Now That You're Here
Brian was sitting in his room, listening to music and finishing up the last
project of the school year when there was a knock at the door. He called out to
enter without even looking up from the work in front of him.
“Hey buddy,” Chris said as he walked into Brian’s room. “Are you still at that?”
“Yeah, but I’m almost finished. I’m just reading through the final copy.” Brian put aside his pen and stood up, coming face to face with his brother. “What’s up?”
“I was just wondering what your plans were for the night. Zander and I have something we need to talk to you about,” Chris explained.
“Okay. I’m going out with the guys, but not until later,” Brian replied. “Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine. We just need to have one of our family meetings, that’s all. You’ll find out more after dinner. Could you do me a favor and fire up the grill? I’m making those steamed vegetables we all like and I still have to get everything ready.”
“Sure, no problem. Give me five minutes to finish up and I’ll be down,” Brian said as he plopped back down at his desk.
“You’ve got ten. Thanks, Brian.”
Brian waited until his brother was gone before putting away his project and thinking about the impending meeting. It wasn’t the first one they’d ever had, but he still got nervous every time one was called. He couldn’t help but wonder if his brother and long time partner Alexander were going to get tired of raising a teenager and send him back to his parents. The same parents who threw Chris away when they found out he was gay. It had started back when Brian was just turning ten. Chris, who was eighteen years older than Brian and out on his own, came out to their parents. They had immediately disowned him and refused to let him have any contact with his little brother for fear of his disgusting lifestyle rubbing off on him. Brian had no idea why his brother stopped coming to visit, but the one time he asked his father about it, all he got was a backhand across the face that left him dazed. He never asked again. For the next few years, Jack Kinney came down harder and harder on Brian, determined to make a man out of him. By the age of twelve, Brian knew that he was different. He knew that while his friends were starting to become more interested in girls, he was becoming more interested in his friends. He also knew he couldn’t tell his father. Jack Kinney had made no secret of his hate towards anyone who was different. So instead, he kept his feelings to himself and looked forward to the day he could go away to college and never look back.
Unfortunately, teenage hormones being what they are, at fourteen his secret came out when his father caught him in a lip-lock with the bag boy from the supermarket. After being beaten into unconsciousness, he awoke to find all his bags packed, his father gone, and Joan Kinney pacing the room. She told Brian that he had to leave before Jack got back from the liquor store. She helped him to his feet. Then she did the one thing Brian ever remembered her doing to help him. She handed him a piece of paper as he staggered to the door and promised to pray for his soul. He stuffed the paper in his pocket without looking at it and walked away. His body was stiff and sore and his lip was still bleeding slightly when he finally reached the park down the street. He dropped his bags and plopped down on the ground next to them, wondering what he was going to do next. None of his friends knew he was gay, and since he wasn’t sure how they’d react to the news, he wouldn’t share the information with them. He had nowhere to go. Suddenly remembering the small piece of paper his mother had given him, he reached into the pocket and pulled it out, leaning back to try to get a little light from the streetlamp. He was shocked to find his brother’s name and phone number on it. His mother, despite her cold and bitter demeanor, gave him someone to call.
He sat there for a minute in stunned silence, ignoring the tears that ran down his face, before getting up and grabbing his bag. He slowly made his way down the street to the pay phone at the corner. He didn’t have any money, so he dialed the operator and placed the call collect, hoping that Chris would answer. He didn’t recognize the voice on the other end of the line.
“Brian, is that you?”
“Uh…yeah. I’m trying to reach my brother. Is he there?” Brian asked tentatively.
“No, he’s away on a business trip right now. I’m his…uh…roommate. Is everything okay?” Zander asked as he quickly reached for his cell phone. He knew that Chris hadn’t spoken to his younger brother since he came out to his parents and they disowned him. Brian’s call was a shock.
“Um…no. Not really. Do you know when Chris will be back? I really have to talk to him.” Brian fought back his tears, choking on a sob that escaped his lips.
“Brian, where are you?” Zander asked as worry set in. He could hear the anguish in the boy’s voice. “Do you need help?”
“I just really need my brother,” Brian whispered.
“Look, Brian, Chris isn’t due home until tomorrow night, but maybe I can help you. Why don’t you tell me where you are and I’ll come and get you?”
“You don’t have to do that. I’ll just…wait…for Chris.”
