Bram tightened his grip on the strap of his backpack as he pushed his car door softly shut. Simon and Nick were sitting inside Simon’s car staring at Nick’s phone when Bram pulled up into the spot in front of them. Neither one of them noticed him so he walked briskly away from his car and towards the school, feeling jittery and uneasy in the same way he always did in the proximity of Simon Spier.
Bram twisted around and sighed in relief when it was only Garrett calling for him. He stopped and waited for Garrett to jog up to him.
“Dude, I just talked to my cousin, he is hooking us up for Halloween,” Garrett said as they fell in stride together.
“That’s awesome,” Bram said, already feeling relaxed from seeing Simon. They made stops at each of their lockers to exchange homework textbooks for English ones and walked into Mr. Wise’s classroom to snag spots on the couch.
“He’s getting a fuck-ton of beer and a bunch of bottles of liquor, too,” Garrett said, much quieter now that they were in the presence of a teacher. Mr. Wise was talking to a younger looking student, so Bram figured they were probably pretty safe.
“How does your cousin have enough money to justify blowing it on alcohol for minors?” Bram asked him.
Garrett shrugged. “I don’t ask and he supplies. It’s a perfect system.”
Nick and Simon didn’t show up to English until right as the bell rang, and Nick dropped onto the couch next to Bram. Simon took the spot next to the other armrest. Mr. Wise spent most of the hour talking about how much of an impact their free response essays would be on their grade, and Bram spent the hour trying not to look to his left. Nick leaned over and whispered to Simon a few times, and even though Bram couldn’t hear what they were saying, it seemed like Simon was having a bad day. He tapped his foot on the floor for most of the hour and only stopped when Martin interrupted Mr. Wise to ask to go to bathroom. The couch moved as Simon shifted so he could rest his elbow on the armrest and press his forehead into his hand.
Apparently, Martin just couldn’t make it past first period. He shot out of his seat and walked right in front of the couch to leave the room. A few snickers from their classmates followed him out the door.
Later at lunch, the only thing Garrett talked about was his party. It was rare that everyone at their lunch table participated in the same conversation, but apparently Garrett’s rager was what finally brought everyone together. Abby talked excitedly about her costume with Morgan and Anna, and Bram pointedly looked at his empty lunch tray when Nick asked Simon if he was going to dress up as Harry Potter, again . Bram bit his lip to hide his smile.
Of course, his excitement for Friday was short lived. He walked into the house and immediately smelled his mom’s cooking.
“Abraham!” his mom called as soon as he shut the door behind him. “Can you come in here?”
Bram kicked his shoes off at the front door and dropped his backpack in the hallway, before heading towards the sound of his mom’s voice.
“Hey, how was school?” she asked. Bram took a spot at their kitchen island across from where she was cutting up vegetables for dinner.
“Fine,” Bram said, “We got our tests back in Algebra.” His mom looked up and raised an eyebrow. “Ninety-six percent.”
His mom smiled. “You know you get that from me,” she said. Bram grinned. He felt like, for being the kid of divorced parents, he really lucked out. While his mom and dad didn’t talk very often, they never had problems between them that put Bram in an uncomfortable spot of having to pick sides. His dad always helped pay for things for Bram and his mom never tried to make it so his dad couldn’t see him.
“So, listen,” she said a moment later, “I know I said I’d be on candy duty this year, but something came up at work.” Bram didn’t miss her hopeful expression. “Weston is hosting it at the office and it would really look good if I made an appearance.”
Bram’s shoulders fell, but he stayed quiet. He spent the entire hour in Algebra trying not to stare at Simon and also thinking of things he could dress up as that would be cool and impress him. Even though he usually ended up sitting on the couch not really talking to anyone at parties, he was still kind of looking forward to seeing Simon outside of school. Even if the thought of Simon talking to him still made him nauseated.
Lately, whenever Bram thought about his crush on Simon, thoughts of Jacques followed shortly behind. Even though they never really defined what they were as they got to know each other over emails, feelings for Jacques had been inevitable. Having a crush on Simon Spier sort of felt like cheating on Jacques.
