Love Incorporated
By Elena Lane
Date: August 27, 2021
Ch. 88

After laser tag, they went to the attached pizzeria for a quick bite to eat and to rest from their surprisingly aggressive laser tag battle. Tabitha had wanted to go elsewhere for their meal, but Braxton wouldn’t budge. He promised that it was the best pizza in town. Tabitha didn’t have much confidence in his assertion; she didn’t even think the pizza would be good let alone the best, but Braxton convinced her to give it a try and Tabitha was definitely glad that she did. Braxton was right. It was the best pizza in town, but since she didn’t want to over inflate his ego, she just said, “This is actually pretty good,” as she took her first bite.

Braxton smirked, “This is better than pretty good and you know it.”

“Fine. It’s better than pretty good, but that’s no reason for your head to grow three sizes, Decker. So, I don’t want to hear your gloating. It’s not like you’re the one who made the pizza. If you had, then, you could gloat, but only then.”

“But I was the one to suggest eating here. So, yes, I actually have a right to gloat a little.”

Tabitha giggled. There was a certain charm about Braxton that she was drawn to. He acted like an arrogant jerk sometimes, but she knew that it was only a façade. Beneath, he was a really sweet and funny guy. “You’re a good guy, Braxton,” Tabitha said with more sentimentality than she had intended.

He chortled, “There are very few people in the world who call me a good guy.”

“Well,” She answered sincerely, “That’s because your goodness is the one thing you refuse to brag about.” It was true. Braxton wouldn’t be above bragging about his new car or his handsome looks, but he wasn’t the type of guy who bragged about doing good deeds. If he gave to charity, it was an anonymous donation; in general, he kept as quiet as he could when he did good things; that was an admirable trait to Tabitha because Braxton didn’t need recognition. He simply did good deeds for the sake of being kind. Of all the attributes on Tabitha’s list for a perfect boyfriend, it was no coincidence that kindness and generosity were at the top. She found both traits to make a hot guy seem even hotter.

“So,” Tabitha began, not so smoothly transitioning the conversation to something that had been weighing on her mind since she had first started to realize her feelings for Braxton. “You were expelled from your first school. Then you came to my school. Why?” Tabitha asked. She didn’t like the idea of dating a delinquent, even if she really liked Braxton.

“I’m sure it won’t sound nearly as bad as the things you’re imagining.”

“If it’s not that bad then you might as well tell me.”

“I’ll tell you if that’s what you really want to hear about.”

“I do. So, start talking.”

“Well, you know how I went to St. Bartholomew’s?” Braxton started.

“I thought you went to St. Margaret’s?”

“No, I definitely did not,” Braxton laughed. “But anyway, it’s a catholic school.”

“Yeah. So?”

“They weren’t a fan of gay people, but they always taught us to be loving and respectful,” Tabitha’s heart clenched. He was about to ruin a perfectly wonderful date by bringing his family’s bigotry into the conversation and even though Tabitha hadn’t yet heard the end of his story, she had a bad feeling that Braxton had done something inappropriate to a gay student and had consequently gotten expelled. As much as she was attracted to Braxton and liked talking to him, being a hater of gay people was a deal breaker for Tabitha. She had two dads and knew firsthand how painful that bigotry could be. It was something that she refused to put up with.

“Please don’t tell me that you got into trouble for fighting with a gay person or something because I’m not the kind of girl who will forgive a hate crime,” Tabitha said firmly.

Braxton laughed a little, “It was quite the contrary, really. While St. Margaret’s and some other similar schools actually were tolerant and respectful to gay students, St. Bartholomew’s was really strict about it. I had a gay friend and when he finally gathered the courage to come out, they gave him two options: ‘repent’ and let them try conversion therapy or ‘go to hell’ and leave the school.”

“Can they even do that?” Tabitha said with rage in her voice.

“Apparently,” Braxton said sadly and added, “the school had a reputation of being ‘a safe Christian sanctuary’ that held fast to the teachings of the church and the bible. That’s why my parents sent me there. As you know, they are strongly against homosexuality and they didn’t want me to go to a school where such a thing could be accepted.”

“That’s terrible,” Tabitha said with a disheartened voice.

“Tell me about it.”

“But I still don’t understand. What does this have to do with you getting expelled.”

“Well, I saw my school as being run by bunch of hypocrites. The way I saw it was that if they couldn’t love and respect gay people, then they didn’t understand what it meant to be loving and respectful. So, I did something about it. I started to protest for Kenny, the gay friend I was telling you about. I made armbands, posters and t-shirts. We’d wear the arm bands and t-shirts instead of our uniform and hang the signs without permission. It was a protest for what we thought was right, but it wasn’t well received by the parents or the administration. From there, things exploded; the students were angry about the whole Kenny thing and the administration was angered at the students’ defiant behavior. So, to put an end to the rebellious behavior, they not only kicked Kenny out just as they had initially promised, but they expelled me as well since I was the leader of the protests and because they needed to set an example to the other students, scaring them into compliance.”

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