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The leathery ball with carefully handmade, white, threaded stitches flies, spinning in a perfect spiral as it is highlighted from the high-beamed lights of the stadium. The crowd watches in awe as the ball crashes down and lands in the arms of their precious quarterback. It was the perfect interception. Cheers flood the area as he goes in for a touchdown. I lean in, hanging on the edge of my seat. Waiting. Hoping. Praying. He runs straight from the end, but someone grabs on to him.
“Damn.” I whisper, but in my amazement he is able to shake the defender off and just to my luck, score a touchdown. The Scoreboard buzzes and the game ends. Yet again, our team, the Falcons, have won another game, adding to our undefeated streak. The cheerleaders flood around him, screaming while shaking their pom-poms to a silent rhythm. I run along with all the other players, pushing through the cheering girls to share a team embrace.
His name is Keith Morgan, and his number is sixteen. The number one high school quarterback in the state. Here I am, Austin Rayman, the second string quarterback for the team, a nobody compared to him. He has everything, personality, strength, popularity, and an extreme set of good looks. Lightly tanned skin, thin eyebrows, and big teal eyes with lashes long enough, they almost seem fake. His hair is a dirty blond, and a medium cut with his bangs flipped to the left. Don’t even get me started on his perfectly toned, muscular body. Meanwhile, I have the palest skin you can possibly ever see, and eyes that are such a dark brown, you can’t even see my pupils. My hair is black and spiked like Nial Harrison’s hair from One Direction. Man, I hate that band… As for my body, it’s alright, I guess. There is no way he will ever notice me, though. At least not the way I want him to. It is supposedly a sin to like the same gender, but I don’t care, I love Keith Morgan, and no one can stop me from loving him. Unfortunately for me, living in Texas, not to mention the fact that I’m enrolled in a Catholic school, the Bishop Dunne, makes it seem kind of impossible for me to be, well… Me.
“When are you going to tell him?” Persists the only person who could possibly accept me for who I am. My best friend for life, Mary Lee.
“I’m not telling him Mary!” I say stubbornly. There’s no way he’d accept me, I think to myself.
“Austin, you’re gay! It’s not the end of the world!” Mary yells.
“Shhhhh! Not so loud, someone might hear you.” I press my pointer finger to her lips.
“Austin, quit being dramatic, no one is listening, nor would they want to. I don’t think people care about your sexuality” Mary persists.
I love her to death but her stubbornness really annoys me… But I know she is right. I’m just too frightened to see Keith’s reaction. What if he says something like ‘Gay people should die in Hell.’ I look around the courtyard where we are standing. It is mostly deserted. Mostly. There are only three people beside Mary and I, two of them are the most popular couple in school, Michael Cordan and Anne Tibet. Then there another person, I recognize her as Jayd Walker. Jayd is quite the gossip girl, but I feel that she is too far away to hear anything, not to mention, she’s reading a book.
I get out of my slightly rusted silver Toyota pickup and make my way to the front of the school. I enter and push my way through a flooded crowd. When I finally reach my locker, it feels like all eyes are on me. No way, that can’t possibly be true… Must be my imagination. I turn around thinking everything is fine, but everything is not. Indeed, everyone is looking at me, no staring at me, and whispering something at the same time.
“Is it true?” I hear one say.
“It can’t be, there’s no way he would keep it safe until senior year!” another responds.
I am very curious about what they were talking about, so I decide to speak out,
“Hey, what are you all talking about?” I say while everyone practically darts their eyes at each other and back to me. Then I hear footsteps approaching.
“Yo Austin!” Yells one of the captains, Joshua Layton, who is surrounded by most of the football team.
“What’s up?” I respond, a little concerned.
“Cam here has something he would like to say to you.” Josh moves as Cameron Wilton walks up to me. Cam stops a little too close for comfort and clears his throat before speaking,
“H-hey Austin… I just wanted to tell you that I love you!” Cam yells down the hall before he and the other football players break out in laughter.
“W-what?” I say in shock. H-how? I silently ask myself.
“You really think we wouldn’t find out?” Josh says annoyed, “Oh and you’re off the team… We don’t allow Gays to be anywhere within ten feet of us.” He smiles maniacally while walking off with the rest of his possy.
Now I really have no chance with Keith. What would he even think about all of this? Would he be like the rest of them? Think I’m some mentally ill mess up? How did these people even find out? My mind races in a panic. Mary.
I dash to Mary’s homeroom to find her filling out a paper for her photography class. I walk up to her and yell with all my frustration,
“How could you?” I am so angry I can’t control myself, “Ten years, Mary! Ten years! You are supposed to be my best friend. How could you tell anyone?” but Mary just tilts her head in confusion.
“What are you talking about, Austin?” she says worriedly.
“Everyone knows! Everyone knows I’m gay” I say putting my head down in shame. I hear a group of girls walk past the classroom giggling right when they are at the door. I can’t believe everyone knows. How am I supposed to survive this year? I think.
