“If you like her, just ask her out.”
Bram wasn’t really sure how he got to this point.
It started out just about as innocent as it could be, considering. All of the girls at their lunch table were talking about prospective boyfriends for Simon Spier now that he was officially Out, and Bram was doing his best to not look towards the other side of the table. He prayed they would do the same. Honestly, he didn’t think he would be able to keep it together if Anna said his name to Simon. He already felt like he was too obvious, that Simon had already figured him out and was waiting for just the right time to announce it.
The thing was, Bram was almost certain that Simon Spier was Jacques, the boy in his grade he’d been emailing back and forth with since the start of the school year. Jacques wrote to him just before they started back up at school again and told him he was outed to the universe by a mysterious circumstance, and now back at school, Simon Spier sank in his chair at their lunch table as Anna joked that he and Nick should date.
Garrett was, of course, no help to the crisis going on inside Bram’s head; he was laughing at Nick instead of talking to Bram so Bram could pretend he wasn’t hanging on Simon’s every quietly muttered no.
They were making him a lot happier than they probably should have been.
He looked up from his untouched lunch to see Leah abruptly standing from the table. Naturally Bram looked at Garrett, and he thought about telling him to follow her. But then he noticed Simon looking at them, a fire igniting in his amazing gray eyes.
“If you like her, just ask her out.”
At first Bram was certain that Simon was speaking to Garrett. If Bram’s feelings for Jacques-probably-Simon were noticeable, then Garrett’s secret crush on Leah was blatantly obvious to all parties involved.
However, Simon was not talking to Garrett. Simon was staring right at Bram, annoyance and exhaustion fuming on his face. Bram wished there was something he could do to bring back Simon’s smile that he was so fond of. For not the first time, Bram wished he could sink into his lunch chair and be invisible.
After lunch when Simon wasn’t around and Bram could breathe again, Simon’s words sunk in.
Simon thought he liked Leah.
Simon, whom Bram was pretty sure wrote him a profound email once questioning why everyone assumes straight is the default orientation, thought Bram was straight.
“It’s Spier, isn’t it?”
Bram twitched at Garrett’s voice. Sure, they were walking into the locker room together, but Bram was so lost in his thoughts he could have been on his way into the girls’ bathroom for all he knew.
“Simon?” Bram asked. He tried to feign innocence but his voice was unnaturally high and he knew Garrett could hear right through it.
Garrett looked around the wall of lockers before turning back to him. “The guy? It’s Spier, right?”
Bram stared at his best friend until the corner of his mouth turned up in a smirk. He wanted to hit his head against the locker. Instead he sat on the bench and leaned onto his knees, burying his face in his hands.
“I’m so obvious. I can’t believe he hasn’t figured it out,” Bram muttered.
“Bro, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know,” Garrett said. “Pretty sure he just told you to ask out Leah.” He paused for a second. “Also, don’t ask out Leah.”
Bram gave him an exasperated look. “Also not what I was going for.”
Before Garrett could say anything else the door to the locker room opened again. A few of the guys on their team came noisily through the door, so Garrett squeezed his shoulder and started changing into his practice uniform. Bram took a deep breath and did the same.
Out on the field, Bram tried to forget everything and dug his cleats into the solid earth. When Bram played soccer, he wasn’t the grammar nerd that was too scared to even exchange phone numbers with the boy he was in love with. He was just another player as he jogged along with Garrett and Nick during warmup laps.
After warm-up laps and stretches, their coach called for them to pair off and run drills. Bram stretched his calf muscles while Garrett grabbed them a ball. Soon enough, Bram lost himself in dribbling the ball up the field and passing it back and forth with Garrett. He kicked the ball as hard as he could sideways.
Bram looked up to see Garrett miss his pass, the ball skyrocketing past him. “Sorry!” he called as Garrett chased after the ball. He took the second to look around the field towards the other players.
When he looked towards the white fence around the field he felt like his heart was going to drop out of his chest.
Bram ignored Garrett’s complaints when he got back. He stared towards the fence around the field where Abby and Simon leaned against it, watching them. He knew from Nick that Simon and Abby had play rehearsal that day, and seeing Simon when he wasn’t expecting him had Bram’s stomach doing complicated twists in his chest.
If he would have just been brave enough and exchanged numbers with Jacques when he asked, maybe Simon would be there for him instead of just tagging along with Abby.
He almost jumped out of his shoes when their coach blew his whistle and called for a break.
Without preamble, Nick started walking right over to Abby and Simon. Bram stood with his feet planted to the ground, wishing his cleats would dig in further. Having Simon talk to him once was more than enough embarrassment for one day.
“Let’s go, Greenfeld,” Garrett said from behind him, hands on his shoulders pushing him forward. “If you don’t at least talk to him with real words I’ll start hitting on him instead.”
Once Bram found the ability to move his legs on his own, Garrett dropped his arms and fell in stride with him.
It was fine at first. Bram was okay just standing and listening, and they talked in a group just like lunch. Bram stole glances at Simon whenever he could, wishing he could get over his own fears and say something funny or charming to get rid of the sad expression riddling Simon’s complexion. His eyes looked so bright under the light of the afternoon sun.
It had to be him.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he registered that Simon was talking, but he couldn’t figure out how to keep his attention off of Simon’s mouth and on the actual words coming out of it.
He felt Garrett’s eyes on him, and after a beat, Garrett spoke. “Pretty well.”
There was an awkward moment of silence, before Simon spoke again. “What happens if you really screw up the audition? Can they kick you off the team?”
Bram couldn’t help the quiet laughter that escaped him. “Audition?”
Simon turned a brilliant shade of red and Bram couldn’t help but stare at the spots on his skin. And suddenly Simon was smiling at him, and Bram was smiling back, and it was like he was spinning on a circus ride, stumbling out of control.
It had to be.
Suddenly they’re Jacques and Blue, and Bram is brave enough to give Simon his phone number. He’s brave enough to pull Simon into a hug and tell him that everything was going to be okay, that he could do anything.
He was so lost in Simon’s sad eyes that he didn’t realize they were being called back to practice until Garrett clapped him on his shoulder. The three of them jogged back to the rest of their teammates, and while their coach was going over technique, Bram looked back to the fence again.
Simon and Abby were gone, and Bram knew he needed to do something.
After practice that evening, Bram logged onto his computer and opened two tabs. On one tab, he clicked on his email box, and on the other he Googled Elliott Smith merchandise. The second half of the word merchandise filled itself in, so Bram clicked on the purple link and, with a few more clicks, ordered the t-shirt he knew Jacques would never buy for himself.
Digging through his neatly organized drawer of school supplies, he sifted through a stack of project paper until he found the perfect shade. In as neat of writing as he could, Bram wrote out his cell number. When he looked back up at the screen, the Gmail tab had a small (1) in front of it.
He was going to be brave, just like Simon was today.