“Why don’t you poison them old folks’ Jello. Or go spy on the Garglers. I’m sure the feathers would fit right in.”
“Fine,” Kurt said. He took the two idea boards he had worked on for hours and left the room. He stepped into the hallway, where he nearly collided with Karofsky.
“I was just on my way to see you.” He dumped the slushie in his hand over Kurt’s head. It dripped down his face onto the idea boards he was carrying.
Kurt couldn’t formulate a good comeback. He just wiped his face the best he could and walked to the nearest girls’ restroom. He cleaned himself up the best of his ability, and then marched straight out the building.
Karofsky watched as Kurt marched down the hallway with his head held high and defiant. A wave of nausea passed through him, but he reined it in by moving quickly to his US History classroom and taking a seat as far from the teacher’s desk as possible and put his head down to take a nap.
Kurt tossed the boards into the dumpster as he crossed the parking lot. He reached under the driver’s seat and pulled out the vinyl tablecloth he had customized to fit the driver’s seat right after he got the Nav. He climbed in the front, and used self-restraint to stop himself from slamming his baby’s door. He drove home, showered quickly, and changed clothes.
Once he was ready, he looked up Dalton Academy to find out exactly where it was located. He looked over the website and the phrase “Zero-tolerance, no-bullying policy” jumped out in the part of the paragraph he was reading. After that, he read more carefully. He clicked several links and finally found one that listed the cost of attending the school. Once he saw the tuition, he clicked the page closed. For that price, he could probably get a private tutor or go to OSU Lima.
He realized that he was 30 minutes late for school. Mrs. Hapsburg went on notoriously long rants about historical events that never actually happened with her back to the classroom. And sometimes she fell asleep with her head down on her desk, which is how he found her. He managed to slip into the front row of his US History class without being noticed.
When the bell rang, Karofsky followed Kurt out of the classroom and shoved him into the locker bank as he walked past him. He picked up his pace and moved as far from Kurt as he could get. He wasn’t in the mood for a battle of the wits with Kurt. He had to struggle every time Kurt got condescending with him not to smart back using words as big as Kurt’s just to prove that he wasn’t stupid, but that would ruin the dumb jock persona he always wore that fit as poorly as his letterman jacket and baggy jeans.
Kurt regained his equilibrium from crashing into the lockers. He rubbed his shoulder. Mercedes walked up next to him.
“You okay, Kurt?”
“Yeah, fine. Walk with me to Algebra 2?”
They parted ways right before they entered their classrooms, which were next to each other.
“I’ll save you a spot at lunch,” she said.
He just nodded.
Karofsky saw them together on the way to the lunch room and went the opposite direction, not interested in riling up the diva in Mercedes.
By the time lunch came around, Kurt still wasn’t in the mood to deal with the guys from Glee Club, so he just went outside and sat in the courtyard and people-watched and did some thinking for the rest of his lunch period.
Both of them dealt with their minds wandering all through the afternoon, each thinking about the other more than either would care to admit.
When the final bell rang, Kurt left school instead of meeting up with the guys again. He texted Finn and asked him to video whatever they came up with, telling him that he’d learn it on his own later that night.
When Karofsky saw Kurt leave the building, he headed into the locker room to work off some off his pent-up energy.
On the drive home, the lure of a place where he could go to school in peace led him to heading straight to his room and back to the Dalton Academy website.
As he continued to think about everything, he came to the conclusion that despite being in the loser of loser’s club, he still wasn’t part of the group in the way that everyone else was. Once Tina had started to date Mike, she spent progressively less time with him. After their disagreement over religion, things with Mercedes hadn’t returned to where they had been before. He decided that he needed to remedy that in some way.
They had never seen the Warblers perform, so Puck’s idea had some merit. Taking a trip to Westerville to spy on them might not be a terrible idea, but skipping school would be if anyone notified his dad. He formulated an idea to put into motion the next morning. He looked through the Dalton Academy website for a few more minutes before he went to bed.
The next morning, he pulled into the school parking lot fifteen minutes early and cut the engine. He didn’t move to get out. As he sat there for a couple of minutes, it really hit him head on that he was at a fork in the road of his path in life. He seriously contemplated what it would mean to stay in Lima for the rest of his life. He looked around again and tried to imagine the people he saw walking towards the building 10 to 20 years in the future. At first his reaction was really negative, but he caught himself and realized that some people would prefer a job that required nothing of them once they went home for the day.
He recalled how frequently he had used staying in Lima as an insult to throw at the jocks who bullied him. He felt a pang of guilt realizing that his own father had been on of those jocks that stayed in Lima and his presence had made Lima a better place. He hoped that maybe some of the people he saw milling around were actually going to grow into being decent people like his dad had.
He forced himself to focus. He grabbed his binder, locked the door, and went inside to pay Miss Pillsbury’s a visit.
“How can I help you this morning, Kurt?”
“What I tell you is confidential, right?”
“Unless it involves you being a threat to someone else or yourself, yes. Or unless, you’re being abused in some way by an adult.”
He nodded. “I’d like you to give me a pass to visit Dalton Academy as an official school visit.”
He sighed. “I know you sit in this office a lot of the time, and I’m sure most of the bullies avoid perpetrating their crimes right outside your glass wall, but you cannot be completely oblivious to the bullying that goes on in this school.”
“I am aware in a general sense, yes. But no one actually comes to me to talk about it.”
“Maybe you consider why that is. Plus, if you do know that it’s going on and you do nothing about it, that makes you an enabler, at least, and complicit, at worst.”
“Yes, Kurt. I see your point. But please go on about why you want me to authorize a trip to Dalton as an official visit.”
“Because if the school offer scholarships, I’m considering transferring, but I’d like a tour and some firsthand information before talking to my father about it.”
“I see. I can do that. Are you wanting to go right now?”
“I am.” He pulled out a few sheets of paper out of his binder and put them on her desk. “Here are all of my completed assignments for today. I’ll just need a list of my assignments for tomorrow.”
She finished writing up a letter and sent it to her printer. “You can take that with you. I’ll email you your assignments using your official school email.”
She nodded once and smiled stiffly.
He arrived at Dalton Academy 90 minutes later. He pulled into the lot and found the section for visitors. He parked and spent a couple of minutes psyching himself up before he got out.
Once inside, he entered the administrative office and told them why he was there. He signed in and sat down to wait until he was provided a student tour guide fifteen minutes later. Lawrence introduced himself before he began an obviously well-rehearsed brief historical monologue about the school while leading Kurt through the corridors.
There was a lot of commotion during the passing period, during which Kurt managed to get separated from Lawrence on the way down the stairs. He stopped one of the students to ask what the fuss was about. The student told him that the Warblers were performing an impromptu song for the student body. He claimed that the Warblers were like rock stars and grabbed Kurt’s hand and pulled him down a hall to listen. He was thrilled that he wasn’t going to have to sneak around to hear the Warblers perform.
Kurt stood in the doorway and watched the performance. He realized that Lawrence had joined the Warblers. Afterwards, he asked Kurt if he had any interest in learning more about the Warblers. When Kurt said that he did, Lawrence arranged for him to meet up with the same student, Blaine, who was the Warblers’ lead singer, about an hour later for coffee.
Lawrence left him with Blaine and two other Warblers, telling him that he would be back in 15 minutes. Kurt sat down with them. Blaine offered him a latte, which he took graciously. After a brief introduction, the other two Warblers left. He spent the rest of the time talking to Blaine.
When Lawrence stopped back by to pick him up for the rest of the tour, they left together to eat in the dining hall. He found out that Lawrence had gone to get a meal pass for him, which he thanked him for.
As they sat and ate, Lawrence told him more about being a student at Dalton, things not written in the script he had recited earlier during their tour. He told him about how much he enjoyed the classes, and about how much he detested the dress code. He showed Kurt a few photos of himself, in which he was wearing clothes that were bright and colorful, kaftans from Senegal, which was where he was from. He learned that Lawrence’s father was a visiting professor at Ohio State University, and that at the end of the next school year, he and his parents would be returning to Senegal, which would be where he would go to college.
Kurt told him that he understood the frustration from when he had been on the Cheerios and had been required to wear the uniform to school every day, and how that had played some part in him not returning to the squad.
After lunch, Kurt shadowed Lawrence to his US History class. Kurt was impressed by the level of knowledge of the students and how interesting the class discussion was. He enjoyed joining in and actually talking about the issues rather than just listening to Mrs. Hapsburg begin to talk about WW2 in the middle of her lecture on the Civil War.
After the class ended, Lawrence walked him back to the office so he could return his visitor’s pass. He offered his number to Kurt, who gave him his as well. They shook hands and Lawrence left quickly to go back to class. Kurt sat down to wait to speak to the academic advisor briefly as he had been scheduled to when he arrived.
He put the half-inch navy binder with the red Dalton seal on the front of it in the passenger seat next to him. He sat and stared at it for a few seconds before he put his keys in the ignition and started the Nav up. He took his phone out of his pocket and looked up coffee shops. He only drank a little of the coffee that Blaine had given him because he wasn’t a fan of lattes, but he had been trying to be polite. He was surprised to find a Lima Bean not that far away. He pulled out and followed the directions.
He parked, grabbed the binder, and went inside. He was even more surprised to find that it looked exactly like the Lima Bean in Lima. He ordered his favorite non-fat mocha and sat down with it at a table. He opened the binder and began to look through it. He got so caught up in what he was reading that he lost track of time until he took a drink of his coffee and realized that it was cold. He checked the time and left.
On the drive back to Lima, his mind bounced around between what had happened the previous morning with the New Directions guys and what he had seen at Dalton all day. Other than the fact that McKinley and Dalton both had teachers, students, and classrooms, there was not much else they had in common. As he continued the long drive, he let himself imagine what it would be like to attend a school like Dalton.
In this fic, Lawrence is the Warbler standing between Kurt and Blaine in this photo from the “Silly Love Songs” episode.
Karofsky was annoyed because Kurt hadn’t been at school the day before, so he set out on a mission to find him for an early-morning “welcome back” slushie. He wandered around the school looking for Kurt. He checked in the choir room, the auditorium, and even the library before giving up and drinking the slushy he had bought that morning. He was annoyed that he hadn’t bought a blue one like he had the day before since he wasn’t all that fond of the cherry ones, but he drank it anyway.
When he finally saw Kurt after lunch, he looked different. Happier. Karofsky faked sick ten minutes before his class ended so he could grab another slushie and be in position to toss it at Kurt. His plan was foiled when Coach Sue caught him in the hall approaching the slushie machine and escorted him to the nurse’s office. After the nurse took his temperature, he was released. Since she was standing in the doorway watching still, he begrudgingly went to his American Literature course.
He was still annoyed that Kurt had managed to evade his early-morning slushie. He stewed about it all during English. When the bell finally rang, Karofsky knew just where Kurt should be, and he immediately headed there. He found Kurt walking down the hall, staring at his phone and smiling, which just infuriated him even more. He grabbed Kurt by the shoulders and shoved him halfway across the hall into the locker bay. He didn’t stop to look back.
After the guys in the New Directions blatant effeminophobic reaction to the girls versus guys competition on Monday and after spending several hours at Dalton on a guided tour as a potential new student the day before, Kurt’s tolerance for Karofksy’s bullying had dropped to an all-time low, so when he was suddenly practically thrown into the locker bank, he straightened himself up and pursued Karofsky to the guys’ locker room.
Kurt followed him in shoving the door back hard enough to hit the wall. “I’m talking to you!”
“Girls’ locker room is next door.”
“What is your problem?”
“What are you scared of?” Kurt threw his hands up in exasperation.
“Besides you sneaking in here to peek at my junk?” He reached into his locker to pull some things out.
“Oh, yeah, every straight guys’ nightmare–”
Karofsky turned back around and faced Kurt.
“–that all of us gays are secretly out to molest and convert you.” Kurt stood his ground and practically yelled at Karofsky. “Well, guess what, ham hock?”
Dave went back to loading the gear from his locker into his duffle bag.
“You’re not my type.”
Dave stood up angrily and actually stepped towards Kurt this time. “That right?”
Kurt stood his ground and smarted back. “Yes, I don’t dig on chubby boys who sweat too much and are going to be bald by the time they’re 30.”
Karofsky’s face became more enraged. He leaned in and began to form a fist with his right hand. His words were venomous. “Do not push me, Hummel.”
Kurt stood resolute. “You going to hit me?”
Dave moved closer. “Don’t push me!”
“Do it,” Kurt egged him on.
Karofsky used his left hand to slam his locker shut.
“Hit me ‘cause it’s not going to change who I am. You can’t punch the gay out of me any more than I can punch the ignoramus out of you!” Kurt practically snarled.
Karofsky insisted, “I said, ‘Get out of my face!’” But despite his words, he closed the space between them.
Kurt pointed his finger in Karofsky’s face. “You are nothing but a scare little boy who can’t handle how extraordinarily ordinary you are.”
Before he had time to process what was happening, Karofsky stepped closer and reached for him. Kurt came to his senses quickly and grabbed Karofsky’s wrists. His quick reflexes knocked Karofsky off-center and Kurt was able to shove him back.
“No! You will not touch me that way!”
He shoved Karofsky back again and he caught the back of his left leg on the narrow bench in front of the lockers. Karofsky was stunned. He managed to catch himself before he fell backwards over the bench. He moved back and leaned against the lockers on the other side of the bench. His face was contorted in rage and frustration.
Kurt bore down on him and got back in his face. “You will meet me after school in Miss Pillsbury’s office.”
“Or I’ll tell Coach Sue what you just tried to do.”
“Why would she believe you?”
“Miss Pillsbury’s office today or Coach Sue’s tomorrow. Your choice.”
He slammed his hand against the lockers again. “Fine. I’ll meet you after school today.” He grabbed his bag and stomped out of the room.
Once Karofsky was gone, the adrenaline rush dissipated quickly and Kurt plopped down on the bench. He leaned forward and propped his head in his hands for a minute and focused on calming his breathing. What the fuck did I just do?
Dave took off down the hall and out of the building. He tossed his duffle across the seat in his truck and climbed in and sat down. He crossed his arms in front of him on the steering wheel and leaned forward with his forehead propped on his forearms.What the fuck did I just do?
Dave plopped down in the vacant chair, closest to the door. He got back up and closed the door to the office and sat back down.
“Thank you for joining us, David.”
He rolled his eyes and didn’t respond.
“Kurt has brought it to my attention that you are in need of some guidance and are interested in turning over a new leaf, shall we say. Is that not the case?”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever.”
“David, if this isn’t your idea, I’ll have to go ahead and let the two of you leave. I can only counsel a student if the student seeks out my counsel or is referred to me by a teacher for a specific reason, such as incomplete homework or disruptive classroom behavior.”
“Yes, fine. I’m here of my own free will and I would love to be a better person.”
Completely missing his sarcasm, Miss Pillsbury went on. “Great. I’m generally a pamphlet type person, but I’ve never actually created one for no longer wanting to be a bully. I never thought I’d have the need for one.”
Kurt rolled his eyes. “This school is rife with bullying. And if you don’t see it, you are either willfully ignorant or woefully blind.”
Karofsky stifled a laugh.
“That’s enough, Kurt. I do know that there is a lot of bullying. I’m just not in a position to do anything about it. I have no authorization to expel students. That’s Principal Figgins’ job.”
“Which he is neglecting to do,” Kurt interjected. “Anyway, Karofsky–”
“David–” Miss Pillsbury provided. “In order to improve the situation, I believe it would be best if the two of you used your first names.”
“Anyway, David assaulted me in the hallway today and broke the screen on my phone. I would like him to pay for the cost of repairing it.”
“Is that true, David?”
“Yeah. Just tell me how much and I’ll get it. It might take a day or two. I have some money in a savings account that I’ll have to actually go to the bank to withdraw.”
“Well, the last time you broke my phone screen, it cost me $107 to have it replaced.”
“Fine, I’ll bring it day after tomorrow unless I leave here early enough to make it to the bank today.”
“You can bring it and drop it off in an envelope. I’ll make sure that Kurt gets it.”
David nodded. “Fine. Is that all?”
“Of course not,” Miss Pillsbury said. “I need to know which areas in your life you want to improve in the most so that I can be prepared the next time we meet.”
“The next time?”
“Restitution for a singular act of bullying does not make you a less angry or violent person, David.”
“How about you just order me to leave him alone?” David fired back. “That way when I get ragged by the team for not participating in the bullying I can tell them that I’ve been ordered to stay away from him.”
“I think that defeats the purpose of you learning to control your anger,” she stated matter-of-factly. “If I order you to leave him alone, that does not require any change of heart, which is what I understood to be your ultimate goal.”
“I do have a pamphlet on anger control. Let’s start with that one.” She looked through her display and pulled one out. “How to Calm the Beast Within”. She handed it to him.
He read through it halfheartedly, but did his best to look completely engaged. When he finished it, he said, “That was really helpful. I think I can put these ideas into practice.”
She smiled cheerfully. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“Are you going to call my parents about this?”
“No, I won’t be calling your parents at Kurt’s request. If Kurt returns and says that you weren’t serious and that you’ve assaulted him again, I will have no choice but to send the matter on to Principal Figgins and your parents, who will meet to discuss the issue. You’ve offered to make reparations for the damage you caused earlier this afternoon and you’ve told me that you want to overcome your anger issues. It’s my job to help you with that. Kurt said that he’s willing to overlook your previous behavior if you take steps to get your anger under control and you stop bullying him.”
“Got it. So is that it for today?” he asked in his most polite voice.
“I’d like you to come in and talk to me once a week.”
“Sure. As long as you don’t call my parents, I’ll come in whenever you want.”
“That’s great. I’m glad you’re so invested in making positive changes.”
Dave did his best to look cooperative and cheerful. He stood up.
Kurt jumped up and followed him out to his truck.
“Would you just leave me the fuck alone?”
“Great job in there. You should audition for a play, if we ever have one. I had no idea what a great actor you are.”
“I can sing too, Fancy. Are you impressed?”
“I could be. But you could be lying.”
“I’m not. I was the boy soloist in our church’s kids’ choir for the seven years that I was a member.” He unlocked the driver’s side.
“Impressive.” Kurt slipped passed him and climbed into his truck and slid over to the passenger seat, putting the duffle in the center.
“Why the hell are you in my truck?”
“My dad dropped me off this morning. He told me to find my own way home because he needed to take my Navigator to Dayton to pick up an order because his truck is up on the lift at the shop waiting for me to work on it. I didn’t get it done yesterday because I got to work late, so the consequences were that he took my Navigator today. So, can you please drop me off at the shop or I’ll be without my Nav again tomorrow.”
“You fix cars?”
“Yes. Can we please get going? I’m already nearly a half-hour late.”
“Alright, bossy pants. I have things to do too. And they didn’t include being your chauffeur.” He put the key in the ignition and turned it over, and over again, and a third time before it started.”
“You need to get that fixed or you’re going to burn the starter out.”
“Is that so?”
David pulled out and stopped at the edge of the parking lot. “Which way?”
Less than ten minutes later, they pulled into the lot.
“Make an appointment. I’ll fix your truck.”
“You might cut the brakes.”
“Not a chance. I’m a professional. I need a job, and being a mechanic pays a lot better than flipping burgers. Plus, that would come back and hurt my dad’s business.”
“Why do you need a job if your dad owns this place?”
“Because my dad is a big proponent of hard work and he’s not a fan of giving out money for free. I like to dress nice. I like to go to shows, buy CDs, DVDS, download music – you know, things that cost money.”
“I take it that your parents give you an allowance.”
“Yeah, and in the summer I work as a filing clerk for my dad’s law firm. I have to put the money I earn in savings. That’s how I bought my truck.”