“Brian, Chris and I are close. You can trust me to come and get you. I’ll call Chris on his cell phone and let him know what’s going on. You can talk to him as soon as I get to you, okay?” Zander could hear the hesitation on the line. “It’ll be okay.”
Brian wanted to refuse, but he didn’t have a lot of options. At fourteen, he had no money and nowhere to go. With Chris unavailable, his only other choice was sleeping in the park. “I’m in Bisbee. I’m a few blocks away from home…I mean my parents’ house.”
“Okay, give me about 45 minutes, depending on traffic, and I’ll be there. Where should I go?” Zander already had his keys and cell phone in his hand and was standing by the front door, ready to leave. When he didn’t get an answer, he began to panic. “Brian, are you still there?”
“Yeah…there’s a park on Walnut Street. That’s where I’ll be.”
Brian waited for what seemed like an eternity before his brother’s friend showed up. It wasn’t hard to spot him. He was the only guy there searching frantically around the park. Brian grabbed his bags and stepped out of the shadows. Chris’s friend spotted him immediately.
“Brian? Wow, you look just like Chris,” Zander said as he approached the battered kid. “I’m Alexander, but my friends call me Zander. Are you okay? Do you need to go to the hospital?”
“No, I’m alright. I just need to get out of here,” Brian replied quietly. “Did you talk to Chris?”
“Yes I did. He’s working on getting an earlier flight home. He’s going to call as soon as he does,” Zander explained as he led Brian to his truck. “He’s really worried about you, but he’s also glad that you called.”
“He is?” Brian asked skeptically.
“Of course he is. He’s been trying to get in touch with you for years.” Zander saw the doubt cross Brian’s face and realized that he’d said more than he wanted to. It was Chris’s job to explain the past, not his. “Never mind, I’ll let Chris explain it all to you when he gets home.”
Brian stared out the window, confused by what Zander said. Chris was the one who had taken off without looking back. If he had wanted to reach anyone in his family, all he had to do was call. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Zander’s cell phone ringing. He jumped at the sound, suddenly nervous about talking to his brother after four years of silence.
“Go ahead, answer it,” Zander encouraged him. “It’s for you.”
That phone call changed everything for him. Chris had gotten a late night flight back and welcomed his brother back into his life with open arms. As soon as they saw each other, all the emotions that Brian had been trying to bury over his brother’s abandonment began to surface, and tears began streaming down his face; his body was racked with sobs. They sat in the living room of Chris and Zander’s sprawling Cape Cod, sharing everything that happened to each of them in the last four years. Brian was surprised to find out that Zander was more than a roommate, but also breathed a sigh of relief when he was able to share his sexuality without fear. Once they had everything out in the open, Chris called Zander in to discuss Brian’s situation, and they immediately agreed to have the younger sibling move in.
It had been three years since that night and things between them had been good. Chris somehow managed to get his parents to sign over guardianship of Brian and they never looked back. It was a big adjustment at first. Chris didn’t know how to be a parent and Brian was constantly worried about letting his brother down and being sent back to his father, but over the years they developed a close relationship and learned to deal with the problems that arose. Brian and Zander quickly developed a close relationship, too, making it easy for Brian to turn to him on occasion when he didn’t feel comfortable going to Chris.
Yet despite how good things had been, Brian still worried on occasions when a family meeting was called. He knew deep down that Chris wouldn’t send him away, but having his own parents turn their backs on him caused emotional issues that still lingered and probably would for a long time to come.
Brian helped Chris make dinner and as soon as Zander got home they all sat down to eat. With their work schedules and crazy lives, family dinners weren’t always possible, but they tried to sit down together at least three times a week. That way they could spend time together and share what was happening in their lives. Since Brian was seventeen and very responsible and goal oriented, Chris acted more like the brother he was than the guardian he became three years earlier.
After they were done eating, all three of them cleared off the table and loaded the dishwasher while Chris brewed the coffee. Once everything was cleaned up and Chris and Zander had their coffee, they sat down at the table ready for their discussion to begin.
“So, what did you guys want to talk to me about?” Brian asked.
“Yesterday Zander found out that his aunt and uncle died last month in a car accident,” Chris began.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Brian replied as he looked over at Zander. “Were you close?”
“No, not since I was a kid. I haven’t seen them since the summer I turned thirteen. My father and my aunt were brother and sister. There was some kind of big family feud. I’m not sure what happened, but they never spoke again,” Zander replied sadly.
