I woke up on November 1st to sunlight streaming into the room, but it wasn’t my room. I lifted my eyes and saw Ryker sleeping next to me. His eyelids were closed, hiding his beautiful green eyes. His breathing was slow, deep, and quiet. His glasses were messily placed on his bedside table from the night before. He was still in his long black sweater with the hood down, black tight jeans that definitely weren’t made to sleep in, and black leather dress shoes were skewed on the bedside’s floor. I was glad it was Saturday otherwise we would have “dead-walked” through today’s classes.
I was still tired after nine hours of sleep, Ryker felt much the same which was evident by his still sleeping. I reached over and moved a bang off his forehead, he looked so peaceful sleeping and normal. If you showed me pictures of the people who got picked on in high school to anyone you’d probably have a hard time pinpointing these people as the ones who got picked but when you were giving all the details, all the “reasons” they could have been bullied, it may have become more evident.
In the end, though, it didn’t mean they deserved it. If anything, they deserved it less. I slipped out of the bed slowly and quietly and went down to the third floor to retrieve some new clothes. Everyone was still passed out, I was glad for that, too. I took my extra clothes and went back upstairs to Ryker’s room. He was still sleeping. I went into his bathroom and stripped out of my Neal Caffrey suit so I could have a shower. I closed the door so the sound of the shower was less likely to wake him and got in.
I stood under the warm water and washed myself clean. I got out fifteen minutes later, I threw on a tie-dye gray hoodie and some black jeans. I combed my hair back and exited the bathroom.
Ryker was sitting on the edge of his bed, he’d changed his clothes. He was in black Adidas shorts and a navy-blue shirt wearing his glasses.
“Good morning,” I said smiling.
I put my clothes near my fedora and shoes so I remembered to bring them all back to my room later. I sit down beside him and he leans against me.
“I wish I didn’t have to go back to school on Monday,” he murmured.
I had to go home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks, we had a week off or from the 21st to the 29th. Maybe he could come with me. My family and best friend would want me to be home for the holiday. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind me bringing Ryker home. It was another matter if we were going to tell them we were just friends or more.
“We get a week off in a few weeks, do you maybe want to come home with me?” I ask taking his hand.
“I don’t want to take time with your family away,” he replies shaking his head.
“I’m sure they’d love to have you. I don’t think it’s good to leave you here alone for a week,” I answer. “I can call them and ask.”
He looked worried, “What if they think I’m crazy?” he asks.
“We don’t have to tell them about that if you don’t want to. It’s not necessary information,” I continue.
“At the end of the day, you’re not dangerous or a freak. And I like you, I have feelings for you, Ryker,” I continue. “They might have to learn to like you if I do.”
“What if they already know? What if they know who I am? My mother’s death was all over the news, and it’s not exactly a secret that I hear music coming from people,” he replies.
“Then, they have to get to know you, like I did. Like Mr. Yaw, Ezra and Maya did,” I remind him. “I’ll call them and ask, you can have some time to think about it, okay?”
“Okay,” he replies.
We spent that weekend walking around town together. Exploring shops and parks. We snuck back by the light of the moon, running and holding hands until we reached the front gate of the school and slipped inside. We ran across the fields to the dorms and inside the stairwell. Ryker leaned against a wall once we were inside to catch his breath. I approached him putting my forearm against the wall above his head and leaning in to kiss him. I felt Ryker freeze as his lips met mine at first before his hands moved to cup my face and he kisses me back hard despite the public place. I smile widely when I lean away.
“It’s late, I’ll see you tomorrow,” I murmur in his ear before standing up straight.
“Good night,” he bid.
I walked up to the stairs to the third floor and exited the stairwell waving to Ryker one last time. I went into my room and texted my mother to ask her if Ryker could come home with me for Thanksgiving.
Can I bring a friend home for Thanksgiving? I asked.
Doesn’t their family want to see them? She asks.
