This is a story about a gay male and may
involve sexual activity
males, so if this is likely to offend you, or is illegal where you live
do not read any further. All the events and characters in this
are fictional and any resemblances to real people are purely
The story is copyright of the author and may not be distributed or
placed on any web sites without written permission from the author.
I would like to thank my editor, Richard Lyon, for his encouragement
moral support while this story was being written. Also thanks to him
and to MikeL for their hard work
seeking out errors after it was written.
If you enjoy this story or have any
comments about it, please feel
free to send me an email .
as a child
When Adam was eighteen he left school with the good A-level
grades that everyone had expected. His best friend, Martin, got
identical grades, three As and a B, and was rewarded with a celebratory
party and a car. In contrast, all Adam got was a mild reprimand from
his mother, who told him that the B grade had let everyone down.
Despite her criticism, the grades were more than adequate to get him a
place at his first-choice university to study Law.
He had deliberately chosen to go to a city that was far enough
from his home town that he'd have a reasonable excuse for not going
back to see his parents. A side effect of this was, of course, that he
didn't get to see his brother either. Although this saddened Adam a
little he didn't think that Brian would care because for the previous
couple of years they'd already been drifting apart and leading separate
lives. Indeed, Adam suspected that the prospect of getting their room
to himself might make Brian glad to see him leave.
Although Adam was happy to get away from his parents, he missed
his brother, especially during his first year at university. Sharing a
room with a fellow student in the Hall of Residence was not the same as
sharing a room with his brother, with whom he'd felt very relaxed and
comfortable. Maybe if their family had an internet connection he might
have emailed Brian. Maybe if Brian had his own phone Adam might have
called him, but Adam didn't feel comfortable phoning the family number
and specifically asking for his brother.
Over the next three years Adam did well in his university courses
and also managed to have an enjoyable social life. He even had a few
sexual relationships with other gay students, though none of them were
serious and even the longest of these brief flings lasted less than two
months. After he left university he never had any contact with any of
Immediately following graduation he got a job with a law firm in
Manchester, which was only about forty minutes from his home town.
Although this proximity to his parents was a little uncomfortable for
Adam, the job was one of the best he could hope for as a new graduate.
Not only was it well paid and interesting, but the firm was very
supportive while he was studying for Law Society Finals. Furthermore,
if he did well in the Finals they offered him good career prospects.
Apart from the obligatory visits home, such as at Christmas, Adam
managed to find excuses for not going to see his parents too often.
However, although the combination of work, study and looking after his
own flat were good reasons not to go home, they didn't prevent him from
enjoying a social life. He even managed to find someone to whom he
could give the title 'boyfriend'.
Connor, a tall, thin red head with pale skin and luminous green
eyes, was a couple of months younger than Adam, and they'd met in a gay
bar about six months after Adam's arrival in the city. In many ways
Adam and Connor were very different, not only in appearance but also in
the ways they approached life. On the surface the two seemed
incompatible but Adam found the differences refreshing, at least at
Whereas Adam was cautious and very serious by nature, Connor was
outgoing, carefree and changed his job at least three times per year.
At the time they met, Connor was a salesman in a men's clothing store,
but he made it clear that it was only temporary and that in any case
work was just a way of getting money so that he could live his real
life. An important part of his 'real life' was his large extended
family, with whom he was very close.
What started off as a purely sexual relationship became a
friendship that included sex. Then about five months after their first
meeting, Connor suggested that they move into a flat together. He
pointed out to Adam that as they already spent most of their non-work
time together and as they never had sex with anyone else it would be
easier and cheaper if they lived together as well.
Adam agreed with this logic, and so Connor became his first ever
official boyfriend and the two of them eventually managed to find
themselves a comfortable, affordable, but not luxurious flat close to
the city centre. One Friday evening, about a month after they'd moved
into the flat, they were marking the start of the weekend by relaxing
and drinking wine on the sofa when, without any preamble, Connor asked
a question that took Adam completely by surprise.
"When am I going to meet your family?" he asked.
"Why ever would you want to do that?" Adam responded, appalled at
"Well, you've met my parents a few times and I'm curious about
yours. They don't live far away but they've never been here. And
although you've been to visit them a few times since we met, you've
never invited me."
"But I've told you this before," Adam said, feeling a little
irritated that this topic had come up to spoil the relaxing start to
the weekend. "I don't get on with my parents."
Connor, who phoned his mother almost every day and visited his
family at least twice per month, didn't seem to understand or accept
Adam's estrangement from his parents.
"Actually, I don't really know that. All I know is that you
hardly ever talk about them, so I s'pose I could have guessed that
maybe you had some problems with them."
"Then you'd have guessed right."
There was a brief silence while they sipped from their glasses
and Adam hoped that would be the end of the matter.
"So why don't you get on with them?" Connor asked, shattering
"I just don't. It's a long story and I don't want to talk about
"Didn't you say your brother still lives with your parents, even
though he's just started college? So your parents can't be all that bad
if he's happy staying with them."
Connor had found out from Adam that Brian had decided to study IT
and computing at the local technical college and planned to take exams
for a university external degree. Adam sighed deeply and took a large
drink from his glass before responding.
"He's always got on better with them than I did," he said, trying
hard to be patient, "and he probably can't afford to move out."
There was another short period of silence, again broken by Connor.
"Have you told them about me?"
"I told them I'm sharing a flat with you," Adam said, wondering
why the question had been asked.
