Chapter 1: Fratty First Years
Hello! Thank you for choosing to read this. Please be aware that there are some detailed descriptions of anxiety within this book and that mental health is a topic discussed, as well as bullying.
Also know that this is the first draft and so far there are certain things I'm aware of, such as my constant change between American English and British English, amongst other things which will be edited once I complete the book.
Part 1 "Straight Boys Don’t Kiss Boys Like That"
Plug in earphones, ignore everyone but also attend scandalous frat parties, drizzle girls all over me like syrup on pancakes and earn the ‘Fuckboy’ title, and my secret’s safe. I can breathe.
“Tommy,” Mum turns in the driver’s seat to face me, giving me a small smile. “It’s going to be okay. Head up.”
“Head down,” I say and glance out of the window. Leah, my little sister, and Dad stand outside the car, pleasantly distracted by the campus’ idyllic exterior. It’s much more sightly than my high school back in Georgia.
“Darling,” Mum sighs, “We’re going to be six hours away. I need to know that you’re going to be okay. Oh, God, I’m leaving my boy in Florida,” she laughs sadly to herself.
I unbuckle my seatbelt and reassure her, “I’ll be alright.”
“You pray, my child,” she leans over to kiss my cheek just as Dad opens up the luggage compartment.
“Tommy, get your ass out and help me.”
“There are nicer ways to tell Tommy to do something,” Mum scolds Dad. I can’t help but grin. They’ll never hit rock bottom - never again, at least - barely scrape six feet deep. They couldn’t love each other any better. I sometimes refer to them as Prince Charming and Snow White from Once Upon a Time. I’ve been born into a fairy tale.
“Do I not throw ass in my every sentence to Tommy? How will I get him to actually listen? For fuck’s sake.”
I’m conflicted. I love my Dad for accepting me no matter what, but he’s filter-less and bold and in dire need of holy water more than I am.
“Alex! Goddammit! Say hindquarters or rear end and for goodness’ sake! We did not give birth to Leah or Tommy to raise them around that kind of language!”
“You say ‘we’ figuratively because I don’t recall doing the ‘giving birth’ part,” Dad snorts, pulling out one of the stacked boxes. “I shouldn’t be the concern anyway, but Tommy hasn’t brought anyone home, neither will he until the holidays and if he even finds anyone, so I can’t necessarily blame Leah saying ‘fuck’ on him.” I’m. Right. Here.
“Leah! Punch your father for me!”
“Ow! F- I swear I wasn’t going to swear. Fudge! Really?” Dad flicks his middle finger at Mum, out of Leah’s view.
For such a certifiable family, I think I’ve come out considerably healthy mentally. Well, not so much to homophobic anuses, but in the light of day, I’m certainly the one that appears relatively average.
I swing the car door open, choosing my sanity over their fake hate dispute. Next thing I know, they’re acting all hearts and unicorns again like real high school sweethearts.
Eventually, the few boxes and my suitcase are out. Hauling them up to my dorm room, I engage in random chatter with Leah, leaving Mum and Dad to discuss with strong opinions my choice in college now that they’ve finally spent the money to travel here and see it. They’re proud; this place is well kept. Whatever peeling paint on the walls from leaked water there could have been has been coated over with a crisp white, and there are helpful posters everywhere.
“Son, you’ve picked a good one... Disregarding the three hundred motherfu...fudging, I was going to say mother-fudging ...plus miles between us,” Dad beams sarcastically, setting down the two boxes in his arms.
“Nice save,” Mum smiles but shakes her head at the same time. “Tommy,” she turns to me, “Reckon your roommate has arrived yet?”
I push down the handle of my suitcase and reach out to turn the doorknob but it’s locked. I pull out the keys I was given, unlocking it and kicking it open. “Nope.”
“Hey,” Mum flicks the back of my head. “Treat this property good. Talking about rooms, I can’t guarantee you that Luke won’t go homeless and come running back home to steal your room. That boy rarely gets to work on time.”
I groan, taking my suitcase into the room and flopping down on one of the beds, uncaring of which one I’d later rather prefer. “Luke can have it. I plan to work whilst I’m here and get an apartment when I finish.”
