As the rain from the storm continued to pour down across Ankeny, a brief triple flash of lightning illuminated the sky above the Stone Crest Children's Home. For a brief instant, the figure of a small 13-year-old boy could be seen nearly pressing his face against one of the several windows the lined the home.
The boy was close enough to the window that not only could he hear the pattering of the raindrops hitting the glass on the other side of the window, but he could also feel the very small vibrations that they made.
"Brent?" The boy heard a voice behind him call just as the accompanying crash of thunder arrived, causing him to jump slightly. "You have someone here to see you, dear."
Brent did not turn from his position in front of the window. Instead, he continued to let the blond tips of his dirty blond bangs rest on the window glass while he lifted his right hand and pressed it gently up against the window, allowing himself to feel the rain even better. While standing there for a few moments, he realized that the vibrations of the rain felt very similar to the vibrations he felt while touching the windows of a train he was riding in only a few short weeks before.
Suddenly the vision and memory of that final truly happy day flashed before his eyes…
"Do you two want to be alone?" Came a rather familiar giggling voice from behind Brent.
Brent smiled as he dropped his hand from the bus's window and turned to face his best friend Randy. "This was sooo awesome!" Brent said as he reached out and hugged Randy, who seemed to be on the verge of more giggles, "I never ever would have expected this. Thank you!"
Randy returned the hug and gave Brent a kiss on the cheek, "It was the least I could do for someone sooo special!"
"I love you, I always will." Brent softly whispered in Randy's ear.
"I'll always love you more, no matter what happens," Randy whispered back.
The two 13-year-old boys continued to hug each other in their seat for several minutes as the bus they were riding on continued to make its way down the street.
"You sure you want to do this?" Randy finally asked as he pushed himself just far enough away from Brent to be able to look in his eyes.
Brent smiled and pushed the long dirty brown hair that was covering a portion of Randy's eyes away with his hand. "After the special day you gave me today, I'm sure I could do anything right about now."
Both boys smiled and giggled as they pushed each other away, each pretending to make 'yuck' gestures before they each erupted into more giggles, clearly sharing some inside joke between them.
As the bus approached its final stop, both boys stood up and slowly started to make their way toward one of the doors, as several other passengers also got up to join them. "No matter what happens, I'll be right here next to you." Randy softly whispered in Brent's ear.
The boys leaped down from the bus platform instead of taking the steps and started to walk up the street toward Brent's house. Neither boy said much during the 5-minute walk. They simply walked side-by-side with one arm across each other's shoulder.
The boys separated from each other as they approached Brent's condo that he lived in with his father. Just as Brent was about to open the door to go inside, Randy whispered "I love you" one more time.
"Dad, I'm home!" Brent yelled once he and Randy were inside, and they both threw their backpacks on the kitchen table.
"Didn't that concert get over with a few hours ago?" Came the slightly stern reply of a middle-aged man.
"Yeah, but we also stopped and grabbed a bite to eat for lunch, and stopped by the square so Randy could pick up a gift for one of the other boys in his home that is having a birthday tomorrow," Brent answered while looking in the refrigerator for something to drink.
"Hmmm", Brent's father replied as if trying to decide if he wanted to believe his son or not. "So did you enjoy it?"
"Yeah! It was awesome!" Brent answered as he grabbed a carton of milk from the fridge followed by two tall glasses from the cupboard, "Aaron Carter was there and NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, this whole clan of kids, and we saw a real message from some Vulcan ambassador and everything!"
"It sounds like you liked it", His dad said as he turned his attention back to some papers that he was looking over.
A few minutes went by as Brent and Randy finished guzzling their glasses of milk. 'Dad seems to be in a fairly good mood', Brent thought to himself, 'So it has to be now or never.' With a final look at Randy, and getting a supportive nod, Brent walked down the hall toward where his father was standing.
"Hey dad, could I ask you something?" Brent cautiously asked.
"Sure son, you know that you can always talk to me about anything," his dad replied without glancing up from the pile of papers he was looking over.
"You promise not to get angry or mad at me?" Brent asked with even more hesitation.
"Sure, what is it?" His dad again answered, still not looking up from his work.
Brent looked down toward his sneakers as he tried to gather a final bit of courage to say what he was about to say, "You know how Randy and I are best friends and all?"
