Bram was just stepping out of the lunch line when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He shifted his tray to one hand and pulled it out of his pocket, smiling when he saw Simon’s name.
Are you absolutely sure you don’t want to skip lunch again?
Bram chuckled and put his phone back in his pocket. He looked across the cafeteria and started walking towards their table. As much as skipping lunch and to spend time with Simon the past two days had been amazing, he actually needed to eat that day for soccer after school. The cafeteria bustled with noise, and Bram weaved through the chairs until he could see their table.
Bram should have known what Simon’s text meant. In retrospect, skipping two days of lunch together gave six other AP English nerds forty-eight hours to figure out exactly how they wanted to make Simon and Bram’s return as embarrassing as possible.
They all changed seats for them. Bram didn’t know if he wanted to laugh or sink to the floor in embarrassment. It wasn’t like the seats at the table were assigned, but everyone usually just sat where they sat; Nick and Abby were always next to each other, and Simon usually stuck close to them. Leah, Morgan, and Anna followed that, giving Bram at least three people, including Garrett, of separation from Simon on either side.
“Weird how they both return on the same day, too,” Garrett said, eliciting a round of chuckles from everyone as Bram approached the table. He slid into the only empty seat between Simon and Garrett, and took a second to smile at Simon. Simon returned it with a sheepish one of his own. He glanced up and saw Abby and Nick share a grin; they made no efforts to be subtle.
Simon leaned over to Bram, bumping their shoulders together. “Just saying, it’s not too late to ditch again,” he said softly, so only Bram could hear.
Bram chuckled, and before he could lose his nerve, reached over and twisted his fingers together with Simon’s under the table. He turned to look at Simon and smiled when he saw Simon’s pink cheeks. He squeezed Simon’s hand. “I don’t want to give them another day of fuel.”
Simon grinned. “That’s fair.”
“Oh my God, guys, we’re dying over here,” Abby said excitedly. Bram and Simon looked to her at the same time. “Simon won’t tell me anything .”
Before Bram could say anything, Simon spoke.
“We… we've been talking, and as it turns out, Bram had this huge crush on me...” Simon let his sentence trail off and shot Bram a big smile. Bram rolled his eyes and laughed.
“Well, we all knew that,” Garrett said. Everyone turned to him with confused expressions. He smirked as the conversation around the table erupted with commentary.
“I knew you were flirting with him at their soccer tryouts,” Abby said, pointing to Simon. Bram looked to Simon with a coy smile and Simon laughed loudly.
“I’m glad my lack of sportsing knowledge wasn’t a deal breaker,” Simon said to Bram.
“No way,” Bram told Simon. “I like you just the way you are.”
Simon let out another delighted laugh, and Bram smiled at him again.
“You guys are totally going to take over as the gross cute couple, aren’t you,” Leah said. When Abby laughed, Leah broke into a tiny smile.
Their table filled with chatter directed at Bram and Simon, and Bram squeezed Simon’s hand. He was glad they were keeping their emails to themselves, at least for now. Simon chuckled, and with their fingers still intertwined under the table, they both started eating.
There was a loud noise in front of them a few moments later, and their table fell silent. Bram looked up from his lunch to see Martin Addison’s tray smashing into his chest as one of the senior football players walked into him. As Martin gave the guy a horrified, stammered apology, someone a few tables away shouted, “Way to go, Adderall!” A chorus of laughter rang through the nearby tables; their table was the only one that didn’t join in.
Bram knew that he and Simon were at least somewhat of friends, so Bram turned to him. He frowned when he saw Simon start to sink in his chair and avoid the whole situation, and the half-idea of getting up to help Martin fizzled before he could suggest it. One of the lunch room monitors came over to diffuse the situation a moment later, and Abby started their table’s conversation back up as if it hadn’t been interrupted.
Bram had soccer practice the following day after school, and since Simon didn’t have play rehearsals every day anymore, that meant that he and Abby could spend their newfound freedom watching their soccer practice.
It was the best and worst thing to happen to Bram since the ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl.
Since Sunday, Bram had more than his fair share of moments with Simon that have left him feeling pleasantly surprised. The fear that Bram had that Simon didn’t want Blue to be him did quite a number on him, and the moments where Simon really showed how much he liked Bram back always managed to throw him off in the best way.
Simon sitting in the first row of the empty bleachers shivering with Abby was one of those moments. Abby had her head on Simon’s shoulder, and Bram could just barely make out Simon’s smile as he glanced over to them.
Bram jumped when their coach blew into his whistle.
“Greenfeld! I don’t know what’s so interesting about those bleachers today but if I catch you looking over there again you’re going to be doing sprints the rest of practice!” Behind their coach, Garrett and Nick both wore matching delighted grins. Bram shook his head as his cheeks burned. He tugged down the sleeves of his undershirt and mumbled an apology to his coach.
