WARNING: This story contains scenes depiction sexual relations between males. For a time one of those males won't exactly be of legal age in some parts of the country. If this type of material is offensive to your or is not legal in your place of residence DO NOT READ THIS STORY.


I don't know how the rest of that conversation between my mother and the doctor went because I got up and left the house. I didn't want to sit at the table with the homophobic bastard any longer than necessary. I took my shake and headed across the street. The guys probably weren't awake yet but I couldn't stay at home and I wanted to check on Rob.

I was shocked to see Rob sitting on the couch when I walked in the door. He looked up and then was off the couch and standing in front of me in seconds. His arms wrapped around me tightly and I put my arms around him too. He was sobbing against me and I kept whispering that everything was all right.

"I'm so sorry for bringing that man around you, Josh," he moaned into my shoulder. "I can't believe what he was trying to do to you."

"He didn't get far," I said. "I'm fine, Rob. I'm more worried about you."

"I'll be all right," he said, stepping back. I got my first look at his bandaged ear then.

"What did he do to you?" I demanded, shocking myself with the venom in my voice.

"I told him I was going to call the police and he just started to hit me over and over again," he said. "He hit me in the side of the head with his fist and that was it for me. The next thing I knew Rex had called the police and the ambulance was there. Medics were checking me out. We only got home this morning. Rex is asleep."

I sat with Rob and listened to his entire account of what happened after I ran out of the house the day before. He told me that Rex had come home while he and Kenny were screaming at each other. Rex had asked where I was and when Rob told him what he had walked in on Rex had punched Kenny in the face and Kenny had left. He said they kept trying to call me and finally Rex went over to the house but I wasn't there. He went looking for me and Kenny came back. When he walked in the door Rob told him that he was going to call the police and tell them what he'd walked in on and that he was trespassing. That was when Kenny started hitting him.

I spent the rest of the day with him until it was time for me to mow a few lawns. When I took the mower back to my house and put it in the shed I noticed that my mom's car was still in the driveway. She was sitting at the kitchen table when I came in the back door.

"I'm sorry for what he said this morning, Josh," she said.

"I wasn't going to sit here and listen to him belittle my friends, Mom," I said.

"I know that," she said. "I've told him that he can't talk about Rob or Rex that way in this house. He got angry and left."

"I'm sorry about walking out like that, but I can't say that I'm upset that he left," I said.

"He called a little while ago to apologize for leaving," she said. "We're going to go out to dinner tonight and talk this over. All three of us."

"I'm not going, Mom," I said, sitting down across from her at the table. "I'm sorry but I don't like the man. I didn't like him before this morning and knowing that he has a narrow mind doesn't help. I'm not going to dinner with him."

"Josh, please," she said, looking at me with that pleading look in her eyes.

"Mom, you said when you started working so much that you would treat me like an adult until I gave you a reason not to," I said. "If you're really going to treat me like an adult then you have to respect the way I feel. I don't like the doctor and I'm not ever going to."

"All right," she sighed. "You also have to understand that I care for Curtis, Josh."

"I know that," I replied. "I respect that you care for him but I don't understand it."

"I suppose I have to live with that," she said.

"I'm sorry, Mom," I said. "I can't help the way I feel."

We left it at that. We just agreed to disagree where the doctor was concerned. I didn't tell the guys about the doctor's homophobia or my mother's apparent acceptance of it. I just let things lie. Rob's recovery was more important to me than anything the doctor had to say. I was sad that my mother and I seemed to be at odds over him but there wasn't much I could do about it. It was just a very strange situation for us.

A few weeks after the ordeal with Kenny I saw Riley Wagoner coming out of Danny's grandmother's house again. This time she saw me too. I was cutting grass across the street and she came over to talk to me. I was wearing a tank top and shorts, covered in sweat and grass clippings. It wasn't pretty but then I wasn't trying to impress her.

"Hi, Josh Carson," she said, smiling as she walked up to me. "You live here?"

"No," I said. "I'm just making a little money."

"Danny said you mow his grandma's grass," she said. "That's a good thing because he'd never do it. If it doesn't involve a football or me he won't do it."

"So how's your summer going?" I asked, realizing that this was the most she'd ever said to me since I'd met her.

"Not bad," she said, smiling. "How about yours?"

"All right," I said. "Pretty routine."

"Well I've got to get home," she said. "It was nice talking to you, Josh."

