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The Talon House

Bodega Bay


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Bodega Bay

Chapter Thirty

by Nick

I pedaled as hard as I could down the sidewalk, my overstuffed backpack in tow. I was in a different neighborhood, but one not too far from where I lived. The surroundings weren't exactly familiar, but they intrigued me as I hung a hard right and rode up a long, quiet residential block. When I say I rode up it, I mean I was literally riding up hill.

I had to get away. I needed time. Time to think about things. Everything. My conscious was betraying my sense of logic. I knew it could all be simple, but there was no way I could just leave things the way they were. My dad knew something was up, but he wasn't demanding that I give him any information.

As I took the steep hill that I knew would lead me to a quiet park, I realized that the hill I was on was more than an obstacle on my way to a final destination I was trying to reach. It was a metaphor that I could compare my life too. Just when I thought the road had leveled out and I was on level ground, something would have to happen to send me to the bottom of the grade, and it was up to me to struggle to get myself back to the top.

This time, though, I knew I was bringing this all on myself. There was a way to make it all go away, I knew. I could just ignore my memories and act like nothing was the matter. I could just forget what really happened that day. The day Mr. Kessler did something unspeakable to my little brother and me. The day I followed his example.

I was in a state of bliss that afternoon. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was abusing my little brother because Mr. Kessler made it look like it was normal. I knew it was something I shouldn't have done, but I thought it was okay because an adult was encouraging it, and who would know? I didn't plan on telling my dad because I knew he wouldn't approve, but what did he know?

He wasn't there, I reasoned, and he didn't know how special it felt when Mr. Kessler tickled me down there. He didn't understand how special it felt to help my little brother feel the same way. He couldn't understand, I knew, because he wasn't as cool as Mr. Kessler was. When my dad showed up that day to pick my brother up, I put what we had done in the back of my head, and my little brother and I had a silent understanding between us that we weren't going to say anything.

That day when I got home, I went upstairs and went to the bathroom, did my homework, and went out to run my route. Everything was normal, and I didn't give what we had done a second thought. When I got home from my route, I ate dinner with my mom, did the dishes and got ready for bed.

That was it, though.

As if it never happened, I hid the memory of what happened and didn't give it a second thought. When my stepmom called and said I wasn't allowed to visit anymore and why, I didn't understand. The incident with Mr. Kessler never crossed my mind, and I was confused and devastated that they would accuse me of doing anything to hurt my little brother. When I came out to my mom that night, I did it with a clear conscious. How could I have not known the truth?

When I made it to the top of the hill, I moved to the side of the road and let a couple of cars pass me by, then I coasted along a downgrade that ended at the park I was trying to get to. No one would think to find me there, and I needed to be alone. I needed to think. I needed to sort everything out and make a plan.

Actually, I had one, but it wasn't the brightest one I'd ever come up with. Still, I halfway went through with it. My backpack was stuffed with clothes and my mind was almost made up to call my dad on my Sidekick and tell him the truth, then head west again, like I had last time. Maybe this time I could make it to Bodega Bay, or maybe I could at least get to Pleasant Hill and hide out at Mark's.

I wasn't exactly sure how to get there from where I was, but I could follow signs. Also, I reasoned, it would give me the chance to take my bike over Kirker Pass Hill, something I'd been dreaming about doing since I got to Pittsburg when my grandparents picked me up at George and Patricia's.

I sighed when I thought about George. How would he feel about me if he knew what had happened? He and Patricia basically rescued me from my life, and the whole time, I was the violator of his son. Of course, now things had gotten even more complicated than that. Even assuming that nothing had happened, I wondered how he'd feel if he knew about my relationship with Mark. Would he hate me if he found out? Was he going to hate me when he found out the truth about my little brother? It was a certainty that if my dad knew, he'd tell my stepmom and she'd tell George.

That would be it. Not only would George hate me, but I was sure Patricia would too. Then the whole truth would come out and Mark would know. How could I expect him to want to be with me after he found out what I did to his brother? To my brother. I laid my bike down on the grass and sat next to it, using my backpack as an armrest to lean against as I contemplated my next move.

