"Come on, Ricky! We found the kickball!" Erica tugged on my arm. The others were already waiting on the kickball court for Erica and me to come and play.
"I'll come in a minute. You guys start." I told her.
"But Ricky!" She whined, "We need you to start the game!"
"No you don't." I said over my shoulder as I walked over to the kid sitting alone on the far end of the elementary school playground. He was a scrawny little guy with messy black hair and big green eyes. His name was Mike, well he went by Mike. He'd only been at the school for three days now, but nobody had tried to make friends with him.
"Hey, you're the new kid in our class, right?" I asked as I squatted in front of him. He just shrugged and pulled his coat a little tighter around him. "I'm Ricky. You should come play kickball with us."
"No thanks." He mumbled.
"Come on, you're coming to play kickball." I said playfully and I grabbed his hand and pulled him up with me.
"I don't want to." He mumbled again.
"Yes you do, it's a great game." I grinned at him. After a minute he smiled back just slightly.
"Okay. I guess I'll play."
"MOM!" I shouted as I walked in the door, Mike in tow. It had been a week since we played kickball together and I had convinced his mom to let him spend the night.
"Ricky, indoor voice please." My mom stepped out of the kitchen, a smile on her face and my little brother peaking out from behind her.
"Mom, this is Mike. He's the new kid in school and his mom said he could spend the night." I told her, hoping she was okay with the idea.
"Well, I guess I'll have to make an extra helping of dinner then."
"Awesome! Thanks mom." I grinned before I spun on my heel and dragged Mike up to my room.
"Your mom is really nice." Mike said once I closed the door.
"Who was that little boy?" Mike asked as he looked around my room.
"My little brother Timmy." I told him.
"Whoa, you have a lot of books on werewolves and vampires!" Mike exclaimed suddenly as he knelt down to examine my book shelf.
"Yeah! I love them, my mom finds me new books all the time." I told him.
The rest of the night was spent telling stories about werewolves and vampires underneath a blanket tent.
"Mike, that doesn't really look like our history homework…" I accused as I looked over his shoulder at what he was doing on the computer.
"Oh shush. I'm just taking a little break. We're in 7th grade and we have a shit load of homework, I deserve a little five minute break."
"But this is interesting homework! We get to write about any society from over five hundred years ago, it's not like we're working out a bunch of equations or something."
"Ricky, you have issues. No kind of homework is ever 'interesting'." Mike laughed. He'd become a much happier person over the past few years. He no longer only wore black and he'd taken to dying colors into his hair, mostly greens and yellows.
"Everyone in this town has issues. It's why I love living here." I responded.
"Yes, well that is true. Glenwood is a rather…special place."
"What are you doing anyways?" I asked, he had a baby name website up which was quite strange, to say the least.
"Looking up a new name for myself. Mike is boring."
"Right, like your mom will let you change your name." I rolled my eyes.
"I don't have to change my name, I just have to get people to call me by it."
"Good luck with that."
"Oh! How about this one? Kalaghata, it means 'time slayer'!" He said eagerly.
"Hang on, you honestly found a name that means 'time slayer'?"
"Yes, yes I did. What do you think of it?"
"Kalaghata?" I repeated, just to see how it sounded. "I like it." We both grinned happily.
"Come on, Kala! We've got to try it!" I said eagerly as we watched the go-carts race around the track. We'd both driven go-carts before, but never raced them on an actual track.
"Okay, okay! But you're paying for it; I'm broke after buying this jacket." Kala responded.
"You're fifteen; you should not be spending $250 on a jacket." I reprimanded him.
"What?! It's a hot jacket thank you! I mean, look at how many straps, chains and pockets this thing has!"
"Yeah, and it's a lovely blinding yellow color." I playfully shielded my eyes as if blinded by the coat.
"Oh, ha ha. Very funny, Ricky." He rolled his eyes as we walked up to the booth to pay to race the go-carts.
"Come on, Kala, you know you love me." I grinned as I handed the lady my money.
"Only on even numbered days of the week."
"It's the sixth, Kala." I laughed.
"Darn, well there goes that argument." He grinned.
We were escorted into a little tent where we were given helmets and gloves and a quick lecture on safety. It was all going great until the school bully, Andrew, walked in and picked up a helmet of his own. Andrew picked on Kala more then anyone else in the school and he'd beat him up several times. Kala was scared shitless of him but would never tell me exactly why, and I knew it was more then just the bullying that got to him. I gave Kala a reassuring hug and a quick smile before we each hopped into our carts.
Kala had left his jacket in the tent and was now wearing only a thin T-shirt and jeans. I was in between Kala and Andrew which was probably a good thing. I could tell Kala was uneasy because Andrew was there, but he was still grinning like mad at the prospect of racing the carts. Before I could regret doing this, the green light blinked on and we all took off.
