Only silence replied.
Dillon exhaled his held breath in a relieved sigh. He closed the door as he stepped the rest of the way into his home. He walked through the family room, down the hall, and dropped his backpack off inside his bedroom before turning for the bathroom. Switching on the light, he gazed at his reflection in the mirror.
His nose was red with a small bit of blood crusted beneath. He turned his head from side to side, looking for other scraps or bruises. Even though his right cheek hurt from the fall, it wasn't swollen or showing any outward marks. Thankfully.
Dillon grabbed a washcloth and wet it, dabbing gently under his nose. When he finished, he stared at his image in the mirror. Why did this happen to him? Did he look that different from everyone else? How could they even tell anything about him from how he looked on the outside? Could they all read his mind? Did they know his private thoughts and desires?
Maybe it was because he wasn't as tall or as muscular as some of the guys at school, but he wasn't the only guy not built for football or basketball. Why didn't those guys get ripped on as much as him? With his thick, dark brown hair, brown eyes, and soft features, he didn't think he stood out more than anyone else. But it wasn't just his looks. It was what existed in his heart, his mind, his soul. They could all sense he was...different. No matter how he tried to hide it, they knew and they hated him for it.
Dillon lowered his gaze. He couldn't change how he looked. He couldn't change the things he felt. It wasn't as if he hadn't tried on both. He was who he was, and according to Logan and his gang, he was a faggot, a queer, a homo, and things he couldn't bear to repeat even in his own mind. How Logan and his friends said the hateful words as if they were nothing, he'd never understand.
In time, the sting from a slap, the pain from a punch, faded until they could no longer be physically felt. But once a word was spoken, it could exist forever in someone's mind. Didn't Logan and his gang understand the hurt those words caused? Of course they did. That's why they used them. Logan wanted to see the pain on Dillon's face, the tears in his eyes, at being called those names.
Dillon turned out of the bathroom and went to his bedroom. He tore his shirt over his head and held it up. Blood stained the front and one sleeve from the bloody nose he'd gotten when Logan pushed him at the foot of the main stairwell. He'd hit his nose and cheek on a step and all of his books went flying. And of course, Logan did it when everyone was getting ready to go home and the hall was packed.
He could still hear the raucous laughter from those who'd seen echoing in his mind. No one, not one person, had bothered to help him or ask if he was okay.
It was another thing he didn't understand. He'd been knocked down, he was bleeding and hurt. How could no one want to help him? Was he that terrible of a person? He must be, since everyone thought it was so funny. But he didn't think he was a bad person. He always helped others if he saw they needed it, and he'd never think to do things to someone like what Logan did to him. He guessed it was just another one of the things that made him different, an outcast, unaccepted.
Dillon pulled in a shaking breath and swallowed his rising emotion. He would not cry. That was the last thing he needed to do. It didn't matter if no one saw him. They couldn't see his thoughts or how he felt inside either, but it didn't stop them from knowing.
He wadded up his shirt and stuffed it under his bed. He'd take it with him on Monday and throw it in a dumpster on his way to school so his mom wouldn't see it. He grabbed a sweatshirt from his dresser, shrugging into it as he sat at his desk.
Dillon closed his eyes, waiting for his computer to fire up. Just one day. What would it be like to have one day at school and not be called a name, get pushed, tripped, have his books knocked from his hands, or some other humiliating thing happen? He had dreaded going back to school this year, but he hoped with not seeing Logan all summer, Logan would've forgotten about him. But the torment and harassment were worse. Before, Logan pretty much only called him names. Now, Logan wanted to hurt him, and he knew the worst was still ahead.
Dillon's throat tightened. He didn't know how much more he could take. He felt so drained, so tired. He just wanted an escape, anything that could end the hurt.
His computer chimed as it finished starting up.
Dillon opened his eyes, trying to shake off the fear and pain in his heart. He opened the internet browser to his homepage, a website dedicated to theatre and the arts around Chicago. The page flashed up on the screen, and he stopped breathing as he stared at the new picture adorning it. A pair of blue eyes looked back at him; a perfect smile glowed through the screen.
Dillon's gaze dropped to the caption under the photo, reading, One of Chicago's premiere and most celebrated stage actors, Brandon Alexander, on the red carpet for the charity event to raise HIV/AIDS awareness. Accompanying him is his partner, Shunichi Miyamoto, owner of the Miyamoto Dojo in Lincoln Park.
Dillon looked back to Brandon's image. Brandon Alexander. He'd admired him since he first saw him in The Phantom of the Opera. He'd never seen a professional, full scale theatre production, and it blew him away. The music, the props, the actors, and especially Brandon. His baritone voice was so powerful, carrying through the entire theatre, every word clear and precise, and so beautiful when he sang. How Brandon moved, gracefully sweeping across the stage, the black cape billowing behind him, captivated Dillon like nothing he'd ever seen.
When the play was over, he'd left in a daze, mindlessly following his mom, as it seemed he'd left his soul in the theatre. He wanted to go back again and again, and he did manage to convince his mom to take him one more time. When Phantom closed and Chicago opened with Brandon as Billy Flynn, he begged his mom to go.
He wasn't sure what to expect when he sat in his seat, waiting with anticipation for the curtain to rise. He knew Chicago and Brandon's role in it was entirely different from Phantom, and he almost felt fearful he'd be disappointed. That fear vanished the second Brandon walked on stage. The play and character might've been different, but one thing was the same--Brandon's charisma.
Brandon drew the audience in, making them want to linger on his every word and movement. Once again, Dillon was left speechless by the magic of the theatre and it's most masterful actor.
Dillon gazed at Brandon on his computer screen, his black hair expertly styled, designer tuxedo cut to his body. He looked to the man at Brandon's side and whose hand was clasped in Brandon's. He had read on Brandon's website that he was gay, but this was the first time he'd seen a picture of his partner. Medium length, layered black hair, dark eyes, beautiful Japanese features; the guy was amazingly hot.
Dillon read the caption again, his mind pausing at "Miyamoto Dojo." An idea hit him, too improbable for him to believe. He clicked his cursor in the search box and typed in "Miyamoto Dojo Lincoln Park." He hit enter, the screen changed, and the first hit to come up, the website for the dojo.
His heart pounded a little faster as he opened it to the homepage with a picture of a building styled in seventeenth century Japanese architecture. Below was the dojo's mission statement, followed by in bold letters, Always Accepting New Students.
Dillon couldn't take his eyes from the words. Going to the dojo might let him do two things-- meet Brandon and learn to defend himself. Well, he didn't know if Brandon actually went to the dojo. Just because his partner owned it, didn't mean he hung out there. Either way, how cool would it be to learn karate at the dojo owned by Brandon Alexander's partner? Even if he didn't meet Brandon, he'd definitely meet Shunichi. It said he was the head instructor there. He had to do it. All he needed to do was talk his mom into letting him take lessons.
Dillon spun around in his chair and hopped up. He felt as if just the thought of going to the dojo had lifted a great weight from him. He grabbed his cell phone and flopped down on his bed, speed dialing his best friend, Angie. He was too excited to not share his idea with someone.