They were in gym class, and Bram wasn’t thinking about Jacques.
It was one of those Mondays where everyone could tell Mr. Steinberg had a little bit too much fun over the weekend. Since it was October, they were supposed to be in the middle of a football unit - much to Bram’s displeasure - but Steinberg was currently perched in a chair at the edge of the field with sunglasses on. They were left to their own devices after a quick announcement how they could do whatever, as long as it was sports related. There was a group of JV football players actually tossing a ball around, but everyone else was slinking by doing the minimum. Morgan and Anna were sitting in the grass out of sight, twisting flowers together into crowns. Another small group was using a badminton shuttlecock as a hacky sack.
Bram, Garrett and Nick were somewhere in the middle of their classmates. Garrett managed to dig a soccer ball out of the bin of random underfunded gym equipment, and the three of them were lazily passing around the ball and talking.
Well, Garrett was talking.
“I still can’t believe you bailed on me,” he said to Bram as he balanced the ball on his knee. As he bounced the ball from one knee to the other, his 50’s style slicked back hair stayed perfectly in place. He looked a little ridiculous in his gym clothes, but Garrett made it work with confidence. “I’m revoking your best friend card. It’s Eisner’s now.” Garrett passed the ball to Bram.
“I didn’t have to be there because you literally haven’t stopped talking about it all morning,” Bram said, catching the ball against his chest and letting it fall to the ground.
“You had to be there if you wanted to see how much theater Emily’s costume rode up while she was on the dance floor.”
Bram bit his lip, before schooling his expression to deadpan. He should really figure out how to tell Garrett. But like he’d told Jacques on many occasions, he wasn’t ready for people in real life to know.
But he wasn’t thinking about Jacques. He wasn’t thinking about Jacques vaguely saying he went to some guy’s party and how it wasn’t really his scene. There were only a few other people that Bram knew of that had halloween parties over the weekend, and Garrett’s was the biggest.
Bram was saved from having to explain his deadpan expression from Nick.
“Come on, dude. Don’t be a dick.”
Garrett made an affronted face at both of them. “Okay, who are you two and what happened to my two best friends?”
“How were all the other costumes?” Bram asked, shifting the conversation. He finally passed the ball to Nick.
He was fishing. He knew it. But Nick and Garrett didn’t.
“Abby was Wonder Woman,” Nick said.
Garrett snorted. “We know, Eisner, Abbyyyy.” He made his voice higher and stretched out Abby’s name, and Bram laughed at Nick’s sheepish expression. “There were a lot of Avengers, some Star Wars” - Garrett paused to think. “Leah was a cartoon thing and Spier was a ninja thing.”
It couldn’t be.
“Fruits Basket is an anime, not a cartoon, and Simon was a Dementor,” Nick retorted. Garrett raised a confused eyebrow. “From Harry Potter?”
He felt like he was listening to the conversation from under water. A Dementor was definitely simple and badass. And Jacques went to a party on Halloween.
Could it be?
“Jesus Christ, I don’t know, he was wearing a black robe.”
He needed to relax. He needed to get away from Nick and Garrett and think.
“Are you serious? You don’t know what a Dementor is?”
There was no way. There was no way that Jacques was Simon Spier.
“Greenfeld, help me out here.”
Bram blinked and shook his head. “Garrett, it’s Harry Potter.” He was proud of the steadiness of his voice.
Garrett rolled his eyes and picked up the ball. Mr. Steinberg had a whistle in his mouth and the rest of the class was turning in their equipment.
Bram couldn’t focus on the rest of his classes that morning. The idea of Simon Spier being the boy behind his secret emails consumed his thoughts in the way both Jacques and Simon usually did.
But the idea of them being the same person? It was impossible.
At lunch, Simon was wearing a tie-dye shirt, and Bram spent the hour sneaking glances at him over his tray. The conversation at the table was still primarily focused on Garrett’s party, and Simon made no expression when Garrett - again - mentioned Bram not being present.
At least Garrett didn’t mention him staying home to pass out candy.
In algebra, Bram sat towards the back of the class so he could watch Simon. When their teacher asked Simon to explain a problem, Bram listened to the way his words came out in an unfocused ramble. Simon fidgeted with his pencil as he spoke, and Bram watched the way his fingers twisted it anxiously.
When Bram got home that afternoon, he went right to his computer and opened Gmail. He scrolled through his inbox to some of their earlier emails, until he found the one that had been floating around his head for most of the day.
DATE: Sept 4 at 7:23 PM
SUBJECT: Re: One Week Down
Okay so first, can I just say that I am already over this school year? I don’t know how all of my teachers have already managed to pile on enough homework to add up to HOURS, but here I am sneaking onto Gmail between pages of algebra problems and even more pages of history reading.
Anyway, I am sneaking on here to say we absolutely should have a Harry Potter marathon some day. I don't think I could ever be friends with (or date) someone that doesn't like Harry Potter. I was basically raised a potterhead from birth, and could totally seduce you with the all of the times that the movies got the books just so completely wrong.
(Dumbledore asked calmly. CALMLY.)