"You too," I said and watched her walk back across the street and get in a little black Volkswagen Bug. She waived at me as she drove away.

"Call me some time, Josh," she said over her shoulder as she walked back across the street.

"There see?" Rob said with a genuine smile on his face when I told him about it later that day.

"All right," I laughed. "So how are you feeling today?"

"Better," he said. "Your mom got me in touch with a psychologist. I've been talking it all out."

"That's good," I said. "I'm glad you're starting to feel better."

"Thanks," he said, smiling. "You're a great friend, Josh."

"You're a pretty great friend yourself, Rob," I said, smiling at him.

The summer went on like the one before it. I hung out with Rex and Rob most of the time, mowed lawns to make money and worked out three times a week. The summer went on like the one before it with a slight modification. Shortly after Kenny broke up with Rob for the second time, Rex had started throwing pillows and blankets on the floor during movie time and the three of us would lounge there. We gradually migrated toward each other until we were in a companionable, comfortable, cuddly tangle as we watched movies.

None of us ever said anything about it but I was acutely aware of the feeling of Rob behind me or Rex snuggled against me in the front. It was usually like that with Rob lying on the pillows against the couch, my head on Rob's stomach and Rex snuggled up against me in a spooning position. I don't even know when it was that my arm started feeling so good around Rex but that became a part of it too. Occasionally Rob would play with my hair which was getting longer than usual because it was summer and I wasn't being hounded by my mother to get it cut.

I spent many nights in bed thinking about what it felt like to have my head on Rob's stomach with Rex in my arms. There was nothing sexual about it but it was very erotic. I liked the feeling it gave me to be held and to hold someone. Was it bad if I liked holding Rex and liked being held by Rob? Did it make me gay? I didn't think so. It was what it was and I decided to just go with the flow.

Then right after Independence Day something happened that changed the way I thought about our intimate contact. It didn't happen all at once and it was a little while after the actual event that I started to think about things again. Rex and I had worked out three times a week for two summers now and we'd seen each other naked countless times. That wasn't the problem. The problem came when Rex and I decided to play hand ball instead of soaking in the hot tub and swimming in the pool after a work out.

You know what hand ball is I'm sure. It's called by many names but what it boils down to is a wall, a hard rubber ball and two people to slap the ball with their glove encased hands and try to make sure the other person misses. It's simple and fun. At least that's the way it started out that Monday afternoon. Rex and I played for about an hour, really slapping at the ball and getting it to go faster and faster. The sound of the ball hitting the wall echoed around the small room we were in. The sounds of the ball slapping against our gloves was flat and just as loud.

I slapped the ball just right and I was fully prepared to cry out in triumph when Rex missed the ball because it was coming at him far too low. What I didn't expect was for him to dive to the floor and slap the ball back at the wall with just as much force as he'd used during the entire game. I heard him hit the floor and gasp as the air was forced out of his lungs with the impact. I turned my head to make sure that he was all right when I heard the ball hit the wall. Now I should have been paying attention to the ball but Rex was my friend and I thought he might be hurt. What I didn't know was that the ball had bounced off the wall at such an angle that it soared toward me, hit the floor and then shot straight into my jock covered crotch and a pain like I'd never known in all of my sixteen years gripped me and brought me down with an agonized wail.

All I knew was pain and it got worse the longer I lay on the floor with my hands gripping my crotch. I could hear Rex telling me he was sorry and asking if I was all right but all I could do was moan and wail. It was like someone had reached into my guts and ripped out my stomach. The pain, starting in my testicles, radiated outward in pulses and spikes.

"Josh, you have to let go," said Rex. He was pulling at my arm and telling me to sit up straight. "Breathe, Josh."

Finally able to at least breathe easier I sat up. Rex helped me to stand but had to support me as he walked me out of the room. I was crying like a baby but at that moment I didn't really care. Pain was all I cared about and there was plenty of it to care about. We hobbled together to the locker room which was thankfully deserted. He sat me down gently on the bench in front of our lockers and started to pull my gym shorts down. Now I tried to stop him until he told me he had to see if there was damage. Well for some reason that made sense to my mind but then I thought that there was plenty of damage I could feel the damage.

"You're going to have to let me take the jock off, Josh," he said gently. "I can't see through it."

I didn't say anything as his fingers slipped under the waistband of my jock. He started to gently tug and I did my best to lift my ass so he could get it off me. When the material separated from my scrotum there was fresh pain and boy was it evil. I howled before I could stop myself and Rex jumped, pulling the skimpy garment the rest of the way off my battered nuts. I was breathing hard through my mouth as I gripped his t-shirt in one fist and punched the locker with the other.

