This story is the journey of Daniel and Jamie finding their place in the world. Through Jamie being a victim of hate crime to coming out to family and friends, there are many decisions the boys have to make before they become men.
Smashwords :: Amazon :: Love Lane Books
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Daniel arrives at the house...
Daniel let himself be dragged along by this boy called Jamie, who pulled him into a room at the end of the corridor at the corner of the house, overlooking the yard and with views of California hills. It was far from a large room, but it held a bed that looked soft and welcoming, and just like he’d said, Jamie had put posters of people up on Daniel’s wall. Not sheet music, not a pinboard of timetables and practices, but some guys in uniform with a ball. Basketball, Daniel thought. What team he wasn’t sure. He didn’t actually know a whole lot about sports, and the idea of a contact sport where he might hurt his hands had always scared him. Well, scared his mom anyway. Athletics, group games, had inevitably clashed with extra practice for this recital or that exam. The boy—Jamie—dropped to the bed, waving a hand and enthusiastically indicating the whole room.
Daniel thought he detected excitement, and swallowing, he pasted a smile on his face and hoped he looked enthusiastic enough for what he had been given.
"It’s fine," he said gently.
Don’t cause trouble. It’s only for a few months. You can do this, you can talk to people, you can form words and look happy, you know you can because you have been practising in front of a mirror.
"Cool, wanna play Madden?" the boy asked, crossing to the room opposite his and coming back with a gray box trailing wires, tripping into the room with a broad grin.
"I’m a bit tired," Daniel said softly. That answer always worked now. Those few words were guaranteed to get sympathy and were a surefire way to get people to leave him alone.
"Okay." If the boy was upset he didn’t show it. He just dumped the confusion of wires on Daniel’s bed and flopped down after it, sprawling completely over the quilt.
Daniel coughed and looked at the boy, at his height, his long, lanky arms and legs, with his short, spiky blond hair and his smile. What was his name again? Jamie. It didn’t go down well to not remember names. But with a head full of music, things like names weren't a priority. Okay. He could do this.
"Where’s my piano?" Daniel asked softly, his voice a little husky from lack of use.
"Oh yeah, it was delivered on this huge ass truck, and they were swearing and everything when they put it in my den. Well, like, it’s not my den now. It's your den. Whatever, come on then." Jamie started to leave the room, looking back expectantly. Daniel blinked then followed, down the stairs, past the kitchen where Sue and the social worker sat drinking coffee, and through a door at the back, leading out to flooding sunshine and warmth.
And there she was, standing in the corner, his only real link to his parents.
He crossed to her and sat on the seat, running fingers over highly polished wood.
He was aware of Jamie watching him curiously.
This is wrong.
He and the piano both belonged in shadows and musty rooms, rooms that his music stayed in, rooms where he felt safe. Sitting in sunlight, breathing in California air, was all wrong.
He wouldn’t be able to play here. That much was certain.
If he couldn’t play, he wouldn’t be happy.
It's only for a few months.
He just wouldn’t play.
It will kill me, but it won’t be for long.
Jamie looked at Daniel, his head to one side. "You going to play?" he said curiously.
Daniel didn’t look up even as Jamie launched into more words.
"'Cause Ellie can play like this Chinese thing, and she got up and did it in ’sembly, and it was rubbish. 'Cause like, Ellie, she has this piano at home, and she has this man come over and show her how to play, and she has had lessons for three years, and if that Chinese thing is all she can play, then that is just rubbish."
Daniel looked up at the boy who couldn’t seem to stop talking, blinking at him from under his long fringe. "I’m not going to play," he said softly.
"Oh." Jamie looked flummoxed and then frowned. "Why?"
"My mom said you might not play 'cause your mom died. Is that why? Megan likes nursery rhymes so can you play them? Josh likes rock. It’s really noisy, and I kind of hate it, but I guess if you can only do that Chopsticky Chinese thing, then other stuff would be way too hard. Can you do nursery rhymes… hmmm?"
"It’s too sunny in here," Daniel blurted out. The talking that Jamie was throwing at him had started to sound too confusing—just a jumble of noise. Nobody talked to him like that; they talked quietly and firmly and didn’t make him want to talk back at all. No one mentioned his mom being dead. Or his dad.
"Huh?" Jamie looked confused, looking out of the window. "We can play Star Wars in here, and yeah, sometimes it gets hot with the sun, but not all the time. Maybe you can go under the piano and just play the pedally things at the bottom? It would be cool under there."
"I … I can’t… can’t play, the sun… it's not right."
"Okay. So under would be a good idea? I think that's a good idea. I get ideas all the time. Well, mostly good. ’Cepting the time I broke my ankle jumping off the garage roof. Hang on, I got an really cool one."
Daniel didn’t move one inch. He was absolutely frozen to the spot with confusion. Jamie left the sunroom and then bounded back in to a startled Daniel.
He busied himself, placing the items he had collected on the floor under the piano, and then popping back up, a huge grin split his face.
"Get under here, Daniel; it’s dark under here." He looked at Daniel expectantly.