Bram knew the words of the email, but he re-read it until he could hear it in Simon’s voice. He already knew Simon Spier was a Harry Potter fan, but now that he stared at the words on his screen, it was like two puzzle pieces fitting perfectly together.
He sat back in his desk chair and exhaled.
The boy that Bram was secretly emailing with about being gay could quite possibly be the boy that Bram had had a crush on since freshman year.
Bram spent the rest of the night scrolling through earlier emails between him and Jacques, reading them with the thought of Simon.
The crazy thing was, they all fit.
The thought stayed with him through the rest of Creekwood’s Spirit Week. On Tuesday’s Pajama Day, Bram nearly gave everything away when Simon showed up to English in soft pants with little Golden Snitches on them. Wednesday was Gender Bender Day, and Simon’s hair clips almost distracted him enough to forget about catching Simon staring at his legs in the cheer uniform. When Simon showed up on Thursday’s Fandom Day with a lightning bolt on his forehead and a yellow and black tie hanging loosely around his neck, Bram stared back.
By Friday, Bram was convinced.
“Seriously? She’s Country? Big Green Tractor?” Garrett straightened the cowboy hat he wore to school unironically and stared at Leah.
Leah shook her head.
“Dirt Road Anthem?”
“Okay, those all sound fake,” Leah said, rolling her eyes.
“Are you serious?”
Bram thought he should probably calm his best friend down. Garrett tended to get worked up quickly around Leah, and Bram was pretty sure he was the only one who knew why. Just as Garrett sat up to pull his phone out, Simon made it out of the lunch line and took the seat between them. Bram sank down in his chair as Garrett spoke over Simon.
“You seriously haven’t heard of Jason Aldean?”
To hide his laughter at Simon’s imitation of Garrett, Bram took a bite of his lunch. Like the rest of the week, Simon was subtly participating in the dress up day with a cowboy hat and a bandana around his neck. The sight of him fidgeting with it made Bram’s stomach flip happily. Nick sat on his other side and Bram nodded at him in greeting. Nick started opening up his lunch, and sat forward to speak.
“I think we should go to the game tonight.”
The attention at the table was on Nick, but Bram looked to Simon.
He and Jacques were just emailing about the Homecoming game, and Simon had a thoughtful expression as Leah gave Nick a snarky reply. Bram looked away before Simon or anyone else caught him. The tension at the table between Leah and Nick was palpable.
When Simon agreed to go with Nick, Bram felt his pulse race all the way to the tips of his fingers. Leah directed her surprised anger at both of them, and Bram twisted his fingers in his lap. It wasn’t even a week prior that he was talking to Jacques about the feeling of being at a football game, and now Simon was agreeing to go to a school function that Bram knew he usually avoided. Bram looked down to his lap to hide his smile. If Simon was Jacques, it was almost like he was going to the game because of Blue.
When Abby came to the table, no one noticed when Bram snuck another look at Simon. Everyone was quiet as Leah stormed off, until Abby started nervously talking about the parade to fill the silence. Bram chanced one more look, and saw Simon smiling softly to himself.
He wondered if Simon was thinking about Blue.
Before the homecoming game and before the parade, Creekwood held a pep rally in the gym. Bram sat with Garrett and some of the other guys on the soccer team and joined in with the cheering when Maddie called for the junior class to “make some noise!” Their section filled with yee-haws and whistles. It felt nice to be part of the team and push his self-consciousness back, even just for a moment.
The parade didn’t start until six, so Bram and Garrett filled the time helping Abby, Maddie, and some of the other student council juniors get their class float ready. It was mostly finished, but with the rain Maddie and Abby wanted to keep the bales of hay as dry as possible. All of the people around them were dressed in head to toe country, and Bram felt like his spirit was lacking. It wasn’t that he detested country music, but most of the mainstream stuff was repetitive, painfully straight, and pandered a little too much for his liking.
When it was nearing six, Abby disappeared with some of the other cheerleaders to go change. Maddie was handing out random props and straw, and Bram and Garrett both took them.
“Are we going to have time to get seats if we march?” Bram asked.
“I’ll text Erikson and tell him to save us a couple.” Garrett put the straw in his mouth and shot Bram a wide grin, before pulling out his phone. Bram rolled his eyes and laughed back. Garrett started to jokingly mumble nonsense through the straw, but Bram looked past him.
Just like they said at lunch, Nick and Simon were walking up to the float with Abby. Simon looked out of place but not uncomfortable, and Bram twisted the straw between his fingers and smiled.
While Maddie put people into place and started pepping them up, Bram watched as Nick and Simon took a step closer to each other as to not be separated.
Bram took a deep, steadying breath and turned to Garrett. “Hey, there’s Nick.” To Bram’s relief, Garrett didn’t question his intentions, and Bram followed him over to Nick and Simon. Garrett greeted Nick with a bump of fists, and extended one to Simon right after.
“What’s up, Spier,” Garrett said as Simon touched his fist to Garrett’s with a surprised expression. Simon looked from Garrett to Bram and gave him a small smile.
Bram returned it as his heart did complicated flips. Simon was there, and if Bram was right and he was Jacques, it was because of him.
The parade started up, and Bram let the closeness to Simon, the camaraderie of the junior class, and the feeling of the air fill his heart.
It felt like possibility.