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Gay Romance High School

Oliver Morgan woke to his feathered friends chirping outside as sunlight streamed through the dingy sheets at the cracked, pealing bedroom windows to pierce his eyelids. 

Spring had sprung but Oliver’s life was still in the crapper.

This too shall pass.

Oliver heard the words as if Gramps was sitting beside him and whispering in his ear. He’d been seeing and hearing Gramps a lot lately, almost as much as when he’d been alive.

The unconventional and wily Wiccan had made an impression on his life, no doubt, the only saving grace of Oliver’s existence the last several years. But now the old spellcaster was gone, up and left Oliver to join that big coven in Summerland.

Gramps had taught him some things about white magick, paganism and being one with Mother Earth. His teachings had been the only things to keep Oliver sane in an insane world.

You’ll make it. You’re strong. I have faith in you.

Gramps had been the only one who did. His mom didn’t have faith in herself anymore much less in Oliver and she’d allowed her boyfriends to cloud her judgement and abuse and berate Oliver, giving him no reason to be or stay home and every reason to drop out and run away. His only refuge had been spending time with Gramps and working at the animal shelter. Now one of these freedoms had been taken away from him.

He wouldn’t quit though, couldn’t let his mom’s latest get the best of him.

He was a straight A student. He was going to be a vet if he had to work ten jobs to pay for college. He wouldn’t let anyone take that away from him too.

Oliver sat up in bed and threw off the covers, angry with himself for grieving so hard six months later when everyone else, especially Mom, had seemed to move on with their lives.

He headed to the bathroom to shower and get ready for work and by the time he got downstairs in his red polo shirt and tan khakis uniform, his mother and Gary were already in the kitchen cooking up something special.

It wasn’t, however, anything Oliver wanted to consume. 

He glanced at the dining room table where Gary had all his drug paraphernalia laid out and shook his head.

Once upon a time, Mom had been a den leader, shuttled him to and from Pee Wee League games, made elaborate Sunday family dinners and let him help her bake batches of homemade cookies for school fundraisers, all while holding down a full-time job. 

Then Dad was killed in a car accident, the same accident that nearly crippled Mom. Next came the pain killers that she couldn’t seem to function without. Soon after, she got fired and lost her real estate license. Dad’s insurance money went up in a puff of street drug purchases when the legal prescriptions dried up. Finally, there was the succession of no-good boyfriends who mooched off Mom and thought they could replace Oliver’s father.

Gary Grimm, wannabe pimp and drug dealer extraordinaire, was just the newest.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Oliver glared at Gary and didn’t pause as he walked through the kitchen to the back door of their ramshackle two-story. Since Mom lost her job it was the only place they could afford.

“You heard your father. Answer him.”

“He’s not my father.”

Gary was on him in a blink, grabbing Oliver’s shoulder, swinging him around and bunching up the front of his shirt in his fist. “Listen to your mother when she’s talking to you.”

Oliver rolled his eyes. “I’m going to work. Not that you’d know anything about that.”

“You think you’re better than me?”

“Gary, let him go.”

“Fairy-freak.” Gary shoved Oliver before he released him and went back to what he was doing at the dining room table.

Mom ran over to Oliver as he opened the door. “You know he doesn’t mean it.”

“Whatever.” Oliver’s eyes welled, but he sucked it up. He wouldn’t cry. He’d been bullied by far worse than Gary Grimm.

Oliver stared at his mom, wanted to ask what had happened to her, how she could sink so low after Dad, but he already knew. He’d been there every step of her nightmare descent.

He and Gramps had stayed up late into some nights talking about ways to help Mom but they couldn’t make a junkie stop using. Mom had to want to get better, want it more than she wanted to get high and she just didn’t want to stop, not even for Oliver.

He still loved her though. She was all he had. “I gotta go.”

“Baby, wait.” She grabbed his arm before he stepped outside. “Can you spot me some cash for groceries?”

