After my dad, Leopold Lyons, there were two men I looked up to most.
The first was my big brother, Anders Lyons.
He was sooo good at being a butler–I really hoped I’d be just as good as him someday, even if I’d probablyyy always be naturally messy. But he didn’t mind the mess as long as it stayed on my side of the room.
Dad didn’t know, but Anders didn’t really want to be a butler. His side of the room was covered in science textbooks and medical stuff–Malpractice was his favorite TV show.
“You should tell Dad,” I insisted. “He’d sooo understand, especially if you tell Mom first.”
“I’m the eldest Lyons son,” Anders said. “The responsibility of taking over the Lyons Butler Academy will eventually fall to me.” He paused. “And I was named after Lysander Lyons, the greatest butler to have ever lived. It would be doubly disappointing for Father…”
I wouldn’t tell if he didn’t want to–Lyons brother loyalty.
The second man I looked up to most was Hamlet Richardson.
Mom binged an old show called Young, Haught and Rich with me when I was a kid, and Hamlet Richardson played Harrington Haught, one of the three teenage stars.
Mom was a huge fan of Roland Rich, played by Rhys Straud, but I sooo would’ve been a Haughthead if I’d been born when it aired.
I was waaay too scared to ever talk to him when he was on the set of Winner is Served with Dad, Uncle Benny, and Uncle Finn, but I watched every single thing he was ever in. I didn’t get to see Baguettes in Summer until I was a teenager, but I watched it sooo many times I could recite the entire thing by heart…
It was the first movie I’d ever seen with two men being so in love…and doing things together. A lot of things.
Things that inspired really really vivid dreams about Hamlet Richardson…
Things that made me want to go over to Ellie’s house whenever I could and accidentallyyyy walk into her dad’s room when I was looking for the bathroom.
I spent a loooot of time checking myself out in the mirror before getting ready to go swimming at Ellie’s house.
Would Hamlet Richardson be there? (If Ellie was there, he almost alwaysss was.) Would he talk to me? Could I think of a reason to talk to him?
Did he know…?
Maybe he thought I was just really really into yoga?
Really really really into it?
But Ellie wasn’t fooled…
Anders was always talking about how she was smart and pretty, even if I didn’t understand why someone so smart needed him to do her homework. I also didn’t understand why he liked Ellie that much when she wasn’t very nice to him. Did that make me a bad brother for going over to her house as much as possible anyway?
But I was Hamlet Richardson’s number one fan…
It was his old interviews (I read and watched allll of them) that ultimately made me decide to come out to my parents.
Hamlet Richardson was closeted for sooo long since he was a major teen heartthrob on a big network TV show, but he talked about what a relief it was when that show ended and he didn’t have to hide anymore.
I’d gotten my long hair cut when I was a kid because so many other kids called me a girl or asked if I was gay. But what was wrong with being gay? I asked the same question of my parents when I came out…
“Nothing at all, son,” Dad said. “Benedict seems far happier and more dedicated to the butler arts after marrying your uncle Finn. Like him, you’re a Lyons no matter what–and we love you dearly, regardless of whom you love.”
“Ooooh, I always wanted a gay son,” Mom said. Neither one of them seemed surprised when I told them, so maybe they already knew, the same way Anders had. “But I’m just glad you’re our son, Cassie-pie. Thank you for trusting us, and know that we’re always here for you.”
I was sooo lucky to have parents like them…
“Ready for the parade?” Mom asked the next time one was in town.
I had a feeling she really did know I was gay for years, and hadn’t just bought all those things and left them lying around the house and restaurant because she “really really loves rainbows.”
And I stopped pretending that I hated going shopping with her, the way most guys my age hated having to go shopping with their moms.
But I was still too afraid to admit that I had similar tastes as my mom–I liked the flower headbands and colorful bracelets she picked up and called cute. Maybe I’d grow out my hair again when I was done with high school…
It was actually Dad who suggested I talk to Uncle Benny if I ever had questions or wanted to talk about things I wasn’t comfortable talking about with anyone else.
Uncle Benny and Uncle Finn were tied for third–not including my dad in the permanent first spot–in the list of men I respected most. They were a huge part of the reason I felt comfortable telling my parents too, since Dad and Uncle Benny seemed to get along fine, and if he wasn’t upset with his brother, he wouldn’t be upset with me, would he?
