The Secret

The Secret

A Story by Incendiary Grievances

He wasn’t sure how much longer he could take it. Eventually, it would all fall apart. Eventually, his secret would be revealed. And then, it would all be over.




“Mr. Monroe! Ethan! Ethan Monroe!” Ethan turned around and saw Mrs. Morell, the school’s counselor, rushing towards him.


“Is there a problem, Mrs. Morell?”


“No, darling,” she smiled at him kindly, and for the first time, Ethan noticed that there was a boy next to her that he had never seen before. He gave him a cursory glance and turned back to the counselor.


“We have a new transfer student, sweetheart, and he’s a senior, like you. I was wondering if you could show him around. You’ll be safe in Mr. Monroe’s hands, Mr. Dett. He’s one of our best students. He’ll take good care of you.”


Ethan turned to look at the boy more carefully, and, as he finally focused on the boy, barely sustained a gasp. He was gorgeous, with shaggy brown hair that fell over his forehead and high, defined cheekbones. The school uniform that every student was forced into flattered his lean body and rested attractively on his broad shoulders. The boy was looking at him with sparkling green eyes, and Ethan suddenly realized that he was speaking to him.


“Hey. I’m James. Dett. James Dett, I mean. Umm…hey, man.” He was starting to look flustered, his hand stretched out between the two boys awkwardly.


“Oh! Oh, hi, James. Sorry, I’m Ethan. It’s nice to meet you.” And then James grinned at him, and wow he was good looking. A dimple appeared on his right cheek, and Ethan tried not to stare. Deep breaths, Ethan. This is a boy. You can’t do this. You can’t let people know. You’re safe here. You can’t risk it.


“Did Mrs. Morell give you a schedule? Ah, you have chemistry with Anders first. I’ll walk you there, I have him first block as well.”




The day was torture. James ended up having every class with Ethan except for Latin. “I’m taking French,” James had informed him, “Français est la langue des vainqueurs.” Ethan wasn’t sure what that meant, but he was absolutely positive that hearing James speak French didn’t sound hot. What on earth would give anyone that idea?


Unfortunately, James ended up being an amazing guy. He was witty, intelligent, fun, and painfully nice. He easily made friends with all of the students in his classes and quickly became, within the span of the day, one of the most popular students at the school. This was quite a feat.


Vanguard Academy was an extremely expensive, private, all boys boarding school where the social elite sent their intelligent and proper children. The teachers had been hand-picked by the extremely wealthy heirs of the man who had founded the school, Gerald Bromsor. The school itself was large and ornate, with gorgeous chandeliers and spotless hallways surrounded by painted glass windows that depicted images from events in history. The classrooms all contained state of the art technology and various learning materials that were usually only found in Ivy League colleges like Harvard. The class rigor was far beyond that of normal schools--and even that of most private schools--and the exams were brutal.


Many of the boys at the school were, as should be expected, quite stuffy. Each student at Vanguard Academy had come from a very high social standing and was therefore used to the activities of the higher society--the students at Vanguard played polo, fenced, had parties on their respective families’ yachts, and stole very expensive champagnes and wines from their parents to get drunk with.


This was not to say, however, that Vanguard did not have a friendly aura. Ethan loved the school. It had been his escape after things were no longer safe for him at his old school. He had come to Vanguard and been accepted with open arms. He became the star fencer of the school and made several friends who had become central to his life at the same time his family had begun to withdraw from him. It was safe here. And Ethan intended to keep it that way.


“Dude, you’re like, really popular here.”


Ethan started. “What?”


“I said you’re really popular here. Everyone knows you. And really likes you. When I told people that I was going to room with you, they said I was really lucky.” James was giving him that disarming grin again, but Ethan had narrowed in on something James had said.


“You’re rooming with me?”


James looked surprised. “Yeah, didn’t Mrs. Morell tell you that? She said that your old roommate transferred out mid-year and that I could room with you. Is that, um…a problem?”


“No, of course not.” Ethan dismissed. But it might end up being one for you.




