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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:38 pm 
Raspberry Ripple
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Finally, another chapter ugh it's been so long. What does this human do all day that it would take her five months to finish the stupid chapter?!
(Answer: self-doubt and procrastination)
Do enjoy this one. Sorry, it's very gay again if you are homophobic or uncomfy with that then don't read this or just skip Dion's parts. Yes actually just don't read anything Dion talks about. (Even though he is a dear and deserves your love and respect)


I don’t recall what happened after that. I’m not sure what route Connie took, driving to the hospital. I don’t remember what anyone said to me in the half hour after finding Buck and Jules. I just remember the fear. That specific burning, stabbing at my gut and lungs. The nudge to cry or scream or pray and not being able to fit my mouth around any verbal announcement of my agony. My heart was a hammer inside my chest. It was similar to the feeling when Buck was kidnapped, except so much worse. Katrina was one of two people I’d ever met who could help me through a panic attack. Bernard was the other one. But that father-figure wasn’t there, and for the first time in about ten years, neither was my wife. Maybe she’d never be there again. That thought made everything hurt more. We walked into the hospital. Found a waiting room. Sat for what felt like hours. Lilly was the first actual doctor we saw. She came into the room in a business-like hurry that melted away when she saw us. What a pathetic group we must have looked like. She hugged me immediately.
“They just got her stabilized,” she said, helping me into a chair. I hadn’t sat down since we’d gotten there. She found a seat across from me.
“Then why are you crying?”

Transverse Myelitis. A made-up term. Just letters pushed together to describe something literally no one else but me understands. I don’t care if you can pronounce it or not. It doesn’t change the severity of it. How hellish it’s made her life. You can’t fix it by looking up the definition when I’m too tired or emotionally drained to recite three sentences from Sometimes I can hear her crying at night. No wonder I’m sleep-deprived. I sat next to my dad when Doctor Graham explained everything. What it meant for her, for us, what she would be able to do, what was hopeless, everything. And I just sat there, feeling so disconnected and so vulnerable at the same time. So angry and so sad. I wanted to murder the man who did this and comfort the man next to me.
Eliza and Mr. Whittaker got to the hospital at some point. The Bassetts, Jeff, and Jason trailed in soon after. Then Eugene, Eliza, and I went in to see her. She was asleep. Eugene and I sat by her bed, Eliza on his lap. I studied my mom’s face. It was strange. I’d never seen her look so sick. Even when she and Eugene were separated, she looked somewhat healthy. There was no color in her cheeks. Instead, a breathing tube laid across them. I could hear her heartbeat on the monitor above me. It made mine pound faster. I didn’t like thinking about how it almost stopped for good. A nurse was sticking some needle into her arm. Eugene flinched. I tried to take a deep breath.
She woke up a few minutes later.
He set Eliza down and took her hand. Something resembling ‘hello’ was muffled by a sob.
“Eugene what happened to my legs?”
I looked at the floor. Doctor Graham spoke softly. Explained the situation. What her condition meant. Everything she had told us. I didn’t look to see how she took the news. But I could sense her fear. Her grief. There was about a minute of silence after Doctor Graham had finished. No one said anything. I could see Eugene restraining his sobs. Katrina finally spoke, her voice low.
“I… can’t walk anymore?”

I woke up in the hospital. My heart was in my stomach. Something was wrong. I knew something was wrong. No, not because I was in a hospital bed. Not because my leg still felt like it was on fire. Not the pounding in my head, or the vertigo that attacked my neck when I turned my head. My sister Nahla was sitting by my bed.
“Hi,” she whispered, her eyes holding a deep pity. We’d been there before.
A wave of dread crashed into my chest.
She broke eye contact.
“Nahla, where’s Jay?” I choked on this sentence. It came out so much angrier than the first.
“He’s in another room.”
“Can I see him?”
“Alright. How are you feeling, Dion?” Doctor Graham walked in.
“Can you take me to see him?”
“He asked. I’m sorry,” she let go of my hand and stood up. Doctor Graham took her chair. In an unnerving silence she began to take my pulse. I let her finish.
“Why can’t I see him?”
“Because he’s dying, Dion.”

I didn’t know how to comfort him. At around ten, he came into the waiting room. I’d never seen him so tired. I hugged him for a long time. Then we just sat there. In that orange and white waiting room. His head on my shoulder. My fingers running through his hair. It was the best I could do. We weren't crying. We were still in shock. I knew something had happened. I think I understood that Katrina was paralyzed. I hadn’t seen her yet. Eugene kept saying she wasn’t ready to talk to people. Whit went in though. So did Connie. Everyone looked worried. A few people went home when it got late. There was nothing more they could do. Eliza went home with Wooton and Penny. Jeff and Connie went out to get coffee for everyone. Whit was still at the hospital, trying to get as many names as possible. Names for who’d been injured. Who’d died. That was the scariest part. Knowing we knew people who were now dead, but not knowing who. I checked on as many people as I could through text. No one responded when I sent out a message on the Smallpox group chat.