"But not that I'm your boyfriend?" Connor asked, sounding
"They don't even know I'm gay," Adam retorted, making no attempt
to hide his exasperation. "I'm sure I told you that."
"You mentioned soon after we met that your family didn't know
about you," Connor said with a hint of irritation, "but I thought that
after we moved in together maybe they might have been curious and you
might have told them."
"Even if they had been curious, they know better than to ask me
"You've got a weird family," Connor said, shaking his head and
"Yeah, I know. That's what I've been trying to tell you," Adam
said as if he'd scored a point in a debate.
"When I said 'weird family' I didn't mean just your parents,"
Connor said jokingly but in a tone that indicated he wasn't being
"How can you be so insulting about my brother when you've never
even met him?" Adam asked, deliberately choosing to interpret Connor's
comment purely as a joke.
"Exactly!" Connor said with a slightly sad smile.
The two of them sat quietly for several minutes before Connor,
with the tenacity of a dog with a bone, decided to tackle the subject
from a different angle.
"Are you ashamed of me or are you ashamed of being gay?" he asked.
"What?" Adam responded, somewhat startled by the sudden question,
then once he'd recovered he added, "Neither. I'm not ashamed of
"Then why don't you tell your family about me next time you go
home? Maybe they'd like to meet me as much as I'd like to meet them."
"Maybe I'll think about it," Adam said noncommittally.
A couple of months after that conversation with Connor, Adam went
to spend a weekend at his family home. His main purpose for the visit
was to collect some of his few remaining belongings there and take them
back to his flat. He'd also decided that if the opportunity arose he
would let his parents know that he was gay and living with his
By doing that he hoped to stop Connor from nagging him about it
and also to put an end to his mother's suggestions that he should be
settling down and providing her with grandchildren. In the not unlikely
event that his parents reacted badly to the information the plan had
the additional benefit that they might disown him and thereby make him
feel less guilty in future about his reluctance to visit them.
The opportunity to mention having a boyfriend came up while he,
Brian and their parents were having Sunday lunch. Adam would have
preferred it if his brother hadn't been there for the revelation but he
was due to return to Manchester immediately after lunch so it was
unlikely another opportunity would arise that weekend.
"Well, Adam," his mother said, "I hope you realise that sharing a
flat with a friend can put a strain on your friendship. It's one thing
to socialise with someone but you never know about all their bad habits
until you start living with them."
She cast an accusing glance at his father, who totally ignored
her, then looked back at Adam.
"But maybe you've found that out already," she concluded.
Adam took a deep breath before he responded.
"Actually, Mum, Connor isn't just my friend. He's my boyfriend."
When he'd started to speak he'd intended to stare his mother in
the eyes and face her expected negative reaction with defiance.
However, by the time he'd said the final word his courage had begun to
fail and he'd allowed his eyes to drop to some unfocused point toward
the centre of the table. He gritted his teeth and steeled himself for
the response to his revelation.
In fact the responses of his family were not at all what he might
have expected and they took him by surprise. His mother's apparent lack
of any reaction at all was to form the template for any future occasion
when he tried to bring up the subject. Eventually, Adam worked out that
her coping mechanism involved ignoring the facts and somehow in her own
mind substituting the word 'friend' whenever he mentioned the word
His father's behaviour was perhaps a little more predictable.
First he froze for a few seconds, knife and fork gripped tightly in his
hands and eyes fixed on his half-empty plate. Then, taking care to
avoid looking at Adam, he slowly put down his cutlery and looked at his
"I'm going to the pub," he said, his tone one of suppressed anger
tinged, so Adam felt, with a hint of disgust.
Without looking back, he then got up from the table and went
upstairs, presumably to get ready to go out. If his father had behaved
like that at any other time then his mother would almost certainly have
gone ballistic and a violent row would have ensued. However, on this
occasion his mother merely clenched her jaw and began cutting up the
meat on her plate into smaller and smaller pieces.
It was his brother's reaction, however, which was most unexpected
and which hurt Adam the most. At first Brian, surprise and shock
written across his face, almost dropped his cutlery. His mouth opened
and closed as if he were trying to catch his breath after being punched
in the stomach. Then as their father was going up the stairs, he glared
angrily at Adam before turning to their mother.
"Sorry, Mum," he said in a carefully neutral voice, "I forgot to
mention I have a football match this afternoon. I need to go and get
Of course all three of them knew it was a lie but no one
"That's alright, dear," their mother said. "I understand."
Brian got up and before he left the room he cast a brief
reproachful glance back toward his brother. The expression on his face
reminded Adam of the look of betrayal in his eyes when he was just a
child and had felt he was being abandoned in the hospital.
Lunch was thus effectively ended, and his mother, without saying
a word, started collecting the dishes together. Adam helped her to
carry them through to the kitchen, half hoping, but not really
expecting, that she might make some comment on his revelation. However,
she never mentioned it, then or ever. By the time Adam had to leave to
go back Manchester neither his brother nor his father had returned to
Gradually, over a period of months, Adam's relationship with his
parents returned to normal, or at least to what passed for normal in
his family. In order to maintain the peace with his father he merely
had to avoid completely the topic of sexuality. A few times he tried to
bring the subject up tangentially with his mother, but she totally
ignored it so he quickly gave up.
