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Not In Vain - Copyright 2000 by Samantha Michelle. Permission given to post on FictionMania and C-Sprite's.
Standard warning and disclaimer: All characters are fictional. If you see yourself, buy a new mirror, or get some help before it's too late. Contains subjects some people may find offensive. If you are one of them, why are your reading this? Protect your kids. If you are worried about them reading this sort of material, please censor free speech and use a safe surfing program such as net nanny. Or better yet, teach them early and lovingly to understand and accept different lifestyles. Before they learn they from bad experiences. Or suffer from them.
Constructive comments appreciated. Please send comments firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, this is not a happy story. If it makes any difference, I cried as I wrote it. The characters are fictional. I wish to God that the rest of the story was just fiction.
Not In Vain by Samantha Michelle
And so it begins.......
I wiped the tears from my eyes, and stared at my parents across the breakfast table.
"John, there was nothing you could have done." I stared at my plate. She was wrong. I could have joined them. But I was too scared. "I guess they are going to announce today what the suicide notes said, and why it happened." I knew why, so did a few of the kids at school. "They've asked all the kids and parents to meet at the armory at ten. They canceled classes until Wednesday." Sharon had called last night and told me about Jeremiah. I was sure Mom and Dad hadn't heard about him.
I got up and headed towards my room. Dad followed. Since they had learned that three students from our school had killed themselves over the thanksgiving break, I was never out of their sight. I guess it meant they cared. I sat on my bed, and stared at the wall. Rumor was there were going to be counselors from the state her to help us work though out grief. And maybe stop the bleeding. I glanced quickly at my wrists. Mom and Dad would have gone off the end if they saw the faint knife scratches I made on Saturday when I heard about Dave, Jerry, and Melissa.
I wondered how they had gained the courage to end the pain, the senseless, endless farce of trying to be someone other than the person we were inside. I heard the doorbell ring, and soon Mom came up and handed me a sealed envelope. "Shannon and her Mom dropped this off. She said you would know what it's for." She stared at me as I opened the envelope, looked inside carefully, then folded it and put it in my pocket.
"Well, what is it?" I looked at her and the tears started again.
"Personal and private Mom. Don't ask." She and Dad looked worried. I got up and found my best pair of jeans and a decent shirt. I even went and shaved, as my Mom watched, and combed and braided my long hair. We left the house at nine-thirty for the armory.
When we arrived the place was piled with wreaths and signs proclaiming condolence. There was a big van from the state police, and one from the red cross. And every ambulance from the surrounding area. When we parked, I told Mom and Dad that I was going to look for some friends, and they tried to keep me with them. "No, I'm safe here, even from myself." Mom burst into tears in Dad's arms as I headed through the crowd.
I saw Shannon and those few that remained of our group huddled together like sheep waiting for the wolves. I joined the group hug, and added my tears to theirs. Shannon asked us to listen up. "Jeremiah's going to make it. They were able to stop the bleeding in time." That got another round of hugs and tears. "He's in intensive care and under 24 hour watch, but I talked to someone I know at the hospital, and she said he will completely recover, at least physically."
"Does anyone know what we are planning?" Alan sounded nervous.
"No, or I'm sure one of us would have been grabbed already." She looked at me. "John, are you sure you can do this? You don't have to. And you look real bad."
"I should have joined them. But I was too scared." Everyone looked at me in horror. "I played with my knife all weekend. But I'm too much of a coward." Shannon wrapped herself around me.
"Don't. Please, not you too."
"That is why I'm going to join you. No one even suspects I'm a part of the puzzle. And if someone shoots me for what I am, then it's done." It got really wet after that. We heard the announcement that people should assemble inside. I found my parents, and joined them.
"Weren't Shannon and Allen friends of the three kids who..." I nodded. "Why were you with their group? I've heard rumors that it's because they're all queer that this happened." I looked at Mom with hatred in my eyes.
"No, it's because people refused to accept who we are that they died." She looked at me, not comprehending what I said. The school principal called everyone to order, and began his speech.
"We are all here for a reason. A horrible tragedy has befallen our small community, and our school. The tragic deaths of three of our students. Some were your friends, and some even your children. And although few know it, the near loss of another, Jeremiah Albright, who was found by his parents before he bled to death." His voice cracked "The doctors say he is going to live."
Mom and Dad hugged me, Jeremiah was a close friend of mine. "You knew?"
"Shannon told his friends last night. But they are not letting him have visitors."
After a long pause to let the information sink in, the principal continued on. "They were all good kids, and to many of you good friends. Three died and one was grievously injured at their own hands." He stared at the podium, and was joined by a priest, and the Baptist preacher. "And with very few exceptions, you are the reason they are not here today. Their blood is on your hands." You could hear a cricket over the silence.