I was holding his hand. Trying to find a steady breath, my fingers moving across his.
I tried to answer. My sentence broke before I could finish it.
“Dion, will you hold me? I’m scared.”
“Okay,” I whispered, kissing his hand. A nurse helped me into his bed. He put his head on my chest like he usually did. Listening to my heartbeat. Always falling asleep. I stroked his wavy hair as our fingers intertwined again.
“I want to marry you,” he whispered. “I want us to have a big wedding. I could wear blue. You’ll wear purple. And everyone will be there. Even your parents. We’ll have tacos for dinner. Nahla can tell the story of how we met. We’ll go to London for our honeymoon. And I’ll embarrass you by telling everyone we meet how handsome you are. How proud I am to be your husband.”
I couldn’t answer. He made it so real. It was suddenly happening. He was just going to be gone. We would never get married, or adopt from China like we wanted, or build a house in New Zealand. He wouldn’t go on the mission trip next summer. Or college.
“Hey. No. Look at me. Jay. Jay, look at me. What’s wrong?”
“I can’t-” He’d sat up and was gripping his stomach. The nurse was at his side, telling him to lie back down. He did, sobbing.
“Can you make it stop? Please?”
“We can increase your pain killers.”
“Where are his parents?”
“They’re in Florida. Jay, I need you to take deep breaths, okay? I know you’re scared-”
“You think?”
“Listen. You should be able to go peacefully. No one here wants you to be in pain.”
“Why can’t you just- turn me off or something?”
“I’m sorry.”
“Hey, try doing what she says, alright? Focus on me.”
I pushed away a few tears from his cheeks. After a few minutes he was breathing steadily again. He was studying my eyes, tracing my jawline, the rim of my nose.
“You’re so beautiful,” he smiled, “You love people. You love people like Jesus does, so you can’t just stop when I’m gone. People need you.”
“But I need you.” I sniffed back a tear, grasping his hand. He outlined my lips, then kissed them softly.
“No. You don’t need me. You deserve the world. You’re still alive for a reason. Don’t forget that.”
His next breath was much weaker. He closed his eyes, trying to find more oxygen. He took a few more, unsteady inhalations, and whispered,
“Thank you, my angel. I’ll see you soon.”
And then he was still.
I limped out of the room, every ounce of me drained.
“Dion!” Trent ran to me, we hugged. Then just cried.
Jay’s death spread quickly. Quicker than I wish it had. The band sat in a waiting room for a long time. We still didn’t know how many people we’d lost. We knew that Jay was gone. That Mandy was in surgery. That Katrina had been paralyzed. We knew the rest of the band was safe. Fans started bringing me things. Flowers and cards. But I didn’t want sympathy. I wanted sleep. To numb the pain somehow. I let myself cry. I cried a lot. Everyone did. We mourned Jay together. At some point, Eugene went out to get Buck’s guitar. He came back, and we had a worship session. Around a hundred people joined us. We were there all night.

“I lead worship when I could. Tamika and I took turns. When we were both crying, we were both singing. That was a terrible night. We just lost so much.”

“Jeff and I went home at some point. Then Whit emailed us the list of victims. I hadn’t heard about Jay. Others included Nathaniel Graham, Brenda Shafer, and Nelson Swanson. But I had known all of them. All thirty-seven.”

“She only let Eugene in. Not Eliza. Not me. But I wanted to be with her. At one point I thought she was dead. But she didn’t want to see me.”

“I didn’t want him to see me. Not like that. He needed to know I was still strong. Regardless of how weak I felt at that moment.”

“I didn’t understand. Mr. Whittaker tried to explain. What did register made me upset. I think I knew my mum couldn’t walk. It’s hard to remember. It’s terrible. Thinking about it now. They didn’t know yet. No one knew anything.”

"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse

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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:49 am 
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Wow. Wow. Wow. That was so good!
But wait, JAY’S DEAD!? Noooooo!

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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 10:18 am 
Peach Cobbler
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What! Not my boy?

I'm Monty Whittaker's greatest fan. member of the K.R.E
:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 8:45 pm 
Raspberry Ripple
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O.o you killed him............. You really killed him.......
You did a really nice job you make me feel the emotions that there feeling great job!

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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2019 9:39 am 
Raspberry Ripple
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Another chapter! (Less than a month away from the last one?!) Trust me. I'm as shocked as you.
Mention of suicide in this one. Also, it's just sad.