Having been hurt by Brian's reaction to the original
announcement, Adam decided to adopt the strategy that he used with his
father and to avoid any reference, no matter how oblique, to any form
of sex or sexuality. However, even after he'd taken great care to
adhere to that strategy, their relationship was still strained.
The brothers had been drifting farther and farther apart ever
since Adam had gone away to university, but before Adam had revealed
his sexuality at least they'd always felt comfortable around one
another. Now that easy comfort had gone. They were still polite and
superficially friendly toward one another, but it was the sort of wary
politeness that they might offer to someone who was almost a stranger.
Adam came to regret the way that he'd come out to his family, and
he felt resentful and a little bitter that Connor had talked him into
doing it. At first he didn't express his resentment even when he began
to notice and get irritated by certain aspects of Connor's personality
and habits. One thing that Adam found particularly annoying was that
Connor still kept asking about meeting his family despite their
negative reaction to Adam's coming out.
"Maybe you should talk to them again," Connor suggested. "I'm
sure they'll come around in time if you make an effort."
"Why should I?" Adam snapped. "I don't care if they come around
"But they're your parents!" Connor said, sounding a little
exasperated. "Where would you be without them? I know you've had
problems with them, but family is more important than any temporary
problems. So you should at least try..."
"Not all families are like yours," Adam interrupted irritably,
"and not all parents are nice people."
"Yeah, you've told me how they were a bit harsh, but kid's need
"Discipline, even harsh discipline, is okay if the kid
understands it, but I remember lots of times when I wasn't even sure
what I'd done wrong."
"I'm sure they wouldn't have punished you without reason," Connor
said with conviction.
"Really?" Adam said, trying to control his irritation. "I
remember when I was only about four years old and mother got furious
about something. She slapped my legs until I was screaming and I think
she stopped only when her hand hurt too much to continue. Then, when my
father got home, he dragged me up to my bedroom where he spanked me
very hard for what felt like forever. After that I was made to stay in
my room for hours in silence without food and with just water to drink."
"I guess you must have done something pretty bad then," Connor
commented as if he understood the situation, "and no doubt you learned
"I've no idea what I did," Adam said angrily, amazed that Connor
could apparently take that attitude, "and I'm pretty sure I didn't know
what I'd done even then, so what lesson could I have learned? What
could a four year old possibly do to deserve that?"
Adam took a deep breath and attempted to calm down before he
"That sort of punishment was thankfully relatively rare, but I
did learn one thing," he said. "I learned that the sort of punishment I
got had very little to do with what I'd done but was much more related
to how irritable my parents were at the time. I also learned how unfair
and unjust life could be, and that's one reason I got interested in the
"But the law's not always just and fair," Connor pointed out
"No, but at least it's intended to be fair, and at least there
are people who try to make it fair. My parents never even tried."
After that conversation it didn't take long before their life
together became a series of arguments and fights. Often the rows were
started by Adam and were sometimes about such trivial things as the
toothpaste tube being left uncapped. Then one day when Adam came home
from work he found that Connor and all his possessions were gone. In
many ways that discovery came as a relief to Adam, and he made no
effort to get back in touch with his ex lover.
When Adam looked back on the last few weeks that he and Connor
had been together, he realised, with a tinge of horror, that the way
he'd been behaving toward Connor reminded him a little of the way his
mother sometimes treated his father. It also occurred to him that,
perhaps subconsciously, his behaviour had been designed to drive Connor
away. He regretted the way he'd treated Connor, but he didn't regret
the fact that the relationship was over.
Although he'd had a strong affection for Connor, Adam had never
really loved him. Indeed, he'd not felt any intense emotion since he
was about seventeen, when he'd eventually managed to cleanse his mind
of the poisonous hatred he'd had toward his parents.
About three months after Connor disappeared from his life, Adam
decided to join an internet gay dating site. He didn't put any photo on
his profile but on it he promised that he would send a photo to anyone
who sent him theirs. Over the next couple of weeks he sent out and
received several contact messages but none of them led to a meeting.
Then one evening he received a message that left him feeling
'Hi', the message read, 'Your profile is nice. I'm a 19 y.o. IT
student looking for my first real boyfriend. I've got lots of hobbies
and interests and I especially enjoy swimming and football. You can see
more details about me on my profile. Attached is a photo of me. Hope
you're interested enough to get in touch and that you'll send me a
photo of yourself.'
The end of the message was signed simply with a 'B.' and when
Adam opened the attachment he saw a photo of a topless Brian.
The range of emotions that passed through Adam when he saw this
made him feel dizzy and even a little nauseous, so he was glad that he
was already sitting in the chair at his computer desk. Perhaps oddly,
the first emotion to rise and be recognisable above the others was
How could Brian have treated him so badly after Adam had revealed
his sexuality to his family? Surely at that time, when he was almost
nineteen, Brian must have known his own sexuality? Why, in all the
months since then had Brian not shared that knowledge with Adam? The
more Adam thought about those questions the more he felt betrayed and
the angrier he became.
By the time he was lying sleeplessly in bed that night, the anger
had faded enough for other emotions to be recognised. Adam felt
uneasiness and a twinge of guilt. After all, he had taught his brother
how to masturbate and they had done it together several times. Of
course he knew that such boyhood experimentation was common and could
not possibly have made Brian gay. However, despite all logic, there was
still a nagging doubt as he wondered if anything he'd ever done might
have influenced Brian's sexuality.
