“Well, that went quite well, didn’t it?” I said as I grabbed Matt’s hand.
It was two days later, and we were all alone walking in the park after school again. Matt and I had just announced to our friends that we were a couple, and I had a really good feeling about how it had gone. They were all supportive, and even Nina didn’t make any begrudging comments.
However, Matt looked tense. I understood it, though. This was way more of a bigger deal to him than it had been to me. For me, everyone in our friend group already knew that I was gay, so having a boyfriend wasn’t that unexpected. But for Matt, this had been his coming out moment. He suddenly had to reveal a whole new side of himself to our friends, and although he said that he fully trusted everyone to be nice about it, I still knew that he had been a lot more nervous than he wanted to show.
“Yes…” Matt said. However, the way he said it sounded like there was supposed to come a “but” soon after.
“But..?” I asked.
Matt let out a helpless groan. “I can’t stand the feeling that I’ve broken Nina’s heart. I could see right through that “I don’t care” façade and see how hurt she was. Can we please try to keep the PDA down while we’re around her? You know, not act so couple-y? I think that will be the least I can do.”
“Matt…” I sighed, “you don’t have to do anything.”
“But I’m hurting Nina with this. I didn’t know she still liked me that much, and I hate knowing that I have unknowingly been leading her on and now I’m crushing her heart by taking off with someone else”, Matt rambled. There was a deep frown on his forehead. I could see how much agony this was to him.
“Don’t you think that pretending we’re not a couple when we’re around her will only lead her on more? Matt, I know you always have everyone’s best interest in mind, but you can’t always please everyone. In this case, although it might hurt her feelings, it is the best for everyone if you’re just upfront with Nina about how the situation is. You’re not in love with her, and you will never be again. You have no interest in being with her.”
“I can’t tell her that,” Matt choked, “that’s horrible. That’ll ruin her.”
“You don’t have to be a dick to her about it,” I said, “but in this case, I think that not being upfront and honest with her is even more cruel. Nina is incredibly stubborn, and bordering on delusional right now if you’d ask me. I think it’s the only way to get through to her and help her get over you.”
My poor boyfriend still looked so distressed. “Can’t you tell her for me?” I could sense that he was starting to panic, because his hand was suddenly tight and almost painful around mine.
“You don’t have to do anything right now,” I shushed him, “just… when the time is right, when it comes up again. Matt, I know that you’re a big wholesome teddy bear and that you’d do anything to keep everyone happy all the time. I admire that about you, sometimes I wish I was as caring and kind as you are. But you also need to learn how to stand up for yourself. Do you want to have to walk on eggshells all the time when you’re around Nina?”
“If it keeps me from hurting her-“
“I’m asking you what you want, not what would please Nina the most.”
“If I could, I’d kiss you in front of everyone all the time”, Matt said, curiously fast and without skipping a beat.
A sigh left my lips and formed a little white cloud in the cold November air. “It doesn’t make you a bad person to choose your own happiness over pleasing someone else, Matt. And in this situation, I wholeheartedly think you’ll do Nina good by being upfront with her.”
Still with that same frown on his brow, Matt slowly nodded. “I think you’re right, but I still don’t like it.”
“Like I said, you don’t have to have any difficult conversations right now. Just, when it comes up, remember that you’re not doing Nina a favor by “sparing” her.”
Matt gave me a weak smile, and ruffled my hair, making it even messier than it already was. “Thanks, Lars, for talking to me. This feels nice. You’d make a good therapist~”
I laughed. “Shut up, I’m just better at being selfish than you are.”
“Well, then I highly appreciate you sharing your sacred wisdom with me, holy Guru Mr. Selfish.”

The next week was pleasant. Nina had decided to keep her mouth shut about me being Matt’s boyfriend, and instead we listened to her talking about TV shows and the books she’d been reading lately. Things felt back to normal again, except that I could now talk to Matt without getting flustered all the time. Instead of sitting with the girls because Violet was my best friend, like I usually did, I now sat with the guys more often to chat with Matt. I didn’t feel safe enough at school to hold his hand or kiss him openly, but I had no problem settling with just talking to him when we were in public. It was overall just a blessing to be around him, and I think that Matt was secretly happy that he didn’t have to talk to Nina about it if we were being more discreet.

