“How was group therapy,” my mom asked.
I turned to her, and I didn’t even want to get into how the session was. I turned and looked out the window. I just stared at the trees as they were passing by. I couldn’t look at my mom once again. She had been the one that found me lying there in the bathtub. It made sense because she was the one that made a comment on a family’s friend post about being pro conversion therapy.
I looked at her. “Does it even matter?” I asked.
She looked at me with a curious expression. “What do you mean?”
“Mom, you really need to block me on social media if you’re going to keep liking posts by family and friends for conversion therapy,” I said. I had walked out of the therapy session when I saw that she liked another post about it. It talked about how much the liberal media was against conversion therapy, but conservatives were trying to save homosexual souls.
“I’m trying to get a hold of you being gay. I know that it’s not going to change my views overnight, but I’m trying for you. I don’t want there to be another relapse. I know it hasn’t been an easy couple of weeks.”
I knew my parents were trying. I knew they were living double lives, but I wanted nothing more than for them to be proud of me. Maybe they were hoping I would take the lead, and I would come out to the world. Maybe I would have gotten the strength if Gabe hadn’t taken my rock away from me.
“It’s a shame that Gabe never came to anyone about his feelings. You would have thought he would have opened up to you or any of his friends,” my mom said.
“He was a horrible human being, and no one should be surprised what he was capable of. I wish someone had stopped him sooner.”
“You can’t hold this anger in your heart because of him. Yes, it was tragic that you lost Colby, but you need to forgive him eventually.” We were in the driveway of our house when she finished her statement.
I looked at her once more. “I’m not even talking about the shooting, mom.” I opened the door and walked towards the house. I had the words stuck in my head from my last conversation with Gabe. “You can’t keep this secret anymore. The whole world is going to figure it out.” I had those words on repeat over and over again.
I got into my room and locked the door. I walked over to the bed and sat on it. I felt my whole-body vibrating at the thought of Gabe possibly going through with his threat. I felt my anxiety taking over. I opened my nightstand and pulled out a razor. I put it to my wrist. I closed my eyes, and I took a deep breath.
An image of Colby came to my mind. I knew that this wasn’t what he would have wanted for me. He would have wanted me to be happy, but I couldn’t be without him being in my life.
I opened my eyes and I saw Gabe standing there smirking at me. “Having fun?” he asked.
I stood up. “Go fuck yourself. Shouldn’t you be busy burning in the pits of hell right now?”
He shrugged. “My next appointment in the pits of hell isn’t in another hour or so. I got some time to kill,” he chuckled. “Get it? I killed people including your boyfriend.”
I wished nothing more than to punch him right in the face right there. “I hate you with all my being. I watched the police officers shoot you to death. I watched the life slowly leave your eyes, and I felt no sympathy when it happened.”
He clapped. “Finally, I get to see some anger from you. I haven’t seen this much since the night before.”
“I had a right to be angry for what you did to me, or what you were going to do to me. I saw you as my friend, and you would do something like that to me.”
He shrugged. “It’s called blackmail. You should realize that no one was going to stop me.”
I shook my head. “And I thought you wouldn’t have done it. I just assumed these were just angry words that you were trying to get out of your heart.”
“I guess they weren’t just words, but I knew you weren’t going to say anything. We both were two punching bags, until we’ve had enough, and we punch back. Too bad, I know your punching back is you punching yourself.” He walked toward the door and opened it. “Maybe you could use your other wrist for matching scars. Have fun knowing you’re always going to be a coward, and you won’t ever use your voice. Lane, you’re so pathetic, and I have no clue what Colby saw in you. That was what shocked me the most when I found out about you two.” He didn’t give me a chance to respond before he slammed the door.
I stood there motionless. I knew that all four of us felt guilty for what Gabe did to the school, but I was the one that felt the most. I was the one that found his plans. I was the one that could have told the truth to the world. I could have stopped all of this, but I was too scared he was going to expose me and Colby. I wasn’t ready to come out to the world, and people died for it. Gabe wasn’t the only one that should be rotting in hell, but then again, maybe this was my hell.
