Bram leaned back in his desk chair and exhaled slowly.
The message was sent. He couldn’t go back. The next time Jacques opened his email, he would read how Blue very much thought about having sex with him.
Maybe there was something about coming out that gave you a special kind of bravery. Or maybe Bram was getting ready to move things into a new territory with Jacques. Either way, he couldn’t take the email back, and he didn’t want to.
Because it was true. Whether or not he emailed Jacques that day, his thoughts late at night always seemed to land on Jacques, and not just in a friendly way. He still felt like they had a great friendship, but Bram wanted so much more with the boy on the other end of his emails. He’d long since passed the point of imagining Jacques as Simon, and had moved on to imagining Simon in his room, Simon in his bed, Simon, Simon, Simon.
It felt strange to walk through the school doors the next few days after coming out to his mom and Garrett. He didn’t for one second think Garrett would tell anyone, but stepping through the doors with the notion that someone besides Jacques that knew was nerve-wracking. It was the Friday before Christmas break, and there was such a festive buzz of excitement in the air that Bram suspected very little learning would get done that day.
“So have you ever made out with a dude?”
Bram felt his stomach drop. They were early enough that the front atrium was fairly empty, but there were still random groups of students that could be within hearing distance. He moved so he was in front of Garrett.
“Garrett, you cannot say stuff like that here.” Bram looked at him with pleading eyes, begging him to understand.
Garrett’s eyes went wide, and his cheeks went a little pink in embarrassment. “Sorry, bro.” Bram could tell he was just trying to be supportive, and not actually trying to out him.
“It’s okay,” Bram told him. They went to Garrett’s locker first. Bram watched him shove his letterman jacket in between the clutter, before kneeling to exchange books from his backpack to his locker.
Garrett looked up. “But have you?”
Bram felt his shoulders drop. He gave Garrett a wry look. “No.” He didn’t know why, but his cheeks flushed at the admission. Like Garrett would bust out the, “so how do you really know?” or the, “maybe you could just try with girls,” if Bram admitted he’d never kissed anyone.
But Garrett wasn’t like that. At least, Bram thought he wasn’t. He wasn’t the kind of asshole jock that bullied out students or used the word fag. Which couldn’t be said for a lot of the jocks at their school.
Garrett shut his locker and jumped up. “So are there any you wanna with?”
There was some cruel twist of fate laughing at him, because just as Bram opened his mouth to beg, plead, and grovel for Garrett to shut his, Simon Spier turned the corner. His head was thrown back laughing, and his arm was linked at the elbow with Abby Suso’s.
That heat in the bottom of his stomach was back.
When Jacques told him that he came out to a friend in their most recent emails, it was hard not to wonder if it was Simon coming out to Nick or Leah. Abby crossed his mind, of course, but Simon, Nick, and Leah were so tight-knit for so long. Bram couldn’t imagine sharing something that personal with someone he only knew for a few months. Maybe eventually he would be at that point, but for now his mom and Garrett were plenty.
But that was if Simon Spier was actually Jacques. Bram felt like he was so close to being sure, but there was always a tiny hint of doubt that wishful thinking was playing a cruel joke on him. If he wasn’t just seeing what he wanted to see, Simon and Abby’s arms being linked could be another step closer in them becoming SimonandAbby.
Bram sighed. He couldn’t go down that train of thought so early in the morning. They were around the corner towards English before Bram could fully push the thought away.
“Are you actually asking, or are you really trying to end our friendship right now?” Bram asked, but he smiled, so Garrett grinned back.
“Come on, what do you think?” Garrett said, nudging his elbow into Bram’s. “I’d be a great wingman.”
“You’d be a horrible wingman,” Bram told him. He stopped in front of his locker and twisted his combination. “I’ve watched you strike out so many times at lunch I’m actually starting to feel bad.” He exchanged a few of his textbooks and shut his locker. “For Leah.”
Garrett put his hand to his chest in a fake-wounded action. “You hurt me, Greenfeld.”
He grinned. Things with Garrett were good. They were normal. Garrett bumped fists with a few guys from their team as they walked to English, exchanging quick, “Sup, man, are you trying out this year?” and “Hey, Wildstein, what’s going on with you and Carys?” with everyone they passed. Bram was grateful for the noise; it got him out of his head just a little bit before they walked into Mr. Wise’s classroom.
Leah, Anna and Morgan were already on Mr. Wise’s couch, so Bram followed Garrett to a pair of desks towards the middle of the room. As soon as Bram slid into the desk behind him, Garrett turned in his seat.
“I don’t even know anyone else at this school who is-” he caught himself, and quietly said, “You know.”
It was impossible for his mind not to go right to Jacques. To Simon. There were a few other out students at Creekwood, but Jacques was the only one Bram truly wanted to know.
It was just as impossible for Bram’s eyes not to flick over to Simon. Abby was no longer with him, and he was standing in front of the couch begging for Leah to scoot and make room. He was being loud enough that a few other people in the room were watching the exchange and laughing. Sometimes to Bram, it was like Simon always had a spotlight on him.
