I feel really nervous walking through the front door, as if I know something bad is about to happen. I'm still all worked up about nearly getting caught by Shane, and I'm breathless from my run home, so by the time I get in our house, I'm looking like a little bit of a mess. I feel like a bloody mess as well.
"Christopher, is that you," my mum calls from the front room.
"Uh, yeah," I call back warily. She doesn't normally call me Christopher unless something's up. I think the last time she called me Christopher was last winter, when I accidentally broke this tacky glass penguin she'd put on a table, right where I normally throw my gloves and scarf during the winter. (For the record, that totally wasn't my fault.)
"I made you a cup of tea, love."
When I get to the front room, I find two cups on the table, and my mum's looking up at me with an enigmatic expression that seems to confirm that something is definitely up. If I was feeling nervous before, I'm bloody panicking now.
"You're looking a bit exhausted," she remarks casually as I fall down next to her in the sofa.
"Yeah... I had a bit of a run," I explain vaguely.
"So what have you been doing?" She's leaning back in the sofa, looking at me over the brim of her tea mug.
"I was watching a film with Conor," I say, since I know she's been talking to Shane and knows I've not been with him. "Shane wasn't at home."
"No, I know. He came round here asking for you," she says and takes a sip from her tea. "So, how long have you been hanging out with Conor? Is he your substitute Shane," she adds with a smile that looks kind of...insecure, I guess.
"Uh, I don't really hang out with him as such. We just ended up watching a film since Shane wasn't round," I respond. Something is up, alright. She usually never gives me the third degree like this.
"And he was here a week ago?"
What the hell? I start thinking about any possible reason she might know this. Did she count the number of chip-packets and came to the conclusion that since there were two, Conor – whom I have never socialised with before – must've been here and eaten with me? Or did she install security cameras in the house? Did I talk about it in my sleep? Has she been reading my emails? Fucking hell...
"Yeah... How did you know," I ask, my heart pounding so hard I'm sure she can hear it.
"Oh, Bryan told me. He said he saw you two when he came back to pick up his bike."
Shit. Fucking bloody shit. I swallow hard, and stare into my tea.
I don't dare looking at her, but it's like I can feel her eyes on me. Is this why Bryan was so odd the other day? Because he knows about me? Fuck. Does mum know? Is she just prodding, trying to get me to come clean?
"Uh, yeah. I ran into him at the chippy."
"You seem to be running into Conor a lot," she says. I'm still too shy to look at her, but she sounds kind of serious; she's not laughing or anything. I take another sip of tea to buy time.
"Errr, I guess..." Yeah, brilliant reply, I know.
"Are you two...friends now," she asks, making that little pause before 'friends' that people do when what they really mean is boyfriends, in the hugs-and-kisses-and-mutual-sexual-gratification sense.
"Mum..." I say, without really knowing what to follow it up with.
"Well, are you?!" She's sounding just like she did when I broke that bloody glass penguin. She knows I'm guilty, as it were, yet she's hell-bent on making me admit. I keep staring at my tea.
"What do you want me to say," I ask, finally looking up at her. She's crying. Tears are streaming down her face like little rivers. "Mum? What the hell?"
She begins to say something, but breaks down. She's covering her face and crying so hard her back is shaking. I move a little closer, putting my arm around her shoulders, feeling really unsure about how to react.
"I'm sorry, baby," she says and sits up, wiping at her eyes with her sleeves. "It's just that Bryan said you were..." She trails off.
"Were what," I ask even though I'm pretty sure I know what she's about to say.
When I don't answer straight away – because let's face it, I have no idea what to do or say right now - she starts crying again. She's nearly howling. I don't think I've ever seen her cry before and this is freaking the hell out of me. I don't know what feels weirdest, that my brother's seen me snogging someone (let alone snogging another bloke), that both Bryan and my mum know I've kissed Conor of all people, that my mother is obviously quite upset about it, or that Bryan has known for over a week but hasn't been taking the piss once.
"I knew one of you would turn out like that," she sobs, "I just knew it. It's all genetic. It has to be."
She's stopped howling, but I can still see the tears streaming down her face.
"What are you talking about," I ask.