“Nice. Well, if you don’t want it to fall apart, make an appointment. You need at least one new spark plug, work done on your starter, and your exhaust pipe is cracked.”
“You didn’t even look at anything. How do I know you’re not just making it up to get money out of me?”
“Take it somewhere else if you want a second opinion. No skin off my nose.” He reached for the door handle. “Look. What happened in the locker room won’t ever happen again without my permission. Consent, David. It’s important. But I won’t tell anyone either. You’re obviously dealing with some deep-seated internalized homophobia and you’re taking it out on me. I won’t be your punching bag anymore. I know how hard it is to come to terms with being gay, and that’s in a home with a supportive parent. I know nothing about your home life, but you are obviously very unhappy about the fact that you’re gay and you hate me for being gay. I have to go.” He opened the door and got out.
Kurt was about ten feet from the truck when David said, “I don’t hate you. I want you so bad that I can’t think clearly.” He pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.
“Dude, just put the blazer on,” Finn demanded.
“These blue jacquard blazers in no way look feminine,” Kurt insisted.
“We’re not interested in your opinion, Kurt,” Artie insisted. “We’re going with the blue blazers. Just put it on. Coach Beiste isn’t into super girly things anyway, and she’s the guest judge."
“How do you know?” Kurt asked.
“I overheard Mr. Schue and Miss Pillsbury talking.”
Kurt rolled his eyes and put the blazer on with the black slacks and white button-up shirt he already had on. He straightened his black bow tie. “Your song selection isn’t very feminine either.”
Finn said, “Just let it drop. The songs were sung by female groups. That’s good enough. You did actually learn the choreography, right?”
“Good,” Puck said. “Let’s go wow them.”
Kurt planned to lip-synched the whole mashup. Sam, Artie, Finn, and Puck had the featured parts. Mike didn’t want to sing solo and Kurt had skipped the rehearsal, so he had no leg to stand on about not being featured. Plus, he knew it it didn’t matter whether he sang or not. He was certain that the girls were going to win because they had absolutely killed their mashup of “Living on a Prayer” and “Start Me Up” the day before.
He remembered Blaine sending him another text that said “Courage” during their song. It had made him smile at the time, but the more he had thought about it that evening, he realized that he had never been a coward. Confronting David hadn’t been a courageous choice. It had been a reckless one. His reflexes had saved them both from an experience they were both better off not having lived through. His thoughts jumped to the texts that he had been getting from Lawrence, which he actually enjoyed a lot more because had been telling Kurt about the IB program at Dalton and being on the debate team.
“Earth to Kurt!” Artie yelled.
Kurt broke out of his thoughts and focused. “I’m good. Let’s go.”
The six of them headed into the choir room and performed a mash up of “Stop in the Name of Love” and “Free Your Mind”.
When the song finally ended, they bowed and went to change, giving Coach Beiste time to consider their performances. When they got back, the chairs had been put back where they belonged on the risers. They all sat down and Coach Beiste stood up and moved in front of the piano.
“I want to say that all of you did a great job performing. As I understand the nature of the competition was to be as opposite as possible in your performances.” She looked at Mr. Schue, who nodded. “Taking that into consideration, I believe that the girls did a better job. So, congratulations to the girls.” She reached into her pocket and pulled something out. “In honor of winning, I got the six winners a free treat from Shake Shack.” She held them up and the six girls went down to get them.
The girls all thanked her and took their seats again.
“That was really nice of you,” Mr. Schue said. “I didn’t offer them a prize.”
She shrugged and smiled before she sat back down.
“You all did great. That’s all we’ve got time for today. I’ll see you all Monday after school.”
Kurt grabbed his bag and stood up.
Puck walked past him. “I’d’ve worn the feather boa for three minutes if I thought I’d get a gift certificate to Shake Shack.”
Kurt shrugged. He left the room and went to meet Dave in Miss Pillsbury’s office.
He closed the door since he was the last to arrive. He plopped down in the empty seat.
“You seem a bit out of sorts, Kurt. Would you like to start today?”
“No thanks. I’m just annoyed about something else. I’ll push that to the side for now.” He pulled the Dalton binder out and handed it to Dave.
“What’s this for?” Dave asked.
“I want you to take it home and read it tonight. Please don’t destroy it. Bring it with you to the shop tomorrow when you come in at 8:00 to have your truck fixed. Make plans to stay at the shop while I work on it. Bring money for lunch or pack one.”
“I called and all of the appointments are booked.”
“Yeah. That’s why I’m going to work tomorrow morning, even though I’m not on the schedule for tomorrow.”
Kurt spoke more slowly in the condescending voice he was used to using with Dave. “I’m going in on my Saturday morning off to work on your truck so you can get it fixed this weekend.” He went back to speaking at his normal clip. “Or not. I mean, I can just sleep in and you can get a ticket soon for breaking noise ordinances when your tailpipe cracks more. Or you can cover the cost of a tow truck when your starter gives out.”
“Fine. I’ll be there.”
“Now, David, that’s not a very good attitude considering that Kurt has rearranged his schedule and has offered to go in and work on his day off.”
Dave took a deep breath. “You’re right, Miss Pillsbury.” He turned to Kurt. He turned on his repentant parental apology voice on. “I’m sorry for my dour response. I’m incredibly appreciative of the fact that you are willing to put so much effort into making my truck safe for me to drive.”
Miss Pillsbury smiled. “See. That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“No, it wasn’t,” Dave said kindly. “I do have a question, though.”
“Yes?” she asked.
“You said that you wouldn’t force me to come.”
“How offended will you be if I tell the other guys that you did? I need some type of plausible deniability in all of this. I’m willing to come in and work on my issues, but I will look weak if it seems like this was in any way my idea.”
“Well, I don’t mind if you say that it wasn’t your idea. But I draw the line at you saying that I forced you.”
“You’re welcome. Now, did you have a chance to look through the pamphlets I gave you the last time?”
“Excellent. This time I have a couple of websites that have articles that I’d like you to read as well.” She took two half-sheets of paper and slid them across her desk, one for Kurt and one for Dave.
They reached out and took them and looked at them.
“These are not official recommendations. That’s why my name is on them anywhere. Our district has a strict abstinence-only sex education policy, and those websites contain information that go against that policy.”
They both blushed, looked confused, but nodded.
“They aren’t specifically about sex education. I’m sorry I gave that impression. They’re websites to help teens deal with their emotions and feelings. And as teenagers, hormones play a role in those emotions and feelings.”
Neither one of them said anything.
“Okay. Moving on. I’d like to discuss the bullying.”
“Bullying exists all throughout life,” Kurt said. “The rich bully the poor. White people bully people of color. Able-bodied people bully disabled people. It gets called different things, but it’s all the same. People in a privileged position use their privilege to keep other people from attaining the same level of power.”
“That’s very deep, Kurt. You seem to have put a lot of thought into this.”
“Of course I have. I’ve been bullied since I was in elementary school. Maybe before, but I don’t really remember much before that.”
Kurt went on. “It’s not always that deep, though. Some people just bully others out of hatred. And sometimes it’s to keep from being identified with the person they bully.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, let’s say there’s an athlete that’s really good at math, but he doesn’t want to be classified as a nerd, he may very well pick on the nerdy kids to make sure that everyone sees that he’s NOT a nerd.”
“Alright,” she said. “So, why do you think the students at McKinley bully you in particular?”
“Mostly because I don’t care at all about their hierarchy of popularity. I love who I am. I don’t have an issue with being gay. Being different is one of the best things about me. I love fashion. I love Broadway. I love performing. I don’t care if I’m popular with the students in this school. They are not now and never will be my target audience. If I perform on Broadway, it will be for people who love to watch people perform. How many people will spend $100-$150 for a ticket to watch me perform who don’t want to be there?”
“People pay more than that to watch a professional sporting event,” Kurt snarked.
“That’s not why I laughed.”
“What’s funny about what Kurt said?”
“It was just funny. He’s right. Most people who don’t like to see shows wouldn’t spend that kind of money to do it. A few people will because their wife, or whoever, wants to go. But I get his point. He doesn’t care what we think. I’ve known that for a while.” He paused and debated on whether to be honest. He took a deep breath. “That’s actually why he irritates me so much. He loves who he is. He flaunts his individuality. He dresses ridiculously.” He turned to Kurt. “I’m not talking about your ‘fashionable’ clothes that people in France or somewhere actually wear. I mean when you all were walking around wearing shiny clothes and wigs and whatever the hell it was that Tina was wearing – empty plastic Christmas tree ornaments? Anyway, if I don’t make fun of him for being like that, then the guys on the team will hassle me about it because they’ll say that I’m encouraging him to go against the ‘natural order of things’. They say the jocks belong on top and the losers need to be kept in their place. And Kurt is the ultimate ‘loser’ in their eyes because he dares to be himself and not give a shit what anyone else thinks.”
“Right. Sorry. What I said still stands though.”
He continued. “I didn’t help with the dumpster tosses freshman and sophomore years, but I knew about them. The guys talked about how they did it to keep the order. The hierarchy, as Kurt called it. The jocks and Cheerios are on top. If he thinks about it, I’m sure that he didn’t get a single dumpster toss or slushie thrown at him when he was a Cheerio last year. He wore a Cheerio uniform to school every day. He was on top. He could go back to the top if he’d just rejoin the squad. No one is stupid enough to mess with Coach Sue. Not after what she did last year. The second he put that uniform on, he became off-limits.”
“So, if I give up my individuality and conform to the hierarchy’s rules, I won’t be bullied anymore?”
“I don’t think so. I know what you and Azimio did to Finn’s letterman jacket. That was just a month ago. I dressed completely ‘normal’ for a week last year. It didn’t change anyone’s attitudes.”
“Did you get dumpstered or slushied that week?”
Kurt stopped to think. “No.”
“My point exactly.”
“I still disagree. Quite a few of the people who got dumpster tossed dressed like everyday Midwestern teen guys. So, this goes beyond that. Why does it matter to anyone else what I wear? I’m not trying to be top dog and implement a regime change so I can force all of the guys to wear nice clothes and tuck their shirts in.”
“Why can’t I just be me?”
Miss Pillsbury interjected. “You can. But it comes at a cost. Unfortunately, this can be seen all around the world in all sorts of different situations. People don’t go to heavy metal concerts wearing the same thing that people going to the opera wear. There are places where if you don’t have any tattoos, you are suspect. And places where if you have them, you’re not welcome. Why should some ink under someone’s skin make a difference in whether or not they should be welcome in an establishment? People in your grandparents’ age group were beaten or forced into being right handed. Catholics and protestants fight. Differing Muslim groups fight. People are considered better the lighter their skin color for absolutely no reason other than the fact that whichever group has the most power to intimidate the other gets to have their way. I don’t really see a way to stop it. Fighting and intimidation about minute, irrelevant things has been going on since the beginning of time.”
“Is that why you won’t step in and do anything?” Kurt asked. “Because you’re in the same position that I’m in? You don’t have enough guidance counselors here to subdue the bullies? You can’t bully the bullies into behaving, so it’s a lost cause?”
“What do you suggest that I do about it, Kurt? The students you’re referring to weigh twice what I do. They know which car is mine. This is a small town. It’s not like it’s hard to figure out where I live. You’re asking me to do something dangerous.”
“I guess you’re right. I’m expecting something that is out of your reach to control.” He checked the time. “I actually need to go. I told my dad that I’d be a half-hour late, so I need to leave.” He stood up and put his bag over his shoulder. “Thank you for your time, Miss Pillsbury.” He turned. “I’ll see you at the shop tomorrow morning, David. Please read the information in that binder.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll be there.”
Dave stayed seated for a minute after Kurt had closed the door. “You’re actually afraid of the football team?”
“Yes. Kurt is significantly bigger and stronger than I am. And you and your teammates send him flying across the hall into the locker banks. I’m sure he’s covered in bruises. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had a cracked rib from the locker shoves at some point. Or sprained wrists from being dumpstered.” She paused briefly. “I’m sure that it was against the moral code to dumpster a female since I never saw any girls in the line. I’ve also not seen any of the girls shoved – just slushied. But yes, I fear for my possessions. I know the football team nailed Kurt’s lawn furniture to his roof. That cost his father a lot of money.”
Dave looked down at the floor. “I need to get going to too.” He stood up, put the binder Kurt had handed him into his backpack and tossed it up over his shoulder.
“Have a nice weekend, David.”
“You too.” He left the door open. He turned left and headed out to the parking lot. When he got there, he climbed in, closed his eyes, and tipped his head back for a few minutes before he started his truck up on the third attempt. He sighed as he backed out.
Dave moaned as his alarm went off for the second time, ten minutes after it had gone off the first time. He stretched and reached over, so tempted to hit the snooze, but he dragged himself out of bed and into the shower instead. Unfortunately for him, he had no choice but to get up because the night before he had told his dad about taking the truck in, and his dad had given him his credit card and permission to get whatever work needed done.
On his way into his bathroom, he grabbed some underwear, a t-shirt, and basketball shorts and laid them on the counter. He turned the water on in the shower, stripped right there, and stepped inside. He let the hot water run over him for a minute before he started to shower. His mind turned to Kurt as he showered on autopilot. He had read through the entire binder the evening before after dinner, claiming that he had a project to work on, which wasn’t exactly a lie. Kurt Hummel asking him to read something would inevitably end up in him being asked pointed questions about what he had read, and he refused to be shown up.
He finished up quickly and got dressed, but when he looked in the mirror, he didn’t like what he saw. He hung his towel up and went ahead and brushed his teeth. He grabbed his dirty clothes and tossed them into the hamper in his closet. Rather than slipping his running shoes on, he looked through what he owned, knowing that Kurt wouldn’t like any of it, but he tried to find something Kurt wouldn’t just hate on principle.
He put on a pair of jeans that he hadn’t seen in a while, which looked better than the rest. He looked through his shirts and pulled out a red Ohio State hoodie. He changed into a solid black t-shirt in case he got too hot and had to take the hoodie off. It was a little smaller than the shirts he usually wore, but he didn’t see anything else even remotely reasonable to wear under the hoodie. After he put everything on, he grabbed socks, making sure they matched, and put his running shoes on. He realized that he had forgotten to shave, but he was out of time, so he grabbed his backpack and stuffed his wallet into his back pocket on the way down the stairs. He snatched his keys off the hook by the door and hurried outside. It took a few tries to get his truck to turnover, but he finally got it moving.
He pulled into the Hummel Tires and Lube lot at 7:55. Kurt was already there waiting for him and opened the bay door as he approached the building. Kurt stepped out and waived him over. When he got up to the edge of the bay, Kurt put his hand up to stop him.
“I have to drive it in.”
“Oh, right.” Dave hopped out and let Kurt get in.
Kurt backed the truck up a bit to realign the tires, and then pulled forward into the empty space on the far end. He moved forward very slowly to position the truck properly. He left the keys hanging on the windshield wiper stick when he hopped back out.
Dave reached in and pulled his backpack out before Kurt could close the door.
“So, what am I fixing?”
“Everything. My dad gave me his card.”
“Got it. I pulled a chair around here.” He pointed to the corner. “You can stay over here so long as you don’t get up. If you need to get up, to get a drink or whatever, you have to let me know first, so I can move out from under the truck and watch you.”
“Some things in this bay cost thousands of dollars. It was my dad’s concession. He first told me ‘No way.’ This was the compromise.”
“Got it. Why are you here by yourself?”
“Oh, I’m not. Cassius is in the back pulling out the parts for the car that will be here any time. Rex is taking the car that he’s going to work on out for a drive around the block to listen for the tick tick tick sound the owner says he keeps hearing. He’ll be back soon.”
Kurt opened the hood of the truck and checked the oil. “When was the last time you put oil in?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“You have an oil leak then.”
Kurt went back to work inspecting everything. “Tell me why you ripped Finn’s jacket in half.”
“That was Azimio’s idea.”
“And you went along with it because?”
“Because I don’t want on Azimio’s bad side? Azimio’s never liked Finn because he says that Finn’s an airhead and shouldn’t be captain of the football team just because he’s the tallest and can throw the ball to Puck. And with Coach Beiste kicking Finn off the team, it was the first time that Azimio could get back at him without the team coming down on him for it.”
“So, you just went along with it?”
“Fine. It was kind of nice to knock Finn down a peg. He walks around like everyone’s favorite golden retriever. He does nothing, but everyone kisses up to him and loves him.”
“Exactly. He’s not a noble as he seems.”
“You slushied him and Quinn last year.”
“I didn’t, actually. I slushied Finn last year. That was personal. Azimio was the mastermind behind targeting the two of them together. That was for him joining the Glee Club. Azimio got a bunch of the other football players to go along with him. It was a really bad choice, but not because of Finn. Sue’s wrath fell on everyone involved like hellfire because Quinn was slushied in her uniform. The football team had to polish the Cheerios trophies under her supervision. They had to pay to have the whole team’s uniforms cleaned. They had to do a fundraiser to pay for the Cheerios new skirts, which the most of the guys actually didn’t mind at all.”
“Ah, yes. The pleated, twirling skirts. I didn’t know that those were courtesy of the football team. Actually, thinking about it, they had those long before we found out that Quinn was pregnant.” Kurt continued to examine the engine while they talked.
“The girls already had them, yes. But Sue decided that since she had the football team by the ba–, umm, ears, she’d wring them for every penny she could. They ran laps. They polished her Le Car under her supervision.”
Kurt laughed. “That was all before I joined.”
“I didn’t play football until this year, which was also Azimio’s idea. He said that as his best friend, I owed it to myself to move up the ranks and quit being a loser Puckhead.”
“I see.” Kurt pulled out two fouled-out spark plugs and put them on a tray behind him on the counter. He put two new ones in. After that, he raised the truck up on the lift to inspect it from underneath. Kurt extended his arms up, which caused his beat up t-shirt to slip up, giving Dave a view of several inches of skin.
Dave tried to force himself to look away, but he was too entranced with the view of Kurt's abs. On top of it, Kurt’s forearms were showing and his sleeves slid towards his shoulders, showing off some seriously toned upper arms that Dave had previously not known about. Damn. More things to not think about. Kurt Hummel in a slightly-too-short, beat up, white t-shirt was one of the hottest sights he’d ever seen.
Kurt said, “So, last year it seems that you bullied the losers to prevent yourself from being bullied. This year, it seems more personal. I couldn’t figure out why, but now I’m wondering if you’re bullying me specifically because I’m gay and you haven’t come to terms with the fact that you are too.”
Dave looked around, but relaxed when he realized that the other two guys working had headphones on. “You can’t just say that.”
“They can’t hear us, and no one else is here. I would never say anything where anyone could hear. I already told you that I wouldn’t out you. That’s not me. I’m out and loud and proud, but your life is yours. Given your reaction, you’re either absolutely unhappy about being gay or that someone else will be if they find out.”
“I’m not thrilled because it makes me abnormal or whatever. But I mean, guys are hot, so I’m not–. I don’t know.”
Kurt glanced towards him quickly and noticed his flushed cheeks and how quickly he tried to avert his gaze, which was not a topic Kurt wanted to touch with a 10-foot pole at that moment. “So, did you read the stuff in that binder?”
“Did you read the part about athletic scholarships?”
“I called yesterday. It’s not too late for you to apply for a hockey scholarship.”
“You heard me. When you opened your backpack to put those pamphlets in the other day, I saw that you had a Calculus book. Usually only the top seniors who are super good at math take Calculus because they doubled up and took two math classes one year. Or they took Algebra in the 8th grade. So, I figured that you had to have done both. I took the liberty of looking at your grades when Miss P was on her way out to get more hand sanitizer from her car when I went to talk to her yesterday. You’re in Calculus and Physics. You have a 3.8 GPA from your first two years, but your midterm grades this year looked pretty pathetic – other than still getting an A in Calculus and Physics.”
