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Fifty Shades

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Bram’s heart raced in his chest. He could do this. He squeezed his fingers around the handles of the plastic bag. He could walk across the hall and hang the t-shirt on Simon’s locker. There wasn’t anyone in the hallway, and even if there was, no one would pay him any notice. People didn’t generally know which lockers belonged to everyone unless they were friends, and Bram was pretty sure all of Simon’s friends were either already in English, or wouldn’t be in the hall where Simon’s locker was.

The plastic bag rustled as Bram swiftly walked across the hall. He fidgeted with the handle of Simon’s locker for a second, tying the bag so it wouldn’t just fall to the ground. He took a small step back. He wanted to check his note again to make sure everything was spelled right, even though he knew it all was.

Bram looked over his shoulder again, and sighed in relief when he was alone in the hallway. With one last look to Simon’s locker, he turned back around and quickly walked towards English. He was early enough that he could snag a spot on the couch next to Garrett, and bumped his fist against Garrett’s outstretched one as he sat. Mr. Wise had their required reading for that night written on the board already, so Bram scribbled it onto the corner of his notebook.

Simon Spier officially had his phone number.

Simon was walking into the classroom when Bram looked back up. Bram felt his cheeks prickle with heat as Simon quickly masked the smile he walked in with. Bram looked down to his hands to hide a smile of his own.

He didn’t expect a text until after school, but that didn’t stop Bram from obsessively checking his phone between every class. At lunch Simon was still jittery and smiling, and Bram couldn’t help but feel like things were about to change. Maybe by that evening, he would have Simon’s phone number too and he would be able to figure out a way to tell Simon who he was.

That night, Bram couldn’t help but feel a little deflated when he tapped the home button phone and watched 10:59 change to 11:00. He knew Simon had later rehearsals all that week, but he thought Simon would have at least found his note and texted him by then.

Whenever his mind tried to fill quiet moments, the conversation between Simon, Nick and Abby that Bram overheard in English still spun ugly thoughts in his head. The name Calvin said in Nick’s teasing tone. Abby’s bright, knowing smile. Simon’s hesitant answer topped with his quiet embarrassment for the rest of class.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Calvin – Cal – was the person who Simon thought Blue was. First name as a U.S. president, classic good looks, and wasn’t too shy to even talk to Simon.

As his phone stayed silent for the rest of the night, Bram’s thoughts started to spiral. He had to have seen Bram’s note by now, and there was one glaring fact that Bram couldn’t ignore. Simon wanted Blue to be Cal, and now that Simon knew he wasn’t Cal, Simon didn’t want his phone number anymore.

The next morning when Simon wasn’t wearing the shirt, Bram wasn’t surprised.

The rest of the week passed in a blur. Bram had soccer practice every night and all of his teachers seemed to be loading on the homework now that they were back from winter break. His mom kept asking what he wanted to do over his birthday weekend, and it was all he could do not reply that he just wanted to mope in his room and email Simon. Between everything, Bram hardly had time to sit awake at night and stare at his phone while he waited for a text from a boy that wanted someone else.

On Friday when Bram sat down at the lunch table, Garrett immediately zoned in on him.

“Dude. You’re killing me.” Garrett reached over and shook his shoulder. “You’re turning seventeen in two days and you look like you just got a B on an English exam.”

Bram looked at him. “Funny.”

Garrett grinned. Everyone else was still in the lunch line, leaving them alone at the table. “Wanna skip the rest of the day? The play thing is optional,” Garrett offered.

“No,” Bram said. “We should go.” After a beat, he added, “Nick will kill us if he has to go by himself.”

Garrett smirked, but didn’t say what Bram knew he was thinking. Instead he started eating with a smile, and Bram rolled his eyes and did the same.

The mood at the table instantly shifted when Leah and Nick show up at the same time but not together, and Leah made a face before taking the furthest seat from him. There was a weird beat of silence when they were all on one side of the table because Nick took the spot next to Bram and Leah took the one next to Garrett, but it fixed itself when Morgan and Anna show up and pulled Leah into a conversation.

Nick didn’t start eating right away, and it wasn’t until Bram followed Nick’s line of sight that he figured out why.

Leah’s comment of, “Holy fuck, Simon,” summed up what Bram was thinking.