I was boxed in a corner, and I knew it. There was nowhere to run, except to the unknown. But I was scared. My life had finally come around and I had gotten a taste of the life I longed to live. Now, in the blink of an eye, it was in jeopardy. All of it, as long as I was honest with my dad.

Of course, I reasoned, there was always the option to lie.

Who was I kidding? Lying wasn't an option. Not for me. Not about this. I looked at my bike and took note of how the sunlight glistened off of the chrome. I had just shined it up a couple of days earlier and it looked great. I could see a warped reflection of my face looking back at me that made my mind wander to a different time.

Usually, on a Tuesday afternoon in Modesto, I'd have been running my route. I would have been stopping to pick up my customers and making sure I only made the stops that were scheduled along the way. I had a few riders I had invented in my mind that I made rare exceptions for, and I would make a special stop to let them out along the way. But normally I was by the book, only stopping where there was a sign that indicated that we were at a bus stop.

When I stood up and slid my backpack over my shoulders, I had tears in my eyes. Still, I stayed strong and climbed on my bike to take care of my business.


My route that night took me all the way down Buchanan Ave, almost into Antioch. I dipped down Loveridge, Harbor and Railroad Avenue occasionally, but I was running a dedicated route that night and I wasn't going to be pulled away from it. When my phone started to ring at 5:30 I got nervous, especially because I knew it was Justin. "Dude, where the hell are you?" he asked, sounding a little confused. "We've been waiting for like an hour for you."

"I'm just riding my bike," I answered forlornly. I didn't have the heart to tell him I was contemplating running away because then I'd have to tell him why, and I was desperate for him not to know what I did.

"Mark's going to have to go home in a little while," he said. "Here, talk to him."

Before I could tell him no, my boyfriend was on the other end and I was at a loss for what to say.

"Babe is everything okay?" he asked in the same confused tone as Justin, but there was a hint of concern in his tone as well.

"Yeah I just needed to get out of my house for while," I said, knowing that I had most likely complicated things. "I think me and my dad are going to be fighting tonight."

"Well why didn't you come over here, babe?" he asked, and I winced. There was no way I could face Mark at that moment and I knew it.

"I didn't want him to know where I was," I said, not lying but not being totally truthful either.

"Kevin what's going on?" he demanded. "Are you in some kind of trouble?"

"I'll be okay," was all I said, then with a small sob, I added, "I love you, Mark."

"I love you too, babe," he said, sounding troubled.

"I'll call you when I can," I said and hung up before he could get another word in. I turned my phone off and looked forward, determined to burn up enough of my evening as I could on my route. As I got closer to Somerset Rd in Antioch, I turned around and headed back toward home. I made a quick right on a street that would take me through an entire neighborhood of houses called Ventura Drive, and as I made my way down the road, I looked around and wondered to myself if anyone else felt the way I did.

I had a longing in my heart to be one of the kids I saw playing in their yards. They were shooting hoops with their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. They were happy and confident in their lives, seemingly not a care in the world. Their mom's weren't in love with convicts or child molesters. Their dads stayed with their moms and made their family whole. They didn't have secrets they were hiding from their loved ones that would tear everyone apart.

I could smell spaghetti sauce cooking in someone's kitchen, and I wondered who it was. I imagined to myself that it was probably in a home with a lot of love and a lot of security. They didn't have any doubts about what was next in their lives because they were a strong, loving family that didn't have terrible secrets.

As I rode through the line of houses with well-manicured yards and happy families, I saw one house that was dark. A boy was walking up to it and he didn't look excited about being there. In fact he looked nervous, and I wondered what was waiting on the other side of the door for him. I hoped it was nothing terrible, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was.

I knew that nervousness well. It's something that you can will yourself to forget about at some point during your day, but eventually, you have to face it because it revisits you every time you put your key in the hole and turn it. The only certainty about what's waiting on the other side is uncertainty, and more often that not, when the unknown becomes the known, it's too terrifying to face. Still, you make the best of it because it's all you have. The option to leave, to face the unknown, seems even more terrifying than the uncertainty you face at home. Because at least you have a place to call home. Someone to call mom. Someone to love you, even if that love is tainted by a mental illness that prevents the one you love from loving you the right way. When Ventura finally ended, I was back on Harbor Street, looking at Buchanan Park and Hillview Junior High School. I swallowed and took a deep breath, then I stood up and pedaled the rest of the way home. I had something to do, and it wasn't going to be easy. Still, it was the right thing for me to do, and I'd face the consequences of it with my chin out and my head up.