The race was three laps, and the first two went perfectly. I was in second, Kala in third and Andrew in fourth as we rounded the tightest turn on the track. I handled the turn fine but when I craned my neck to look back at Kala my heart stopped and I found myself yanking the wheel hard to the right to turn myself around.
Andrew yanked his wheel hard to the left on the inside of the turn and slammed into the back right side of Kala's cart. Kala's cart spun out and his seat belt snapped causing him to go flying off of the cart and across the pavement. Andrew cackled and continued on his way while the two racers behind them tried to avoid the chaos.
As soon as my cart spun to a stop I had torn off my seat belt and ran over to Kala who was shaking on the ground. The back of his shirt was soaked with blood and slightly torn and his right arm was bleeding as well.
"Kala! Kala!" I cried out as I knelt next to him, resting a hand on the side of his neck and brushing his hair out of his eyes with the other. His helmet had stayed on thankfully. Kala's eyes were clenched shut in pain and tears were leaking from them. "Shh, Kala, shh. It's gonna be okay, everything's gonna be fine." I soothed. The track managers were running over to us and I could hear sirens in the distance. I hoped my mom was working at the hospital today, I knew she would take good care of Kala.
I kept quietly talking to Kala and trying to distract him from the pain he was in. He was holding tightly to my hand and sobbing in pain and it was killing me. This was my best friend lying on the ground in agony.
Soon a group of paramedics rushed over and put Kala on a stretcher, keeping him on his side. One of the paramedics was talking to me, he was a friend of my mom's that came over for dinner every now and then, but I didn't listen to what he was saying. I was too worried about Kala.
He was loaded into the ambulance quickly and I stayed with him making sure he didn't have to let go of my hand. Once we were in the ambulance the paramedics cut away his shirt and I saw what had happened to his back.
Last year Kala had gotten corset piercings up his spine. Six piercings on either side laced up with a bright green ribbon. Every single one had been ripped out of his back as he slid across the track. His back was a bloody, torn up mess and the paramedics worked quickly to stop the bleeding.
We were at the hospital within minutes and Kala was taken to the emergency unit. When they forced him to let go of my hand he screamed and begged them to let me come with him. But I couldn't and it hurt so much to watch them take Kala to be worked on while he was crying to stay with me.
I stumbled into a waiting room and collapsed into a chair, my head in my hands. Kala and I had gotten hurt before, quite often for that matter, but it had never been this bad. Broken bones, a few cuts that needed stitches, a couple minor burns, just little things like that; never something this serious.
"Ricky, sweetheart what's going on!?" My mother exclaimed. She was in her nurses scrubs and had been walking by the waiting room when she spotted me and rushed in.
"Kala, Kala got hurt." I choked out.
"Tell me what happened, sweetie." She urged.
"He, we, we were racing at the go-cart track. And, and Andrew slammed into Kala on purpose and wrecked him. Kala, he, he" I was freaking out now and I couldn't get enough air to finish the story. My mom waved another nurse over and instructed her to get me something for shock while she went to check on Kala.
The nurse escorted me to a hospital room and gave me an oxygen mask and a shot of medication to help me calm down. She sat with me for a few minutes, rubbing gentle circles into my back before she had to leave to take care of other patients.
I lost track of time rather quickly while I waited to hear about Kala. I kept seeing images of him in a coffin every time I closed my eyes. No matter how much I tried to reassure myself that the injury wasn't that bad, I couldn't make the image of him being dead go away.
Eventually my mom came in and gave me a reassuring hug, "Kala is going to be fine, sweetheart." She assured me.
"Yeah, he needed a lot of stitches but he should be just fine after a few days in bed. He'll have a little bit of scaring but it shouldn't be much. And the scrape on his arm should be just fine as well." She told me.
"Can I see him?" I begged.
"Yeah, they're going to put him on the other bed in this room. They'll bring him in in just a few minutes. He's on sedatives so if he wakes up he'll be very groggy. Now then, I have to talk to his mother since she just got here."
"Okay." I nodded. Even though my mom had said he was going to be fine, I couldn't get the image of Kala in a coffin out of my head while I waited for them to bring him in.
When they did bring him in he was fast asleep on his side with bandages wrapped tightly around his torso and arm. They'd given him grey sweats to wear, rather then a hospital gown.
The second the doctors were gone I leapt over to Kala's bed and sat next to it, gently stroking his cheek. He was slightly pale and had an oxygen line under his nose, but he was smiling just slightly in his sleep.
"Mmm, that feels good, Ricky." He mumbled as he leaned slightly into my hand that was still stroking his cheek. I just smiled slightly and told him to go back to sleep.
"Riiiickyyyyyy! I'm booooooooard." Kala whined from his face down position on the mattress. He'd been on bed rest for two days now and he had another two to go. The inactivity was causing him more pain then his back.
