The boy slouched low on the wooden bench, his shoulders hunched, arms crossed in that classic self-protective pose that teenagers instinctively struck, his hoodie falling low over angst-ridden eyes. Cold and soaked through, he ignored the rain that pounded down from the darkening evening skies; ignored the discomfort of cold water rivulets rolling down his neck and dampening him from the inside out; ignored the people who scurried past, eager to get home and out of the driving rain. He was oblivious; too wrapped up in the pain that radiated from his very soul. For fuck’s sake! He was a psychologist’s wet dream.
Today had changed everything. Every fucking thing! Up ‘til today, he’d been able to fool himself; fool himself into thinking that everything was normal; that he was normal. But, today? Well…the truth had finally coalesced from its amorphous state into solid certainty; a certainty that sat like a lead weight of dread in his stomach; the certainty he’d managed to ignore for so long, now; the truth that had hovered at the periphery of his awareness, eager to make itself known. And it had definitely done that, that’s for damn sure.
Today had been like every other day, until he’d looked into the eyes of the new kid being introduced at the front of the class. He’d been blindsided; the force of the instant attraction he felt looking into those smiling hazel eyes like a physical blow to his solar plexus. He felt sick, now, just thinking of it; remembering the way his heart had sped up and the colour that had rushed to his cheeks. The knowing look in the eyes that met his had spoken volumes, and he’d know that he was transparent; that everything he was feeling had shown on his face. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough when class ended.
So here he sat, soaked and frozen, yet unable to bring himself to move. He didn’t want to go home, afraid that his father would look at him and know that something had changed; know that his son had joined the faggot brigade, as he so charmingly put it in every homophobic rant he’d ever made. He couldn’t face the man who constantly told him that real men didn’t cry; real men didn’t need to talk about their feelings; and real men certainly didn’t want to kiss other men, let alone fuck them.
The sound of deep laughter brought the boy from his reverie and he looked up, his eyes drawn to the warm light that spilled from the coffee shop’s enormous windows. The door swung shut and the laughter cut off, leaving him to the sound of the drumming rain. He looked around, realising it was now fully dark and he was alone, with no idea of how long he’d been sat here. He was gonna be in trouble when he got home, no matter what, now; his chores wouldn’t be done and he must have missed dinner by at least an hour. His stomach rumbled loudly, prodded into action by this thought alone. He shivered, hunching further into his hood and balling his fisted hands deep into his pockets. He’d stay a little longer.
It was several moments before the boy realised he was watching the people who’d just entered the coffee shop; watching them remove their coats and take seats at the table right in the centre of the large plate window. The two guys were laughing, their lips moving in a conversation the boy wasn’t privy to. He didn’t need to be. These guys knew each other well and were totally at ease together, you’d have to be blind not to see it. His eyes narrowed as he watched them, wishing he had a friend that close - someone to share stuff with. But they moved around such a lot, sometimes it seemed like he barely even got the chance to register for classes before they were up and gone again. What was the point in getting close to anyone when he didn’t know if he’d be there tomorrow?
A pretty young waitress came to their table, notebook in hand. The boy thought he recognised her from school, but he couldn’t be sure. He watched as the dark haired guy turned to her, obviously knowing what he wanted already. The blonde continued to study his menu until, looking up laughing, he reached out with it and swatted his friend on the arm. They were all laughing now, sharing a moment that looked so goddamned perfect. The boy was riveted, unable to tear his gaze away. No longer looking at their smiling faces, however, his eyes were now fixed on their joined hands clasped across the table; on the entwined fingers that moved gently across each other.
The boy suddenly felt a warmth suffuse him from the inside out, a flush that seemed to heat his entire body. Could he really believe what he was seeing? According to his dad, these two guys were the lowest forms of life and should be taken out and shot, not fit to mix with decent, god-fearing folk. Yet, as he continued to watch them, he couldn’t see anything wrong and neither could anyone else, as far as he could tell. The waitress continued to chat to them and then moved away to fill their order, and none of the other customers in the packed coffee shop took any notice of them.
He didn’t know how long he sat there watching the two young guys; didn’t care, really. He no longer felt the cold or damp; didn’t notice that the rain had stopped and stars had started to appear in the inky sky. In a single moment, it was as if his whole world had shifted on its axis, everything he thought he knew – or that his dad had told him - turned on its head. As he watched them talk and laugh, casually touching each other, their hands joined, their legs brushing under the table, he realised that this was how it was meant to be. This was love, and it didn’t matter who you were or where you found it. This…communication…was what it was all about, and it wasn’t his fault that he’d never seen it before. Maybe this is what families and couples did all across the world; talked to each other; laughed with each other; touched each other; loved each other.
Suddenly, today was turning out to be not so bad after all. So, okay – he’d realised he was gay and possibly humiliated himself in front of the most gorgeous guy he’d ever seen. But – and this was the best part – he wasn’t a freak. There was nothing wrong with him and he didn’t care what anyone thought of him, even his dad. Yeah, it’d be tough for a while, but he wasn’t gonna run from who he was any more. It was finally time to go and stand up for who he'd always been.
The boy got to his feet, groaning slightly as his legs protested; he’d been sat still for far too long, that was for damned sure. Taking a last look at the two strangers, who had no idea that they’d just changed a life, he smiled for the first time in what felt like forever. For a moment, his eyes seemed to meet those of the dark-haired guy at the table, although he wasn’t sure if he could actually be seen, and his smile widened. He raised his hand in thanks and then turned away.
In the warmth of the coffee shop, Luke turned to look at whatever had put that quizzical look on his husband’s face, but couldn’t see anything through the rain-covered window. He shrugged, turning back and picking up his fork. Mmmmm…angel layer cake and Noah’s eyes on his lips; life didn’t get much better than this.