Hey! So, this is basically "my baby". Not in the protective mama sense where if you say anything critical/negative I'll go postal on you. Rather, it's something I really believe in, and want it to be the best it can be, so positive and constructive criticisms are welcome. Negative just won't help anyone, I think. This is a cause I really believe in, and hope you'll consider the trials most homosexuals go through in today's society. I am straight myself, but have homosexual friends that are very dear to me.
This is my first time writing "speculative", so please forgive me if you catch any inconsistencies, and please let me know if you spot them! So far I am pretty darn proud of the story, but no story is ever "perfect", so I treasure your comments. :)
Please enjoy the story, guys. :) And let me know what you thought!!!
"Reporting live from Parker Boulevard, I'm Chastity Clearweather. Behind me are the remains of Club Rico, a dance club and bar known for being straight-friendly."
I placed my coffee mug on the counter, my eyes zooming past Chastity's platinum blonde hair to the crumbles of brick and foundation that used to be your favorite place to go.
"Sometime last night, arsonists poured gasoline along the perimeter before setting fire to the club. So far police have no suspects, and there are a reported fifty six lives that have been lost or injured in the fire. With me now is James Wright, an outspoken activist for heterosexual civil rights."
The camera panned out so that James, the one you always spoke so highly of, came into view. Chastity slyly stepped sideways, away from James, as he began to speak.
"This is just another example of the prejudices society continues to put up against straights. They-we-"he corrected, "are no different from you. We have families, friends, dreams, loves. How many more lives need to be lost or ruined before everyone realizes we deserve the same rights given to others?"
Even on camera I could see his tears welling up; I could hear the passion in his words as if he were saying them directly to me. I finally understood, standing there in my empty, cold kitchen, why you had loved him. He was passionate; a fighter. You had always spoken of wanting to be with someone like that; someone to "be brave" for you. I always regretted how I could never muster up the courage to tell you that you were brave in your own unique, beautiful way. You were always stronger than you gave yourself credit for, and not a day goes by where I don't still envy that strength and perseverance you exemplified, even in your dark, final days of life.
It has been a year since you disappeared, but each day has felt like a lifetime since the days I was once able to call you at any given time to share anecdotes or qualms, or just to check and see how you were doing. Things moved slower for me without my best friend here to keep things upbeat and lively. Although Alice, the only girlfriend I've had that you approved of, had left me a month ago, it still felt like yesterday when I walked sleepily into the kitchen, the diamond ring I had given her sitting on the counter with a note that read, "I'm sorry."
While life moved agonizingly slow for me, the world you left behind changed, each day growing more hateful and more dangerous for heterosexuals just like yourself. The news today would make you furrow your brow as you bit your lips and crossed your arms across your chest tightly, hugging yourself. As much as you would have denied it, you were a visionary, something that was ignited by your interaction with James. I remember the transformation after your meeting with him, when you began to speak more passionately about a world where you could live freely, marry the man you wanted, get the jobs you applied for, and buy your dream house without hurdling through ludicrous obstacles.
The week before you disappeared, you and James had started planning a peaceful protest that was to take place outside the state capital building. Inside, state officials were warring and arguing over a bill that would end discrimination against heterosexuals. While not allowing them the right to marry, it was a step in the right direction, and I could sense the concern and apprehension in your actions leading up to the protest. You worked so hard for something you never got to see, for rights you deserved but never got to live.
Prejudice against heterosexuals never seemed so vicious as it had become in the last year, when it became clear to the opposition that it was increasingly more likely this bill would pass. When we were growing up, lying in my backyard as we stared up at the vast, blue sky, dreaming of the women we would marry, the hatred displayed towards straights was never quite so public or twisted into such violent acts.
There were extremists, as there always is for moral issues, that were frightening in their cunning ability to express, violently, their opposition of heterosexual marriage (or heterosexuals in general), and many were able to escape the punishment they deserved for causing the destruction and heartbreak that they did. It started to worsen over months, to the point where people were too scared to leave their homes at night, and the number of shootings rising to an alarming high this spring. It was your worst nightmare; the entire country had polarized itself on the issue to the point of an outright civil battle that turned our country into a dangerous playground for fierce advocates and even more determined adversaries.
The push for heterosexuals right to marry was never so strong, and the fight against this right was just as strong. When we were in high school in the mid-80s, things were more peaceful. We rarely heard of any crimes or riots, at least not of this magnitude. Many Americans thought of heterosexuality as a psychological disorder, and acted as though it was leprosy. Generally, if someone was heterosexual, they would have been pushed back into the moldy, decrepit woodwork of forgotten society.
Even behind the formidable walls of our high school, we started hearing rumors of a movement. One of the most talked about politicians those days, Martin Nelson, was not the slightest bit hesitant of expressing his advocacy for heterosexual rights, not even when it came to publicly announcing his own sexual orientation. When more and more news surfaced of this new social movement (it was our junior year), you started acting differently. Instead of the calm and patient Kennedy I grew up with, you were jumpy and irritable; scared, almost. It wasn't until your girlfriend of two years, Megan, approached me when I started worrying.
"You have to talk to her, Harper," she pleaded, her cobalt eyes brimming with tears. "I'm worried about her."
"Have you tried talking to her?" I shifted uncomfortably as I leaned against the wall. A few years back, I had resolved to never interfere with your love life, after some bad advice on my part landed you in a bewildering love triangle that nearly ended our friendship.