Chapter 17

“Buck…. Buck?”
I could hear his voice, but it was muffled and distant.
“I just got dinner on the table. Um- it’s just mac n’ cheese. You need to eat.”
With my eyes shut, I sniffed, pressing my head further into the wall.
“I’m not hungry.”
“I know.”
He sat down on the couch with me and put his hand on my knee.
“Um. You haven’t eaten in three days.”
I hadn’t realized it had been that long.
“I’d feel so guilty.”
“Your mother’s worried. Will you eat something just to help her feel better?”
“You know Dion can’t even keep down food? Whenever he tries, he throws up. I thought Mom was asleep.”
“She’s resting.”
I nodded, then glanced at my watch.
“I have to get going,” I stood up. Light-Headedness overtook me, but I walked to the door without revealing my discomfort.
“I’m picking up Jules. We’re going to the park.”
“I see. Well um, be back by eleven!”
“Yeah okay.”


It’s weird. Not having parents. I called them on the way home from the hospital. I wouldn’t admit it then, but I thought maybe they’d let me come home if they felt bad enough for me. I was wrong. They didn’t answer until the fourth time I tried to call. I started crying the second I heard my mom’s voice. Nahla had to pull over so she could help explain.
“Mom. Dion was in a school shooting. A man came into Odyssey High School and killed a lot of people. We’re on the way home from the hospital. He was shot.”
She handed me the phone.
“What is this about, Dion? You’re okay, right? Why are you calling us?”
“Because Jay is dead.”
It was the first time I’d said it out loud. I sat there in the longest stretch of silence, my eyes closed, trying not to cry. And then my dad’s voice said, wholly devoid of empathy,
“We told you there would be consequences.”
And then he hung up, leaving me to rediscover grief alone.
They’re right about the stages. Shock and denial came first. Denial passed easily. I knew how to accept loss at that point. But shock. Shock was a shadow. A dream-like, twister, there to just remind me again how true that phrase was. The phrase that didn’t even sound possible, “Jay is dead.”
But for the most part, it went unnoticed. I guess that’s what shadows do, though. They go unobserved until we turn around. And I didn’t want to turn around. Anger hit me like a sledgehammer. It was a specific anger. I knew why I was upset. My boyfriend was dead, and I wasn’t. I could have died, and he could have been there. I’d been saved too many times. And for who? There was no one left to love me. No one left to miss me. I would be lying if I said I never contemplated suicide. I mean, why would I want to be here, miserable, when I could be there with him... That was the other thing. What people said. There were a lot of different comments about where he was now, but at the same time, it felt like everyone agreed. He wasn’t in Heaven. I had this phrase I would say to people. It was more of a way to comfort myself than anyone else. I’d say,
“Jay didn’t have a very happy life. It’s a good thing- how happy he is now.”
I got some weird looks, yeah. Christians would get very tense. Some would give me a tight smile, or a short nod before ending the conversation. Others would be a little less sensitive. Camilla Parker’s exact words were,
“Well, I don’t think people can really be happy in Hell, but that’s a nice thought.”
The people that were closest to me were the only ones that knew the truth. Jay was a Christian. He followed Jesus, he loved Jesus. He had such incredible faith. He just knew what was true. He could understand the Bible so easily. I can’t count how many times he had to explain a chapter or verse to me during our Bible studies. I’ve always been a visual person. Jay knew words. He would’ve known what to say to everyone.
I went out twice in the week after Jay died. I was still in a wheelchair, so going anywhere was difficult. I couldn’t drive. I lived with Nahla, so she had to take care of me. She was such a blessing. She was sort of the one person who gave their full attention to me. I knew the band cared, but it seemed like everyone had a significant other to check on or confide in. And no one wanted to deal with me. I made things so much more complicated. I think my sister saved my life. She took me to Whit’s End three days after the shooting. That’s where a lot of judgemental conversations took place. But I also spoke with Whit. He was a comfort. He took several hours to talk and pray with me. He wouldn’t really let on, but I knew he was hurting. Probably more than I was. He was a spiritual father to Jay. Jay wouldn’t have become a Christian if it weren’t for Whit. I think he saw Katrina as a daughter and knew how much she was hurting. Mandy was in a similar light. He knew her potential, and that felt threatened when she was in danger. And then all the other kids on top of that. The kids he’d known since they were in kindergarten. Children he’d practically raised were torn from him in an instant. I don’t even know how a person grieves like that. How do you ache for so many people at once?
Day four was the worst of that week. I’d confronted most of the people who didn’t respect my recently deceased boyfriend. I’d cried a lot. For the first time, I could step back. And there was the shock. Suddenly consuming me. I didn’t expect it to feel so much like fear. My shock became fear. I don’t know why but it was like without him there, everything just terrified me. And that made me cry more. Which made me more dehydrated. A fever gave me release on day five. It was almost calming at first until I was shaking uncontrollably and hitting a temperature of 103 degrees. I passed out and woke up back in the hospital. Vance visited on day six.
“Why are you here?”
“I um. I brought flowers.”
He set a vase of tulips on the counter across from my bed.
“Can I sit?”
He did, and then looked at me for a few seconds.
“How are you doing?”
“Um. I don’t know. He’s dead.”
“Yeah. I know. Dion. I know this is hard, but you have to except something.”
“What’s that?”
“I can help you.”
I practically laughed.
“I’m the only other person in the world who knew Jay like you did.”
I looked at my hands.
“He was terrified of you.”
“I’m sure. I wish we could’ve fixed things.”
I nodded.
“He um. He used to blush all the time.”
“I remember that.”
“The first time I kissed him. I mean he turned bright red. It was adorable.”
Two weeks after the shooting I was driven from the hospital in a limo. It was mostly to protect me from the fans. My phone was constantly overflowing with messages. I knew everyone was well-meaning, but I still hated it. It felt fake. I couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone just wanted my attention. There was usually some extra sentence or two about someone they lost in the shooting. And by someone they lost, I mean someone they maybe passed by in the hall a couple of times a week. I replied to a few. If it seemed like they were more genuine. Most I ignored or lost in the pile of notifications too deep to dig through while I was recovering. Nahla went with me to the studio. I was wearing a black suit with a dark purple button up.
“Hey,” she put her hand on my shoulder. “You look great.”
I tried to smile.
“I wish he was here.”
“I know.”