Bram knew he was staring. For the record, everyone’s attention was on Simon. Of course, the only seats left by the time Abby and Simon got there put Simon right in front of Bram after Abby snagged the spot next to Nick.

“Don’t you love it?” Abby asked Leah.

Bram wanted to sink in his chair and disappear. He loved how cute Simon looked in glasses, but he never expected Simon to be so… hot without him. Bram bit his lip. He’d seen Simon take his glasses off a few times to rub his eyes, but that was nothing compared to now. Leah made a comment about the color, and Bram was torn between wanting to stand up and leave the table and wanting to stand up and announce himself as Blue right then and there. He thought about his note and sank even further into his chair.

Simon’s moon gray eyes. The black around them made the gray of his irises look so much brighter. He was was already so obsessed with Simon’s eyes, but nothing could have prepared him for Simon in eyeliner. Leah even broke whatever stony silent treatment she was giving Nick to talk about Simon’s eyes.

Bram watched the color prickle onto Simon’s cheeks under his stage makeup. Simon’s eyes flicked to him, and Bram quickly looked away. Leah started actually describing the different kinds of gray in Simon’s eyes, and Bram fidgeted with the plastic fork that came with his lunch, looking anywhere but directly across the table.

Bram managed to stay out of the conversation about Simon’s eyes for the rest of lunch, thankfully. Abby’s joke about Fifty Shades of Gray had Leah’s in a good mood, and her mood usually determined Garrett’s. By some sort of miracle, Leah and Abby spent the rest of the hour not hating each other, and Bram got to watch Simon smile for the rest of the hour as his friends got along. They got to go right from lunch to the auditorium to find seats, and Bram laughed as Garrett casually hopped over row of chairs to get next to Leah before Morgan or Anna could. As Morgan and Anna went into the row behind Leah, Bram took the seat on the end next to Garrett.

A group of guys from the football team piled into the seats in front of them. Garrett shot an annoyed look to Bram and Bram rolled his eyes. They were talking loudly and laughing with a group of sophomore girls in front of them. Bram was pretty sure ‘being a douche bag’ was a requirement to make it onto the Creekwood football team.

There was a wave of silence as the theater teacher, Ms. Albright, crossed the stage, her heels clicking loudly against the wooden floor. Instead of starting the play like Bram assumed she would, the words Creekwood’s bullying policy came through the microphone after her short introduction.

Garrett leaned over to him. “Dude, I told you we should have skipped.”

Bram ignored him. One of the guys in front of him shot a look to his friend, and loudly whispered, “Oh shit.” His friend started laughing, and the whole group of football guys and girls started talking over Ms. Albright. They were all whispering amongst themselves and Bram wished he was brave enough to tell them to shut up and listen. He heard them throwing around gay and the F-word like nothing, as the girls shrieked with laughter in front of them.

He heard those words tossed out as casual insults almost every day – it was Georgia, after all – but something about the way gay slipped so disgustingly from the football player’s lips had Bram’s gut twisting. Bram felt Garrett looking at him, but he clenched his jaw and kept his eyes glued to the stage.

A moment later, Leah’s foot slammed into the back of the football player’s chair, jolting him forward. The whole group in front of them froze as Leah snapped at them loudly enough for the rest of the auditorium to hear. Of course, the football player didn’t care, and mocked her to his friends a second later, sending the girls into another fit of rude laughter. Next to him, Garrett and Nick both grabbed Leah’s arms to stop her from making a scene. Leah’s cheeks were on fire as she sat back down angrily.

Despite the lecture in the beginning, the play itself was electric and hilarious. Simon didn’t actually say anything through the play, but he was entertaining and hand a brilliant stage presence that Bram was glued to. He almost forgot he was supposed to be watching Martin and Taylor instead of Simon.

After the play, Nick snuck out with a quick goodbye. Morgan, Anna and Leah disappeared shortly after. Bram halfheartedly offered Garrett to come hang out at his house for the night, but Garrett couldn’t, so Bram quickly shuffled out of the auditorium so he could beat the jam of after school traffic.

On the morning of his birthday, Bram spent more time than he was willing to admit drafting and deleting messages on Gmail. He wanted Simon to know who he was so badly. He wanted Simon to want Blue to be him, not Cal. He wanted Simon to text him.