When I looked down at myself I was terrified by what I saw. An angry purple and black bruise covered almost my entire crotch region. Strangely my dick was the normal flesh color but it was the only thing that wasn't covered by the massive bruise. What was terrifying was that my scrotum had swollen. It was continuing to swell as I watched. I heard Rex suck in a breath as he reached for my flaccid dick and moved it out of the way.

"Stay here," he said, standing up and letting go of my dick. "I'm going to get some ice and we'll get you to the hospital."

He draped a sweaty towel over my pelvis and nearly ran out of the locker room to the ice machine. He was back in what seemed like seconds and then he was wrapping the plastic bag of ice with the sweaty towel and he lifted my dick again to put the ice on my battered nuts. I breathed harder than ever as he did this but miraculously my dick sprang up like a flag pole. He mumbled something under his breath and then told me to put on my sweats but to keep the ice where it was.

After the painful ordeal of getting my sweats up over my hips and over my swollen crotch with the ice bundled against my scrotum we hobbled to the truck. He had both of our gym bags slung over one arm. The other was around my waist to support me as we made our way out of the building and to the truck. I sat against the passenger door in agony. All I could think about was the pain in my crotch and if my balls would ever work again. I thought of every ejaculation I'd ever had in my life from the first to that last one that very morning in the shower before heading across the street and wondered in fear if that morning's ejaculation was the last of my life.

He drove to the hospital quickly, asking me repeatedly if the pain was any worse. I couldn't tell if it was any worse but I knew it was no better. He kept apologizing but I was in too much pain to tell him it wasn't his fault at the moment. When we got to the hospital he helped me inside and sat me in a chair in the waiting room while he told the receptionist at the desk to page my mother.

My mother came into the waiting room and looked at me. She knelt in front of me and asked what happened. I told her to please sign the release so I could see a doctor. I didn't want to tell her what was wrong but I knew I'd have to. Before I could tell her Rex filled her in on everything that had happened. He even told her that he'd applied ice and that it was still inside my sweat pants. I was mortified.

She signed the release and I was taken to an examination room. When she came into the room with the doctor I about had a heart attack. I wasn't going to let them touch me while she was in the room. She had to understand that I didn't want her to see. What sixteen year old boy wants their mother to look at their nuts?

"I'm not showing anybody anything while my mom is in the room," I said when the doctor told me to remove my sweat pants.

"Josh," she said quickly. "I just want to make sure that you're all right."

"I don't care," I said loudly. "If you don't leave the room the damned things can fall off. I'm not showing you my crotch!"

"What if I have Curtis . . ."

"Are you kidding?" I snapped. "Get outa here!"

She paled and looked at me with wide eyes. I'd never yelled at her before in my life. I felt like an ass but she had to understand. She finally turned and walked out of the room. I half expected Doctor Birch to come through the door at any moment. I quickly told the doctor that I didn't want Doctor Birch, my mother or Rex in the room. No one that knew me.

He assured me that no one would come in. I took off my sweats and he looked at my crotch carefully. He asked about the pain and I informed him that it was as strong as it had been when it first happened. He told me to lie back on the examination table and then he started to touch me. Each touch brought more pain and I let him know it very loudly.

Then he said he wanted an X-Ray. I had to wait a few minutes for an aid to come and wheel me to Radiology. Then they took embarrassing pictures of my crotch from every angle. I knew that they were only taking X-Rays but that didn't stop me from being humiliated. I was so happy when I was told to pull my sweats back up. Then I was wheeled back to the examination room to wait for the doctor to look at the X-Rays.

He came in after a short wait and told me that nothing was damaged severely and that the swelling would go down if I continued to apply ice. The bruising would fade with time and he said that the pain would get better over time. He prescribed a pain killer and then administered a shot of the pain killer before he left the room.

"I didn't think it was necessary to bring in another person and put you on display," he said, winking at me.

Once I was fully dressed I told him he could send my mother and Rex into the room. The pain killer was doing its job before they got to the room. I was getting really groggy and other than the occasional shooting pain from my crotch I felt pretty good. Rex had a worried look on his face but I assured him that I was going to be all right and that there was no permanent damage.

