, simply to avoid being on the same side of the room as RJ and Mickey. The other boys showered quickly, rushing to clean up and get out again.

Mickey saw what they were doing and turned to smile at RJ. RJ grinned back, shrugging his shoulders to show he didn”t care.

Mickey snickered and whispered, “Morons!”

Then they both started giggling uncontrollably.

͠ ͠ ͠

The day was finally over. After his last class, RJ headed for his locker to put his books away. With his backpack now mostly empty, he swung it over one shoulder and hustled down the hallway, headed for the front entrance. As he turned a corner, he tripped over something. Unable to catch his balance, he fell forward, breaking his fall with his outstretched arms. He saw feet next to his face and looked up to see Stephen McDermott, Jake and Justin Collins, and Toby Brewer standing nearby.

Stephen grabbed RJ”s arm and lifted the smaller boy to his feet. Stephen began dusting RJ off, aggressively slapping at RJ”s clothes and knocking RJ in the balls as he pretended to brush the dirt from RJ”s pants. RJ grimaced and pulled back, covering his groin with both hands.

Stephen leaned in and hissed. “You really should be more careful. The teachers can”t watch out for you everywhere you go. Your little buddy, Mickey, can”t be with you every minute of the day. Someday you”ll be alone. You”ll be somewhere no one can watch over you. And then your faggot ass is mine.”

The end of UNCAGED, Chapter Six

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