"Don't you think I've tried?" Megan was incredulous now, not that I couldn't blame her. You had only exhibited this behavior twice in the time I'd known you. Once, when your parents were on the brink of divorce, fighting loudly from the kitchen every night as you and your brother tried, unsuccessfully, to sleep. Then once again when your beloved hamster, Pebbles, started getting sicker and sicker. She would ride in the basket attached to your bike, scuttling back and forth along the woven surface, but one day she couldn't even leave her cage. I remember you crying later that your parents had taken him to your Aunt Martha's farm in Iowa, and that you would never see him again.
So of course Megan had every right to be worried, but I wasn't quite sure I wanted to get involved just yet. "She won't talk to me. She won't talk to any of our other friends, or any teachers. You have to try, Harper."
"What makes you think she'll talk to me?"
"What makes you think she won't?" Megan shot back.
She continued to stare me down as I mulled over my choices. If you were as distraught as Megan said you were, then I was obligated as your best friend to talk to you. On the other hand, if it was something that had to do with Megan, I would be crossing the lines I shouldn't be crossing. I could hear my then-girlfriend, Emily, once I had told her everything, saying, "Aww, Harper! Tell me you didn't."
As it were, Megan could hold a glare for a remarkably long time, and I eventually folded.
"Ok. Fine. I'll talk to her."
"Thank you, Harper! I appreciate it, I really do." Megan replied, sighing softly as her tough exterior faded away with her worry.
"Yeah. Ok." I mumbled before trekking down the third floor corridor to find you. It wasn't hard-you were in the junior lounge, as always, curled up on the lime green couch in the corner, completely absorbed in your newest book. I glanced at the title. The Power of One. You hadn't put it down for at least 24 hours, from the looks of it. You had bags under your eyes and your clothes were wrinkled; they were the same clothes you had worn the day before.
It wasn't exactly strange behavior. You were known to deprive yourself of sleep for a book before, and I didn't expect it to be any different for this one. You didn't move a muscle as I sat down at your feet, which is always a sign for me to 'keep my mouth shut' until you were finished. So I waited, watching your eyes flicker across the lines of the page with excitement gleaming in their emerald waves. Finally, you tucked your bookmark into the crevasse between the pages and laid the book in your lap.
"How is the book?" I asked casually.
"One of the best I've read," you answered confidently.
"Really? You've read a lot of books, Kennedy."
"Yeah, but this one…this one is special, I think."
"Well, look at the title, first of all. Right away you know it's going to be inspirational some way or another."
"How is it so far?"
You cracked a smile. "Inspirational. Powerful, even."
"Well, that's good to hear." I chuckled.
Nodding, you continued. "It's all about the apartheid in South Africa. It's told from the perspective of an English boy, Peekay. He has to watch all of his friends, German and African, face terrible prejudices…all because of a nation's ignorant fears."
You turned to look at me, and suddenly I knew what Megan was talking about. You had brought your knees closer to your chest, hugging them to your body. There was something that had scared you, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what could be making you so frightened. Before I could think of anything to ease your worries, you surprised me with a question that still haunts me today.
"Do you think there could ever be an apartheid in America?"
I froze. It was a loaded question, and truth be told I had no idea how to answer it. I wasn't exactly sure there wouldn't be one, and I didn't want to give you any false hope. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat, but it wouldn't go away.
"Why are you so scared, Kennedy?" I asked.
"Answer the question, Harper." Well, there was the irritability again. I rolled my eyes and turned my head to stare at the ground, but I could still feel you shaking against the back of the couch. This was serious, whatever it was.
"No. I don't think there could ever be an apartheid in America, and I don't understand why you would think that."
I could feel you staring at me for a long time. I let you tap your foot against my thigh, a sorry substitute for the floor, but if it eased your worries just a little, it made me feel more useful. I picked at my nails, stopped, picked at the torn rubber of my shoes, and finally sighed as I looked back up at you.
"I met someone," you blurted.
'Well, shit.' I thought. 'This IS about Megan.'
"Uh…oh yeah?" I asked uncertainly.
"I know what you're thinking, and I haven't cheated on Megan, so to speak."
"So to speak? That's convincing."
You glared at me, something you were surprisingly good at given that you always looked so serene. "Would you let me explain? His name is James. I met him at Club Rico-"
"What the hell were you doing at Club Rico?" I asked incredulously. Then, lowering my voice, I asked, "Don't you know that's a straight club?"
You puffed up your chest proudly and exclaimed, "Of course I know that! I was….I was just curious."
I blinked. "Of what?"
You were silent for what felt like an eternity. You fiddled with your fingers, trying to keep yourself occupied in hopes of avoiding the question. I took a deep breath, and then another. "Kennedy, what is going on? You're not acting like yourself."
You looked up. "What if I'm not the person you think I am, Harper? What if I'm acting like the person I'm supposed to be, instead of the person everyone else wants me to be?"
Instead of letting me answer, you kept going. "I've been doing a lot of thinking, Harper. All this talk of the movement and Martin Nelson, and now, after meeting James, I think I finally know who I am. I only wish I would have known sooner, especially when I think of Meg...and you. I'm worried, Harper. I've resigned myself to the fact I'll lose Meg, but I don't want to lose you, too. That is what scares me the most, I think."
You spoke so confidently, so surely, I had no choice but to listen. You were changing. Once timid, you were now, suddenly, outspoken and courageous, in ways you had only dreamed of before. I was entranced now, by the excitement in your voice, the power behind your words. I couldn't bring the old Kennedy back, no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how many times I told myself it would be easier for you if you didn't change. This was something I couldn't stop, however. I was along for the ride, it seemed, and you weren't planning on getting off anytime soon.
"Harper," you said sharply, breaking the silence that had formed after your sermon. "Harper. I'm straight."