"The doctor told us that you're under the effect of a powerful pain killer," said my mother. "I think it would be a good idea if you stayed at Rex and Rob's until I get home from work so they can watch over you."

"We'll watch him," Rex said quickly.

"If he falls asleep before I get home is it all right if he stays at your house?" she asked.

I was already falling asleep while they were talking. The pain killer was very powerful. Rex helped me back to the truck and we stopped at Walgreens so he could go inside and get my prescription filled. We waited for an hour before they had it filled. He charged the bill to my mother's account and we were on our way to his house.

I don't really remember getting to the house. I must have fallen asleep on the way. When we pulled into the drive Rex went inside and then he and Rob came out to get me. They helped me in the house and sat me on the couch. I didn't even protest when Rex started to take my sweats off of me while Rob took my shoes off. Rex took the ice bag and went to the kitchen to get more ice and Rob went and got a sheet to put over me so I wasn't so exposed.

I dosed off and on for the rest of the evening. I got my first pill right before the news came on at ten and then I was asleep again. I could hear my mother's voice talking to Rex and Rob some time that night but I couldn't wake up. She must have left though because the next thing I knew it was morning. Rex was sitting in the recliner watching me intently.

"Morning," I said, wincing as I stretched.

"Need another pill?" he asked, getting up quickly.

"Please," I replied.

"How many yards do you have to mow today?" he asked when he came back with a donut, glass of milk and my pill.

"Four," I replied. "I can give you the phone numbers of all of the customers and you can call and tell them I can't mow today."

"Or you could give me the addresses and I could mow the yards for you," he said. "Rob will be here all day. We've both called off work."

"That would work, thanks, Rex," I said with a sigh.

"No worries," he said, smiling. "Now for the ice pack."

I groaned as he lifted the sheet and took the ice bag that was water after the night off my crotch. We both looked at it and noticed that the swelling was going down. It looked worse than ever though. The black bruise was now all over my crotch. I sighed in resignation as I looked at it. Then I was humiliated when my dick sprang up at full mast again.

"Sorry," I said, turning my head.

"We're guys, Josh," said Rex, lowering the sheet. "It happens, and at least you know it still works."

That got me to laugh and look him in the eye again. He was smiling at me. He winked and then went into the kitchen to get me a new ice bag. I sat there and thought about the fact that my dick got hard twice while Rex was watching. It was humiliating but what he'd said was true. We were both guys and it happened.

After I had a new ice bag and the remote control, Rex left to get my mower and start mowing the lawns I had scheduled for that day. I dosed on and off until Rob came in and sat down in the recliner. He asked me if I was hungry and I realized that I was. We had peanut butter sandwiches and pretzels and watched a movie he'd put in. Neither of us could stomach daytime television.

"We had an interesting talk with your mother this morning," Rob said as we watched the movie.

"About me?"

"No," he said. "About the doctor she's seeing. I guess he doesn't like you spending time with me and Rex."

"Well that's too bad," I replied instantly. "I already told her I wasn't having anything to do with the doctor or his narrow minded opinions."

"I thought you were going to try to give the guy a break," said Rob.

"I did," I sighed. "Then he made an ass of himself at the breakfast table and that was it for him. I despise him."

"Do yourself a favor, Josh," he said. "Don't come between your mother and the doctor. She'll resent that."

"I have no intention of coming between them," I said honestly. "If she wants to be with him that's her business not mine. I don't have to be any part of it though."

We didn't talk about the doctor or my mother any more after that. I think Rob knew that I was still too angry with the doctor to even be civil talking about him. I didn't understand why he wasn't more upset about it. In my opinion it was him and Rob that had the most to fear from the doctor. He just made me mad.

Rex got back right before dinner time all sweaty and covered in grass trimmings. He told me that all four of that day's customers wished me a speedy recovery. When I asked him what he'd told them he said he'd just told them all I'd had an accident and wasn't able to do my job and he was filling in.

My mother came to the house that night to check on me and tell me that she thought I should come home. I asked if the doctor was there and she said that he was. I was quiet for a little bit while I thought about what to say to that. Finally I just told her I would come home in the morning when the house was empty so I could sleep. She just sighed and left. I felt like an ass for hurting her but I wasn't in the mood for a round with the doctor, not while I was under the influence of the pain medication.

I did go home the next day. The first thing I did after Rex was gone with the mower was get in the shower. It felt so good to have the hot water cascading over me. Drying my crotch was a painful chore but I went downstairs to get a sandwich and a glass of milk so that I could take my pill once I was back in my room. I didn't want to chance the stairs on such a powerful drug.

