The girls at school call her easy, call her slut, call her market, but her name is Marikit. It means beautiful, she tells Cooper, as he tries to comb the gum out of the great waves of her hair.
They are thirteen years old, and he is her best friend.
They aren’t dating, and even if they were, she still wouldn’t be a whore.
Cooper’s parents like Marikit. She is bright and pretty, like all good girls are.
Michael Anderson waits for her to be his son’s first kiss.
And his wife, Constance, waits for the tears. Friendships between boys and girls never end well.
When he is fifteen, Cooper darts forward while Marikit is in the middle of explaining why a horror movie they have just seen is stupid (all the good ones are rated-R and we totally should have snuck in to see something better), and kisses her.
He’s so nervous he practically bounces off her face.
She laughs at him, shakes her head and puts an arm around his shoulders. It is the last moment they will ever be the same size.
Cooper grows three inches that summer at baseball camp, another two that fall. His shoulders broaden, and Marikit thinks it strange the way people look at her now when they spend time together, like she’s something to envy, like she’s something to pity.
Marikit is a National Merit Scholar finalist. She attends dance class three times a week, takes AP biology, and still wears her curly hair down to her ass. She pays the price for that with glasses, and with that one time she gets suspended for shooting Nerf arrows at Cooper in the Humanities classrooms hall.
Their school has a no tolerance policy, and a foam arrow is still an arrow.
Her parents, amazingly, find the whole thing halfway funny, and so they halfway ground her. She can’t go out, but Cooper can come over and babble at all he wants as long as they leave the door open, even though they haven’t kissed again and he’s not her boyfriend.
They kiss again.
Marikit and Cooper kiss again after five girls grab her on a Tuesday afternoon after lunch, shove her halfway down an up staircase, and cut off her braid.
She comes sobbing to him, and he doesn’t know what else to do.
“This is a very stupid idea,” she says, when she dries her tears.
He laughs at himself, and they are fine. She is, and has always been, his best friend.
But they do kiss now, at the movies, and at the mall, and when Cooper steals into the yards of the families she babysits for once it’s reached full dark.
Cooper’s never been loyal to anyone the way he’s loyal to Mari; it’s not something anyone has ever taught him how to do.
They have sex, after junior prom, which they go to as friends, thank you very much, just to get it out of the way.
It’s awkward, and it hurts a bit, and Marikit doesn’t come she doesn’t think, but at least Cooper has the decency to go down on her and really try.
He actually looks up from between her legs at one point and says, “This is seriously amazing.”
She laughs so hard, rolling on her back and kicking her feet in the air, --“Cooper!” she squeals – that she almost kicks him in the face.
Marikit gets pregnant.
“First time out,” she sulks at Cooper after he’s done falling over.
“We should totally do it again,” he says. After all, what does it matter now?
Somehow she laughs.
She still doesn’t come.
“Whatever we do,” he says, after, “we have to be on the same team. Because you need to know right now, my parents and I aren’t.”
“Cooper,” she snaps, because he’s an idiot. “I already knew that.”
For as long as she can, she saves her crying for when she is alone.
They tell Cooper’s parents first, then hers.
It goes about the way they expect, which is to say, it is remarkably unpleasant, although Marikit needing to vomit in the middle of telling her parents (which winds up happening in the Anderson’s living room, oh god) has two startlingly positive results.
The first, is that everyone stops yelling.
The second, is that everyone finally figures out this is real.
Marikit says, “I don’t want to do this,” and Cooper’s eyes fill with tears.
She wonders if it is a trick he learned to get ice cream as a child.
“I didn’t say I won’t, just that I don’t want to.”
Marikit winds up saying that a lot.
Cooper winds up saying that a lot.
“It’ll be better this way,” Cooper’s mother says, running her fingers through her son’s hair.
“It just… seems insane,” Cooper says. He doesn’t know if he means having a son, or saying that he’s his brother.
Only Cooper is allowed to touch Marikit’s hair now.
“Stop petting me,” she yells at her mother one day. “It won’t make me easier.”
The girls at school still call her market.
One, who is the sort of friend you don’t even really like, tells her she should let the bullies catch her now.
