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Try a Little Tenderness

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Everything felt like it was a little bit brighter at school that Monday. The fluorescent lights of the school buzzed above and the chatter in the halls was light and airy. Even the couch in English didn’t seem so worn and filthy as Bram sat down next to Garrett.

Garrett turned to him right away.

“Well,” Garrett said, playfully smirking. Bram rolled his eyes. “Don’t you look nice.”

Bram shoved up the sleeves of his sweater, smiling like he couldn’t help it. “Sorry about running out on you.”

Garrett laughed. “Dude, I don’t even care, your face right now is so worth it. You’re fucking glowing, bro. I can’t wait ‘till Spier gets here.”

Bram elbowed him. He opened his mouth to answer, but Garrett’s eyes darted behind him, and he grinned widely. When Bram turned around he made eye contact with Simon right away. Simon lit up right when he saw them, and Bram’s heart sped up when Simon walked right over.

Simon said hi to them both and Bram scooted towards Garrett to make room for him. Simon’s arm brushed against his as he sat close enough that their thighs touched.

Bram couldn’t bring himself to look away from Simon, and for the first time, he didn’t have to worry how long he stared. Simon was wearing a pair of fitted jeans and a soft looking t-shirt, and a pair of Converse that looked like they had seen many, many better days. He tapped his fingers on his knee in a nervous gesture that Bram wondered if he even realized he was doing.

Garrett leaned around him and complimented Simon on the play, and Bram watched Simon’s expression turn to that of surprise. As Garrett ruthlessly threw Bram under the bus about how many times they went to the play, Bram’s stomach twisted. If he wouldn’t have been so worried about Simon not wanting Blue to be him, Simon wouldn’t have had to spend so long thinking Bram didn’t want to be with him so badly.

Simon was watching him again, and Bram felt the same flutter he always associated with Simon’s gaze. All he really wanted was to hold Simon’s hand again.

“Did you do the reading?” Simon’s cheeks were pink, and Bram wanted to touch them.

Bram smiled. “I did.”

There was a lot of time to read Chopin when you thought you were being dumped by a boy that didn’t even know who you were.

Simon’s eyes were bright as he said he didn’t, and Bram smiled at him. He felt like he was going to be doing a lot of smiling because of Simon that day. Simon’s arm brushed against his as he leaned forward to dig out his book, and the hair on Bram’s arm prickled. Simon glanced to Bram’s book to see what page they were on as Mr. Wise started reading.

Bram could tell right away that Simon wasn’t paying attention to Mr. Wise. He turned the pages of his book too late and tapped his fingers on the spine as Mr. Wise walked in front of the couch. Bram looked up at him as he passed and blushed when Mr. Wise raised an eyebrow at him. Bram looked back down to his book, hoping he looked embarrassed enough that Mr. Wise wouldn’t come back.

It was like every dream come true when Simon shifted so he could read along with Bram. His arm touched Bram’s again and he felt Garrett laughing on his other side. He was never going to hear the end of it from his best friend, and he didn’t care in the slightest.

Would it be totally horrible to have his first kiss right on the gross couch in AP English in front of everyone?

Instead, Bram shifted so he could nudge his knee against Simon’s. He made it casual enough so Mr. Wise and Garrett wouldn’t notice. Simon didn’t move his knee away and Bram wanted to memorize the way Simon softly pushed back. Bram looked at him; Simon was staring at the spot where their knees touched. He blinked and turned the page of his book because the rest of the class did.

If Bram hadn’t already been completely aware of everything to do with Simon at that very moment, he might not have heard it. Bram wanted to hear that same small sigh again, forever. The sigh that said Simon was falling in love with him, just like he was. When he turned to look at Simon, Garrett did too, and Bram could already feel the merciless teasing he was going to have to endure after class.

Somehow, the idea didn’t really phase him. Simon was right next to him, blushing, and it was the cutest thing Bram had ever seen.

Mr. Wise read right up through the bell at the end of class, and called out their homework as students were already pushing to get out of the room. Bram made a note of the pages they had to write a review of on the corner of one of his notebooks. When he looked up Simon was standing in front of him, looking like he wanted to say something but couldn’t quite figure out what.

“I’ll see you at lunch?” Bram asked, feeling the same rush of jitters.

Simon grinned. “Yeah. I’ll see you.” Abby materialized next to him and Bram watched Simon walk out with her. Just as they got to the door Simon turned back around and smiled at Bram once more, and Bram felt like he was going to melt into a puddle on the floor.

Bram knew he was staring even after Simon and Abby left the classroom. Garrett clapped him on the shoulder and he jumped.

“I guess I can forgive you for ditching me on Saturday,” he said, squeezing Bram’s shoulders and pushing him forward. Bram pushed him off and looked to the ground, smiling to himself.