It was all I could do.


When I got home my dad was sitting on the front porch with a sullen expression. When he spotted me he stood up but didn't say a word. Instead, he silently followed me through the opened garage door and waited for me to get off of my bike. When I had my bike put away, he pressed the button on the wall and the garage door came down. I watched as the rubber seal at the bottom pushed out from the pressure of the huge door that rested on it, and I felt like I was watching my fate.


I took my backpack off and turned to face my dad, who was definitely aware of its contents. He motioned with his finger for me to hand it to him, then he cleared his throat as he set it on his work bench and unzipped it to confirm what we both knew. As a rolled up pair of socks tumbled out, he nodded slowly and picked it up, stuffing it back in and zipping my bag back up.

"Let's go inside son," he said sadly, turning and walking up the small set of steps that led us to the kitchen of our home. I followed him without a word and took note of the fact that he held the door open for me and waited for me to pass, then he closed it and locked it before he walked into the dining room, where a cold platter of fried chicken, mash potatoes, gravy and green beans sat untouched. He sat my backpack on a chair at the table, then he pulled my regular chair out for me. I took a seat and watched as he took a seat in his regular spot. When he was seated, he looked across the table at me, narrowing his eyes on mine and locking me in a stare I couldn't escape.

"Why, Kevin?" was all he said, his voice cracking with emotion. I looked at him and shook my head silently as tears rolled down my cheeks, not sure what to say. I knew why, but I didn't know how to say why. Finally I gulped and broke my silence.

"It's hard," was all I could think to say. Was that it? Was that why I ran away? I didn't have too long to ponder the thought because my dad was quick with a reply.

"What's hard, son?" he asked. "What have I done to make things so hard that you'd want to run away?"

"You believed me," I said, and that was it. At least I thought that was it, but my dad didn't quite grasp what I was trying to say.

"What do you mean, I believed you?" he demanded.

"I mean, you finally believed me," I said tearfully. "You know what I mean."

"I see," he said as he sat back in his chair, his eyes moistening. "Is that all?"

"I'm sorry dad," I sobbed, knowing that this was the moment of truth. His reaction was all I cared about, and at that moment, as I looked into his eyes, which were misty and full of raw, gritty emotion, I thought back on everything my dad had walked away from for me.

I'll never know what my dad saw in my stepmom. In fact, I'll never know what he saw in my own mother. I had a real distaste in my mouth every time I mentioned her name. Whenever my dad talked on the phone with her, I would shudder in disgust at the thought of the possibility that they could ever work things out. But I knew he loved her. He loved my little brother, too. The kid wasn't even his own flesh and blood, but when he looked at pictures we had in our house of him, there was a look of deep love and loss that I couldn't relate to, except for how I felt about my mom. But my dad walked away from the life he had built with them to stand by me. He had to hate me now. I just knew it.

Even worse, their divorce was final. It had happened at some point when I wasn't paying attention. He mentioned it in passing, but I shrugged it off and considered it a dead issue because I didn't care. I was glad she was gone, and I was secretly hoping that soon, all of the pictures in our house of my little brother would come down too. It made things hard for my dad, and in a way, it made things awkward when Mark would come over and see them.

"Kevin, tell me what happened," he said in a surprisingly calm voice. I wiped my eyes and looked across the table at him, realizing that the emotion in his eyes looked even stronger than just a moment before. There was something different about it this time, though, and I knew what it was.

It was powerful. The look of love he had in his eyes was like nothing I had ever experienced from him in my life. I thought that I'd seen its height when I came out to him, but that was nothing compared to what I was witnessing right then. It was as if I was able to draw the strength I needed to be brave and truthful with him about what happened. So I started from the beginning and told him everything.


Hurt. Betrayal. Time wasted.

Those were the words that could accurately describe the vibes in the air as I sat side by side with my dad. He was in total shock, I know. I was too, though, and I was having a hard time verbalizing my feelings. I couldn't believe things had gone the way they had. Then again, looking back, the writing had been on the wall for quite a while.

