"Can I ask you somethin’, Claude?" Will Landry asked, his voice and expression serious.
Claude Potier smiled. "Sure."
Will’s dark brown eyes were thoughtful. "When are you gon’ tell your fam’ly ‘bout our relationship? Are you embarrassed by it or by me or...?"
"Of course I’m not embarrassed!" Claude exclaimed, his green eyes wide with shock. "I jus’...I’m afraid of deir reaction..." Even when he said it, it sounded stupid.
Will looked at him. "Claude. You’re fifty years old. We’ve been together since we were eighteen. Times have changed y’know? Surely..."
"You don’ know my fam’ly..." Claude muttered. In truth, though, Claude himself didn’t know his family very well. Each of them would have openly accepted his relationship and the man it was with, had they been given the chance to. A lot had changed in recent years and the Guilds weren’t nearly as uptight and old-fashioned as they were even thirty years before.
"Do any of dem know?"
"About us? Yes. Genard does. He’s known since we started datin’ back in 1973 when he was four. He asked me who I was datin’ an’ I told him. He’s never told anyone. Theoren knows I’m gay, but dat’s it."
Will nodded. "Okay. Would you do somethin’ for me? Tell dem. I’m tired of feelin’ like you’re ashamed of me."
"Okay. I’ll do it. I promise." Claude smiled. He had been madly and deeply in love with Will for decades and it would be nice to be able to declare it from the rooftops and maybe even make his long-time dreams come true and marry him...even if they had to go to Canada to do it.
"He did it. He finally did it. Wow..."
Genard had been four years old in 1973 when his pseudo big brother Claude, at the time just about eighteen years old, started dating Will. And Genard had been the only member of the Guild who ever knew about the secret relationship...until today. Today, thirty-two years after the relationship started, Claude got up the nerve and gathered the entire Guild together to tell them his deepest secret.
They had accepted it willingly, which was the exact opposite reaction Claude had been expecting. They were all downstairs, meeting Will and chatting, but Genard had made his retreat quickly. It wasn’t that he disapproved. He actually thought it was wonderful that Claude was so happy. He just couldn’t bring himself to celebrate with them.
He dug his journal out of his closet and sat down to write. This was his private journal that no one knew he had. To hide it, he had a regular journal that he didn’t bother hiding from anyone. But the private journal contained all the things he couldn’t tell anyone, even Tante Mattie, who was mother to the Guild members and knew most things before they told her.
"He’s so happy," Genard wrote in his journal. "Once he found out everyone would accept his relationship with Will, it was almost hard to watch. I’ve known for so long that he’s in love with Will and wants to marry him, but…it’s still hard to watch. It’s crazy, he’s always been my big brother…he took care of me and loved me and worried about me all my life...so I should think of him as my big brother. But ever since I was twelve years old I’ve had the hugest crush on him…and I’ve kept that secret all this time. I can’t tell him. I can’t risk ruining his happiness or his relationship with Will. I want him to be happy, and Will makes him happy, so I want him to be with Will. He can never find out how I feel."
Genard’s journal was filled with entries like that one. Since he was twelve years old, he had kept his feelings towards Claude a deep secret, one he would not reveal to anyone for any reason until the day he died.
Tante Mattie knew more about certain things than she was letting on. In spite of Claude’s best efforts to keep his relationship a secret for all these years, Tante Mattie was an empath and had picked up on his feelings almost immediately. She was very proud of him for finally coming out and telling the whole family about it, something she thought he should have done years ago. She hoped that Claude and Will would finally take their relationship to the next level and marry, but she knew it would take time and planning to make that happen.
She was also very aware of Genard’s deeply guarded feelings towards the man who was the only brother he’d ever had. She knew how Genard felt, and while she admired him for wanting to spare Claude the pain and trouble of learning the truth, she also thought it might be best in the long run if the younger man came clean about his feelings.
Not that she could or would interfere with the way they were doing things. To her, they would always be children, because she was so much older than them, but they were grown men and could make their own decisions about what they did or didn’t do in their lives. And she made it a habit to stay right out of the sex lives...or lack thereof...of the Guild members. They were adults and it was none of her business what they did or didn’t do as far as relationships went.
"So is it safe to assume I don’ have to keep your sexuality a secret anymore, mon ami?" He asked with a soft laugh.
Claude blushed. "Yeah. I really appreciate de fact dat you kept my secret all dese years..."
