Dinner had been strange; different in a way he just couldn’t put his finger on. Every time he’d look over at Dakota he got this feeling that everyone else at the table was noticing and then like the perfect dufus he had to have a choking spell, that sure was a hit with Dakota’s mom who seemed so distant, so strange really. He couldn’t quite say why, but he was sure she kept looking at him as if to see if he was good enough for her son and yet at other times it was like she was feeling angry with him, upset that he was even sitting at their table.
It certainly wasn’t a dinner like he was used to. At his place his folks would talk, laugh, tell and ask things of him and each other, sort of like they were catching up or something, but Dakota’s folks seemed different. It was more like they were only there to fuel up, not to check up or anything. It was kind of weird for him and even Arizona was quiet which he didn’t think was possible and yet, he couldn’t quite put his finger on it but it didn’t just seem because he was there, that somehow this was normal for them.
Noah had tried to offer to help with the dishes but both Arizona and Rosalie, Dakota’s mother, refused his offer quickly. In fact he sort of felt like she really didn’t even want him there and he noticed a strange glance between her and Dakota as well which only made him feel more out of place. He really didn’t understand it but somehow it didn’t seem to matter much, as each time he would steal a glance at Dakota he would feel the strange glow in his body flare up. It was like he wanted to just reach across the table and grab Dakota and kiss him, and he could feel the desire inside, feel it burning into his body with each stolen look, each covert glance.
Everything seemed so sad really and he couldn’t help but notice at times how Rosalie would look at both Arizona and Dakota, as if she was about to cry or something and he wondered what it was that made the place seem comfortable, but so sad, so empty really even though people were there. It was like no one wanted to talk and yet they were desperate to do just that. He couldn’t figure it out but what he did notice was that every now and then, everyone stole glances at him and Dakota, as if they knew which worried him. He had figured out that Arizona knew about her brother, but did his family know too?
That really was freaking him out because he couldn’t even begin to imagine what his own parents would feel if they knew how much he ached for another boy, and he doubted if either of them would accept it the way it appeared Dakota’s had or were. Maybe he was just being silly but he couldn’t get it out of his head as he waited for Dakota out on the front porch that somehow his mother at least had a suspicion that he was queer, but if she did, why hadn’t she said anything?
He wished at times he could just sit down with them and tell them, that maybe if he could just share how he was feeling that maybe it would be easier, that maybe he could get through another day just a bit easier, but he doubted if his parents would understand. He had heard his father talk about it, about how gays were sick or perverted, and his mother had agreed too and for a bit he had wondered if that was it, that maybe it was some disease or something that he could get help for, that he could take a pill for but inside, deep down he knew it wasn’t that way at all. Hell, he had proven that by the way he wanted Dakota so much, how he couldn’t even begin to control the strange emotions that ran thru him each time he thought about Dakota inside of him.
Sitting there he squirmed a bit, as he could really still feel that first press against his butt, that first jab of pain that went up his whole body as Dakota tried to enter him and he felt the searing pain even now but it was just a memory, not real and he tried to hold it back, tears near threatening to break free and roll down his face as he realized that he had held back, that he had whimped out. How could he have been so stupid, so dumb as to not know it would hurt and instead of taking it for a moment he had ran, and now he was feeling like this whole weekend was going to wind up with him once more being alone, despite all that Dakota had said.
How could he still want him after Noah failed him like that? Could they have sensed that and that was why dinner was so quiet? Had they somehow seen his failure to please written on Dakota’s face or his own? He shook a little sitting there, wondering why it was that he just couldn’t do things right, that every time he tried to be who he was he failed? Even his attempt at being a part of the school had failed when he joined the drama club, and that whole mess in wearing the dress had only embarrassed his father, and sitting there he could still hear his father’s voice, telling him that he shouldn’t be surprised at the writing on his locker, after all he did dress up in a dress, and that was what happened to kids who did that kind of stuff. He could still hear his father telling him he should have tried out for some sports instead, at least then when he failed it wouldn’t be so bad.
It irked him too, as he replayed that conversation in his mind that his father already had chalked him up to being unable to play sports that he would fail but that at least he wouldn’t have been branded queer like he had been for doing the drama play. Shit, what did he really expect from him? It wasn’t like he was gifted with a great body like Dakota or Rusty, yet his father kept at him to try, to be something he wasn’t. He shook his head, knowing that his father would never understand if he did tell him, but how could he keep it hidden? How could he keep his feelings hidden for so long, especially the way they seemed to be only getting more intense, more controlling?
If anything he was feeling more alone now than before Dakota had shown up at his place that first night, and yet something inside kept telling him that things would change, that he couldn’t just sit back and stew about stuff. He wondered if he’d ever have the courage to speak up, to say how he really felt when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned quickly to stare up to find Dakota’s mother looking down at him. He felt an icy fear inside, thinking that she was going to send him home or worse, tell him he couldn’t see Dakota anymore.
