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the love of his young life

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Simon Spier was Jacques. The revelation of this fact weighed heavily upon Bram Greenfeld. He’d been pining after Simon for months, no, years. And he’d been talking to Jacques since August. And every time he’d smiled at Simon, or blushed when he smiled back, or stumbled over his words in a nervous stupor, he’d felt a small pang of guilt. Because even though he hadn’t met Jacques in person, he still kind of thought of him as his boyfriend.

And it was Simon Spier all along? It was irony to the tenth degree, on a whole other level.

And it scared the shit out of Bram.

When Martin Addison (he assumed, at least, judging by the wording and the horrendous spelling mistakes and the heavy emphasis on “forgetting” what Martin did at the football game) posted their emails to creeksecrets, it wasn’t just Simon that was outed. It was Blue.

And he was Blue.

That was why, in a hasty, panicked act that Bram still regretted, he blocked Jacques--Simon-- effectively cutting off contact with him. How could he have been so stupid? The literal boy of his dreams ended up falling for him (albeit over email), and what did he do? He screwed it all up. And Bram was still mentally kicking himself when school resumed in January.

He and Simon hadn’t spoken since it happened, as Bram and Simon or as Blue and Jacques. They had never exactly been the closest of friends. They just happened to have some mutual acquaintances and sat at the same lunch table because of it. But still, Bram felt guilty that he didn’t shoot Simon a message on Facebook or something, offering some kind of support. It likely would have held up the ruse a little better if he at least pretended to be one of Simon’s straight friends.

But he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. There was this achy, thick, sticky feeling in the pit of his stomach every time he thought about Simon. He didn’t think he’d be able to form words, let alone comprehensive sentences of comfort.

God, he wanted so badly to tell Simon he was Blue. But doing so would out him to the entire school. Well, Bram supposed, maybe he could do it in private. Catch him in the hallways after school but before play practice and tell him. Out of range of the watchful eyes and prying ears of the rest of the student body, where it could just be him and Simon. Alone. With no paper trail in their wake like with the emails.

But who was he kidding? If he couldn’t even send Simon an email, what made him think he could talk to him in person? The very thought of it made Bram feel nauseated. Stupid Simon, and his stupid emails, and his stupid, stupid, stupid mistake of letting them fall into the hands of Martin freaking Addison.

Yet, Bram still couldn’t bring himself to be angry at Simon. There wasn’t a bone in his body that didn’t feel for the guy. In both the sympathetic way and the...the gay way.

“Can you believe it?” Garrett asked him the first day back after the New Year. Bram had only half heard what he’d said, as he’d been staring longingly at Simon as he passed, his head down, avoiding everybody’s gaze.

“Believe what?”

“About Spier.”

Bram could feel his throat close up. “What about him?”

“That he’s gay, dude. Don’t you read the Tumblr?”

“Creeksecrets? No way, man. That site’s a total crapshoot.”

He was lying, of course. He read the Tumblr every day. Most of it was a total crapshoot, though. Just a lot of boring selfies of straight white people swapping spit with each other. But it was how Simon had found him as Blue, so…

Maybe Bram hoped that he would find something on there to identify him, to figure out who Jacques was. Maybe he’d left a post a couple weeks before, maybe he’d post again, slip up and leave some kind of signifying information, like a teacher’s name or his lunch hour. Or maybe he could tell something by the timestamp of when it was posted. Maybe Bram hoped every day that he could figure out Jacques’ identity by stalking the Tumblr.

He just...hadn’t hoped it would be like this.

“He’s gay?” Bram said, trying to make it less noticeable that not only was he painfully aware of Simon’s sexuality, but that he was the one Simon had been emailing.

“Yeah,” Garrett said. “Apparently he’s been emailing some guy in the senior class all year.”

“Wow,” Bram deadpanned. “Who’d have thought?”

“Yeah,” Garrett repeated slowly, raising an eyebrow at his teammate. “Who’d have thought? So how do you feel about the whole thing?”

There was a kind of knowingness in Garrett’s voice. It made Bram’s stomach twist and his heart skipped a beat. “What do you mean?”

