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Bleeding Hearts [MultiFormat]
eBook by Josh Aterovis

eBook Category: Mystery/Crime Stonewall Society's 2002 Pride in the Arts Literary Award
eBook Description: Killian Kendall's friend Seth is murdered and Killian is seriously injured. The police call it a random mugging. But Killian suspects a darker motive and sets out to uncover the truth behind the possible hate crime. Aterovis has written an intriguing mystery and compelling tale of growing up gay in a small-minded town. Winner of the Stonewall Society's 2002 Pride in the Arts Literary Award in the Whodunit Category!

eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, Published: 1999
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2005

29 Reader Ratings:
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There is a flower native to North America called Bleeding Heart. It's a delicate looking plant with long arching branches that, when it blooms, are covered with tiny heart-shaped blossoms. Each blossom has what looks like a drop of blood coming out of the bottom of it--hence the name. It likes shade and doesn't much care for wind. Unfortunately, we were getting a lot of wind that day.

I was sitting at the window overlooking the garden watching the wind blow furiously through the brightly colored flowers. Many of the plants had already lost their petals, but so far the bleeding hearts were holding their own. Which is more than I could say for myself. I was feeling more and more lost by the second.

Suddenly, it seemed that I had to do something for the plants. I couldn't do much for myself, but maybe I could save them. I stood up and went outside into the storm; no one said anything to me and I wasn't surprised. Once I was outside, the wind buffeted my body and the driving rain almost instantly soaked me, my tears mixing with the raindrops. I didn't care. I was half hoping the raging storm would blow me away--or at least blow away the storm raging inside me.

But wait, I should back up. I've probably lost you already. I'm not even sure where to start, but I'm pretty sure the middle isn't the best place. I was never very good at language arts; my teacher said I lacked imagination. But I guess maybe like Lewis Carroll said in Alice in Wonderland, "Start at the beginning and when you come to end ... stop."

My name is Killian--Killian Travers Kendall. I'm sixteen yeaaErs old and a junior in high school. It's only two weeks into the school year, but I've already learned a lot, mostly about myself. I'm not the same person I was on the first day of school. But we'll get to that.

My father is the District Attorney for the county we live in on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The Eastern Shore is a peninsula bordered by the Chesapeake Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. It's mostly a rural area, filled with sprawling flat farms with small towns interspersed at random. My family lives in an old-fashioned town and my father is an old-fashioned kind of man. Over all I would say I've been a disappointment to him. He was the star of his football team, had every girl in the school drooling over him, handsome, charismatic: he had everything going for him. I, on the other hand, couldn't catch a ball if you held a gun to my head, have never dated a girl, and I'm very shy. I took after him in looks though, that's something at least. I have the same piercing blue eyes (which I hide behind glasses), wavy blonde hair and strong, even features. I weigh in at about 135 lbs and 5'7". My father's been trying to get me to try contacts for years, but the idea of sticking my finger in my eye is repulsive to me so I've stuck with my wire frames.

I guess I get my shyness from my mother. We're a lot alike in personality. She has a way of melting into the background, almost chameleon-like. No one ever remembers meeting her. The only time she ever seems animated is when my father is around. It's almost like she worships the ground he walks on. And that's where the similarity between us ends.

I don't have any real close friends, but I hang out with Asher Davis, Jesse O'Donnell and Zachary Phillips. We are the same age, but that's about all we have in common. They all three play soccer like it's the way to salvation, so they are all in shape and very built. Asher has curly dark brown hair, light gray eyes that seem almost silver at times, eternally rosy cheeks, and is a few inches taller than me. Jesse is a little over six feet tall, but thin, with reddish-blonde hair, freckles, and bright green eyes. Zachary, or Zack, has brown hair, bluish-gray eyes, and is about the same size as Asher.

I'm usually the odd man out since I don't play sports and I'm smaller than the rest of them. I'm the last one to get called when someone wants to do something, almost like an afterthought. I don't even remember how I ended up in their little group, we'd grown up in the same neighborhood and our parents knew each other. Everyone just always assumed we were friends and it had just always have been easier to go along with itthan make an effort to find someone that I'd have more in common with. Making new friends was a terrifying concept to someone as shy as I was.

But this is all just background. The story really starts with the first day back to school. I wasn't looking forward to it. I do well enough in school, but even with my very popular friends I don't fit in and I know it. The only thing I like about school is theater. There I excel. There I can lose myself in a part. There I am actually looked up to. And that is where everything changed.

Theater was my last class of the day. My first day back had been fairly uneventful up to this point and I didn't really expect this period to be any different. The drama teacher, Mrs. Tatum, gave us her usual speech about this being a "play" class but not to expect any playing. "This is a serious class," she intoned imperiously.

Just then the door opened and a head popped in.

"Yes?" Mrs. Tatum asked.