“I kept it a secret for far longer than I should’ve–and felt incredibly angry and alone,” Uncle Benny said to me during one of our talks. He was sooo nice to let me come over and ask him questions whenever I wanted. “I’m glad you didn’t follow in your uncle’s footsteps.”
“Me too,” I said. “When did you start wondering if you could be gay?” Uncle Finn was happy to answer questions too, but it was a little different for him since he was bi.
“I…I unexpectedly fell in love with a handsome, charming butler when I was roughly your age. He wasn’t real, and I didn’t want to admit it, but…he was everything I thought I wanted, until Finn showed me otherwise.”
“Sooo it’s sort of the same with me and Hamlet Richardson, except he just wears a butler uniform on TV…”
He changed the subject, but we still had lots more to talk about.
I had the best family…
Which is why I wanted to support Anders when he told me Ellie invited him up to her room. We were brothers suffering from unrequited love, but maybe Ellie had finallyyyy realized how amazing Anders was.
So I just played the lookout by the pool, even though Ellie’s dad wouldn’t be home for hours. I still brought over an assortment of dishes that me and Mom made for him. (She felt bad for him because he was an “eternal bachelor,” or as Ellie put it, “forever-alone.”)
I liked to imagine our arms brushing against each other until we were accidentally holding hands… (I wasn’t that much younger than him in vampire-years, right?)
And when he got home early, we kind of did hold hands for one and a half seconds…!
I was never washing this hand for the rest of my life. “Mom made too much food again,” I said, smiling weirdly. “Well, I helped…! And it’ll allll go bad if nobody eats it.”
“Caspian,” he said gently, “I really can’t eat like that and still fit into the show’s butler uniform, but I appreciate the thought. Where’s Ellie?”
He always asked about her before anyone or anything else–he was like Anders that way.
I couldn’t tell him what I thought she might actually be doing. “I think she’s…playing Voidcritters?”
“With Lani? She’s a good kid.”
“I mean, it could be Lani?” Did my voice sound higher than normal? “Or maybe somebody else? Or maybe nobody at all? Voidcritters can also be enjoyed solo…!”
“…I’ll check on her.”
“Don’t you want something to eat first…?” I asked, trying to stay calm. Maybe Ellie really was just playing Voidcritters with Anders. “The cheeseburger is grass-fed beef, and Mom tried a new icing for the carrot cake…”
“I’ll ask if El wants anything. I missed her today.” He started walking away before I could think of another reason to stop him.
I really should’ve tried harder…
(Is it bad I was thinking about how firm his muscles were for a man my parents’ age…?)
But seeing him go after my big brother when he was already down…it made me respect him less. I wasn’t sure if he was even in my top five anymore, or even my top hundred…
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Anders said, wincing. “It–it wasn’t very appropriate for a Lyons butler…”
“I don’t care about what’s appropriate, Anders,” I said. “I care about my big brother. Are you hurt?”
He tried to smile. “I’m a vampire. This is nothing.”
We both went home with heavy hearts–one beating, and one not. I was glad we shared a room then, because at least neither of us had to feel completely alone.
My heart felt like lead in my chest, but I could tell it was even worse for Anders, even if I wasn’t sure why.
“Can I get you something?” I asked. “Mom just made a new batch of plasmafruit chocolates…”
He didn’t answer, but I could tell he wouldn’t mind if I sat down next to him. Mom always knew when we wanted her to try to make us feel better and when we wanted to be alone–hopefully I knew, too.
“…Did I really take advantage of her?”
“She invited you, didn’t she? She wanted you to…” To do all the things I thought about Hamlet Richardson doing with me, except probably with less butt stuff.
“I know she doesn’t like me,” he said hoarsely. “The entire world knows, including Mr. Richardson. I thought if–if maybe I made her feel good, if I did everything she asked… But I knew, Caspian, I knew she never would. Mr. Richardson wasn’t wrong about me pressuring her until I finally got what I wanted…”
Ellie might’ve been Hamlet Richardson’s daughter, and I could understand why he’d want to protect her, but Anders was my brother. And now I was disappointed in Ellie too, because she always got Anders to do exactly what she wanted. He never would’ve pushed her, no matter how much he liked her.
But I wouldn’t say anything bad about her to my big brother.
I just hoped he’d realize that Ellie wasn’t right for him, the way I knew deep down that Hamlet Richardson wasn’t right for me…