What was I supposed to tell her? I felt like it was a bit of an invasion of privacy to spill all of Ryker’s secrets to her.
Not exactly. I reply.
Why don’t they want them home for the week? She asks.
They just don’t have the best relationship. I answer.
What’s their name? She asks.
His name’s Ryker. I answer honestly.
Maybe we can invite him for Christmas. We can talk about it when you come home for Thanksgiving. She replies.
Why not now? I question.
I didn’t want to sound desperate either.
We’ve never met him, I’d like to learn more about him before I invite him into our home. She reasons.
I guess that was a valid reason. Ryker hadn’t wanted to invade the space but I still wish I wasn’t leaving him here alone by himself.
Okay. I reply.
Goodnight, Porter. Love you. My mother texts.
Goodnight. I reply.
I told Ryker the next morning, he didn’t seem phased. I was still saddened by it but he seemed pretty understanding about it.
“Maybe you should call Ezra? You said you were getting along before you left. Maybe you could spend the week with him,” I reason.
“I’ll be fine, Porter. Mr. Yaw’s not going home for the holidays either. I’ll probably just spend my time with him and continue to practice the piano. I’ll be waiting for you when you get back, I promise, okay?” he replies.
“Right,” I reply.
When I thought about it, he said he didn’t go home for the holidays. So, he’d spent three Thanksgivings here, three Christmases, and three summers. What did he even do during the summer? Did the school really allow him to stay here for two months? I guess if his father wouldn’t come pick him up there wasn’t much they could do. Or maybe they were in the boat of he deserves it for being abnormal.
No one deserves to spend the holidays alone. Especially, not Ryker.
The 21st of November arrived sooner than I wanted it to. Maya was going home to see her family, too. The three of us waited on the sidewalk curb of Copper Cove Academy, me for my parents and Maya for her’s and Ryker was with us so he could say goodbye to us.
Maya’s parents were supposed to arrive at 10:00 am and my parents were coming at 12:00 pm. Julian and Greg had been picked up at 9:00 pm by their families the previous day so at least we weren’t going to be bothered while waiting. Kristen was sitting down the block with a suitcase waiting with two other girls.
Maya was watching her.
Mr. Yaw and Coach Gerald came out of the school gates, they had volunteered to watch us until all the parents had picked up the kids who were going home for Thanksgiving. They carried boxes of chalk. I felt like I was back in elementary school where we’d sit out on the blacktop at the back of our school and draw with chalk during recess. Mr. Yaw and Coach Gerald sat on a bench watching the 30+ kids who were waiting for their parents.
Ryker took up a purple stick of chalk and began tracing musical notes along the sidewalk. Maya took up a blue stick and started drawing a snowman.
“Don’t do that,” Ryker commented, “You’re basically asking for it to snow,” he jokes.
She smiles, “I think I’m over the warm weather, I’m ready for Christmas and winter.”
“You won’t say that in a few months when it’s 33 degrees Fahrenheit,” he replies.
She continued to draw her snowman and hills of snows and snowflakes around it.
Kristen was looking this way now, watching Maya laugh with Ryker, it was like she was jealous, like she was the only one Maya was supposed to laugh with.
I took the box of chalk and started round lines in different colors until I had a full rainbow. Maya added some hearts around it and smiled at me. Mr. Yaw and Coach Gerald were watching. Mr. Yaw smiled, too.
Maya’s parents arrived at ten to eleven, she hugged us goodbye, loaded her suitcase into the back with her backpack into the trunk and got in the back of the car. Kristen’s parents came soon after. The other two girls had left forty-five minutes before leaving just me, Ryker, Mr. Yaw, and Coach Gerald on the curb waiting.
I took my chalk-dusted hands and poked Ryker’s face getting chalk dust on his cheek.
“Hey, stop,” he said laughing and moving away.
