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The Talon House

Staking My Claim


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Anger. Frustration. Betrayal.

Those were the emotions charging the air as Phillip, Jarred and I sat across from each other at the Cassiante's dining room table. The glare was unforgiving as we sat still in silence, almost guardedly. I felt as if Phillip and I were boxed in, and there was no escaping the truth. We were going to have to deal with the treachery that we were facing head on.

On one side of me sat Phillip, the one person who I felt cared about me more than anyone in the world. On the other side of me sat the one person I was determined not to forgive for the way he treated me. For the way he betrayed my sense of being. For the way he made me feel when I was at my lowest point.

Sitting at a table with Phillip, Jarred, Mr. Cassiante and my parents wasn't what I thought our day had in store for us when I woke up in Phillip's arms that morning. We were about to take turns in the shower, then ride to Jarred's for the day when our plans changed. Jarred called and told Phillip he'd meet us and to wait for him. Neither one of us thought anything of it at the time. It all seemed innocent enough, and even though Jarred had been on my case about calling my folks and at least letting them know I was okay, I never thought he'd rat me out.

There was no denying his role in leading my parents to Phillip's house, and there was no way to deny the truth to Mr. Cassiante when the three of them showed up together.

"Andrew, you ran away?" he asked in a shocked tone that was hinted with a little sadness. Then he turned to Phillip and added, "Phillip, you helped him?"

We both nodded in silence and looked away from him. I felt especially guilty because Mr. and Mrs. Cassiante had been nothing but cordial to me over the five days I had been sleeping over. Phillip introduced me as a friend and they warmly opened their home to me. Phillip's little sister, Sabrina, was great too, and spending time in his house was enough to make me realize all I had missed out on by not having a little brother or sister of my own.

My mom and dad looked relieved when they laid their eyes on me, and to be honest, I was grateful in a small way that they found me. I was getting more and more homesick by the day. And for all of my bitterness, there was nothing I wanted more than to reconcile with my mom and dad. The first thing they did was wrap me in a long hug that I didn't think would ever end, then they looked me over as if they were taking inventory of me. Making sure that I was still in tact and hadn't injured myself or gotten sick.

I felt a little bad for Jarred. He was standing by, watching our reunion with a warm smile, but when we made eye contact, I made sure that I gave him the nastiest sneer I could muster. Phillip was glaring at him too, and I could feel the tension building between them. If we'd have had the chance to be alone with Jarred for just a few minutes, he would have been on the receiving end of our verbal wrath.

Of course, my parents and Mr. Cassiante were making him out to be some kind of hero, but I wasn't singing him any praises. If he was looking for a way to make sure that the two of us never had sex again, he found it. I swore to myself at that moment that I'd never forgive him for giving me up to my folks, and that he'd never get a piece of my a** again. I was dedicating myself to Phillip exclusively, I decided, and Jarred could go to Hell as far as I was concerned.

"Son, I want you to know how disappointed I am," Mr. Cassiante said with a quiet sigh, addressing Phillip. "I know you were trying to do the right thing, but helping Andrew run away from home wasn't the right thing."

"But dad, Mr. Stout beat him," he said defensively, and my dad gawked.

"That's not true," my mom interrupted. "If that's what Andrew told you, he was exaggerating. Yes, my husband squeezed his arm and grabbed his chin, but he did not beat anyone."

"He shouldn't be putting his hands on him at all," Phillip snapped, and almost instantly, Mr. Cassiante snapped his fingers and pointed his finger at him in one fluid motion that grabbed his attention and shut him up.

"That's enough out of you," he said tersely. "You can not like something someone does, but you won't talk that way to Mr. Stout or any other adult. Do you understand me?"

"Yes sir," Phillip said quietly, looking down ashamedly.

"Phillip, you're right," my dad said matter of factly. "I shouldn't have put my hands on Andrew at all, especially when I was so angry. It's never happened before, and all I can do now is promise that it won't happen again."

"Son, not everyone does things how we do them," Mr. Cassiante said, still addressing Phillip. "We have to respect that other families have different ideas. Mr. And Mrs. Stout have been worried sick about their son for almost a week, and the whole time, we've had him here. You should have talked to your mother and I, and we could have stepped in from the start. Instead, Andrew's parents have had to worry and wonder about Andrew's welfare, and you're grounded. I hope the two of you have learned a lesson."

