Chapter 28: Jacky

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Jacky had spent three days going out of his mind with worry, and that one hug hadn't done much to make him feel better

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Jacky had spent three days going out of his mind with worry, and that one hug hadn't done much to make him feel better. Especially after what happened in gym class.

After last Thursday's conversation with Ryan, and his session with Dr. Greene, Jacky had come up with a plan to give gym class another try. It was a soccer unit, after all – no sweat.

In the locker room, however, Jacky wasn't feeling quite so good about his decision. Ryan had deserted Jacky for his friends right after that amazing hug, and Jacky had walked to gym class alone. He had arrived before anyone else, and shut himself up in one of the bathroom stalls to change so no one would stare at him.

The locker room door thumped open, allowing a brief explosion of the hallway chatter to enter, then thumped shut again. By the voices, Jacky knew it was the whole group of jocks. Including Ryan.

"What's up with you and that freak?" Jacky heard Lance ask.

Jacky froze.

"Freak?" Ryan had carefully measured out the word - he didn't sound angry that Lance would call Jacky a freak, but he didn't sound happy, either.

"Yeah. That kid with the one arm. When did you get to be such good friends with him? Were your moms friends or something?"

Jacky's heart, already pounding from anxieties about gym class, sounded so loud in his ears that feared someone would hear it as he waited for Ryan to call Lance out.

"No," said Ryan.

And that was it. Conversation over.

Jacky yanked his sweatshirt off and put on his t-shirt. Then he sat down on the toilet seat.

Maybe Dr. Greene would give him a pass if he explained the situation. She knew about Ryan. "Do you think having a friend in gym class will help?" she had asked. Jacky had been sure it would, especially if that friend was Ryan.

Stupid. Ryan wasn't about to admit to his friends that he was gay.

The more Jacky thought about it, the more Ryan's hug earlier had been a way of not explaining anything. Not telling Jacky what had been going on the past three days.

The door thumped as a big group of guys headed into the gymnasium. Jacky closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then stepped out of the bathroom stall. I can do this, he told himself. His legs felt like jelly and his head was miles away.

When he stepped onto the wooden floor, no one turned to stare at him. He kept his head down while he approached Coach Ward. "Um, hi," he started.

Coach Ward looked up. "Yes?"

"I wanted to try participating in class today."

"What?"

Jacky raised his voice and spoke clearly, like he was talking to an idiot. "I talked to my doctor and I want to try participating in class today."

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