Bram looked back to Garrett after Leah and Morgan scooted over to make room, and Garrett was shaking his head laughing. He felt a little relieved that Garrett didn’t notice that Bram never answered his statement.
Simon’s good mood that morning had a way of lifting Bram’s, and he made it through his morning classes daydreaming about what it would be like to kiss Simon’s bright laughter right from his lips. Chemistry’s movie about atomic compounds gave him a whole hour to daydream about holding Simon’s hand and what it would be like to reveal himself as Blue after all these months. His only interruptions came from Martin’s quiet snores next to him.
Lunch was a welcome break after the back to back quizzes that followed chemistry. Bram took his normal chair between Garrett and Nick, bumping his fists with both of them.
Two boxes dropped in front of him and Garrett, and Bram looked up from it to see Leah leaning over the table, hiding a smile to both of them. Her cheeks had that dusting of pink that Garrett was obsessed with.
“Merry Christmas,” she said. Her voice was guarded, like she was half expecting them to be weird or rude about the gesture. “It’s just something little.”
Bram leaned forward and picked up the package. It was small and light.
“Thanks, Leah,” Garrett said as he ripped the paper. She smiled and the color in her cheeks intensified.
“Bram’s Jewish,” Nick said through a bite of food.
“Half Jewish,” Bram said, feeling so, so grateful for the drama meeting that had Simon and Abby running late. Of all the ways he imagined finally telling Simon, the middle of lunch was his last choice. “I celebrate Christmas too. But really, thanks Leah. You didn’t have to get us anything.”
She shrugged, smiling again. He ripped at the shimmery paper and found a small paper box inside. Whatever was in it was rattling around, so Bram slid the flap open and pulled out two circular buttons. Both of the images on them were hand drawn in pencil. One of them was a sketch of a soccer ball, and the other was the nerd emoji.
“These are so cool,” Garrett said. Bram looked at the ones in his hand. He also had a soccer ball, but his other pin had a cowboy hat on it.
“Yeah, thanks a lot Leah,” Bram said.
Talks of Christmas plans filled the lunch table until Simon and Abby made their late arrival. With Nick and Abby’s obvious fondness for each other growing every day, it always put Simon right in his peripheral across the table. Every chance Bram got, he snuck glances at Simon, and smiled whenever Simon told little anecdotes about his family’s Christmas traditions. It was clear that his good mood from this morning had carried over to lunch, and it was giving Bram the same warm feeling as seeing a new message on Gmail always did. At one point Simon and Nick spent a few moments pretend-bickering about a story with a menorah that they were the only ones who seemed to know the details of. Bram watched the entire exchange with a large swell of fondness until Garrett not-so-accidentally bumped his elbow against Bram’s. When Bram turned to him, Garrett had a twinkle in his eye that told Bram he was screwed.
When they were finally released from their last class of the day, Bram managed to avoid seeing his best friend and made it all the way to his car unscathed.
As if Garrett knew that Bram was avoiding him, his phone vibrated in his pocket with a text message.
So is it Eisner or Spier?
Bram ignored the text. In one day, Garrett managed to narrow down Bram’s crush to the right person, and their other best friend. His feelings had to be so obvious. After fighting his way through the mad rush of cars trying to escape the school parking lot, Bram drove home and tried to figure out ways to lead Garrett off of the trail of Simon, and to subtly guide Jacques on the path to him.
At least he had a few weeks to figure everything out. He was looking forward to getting home to an empty house and finishing all of his homework for break that night. He could deal with Garrett’s stealthy intuitiveness later. Right now, all he wanted was to lose himself in Reese’s and - as Jacques would say - old white guy shiterature.
His thoughts jumped between Garrett and Simon on his drive home. How it wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world if Garrett knew. He was very, very familiar with Garrett’s every thought about Leah, whether he wanted to be or not at times, so it wouldn’t be that weird to admit that he liked Simon. But he’d have to be casual about it. If he let on that he’d actually had a crush on Simon Spier since the day he started school in Shady Creek, he would never, ever hear the end of it from Garrett.
Bram was so distracted from all of the back and forth his mind was doing, that he didn’t realize the familiar car parked in the street in front of his house until he was pulling into his driveway.
It was his dad’s car.
Dread flooded his thoughts. His mom wasn’t okay with him being gay. His dad never just showed up in Shady Creek. She was just putting on a show until his dad could get up here. He was just here two weeks prior. He’d have to move back to Savannah.
He took a deep breath. He had to get out of his head. His mom was not that person.
Why else would his dad be here? They definitely weren’t about to spring him with a, “Surprise! We’re getting back together!” moment. The way his dad talked about his stepmother while he was visiting for Hanukkah made sure of that.
Bram grabbed his backpack and his phone off of the passenger seat and got out of his car. While he walked up the driveway, he sent a text to Garrett that said, My dad is here. He didn’t have to say anything else. Garrett would know how weird the whole thing was.