I didn’t really want to be here, but Jarele wanted to come out. We both had to start moving on with our lives, and I couldn’t be at home right now with my parents.
I took a sip of my drink, and I looked at everyone drinking and enjoying themselves. It was quite nice that we were starting to move forward with our lives. I knew that in the back of our minds that we couldn’t fully move forward, but we could at least try.
I saw Ben talking to a girl named Lisa. She was a sophomore. He always used one of his corny pick-up lines, and it usually worked. He looked over and saw me sitting alone. Jarele had gone to talk to his friend. There was only so much we could talk about before we eventually ended up on Angela.
Ben said something to the girl and came to sit next to me. “It’s not good sitting alone in the corner of a party.”
I chuckled and turned to him. “I just needed some alone time after that lovely therapy session today. I just wish we could put this all behind us.” I knew that there was no way we could. I knew the country would forget about us or they already have. We were just another name added to a long list of shootings. We didn’t have the news cameras in our faces anymore. The news had gone on to another tragedy, and we were waiting for another school shooting, so we didn’t need to be the latest one.
“You know that no one around us will let us forget about what happened. You know they all give us an awkward glance,” Ben said.
“They’ve always been staring at you. You’re the rich, hot, and popular guy. No one can mess with Ben.”
He turned to me. “And no one would dare forget about Cass. She’s got style, beauty, and grace. Any man would be lucky to be with you. And they would worship the ground you walked on.”
The last sentence stung me because I might have been desired by many, but no one truly valued me. Jarele made that very clear. I forced a smile while taking a sip of my drink. I hoped the vodka would help ease the pain in my voice.
I saw the girl staring this way. “You might want to get back to her. She might suspect something.” I just wanted him to leave me alone. He was good friends with Jarele. Shit, he was the one that set us up, and I didn’t want to disappoint Ben. I didn’t think anyone did. We all wanted to be these perfect people for him, and we just didn’t want to tarnish our image in front of him.
He said his goodbyes to me and walked over to talk to the girl again. Jarele came over a second later. He kissed me on the cheek. “Why are you sitting over here?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I’m just tired. I just needed a moment to myself. It’s been a very exhausting week.”
He nodded. I hated how much I despised him right now. but how much I needed him. too. He was always the person I went to when I needed anything. He betrayed me, but he lifted me up too many times. I wished I had the strength to walk away from him. It was why I looked at schools nearby because I couldn’t be far from him.
He stood up. “Let’s dance.”
I leaned back and looked at him. “You do know there isn’t any music playing, and we aren’t in a romantic comedy.”
He waved me off. “We don’t need music. I want to dance with you. People are already staring at you, but let’s give them something nice to talk about.”
I chuckled and rolled my eyes. You’re such an idiot.” I stood up. “But I wouldn’t want you any other way.” It was a lie, but this was a sweet moment between us.
We stood up and started dancing around. I could see people looking at us, but it wasn’t the first time we just danced around the room at a party. Jarele knew when I was stressed or upset, and he knew dancing made me feel better. He knew that all I wanted was for us to be in a bubble just him and I.
We danced for a couple of minutes. I turned and I saw Angela’s friends looking at us. I saw them whispering, and I knew what they were thinking. This was no longer just Jarele and I. We could never dance in the middle of the room anymore with me thinking it was our little bubble. It had burst and anyone could invade.
He kissed me on the lips, and I laid my head on his shoulder. I let my tears fall with quiet cries because at the end of the day, the man I was dancing with was a con artist. This was all an act, and I knew he wasn’t the man I fell in love with. I feared that I never knew him, and I wondered if I could ever forgive myself for giving up my strength and power to a man that gave me one simple hug on one of my darkest days.
coming of age