Adam told himself not to be so stupid because even if he had
influenced Brian's sexuality in some way, being gay wasn't a disaster,
so there was nothing to feel guilty about. Still, there was a slightly
guilty concern at the back of Adam's mind as he lay awake and tried to
decide what to do with the knowledge he now had. Eventually, in the
grey light just before dawn, he concluded that it was best to do
Informing Brian that he knew about his sexuality was not an
option because it would be too embarrassing for both of them,
especially when Adam took into account the way the knowledge had been
obtained. He hoped, almost expected, that Brian would eventually
volunteer the information, although the fact that Brian had not yet
seen fit to tell him made Adam feel sad and just a little irritated.
Therefore, the only thing that he did was to send a polite but negative
response to Brian's message.
For the next couple of years Adam's relationships with his family
settled into a sort of cool friendliness toward his brother and a
routine of politeness toward his parents. He fulfilled his filial
duties by doing what was expected of him, occasionally speaking to his
mother on the phone and going home at Christmas and Easter. Brian still
lived at home so Adam got to see his brother occasionally, and they
also sometimes spoke to one another briefly on the phone or, more
rarely, exchanged emails.
The interactions between the two brothers were friendly but
guarded, as if they were both picking their way carefully through a
minefield. Most of their communications were related to the family or
were about practical matters. For example, Adam consulted with Brian
when he had any questions relating to computers, just as Brian
consulted Adam on any legal matters.
No one, neither the parents nor the brothers, ever mentioned
anything to do with boyfriends or girlfriends. This pleased Adam, who'd
had a series of relationships after splitting up with Connor. The
longest of these relationships had lasted only a little over five
months, and Adam wasn't even sure if it had achieved 'boyfriend'
For a while he wondered if his lack of success with relationships
was because of his apparent inability to feel deep love. He also
considered the possibility that maybe he couldn't love because deep
down he didn't really want a relationship. After all. the only
relationship he'd seen up close was that of his parents, and that was
the sort of relationship he would desperately like to avoid.
When Brian graduated he went to work in London and shortly after
that Adam got a new job over on the east coast, so the brothers ended
up living a long way from their parents and from one another. After
that, Adam saw his family only at Christmas and his telephone
conversations with his mother became even less frequent. Most of those
conversations contained nothing particularly interesting or memorable
until a few months after Brian's move to London. Then, on almost every
occasion that their mother talked about Brian she also mentioned the
"Brian really struck lucky," his mother had said on the first
occasion she mentioned the name. "When he moved down there all he could
afford was a grotty bedsit miles from work. Then Gary, one of the
people he works with, invited Brian to share his flat. Apparently it's
quite posh and reasonably close to work."
After that, his mother mentioned Gary, apparently Brian's new
best friend, quite frequently in her conversations with Adam,
especially after she and his father had been down to visit Brian in
London. It appeared that she liked Gary and she was especially effusive
about the great job he's done decorating and improving his flat. Then a
few months later, after Brian had brought Gary with him to visit their
parents, she enthused about how Gary had unblocked the roof guttering.
By now it was clear to Adam that Brian and Gary were almost
certainly more than just friends sharing a flat. However, if his
parents suspected anything they never allowed it to show. Although Adam
didn't often speak to his brother, over the next couple of years they
communicated a few times, and he thought it was interesting that Brian
rarely mentioned Gary at all, and when he did it was only a passing
Just before the third Christmas after his move to London, Brian
informed his mother that he couldn't come home for the holiday as he
had to work. He also told her that she wasn't to be concerned because
Gary would be there to spend Christmas with him. No one saw fit to
inform Adam in advance, so when he arrived at his parents' house late
in the evening on December 23rd he was both surprised and disappointed.
Because of Brian's absence and the fact that his father was out
at the pub, Adam had to spend the evening alone with his mother.
Although he tried to make conversation and be sociable, she seemed more
interested in watching her favourite TV soap, but when he announced
that he was going to his room to read she became annoyed.
"You only visit once a year and you want to leave me sitting
alone while you go off and stick your nose in a book?" she said as she
glared at him. "You're just like your dad, always going off to the pub
and leaving me alone."
There were many things that Adam almost said, such as that
reading in his room wasn't the same as going to the pub, that he wasn't
anything like his dad, or that she'd apparently been more interested in
the TV than in his company. However, he knew that would be pointless
and would only exacerbate the situation. On the other hand, he felt
that he should at least say something to defend himself.
"I thought you'd prefer it if I let you enjoy your program in
peace," he said, trying to hide his irritation.
"You think too much but don't do anything," she said snidely.
"You should be more like you brother. He comes to visit more often than
you do, even though he lives farther away. And when he does visit he
shows more consideration and makes himself useful."
Adam, taking into account that it was supposedly the 'Season of
Goodwill' tried to control his temper. Instead of responding with one
or more of the angry retorts that passed through his mind he merely sat
in silence with his mouth clamped tightly shut.
"But you've never been much good at anything practical, have
you?" his mother continued in a self-satisfied tone, as if she'd just
scored a victory over him. "Did you know that Brian and Gary are going
to refit our bathroom on their next visit?"
At that point Adam really did lose his temper, but he wasn't in
the mood for the screaming row that he knew would develop if he said
anything, so he retained just enough control to stand up and go to his
room in total silence.
The next morning when he went downstairs to get some breakfast he
found that his parents were in one of their phases of stony silence. As
soon as Adam entered the kitchen his mother spoke to him.