"He can't spend the night because you have way too much to do tomorrow, you know that." His dad answered as he flipped a page in his work to look at another page.
"Oh no no! It's not that," Brent returned as he tried to figure out the best wording to use, "It's just that I think he's more than a best friend."
At this, Brent's father finally stopped what he was doing, and turned to look directly at Brent, "What are you saying son?"
Knowing he had no way to dance around this any longer, in a softer voice Brent replied, "I love Randy, and he loves me back."
There was complete silence in the apartment as the man glanced toward Randy, then toward Brent, and back toward Randy again. "I think it's about time that you left." Brent's father said to Randy, as he got up from his desk.
Seeing the fire in the man's eyes, Randy took a step backward.
"Please, dad! It's not like that", Brent started to plead.
"Okay, I see," Brent's dad barked out. "You want to throw your life away and become a fag? A little queer? Is that what you want?"
"It's not like that, just listen," Brent continued to plead.
"I bust my ass trying to provide for you, and this is how you repay me? This is how you repay your mom?" The fury in the man's eyes clearly building higher.
"You can't control feelings!" Brent half shouted and half cried.
"Being a queer is not a feeling; you don't know what you're saying!" Brent's dad shouted, "Your mom died bringing you into this world, and this is how you repay her?"
"Love is a feeling! Please just listen to me!" Brent shouted back.
The face of Brent's father was now beet red with fury. He opened his mouth as if getting ready to shout back, but then stopped. His body seemed to flinch a little as he opened his mouth again to say something. A moment later, however, the man collapsed to the floor.
Both Brent and Randy stood there looking shocked, stunned, and confused.
Another flash of lightning illuminated a single tear that was starting to roll down Brent's cheek, as he continued to let himself feel the rain hitting the window.
Brent was completely frozen as the voice of an older woman called out from behind him again, "Brent?"
The way she called his name… Brent… The word echoed through his head as he remembered another memory from later that day…
"Brent?" a voice called out.
Brent looked up to see one of the nurses walking toward where he and Randy were sitting in the waiting room of the hospital. "My dad? Is he going to be alright?"
The caring eyes of the nurse looked down toward Brent for a few moments before she kneeled down to bring herself to Brent's level. "The doctors did the best they could."
"Is he…" Brent's voice trailed off as his eyes started to fill up with tears.
"Not yet," the nurse said softly as she slowly shook her head. "But you should come be with him."
The nurse led both boys behind the nurse's station, past the large double doors, and into the intensive care unit. Stopping next to the open door of room 102, she motioned for Brent to go in. As Randy started to follow Brent into the room, the nurse put a gentle arm on his shoulder to stop him.
"You're Brent's friend?" The nurse asked as she kneeled down toward Randy.
"Brent's dad doesn't have much longer," the nurse quietly told Randy. "Since Brent has no other immediate family that can be here, you're going to have to be strong for him."
"I will," Randy whispered back with a nod. He then slowly continued into the room.
Brent stood next to the side of the bed where his father was in. He could see the various tubes and wires that were hooked up to him, to monitor his heart rate and breathing and other things. Brent could see the eyes of his father open as he seemed to try to move his head slightly to see how it was that was near him.
"I'm here father," Brent said softly.
"Brent?" The man weakly asked.
"Yes, it's me," Brent answered as he reached down to touch his father's hand.
"I no longer have a son," the man said as he weakly pulled his arm away from Brent.
Brent stood there shocked, not sure what to feel. A few moments later, the familiar beeping of the heart monitor stopped and was replaced with a solid tone. Then a small alarm sounded as two nurses rushed into the room and started to attend to the man.
Brent turned around and buried his face into Randy's shoulder as Randy hugged and supported Brent as best as he could.
Brent could feel the vibration of the rain against the window being replaced by something more intense. A few moments later, through the hazed darkness of the rain outside, a low humming sound followed by the appearance of a low flying shuttlecraft could be seen passing overhead of Brent and heading off into the distance. He figured it must be the hospital that the shuttle was heading toward. That could be the only reason why it would be flying this low to the ground in this kind of weather.
Brent removed his hand from the window and instead used his sleeve to wipe away a large number of tears that were running down his cheeks.
"Do you want me to ask him to come back later?" The voice of the older lady standing behind Brent asked.
