Richard's Redemption

Chapter 5

It's Saturday... Valentine's Day. I wake up from yet another dream of Todd... I've had them every night since that first one... only to find Todd smirking at me as I once again toss my pajamas into the laundry hamper. “Spirit of the season getting to you, Cameron?” he asks sarcastically. “Why not just admit you're a mortal like the rest of us, and whack off before you go to bed? It'll save you the money for the extra laundry.” It's the first time he's spoken to me since Neil died.

I can feel my face burning, of course, the more so because he is the object of my dreams. But I can hear the hurt in his voice, and I understand that kind of pain... the pain that makes you want to lash out at anyone and anything, because there's nothing that can be done anymore to take the pain away, and all you can do is try to make sure you're not the only one hurting. I swallow nervously and mumble out, “Uh... yeah... maybe I will.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Todd looking a little puzzled by my response. I think he expected me to get mad and reply with something equally sarcastic. I hurry to get dressed. As a Welton Society candidate, I'm one of the ones expected to greet the girls arriving from out of state, guests of Welton students up for the Valentine's Ball. I eat breakfast hastily, then join the line of other Welton Society candidates to await the arrivals and show them to the guest hall. I find it somewhat amusing that the system is set up like this... that a fellow isn't allowed to greet his own date. But I suppose the administration worries about what might happen if a fellow was to bring his own date to her bedroom. With most of them, they'd be right to worry.

After three hours, I've carried four suitcases and three dress bags belonging to four young ladies upstairs... a Miss Marjorie Prescott insists on carrying her own dress, claiming that it was “bad luck” for a man other than her date to touch it before the start of the dance. I know from her chatter that she's here as the guest of one of the seniors, so maybe she's hoping he'll propose to her at the dance tonight or something. I think she's rather silly, but at least it isn't me she's trying to sink her manicured nails into. However, she does promise me a dance for being “so understanding” about the dress thing.

The rate of arrivals slows dramatically as lunch hour approaches. Dr. Hager dismisses half of the reception committee to go eat, admonishing them to hurry and return so the rest of us can also eat. I'm with the group that remains on duty for now. But only two more cars pull up before the others return, so Dr. Hager tells the rest of us not to bother returning after we eat. According to his list, there are only two more arrivals expected.

I eat quickly and wander down to the lake, wanting to be alone for a while. I wonder, not for the first time, if I might have been different if I hadn't been stuck with Chet Danburry as a roommate back when I started at Welton. I had cried, my first night here, because I was only twelve and homesick. I'd tried to hide it, but Chet noticed anyway. But he didn't ignore me or try to comfort me. He hit me, calling me a sissy and a mama's boy, and then told me if I cried again, he'd tell the headmaster that I was a fairy and get me kicked out of school. Back then, I didn't know what he meant by that, but I knew my parents were so pleased that I'd been accepted to Welton that I didn't want to disappoint them by getting expelled. So I learned to control my tears and hide my fears. And when I realized a couple years later that I indeed was... the way I am... I learned to hide that, too. I rest my chin on my knees, looking out over the lake.

Queer. Fag. Fairy. The other way. Homosexual. It's funny, the stereotypes that go along with those words. Men who prefer men are supposed to be small, thin, and limp-wristed, and walk with mincing steps and talk with a lisp. And they're all supposed to be in theater or fashion design. I've been trying to hide it from myself for two years now, trying to make myself believe that I'd grow into liking girls eventually. Trying to pretend I'm normal. After all, I don't mince when I walk. I don't lisp. My handshake is as firm as anyone's. I enjoy watching the occasional play, but I've never wanted to act in one, and I certainly am not itching to design clothes. I am normal.

Except for one small detail. I am also queer. I remain by the lake until the bell rings the half-hour warning for dinner.


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