First impressions

NOVEMBER 2011

1 YEAR AND 1 MONTH BEFORE MORE THAN ENOUGH

LEO EKNES

I stared around Alex’s room, which was… empty. The furniture was there, but nothing else. No school bag, no books, no clutter. It was all gone.

What the fuck? 

I’d tip-toed upstairs so I wouldn’t have to meet our parents, all ready to surprise Alex with a visit, only to find him not here.

Now I stormed downstairs, not caring if they heard me.

‘Where is Alex?’ I demanded as I strode into the living room.

Dad was alone in the living room, sitting in his armchair, football on the telly.

‘He’s decided to move out.’

‘Move where?’

Alex was still in school, he couldn’t afford to live on his own.

‘He’s gone off to live with his boyfriend,’ Dad grunted, not once taking his eyes off the television.

Boyfriend? 

‘And where is that?’

He rattled off an address and I turned to leave.

‘Anything you want me to say to him?’ I asked, hoping for… something.

Something that would never come, apparently, as he only grunted in answer.

I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t slam the door on my way out either, though I wanted to.

Plugging the address into the map app on my phone, I found that Alex lived not that far away. Maybe a ten-fifteen minutes walk if that.

It was chilly out, but even though I was wearing my thick winter jacket, I got in my car and drove over. It only took a couple of minutes and I sat looking up at the house for another couple ones to gather my thoughts.

Alex had moved out.

What drove him to do that?

There must’ve been something.

And boyfriend? When had that happened?

I got out of the car and walked up the driveway. A car was parked there already, all shiny and sleek, lots newer than my old piece of junk.

The house was nicely maintained. It was painted a dark grey, with white around the windows and doors. There was light inside, so at least there were people home. I had no idea what would meet me though.

Alex hadn’t so much as texted me about moving out. It worried me.

I rang the bell and stood back to wait.

The door opened not long after and a man stood there—dark-haired and blue-eyed, with a friendly but quizzical look on his face.

I cleared my throat and took a step closer.

‘Hi. I’m looking for Alex?’ I really hoped I had the right house. ‘I’m Leo, his brother.’

The quizzical look fell away, to be replaced by… was that suspicion?

‘I’ll go fetch him.’ He nodded, then closed the door.

I blew out a breath.

Shit.

So the guy didn’t trust me. Was he Alex’s boyfriend? Surely he was too old for Alex? Not that he’d been old, but he was at least in his thirties.

It was bloody cold out and I wrapped my arms around myself as I waited.

Alex soon stepped outside, in a jacket of his own. He looked a right mess.

‘Shit, Alex.’ I closed the distance between us, reached out—then dropped it as I didn’t know if he was in pain or not. ‘Dad told me where you were staying. What happened to your face? Did one of them do this to you?’

He had plasters on one side, scrapes and bruises on the other. Not to mention a bandage on the side of his head.

What the hell’s happened to him? 

‘Mum did it.’ He touched the cheek with the butterfly plasters. ‘But the rest of it wasn’t them. I was bashed in the head with an iron bar.’

Something cold slithered down my spine.

‘What? But—Why would anyone do that to you?’

He bit down on his lower lip.

‘Because I’m gay. And the guy took issue with me and my boyfriend.’

God, I wanted to hit whatever bastard had done this to my brother.

‘Is this where your boyfriend lives?’ I knew it was, since Dad had said so, but I didn’t want to come off like I knew when he hadn’t shared it with me himself.

He nodded.

‘Is he nice to you?’ I fucking well hoped so. As long as Alex was okay, I was happy. I might be a shitty brother, who’d left him alone in that house with our parents, but I did love him.

He nodded again.

‘Yeah, he is.’

‘Was it the guy who opened the door just now?’

‘Wha—No, that was his uncle.’ He bowed his head and I swear I saw a blush creep over his cheeks. ‘Andreas is the same year as me, only we’re in different classes.’

Well, at least he’s not involved with someone almost twice his age.

Though the guy had certainly been handsome, no doubt about that.

‘I’m sorry I haven’t been back in a while,’ I said quietly. ‘You should’ve called me when this happened. I would’ve been here for you. Dad didn’t even mention it when I stopped by the house. He just gave me the address to this place.’

‘Mum didn’t even visit me in the hospital,’ Alex divulged. ‘Dad did, for a while, but he quickly fucked off as well.’

I couldn’t stop myself this time. I hugged him tightly.

He froze, but slowly put his hand on my back.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said again. It wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. But it was all I had. ‘I should’ve come home more often, just to see to you, but I can’t face them more than a minute at a time. I don’t even want to face them.’ I only did it for Alex.

‘I know. I don’t want to either. That’s why I’m staying here.’

‘If you break up, though…’ What would Alex do then? ‘You can come stay with me. I’d rather you come to me than go back to stay with them. They’ve ruined our childhood. They’ve ruined each other. They’re going to kill each other one day, and I don’t want you to be around them, Alex. If something happens, anything, come to me.’ I hoped my eyes showed him how sincere I was.

‘I will,’ he whispered. ‘I definitely will.’

‘Good.’ I shuffled, about to freeze to the spot. ‘Look, I’m in town for the entire weekend. Do you maybe want to meet up tomorrow? We could go for lunch or something. You can bring your boyfriend too, if you want.’ I wanted to meet him. See if he was a decent guy. See if he was treating Alex all right.

‘Would that be okay with you?’ he asked uncertainly.

‘Definitely. I want to meet him.’

A small smile spread on Alex’s lips.

‘I’ll ask him. I can call you tomorrow morning?’

‘That would be great.’ I moved forward, intending to hug him again, but it felt too awkward now with him staring at me. I took a step down the stairs instead. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, then?’

God, Leo, how socially awkward can you be? It’s your damn brother and he’s hurt

I’d make it up to him. Somehow.

‘Yeah.’ Alex stood outside the door as I walked down the driveway, but when I glanced back as I got in my car, he’d gone back inside.

I sighed, clutching at the steering wheel.

At least Alex had got away from that house, from our parents. That was good. I just hoped he’d gone to something happier—and since he hadn’t told me shit about any of this, I had no idea if he had or not.

Hopefully, I’d find out tomorrow.

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