The secret came out a few years ago: Parker Knight is gay. Now Parker is sixteen, and everyone has either embraced it, does not care, or has forgotten—everyone except for Dylan Baker. He is determined to make Parker’s life miserable. Parker really thought killing himself would make everything better. If he was dead, he would not have to get kicked around by Dylan and his friends anymore. He would be free. Now, after a failed suicide attempt, Parker just wants to get through the last few months of tenth grade and stay as far away from Dylan as possible. What’s worse is Parker is secretly in love with his best friend, Liam Eriksson. But luckily, Liam doesn’t know this. Parker does not want to risk losing the friendship by telling him his true feelings. But as a tragedy overshadows his already complicated life, Parker soon discovers that the truth has a habit of surfacing in unexpected ways. Parker is the poignant story of one boy’s struggle for acceptance as he reaches out for hope, life, forgiveness and Liam.
I sat on a brown leather sofa in a dark paneled room on the twenty-seventh floor of an office building. It had a big window overlooking the city of Vancouver. The psychologist sat in front of me in a big brown chair with one leg crossed over the other. I wondered if every person who works with social situations knows to sit like that. Maybe they teach it in school, I thought. He held a pen in his hand and a notebook balanced on his knee. I watched as it tilted from side to side. He looked a little disheveled, which took me by surprise for a moment. I thought these people were supposed to be clean-cut and distinguished-like, but he hadn't shaved in what must have been a couple days and he looked like he had more on his mind than I did on mine. I decided that he was probably fifty. He started asking me questions and scribbled short notes in his book when it wasn't almost falling to the floor. I liked that he had an understanding voice under all the scruff. It was the kind you would hope for, in someone you're about to see for a long time. 'So tell me, Parker,' he said, 'why are you here?' I was there because I had caused so much damage in my life. I was there because I had no choice. I was there because there was a lot of blood. I didn't say any of those things though. I simply looked around the room. There were hundreds of books on the shelves and he had diplomas and certificates covering the wall over his desk behind him that made him look legitimate. Then I finally looked at him. 'My parents think I have suicidal thoughts,' I said. He stared through me reaching to my soul. 'And are they right?' he asked. 'Do you have thoughts of suicide?' 'Yeah. I guess so,' I said plainly. 'I see. And what provokes these thoughts?' I was quiet for a while, thinking about my answer and staring at the dark colored carpet. I traced the diamond pattern with my eyes. 'Would it be correct to say that you think of committing suicide?' he asked. 'Yeah,' I said honestly. 'You were taken to the emergency room, yes?' 'Yes.' 'What did that feel like?' 'Scary.' And then he asked me a question I didn't expect him to ask. But I don't know why I didn't expect it. 'Why? Why was it scary?' I hadn't thought about that before. I tried to think back to the moment when I woke up. The moment I didn't anticipate to happen. 'My parents,' I said. 'What about them?' he asked. 'The look in their eyes. They looked so sad.' 'Did you think they were going to be mad at you?' I nodded. 'Yeah. But that was what I thought I was going to avoid.' 'Please explain.' 'I thought that by the time they found me, I would've already been dead. I wouldn't have been able to feel how mad they were at me.' And then without thinking, I added, 'And then they wouldn't be able to send me back to school.' 'What's at school?' he asked. He even sat up a little, as if he had uncovered something interesting and wanted to dig further into it. I'd said too much. I didn't want to say anymore and give him a reason to make me talk about my feelings. I avoided all eye contact he was trying to make and fixated my attention on a painting by the door. It was hard to tell exactly what it was, some sort of abstract or something. There was a mass of colors. They had all been painted across the canvas and ultimately mixed with one another. There was something underneath all the colors too, but I couldn't quite make it out. Suddenly he changed topics and began talking again. It caught me off guard after staring at the painting so intently and made me jump. 'Why did you cut your wrists?' he asked. 'I was angry,' I answered on reflex. 'Angry enough to put yourself in so much danger?' I decided not to answer and went back to looking at the diamond carpet. 'Death is a huge commitment,' he said. I thought it was weird that he used "commitment". As if it were a relationship we were talking about. 'I wanted to get out,' I told him. 'I wanted to escape.' Where was all this coming from, I thought? And why was I telling him? I didn't even know him. But it was like it was just gushing out and I couldn't control or filter any of it. I looked up at him then, before looking back down at my shoes. 'More than anything,' I said quieter than before, 'I just wanted the pain to stop.' 'What pain do you feel, Parker? What gives you pain?' I looked up at him again. I was here for a reason, right? I might as well say it. Plus I didn't want to be here for any longer than I had to. 'Kids in my class. One kid in particular.' 'What do they do?' 'They make fun of me. They push me around when there are no teachers watching.' 'Why do they do this?' I looked straight into his eyes and inhaled. 'Because I'm gay.' It seemed a lot scarier in my mind than when it left my mouth. His face didn't change at all. 'I see, and what do you do after they hurt you?' he asked. 'I hurt myself...I cut myself...my wrists.' 'And this makes the pain go away?' 'No, but for a minute, when I'm doing it, I don't think about the pain they put me through. I only think about the pain in my arms.' 'And the last time you did this was supposed to be your suicide?' he asked calmly. How morbid to talk about my suicide, I thought. But I nodded nonetheless. 'Why was that time so final?' Final. Again with the words. 'I'd had enough,' I told him. 'I'd decided I couldn't take it anymore.' He nodded, which I thought was odd. I thought that after I didn't get one from Clara, I'd for sure I'd get a lecture on all the wonderful things in life I'd miss out on from him. Instead, he asked, 'Do you have anyone your age you talk to about this?' I looked at the books on the shelves again and tried to read the titles while I wondered if he was trying to get rid of me, then I turned back to him. 'My best friend Liam. I talk to him.' 'And Liam listens to you?' 'Yeah.' 'And he understands you?' 'Sometimes I think he's the only person in the whole world who really understands me.'
stephanie macneil was born in Ottawa, Ontario, but now lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Her goal is to become a screenwriter. Parker is her first book.