My hands were damp. My stomach turned as I felt the camera’s focusing in on us. Jules sat to my left. Trent was at my right. Lights came on, making my forehead hot. Ted Humphrey’s voice came on the microphone.
“Welcome back. This evening we’re speaking with an intrepid group of teens who survived the shooting that took place at Odyssey High School a few weeks ago. The overnight sensation ‘Smallpox’ is here to recount what happened.”
The host turned to us.
“First off I’d like to thank you all for being here. I know you have friends and family who are still in critical condition. Fans will recognize that you’re even missing a couple of band members. Mandy Straussberg is in the hospital right now.”
I glanced at the thin, dark-haired teen. He nodded.
“How is she doing?
“Um,” his voice shook as he struggled to form sentences without crying, “I- I haven’t been able to speak with her since before it happened. I won’t go into any details, but it’s… it doesn’t look promising.”
“I’m so sorry. We’re all thinking of you during this time.”
“Thank you.”
“Most of the fans know that Jay Smouse, your songwriter, passed away the night of the shooting. Dion, were you with him?”
“I was,” he took a moment, “We said goodbye.”
“I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Dion wipe his face with the back of his hand.
“Another prominent person in really all of the students’ lives is Katrina Meltsner.”
My eyes fell to the floor. I didn’t think he would mention her.
“How is she doing?”
Jules glanced in my direction, then spoke for me,
“She um… she was paralyzed. So… she doesn’t want to see anyone right now, but flowers and cards are appreciated. Also, food. She’s still in recovery and isn’t out of bed yet, so the rest of the family would really appreciate a few meals. I think Mr. Whittaker has a sign-up sheet for everyone- not just the Meltsners if anyone can bring in a few casseroles or something. But um, Katrina’s at home now. She’ll be alright.”
Jules’s hand tightened around mine.
“Okay. That’s good to hear. And I’m sure a comfort to her students.” He glanced down at his notes. “Let’s talk about what happened that day.”
I swallowed an ache in my throat. A few people shifted in their seats. Most of us hadn’t discussed our experiences in detail.
“Now Dion, Trent, and Tamika you three were actually in rooms the shooter entered.”
Tamika began slowly.
“Um. Yeah, so mine was the first classroom. No one was prepared. He came in, started shouting at everyone, then open fired. I hid under a desk and used my backpack as a shield.”
“And that was when you texted Vance?”
She nodded.
“What did that message to him say?”
“Just, ‘There’s a shooter. I think I’m going to die. I love you.’”
She sniffed, wiping her cheeks. Vance put his hand on her back.
“What was it like getting that kind of text from your girlfriend, Vance?”
“Horrible. Sickening. Um. I heard the gunshots and called the police, but it was completely unreal. I was in shock.”
“And that was the first report the police received of the event.”
Vance nodded.
“Buck Meltsner.”
I dragged my eyes to meet his.
“A Smallpox fan got a video of the emotional reuniting you had with your adoptive father, Eugene Meltsner. Did you know about Katrina’s condition at that time?”
“Yeah. I told him that she wasn’t breathing.”
“How did he take that news?”
I looked at Dion. His brow was furrowed.
“That’s kind of a personal question.”
This began ten seconds of silence. I felt more sweat forming at my hairline.
“Right,” Mr. Humphry said, shuffling through his cue cards. “Um. I was trying to avoid it, but I might as well address the elephant in the room. You’re all registered- Christians. The shooter was as well.”
This word came out louder than I intended.
“It’s said he targeted LGBT- people specifically. As Christians, does this feel like a positive thing?”
“We lost people.”
“Are you asking if we’re happy that there was a shooting?”
“I’m literally gay.”
I turned to Jules. My eyes told her everything. She stood up.
“A person’s relationship with Jesus Christ is not dependant on their success in earning a government approved title,” she took off her mic. “I’m sorry you’ve been misinformed.”
We followed her straight out of the theatre, past cameras, microphones, and fans into our limo, where she broke down crying.

