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The Talon House

Staking My Claim


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Staking My Claim

Chapter Twenty

by Nick

On August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The moment the bomb landed and detonated, 70,000 people died instantly. Over 60,000 more would die of injuries or illnesses related to the attack that preceded the one on Nagasaki and helped propel the United States and its allies to victory in the Pacific Ocean during World War Two.

In an instant, so many people's lives were shattered. In fact, the number is so astronomical that we may never know the true human toll that was paid when the US dropped the atomic bomb. I've tried to ponder the concept of someone's life coming to such an abrupt end, or someone's world crashing down around them in a split second, but I could never quite grasp it.

I know that comparing what happened when Phillip caught Kyle and I stealing a kiss on my bed to the horrific loss of life on August 6, 1945 would be shallow and insensitive to the people who died. I'm still here, living and breathing, and none of my loved ones were killed that afternoon. Our home is still in tact and I won't have to attend any funerals because Phillip spotted me doing something I shouldn't have done.

But damn, I can definitely relate to their plight a little better.

Because in that one instant, my world was obliterated. Phillip saw Kyle and I kiss, and he was devastated. Jarred saw the looks Phillip and I were exchanging and realized what they were about. Unfortunately, Kyle was able to make his own deduction and knew there was something more going on between Phillip and I than just friendship, and even though he didn't outwardly say so, I could see the hurt look in his eyes, and it tore me up.

Jarred was a dog. He cheated on Phillip with me when I didn't know who Phillip was. I didn't know he had a boyfriend, and I thought we had a chance. Later, when he told me about Phillip, I made my own stupid choices. I made a conscious decision to not only continue my hollow relationship with him, but to try to convince him that I was the one he wanted to be with, and to dump Phillip. I can accept the responsibility for what I did.

Phillip is a little different. I mean, he's never treated me like anything less than a prince. He's written me beautiful poems, serenaded me with love songs, bought me jewelry, taken me out on my first real date and he wanted to dance with me when we were alone. If all of that were the only things that mattered, he'd be a perfect ten in the boyfriend department.

But there was one glaring flaw in his character that I couldn't look past.

He was lying to me the whole time. By telling me to stay closeted to Jarred, he knew he was insuring that he could cheat with me unimpeded. The problem with that, though, is that I was in on his scheme without him even knowing. As deceptive as he was trying to be, I was deliberately helping him along. A moment of weakness for me turned into a feeling I wasn't prepared to deal with, and out of nowhere, I found myself in love with Phillip.

That's why watching him turn to chase after Jarred was so hard. Instead of letting him go and staying behind to find out what was going on between Kyle and I, he took off after Jarred, his desperate voice carrying through the walls of my house as he pleaded for a chance to explain. I heard the sound of my front door slamming, and I knew they were gone.

Trying to face Kyle at that moment was hard. So hard, in fact, that I simply looked away when he said my name. How in the world could he bring himself to speak to me after everything that had just gone down?

"Andrew?" he said quietly as tears I couldn't contain streamed down my cheeks.

"I'm sorry," was all I could muster as I tried to avoid his eyes.

"Don't be," he said sympathetically. I looked over at him and instead of the look of hurt I'd seen just moments before, I saw a look of concern.

"But you don't understand," I explained, and he sighed and shrugged.

"I think I do understand," he said matter of factly. "I'm not worried about that right now, Andrew. I'm worried about you."

In my life, there haven't been a lot of people I could point to and say they were a true blue friend. I mean, yeah, I had been making friends and meeting people in the last few months, mainly thanks to Jarred. But people change best friends like they change clothes, and I really feel like the term is given more stock than it's worth sometimes.

And yet, here was Kyle K, someone who's heart I practically broke just minutes before, and he was still by my side, worrying about my well-being instead of brooding about what just happened. I don't really know what goes into making someone's character turn out to be strong, but whatever it is, Kyle got a lot of it in his life. He was the definition of a real friend. Unfortunately, I was something else entirely.