However, when things feel too good to be true, they often are.
That Thursday, I came home from school feeling good and comfortable because the autumn sun had been warm that day, and my hair felt all nice and warm from it shining on me throughout the entire walk home. Violet and I just had a really funny discussion about our math teacher, and I was still feeling giddy from it.
I had no idea that something was up, until I noticed Jason and my mom waiting for me in the living room. My mom’s make-up was smudged, so it was clear that she had been crying. Jason’s hands were clutched into fists, and his scrunched-up face could only predict that hell was about to come.
“We need to talk”, he said loudly and aggressively, grabbing me by the shoulder as soon as I came in. I felt like I was getting arrested, the way Jason forcefully pulled me along with him and pushed me down on a kitchen chair. A feeling of guilt was creeping up on me, even though I had no idea what I had done wrong.
“Mom, what’s going on?” I asked, but before she could answer, Jason had already opened his mouth.
“You’ve really gone too far this time. Look at how you’ve hurt your mother!” Jason pointed at my mom’s face, and there were already tears welling up in the corners of her eyes again.
“Well, I don’t even know what I did this time!”
“Let me tell you what happened. You know how I work with the mother of one of those girls you hang out with, right?” To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it, but now that he mentioned it I did remember hearing once that him and Nina’s mother worked for the same company. At a parent meeting a few months ago when he’d insisted he came along, he had greeted Nina’s mother as if she was an old friend.
Jason put on a high voice to mimic Nina’s mom: “Oh, hello Jason! I’ve heard the news about your boy, that he’s now dating my Nina’s ex-boyfriend. What a coincidence!”
The ridiculous face he made as he was impersonating Nina’s mother faded from Jason’s face, and it turned mad again.
I tried to stare back at him like daringly, as if I was saying: “So what?”, but I could feel myself getting pale and anxious. My mom was looking at me with a pained face, as if she was looking at a dog who had just ripped up the couch but didn’t understand that what he had done was wrong, so she couldn’t get mad at him for it.
I decided to break the piercing silence with and blunt: “And..?”
“You’re gay!” Jason yelled, so dangerously angry that I couldn’t gather the courage to scoff something witty back. I just cringed and tried to look for support from my mom. Surely she wouldn’t get angry at me like Jason did.
She saw that I was looking for her to say something, and Jason was now also waiting for her to open her mouth and support him. “I…” she muttered, “I just wished you told me yourself. For how long were you planning on keeping it a secret from us?”
But before I could open my mouth to actually have a reasonable conversation, Jason already came in between with his harsh voice: “First you were a bratty, troublemaking alcoholic, and now you’ve decided to take it even further and become a faggot too? You’re dooming your future children before they’re even born! You were already good for nothing, and with now this too, how do you plan contributing anything to society?”
“Maybe I don’t even want kids! Why do you even care?”
But Jason was already changing the topic: “That boyfriend of yours, he’s a horrible influence. Isn’t he that guy who’s been bringing you home stupid drunk every time you go out with those “friends” of yours?”
“He’s not the one who gets me drunk, he just makes sure that I get home safely. Mom, you know that Matt is a good guy!” I was now feeling outraged, how dare Jason speak bad of Matt?
There was a hesitant, still pained look on my mom’s face.
“Come on, Amber, tell him what you told me”, Jason urged her on. The tone with which he spoke to my mom as if she was an incapable, shy toddler made me want to rip his throat out! Why couldn’t he just let her speak for herself, for fuck’s sake?!
“Well…” my mom said hesitantly, clearly being uncomfortable, “I do think that he… seems a bit old for you.”
“Exactly!” Jason said triumphantly. “It is incredibly unsafe to go out with older gay men like that, they’ll force you into all kinds of disgusting stuff!”
I was about to explode. “What the fuck are you even talking about?! I’m turning eighteen this December, Matt is only a little over a year older than me!”

But no matter what I said or how much I cussed, I just couldn’t get through to Jason. He kept yelling the most ridiculous and insulting stuff at me, how it was wrong and against nature what I was doing, that I was just doing this to annoy him and my mom, how nobody would actually want to date a guy like me and that our relationship would be over in no-time, and some really disgusting things about how he hoped that I would get aids so I could learn my lesson. Some of it was honestly hurtful, but it was the fact that my mother was just standing there, doing nothing, sometimes even hesitantly nodding her head, that made me swallow back some tears. I couldn’t believe how she was allowing Jason to verbally abuse me like this, and how only when it was me who opened my mouth to cuss back, she said that she had enough of this foul language, and left the room to go upstairs.

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