“Tommy,” Leah bounces over to me. “Will you come and visit us?”
“Of course, little one,” I hug her close, “During the holidays, not every weekend, okay?” She nods her head sadly. “I’ll bring you gifts when I do,” I pinch her cheek. She smiles brightly, her attention moving to the desk by the window which she starts to climb.
“Dad, Mum,” I look up at them, getting up. “This is where you let me become a man.”
Dad breaks out in laughter. “A man,” he snorts, opening his arms wide and pulling me in. “You will always be my boy. Don’t jump fences.” He shoves my face into his shoulder, “And Leah will always be my little girl. I wonder how I’m going to tell her she’s not becoming a woman thirteen years down the line when she’s in your position...”
“You don’t,” Mum pats his back. “Baby, come give me a kiss.”
“I accept ‘boy’, not ‘baby’,” I pull back from Dad, leaning over to give her a hug instead, getting her kisses plastered on my forehead, cheeks and nose. It’s not like I’m on the other side of the world...
“Oh, shut it. I’ll never stop calling you that,” she hugs me tighter.
“I’ll give you a call at some point let you know how everything’s going. Love you, Mum,” I pull back. “Love you, Dad.”
Getting them to leave proves to be like untying knotted knots that are super glued together. I’d enjoy the protracted period of having them company if I didn’t have numerous boxes and my suitcase to unpack. When they do leave, I get in under the covers I unroll and toss onto the bed, and snooze the remaining late afternoon away.
Phantom of the dorms will be my alias to students walking across the extensive campus grounds and catching sight of me staring out the window blankly. Scouting the grounds for homophobic faces to avoid isn’t my ideal cup of coffee the first day on campus, as in I’d rather be finding the cheapest coffee shop nearby, but it’s a necessity even though some faces from here look like tiny peas. Judging the way people look, I don’t get a kick out of either, but I can’t exactly go up to every single student and ask them if ‘rainbow’ is a good look or not.
I sieve through the people, coming to stare down a group of guys with their schedules in their hands. Frat boys, a definite red flag. They don’t seem like first years, but the way they can’t take their eyes off college girls who have completed a year plus and counting screams ‘Fratty First Years’.
I jolt at the unexpected feeling of an arm around my shoulders. Pet peeve one: strangers touching me.
“Introductions out of the way, I’m Aiden. Thanks for saving the better bed for me, that’s very kind. Just in advance, I’m letting you know I snore loudly, tend to disappear and also tend to have guests over when I haven’t disappeared. I’m sort of a hot spot.”
I kindly take his arm off me, giving him a tight smile when I finally look at him. Sometimes I think that when people touch me, they can feel the homosexuality. It’s a juvenile thought, but being bullied for years on end for being gay when I never came out evokes such a notion.
“Tommy,” I don’t reach out my hand. Pet peeve two: greeting new people. I turn back to the window, looking out. The same group of frat boys have stopped, discussing a matter that clearly winds up the majority of them. Except for one guy who’s evidently amused, perhaps exultant that he’s receiving free entertainment. I realise he’s the one who’s pissed them off.
Aiden looks out to see what I’m so intrigued by. “Frat boys? Are you going to become one? I wouldn’t.”
“You seem like one,” I comment.
“Insulting,” he spits then leaves my side to empty his own boxes out. It’s unnerving that I was so trapped in my mind, searching the expanse of campus, obsessed with pinpointing homophobes for my own benefit later, that I didn’t notice him enter.
I continue to watch the group of frat boys, constantly finding myself gazing at the same guy. He must feel me staring because he looks around - Spot the Difference between campus on a Tommy-less day and on a Tommy-full day - and locates me. From afar, I can’t read his expression well, but I’m not too far away to have his face etched into my mind for the evening.
The rest of the frat boys start to continue their walk off campus, but he lingers behind for a few seconds extra, eyes on me until he’s getting called by them. They try to see what he’s looking at, but I elude their stares by subtly moving away from the window. They look like the type to be packed with homophobia. I’m not taking that risk.