"Well, what can I do to help you not be so board?" I questioned as I sat down next to him on the mattress.
"I don't know." He mumbled into the pillow.
"Well, that isn't exactly a helpful answer."
"Read to me?" He picked his head up to look at me, one eyebrow arched higher than the other.
"Read to you? Really?"
"Yeah, read to me. Please?"
He just shrugged, "I like the sound of your voice." He said it in a very nonchalance tone but I couldn't help but blush just slightly.
"Alright, what do you want me to read?"
"That paranormal phenomenon book you showed me a minute ago, the new one your mom got you." He requested. I nodded and dug the book back out of my bag before I settled on the bed next to Kala and started to read. Kala sat up and leaned on his side against the pile of pillows at the head of the bed.
I tried to focus on the book, but I couldn't help but glance at Kala every few minutes. His eyes were closed and he was smiling softly, the smile looked beautiful on his face. I'd known for awhile that it wasn't girls that turned me on, but other guys that did. Even with that realization though, I'd never thought of Kala like that, not until now. And now, well, the thought just wouldn't go away. The way his bottom lip was swollen just slightly from where he'd gnawed on it in boredom, the way the little smile changed his whole face, none of it would leave my mind.
"Ricky, why'd you stop reading?" Kala asked suddenly, his eyes opening just slightly so he could look at me through his lashes. I hadn't even realized that I'd stopped reading.
"I, I got distracted, sorry." I mumbled. I opened my mouth to start reading again but Kala gently grabbed my wrist to stop me.
"What distracted you?" He asked innocently.
"Nothing, I just zoned out, that's all." I was hoping beyond hope he couldn't see the blush painted on my face.
"Ricky, you're blushing." Kala was grinning now.
"No I'm not." I mumbled.
"Yes you are! Who are you thinking about? Hmm, Amanda? Julie?" He pried.
"No Kala, I'm not thinking about them." I shut the book and set it down on the floor, just so I didn't have to make eye contact with him.
"Cooooome, ooooonnn, Riccccky! Tell meeeeeee!" Kala had a horrible habit of drawing out his words when I wouldn't tell him something he wanted to know.
"No, Kala, it's nothing."
"Ricky, I know you better then that. I know you're thinking about someone, just tell me who!" He pleaded. "I won't be mad or anything and I won't tell! You know you can trust me! Come on Ricky, pleeeeeeeeeease?"
"Come on; just tell me who it is!"
"Kala, please, you don't need to know." I whispered. The whisper seemed enough to indicate to him that maybe he had gone a little too far.
"Ricky, I'm sorry. I didn't mean…are you okay?" He asked quietly as he sat up and tried to look me in the eye.
" 'm fine." I mumbled.
"I'm sorry, Ricky."
"It's okay, I'm not mad." I told him quietly.
"Why are you so afraid to tell me what you're thinking about?" He inquired.
"I just, I, I think it might upset you." I knew Kala had problems with people who were gay, he didn't dislike them or anything. But there was something that just made him shy away from them, I'd always figured it was something in his past, from before he'd been adopted and came to Glenwood, but I'd never pried.
"I'm sure it won't." He smiled softly. "You're my best friend, after all."
I wanted to tell him so bad, but I was afraid of what could happen. We sat quietly for awhile while I warred internally about what to do. Finally I gave in.
"I was thinking about you." I whispered, keeping my eyes glued to the bed spread.
"And that was enough to distract you from reading?" He laughed; I didn't think he quite got what I meant.
"I was, was thinking about kissing you…Kala." I whispered. In an instant he had paled and bolted to the far corner of the room. My heart jerked and I felt my face drain of all color as well.
"You, you what?" He said in a hoarse whisper.
"Kala, I, I'm sorry. I didn't, I'm sorry." I mumbled. I had no idea what to do now. Kala sunk down to the ground and wrapped his arms tightly around his knees, taking several deep breaths. I could tell he was about to have an asthma attack from the way he was gasping and I moved quickly to get his inhaler. I felt sick that I'd upset him so much.
As soon as I'd handed him the inhaler I stepped back to give him space. After a few moments and several puffs of his medication he calmed down, but stayed in the corner.
"I'm sorry, Ricky, I didn't, I know I shouldn't have freaked out like that." He mumbled.
"You're sorry? Kala, this, this was my fault. I shouldn't have just come out and said something like that. I know, I know people being gay upsets you for some reason, and I just, I just shouldn't have said that." I fumbled for the words I needed, but didn't have much luck.
"Ricky, people being…gay doesn't upset me. It, it scares me. It's just, it's because of something that happened to me before I got adopted." Kala looked like he was about to start freaking out again. Tentatively I moved to sit next to him. He didn't object or shy away so I settled against the wall.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked gently. He was quite for a long time before he nodded, just once. "Well let's go back to your bed then, it's more comfortable then the floor." He just nodded again and I helped him up and back into bed, making sure he was comfortable before I sat down on the very edge of the bed. Kala stayed quite for awhile before he started.
