Return to Kadenburg
confessed. “I guess I’m a little
scared. It’s a really damn big world out there.”
    “But it’s a beautiful place,” Liam insisted
as his eyes darted back and forth between Rutley’s. “And you’re going to go
out there and make some new buddies. You’ll find a job you love….and somebody
to love. You’ll be happier than you’ve ever been in your life. You deserve
that more than anybody I know.”
    “You deserve it, too,” Rutley argued. “Do
you really want to live out the rest of your life hiding what you really are?”
    Liam fell silent, his eyes staying on
Rutley’s face as he frowned. “Of course I don’t,” he finally said. “But I
don’t think Kadenburg’s quite ready for a sexy homosexual like me. All the
girls will be locking up their boyfriends, afraid I’ll steal them or
something.”
    Rutley managed to laugh despite the tears
blurring his vision. He shook his head gently as he pulled Liam in for a hug.
“You’re my best friend, Liam. What will I do without you?”
    Liam’s strong arms wrapped around him,
holding him close as the night sky became darker. The cricket’s chorus grew
louder and everything else ceased to exist.
    “You’ll find that guy, or that girl, that
makes you happy,” he whispered. “And then one day you’ll finally come back
here so they can meet your crazy ass best friend.”
    Rutley sucked in a sharp breath
as the memory played out in his mind. Sometimes it felt like that had only
happened yesterday, but ten years had flown by a lot faster than he’d realized
until just now. He would never get to introduce anyone to Liam…..
    The sound of a twig snapping nearby had Rutley on the
move, and he sank behind a large boulder that rested in between a few trees
with only seconds to spare. He gripped his rifle, his finger on the trigger as
he listened intently.
    Footsteps.
    He forced his breathing to slow down as he pressed his
back against the hard surface of the rock, slowly peering around it as he
watched three figures come into view.
    “So how are we going to do this, Luke?” The first one
asked.
    “Hell if I know,” the other male, presumably Luke,
replied. “We have to come up with a creative way for this traitor. I want to
do something fun.”
    Rutley listened as they laughed, watching them emerge
on the path. They were both rather large men, built like professional
wrestlers, and they were dragging a third man between the two of them. He
caught a flash of auburn hair in the light of the moon and he leaned further
around the rock to get a better look. The middle one was injured. What were
they going to do to him?
    “Come on, you little faggot,” Luke said as he shoved
the injured male to the ground….right where Liam’s body had been discovered.
“Give me a second to think about how I want to do this.”
    Do what, exactly? Rutley’s brows knitted together as
he clutched his rifle, waiting. Watching.
    He wasn’t very fond of the fact they were slinging
names at the third male, and he didn’t like the memories it triggered in his mind,
either.
    “Come on, you little faggot! Get back up!”
    He could hear the boys in the locker room
cheering on Bobby Lichliter, and it wasn’t doing a damn thing to help the
situation. For the third time this week, he’d been jumped after gym class, and
ten year old Rutley was getting fed up.
    Pushing himself up from the floor, Rutley
turned around to see the pimply face of his attacker. He wiped the blood away
from his bottom lip before glaring.
    “Awwww, poor little baby!” Bobby mocked with
a cackle. “Are you going to cry? Go ahead and cry, you little fairy. I want
to see you cry.”
    Rutley let out a frustrated cry, rushing
forward as he wrapped his arms around Bobby’s body, tackling him to the floor.
Enough was enough. He was tired of being bullied every day just because Bobby
thought it was funny. He was tired of being called names and being tormented
by the other boys in his grade. This was going

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