I felt so guilty. There was nothing I could do to change what happened, and I knew that Phillip was being punished for my actions. I closed my eyes and let out a breath when Mr. Cassiante grounded Phillip, then I wondered what my own future held. I was grounded when I snuck out, so I was sure that I would at least have to serve that sentence. I looked over at Jarred and flashed him another glare for good measure, and he couldn't meet my eyes.

The ride home was awkward to say the least. My mom and dad offered Jarred a ride home, but he declined, which was probably the smartest thing he could have done. If he'd have accepted, I would have told him off as soon as we were in the car, regardless of what my parents would say. I didn't want to disrespect Mr. Cassiante, or make things any worse for Phillip, so I held it all in. But I swore that as soon as I had the chance, I was going to lay into Jarred for what he did.

I sat quietly in the back seat as my dad drove us home. Not a word was spoken in the car, and I had a feeling that it was because of what was said at the Cassiante's table. My dad was still dealing with the guilt I knew he felt for manhandling me, and my parents were still dealing with the shock of my decision to run off. I had my cell phone with me the whole time, and would turn it on occasionally, but I left it off for the most part because I didn't want to have to deal with ignoring their calls. I purposely didn't check my voice mail or read my text messages because I would've been way too homesick to be able to stay away.

We pulled into the garage and my dad popped the trunk from inside before he even turned the car off. He took my bike out of the trunk while my mom and I stood by and watched, then he grabbed my backpack and slung it over his shoulder before he closed the trunk. We followed him through the door, and as soon as I was inside, the familiar smell of new carpet and fresh herbs hit my nose, and I knew I was home. I looked around at the brightly lit kitchen and breathed a small sigh of relief, then I took in the sight of the Atlantic Ocean through the double Dutch glass doors in the dining room and noticed that there was a new plant hanging on our patio.

I'd lived in that house for fifteen years. There were a few things that had changed over time, like the accent wall my mom painted in the living room, and the new cupboards in the kitchen. We had new carpet laid in the living room and in our bedrooms a couple of times, but besides that, the place I always called home remained the same.

I had memories in every room of our house that went all the way back to when I was a toddler. I think I can even remember being in diapers in my earliest memories, but no matter how old I was, there was one constant, our home. The times I spent in that house with my parents, or with friends, were timeless. Like a solid oak tree that never comes down, I could always look to the walls of our home and relive a thousand precious moments that would always be with me.

But there was something different this time. I felt like a stranger. Like I wasn't welcome. I'd never felt that way before, and I knew my parents didn't feel that way at all, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I had been away too long and that it wasn't okay to make myself at home.

I knew I was being silly, but the insecure feeling I had wouldn't go away. I put my hands in my pockets and looked away from my mom and dad, who were surveying my every move at the moment, and a new feeling swept over me.


It was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. At least, not with my mom and dad. I mean, they'd always taught me to be open and honest about everything, and I always was. There was nothing taboo in our family, and I mean nothing. When I was little and I did something bad, I was corrected but my mom and dad wouldn't make me feel bad about anything.

That's what made coming out to them so simple. I could talk to them about anything, and they were always there to listen to me and to let me know how loved I was. When they caught Jarred in my room, they were open minded enough to not only understand, but to help me spend more time with him by letting him sleep over and taking us to Busch Gardens.

But as I stood in their presence for the first time in almost a week, I felt extremely self-conscious. I didn't know what to say to them, and I honestly felt like the only right thing to do at that point was to apologize and then leave again. Of course, I knew that wasn't an option, and I hated feeling that way, but for the first time in my life, I had no idea what to say to my parents. Luckily, they broke the ice for me.

"Andrew, honey, let's go sit down," my mom said, grabbing my arm and leading me to the living room. My dad set my backpack on the floor and followed right behind us, resting his hand on my shoulder as we walked.

The walk from the kitchen to the living room is actually only about ten or eleven yards, but it seemed to go on forever. The contact my parents were making with me, though, was comforting and helping me to relax a little as I contemplated what we'd talk about. Actually, I knew what we'd be talking about, but I didn't know how it was going to play out. Were they going to ground me again? How long would it be? Would I be allowed to see Phillip anymore?

I took the spot between my mom and dad, the way I always had before, and quietly soaked up the nurturing touch of my mothers arm as she wrapped it around my back and gave me a gentle squeeze. I rested my head on her shoulder for a moment, but not too long. I still felt a little unsure about what was going to happen, and I didn't want to coax myself into thinking that everything was just going to be okay because I was home and we were enjoying a close moment. Still, I was enjoying the moment.

I felt my dad put his hand on my right shoulder and give it a light massage, then he spoke.