Theoren nodded. "It’s okay. We bot’ know dat back den, dat secret would have prob’ly gotten you kicked outta de Guild or somethin’. I’m jus’ glad t’ings have changed an’ everyone is acceptin’."
"Me too." Claude looked around. "Hey, where’d G go?"
"I saw him headin’ upstairs not long after you introduced Will to us. Has he known all dis time?"
"Yeah...he was de only one who knew ‘bout de relationship from de start." Claude admitted. "But he never did tell me what he t’ought of it."
"Well, why don’ you go track him down? We’ll keep Will occupied for a few minutes."
"Okay, t’anks." Claude smiled. He left Will in the capable hands of his family and headed upstairs to find his little brother. As always, he knew where to look; Genard was the kind of person who liked to spend his free time in the quiet of his bedroom and that is where he was when Claude found him.
Genard rushed to put his journal back in its hiding place in the closet when Claude knocked on the door. He opened the door and promptly blushed for reasons he couldn’t even think about. "Hi, Claude..."
Claude tilted his head. He had heard Genard rushing around the room and knew the younger man was hiding something. He just didn’t know what. "Is everythin’ okay, G?"
"Of course!" Genard said, a little too quickly.
"Mm..." Claude decided not to press the issue even though he knew Genard well enough to know something was up. Instead, he asked the question he came to ask. "I was wonderin’ somethin’. All dese years, you’ve been de only one who knew ‘bout my relationship wit’ Will. You kept de secret an’ listened to me talk ‘bout it...but you never told me what you t’ought of it. So...I’m curious, now dat it’s out in de open, what do you t’ink?"
Genard’s voice was quiet. "I t’ink it’s wonderful. Everythin’ ‘bout you changes when you talk ‘bout him. It’s so obvious dat you love him…de light in your eyes an’ smile is proof of dat. He makes you happy...an’ I approve of anyone who makes my big brother happy."
Claude impulsively hugged Genard. "T’ank you...it means so much to me to hear you say dat..."
Genard hugged him back and silently willed the tears to not spill over, threaten as they might. He had meant every word he spoke, but deep down he wished it was him who brought that light and happiness into Claude’s life.
After Claude left, Genard sat down on his bed and cried softly. His secret was taking a toll on him, although he’d never admit it. He could never look at it the way it was...he was wasting his life secretly pining for someone he couldn’t have, when he could have been with someone else long ago.
He was joined after several minutes by Tante Mattie, who sat beside him and wrapped her warm, matronly arms around him. He sank against her, crying, as he realized she knew and probably had known all along.
"Honey, why are you doin’ dis to yourself?" Mattie asked.
"I can’ let him know...I can’ jeopardize his relationship wit’ Will...he loves Will...he’s happy...I jus’ want him to be happy..."
Mattie sighed. "I admire dat...but don’ you t’ink you should focus on yourself an’ what would make you happy?"
"Tellin’ him wouldn’ make me happy...it would make t’ings weird an’ uncomfortable an’ horrible..." Genard sniffled.
"Okay, so don’ tell him. Keep your secret." Mattie advised. "But take care of yourself an’ stop wishin’ for somethin’ you know you can’ have. Stop wastin’ your life away...you’re a charmin’, handsome, wonderful young man, an’ dere is no reason why you can’ find a handsome young man or a beautiful young woman to love."
Genard sighed. He didn’t even want to know how the traiteur had figured out he was bisexual. He just accepted that she knew everything and left it at that.
"I’m right aren’ I?" Mattie pressed.
"Well den." She hugged him. "I want you…you an’ all my children…to be happy and fulfilled in life...hard as it might be given who you are an’ what you do...an’ I hate to see any of you sad, especially when you don’ really have to be. Now you get some rest an’ t’ink ‘bout dis, okay?"
Mattie left him in peace and Genard went to bed. He lay there for a long time, thinking, before he fell asleep and he came to the conclusion that maybe…just maybe…he might be able to find someone else to love. But, as he cried softly while drifting off to sleep, he knew it would be a long time before he’d be able to push his feelings for Claude far enough down so he’d be able to love another person.
And no matter what happened, he would never, ever tell Claude his secret. He knew he could trust Tante Mattie to keep it for him. He wouldn’t ruin Claude’s happiness or their brotherly relationship, no matter how much it hurt to keep the feelings locked away deep inside his heart.