He felt the tears welling up even before she spoke but the way her eyes looked at him kept the tears from falling, kept his heart from stopping as he waited, just looking up into her face. Noah could see the pain inside and once more the thought that she was going to stop him and Dakota came to mind, but there was something about her, something that held his fear at bay, kept it from overwhelming him as she smiled a thin weak smile, her hands looking rough as it rested on his trembling body.
Rosalie “Mind if I sit with you? Dakota won’t be much longer”
Noah “Uh, sure, uh, thanks again for dinner, it was really good”
Rosalie “Arizona made a special effort, she seems to like you a lot”
Noah “Uh, I like her too”
Rosalie “Yes, but not as much as you like my son, huh?”
He felt the panic inside and he didn’t know what to do or say. He looked down at his hands, resting in his lap and he wondered if all mothers knew this stuff, or was he sending off some signal, some sign that he was in love with Dakota? Christ if he was, did that mean his own mother knew? He could feel the eyes staring at him, waiting for him to answer and he had a small lump in his throat as he croaked out his answer.
Noah “Yes, I really do like Dakota… uh, he’s been nice to me…”
Rosalie “He’s a good boy, I think he likes you too, you are the first boy he’s ever brought home, did he tell you that?”
Noah “The first? Uh, no, no he didn’t”
Rosalie “Yes, he doesn’t usually talk much, but all week he kept telling us about you, I have never really seen him so happy in a long time”
Noah wasn’t sure how to answer that nor if he could even. It was all so strange to listen to her soft voice, almost as if she was tired and yet it was different too, like she was saying one thing but was thinking about something else. He stared at her, seeing the eyes glisten a little and he realized that she had tears in her eyes. He couldn’t understand it as he saw the pain once more showing through but he didn’t feel the fear this time. It was as if she was talking to him but not really, like her mind was elsewhere and she was just stalling, like maybe she wanted to say more but didn’t know how or maybe even what.
The idea that Dakota had been talking about him all week made him feel warm inside too, and it was a glimpse into something he wished he knew more about. Suddenly he felt at ease, almost as if the fear had vanished but he knew it was still there, just that the whole idea of Dakota thinking about him all week was just too much for it. He felt kind of pleased too, and his mind was off on a dream even though it was still wondering what Rosalie wanted from him. Was she maybe trying to see if he cared for Dakota the same way he cared for him? Could it be that or was there something else and he saw her hesitation too, the way she would quickly glance at him and then turn away to stare out from the house. He too turned to stare out, seeing the nights sky grow darker, seeing the first sign of stars glittering and he felt strangely quiet as he sat there with her.
Noah “I really like him, I have never felt this way about someone, it is scary”
He didn’t know why he said it or even if she heard him because she didn’t say anything right away, she just kept staring out at the field and the sky. For a minute or two he wondered if he should say it again but he kept silent, staring out at the sky himself, wondering if she would understand how he felt, if she would object or support how he felt?
Rosalie “I suppose it can be, you do use , don’t you Noah?”
His whole body suddenly grew taut and he felt his heart skip a beat as she asked him, and he felt the sweat start on his forehead as he could feel her eyes on him now. He knew she was staring at him but even though they did use , it still was strange to discuss it with an adult, worse to discus it with Dakota’s mother.
Noah “Yes… he insisted, uh… I mean…”
Rosalie “Good, this, all this is still strange to us Noah, but, you both are so young, it is hard for me or Dakota’s father to quite believe it is how he says, but, he is our only son left, so I want your solemn promise Noah, never, I mean this, never let yourself get too carried away that you or he forget to use , please… will you do that for me? For Dakota?”
There was something in her voice that finally made him summon up the strength to turn and look at her. He saw the pain but he saw something else too, and he wasn’t sure but he thought he saw fear, real fear in her face and it frightened him a little as he felt her take his hand into hers. He could feel her searching his eyes, staring deeply into them and he knew that she meant what she was saying, that somehow they maybe weren’t thrilled about Dakota bringing him home but they cared so much for him that that didn’t matter, as long as he and Dakota were safe.
Noah “Of course, I mean, yes…”
They held each other’s gaze for a few seconds and to Noah it seemed like hours had to have passed, the look was so intense and he could almost believe that she was searching his heart and soul to make sure he was telling her the truth. He had never felt so naked as he did in that second and yet his mind seemed to think he should be frightened but his heart kept telling him there was nothing to fear because he had spoken the truth. He stared back, letting her see his own feelings, feelings that even he hadn’t quite yet focused on or understood but somehow it was like she could read them, could understand them. He waited, his heart pounding or so it seemed but the fear was held back.