“Coach Beiste really works the team a lot compared to Coach Tanaka from what Azimio says. He’s glad that they’re winning this year, but with so much practice time, they do a lot of their horsing around after practice now. I can’t just cut or–”
Kurt interrupted him. “Or you get made fun of.”
“You need to get a grip.” Kurt was stern. “Right now, the only thing that matters is how badly you want whatever it is you have planned for your life. Those reprobates on the football team – their approval of how you spend your time will not matter AT ALL. Them calling you a pussy or a fag or whatever – it just doesn’t matter.” He decided to inspect the brakes before starting to look for the oil leak. “Do you you want to live closeted your whole life?” he asked with no sarcasm whatsoever. “I mean it’s fine if you do. No judgement from me. You can marry one of the Cheerios and have 2.5 kids, the dog, and the white picket fence right here in Lima. No offense implied, honestly. My dad lives here and likes it.”
“Hard pass on marrying a Cheerio.”
Kurt raised an eyebrow.
“A girl Cheerio.”
Kurt smiled. “Anyway, your life choices are yours. I’m just saying that I’m not going to judge you. Plenty of gay guys have gotten married and had families. And it will continue to be that way until society considers marrying for love, not gender, as the way to go.” He paused and looked over at Dave “You need new brake pads.”
“Fine. Go head.” Dave shrugged. “Why would I want to go to Dalton? Isn’t it a fancy boarding school?”
Kurt moved on to finding the oil leak. “There are day students that live in the Westerville area, but yes, a lot of the students board. That’s actually one of the upsides if you’re struggling at home. You could live more independently. The other upside is that you could take AP classes. You could start in AP Calculus if you transferred. And there are other AP courses.”
“I read about those in the binder. Getting college credit would be cool.”
“One of the guys I met there, Lawrence, has been telling me about the classes in the IB program, all of which sound about a thousand times better than any of our classes at McKinley. Plus, they have a strict No-Bullying Policy. No one would be dragging you down anymore. The uniform is not really my thing obviously, but you wear the same style jeans, oversized Polos, and your letterman jacket every day, so wearing a variety of clothes doesn’t seem high on your list of important things anyway.” Earlier, Kurt had taken note of the fact that he looked nicer than usual when he got out of his truck. The scruff definitely made him look older. The lack of letterman jacket was a definite improvement, even if it had been replaced by an OSU hoodie.
Dave ignored the dig at his wardrobe. “Why don’t you enroll there if it’s so great?”
“I can’t afford it. And I don’t play hockey or any other sport that is played between now and the end of the school year.” He paused, and then said, “Aha!”
“I found where your oil is leaking from. I just need to go the right sized hose and a few gaskets.” Kurt came back with what he needed, put on some protective eyewear, and began to remove the cracked hose.
Dave watched what he was doing the whole time. “I’m going to stand up and take my hoodie off. It’s a little hot in here.”
Kurt turned a bit so his back was to Dave. “Yeah, sure. Just be careful not to bump anything.” He bit his lip to keep from laughing.
Dave folded his hoodie and put it in his lap. He looked up to see Kurt’s backside on display with his shirt still riding up. He needed the hoodie in his lap for sure. “How long do you think it’s going to take you to fix everything?”
“A while. I haven’t finished looking it over yet, plus I’ve still got the exhaust system to work on. I told you to expect to stay through lunch. Didn’t you bring some reading to do or something?” Kurt looked over at him when he didn’t answer right away. One look at Dave in the tight black tee he had on made him realize that Dave was all muscle. He turned back to what he was doing to stop that train of thought.
“Yeah. I did. I’ll get to work on it.” He pulled out his US History textbook to at least pretend to read. He doubted that he’d make it through a whole page and remember what he read because the sexiest guy he knew looked even more hot while fixing his truck.
Four hours later, Kurt and Dave were sitting in the break room splitting a pizza that Dave had delivered to the shop.
“I let it drop earlier, but I need to know if you’re interested in applying for the scholarship.”
Dave finished chewing the bite he had in his mouth. “Why do you care? I’ve never done anything but make your life more miserable.”
“Maybe it’s just one of those ‘paying it forward’ things. I don’t know. Do you have a dream for yourself?”
Dave took another bite of pizza and thought. “I mean the regular dream of getting a job, moving out, and living my own life.”
“That’s a start. Do you want to get a job here?”
“Not really, but I’ll have to go to college to get a good job somewhere else. I could move to a bigger city and flip burgers I guess. I haven’t really thought about it.”
“Well, I’m getting out of this cow town. I want to live in New York City. I’ll wait tables or whatever I have to do.”
“You can fix cars. Why on earth would you wait tables?”
“Fair point, but still – I just don’t want to live with the small-town closed-mindedness any longer than I have to.” He leaned back and closed his eyes for a minute, pushing himself to go through with what he had worked on. “I mentioned going to Miss Pillsbury’s office yesterday.”
“When I called about the hockey scholarship possibility, I made an appointment for you to talk to the Dalton school academic advisor. I told Miss Pillsbury. She’s going to write both of us a letter for another visit for me and a visit for you.”
“A visit? Meaning?”
“For you to tour the school and get an idea of what it would be like to go to school there. They have a No-Bullying Policy. No one can bully you if you decide to be ‘out and proud’ there. No one can bully you for joining the Warblers to sing like you told me you can. It’s a really highly respected group, and they’re actually at the top of the social hierarchy there. You can also stay in the closet and pass for straight like you do now, but you’d be in an environment where you could reach your academic potential. You could play hockey and get a top-notch education. With the AP classes and a good GPA, you could have a lot better chance of getting a scholarship to college.”
“Why have you thought about this so much?”
Kurt looked away. “I want it for myself, to be honest. But it’s not in my reach. You’re struggling. You’re not being who you really are. I know how hard that is. We may not be friends, but I don’t wish that struggle on anyone. Going there would give you a chance to figure yourself out. And I guess I just assumed that your fear of coming out is rooted at home. I just thought if you could do something to improve your chances of getting a college scholarship, you wouldn’t be dependent on your family to pay for you to go to college. You could move on and be an adult on your own terms, whatever those are.”
Dave stuffed another bite of pizza in his mouth, buying himself a few seconds to think of an answer. No one had ever taken the time to think about his future for five seconds, much less as long as Kurt obviously had. “Okay. Fine. I’ll go Monday. Is Miss Pillsbury going to tell my dad?”
“No. I’ll drive. You can just ride with me. We can meet somewhere where no one will see us on the edge of Lima, heading towards Columbus.”
“You can just tell whoever asks why you don’t show up until after lunch that you had a dentist appointment or something.”
Dave nodded. “How much more work do you have left on my truck?”
“Just the rest of the exhaust system. Less than an hour. You can sit in the customer service area if you’re tired of having to sit in that chair.”
“What? Oh, no. That’s not it. I have to mow the yard and do the trimming before it gets dark. It’s the final time for the year, so I have to clean the mower and the trimmer and everything after I finish so I can put them away until the spring.”
“Do you want any more?” Kurt asked as he reached for the box.
Kurt picked the box up and stuck it in the fridge in the corner of the room. “Let’s get back out there so I can get you home in time to mow.”
Dave got in the passenger side Monday morning and pulled the door closed. Kurt looked over at him and saw that he was dressed in button-up shirt, black slacks, and black dress shoes. He did a double-take as his heart sped up a bit. He ignored his desire to make a smart-ass comment and waited for Dave to put his seatbelt on.
“My truck runs great. Thanks.”
“I’m glad. Feel free to recommend the shop to anyone you know.”
“I’ll do that.” He reached down for his bag. “I, um, brought a few CDs. I thought maybe we could listen to some music on the drive over.”
“Sure. Put in whatever you want, as long as it’s not screamo or something distracting.”
Dave chuckled. “Definitely not. I’d like to get there and back in one piece too, you know?” He pulled out a Michael Bublé CD. “How about this?”
Kurt glanced over. “Sure. I didn’t take you for a Bublé fan.”
“Yeah, well there’s a lot you don’t know about me.” He took the CD out and pushed it into the player.
“And before you ask, I didn’t tell my parents about going today. I managed to sneak out before they were downstairs. I have other clothes in my truck to wear later.”
“What you have on looks nice.”
Dave looked out the window. “I figured I needed to make a good impression.”
“I stopped by the school and managed to persuade Miss P to give me a copy of your transcript in a sealed envelope. It’s in my satchel. I’ll go in with you, but I’ll just sit in the office waiting area while you go on your tour. I’ve already been once.” He reached over and turned the music up a little.
“So, David, tell me a bit about yourself,” Mr. McGuire said.
“Well, there’s not much to tell that you don’t know. My birthday was last month. I’m 17. I’m a junior. I like sports. I’m good at math.”
“Any outside interests?”
“Um, well, I used to sing, but not at school. I build model planes with my dad. I like to read biographies. Video games?”
Mr. McGuire smiled and nodded. His picked up his phone and said, “Darlene, can you please send for one of the Warblers to take Dave on a tour?” He put his phone back on the hook. “How did you find out about the scholarship possibility?”
“From someone who came to visit Dalton last week. He got a binder of information about the school and he found the scholarship information in there. He called later in the week to find out if there were still any hockey scholarships available.”
“I see.” He used scissors to carefully cut the end off the envelope laying on his desk. He looked over Dave’s transcript. “Your grades are good. I’d need a recommendation from your hockey coach or someone who knows your hockey skills. And of course, your parents would need to sign the scholarship application. They can be scanned and emailed or faxed to me.” He slid a few sheets of paper across his desk. “After I get those back, I can set you up for a tryout with our coach. The school doesn’t have it’s own ice rink. The team practices at the Westerville Iceplex during the week and on weekends.”
“The scholarship would cover your tuition, room and board, as well as your books. It also covers one blazer, one sweater vest, a tie, two pairs of slacks, a two sets of gym clothes, and the hockey uniform. The white button-ups, black shoes, belt, and socks, and any additional clothing items, such as more pairs of slacks, would fall to you to purchase for yourself. We do have laundry facilities on site, at no cost, so you can get by with two pairs of slacks if you have to. You can only wear Dalton issued clothing when out of your room unless you’re leaving the building for the evening or weekend.”
Mr. McGuire picked his phone up. “Please send in whoever is here to take Dave on a tour.”
Less than a minute later, a knock sounded briefly before the door handle turned and a Dalton student with slicked-back hair and a big smile on his face stepped in the room.
“Good morning, Blaine. This is David.”
Blaine nodded and turned to Dave. “It’s nice to meet you. Shall we?” He held the door open for Dave.
Mr. McGuire pulled a binder off the shelf behind him and handed it to Dave. “You can share this with your parents.”
“Thank you,” Dave took it from him and slipped the scholarship application inside the front pocket before he turned to follow Blaine out of the room.
Dave followed Blaine through the building to the academic wing. “This it my Calculus class. We’ll stay here for ten minutes, and then I’ll take you to view some of the other classes.”
Dave followed him in and sat in an empty chair towards the back of the room. He paid close attention as the teacher continued with the lesson. When he saw Blaine stand up, he grabbed the binder and followed him back out to the hallway.
“So what did you think?”
“Well, the class is bigger. I mean has more students. At McKinley, there aren’t that many people taking Calculus.”
“You attend McKinley right now?”
Dave nodded. “Yeah, why?”
“Oh, it’s just that there was another guy from McKinley here last week. He mentioned that the bullying there is really bad for him. He called the football players ‘Neanderthals’ and said one guy in particular made his life a living hell. It doesn’t sound like a great place to go to school, but I told him that bullying is just ignorance and that he should confront the bully, you know? Be courageous and not just let that guy ruin his life.”
Dave’s head was swimming. He tried to remember what Blaine had said before the bullying part. He remembered. “It’s not a good school. Like I said, there aren’t that many people in Calculus and the school doesn’t offer any AP courses.”
“That’s not a good place for students with a lot of academic potential then.”
“No, not at all.”
“Let’s go over to the science department. You can spend the last ten minutes of the period in the Physics room to get a feel for what it would be like here. We’ll just slip in and sit in the back.”
Dave sat down and pushed the thoughts about ‘Neanderthals’ and ‘living hell’ out of his mind.
“Kurt, could I see you in my office for a few minutes?” Mr. McGuire said when he stepped outside his door.
Surprised to hear his name, Kurt turned his head quickly. “Yes, of course.” He followed Mr. McGuire back to his office and sat down.
“Why did you tell David about Dalton?”
“McKinley doesn’t have much to offer a junior who is already in Calculus and Physics. I don’t know what he could even take next year. He’s playing dumb at McKinley. If he’s that smart, he should be somewhere where he can reach his potential. He needs to get away from the other jocks at McKinley who together have an IQ of smart dog. Or maybe some of them are as smart as he is, but just keep it hidden too. I don’t know. Does he need a peer recommendation or something?”
“No. Honestly, I had hoped to get a transfer application from you after your visit last week.”
“Oh, well, that won’t happen. My dad can’t afford to send me to school here.”
“You knew that before you came though, right?”
“Then why did you come anyway?”
“I wanted to see what it was like here. What it would be like to not have to walk circumspectly every step I took through a school hallway. Honestly, it sounded a lot like a fairy tale, but when I came, it was all real. This seems like an amazing school, but like I said, it’s not something my dad can afford. He hasn’t even been out of the hospital that long.”
“Your dad was in the hospital?”
“He had a cardiac arrhythmia episode that caused a heart attack and left him in a coma for a few days.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Kurt nodded. “So, anyway, he has the inevitable bills that will come from that to deal with. And even without those, he doesn’t have the kind of money to afford the tuition here.”
“Sports scholarships are not the only type of scholarships that we offer.”
“That’s all I saw in the information.”
“That’s because generally speaking our academic scholarships go to students that are referred to us by their guidance counselors as high-achieving students in low-performing schools.”
“I’m not sure why you’re telling me this.”
“Because I’m willing to call your guidance counselor and tell him–”
“Tell her about this opportunity so that she will contact me through the proper method and refer you back here for an interview for placement in our academic scholarship program.”
“I don’t know if I can do that – I mean leave my dad behind.”
“Why don’t you share the information in the binder with him. Show him the opportunities for you here. I think you’d find yourself at home on our debate team, the French club, and with the Warblers.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Don’t take too long. Midterms are this week. If you start by next week, you could start off on even footing in most of your classes. I think you’d do well in our AP English language course, as well as AP US History course, given your interest in history that we discussed last week. We also have AP Music Theory. You’d have to catch up on the first quarter of it on your own, but I don’t think that would be out of reach. Please consider the idea seriously. You’re not the only one with a lot of potential that isn’t getting an opportunity to reach it where you are.”
“I’ll let you go back to waiting for David.”
“Did he say something to you?”
“He didn’t refer to you by name. Darlene mentioned that you were back before David came in. That’s why I said I had hoped that you had come back to enroll. Before you go, let me give you a pass so you can go wait for David in The Grind. It’s a lot nicer than sitting in the office. Help yourself to coffee and a cookie or scone or whatever you want.” He pulled out a visitor’s pass and gave it to Kurt to wear.
Kurt took it from him. “Thanks.” He put the tag on his jacket before he stood up. “I’ll let you get back to work.”
“I hope to see you back soon, Kurt.”
Dave visited three more classes before the third period bell rang.
“I have Warblers practice next. I can’t leave during rehearsal, but you can come watch for as long as you’d like before you go back to the office.”
Dave followed him to the Warblers rehearsal room. He was still amazed by how fancy the school was. The hall looked like something from one of the French castles he had seen photos of.
“Mr. McGuire specifically sent for a Warbler to show you around. I assume, then, that you sing?”
“I used to.”
Blaine opened the doors and Dave followed him in and took a seat in a chair at the back of the room. Blaine moved to the front near a table with three students already seated behind it.
“Listen up, everyone. I know we need to practice for Sectionals, and we will. But first I wanted to introduce everyone to Dave. He’s thinking about transferring here. He’s not currently in a show choir, so he’s not here to spy on us. I’d like to give him a chance to sing for us. I know it’s a spur-of-the-moment thing, but what do you say Dave?”
He smiled, but shook his head no. “That’s okay, really. I don’t have anything prepared.”
“That’s not a problem. We can just connect a phone to our speakers. Or if Miles–” Blaine pointed to him. “knows the song you want to sing, he can accompany you on the piano.” He turned the charm up. “Come on. You know you want to.”
Some of the more easily excitable Warblers started to chant softly. “Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave.”
He sighed and stood up. “You can’t hold it against me if I’m terrible. I didn’t come prepared to sing.” He moved to the front. He remembered the CD they listened to on the drive. He turned to Miles. “Do you know ‘Everything’ by Michael Bublé?”
“Yeah, sure. Original key?” Miles moved to the piano bench.
Dave nodded. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. After the intro, he began to sing. He started out a little on the quiet side, but his confidence increased as the response in the room became more positive and enthusiastic. He stopped after the second chorus.
And I can't believe, that I'm your man.
And I get to kiss you baby just because I can.
Whatever comes our way, oh we'll see it through.
And you know that's what our love can do.
And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times,
It's you, it's you. You make me sing.
You're every line. You're every word. You're everything.
When Dave didn’t begin to sing the bridge, Miles ended the song.
Wes spoke up. “That was really good, Dave. This is a bit out of the norm for us, but would you mind stepping outside the door for just a moment?”
Dave shrugged and walked to the door and stepped out into the hallway. A few minutes later, the door opened and Wes welcomed him back into the room.
“We’d just like to tell you that, should you decided to transfer, we will extend an offer to join the Warblers.”
Dave could hardly believe what he was hearing. Incredulity obvious in his voice, he asked, “Really?”
“Yes,” Wes assured him. “We don’t have any crooners currently, and having you as part of the mix or on lead at some point could be just what we need.”
“Well, thanks. I appreciate the offer. We’ll have to see about the transfer. My parents and I have to talk about it still.”
“Of course. Of course,” Wes said. “Changing schools midterm is a big commitment.”
Dave nodded. He took his phone out to check the time. “I need to get back to the office.”
“Our offer stands,” Wes said.
Dave nodded and let himself out.
“So, he asked you to sing, right there on the spot?”
“He did. And after a few minutes in the hall, when I assume they took a vote, he told me I was in if I wanted to join.”
“So will you do it?”
“Join the Warblers?”
“I don’t know. It could be fun.”
“You wouldn’t get teased. That’s for sure. Like I said, the Warblers are like rock stars.” Kurt didn’t say anything else. He checked his mirrors and to his left as he merged onto 270. Once he was in the lane he wanted to be in, he reach over and started the CD again.
Dave looked out the window and thought about how wrong Blaine was about Kurt being cowardly and how bullying wasn’t caused by ignorance. Flashes of willful behavior throughout junior high and high school bounced around in Dave’s mind as they rode in silence back to where they had met.
The sudden lack of motion when Kurt pulled up next to his truck brought Dave back to the present.
Kurt turned to look at him and realized that he had been crying. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m so freaking sorry, Kurt. I’m just so sorry for what I did to you – what I’ve done to you. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t last a week, maybe not even a day, if people treated me the way I’ve treated you. But I’m exhausted. I wake up from nightmares of being at a conversion camp, in cold sweats from dreaming that I’ve been praying for two hours on my knees. I went with my mom once. I didn’t know where we were going. She just said it was to drop off donations for a local church camp that they had collected at church. She made me go with her to carry in the boxes of food.” He wiped his eyes. “I’m going to turn in the scholarship application. I’m going to convince my parents to sign it. I’ll play up the whole educational aspect of it.” He opened his door. “All I can say is thank you.”
Kurt nodded. “You’re welcome.” He waited until Dave was a few feet from the door and he backed out and drove back to McKinley.