Everything he typed into Gmail didn’t work.

Simon, I know you haven’t texted me even though you’ve had my number for a week, but,

Bram held down the backspace button.

Simon, look at the date. Look at my email address.

That wouldn’t work. If Simon didn’t connect b-green as Bram Greenfeld, he certainly wouldn’t connect 118 as January eighteenth.

Simon, it’s Bram, from the lunch table... Surprise?

Nope.

Bram jumped when his mom knocked on the door a moment later. “Come in!” he called, his voice cracking from the early hour. He held down the backspace button until everything on his screen disappeared, and plastered on a smile when his mom twisted the door handle and started singing Happy Birthday. She cupped her hand around the candle as she walked over to his desk. She set the miniature cake down on his desk and finished singing, before fishing two forks out of her pocket.

Bram eyed the fork. “Cake for breakfast? Who are you and what have you done with my mother?”

His mom shook her head, smiling. “One day of being seventeen and already so much attitude.” Bram laughed and took one of the forks. He scooped one of the mini Reese’s off the top. They took turns taking bites in silence until the plate was empty.

“You’ve been quiet this week,” she commented after. “Are you doing okay?”

Bram shrugged. He tried not to look at his computer, even though he knew his Gmail would notify him of any new messages. “Practice keeps running late so I’ve been trying to catch up on homework.”

His mom stood and rustled his hair. “Don’t spend all day on that computer.”

“I won’t,” Bram said. “I think Garrett and some other people going to come over later.”

Garrett wanted to throw him a rager, and Bram didn’t want to do anything, so having him and Nick over for video games and pizza was the best compromise Bram could come up with.

“That’s fine, sweetheart,” his mom said. She leaned forward and kissed his forehead. Bram knew she was being lenient because she thought something was wrong; the thought plus all of the sugar he just ate made his stomach ache.

As expected, Garrett showed up with Nick and Abby later that afternoon. He blushed when Abby pulled him into an extra tight hug and laughed when Garrett handed him a box of Reese’s that looked like it came right from the shelf of Publix.

“Happy Birthday, bro,” Nick said, balancing a stack of pizzas on one hand and clapping him on the back. Bram stepped aside so they could all come in.

“Thanks, guys,” Bram said, closing the door behind them. They followed Garrett into Bram’s living room where he was already plugging his PlayStation into Bram’s television. Nick and Abby dug right into the pizza, and Abby settled against Nick’s side when they sat on Bram’s couch.  Garrett grinned at them when he noticed them.

“That’s new,” Garrett said with a smirk.

Nick blushed, and Abby started giggling into his shirt. Garrett turned away with a grin tossed Bram one of the controllers. Bram took the spot next to Abby and waited for Garrett’s PlayStation to load.

“Simon still hasn’t texted me,” Abby told Nick a moment later. Bram looked over at them.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen his mom that mad,” Nick commented. “They probably took his phone away.”

“I feel so bad,” Abby said quietly.

“He’s the one that got wasted and made you go back to Shady Creek for a shirt,” Nick told her with an entertained tone.

Bram felt his heart stutter. He quickly looked away from their conversation and pretended to be interested in selecting his character.

Abby smiled at Nick. “But not to wear, because that would be weird,” Abby said, holding up her finger to Nick. They both started laughing.

Garrett looked to Bram. “We are definitely missing something.” Bram chuckled, trying to breathe normally. Simon wasn’t even in the room and he was still a mess.

Abby sat forward. “We took Simon to Midtown yesterday. He managed to get completely wasted and insisted we drive back to Shady Creek to get a shirt for him to sleep with but not in.” She looked at Nick.

“We’re pretty sure he got caught and grounded. His mom came out and she was really mad at us.” Nick made a sour face.

Bram knew Garrett was looking at him again, so he looked anywhere else. His cheeks were on fire. It had to be the Elliott Smith shirt. Simon got grounded because he wanted to sleep with the shirt Bram got for him.

“Man, Spier, that’s like rule number one,” Garrett eventually said, shaking his head. “They always know.”

Bram bit his lip to hide his smile. Simon didn’t wear the shirt, but he slept with it. It was such a Simon thing, Bram wasn’t even surprised. Maybe Simon wasn’t over Blue just yet.