The Republic

K. J. Pedersen


Chapter Four

Johannes Kirkagárd

“WHERE WERE YOU?” I cornered my brother in the corridor between the library and auditorium. It was easy to pick him out of the crowd considering he stood at least half a foot above most of our classmates. The first bell rang. Classes would start in five minutes. I blocked his way. “You never came home last night.”

Mattæus tried to push past me, but I moved quickly, and was in his path again. Practice on the playing field pays off, after all. He shoved me out of his way with one arm. I wasn’t going to be dismissed so easily, and fell into step beside him.

He turned suddenly and glared at me. “What do you want?”

“Where were you last night?”

“I heard you the first time. Don’t interrogate me,” he said fiercely.

We stood face to face. “And so?

He shook his head and let out this contemptuous sound. “If you must know, I spent the night at Shane’s,” he said. “We had a lot of catching up to do, and I lost track of the time. Is that okay with you, Johannes? Or has Eadmund appointed you warden?”

Shane and I shared a class, World History, second class of the day. We didn’t talk much, nothing more than “Hey,” and “How goes it?” Before Cormac died, Shane and I talked more. It was unfortunate ... all of it. And then there was Matti’s friendship with Shane ... they were close, once. These last several months my brother had been, or seemed, socially adrift.

I touched the shirt Matti wore. “Shane’s shirt? Knee-breeches? Stockings?”

“He didn’t want me to get any demerits for fucking with the dress code,” he said, “so, yeah, they’re his.”

“You fuck with every other code and regulation, so why not?”

My brother smiled at that.

“Matti, we’ve got to talk.”

“Like hell we do. That was the first bell.”

“So what? I’ve been running late all morning,” I said.

“Why? Were you out late too?”

“Father knows.”

“Knows what?”

I pushed him toward the bathrooms next to the auditorium. He protested, but went inside with me. After checking about to make sure we were alone, I said, “He knows Lukas is my boyfriend. Matti ... he knows I’m gay.”

He looked at me skeptically. “How? I would have never guessed myself if I hadn’t walked in on you that evening.”

“Look, Matti, we’ve got to talk about this.” My heart was racing now. “You’ve got to be honest with me. Are you alright with me being ... you know?”

The expression on Mattæus’s face changed; it softened. He no longer looked as though I was imposing on him, like I was going to make him late for class. He looked concerned. “Yeah. Of course. You’re my brother; my twin; I love you, Johan. I admit it: I was surprised when I discovered you and Lukas were ... involved with each other. But its not a big deal. I’m completely fine with it.” He smirked, and one corner of his mouth went up a bit. “You really could not have done any worse than Lukas though.”

“Fuck off.”

“I’m only kidding,” he said. “Actually, I guess as far as guys go, Lukas is good-looking.”

“You’ve got to understand, brother, your support means everything to me.”

“So what makes you think Eadmund knows?”

“He’s said things; subtle comments.”

“So what? He doesn’t like Lukas to begin with,” he said. “Father doesn’t like Shane either. I mean, for God’s sake, he doesn’t even like my girlfriend. And Lindi is a nice and respectable girl; the daughter of a deacon.”

“Yeah, very nice and respectable,” I said. “Except when the two of you go exploring with your hands.”

He grinned mischievously. “Innocent teenage fun.”

“She has a nice pair.”

“Yes, she does,” he said and cupped his hands like he was holding up her breasts. “And how great it is that my gay brother thinks he has to point that out to me.”

“Let me tell you what happened last night,” I said. “Like you said, I was out late. I was with Lukas, we were doing our homework, and then his little sister came downstairs complaining that she had a sore throat. She’s been sick for the last few days, and so his mum took her to the clinic. After they left, the next thing I knew, we were upstairs — ”

“I don’t need the details,” he said.

“Like I was going to give you explicit details.”

“Okay, so the two of you fucked around, then what?”

“Yeah, go ahead, make it sound vulgar.”

“Just get to the point.”

“When I got home father told me I was past my curfew — it was going on midnight — and asked me where I’d been. I told him I was with Lukas. Then he said, ‘Naturally.’ You should’ve seen the look on his face. It made chills run up and down my spine. Right then, I knew he knew. He said, ‘Wash your hands before you go to bed.’”

Mattæus bit his lip; he looked worried. “He doesn’t know shit,” he said finally. “Maybe he suspects, Johan. But he doesn’t know shit.”

“He suspects the truth!”

“It’s none of his business,” he said. “He probably suspects that Lindi and I are fooling around too. So what? It’s not his concern.”

“It’s different for you, Matti. Lindi’s a girl. Lukas is a boy!”

“So what?”

“There are laws against — ”

“You’re a minor; Lukas is a minor. The laws do not apply to minors.”

“That’s not true. Both of us could be sent to youth correction halls.”

“For what, rubbing your penis against Lukas’s in the privacy of your own homes?” He mocked that openly: “Boys will be boys! To be consistent then with the law, probably a quarter of the boys in Liberia would have to be locked up!”

“Keep you voice down,” I said.

He said, more quietly this time, “Like I said, Eadmund doesn’t know shit.”

“This is just one more mark against me with him, you know.”

He put his hands on my shoulders. “Brother, why do you care? After everything that has happened? After the way he’s belittled mum? After the way he tears you down? I hope they divorce. Then I hope they rule against him, and refuse him even visitation privileges.”

“You really must hate father,” I said.

Mattæus dropped his hands from my shoulder and crossed his arms over his chest then. “One thing is certain: He’s given me no reason to love him.”

The bell rang.

“Let’s talk about this at lunch or whenever,” he said. “My trigonometry teacher’s already warned me once about being late.”


He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and drew me close. “It’s okay. Nothing’s changed. You said he’s hinted at things like that before. ‘Subtle comments,’ you said. So he’s suspected things between you and Lukas are ... uh ... well, you know ... for a while now. Nothing’s changed.”

* * *

To be continued....