"Yes, mom," Jamie wearily replied on the Monday morning of his first day back to school, six weeks after the accident.
"Don't start with me and that tone of voice, young man," she said. "You were in an accident. You had an up close and personal with a truck of all things."
"Yea, I know. And I lost, I get it." He calmly shrugged as his mother tossed him a horrified glance. "Mental note, don't pick fights with trucks." Thoughtfully he tapped his chin, ignoring the storm clouds gathering in his mother's eyes, "Or maybe, just with anything generally bigger and faster…"
"Jamison Arthur Crown!" screeched his mother, snatching up her wooden kitchen spoon and hurling it at him –which he easily ducked. "That was not funny!"
"Aw, come on, mom!" Jamison reasoned on a childish whiney tone of voice, "Everything's okay." Before she could argue some more, he jumped forward and pounced, grabbing her in a hug which she immediately returned. "It's a Monday, my first day back at school. Dad is driving me, and I feel like a complete wuss I'm not even allowed to walk to school by myself by the way, so everything is going to be just peachy."
"I… I was so…"
He hugged her tighter, "I know, mom. I love you."
"I love you so much, Jamie…" There came a quick honk of car from outside and she pulled away, brushing her hands quickly over her eyes. Snatching up a box of finger food she'd made for his lunch, she shoved it at him and made shooing motions to the door, "Go on then, off with you. Tell your father to drive safely and you," she shook a finger at him, "You go to the med centre if you need a rest! Don't force yourself today because, you know, you only argued your way into starting school again up so soon because if I'd had my way--"
"You would never let me out of the house again!" Jamie finished and dashed out the door, chased by his mother's shout. He hopped into the car and grinned at his father.
"You really shouldn't stress your mother out again so soon, Jamie," Mt Crown berated softly as they backed out of the driveway.
"She's being all clingy and weird," Jamison reasoned calmly as he popped open his lunch box. "You know how she gets." He stuffed one of his mother's gourmet finger sandwiches into his mouth and closed his eyes with rapture. His dad chuckled, and he offered the box up at the next stoplight, "The only thing I can be grateful about with those weird white-gloved Sunday lunches she hosts is that she's learned to make the tastiest little sandwiches ever."
"They are pretty good," his dad agreed warmly, helping himself. The light turned green and they pulled away, and when he was only halfway done chewing, he pointedly asked, "Isn't this supposed to be your lunch?"
"But I'm hungry now…"
"You eat at least twice as much as I did when I was your age," he muttered.
Jamison laughed as he fed his dad a sandwich. "You, don't complain! I share! And I need to build my strength back up."
At school, lunch box empty, Jamison accepted a fold of bill from his father, "Don't overfeed yourself, kid."
Saluting with mock solemnity, Jamison replied, "Yessir! Thank you, sir!"
"Maybe you can buy your friend lunch today, then," His dad said with a soft chuckle as Jamison shut the passenger side door.
"Hm?" he asked distractedly, tucking the money away. "What friend?"
"That buddy of yours who came by the hospital; visited almost every day in fact." There was a thoughtful pause before, "Anthony, I think he said his name was? Two first names… Anthony Charles, I believe it was. Nice kid."
Jamison remained frozen as his dad called a last farewell and pulled away with a cheery wave.
Dazedly he shuffled to class, people glancing at him worriedly all over the place. A few people stopped to talk to him but he was too shell-shocked to reply more than thank you, yes he was doing fine, of course he would be going to class today…
He'd thought they were dreams, six weeks' worth of nights in recovery and recuperation and his home all filled with fragmented dreams of Anthony Charles at the accident site, the ER and his hospital room. After all, Anthony didn't know he existed. They'd never spoken… never really got anywhere beyond meeting eyes and a small smile as they passed in the halls or at Silver Star theatre summer camp…
Anthony hadn't recognised him at school from camp, nor at camp from school. Well, he'd always styled himself differently but still…
Anthony Charles? Uh, hello! School's biggest jock, totally cool and very stylish; leader of the school society like all the other popular kids.
And so completely a different person at summer camp every single year…
But then as he climbed slowly up the steps to his first class, there stepped in front of him Anthony Charles himself, looking as delicious as ever, one hand touching briefly at his arm and it burned…
"Hi," Anthony said softly, an almost intimate tone to it.