"You... Stephen... I should've known."
"Who the hell is Stephen," I shout before I realise... My dad. "So that's why he left! Because he's gay?"
Suddenly I feel infuriated. If I was feeling embarrassed, ashamed and uncomfortable before, it's all gone now, replaced by anger. I just can't take it in. My mum starts sobbing again, and it feels like I'm about to cry too. I don't know what to do with myself. I want to shout, or hit something, or hit my mother, or just something.
"I asked if that's why he left," I shout and pull my hands through my hair to keep myself from breaking something.
She still doesn't answer. She's covering her face, shaking as she sobs. It drivs me mad. I don't have to put up with this. I mutter some random swear and get up to leave. I'm not going to sit here watching her cry. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do? Comfort her because she's upset that I'm gay? As if.
I'm halfway through the front room when I notice Bryan standing in the doorway leading to the stairs. I didn't even know he was at home. I wonder how long he's been standing there. Not to mention why the hell he's been standing there. This is none of his business. Bryan clearly thinks otherwise as he refuses to move out of my way.
"Move," I tell him as I stand in front of him, nearly chest to chest.
"No," he says, looking...serious. I can't describe it any other way. He looks a bit like the other day when he was questioning me on how I felt about Shane's girlfriend.
I guess normally, I would've tried to push him out of the way or something, but now it just seems inappropriate. The stupid serious look on Bryan's face and his refusal to move just drains the energy out of me, right there. I surrender to the fact that there is no chance I won't have to deal with the consequences of this night anyway, and stalk back across the front room, sitting down in a chair.
"There," I say childishly to Bryan. Yeah, I know. The next step is to stick my tongue out at him.
"Good. Now let me tell you something, Chris," he says, walking towards the other chair. It's weird to see him acting so bloody solemn. I just glare at him as he sits down. "Make no mistakes about dad. He might have been gay, and he might have lived a lie and he might have done it because society forced him to or whatever. Thing is, it doesn't matter, ok? He was still a bastard who left his wife and two kids. Who he left them for doesn't mean shit."
I look between my mother, who is still sobbing into a tissue, and Bryan, who is sitting in the chair looking all serious and grown-up.
"Yeah? She seems to think it does," I say accusingly, nodding towards our mother.
Mum gives me this apologetic look that makes me feel really pissed off with her and pity her at the same time. Her eyelashes are thick with tears, her hair is a mess and her face is looking all red and puffy. She's twisting her tissue in her hands, like a weird, twitchy bird.
"I just want you to be happy," she says with a weak voice.
"I won't be happy with a girl," I reply quietly, forcing myself to hold her gaze.
"Stephen was always miserable," she says, leaning back in the sofa. She's looking at the ceiling, and seems to be talking to no one in particular. I glance over at Bryan, who looks at me with a blank face before turning his attention back to mum. "Always. I was always wondering what was bothering him, why he never seemed happy. Well, he was happy enough when you two were born," she says with an excusing shrug, "but he was never happy with me. We weren't particularly happy together."
"But mum," Bryan cuts in. I just look at him, dreading what he's going to say. I hate that he gets to play the fucking voice of reason in this. Why isn't he just regurgitating football statistics as usual? Why is he even here? "Dad was miserable because he didn't come out until he was 40 or something. If he would've owned up to it from the beginning, he wouldn't have been so miserable. I reckon Chris is doing the right thing. He won't be miserable unless he marries some girl and he's not likely to do that now, is he?"
Both mum and Bryan look at me, as if for confirmation.
"Uh, no, I'm not," I mumble.
"As long as he gets to be with Conor O'Keefe, he'll be happy as a pig in shit," Bryan adds with a grin.
"For fuck's sake, Bryan," I mutter with an embarrassed glance at my mum.
For a few moments, she just stays quiet. She wipes her eyes and pulls her hair together in a pony tail.
"I'm just saying you could've done worse," Bryan continues. "At least Conor isn't completely limpwristed, and I mean, as far as guys go, I suppose he's decently attractive." It doesn't sound particularly natural or honest, but I suppose he's just making an effort.