His heart twisted at his mother’s decaying, yellow smile. She used to have the most beautiful white teeth. Oliver didn’t know if it was the cigarette habit she’d picked up from one of the boyfriends or all the drugs she used, but she didn’t have a beautiful smile anymore.

Oliver gave her what he had in his wallet, just thirty dollars. He’d gotten into the custom of not keeping much cash on his person or in the house since her last boyfriend robbed him blind every chance he got.

Mom pecked his cheek. “Thanks, baby. I’ll pay you back.”

He wouldn’t count on it.

* * *

Oliver had only made it a few yards into the woods behind his home when he stopped, tilted his face skyward, closed his eyes and luxuriated in the warmth of the sun on his skin. He listened to the leaves on the trees overhead, rustling in the spring breeze. The bloom of daffodils, fairy slippers, rhododendrons and trout lilies infused the air with their pleasant, musky-sweet perfume, almost like the petrichor of a first summer rain.

 “Queer!”

Oliver listened to the slur in the distance shattering the peace, but didn’t open his eyes. He knew who it was.

“I’m talking to you, ass bandit.”

Shit, he was coming closer.

Oliver opened his eyes just as Rob-the-homophobe from P.E. made it to edge of the field and froze, goggling at something behind Oliver before he turned and dashed away.

Oliver took a deep breath, told himself not to panic, but wondered what could have run off his meanest tormentor.

He regularly took walks in these woods, especially when he wanted to get away from it all and commune with nature. He’d even worshipped skyclad with his Gramps a few times. He knew and loved most of the creatures that inhabited this forest.

But was there a strange animal behind him, bigger and more dangerous than his friends?

Oliver slowly turned and gasped. Not two feet away stood a red fox staring at him.

He loved animals, all kinds, always had. He worked and played with them every day at the animal shelter. He guessed the woodland creatures he had befriended over the years could be considered wild, but they were never anything but gentle, friendly and welcoming with him. This fella though wasn’t just wild but unfamiliar. Not to mention he was at least a hundred pounds, almost triple the size of the largest red fox Oliver had read about. He could probably take Oliver down and rip out a good chunk of flesh with his long canine teeth.

Oliver took a chance, squatted and offered his hand.

The fox trotted up to him, sniffed then head-butted his palm for a pat. 

He had a dense winter coat as if he was in the arctic, copper-gold fur so fluffy and soft, Oliver relished the feel of it beneath his fingers.

The fox nuzzled closer, bushy tail wagging as he purred. 

For some weird reason Oliver couldn’t “hear” or communicate with the animal beyond their physical interaction.

Was he losing the abilities he’d had since he’d been a little kid? The idea sent a shudder of despair down his spine. He couldn’t bear losing anything else.

After a long while, Oliver reluctantly stood to go. “See you around, Rusty.”

* * *

Oliver arrived at the animal shelter to learn he had to take their newest hire around and show him the ropes. This wouldn’t have been that big a deal except the new hire was none other than Ravenwood High’s latest transfer, Leif Meadows.

Damn, even his name sounded like sunny days and the furry woodland creatures with whom Oliver spent so much time. Copper-gold hair, striking green eyes and a smile that could light the night or melt a cold dead heart like Oliver’s. These were what he was up against.

After they’d cleaned the kennels, taken several of the large dogs out for their daily walk, fed, watered and monitored the physical condition and behavior of each shelter's animal, Oliver led Leif out to the picnic area where he liked to take his lunch beneath the canopy of a large oak.

The towering tree reminded him of the one in the woods he liked climbing with his chipmunk friends—Elvis, Teddy, Seymour, Mark and Dell. Sometimes Oliver dreamed of living inside such a tree or the woods around it, a simple life with just him and his animal friends.

“I like your jewelry,” Leif said.

Oliver frowned, sandwich at his mouth.