“Austin, I thought you had told them. You know damn well that I used an empty threat, and that I would never say anything without your permission.” Mary hugs me as if to say she is sorry.
I know she didn’t tell anyone, but I had no one else to blame, so I decided to take my anger out on her. I’m such a terrible friend, I say in my mind. As much as I want to say that out loud, I know it would only make Mary pity me more.
“Mary, what should I do? Now everyone thinks of me as a joke” I say sadly, “In fact, we probably shouldn’t hang out, you’d just get bullied for being my friend.” but Mary just shakes her head at me.
“Austin, I don’t care what they think…. You know that. If they hate me, so what? They’re not my friends or family, so why should I care what they think of me? They don’t even know me. All they know is I have a gay friend, and even so, they have no reason to believe that gay people are sinners.”
I hold on to every word she says, slowly regaining my lost confidence with every sentence. “God created a world where we are all created equal, so why should they judge us? Doesn’t that make them worse than we are?” Mary looks at me with big brown puppy eyes sparkling like the stars. The more I look at them, the more I feel sucked into this subconscious world where nothing matters. I shake my head and come back to reality.
“You’re right.” I say the only thing I can think of, “You’re always right.”
“No I’m not. I’m not perfect, nor are you. But everyone else sure as hell ain’t perfect either.”
“Thank you, Mary.” I say meaningfully, “God bless you!”
“Now you need to go find that football playing god and tell him how you feel!” Mary says, patting me on the back.
“Alright” I agree.
I make my way down the hall, and look for one face, and one face only. I find him. He turns around and looks straight into my eyes.
“Austin, good to see you!” Keith smiles while signaling a high five. “How are you doing in practice, I haven’t been near you to see your progress.” Keith was also one of the captains. The head captain to be exact.
“Actually, I’m no longer on the team.” I mumble.
“What?” Keith looks very displeased, “Why? Did something happen?”
“Josh told me I was no longer welcome, said he wouldn’t stand within ten feet of a gay person.” I say rolling my eyes, “I’ll see you later-” he cuts me off before I can finish.
“Wait! You’re gay?” Keith looks straight at me with a gaze that could practically pierce diamonds. I try to brush him off,
“Well… Yeah. What about it?” I say in a voice higher pitched than usual.
“Hey, do you mind going somewhere else? To talk?” Keith asks in a serious tone.
Oh no, I think. Is he going to say what I think he is?
“Uh… Sure!” I put on a painted smile while my voice cracks from my nervousness. Together, Keith and I make our way to the end of the hall and turn left, heading downstairs. Time slows down when I walk with him, I don’t want this moment to end, knowing what will come next. We make our way past the cafeteria and head out to the courtyard. Once there, Keith takes a seat under a shady Mexican-Olive tree, patting the ground to ask me to sit next to him. Since it’s spring, the heat is blazing as usual, I walk over and slowly sit down. Once sitting, I look at the beautiful scenery around me and try my best to avoid eye contact. I see the flowers blooming on the bushes and the greenery of the grass and the trees. The particular tree we are sitting under is giving off a nice summer like breeze. Thanks to the beautiful kelly green leaves and blossoming white flowers, it feels as though the tree branches are slowly fanning us, almost as if we’re ancient Egyptian gods. I wait for Keith to speak up.
“So…” Keith started, “Why did Josh kick you off the team?” He sounds mad, I know it is my fault.
“Because…” I pause, lost in my own thoughts. Do I really want to admit this I think, yes, I need to be honest.
“Because why?” Keith gets in front of me, locking eyes with mine.
“Because I’m gay” I say putting my head down. Keith laughs. I knew it I thought, I knew this would happen.
“That…” Keith continues to laugh, “Is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”
“What?” I ask in confusion.
“I didn’t think Josh was that dumb.” Keith clears his throat, “Do you really think I’d ever throw you off my team because you’re gay? Austin, you have nothing to be ashamed of. This is a part of you… And I like you, so I don’t care what others say! You could hate me all you want or deny the fact that I’m saying this, but I think you should care less what they think.” Keith says, smiling.
“Why are you doing this?” I ask out of curiosity.
“Because I care about you.” Keith says loudly, “By the way, did you happen to like anyone on the team?”
“Why?” This was all I could think to say, there was no way I was going to tell him I like him just yet.
“Because I know someone on the team who likes you.” Keith stares with the most serious gaze I’ve ever seen.
“What?” I say surprised, “Who?” Keith leans towards my ear, acting like a little school girl about to tell her best friend a secret.
“Me.” He whispers and pulls back only to lean in and kiss me passionately.
I begin to feel dizzy, like this is just a dream. But his voice brings me back to reality, “Austin, I love you.”
I say the first thing that comes to mind.
“I love you too.” I say smiling.