"Ask your dad if he's going to take me shopping today or not,"
For Adam, who was in any case usually slightly hypoglycaemic and
irritable before breakfast, the prospect of spending Christmas as the
sole messenger between his sulking parents was too much.
"Why don't you tell him yourself?" he said, not even trying to
hide his annoyance.
"Well, if we don't go shopping," she said a little smugly, "you
won't have any Christmas dinner."
"I'd rather have just jam on toast for Christmas dinner," he
retorted, frustration and anger in his voice, "if it meant we could
have a normal Christmas like a normal family."
Although his mother was accustomed to having arguments with Adam
she hadn't expected such a vehement response so early in the morning,
and especially not over something which in her eyes was so trivial.
Furthermore, she was stung not only by his tone but also by the content
of his words, so it took her a couple of seconds to get over her
surprise before she could speak.
"How dare you say that," she hissed, "after all we've done for
you! After all the money we've spent all these years, giving you the
best Christmases we could. How dare you!"
It was obvious to Adam she either didn't understand or refused to
understand what he'd actually said. His anger was suffused by sadness
and a growing horror at the idea of spending the rest of the holiday
trapped with his parents, without Brian there for moral support.
"You know," his mother spat, "no one's making you spend Christmas
here. If you're going to be in this sort of mood you'll only make our
Christmas miserable anyway."
Adam was about to point out the unintended irony of her words
when another thought struck him. Deliberately or not, she'd offered him
a way out and he quickly decided that he should use this opportunity to
escape before it disappeared.
"Well, if you feel that way," he said, "I'll go."
With that he left the kitchen, went upstairs to pack his
overnight bag, and just a couple of minutes later was back downstairs.
"What about your presents?" his mother asked, sounding dazed as
she stood in the hallway watching him open the front door.
"I've left your presents on my bed," he replied curtly, "and any
presents for me you can give to Brian."
With that he went out to his car and drove off.
Gradually, as his emotional state began to calm down, he realised
that he felt a sense of liberation, as if he'd been given a reprieve
from a jail sentence. Of course, there was also a tinge of guilt, but
that was quickly set aside because now, he realised, he needed to plan
his own Christmas.
As he got close to home he stopped off at a large supermarket
and, braving the large crowds, he spent a small fortune buying all his
favourite foods and drinks. Then he spent Christmas Eve and Christmas
Day on his own, eating, drinking and watching TV. However, he wasn't at
all lonely, and in fact it was the first time in his life that he'd
really enjoyed Christmas.
On Christmas Day Brian phoned him briefly, just to wish him a
'Happy Christmas', so although he obviously knew that Adam wasn't with
his parents, he didn't mention it. Adam spent Boxing Day with friends,
and on New Years Day he received an extremely brief phone call from his
mother, announcing that Brian and Gary were there with her. She
carefully avoided mentioning Adam's absence at Christmas.
So Adam felt reasonably content that he'd successfully passed
through the holiday crisis. What he didn't know at the time, though,
was that he would never see his mother again.
For the next couple of years Adam and his mother exchanged
occasional phone calls, birthday cards and Christmas cards, and all
their communications were politely friendly but with no real warmth.
She never asked Adam when he planned to visit them and he never
volunteered. This situation suited Adam, who had the impression that
she'd never forgiven him for walking out that Christmas Eve. This
impression was confirmed, though not explicitly, during his slightly
more frequent and much warmer communications with Brian.
The brothers spoke on the phone or exchanged emails on average
about once per month, and Brian began to speak more and more openly
about Gary. Although he never mentioned specifically that they were
more than just platonic friends, he did drop little hints, such as
complaining about Gary's snoring. Adam suspected that these hints were
not accidental, but he wasn't sure, and despite the increased openness
there was still the feeling that they were walking on egg shells, each
taking care not to offend the other.
Then, one Monday evening, soon after Adam got home from work, he
received a phone call from Brian. It was clear to Adam just from the
exchange of greetings that his brother was a little upset, but he
didn't get the chance to ask if there was a problem.
"Dad asked me to make the arrangements," Brian said, "so I just
called to let you know..."
"Arrangements?" Adam interrupted. "What arrangements?"
"For Mum's funeral," Brian replied, sounding even more upset and
also a little annoyed.
Adam was stunned, not just by the information that his mother was
dead but also by the way he'd found out.
"Dead? When? How?"
"Didn't Dad tell you?" Brian asked, obviously shocked that his
brother didn't already know these details.
"I've not heard from Dad in years," Adam said flatly.
"Er, well," Brian said hesitantly, not only upset by their
mother's death but now also uncomfortable with being the bearer of such
bad news, "it was a heart attack on Friday night. Dad found her on
"Oh," Adam said, totally at a loss for words, then after a pause
during which he felt he ought to say something he added, "I'm sorry."
As soon as he said it he realised how stupid and banal that
sounded. The only saving grace of his comment was that it was true,
though it took him a while to realise that the main reason he was sorry
was because of his brother's obvious distress. Of course he also felt
sorrow that his mother was dead. Even though they were estranged and he
doubted that he'd really miss her, she should have had a longer life
and not died alone. Apart from that relatively low-level sorrow and a
general hollow emptiness, though, he didn't feel much. Certainly he had
no sympathy for his father.
"Anyway," Brian said gently, "the funeral's on Friday afternoon.