As I sat there, sobbing and pondering the future of my relationship with Phillip and Jarred and Kyle K, I realized that I was a real a******. I was shallow beyond reproach, I didn't stop to think about the consequence of my actions, short or long range, and I was more interested in what I wanted than how getting it would affect others. Especially Kyle K.

I was about to pour my heart and soul out to him when I heard shouting in the front yard. Kyle and I got up and hastily made our way to my window, where we saw Jarred on his bike, yelling and pointing to my room. Phillip was standing still, looking stunned and even a little hurt. I couldn't quite make out what they were saying, but it didn't look good, especially for me.


Things were quiet, especially for a summer evening. A warm breeze was blowing just strong enough to lift the strands of brown hair from Phillip's head and make them flutter. The somber look on his face matched the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach, and all I could do was wait. Wait for him to speak. Wait for him to drop the bomb on me. Wait for my heart to break all over again.

"Boy, we're something else, aren't we?" he said with a nervous chuckle. I just smiled at him, grateful that he was willing to break the ice between us with some modicum of humor.

"Now what?" I asked, and he took a deep breath.

"Honesty," he said plainly, and I nodded in agreement. "Andrew, Jarred told me about you two."


"He did?" I asked fearfully, and he nodded quietly.

"I guess I have no right to ask why you didn't tell me," he said. All I could do was smile nervously at him and wait for him to continue. "I should have been up front with you, Andrew. You had no way of knowing that Jarred and I were together, but I guess you know now, huh?"


I had to stop and process what he just said, because half of it was right, but the other half....

"I never meant for you to get hurt like this," he went on. "I could go on and on about Jarred cheating on me, but how do I explain myself to you, or to him?"

I knew I had to tell him the truth. There was no way I could let Phillip shoulder the blame for what was going on. He had to know the truth. Otherwise, how could I face myself?

"Wait Phillip, there's more" I started, but he interrupted me by holding his finger to his lips and gently shushing me.

"Andrew, I don't want to know," he said softly with a sad expression that ripped my heart to shreds. "It doesn't matter anymore, does it? I mean, you did the right thing and I didn't. That's all there is to know."

"What do you.." again he cut me off.

"Jarred told me that you broke things off a month ago," he said. "I already know, Andrew. You were faithful to me, at least with him."

With that, I knew he was talking about Kyle and I. I just couldn't figure out what Jarred had told him, and why. Was he trying to hurt him by admitting to cheating? Why wouldn't he have wanted to hurt me too? Especially since I hurt him so badly. I wasn't getting it. I decided to clear the air with Phillip once and for all about Kyle K, then I was going to tell him the truth about Jarred and I.

The whole truth.

"Phillip, Kyle and I never got that far," I said. "We kissed and messed around, but we never did it."

"How did you mess around?" he asked, and I sighed.

"We cuddled and made out, but I barely got him to unbutton his pants once," I admitted. "After that, we decided not to go that far because he wasn't ready for it. You have to believe me."

"I do," he said, his eyes moistening with my confession.

"I want to tell you about me and Jarred," I pleaded, but he shook his head.

"I don't want to know," he repeated, this time with more emphasis. "Andrew, you didn't cheat on me. I'm the one who's cheated. But I want you to know something, and it's important for me to tell you this because I mean it."

"What?" I asked, feeling a little defeated getting more emotional because he wasn't letting me tell him the truth.

"I meant what I said that first night," he said with conviction. "I meant it then, and I mean it now. I want to protect you and take care of you. I really love you and care about you."

I don't know what it was about hearing him say it, but those words made me break down and sob hard. Maybe it was the pressure finally getting to me, or the realization that Phillip still wanted me, but what ever it was, I felt it.

"I love you too, Phillip," I cried, and he wrapped me in his protective arms and held me tight. "Are we still going to be together?"

"Always my love," he practically whispered in my ear.

"What are you going to do about Jarred?" I asked him, and all I heard was a heavy sigh.