The rest of the body came into view. And a nice body it was. I'd never seen him before so he must have been new. He stood about my height, maybe a little taller and slightly more built. He had red-gold hair that seemed to stick up in every direction and elfin features. In fact, he looked amazingly like an elf. Even to his incredibly green eyes. I wondered if they were colored contacts. Then I wondered why I cared. Why was I so intrigued by this guy?

"My name is Seth," he said, "Seth Connelly. I'm transferring into this class. Here's the paperwork."

He handed her some papers and looked around the room. He carried himself with an air of confidence. Not arrogance exactly, but not far from it. After Mrs. Tatum had looked over the paperwork she looked up at him, staring for a second.

"Looks like it's all in order. Why don't you find a seat, Mr. Connelly, and we can continue with the class," she said finally.

He looked around the room again and locked eyes with me. I hadn't looked away since he'd walked in. Maybe he'd sensed me staring. I quickly looked away. Next thing I knew, he was sitting down right beside me.

"Hi," he said extending his hand, "I'm Seth."

"Killian," I said shaking his hand. He held on a second longer than seemed necessary then smiled at me before turning back towardMrs. Tatum. My head seemed to be swimming and I felt warm. I wondered if I was coming down with something. I mean I couldn't be attracted to Seth. He was a guy! But I'd never felt like this before.

I tore my eyes away from him and tried to pay attention to Mrs. Tatum, but my eyes seemed to have developed a mind of their own. They kept finding their way back to Seth. I hoped like crazy that no one in the class noticed my sudden obsession.

Finally the bell rang. I scooped up my books and headed for the door with my head down.

"Killian! Wait!" I heard Seth call.

I stopped just outside the door and waited for him to catch up, but didn't turn around.

"Hey," he said when he came alongside me.

"Hey," I said back as I started walking again. What can I say? I'm a brilliant conversationalist.

"I'm new here," he said, pointing out the obvious, "I'm still getting lost. Think you could show me how to find my locker?"

"Yeah, sure," I mumbled, still not looking at him, "Where is it?"

He told me and we went on in silence. I felt Seth studying me as we walked. Finally he spoke up again,

"Killian, that's a different name. I don't think I've ever heard it before."

"It's Irish I think," I explained. "My grandfather was from Ireland. He named me."

"Are you close to your grandfather?" he asked. There was a strange note to his voice that made me look up at him for the first time since we had left the classroom. There was look of sadness in his eyes that made me wonder where the question came from.

"No," I answered, "He died when I was four. I don't really remember him."

I saw disappointment in his eyes. He had very expressive eyes, like you were looking into his soul.

"Why? Why did you ask if we were close?" I asked him.

"No reason. Just wondering," he said, his eyes shifting away. Then he looked back at me again. "I'm not close to either of my grandfathers. They disowned me."

I looked at him curiously, but I had been brought up with too many manners to ask why they had disowned him. He read the question in my eyes anyway and answered.

"Killian," he said softly, "I'm gay."

I stopped dead in my tracks.

"I think I can find it from here," Seth said after an awkward pause, "Thanks, man. See ya around." And he was gone.

I'm not sure how long I stood there, maybe just a few seconds, maybe minutes. I was lost in thought and I didn't care. The stream of people flowed around me and I didn't notice any of them.

Suddenly someone grabbed me around the neck and gotme in a headlock.

"What are you doing, Space Boy?" they yelled, "Waiting for your people to come back and get you?" It was Asher.

"Get off me, Asher," I said sharply.

"Whoa, dude," he said letting go, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I just gotta get home."

"Well, if you're in such a rush why were you just standing there?"

"It's nothing. I've got to go."

I started off quickly down the hall and Asher rushed to keep up with me. "Dude, Kill, man, what's up?" he asked again. When I didn't answer he said, "The gangs getting together tonight to hang out, maybe catch a movie. You wanna go?"

"No thanks," I said. By now we were at the door to the student parking lot. My dad had given me a car for my 16th birthday, one of the new Volkswagen Bugs. Maybe he thought it would make me popular. If so, he was destined to be disappointed yet again. I headed for my car with Asher still on my heels. Just then, Zachary intercepted us.

"Hey Zack," Asher called out.

"Hey Asher. Hey Killian," Zack said as I started to unlock my car. "Didn't I see you with that new kid right after the bell?"

I looked up, dropping my keys in the process. As I bent down to pick them up I answered, "Yeah, his name's Seth."

"I know," Zack said, "He's in my second-period class. We all had to share five things about ourselves. You know what his were?"

I had the door open by now, but I didn't get in. I felt frozen where I stood.

"What?" Asher asked.

"Number One: he just moved here from Baltimore. Number two: he swam on a team at the school he came from. Number three: he likes acting. Number Four: he lives with just his dad. Number Five--" Zack paused dramatically, "--number five: he's a faggot."

"WHAT?" Asher yelled, "He said that?"

"Yeah, man. A real live fairy," Zack laughed, "Well, he said gay, but you know."

"Who's a fairy?" Jesse asked as he walked up to us. "Killian?"

Everybody laughed, except me, then Zack said, "No, at least I don't think so. You're being awful quiet there, man."