"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse

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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2019 3:17 pm 
Raspberry Ripple
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This one's a little more mature, so I guess 14+? It's nothing pornographic or accessive. Just more adult topics. This one is long though, so if you still feel comfortable reading it, go ahead and enjoy! I'd also be happy to send anyone a clean version or a summary of the chapter so you're up to date with everything.

Chapter 18
I want to clarify. It wasn’t my idea. I know that doesn’t excuse my actions, but I had sworn off partying. In California, I spent most of my weekends over a toilet bowl. I was fourteen. I don’t know why my dad never stopped me from drinking so much. I was never addicted. It was just something I did to fit in. That was back when I wanted to be in movies. Maybe my dad was thinking the same thing I was. Hang around famous people, you’ll make connections eventually. I didn’t. I made a few friends my age playing the same game. Most were from my school. But moving to Odyssey really put things in perspective. I realized I hated partying. I hated getting drunk. I hated large groups. I thought my boyfriend did too. But he surprised me. Because everything was Buck’s idea.
After our “interview,” the band did everything together. We started checking up on Dion more. After a few days, we were able to visit Mandy, who seemed to be improving after the surgery that removed a bullet from her shoulder. Buck and I were inseparable. We were both emotional. He was angry, and I was just sad. I missed Jay. I missed Mandy. I missed Katrina, who still wouldn’t let anyone see her. Buck and I were more physical, even before we went to that stupid party. Nothing serious. Just cuddling while we talked or watched a movie. We probably kissed too much. We didn’t pray together. I think that was our biggest mistake. I think that’s why our feelings didn’t change. Why we ended up being welcomed into a teen-drowned mansion by Valery’s stoner boyfriend.
Buck put on his headphones and found a couch to sit on. He poured me a solo cup of beer and said something about grief. I’d never used alcohol to numb myself. I knew he had. When he was younger at least. I fell asleep in his arms. When I woke up was stroking my hair. He whispered that he had money to stay a night in the hotel down the street. I just nodded. At that moment self-control was futile.

Sitting up made my head throb. My heart pounded in my ears. I lied back down. Buck was there next to me, still asleep. I put my chin on his shoulder. Those soft blue eyes opened slowly.
“Hi beautiful,” he smiled. I kissed him.
“I gotta go.”
He frowned, “Okay.”
I redressed myself, pushing through a seething headache.
“I can drop you off…”
“You’re drunk.”
“Oh yeah. Okay, I’ll stay here.”
“Alright,” I smiled and rolled my eyes. “I love you.”
“Love you too.”
I texted Dion.
“Really Jules?” He hadn’t started the car again yet. I took a breath.
“Spare me the lecture. I learned my lesson. I know how you feel about it. Don’t worry, I'm never getting drunk ever again.”
“There’s an idea. Did you and Buck…?”
“How was that?”
“Good, I guess. Probably a decision I’ll regret when I’m more sober... I feel terrible.”
“Yeah. You don’t look great.”
“I mean you look tired. Did you eat before drinking?”
“A little.”
“That’s good.”
He began to drive out of the parking lot. Beyond the windows of the beat-up Toyota Dion shared with his sister, headlights outlined a tiny Connellsville skyline. I sniffed.
“I hate myself. Why did we do that?” I started crying.
“Hey, you are pretty drunk,” he chuckled.
“I’m tired.”
“Okay. Try to get some sleep. I’ll get you home as soon as I can.”