"Let's not worry about that right now," he said. "Let's just worry about us."

"But he's hurt," I argued weakly, prompting him to tighten his embrace.

"I'm hurt too," he said quietly. "So are you, Andrew. We have to work this out, but I want to start with you and me, because we're all that matters right now."

"He told you because he wanted to hurt you," I said bitterly. "I should have just told you the truth. I'm so sorry Phillip."

"We can't change what happened," he said introspectively. "What we can control is what happens from here."

"So what happens?" I asked, lifting my head from his shoulder and looking into his moist eyes for an answer I knew he couldn't give me.


"You lied," I said solemnly. All around us were tourists and vendors, walking at a much faster pace. A pace Jarred and I seemed to be impeding as we strolled slowly down the boardwalk. The sounds of music being played by Indy groups were accompanied by the smell of beer, grilling meat and oddly enough, popcorn.

"I know," he said, a tinge of regret in his tone. "I did it for you, though."

"Why?" I almost demanded.

"You don't get it, do you?" he said, shaking his head at me almost in disgust.

"No," I answered him plainly.

"You must really think I'm a total piece of s**t, Andrew," he said, his voice dripping with contempt. "I don't know where the problem between us started, but you've completely changed. You know, I'm a person with feelings, just like you."

"Jarred, don't start with me," I interrupted, but he turned on a dime and pointed his finger at me impatiently.

"Let me finish," he snapped, then his expression softened and his shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry."

I didn't answer him. Instead, I just walked silently along side him and listened to his explanation.

"Ever since that time you ran away," he started sadly. "You've been treating me like the enemy. What did I do to you that was so horrible? Is it because I told your parents where you were?"

"You wouldn't help me," I said bitterly.

"Help you do what?" he asked incredulously. "Run away? Stay hidden from your mom and dad? Your mom and dad, Andrew."

"You know why I ran away," I told him, and he laughed sarcastically.

"Yeah, I do," he countered. "You know something, you're in f****** dreamland about your parents, dude. You have no idea how lucky you are. Do you really think anyone else's mom and dad would let their boyfriend spend the night in their room with the f****** door closed? Give me a break, dude."

All I could do was sigh and let him go on with his rant. I mean, he might have had a point about my parents being okay with me being gay and having Jarred and Phillip spend the night, but he had no idea about what led to me leaving that day. As far as I was concerned, he was out of line, but I didn't speak up. Instead, I just let him keep going.

"Andrew, I did what I knew was right," he said. "You might not think so, but sometimes I wonder about you. It's like all you think about is yourself. Your mom was on our phone, crying. She was crying, Andrew. What would you have done?"

"I don't know," I mumbled, willing to concede that much. Until that moment, I had no idea about my mom being reduced to tears.

"Dude, you might not feel this way about me, but I'm being honest with you right now," he said. "I happen to care about you a lot. And this might sound weird, but I care about your mom and dad too. You have no idea what it was like for me to see them that way."

"Really?" I asked, and he just rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"You don't have the first clue, do you?" he spat. "There are people in this world who care about you, Andrew. Not just your mom and dad, either. I mean, if you don't get it by now, maybe you never will."

"I get it," I protested, and Jarred just looked at me sadly and shook his head.

"If you get it, why would you have to ask why I lied to Phillip?" he asked quietly. "I lied because no matter what happens, I want you as a friend. I want you and Phillip to be friends, too. Do you think he'd still consider you his friend or whatever you guys are if he knew everything?"

"He lied to me too," I said, prompting Jarred to give me a stare of disbelief.

"He might have lied, but you knew what the truth was," he told me matter of factly. "There's no way you can say you were a victim, Andrew."

"I know," I admitted.

"Andrew, I still love you," he said, stopping to look me in the eyes. "Not just as a friend, either. I think you know that, though. This isn't me hitting on you, or trying to be with you. I'm just being honest with you."

