Read The Alliance Online

Authors: Gabriel Goodman

The Alliance

Text copyright © 2013 by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

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Main text set in Janson Text LT Std 55 Roman 12/17.5
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Goodman, Gabriel.

The alliance / by Gabriel Goodman.

pages cm. — (Surviving Southside)

ISBN: 978–1–4677–0595–0 (lib. bdg. : alk. paper)

[1. Gay-straight alliances in schools—Fiction. 2. High schools—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.G61366A1 2013

[Fic]—dc23

2012032139

Manufactured in the United States of America

1 – BP – 12/31/12

T

he
Houston Chronicle
buried the story about Jamie Ballard in section B, page 8, the same day Mr. and Mrs. Ballard buried Jamie.

I sat at the memorial, glad to see the room was full. Glad to see I wasn't the only one who cared. It was only three weeks into senior year, and hardly anybody at school had said anything about Jamie. I only overheard, “Ya hear about Jamie Ballard? Little faggot went and killed himself.”

“You need a new suit,” Cory said, tugging at the collar wrapped tight around my throat. “You're gonna suffocate.”

She was right. The suit barely fit. I'd packed on a lot of muscle over the summer, training hard to make sure I was a starter my last year on the football team. When I heard about Jamie, getting a new suit had been the furthest thing from my mind. All I could think about was how Mrs. Ballard sounded when she called to tell me. I'll never forget that voice. Like it had been shredded with razors.

I couldn't stop looking at Jamie's mom and dad sitting up by the closed casket. Jamie's senior picture was in a frame on a table between them. Mr. Ballard tried hard to smile and thank people for coming. Mrs. Ballard … She could hardly do anything. She just sat there, limp, sobbing without making a sound.

I felt Cory's cool fingers lace with mine. Tearing my eyes away from Mrs. Ballard, I smiled at Cory. “Thanks for coming with me. Missing a day of school and all.”

She wrinkled her nose and played with the tiny cross that hung from her neck. “I'm here for you, Scott Joshua King. You remember that.”

“I know you and Jamie weren't exactly friends …”

“He meant a lot to you,” she said, squeezing my hand and smiling, “and you mean a lot to me. It doesn't matter if Jamie and I were friends. You're hurting, and if I can help,
that's
what matters.”

I pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead. Cory
had
always been there for me, ever since we started dating a year ago. She was so good to me.

Jamie and I used to hang out on the roof of his house, watching stars. I would tell him how great Cory was. Sometimes I think he got jealous. But Jamie and I had been best friends since kindergarten. He knew we were buds, no matter who I dated.

As people wove around the funeral home, I eavesdropped on Jamie's family members sharing stories about him. In some stories he was a bratty kid. In others he was an angel. Every story was absolutely true. Jamie was all those things. But the one thing nobody in the room mentioned: Jamie was also gay.

Sometimes I tried to imagine what it was like to be him. When he came out to his parents, they told him they still loved him. The rest of his family, though, wasn't that nice. He used to tell me about the nasty looks he got from aunts and uncles at family gatherings when they thought he wasn't looking. He didn't care. “They'll miss me when I'm gone,” he used to say.

I wondered if that was a sign. That I should have seen he was thinking about killing himself. It hurt my head to think about it. But he was right. The family who had whispered about him like he was some dirty secret sure missed him now. Mainly because they were pretending he'd never come out.

Jamie didn't deserve relatives like that. Nobody does.

Pastor Jacobs, who'd known Jamie since he was born, said really nice things about Jamie and urged us all to hold him in our hearts. I stood at the back of the room, a lump in my throat. Cory rubbed my back. I'd promised myself I'd hold it together. But by the time Pastor Jacobs was done, I don't think anyone could stop crying.

Things started breaking up as people filed out to head to the cemetery. I was just about to leave when Mr. Ballard touched my shoulder.

“Scott,” Mr. Ballard said, “would you help my wife to the car?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. Mrs. Ballard could barely stand on her own. I took one hand, and Cory took the other. We walked her slowly out to the Lincoln Town Car parked right behind the hearse. She never said a word, not even when Cory said how sorry she was about Jamie and that she was praying for the Ballards.

I looked back at the door of the funeral home. The funeral director and his assistants were bringing the casket through to load it into the hearse. Mr. Ballard stood in the entry, talking to a sheriff's deputy. He reached into his pocket and handed the deputy something shiny. Even from that distance, I knew what it was: Jamie's cell phone. It was hard to miss in its silver sparkle case. The deputy tipped his hat and walked away.

I handed Cory my keys. “Can you start the car? I'll be right there.”

When Cory went to start the car, I intercepted Mr. Ballard. “Everything okay, sir? I noticed the deputy.”

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