How could we ever make a relationship work while living nine hours away from each other?

Geir’s moved off to Oslo with his dad, something he’s not happy about. At the same, it’s nice to have a proper family around him again. Thanks to Jørgen, he even makes a new friend in brash, flamboyant, out-there-and-proud-of-it Nikolai. Nothing makes him forget Jørgen, though—and he doesn’t want to.

Jørgen’s a broken man, but now, thanks to Geir’s psychiatrist uncle, he might get some professional help to come to term with his past and post-traumatic stress disorder. But he feels hollow and empty without Geir—because Geir was the one who made life worth living.

They might as well live world’s apart. Geir can only visit during school holidays, and Jørgen can’t face going to a big city at all. A year’s a long time, and can a tentative relationship such as theirs survive so long apart?

Details

Published: July 8, 2016
Publisher: Arctic Circle Press
Genres: New adult m/m
Wordcount: 57,000
Tags: age difference, disability, epilepsy, mental illness, ptsd

Excerpt

Dad and I didn’t drive straight to Oslo, but took frequent stops to stretch our legs and to eat.

We even booked into a hotel for the night.

There were about another three hours of driving left, but Dad was tired and he didn’t want to drive when he was. I could understand that. Most vehicular accidents happened when the driver was tired, after all, or so the statistics said.

Dad got us a single room with two beds.

After dropping off bags, we headed down to the hotel’s restaurant.

A young, bubbly waiter, who, quite honestly, was rather handsome, sat us at our table and handed us menus.

“Find anything interesting?” Dad asked.

We hadn’t talked much in the car. He’d been focused on the road, and I’d been sullen and upset, wondering if I’d done the right thing when I’d asked Uncle Daniel to be there, so he could talk to Jørgen once I’d left.

Jørgen had seemed to take me leaving okay when I was there, but I wasn’t so sure he would once I was gone.

So I’d asked Uncle to talk to him.

I hoped it had all turned out okay, that it wouldn’t all blow up in my face. Or Jørgen’s, rather, considering how he reacted to therapists in general.

“I don’t know.” I started paying attention to the menu. The words had faded earlier, because my thoughts had been other places, but now I found I managed to focus.

“I’m thinking a nice, big steak would taste good.”

I made a noncommittal sound.

Steak was my dad’s favourite, but I wasn’t much keen on it. Chicken breasts, maybe, or a hamburger. They also had a good selection of various pasta dishes, but I didn’t feel like pasta.

“I’ll have the chicken breasts in a spiced tomato cream sauce. With chips on the side, instead of baked potatoes.”

“That sounds good.” Dad smiled tentatively at me. He’d been hesitant with me ever since we’d left. Maybe because I’d been crying for the first hour and silent and sullen for the next five. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” But if he was going to say something about Jørgen, about our relationship, the he could sod off. I didn’t need to hear how he thought Jørgen was too old for me.

“Why did you ask Daniel to take time off from work to be there when we left? He told me you had asked him to be there, but he didn’t say anything else. I’m just curious, considering you didn’t ask Carina or Marika to stop by too.”

I stared down at the wooden tabletop. “I wanted him to be there after we left. Jørgen… I didn’t know how Jørgen would take it.”

“He seemed to take it better than you.”

“Yeah. Because I was there. But when we left, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Since Uncle’s a psychiatrist, I asked him to be there to talk to him if he took it badly.”

“I’m sorry to say this, but he seems to have a lot of issues. Why isn’t he in therapy already?”

I knew Dad didn’t mean anything bad, but I bristled at the question. “He has his reasons. I don’t know what they are, but I can guess. He doesn’t want to talk about his previous therapist, exactly like he shuts down whenever an uncle of his is mentioned.”

Dad rested his elbows on the table and crossed his hands. He stared at the tabletop now too. “Something bad has happened to him in the past?”

“Something really bad. Something that leaves him with severe anxiety. He has flashbacks and panic attacks, and only the smallest touch can set it off.” I wasn’t sure Jørgen would like me talking about him and his issues, but I needed to talk to someone, and my dad was the only one I had right now.

He was the only one I could talk to, besides Jørgen himself. And maybe if he knew some of what Jørgen went through on a day to day basis, Dad would be more sympathetic towards him.

“And even with all this…” Dad motioned slightly with one hand. “You still like him? You still want to be with him?”

I nodded fiercely. “Jørgen might have issues, but they don’t define him. He’s compassionate, he’s kind, and he cares about me. When I rang him up, that day with Charo, it was only around noon and he came rushing over from work. All he’s ever done is care about me. And I think being with me has made him better, too. In the beginning, I couldn’t even touch him without him jerking away from me.”