"Andrew, I want you to know that mom and I aren't mad at you," he said gently.

"You aren't?" I asked quietly, lifting my head from my mom's shoulder to look his way. He shook his head and smiled sadly at me, his eyes moistening, so I smiled back.

"No, we aren't," he answered. "But son, you can't just run off like that. We thought something had happened to you, kiddo. We called the police and filed a missing persons report."

"Why?" I asked. "You knew why I left."

"Son, do you understand that we didn't know where you were?" he asked incredulously. "We couldn't get a hold of you on your cell and you weren't calling us either. We had no idea what to think."

I felt like such a jerk when I realized what they'd been going through all week. I looked into my dad's eyes and I saw a man who was under a lot of stress, and that was definitely something I wasn't accustomed to. In fact, I had no recollection whatsoever of him ever looking so weary and emotionally spent, and it dawned on me that I had really screwed up. As the reality of what they were suffering through started to hit me, I started to tear up and my nose started to run.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly, more ashamed of myself than I was when we first got home. I felt my mom's arms tighten around my back and the side of her head resting gently against my back, and at the same time, my dad cupped both of my cheeks and leaned forward, pressing his lips to my forehead as tears started to stream down his cheeks. He let go of my cheeks and wrapped both of his arms around me, pulling me toward him for a tight hug. My mom never let go of me. Instead, she held on tightly and moved over so that my dad could hug me as tightly as he wanted to.

"Andrew, promise that you'll never scare us like that again," my mom said gently from behind me. "I don't think we could go on living if anything ever happened to you. Do you understand me?"

"I promise," I said, still sniffling but enjoying the closeness and affection I was sharing with my mom and dad after not seeing them for five days. "I just didn't know what else to do. I've never seen dad that mad at me before."

"Son, I know what I did," he said, his voice still cracking with emotion as he stroked the top of my head with one hand. "It was wrong, and I'll never be able to make up for it. I know that. But running away isn't the answer, either."

"I know it isn't," I sniffled into his chest. "I missed you guys and I wanted to come home."

"Then why didn't you?" my mom asked, as if it were the simplest solution in the world.

"Because I was worried that you'd be mad," I confessed. "I didn't want you to get angry like before."

I felt my mom reach around and lightly stroke my cheek with the back of her hand, and I closed my eyes and thought about how stupid what I just said sounded. In an instant, I knew that there was no way they were still as angry at me, and that if I had just talked to my dad the next morning like he was trying to get me to do, things would have been just fine. Instead, I stomped around and said hateful, hurtful things that I knew would tear him apart, and I did it to get revenge.

I felt my dad release his embrace and sit up, but he kept his hands on my shoulders, rubbing their tops and smiling sadly at me as he took a deep breath. He had a thoughtful look on his face, and I knew he was looking for a good way to approach what he wanted to say. Finally, he let go of my shoulders and spoke.

"Son, do you understand what you did wrong?" he asked. "I mean, do you know why I grounded you and why I sent you to your room the next day?"

"I know I said some mean things to you," I admitted. "But I didn't think I deserved to be grounded and sent to my room."

"Honey, when you break the rules, there's going to be consequences," my mom interjected, letting go of her embrace as well and sitting straight up. "That's a part of life we all have to deal with. You have rules at home and at school, and daddy and I have rules at home and at work. If we don't follow them, we have to face consequences too."

"But you guys didn't even ask why I was late," I muttered, and my dad sighed and looked at my mom, who nodded.

"Okay, Andrew," he said. "Why don't we start over, then. Why were you late the other night?"

"Because I couldn't find Jarred," I said dejectedly. "We were at a party at our friend Kyle's house, then Phillip showed up, and they disappeared together."

"Jarred and Phillip?" my mom asked, and I nodded sadly.

"I see," my dad said quietly. "Did you think they were doing something they shouldn't have been?"

"Well, in a way," I answered. "Phillip's been gone all summer to band camp, and he just got home. Him and Jarred missed each other, and I got jealous."

"What do you mean, they missed each other?" my mom retorted, and I looked up at her guiltily and then down at my feet.

"They're together," I admitted in a small voice. "They have been for almost a year."

"What?" my dad said in disbelief. "You mean this whole time Jarred's had a boyfriend?"

I nodded and looked away, a little ashamed of my roll in helping Jarred cheat on Phillip, but my dad wasn't finished.

"So what in the world were you doing at Phillip's house, son?"