Rob came over and sat with me when he got off work. He laughed at my grogginess and we had a ball. When Rex returned with the mower sweaty and covered in grass again he relayed the same messages from that day's customers. Then he asked me if I wanted to expand my business a little.

I'd been mowing lawns in the spring, summer and fall since I was thirteen years old. When the leaves fell I raked and bagged leaves, cleaned up yards and basically got them all ready for the snow to fall. Once that happened I was in charge of walks, driveways and sometimes digging cars out of snow drifts at the curb. It had become quite a lucrative business and I'd had to pay taxes on the business for the first time that year. It had been Rob that showed me how to claim the gas, oil and maintenance of the mower as well as my receipt books and ledgers for writing bills. I now had four yards to mow every single day of the week other than Sunday when I only mowed two yards. I'd expanded my services to provide weeding, trimming bushes and tree limbs and in a few cases planting shrubs. It was getting to be a big time thing and it took a lot of time.

"What did you have in mind?" I asked.

"Well I was thinking about coming to work for you," he said. "I only work two days a week at the diner anyway, so I could take on some of the yards and give you a break."

We talked about how that would work and in the end it was Rob that gave us the solution. He would help me draw up a contract that stated that Rex was working as an in dependant contractor. He said that I would probably need to buy a new mower and sell the old one to Rex that way he would be using his own mower. He said he'd talk to me about how to pay Rex when I wasn't under the influence of the pain killer.

They left me right before it was time for my mother to get home from work. I was unhappy to learn that the doctor had come home with her once again so I stayed in my room and pretended to be asleep when she checked on me. I really did fall asleep though. The next thing I knew it was morning and the house was empty.

It went on like that for the rest of the week. Each day my swelling would go down and by that Friday my crotch had changed from a dark bruise to a purple one that was brown in a few spots. There wasn't nearly as much pain as their had been and I was up and moving around almost completely freely again by Saturday.

That was the day that Rob, Rex and I went to buy the second mower. When Rob saw how much money I had in my account he suggested that I invest a little of it. He promised to sit and talk with me about which investments were good as soon as we got the mower situation all worked out. He'd already drawn up the contract for me and Rex to sign and it included the sale of the mower in it. We also bought more hedge trimmers and rakes. I told them we'd get more shovels and salt buckets when winter hit.

By the end of the summer Rex and I had more clients. He'd load up both mowers in the back of his truck and we'd park the truck between what was considered my half of one neighborhood and his half. We learned to time ourselves just right and be ready to reload the truck and move on at the same time. With the use of his truck we were also able to get more customers and soon he was doing four lawns a day just like me and had quit working at the Galaxy Diner.

"Tell me something," Rex said when we were taking a break on Sunday. "If you have all of that money why haven't you bought a car?"

"Mom says I don't need a car," I replied. "She says that I need to learn responsibility before I take on such a big one."

"I think you're a pretty responsible person," he said.

"Well unfortunately my mother doesn't seem to agree with you," I laughed.

"She must think you're responsible," he argued. "She lets you stay home alone all day and trusts that you'll go to school when she goes to work and come home before she gets home. You have to feed yourself, do your own laundry and take care of the house most of the time. That's pretty responsible if you ask me."

"Well all I can say is the last time we talked about it she said we'd discuss it again when I turned seventeen," I replied. "That happens in two weeks."

"That's right," he said as if he'd forgotten. "I think we have something planned for you that day."

"Oh I'm sure you do," I laughed. "Let's get back to it so we can be done."

For those two weeks I managed to steer clear of the doctor. Unfortunately that meant staying away from my mother most of the time, too. My mother and I hadn't been close for quite a while but I'd always thought we had a pretty good relationship. It was hard staying away from her but I really didn't want anything to do with the doctor. I just hoped that she'd wise up and get rid of him eventually.

It was the day before my birthday that she got me. She'd taken the day off to stay home and talk with me about my birthday. I was happy to find her home alone when I got up that morning and I even cooked her breakfast while I drank my shake. We had a nice time for a bit and then she lowered the bomb on me.

"Your birthday is tomorrow and we thought it would be nice for you to spend it at home with family," she said as casually as she could. I sat and stared at her for a moment. Her use of the word "we" hadn't escaped me.

"Family meaning just you and me?" I asked, knowing full well what it meant.