I'm not really sure what the hell to reply to that though, but I don't have to think about it long. Suddenly I hear my mum's sobs transform to giggles. Then it takes her about two seconds and she bursts out laughing. I don't know whether she's laughing at me or Bryan's dumb-ass comment about Conor, but I suppose the laughing is a good sign.
"Bryan's right. I'm sorry, dear. I like Conor. He's a good lad. Responsible," she says. She beckons me to her, so I move from my chair to the place next to her in the sofa. She pulls me in for a hug, complete with backrubbing and a short peck on my ear as she releases me. "What does Shane say about this?"
"He doesn't know. I didn't think anyone knew."
"Are you going to tell him?"
"I presume Conor will when the time is right, huh? Anyway, Christopher... He's welcome here whenever," she says and smiles. "He's not spending the night here until you're 18 though."
"Mum..." I'm about to argue that Katie stays with Bryan every now and then, but she stops me by giving me this pointed look, one eyebrow crooked. And I guess Bryan is actually 18. Oh well. I don't want to push it.
Conor says he's happy for me. My mum's not mentioned my coming out since it happened (it's been a week), which I'm quite grateful of. Basically, I'm happy as long as I don't have to talk about it. Bryan's not said a word either, but then I've not seen much of him as he's mostly been spending time with Katie. Shane is still oblivious. He thinks I'm daft for forgetting that he was supposed to see Chloe that time, but for now, I'd rather he thinks I'm an idiot than realises that I'm gay.
"You're lucky," Conor tells me when we're sitting in my room late Friday night, talking about it. In whispered voices, since my mum is at home. "She seems to have taken it pretty well, if you ask me. I'll be fortunate if my parents don't send me to a monastery when I tell them."
"If you say so. But still, I mean, don't you think it's weird that Bryan hasn't been bugging me about it," I reply, rearranging myself so I'm on my back on the bed, my head propped up on his thigh.
"Maybe he's not got a problem with it," Conor says, petting my hair. "If anything he seems to have been quite supportive."
"Of course he's got a problem with it! He's Mr life's-about-footie-and-big-tits! He should be merciless!"
"Do you want him to be merciless," Conor asks with a cheeky grin as he leans down to kiss my forehead. "Are you disappointed that he isn't?"
I stick my tongue out at him before I quickly turn around and wrestle him to his back on the bed. He just laughs at me.
"Just admit it, Chris, you wanted to be a martyr. The patron saint of the Gay Cause," he says with his best dramatic Shakespearian voice and rolls his eyes. "Saint Christopher the Gay."
I tickle him. He laughs even more and I can see tears at the corners of his eyes. I love how he looks when he laughs, when his eyes turn into little dark slits. I soon grow bored with it though, and start kissing him instead. He wraps his arms around me and smiles into the kiss. It's just perfect until someone knocks on my door.
"Time for Conor to leave."
How does she always chose the worst possible moment to break us up?
"But it's only—" I grab Conor's wrist and look at his watch. It's half past midnight. Half an hour after the limit my mum's set. "Fine."
We get up, and I walk Conor downstairs. My mum's sitting in the front room with a book and looks up as we walk past.
"Sorry boys, but you know the rules."
Conor lingers by the front door, clearly as unhappy about his departure as I am. He takes my hand and pulls me close with a cheeky smile. He kisses my cheekbone before whispering in my ear.
"I'll see you tomorrow evening, ok?"
"Ok," I reply breathlessly.
I stay in the doorway, watching him disappear down the dark street. Then I walk back in, a goofy grin on my face. He's so perfect. When my mum sees me, she just laughs and says something about how in love I look. I try to ignore it, but I'm pleased she's ok with it.
Who would've ever thought, huh?
A/N: The End. Hope you've enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed writing it, at least. That said, this is the one and only intentionally textbook-y slash story you'll get from me, I promise. ;) If you want to know what I'm doing next, check out my profile or add me on author alert or something. I'm writing like mad on a few things, so I'm hoping to have something new up this autumn/winter.
Anywho. Thanks to those of you who've read, reviewed, added this story to favourites or whatever. It makes me almost obscenely happy. And huge thanks to my very talented editor The Falconer.