His parents - both of them - were sitting on the couch in the living room when he walked in. His dad was wearing jeans like he hadn’t worked that day, and laughing into a glass of iced tea.
“Uh, hi Dad?” his words came out like a question.
“Hey, B!” His dad stood from the couch and walked over to hug him. Bram patted him awkwardly on the back.
Asking what he was doing here felt a little too abrupt, so Bram followed his dad back to the couch and sat next to him.
“How was school?” his mom asked.
As if his day couldn’t get any weirder than Garrett pestering him about if he’d ever kissed another guy, now this was actually happening.
“Good...” Bram said carefully. Like if he said anything else, the walls would start melting or gravity would fail.
They took turns asking him about how his classes were, how Garrett and Nick were spending their vacation, and if he was excited to see family over the next few days. It was all too weird and too formal to actually be real. Like another shoe was just waiting to be dropped.
And drop it did. His mom stood and announced that she was going to give them some time, and squeezed his shoulder as she walked out of the room. He could feel his mom’s hand on his shoulder even after he heard the click of her door shut. It was the remnants of a gesture that told him his secret was still safe. That he still got to decide when to tell his dad.
Bram opened his mouth to ask his dad why he was actually here, but stopped when he got a good look at him.
His dad was nervous.
The dread came flooding back. There was no logical reason in the world for his dad to be nervous around him. He didn’t think his nerdy English teacher dad actually had the capability of being nervous about anything.
His dad talked for a little while, and Bram tried to listen to everything that he said, but the words felt like they were just bouncing off of him. He gave answers where he thought they were probably appropriate, but he couldn’t follow the conversation as his thoughts swam. His dad rambled a little bit about their New Years plans, and how excited everyone was to see him. The strange nervousness never fully faded as his father spoke.
As his spinning thoughts started to slow, Bram landed on memories of two weeks prior, when he tried and failed to come out to his father. He’d reasoned with himself that it was better that his mother - and now Garrett - knew too, but it still felt like something was missing keeping it from his dad.
He’d wait for his dad to stop talking, and then he’d just say it.
“So, B, I wanted to be here in person to tell you this.” He took a deep breath. Bram’s words died on his tongue. “Your stepmother is pregnant.”
Bram stared at his dad.
His dad, who was in his early forties. Who remarried when he was twelve years old. His dad who’d always just been his dad.
Bram watched his dad mash his bottom lip between his teeth. “So, she’s due this June-”
He missed whatever his dad said next as he did the math in his head. She was three months pregnant already. With his step-sibling.
His dad stayed for a little while longer, until the excuse of not wanting to drive back in the total dark had him out the door and back to Savannah. Back to his life that Bram was now going to have to share even more of.
His mom gave him space for the night, and he wished he could find the words to thank her for it. It wasn’t even that he was upset. His dad seemed so happy about it, it was hard to let those kinds of thoughts even fully form. His dad was always so good at being a dad when he was younger, and it wasn’t fair of Bram to even think of denying that for him again. Even now, he thought back to how hard his dad tried at the hotel. It was a title that suited him.
In truth, he didn’t really know what to feel. He wanted to talk his feelings out to Jacques, but he didn’t quite know how to explain what he was really feeling through a keyboard.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and opened up his text messages. Garrett’s response of, Oh shit, why? was still unanswered. He opened up the thread and tapped the keyboard.
My stepmother is three months pregnant.
He saw the dots of Garrett responding a few seconds later.
Before he could decide what to respond with, his phone lit up with a call from Garrett. Bram slid his thumb across the screen to accept the call.
“Hey.” His voice was raspy from not using it. In the background of the call, Bram could hear a soft, twangy song coming from Garrett’s room.
“Your dad knocked up your stepmom?”
Bram couldn’t help his huff of laughter at the ridiculousness of Garrett’s comment.
“Does he realize he’s gonna be like… old as fuck by the time that kid grows up?”
“I didn’t get a chance to bring that up,” Bram replied. “It was like he dropped the news and ran.”
Garrett didn’t ask how he was feeling, and Bram appreciated that. Garrett filled the conversation with commentary about the weirdness of the whole pregnant stepmom situation, about school and Leah’s gifts, and how he’s pretty sure his aunt and uncle are about to break the Santa news to his little cousin in the middle of their living room. He noticed that Garrett specifically didn’t bring up Simon or Nick, and Bram equally appreciated that. Bram closed his eyes and listened, feeling some of the tension leave his shoulder at his best friend’s rambling.
He felt better after he hung up with Garrett later that evening, but he still felt like this was something big enough - and vague enough - that he could fill Jacques in on. But he’d save emailing him until the next day. Where Garrett could distract him from the whole thing, he knew Jacques would have the perfect response. And maybe that did come from Jacques existing just in his computer, but behind the computer there was still a person that Bram was falling so, so quickly for. A person whose identity Bram was pretty sure he had figured out.