“You certainly don’t pack lightly.” Ethan teased as they finally brought the last of the boxes into the room. He set the box he was carrying on the floor (in a less than delicate manner) and collapsed on the bed.


James laughed. “I’m living here, now. I had to shove my entire room into boxes. You’re carrying my life, Ethan. Be more careful with it.”


Ethan cracked open one eye and grinned at James. “You need help unpacking?”


“Nah, I got it.”


“Alright, I’m going to need to head out, then. I have fencing practice today.”


James looked surprised. “You fence?”


“Yeah,” Ethan replied, “Why, do you?”


For a second, it seemed as though James’s face darkened slightly, but he immediately placed a serene expression back on his face. “Nope.”


“Well, do you play anything else? We have lots of teams here at Vanguard. Some are more popular than others, but they’re all good teams, nonetheless.”


Ethan tried not to react as James’s face seemed to close off again. “Um…no. I don’t actually play any sports. I’m a runner.” Ethan smiled.


“That’s fine, James. We have track and cross country here, and if you talk to the coaches, I’m sure they’ll let you sign up mid-semester, seeing as you’re a student transfer.”


James seemed to relax slightly. “Oh, cool.” Ethan turned to go to his dresser and grab his gear, but he ended up turning back. “Hey, James. Is everything okay?”


James smiled tightly. “Sure. I just…at my old school, you were either a jock or you were nothing. If you weren’t on the football or basketball team, you weren’t safe. There’s a reason I’m a good runner.” he added darkly.


Ethan stared at him, shocked. It was in this moment, within hours of meeting the boy, that Ethan realized the biggest difference between James and himself. James was an open book. He was confident and happy and willing to share himself with others. He had no qualms, no secrets. His bad experiences hadn’t made him shut down. Ethan, however, had. He had learned early on in his life that sharing the personal aspects of his life with others would lead him to nothing but unhappiness, and had therefore learned how to put on a confident expression and face the world as though he owned it. He could hide his feelings so easily that it scared him sometimes. But somehow, with James, things were already different. Ethan could already feel the tiny chinks in the armor that would eventually lead him to defeat. He would just have to try harder, then. He couldn’t let James see into him. It wasn’t safe. It never was. That wasn’t what he told James, though.


“It’s safe here. You don’t have to worry about that kind of thing anymore. It’s safe.” And when James grinned at him like that, how could he possibly regret what he said? He wasn’t lying, not really. It was safe for James. James was probably normal.


Normal in all the ways Ethan would never be.




Two months later, Ethan couldn’t remember his life without James in it. They had become best friends within a week of knowing each other, and they had both effortlessly changed their lives in order to fit each other’s. They spent almost all of their time together, and if Ethan hadn’t exactly told James everything about himself, well, it wasn’t a big deal. Sure, they shared their opinions on major issues that had been discussed in their previous class, sports teams (both on T.V. and at the school), and the latest book that James was reading that Ethan refused to even open, because “James, the damn thing just looks hard to read, what’s the point in trying?” “Try to be a little less cultured, you moron, I dare you.”


But Ethan hadn’t shared his deepest, darkest secret with James. He couldn’t. He couldn’t lose James’s friendship; it was far too important to him. He still remembered what had happened when he told Derek, who had been his best friend back at public school--back before things got really bad.



Derek looked shocked for a moment, before his eyes hardened. Ethan immediately flinched--he had never seen Derek look so cold. “You’re a f*****g f*g?” Derek had hissed. Ethan panicked. “No, Derek, please, you don’t understand--” But it was too late. The damage had been done. “Ethan’s a f*g!” Derek called out to anyone in the hallway who would listen. “He is, he just told me so!” “Derek, please!” The next day, a group of jocks cornered Ethan before he could get to his first class. “Hold up, f****t,” one of the sneered as they began to stride closer to him. “No, no, no…” Ethan was shaking as he backed away from them. This didn’t happen to him. He was popular, he was liked. He was attractive and intelligent and athletic and everything that he needed to be to survive high school. “Derek told us all about your little secret,” this one was grinning as reached out as if to grab Ethan. Ethan flinched away violently. “He--he would never,” he objected, knowing it wasn’t true as he said it. Derek had shown Ethan what he thought yesterday. Quite clearly. That day was the first time that Ethan found out what it felt like to be beaten up. Additionally, those same jocks made sure that Ethan’s memory was refreshed at least once a weak. They were clever, though. The bruises were always in places that were easily hidden, though not easily ignored. Derek never participated in the beatings, but Ethan felt his punches worst of all.




