Richard is working at the Help Line his senior year and one night he answers the call that will change his life. On the other end is Shelby who is attempting suicide. The only person on the campus by that name is another senior who is a classical pianist that he's been admiring since freshman year.
With the help of another worker, Richard locates Shelby and gets him to the hospital - saving his life. The two find that they have a connection and start dating. A date for pizza, a LGTB mixer and a memorable first time together in a planetarium build a relationship between the two. When it comes time to graduate, will the two be able to stay together or will opportunities pull them apart?
The telephone rang, and Richard Taylor picked it up. "Hello, Emmerson Community Hotline. How can I help you?"
"I think I might kill myself."
Richard nearly fell off his chair. He'd been a member of the suicide prevention committee for three years, and this was his first emergency call. "Who is this?"
"My name is Shelby."
He recognized the voice. Shelby Mitchell was a senior at the university, a bit of a loner, and said to be exceptionally gifted in the field of music. "Where are you?"
"Alone," Shelby answered.
He had a sweet tragic voice that made Richard's heart skip a beat. "Don't do it, Shelby. Nothing can be that bad. What happened?"
Jeb Nelson, the other senior on call, had turned on the scanner, trying to pick up where the call was coming from. All Richard had to do was keep Shelby talking for a while.
"My parents just found out that I am gay and asked me never to come home again."
Richard frowned. Why did that sound familiar? "Maybe they didn't mean it, Shelby. Parents act funny to that type of news sometimes. I'm sure they will change their mind once they get used to the idea."
Shelby chuckled weakly. "I don't think so. You don't know my parents. Once they say something, it's pretty much written in stone."
"Then why did you tell them?" Richard asked.
"Because they deserve to know. Or, at least I thought they did. Lately, I haven't been sure about a lot of stuff."
"Are you on some kind of medication?" Richard asked.
"Yes, and I've been drinking."
"What are you drinking?"
"Beer," Shelby answered. "This is a college town, and everything closes down early, remember?"
Richard looked at the number. It seemed to be coming from somewhere on the campus. "Are you a student?"
"Yeah," Shelby replied. "My grades have been sucking lately, and I think I'll be asked to leave the campus."
Richard didn't think so. If it was Shelby Mitchell, the young man had straight A's since their freshman year. He probably made a B or something. That was devastating for geniuses. "So, what's the worst that can happen if you never hear from your parents again?" Richard asked.
"What? Man, are you kidding me? What kind of question is that for you to ask?"
"I'm just trying to find out why you think life is so horrible that you have to end it all," Richard said.
"Only a person with perfect parents would say something like that."
He's crying. "That isn't true. My parents reacted the same way when I came out to them four years ago." He hadn't spoken to them since, and not once had he ever thought about killing himself.
"What did you do?" Shelby asked.
Jeb raised a thumb. He'd traced the number. He wrote something down quickly.
"Nothing. I don't give a fuck what others think of me," Richard answered. "And you shouldn't either. What do you think will happen to your boyfriend if you just end it all? He'd be devastated."
"I don't have a boyfriend. Guys around here are so lame."
"Thanks," Richard said. "Now you've hurt my feelings."
"I'm sorry. You do sound like a decent guy, but all I've encountered since I've been here is a bunch of whores after one thing."
Richard tried to conjure up Shelby's image. He saw a lot of curly blond hair, over-sized clothing, and gold-rimmed glasses.
Jeb gave the piece of paper to Richard. Shelby was in a dorm not too far away from him.
"I don't have a boyfriend either, so would you like to join me for coffee and talk this thing out?"
"Are you asking me out on a date?" Shelby asked.
Richard heard the surprise in his voice. "Yeah."
"What part of I'm thinking about killing myself don't you understand?"
"Are you a top or a bottom?" Richard asked as he headed toward the door. He wondered how much reach the phone had. Hopefully, it wouldn't hang up before he reached Shelby.
"I don't know. A bottom, I think. Why?"
"Because I'm a top, and if we hit it off, things could get messy if we were both tops."
That got a small chuckle out of Shelby.
"What kinds of things do you like to do?" Richard asked as he headed for Shelby's dorm.
"Star-gazing, I guess, or video games."
"How old are you?" The legal age to drink beer was twenty-one.
"Twenty-two," Shelby answered.
Richard found the place. "Do you like pizza?"
"We could order one and stay up talking."
"What if I said I just wanted you to give me a hug?" Shelby asked.
"I can do that," Richard said. "All you have to do is open the door."
"I'm on the other side of your door," Richard replied. "Let me in, Shelby, and take a chance on me."