I know you would've preferred Saturday but that wasn't possible."
For some reason it took a few seconds for Adam to process this
information and he didn't respond immediately, so Brian spoke again.
"You will be there won't you?" he asked anxiously.
"Yes, of course," Adam replied, not happy with the prospect but
realising that it was his family duty.
When Adam parked his car outside his parents' house just before
noon that Friday he stayed in the car a little longer than necessary
while he steeled himself to enter the house. He expected that he would
get at least a little hostility from his father, with whom he'd had no
direct communication for over two years. After taking a deep breath he
retrieved his overnight bag and dark suit from the rear seat of his car
and went up to the house.
Although he had a door key he decided that it would be best to
ring the doorbell. After such a long absence it didn't seem right to
just walk in as if it were still his home, and in any case he didn't
even know if the lock had been changed since he'd been given the key.
Much to Adam's relief, it was Brian who answered the door.
"Where's Dad?" Adam asked warily after they'd exchanged
"Upstairs. He said he needed to sort stuff out. He's been up
there banging around now for almost an hour, and the last I saw he was
in our old room" Brian said, then when Adam raised a questioning
eyebrow, he continued sarcastically. "Maybe he's making up your bed."
"Yeah, right," Adam said with a wry smile and echoing his
"Anyway," Brian said, his voice indicating a complete change of
subject, "I've arranged for food after the funeral, but I was just
making a sandwich to keep me going until then. Do you want anything?"
Brian went off to the kitchen and Adam, noticing that there were
no sounds coming from upstairs, decided to risk taking his bag and suit
up to his room, intending then to freshen up before changing his
clothes. When he reached the top of the stairs there was no sign of his
father so he quickly ducked into their bedroom, where he found a
jumbled collection of assorted items, mostly photographs, on his bed.
Just as he began to take a closer look he was startled by his father's
voice, and when he turned around he saw his father standing in the
"I didn't expect that you'd come," he said flatly and without any
preamble of greeting. "Anyway, I was having a clear out and I found all
this junk of yours that your mum was keeping. I thought I'd let you see
if you wanted any of it before I threw it away."
Before Adam could respond, his father disappeared from the
doorway. Adam looked through the pile on his bed and found that most of
the items were photographs of himself as a child or graduating from
university. He noticed that in the photographs he was either alone or
with his brother but that there were none that featured his brother on
Besides the photos there were a few books he'd loaned to his
mother several years ago and deep in the pile there was also one his
old school reports. The bed wasn't made, so Adam decided to do it
later, after he'd had an opportunity to sort through the stuff on his
bunk. He suspected that after the funeral he'd be eager to find
something to do until bed time.
When Adam went downstairs a few minutes later he saw his father
drinking from a glass of whisky. Although Adam wasn't particularly
surprised by this, he was still a little shocked to see it, bearing in
mind that there was still over two hours to go before the funeral. By
the time the funeral started their father was noticeably inebriated,
though not actually drunk, so Brian was left to take charge and deal
with most of the social interactions with their relatives.
Although Adam hadn't been looking forward to socialising with
their relatives, he had been prepared to share the burden with his
brother. However, he never got the opportunity to do so because apart
from Brian everyone attending the funeral virtually ignored him. It
wasn't so much that he was shunned but just that they acted as if he
If he greeted them or got in their way they pretended they'd just
noticed him, gave an embarrassed smile, and moved away as quickly as
decency would allow. This was the way he'd sometimes seen people act
toward someone in a wheelchair, and being on the receiving end of this
type of behaviour was something of a revelation. Adam guessed that the
way his relatives reacted toward him was probably either because they
knew he was gay or because they thought that by not going back to see
his parents he'd shown that he wasn't a good son. Possibly it was due
to a combination of both reasons.
Brian had booked a room in a nearby pub for food and drinks after
the funeral service, and he was paying for everything out of his own
pocket. Their father took that opportunity to drink a lot more whisky,
and the two brothers ended up having to almost carry their father to a
taxi. Later that evening, while the brothers were drinking tea
together, Adam mentioned his disgust at having to escort their father
home and put him onto his bed. Brian expressed the view that their
father had just been trying to drown his grief. Adam's opinion, though
he didn't say so to his brother, was rather less charitable.
The next morning their father, clearly hung over, came into the
kitchen while the brothers were having breakfast.
"Ah, Adam, before you go I need some legal advice."
"Yeah, what is it?" Adam asked.
Their father glanced at Brian then returned his gaze to Adam
"I'll be upstairs when you're finished here," he said, then
turned and left the room.
Adam, interpreting his father to mean that the matter was not
something he wanted to share with Brian, looked at his brother and saw
his own frown mirrored on Brian's face.
"Any idea what that's all about?" Adam asked.
"Not a clue," Brian replied, shrugging his shoulders.
A few minutes later Adam went upstairs to find his father, who
was in his own bedroom sorting through a box of papers. Adam, who
remained in the doorway after announcing his presence, noticed that his
father seemed uncharacteristically embarrassed by having this legal
consultation with his son.
"Erm, well," he began hesitantly, "you probably know that your
mum had a separate bank account?"
Adam shook his head, indicating that he didn't.
"Well, she had some shares as well," his father continued in a
disapproving tone. "I went to the bank on Thursday and even when I
showed them the death certificate and our wedding certificate they
wouldn't say when I could have access to the account. They said
something about probate?"