Brent tried to answer but found that he couldn't speak. Instead, he simply shook his head no as another memory from only a few days after his father's death filled his head…
The clear evening sky was filled with various shades of red and orange as the setting sun had almost totally disappeared beneath the horizon. Randy and Brent walked next to each other down the sidewalk heading toward the new group home that Brent was now staying in.
"Oh! And the way that Indiana Jones was spinning around and cracking his whip, that was just so wicked," Randy said as he spun himself around a few times with a pretend whip in his hand.
"Yeah, I think that had to be the best part," Brent replied as he giggled a little at his boyfriend's antics.
Suddenly, Randy's mood changed and he jumped behind Brent draping his arms around Brent's neck and giving him a large kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for doing this with me today. I'm glad you're starting to get over this."
Brent stopped and turned to look at Randy as he returned the kiss. He then parted the strands of long dark hair, that were slightly covering Randy's eyes, to the side. "That's only because you're here with me."
"I'll always be here for you. You're too cute not to be with!" Randy giggled while landing another kiss on Brent's neck. "Now come on!" He said as he started to drag Brent forward, "We need to get you back before you get in trouble on your first free night."
A few minutes later, the two boys found themselves in front of the Stone Crest Children's home. With a final kiss, and an 'I love you' from each boy, the boys separated. Brent walked toward the main door and went into the home while Randy walked backward a few steps before turning and heading back down the street.
Inside, Brent found Chuck, the main caregiver that was on door duty, and made sure that he was properly signed back in. He then made his way toward the kitchen where he planned on getting a big glass of milk. While drinking his milk, 3 other boys that were also living in the home came in and crossed their arms and made kissing and hugging motions causing Brent to giggle.
"You guys are just jealous," Brent replied back with a smile as he went to refill his now empty glass with more milk.
Just as Brent had returned the jug of milk into the refrigerator, he felt a sharp pain in the side of his ribs that caused him to drop the near-full glass of milk to the ground. The three boys that were standing near Brent simply stared at the sight of the milk splattered all over the floor, while Brent's eyes filled with shock and fear.
A moment later, Brent was running through the house and out the front door as fast as he could. "Brent!" Chuck tried calling out as he had turned his head just fast enough to see who the blur running out the door was.
Brent ran as fast as he could, several blocks down the street. He had no reason why he was running, or where he was running to, he was just running. As he stopped and looked down one of the alleyways, he saw what he had feared most. He gasped at the sight of Randy curled up on the ground, with a trail of blood leaking out from under him.
A short time later, Brent once again found himself in the waiting room at the hospital. This time, he was accompanied by 2 of the caregivers from the home.
After what seemed like forever, one of the doctors dressed in a surgery gown walked out approaching where Brent was sitting. Immediately Brent was on his feet walking toward the doctor.
"Randy?" Brent asked as the doctor slowly shook his head.
"There was nothing we could do," the doctor said gently. "He was severely beaten and suffered from multiple stab wounds to the chest and neck."
Brent stood there trembling for a few moments. "He's going to be alright though, right?" He asked as one of the caregivers that had been sitting with Brent but his hand on Brent's shoulder.
"I'm sorry," was all that the doctor was able to say as he slowly turned and started to walk away.
"No!" Brent screamed at the top of his lungs as he tried to dart away, only to be held back by both caregivers. "Randy! No!" He continued to scream as he desperately tried to pull himself away from the very firm hands that were holding him. "He can't be dead! He can't die! I love him! Please God, no!"
Brent felt his knees give out from under him. The hands that were holding him back were no longer holding him, but he couldn't run. His eyes now filled with tears made it so that he couldn't see anything other than shades of light around him. Brent collapsed to the ground; feeling hurt like he had never felt before until everything slowly went dark around him.
It had been two weeks since that memory, and Brent was still standing and looking out the same window he looked out when waiting for Randy to meet him that final day they were able to spend together.
Brent could no longer hear the sound of the raindrops hitting the window in front of him. Everything seemed to get quiet around him as he tried a few more times to wipe the tears from his eyes.
"Hi, Brent," a much younger voice timidly said in the background. It was a voice that Brent had heard for the first time only yesterday. Another memory quickly flashed before Brent's eyes...