It was around eleven in the morning when I parked my car in front of our apartment complex. Heavy clouds hung overhead. I walked up three flights of stairs, then hesitated at the door. The number 28 hanging on the door looking suddenly more menacing than usual. I adjusted my mennat, then unlocked the door. Eugene was waiting for me.
“And where the hell have you been?”
He shook his head and pointed to the front door.
“Outside. Now.”
He followed me out.
“I made myself clear, son.”
“Did you?”
“What about ‘do not drink alcohol’ was not clear?”
“I don’t know. I-I can make my own decisions.”
“Hm. And what other decisions did you make while you were out neglecting your family?”
“Neglecting my family?”
“Yes, Buck. In case you haven’t noticed, your mother hasn’t gotten out of bed in two and a half weeks. She’s seriously depressed. Last night she wouldn’t eat. She was too worried about where you were. Not to mention that Eliza is sick as well.”
“She can’t keep down a cracker. I don’t know if it’s a flu… I can’t call in a doctor or anything. I needed you here, Buck.”
“I’m sorry.”
He shook his head, his pointer finger resting on his chin.
“We’re cutting this off now. I hope you understand that. Not another drop, Buck. Alcohol does not fix mental pain. Sex does not fix emotional pain.”
I broke eye contact.
“You can come inside now. Your mother would like to speak with you.”
I hadn’t talked to Katrina in a couple days. She wouldn’t admit it, but she was ashamed of her condition. Most of the time she would only let Eugene into that tiny master bedroom at the end of the hall. I walked in. My mom sat in bed, her blond hair in two long French braids. She set down her book when she saw me.
“Have a seat.”
I sat down in the armchair next to the bed. For a few seconds, we didn’t talk. She just stared at me. I stared at the floor.
“Do we have to have this conversation?” I asked.
She took a deep breath.
“I’m not mad.”
“I’m assuming you were both drunk.”
“But there was consent?”
“Of course.”
“Did you use protection?”
I shook my head.
“I’m sorry! I figured you’d be happy I don’t carry around condoms.”
“I’d definitely prefer that over becoming a grandmother at thirty-nine.”
“…that’s fair.”
“So, we agree that wasn’t a safe choice?”
“Is Jules okay?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Is she alright? Girls can’t just move on from something like that. Have you talked to her today?”
“Call her. Go to Connie’s. Do something. She could be feeling so terrible right now…”
“Because girls are emotional, Buck! She could feel like you took advantage of her. She was vulnerable. She was drunk.”
“I love her. She knows that.”
“Double check.”
She let out a shaky breath.
“Why did you do that, Buck? I wanted so much better for you.”
I was angry, but her question did make me think. Why did we? I mean- aside from the obvious. And then it hit me.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have if you weren’t shutting me out.”
“What do you mean, what? You won’t let me near you! I ask Eugene every day if I can come in, just to see how you’re doing and most of the time he says no.”
“I’m grieving…”
“And you think I’m not? This alone hurts so much. I hate it with everything in me. I hate him.”
“You have to let me figure everything out. I need time.”
“You won’t let me talk to you most days! You don’t want to talk about what happened. You’ve closed yourself off from everyone else.”
“You’re seventeen.”
“But I still need you! I need you every day, mom! You are the only person I can go to about my problems and one of my best friends is dead!” I was stopped by a sob.
“Come here, baby.”
I don’t care if I was being emotional. I was very broken. So, I let my mom hold me as I cried because she was my person who knew how to fix broken things.

Someone knocked on my door. I opened it.
“Hi,” I turned red and broke eye contact.
“Hi. Can I come in?”
I nodded, turning into the house to find my tea again.
“Jeff said it would help the vomiting,” I shrugged, referring to the mug in my hand.
I took a sip. I’m not sure if he was looking at me. My eyes were fixed on the brown water inside the cup between my suddenly moist hands.
“Katrina told me to come over.”
My heart turned against my stomach. Eye contact.
“You told her?”
Wow, he looks different.
“She just knew.”
“How did she just know? She can’t just know these thi-”
“I don’t know! I didn’t tell her I swear! But I was gone for a long time.”
I set down my mug, panic flooding my throat.
“D-does he know?”
He nodded.
“Oh my god.”
“That’s not very Christian,” he practically laughed.
“I’m sorry, do you find this funny?”
He put his hands up.
“Just trying to lighten the mood. Does Connie not know?
“I didn’t think she did. I don’t know. She probably does though if your parents do.”
I sat down on the couch, trying to find my breath.
“Why did um- Katrina send you over here?”
“She wanted me to make sure you were okay.”
“So… are you okay?”
He sat down next to me.
“I- haven’t gotten that drunk in a long time.”
“That’s not… really what I was referring to.”
“I know,” I took a deep breath. “I’m okay… we didn’t use any kind of protection, did we?”
“Apparently not.”
“What does that mean?”
“I wasn’t sure if you took birth control.”
“I don’t.”
“So, I could be pregnant.”
“I mean- yeah… but that like- doesn’t happen hardly ever, right?”
“I don’t know.”
“Katrina thinks we should come up with a plan.”
“A plan?”
“To make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
I nodded once.
“Okay. Should we just stop talking?”
“No. I mean- is that what you want?”
“Obviously not. I don’t know what you want me to say. Everything was fine. It was good. But we broke a lot of boundaries. Especially the emotional one.”
“It was a pain killer.”
He let out a breath.
“I think we should break up,” I honestly didn’t expect to hear myself say that. I know he didn’t.
“I-I’m sorry?”
“We can’t do this anymore. We both know it.”
“So, do you want to take a break… or… sorry, you just kind of caught me off guard.”
I nodded.
“Yeah definitely at least a break. I love you. You know that. But we can’t be trusted around each other. It’s not safe this way.”
“Okay. Yeah, I know you’re right,” he swallowed, “I should get going.”
He stood up and I walked him to the door. And then we said goodbye.