Although Adam and his mother hadn't been particularly close, he
found it irritating that his father was so keen to get his hands on her
assets just the day after the funeral. That, thought Adam, disproved
Brian's suggestion that their father had drunk so much because of
grief. Despite that, Adam tried to set aside his feelings and deal with
the situation as professionally as possible.
"Did Mum leave a will?" he asked.
"Then there won't be any probate. You'll have to go to the court
and apply for letters of administration. Then you take them to the bank
and they'll let you administer the account."
"And how long will that take?" his father asked, frowning.
"A few weeks."
"Oh," his father said, clearly very disappointed, then after a
couple of seconds pause for thought he added, "I really need cash
now... I don't suppose you could lend me a few hundred quid... say
"Sorry," Adam lied, "but I've just bought my house and I've
haven't got anything like that much to spare."
"Okay, never mind," his father said, trying unsuccessfully to
pretend that it didn't really matter. "I'll ask Brian later."
Then he turned back to the box of papers and ignored his son's
presence. Adam, whose earlier irritation had returned, was annoyed at
being so summarily dismissed from his father's attention. He also
wondered why his father wanted cash so apparently urgently, and his
annoyance was amplified by the fact that his father intended to ask
Brian for money, especially when Brian was already paying all of the
For the rest of the morning his father either ignored Adam or
made comments deliberately designed to irritate him. Adam wanted to be
there to give Brian some moral support and had intended to spend
another night at their father's house. However, by the time the three
of them had eaten a quick lunch of sandwiches he found that the idea of
spending more time around his father was intolerable.
"Look, Brian," he said apologetically, when his father had gone
back upstairs, "I'm going to go back home now..."
He was going to go on to say that he didn't want to spend the
night because if he did he'd certainly end up in a screaming row with
their father. However, before he could say all that Brian interrupted.
"It's okay," he said, then with a sad little smile he added, "I
It was obvious that Brian really did understand, and Adam was
truly grateful that it didn't need any further explanation. In the past
Adam had spent many hours trying to explain to Connor how he felt about
his family and why he felt that way, but Connor had never understood.
After that failure Adam had never even tried to explain to anyone else.
Now it became clear to Adam that Brian was the only person who
knew their shared background and who could truly understand Adam's
attitude toward their parents. It didn't matter whether Brian agreed or
disagreed with him, and it made no difference whether he approved or
disapproved. The really important thing for Adam was that his brother
knew and understood, and that no one else would ever be able to share
that knowledge and understanding.
For the next five years Adam had no contact at all with his
father apart from exchanging nondescript birthday cards and Christmas
cards which contained bland messages that avoided the use of the word
'love'. The brothers remained in occasional contact by phone and email
but they didn't actually get around to arranging to meet in person.
They both avoided talking about their father, though Brian occasionally
mentioned visiting him. Then one day Brian phoned Adam to announce that
their father had died of a stroke.
"The funeral's on Saturday," Brian said. "Gary and I will be at
the house for a couple of days before that to finalise arrangements.
When will you be coming down?"
"Me?" Adam said, surprised at the assumption that he'd be going
at all. "I'm not sure I ought to go. After all, I've ignored him for
over five years so it would be a bit hypocritical for me to go the
funeral and pretend I'm upset that he's dead."
"Aren't you?" Brian asked, sounding slightly shocked. "I mean
upset that he's dead?"
Hearing his brother's tone, Adam regretted being so blunt, but it
was too late to take back his words now and in any case he didn't want
to be even more hypocritical by lying to Brian about his feelings.
"Not really," he said, "though of course I'm sad when anyone
dies, but I can't say I'm upset."
"But you'll still come to the funeral?"
"Don't you think that would be hypocritical?"
"Not if you came for my sake. Gary will be there with me but I'd
really like you there as well."
"Have the relatives met Gary before?"
"Just Aunt Mary and Uncle Robert, but just as my friend."
"I wonder how the rest of them will react to seeing him at the
funeral?" Adam said, mainly musing to himself, then immediately he
regretted saying it aloud.
"That's one reason I wanted you there... you can bring Darren if
Darren was Adam's latest ex-boyfriend and had lasted for almost
six months, but Brian didn't know that the relationship had ended.
"Darren and I split up weeks ago," Adam said, his tone indicating
that it was a matter of no importance.
"Good Grief, Adam!" Brian exclaimed, then sounding slightly
amused he added, "You drop you boyfriends more often than a tart drops
"Are you calling me a tart?" Adam asked, pretending to be
offended and grateful for the opportunity to lighten the conversation.
"If the cap fits..."
"And what makes you think I drop them? Maybe they drop me."
"Well I suspect that if they drop you it's because you want them
to," Brian said, only half joking, then in a completely serious tone he
added, "But you will come, won't you? I'd really appreciate it."
"Okay. Just for you," Adam replied, realising that it would at
least be an opportunity to see Brian for the first time in over five
years and to meet Gary for the first time ever.
Adam arrived at the family house and met Gary just a couple of
hours before the funeral. Although the two of them had occasionally
exchanged a very few words on the phone, it felt strange to be meeting
in person for the first time, especially considering that Brian and
Gary had been living together for almost ten years. Adam found him to
be pleasant but, apart from being quite tall, he was very ordinary in
appearance. Still, he was his brother's boyfriend so Adam greeted him
To an outside observer it would have been obvious from the
similarities of their facial features and their stocky build that Adam
and Brian were brothers. Both had hazel eyes and light brown hair,
though Adam's hair was a few shades lighter. Adam, who was 5' 9", was
an inch or so shorter than his brother. However, he had for many
childhood years been so accustomed to being the 'big brother' that even
now he still felt taller than Brian.
