The Night Before
by David Heulfryn
Max seemed strange when he got back on Saturday evening. We had a great time at the rugby, they won their game, and I met James and his younger brother, Marc. I could tell James and Max wanted to keep touching each other, holding hands, putting an arm around the shoulder, and even kissing, but they managed to restrain themselves. Max couldn’t have been happier than winning the match and spending time with James. I only knew because I was looking for the signs. Max had told him that I knew about them, and although James was nervous about me at first, he soon relaxed, and we got on well. He seemed genuinely interested in me, and we joked about me teaching my brother to do a backflip. James wanted to see me do it, so at the side of the pitch, I did a series of flips along the line. James was impressed, and his little brother was amazed. Marc was my age and talked excitedly to me about gymnastics. Although we were the same age, he was physically bigger and taller than me.
We stayed for a drink in the clubhouse, and then James’ parents took his younger brother home. James and Max stayed, but I started to feel like a third wheel, so I excused myself and said I’d leave them alone. Max smiled at me, and I felt him touch my leg under the table to say thank you. James smiled at me, grateful I was leaving them alone.
That was the last I saw of Max until he got home earlier than usual and joined us in the living room to watch some crap on television. Mum and Dad never liked us to spend much time alone in our room, and our dumb phones were confiscated at nine o’clock so that we wouldn’t be on them all night sending messages and talking to our friends.
I could tell Max was unhappy, despite his forced smile to fool our parents. He said he was tired at ten o’clock and would go to bed. When Max left, I noticed Mum raise an eyebrow at Dad, but they never said anything.
I waited another half hour to finish the programme, even though it was tedious, I wanted to see the end and who won the stupid game show.
Max lying on his side, facing the wall. The room was dark, so I couldn’t see his face clearly. He didn’t acknowledge me. I undressed quietly and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
Something felt wrong. Even though the air was silent, I sensed Max was disturbed. I thought I’d better keep my distance, and I got into bed. I didn’t lie down. I sat up, resting my back against my headboard, my duvet draped across my lap.
“Are you alright, Max?” I asked quietly.
Max fidgeted; he was turning over. “James thinks his parents know about us.”
I asked why he thought that, and Max mentioned they’d been careless. He thinks they’d shown affection to each other, an affection other than that of being just good friends.
“His Mum wouldn’t leave us alone when we got back to his place. It was strange. She said we weren’t to shut his bedroom door when we were in his room. She kept coming up and checking in on us. Sometimes she tiptoed. I think she expected to find us kissing, but we weren’t. We knew something was wrong, so we just played on his console. The atmosphere got so awkward James suggested that I leave. But before I did, he said he was going to tell his parents about us tonight.”
“Shit, Max!” I gasped. “How do you feel about it? Do you think he’ll be alright?”
“Scared and anxious.” Max said, “I’m sure it’ll be alright, but what if his parents want to talk to ours?”
I couldn’t think of anything to say, but I got a knot in my stomach.
“So, I’ve decided. I have to tell them tomorrow. In the morning, after breakfast. Both Mum and Dad have nothing to do tomorrow, so they will be hanging around the house.”
“Are you sure, Max?” I asked.
“Yes! I’m 100% sure. I’m going to tell them tomorrow, and I would like you with me. Will you, Min. I need the moral support.”
“Of course, Max. I’ll be with you whenever you want. I’ll be by your side.”
“It’s what baby brothers are for.” I joked.
“Min? I don’t think of you as my baby brother or even my little brother anymore. You are my brother, and I love you.”
“Can you still be my big brother, Max? I like having a big brother.”
“It will be my honour.”
“Are you scared about telling them?” I asked.
“A little. It’s that I don’t want to disappoint them. I don’t want them to think lesser of me just because I’m gay.”
“That’s twice now you’ve admitted to yourself that you’re gay,” I stated.
“I know. Being with James has made me realise it, and it’s made me happier about myself, and I’m starting to love myself because of it, and because of you, Min. You’ve helped me as much as James. I couldn’t do without either of you, and I know both of you will be proud of me, no matter what.” Max drew in a deep breath. “But what about Mum and Dad? Will they still be proud of me? Or will they be ashamed that I’m not a normal fourteen-year-old boy?”