“Wow,” was all Brian could say.
Chris could see the sadness in Zander’s eyes and decided to continue for him. “His aunt and uncle have a son. He was only a year old the last time Zander saw him. Justin’s seventeen now and has been living in a foster home since his parents’ death.”
“Why didn’t your parents take him in? They can’t possibly hold him responsible for a feud between siblings, can they?” Brian asked in horror.
“I guess they can,” Zander sighed. “I’m not really sure why they didn’t take him. The woman who tracked me down as next of kin didn’t elaborate on what their reasons for abandoning him were. All she would say is that they gave her my name and said good luck trying to find him. That’s why it took almost a month.”
“What assholes!” Brian exclaimed furiously.
“Brian!” Chris admonished.
“It’s alright Chris. I tend to agree with him,” Zander laughed. “Anyway, the bottom line to this story is that I want to bring Justin here to live with us.”
“Zander and I talked about it and agreed that we wouldn’t take him in unless you were okay with it. He’s in a good home and he’s your age so he only has one more year of high school left. It’s not like he’d be living on the streets. We don’t want to disrupt your life if you don’t want us to,” Chris assured him. “In fact, Justin wouldn’t even remember Zander since he was only a baby the last time they saw each other. We don’t even know if he’ll want to come live with us. Either way, Zander’s going to fly out and see him. He’s hoping to extend the offer then, but we wanted to hear your thoughts, first. You can think about it for a day or two before you decide.”
Brian was shocked. He couldn’t believe that Chris and Zander would leave a decision that big up to him, and he loved them for it, but he didn’t need any time to think about it. There was only one decision that could be made.
“Go get him,” Brian replied confidently.
“Are you sure?” Zander asked.
“Of course I’m sure,” Brian said. “After all you two have done for me, how could I deny Justin the same? He’s a part of this family, too.”
Chris couldn’t have been more proud of Brian than he was at that moment. “How’d you get to be such a great kid?”
“I have two good role models,” Brian smiled, thrilled with the praise. He turned back to Zander. “So when are you leaving?”
“I’m not sure,” Zander replied. “I haven’t really thought about it because we wanted to talk to you first. I guess I could go this weekend. I’ve already spoken to his foster parents. They seem like good people, but they’re getting older and aren’t opposed to giving up a teenage boy. They said they’d miss him, but would love to see him reunited with family.”
“Why don’t you call them and let them know you’ll be there in a couple of days? I’ll go start getting the spare bedroom ready,” Chris said as he laid a comforting hand on Zander’s shoulder. They all stood up to go about their business when Brian had a sudden thought.
“Guys, are you going to tell him?”
“Tell him what?” Chris asked in confusion.
“That he’s going to be living with a bunch of queers,” Brian said. “That’s probably not something that we should keep to ourselves.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Zander admitted. “I don’t know anything about him. It would be a disaster if he moved in with us and turned out to be homophobic. God knows my own parents could write a book about it.”
“Yeah, ours, too,” Brian sighed.
“I’ll tell him about it before he makes his decision on whether or not to come stay with us.”
“Do you want me to go with you?” Chris offered. “I know you said that you’d go alone, but maybe it would be better if I was with you.”
“No, you have a lot of work to do before our vacation next month. I’ll be fine on my own, but thanks. And thank you for understanding, Brian. I really want to have Justin here with us where he belongs.”
“Hey I told you, after all you’ve done for me, I owe you so much. And when he gets here I’ll do whatever I can to make him feel welcome,” Brian replied.
“You don’t owe me anything. I love you like you’re my own brother. We love having you here with us, and don’t you forget it,” Zander told him as he pulled Brian in for a hug. He meant every word he said. When Brian moved in with them three years earlier, he worried about how he and Chris would handle having a teenager around, but aside from a few issues during the adjustment period, everything worked out just fine. Now they were about to take on another teenager. He just hoped that everything with Justin would go as smoothly. “Well, I guess I have a trip to plan.”
“You go make that call while I go online and search for flights,” Chris said.
“I’m going to head down to the river and meet the guys. I won’t be home late,” Brian said as he fished his keys out of his pocket. “See you guys later.”
As Brian left the house, he couldn’t help but wonder what the new addition to their family was like, and how much things would change once he arrived.
End of part 1
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