"I still love you too, Jarred," I confessed. "I always have."

"But you love Phillip," he said quietly, finishing what I had started to say. All I could do was nod slowly and look away. "I understand."

"I know you're still going to see him," I said, a feeling of despair sweeping through me because I was well aware that what I was saying was true. "You were never going to break up with him when we were together, and he's not going to break up with you, either."

"I don't know what Phillip wants to do," he replied. "I haven't seen him or talked to him yet."

"You don't have anything to worry about," I said truthfully, and once again, I knew I was on the outside looking in, waiting for my turn at true love.



That was something I'd felt so many times the year before, when nobody knew it. My mom and dad were letting me claim some independence and decided to trust me to stay home all day by myself while they drove down to Nags Head, North Carolina for the day. I would sit at home and think about all the things I could be doing if I had friends to do them with.

That's when I had to face my reality. The reality that I was pretty much out of the social circles at my school that everyone wanted to be in. That I was starting high school without a lot of friends, and no one to really call a best friend. I liked boys but was afraid of telling anyone. Even if I did want people at school to know, who would I have told? My friends in Boy Scouts? The people who sat at the same table I did at lunch? I couldn't see it happening.

It was during those Saturdays and Sundays that I would curl up on the couch with a blanket and the remote, trying to sort out the hurt feelings I had but not knowing how. I didn't understand why my parents would want to leave me all alone and what I was supposed to do. I know they didn't do it intentionally, and had they known how it made me feel, they wouldn't have done it at all. But I also knew that they wanted me to make friends, to become a social being.

I met Jarred by chance one day in front of a Food Lion. I had volunteered to sell tins of popcorn for my troop, and when we made eye contact, he smiled at me and walked over. From that moment forward, I knew, all of my lonely days were behind me. The time I spent with him gave me the confidence I needed to branch out and make friends, and I was able to see for the first time that people liked me for me. Not because I was in the same troop as they were in scouts, or because of the house I lived in that was right on the beach.

It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

Maybe I was just being impatient, or maybe it was the events of the day before. Whatever it was, I was feeling terribly lonely from the moment I woke up. I came downstairs without getting myself ready and found the remote, then I took my familiar spot at the end of the couch and curled my legs up so the reality that I was alone could grip me all over again. So I could sort out the feelings of hurt and inadequacy I felt. Just the day before, I was laying in Phillip's arms, being loved and pampered, and now I was all alone again. Maybe I deserved as much.

I think that's what was so disappointing. Jarred was right about me, and almost everything he said was true. Of course, him telling me I didn't have a clue was the pot calling the kettle black, but that's besides the point. My reality was and always had been that I was selfish and uncaring. I didn't stop to take Kyle K's feelings into account before I let things go as far as they did. I sure as hell didn't think about Jarred when I started sleeping with Phillip. None of that should have come as a surprise to me, though, based on how I acted when I was with Jarred. Still, it did, and maybe that's what was getting to me. I was so wrapped up in my own selfish motives that I couldn't see who I was hurting and how much damage I was actually doing.

Phillip was right. I never cheated on him. Jarred was right. I knew Phillip was lying, and I was not the victim. Jarred was as honest with me as I could expect him to be, I guess. He didn't tell me up front, but ultimately, his conscious made him tell me what was happening. Not to hurt me, but to do the right thing. And yet, I was able to reason in my head that it would be fine to keep sleeping with him.

I didn't deserve Jarred or Phillip, and now I could see it. Of course, being able to see something for what it is doesn't make it any easier to accept.

I don't know how I managed, but somehow, I didn't shed a tear that morning. Instead, I sat quietly alone and collected my thoughts so I could try to sort things out. I had so many questions, and so many things were uncertain that I had no idea what was going to happen next. Curiously, though, a knock at my door made things a lot clearer.

I got up and walked guardedly to the front door, slowly opening it. I blinked when I saw who it was, but in reality, I shouldn't have been so shocked. In fact, I guess I should have expected it.