“Like, he’s been hanging out with us for years, sitting at our lunch table. You sang karaoke with the dude.”

“We were drunk.”

For some reason Bram felt the need to get defensive about that night. He wanted so badly to come out to Simon at the party. He didn’t even know Simon was Jacques back then, but he’d always kind of thought that Simon was gay.

Maybe it had been wishful thinking, or maybe he’d picked up on some of the clues. The clues that nobody else would have noticed, because they didn’t understand. The way Simon’s smile would drop whenever Nick made a joke about him and Leah dating. The way his face would light up whenever Cal Price was within a 50 foot radius of him. The way he sang to Bram at the party, like he was trying to say the things he so desperately wanted to say, behind the voice, the words, of somebody else.

But maybe it wasn’t just wishful thinking.

“I’m not judging you, dude,” Garrett said. “You didn’t know.”

“Wait,” Bram said. “Why would you judge me in the first place? I sang karaoke with a gay dude. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing!” Garrett affirmed. “Seriously, dude! I have no problem with gay people. Like at all. Seriously. I promise.”

Why was Garrett getting all defensive now?

---

At lunch, Bram watched with hopeful eyes as Simon glanced over at their lunch table. Their eyes met briefly before Bram averted his gaze, careful to make sure his blushing wasn’t obvious. Everyone else at the table did the same thing, which, while it did make him look less obvious, also gave him a sickly feeling in his chest.

He desperately wanted to be with Simon, to tell him things would be okay. But apparently Leah, Nick, and Abby had this huge fight with Simon, so Bram knew he would be in the minority when it came to wanting Simon at the table.

That was when Bram noticed Aaron and Spencer. Two of the school’s biggest doofuses. Something about them always made Bram seethe with rage. Today was no different.

Especially since Spencer was dressed differently. He was dressed like Ethan.

Bram couldn’t even look. He knew what was coming.

“You got something to say to me?”

Simon’s voice. It was strong, confident. Angry.

He’d never heard Simon speak like that before, with such authority, such transgression. He knew that if they hadn’t been in school at the time, Simon’s language would have carried a little more weight, contained a few more choice words.

It was...kind of hot.

The bullies continued to mock Simon. Bram, who just a few moments ago had refused to look, now couldn’t keep his eyes off of them. Simon’s fist was trembling. He was a heartbeat away from decking Spencer in the face. Garrett must have noticed, too, because he started to get up from the table to confront them. Anger was bright in his eyes.

That was when Ms. Albright stepped in. She whisked the two boys off to the vice principal’s office, and Garrett begrudgingly returned to his seat. Bram started at his best friend with a newfound appreciation. Knowing that he was going to step in and defend Simon, someone who he only knew in passing, because of mutual friends and a lunch table, kind of warmed Bram’s heart.

It proved to him that he had Garrett’s support. And that meant the world to Bram.

---

It was after school. He and Garrett were over by Bram’s locker. Bram felt uneasy, like the time he’d eaten a fried oreo right before going on the Tilt-a-whirl. But it wasn’t because of a nauseatingly delicious chocolate dessert that made him feel this way.

Bram had decided he was going to come out to Garrett.

Jacques had inspired Bram to come out to his parents over the holidays. They took it well. But Bram didn’t even dare to think about coming out to any of his friends at school. And considering how Simon had been treated since coming out (or being forced out, really), Bram shuddered at the thought of being the second openly gay black kid at their tiny little hick school.

But Garrett was different. Garrett was his best friend, and had been for years. They’d played soccer together since middle school. He’d slept over Garrett’s house before. Hell, they once shared a bed when their families went to Orlando together back in eighth grade. He used to wonder how, if and/or when he came out, Garrett would feel about those times. Would he freak out about retroactively sharing a bed with a gay guy?

Bram had never been into Garrett, of course. He didn’t even know he was gay when they met, and by the time he did realize it, he’d seen one too many of Garrett’s belching symphonies to ever even consider being attracted to him.

But now, Bram was sure of one thing: if Garrett knew Bram was gay, he would support him. He would stick up for him in the hallways and at lunch or at soccer practice if anybody tried to terrorize him. Bram knew that Garrett wouldn’t be afraid to punch a guy out, even if it was somebody on the team.