"Um…" Jamison's mind went blank. The only thing he could be grateful for was that his face had probably gone blank too. "Hi."
"So, uhh… you don't know me but I wanted to say it's good to see you… better." Anthony looked quite ill at ease and Jamison thought it rather endearing.
"Your accident… I uh, I kind of know all about it. It was pretty rough," Anthony explained, nervously gesticulating with one hand. "It was a truck that hit you, after all, and you had a lot of injuries. Plus you were in a coma, right?" He smiled nervously, "So it's really good to see you back on your feet so soon."
"Thank you," Jamison replied, embarrassed. He could feel the heat of a blush climbing up his neck.
"How's your arm?" Anthony asked with what looked like genuine concern. "Are you sure you shouldn't keep that in a sling?"
"It's doing pretty well, actually," Jamison replied slowly, lifting it a little and making a slow fist. "My shoulder doesn't hurt so much anymore and I couldn't wear a sling coz of this." He turned his head a bit, showing off the line of stitches up his neck.
"Right!" Anthony stared in sympathetic horror at the long, snaking scar. "Yea, no way you could rest a sling on that."
Feeling a little embarrassed at the attention he'd just drawn to the ugly marks, Jamison looked down and awkwardly said, "Thanks for asking, though. I appreciate the concern."
They stood in discomfited silence for a bit, shuffling their feet. Jamison wished he could think of something to say but every interaction he'd had with this guy had been a… a dream –and that held absolutely no common ground in reality!
"Right…" Anthony gave a quiet little sigh which made Jamison look up uncertainly. Anthony gave a small smile, "Here, this is for you." He presented a long, slim parcel wrapped in colourful and easy to tear wrapping tissue… the kind a mainly one-armed person would find easiest to unwrap.
"What's this?" Jamison asked puzzled, as he accepted it.
"It's a welcome-back present." With a roll of his eyes when Jamison just stared at it, Anthony prodded, "Well open it."
Pulling the flimsy tissues away, Jamison revealed-- "A silver umbrella. Hey, it's just like my old one from…"
"Silver Star," Anthony finished.
"You… that… but they don't make these anymore," Jamison stuttered, astonished. "And how do you--?"
"I've had it since I started going two years ago," Anthony explained. An odd expression crossed his face and he said slowly, "You know, there was this one day I saw the same one like this out on the street. There was some guy under it, all serious, wearing glasses and all that… and I knew this guy must have been at Silver Star but I didn't recognize him at first so I kind of… stared." He shrugged, "I wanted to know who he was."
Jamison stared, his heart thumping. His numb fingers clenched around the umbrella, waiting and listening…
"I had so few classes in common with the guy so it took a few walks to school to figure it out." Anthony rubbed sheepishly at the back of his neck and, "Pretty weird of me to mention I looked for and watched a guy. It wasn't supposed to be a big deal but that guy… I didn't know anyone from this school went to Silver Star, its kind of obscure and… well, thy guy, he smiled at Professor Vincent in the halls one day… and I realised who it was. Or should I say, who you are?"
Jamison cringed, "Don't tell me you recognised me from Silver Star…"
"Can't do that."
He begged, "Don't tell me this has anything to do with last year's Les Miserable production at Silver Star…"
Anthony smiled and replied, "Can't do that either."
Cradling his forehead with his hand, Jamison moaned, "Oh no."
Jamison's brow creased when he realised, "Hold on. You noticed me because of my silver umbrella?"
"I realised we went to the same summer school because of the silver umbrella," Anthony corrected. "But I first saw you at Silver Star." He explained with a gesture to Jamison's hair, "You look different with your hair tricked up and contacts in, the way you did everyday of camp." He smiled at Jamison's startled look. "Oh yes, I pieced the two looks together eventually. But it wasn't until then that I did. And it was at that moment I realised how I'd missed catching you after the Les Miserable production, coz I remember seeing you glasses on and hair down leaving off to one side of the stage." He cringed, "I just didn't know it was the same guy."
"Oh," Jamison sighed, feeling a little disappointed. But his heart lurched at the indication Anthony had been waiting for him after that long-ago show.
"Look," Anthony said softly, "I know I failed The Great Recognition Test. I should have known that was you. So I'm sorry, really I am… and I was hoping you might give me a chance to… well, to see those sides again. Maybe even more sides to you…?"
