I was a bad brother, if I hadn’t known that already. Even though I knew I might’ve done irreparable damage to my relationship with my sister, my thoughts were being pulled elsewhere.
I knew Gal wouldn’t want to talk when she was angry, but…there was someone who did want to talk to me. But wouldn’t he be next, when he discovered the truth too?
For now, though, he wanted me by his side.
“I never thought I’d have a reason to thank Ophelia for anything,” Benny said, giddiness bursting from every word. “She’s…Ophelia.”
O. She’d been avoiding me lately–ever since I’d confronted her over her dog’s supposedly missing toy, even though it was the sole reason Benny and I had become friends again. I knew she was busy with work, but I missed her.
For some reason, talking to Benny could make me feel even lonelier.
“He invited me over to his place to play video games,” he said meaningfully. “Do you think he’s going to want to, ah…?”
“I’d put money on it,” I said, thinking back to all the times O had invited me over for “research” or I’d invited her over to watch Simflix. It was obvious he was just as much a virgin as he’d been all those years ago, but I knew better than to bring it up.
“Bring lots of lube–and protection,” I offered at his expectant look: good advice all around, and he’d started asking me for advice for the first time in a long time.
“Hamlet Richardson,” he sighed, as if he hadn’t heard me at all–or maybe he had, and was already imagining his night of video games. “I’ve been watching every episode of his old show on Simflix. Your brother–” He stopped short, as if he wasn’t sure if Rhys was a forbidden topic.
I nodded at him to go on.
“…I’ve seen some fan art,” he continued. “At first I was concerned that Hamlet preferred guys like him since all the Haughtheads and Richbitches swear they have undeniable sexual chemistry on-screen, and that maybe he was only doing a favor to Ophelia, but then I read a few old interviews, and he says he likes goofy guys who make him laugh, and I make him laugh…”
“He sounds like a great guy,” I managed. “But aren’t you worried about him being a celebrity…?”
“It’s like the plot of one of Mother’s romance novels–a movie star falling for her butler. Not that I’m Hamlet Richardson’s butler, but I’d gladly serve him if he asked… And he’s very down-to-earth, Finn. If I hadn’t seen all those SiMZ photographs of him wearing Voidcritter pajamas in airports, I never would’ve suspected he was a movie star.”
He was smitten, and I didn’t know how to proceed. I’d never had to have these conversations with any other guy, and even O kept certain things to herself. But now it was like I was fifteen again, bragging to the older Benny about my girlfriend…except I was on the receiving end.
Well, I’d wanted him to open up to me, hadn’t I?
As the day wore on, I had a feeling our minds lay in very different places…
And then I was alone again.
I didn’t know what to do without Gal, or O, or Benny. So I went online…
I was just being a concerned friend, I told myself as I typed HAMLET RICHARDSON into the search box. It wasn’t as if I couldn’t imagine anyone else being interested in Benny–not when I’d had a crush on him myself–but a relatively rich and famous TV star?
He had to be hiding something. Or maybe Benny was right, and he was doing a favor for his sister–it was almost impossible to say no to her. Maybe Benny was much more invested than he was and had no idea…
Benny was right about one thing, at least; Hamlet Richardson did say he liked goofy, sweet guys in all the interviews he did after he came out. But that could be a canned PR response. He came across as humble and charming in his interviews too, but that persona also could’ve been cultivated by a publicist.
…This was ridiculous. I needed to get out of the apartment before I started watching every episode of Young, Haught and Rich to analyze Hamlet Richardson’s sexual chemistry with my brother.
So I flew away from my problems…
…And toward another.
“An unexpected visit from my boy–to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Were you expecting someone else instead?” I nodded toward the two glasses of plasma fruit wine on the bar.
“Hoping,” he said. “In vain. Alas, my Bee didn’t see fit to visit me today, despite my open invitation. But I’m always glad to see my son.”
He set the extra glass of wine in front of me and slid onto an empty stool, patting the one beside him.
I sat, but didn’t know what to say.
“Worries weighing heavily on your shoulders, eh?”
“Gal found out,” I said, “about the apartment. She knows you arranged everything–and that I helped.”
“Ah, my butterfly princess is as clever as she is beautiful,” he said. “I knew it was only a matter of time.”
“…Then why’d you do it, Dad?”
“Because she’s my daughter,” he said, “and I love her.”
I wished we could choose–who we loved, and who we didn’t. And maybe who others loved too. …But did that make me exactly like my father? I’d only make it so that Gal loved Dad, and Benny loved someone who suited him better.
I’d do it for them.
“Speaking of a father’s love for his children, I was able to pull some strings with an old liaison of mine, and she’d be happy to let you direct a few episodes of her new program. I’m afraid it’s rather low-budget, but it’ll be excellent to cut your fangs on.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said, my spirits lifting. “I appreciate it. I’ll try not to let you down.” The work would be a good distraction, if nothing else, and I had wanted some genuine directing credits.
“You could never let me down. …Now are you going to tell your father about your unrequited love?”
“I’m not–” I stared down at my untouched glass of wine–a glass meant for someone else, someone who didn’t want it. Someone who never spared it a second thought. “It hurts,” I whispered. “I know I have no right to be jealous of someone else’s happiness, but it hurts.”
My father was silent, then laid a hand on my shoulder. “I know.”