My burning hands gripped the sides of the black music stand in front of me. As I pulled a creased piece of lined paper from my pocket, Pastor Knox lowered the microphone for me. I thanked him through a tight smile and brief eye contact. A drowning silence filled the room while I adjusted the paper to fit on the stand. I forced my eyes to look into the audience. I recognized few people. Why am I here? Do they even know who I am? Did they know who he was? Who he really was? That’s why you’re here. I struggled for a moment to take a sturdy breath, aligning my paper with a couple markings on the black pedestal. I glanced up again and found Jules’ eyes. She nodded. I opened my mouth.
“S-so before this I told a lot of people; I was really nervous. Everyone was surprised. If you didn’t know, I’m in a band. I think people assume I can talk in front of people easily. But talking about this… I’m not used to it so if I stutter a lot or run off the stage that’s um. That’s why.”
I got a bit of laughter in response.
“I’m going to talk about Jay Smouse. He was my boyfriend. I’m sorry if that makes anyone uncomfortable. I think his parents would be speaking instead of me, but they’re overseas right now. Please be praying for them. They haven’t been back since they found out. A lot of you don’t know who Jay was. He wasn’t the best at making friends. He’d been rejected a lot, so that made it difficult for him to approach people. First, Jay’s name wasn’t Jay. It was Jacob. Jacob Carson Smouse. He hated the name. I think it fits him. I looked up its meaning, but you probably all know what I found. Jacob means heel. So, there’s really very little symbolism there, but I’ll do my best.
Jay hated his name. Maybe because of its meaning. I don’t really know. But in a way, it’s a great representation of what Jay thought of himself. He hated who he was and what it meant to be Jay Smouse. I’ll never understand that. Jay was the most beautiful, deep, soulful person I’ve ever met. I wish he could have seen that. I wish more people could have seen that. How he treated others. I know he got a bad rep for being the “middle school bully” or something. So did I. But we grew up. After Jay became a Christian, there was such an amazing, obvious change in him. I can’t count how many times we passed someone on the street who needed help or money. He would drop everything. Pull over the car because someone needed help and no one else was helping. It was stunning. Jay was different. And not just because he was bisexual or because he could recite an entire Shakespeare show from memory. But his innocence. He never grew up in the best way. He was able to enjoy the simplest things. He just understood humanity.
Fifteen days ago, we were sitting in class. No one suspected anything, and in the four minutes the shooter spent in my classroom, my life changed so drastically. I never thought I’d be shot at. I never thought Jay would be taken from me like that. Some of you are probably wondering how he died. I- won’t go into gruesome detail, but he was shot in the stomach. So… he was… in a lot of pain until the end. Seeing him like that was so hard.”
I sniffed back a sob as tears slipped down my cheeks.
“Sorry. Um…”
I found my place on the paper. It was wet.
“I just wanted to take it from him. I wanted to put it onto myself. I’ve also been asked if I got to say goodbye. I guess I answered that already, but yeah. I got to say goodbye. I’m so sorry if you didn’t get to see your loved ones before you lost them. I know so many of you didn’t. If it’s any comfort, I think sometimes it’s better not to see them in pain. My last memory of my boyfriend isn’t a good representation of what he looked like most of the time I knew him. I wish you all could have known him. I’m sorry if he hurt you, or you were afraid to talk to him. Believe me, he was more afraid to talk to you. But I know he loved you all. I think he envied you all.
I’ll be done in a minute,” I folded up my paper, “but first I wanted to ask something of you. Please. Don’t dehumanize our community. I know you might not believe in our choices, but I wanted to show you how real we were. I’m gay, but I’m just as human. I loved him just as much as anyone else loves their boyfriend or girlfriend. Jay loved Jesus as much as any of you. Trust me on that. I know where he is. I know where I’m going.
Mr. Whittaker helped me step down from the stage, then took my place at the podium. I limped back to the row where the band sat. Jules stood up, hugged me, and handed me a tissue.
“You were good. You did so good,” she whispered.
The ceremony ended later than planned. We walked out of the church at around nine.
“Hey. How’re you doin’?” Buck came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder.
“I’m okay,” I sniffed. “Mrs. Swanson just prayed for me.”
“That’s good.”
“Yeah. Yeah it felt really good.”
I crossed my arms as we began down the sidewalk. Many people around us walked in the same direction. That was a nice night. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t not, not mad. But I had some kind of peace. The weather was beautiful. A warm breeze eradicated any humidity the unusually hot spring day had left behind. A faint shade of blue or pink could be seen on the horizon against Mount. Ontree.
“How’s Katrina doing?”
“She’s um. She’s alright. This wasn’t easy for her.”
“I know. I’m glad she came though.”
“Me too.”
“Dion! Dion!”
I turned around to see Camilla Parker fast walking towards me.
“Hey, I’ll talk to ya later,” Buck nodded to me, as he left to find his family.
“Sure. Hey Camilla.”
“Hi. I wanted to apologize.”
“For what?”
“For saying Jay was in Hell. It was super insensitive of me. It was cruel.”
“No. You’re going through a lot. I get it.”
She nodded.
“Well thank you for understanding.”
“How are you doing?”
She took a moment to think as we continued toward Whit’s End.
“I miss her. Obviously. It’s embarrassing, but I forget she’s- she’s dead. I have to remind myself every morning that she’s not there.”
“Hm. You know, yesterday I texted him. I actually sent a text, somehow without even thinking about it. I have his phone! It was in my pocket.”
“What did you text him?”
“A meme.”
We laughed a little.
“How are your parents holding up?”
She took a breath and shrugged.
“Terrible. They cry all the time. We can’t get through dinner anymore without someone leaving the table. Her absence it just too much I guess.”
“Are you getting help?”
“Matthew and I go to a counselor every other day.”
“That’s good. Has it helped?”
“I think so. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time. I know it’s not. We’re having good conversations… Sorry. Can I ask you a question?”
“Why are you gay?”
“Oh. Um. I mean. That’s a hard question since I’ve kind of always known. I never liked girls like that.”
“Okay. But How did you really know you were gay?”
“Okay, that’s hard. Um. I- liked boys. I mean, how did you know you were straight?”
We were stopped at the front steps of Whit’s End. About a dozen people were walking in.
“Um,” she broke eye contact and swallowed. “Can we go inside?”
“Yeah. Yeah of course.”