“Garrett,” Bram started to say.

But he was cut off by the sound of slamming metal. It echoed through the halls, drowning out all idle chatter until it became deadly silent. Garrett and Bram peered down the hallway, watching all of the heads pop out from classrooms as everybody tried to get a look at what was going down.

Somebody had just been slammed into one of the lockers.

And it was Simon.

“Hey!” Garrett shouted, charging down the hall at Spencer, only to be cut off by the bully’s henchman, Aaron. “Hey, Spencer, leave the poor kid alone.”

Simon had a look on his face that was a mix between anger and fear. Spencer shoved Simon out of the way and he went tumbling towards the ground. Bram wanted so badly to rush over there, to help him out. But he couldn’t move. His legs were frozen in place.

“So,” Spencer dragged. “You’re gonna stick up for this faggot, then huh?”

A flash of fury wiped across Bram’s face. His hand was balled into a fist and was shaking. He hated that word. God, he hated that word so fucking much.

“Hey, maybe he’s that homo that’s been emailing him?” said Aaron, grinning at Garrett with an accusatory look in his eyes. “Maybe he’s that Blue fag.”

Garrett’s entire body was rife with anger. He raised his fist to clock Aaron in the face, but didn’t even get the chance.

Because Simon beat him to it.

The entire hallway echoed with the sickening crack as Simon’s fist connected with Aaron’s jaw. The bully stumbled and tripped over his own feet as he crashed into the ground on his, the wind getting knocked out of his gut.

You could hear a pin drop in the hallway. Nobody moved, nobody said a thing. Garrett stood, staring on with his jaw dropped. Everybody had a similar expression. Spencer appeared dumbfounded, and didn’t, couldn’t, even retaliate. Aaron grimaced in pain, and looked as if he was actually about to cry.

Simon stood over him, his fist still half-extended from the punch. His rowdy hair had fallen and covered his face, concealing his eyes. Bram could only see the slight tremor in his lips, like he was getting ready to spit on the downed kid.

Instead, he mumbled something under his breath. It was soft, breathy, but with how drop-dead silent the hallway was, everybody could hear it loud and clear.

“Blue isn’t a faggot,” he said. “He’s a human being with real emotions. He loves oreos and superheroes and knows the difference between nauseous and nauseated.

Then he looked up, and shook the hair from his eyes. Bram could see his eyes were beginning to well up with tears.

“He’s not your punching bag,” he continued, louder this time. “He’s my Blue. And I’m in love with him.

Bram’s heart threatened to jump out of his chest, but instead it just went dormant. For a full couple of seconds, Bram was positive that his heart just stopped beating altogether. His eyes widened and started to fill with tears. He blinked them away.

Did Simon just say he was in love with him?

Nobody said anything as Simon grabbed his backpack and took off down the hallway. Bram watched on in a stupor, unable to do or say anything but follow Simon with his eyes as he passed by him. Simon met his eyes briefly, before returning his gaze to the floor and walking through the double doors leading outside.

It took a minute before anything happened in that hallway. Nobody moved a muscle, as if they were all under some kind of freezing spell. Garrett was the first to move. He offered a skeptical hand to help Aaron up. Bram could see the hatred pass through Garrett’s eyes as Aaron smacked his hand away and stumbled to his feet on his own. He could tell that Garrett was seconds away from punching the douchebag again himself.

Instead, he just turned and walked away, back over to Bram, who was still spellbound in place. As Garrett approached, his jaw finally relaxed and he shifted his weight to prove to himself that his legs still worked.

And just like that, it was like nothing happened. People carried on with their conversations awkwardly, and students continued passing through the halls to their lockers. Spencer and Aaron sauntered away, likely to go tattle on Simon. Bram hoped he wouldn’t get in too much trouble.

“Jesus,” Garrett said. “That Spier kid is freaking hardcore.”

“I think I’m in love with him,” Bram blurted.

He recognized his mistake immediately, and squeezed his mouth shut, a look of terror washing over him. But he started to relax as Garrett’s face twisted into the proudest of grins. Bram felt his cheeks grow warm.