I shrugged and started getting in my car.

"So who's a fairy?" Jesse asked again.

"That new kid, Seth," Zack told him.

"No way! How do you know? Did he hit on you?"

"No! He better not, unless he wants to end up a dead fairy," Zack said and they all laughed again.

"He seemed nice to me," I said before I had time to think.

As one they all turned to stare at me.

"Man," Asher said, "Don't tell us you're a fag too, Killian."

"I didn't say I was gay," I said quietly but firmly, "I just said that I thought he seemed nice. Why does that make me gay?"

"Because he is, Kill," Zack said, "You don't hang out with fags unless you are a fag."

"Bullshit," I said angrily. "Hanging out with you guys doesn't make me an idiot." I slammed the door, started the car and drove off, leaving them staring after me with their mouths gaping. I have no clue where that came from. I never ever reacted like that.

I thought about it all the way home. Thoughts were flying through my mind like bullets and they seemed just as hard to grasp. When I came to my house, at the last minute I decided to keep driving. I wasn't ready to face any one at home. I was still tense and confused from the strange scene in the parking lot. I decided to drive to the beach.

We were having unseasonably cool weather for September in Maryland so I didn't expect too many people to be there and I was right. I parked the car, fed the meter, and started out on the beach.

I had been walking for about 15 or so minutes when I was surprised to hear someone call my name. I turned and caught my breath. It was Seth and he was jogging towards me. He had changed out of the jeans and polo shirt he'd worn to school and now he wore Adidas jogging pants and a T-shirt.

"Hi, Killian," he said when he got to me, only slightly out of breath.

"Hi," I said looking at my feet.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"I just needed to get out so I decided to take a walk. The beach always calms me." I told him.

"I live here," he told me as if I'd asked, "I like to jog on the beach. Like you said, it calms me, too."

When I didn't say anything he continued, "Look, if you don't want to talk to me, I'll understand. I mean I know I probably freaked you out when I said I was gay, but I hate lying. I did that long enough. It's better to get things out in the open right away. That's why I told you." Still I didn't say anything and he seemed to have a real need to fill in the silence so he continued on. "I mean I'm used to everybody hating me. My own family hates me so why shouldn't you--"

"I don't hate you," I interrupted.

He stood looking at me with surprise for a few seconds.

"You don't?"

"No," I said, "I don't even know you, why would I hate you?"

"Because I'm gay."

"That's not a reason to hate somebody."

"Everyone else seems to think so."

"I've never been one to go with the crowd," I said a little bitterly.

"I sensed that about you. That's why I sat next to you." We stood there for a minute not talking, then he said, "Want to go grab a bite to eat and we can talk?"

I thought for a few seconds then shrugged, "Sure, why not?" I said.

We headed up to the boardwalk and found a pizza joint, placed our order and sat down at a table to wait for our number to be called.

We talked untilthe pizza was ready, telling each other general information about ourselves. The kind of stuff you tell people when you're just getting to know them. When we had finished eating I asked the question that had been plaguing me from the beginning. "So how long have you known you were gay and how did you know?"

He paused for a moment, looking me in the eyes for so long that I had to look away. "I guess I knew for a long time before I admitted it to myself. But I've known for sure for about a year," he began, "I lived with my mom since my parents split when I was eight. I never really knew what happened until I was 15. I just knew I hardly ever saw my dad. But when I was 15, I realized I was gay and decided to come out to my mom. She hit the roof. Then she hit me. I hit the floor. Long story short, my dad was gay and that's why they split up. So she kicked me out and I moved in with my dad."

I sat staring at him with my chin, I'm sure, somewhere around my ankles. I'd never realized how sheltered I was in my little Eastern Shore town.

"So anyway," he went on, "How did I know? Hmmmm. I just knew. I can't explain it really. I mean, beyond the obvious, my attraction to guys over girls. I can tell with other people too, you know. It's called gay-dar." A big grin started spreading across his face.

"Oh really?" I asked, suddenly feeling a little nervous. I wasn't sure why. I mean I wasn't gay, so what did I have to worry about? Sure, I'd never dated girls, never even been interested in them if I was honest with myself, but I'd never been interested in guys either. Had I? Doesn't everybody take peeks in the locker room? And all I felt towards Asher, Jesse, and Zack was friendship. Right? Thoughts of wrestling with Asher flashed through my mind. Enjoying the closeness of his body, trying to hide a hard-on. I shook my head to clear the images and hoped I wasn't blushing.

He was still smiling.

"Why are you smiling?" I asked testily.

Seth laughed. "I dunno. It's better than crying."

I glanced down at my watch and gasped. "Whoa, I'm late. I gotta go or I'm gonna be dog meat." I pulled out my wallet and threw some money on the table, enough to cover my part of the bill. "Bye, dude. See ya in school tomorrow."

"Okay," he called after me, "See ya, Killer!"

I stopped in the doorway and smiled back at him. Killer ... I liked it!

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