Sandy Derekson is my brother's name. When he was my age, thirteen, and in my grade, seventh, the other kids would pick on him because of his name. He used to come home crying a lot, but ever since he had made it into high school, and had filled out with muscle, the other kids had made fun of him less, and had begun to worship him more. Right now, he's seventeen and in the eleventh grade, on the football, basketball, and soccer teams, and with washboard abs that you can clean an entire load of dirty laundry on.
"Sandy?" I asked while I knocked on the bathroom door. I did that weird little dance that you do when you really have to pee. "Are you almost done? I'm about to explode here, man."
A split second passed before the door swung open, and a wash of warm air gushed out. Sandy stood in the doorway; his blonde hair hung wet around his perfect cheekbones. His bright blue eyes sparkled as he took in the sight of me, bent over in the hallway with my hands clasped over my crotch.
"It's all yours," he laughed, and he stepped out of the way.
I couldn't help a blush of indignation as I rushed past him. I shouted, "Don't take so darn long next time," as I shut the door.
As I washed my hands after I had completed my business, I looked up into the mirror over the sink. Sandy and I both had the same color hair and eyes, but other than that we looked completely different. Where his face was sculpted with high cheekbones and a nicely dimpled chin, mine was round and still pudgy with baby fat. His skin was smooth and tan, and mine was pimply and pale. His body was rippling with hard muscle, and mine was, well... jiggly. It's not that I hated Sandy for being the good-looking one, because I loved him to death, but... it annoyed me, you know?
I sighed and slapped some water on my face before I headed downstairs for breakfast. "Hey, Sandy," I started when I spotted him munching on some toast at the kitchen table. It was just the two of us at home, since both mom and dad were at work already.
"Yeah?" he responded, and spewed crumbs onto the tabletop.
"Can I borrow, maybe like, twenty bucks?" I asked in my most sugarcoated voice.
He looked up at me, unimpressed. He swallowed the bit of toast he had in his mouth before he said, "What do you need 'maybe like, twenty bucks' for?"
"Is that a 'yes'?"
"Sunny," he said sternly. Sunny is my name. Sunny Derekson. A.k.a. Sunny D, as Sandy sometimes called me.
I relented. "I was thinking of buying some film at the store when I walk to school today."
"For your new camera?" Sandy smiled. Our grandmother had bought me a camera for Christmas last year, and I had only recently rediscovered it. Needless to say, I liked to take pictures- it had become my hobby, which is why I had already run through the three rolls of film grandma had sent along with the camera itself.
"Okay, I'll give you the money..."
"...But?" I could tell he wanted something.
"But you'll have to show me some of your pictures first." He nodded, as if it was a done deal.
"What? No way!" I wasn't about to say it out loud, but my pictures sucked.
"Aw, come on, why should I give you the money if I'll never see the end product?" Sandy pouted. He knew I could never win an argument when he pouted.
"It's just pictures of grass and dirt and stuff..."
"I still want to see."
I thought quickly to myself, before I came up with: "How about this? You give me the money, and I'll take pictures that will actually be worth your time. Okay?" I thought it was a pretty good deal.
Sandy stared hard at me for a minute. "What have you really been taking pictures of that you don't want to show me?"
I blushed. I don't know why, I just did. "I told you, it's just dirt and stuff..."
"You been taking pictures of your girlfriend?" he smirked and lifted an eyebrow.
"I don't have a girlfriend," I grumbled. I'm not sure why I felt insulted.
Sandy pouted as he reached into his back pocket for his wallet. "You're just too easy to tease, Sunny D." He pulled out the desired bills and handed them to me. I grabbed them and shoved them into my own pockets with a huff before I turned on my heel and headed to the fridge for some milk.
About a half an hour later, the doorbell rang, which signaled to me the arrival of my best friend, Leslie. Leslie and I always walked to school together, since it was relatively close by. Sandy reached the front door first, since he needed to get to his car in order to drive to the high school.
"Hi, bye," Sandy greeted him briefly before he slipped past him to the driveway. Leslie's green eyes blinked in confusion behind his thin, rectangular glasses before he spotted me and smiled close-lipped.