And suddenly Bram found himself enveloped by the arms of his best friend. With Garrett’s arms wrapped around him, his face lifted in shock. It took him a second, but he eventually his arms bent upward and he embraced the hug.

“I’m so glad you finally told me,” Garrett said.

Garrett let go of Bram, and he just stood, staring at his best friend with his mouth agape.

“You knew?”

“Jesus, Bram, of course I knew. You’re my best friend.” He beamed. “Plus, you’re not exactly subtle when you’re undressing Simon with your eyes.”

Bram blushed. He was full-on blushing now. “I do not undress him with my eyes.”

“Bram, you chew your lip more than your food half the time at lunch.”

Garrett laughed, and Bram followed up with a weak attempt at joining him. But his heart was still racing, his hands were still shaking.

“So is it you?” Garrett asked. His grin encased the entire lower half of his face. “Are you the guy he’s been emailing?”

“Yes,” Bram admitted. His voice was barely above a whisper. “And can you keep your voice down?”

Of course, nobody could hear them over the indistinct rumble of a thousand different conversations happening simultaneously, but talking about it out in the open still made Bram nervous. He still wasn’t ready. To come out, that was. Especially not after what he just witnessed.

But Simon Spier was in love with him.

And he was in love with him right back.

And, well, that was enough for him.

For now.

---

“Dude!” Garrett practically screamed into Bram’s ear. His voice was so loud that Bram had to pull the phone away from his ear. “Have you seen it?”

“Seen what?”

“Oh my God , Bram. Check the freaking Tumblr!”

With a sigh, Bram pulled out his laptop and typed in the address for creeksecrets.

And it hit him like a soccer ball to the gut. Which Bram had quite a bit of experience with, actually.

He read it over and over, until he’d memorized every word. And suddenly, he couldn’t help it. He was crying. He was honestly, truly, weeping . Chills shot up his spine, and his arms broke out in goosebumps, particularly as he read the last two words of the post.

Love, Simon.

He reached out with his hand, the one that wasn’t holding onto his phone, and touched the screen, traced the words with his finger.

Love, Simon.

“Dude,” Garrett said. “Are you crying?” There was a smile in his voice.

“Yes,” Bram admitted. Then he laughed, because it was just so ridiculous. He was crying over a Tumblr post. But it was a Tumblr post from Simon.

He said he knew him. He didn’t know his name, or what he looked like, but Simon Spier knew him. And he did. Simon knew him better than anybody else, better than his own best friend did.

So yeah, of course Bram was crying. If there was ever a situation to cry, this would be it, wouldn’t it?

“So what are you going to do?” Garrett asked.

“I...I don’t know.”

“You’ve gotta go, dude!”

“I...I can’t…”

“Greenfeld, you’ve been in love with this kid for four years. Now he wants to meet up with you for a romantic Ferris Wheel ride, and you’re going to say no?

“No! I’m not going to say no! I just…”

“I get it,” Garrett said. “I do. You’re not ready to come out.”

“Yeah…” It sounded stupid when Garrett said it. Like it was stupid to let something like that come between him and the love of his life. And it was stupid. It shouldn’t even be a big deal.

But it was a big deal. It was a holy freaking huge awesome deal.

And maybe that was how it should be.

“Will you go with me?” Bram said.

He could hear Garrett grinning through the phone. “Of course , man!”

Bram breathed deeply. He could already feel his heart-rate accelerating. “Okay,” he said. “Thanks, dude.”

“Want me to pick you up?”

“Sure,” he said.

“I’ll be there at 8.”

---

There he was. Simon fucking Spier. The love of Bram Greenfeld’s young life. The boy he’d been crushing on for four years, that he’d been emailing for months, that he’d gotten to know inside and out, who’d gotten to know him inside and out.

He was just sitting there, going around and around the ferris wheel. Nobody else dared to get on. Everybody crowded around to watch, though. Even Spencer and Aaron looked on, without disgust on their faces, no less. In fact, they looked positively...content.