I smiled and laughed, too, and reached towards him again. That was when I saw my parents’ car down the road. My father, Oliver Hollow, was driving, most people, including my mother, called him “Oli”. My mother, Harriet Hollow sat in the passenger seat. I had inherited my father’s dark hair and eyes, but my mother’s pale skin. They pulled up next to me and the others.
“Hey, son. You ready to go?” my father asks as he pulls up to the curb with the window down.
“Sure,” I reply smiling.
I was happy to see them after having not seen them for almost three months.
I turned and picked up my things and carried them to the trunk and opened it, putting them inside. I closed the trunk and went back over to Ryker. I hugged him, which I think shocked him a bit because we were in a public setting but he returned it eventually and fixed his chalk covered glasses after I pulled away touching his hand as I did.
“I’ll see you next Sunday, okay?” I whispered quietly.
“Right, bye, Porter,” he bid.
I really wanted to kiss him but I knew he wouldn’t go for that in this public setting. I turned back to the car.
“Hold on a minute, I forgot something,” I tell them and nod back inside the gate of the school to Ryker. I go and he follows me a minute later.
“What did you forget?” he asks as he follows me out of sight of my parents and the teachers.
I lean in gripping his arms and kiss him goodbye.
“That,” I whisper pulling away smiling.
“See you on Sunday,” I continue.
He blushes and follows me back to the gate and waves goodbye as I get in the car and drive away from the school.
“So, tell us about this Ryker kid. Was that him?” my father starts.
“He’s a good person, he plays the piano. He’s accepted me,” I start quietly glancing back even though the school is out of sight. “Not a lot of people have done that both in the past and here at the new school.”
“Are they bullying you again?” my mother questions sounding a little annoyed. “Do we need to move you again?”
“No, I’m fine where I am. I think it will be the same no matter where I go, I have him, though, and a few others. I’m…happy,” I answer.
“That’s great, son. But your mother and I want to talk to you about something, okay?” my father starts.
“Sure, what is it?” I ask.
“We’ll do it when we get home,” my mother told my father quietly.
She seemed worried, “In case he needs some time alone to think about it.”
“Right,” my father replies.
I had grown up in Lexington, Nebraska for the past fifteen years of my life before moving to Copper Cove Academy in Blue Hill, Nebraska an hour and forty minutes away.
We drove in quiet. I was nervous. I wondered what they wanted to talk about. Did they know who Ryker was? When we arrived my best friend, Hilana, was texting asking me when I was getting there. She was excited to see me after being told she had to brave our old high school halls alone for the next two years. Hilana like her name suggested was a bright spot full of light when things weren’t going so well. She was like the little sister I’d always wanted.
Supportive, loving, and trustworthy. I came out to her when I was fourteen. I remember being so confused in the time before and unsure who to talk to, about the feelings I was having, so we made a pact before I told her that she couldn’t judge me for whatever I told her. I had always shared my secrets with her so this wasn’t anything new.
When we arrived, I carried my things inside and down the hall to my room. I went back to see what my parents wanted to talk about. They were both sat on the couch looking uncertain and nervous. They told me to take a seat.
“So, honey, listen, um…we meant to tell you this sooner but then the bullying incidents happened and we didn’t want to put more weight on you when you were already struggling. But, we love you, you know that. No matter where you come from or who you are,” my mother starts.
I don’t think this has anything to do with Ryker.
“What your mother is trying to say is, when you were little we learned we couldn’t have children, we tried different things, several different things but in the end, we ended up choosing adoption. We went to an adoption agency and ended up meeting a bunch of kids and babies looking for the one we felt was right and would fit into our family. We adopted you, Porter,” my father explained.
Maybe this was another reason they didn’t want me to bring Ryker home, but honestly, I just wanted to drive back to the school and cry in his arms. This was a lot.
“What, what do you know about my biological parents?” I ask slowly.
“Not much I’m afraid, you were dropped off at the adoption center when you were a year old, you had a name tag on you with your name but not much else. If you want to try and find your biological parents, we’ll try and help you but we don’t have much to go on,” my mother replies.