The waiter appeared again to take our order.

“I’m sorry, Geir,” Dad said once the waiter walked away. “I’m sorry for forcing you to move away from someone you obviously care a great deal about. I honestly thought it would be good for you, though. Charlotte and I talked about them moving in with us, you know. We figured that my house was too small, and I figured you wouldn’t mind moving, since you didn’t have any friends.”

He sighed. “I should’ve asked you first, before Charlotte and I made our decision. I didn’t know about Jørgen, and maybe if I had known beforehand things would’ve turned out differently, but now…” He shrugged awkwardly. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Dad.” It wasn’t really, but I understood his reasoning. He’d done what he thought was best for me, which was to move away so I could get away from the lonely life I’d led. And perhaps make proper friends someplace new.

I reached into my pocket to withdraw the note Jørgen had given me.

“What’s that?”

“Jørgen gave it to me, before we left.” I unfolded the note. “It’s the number for Tarjei’s little brother, Nikolai. Tarjei is his best friend. He said Nikolai’s moving to Oslo to study, and that I should ring him up.”

“That was nice of him. To give you his number, I mean.” Dad steepled his fingers together. “You should give him a call once we’re settled. Maybe you’ll hit it off, huh? Wouldn’t that be nice?”

“I don’t know…”

“You don’t know? Why?”

“Like, what would I say? Hey, Jørgen gave me your number, and it would be cool if we could meet up?”

“That’s a good way to phrase it.”

“It sounds so lame.” I fingered the note.

I wondered what Tarjei’s brother was like. I had only met Tarjei a couple of times, but he was a nice bloke. He didn’t match Jørgen at all in personality—in fact they were exact opposites—but they kind of fit. I wondered if Tarjei’s brother would be like him. If he was, I’d probably like him. He’d probably be open to new friends too, because Tarjei struck me every time as a very open, social, and welcoming person.

But that was a very big if.

His brother could be totally different.

“I’ll think about it.”

“I think you should definitely do it. He can’t be so bad if Jørgen gave you his number, could he?” Dad smiled slightly.

Our drinks arrived.

“Have you met him before, this Nikolai?”

I shook my head. “I have no idea who he is.” But then I didn’t know anybody, did I? I only knew who my classmates were. Nikolai could’ve gone to my school, but he could’ve also gone to the general studies school. “Jørgen said he was moving to Oslo to study at a dance academy.”

“Dance?” Dad’s eyebrows rose.

“Yeah. Blokes can dance too, you know.”

“Yes, of course.” Dad shook his head slightly. “Of course, I didn’t mean anything by it. It just surprised me, is all. After all, how many blokes do you hear about that actually want to study dance?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. I don’t know any blokes period.”

“The one in your class. The one who punched you…” Dad’s gaze settled on my eye, the one that’d taken Jonas’ hit a while ago. There was no trace of the shiner anymore. “Did you make up with him before school was over?”

“Make up with him? It wasn’t like we ever fell out. He just never liked me, and he wasn’t shy about expressing it.” I wrapped my hands around my water and took a big sip. “So no, I didn’t make up with him. Frankly, if I’m happy about anything right now it’s that I don’t ever have to deal with him again.”

“Do you know why he didn’t like you?”

“Don’t know. I think, at first, it might be because of my epilepsy. He kept calling me freak and all that, you know. Then when he found out I was gay he started in with the homophobic slurs. I generally ignored him, but it was difficult the times he tripped me or shoved me into stuff. That time I snapped back… that’s when he hit me.”

“If something like that happens in your new school, you come tell me. I won’t tolerate that kind of behaviour towards you. I won’t.” Dad seemed so determined I had to smile.

“I hope it won’t come to it, though.”

New city, new school, a whole set of new people… I didn’t think I’d get along great with everyone in my new class, because how realistic was that? But I hoped to at least get on friendly terms with some of them.

I didn’t want to spend another year in school being called names and shoved into things. I’d even take being ignored in front of that, though I’d very much prefer if that didn’t happen either.

Like I’d told Jørgen those months ago: all I wanted was a friend.

I wasn’t expecting much—just one would do. One friend, and I would be happy.

And during the holidays I’d go back home and spend time with Jørgen. If I could spend all the four holidays during the school term with him, then next summer wasn’t all that far off, was it?

I was going to keep thinking like that.

Keep being positive. Positive thinking, that’s what I was going to be all about from now on.