“Well it’s no use asking me, I don’t know what’s wrong with him”, George said with a sigh. The three Kirrins, minus Dick, were sitting around the kitchen table.
“Surely you’ve noticed how withdrawn and down he’s been lately”, Julian pressed.
“Of course, even Anne has”, George said, leading Anne to nod vigorously. “I asked him what was wrong but he said he was fine” Anne piped up sadly.
“That’s what he said to me too”, George said. “Maybe he’s just under the weather”.
“No, it isn’t that” Julian murmured, kneading his forehead. “It’s definitely something else. It’s like he’s in a trance- he just isn’t himself”.
“You talk to him Ju”, Anne said.
“Yes you’re his brother” George said, just as Dick himself came into the kitchen. His hair was rumpled and his eyes red-rimmed.
“Dick”, George said, surprised. “I didn’t think you’d come in here”.
“Were you talking about me?”, he asked, his voice cracking.
“No”, they all said simultaneously.
“Anne, do let’s take Timmy for a walk”, George said, before swiftly departing.
After watching them go, Dick sat down at the table avoiding Julian’s gaze. “I know you’re going to ask me what’s wrong Ju”, he said. “So don’t. I’m fine”.
“No Dick, you’re not” Julian said determinately as he sat in the chair next to him. “I think I’d know when you’re fine and when you’re not. I am your brother! Please tell me”.
“No, I can’t! I just…can’t!”
“Why can’t you? You can tell me anything!”
“You won’t be angry at me? Or start acting in an authoritarian way?”, Dick asked, relenting.
“When have I ever done that?”, Julian said. He offered his brother a handkerchief which Dick used gratefully.
“Well”, Dick said, practically whispering. “I…I don’t think I’m normal”.
“Oh Dick, normal is relative”, Julian said. “What do you mean?”
“Well”, Dick said unhappily. “In the future, you’re supposed to get married aren’t you? And have children?”
“I suppose so”, Julian said. “That’s what most people do”.
“I just don’t think I could do that”, Dick said, looking at the floor. “I don’t like girls like that… I don’t notice them, or think they’re pretty or anything. Whenever I think of myself in the future, I can only see myself with boys”.
Silence hung between the two brothers like an impenetrable mist. Julian reeled in shock as Dick sat there, awaiting his verdict.
“Dick…”, Julian said slowly. “Are you sure?”
Miserably, Dick nodded. “I wouldn’t tell you unless I was certain. Do you not think that I don’t know the punishment if anyone found out?”
“But you’ve told me”, Julian said.
“Who else could I tell? You’re the only person I trust”, Dick said, beginning to cry. “Father would disown me, Mother would faint, and George and Anne would never speak to me again! I’d be a social pariah, I’d go to prison if I were to dare act on my abnormality!”
“Dick please don’t cry”, Julian said, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. “You have my word as your brother that I won’t tell anyone. I promise”.
“But I can never be happy, not if I’m living my life as a lie”, Dick said. “Why is it illegal, for me to want to be with boys? How is that love any different to men and women loving each other? I can’t control it, I didn’t choose to be like this!”
“I don’t know”, Julian said, lost for words. “I truly don’t know. Maybe in the future it won’t be illegal”, he said optimistically.
“Maybe”, Dick said with a sniff, although he didn’t sound very certain. “I mean it’s not like I haven’t tried to make myself like girls, but I can’t, I truly can’t”.
“I don’t think it works like that”, Julian said.
“I wish I were more like you, Ju”, Dick said with a watery smile.
“You are like me”, Julian smiled. “You’re my brother. And I’ll always be here to help you, don’t worry. Even if the rest of the family turns away from you, I’ll always be there”.