The day after Halloween, November 1st.
Kitty pushes Kevin against one of the cabinet doors.
“Abigail told me.” She hisses. Kevin feels a bit weird in his stomach. What could Danny’s sister possibly have told Kitty to make her this angry?
“I don’t know…..”
“Don’t give me that! Danny told her! That he is having sex … with you. Kevin you’re 17 years old, you’re too young for this… And with another boy?... Have you lost it?” Kevin looks in total horror at his 21-year old sister. If she as much breathes a word… William is going to kill him.
“Kitty, please, don’t tell anyone. I really like Danny. I like being with him. He makes me feel good.”
“Kevin, that’s just your hormones kicking in. Of course it feels good, if he touches you. It’s supposed to feel good.” Kitty bites back. Kevin feels a blush come over his cheeks.
“You’re wrong. I really like being with him… I… I think, I’m… I might be in love with him.”
“Don’t be stupid. You’re not. I will ask Tommy to take care of this. Maybe he can hook you up with one of his girlfriends…..” But Kevin grabs Kitty’s wrist.
“No, please, don’t!! I don’t want anyone to know. Please, Kitty, don’t tell anyone.” Kevin looks panic-stricken.
“Kevin, you cannot be gay. I don’t want a gay brother, is that understood?” Kevin’s eyes are big and the shock is clearly in his eyes. The pain that is cutting through him is almost more than he can bare. Kitty doesn’t want him if he would be gay…?
Kitty hears Nora calling her and she lets go of Kevin and, after a warning glance, she turns her back on him and walks away. Kevin stayed behind, confused by Kitty’s harsh words. She doesn’t want a gay brother….
“… but I am gay.” Kevin whispers with a miserable look on his face.
A week later, November 7th
“You said what?!?!” Sarah is horrified at what Kitty just told her.
“I was just being honest, Sarah.”
“You told Kevin that you don’t want him as a brother.”
“…If he were gay.”
“But what if he is?”
“Of course he’s not.”
“If he’s sleeping with Danny….” Tries Sarah again.
“It’s just a phase, he’ll snap out of it.”
“Kitty...” Kitty continues to stack the groceries away. “Kitty!!...” Sarah yells. Annoyed Kitty looks at her. “Kitty, we have to seriously consider the fact that Kevin might be gay.”
“I know.” Kitty’s shoulders relax. She feels miserable. She was livid a few days ago and she’s not very proud of how she handled it. Especially the memory of the panic on Kevin’s face and his hurt, they haunt her.
Kevin is her kid-brother. He should be able to trust her. Why didn’t he? At the same time she knows she gave herself the answer. Obviously he feared the reactions, hers and those of the other siblings. She looks at her sister.
“What am I going to do, Sarah?... " Sarah doesn't answer right away. "Oh, I could kill Danny for this!” Kitty hisses, her desire to find a culprit, other than Kevin, is obvious.
Sarah takes a long look at her sister and says carefully :
“Kitty, listen to me. Kevin is 17, almost 18 years old, he’s not stupid. He is no one’s doormat. If he is sleeping…” She takes a deep breath. “ …having sex with Danny, it is because there is mutual consent. Kevin agrees with it. Kevin likes it. Kevin might even be in love with Danny, for all we know. If that is what Kevin feels, if that is who Kevin IS, what Kevin is, gay, then we have to accept that and love him. I know I do. Gay or straight. It will make no difference to me.”
Kitty looks at her, in awe.
“That is what I should have said, isn’t it?” she asks.
“Dunno. I only know how I feel. I still love Kevin, he’s my brother. If you don’t feel that way, then those are your feelings.” Sarah says quietly and she turns around to get more groceries from the car, leaving Kitty in middle of the pantry, alone with her thoughts.
A few days later, November 10th
Kevin looks through the assorted brands of tea. Cinnamon. Cinnamon. Why is there all sorts of tea except cinnamon-tea, his favorite. Hah! Found it. Victoriously he turns around and … he’s face to face with Kitty. Kitty can hear him hold his breath.
“You really are, aren’t you?” she asks and Kevin nods.
“There is no doubt in your mind about it?” Kevin shakes his head.
“You are absolutely sure?” Kevin nods again.
