Chapter 20 | Daxten

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I watch as Brando wipes his cheeks. If I was crying as much as he is now, my voice would have completely broken. There is only a small tremor in his voice.

      His story breaks my heart completely. I have never wanted to comfort someone as badly as I want to comfort Brando. He's doing everything to avoid eye contact with me. It mustn't have been easy for him to share his story. It's incredibly brave of him.

      Once he's finished, or at least I think he's finished judging by the silence, I begin to speak.

      'You think it's your fault that your father, a grown-ass man, decided to drink and drive?'

      Brando hangs his head so that he stares directly at his lap. He gives me a feeble nod.

      'Bullshit.'

      He looks up. 

      'Pardon?'

      'It's not your fault, not in the slightest. You opened your heart and he closed his. He should not have said that to you before he left the house. He knew what he was doing and he wanted to make you feel responsible. He drove his car into someone else's car. He's the one who robbed your mom of a husband. He's the one who robbed that little girl of a mom. Don't give him what he wants. Stop feeling guilty. He wins if you keep doing this to yourself.'

      'His whole world fell apart because I'm gay. It's what drove him to go behind the wheel of a car intoxicated in the first place. We wouldn't have argued if I just kept my mouth shut.'

      'So you could live a lie the rest of your life? To what end? To please your dad? Robbed yourself of love? Suffer in silence? Is that really what you should have done? You know, and I know that would never work.'

      'He would be alive. That woman would be alive.'

      'You being gay isn't what killed him or that woman. It was his ignorance. It was his judgment. It was his inability to see beyond hate to accept you for the person you are. He chose hate over love, and he did that on his own. You had nothing to do with what he decided to do after you came out.'

      It's beginning to make sense to me now – why Brando seems so reluctant to tell strangers that he loves men, why he referred to Nick as just a friend at the airport when he is actually an ex.

      He thinks telling people he's gay will kill them. He's that terrified that people will reject him and break his heart; he feels responsible when they do so. His dad has filled him with so much shame that he's conditioned himself to keep that part of his life a secret.

      The only shame is that Brando hides his light from the world. He shines so brightly with so much positivity and love that the idea that he's ashamed of himself is the true tragedy of his story.

      'It makes me angry to think of your dad, and my dad, who should love us no matter what. They shouldn't think our ability to love is grounds for disowning us. They should never stop loving us, ever.' My own voice stays level. I try so hard for it to not break. 'They created us. They brought us into the world. No parent should ever cast away their flesh and blood for something like this.'

      'We can't help who we fall in love with,' Brando adds.

      We look right at each other. Silence now accompanies our table. The music stops as the track changes. The chatter around us quietens. For a moment, it feels like the whole world is listening to our conversation.

      I breathe in heavily. The air is tense. For every passing second that I stare at the boy in front of me, I feel an inch more of my heart becoming his.

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