"I can't," Daniel said, feeling his chest tighten with anxiety. He was wearing his best pants. His mom wouldn’t have liked it if he got dirty when wearing his best pants let alone the cream shirt with the clip tie. Then his new mom, the pretend one, she would be cross, and then everything would be ruined.
"Come on, s’fun. I have Oreos," Jamie wheedled and shook the bag of cookies in encouragement.
"My clothes," Daniel said helplessly.
"What?" Jamie asked with a frown.
"They’ll get dirty."
"S’ok," Jamie started, and then cupping his hands round his mouth, he yelled so loud Daniel was sure that people outside heard it. "Mom, can Daniel play in the den with me in his best stuff?"
There was a pause; Daniel didn’t know what he wanted Mrs. Walker to say. If she said yes, then this meant Daniel had no excuses not to get on the floor; something he had not really done before.
"Of course he can," came the reply from the kitchen.
"See, Danny, can I call you Danny? ’Cause you can call me Jamie. Come under with me, and then, d’ya want a cookie?"
Daniel swore the other boy’s words were running into one another. Still he gathered all his reserves of bravery and slid off the piano chair and under the piano. It was kind of dark, and Daniel had never seen the underneath of any of his pianos before so it was a bit intriguing.
"Cookie?" Jamie crossed his legs, leaning back against one of the piano legs and holding out squashed cookies.
"Okay," Daniel said softly. Cookies were not often on his menu, and the last time he had had one, it had been at his mom’s funeral because no one told him he couldn’t have one. He bit into the dark chocolate biscuit, his tongue poking out to gather stray crumbs as they collected at the corner of his mouth, brushing others from his pants.
"Wanna see what I can do?" Jamie asked conspiratorially, darting a quick glance out from under the piano. "It's a secret though."
"Promise you won't say?"
"I won't say." Unless he really needed to.
"Solo-swear. Means like you have to be Han Solo and you can't tell no one what you see."
"Okay I… er… Solo-swear… I won't say a word." Daniel wondered if this is what all families in the real world were like, with stupid promises and sitting on dusty floors in best clothes.
Jamie grinned, that goofy, sparkling-eyed, happy-with-the-world grin and proceeded to push a whole cookie in his mouth in one go, looking kind of like the hamster Daniel’s English class had babysat for a whole term. Crumbs flew everywhere as the poor cookie met its demise in the cavern that was Jamie’s mouth, and Daniel just watched, totally fascinated.
Finished, Jamie leant forward, his eyes intense. "Betcha can’t do that," he said, throwing the challenge into the den.
Daniel swallowed. This was a new feeling inside him, a small nagging push to prove Jamie wrong, but it was quickly squashed by the overwhelming need to not do anything stupid.
"I can't," Daniel said finally.
Jamie just dropped back, his face a picture of win, and he began munching on his next cookie. Clearly realizing Daniel was still nibbling on his first, he emptied half of what was left in the packet into Daniel’s lap.
This Jamie? He seemed really cool. A bit odd but cool.
Daniel looked from Jamie to the crumbly sticky cookies in his lap, hoping he could keep his pants clean and cataloguing Jamie in his mind as being ever so slightly scary and ever so slightly odd.
When they were finally made to come out from under the piano, they were both covered in dust bunnies and chocolate, and they had learned a lot about each other.
Daniel had learned that Jamie loved drama, art and playing basketball. Daniel also found out that Jamie had a girlfriend, Tina, she was only eight, but she had a mom who, on a daily basis, sent her to school with a decent supply of candy, hence Jamie’s attraction.
Jamie learned that yes, Daniel could play chopsticks and some other stuff with really long sounding names, no, he didn’t have a girlfriend, no, he couldn’t swim, and horror of horrors, he had never even watched basketball, let alone played it.
What really marked the difference in them as children was Star Wars.
Jamie had everything; the quilt cover, Star Wars curtains, action figures (including the Boba Fett with removable head; Daniel didn’t like to point out that to him it just looked broken), DVDs, books, sticker albums… the list was endless. He could quote parts of the movies verbatim, and in fact did so on a regular basis, much to Daniel’s confusion. He even tried to encourage Daniel to play Star Wars under the piano, but it was at this point Daniel had to admit the terrible truth.
He had never seen Star Wars, none of them, ever, not once, not in the entire nine years he had been alive.
Jamie looked alternately horrified and gleeful. Horrified that Daniel had somehow missed this vital part of his education, gleeful that he could start from the beginning and educate Daniel himself.
Under the piano, Jamie began to plot with Daniel, or rather plot while Daniel listened, the plans for the great stealing of Mark’s prize Optimus Prime, the first Jamie-Daniel prank on the older brother that Daniel hadn’t even met yet.
It was planned with so much excitement that Daniel was caught up in it, forgetting he was in a foster home with no parents and with no real long-term plans in place for him. He became embroiled in Jamie’s world, and with no holding back, Jamie started to build a new family around him, a family with a mom, a dad, a sister and two brothers.