There was a gentle breeze flowing through the trees as Brent half-heartedly walked around one of the small play areas that were around the group home that he now lived in. This particular area had a few slides along with some seesaws and swings. He touched each of them as he walked around.
Brent had no real desire or interest in doing much of anything. He was all but being forced to spend a little bit of time outside each day. 'It was good for him,' they told him. 'It was better for him than standing next to his window all day,' so they said. Brent had little desire to do much of anything else but look out his window. But he also had no more will to fight either, so he did as they asked and spent some time walking around outside each day.
"They work much better if you sit on them," Brent heard a voice from next to him say with a slight giggle.
Brent looked up with a small amount of surprise, as he was fairly sure that there hadn't been any other kids around him. What he saw was a boy perhaps a year younger than he was, with short wavy black hair that was so messed up that it looked like it had never seen a comb. Big deep eyes that started out orange but became redder toward the center, and a rather light skin-toned face that appeared to have seen very little to no sun.
"I'm Lance," the boy said with a grin.
"Brent," Brent said as he looked away from Lance and grabbed one of the swings and sat down on it, looking toward his sneakers.
"You mind if I hang here a few?" Lance asked.
"Whatever," Brent answered with a shrug of his shoulders and still looking down at the ground.
Neither boy said anything after that for several minutes. Lance swung very lightly on his swing, just enough so that it could count as swinging. Brent continued to shift his weight in his swing and watched his sneaker make a small hole in the sand that was under it.
"I like it out here," Lance finally said breaking the silence. "It's easy to think out here."
"Yeah, I guess," Brent answered.
"Both of my parents were killed in an accident when I was little, and I was just transferred here a few days ago," Lance continued as he spoke to the air.
"Why are you telling me this?" Brent finally asked, with a slight hint of annoyance in his voice.
"I'm sorry," Lance replied feeling slightly hurt. "I didn't mean to."
"It's okay," Brent said not having intended to hurt the boy. "It's just that I don't know you, and I was confused why you would be telling me, that's all."
"I just thought you could use a friend," Lance stated with a forced smile.
Several more minutes went by with both boys sitting there saying nothing, until Brent finally broke the silence. "My mom died giving birth to me, my dad died from a stroke a few weeks ago, and my best friend was killed a few days after that."
"Oh man," Lance answered softly.
A few minutes later, Brent could hear one of his caregivers calling out his name. "I have to go," he said as he stood up from the swing and started to walk back toward the home.
"Brent?" Lance called out from behind him. "Can I come over to see you tomorrow? I mean if you want to and all?"
"I know you're just saying that to be nice," Brent replied as he looked over his shoulder. "But yeah, sure, whatever."
The rain outside had all but stopped as Brent continued looking out the window trying to quickly wipe away the remaining tears in his eyes. He almost thought he saw a small beam of sunlight trying to break through one of the clouds in the distance as he turned to face Lance who was standing in the doorway to the room.
"Why… Why did you come over?" Brent asked, as he was at a loss for words as to what else to say.
Lance stood there for a few moments looking deflated. "I should go." He finally said as he slowly turned to leave.
"Please don't," Brent managed to get out quickly, causing Lance to stop. "I meant… Why would you want to come here through all that rain just to see me?"
Lance turned back toward Brent, and he could see all the hurt that had built up behind Brent's greenish grey eyes. "Because we are friends now?" he asked uncertainly as he started to walk closer to where Brent was standing.
Brent looked down at the slightly smaller boy. Deep in the boy's eyes, he could see the look of genuine concern. He let himself take a step forward and just stood there unable to walk anymore. The tears that he was so desperately trying to hold back were starting to make it impossible to see. A few moments later, Brent felt two small hands wrapping around his waist, as he let his head lower onto Lance's shoulder.
"I said a prayer for you last night," Lance softly whispered up toward Brent's ear.
"God has abandoned me like everyone else," Brent whispered back. "I'm alone now. I have no one left."
"I'm here," Lance whispered in reply.
"But I don't even…" Brent started to answer as his words became sobs. The only thing that Brent found that he could do was cry. He didn't know why, but for the first time since he had returned from the hospital several weeks ago, he was letting someone else comfort him when he was crying. All he could do was cry and cry letting out all of his pain and hurt as Lance simply stood there holding him tightly.