His jewelry was probably one of the main reasons he was alternately bullied and ostracized at Ravenwood. Next to his tats, black eyeliner and nail polish to go with his dyed, jet-black hair and matching black outfits, his jewelry—stainless steel balls and studs in his ears, eyebrows, nose and tongue—got his message across loud and clear.

Leave. Me. Alone.

The silver pentacle Gramps had given him shortly before his death, however, really did the trick. Most people saw this necklace and went the other way. 

His employers at the animal shelter didn’t seem to mind his Goth façade. Maybe because he was a hard worker and did his job well, or maybe they were more progressive than most. 

The world would have been a better place if everyone were as accepting. Possibly some were and he just hadn’t noticed from inside his protective shell.

Was Leif as accepting, clean-cut and easygoing as he appeared?

“Seriously?” Oliver asked.

“You don’t smile much, do you?”

“Maybe I don’t have reason to.”

“Would you like a reason to?”

Whoa, hey. How did they get here?

Leif chuckled. “Don’t look so horrified.” He leaned in, caught Oliver off-guard when he kissed him, gently tracing Oliver’s parted lips with his tongue before pulling away.

Sandwich forgotten, Oliver raised his free hand to his mouth, entire lower jaw tingling from the contact of Leif’s full lips. “Why’d you do that?”

“You looked like you needed it.”

“Are you pulling my chain?”

“No, Ollie. I’m not.” Leif stood from the picnic bench and headed back to the shelter.

* * *

Oliver worked the rest of his shift in silence and when the time came to clock out, he barely said a word to anyone before leaving.

“Ollie, wait!” Leif caught up with him at the entrance of the woods, easily falling into step, hands thrust deep in his pants pockets as if he was fighting to keep them to himself.

“I don’t like being made fun of,” Oliver said.

“I got that.”

They walked a full minute in silence that was filled only by the sounds of their light breathing and the cheeps of Oliver’s forest buddies.

“I’m sorry if I overstepped.”

Oliver stopped and stared at him—long straight nose, high chiseled cheeks, the sun glinting off his copper-gold hair—Leif’s male beauty almost too much to bear. Too much to want. “I like when you call me Ollie,” he murmured.

“Doesn’t anyone else?”

“Only my gramps. But he’s gone now.”

“I’m sorry,” Leif said. “You’re named after him.”

Oliver frowned. “How do you know that?”

“I don’t! I was just, uh…asking.”

“Yeah, I’m his namesake.”

“It’s nice to have someone like that in your corner.”

Why did Leif sound like he knew all about Oliver’s situation? Like he had been asking around or was a stalker. Why did he talk like Gramps was still alive?

You’re so suspicious. Stop being mistrustful.

This time it wasn’t Gramps’ voice he heard in his ears, but his own.

Suddenly, they came from behind the surrounding trees, all of his friends chattering away— fawns, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, honey badgers, skunks and his five favorite chipmunks. Even a couple of antisocial gophers popped up from their underground burrows to say hello.

The animals surrounded them and Ollie was so happy to see his friends he forgot he wasn’t alone.

He glanced at Leif from the corner of his eyes, expecting to see anything but what he saw—a guy unafraid and totally comfortable in his surroundings, a soul at one with nature.

Oliver’s breath hitched in his chest when a kaleidoscope of butterflies suddenly fluttered around them, a constantly shifting pattern, hundreds of them creating a display of vivid colors before they all landed on Leif.

Leif gently lifted his arms away from his body, looking like the Pied Piper of Lepidoptera as he laughed and speared Oliver with such an intense look, he thought his heart would burst through his chest like the creature from Aliens.

It was a scene out of a fairy tale.

And Leif was the prince.

* * *

 A week later Oliver, his mom and Gary sat in a lawyer’s office downtown for the reading of Gramps’ Will.

No one had had any idea that he’d owned anything of value to bequest considering he lived in senior housing.

Mom, however, was excited to hear what Gramps had left her. Gary the interloper came along to see what he could sponge off her, no doubt.