“Maybe they’ll take care of it,” she offers. “You know… the baby. Then it won’t even be your fault.”
Cooper offers to be her boyfriend, or to pretend to be her boyfriend, or whatever she wants, really.
“No,” she says, and shoves him.
“My mother’s worried he’ll be as dark as your brother,” Cooper says one day.
“You shouldn’t say things like that to me.”
Cooper has a horrific screaming match with pretty much everyone when they say he can’t be there for the birth.
“It’s my son,” he says.
“You need to stop thinking like that,” his father says, and Cooper puts his fist through a window.
Three days later, he and his father get blind drunk together. It’s sort of great.
Four days later, he tells Marikit about it.
She snorts, and says, “I wish I could have been there.”
“No, absolutely not.” Cooper’s mother says.
“I am giving you my child,” Marikit says.
“Who we would never, ever name something like that.”
“Are you still worried he’ll be as dark as my brother?” she asks.
Cooper’s father tries to be the voice of reason. Obviously, his wife isn’t pregnant, so obviously, it won’t be a secret that Blaine isn’t biologically theirs.
“If we were adopting a baby like normal people, I’d still make sure he’d had a normal name,” Cooper’s mother snaps at her husband one night at the dinner table.
“I like Makisig,” Cooper says quietly, and wonders if his mother hates him now.
“Bland, bland, bland, bland!” Marikit says, going down the list of names that Constance Anderson has deemed acceptable for her son.
And then Cooper smiles. “I have the best idea, but you have to swear to me, we can’t ever tell him.”
Cooper pauses, takes a deep breath and says, “Blaine,” waiting for Marikit to get it.
When she does she explodes into laughter. Cooper is still her favorite.
“We’re moving away, after he’s born,” she tells Cooper on the phone one night.
“How far?” He sounds stricken.
“Just a couple of hours.”
“Three months. After.”
“I’ll make sure you still see him all the time.”
“I know,” she says, but Cooper has less power than he thinks.
Marikit goes into labor on Saturday morning, and in the hospital that night a nurse says something cruel about how it’s fitting, while all her friends are out.
“I don’t have any friends,” she snaps.
Cooper is something else now, and Blaine Makisig Anderson is born into the 5am cold of a mid-October Sunday.
“Meet your brother,” his mother says when he sees his son for the first time later that morning, and Cooper shatters.
Everything feels stolen.
Blaine has curly hair.
Cooper likes to mention this constantly.
His mother says baby hair always falls out, changes.
If anything, Blaine’s hair only gets curlier.
“He’s not as dark as my brother,” Marikit says the week before her family leaves.
Cooper thinks, and is told, that one day, he’ll just start thinking of Blaine as his brother in his head.
He never does.
When he leaves for college he thinks about taking Blaine with him.
Marikit tells him not to, before she heads off to school too.
They are going to opposite coasts, where they both suspect they’ll stay.
At Thanksgivings, Cooper picks her up at the airport and brings her home with him.
“Are you dating now?” his father asks every time.
It is never Cooper who answers.
“I wanted her to meet my baby brother,” he explains, his voice always like a knife.
Blaine is beautiful, with honey eyes, a woman’s mouth, and Marikit’s father’s nose.
“He’s gonna be a heartbreaker, isn’t he?” Cooper asks.
“More than you,” she says without even looking away from the boy.
Blaine grows up small and gentle.
“There’s a lot of her in him,” Cooper’s father always says when, whether Blaine is five or ten, he combs pomade through the boy’s hair for church on Christmas mornings.
“You can’t possibly mean our mother,” Cooper drawls viciously when he’s feeling brave, but then Blaine always gives him this look, and Cooper’s never figured out if it’s hope or fear.
Hope and fear are the same thing; this is what Blaine teaches Cooper.
Blaine who doesn’t need his big brother anymore; Blaine whose friends tease him over the holidays, saying he has a crush on Cooper’s girlfriend (she is not my girlfriend), on Marikit.
“When are we going to tell him?” she asks Cooper.
“Before my parents do.”
Marikit tells Blaine when he is thirteen, and not for a second does he think she is lying.
“Don’t tell our parents we told you,” Cooper says.