Across the room, Mark, Justin and his brother were sitting motionless, in the same state of unspeakable horror my dad and I were in. It was unfathomable to us all that we would have been a witness to such a sad scenario, but there it was, right in front of our faces.

Chavo Guerrero had just turned on Rey Meysterio in the middle of the ring, and we couldn't believe our eyes.

"Well s**t," my dad said. "I guess we should have seen it coming."

After that, the living room was a buzz with chatter about the matches we were watching. When the pay per view was over we helped my dad clean up and went over our plans for the following Saturday.

"Dad are you sure it's alright?" I asked one last time as we sat at the table.

"Son, I already said yes," he said with an irritated smile. "Go to the party and have a good time."

"I love Chuck E Cheese's," Justin said excitedly.

"Thanks for letting him come, sir," Mark said respectfully to my dad.

"Mark, I may not get along with your dad," he answered. "But you know I think you're great. And what's with this sir crap? You know my name."

Mark smiled warmly at my dad and nodded, he then grinned over at Justin's brother, who was watching almost guardedly at the exchange I had with my dad.

"Well, Steele's birthday's important," I said. "I want to get him something he'll really like."

"I'm going shopping for him this week," Mark said, but it sounded more like an offer. "If you want you can tag along."

I looked up hopefully at my dad, who nodded his approval and picked up the last of the dip bowls and soda cans to take to the kitchen. The four of us followed him so we could help out but he shooed us away.

"You guys go have fun," he said. "I'll get this mess."

That night, after Mark, Justin and his brother left, I changed out of my clothes and into a clean pair of undies and a nightshirt, then I joined my dad on the couch.

"You all set buddy?" he asked, wrapping an arm around my shoulder.

"Yeah," I said, letting loose with a long yawn and snuggling up to him. "I love you dad."

"I love you too kiddo," he replied, using the remote to flip through the channels. "Did you have a good time tonight?"

I smiled and nodded quietly as I felt my dad's fingers lightly stroke the top of my head. I let my mind drift off as the images on the television flashed in front of me, setting the stage for whatever dreams I would have that night. I probably wouldn't remember them.

It's a funny thing about the truth. In the Bible it says The Truth Shall Set You Free. Well, whoever wrote that was a wise man, because I was free in so many ways.

I was free to go to sleep and not be wracked with nightmares about my past. I was free to dream about my future. I was free to live in the present. Free to be who I was. Free to be happy. Free to be gay. Free to love. Free to be Kevin.

For the first time in a long time, my dad was free too. He was dating again, and I wasn't as jealous as I thought I would be. He was free from the ghosts of his past. A past that he was paying for in spades. Those shackles were gone, now. Shaken at the same time I managed to unchain myself from the shadows of my past.

I'd like to be able to say that my mom was free too, and maybe she was. She was free to do what she wanted with her life because I wasn't there to remind her of her mistakes. Maybe she'd always be with Billy. I wasn't sure. It hurt sometimes to think about her wanting to go that route, but that was her choice. I didn't have to facilitate that choice by giving her my silent stamp of approval though. That's something Georgia taught me.

Mark was free, too. Free to finally stand up to his dad and tell him how he felt. Free to make George face up to what he did. Free to say that he didn't forgive his dad yet, and that he thought George owed him, his mother and his sister an apology. Mark was also free to be in love with a boyfriend that wasn't cheating on him with anyone else. I made a solemn vow to him to be true to him, and I meant it in every way.

When I reopened my eyes I was looking up at my dad from my bed as he pulled my covers up to my chest. I smiled at him and waited for him to lean down and kiss me good night. When he turned the lamp off next to my bed, I watched him get up and walk out, closing the door behind him as he did. I realized something that I should have known a month before as I was winding my way down Ventura Drive on my bike; I was one of those kids I was watching play carelessly with their families. I lived in a happy home with a lot of love and security, and I was happy and confident in my life. I had a loving family that I didn't have to keep secrets from and the feeling of dread that I knew so well was a thing of the past.

I smiled a little to myself as I pulled the warm covers up a little further and thought about my life, and in that instant, I realized that dreams really could come true.

The End

Thanks to Talonrider for editing and to all of my readers for their support.

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