Oliver slouched at the window, bored and glum as they waited for the executor and lawyer to arrive. Suddenly, he noticed the red fox trotting down Main Street as bold as he pleased.

The animal stared up at Oliver as if the lawyer’s office was his destination, then he waited just below the second-story window.

Oliver straightened and blinked, wondered if he was hallucinating, especially when he caught the familiar sight of Gramps beside the fox, waving up at him from the pavement in his favorite overalls and blue-to-match-his-eyes T-shirt.

“Sorry to keep you all waiting.”

Oliver turned from the window to see the tall ginger in a charcoal designer suit enter the office.

When he sat down behind his desk and Oliver finally noticed the nameplate—Felix

Meadows—something shifted inside him.

“You’re Leif’s father?”

Mr. Meadows nodded. “You must be Oliver. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Oliver felt Mom and Gary looking from him to Mr. Meadows and back again. He swallowed. “You have?”

Mr. Meadows grinned. “Leif is very fond of you. He says you’ll make a fine veterinarian someday, just like my wife.”

Oliver felt himself blush.

Gary groused. “Yeah, so, let’s get down to business.”

“And you are?” Mr. Meadows asked.

Gary put an arm around Mom like he owned her. “This fine woman’s husband.”

“Hmph.” Unimpressed, Mr. Meadows flipped through the folder on his desk and began to explain Gramps’ Will.

The more he disclosed, the redder Mom and Gary turned and the more shocked Oliver became.

It seemed Gramps had been craftier than anyone knew, investing well and squirreling away a veritable mint over the years. And everything he’d accumulated—fancy house, classic cars and cash totaling over five million dollars—now belonged to Oliver.

“We’ll contest!” Gary stood, blustering and huffing like the Big Bad Wolf.

“That’s your privilege. I assure you, however, Mr. Magnus was of sound mind and body when he had me draw up his Will. It’s ironclad.”

“You’ll hear from our lawyer.” Gary grabbed Mom’s hand and dragged her to the door but she glared at Oliver over her shoulder as if it was his fault Gramps hadn’t trusted her with his fortune.

Rusty trotted into the office as they left and plopped on Mr. Meadows’ feet.

Mr. Meadows crouched and affectionately rubbed the red fox behind his

pointy ears. They looked so right together.

“Is he yours?” Oliver asked.

Mr. Meadows stood, an enigmatic smile on his face, but he didn’t answer. “You should come by for dinner sometime. I and Leif’s mother would be happy to have you. And so would Leif.” He squeezed Oliver’s arm on his way to the door. “Your grandfather loved and was very proud of you, Oliver. I can see why.” Then he left and closed the door behind him.

Oliver flopped back on the sofa, barely noticed when Rusty whined and head-butted his leg.

He was a multi-millionaire. It was a lot to take in, but he could pay for school and live the life he’d always wanted, without so much scrimping and struggling.

He could donate to the shelter. He could take care of Mom, but only if she got some help. He wasn’t going to throw away Gramps’ money after the old spellcaster had entrusted it to him.

“You’re a good person.”

Oliver turned to see Leif sitting beside him. “What the—?” He tumbled off the sofa to the carpeted floor, staring up at his new boyfriend. “How did you…?” Oliver stopped when he realized Rusty was gone. “No way!”

“Way.” Leif smirked and calmly stood over him. Clad in a pair of black jeans and a green T-shirt that set off the color of his long-lashed eyes and copper-gold waves, he looked like any normal teenager.

Except he was a magickal being who could shapeshift!

Leif proffered his hand and Oliver took it to let Leif pull him to his feet and into Leif’s waiting arms. “You're not afraid of me?”

“No.” Oliver said.

His boyfriend was the red fox.

And Oliver had a reason to smile.

March 24, 2021 21:02

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2 comments

Tera King
02:36 Apr 02, 2021

im sorry but this is just- marvelous? perfect? too great to give me any words that work? All of the above! Great job!

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03:31 Apr 02, 2021

Thanks so much, Tera! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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