“That’s okay, Mom,” Bram said. “Garrett can survive without me.”
His mom smiled at him. “Thanks, sweetheart.” She walked around the island and hugged him extra tight, and Bram cringed when she kissed his cheek. “I bought extra Reese’s in case the guilting didn’t work. Want one?”
Bram chuckled. “Bribery is a logical second step.” She walked over to the refrigerator and – with a quick rustle of plastic – tossed him one of them. He shook his head and unwrapped it, dreading the text he was going to have to send Garrett.
After dinner Bram sent Jacques an email about Halloween. He tried not to give anything too specific away and filled the page talking about some of his past costumes. He even tried to guess what Jacques was going to be, even though he knew he probably wasn’t close. He was careful not to mention Garrett’s party, and instead told Jacques about the time his cousin helped him with horrifyingly accurate gore makeup that scared the hell out of his step-mom.
He received a reply later that night and spent the rest of the evening thinking about dressing up being someone else. Maybe if he didn’t have to stay home he could dress up as a superhero with a mask and use the anonymity to flirt confidently with Simon Spier.
Right. He could dream.
He sent a reply to Jacques the following morning as he ate breakfast. His mom always liked to bring up his Green Lantern Tantrum on Halloween and he knew Jacques would get a kick out of the story.
He was surprised when his phone lit up with an email notification while he was packing his things into his backpack. The email was only one line and Bram grinned at the spelling error. He typed back a quick message, and shoved his phone into his pocket.
“I’ll see you later tonight then?” his mom asked at the door. She was wearing a pair of fake vampire fangs and had white streaks in her extra curly hair. “Thanks again for being a good sport about this.”
Bram hugged her. “I’ll just use it as blackmail for the next time you say no to something,” he said lightly. His mom rolled her eyes and shooed him off to school.
If anyone asked, Bram didn’t stare at Simon’s cat tail the entire English period.
Just most of it.
As he expected, Simon’s tail was the highlight of his Halloween. He dumped the bags of Reese’s into a bowl as soon as he got home, and finished all of his homework for the weekend a few hours later. Every time the doorbell rang Bram gave out one of the Reese’s and ate two more, and by the end of the night he was jittery with sugar and bored out of his mind.
Jacques didn’t email him at all after his reaction to his autocorrect fail, and it had Bram wondering if that meant that he was at Garrett’s party. There was a good chance; most of the soccer team and half the junior class was invited. Bram wondered – not for the first time – what it would be like to meet Jacques face to face. He wanted to send a vague text to Garrett about what some of the party goers were wearing, to see if any of them stood out as simple and badass. In the end he didn’t; Garrett seemed to be preoccupied and only texted him to say, Dude I’m pretty sure Leah Burke hates me and what the hell does a fruit basket have to do with anime?
Bram sent Garrett a link to what Bram assumed he was asking about, and didn’t get a reply for the rest of the night. He went to bed as soon as trick-or-treating was over. The next morning he wrote an email to Jacques, and spent the rest of the weekend writing back and forth with him.
Their talks never usually went past casual, light hearted flirting, but when Jacques sent him an email with the subject line ‘Reese’s are better than sex’ Bram couldn’t help the words he typed a reply. Jacques said he had girlfriends in the past and even though it sounded like they weren’t serious, Bram had to know. He phrased it as a joke and spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to think about it.
Theoretically, Bram knew that even if Jacques did have sex with one of his girlfriends, he still hadn’t had sex with a boy. He didn’t know if it was embarrassment at his lack of dating experience or jealousy of the girls, but the thought of Jacques having sex with someone else made Bram’s stomach turn. He was under the impression that he and Jacques were in the same boat when it came to virginity. Now though, he wasn’t as confident.
The next day Jacques’ response cleared his thoughts, and for not the first time, Bram wished he could meet the boy at the other end of the emails. Jacques always had a way of saying just the right thing, and he did it so effortlessly that it made Bram fall for him just a little bit more each time.