During fifth period, Kurt got a note from Miss Pillsbury with a pass to go to her office. He picked up his French book and left. He didn’t want to startle her while she was tidying up her pamphlet holders, so he stood in the doorway of her office until she noticed him.
“Oh, Kurt! Do come in and close the door behind you, please.”
He did as she asked and sat down in the closest chair.
“So, I have some information for you.” She slid a packet across the desk to him.
He picked it up and looked at it – an application for Dalton Academy.
“Mr. McGuire and I had an illuminating discussion before lunch today. It seems that I was woefully uninformed about an amazing opportunity available to you. I received that packet after properly inquiring about opportunities for high-performing students in low-performing schools. I also learned of this same opportunity for girls at Crawford Country Day. I have a couple of girls who will be coming in to see me after we talk. Typically students enter the program at the beginning of their sophomore year, but Mr. McGuire assured me that if you turn in that application tomorrow that you can start classes right after Dalton’s midterm exams, and you will not be penalized for missing the first half of the semester. Your grades will based on the work you do the rest of the semester. You may have a bit of catch-up to do in math and history he said, but they will help you with a math tutor if you need one so that you can catch up as quickly as possible. The history issue would be solved by you doing extra reading.”
Kurt nodded. “So, you’re basically saying that this is a done deal? If I’m interested.”
“Yes. I already sent Mr. McGuire a letter of recommendation and your transcript, along with a written account of the difficulties you’ve faced here in reaching your potential.”
“I see. And I don’t need another letter or anything?”
“Well, I did speak to Madame Foucault during lunch. She wrote a very supportive letter, which I already sent to Mr. McGuire.”
“So, I have to convince my dad.”
“Your father is a very supportive parent, I would think that convincing him to allow you to have this amazing educational opportunity would not be that hard.”
Kurt shrugged. “I’m not sure that I want to leave. He’s only been out of the hospital for a couple of weeks. He can’t even go to work yet.”
“I see your dilemma.” She squirted some hand sanitizer in her palm and thoroughly sanitized her hands.
Kurt took that as his cue not to bring up hospitals or illness. He remembered the Bambi incident, but said nothing because she had asked him to never bring it up. “Thank you for this.” He put the packet in his satchel. “I’ll give it serious consideration. Did you need anything else from me?”
“No, Kurt. That’s it.” She pulled out a pad and gave him a pass to go back to class.
He took it and left. As he walked back to his French class slowly, he looked around. There were posters up for various clubs, none of which he belonged to, not due to lack of interest on his part, but on the part of the people in the club – they didn’t want him in their club.
There were days when he wondered whether being himself had been a good choice on his part. He knew how to be straight. He was an actor. He had just thought that being his authentic self would be more fulfilling than living like he was someone he was not. But looking around, he realized that most of the reason he was lonely and mostly alone was because he chose to embrace his uniqueness. If he had conformed and dressed like Mike or Sam, and had taken on his life as the ultimate acting role – Kurt Hummel, straight high school student, he knew that he could have done that. He could have passed. But he wanted to be himself more than he wanted to live that way.
Being a Cheerio stopped the harassment as well, but it meant wearing the uniform every day, which had eroded his individuality. Going to Dalton would put him in the position – acceptance through conformity. The benefit, though, was a top-notch education that wearing a Cheerio’s uniform again could never get for him. He stopped outside his French classroom and took a deep breath before he went back inside.
He put the pass on Madame Foucault’s desk. She looked up at him and smiled. He went back to his seat and began to take notes again. When the bell rang ten minutes later, he packed his stuff back up again.
“Kurt, please stay back,” Madame Foucault said over the din of the bell.
He waited as everyone else left the classroom. Once the room was empty, he approached her desk.
She spoke in a very low voice. “I hope you take advantage of the opportunity you’re being given. You have so much potential that you can’t reach here in this school. These windows face the dumpster. I saw what the football team did to you. I’m sorry that I wasn’t brave enough to put an end to it. I’m 60 years old. I’ve been teaching in this school since your dad was in elementary school. He never took French, but I saw him around. He was a jock. Popular. And the girls all loved him. Things haven’t changed much.”
Kurt’s expression changed to confusion. “I’m not following. I think maybe I misunderstood?”
“I don’t think so, Kurt. I think you understood what I meant. Anyway, I hope you give this opportunity a fair bit of consideration. You owe it to yourself. I know that you’re likely struggling to move away from your dad, but if you hadn’t repeated a grade or started school late when you were younger, you’d be graduating in May and moving on with your life. Don’t sell yourself short because you feel like you have an obligation to stay. Westerville isn’t in Antartica.”
Kurt nodded. “Thank you for writing the recommendation.”
“You’re welcome.” She handed him a pass. “In case you’re late.”
“So, you want to go to school an hour and a half away?” Dave’s mother asked.
Before Dave had a chance to answer, his father intervened. “I don’t think the location of the school is what is appealing to him, Margaret. I think he’s being offered a chance of a lifetime. We can’t afford to send him to a school like that. Dalton Academy is in the top five high schools in Ohio. And going to school there and doing well could open doors for him to universities that we can’t afford either. I’ve been looking into funding his college expenses. I filled out one of those mock financial aid forms to see what he’s likely to be offered. We make too much money for him to get grants and not enough money to just pay for his tuition out of our incomes. That will leave him in the position of either having to go to less expensive college, which will then limit his learning opportunities and cut down on his chances of getting a scholarship to graduate school, if that’s what he wants. My parents were poor. I went to OSU on grants. Plus the tuition has skyrocketed since we went to college. It’s insane. I think we’d be nuts to let him miss out on this opportunity. I know we hadn’t planned on him moving away for another year and a half, but it’s only a year and a half. Westerville isn’t in Antartica. Honestly, if you think about it, we don’t see him that often as it is with your church groups, your work, my work, his football practices, and his schoolwork. He’s already 17.”
“What about church? He won’t be here to go.”
“There are churches in Westerville.”
“But I can’t be sure that he’ll go.”
Dave sat there feeling invisible as they talked to each other, but he was glad that his mother hadn’t outright refused to consider it.
“Margaret, he’s old enough to drive a car. Don’t you think he’s old enough to decide whether to go to church or not?”
“So many young people fall away from the Lord. They’re lured into the evil parading as enlightenment and freedom.”
“You know that you can’t save his soul. How does the verse go? Each of us must work out our own salvation? Something like that. He has to make his own choices in the end. No amount of sitting in a pew in Lima is going to save his soul.”
She sighed and turned to Dave. “Do you really want to go to this school?”
“I do. It was amazing. The students all actually sat quietly and listened. They had actually read the assignments and the class discussions were actually discussions. They voluntarily talked about what they had read. But they weren’t like pod people. Between classes, they were talkative and acted like regular students. Well-behaved students, but still.”
“I’ll sign the forms.” She reached out for the application and signed her name at the bottom and passed it down.
Paul and Dave both signed as well.
“I still have to go try out for the team. I might not even be good enough to make it, but we’ll see.” He collected up the forms and put them in the folder. “Do you two want to look through the binder of information any more?”
“Yes, please. Leave it on the table and your father and I will look through it. He can bring it back upstairs to you when we’re through with it. I’m sure you have schoolwork to do.”
“This is really good,” Burt said. “Why are you just picking at it?”
“What?” Kurt looked up from the green beans he was pushing around on his plate.
“What’s going on? You’re too quiet and you’re hardly eating.”
“Did you toss losers into the dumpsters when you were in high school?”
The color in Burt’s face drained. “What makes you ask me that?”
“Can you please just answer the question?”
“Yeah. Me and the other football players, sometimes we’d grab the nerdy kids and toss ‘em in. Why?”
“What would have made you stop? If they had stood up to you?”
“Nah, that would’ve never stopped us. It’d’ve probably just made us toss in whoever back-talked us more often. And physically, none of them could’ve come close to causing us any trouble. They’d’ve been the ones to get hurt. Why?”
“I still want to know who told you.”
“Just something I thought I misunderstood.”
“I see. Eat up. You made it. Surely it’s something you like.”
Kurt took a few bites just to get the conversation off the topic of him eating. “Miss Pillsbury called me into her office.”
“The academic advisor at Dalton Academy talked to her about whether there were any high achieving students at McKinley who weren’t able to reach their full academic potential.”
“So, I visited Dalton Academy on an official school visit.”
“Where is this school?”
“Is it that boarding school I’ve heard about?”
“Maybe? It has boarding students and day students both.”
“Westerville’s too far away for you to drive back and forth. You’re a good driver, but three hours a day just to go to school is too much.”
“If I went, I’d board, at least during the week.”
“So this school – Dalton. It has better classes than McKinley?”
“Much. I could even take classes that would let me earn college credit while I’m in high school.”
“Well, that sounds good. College is expensive and knocking out some classes before you go sounds like a good plan. Why doesn’t McKinley offer these classes?”
“McKInley doesn’t offer a lot of things. Mostly just the basics.”
“But you’d like more than the basics, I take it.”
“I would. They also have a no-bullying policy.”
Burt raised his eyebrow and looked Kurt in the eye. “You getting bullied at McKinley?”
“What do you think, Dad? I’m the only out student.”
“Yeah. Why’ve you never told me till now?”
“What would you have told me? Try harder to fit in? Stop dressing like a fag?”
“Hey, now. Don’t call yourself that.”
“Fine. I still think you would have told me to change how I portray myself, but you just told me that the kids you and your pals dumpstered wouldn’t have changed the outcome by changing themselves.”
He shrugged. “I get it. How many times’ve you been dumpstered?”
“I lost count after about 50–”
Burt interrupted him, “Geez, Kurt.”
He went on, “After about 50 times my first semester.”
He stopped and looked over at Kurt. “That’s like three times a week.”
“Since Puck and Finn joined the Glee Club, I don’t get dumpstered anymore.”
“What’s Finn got to do with it?”
“He’d hold my coat, and sometimes my bag, while Puck and other jocks tossed me in. When Puck joined Glee, he stopped dumpstering the losers. And I’m assuming that he spread his protection out over me since I was the only person getting tossed in that joined Glee. They don’t dumpster the girls or Artie. They just locked him in port-a-potties.”
Burt suppressed a laugh.
Kurt gave him a dirty look. “They still toss slushies at us.”
Burt sat there for a few minutes, obviously working through what Kurt had told him. “That’s still going on?”
“What do you mean ‘still’?”
“Look, Kurt. I did a lot of stupid things when I was your age.”
“I had a slushie one day. A group of us had gone off campus for lunch. I bought the slushie on the way back.” He sighed. He ran his hand across his scalp. “We came back and decided to sit outside to wait for lunch to end. One of the mouthy, nerdy kids puffed out his chest, mocking us as we walked past. I poured my slushie over his head.”
Kurt sat there speechless.
Burt’s turned with a jerk. “Hold up. Is that why you stopped coming to the shop directly after school last year? You told me that you started having a lot more homework, and you needed the extra time to do it, so you started working on Saturdays instead.”
“Yeah,” Kurt said reluctantly. He knew he was the one that had opened the can of worms by asking his dad about his behavior at McKinley. “I’d take the bus home, soak whatever I had been slushied in and wash it all while I prepped dinner. I did work on my homework a bit, but McKinley isn’t exactly challenging, so, no, I didn’t need the extra time to work on my homework.”
“What else’ve you lied to me about?”
Kurt shrugged. “I don’t consider not telling you about something going on in my life as lying. I mean I don’t tell you what I eat for lunch at school every day, but you don’t consider that to be lying.”
“Fair point. I never actually asked you if you were being bullied. But you did lie about the additional homework.” He rephrased his statement. “Is there anything else about your life that I don’t already know that you’d like to share with me?”
“Let’s see. When you told me that I was basically being a predator wanting Sam to sing with me – that was really hurtful. And whatever Finn told Carole that she told you was obviously exaggerated. You said that she told you that I had a crush on Finn and wasn’t afraid to show it.”
“Did she say in what way I showed it?”
“Mostly she just said that your advances were unwelcome and that you made Finn really uncomfortable.”
“Right. Let me break it down for you. Yes, I had a crush on Finn, which I developed because he was the nicest guy I had met, and he’s cute, in a dumb golden retriever kind of way. He held my expensive stuff while I got dumpstered. That was the extent of his chivalry.”
“So, last year, his girlfriend Quinn got pregnant.”
“I know about that.”
“Well, did Carole mention that she told Finn for months that he was the father when it turned out that Puck was?”
“I knew Puck was the baby’s father.”
“Yeah, but she straight up lied to him. And Puck was his best friend. Obviously, he knew that he was the father. Let’s see. My crush-induced behaviors included giving Rachel a useless makeover.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Well, see while Quinn and Finn were still together and Finn thought the baby was his, Rachel seduced him after school and got him to cheat on Quinn during a picnic she set up for the two of them in the school auditorium. And he invited her out on a date to go bowling while he was still with Quinn.”
“So, Finn cheated on Quinn after she had cheated on him.”
“But he didn’t know that she had cheated at the time, but yes. So I gave Rachel a makeover to make her less attractive to Finn. He told me that he liked wholesome girls who didn’t wear a lot of make up or dress provocatively, so I offered to give Rachel a makeover. I did her up like Sandy at the end of Grease.”
“Where she wears tight clothes and floofs out her hair and stuff?”
“Yeah, Finn wasn’t impressed. And Rachel figured out that Finn isn’t into that kind of thing, but she doesn’t know that I knew that ahead of time.”
“Alright.” He was still chuckling.
“So, let’s see what else. Oh, yeah. I looked at him, you know, watched him because I thought he was cute. I offered him fashion advice for meeting Quinn’s parents. Helped him pick a tie to match a suit jacket. He asked me over to his house to help him.”
“Back to Rachel. This was after he found out that Quinn’s baby wasn’t his. He started to date Rachel. But at the same time, Santana set her sights on Finn. She needed to boost her rep. She decided to go about doing that by getting Finn to sleep with her. Since he was the quarterback and a virgin, she’d be his first.”
“That’s a terrible reason to have sex with someone.”
“It is. But she and Brittany invited him out on a date, and he broke up with Rachel to go out with them. Later, Santana convinced him to have sex with her and they got a hotel room. Did he tell Carole that Rachel or Santana were predatory?” He paused briefly. “Don’t bother answering. I’m sure he didn’t because it’s a big ego boost for three girls to be into him. And Quinn still liked him, making four.”
“I never even so much as winked at him. I never touched him, like sexually at all. I never suggested anything lewd. I never stalked him in the locker room trying to sneak peeks of him naked. Literally nothing other than just looking at him like he was amazing. I’ve obviously come to my senses. But I certainly did not act predatory.” He took a deep breath. “Can you actually imagine the uproar if I had basically pushed him back into a locker and told him that he needed to lose his virginity to me? In public? With all the students in the hallway?”
“I get it. He exaggerated because he was uncomfortable about a guy having a crush on him.”
“And that whole room-sharing fiasco?”
“I took a swatch board to school. It had a lot of choices on it. I tried to get him to tell me what he liked. He wouldn’t interact with me. It didn’t matter to him. He basically just randomly pointed at one of the fabric swatches.” Kurt rolled his eyes. “Of course, it mattered. I learned the hard way that teen guys in Ohio don’t like their room to be done like a 1930s Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper film set.”
“Is that what that was?”
“Yeah. It was from an old movie. Nothing gay about it at all – it was sophisticated and foreign.”
“You said 1930s? One of those old black and whites you like?”
“Yes. Anyway, in other news in my life, Finn and Rachel threw the duets competition a few weeks back – the one where I wanted to sing with Sam.”
“What do you mean ‘threw’?”
“I mean just what it sounds like. She and Finn did a terrible rendition of a song. We all got to vote. The two of them performed poorly so that none of us would vote for them. Finn and Rachel voted for Sam and Quinn, so they won. They’re getting the lead at Sectionals too, which would have never been the case if I had sung with Sam and we had won, which wouldn’t have happened anyway.”
“Oh, and in other news, we had a girls versus guys competition, and the guys wouldn’t even listen to my ideas when the goal of the competition was to be as opposite as possible. The guys had to sing songs traditionally performed by women and the girls had to perform songs sung by men. So, even when the idea is to be as feminine as possible, my ideas are still too girly and the couple of hours I put into coming up with something great got tossed into the trash without being even listened to.”
“So, what I’m hearing is that McKinley isn’t meeting your educational needs and your so-called friends are jerks?”
“They can be. The girls less so, but I’m not a girl, nor do I want to be one. They’re just more accepting and being alone isn’t much fun. But they were pretty offended by something I said recently, so we’re not really doing anything together right now.”
“What did you say?”
“That I don’t believe in God.”
“I see. Religion is a hot topic with people.”
“This Dalton – does it have a choir?”
“It’s a private school. I’m assuming there are uniforms.”
“You okay with that?”
“Not really, but the only way to stop the slushies at McKinley would be to rejoin the football team or the Cheerios.”
“Right. So’d you bring any information about the school back with you?”
“Yeah.” He stood up and went downstairs to retrieve the binder. He laid it on the table.
“I’ll look this over. You eat.”
Kurt nodded and picked his fork up. When he finished, he cleared the table and did the dishes. Once he finished, he sat back down and saw Burt slipping a pen back into his shirt pocket.
“I signed the form. You go ahead and enroll. We’ll talk about things again at Christmas. If you like it there, you can stay. If it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, you can transfer back to McKinley.”
Kurt nodded. He took the binder down to his room and started on his homework. As soon as he finished, he completed the scholarship application and emailed it to Mr. McGuire.
The following Tuesday morning, Carole texted Kurt asking him his exact location in the building. He responded and a minute later, she and his dad came bounding up and demanded that he take them to Finn, which he did. It turned out that Burt had proposed to Carole in the room they had met. Finn was stunned, and didn’t seem all that excited, but Carole and Kurt’s enthusiasm made up for it.
After lunch that afternoon, Kurt got another pass to Miss Pillsbury’s office. He waited until she called him in and sat down.
“Your application has been processed. You were accepted. They’re asking for you to arrive tomorrow to get settled in. You’ll have some orientation meetings and some placement tests on Thursday and Friday while the students there are taking their midterm exams. You’ll officially start classes next Monday.”
“That was fast.”
“You knew it would be with Mr. McGuire telling you that you’d need to start right after midterms this week.”
“You’re right. I guess I just figured it wouldn’t actually happen, for whatever reason.”
“I understand. Not much has gone right for you, so I can see why you would expect this to be no different. But I’ve gotten you a box so you can clean your locker out while no one is around. Once you’ve finished, stop by here and leave your textbooks before you put the rest in your vehicle. You can just sit through fifth and sixth periods. I figured you’d want to tell everyone in Glee Club that you’re transferring.”
He nodded, took the box she offered, and left.
“Can I make an announcement, please?” Kurt asked Mr. Schue right after the bell rang.
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“I know Finn probably told everyone about our parents getting married and how we’d like the New Directions to be the band for the reception.”
A few people looked confused, but most everyone smiled and nodded.
“We’re going to need the song that you’d like to perform emailed to me by tomorrow afternoon so that I can go through them. Please send your first three choices, in case of duplicates. I’ll get the set list done by Thursday afternoon so that rehearsals can start.”
A few people clapped excitedly.
“We need a mix of slow and upbeat songs. We’re going to need to rehearse this weekend and next weekend to be ready for the wedding the following weekend.”
“Why can’t we just rehearse after school like usual,” Tina asked.
Kurt thought about it for a second. “Actually, you can. I just won’t be there.”
“Why not?” Mercedes asked.
“I’m. Um. I’ve been offered an opportunity to attend Dalton Academy.”
“What?” Rachel asked, nearly screeching.
“I’m transferring there tomorrow. I’m going to go for the second half of the semester to see what it’s like.”
“Kurt, you can’t leave,” Tina said, clearly unhappy.
