Perspective

By Kit


This is a story about a gay male and may involve sexual activity between males, so if this is likely to offend you, or is illegal where you live then do not read any further.  All the events and characters in this story are fictional and any resemblances to real people are purely coincidental.

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 and moral support while this story was being written. Also thanks to him and to MikeL for their hard work in 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 .  

Kit
kitzyma@yahoo.com




Part 2

 I thought 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 these ex-lovers.

oo00oo

 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 first.

 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 the idea.

 "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 Adam's hope.

 "I just don't. It's a long story and I don't want to talk about it."

 "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 disappointed.

 "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 personal questions."

 "You've got a weird family," Connor said, shaking his head and smiling wryly.

 "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 totally frivolous.

 "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 anything."

 "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 boyfriend.

 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 'boyfriend'.

 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 wife.

 "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 ready."

 Of course all three of them knew it was a lie but no one questioned it.

 "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 the house.

oo00oo

 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.

oo00oo

 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 or not."

 "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..."

 "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 your lesson."

 "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 continued.

 "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 law."

 "But the law's not always just and fair," Connor pointed out reasonably.

 "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.

oo00oo

 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 shell-shocked.

 '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 anger.

 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 nothing.

 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.

oo00oo

 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' status.

 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.

oo00oo

 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 name Gary.

 "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 reference.

 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," she said.

 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.

oo00oo

 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 Saturday morning."

 "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.

oo00oo

 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 greetings.

 "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 brother's tone.

 "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?"

 "No, thanks."

 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 doorway.

 "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 his own.

 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 wasn't there.

 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 before replying.

 "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.

 "No."

 "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 eight hundred?"

 "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 funeral expenses.

 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 understand."

 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.

oo00oo

 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 you want."

 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 her knickers."

 "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.

oo00oo

 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 warmly.

 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 apologetically.

 "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 us."

 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 a lawyer..."

 "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 the subject.

 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 he replied.

 "Maybe," he said.

 At that point Gary returned with their drinks and the conversation turned to other topics.


oo00oo



Author's Note:

If you enjoy this story you might like to take a look at my other stories,
 "Tapping" (nifty/gay/highschool/tapping/)
 "Tough Question" (nifty/gay/college/tough-question/)
 "Not Always Easy" (nifty/gay/highschool/not-always-easy/)
 "Just Visiting"  (nifty/gay/college/just-visiting.html)
 "The Road Not Taken" (nifty/gay/highschool/the-road-not-taken.html)
 "Timing" (nifty/gay/college/timing.html)
Or just visit my Library!  (http://kit.gayauthors.org/library.htm)

Enjoy!

Kit