Mom gasped as I and my friends stood up, and I pulled the envelope from my pocket. Eleven of us made our way silently to the isles, and placed a rainbow ribbon over our hearts. Crying, and barely able to move, we joined together as we approached the stage. In single file we climbed up, and formed a human chain behind the principal. He stared at us, especially me, and appeared confused.
Shannon came forward, and handed him a note. He quickly moved away, and motioned her to the podium. There were murmurs sweeping through the gathering. Shannon wiped the tears from her eyes, and faced the crowd.
"Principal McGee is correct. You, meaning the students and parents here, and the police, and the other townspeople killed them. Just as you would kill the eleven of us wearing these ribbons." She paused. "We have chosen to face you, and our pain today. Dave, Jerry, Melissa, and Jeremiah could face it no longer. There is a rumor going around that our friends, and lovers..." Shannon's voice broke, and I hugged her till she got her control back "died because they were, to put it coarsely, queer." There was a lot of whispering in the crowd. "The truth is that they died because, like the eleven of us standing here today, they were different." She paused, and waited till it got quiet.
"I do not want to die like Melissa, who was my friend and lover. She died because she too was a lesbian, and was shunned by her parents and fellow students. I am also a lesbian. Which makes me no more, and no less, than anyone here." There was a general uproar, which slowly quieted down. "Dave and Jerry were gay. This is not new information to many of you. They killed themselves because they loved each other, and were unable to live with separation and ridicule. Your isolation and ridicule." She waited until it sank in.
"Jeremiah was the captain of every sports team. The boy all the parents pointed to as being a man's man." She paused "What is known to but a few is that Jeremiah was wearing a dress and heels, had painted his nails and put on makeup and lipstick so he could die as the girl he always felt he was inside. He was not gay. He was a gentle woman trapped in a he-man's body with no hope, he believed, of ever escaping." She again paused until it was quiet.
"That is my speech, and eulogy for them, our friends and for a few, our lovers." She looked to the ten of us behind her. "So far was we know, we are all that remain of the students who are different. Allen, Robert, Stephan, and Todd are gay." They moved forward and stood together. "Emily, Francine, Rachel, and I are lesbians." They moved to join her. "John and Kelley are transgendered. Which means they are internally a different sex from their biological shell." Kelly gave me a hug. I could hear my Mom wailing in the background.
"We are your friends, your children, your neighbors. We are just like you, no better, and no worse. We live and love and care and ask nothing more in return than your understanding and acceptance." She paused. "And a minute of silence with which to honor our friends who are not her today." She finished and backed away from the podium. It was almost deathly still. I could see Dad holding Mom, and staring at me.
Principal McGee moved to the podium. And waited a full minute. "I think Shannon said it all. I hope to God we have learned something from this. If not, their bravery and their friends lives will have been expended in vain." He stared at the gathering. Suddenly a young girl got up, and came on stage. She joined Shannon's group. Two more students got up, both older boys, and joined Allen's group. When it was finished, there were eight more of us on stage. Gina, Lauren, and Susan announced they were lesbians. Zachary, Brian, and Greg announced they were Gay. Sam and Andrew joined Kelly and me.
The County sheriff came up to the stage, and took the podium. "With the help of the school, the churches, and the State we have brought in grief counselors, clergy, and mental health professionals to provide everyone with help. It is free. Please, everyone, don't point fingers. We can't bring anyone back. Lets stop losing those we love." Shannon came over and gave him a hug. "I have talked to every law enforcement officer in the county, and they will come to your house and take you for help if it gets too much to handle. So will any member of the volunteer fire department. And the principal says he has the same promise from every member of his staff. Again, we are here to help and listen, not judge." Both religious leaders repeated the same message.
He left the stage. Principal McGee took over, and announced that the PTA was going to provide a free lunch barbecue shortly, and that he, his staff, and everyone who was here to help would gather outside. "Please, everyone, stick around with your children, and their friends. They, more than anyone, need your love, support, and understanding to get through this." He turned off the microphone, and motioned to our three small groups to join him.
He looked at us. "What you have done took great courage. Living with your revelations will take even more. If any of you feel like you can't go on, call someone and get help. Any time, anywhere." We all gave him a group hug. I never expected to see him cry. But he was as wet as we were by the time we left the stage.
Mom and Dad were waiting for me. They both looked frightened. "Forgive us, we didn't know...." Tears were the one thing in abundance today.
Finis? Or just maybe a new beginning?
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