"Hey Andrew," Kyle K said timidly with his hands in his pockets. "I'm sorry if I woke you up."

"You didn't," I said, opening the door the rest of the way so he could come in. I know my appearance must have been a bit of a shock to him, and maybe that's why he thought he'd stirred me from a slumber. My hair was a mess and I was still in my boxers and tee-shirt. I used my fingers to rub the sleep from my eyes and blushed, feeling embarrassed for answering the door in such a disheveled state. I closed the door and excused myself so I could get myself together.

Ten minutes later I was downstairs, sitting on the couch with Kyle K, pouring my heart out to him about Jarred, Phillip and my feelings for him.

"I never meant to hurt you, Kyle," I pleaded. "I never meant to hurt anyone."

"I know you didn't," he said with a sad smile. "I guess I kinda pushed myself on you, though."

"I didn't feel that way," I told him. "I liked it. You didn't know what was going on with me and Phillip."

"I was pretty shocked," he said. "I mean, him and Fedina have been together for a long time."

"What?" I asked, giving him a sideways look. "How did you know?"

"Well dude it's so obvious," he said. "We all know. We just don't say anything because it seems like they don't want anyone to know."

"You mean Kyle knows too?" I asked, and he rolled his eyes as if it were the most obvious fact in the world.

"We've all been close since we were this high," he said, holding his hand at knee level. "You can't keep something like that a secret from the people who really know you."

"I guess they'll always be together," I muttered bitterly. A little too bitterly, I think.

"You still want to be with Phillip?" he asked, sounding a little hurt.

"I don't know what I want," I admitted. "I just want to be with someone who wants to be with me with no strings attached. No boyfriend on the side, no one he's cheating with and no lies."

With that, he sat back and looked at me incredulously. A moment later, his incredulous stare turned into a sweet smile. A moment after that, his sweet smile turned into a shy smile.

"There's already someone like that who wants to be with you," he told me in a small voice, and like a ton of bricks, it hit me.


"Hey retard!" Phillip shouted, holding his hands up in a fruitless attempt to shield his face from the forceful spray of water that Jarred had turned on him. "You're supposed to be watering the damn rose bush, not spraying me with the hose."

"It's not like you're going to melt," Jarred countered, turning the hose on himself by holding it directly over his head and letting the water soak him from top to bottom.

From where Kyle and I were sitting, all was well. The slow moving swing perfectly matched our sleepy mood. He was resting his head on my shoulder, and I had wrapped my right arm around him, enjoying the feeling of his warm breath against my neck. I reached out with my left hand and used it to run my fingers through his blonde mop, then I leaned over and planted a kiss on his soft, moist, pouty lips, eliciting a sigh from him as our lips parted. I could feel his left hand moving up and down my bare back and the palm of his right hand making its way in a circular motion over the entire area of my torso.

"Are you spending the night?" he asked seductively, zeroing in on my left nipple with his fingertip and rubbing it lightly before looking up at me for an answer.

"Yes," I answered, planting another kiss on his lips with a smile. How could I resist his charms? All he had to do was ask, and I was willing to give him what he wanted. Of course, I knew his seductive tone was just a ruse. We wouldn't do much more than cuddle, kiss and explore each others bodies with our hands, but I played along with it anyway. It was fun, and hey, I could dream, couldn't I?

I won't get into the intricacies of exactly how I manage to maintain a sex free relationship with Kyle K. It's not important, and in reality, revealing those secrets would only open old wounds and possibly, some new ones as well. I'm not an angel. Neither are my friends, and we don't have to be. Well, there's a very real possibility that Kyle knows how I get by. But I like to think he doesn't. He's not stupid, though, and he knows I have needs that have to be sated.

Will there ever come a time when Kyle decides he's ready to take care of those needs? I hope so, because I want that more than anything. I know he does too, but neither one of us is rushing to get to that point. He'll get there when he gets there, and when he does, I'll be there waiting for him. Until then......


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