I smiled back, shouldered my backpack and slipped on my shoes. "Yo, good morning."
"Hi," he answered simply. We headed out after my shoelaces were tied, and I turned around to make certain the front door was locked. I had gotten yelled at one too many times because of an unlocked door, and I wasn't going to risk it again.
"You mind if we stop at the store for a bit? I have to get film," I asked, my finger unnecessarily pointed in the general direction of the drug store down the street. Leslie just shook his head silently, and his longish ponytail whipped around his shoulders.
I frowned. "You're too quiet today; what's wrong?"
Leslie gave me a look before he sighed and explained, "I just realized this morning that I'll be nineteen when I graduate high school." He sounded absolutely depressed. Leslie was one grade higher than me, eighth, and fifteen years old. He had been held back in kindergarten. I'm still not exactly sure how that's possible, but he did it.
I sighed this time, but in frustration. "You're hopeless, you know that?"
"Shut up! It bothers me, okay?" He huffed.
I laughed, punching him on the shoulder. "I'm just kidding. Chill, okay?"
"Whatever." He pouted and crossed his arms. I rolled my eyes, and smiled.
It was after school. I shoved the new roll of film into my camera. It was a nice feeling, so full of promise. I looked around the school yard, at all the kids as they ran around, and talked to each other in groups and got into cars.
"Boo!" Leslie pushed me from behind and almost knocked the camera from my grip. I spun around to tell him off, but decided against it since he seemed to be in a better mood from this morning. He smiled his toothy grin that would have been charming if it weren't for the braces in the way. "What'cha doing?"
"I'm thinking about what to take a picture of. I can't make it random crap like I used to since I want to show Sandy and stuff...," I explained, and held up the camera for him to see.
"Ooh! Take a picture of me!" Leslie spun around and struck some stupid poses.
I shrugged. I had never taken a picture of a person before... "Okay, sit on that bench over there... by the trees." Leslie actually skipped to the designated spot. He seemed way too excited about this. His mood swings were a mystery to me.
"What do you want me to do?" He smiled up at me, and I removed the lens cap. I shrugged, and told him to do what he wanted to. So he removed his hair tie and shook his head back and forth like a dog. His shoulder-length brown hair fell in a wavy froth around his face. I shook my head, laughed, and raised the camera. When I looked through the lens, he had changed his position slightly. He leaned against the back of the bench, his legs spread a bit farther than was comfortable, and he bit the tip of his pinkie finger seductively.
"Hey! We're in public!" I looked up from the lens, trying to cover up my embarrassment with a joking tone. "You know I have to show these to my brother..."
"All right, geez..." Leslie sighed, and sat forward, then crossed his arms and legs. I had a thought, took a couple steps closer, and inspected him closely. After a second or two, he started to squirm around, and then asked, "What?"
"Take off your glasses," I said simply.
"What?" He blinked.
"You heard me, take them off." I frowned. After a moment, Leslie hesitantly reached up and tugged off the spectacles. He squinted up at me with those big green eyes of his, and probably wondered what I had in mind. He really did look better without those glasses... "Okay, umm...," I started. I had never really ordered someone around before, let alone in order to take their picture. "Like... lie back."
"Are you coming on to me?" Leslie asked, and squinted some more, but there was a smile on his lips.
"Back," I said with more force, and pointed at the edge of the bench. Leslie complied without a word this time, put his head at the very end of the bench, and let his hair fan out. I stared at him for a bit, and pondered how I wanted this picture to look. Finally, I told him to lie on his stomach, to which he gave me another suggestive glance, but he did what he was told. His hair fell over the bottom part of his face like I had wanted it too, framing his eyes quite nicely. Those eyes looked at me quizzically and that's when I snapped the picture. I laughed when he blinked in surprise. He sat up, looking angry. "Hey, I wasn't ready!"
"It's best to take them by surprise," I said, and tried to sound as if everyone knew that, even though I had just made it up. Leslie pouted, and shoved his glasses back into place.