Ethan was lying on his back and staring up at the ceiling of his and James’s room. The dorm rooms at Vanguard, like every other part of the school, were beautiful and frighteningly expensive. He and James shared a large room with a small kitchen, one bathroom, and a huge floor space. The ceiling was low and had one dull, ornate light hanging from it that had clearly been picked more for its beauty than its functionality. Ethan’s side of the room was rather sparse. He had his bed, a desk that was scattered with homework, a dresser that was full of school uniforms and a few button down shirts and khakis, and one picture of him and his parents stuck to the wall with a thumbtack. It had been placed there as a formality.


James’s side of the room, however, expressed him perfectly. His bed was unmade (as always), the green and pink comforter thrown back and his pillow angled awkwardly against the headboard. “Green and pink are my favorite colors,” James had informed him cheekily when Ethan had raised an eyebrow. “You’re just jealous because your sheets are boring and tan. I can help you buy new ones, if you’d like.” Ethan had kindly declined the offer and had later, when he and James had become more comfortable with one another, been deemed a “sheet snob.”


His desk, unlike Ethan’s, was not only covered in the various poems and songs and stories that James wrote sporadically, but also contained multiple photo frames that displayed various smiling family members, each of which James had described to Ethan quite fondly. “They’re…family.” Ethan had stated simply when James had asked about the lone picture stuck to Ethan’s wall. James had seemed slightly disappointed, but had accepted the answer and, thankfully, moved on to regale Ethan with a tale about the one time he and his cousin were almost killed by a sloth, refusing to be discouraged by Ethan’s skepticism. “It was just a sloth, James.” “You don’t understand, Ethan. Sloths are f*****g scary.”


James’s dresser contained far fewer clothes than the floor in front of it, where James carelessly tossed his clothes until he “worked up the motivation” to do his laundry. To Ethan’s surprise, James’s favorite article of clothing turned out to be…socks. “Socks are awesome.” James had defended himself. He had and endless supply of multicolored socks, each pair of which was atrocious in an entirely different way. “Do you own any normal socks?” Ethan had once asked incredulously. James had stopped digging through his dresser in search of whatever the hell he was looking for and considered the question carefully. “Just the uniform ones that the school supplied me.” he finally replied, and resumed wrecking his dresser.


Ethan’s favorite part about James’s side of the room, however, was his wall. James had posters of everything from Peyton Manning to Jack’s Mannequin to Wicked. He had even more photos of family and friends plastered to the cement, as well as some running medals that he earned back in public school.


Honestly, looking at James’s side of the room made Ethan feel…small. James was beautiful and unique and open and lively and he had such and enormous life outside of Ethan. Honestly, Ethan couldn’t even imagine why James gave him the time of day. Certainly James saw right through him. The other Vanguard boys had been fooled by Ethan’s confident act--of course they had, he was an expert by now--but surely James hadn’t?


Ethan started as James slammed into the room. “What the hell, Ethan?” Ethan sat up, panicked. “What is wrong with you? I can’t believe this!” Ethan’s heart was threatening to beat out of his ribcage. What had he done wrong? Surely James couldn’t have found out, had he? No, no, no, he was supposed to be safe here, this wasn’t supposed to happen--


“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me it was your birthday, you utter d********g!” Ethan relaxed slightly, then thought better of it. James looked disproportionately furious.


“I didn’t want you making a big deal out of it,” he muttered, “Kind of like you’re doing right now. It’s just a birthday, James.”