"Josh, Curtis wants to spend time with you as well," she said, smiling at me.

I couldn't believe her. She had the nerve to sit there and say something like that and smile as if I'd think it a lovely idea and go along with it. Well she was mistaken. I had no intention of spending my birthday with the homophobic doctor. I was going across the street to spend the day with my friends.

"I see," I said coldly, and her facial expression darkened.

"This isn't a request, Josh," she said. "You're staying home tomorrow."

"And if I decide to stay in my room all day?" I asked.

"You're not being very mature about this," she said.

"Oh," I laughed. "You want maturity? I'll give you a dose. Let's see. You work all the time and I never see you as it is. Then you start dating a man who I can't stand the sight of and you want to lay down the law, telling me that I have to spend my birthday with this man. Well I won't do it. If I have to stay home tomorrow I'll do it in my room with the door locked. You can tell Rex and Rob why I'm not coming over there for the party they've set up for me."

"When did you become so disrespectful?" she snapped, slapping her hand on the table and making me jump.

"Disrespectful?" I asked. "Mom, I respect that you want to be with the doctor. That's fine with me. But I don't have to be with the doctor."

"Well I say you do," she said.

"Fine," I snapped. "I'll stay home tomorrow and I'll even come downstairs and sit with you and that man, but I won't talk to him. I know this sounds unreasonable to you, Mom, and maybe it is. I can't help it though. Rex and Rob are the best friends I've ever had. They're supposed to be your friends, too."

"And if I say you aren't to have anything to do with them anymore?" she asked.

"I guess you can do that because I'm still a minor," I said. "But we only have a year to go and then I'll just walk away and never come back."

"How did this happen to us?" she asked, looking away from me. "We got along so well for so long."

"I don't know how this happened," I admitted. "I don't like it but then I'm the kid in this situation and don't have any rights anymore."

"Go to your room, Josh," she said. "And don't come out for the rest of the day."

"What about my yards?" I asked.

"Let your employee take care of the yards," she said. "You're not leaving the house."

"Whatever," I said, getting up from the table. I slammed my glass into the sink and went upstairs, slamming my door when I got in my room.

I called Rex and asked him to tell my customers that something had come up and I would be unable to mow for them today. I told him that I was under house arrest because I didn't want to spend my birthday with the doctor and he said he'd take care of it and talk to me later.

I answered email and chatted online with Pete while I was in my solitude. I told him everything that had been going on from meeting the guys to the doctor's narrow minded hold on my mother. He said that it sucked that things were going the way they were and told me to tuff it out. We talked for a while and then my mother was pounding on my door.

"Open the door, Joshua," she screamed from the other side.

"What?" I demanded when I opened the door to face her.

"We're going to talk about this until you see reason," she said.

"Reason?" I laughed. "Mother, leave me alone."

I closed the door and locked it again. I fully expected her to start pounding on the door again but she didn't. I ate an energy bar at lunch time and watched another movie. Twice I had to go to the bathroom to get water and to use the facilities. To pass the time I played a computer game and before I knew it she was knocking on the door again. I looked at the display on the computer screen and saw that it was six.

"Dinner," she said.

"No," I replied and went back to my game.

When I got hungry I ate another energy bar and then went back to the computer. This time I surfed the net, looking up everything I could about nothing in particular. I stumbled on a site about gay people and started to read stories about coming out and parental reactions. It was mostly sad and I felt horrible for Rex, knowing that his parents hadn't taken it well when he'd come out. Rob never talked about his parents. Most of the time he when he talked about family it was about his younger brother and sister.

The next day I stayed in my room all day again. I'd gone downstairs in the middle of the night to get some food for the day. I saw the cake that was sitting on the counter and shook my head. She honestly thought I was going to go along with this but I wasn't. I locked myself in my room again and stayed there all day long.

She went back to work the following day and so did I. There was no way I was going to keep missing my customers. I explained to Rex what was going on and he kept telling me to make up with my mom. I told him that I wasn't angry with her. I was hurt. I didn't understand why she was letting that man dictate how she treated me. It made no sense.

When I got home the doctor's car was in the driveway. I walked in the house and he started in on me as soon as I shut the door. He ranted and raved about how I had hurt my mother by staying in my room all day on my birthday. He called me ungrateful and told me that I was going to have to change and soon. He went on and on about how I'd been influenced by the immoral homosexuals across the street and how I wouldn't be allowed to consort with such people anymore. I just turned around and walked back out of the house.