"Whatever. We should start walking home." He got up and started to stomp away as he tied his hair back. I wondered briefly if I had really hurt his feelings, but then let the thought slide and followed him.
It was bright in my room when I opened my sleep-filled eyes. I sat up with a jolt, then flopped back against the bed once I realized that it was Saturday and I wasn't late for school. I lay there for a few minutes, scratched my belly, I wondered what to do with myself. Mom and dad were at work again, so they weren't going entertain me. Leslie was at a dentist appointment, and all of my other friends were probably likewise occupied. "I guess pictures it is...," I mumbled to myself. Reluctantly, I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and stumbled over to my dresser to pick out some clothes.
Once I was dressed, I shuffled out of my room and down the hallway, and paused in front of Sandy's room. I stared at his door for a moment before I knocked softly, in case he was still asleep. He didn't answer, so I continued on my way. I took the first few steps down the stairs, then halted when I heard Sandy's voice coming from within the kitchen. His voice itself didn't surprise me, but what it was saying did.
"Where are you right now?" A chuckle. He was on the phone. "Okay, meet me at our usual place, all right?" Another laugh, deep in his throat. I'd never heard a laugh like that from him before... "I'll see you then... Love you... Bye." I heard him hang up, and my heart pounded in my chest. Sandy didn't have a girlfriend, at least not one that I knew of... But that had to be who he was talking to, right? You don't say "love you" to friends, guy friends especially. Right?
I realized that I had crouched on the stairs sometime during that exchange, and looked like some predator on the prowl. I didn't stand up, however, since I was still trying to process what had happened. Downstairs, I heard Sandy open the front door and walk out, then close it behind him. I was suddenly filled with the desire to find out who exactly Sandy was saying "Love you" to, and started to follow after him, only to be struck with the thought that it would be kind of stalker-ish to really go after him...
A wicked grin cracked my face as I had an idea. Barely a second passed before I ran back into my room and grabbed my camera, then ran back down the hallway, and down the stairs.
Sandy wanted pictures, right? I'd give him some pictures then.
Following Sandy was a lot easier than I had thought it would be. He would look over his shoulder occasionally, but there was always a bush or a fire hydrant nearby to hide behind. We finally ended up at the park, which was a long ways away from our house to walk to. Why had Sandy chosen to walk, when he could have driven? Maybe he had hoped to make me think that he was still at home by having the car in the driveway? Maybe...
He sat down at a picnic table, and I had barely a second to hide behind the play equipment that some kids were on before he looked in my direction.
"What are you--" one kid started. I shushed her. She blinked, then smiled, as if she was in on some secret. "Oh, okay, sssh." She winked at me, then skipped away. I turned my attention back in Sandy's direction, and made a little sound when I saw that he had walked away from the table, and now moved toward the wall of trees that separated the park from the elderly home next to it. The locals called it the "forest" but it was still just a wall of trees. I had to stay in hiding for a while, since the distance from the playground to the forest was nothing but grass.
About a minute after Sandy had disappeared between the trees, I dared to stand up. I took a deep breath, and then made a beeline for the picnic table Sandy had just sat at, waited a few moments, then darted for the trees. I wondered briefly Why the secrecy? but now was not the time to think about that. I hid behind the first tree I came into contact with, looked over the edge of it, and listened for noise. After a minute or two, I heard a faint voice that I assumed was Sandy's. I followed it slowly, zigzagging, listening to what he was saying.
"Man, we haven't been alone like this in such a long time..."
I crawled on all fours through the underbrush, and found a small hole on the bottom of a bush next to me to look through.
"I know... I missed you so much..."
I blinked. That voice... wasn't a girl's voice, or maybe it was and she just had a really deep voice.
Sandy laughed. "We see each other everyday..."
"You know what I mean..."
"Yeah..." I finally had the courage to look through the leaves of the bush. I had to hold back an inhalation of breath as I watched Sandy lean toward the person in front of him, and kiss them softly on the lips. "...I know," Sandy continued, but I was too startled to comprehend much of anything else but what I saw.
Sandy, my big brother Sandy, the perfect jock, perfect student, perfect everything Sandy had kissed other man.