Gary, who was around 6' 4" tall, seemed to tower over both of
them, but even if he'd been shorter he could never have been mistaken
for their brother. He was so slim as to seem almost emaciated, his eyes
were deep brown and his thick black hair contrasted with his pale skin.
Gary was not only taller than Brian, he was also five years older, so
Adam found it amusing that Gary always appeared to defer to Brian.
The warm greeting that Gary received from Adam, however, was to
be the only greeting offered to Gary all day. At the funeral and during
the brief reception that followed, Gary was totally ignored by all
their relatives. Even Brian, who had paid for the funeral and all the
subsequent food and drink, was treated with the bare minimum of
politeness. Adam's presence was acknowledged only by an occasional nod
of the head or, more frequently, by a stony glare.
Adam was neither surprised nor disconcerted by the way his
relatives reacted toward him, and indeed their reaction to him was only
slightly worse than it had been at his mother's funeral. After all, he
was the black sheep of the family, the one who hadn't been in contact
with them for many years and who only made an appearance when he had to
attend the funerals of his parents.
He was, however, shocked and dismayed by the way that Brian was
treated. After all, Brian was the good son, the one who had looked
after his parents and who had stayed in touch with the rest of the
family. The attitude of the aunts, uncles and cousins was, Adam
guessed, probably due to Gary's presence. Most of them were Catholics,
very religious and very much against homosexuality, which was part of
the reason that Adam had distanced himself from them.
At their mother's funeral all of the relatives had been quite
pleasant to Brian, even though they probably knew then that he was gay.
Though the family was full of secrets, even the most shameful ones
eventually became known and whispered about by the aunts and uncles.
Perhaps the difference in attitude was because this time Brian had
brought Gary but he hadn't brought him to their mother's funeral. Maybe
bringing his boyfriend had been a step too far and they thought he was
rubbing their noses in it.
The relatives quickly devoured the food and then departed as
quickly as they felt was decent. Adam, Brian and Gary were all relieved
by the fact that the proceedings hadn't lasted as long as they'd feared
they might have done. Back at the house they sat for a while, mostly in
silence, drinking gin and tonic, until eventually they relaxed from the
tensions of the day.
For some reason that seemed unclear to Adam at the time, Gary
kept going on and on about the fact that he and Brian wanted to move
out of the flat they shared and buy a house together. Gary also made a
point of mentioning that it was taking them some time to find an
adequate deposit because housing around London was so expensive. All
the time he was talking about this he kept casting meaningful looks at
Brian, but it wasn't until later that Adam worked out why Gary was
behaving in that way.
Eventually, Brian sighed as if resigning himself to an unpleasant
task and spoke directly to Adam.
"Did you know Dad left a will?" he asked.
"No," Adam replied, mildly curious but not greatly interested.
"He left the house and everything else to me," Brian said
"Well, I didn't expect him to leave anything to me!" Adam said
and smiled with genuine humour.
"Well, I thought..." Brian said, then looked at Gary, who frowned
back at him, "I thought it would only be fair if we split it between
Adam smiled to himself as it suddenly became clear to him why
Gary had been going on about the cost of houses in London.
"We know you could delay things if you decided to challenge the
will," Gary said, casting a guilty look at Brian, "especially as you're
"But that's not why I want to share it!" Brian said quickly,
interrupting Gary with an angry glare. "I just want to be fair."
"I don't want any of it," Adam said, reaching that decision
without requiring any thought. "I don't need it and I don't want it. I
don't want anything from him, even after he's dead. And if I did take
anything of his I'd feel... I don't know how to say it... hypocritical,
compromised, just plain wrong. You know what I mean?"
Brian smiled gently, nodding his understanding, and Gary looked
at him with an expression of surprise mixed with relief.
"So you have it all and that's the end of the matter," Adam said
in a tone that indicated that there would be no further discussion on
There was a brief pause, then Gary, with a slightly embarrassed
expression on his face, looked at his empty glass.
"Anyone else for a refill?" he asked.
"Great idea," Brian said.
Adam nodded his agreement and Gary took their glasses into the
kitchen to refill them.
"You never forgave him, did you?" Brian said quietly, obviously
referring to their father.
"Forgiveness is like love or hate," Adam replied, frowning. "You
can't just switch it on or off. If you just say the words it doesn't
make it true, and you can't make it real just because you want it to be
real. Saying the words when you don't mean them is just hypocrisy."
"You could tell someone you forgive them out of kindness, to make
them feel better, and even if you don't mean it, if you behave as if
you mean it then it's not hypocrisy, is it?" Brian said after a brief
pause for thought.
"Of course it is," Adam retorted, feeling a little defensive.
"Would you tell someone that you loved them and behave as if you loved
them if it wasn't true?"
Brian's brow furrowed in thought for a couple of seconds before
"Maybe," he said.
At that point Gary returned with their drinks and the
conversation turned to other topics.
If you enjoy this story you might like to take a look at my other
"Tough Question" (nifty/gay/college/tough-question/)
"Not Always Easy"
Road Not Taken"
Or just visit my Library! (http://kit.gayauthors.org/library.htm)