Finn stood up, quite upset. “What the hell, dude? How about you talk with me about this first?”
“Sorry, Finn, but there’s nothing to talk about. They have a zero-tolerance, no-bullying policy. It’s enforced. And they offer classes that McKinley doesn’t. I’m going to give it a chance.” His voice wavered as he had trouble keeping his emotions in check. “I’ll miss all of you, but I’ll still be home on the weekends sometimes. We can see each other then.” He looked around once more and directed his words to Rachel. “I’ll go ahead and leave so that you can work on stuff for Sectionals if Mr. Schue has anything in mind for it. That way, I won’t be a potential spy.”
Mercedes got up to approach him, but he shook his head sadly and walked out of the room.
Mercedes got up and followed him out. She caught up by the time he hit the parking lot. “Kurt, stop, please.”
He took a deep breath and turned to face her as they reached his Navigator.
“Can we please talk? Let me go grab my stuff from my locker. I’ll text my dad not to pick me up. I’ll even go to the shop with you – if that’s where you’re going.”
He nodded. “I’m not. We can go to my house, though.”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.”
Kurt unlocked the Nav, put his satchel in the back seat, got in the driver’s seat, and waited. It didn’t take long before she came scurrying back out. She dumped her stuff in the back and put her jacket on before she got in.
He nodded and put his key in the ignition. “I did want to talk to you, but not in there. I was going to call you later tonight.” He looked before he back up and pulled out of the parking space. He took another deep breath and turned the wheels forward and headed towards the exit. “Can I go first, or do you have something in particular that you’d like to say first?”
“I miss you. You’ve been really distant since your dad got out of the hospital. I thought it was because of the stress of him being sick, but I think there’s more to it than that.”
“There is.” He took a left at the stop sign. It didn’t take but a few more minutes to pull into the driveway.
Once they were inside, they headed into the kitchen. Kurt made them both grilled cheese sandwiches and poured two glasses of iced tea. They sat down at the table and ate before ether of them started to speak.
Kurt cleared the table and moved to the sofa.“I know that church, God, and religion mean a lot to you.”
She nodded and followed him.
“And what I have to say is in no way me asking you to change that about yourself. Okay?”
“I know you invited me to church out of the goodness of your heart. You wanted me to feel as comfortable and accepted there as you do. Your church is a like a big extended family to you.”
She nodded again. “Mmm hmm.” I know you don’t have any family that you’re close to besides your dad. I wanted you to have what I have.”
“I understand that. But it’s unlikely that I’m going to find that in a church in Lima. While your church may be big on love the sinner, hate the sin – meaning that they don’t outwardly attack gay people like the members of Westboro. The thing is that deep down, they still believe that me loving someone I’m attracted to is a sin. Deep down, they believe that I need to repent of my wicked, immoral thoughts. They believe that I should be single my whole life and never have the chance to love someone.”
“I never thought about it like that, Kurt.”
“I didn’t think you had. And that’s the problem. You all came at me for not believing in something I can’t see, whose followers have never been anything but judgmental about my so-called ‘life choices’. From everything Christians say, God can forgive anyone of anything they willfully do that’s wrong, but I’m doomed to hell because I was born gay. Do you see the irony in that, Mercedes? I didn’t choose to be gay. But people choose to murder people. But God can forgive them, and they can go to heaven still. But not me.”
“I never thought about it like that.”
“You just said that. I don’t think you’ve done a lot of thinking about what your beliefs mean to those around you and how it makes you seem really sanctimonious to say, ‘I’ll pray for you.’ Like somehow you praying makes it different from someone else praying. And for you to suggest that I pray? Don’t you think I’ve tried? Don’t you think it would be a lot easier for me to be straight? But I eventually had to come to the realization and the acceptance that praying wasn’t going to make me straight. I was gay. I am gay. I find men attractive just the same way that you do. Do you think if you tried hard enough that you could find Rachel sexy?”
Mercedes laughed. “You had to pick her, didn’t you?”
“Of course,” he lips curved upwards just a bit before his serious expression returned. “Our relationship started off rocky. The unholy trinity convinced you that we were dating. I was afraid to tell you, well anyone, that I was gay – even though people knew. You threw a brick through my baby’s window. And I accepted that as a reasonable response to me lying to you about having a crush on Rachel. You never even asked how I got it fixed.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you think I could go home to my dad and tell him the truth? That would have included me admitting that I was gay. I hadn’t come out to him yet. I searched for a place that could change the windshield that afternoon. I put cardboard in my seat and drove to a self-serve carwash and vacuumed all of the glass out. As soon as I finished, I drove to shop I found in Columbus, had it repaired, and drove back as soon as they finished. To get it done immediately, I had to pay twice the going rate for having the job done. A job I could have done just for the cost of the window, if I hadn’t been hiding how it happened from my dad. I paid $600 out of my own savings for that.”
Kurt interrupted her. “You didn’t think about it. That seems to be the refrain for the afternoon.” He sighed. “Did you ever consider that I just overlooked $600 in repairs and went on like nothing had happened? You were my first real friend. The first person who seemed to like me for me. It was worth the $600 to keep that. I couldn’t stay mad at you.” A few tears streaked down his cheek. “But you talk the talk a lot, but I’m not seeing a lot of walking the walk, honestly. You let Quinn stay with you last year. Did you offer to let me stay at your place when my dad was in the hospital?”
Mercedes look confused.
“Don’t say it again. I know you didn’t think about it.”
She nodded and thought for a second. “Didn’t you stay at Finn’s?”
“Nope. I stayed here, alone.”
“I’m really sorry, Kurt. I get it. I talk about how self-centered Rachel is, but I’m no better.”
“The candles in the hospital room was my breaking point. I had asked you all to leave religion out of it, and I can understand if you felt compelled to pray anyway, but according to everything I’ve heard, God can hear you from anywhere. You all should have met in the hospital chapel. Going against what I had asked was hurtful. And those candles in a room with oxygen tanks? You’re lucky you all didn’t blow the hospital room up. And don’t say it. I know. You never thought about it.”
“I need to start thinking through things more.”
“Everyone does. Kids don’t think anything through. Adults have to think everything through. We’re in the middle, but leaning a lot closer to the adult side at this point. If we’re going to remain friends, it’s going to require more effort on your part because I’m going to Dalton tomorrow. We’ll be an hour and a half apart. We can text, call, Skype, even email, whatever you want. But it’s not going to be like just running in to me in the hallway where we compliment each other’s wardrobe choices. Seeing each other will take deliberate effort on both of our parts.”
She nodded. “I can do that. Come here.”
He scooted over and she hugged him.
“I’m really sorry about being such a self-centered diva. The world doesn’t revolve around me. If I don’t check myself, I’ll end up worse than Rachel.” She shuddered. “Scary thought.”
Kurt nodded. “I accept your apology. But being sorry means not doing the same things again. That’s what my dad always says.”
“Yeah, mine too.” She sat quietly for a few minutes. “I’m going to give you the $600. I was the one who lost my temper. And you protected me from your dad, who I know would have gone to my parents for the money. I realize that you were protecting yourself, but you could have told him the truth about who did it without incriminating yourself about being gay. You can drive me past the bank on the way home. I know you need to start packing since you’re leaving tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I hadn’t even started to think about packing yet. I was putting if off until I got to my room so I could be organized about it. I haven’t seen the dorm rooms, but I’m sure there’s not a lot of room, plus I will only be wearing regular clothes if I’m leaving campus. I’ll drive you to the bank. Maybe we can stop for ice cream before I drop you off.”
“Sounds perfect. Are we okay? I don’t want to lose you. I may have been a barely decent friend, but you really are my best friend. I’ll do better. I promise.”
“I believe you. And yes, we’re okay. I don’t want to lose you either. You're my best friend too.” He stood up and pulled her up. “Before we go, wait right here.” He ran down to his room and came right back up with a gold, turquoise, and plum cashmere scarf. “I saw this the other day at a vintage store, and I thought it was perfect for you. I already washed it. Cold water, no fabric softener, air fluff dry.”
"Got it." She laughed. She reached out and took it from him. “It’s beautiful.” She wrapped it around her neck. “I’ll think of you every time I wear it.”
He smiled and straightened it just a bit before he hugged her. “I’m glad you like it. Ready?”
She nodded and followed him out.
“What do you mean you’re transferring schools in a different city?” Azimio asked angrily.
Dave continued to pack his personal equipment from his locker into his duffle bag. “I got a hockey scholarship to a private school in Columbus. I won’t be home much because the team practices on the weekends.”
“Why the fuck can’t you just play hockey at McKinley?”
“You said the Puckheads were losers, that I should play football. Well, I don’t really care about football. I like hockey. Their team is good. I’ll have a lot better chance of getting scouted for college.”
“College? You think you’re all that? College is for fucking nerds.”
“College is for people that want to make more than $20,000 a year, which means it’s for me, if I can get in some place.”
Azimio pushed him against the lockers. “It’s like I don’t even know you, dude. Have fun at your private school. Lose my number.” Azimio stormed off angrily enough that the door slammed back against the wall on his way out.
Dave’s heart dropped. Lose his number? They’d been friends since they were six. Eleven and a half years and Z’s not even willing to hang out when I’m in town? He regrouped and finished packing up his stuff.
Coach Beiste came out of her office. “I heard that.”
“Who didn’t?” Dave snarked.
“Yeah. Try not to let it get to you too much. You’re at a crossroads, Dave. You’re future is in front of you. Don’t let small-minded people who think they know what’s best for you hold you back. Azimio’s got some growing up left to do. Maybe he’ll come around some day. Maybe not. But the honest truth is that not that many childhood and high school friendships last. There are different types of friends. Some are for life, but most are just for a time. That doesn’t make the ones that come and go less special or less important. It just means that your paths run alongside each other for a while. You should enjoy every moment of that. But when their paths veers away, bid them a safe journey and wish them the best. It’s all we can do.”
“Coach Bradley said that you wrote my recommendation letter.”
“I did. I watched some footage from last year. Emma thought that you might not get the best of letters from Coach Leighman since you leaving is going to upset him.”
“Yeah. I appreciate you taking the time to do that. I never thought I’d get an opportunity like this.”
“You’re wlcome. You’re a smart kid, David. Grab this opportunity by the horns and don’t let it buck you off.”
He chuckled. “I’ll do my best.” He zipped his bag, put it up over his shoulder, and pushed his locker closed.
“You see that you do.” She walked back to her office.
Dave turned in place slowly and looked around the room once more before he left for good.
Kurt put the finishing touches on his dorm room, which included a collage of six 5x7 printouts of Broadway show playbills, a cool 16x20 aerial photo of Central Park, his 24 x 36 Wicked poster, and a 16x20 aerial photo of Paris facing the Eiffel Tower. He stood back a few feet and looked. With the glass covering them, it was hard to tell that the printouts weren’t actual playbills. He smiled and congratulated himself on his great last-minute decorating ideas that he had pulled off for under $50 while he left campus to buy a couple of throw pillows in red and navy, along with a nice king-sized pillow. He left right after he read through the regulations for dorm rooms, which included not putting any holes in the walls or using foam mounting tape. He had seen that a screw was mounted in the center of the space above the head of the bed, three more were mounted down the length of the wall the bed was up against, and a cork bulletin board was mounted above his desk with a Dalton academic year calendar already fastened to it.
He was glad to have been placed in a double with a shared bath with the room next door rather than a triple with communal showers on the floor above. He knew that bullying wouldn’t be tolerated, but he wasn’t ready yet to put that to the test in a near-locker room situation.
He turned and looked at the other half of the room. Above the head of the bed to his left, there was he thought might be a band, but he wasn’t familiar with the name – Black Violin. He scanned to the left. A framed Lindsey Stirling album cover. A framed Joshua Bell album cover. The final position held a Hilary Hahn album cover. Kurt wasn’t familiar with her either, but he guessed that either his roommate played the violin or was a huge fan of the instrument. Either way, he was pleased because as much as he had never really sought out violinists to follow, he very much enjoyed listening to violin music. He hoped his roommate didn’t hate Broadway tunes. He had noticed that his roommate’s side of the room was very neat when he had arrived earlier that morning. He hoped that was the usual state of his side of the room, but only time would tell.
He rotated once more slowly. Behind him were the double windows between their beds, with two small wood filing cabinets under them as bedside tables. The beds ran along both walls. Their desks faced the walls that separated the area from the closets and the shared bathroom. Directly in front of him was the short hall between the closets and bookcases on one side and the bathroom on the other. At the end was the door to the room. Kurt walked forward, past his bookshelf, where he had put some photos and a couple of things he had brought with him from home. He hadn’t been issued any textbooks yet, so it was quite barren.
He stepped into his closet and closed the door behind him. He changed into a uniform, without the blazer to head down to lunch and afterwards to the administrative area where he was scheduled to take placement tests that afternoon. Once he was dressed, he examined himself carefully in the mirror attached to the back of the closet door.
The image caught him off guard a bit. He knew he wouldn’t like what he saw, but he willed himself to consider the opportunity he’d been given and to let go of his desire to nitpick and list all of the reasons why his attire was completely atrocious. He knew it was an overreaction because he didn’t think that the rest of the student body looked atrocious in the uniform, just himself. He needed to let go of that animosity and embrace his educational opportunity.
He turned to look over his shoulder to see his backside. He took a deep breath and pushed the thought of how he could tailor the pants to fit him better. He grabbed his small satchel and double-checked it for pencils and his good eraser before he stepped out of the closet. He stopped to use the restroom before he headed down to spend the afternoon taking tests.
Dave had arrived a couple of hours before lunch. Both of his parents had wanted to accompany him, but he managed to persuade them not to with the promise of a detailed email with photos of his room. As soon as he unpacked, he took a few photos. He noticed his roommate had a Reds, Bengals, and Cyclones poster. A sports fan, potentially from Cincinnati. That was promising. His side of the room was reasonably neat, not overly tidy or messy. He decided he’d go out and look at posters that evening after dinner when he went out to buy some pillows since he'd realized after he got there that pillows weren’t provided.
He looked around. Seven months. He figured that it couldn’t possibly be worse than being at McKinley, and it might be better. He went into his closet and changed into a uniform. He opted to skip the blazer and wear the sweater vest, hoping that he could get away with not buttoning the top button on his shirt and loosening the tie, at least while he took the tests. He looked at himself after he finished. He didn’t really recognize himself. He had never worn a sweater vest, at least not in his working memory. He looked stuffy. He took a deep breath and opened the closet door and stepped out. He closed it behind him, grabbed his backpack, and left to go eat lunch
Kurt was already sitting with someone when Dave entered the dining hall. He debated what to do, but just then Wes walked up to him.
“Come sit with us.” He pointed to a a couple of rectangular tables that were pushed together. “That’s our spot.”
It just happened to be the same group of tables that Kurt was sitting at.
“I didn’t officially join or anything,” Dave said reluctantly, not having made up his mind about joining.
“Well, come sit with us so we can convince you to,” David teased as he walked up behind Wes.
“Sure.” Dave didn’t want to be disrespectful to the first two people who spoke to him. “Just let me go get some food.”
“Great,” Wes said enthusiastically. “You know where to find us.”
A few minutes later, Dave sat down in the seat that was empty next to Wes. Quite a few people at the table looked up when he sat down.
“Dave, right?” Luke asked.
“Yeah,” Dave nodded.
“So, what do we have to do to get you to join us?” Blaine asked.
“I guess I just need to know when you rehearse, and yeah. Basically a schedule. It can’t conflict with hockey practice.”
“You’re on the hockey team?” Jeff asked.
“I am. Is that a problem?”
“Nope, not at all,” Nick said.
“I play soccer,” Jeff added. “Don’t worry about the schedules conflicting. None of the sports practices conflict with Warblers rehearsals.”
Kurt didn’t know how to behave around Dave, and Dave was in the same position. Kurt had helped him get away from a no-win situation, but they hadn’t exactly become friends.
Dave had been asked whether he wanted to be assigned a room with Kurt since they were coming from the same school and already knew each other. He had turned down the offer, stating that he thought it would be easier to get to know people if he were placed with an established student who would know how the school worked and who already knew people he could potentially introduce Dave to. He looked down the table towards Kurt discreetly. Kurt either didn’t notice or chose to pretend that he didn’t. He appeared to be focused on eating and listening to whatever the guy he was sitting next to was saying.
Wes lightly banged his gavel on the table.
Everyone looked up.
“Now that I have your attention, I’d like to remind everyone to be on time to rehearsal tomorrow. Kurt will be auditioning at the start of rehearsal.”
Everyone looked at Kurt, who waved slightly and smiled. Most everyone nodded politely before they went back to eating and talking. As they finished eating, they put their trays on the conveyor belt. After about ten minutes, only Dave, Kurt, and Lawrence were left. Lawrence said something quietly to Kurt and got up, leaving Kurt and Dave alone at the group of tables.
Kurt got up and moved down a few seats to be able to speak to Dave more easily. “Have you decided whether you’re going to join?”
“Not really. Do you not want me to? I mean I can understand if you want the Warblers to be your thing. I’ve got hockey already.”
“I’d like to talk to you in a less public location. After we finish our placement tests, can you call me? I’ll go back to my room and you can go back to yours.”
“Um, yeah. Sure.”
“Thanks.” Kurt stood up and took his tray to the conveyor belt.
After four hours of testing, both of them were tired and went back to their rooms. They both slipped their shoes off, put earbuds in, and lay back on their beds.
Dave’s roommate came in and sat down at his desk. He introduced himself.
“I’m Morgan Jakoby.”
“I was there Saturday. You’re good.”
“Oh, thanks. I’m looking forward to playing with a good team.”
Morgan nodded. “We’ll be even better with you joining us. We placed second last season. Maybe we’ll win this year.”
“We never made it to the playoffs.”
Morgan nodded again. “Well, I better get to work. I’ve got a bunch of homework I need to get done. I’m hoping to knock this Physics homework out before I go down to eat.”
“Yeah, sure. I think I’m going to go for a walk and look around a bit more so I won’t feel so lost next week.”
Morgan plopped his textbook on his desk and pull out a notebook. “If you like to study outside, there are quite a few stone tables and benches out in the gardens. I’d suggest buying a lawn chair seat cushion and storing it in your closet though. Those benches start to hurt after about 30 minutes.”
“Good to know.” Dave opened the door and turned down the hall towards the stairs.
While Kurt was waiting for Dave's call, his roommate rushed in. He sat up when the door came flying open.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm not used to having someone in here. I'll be more conscientious next time. I'm Trent, by the way. Trent Nixon."
Kurt easily recognized him from the lunch table earlier. He stood and offered his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Trent."
Trent reached out and shook it. "Likewise. I'm sorry to run in and out, but I left my stave paper notebook behind by accident."
Kurt nodded. He sat back down on his bed and watched Trent grab a notebook from his bookcase and scurry back out the door.
Dave waited until he was outside and away from any other students before he called.
“Hey,” Kurt said when his phone rang.
“Hey,” Dave answered back. “Sorry it took so long. My roommate came back and I left to find a place where I can talk privately.”
“No problem. At least not today since we don’t have any homework.”
Dave saw one of the tables that Morgan had mentioned and sat down before he began to speak again. "So, I’ll just be blunt. I don’t know how to act around you. I’ve been terrible to you and you went out of your way to find a way for me to attend school here, but now you’re here as well.”