After I got over my initial shock, I recognized the man that he was kissing. It was Roger, Sandy's friend that he had brought over to our house once to work on some project or another. I knew it was him because he was the only friend of Sandy's that had a mohawk. His hair was down at the moment, but that was hardly the point.
I stared at them, so close, so intimate. Sandy's hands were on Roger's hips, and Roger's were on Sandy's shoulders. They talked in low voices now, their faces barely an inch apart. Their lips met from time to time, as if they couldn't decide between whether they should talk or make out.
The word "Voyeur" flashed in bright red letters in my mind, and I flushed the same color. I felt the camera in my hands, and brought it up to my eye with a numb hand. I had come here to take a picture of this, right? I caught those two in the circle of the lens and pushed the button. Click and they were captured forever.
I didn't recall much as I walked back out of the forest, but once I realized that I was, I started to take picture after picture. That little girl in the playground, a patch of flowers, an old couple that sat on a bench and a pack of wild kids that bounced in a jumper that had been filled with air for a birthday party. Picture after picture, until I was back at home and back in bed.
I got the pictures developed the next day. I leaned against the wall in the drug store, and shuffled through them. Most of them were pretty good, in my opinion. I lingered on the photo of Leslie's eyes. Finally, I came to the one that I had actually looked for. The one of Sandy and Roger.
They looked just the way I remembered them, except they seemed more desperate. Instead of Roger's arms loosely draped around Sandy's broad shoulders, they now seemed to grip them tightly, as if he expected Sandy to run away at any moment. The camera never lies, right? Had I really been blind to that desperateness?
I took a shuddering breath, then slipped the photos back into the little paper pouch they came in.
I sat on the swings at my old elementary school. Leslie sat on the one next to me, but he actually swung in his. I just sort of... sat there. After a few minutes, he slammed his feet into the ground, which made me jump. Once he came to a stop, he looked at me with concerned eyes behind those annoying glasses. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," I said automatically.
"No, really. Tell me." His voice never got that soft; it made me really look at him. Something in my stomach clenched at the sight of him. His rich brown hair was tied back as usual, but just enough fell out of the hair tie to frame his face, and those gorgeous eyes. I looked back down at my lap, and halfheartedly began to swing myself back and forth.
"Um." I coughed for no apparent reason. "I'm not sure how to say this..."
"Just say it." He started to reach out for my shoulder, but seemed to think better of it, and grabbed the chain at his side. I frowned.
"I just... Well... You see..." I sighed and looked back at him. "I have this... friend... And he's... you know, gay." I paused, and waited for his reaction. He seemed surprised, but what really puzzled me was a hint of... Was that eagerness in his eyes?
"Uh huh..." He nodded, his face gone blank.
"Well. Um. I just... I'm not sure..." Why did this have to be so awkward? "I'm not sure how to... how to feel about that..."
"Do I know this friend of yours?" he asked so suddenly that I looked at him. He just looked back.
"Yeah... You do..."
"Hmm." That was all he said for a while. Then, "Well, how do you feel?"
"I mean, what's your immediate reaction? Sadness? ... Disgust?" He said the last at almost a whisper. I wondered what he was thinking.
"I suppose... I don't know... I don't really feel either way." I shrugged, and looked down at the ground. "I don't feel like throwing a parade, but I don't hate him either, far from it."
There was a silence. "So?"
"So?" I looked at him.
"Does he know that you know?"
"Tell him." His eyes held a serious glint that I didn't know he possessed.
"What? Why?" I asked, panicked. The thought of actually confronting Sandy had never crossed my mind.
"He deserves to know." Leslie nodded, as if agreeing with himself. "Being gay is a big issue, Sunny. If you're not mad at him for it, you should give him support. Besides, once you tell him, he won't have to stress over hiding it from you, right?"
I laughed- I couldn't help it. He looked offended. "Why are you being so serious about this?" I smiled, but once I saw that he wasn't amused, I stopped. We stared at each other for a while; he was the first one to look away.