Garrett met Bram at his locker on Monday. He looked like he walked right off of the set of Grease ; he had a leather jacket on over a white t-shirt and had his hair slicked back with product.
Bram laughed at him. “Go ahead. Tell me every single detail so I can pretend I didn’t just stay home all weekend and do nothing.”
Technically, emailing Jacques consumed most of his weekend, but Garrett didn’t – and probably wouldn’t ever – know about that.
“I’m going to pretend I’m not still mad at you because I know how you can make it up to me,” Garrett said.
Bram raised an eyebrow in question. Garrett held up a plastic bag, and Bram looked at the green and yellow fabric inside, recognizing it immediately. Bram frowned. “No.”
“Come on, dude, Eisner already said he would get Abby’s.”
“Just take it home. I got it from Karlie Sanchez.” Garrett smirked at him and Bram rolled his eyes. He was sure a reply of, ‘Well, Garrett, that’s great but actually, I don’t think Karlie Sanchez is hot. I much prefer the guy I just spent the weekend emailing about non-hetero sex with.’ would probably not go over very well. And if this was what Garrett needed to do to pretend Bram didn’t see the way he hung on Leah’s every word at lunch, then Bram would support him.
To keep Garrett from realizing his lack of reaction at Karlie’s name, Bram grabbed the bag from his hand and threw it in his locker. Garrett clapped him on the shoulder and they headed towards English.
Tuesday was pajama day which ended in disaster and fueled the Creekwood gossip mill; a group of sophomore girls translated pajamas into corset tops and got dress coded, and loudly protested when they were escorted to the office through the cafeteria. Pictures and videos were all over the Tumblr within the hour.
In the end, Bram wasn’t sure if it was Jacques’ words about being someone else or Garrett’s unrelenting text messages that made him bring the cheer uniform home on Tuesday night. Maybe it was a mix of both. The following morning Bram tugged the uniform out of his backpack, and with a sigh, put it on. His arms and shoulders looked ridiculous, so he grabbed a sweatshirt that he could put on after English before taking off to school.
Garrett and Nick were both thrilled when he walked into English that morning, and Bram thought their reactions were almost worth the extra unwanted attention he got in the hallway. He held the skirt against his legs as he sat next to Garrett, and let himself fall into easy conversation with both of them while they waited for the classroom to fill. Everything seemed to be going okay and besides quick spots of laughter, no one paid them very much attention.
Until of course, Simon walked into the English classroom.
Bram already knew that Simon had a habit of staring longer than he realized. And Bram wasn’t foolish enough to think that Simon was just looking at him. He slid his shoes together so he wouldn’t give Simon or anyone else more of a view than they bargained for. To stop his hands from shaking he folded his fingers together in his lap. When Bram looked up again, Simon’s eyes flicked away from his legs. He felt his cheeks go hot. God, he wished he would have worn higher socks or something like Nick did. He felt exposed and if he didn’t know that Garrett would instantly protest, Bram would pull his sweatshirt on right then and there.
Simon finally walked the rest of the way into the room and took the desk closest to the couch. Bram smiled when he saw the bright colored hair clips he had pinned in his curls. Every day that week Simon participated as simply as he could; on Monday he wore a tie-dye shirt and on Tuesday he wore a pair of Harry Potter pajama pants.
The phrase simple and badass slipped into his thoughts, and as soon as his brain supplied the words, Bram couldn’t get the idea of Simon somehow being Jacques out of his head. He thought about the way Jacques wrote and how Simon laughed at Nick’s reaction to Abby. Really, Nick’s crush on Abby was almost as bad as Garrett’s crush on Leah. Bram looked away. There was no way the universe would be kind enough to him that Simon Spier was the guy on the other end of his secret emails.
Bram looked back to Simon when Abby started criticizing his hair clips. As Abby lectured him and Leah, Simon’s eyes flicked over to the couch again. And maybe it was the ridiculousness of the cheer uniform or maybe it was Jacques’ words about being someone else, but Bram smiled at Simon and Simon grinned back.
Maybe the cheer uniform wasn’t all that bad.