My heart was pounding against my throat. I tried to take a deep breath as we found a booth to sit at. I folded my hands and stared at them on the table in front of me.
“Camilla? Hey,” Dion put his hand on mine, “It’s alright. Just talk when you’re ready.”
I nodded.
“I- I don’t think I’m…”
“You can say it,” he nodded.
“Dion, I’m a lesbian. Is that- did that sound right?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that sounded just right.”
A sob hit my chest.
“I don’t know what to do.”
He slipped into the booth next to me and gave me a hug.

She cried into my shoulder. I cried with her. Then I told her everything I wish I’d known. How hard it would be. And then we went on an Imagination Station adventure. We went on the Esther Adventure. Just to find somewhere better to talk.

He understood. I’d never met anyone who understood so well. That evening I came out. It was hard and terrifying and unexpected. But I took a step. Even if it was just to one person. I took a step. For the first time in a very long time, I had hope.


We left the ceremony and the next morning it was like an unliftable burden was placed onto our home. The burden of normality. Complete, grotesque, readily expectant normality. Like a starving lion, it had been waiting for us. For us to realize we had to move on with life. Yes, even though we’d lost people. Even though we were struggling financially. Even though one parent was wheelchair bound. We had to learn to cope. My personal schedule was turned on its head. Sleeping was… difficult. I wouldn’t admit it then, but I was in deep paranoia. I would go to bed as late as possible and wake up as early as possible. I needed to see that she was sleeping. I needed to see that she was breathing. Eliza had the flu, so I would stay up with her every night until she somehow got to sleep. I had to stay up to make sure Buck was in his room, in bed, alone. And then I’d wake up around four or five after getting maybe three hours of sleep. Make sure she’s breathing. Make sure she’s not throwing up. Make sure he’s here. I’d wake Katrina up at five to help her get ready. Then she’d help me make breakfast as much as she could. Then I’d go to work. Buck would stay home to take care of Eliza. Partly as punishment for his unruly behavior from earlier that week, partly because no one else could. Katrina helped as much as possible.

I could hold her. She would sit on my lap for hours. Buck would sit on the couch in the corner and we probably watched every Disney movie on Netflix three times. That time turned out to be really beneficial. Eliza would fall asleep on the couch or in her bed and Buck and I would just talk for hours.

“Why did you stop?”
“…I miss him.”
“But what happened next?”
“Ask someone else. Ask Elizabeth. I can’t write any more.”
“Sure, you can!”
“I don’t want to. Please don’t make me.”
“Okay… I’m trying to help you out, Mrs. Meltsner.”
“I know.”
“Just one more paragraph?”
“Can I sleep after that?”
“Of course.”
“Alright. One more.”

"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse

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