“Yeah. It was pretty weird for me today. Wes and David were excited to see you and brought you back to the Warblers’ table. If we’re being honest, it was maddening actually. On the other hand, it was exactly what I wanted for you. I wanted you to go someplace where you could be yourself, where you didn’t have to be the straight bully jock. And here no one knows anything about you. You can be anyone you want to be. So can I. But in terms of the two of us, I don’t know who I am in relation to this non-bully version of you. It’s sort of surreal to just start completely over and act like nothing in the past happened. I mean, you just slushied me not even two weeks ago. I don’t know how to go from avoiding you in any way possible and doing my best to never make eye contact with you to sitting at a table eating lunch with you. It’s a tough transition. I feel like I have to control my every movement and facial expression. I don’t want other people to pick up on the remnant of fear that’s lingering in the back of my mind all the time. I don’t want to be the student that everyone pities because I was bullied into leaving my old school. I’d rather be the scholarship kid that got in because I’m smart, even if it implies that I’m in a lower socioeconomic group than the majority of the students. Being less rich isn’t a sign of personal weakness at age 17.”
“Being bullied didn’t mean that you were weak. It meant that we were fucking jackasses. You shouldn’t feel bad about yourself because we were mean to you.”
“Yeah. That’s easy for you to say. You weren’t on the receiving end of years of verbal and physical assaults. Being repeatedly told that I’m weak and worthless makes that feel a lot more true than you might think it does. I might have done a great job of acting like I wasn’t letting any of that get to me, but that’s because I’m a good actor, not because it wasn’t affecting me. I knew your class schedule by the end of the first day of school so I would know where NOT to be. But you also learned my schedule and managed to insert yourself into my day against my will. I did nothing to antagonize you or anyone else – other than EXIST. You all went out of your way to make sure I knew how I didn’t deserve to exist. All of that doesn’t just go away because we’re here now. Tomorrow walking down the halls in the classroom wing, I will have to put every ounce of effort into not flinching every time someone bumps into me. I will have to force myself to tune out everything around me so that I don’t jump when one of the day students slams their locker.”
A few tears began to form in Dave’s eyes. He reached up and wiped them with the back of his hand. The weight of the damage he had done to another living, breathing, feeling person caused him to feel more shame than he ever had. He asked himself how could he have been naïve enough to think that maybe he and Kurt could be friends?
“Are you still there?”
“Tomorrow is a new day. I can offer you a clean start. I’m not at a point where I can just forgive and let the past go just yet. But I can start over. We can interact as if we were merely acquaintances at McKinley, which is true. We know practically nothing about each other that’s personal. I will never let on that you were part of the bullying I endured, if that somehow becomes a topic at some point, which I hope it doesn’t.”
“I hate myself for what I did. I look at my life and I don’t even recognize myself.”
“I get that. Now’s your chance to change that.”
Dave nodded and wiped his eyes again. “Yeah, it is.”
Now’s the chance to change that. Dave recalled Kurt’s words as he headed to the Warblers table when Wes guided him that way after he ran into Dave while was making himself a cup of coffee.
“Rough night?” Wes asked sincerely.
“Not exactly rough, but I didn’t sleep that well. New bed, new room, but I think it was mostly the new pillow. I didn’t realize they weren’t provided and I didn’t bring one from home, so it needs broken in a few nights I think.”
Wes chuckled. “My mom always said to give mine a few good punches to get it to soften up when I got a new one.” He ushered Dave towards the Warblers’ table.
“I’ll give that a try.” He sat down in one of the empty chairs at the other end of the table from Kurt, who was sitting with the same guy he had been sitting with at lunch and dinner the day before.
Kurt was nearly finished when Dave sat down. Dave hadn't considered that he would have to wait to shower after he woke up, so he was running late. He focused on finishing quickly, knowing that he and Kurt were due to complete two more hours of testing before being allowed to attend the Warblers’ rehearsal during third period before resuming the last of their testing after lunch. He knew he would need to work out a good schedule over the weekend. He drank the last of his coffee and put his dishes on the conveyor belt. Kurt had gotten up right after he did, but had veered back towards the pitchers of juice and poured himself some orange juice and drank it before he put his tray on the conveyor belt.
Dave contemplated waiting on him, but like Kurt had said, they hadn’t been friends at McKinley, so there was no need to act like they were now. He walked to the office to sign in. Kurt came in about a minute later and signed in as well. They both sat down and waited to be called back.
“And this morning, we have another prospective Warbler, who also attended McKinley before enrolling this week,” Blaine said. “Kurt Hummel.”
Kurt did not appreciate Blaine’s free-sharing of personal information – his personal information. He stood and walked over to the piano. “First off, I want to thank everyone for giving me a chance to audition so late in the semester. I also want to assure you that whether or not you allow me to join the group, I will never share any information about what the Warblers are going to perform for a competition with my former Glee Club. I’ve been on the other side of that, and I won’t be a part of something like that. I also have no idea what they’re doing for Sectionals because they hadn’t start to rehearse yet, so any suggestions I might give would not be based on knowing what they’re planning.”
Murmuring came from all around the room.
“Last year at Sectionals our set list was stolen. We chose two songs, learned the vocals, and choreographed them in and hour. We won. The New Directions is made up of a small group of very talented people, who thrive on stress, arguing, in-fighting, and adrenaline. But what they have in spades is natural talent, the desire to win, and the ability pull things together really quickly. Never let their ‘lack of preparation’ lull you into a feeling of complacency. That’s all I have to say about the group, so please don’t try to coax information out of me. If we beat them, it should be done fairly – by being better than they are.”
Wes nodded. “Well put. What are you going to sing for us?”
“Lawrence said that I should sing something that shows off my voice, using a song that could be performed by the group.” He turned a pressed play on his phone that he had connected to a speaker on the piano. Upbeat ‘80s music began to play.
We're talking away.
I don't know what I'm to say.
I'll say it anyway.
Today's another day to find you,
I'll be coming for your love, okay?
Take on me.
Take me on.
I'll be gone,
In a day or two.
So needless to say,
I'm odds and ends.
I'll be stumbling away,
Slowly learning that life is okay.
Say after me,
It's no better to be safe than sorry.
Take on me.
Take me on.
I'll be gone,
In a day or two.
During the instrumental interlude, Kurt turned and stop the music.
Wes was the first to speak. “That was impressive, Kurt. That chorus starts at A2 and ends on E5. How much higher can you sing?”
“I see. Well done. If you’d step out into the hall. Dave, too, since he hasn’t officially accepted his invitation to join to the group.”
Dave followed Kurt out into the hallway. They stood one to either side of the double doors for the few minutes it took for the Warblers to come to their decision. David opened the door and stepped out just enough to pull the doors closed behind himself.
“Welcome to the Warblers, Kurt.” He reached out to shake Kurt’s hand.
A smile spread across Kurt’s face quickly. “Thank you.”
David turned to Dave. “Have you made a decision?”
He nodded. “I’ll give it a try. It if I have too much homework, I can quit after Sectionals before our hockey games start.
David smiled and said, “Excellent. Shall we?” He reached down and let the three of them back into the room.
Everyone stopped talking.
“They’ve both accepted our invitation to join the group.”
The group clapped and cheered.
Wes hit his gavel on the table. “Order.” He waited for the group to calm down. “Kurt, Dave, please have a seat. The next thing on our agenda for today is to work on the choreography for “Soul Sister”. We’ve been working on it this whole week, so, Dave and Kurt, we’ll need you two to stand towards the back where you can watch. We’ll put one of you on each side. Everyone else, get in formation.”
Later that evening, Kurt was lying in bed, reading the The Invisible Man, which the AP Literature course students had read already that semester, but Kurt had never read. When his phone began to ring, he reached over and picked it up. “Hey, Dave.”
“So, are you, like, mad at me for joining the Warblers? You were really quiet at dinner.”
Kurt paused for a second to think. “No. I’m not mad. Mad is the wrong word. I’m torn. Conflicted. Feeling more than one thing at once. We’re both being treated well. That’s good. But honestly, it still a bit frustrating for me that everyone just accepts you as this really decent singer and dancer. You learned the choreography quickly, especially considering I doubt that you’ve ever actually danced before.”
“I haven’t danced before, but I’ve had to learn a lot of hockey plays. Hockey isn’t like football. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a game, but it is a really face-paced game. You have to know exactly what you’re supposed to do and then be in the exact location at the right time for the plays to work. Dancing like we were doing early isn’t all that different. It’s just putting my body in the right place, at the right time, in a predetermined order.”
“Fair. It’s just going to take getting used to ‘Dave’. The new you. Or the real you. Or the you you’ve decided to be here at Dalton. It’s just so different than the ‘Karofsky’ version of you that I’ve known. It would be just as hard if you woke up tomorrow and I started harassing everyone. If I called people vulgar names and began swearing all the time. If I took up smoking, stopped singing, and started dressing like Finn.”
“Exactly. But if I did all of those things, it would be confusing to you. There’s literally nothing wrong with what you’re doing. Everyone seems to be genuinely glad that we both joined the group. No one has asked me anything about knowing you before or about McKinley so far. It’s mid-terms this week for the rest of the students. I seriously don’t think they have the time to think about it. I’ll be fine, but I appreciate your concern.”
“To answer the question you didn’t ask – I’m being the real me as much as I know how to. I’ve been playing a pre-defined role for so long that I don’t really have any experience being myself except for when I’m alone in my room at home. Whenever no one was home, I could turn the music up and dance around and sing to my heart’s content, but I always turned it off a half-hour before either of them were supposed to be home, just in case. I watched movies I borrowed from the library that my parents wouldn’t let me watch, more like my mother wouldn’t let me watch. I’d borrow them, leave the case locked in my glove box and slip the disc inside a textbook. I’d watch it on my laptop, put it back in the book, and put the book in my bag before they’d come home. Reading books like the Harry Potter series was tricky, but I managed.”
“I had never considered the difficulty of your life.”
“Doesn’t excuse what an ass I was to you.”
“No, but it certainly makes it more understandable why you hated me, with me walking around flouncing my freedom around like everyone else could do the same. My dad has never been unsupportive for one minute, yet I was afraid that he wouldn’t love me anymore if I came out to him. I mean, he took me to ballet lessons when I was little – just because I asked. He took me to plays and musicals, driving me all the way to Columbus or Toledo to watch them. We’d make a whole day of it. He’d sit out on the benches near the stores I wanted to look in, and then he’d come in when I was done and pay for whatever I had picked out. We went out to dinner before going to the show. Hell, he even wore a dress shirt, slacks, and a pair of nice-looking, comfortable boots I talked him into buying himself.”
Dave laughed. “Yeah. That kind of stuff was definitely not an option for me. My dad would take me to sporting events, but that was it. They’re not bad people, but they are definitely narrow-minded. Men and women have different roles. My dad is a lot less conservative than my mom. I’ve brought up gay rights and different issues with him like it had something to do with what I was studying, just so I could get a feel for his opinions. He’s really ‘live and let live’ kind of guy, but he loves my mom and he would never contradict her, which I guess makes sense.”
Kurt mulled over what Dave had said. “So being here is as weird for you as it is for me, but just in a different way.”
“Yeah. Being here is like one of those open-end essay tests, where the teacher just asks random questions that you didn’t prepare for and you can’t guess what the desired response is – at all. That’s why I like math more than English. On math tests, the questions have definitive answers. Getting the answer might take five minutes of calculations, but there is AN answer – a single correct answer. Being here feels like a full day of those open-ended questions.”
“I guess the upside is that no one knows us and everyone is busy with mid-terms. We get a few days to acclimate ourselves, during which no one is paying that much attention to us and we can figure out what it is that we want to do here. I went to the Debate Club meeting this afternoon.”
Dave laughed again.
Kurt decided that he really liked Dave’s laugh. “What?”
“That is the perfect club for you. You’re, like, the king of arguing.”
“I’m not sure whether to take that as a compliment or not.”
Kurt laughed as a huge smile appeared on his face. “What club are you going to join?”
“I’m not sure. I went to the Science Club this afternoon. I might just stick with that. They mentioned a science fair. I’m not sure when it is. And they mentioned a Robotics Club.”
“Really? I need to ask about that tomorrow. I’d definitely like to join the Robotics Club.”
Dave was surprised until he thought about what a good mechanic Kurt was. “I can see that.”
Kurt took a deep breath. He was finding it harder and harder to keep ahold of the grudge he had against Dave. He heard what he thought was sniffling.
Dave moved the phone away from his mouth for a second and took a deep breath. “I’m really glad you told me about this place. It’s overwhelming, but in a good way. I swear I won’t do anything to undermine or hurt you in any way. I know I’ve apologized, but I want you to know that I’m sincere. Being sorry isn’t just feeling guilty and wanting someone to tell you that it’s okay. It’s changing and not hurting the person anymore. What I did was wrong. Nothing can make it right, but it will never happen again.”
This time it was Kurt who sniffed. He reached over for the box of tissues that he had put next to his bed. He wiped his nose and eyes. “Thank you.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll see you tomorrow at breakfast.”
“Okay.” Kurt heard the line go dead. He put his phone next to the tissues, flipped the light off, and closed his eyes.
He considered what his life would have been like with a mother like Dave’s. Miserable was his first thought. Kurt pondered if there was any way that he could have been true to himself in that situation. His mind flashed through ballet lessons, art camp, putting on puppet shows. He remembered his mom helping him to sew the puppets and their clothes. How she wrote down the scripts before he could spell well enough to write them out himself. He remembered his dad sitting on the couch being the audience along with his stuffed animals. He smiled. There were so many ways that his parents had made his life fun as a child. A lot of it came to a grinding halt when his mom died because his dad didn’t know how to do the things she had been doing for Kurt. It took him a year or so to gain the skills he needed to do those things for himself, but once he did, his dad sat on the couch as his audience and watched him perform again. They also quit living off frozen dinners, canned soup, and take-out over the course of that year as well.
In Dave’s home, he wouldn’t have been allowed to learn to cook, or sew, or go to dance classes. Kurt’s life there would not have been at all like his own childhood. A tragic thought passed through his mind. What if Dave had grown up actually believing that he was going to go to hell? There was no way Kurt was ever going to ask him, but he had to assume that the answer was yes based on what Dave had said. What point would there have been in even trying to be a good person if he thought that being gay, whether anyone knew or not, was enough to earn him a one-way ticket to hell? None.
Kurt’s mind continued to wander as he fell asleep.
Dave put his phone down on his desk. He flipped through the AP Physics book he had been given that afternoon. His mind was still stuck back on the conversation with Kurt, so he was just watching the pages flip by. He closed the book again.
Kurt’s question had gotten to him. He had never even considered that he’d be able to be himself until he went off to college, IF he went off to college. He flipped his phone back over to check the time. It wasn’t even quite 10, but he decided to go to bed early so he could spend the day starting on his catch-up work in Physics and Calculus. He had done well enough on the placement tests to start in the AP classes, but he was about about two chapters behind since the AP classes covered more than the classes at McKinley. He had three days to catch up on reading. The teachers had given him the study sheets for the midterm exams for him to complete on his own so that he’d know he was ready for the classes by the end of the weekend.
He went into his closet to leave the hoodie he was wearing in there on a hook before he got in bed. Morgan wasn’t back yet, so he left the light in the small hallway on for him.
After he got comfortable in bed, he went back to thinking about who he wanted to be, now that he had been giving the opportunity to reinvent himself.
Monday morning, Kurt studied his schedule once again as he stood near the teacher’s desk in his AP English Lit class, waiting for the teacher to arrive to introduce himself and find out where to sit. He had never heard of the type of schedule he had, but it was definitely interesting. Rather than just six periods per day like McKinley, Dalton had eight. Monday through Thursday there were six periods, plus lunch, and and after-school club time slot. On Fridays, they had two longer classes and lunch, but no clubs met on Fridays. He figured that was due to sports games being played on Friday evenings. Both third and sixth periods were for electives or study halls, but the Warblers met during third period, despite not being a class or having an adult leader. He shook his head thinking of how poorly that would gone when Finn found out that Puck was the father of Quinn’s baby. He was broken out of his walk down memory lane when a woman who bore a striking resemblance to Sandra Oh put a few books down on her desk.
“Kurt Hummel, I presume,” she said politely.
Kurt nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
“She’s my cousin.”
“No, but it made for some really great self-insert fanfiction when I was younger.”
“I’m Mrs. Lawson. Welcome to Dalton and to AP English Language.”
“I know that I have another new student today, but I’ve opted to pair you with established students rather than together.”
Kurt nodded. “Did Principal Gupta invite you over for dinner the night the queen and Mia came over for a dinner party?”
She chuckled. “Something like that.” She pointed towards an empty table. “If you’ll just have a seat at the second table on the right. David will join you when he arrives. He’s already be notified of his partner change.”
Kurt moved to the indicated table and sat down.
A minute later, Dave came into the room and approached Mrs. Lawson. He couldn’t hear their exchange over the other students in the class talking to each other, but he saw Dave walk to the third table on the left side of the room.
David came in and sat down next to him. “Hey, Kurt.”
“Hey. Thanks for being willing to partner with the new kid.”
David laughed. “I don’t really think there’s much to it, but you’re welcome.”
Kurt swallowed down the response of “You’d be surprised.” And just smiled and nodded politely. He took out a notebook and got ready for class to start and tried to push away the years of being left to the end and being partnered with the least outgoing girl in whatever class he was in until he joined Glee and Mike was willing to be his partner because he knew Kurt was willing to put in 100% to make the best grade possible. He refocused as he heard Mrs. Lawson begin to speak.
Dave took the seat he was assigned in AP Calculus AB. He pulled out a notebook, ready to take notes. He enjoyed the class a lot more than any class he had taken at McKinley. By the end of the period, he had pretty much decided that all of the hassle of transferring and wearing a tie every day was worth it just to sit in a classroom of students who wanted to learn Calculus.
Third period found both of them in the Warblers’ practice room working on choreography again.
Kurt was put down front, directly to Blaine’s left after Wes realized what a good dancer he was. Dave was in the back row to Blaine’s right, which he was thrilled about because despite catching on quickly and not tripping anyone or falling over his own feet, Dave didn’t feel secure enough in his dancing skills to want anyone to actually be able to see him dance.
Af the end of the period, they all headed to the dining hall together. Kurt sat at the far end of the table. Lawrence wasn’t far behind. This time they were joined by Nick and Jeff. Dave saw the four of them laughing and talking and felt a slight pang, but he heard his named called and he turned to see Wes pointing to the seat next to him. Dave went around and sat down next to him. He looked around the table and a flash of remembering red and cream jacket wearing jocks sitting around an acting stupid. He took a deep breath and picked up his fork.
David sat down across from them. Blaine and Luke sat down as well.
Wes brought up Sectionals and McKinley. “So, you weren’t in Glee Club at McKinley? For someone with no experience, you’re doing remarkably well.”
“Thanks. And no, I wasn’t. Truth be told, my mother isn’t a fan of secular singing and dancing. She would not approve, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
Wes nodded. “I can see that. My parents wouldn’t even consider letting me study any type of art in college, but they are absolutely in favor of my auditioning for one of the all-male singing groups. It’s all fine and good to enjoy the finer things in life, art, music, etc. But as a career, I need to choose a serious field of study.”
Dave nodded and continued to listen to the others talk without adding much else to the conversation himself.
They shared fourth period AP US History, but were not paired together. Fifth period Kurt and Dave found themselves in Public Speaking, which all Dalton juniors were required to take. Sixth period, Kurt had French, while Dave had opted for a business elective.
After school, they found themselves in the same room again – the Robotics Club. They introduced themselves to Mr. Maynard.
“It’s nice to meet both of you,” he said. “We don’t get a lot of mid-semester transfers. I can’t think of a time that one wanted to join the club, but you’re both welcome. However, since everyone has been working together in groups of two or three since the beginning of the semester, the two of you will be significantly behind. And you’ll have to form your own team of two. I’ll let the two of you check out what everyone else is doing and think about it.”
Kurt and Dave headed around the room in opposite directions, watching the teams work on their projects. After about 15 minutes, Kurt was certain that he wanted to join. He approached Mr. Maynard on his own.