"I...," he started. My heart nearly exploded when his phone started to ring. He jumped nearly six inches in the air, and grabbed the phone with shaky hands. "H-hello?" he breathed. A moment of silence on his end. "Oh... okay... Yeah. I'll be there in a second. Bye..." He hung up and glanced up at me. "I, um, have to go home now..."
"Oh... okay." I tried to smile, but I think I failed. He tried to smile back while he stood up and started to walk away. Suddenly, he spun around on his heel and pointed at me. "You're going to tell him, right?"
I couldn't argue with that serious look on his face. I smiled, really smiled, at him. "Yeah."
"Good," was all he said, and then he continued on his way.
Monday, after dinner. I stood in front of Sandy's bedroom door, the packet of developed pictures clutched tightly in my hand. I'm going to do this, I told myself, I'm going to do this because Leslie thinks I should... Since when did Leslie's opinion matter so much to me?
Slowly, ever so slowly, I brought my fist up and rested it against the cool wood, not knocking, just resting. My heart was in my throat. Calm down, Sunny, calm down... Even more slowly, I knocked, barely audible. I knocked again, louder this time. There was a pause, then, "Yeah?" Sandy's voice asked.
I closed my other hand around the doorknob and opened the door without saying anything. Sandy swung his swivel desk chair around to look at me. He smiled, his dimples showing. "Hey there, Sunny D."
"Hi...," I murmured as I closed the door behind me.
Sandy's eyes moved to the packet in my hands. "What'cha got there, D?"
"Um, these are my, um, pictures..." I lifted them up. My hands shook.
Sandy's eyebrows lifted. "You used a whole roll in just one weekend? Wow."
"Um, yeah." The corners of my mouth lifted, but I don't think it looked like I was smiling.
"Hey, no need to be nervous, I'll go easy on you. Let me see." He reached out for the pictures and I gave them to him. Quickly, I turned around and sat limply on his mattress, and waited.
I didn't look up as he opened the packet. I didn't look up as he took the pictures out. I didn't even look up when he complimented me on some of them. I only glanced up through my eyelashes when he neared getting to the last picture; The Picture.
I had marked the back of it with a red dot so that I would know when he got to it. The instant I saw it, shut my eyes tight, and waited for him to say something. All I heard was a sharp intake of breath, then nothing. The nothing stretched out for so long that I finally had to open my eyes and look at him. He just sat there, eyes wide and focused on the picture, before they slowly lifted and looked at me. I tried not to flinch when we made eye contact. I don't think I succeeded.
"How..." His voice came out shaky, and scared. I blinked. Sandy was never scared. He looked back down at the picture. "How did you get this?"
"I... followed you the other day...," I started, "I heard you on the phone, and I wanted to know... who your girlfriend was." A strained cough of a laugh escaped my throat. "I guess it wasn't a girlfriend after all, huh?" I wanted to punch myself for being so stupid. Instead I fidgeted, and fiddled with the hem of my jacket, while the silence crushed me like a two ton weight.
"So...," Sandy whispered. I had to strain to hear him. "So you know that I'm... that I'm gay." He looked back up at me then, his eyes shiny. He looked to me like a deer caught in the headlights. I wished I had never followed him, or even picked up a camera. My brother had become a frightened little boy, and it was all my fault.
I nodded in answer to his question, but his eyes never left me, as if he expected more. I blinked, and realized that he was waiting for more. I wanted to hit myself again. Instead, I said, "I still love you."
It was like the last crash of a wave before a dam finally broke apart. Suddenly, he was crying, my big, brave brother was crying, but I could tell that he was happy because he was smiling.
I didn't remember him getting up, but suddenly I was being hugged. I hugged him back in return, and listened to him as his tears slowed. "Thank you," he whispered, over and over and over.
After a while, he settled down, but didn't move from his spot on his knees in front of me. He kept his arms around me as he looked through my pictures again behind my back.
"Hey... Is that... Leslie?" he asked.
I blinked, then whirled around to look at the picture he held. I wanted to kick myself. I had forgotten to take out that picture!
Sandy smirked at me.
A picture says a thousand words...