"My real parents were very hardcore Christens. They believed in everything the bible said, including that being gay is wrong. But when I was ten, I kissed a friend of mine when we were playing in the backyard. His name was Alex. My father caught us and he yanked me away from him and broke my arm when he did it. My father dragged me into the house and locked me in an empty room in the basement, after he and my mother beat me. They kept me down there for a week, just tossing me scraps of food and bottles of water. When they did take me out it was the middle of the night and they dragged me outside and tossed me in the trunk of the car." He paused and took a shaky breath. I wanted so bad to wrap my arms around him but I held back. "We drove for along time and when they let me out we were in the middle of nowhere they gave me to this preacher guy. My, my parents had taken me to one of those camps that claims to fix gay children." He was crying now.
"O' god, Kala." I couldn't hold back from at least holding his hand, I'd never seen him this upset. He took my hand gratefully and clung to it tightly.
"I was there for six months. They made me watch all these disgusting videos, and if I tried to turn away they would smack me or not let me eat, sometimes even take my bed away. Eventually the cops raided the camp and I was put into foster care." He wiped away the streaks of water on his face with his sleeve even though they were quickly replaced. "And now, now I can't stand the idea of being gay…even, even though I think I might be." He mumbled the last part and let out a choked sob.
"Kala, you still believe in God, right?" I was scrambling for something to say, and I knew Kala was a Christen, and even though I wasn't I had read the bible.
"And you believe in what the bible says, right?" He just nodded, looking slightly confused. I thought for awhile, trying to remember the exact words of the passage I wanted to quote. "'I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.'" I quoted from memory.
"That, that's in the Bible?"
"Yeah, it's in Samuel, I think. It's been awhile since I read it." Kala got very quiet for awhile, but the tears were still rolling down his face. After maybe an hour he did the last thing I expected. He moved over, wrapped his arms around me and started sobbing into my shoulder. For a moment, I was shell shocked, but I figured now wasn't the best time to question it. I just wrapped my arms gently around him so I didn't hurt his still healing back and gently stroked his hair in an effort to calm him down.
After awhile he fell asleep still curled up on my chest; I pulled the blanket over both of us and joined him in sleep.
Kala had been off of bed rest for about a week now, but his back still caused him a bit of pain. But Kala and I had been rejoicing anyways because we had heard that Andrew's parents where sending him to military school because of the incident. His parents had finally realized that someone, other then them, needed to kick their son into shape.
We were currently sitting at the train station munching on burgers and watching the trains go by. It was a beautiful day, not even a wispy little cloud in the sky and the Colorado River was rolling lazily by along the same path the train's followed up the canyon.
We had yet to talk about the night we had fallen asleep curled up together, but I could tell Kala had been thinking about it. I didn't want to bring it up though; I knew he was very uncomfortable with all of it.
"Hey Ricky, how hard do you think it would be to swim across the Colorado to the hot spring pool?" Kala asked suddenly.
"Well, for one, you can't swim until your back and your arm are healed. For two, the foot bridge is there for a reason."
"But I don't want to walk all the way over to the bridge." He pouted.
"Honestly, you think it would take less effort to swim across the river then to walk over to and across the bridge?"
"Did you hit your head in that crash to?"
"Probably. But there was plenty wrong with my mental state before the crash." Kala was grinning ear to ear now.
"That's very true." I laughed.
"Ricky, can I ask you something?" Kala asked suddenly.
"Always, Kala. What's up?"
"I just," He sighed and rested his head in his hands, his elbows on his knees, "I wanted to talk about the other night." He whispered.
I took a deep breath before I responded, "Alright, what do you want to talk about?"
"I…do you really like me like that, Ricky?" He said after a few minutes.
"I, yeah, Kala, I do. I have for awhile now, I just didn't really admit it to myself until that night. If, if that bothers you, that I like you like that I mean, then…we can just try to pretend it never happened."
"No, Ricky, it doesn't…bother me. I just, I don't get it. I don't see why you could like me like that. I've never even understood why you can even consider me a friend, honestly. That, that camp really fucked me up and now I just don't get things like that. They just don't make sense to me anymore." He mumbled.
"Well, then let me help them make sense for you." I whispered as I moved to crouch in front of him. He peaked out at me through his fingers and just watched me for awhile. I stayed still and held his gaze, not sure what else to do.
"Okay." He whispered after a long time. I just smiled softly and gave him a gentle hug. He returned it gratefully, resting his head in the crook of my neck. I could feel how tense he was and gently rubbed the back of his neck.
"I say we go to the arcade." He said suddenly, pulling back with another huge grin on his face.
"Arcade sounds good." I laughed.