“If Dave doesn’t want to join, do you think there’s any chance one of the groups that only has two members would consider letting me join their team?”
“I’m honestly not sure, Kurt. Why don’t we give Dave time to think about it? If he’s not interested, I’ll arrange for you to meet with the two groups that only have two people. You can talk to them and see if either of them are interested.”
“Since you’re definitely interested, I’m going to go ahead and give you this binder that has all of the information about the rules, the competitions, and other things in it. You can read through it and if you change your mind afterwards, you can just bring it by my office in the math wing some time tomorrow.”
Kurt nodded and took the binder from him. “Thank you. I’ll go start reading through this. The club meets again on Wednesday, right?”
Dave stripped off his sweater vest, tie, and button up shirt off and pulled his Dalton hoodie on over his undershirt. He closed his closet door and headed straight for his bed. He plopped down sprawled out on his back and stared at the ceiling. It was 3:15 and he had made it through his first week as a Dalton Academy student.
He struggled to identify how he felt because it was a mixture of so many different emotions and feelings at once. Exhaustion from sleeping in a new place. A mixture of excitement and disbelief about the level of academic interest most of the students displayed combined with the real desire to teach and level of knowledge of the teachers. Confusion on how he allowed himself to end up in show choir. A little trepidation on how to make sure that no one in Lima told his mother about it. He thought maybe he could get away with telling her that it was recommended to make his CV more well-rounded for college admissions. It was worth a shot he figured since it wasn’t exactly a lie. He had even managed to make it through the whole week of Public Speaking with Kurt as his partner without sticking his foot in his mouth. Surprisingly, Kurt seemed to be fine with being his partner, which just added to his confusion. He unwittingly fell asleep as his mind wandered.
Kurt had finished his coffee and muffin, but remained at the table in The Grind waiting for Dave to arrive. They had agreed to give their first speeches to each other before the weekend to give themselves time to rework them and actually memorize them. Kurt sat and looked through his notecards while he waited. He checked his phone and saw that it was five minutes past the time they had agreed to meet. He called Dave.
Dave’s voice sounded a bit hoarse. “Yeah?” Then, he suddenly realized that he had been asleep. “Oh, shit. What time is it?”
“You have just enough time to get down here for us to both go through our speeches once before I have to leave. I changed into regular clothes before I came down here. I’m risking demerits sitting here.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll be right there. Actually, just meet me by the front door. That way no one will say anything about your clothes.” Dave slipped his phone in his pocket and rushed out the door. He made it to the front door right as Kurt did.
“I’m really sorry. I haven’t been sleeping well. I just thought I’d rest for a few minutes but I fell asleep. Let’s just do this outside. It’s not that cold. I won’t freeze to death in ten minutes.” He opened the door for Kurt to walk through.
“Maybe you should get a mattress topper for your bed. If you’re used to sleeping in a softer bed, it would probably help.” Kurt followed him to a bench.
“I’ll consider it if I’m not sleeping better by Sunday. I’m not sure how much of it is the bed and how much of it is just everything. It’s so different and my first real hockey team practice is tomorrow morning. Maybe once I make it through that and feel like I’m going to get to stay, I’ll be able to relax more.”
“That makes sense. I hadn’t thought about how you hadn’t practiced with the team yet.”
“Morgan’s been really cool and he’s showed me videos of games from last year and I’ve been watching the guy that I’m replacing to get a feel for what the team is used to from him. How are you and Trent getting along?”
“He’s great. He’s really funny and easy to get along with. It’s actually really nice. Like you, I’ve never shared a room, so I wasn’t sure how it would go.” Kurt pulled his notecards out. “I’ll just go first.”
As soon as Kurt finished giving Dave his suggestions, Kurt hopped up. “I have to get going. The rehearsal dinner starts in two hours. I’ll meet you in The Grind at seven Sunday evening. We can go find a quiet place to practice a few times.”
“Sure. See ya.” He watched Kurt head across the parking lot to his Navigator. The chill in the air had already seeped through his hoodie, but he waited to go inside until Kurt drove past so he could wave. He turned and went inside thinking about how strange it would be to get a step-sibling at their age, especially if was Finn Hudson. At that moment, he would not have wished to trade places with Kurt. He turned towards the stairs that led up to the dorms and hurried back up to his room to get started on his homework.
Kurt arrived at the church with 20 minutes to spare before the rehearsal dinner was set to start. He and Carole went over everything on their list to make sure everything was were it belonged.
“Breathe, honey,” she said soothingly as she ran her hand down Kurt’s arm. “It’s all going to be fine. I’m not a doe-eyed, young 20-something who thinks that any little mishap tomorrow is some kind of omen of the doomed future of my marriage.”
“That’s better. Your dad and I have already done the for richer, for poorer thing. And we both lost the person we loved – to the point of not knowing how we could go on without them. But we both had amazing sons that needed us. We might be put back together with superglue, but it’s holding strong.” She reached out and hugged him. “I know this is hard for you and Finn. It would be hard for any teens your age to have your whole world turned upside down. I have good news, though. We found a house that’s big enough for all of us. It has two stories and a basement. There are three bedrooms upstairs with a master bedroom on the main level in what used to be the 2-car garage. It’s got a detached garage now. We’re going to go over there to show it to you after the dinner.”
“So, you put an offer on it already?”
“No, we’re waiting for you to see it first.”
“Alright. Let’s find Dad and Finn and wrangle everyone into the sanctuary.”
The next afternoon, Finn and Kurt walked up to the front along the side aisles, immediately followed by Burt and Carole walking down the center aisle together. They exchanged the vows they had written and the minister pronounced them husband and wife. Neither had wanted a long, drawn out ceremony because they really just wanted to spend time with their family and friends that they had invited. After a few photos of the four of them, Finn and Kurt left and went to the reception hall to get the music started.
Once he got the band playing, Kurt pulled Mercedes to the side. “Finn’s acting weird. Find out why.”
“Got it, boo.” She walked off to find Finn to figure out what was going on.
Kurt looked around and saw that Burt and Carole had joined them and everyone was smiling, talking, and enjoying themselves. Carole’s smile was radiant. His dad could not have looked more pleased. He was so happy for the two of them.
He wandered around and stopped to talk to his uncle Andy for a few minutes. It didn’t take long for Mercedes to come back. He excused himself and followed her into one of the small rooms off the reception hall.
“Okay, I overheard him practicing a speech. One about you.”
“Yeah. You know that the New Directions are singing back up for ‘Just the Way You Are’ with him on lead. The speech was something about how he’s going to have your back from now on. And how now ”You’re brothers from another mother” and how “You’re perfect just the way you are.”
“No,” Kurt said resolutely. “I’m not going to let him shift the focus away from our parents onto himself or to me. Go talk him out of the speech. The song is fine. But not a word about me or him in his best man speech. I’m serious.” He glared and rolled his eyes.
“Got it. I’ll go do what I can.”
“Find Santana. Take her with you. You never talked to me.”
Kurt mingled through the guests, making small talk with the guys from the shop, while actively avoiding family members who didn’t like him. Once his parents sat down. he took his spot at the head table with them and Finn He enjoyed the music the jazz band played while everyone ate.
Kurt followed Finn into the house with the basket of cards people had brought to the wedding. He locked the door behind them.
Finn was just standing in the foyer when he turned around. “Umm, I’m not sure if anyone said anything to you, but my mom told me to spend the night here with you.”
“That’s fine. You can sleep on the couch. I’ll get you some sheets and some blankets.”
He turned to go back into the half-bath. He came back out with a stack of bed linens. Finn was still just standing there. Kurt walked past him and put the fitted sheet onto the couch so it covered the seat and the cushions along the back. He unfolded the rest and laid them out neatly, folding the top edges back. He put a pillow down and turned to look at Finn, who was still just standing there.
“Look, I know you don’t want to be here, but don’t just stand there. You can go upstairs and use the bathroom up there if you want to shower or whatever. I’m going to head downstairs to shower and change. If you need a good hanger for your suit, use one of the wood ones from the coat closet behind you.”
“Right.” He turned to look. “I’ll do that. After you shower and whatever, will you come back up here? I want to talk to you.”
“Yeah, sure.” Kurt said, wondering what in the world was up with him. He went downstairs, showered, and redressed in sweats and went back upstairs.
Finn was sitting on the couch, just staring at the wall with the TV on it, but the TV was off. He looked up when Kurt shut the door to the basement. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Kurt pulled a chair from the table over and sat down in it facing Finn. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
“Well, I had this speech that I was going to make, but Mercedes and Santana told me not to. Mercedes said I was making the wedding about me when it was about our parents and that I should just tell you when we were alone because it would mean I was serious instead of – what did she say? Oh, umm, something about trying to make myself look better to gain social status.”
Kurt nodded. “Sounds like something Mercedes would say.”
“Yeah. Santana said I was being a ‘pretentious ass’ and ‘an ass kisser’. Although, I don’t really understand what she meant.”
“Why don’t you tell me what you were going to say. Perhaps, I can explain what they meant.”
“Right.” He paused for a minute and thought before he started to speak. “I’m just going to recite the speech I was going to give.”
“In Glee Club, uh, whenever two of us get together, we get a nickname. Rachel and I are Finchel. Rachel and Puck were Puckleberry. And today, a new union was formed. Furt. You and me. We’re brothers from another mother. And quite frankly, no one else has shown me as much as you – about what it means to be a man. And at McKinley, some stuff went down and I didn’t man up like I should’ve. From now on, no matter what it costs me, I got your back. Even if it means getting a slushie in the face every now and then.”
Kurt resisted the urge to interrupt.
“You put this entire wedding together by yourself, so as a thank you, I had the Glee Club put together a number in your honor.” He finally took a breath. “I was going to have you dance with me. I practiced and everything.”
“I see. Okay, well to start with – I appreciate the apology, but I don’t need one and you don’t need to be sorry. My life is mine and my decisions about how to deal with what happens in my life are my own. I choose not to fight back. You were there when Puck tossed me in the dumpster. I never fought back then. I could have made it nearly impossible for them to pick me up.”
“Why didn’t you then?”
“What would it have actually accomplished? Would it have made me less of a loser? Would it have made the other jocks back off? I doubt it. Fighting back would have just increased the odds of damaging my clothes. And I would have ultimately ended up with more bruises. And if I had succeeded in getting away the first time, they would have just been more aggressive the next time. They would have gotten a third person to help them.”
“Okay. So you didn’t fight back because they’d just get more people to bully you. That makes sense I guess.”
“And if I had actually fought back and bested one of them, the next time there would have been two. There wasn’t an option where I fought back and ultimately won. If it had just been Puck and only Puck who was bullying me, I could have potentially taken fighting lessons and trained enough to beat him in a fight. But even then, it’s likely that me winning once would have just made him all the angrier and he would have trained harder. And since he was like five inches taller than me and had probably 20 extra pounds in muscle on him, the likelihood is that I would have eventually lost. People box in categories by size. There’s a reason for that. Being smaller just puts me at a permanent disadvantage.”
“I get that.”
“Next. I don’t want you to fight for me. This is my life, and I’m not looking to play the role of a damsel in distress. I don’t need a big tough guy to come rescue me. I will face people who hate me for the rest of my life. People who hate me purely because of who I am. I have to accept that.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Life isn’t fair. That’s just the truth. If I had stayed at McKinley, you all wanted to form some kind of secret service protection for me. I don’t want to be protected. I want to be left alone. Think about this. What would happen to me the instant two of you forgot to show up to accompany me around the building? The instant they saw me alone, they’d have come after me with twice the anger. I don’t want that. I don’t want you to be my bodyguard. I just want to go to school like a normal 17-year old. That’s it. But that’s not what is available to me at McKinley, so I’m at Dalton now where that is available. It’s nice to be normal, to just blend in and not have people want to kick the crap out of me for existing.”
“You had that with the Cheerios. You could have just joined again. No one tossed you into the dumpsters in your uniform.”
“That’s because they were afraid of Coach Sue. It’s still the same thing. I was being protected by my uniform. At Dalton, we all just wear uniforms. They don’t provide any type of protection. At first I struggled with the uniform because I felt like it was taking away my individuality, but I realized that’s not the case. I can shine while wearing the most boring outfit on the planet at Dalton. I can stand out because of a paper I wrote or a speech I gave. Anyway, we’re getting off topic.” He repositioned himself in the chair and pulled his feet up. “Mercedes’ remark about you making yourself look better seems pretty accurate. You were going to stand up in front of our parents and promise to be a better brother.”
“Yeah. I thought that would be a good thing.”
“Being a better brother is a good thing, but being a better brother doesn’t mean fighting my battles for me. You can’t do that. You need to fight your own battles. Figure out who you are apart from Quinn and Rachel and who you are without reference to your place on the football team or Glee Club. You’ve only got one more season and school year of potentially being the top dog. Who will you be when you aren’t the most popular guy at McKinley?”
“I never really thought about it.”
“And Santana’s comment about you being a pretentious ass and an ass kisser.”
“Yeah, I don’t get that at all.”
“Your speech makes you look like a pretentious ass because you make it sound like you could have changed what happened to me. Like you’re the one with some sort of control over my life. Like, if you wanted to, you could just make my problems go away by ‘manning up’, which makes it look like the problem revolves around me not being enough of a ‘man’’ to take care of my own problems. We’re back to the damsel in distress thing. I’m a man, well nearly. And I don’t need someone else to be more ‘manly’ to solve my problems, which by the way are not solvable. Unless you know the cure for homophobia, the problem will remain with me for the rest of my life. I can’t stop being gay any more than you can stop being tall.”
Finn smiled. “Being tall sucks sometimes.”
“So does being gay, but not because I dislike being gay. I like being gay. I like finding men attractive.”
Finn looked at him weird.
Kurt rolled his eyes. “Do you like finding girls attractive?”
“Same for me. Finding guys attractive feels normal to me. Finding girls attractive does not feel right – at all.”
“Do you still have a crush on me?”
“No. Do you even know why I did?”
“Because you were nice. You held my designer jacket and bag. You asked me to help you with your homework and songs for Glee. You actually talked to me like I was a real person.”
“You are a real person.”
“Not to most of the guys at school. First and foremost, I’m a fag. They act like I’m going to molest them. Or like I can turn them gay by being near them, especially if I touch them.”
“It is. But when my dad asked your mom to move in, you told me that you were putting your underwear on in the shower so I wouldn’t see you naked. In the shower in a room that already had the door shut and locked. You acted like I was pervert who would open a locked door and peek in. That hurt. I’m not a pervert for thinking that men are attractive any more than you’re a pervert for thinking that girls and women are attractive. I think it honestly comes down to the fact that you and Puck and the other jocks would totally pick the lock on a girls’ locker room and find a way to sneak peeks of them naked.”
“See. You’re coming up with things that you think I’d do because they’re things that you would do.”
“And as much as I appreciate you realizing that I’m a guy just like you, I know better than to attempt that type of stuff. Do you know why?”
Finn shrugged again.
“Think, Finn. I get bullied for existing. If I actually did stuff like that, someone might actually kill me for it.”
“Anyway, the speech you wrote was all about you and how you could fix my problems. The ass kissing part was because you were trying to show my dad that you weren’t homophobic anymore. It wasn’t at all about our parents. I’m glad you didn’t give it at the wedding. I do appreciate the sentiment, though – about being a better brother.”
They both sat there silently staring at the floor for a few minutes.
Kurt broke the silence. “What you could do to be a better brother would be to spend some time learning about LBGTQ+ issues. Understanding the issues would go a long way to showing me that you care. Beating people up for me is not. I am glad that you’ve come to realize that I don’t need to change. That’s a big step. I think we could both use some support. I wanted to start a PFLAG group at McKinley, but I figured that it would just get me bullied more.”
“What’s PFLAG or whatever you said?”
“It stands for parents and friends of lesbians and gays, but it’s a support group for more than just lesbians and gays now. Would you come to a meeting if I can find one between here and Westerville?”
“Yeah, sure.” Finn gave him one of his goofy grins.
A huge smile that lit up Kurt’s eyes filled his face. “That’s better than any speech you could ever give.”
Dave woke up early Saturday morning, earlier than he had intended. He lay in bed for ten minutes hoping that he would be able to fall back asleep, but it didn’t work. He finally rolled over and turned the alarm off on his phone and sat up. He stretched a bit before he uncovered himself to get out of bed. He looked at the clock again as he put his feet on the floor. Breakfast was a little over an hour away, and it was too dark outside to study without turning his desk lamp on, which he didn’t want to do because it might wake Morgan up.
Instead, he went into his closet and grabbed his robe and went into the bathroom, shutting the door silently. He took a longer shower than he had been able to during the week. He shaved before he left the bathroom. He smiled when he remembered that he could wear any Dalton issued clothing on the weekends, not just his uniform like he could during the week. After putting on the sweatpants, t-shirt, and hoodie he had been issued with his hockey jerseys, he looked himself over in the mirror. He chuckled when he realized that even the navy sweats looked fancy. The t-shirt was red with the blue Dalton “D” logo in the center and Dalton Academy written underneath. The pants and zip-up hoodie had Dalton written in calligraphy-type red letters down the outer edge of the left thigh and sleeve. He put his trainers on, still chuckling.
When he exited the closet, he paused at his bookshelf and grabbed what he needed to work on his Physics homework and left the room quietly. He headed down to the study room on his floor. He pulled the curtains back and sat at the table nearest the window. Before he got started, he set the alarm on his phone for five minutes before the dining hall would open. When it went off, he picked his things up and left them in his room on his way down to eat.
Once he finished eating, he went back up to his room and grabbed his hockey duffle, double-checking the contents to make sure that hadn’t forgotten anything. Autumn had arrived, but the last blast of summer was still lingering, so he left without a jacket. Once he was out in the hallway, he put the duffle strap up over his head and adjusted his bag. He hoped by the time it actually turned chilly in a week or so, he’d actually have a new letterman jacket to wear. When he got to his truck, he tossed his bag across to the passenger seat and climbed in. It didn’t take long to get to the Westerville Iceplex and arrived ten minutes before it opened, so he turned the radio on to pass the time.
Once he saw the doors to the building being unlocked, he got out and headed straight to the locker room to change. He was the first to arrive, which gave him time to skate around and warm up for a few minutes. The swish and swoosh of his skates against the ice helped calm his nerves. It wasn’t the first time he had practiced with the team, but it was the first time he would be playing a game. Even though it was just a friendly scrimmage with a school in a different division, he wanted to prove that the coach had chosen well, that he would be a valuable member of the team..
Coach Bradley was the second to arrive. He skated out onto the ice. “I appreciate the enthusiasm, Karofsky. Just don’t wear yourself out.”
“Got it, Coach.” Dave smiled and skated off again.
Within ten minutes, the rest of the team was dressed and out on the ice.
Morgan skated up next to him as he made his way around the end of the rink farthest from Coach Bradley. “You look like you’re facing the guillotine. Why are you so stressed out? You already made the team. You’e wearing a Dalton jersey. We’ve been unofficially practicing for two weeks as a team.”
“I don’t know really. I just feel like the new guy whose position isn’t set in stone. We can’t officially practice with Coach Bradley running plays and stuff for another week. I just feel like if I blow it today, he still has time to recruit someone else for my position.”
“It’s not like that, Dave. Really. You’re our right winger, for better or for worse.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“I’m right.” Morgan whopped him on the shoulder before he skated off to get a few more laps in.
The New Heights team showed up about a half-hour later. The Dalton team moved off the ice and gave them a few minutes to skate around before the game got started.
The teams lined up to face off. When the puck made it out of the center area, Dalton had control of the puck. Dave skated down to be ready. They had worked on a couple of plays, but without being able to hold official practices, they had mostly just practiced their skills by running drills. Fortunately for Dalton, the other team seemed to have practiced even less than they had and their first play worked. Dave got the puck and shot it towards the goal, scoring their first point.