“Your parents,” Blaine says, “Not mine, not now.”
Blaine comes out to two months later, and gets beaten at a school dance a month after that.
Cooper is in New York and wants to die. He puts off calling Marikit in San Francisco for two days, and when he does, they convince each other not to get on planes.
“He’s not ours anymore,” she says.
“He did this because of us, you get that, right?” Cooper snaps.
“No more secrets,” she breathes because Blaine is better than them both.
“No more secrets.”
It is Cooper who prevails on his father to make the Dalton thing happen, even if Blaine is going to have to repeat a year of school.
He flies home the week Blaine starts, and watches him slick his own hair.
“Why do you do that?” Cooper snaps, feeling like a father in a way he hasn’t since Blaine was a baby.
“People don’t take you seriously if you have curly hair,” he says, as if repeating something by rote.
“Don’t ever let your mother hear you say that.”
“Cooper?” Blaine asks one night on the phone.
“You don’t mind, do you?”
“What? That you’re gay?”
“No. Not for a second. Not at all. I don’t care, and maybe if I’d raised you and had smaller things to be afraid of and had some fucking problem with your hair – god, our parents are such assholes sometimes – I would. But I don’t.”
“No. Mari doesn’t care. Mari cares less than me. Jesus, she lives in San Francisco, Blaine.”
“Do you think we could go sometime?” Blaine asks. “You and I?”
Cooper takes a deep breath. “I would like nothing more than for our lives to unfuck themselves enough for that to be possible.”
Blaine’s in love and doesn’t know it, which really doesn’t do anything but make Cooper wonder what the hell was going through his head about Mari when they were sixteen.
Then Blaine mentions that Kurt’s at Dalton because of death threats.
Cooper works hard not to buy a plane ticket, again, and then tells Blaine about the bullies that cut off his mother’s hair.
Blaine tells the story to Kurt. “But you can never tell my mother I told you this,” he says, because Kurt doesn’t even know who Blaine’s mother really is.
When he hears the story, he hears Blaine mention curls and after asks what she uses to straighten her hair.
“I kissed him,” Blaine breathes into the phone.
Cooper smiles. “I’m glad.”
On the list of things Cooper does for the son he never raised, going to his boyfriend’s show choir competition in New York City without having met or having plans to meet the kid is probably the most ridiculous.
Because show choir? Kind of freaky.
Kurt isn’t even a soloist. Blaine has explained that Kurt’s group doesn’t really know what to do with his voice.
When Cooper hears it, he understands and is surprised that Kurt is so pretty; because Blaine has given him the very distinct impression that Kurt is the boy in the relationship.
“That’s offensive,” Blaine says, when Cooper says as much.
“So tell me how it is,” Cooper says good-naturedly. He doesn’t have the boundaries with Blaine he should, because he can’t. They’ve barely known each other for so long.
“We’re just… it’s just… I mean, we don’t do anything more than… look, I don’t….”
Cooper wonders at what point it becomes rude to just let Blaine keep babbling.
Then Blaine breathes and stills. “I’m in love with him,” he says.
Cooper laughs and whoops with joy; he’s never been so good at the love thing himself. May Blaine be less broken.
When Blaine transfers to William McKinley, Cooper tells him that if he’s going to do things like this for Kurt, he has to let Kurt hold some things for him too.
Blaine nods into the phone and doesn’t explain that Kurt’s holding plenty. Kurt’s holding him together.
“Makisig,” Blaine says somewhere in the night, his face pressed against Kurt’s chest after they sleep together the first time.
“My middle name. You wanted to know once; I never told you.”
“What is it?” Kurt asks.
Blaine knows he means, on some level, what’s wrong that you’re telling me now?
“Filipino. It means ‘handsome’ or ‘manly,’” Blaine says, and laughs. It’s a fucked up moment for a fucked up confession.
“Are you okay?” Kurt asks.
“You, me, here, now?” Blaine says. “Perfect.”
“Okay.” Kurt kisses the top of head. “Whenever you want to tell me the rest, I’ll be here, just like this.”
Blaine snuggles down into his arms. “I count on it.”
“I slept with Kurt.”