“You’re a young man, Max. Don’t belittle yourself by calling yourself a boy.”
“But that’s what they think of us, Min.” Max sniffled. He was holding back some tears. “We are just boys to them. Boys who get told what to do, where to go, and how to behave. And I’m going to tell them that I’m gay! What if they just dismiss it? A phase, a fad, because everyone else is coming out. What if they don’t take me seriously? I’ve thought long and hard about this. It’s not something I’m doing just to pretend to be different.”
“Calm down, Max.” He was beginning to get worked up and agitated. “I’m going to be with you. I will support you and defend you. But all these are what-ifs. None of us knows what will happen or how they will react. We just need to wait.”
We heard some noise downstairs and stopped talking. Mum and Dad were coming up the stairs and going to bed. Max and I lay silent, waiting for them to settle down, but we heard our door handle creak, and our Mum popped her head into our room. The light from the landing shone in and illuminated Max in his bed.
“Are you asleep, Max?” She whispered.
Max sighed, “Not yet.”
“Are you alright? Me and your Dad got a little worried as you seemed a bit down when you came home.”
“I’m fine, Mum. There’s nothing to worry about.” Max told her.
“Oh, good.” She looked over at me. “And you, Finn? Are you okay?”
“I’m good, Mum,” I smiled.
“Okay then, sleep tight, boys. See you in the morning.” She closed our door, and we were back in darkness.
We lay still, waiting for our parents to go to bed, but I could hear Max sniffing.
“See, Min. Boys. They just think of me as a boy.” Max said once we heard their bedroom door close.
“Stop it, Max. You’ll get yourself into a state. You’re worrying far too much, and it’s your hormones talking. You’re a hormonal teenager turning into a man who is in love.”
“But they don’t see me like that.” Max was upset.
“Then perhaps after tomorrow, they will realise that you’ve grown up and are becoming a man. I’ll tell them I’ll be their little boy for a few more years. I’m short and gangly and look about ten years old in the clothes they buy me. I’m sure Mum would buy me superman pants again if she could. It’s only my whinging that stops her.”
“But that’s it, Min. She can’t stop. We’re boys who should wear superhero underpants, superhero t-shirts and shorts.”
“And tomorrow, we will stop that.” I was adamant, “When we talk to them, you will no longer be a boy but a young man with a mind of his own and his own life to lead.”
“We?” Max sniffed.
“Yes, we!” I said firmly. “We will talk to them. We are brothers that will not be split up. We do this together, and I will only leave if you ask me, not them. We will show a united front, and you will come out, and all this anxiety and fear and nerves you feel will magically just disappear. And Mum and Dad will be happy for you. And I will be so proud of you.” I couldn’t believe it. I started to cry. The emotions were getting to me. I laughed. “We are a couple of prats. Both of us crying when nothing has happened.”
I heard Max sniff again. “I’m not crying.” He sounded defensive.
“There’s nothing wrong with men crying. It means you are in touch with your emotions and are not some unfeeling psychopath.” I joked.
“I don’t think I’m a psychopath.” Max seemed to cheer up, “I mean, I’ve not tried to murder you in your sleep.” Max paused for comic effect, “Not yet, anyway.”
We laughed. It made me feel so much better hearing the joy in his laugh.
“Good night, Max. I love you.” I said.
“I love you too, Min.”
I turned over to go to sleep, but a few minutes later, I heard Max get out of bed. I wondered what he was up to but soon felt him lift my duvet and slip into my bed. I shuffled over to give him space. I faced the wall, and Max spooned me, his naked body snaking down the contours of my spine and the shape of my buttocks. He wrapped his arms around me. I could feel this heat from his body, he could feel mine, and he kissed the back of my head.
“Do you mind if I sleep here tonight? You make me feel safe. I’m afraid I won’t sleep if I’m on my own.” Max whispered into my ear.
“Anytime, Max. Anytime you want, you don’t need to ask.”
“Thanks, Min. I love you.”
“I love you too, Max.”
We lay naked together, kept warm by my single duvet and our shared body heat. Max held me like I was precious. Something he wanted to protect. I fidgeted to get comfortable and held onto Max’s hands wrapped around my chest. I could feel his cock resting in the cleft of my buttocks. I’d never felt anybody like that. We fell asleep.
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