Their coach called for them to run drills through cones, and Garrett dribbled a ball over to him. “So, Greenfeld, what is so interesting about those bleachers?”
Nick instantly appeared at his other side. “Please fill us in, Greenfeld.”
Garrett had his foot perched on the ball while he was laughing, so Bram kicked it out from under him, stealing it. He sidestepped around Garrett when he faltered. Garrett went for the ball again, and Bram rolled it back before he could get it, smirking. “Sorry, what were you saying?” He felt weightless and happy. Simon was in the stands for him, Simon knew he was Blue, Simon was his boyfriend. Garrett made a face at him and ran on the other side of the cones.
“Pass the ball, lover boy,” Garrett shouted.
Bram rolled his eyes and kicked the ball to Garrett, jogging forward to wait for his pass back. He pushed through cone drills and scoring drills and stretches until their coach finally released them. He was drenched in sweat and still breathing heavy, but he walked right towards the bleachers anyway. Nick and Garrett followed him.
Simon stood as Bram approached, and Bram smiled shyly at him. Simon’s nose was red from the cold and Bram really, really wanted to kiss it.
“I thought you were grounded, Simon,” Nick said. Bram looked down to where he and Abby were holding hands over the white fence.
“They forgot and I forgot to remind them,” Simon said with a grin. He turned to Bram. “I’ll see you out front?”
Bram nodded and smiled. He looked to where Simon had both of his hands on the white fence, and touched the tips of his fingers against the back of Simon’s hand. “I’ll see you in a few minutes.” Bram said. Simon flipped his hand over and touched his fingers to Bram’s palm. Bram smiled at him and reluctantly let his hand fall to his side. He followed Nick and Garrett towards the school. After a quick stop in the showers and an even quicker stop at his locker, Bram headed to the parking lot.
Simon was fidgeting with the strap of his backpack when Bram got outside, and looked up when Bram stopped in front of him.
“Hi!” Simon said happily.
Bram smiled at him, and they both started walking towards the parking lot. Simon’s hands were tucked into the front pocket of his sweatshirt.
“Where are you parked?” Simon asked him.
“Back there,” Bram nodded towards the far side of the parking lot. Bram slowed when they neared Simon’s car. “I was running late this morning.”
Simon smiled widely and walked past his car. “Late night?”
“Something like that,” Bram said, smiling back. Texting Simon was much more important than getting a full night sleep. He followed Simon towards the back of the parking lot, walking closer than he would if the lot was full. Simon didn’t say anything until they got around Bram’s car to the driver’s side. Simon looked behind Bram and smirked.
“Don’t look now but Nick and Abby are definitely looking over here. Garrett too.” He turned back to Bram, frowning. “I really wanted to kiss you.”
Bram laughed, and even through the cold, his cheeks still felt warm. Simon’s nose and cheeks were still red. “So do it.”
Simon turned to him and Bram watched a slow, sweet smile twist on his lips. He slid one of his hands out of his sweatshirt pocket and reached for Bram’s hand. Bram let himself be pulled closer. Even though Simon’s nose was cold, his lips were warm as they met Bram’s. Warmth shot through him all the way from his lips to his toes. He put his hands on Simon’s cheeks as Simon brought his hands to Bram’s sides. He felt like there was electricity running through every spot they touched.
Eventually, Bram felt Simon pull back, and after a few smaller, soft kisses, Simon looked up at him and smiled.
“I’ll call you later?” Simon asked.
Bram slid his hands from Simon’s cheeks to rest his arms on Simon’s shoulders. “Yeah. I’ll text you.”
“Or you could email me,” Simon said with a coy smile. “Blue.”
Bram’s stomach did a happy flip. “Okay, I’ll email you later to call me, because that’s not excessive.” His cheeks hurt from smiling.
Simon laughed and kissed him again, and really, Bram couldn’t argue that.
Later at home, Bram sat with his mom at dinner, hiding his smile and thinking about Simon. He still felt like he was on a cloud from kissing Simon in the parking lot. Even Garrett’s texts filled with winking-kiss emojis and thumbs up emojis that he found when he got into his car didn’t phase him.
He spent such a long time being scared to come out, and now that he was, he felt like he could do anything as long as Simon was there with him.
“And here I thought Aunt Lisa’s mac and cheese would get you out of your little bubble.”
Bram looked up to his mom, blinking.
She laughed. “You’ve been quietly smiling at your plate for two days now. Care to fill your mother in?”
God, his mom was so perceptive.