As much as he wanted to tell Garrett every detail of what happened at the carnival, there was also a part of him that wanted to keep the moment to himself as long as possible. The thought stuck with him when he saw Abby in chemistry and when he saw Nick in history and both of them gave him the most ridiculous grins. Really, they were both the worst and also perfect for each other.

They were watching a movie in history and it gave Bram the perfect opportunity to figure out a plan. He wanted Simon all to himself for so long, and he was going to make sure they could be alone at least a little bit that day.

By the time lunch rolled around, Bram had his plan finalized. It was just the perfect amount of rebellion and sweet that Bram thought Simon would love it. He dropped off his things at his own locker before making a beeline to Simon’s.

Simon blinked in surprise when he saw Bram, but he smiled a moment after. His expression was soft and happy, and Bram was thrilled to see the sadness in his eyes from the past few weeks was no longer present. Bram ignored his nerves and suggested his idea, and grinned when Simon agreed right away.

Bram looked right out the door as he and Simon walked out of the school. If he made eye contact with the security guard his expression would definitely give them up, and his whole plan would tank if they couldn’t escape the school.

As soon as they made it past the security guard Bram started digging in his pocket to pull out his keys. Simon hand a sweatshirt on but Bram could see him shivering. As soon as unlocked his car he and Simon slid in. Simon shivered next to him, so Bram cranked up the heat as high as it would go.

Simon was in his car. With him. It looked like it was going to rain, so Bram hurried to back out of the spot. He reached towards the cup holder and handed Simon his iPod. Simon gave him a look, and Bram bit his lip. He wondered if he should have just let Simon plug his own iPod in; he always had his on him and always recommended the best music to Bram, which was all there. If anything Simon could just pick one of those.

Simon seemed content scrolling through his music, so Bram tried not to overthink it.

Just as raindrops started drumming onto his windshield, Otis Redding’s voice filled the space around them. Everything was perfect.

*

Bram Greenfeld walked into algebra later that afternoon with his boyfriend. His face hurt from smiling so much, and he could still feel Simon’s mouth on his. The world just seemed brighter after you spent lunch kissing a cute boy. Simon grinned to him as he walked down the aisle where his desk was. Bram walked down the one next to it. They stepped in tandem and Simon glanced at him again as he sank into his seat. Bram looked down at his desk and bit his lip.

Garrett spun around to look at him the second he sat.

“Dude.” Garrett was grinning. “How was lunch?” His tone was playful and Bram felt his cheeks flush.

“Fine.” He chuckled softly.

Garrett laughed. “I bet it was fine.” He looked over to Simon and shook his head.

Bram was saved from Garrett when their teacher started talking. He sank into his desk and opened his book to the page she had written on the board. When he looked up, he glanced across the aisle to Simon. Simon was digging through his bag and when he looked up he met Bram’s gaze. Color filled Simon’s cheeks as he turned towards the front of the class, a small smile playing on his lips.

Bram was right there with him.

When he got home from school that afternoon, Bram went right to the refrigerator for something to eat. While Oreo mush and holding hands was basically the best thing to ever happen to him, it was not a sufficient meal for a seventeen-year-old boy.

“No practice tonight?”

Bram jumped and turned to his mom.

He felt jittery and obvious. “Not on Mondays,” Bram told her.

Monday. The day of his and Simon’s first kiss.

His mom raised an eyebrow at him. “How was school?”

“Fine,” Bram told her. He should tell her. He knew he should. He just didn’t quite know where to start. “I’m going to go work on homework.”

His mom chuckled. God, he really was obvious. She looked down to the leftovers in his hand. “Don’t fill up, dinner’s in the oven.”

Bram escaped to his room and shut the door behind him. He finally let his smile break, unable to help the laughter that escaped him.

He was dating Simon Spier. Simon Spier was his boyfriend that he kissed that day. He resisted the urge to log into Facebook and make it official until he was done with his homework. If he read the words Bram Greenfeld was In a Relationship with Simon Spier, all his plans to study would go right out the window. Plus, his mom was on Facebook and he knew he should probably talk to her at dinner about his boyfriend. Because he had one of those.

There was also the fact that changing his Facebook status meant coming out to everyone . He told his mom and dad and Garrett, and obviously Simon knew. Also, he was pretty sure Nick and Abby figured it out, if their expressions at school were anything to go by. But other than that, the secret was still his. He was Facebook friends with all of the guys from his soccer team, his step-mother, everyone from NHS, and even his grandparents.

He would cross that bridge after dinner.

English was the last thing Bram wanted to think about, but he dragged through it as the rain tapped against his bedroom window. If Bram showed up with anything but a perfect essay after class that day, Mr. Wise would know exactly why. The thought made him cringe.

And smile.

Even as it poured outside, everything felt a little brighter.