With every round of the ferris wheel, Bram’s heart rate picked up by at least 10 ticks. His legs were frozen in place, just like that day in the hall, the day he realized he was not only crushing hard on Simon Spier, but completely and totally in love with him.

Garrett whispered words of encouragement at him the entire night. “Go on, dude,” he said. “He’s right there, just go up and talk to him.”

He was careful not to let anybody hear them. Bram was grateful. Even though he was about to out himself in front of the school, in front of the world , he was thankful that Garrett let him do it on his own terms. Unlike poor Simon with Martin goddamn Addison.

Speaking of the devil .

Bram had caught Simon shouting at Martin in the parking lot one day after school. He couldn’t hear exactly what they were shouting about, because he was still avoiding Simon at that point, but he could hear the rage, the hatred, the betrayal in his voice. He could hear the way his voice cracked, and saw the way he slammed his fist repeatedly into his steering wheel as he got in his car, screaming and crying like the day he was born.

It broke Bram’s heart.

Now, Martin was standing in front of Simon, claiming to be him. Well, not him. Blue.

“No, you’re not, Martin,” Simon deadpanned.

“No, you’re right, I’m not,” Martin admitted. “But...this is brutal, man…”

Martin paid for one last round on the ferris wheel, likely out of guilt. Just as Simon was about to give up, and the ride operator was about to pull down the safety bar for one last ride, something sparked within Bram.

“Wait!”

Bram’s legs moved on their own. He didn’t even know he could run so fast. He dashed up to the ferris wheel, and there he was. Simon fucking Spier. The love of Bram Greenfeld’s young life. The boy he’d been crushing on for four years, that he’d been emailing for months, that he’d gotten to know inside and out, who’d gotten to know him inside and out.

The look on his face was priceless. Shock, excitement. Disappointment? Oh god, was he disappointed it was him?

“Can I sit there?”

“I’m kinda waiting for somebody,” he said. It may have sounded like a rejection, but there was something in his tone, some kind of glimmer of hopefulness. That made it an invitation.

“I know,” Bram breathed.

Simon sat, slack-jawed, staring at Bram for a minute. Bram’s heart was pounding, beating like a bass drum, and his blood raced through his body like a boiling hot river rapid. He was disappointed, Simon. Bram could tell. Something in his face.

But then a smile cracks. “It’s you,” he said.

“It’s me,” Bram confirmed.

Simon’s smile was so freaking cute. He beamed up at Bram and scooched over to give Bram room to sit down next to.

Which, of course, he did. He sat down next to Simon fucking Spier. He was sitting next to Simon fucking Spier.

Bram could not have been any more excited if he tried.

“You’re Jewish?” Simon said.

Bram laughed. “And black. And gay.”

Gay. He’d said it out loud. In public, with people watching. It sent a jolt of electricity coursing through him. Was this what courage felt like?

The operator started the ride, and the wheel started turning. They rose into the air, and Bram felt like he was on top of the world. He could see for miles if it wasn’t so dark out. The rush of the wind felt good against his burning skin.

The crowd below them cheered, but up there, up in the clouds where he was, he couldn’t hear them. All he could hear was his heart beating in his chest, and Simon’s beating in his. He looked over at the boy of his dreams.

“Are you disappointed it’s me?”

He couldn’t help but to ask. He had to know. He saw the way he looked at Cal Price, and Lyle from the Waffle House. Bram was absolutely terrified. What if Simon...wasn’t into black guys?

Well, that would certainly put a damper on Bram’s crush on him, that was for sure.

But Simon’s face morphed into a look of shock, compassion, disbelief. Then his lips curved into a great big smile, the biggest smile Bram had ever seen. “No,” he said. And the way he said it, it was like he was offended Bram would even ask.

Then his lips were around Bram’s. It took Bram by surprise, but he immediately melted into the kiss.

Holy hell, he was kissing Simon Spier. Simon. Motherfucking. Spier. The love of his young life. On top of a ferris wheel. Surrounded by a bunch of his classmates. They were all cheering, screaming with joy for the two of them. It was this crazy, terrifying, heart-pounding, gut-wrenching, incredible thing.

But maybe that was just what love was.