“You talked to Lisa?” Bram asked, deflecting. He hadn’t seen his mother’s family since Christmas. He really should text Starr more; she was the only one on his mom’s side he felt brave enough to come out to at Christmas before it hit Facebook a few days ago.
His mom smiled knowingly. “I couldn’t find my recipe card. She said she thinks Starr is hiding a secret boyfriend from her school.” Bram bit his lip. “I told her that sounded familiar.”
Starr was definitely hiding a secret boyfriend, but Bram wasn’t about to tell his mom that.
“I–uh,” His heart raced. “Well–”
“Abraham,” his mom said softly. She reached across the table and squeezed his hand, and Bram let her. He felt the same comfort and bravery he always felt from his mom’s concern for him.
“Simon.” Bram said. “Uh, his name is Simon. He’s Nick’s friend.”
She smiled again. “Tell me about Simon.”
Tell her about Simon. Should he tell her that by some twist of fate, the boy he had a crush on since freshman year was now his very first boyfriend? Should he tell her that Simon was the boy that helped him come out to her? That he stayed awake so many nights after she went to bed pouring his heart out to Simon over Gmail?
“Um, he’s a junior too. He does theater; he was in the play.” He paused for a second. “He’s white.”
His mom chuckled at that. Bram gave her credit that she didn’t flinch at the pronouns at all. He smiled at her, and as she went on to say all of the parental usuals – he sounds nice, I want to meet him, use protection, – Bram scooped off the top of his mac and cheese and ate it with a smile.
Despite his teasing, Bram logged into his Gmail after dinner and shot Simon a quick message that he was free to talk for the rest of the night. While he waited, he chipped away at his essay for Ms. Dillinger’s history class. Simon and Abby complained about it all through lunch, so Bram knew he'd have to spend some extra time on it. With soccer starting up and his first game the following week, he was going to have to stay ahead so his grades wouldn't slip.
He made good progress while he waited for Simon to call. He wasn't sure if Simon was going to email him back or give any notice beforehand, so he checked between paragraphs to make sure he didn't miss a message on Gmail.
Eventually his phone lit up with Simon’ name, and Bram answered it on the first ring.
“Hey,” Bram said, putting the phone to his ear.
“Hi,” Simon said quickly, “Sorry, my parents insisted I attend our Skype session with my sister and they would not go for the homework card.” Bram listened to Simon as he moved around his room. “In or out, Bieber, Jesus.” There was the sound of Simon's door shutting, followed by what Bram assumed to be him sitting on his bed. “Okay, hi.”
Bram laughed softly. “Hi. Is your dog’s name Bieber?”
Simon laughed sheepishly. “Yes. Go ahead and laugh.”
He did. “What kind of dog is he?”
“A very–” Simon grunted. “–needy golden retriever. Really? I guess my lap, then. That's fine.”
Simon was quiet on the other end of the call; Bram could hear him breathing softly.
“I told my mom about you today,” Bram said when Simon didn’t say anything. He tugged at a string hanging off his jeans.
Simon made a noise of surprise. “What did she say?”
“She was supportive,” Bram said. He chuckled. “She told me to use protection.”
When Simon only laughed, Bram felt his stomach twist uncomfortably. The silence hung between them heavily. “I– is everything okay, Simon? I thought I was the quiet one,” he joked.
“Yeah, sorry,” Simon said. Bram heard him exhale slowly. “Weird night.”
“Anything you want to talk about?” Bram asked.
Simon was quiet again. Bram tugged at the fraying spot on his jeans until he pulled the string out.
“Do you remember around Christmas when I got outed on the Tumblr?” Simon finally said, voice soft but steady.
“It was on the Tumblr?” Bram asked. “I know you mentioned it, but I never saw what happened.”
“Yeah, there was a post about it, it’s not on there anymore.” Simon exhaled again. “The person who posted it–” Simon stopped for a second. “It’s kind of a long story.”
“I just finished my history paper,” Bram said. Simon laughed. “If you don’t feel comfortable talking about this, Simon–”
“No,” Simon interrupted him. “It’s not that. I... back in October, Martin found one of our emails and threatened to out me if I didn’t help him date Abby. Obviously it didn’t work, and when she rejected him he posted that I was gay on the Tumblr.
“And today after I got home from your practice, I had an email from him waiting for me. He apologized.”
“Martin Addison? From English?” And Bram’s chemistry and gym class. “He blackmailed you?” Bram exhaled and leaned back in his chair. Martin didn’t seem like he was capable of something that shitty, but as Bram thought about it, he could see it. Simon always acted weird around Martin, and if Martin’s behavior in English was anything to go by, it was pretty obvious that he liked Abby.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” Simon said quietly. “I should have. I was just so scared of losing you.”