The game play went on and by the end the score was 5-3, with Dave having scored two of the goals. They shook hands before they exited the area.
Once they were back in the locker room, Coach Bradley gave them ten minutes to shower and redress before he entered. He called Dave’s name, which startled him. He turned to look quickly and let out the breath he was holding.
“That was some mighty fine work on there for your first game with us. I think we have the potential to make it to the finals this year. I know it’s a bit warm for this today, but it won’t be soon.” He handed Dave a letterman jacket.
“Thanks, Coach.” He took the jacket from him and returned to where he had been getting dressed.
Coach Bradley just nodded. He discussed their upcoming practice schedule and handed out a quarter-sheet written copy that had been laminated. “Stick this in your duffles. That way even if you don’t have your phones, you’ll have the practice schedule.” He walked down the aisle and handed them out. “For our opening game together, I’m treating for pizza for lunch. You all know the place. One of you that carpooled should switch and ride with Dave so he knows where to go.”
Morgan said, “I’ll go with him.”
“Great. I’ll see you all there.” He left the locker room.
Morgan grabbed his bag and moved next to where Dave was putting the last of his stuff in his duffle. “I was going to see if you wanted to ride with me to start with, but you were gone when I got up.”
“Yeah, I woke up early and went to do homework in the study room so I wouldn’t wake you up.”
“Thanks. But just so you know, I sleep like the dead. You’ve been gone every morning by the time I get up, so you haven’t heard my wake-the-dead alarm yet.”
Dave chuckled. “Maybe some day.” He grabbed his bag. “That’s it.”
Dave looked around inside the pizza place when they got there. “This place is cool,” he said. “I’ve never seen a pizza place with different rooms for different types of shows.”
“Coach usually gets us a couple of tables in the sports themed room.” Morgan pointed up ahead to his left.
They made their way past the cashier and found the guys that had gotten there before them. Once Coach Bradley came back from the cashier, all of the guys got up and got in line.
Dave was surprised by the large selection of pizzas. He took small slices of every type that looked interesting. He sat down across from Morgan. “I saw cherry and apple pizza.”
“Those are dangerously good. The cherry one has a thin layer of cheesecake filling underneath the cherries. And the apple one has just the right amount of cinnamon.”
“I’ll have to try both.” He looked up and the TV he could see had one of the US National Hockey Team games from the Olympics from the previous February playing. Dave watched for a few minutes before he realized his name was being called. He looked down the table and answered, “Yeah?”
“Did anyone tell you about our movie nights?” James asked.
“Uh uh.” He shook his head. He finished chewing the bite he had in his mouth before he said anything else. “When and where?”
Morgan answered. “The lounge in the commons next to the Warblers’ practice room, every other Saturday. At 8:00. We usually watch two movies. You can bring DVDs if you want to suggest something. We usually just vote. Everyone puts a $5 bill on the cover of the movie of their choice. Whichever movie has the most money on it wins, and we use the money to order in Chinese.”
James chided him, “Morgan, you left out that no R rated movies are allowed to be shown in common areas of the school since not everyone is old enough to view them without parental consent.” He rolled his eyes.
“Got it,” Dave said.
They all ended up watching the game and talking about it while they continued to eat.
On the drive back to Dalton, Dave stopped by a Red Box and rented How to Train Your Dragon. He had no idea what kind of movies the guys would like, but he had thought the book was funny and decided that if no one wanted to watch it, he’d watch it on his laptop by himself before he returned it the next day.
“What’d you get?” Morgan asked when Dave got back in.
“It’s a surprise.”
“Fine. Keep your secret.” He glanced between them at Dave’s jacket hanging over the seat. “See. I told you. Coach Bradley is fine with his choice. You weren’t the only guy who tried out for the team. We had some guys who already attend Dalton try out too. And at least one guy from another school too. Coach said there were five guys on the tryouts roster. From what you said this morning, I figured you didn’t know that.”
“I didn’t. I just showed up when I was told to.”
“If i had known you were concerned that you weren’t secure in your position, I’d have told you. I didn’t know you didn’t know.”
Dave took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m not the best at asking questions. I need to get better at it. I’ve been too much of a follower up until now. I don’t really want talk about it because I just want the past to stay in the past. But I need to develop some new, improved habits. Let’s just say that asking questions has never been in my best interest until now.”
“I get that. Dalton isn’t like whatever you’ve dealt with. The teachers actually really enjoy the students questioning the material and even them. They like debating. And they don’t penalize students for taking an opposite opinion, but they expect the students to back up their side of the argument.”
Dave snorted. “Sorry. The whole idea of arguing with a teacher is so foreign to me. I’ll keep that in mind though. Thanks for telling me. Feel free to tell me anything you think might be helpful.”
“I’ll do some thinking. I’ve been here for three years, so I’ll have to think about it.”
Dave drove in silence for a while.
Morgan said, “Oh, I bet your old school didn’t let you work ahead.”
“We never even knew what ‘ahead’ would mean. We didn’t get a syllabus like I was given here.”
“Oh, wow. So, like every day, they’d just spring an assignment on you?”
“Exactly. We’d find out what they homework was every day. Not even a week at a time. So, like we’d go to English and the teacher would assign a 3-page essay due three days later. And then in US History, we’d be given three pages of questions to answer due the next day. It was a real pain.”
“I bet. Plus, you can never plan like that.”
“Nope. So, tell me about working ahead.”
“Oh, well some people have kids at different schools and there are different spring break weeks. So, like, you can do all of the assignments that are due for the week and turn them in the day before you leave and get an excused absence approved and miss school that week.”
“I’d never even considered that something like that was possible, but that’s cool. I’m just now completely caught up with the reading I needed to do, so now I could actually think about working ahead. But I do really like the syllabus for each class. Tomorrow I’m going to sit down and make a calendar that has all of the papers and big assignments on it so I can plan out when to work on them. That’s one things that’s different too. I’ve never had longer papers or big projects, so I need to be sure to plan well.”
“I do the calendar thing at the beginning of each semester. I’m one of the ones who goes on a trip with my family a different week. My older brother is in college and they have spring break before we do and he doesn’t have the option of skipping classes because he’s a chemistry major and he’d miss out on the lab work.”
The two of them discussed things about Dalton on the rest of the short drive back.
Dave was surprised that the movie he rented got the most votes that evening, and again when everyone had a good time watching it. Someone else had rented Karate Kid, which they watched after they ate. He enjoyed himself and began to feel more relaxed in the group. The talk he’d had with Morgan on the way back from lunch had really helped him relax. He realized over the course of the evening that they other guys had already accepted him as part of the team because they trusted Coach Bradley’s judgement.
He learned a lot about his new coach’s temperament during the evening as he paid attention to the small things said here and there.
As he lay in bed that night, things he had heard floated around in his mind. The coach was fair, even tempered, and good at explaining what he expected. He was free with praise that was earned and didn’t yell when a player didn’t perform as expected – all of which surprised Dave because he certainly wasn’t used to a sports coach with that type of personality. Or any teacher actually, which said a lot of about the quality of teaching he had previously received. What Morgan has said about teachers appreciating students engaging and arguing their point seemed surreal, but he decided to believe Morgan, even if he wasn’t willing to try it himself just yet.
After hearing that Morgan slept like the dead, he felt like he could relax more. He hadn’t realized how on edge he’d been about waking him up. He rolled over and turned some music on quietly to try to get the gears in his mind to stop turning. He got comfortable and closed his eyes, hoping to fall asleep quickly.
“Move that table to the right eight inches, Trent,” Wes called out from the center of the room.
Trent dutifully did as Wes had instructed.
Wes continued around the gymnasium and gave quite a few more final instructions to the other Warblers who were setting up their games for the Warblers Community Harvest Party for the Boys and Girls Club of Westerville. He stopped at Kurt’s booth. “Looking good, Kurt.”
“We’ve never had anyone set up an engine assembly game before.”
“It’s never too early to start to learn how things work,” Kurt said, smiling as he continued to set the miniature engine up.
Next to Kurt’s booth was Dave’s, which had a large, handmade felt dart board hung on a PVC frame that Kurt had helped him design and build.
“This is also quite creative,” Wes said as he stepped down a few feet to inspect Dave’s setup.
“Should be fun,” Dave said. “We’ve tested it. The velcro on the balls stick whether you throw them really fast or at a slower speed.”
“I’m sure the kids will love it. They always seem to love throwing things.”
Dave nodded. “That’s true. And this time, they even get a prize for it.”
Thirty minutes later, Wes was pleased and had declared them ready for the onslaught of kids that were waiting to come inside. They had originally planned for it to be an outdoor event, but when it began to rain around 4:30, Wes quickly moved everything inside the gym and made some signs to reroute the kids to the right location. The kids who had arrived early were waiting in the hall outside the gym. He opened the doors at precisely 6:00.
Hoards of excited children entered, dressed in everything from their regular clothes with a simple mask that covered part of their faces to elaborate homemade costumes. Wes hurried over to the photo booth he had set up with costume pieces available for the kids to add to whatever they had on. He had bought an old Polaroid camera with enough film on eBay.
David had set up a craft table with foam frames cut the right size to slip the Polaroids in right next to Wes’s booth. Spread out on the table were all sort of self-adhesive foam stickers to use to decorate the frames, which already had a magnet on the back so the kids could hang them up when they got home.
Under Kurt’s direction, the two of them as well as a couple of other Warblers had spent the morning baking cookies and cupcakes that the kids could decorate using chocolate, orange, and vanilla frosting and fall-themed candies. Nick and Jeff oversaw the chaos to keep the kids from going too crazy with their edible creations.
Kurt had managed to persuade a few members of the robotics team to work at the event, serving up tacos in bags, nachos, and hot dogs. Dave had asked Morgan and a couple of guys on the hockey team to pour drinks for the party. Two of his teammates had agreed in exchange for 90 minutes of free tutoring in math from Dave, which was equal to the amount of time they volunteered for the party. He quickly accepted.
Kurt looked around the gym, starting to his far right and smiled as he saw Lawrence hosting the fishing game. He was helping a girl aim the pole a clothes pin at the end of some yarn over a sheet. As he scanned to the left, he saw a duck pond, a cake walk, a plinko game, a wheel of fortune game, a trivia game, and several other games with excited kids lined up, waiting their turn to play and collect small prizes like spider rings and pieces of candy.
About 30 minutes into the event, a young girl about seven came bounding up to Kurt’s table. “This is the easiest game in the whole room,” she said confidently. “I can put the engine together super fast. Watch!” She picked up the pieces and deftly put them into place in a flash. “There. All done.” She looked up at Kurt. “Was I the fastest?”
“You are definitely the fastest I’ve seen so far tonight. Good job!”
“I’m Clarinda. Which bucket do I get to pick a prize from?”
“Well, Clarinda, you did an amazing job. For being so fast, you can choose one item from each bucket.”
Clarinda looked into each bucket carefully to make her choices.
Clarinda’s mom stepped closer. “Her dad’s a mechanic.”
“Mine too,” Kurt said.
Clarinda looked up. “Really?” she asked.
“Really. Have you ever been to Lima?”
Clarinda looked back at her mom, who shook her head.
“Nope. Is it nice there?”
“It’s not that different from Westerville. I work in the shop there with my dad when I’m at home.”
“My daddy is already teaching how to change the oil. It’s really cool, but my hands get really messy, but we have this orange stuff that gets our hands clean.”
“We have that too,” Kurt said.
Clarinda’s mother spoke quietly, “If you don’t mind, how can you afford to go to school here?”
“Both Dalton and Crawford Country Day offer scholarships to high-performing students in low-performing schools – merit scholarships. When Clarinda gets to middle school, look into it. My guidance counselor didn’t know anything about it, so I just started here this year. I’m a junior.”
“I’ll definitely keep that in mind. Our son is in the seventh grade. He’s already taking Algebra, independent study.”
“Call the school and ask to speak to Mr. McGuire.”
“I’ll do that. Thank you.”
Kurt nodded and turned back to Clarinda. “I hope you enjoy the rest of the games.”
“I will! Thank you!” She waved as she skipped off to Dave’s booth.
When the last of the kids had been ushered out, the Warblers took off their blazers and ties. They played the games they had set up and divided up the remaining candy between them. They sat around and ate the leftover food and decorated cookies and cupcakes. About an hour later, they started the cleanup process.
By 8:30, they had restored the gym to its original condition and went their separate ways. Quite a few of the students were hosting costume parties in their homes nearby. Kurt and Dave had both been invited to several parties at different locations. Dave opted to attend one with Morgan, which was being hosted by one of his friends.
As much as Kurt loved dressing up, he had little-to-nothing with him that he could turn into a decent costume which had been intentional since he was less than certain that drunk prep school boys would be a dapper as they were sober and he had no interest in finding out that they were just as capable of manhandling him and calling him names as their public school counterparts were.
His mind was set and he had nearly made it to his room before Nick and Jeff came up alongside him on either side.
“Hello, Kurt,” Jeff said cheerfully.
Kurt responded equally cheerfully. “Hey, Jeff. What’s up?”
“Well, we’re headed to a Halloween party and we thought you might like to come with us.”
Jeff winked at Kurt. “Me and Nick of course.”
Kurt was perplexed by the wink, but hadn’t changed his mind about going to any parties. “I don’t think so, but thanks for offering.”
“We don’t have class tomorrow, so that’s not the issue,” Nick surmised.
“I’m really just not a party kind of guy. Loud music, people I don’t know... not really my thing.”
“Oh, but you’ll know people there. Me and Nick and...” he went on naming about ten other guys that Kurt did actually know from his classes.
Kurt stopped. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer, but I’m really just not interested tonight. Maybe some other time. I spent most of the weekend working on stuff for the Halloween party for the kids tonight. I can’t stay out late and sleep in tomorrow, even though we don’t have classes. I have to work on my US History paper that’s due on Wednesday. I haven’t even started on it.”
Nick nodded. “Alright. Maybe another time.”
They continued on when Kurt arrived at his door.
“Don’t worry we will,” Jeff said, turning and walking backwards.
Nick stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “Don’t study too hard.”
Kurt rolled his eyes and waved before letting himself into his room.
When they were cleaning up the gym, Dave grabbed one of the leftover inexpensive masks from Wes’s photo booth and put it in his blazer pocket. After they had eaten and everyone went their separate ways, Dave went to his room. He pulled out the mask after he had hung it up. He compared it to his hoodies and opted for the Captain America one. He changed into a pair of jeans, the hoodie, and a pair of his running shoes. He slipped the mask into the kangaroo pocket on the front of the hoodie. Morgan had obviously come in while he was in his closet changing, but he hadn’t heard him and he jumped when he stepped out of his closet just as Morgan came out of the bathroom.
“I’ve got one of those kiddie masks from party. Is this going to be good enough? I don’t actually have a costume here.”
“Yeah, man. That’s fine. Some of the guys will be dressed up and some won’t. You ready to go?”
“Are we going to be outside?”
“Nah. Well, yeah. But there’s a big fire pit, so it’s just the walk from the deck out to the fire pit.”
“Yeah, then. I’m good.”
Morgan pulled alongside the last of about ten cars and parked. “I’m planning to leave by 1:00. One of us has to not drink.”
“That’ll be me. I’m not planning on drinking, but if you see me with a bottle of beer, don’t freak out. If I get hassled to loosen up or whatever. I’ll grab a beer, but I’ll either not drink it or dump it in the bathroom and fill the bottle with water.”
“Old party trick?”
“Good deal. I won’t get smashed. I’ve got a project to work on tomorrow.”
Two hours later, Dave found himself sitting in a circle of guys, playing Never Have I Ever, which, along with Truth or Dare, was why he didn’t drink at parties. No way to keep his secret safe if he got smashed. He had dumped the beer out of the bottle he was holding.
One of the guys said, “Never have I ever scored a hat trick.”
“Come one Braden. That’s lame. You play soccer, not hockey,” one of the other guys said, but then he noticed Dave taking a swig of his beer. “Fine. Fine. It seems that Dave here has actually scored a hat trick. Sweet.”
Dave nodded in acknowledgement.
The next guy said, “Never have I ever gone skinny dipping.”
The guy sitting next to Dave, Mark, he thought was his name, took a drink. “Dude, you do not know what your missing.”
Dave saw a few of the other guys take drinks as well.
A few more guys had their turns before the question Dave always dreaded being asked came out of Richard’s mouth.
“Never have I ever kissed–”
Dave held his breath. Not that he was going to be truthful, but still hearing the words caused his breath to hitch in a slight panic.
Dave took a swig, but was shocked to see two other guys besides Richard not take a drink.
Jason, Jared, something with a J pointed to the guys that didn’t take a drink and said, “Lame. You know that Roger and Erik are gay.”
Mark smarted back. “Doesn’t mean they never kissed a girl, dude,” he said laughing in a way that showed he had already had too much to drink.
“Whatever,” said Jason, or whatever his name was.
It was Dave’s turn. “Never have I ever cheated on a math test.”
Several guys groaned and took a swig.
Morgan piped up, just slightly tipsy, “Of course, you’ve never cheated on a math test, you’re, like, a fucking math genius.”
Dave was somewhat surprised to hear Morgan swear for the first time, but rolled his eyes and shook his head a bit as he watched Morgan take another drink.
Once the game had moved a couple of guys past Dave and the focus had shifted away from the area he was sitting in, he took the opportunity to look at the two guys that Jason had pointed at – and at Richard.. He didn’t know which name went with which guy, but it was a surreal feeling to sit in a group of about 15 guys and know that three of them were gay. And even more strange was realizing that everyone there had known and none of them seemed to care at all – to the point of making up statements to keep from having to take a drink in the game.
The game finally came to an end when the last guy had said, “Never have I ever sung in front of a group of people.”
Dave took a drink, knowing that at least Morgan knew that he was a Warbler.
A little before one, he rounded Morgan up and ushered him towards his car. “Give me your keys.”
Morgan fumbled around a bit, but managed to pull them out of his pocket and hand them over after pressing the key fob to unlock his car. He climbed in, put his seat belt on, and leaned his head against the window.
Dave got in, turned the car over, and began to pull out before he realized that he hadn’t paid close enough attention on the drive over to know how to get back. He pulled his phone out and looked at the mailbox at the end of the driveway to get the house number, and then looked at the street sign when he got to the stop sign. He typed them into his phone to get directions back to the school.
“You never talk about yourself much. Do you have a girlfriend back in Lima?”
“But you drank about kissing a girl.”
“Yeah, this girl Brittany. She liked to make out with all of the football players. It was like her life goal to make out with all of them.”
Morgan laughed. “But you didn’t date. Did she do more than make out with guys?”
“With a lot of the guys, yeah.”
“But not you.”
“But not me.” He took a quick peek at his phone to make sure he was still going the right way when they stopped at a light.
“Did you want to? Do more, that is.”
“No. I know it probably seems old-fashioned or whatever, but I don’t just want to have sex because someone offers. I’d rather them want to have sex with me because they care.”
“That makes sense.” A couple of minutes later, he said, “I did.”
Dave was focused on driving on the unfamiliar road in the dark. “You did what?”
“Have sex with a girl because she offered.”
“It wasn’t a great experience. Be old-fashioned.”
“I’ll do that.” He checked his phone once again and made a right turn. A few blocks down, he finally recognized where they were and felt the tension slip away.
Morgan was half-out of it by then. “I thought it would make me like girls, but it didn’t...” he said right before he zonked out completely.
I posted an incomplete version of chapter 14 last night (9.22). I'm sorry about that. Please go back and start about halfway through the complete chapter to start where the chapter continues.
I'll take this down tomorrow.
Please read the chapter summary.