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Soccer Background Cover 3.2 Titled copy

“She said that?” The leather chair creaked as Darryl leaned forward. “To you? I hope you set her straight – no pun intended.”

The silly ‘gay/straight’ humor that pervaded their house failed to make Dean smile.

“Not really.” Darryl looked ready to fight, so Dean took a deep breath and shook his head. “I…it took my legs out, you know? I mean, I didn’t know what to say.”

Even now, an hour after he’d dropped Hanna off at her dorm, he couldn’t find the right words.

“You should have told her this is the twenty-first century and bigots like her should join the Westboro Church or something.” Darryl stood up with a jerk. He turned toward the kitchen then spun around. “Didn’t you at least tell her your brother was gay?”

“I…no. I just said it didn’t matter. That Blake was a good player and a nice guy.”

Hearing the words outloud, Dean wanted to hide. It sounded to him like he’d been ashamed, so he knew how his friend would take it.

“That’s it?” Darryl’s eye went wider. “You didn’t…I don’t know…mention your brother plays on the same team and he’s gay too?”

“Honestly, at the moment, I had no idea what to say.”

“Fine, that was then. What about now?” With his eyebrow raised, Darryl looked like a disapproving teacher Dean had in high school.

“Well I figured…to be honest….”

“You keep saying, ‘to be honest,’ but you weren’t all that honest with Hanna.”

“Look–” Dean stood up to escape the accusing glare he knew he deserved. “–I…maybe I could have done it differently, but shouldn’t I use this as a chance to educate her? I mean, if she likes me, she’ll get to meet Jason and Peter – and Blake too – and see there isn’t anything different about them other than who they like.”

When Darryl’s lips tightened and twisted into an almost frown, Dean knew that wasn’t the right answer. “It doesn’t work that way, Dean. Are you sure you’re not thinking with the little head here? I mean how do you think Jase is going to feel knowing what your girl friend thinks about gays in the locker room?”

“This isn’t about Jason….”

“Bullshit!” The venom dripped from the word. “You’ve got some stones saying that. He’s always putting you first. How….”

“Stop!” Dean waved his hand toward Darryl. ” That’s not what I meant. You didn’t let me finish.”

Darryl’s eyes narrowed and he licked his lips. “Fine. Continue.”

The look on his friend’s face said, ‘this better be a damn good explanation.’ Exhaling, Dean collected his thoughts.

“What I mean is this isn’t about one person. If you just look at Hanna and stamp bigot on her forehead…”

“Or somewhere else you were looking.” Darryl whispered.

“…you never get the chance to educate her. I’m not saying I agree with her, but if I just walk away, she remains a homophobe. If I tried to convince her she’s wrong by showing her that it’s no big deal, then there’s one less bigot in the world.”

Darryl raised both eyebrows for an instant then started to nod. His face contorted a few times to show he at least considered Dean’s comment.

“That’s…sorry, Dean. I should have let you finish. Props to you for thinking with more than your dick, but it really doesn’t that way.”

He felt like a bit of a fraud because he hadn’t really thought about what he’d said until just now when he was forced to defend himself. But having put it out there, he liked what he’d said. “You don’t know that.”

“Remember that scrape Jase and I got into at the Mall when we were twelve?”

“How can I forget, you bring it up all the time.”

“Yeah, well it was a defining moment for me. It’s when I realized that other than your brother, my other ‘friends’ just tolerated the black kid, but weren’t really my friend.”

He’d heard his brother and Darryl have this discussion many times before. “C’mon, D, just because they ran away and didn’t stick around for the fight, doesn’t mean they didn’t like you cause you’re black.”

“You’re a lot like you’re brother.” Darryl snorted softly and smiled. “You think everyone sees the world like you both do. I’m not your black friend; I’m your friend. Just like Jason isn’t my gay best friend, he’s my best friend.”

“I’m not sure what this has to do with Hanna and me.”

“Jordan was on of my ‘friends’ that ran off when the fight started.”

“Yeah, he left and let you and Jason get beat up.”

“Right, except I don’t think he expected Jason to stick around.” Darryl shrugged. “The point is, after that day, I never trusted him, but your brother always defended him. Said the same thing you did about how Jordan abandoned us both and that meant he was afraid not a racist.  But I knew better. Sure he said the right things and acted like he cared, but he never changed. It was all an act. He pretended to be someone else because he knew Jason wouldn’t be friends with him otherwise.”

Darryl didn’t need to recite what Jordan had done to Peter to make the point. “So you don’t think Hanna can change.”

“Honestly? No. Or at least, you can’t make her change.” Darryl shrugged again. “But I’m sure if you asked you’re brother he’d tell you to try.”

“You disagree?” It came out like a question, but Dean knew the answer.

“She might say what she thinks you want to hear, and act differently when you’re around, but she’ll still feel the same.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because that’s what Jordan did; pretended to my face and Jason’s but talked shit about me when he thought it wouldn’t get back to us.”

“She’s not him.” Dean wasn’t entirely sure why he was arguing.

Darryl shook his head. “No she’s not.”

Dean didn’t respond. Their talk hadn’t made things any clearer. He needed time to think so he stood up. “Thanks, D.”

Vaguely he heard Darryl answer, but he was too lost in his thoughts as he took the stairs to his room.

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