I went to Rex and Rob's and told Rob what had happened. He told me I could stay there and he called my mother to tell her where I was. They talked for a while but he told me that she'd said I could stay there for the night and she would talk to me when I got done with my yards the next day.

I did my yards, thinking about what I was going to say to my mother when we talked. The doctor wasn't going to lord over me. I'd run away and I was prepared to tell her that when I got there to put the mower in the shed. I saw his car parked behind hers and sighed. I went in the house and upstairs to shower and change clothes. When I got downstairs my mother was sitting at the table.

"Where's the doctor?" I asked without disguising the bite in my voice.

"Josh, sit down," she said. "We need to talk."

I sat down thinking that I didn't really want to have another go around about my hanging out with Rex and Rob. She'd been fine with the time I spent with them until the doctor had entered our lives and I thought that reeked. I had lost a lot of respect for my mother and that was very sad. I blamed the doctor for it all though.

"First of all I didn't appreciate you just walking out of here this morning," she said one I'd sat down.

"Did you expect me to sit here and listen to that man put my best friends down?" I asked.

"I expected you to handle yourself like an adult," she said. "He doesn't feel the same way we do about homosexuals, Josh. I think that it was rude of you to just walk away. He was very upset because of that."

"I don't really care if he was upset or not," I said, ignoring the dark looked that covered her face. "I wasn't going to sit here and listen to it. I'm not going to sit here and listen to it ever, Mom. You know Rob and Rex. They're your friends, too. How can you sit here and defend that man if he doesn't like them because they're gay?"

"I can sit here and defend that man because I'm in love with him," she said. It was like a slap in the face when she said it and I'm sure I winced.

"I don't want to hear this," I said, looking away from her.

"Well you're going to here it, Joshua," she said hotly. "I understand that you have some sort of problem with me dating Curtis . . ."

"I had a problem with you dating the doctor," I said, looking back at her. "I had a problem because he wasn't Dad. Rob was the one who got me to see what my problem was, Mom. Rob was the one who told me to cut the guy a break. I did that. I did it because Rob asked me to. Now, after cutting him a break, he gets to attack my friends and I have to listen to it because you're in love with him?"

"You're being very disrespectful," she said.

"I'm being disrespectful?" I spat and then laughed. "I can't believe this. You're defending a homophobe, Mother. I'm not going to apologize for anything and I won't listen to any of the man's drivel about homosexuals being bad or anything like that. Rob and Rex are my friends."

"I'm disappointed in you, Josh," she sighed.

"Well I'm disappointed in you, too, Mom," I said. "I can't believe you'd do this to people you called friends."

"I'm not going to argue with you about this," she said. I could tell by her tone that I'd made her angry. "You will show Curtis respect, Josh. You're going to have to get used to each other. He's moving in here."

"That's real nice," I spat. "Thanks for asking me what I thought about it. I live here, too, you know? Or did you forget while you were working eighteen hours every day?"

"You don't talk to your mother that way," yelled the doctor as he came into the kitchen. "Janice, I can't believe you're letting him get away with this."

"Doctor, I suggest you keep your nose out of this," I snapped. "This is between me and my mother."

"You won't talk to me that way," he said, stepping closer to me and raising his hand.

"Don't even think about it," I yelled, getting up so fast that the chair tipped over. "If you even touch me I'll call the police and have your ass arrested."

"Joshua, sit down," said my mother. "We're not done talking."

"I'm done talking if you're going to let this goon touch me," I said.

"Curtis," she said, looking at the doctor. "Go back in the living room and let me deal with this."

"I won't," he said. "That boy is going to apologize to you before anyone leaves this room."

"Ya' think?" I hissed before turning and walking out the back door.

I didn't get far before he grabbed me from behind. He twisted my arm and literally dragged me back in the house. I was livid by the time we got there. He was screaming about disrespect and immorality all the time. I saw Rex come out of the house across the street to watch the scene as my mother's boyfriend dragged me into the house, screaming at the top of his lungs as he did so.

"Let go of me!" I screamed once we were inside. "You don't have the right to put your hands on me. Are you completely insane?"

"You will apologize to your mother," he said, ignoring me. "No son of mine . . ."

"Wait a fucking minute," I snapped, making my mother gasp at my language. "You are not my father! Don't you ever refer to yourself as my father again. Mom, if you want this man in your life that's fine, but if he touches me again we're going to have trouble."