She patted his hand, feeling his nervousness and knowing inside that he was frightened of her and of the conversation but she had to do it, she had to know just what kind of boy her son had brought home. The whole day had been unreal to her not to mention the conversation she had with this boy’s mother. How would he react if he knew that his mother had come to her, had sought her out to find out if her son was who she thought he was? Would he bolt or would he face it? Looking into his eyes she knew that he might want to run, but that he wasn’t a coward, that he had more courage inside than maybe he realized but run he wouldn’t do. It gave her some hope too because she knew that ever since Montana had passed away that Dakota had been slipping away, that he had become withdrawn from them all and only this last week had he come close to being the boy she had always thought of. Noah had done that, she could see it now and she silently prayed that it would last, wondering what it was that had made God test them so much?
Her heart was heavy as she thought back to the first news, to that first explosive announcement that had so taken them aback and changed their lives forever. Inside she felt the loss growing and yet as she sat there, as she heard Dakota in the house, she knew that as much as she missed her eldest boy, she would never be without him. He lived on in her other children, in Arizona and in Dakota and maybe in some ways, all that she had gone through had a purpose, what she wasn’t certain but after talking to Noah’s mother, she knew that somehow there was a reason.
Rosalie “Good, I knew you would, and Noah?”
Rosalie “Don’t be afraid to talk, either to Dakota or me if you need to, okay?”
Rosalie “Good, now I understand you boys are going star gazing, don’t forget your jacket, it gets chilly out there, and Noah… remember your promise”
Looking into her eyes he could see that she meant what she had said. He saw the love in there, behind the wall of pain that seemed ever so present around the whole family and he wondered for a moment about it, not sure what to do or say but he knew that at least she wasn’t against him, and that counted for something. He felt a bit easier about it too, remembering how she had told him that Dakota had been talking about him. In a way he didn’t feel so bad now and he felt a sense of hope, that maybe they could get past his fear and his stupidity from earlier, least he was hoping so when he saw Dakota standing at the door, Noah’s jacket and backpack in his hands.
Dakota “Promise what?”
Rosalie “To go easy on you of course”
Rosalie “Yes dear?”
Dakota glanced at Noah and saw a small smile curling around his lips. For a brief moment he wished he could just reach out and kiss him but he couldn’t, well at least he didn’t think he could. He saw the sparkle in his mother’s eyes too and wondered what she had made Noah promise and somehow, he knew that Noah would tell him once they left the house. He kind of had an idea anyhow, his father had already stopped him inside and asked him if he was using protection, and he could see the worry in the man’s tired face. His heart had cried out, as he knew that his father wasn’t comfortable with this whole gay stuff but he also knew that he loved him. He wished things had been different, and he knew too that it was weighing on both of his parents just as it was on him too. Damn he missed Montana but there was nothing he could do about that, and that hurt as much as knowing that his parents were worried about him. It was the last thing he wanted, to add to their worry because he knew how much Montana being sick had cost them.
Dakota “Noah isn’t that type”
Noah “Oh I don’t know, I might surprise you”
Dakota and Rosalie both looked at Noah, a sort of amazement on both their faces as they realized that he was saying one thing, but meaning another. Rosalie had a small smile on her face and for the first time since Dakota had mentioned Noah, she felt a bit easier in her heart about it. She was so worried that he would make a mistake like Montana had, that she had thought about not allowing this weekend, but the look on Dakota’s face, the way it actually shone when he had been speaking about Noah, she couldn’t deny him and it had caused a few tense moments between her and her husband, Gary. In the end they had both agreed to at least meet Noah and take it from there and now, now she felt that maybe it was a good choice. Noah was certainly not what they had expected and then too, neither had his mother been. She still had to figure out how to cope with that and as she watched the two boys head off from the porch, she realized that she and Gary would have to have another of those talks.
She sighed a little, feeling the pressure a bit, knowing that her life had one more complication in it, and that being the mother of a gay teenager was even harder than even she had thought. Her heart was heavy as she glanced heaven wards, wondering if Montana was at least at peace when she felt a tug around her waist and looked down at Arizona’s face.
Arizona “It’ll be okay momma, Noah is nice and he really does like Dakota”
She reached down and patted Arizona’s head and smiled at her. She too had felt Montana’s loss deeply but she adored her remaining brother and besides, she was a pretty good judge of characters too. Her heart felt a bit easier as she glanced back to see the two boys disappear into the gathering dusk, knowing that it would be some time before they returned. She took Arizona by the hand and went back inside, seeing her husband waiting, seeing the concern on his face and she realized that as much as he didn’t still understand the whole gay issue, he loved his children which allowed him to move beyond. He was worried as she ran her hand down his face, smiling at him and together the three of them moved to the sofa to sit down and watch some television, their youngest between them and yet as they sat there, they could feel each other’s fears, doubts and yet for the first time in a long time there was also a sense of peace between them, something they had so desperately been seeking.