“Are… are you … in love … with Danny?” Still unable to make a sound, Kevin shrugs while shaking his head a bit. He doesn’t know. It’s Kitty’s turn to nod. She understands. Kevin looks at her. He suddenly seems so vulnerable and breakable. A scared boy. Kitty wraps her arms around his waist and holds him close. And as Kevin slowly lowers his arms to reply to the embrace, she whispers:
“I am SO sorry about what I said to you. I didn’t mean it. I love you. You are MY brother…. Nothing will EVER change that.” Kevin exhales, relaxing in her arms. The he kisses her forehead. A small sign of forgiveness. She is his sister and he is her brother. They don’t need words.
“Kevin? You must be wrong!” Tommy is too angry to believe it. Sarah shakes her head. “He is NOT gay. It is that stupid Danny McCullough who’s putting strange ideas in Kev’s head. Wait until I get my hands on him. No way is he going to turn my brother in something like him!”
“Tommy, Kevin is gay. Face it.”
“No! He’s not! You’d think I wouldn’t noticed, if he were? Get real! Kevin likes sports, fishing, drinking. He’s a man. Gay guys…. ” he falters, looking for something.
“Yes? Please enlighten me further with your prejudiced ideas.” Sarah says angrily.
“I am not prejudice.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not! … Kevin is just NOT gay.” Tommy says stubbornly.
“And what if he is?” Sarah asks.
Tommy doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to think about it. Kevin is not gay and that’s all there is to it.
“We can debate about this all you want, Sarah. But Kevin is NOT gay. End of story.”
And he leaves the pantry. Sarah follows him. Neither of them sees the 9-year old boy hiding in the shadows.
“Sarah says that you are gay. She heard this from Kitty. Can you imagine?” Tommy jokes as he and Kevin put the dishes in the cupboard. Kevin seems shocked and Tommy can imagine. Your own sister thinking some very strange things about you.
“Who else did she tell that I am gay?” Kevin asks.
“I don’t know.” Tommy answers, but there is something about Kevin’s question that bothers him. Kevin is not refuting the allegation. He ponders a few more moments but then asks: “Kevin, ARE you gay?”
“Yes, I am.” He answers honestly.
“Oh, man!” Tommy turns away from him. Kevin bites his lip. He’s scared how Tommy will react. Tommy turns back to Kevin. Damn, Kevin is his brother. “So Sarah was right? Oh, man, that sucks. Now I have to apologize to Sarah. I’ll never hear the end of that.” But then he smiles. And slowly Kevin smiles too. They look at each other for a few seconds. And shyly Tommy asks:
“So, you really are…?”
“Does that mean we can no longer watch a game together?”
“Of course we can. I still love the games as much always.”
“Can we still go fishing?”
“If you still want me.”
“You’re not turning all ‘pink things’ on me?”
“Still not interested in the color.” Kevin laughs.
Tommy nods. Before him stands the same old Kevin. So Kevin likes sleeping with boys… He shrugs. Kevin is still Kevin.
“What are we standing around here for? The game starts in 20 minutes.” They quickly put everything in the cupboard. AND in the right place, before Nora makes them do it all over again.
Once they are done, Tommy yells:
“BEER!!! ….” And suddenly more timid: “You still drink beer, right?”
“Strrrraight from the bottle.” Kevin laughs.
Two days later, December 9th
“Mommy?” Nora looks at her youngest, sitting on the small table, his legs dangling, while she’s clearing the groceries she just bought for Christmas. He is eating some cookies she gave him.
“Finish eating first, then ask your question again.” Nora says automatically. Justin swallows the crumbs quickly, but nearly chokes on them. Eventually, with tears in his eyes, he asks again:
“What does the word 'gay' mean?”
“Where have you heard that word being used?”
“Tommy and Sarah were talking. I was hiding here. I was a spy and my mission was to listen in on their talk. I think they work for the Russians.” Damn! Why weren’t they more careful about what they talk about? She quickly puts on a smile.
“I think you might be right about them working for the Russians..." She grins and then more seriously: " But to answer your question, it is an word used for cheerful or happy, “
Well, at least, she tried… Justin lets the words sink in. Then he shakes his head.