I felt lost. Everything I thought I knew seemed gone. I wasn’t related to the people who’d raised me and who I called family.
“Can I go see Hilana now?” I ask quietly.
“Of course, honey. Be back by six,” my mother spoke quietly rubbing my knee. I got up and stepped outside the front door and texted Hilana everything, she showed up on her bike not ten minutes later. I was never so glad she just lived a block over. She dumped the bike on the lawn and ran and hugged me. Both out of joy after not seeing me for three months and to comfort me.
“It’s shocking how much you look like them though,” she replied honestly.
We’d walked to a nearby park and we're sitting on some swings.
“They said I was one, it was a like they knew from my conception they didn’t want me, they held onto me for a year and then gave me up,” I reply.
“Maybe that shows they tried to care for you. That they really wanted to raise you as their own but they weren’t able to,” she reasoned. “They love you, you know that, right? They’re good people.”
“I guess, I just want to know why,” I reply. “Why I was given up.”
“You have time to find out,” she reassured me.
“How’s the new school?” she asks changing the subject and I’m glad she does.
“It’s school, the people are a bit better at least,” I reply.
“Have you made any friends?” she asks swinging back and forth slowly as I sit still.
“I met someone,” I reply quietly.
“A boy?” she asks excitedly. “Tell me about him. Can I see pictures?”
I pull out my phone and pull up the pictures of the three of us from Halloween. I show her one where Ryker and I are sitting against the school building with the sun setting behind us, me in my Neal Caffrey suit, and him in his Pied Piper outfit.
“He’s so cute, do your parents know? What are his hobbies?” she continues to question.
“I wanted to bring him home to meet them for Thanksgiving because he was going to stay at the Academy otherwise but then this happened. So, no. He’s a beautiful piano player, he’s been teaching me, I don’t know if I’m any good though,” I reply honestly.
“He’s not going to care that you are, kind of, an orphan?” she asks.
“That’s probably the least of his worries, he’s been through a lot,” I reply quietly. “He was a lot like me when I was here before he met me. He’s bisexual though so, in a way, every time he was called the f-word or gay he probably kind of felt like part of him was being erased or ignored.”
“I’m proud and happy for you,” she replies. “My big brother finally got a date.”
“He’s also older than me,” I continue.
“He’s a twelfth grader?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I reply.
“He’s so small though,” she continues.
“He’s the same height as you,” I reply.
“What is he doing after he graduates?” she asks.
“He doesn’t know, he doesn’t really want to go back home though. He might go live with his brother if they can get back in contact,” I reply.
“He’s not going to an art school on some fancy scholarship? You said he played the piano beautifully, can I see?” she continues.
“He doesn’t really like the spotlight,” I reply bringing up the video I took of Ryker playing “I’m Already There” by Lonestar.
I hit play and Ryker’s fingers slowly start moving across the keys and then he starts singing quietly.
“He should be signed to a record label,” Hilana replies quietly watching Ryker play.
“That was the song he was playing when I first met him, it really is beautiful,” I continue.
“I wish I could listen to him perform live,” she added.
“My parents said I might be able to bring him home for Christmas, maybe I’ll get him to bring his keyboard and he can do it then,” I answer.
I got a text from Ryker then.
How’s home going? He asked.
We’d exchanged numbers in the beginning but living in such close proximity didn’t really use them. Now being a hundred miles away from each other it was really useful.
“Is that him?” she questions.
“Yeah,” I reply smiling.
I told Ryker about Hilana, how we met, and our friendship. So, we took a picture together, smiling and I sent it to him, captioned ‘Hanging with Hilana’.
“When are you going to tell him?” Hilana asks.
“Probably later tonight,” I reply.
I finished texting Ryker and I and Hilana hung out for a while longer before I went home for dinner. I ate with my parents, which was a bit awkward, and then went upstairs to rest and tell Ryker I was adopted.