Bram sat back up. “Simon, you don’t have to apologize to me.” Simon was quiet, so Bram asked, “What are you going to say back?”
“I have no freaking clue,” Simon said. “It was all sincere and shit and I still just hate him so much.”
“That seems pretty justified,” Bram told him. “I can’t believe he would do something like that.”
“It’s just– I can tell he’s sorry. Even before he sent the email. But–” Simon sighed. “I really just want to forget about it.” Bram heard him exhale sharply through his nose, an unamused chuckle. “I was planning on keeping this bottled up for a lot longer.”
“I’m glad you didn’t,” Bram told him. He paused for a second before he said, “I’m glad you still feel like you can talk to me even though you know who I really am.”
The smile was back in Simon’s voice when he said, “I’m glad you let me in on your secret identity.” There was another beat of silence before Simon said, “Are you going to the talent show tomorrow?”
“I was going to go with Garrett,” Bram said. “Abby’s performing, right?”
“Yeah, she’s doing a dance thing,” Simon said. “Technically it’s my last day of being grounded tomorrow, but my parents didn’t say anything about today, so I’m assuming they forgot, which, they usually do. I was going to ride with Nick.”
“I could give you a ride home if you want,” Bram offered quickly. “Unless you have plans after.”
“Nope,” Simon said. “That would be awesome.”
Bram opened his mouth to reply, and jumped when he heard his mom knock.
“Hang on,” Bram told Simon. He spun around in his desk chair when his mom opened his door, and put his phone against his chest.
“It’s late,” she said, glancing to his phone.
“I’ll be done in a minute,” Bram told her. She smiled and wished him goodnight, and Bram did the same. As soon as she shut his door, Bram brought his phone back to his ear. “Hey, sorry, I have to go.”
“That’s okay,” Simon said through a yawn. “I should probably actually attempt to do the English reading.”
Bram chuckled. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Save me a spot on the couch,” Simon said.
“You’ll have to fight Garrett for it; that’s usually his line.”
“I’ll take that chance,” Simon said, laughing. After a quick round of goodbyes, Bram hung up with a smile.
The following evening, Bram pulled into the student parking lot for the talent show. He put his car into park and tugged his phone out of his pocket. He had two texts, one from Garrett saying he’d meet him in the entrance, and another from Simon, saying he and Nick were on their way. It was chilly out, so he tugged down the sleeves of his sweatshirt. In front of him, a pair of headlights lit the inside of Bram’s car, and Bram made eye contact with Martin.
Martin’s mouth was open, and Bram knew his own expression gave him away right away. Martin quickly looked away and Bram did the same. Bram felt an uncomfortable twist in his stomach. He felt like he should say something to Martin about the emails, but Simon wanted to forget what happened, and Bram planned on respecting that. He turned his car off, pulled his key out of the ignition, and exited his car without looking to Martin.
To Martin’s credit, he made no effort to try to talk to Bram.
Inside the school, Bram greeted Garrett with a fist bump and a grin. He was already holding a program that looked like he was fidgeting with it while he was waiting. “Simon said he and Nick are on their way.”
“Cool,” Garrett said. “We should get seats, it looks like there are a lot of people here.”
The auditorium was all open seating, so Bram and Garrett looked around for open seats.
“Do you think– do you know if Leah’s with them?” Garrett asked, feigning casual.
Bram smirked. “I think it’s just Simon and Nick.” Bram knew from Simon that he and Leah had a feelings talk a few days back, but Bram still wasn’t sure where the three of them stood.
They found four seats together, but it was close enough to seven that they were still pretty far towards the back. Bram pulled out his phone and smiled when he read Simon’s text that Nick was looking for a parking spot. He sent Simon a message of where they were sitting, and turned to watch for him. The chatter in the auditorium faded as the time ticked closer to seven.
“Are they close?” Garrett asked, twisting around with Bram. “Someone’s grandma is eying our seats.”
As Garrett turned back around, Simon and Nick hurried into the auditorium. Bram smiled as soon as Simon saw him, and felt the same happy flutter in his stomach that Simon’s smile always gave him.
There was a quick shuffle of seats and Bram tried not to look in the aisle when an older woman walked away with a huff. The lights in the auditorium were off, and as Nick asked for a program, a girl from student council started walking towards the microphone. Bram felt Simon shift closer and touch his knee against Bram’s. His heart did a flip in his chest when he felt Simon’s hand slide onto his knee. He kept his eyes forward, but slowly moved so he could twist his fingers with Simon’s.
When the first act started, Bram brought Simon’s hand to his lips and placed a small kiss on his palm. Out of the corner of his eye, Bram could see Simon’s bright smile curl on his lips. Bram didn’t let go for the rest of the show.