“I don’t think so….. Sarah said to Tommy that Kevin is gay and Tommy got mad. Why would Tommy be mad if Kevin is happy? And I don’t think that Kevin is happy either. He was crying last night in bed. And he hasn’t smiled since … since….” Justin’s little memory fails him, but Nora’s doesn’t. She can’t remember the last time she saw Kevin really happy either.
Slowly she realizes that Justin has overheard something perhaps not meant for his ears, but neither was it meant for hers… But it explains why Kevin is now so withdrawn. Why he spends so much time with Danny McCullough. She always suspected Danny was gay. Did he lure Kevin into this? Or was he Kevin’s lover and, if so, did Kevin sleep with him out of his own free will? Or was he pushed into something? Or was he really in love with Danny?
Usually she would confront her children about suspicions she has. She always feels that being honest with your child is important. But this? With this she must more subtle… which is not exactly her strongest point. How can she approach Kevin on this? She can’t simply ask him if he’s gay. If he’s not, he’ll be hurt that she would think that about him, if he is, then…. What then? How is she supposed to react? All she wants is Kevin’s happiness.
She remember an old girlfriend from high-school, who later told her that she was a lesbian and that she was therefore shunned by her own family. Shocked by this, Nora always told herself, when the girls were little, that if one of them would be lesbian, she would still love her, welcome her, it would not make a difference … Funny, she never considered the idea that one of her boys might be gay….. There is one thing she does know. Kevin is her son and she loves him. Gay or straight. She will not allow anyone to hurt him. Ever. No one.
Two weeks later December 17th
Kevin has been waiting all day for the right moment. And now, that his mother is checking what is in the pantry to see if she’s ready for Christmas, he takes the opportunity.
“Mom?” he asks, tapping the knuckles of his right hand softly on the wooden counter of the cabinet.
“Yes, honey.” She quickly writes down ‘ more eggs ’ and then she hears Kevin say:
“Mom? I … I need to talk to you….”
She stops what she’s doing. This is it. The moment she feared. I’m not ready. I still don’t know what to say….
“Mom, please don’t be mad. I’ve fought it as hard as I could. It’s just…. I think… No, I’m sure… At least, I think I’m sure…..” Yes? ...Shut up, Nora, don't put words in his mouth, let him do the talking. ”I am sure… I might be gay…. I am gay… I am having a relationship with Danny McCullough.” She looks at him, he’s all worried and scared.
“Are you absolutely sure?” she asks. "About your being gay, not the being in a relationship."
“Yes.” Kevin nods nervously.
“Danny is not making you do anything against you wishes? If he does…”
“He doesn’t. I like to be with him. I love how he kisses me and….”
“I’m not sure I want to know this.” She fends off. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to know these things from Sarah or Kitty or Tommy either.” Kevin nods.
“I don’t know what to say…. Or do… What CAN I do for you?”
“Love me?” The question is so small that it breaks Nora’s heart.
She holds out her arms and Kevin almost dives into them. She holds him close, caresses his hair, kisses his forehead. She can feel him tremble and she knows that he must have been scared. Very scared.
“I love you, honey. No matter what.” She says softly. She knows she found the only words she could say.
Between Christmas and New Year’s day
Justin’s entire world is upside down. He has never, ever seen his daddy this angry before. He snaps and yells at everyone and he and mom have arguments all the time. And all about Kevin. He has figured out a few things by now. ‘Gay’ is not just ‘happy’, but also something darker, something more evil, something that he’s not allowed to know about. And Kevin sleeps with Danny McCullough…But what is so bad about that? When Justin has nightmares, he always sneaks into Kevin’s room and in his bed, because he’s scared. No one has been angry at him because of it, maybe Danny is afraid of something too?
Kevin has made himself nearly invisible these last few days. Tommy, Kitty and Sarah leave the house as much as possible. But he hasn’t got nowhere to go. He’s just 9 years old. Like Kevin he stays out of his father’s firing range. He goes into the pantry to find some cookies. He’s hungry. Upstairs, in the bedroom of his parents, the voices of Nora and William can be heard. Justin rolls his eyes. Not again!
As he is about to steal some cookies, he hears a sound. He turns around, hoping it is not a mouse. What he finds is even worse. There, sitting on the floor, his back against the side of the cabinet, hiding in the shadows, is Kevin. His hands cover his ears as if he cannot bear the noise. His forehead against his knees. He has made himself as small as possible. At first that is all Justin sees. Kevin hasn’t seen him.