James still looked angry, but now he was biting his lip as well, a habit that Ethan had learned only came out when he was nervous or upset. He collapsed next to Ethan on his bed and looked him in the eye. “It’s just that you don’t tell me things, Ethan. Ever. Everything is a secret for you. I never get to know about your family, your life before Vanguard…I figured I deserve to know about something like your birthday, at least, even if you don’t exactly trust me with the other stuff yet.”


Ethan was gaping. “You think I don’t trust you?” James scoffed. “I know you don’t.”


Ethan wasn’t sure how he could reply to that. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust James specifically--in fact, it was quite the opposite. Ethan trusted James more than he had trusted anyone in a long time. However, Ethan didn’t tell people things. Ever. He had learned very early in life that uninhibited trust only led to pain. Derek had proven that long ago.


But maybe James was different. He certainly seemed different. How could someone as open and happy and kind and honest as James possibly judge Ethan for something he couldn’t even control?


Sure, James is a nice guy, the nasty voice in his head reminded him, but how tolerant will he be when he realizes that you’re in love with him? How kind will he act when your disgusting disease is directed towards him?


So, Ethan did what he did best. He closed off. He set his shoulders and looked at James with cold eyes. “I’ve only known you for two months, James.”


James cringed, and when he looked up and met Ethan’s eyes, he had a pained look on his face. Ethan hated himself for putting it there.


“You’re doing it again,” James said softly. Ethan’s hard facial expression cracked for a moment as he looked at James with incredulity. “Doing what again?”


“Shutting down. Closing off your emotions. Pretending you don’t feel anything. Your game face doesn’t fool me, Ethan. Not anymore.”


Ethan didn’t say anything. James stood up to leave the room, but before he did, he took a small box out of the book bag he had been carrying when he stormed in and placed it gently on Ethan’s bare desk. “I got you something. When the guys told me it was your birthday, I headed out and bought this for you before I came here,” he smiled sadly at Ethan, “Happy birthday, Ethan.” And then he left.


After about ten minutes, Ethan gathered up the courage to unhitch himself from his bed and walk towards his desk. He opened the box and gasped. In it was the copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen that Ethan had been eyeing the week before when he had gone to a book store with James in order to help him find a book he needed for Latin. The novel was accompanied by a small note in James’s loopy handwriting.


Hey, Ethan. Happy Birthday. I’m pissed at you for not telling about this, but it’s cool. Let’s just celebrate, right?

I saw you looking at this the other day when we were in the store. I know that you said that you hadn’t read it when I asked you about it, but I don’t believe you. You read it, and you loved it. I can tell. I don’t blame you. It’s a great book.

You know it’s okay that you like Pride and Prejudice, right Ethan? Because sometimes I’m not sure. I know I’ve only been here for two months, but the guys at Vanguard aren’t that bad. They seem to really like you, and I doubt they would like you any less if you publicly proclaimed your love for Jane Austen. In fact, I think some of them might even like you more (me especially).

Anyways, I hope you enjoy your secret pleasure. Darcy is my favorite. He seems like a bit of an impassionate jerk at first, but he’s really a bit insecure and entirely loving underneath the façade.

He’s not the only one.


James xx


Ethan read the note three more times, ran his fingers over the x marks that James had scrawled next to his name, and then cried for a long, long time.




It took Ethan hours to fall asleep, and when he finally did, it was in James’s bed, surrounded by the smell of mint and coffee and cologne that was so inherently James. He heard James come into the room during the middle of the night but didn’t open in his eyes. Coward, the vindictive part of brain sneered.




When he woke up the next morning, James was sitting on his bed and watching him. Ethan looked at him blearily. “How long have you been there?”


“A couple of minutes. Are you going to judge me for it?”


“I would never judge you.”


“But you don’t have enough faith in me to believe that I wouldn’t judge you, either? You’re sleeping in my bed, Ethan. I am never going to judge you.”


“This is…different. You wouldn’t understand.”