“Did you use a condom?” Cooper practically yells.
“Yes, but it’s not like anyone was gonna get pregnant!” Blaine practically yells back.
“There are other –“
“But that wasn’t why you asked!”
Cooper cracks up. Blaine’s totally right.
He tells Kurt a month after Dave tries to kill himself and Quinn almost dies.
Kurt is agog. Nearly delightfully so.
“My life is a soap opera,” he says.
Blaine thinks Kurt is hardly one to talk, but then Kurt is bombarding him with questions and demanding to meet his mother.
“You’ve met my mother,” Blaine says. “You want to meet Marikit.”
“Wait, don’t I rate in this somewhere?” Cooper asks when Blaine tells him about telling Kurt.
“Mothers are more interesting to him. Also, the stories I tell about you make you seem like kind of a dick.”
“Is that any way to talk about your father?”
“You know it actually creeps me out when you say that, right?” Blaine says.
Cooper snorts. “Me too!”
Blaine considers the possibility that Cooper isn’t his brother or his father, but his friend. It’s not a good thing, but it’s not a terrible thing either.
“I’m going to be spending Christmas Eve with Blaine’s family this year, if that’s all right,” Kurt announces when he comes home from his first semester at NYADA.
“That’s serious,” Burt says.
Kurt raises an eyebrow at his dad. “It’s been serious for a while. And you know that,” he teases.
“Yeah, but you don’t like the Andersons. Hell, Blaine doesn’t like the Andersons. What’s going on?”
“It’s not my story to tell,” Kurt says.
“Yeah, and last time you said that, some kid threatened to kill you and then tried to hang himself in his closet.”
Kurt takes a deep breath. Sometimes he still has to remember what his role was and wasn’t in that particular cause and effect scenario.
“Trust me?” Kurt says.
“If you’re proposing to Blaine or something, he better get permission from me first too,” Burt says.
“Daaaaaaaad! No, oh my god. Like… not until after college and that’s barbaric!”
“Do your parents know I know?” Kurt hisses quietly as they sit too close on a couch waiting for Cooper and Marikit to show up.
“Yes? No? Maybe?” Blaine says in a low voice. “I mean, they pretend I don’t know,” he says, and pats at the back of his hair, ungelled for a change, nervously.
Somehow, stupidly, the first thing Kurt manages to say to Marikit is, “You never grew your hair back out.”
They stare at each other for a long time silently, until she hears Cooper murmur to Blaine, “I wonder which one of them is going to cry first,” and cracks up.
Kurt turns and gives Cooper a wolfish grin. He likes these people.
Later, when Blaine drives him home, Kurt says, “I need to be able to tell my father.”
“Why?” Blaine asks placidly.
“Because I need you not to be ashamed.”
“I’m… I’m not,” Blaine says, puzzled.
“But you don’t know it yet,” Kurt says simply.
Blaine pulls the car over, and Kurt is afraid they’re going to argue in the early hours of Christmas Day.
“I came out because of them,” Blaine blurts.
“Marikit told me, and I came out a couple of month later because I wanted to be the only Anderson that wasn’t a liar, and then I got the shit beat out of me for my trouble.”
“Which means it’s complicated. It sucks to have to confess things that aren’t terrible enough to merit confession. Come on. You know this.”
“So I’m not ashamed. But the story of me isn’t mine to tell, and that’s kinda fucked up.”
That night, Blaine tells Burt Hummel himself.
Two years after Kurt graduates NYADA, when he is making the bulk of his income off voiceovers, and he and Blaine are living together, he calls Cooper and says, “I know this is awkward. I know you’re just Blaine and Cooper. But I’m going to ask your son to marry me, and I’m not about to ask your father for permission.”
The only thing Cooper says is, “Good,” and it’s deeply satisfied and only slightly tinged with anger.
“Can you do me a favor?” Kurt asks then.
“Don’t tell Mari?”
Cooper wonders when Kurt got to start calling her that, wonders if she lets Kurt touch her hair.
Into a silence he can’t guess, Kurt says, “Look, I think… I think Blaine’s always imagined having a mother he could surprise with this type of news, and I want him to be able to have that today.”