Then Kevin raises his head. The tears have left his face all wet and swollen and there is so much pain in his eyes, that Justin freezes from the sheer impact that it has on his young mind.
“Justin!” Kevin is shocked to see him. “What are you doing here?”
“C…cookies.” Justin stammers, pointing at the jar, but still staring at Kevin in wild fascination. He doesn’t get it, but something is awfully wrong.
Then he sees something else happen in front of his very eyes. Kevin wipes his face with his sleeve and when he looks up at Justin again, his face is all smiles and friendliness, but Justin has seen the face he had only seconds before and knows the truth. It is like Kevin is wearing a mask and this is the first time that Justin can actually see it stuck on his brother’s face.
Kevin hoists himself up and is about to give Justin a few cookies, when he sees how late it is.
“Can’t do. Mom will be mad. We have to eat soon and if you eat cookies now, you won’t eat your veggies later and mom will kill me…..” he smiles and as he turns back to the jar, he mumbles: “.. and if she doesn’t, dad will.”
“Kevin…?” Kevin turns back to Justin. “I want mom and dad to stop yelling at each other.”
Kevin picks him up and holds him close.
“So do I, Just. So do I.” He sits Justin down on the table and cupping his brother’s face in his hands, he softly says in a conspiratory tone: “How about we get out of here and get some pizza?”
“Yeah!” Justin wraps his arms around Kevin. Kevin laughs. And if Justin is slightly aware that there is something ‘unreal’ about Kevin, it is also quickly forgotten.
William checks the labels of the bottles of wine. He picks the one he was looking for and opens the bottle. A small voice behind him says:
“Dad?” and William freezes. He continues to stare at the bottle, while behind him Kevin, weighing every word, says softly and hesitantly: “Daddy, please… I’m sorry…. I can’t change who I am… Or what I am ... I can understand that you are disappointed… I will go away… I can stay with Danny and …. You don’t have to see me anymore… Just, please,… stop fighting with mom…. It hurts…. And it scares Justin…. And no matter what I’ve done wrong, I don’t want Justin to get hurt… If I go away, will you please stop arguing with mom?... For Justin's sake....“ Kevin falls silent, it is the best trade-offer he can give.
He is so scared. He never stood up to his father before. William had always been in charge. Over everything. Kevin is shaking with fear and he clenches his fists. But he has to try again. His father already hates him, but he must do something to make sure this stops. For Mom. For Kitty. For Sarah. For Tommy… and, above all, for Justin.
“Daddy? Please talk to me. If only to say that you want me to go. That you hate me. I know you do. And that’s alright. But please, please, stop being angry at mom.” His father doesn’t reply and Kevin feels an anger rising inside him. He almost can't breath from the nausea. “Dad! Look at me! Talk to me! Yell at me ! Just stop punishing everybody else because of me! They don’t deserve that! Please, stop it!” His voice resonates through the small pantry and he realizes that he just yelled at his father.
And he can’t stop trembling. Any moment now, his father will turn around and beat him half to death. He will never tolerate any of his children talking to him like that. Kevin cannot recall William ever hitting one of his children, but then, none of them considered talking to him the way Kevin just had. He’s going to kill me. He’s going to kill me. It sings through Kevin like a bad song. Yet he tries again, more softly now.
“Please, dad, I will go away. I swear. Just please….I love mom, I love my brothers and sisters and … I love you. ”
There is no reaction. And Kevin’s anger fades and his insecurity takes over. His voice reduced to nothing but a whisper.
“Daddy, please… Talk to me…. Look at me…..” Acknowledge my existence…. He reaches out to touch his father, realizing it puts him in arm’s length of his father. That he could get a blow to head. Finally William moves. He grabs the bottle of wine by the neck. Without a further look or word he leaves the pantry.
Standing in the middle of the pantry, with his arm still stretched out to where William should be, but no longer is, is Kevin. He is white as a sheet. Inside him something shatters. He has the taste of bile in his mouth. He is not angry. He is not sad. He is not afraid either. He stops trembling. He cannot feel pride for what he did. And he sure as hell is not ashamed about it. He wants to run away, but he can’t move. There is just…. nothing.