Frozen, Jamison stared. "Um, you sound… pardon me for saying this, but you sound like you're--"
"Asking you out?" Anthony shrugged, "I am."
"How did…? Huh? When did you…?" Jamison sputtered, "What is going on here, is this some kind of joke?"
"Last I checked…" Anthony trailed off. But then he looked mortified suddenly, "Oh gosh… Um, I heard you were… Oh God, I'm wrong, aren't I?" He looked crestfallen. "I am so sorry, Jamie, I totally thought that you were into guys and I…" His expression melted into misery, "Oh you're never going to talk to me again, are you? Shit."
"Hold it!" Jamison commanded with a snap of the umbrella and Anthony stared warily as he took a deep breath, "You're telling me that you… you're asking me out?"
"Uhh…" Anthony half smiled, "Yes?"
"Answer the questions with statements, please."
Anthony squared his shoulders then repeated firmly, "Yes."
"And this isn't a joke?"
"Not a prank?"
Jamison stared a moment before bemusedly murmuring to himself, "Could it be that wasn't a dream?"
"Pardon me?" Anthony tilted his head to one side, expression curious.
"You were there when I was hit," Jamison said excitedly, almost accusingly. "You held my hand, you sat by my bed side… and you talked about what the drama club was doing without me."
Amazed, Anthony demanded, "How do you know that?!"
"I thought I dreamed it," Jamison confessed. "I thought you never knew I existed. I was totally convinced it was some sort of warped dream fantasy. I would have sworn it all happened but you weren't there when I woke up so…"
"You heard me?" Anthony looked quietly happy, a small smile blooming across his face. "I didn't know if you could but the doctors said it would help and I had never spoken to you up front before." He sighed, "Wow."
"So it really… happened?"
Looking proud and happy, Anthony replied, "Yes it did."
"So this… date--"
"If you're not into guys, I totally understand--"
"I am." Jamison smiled, holding his suddenly more precious than anything umbrella a little closer and repeated more firmly, "I am."
A huge grin split Anthony's face a moment before dimming a little and he hesitantly asked again, "So will you give me a second chance?"
Jamison smiled, "I've been watching you since Silver Star too, actually."
"I… uh… actually really liked you in your Grease production…"
"You only liked the leather, admit it," Anthony snorted, cheeks colouring a little. "It was a rotten production."
Holding up what fingers he could in surrender, thumbs hooked on the umbrella, "Guilty as charged on the count of Leather Admiration. And the production wasn't that bad."
Anthony laughed. When he got his mirth down to chuckling, he said, "I can't believe this is happening."
Jamison said softly, shyly, "Well I'm glad it finally did."
Smiling with joy, eyes warm and tender, Anthony stepped forward. He took care to avoid Jamison's injuries and tentatively enveloped the younger boy in a warm and gentle hug. As they settled into each other, he whispered into a sensitive ear, "I've wanted to do this since you argued with Coach Francis."
"The Silver Star dance instructor?" Jamison hugged back, pushing his nose softly into Anthony's neck and moaned, "That was two years ago and to this day I still can't believe he tried to teach us that lame-ass routine…"
Anthony laughed again, shoulders shaking, and he relaxed into the embrace. "I thought you were clever, passionate and focused. I admired you from that day. That day, two years ago..."
They pulled apart a little, but remained leaning into the other, meeting each other's eyes. "You caught my eye on Quiz Night," Jamison confessed. "That first year, the first day of camp. I'd seen you at school all polished and pure jock. You were so popular! But at Silver Star, I kind of stared... you just let loose and goofed off. You had… have… such a sense of humour and your jokes were actually intelligent." He admitted, "I never suspected you'd have a side to you like that." With a shrug, he added, "But you tucked that side away at school."
"Is that why you didn't come and talk to me at school?" Anthony asked curiously. "Seeing as how you knew who I was?"
"Yes, it was," Jamison admitted. He rolled his eyes, "I can't accuse you of duplicity since I changed my look for summer camp as you did. There's obviously more to us… than the Everyday." Then he added softly, bashfully, "But now I can't wait to meet all the other sides to you, too."
"Any side of me and I'll show it," Anthony murmured back decisively, fingers gently stroking back a lock of Jamison's hair.
"So shall we start with lunch?" Jamison said happily as he leaned into the embrace. "It's my dad's treat."
"Any day, Jamie," Anthony whispered softly, "and anytime. As long as it's you."