All I could do at that point was start from the beginning, telling my parents all about meeting up with Jarred and Phillip, then spending the day with them, how close the two of us became, and how good he was to me.

"So I take it he doesn't know about you and Jarred," my mom said pointedly, and I shook my head.

"I'm not with Jarred anymore," I said. "I don't want to hurt Phillip. He's probably my best friend in whole world, and if he knew about me and Jarred, he'd never forgive me."

"You aren't with Jarred?" my mom pressed.

"No," I said. "I guess we were never really together, but I cared about him a lot. He kept saying that he wanted to break up with Phillip. Now I see why he didn't."

"And that would be?" my mom said expectantly.

"Because he's probably the best person in the whole world," I said with conviction. "He just loves everyone, and he cares about people. Unlike Jarred."

"Buddy, I know you're mad at Jarred right now," my dad said. "But you know what? He did the right thing, and I'm grateful for that."

"He probably only did it because he was scared I was going to push up on Phillip," I said bitterly. "He doesn't even know that Phillip and I are out of the closet to each other."

"Why wouldn't he know that?" my mom asked.

"Because he doesn't want Phillip to know I'm gay," I said. "He think's that if he finds out, he'll figure out what happened."

"But you came out to Phillip anyway?" she asked.

"Yeah," I confirmed. "He's my best friend, and I couldn't keep that from him. I had to tell him that Jarred doesn't know, though. He promised to keep it to himself."

"So what about you and Phillip?" my mom asked knowingly, and I took a deep breath, considered my options, and decided that there was only one thing I could do.

"I like him," I confessed.

"That's it?" she pressed, and all I could do was shrug my shoulders and look back down.


All things considered, I got off fairly easy. I wasn't grounded anymore, but my parents insisted that I not go anywhere that day. The talk we had on the couch gave me the affirmation that I needed to get myself re-acclimated with my life at home. It also gave me the confidence and security that I had before our explosion that I could go to them anytime with anything, and that they wouldn't over react or judge me.

I spent the remainder of the morning on the couch with my mom and dad, letting them in on the intimate details of the Cassiante household and talking about my friendship with Phillip.

"Is he allowed to come over?" I asked a little warily.

"Of course he is, son," my dad said. "But I want you to think about everything we just talked about. Is it right to keep something from him that could cause him a lot of pain? The sooner you level with him, the better he'll take it."

"I don't think he'll take it good, dad," I said. "I don't ever want him to find out the truth."

As the morning turned to afternoon, I found myself upstairs in my room. I kicked my shoes off and laid down on my bed, glad to be back home. I looked up at the ceiling and thought about the whirlwind five days I had, and I had to take a deep breath and exhale slowly, especially when I thought about Jarred and Phillip.

I knew that my parents were probably a little disappointed that I said I wasn't going to level with Phillip, but what else could I do? I mean, in reality, he was keeping a huge secret from me too, and he was cheating on Jarred. Well, as far as I knew he was cheating on Jarred. After what happened that morning, though, I had to wonder if they'd still be a couple.

Something told me that I already knew the answer to that question. Just as sure as Jarred would always go back to Phillip after he and I were together in the past, I knew that Phillip wouldn't be able to resist Jarred's charms, even if his personality was beginning to leave a lot to be desired. Jarred had a lot of other things going for him that I couldn't really place a finger on if I had to be specific, but there were quite a few things I could point to as his strong points.

First and foremost was his hotness. He had a perfect body and a gorgeous face. His teeth were perfect and his clothes were always crisp. He always looked like he was fresh out of the shower, too.

Second was his ability to spit game. He had a way with words that I could never approach, and he couldn't be faded. Just when you think you've caught on to his bullshit, he drops a line that can hook anyone. Combine that with his beautiful smile, and it's a killer combination.

Finally, he was a stallion in bed. Take away his looks, his gift of gab and his icy gear, and he's still got a big dick and the ability to use it to make me holler his name over and over again with no effort. He's also a very considerate lover, which gives him bonus points in the stallion department.

It was easy for me to see why Phillip would go back to him. In fact, just thinking about the nights I spent in his arms, in my bed, letting him give me orgasm after sweet orgasm was starting to overwhelm me, and I had to think about something else.

Unfortunately, as I turned my cell phone on to see how many times my parents had called while I was away, I realized that getting Jarred off of my mind was going to be easier said than done. Because as soon as I turned my phone back on and started to scroll through my text messages, the familiar strings of Jarred's ring tone filled my ears as my phone lit up, letting me know that he wasn't going to make staying away from him easy.

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