At this, James stood up. His eyes were blazing. “How do you know, Ethan? How can you know that? How can you be so goddamned sure that you’re the only one with something to hide and that whatever it is makes you somehow more despicable than the rest of us? Stop holding it all in. Just try--just once, Ethan, just once--to open yourself up to someone. It doesn’t have to be me if you don’t want it to be. But someone. I get it, Ethan, I do. You have a secret. And on top of that, you have a family that clearly hasn’t helped much in the self-confidence area and a past that has led you to mistrust. But I’ve faced tons of s**t in my life, too, and I never closed off from the world.” He took a deep breath. “I am not undermining whatever it is you’ve been through or trying to compare you to me. I’m just asking you trust that I won’t run away. I won’t run away, Ethan. I care about you. Please, if you get nothing else from this, understand that. I will never hurt you.”


Ethan had sat up in James’s bed, all sleepiness gone, and was trembling slightly under James’s gaze. He was too far in. It was too late. He may as well come out with it. Maybe James would hate him, but he just couldn’t take this anymore, and--


“I’m gay.” Ethan looked shocked at his own words.


I know that, you f*****g idiot.” James replied exasperatedly, and then he stood up, strode over to Ethan, and kissed him full on the lips.




“Ethan?” James was looking at him carefully. “We got this, you know that, right? You know that everything will be okay?” He was starting to squeeze Ethan’s hand so tightly that it hurt. Ethan took a deep breath and squeezed back gently. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine--we’re fine.” James beamed at him and Ethan’s heart stopped. It will always be worth it to put that expression on his face. I don’t care what it takes.


It had been one week since James had kissed him, and it had been both the most incredible and most terrifying week of Ethan’s life. The conversations that followed immediately had been hard for Ethan--I came out freshman year of high school, I got bullied every day and beat up once a week, I still have some scars, my family doesn’t speak to me anymore, my dad called me the same words that the bullies did, the same words that I dream of every night, homo, fairy, f*g, cocksucker--and finally, he had broken down. And, to Ethan’s surprise, as he sobbed and poured his soul out, James simply sat there and held him without judgment, and when Ethan finally pulled himself together, James had looked him in the eye and said, “You matter. You’re wonderful and intelligent and athletic and kind and you are an amazing person. And the people who don’t realize that are really missing out, Ethan.”


For the first time in Ethan’s life, confiding in someone hadn’t backfired on him. In fact, it had done the complete opposite. James had literally turned Ethan’s life around in a week. Of course, it would take far longer than seven measly days to remove the emotional scars of Ethan’s suffering--the lack of self-confidence, the careful mask that hid human emotions--but James was beginning to show Ethan something that he had never seen before. Unconditional love.


James tugged on his hand slightly and smiled at him. “You ready?” Ethan looked at him carefully for a moment, and then said, “I don’t what I ever did to deserve you,” because it was true. James rolled his eyes. “You’re you. That’s all it took, Ethan. The guy under the mask is pretty amazing.”


“Like Mr. Darcy?”


“Like Mr. Darcy.”


And then, Ethan did something that he had never imagined himself doing before. He stepped out of his room and began walking down the halls of Vanguard Academy. But this time, he wasn’t doing it as the perfect Vanguard student. This time, he wasn’t doing it as the automaton he felt like he needed to be. This time, he was walking down the halls as Ethan Monroe. This time, he was holding the hand of a boy who had unwittingly changed his life.


This time, he was coming out.

© 2012 Incendiary Grievances

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a young man in a all boy private school adds more pressure to coming out very nice i like it

Posted 9 Years Ago

An absolutely beautiful story. No easy task for a young, straight woman to describe the world seen through the eyes of a gay man. "Coming out" is an experience I'm grateful I don't need to endure.

But maybe we all need to come out. We build some pretty impressive walls, sar tissue from past hurts and heartbreaks. Your description of the young man who refused to slam the door - James, and the patient holding out of his hand, unlocking another young man - Just wonderful. Thanks for writing this~

Posted 9 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on March 31, 2012
Last Updated on March 31, 2012
Tags: gay, love, friendship, coming out, insecurity


Incendiary Grievances
Incendiary Grievances

I love rain, I love writing, I love sunflowers. Here is my escape. Words are what I live for. more..