That's when he did it. I didn't even see it coming. I heard my mother cry out but it was too late. His fist connected with my face so quickly that there was no time to get away from him. I fell backward and hit the floor, looking up at him in shock. Rage filled me like it had never filled me before. I got up off the floor and rose my fists.

"You fucking bastard," I hissed. "Sucker punching me wasn't wise. If you want to fight I'm ready for you."

"Joshua Carson!" cried my mother.

"You know what?" I said, putting my fists down. "To hell with you both."

I walked out of the house and across the street without so much as a backward glance. I could feel the blood dripping from my nose as I walked. My mother was calling for me but I wouldn't stop. This was it. It was over. I was never going home. They could put me in a foster home if they wanted but I was never going back there.

"Josh, what happened?" Rob asked when I walked into their house. He looked at me with wide, shocked eyes as Rex came into the room with a towel for my nose.

"I need to use your phone," I said as calmly as I could.

He handed it to me and I dialed 911. I told the operator that I had been assaulted by my mother's boyfriend. She asked my age and I told her I was seventeen. She wanted to know if I was in danger and I told her that I was at a neighbor's house and wouldn't be going home again. She said she'd send an officer right away.

I told them everything that had happened since I got home from doing the yards while we waited for the police. My mother came to the door and Rob let her in. I refused to talk to her though and she demanded that I come home. I just sat there and looked at her until the police knocked on the door.

"You called the police?" she asked.

"Do you not see my face?" I asked as Rob let the policemen into the house.

The police looked at my face and then asked me who had assaulted me. I told them that it was Doctor Curtis Birch and that he was across the street in my mother's house. They asked my mother if she had witnessed it and she had the nerve to tell them that she had but that I had been unruly. I told them that we'd had an argument over the doctor not being my father and I had walked away to calm down but he grabbed me and dragged me back into the house. Rex told them that he saw the doctor dragging me in the house, screaming about me being disrespectful. He said that he'd heard the doctor tell me that if I couldn't learn respect he would teach it to me the hard way.

The officers told me that as a seventeen year old male I could press charges if I wanted to. I told them I had every intention of pressing charges, and when my mother tried to say something they told her that she had to remain quiet. One of the officers called for back-up to arrest the doctor while the two in the house asked me if I felt comfortable returning to my home.

"I'm not going back there," I said quickly. "I realize I'm not eighteen and I'm still a minor. If I have to go to a foster home I will, but I'm not living in that house with either of them."

"Joshua, don't be ridiculous," said my mother. "You're coming home where you belong."

"I stopped belonging there when you let your boyfriend manhandle me," I replied. I turned back to the officers. "I'm not going back there. If I'm made to go I'll just run away. I'm sorry but I don't want to live where I'm not safe."

"Tell him he has to come home," my mother said to the officers.

"Ma'am, that's a matter for family court," replied one of them. "Do you have any objections to him staying here with his friends tonight?"

"None," she said after a moment.

"Then I suggest you let him stay here," said the officer. "We've called for back-up and Doctor Birch has been arrested. We're going to take Josh down to the station to file the complaint. Will someone other than his mother be able to pick him up?"

"I can," said Rex. He looked dazed as he stood there. "I can follow you to the station."

Once at the station I signed my statement and formally pressed charges against the doctor. I asked the officer about a restraining order and he said that an emergency order was already in place and that it was standard practice when an adult commits an act of violence toward a minor. It was good for forty-eight hours. He said that I'd have to see a judge in the morning to make the order last longer.

I went back with Rex and we talked about what I was going to do. I told him that I would go to a foster home if they made me. He said that he was sure that Rob would agree to let me stay with them if I wanted to. I told him I wasn't sure I'd be allowed to do that.

The next morning my mother bailed the doctor out of jail. I don't know why that surprised or hurt me but it did. It also made me even more sure that I had made the right decision. We went before the judge and I asked that my mother be added to the order. The judge asked me if I was sure about that and I answered that I was. She cried when he signed the order that said that she nor the doctor could be within fifty feet of me at any given time for any given reason without law enforcement being present for ninety days.

Then we talked about where I would live. The judge told me that I was seventeen and that if my mother agreed to it I could move out on my own as long as I could support myself. I assured him that I could and explained my yard business to him. He informed my mother that she would still be legally responsible for me until I turned eighteen but in the end she agreed. Then he said that he would make sure that two officers were available the next day for me to get my belongings out of the house.

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