Isak and Even were sat on their bed, wrapped in each other’s arms when Isak’s phone buzzed, signalling a text.
“Please don’t be my mother,” Isak mumbled into Even’s chest. He check it and smiled, his eyes going kind of soft and gooey before he typed out a reply and put his phone back down on the bed. “It wasn’t my mother.”
“Who was it?”
“Lea, my sister.” He sighed slightly. “It’s her birthday tomorrow, and she was asking for a cake.”
“You make your sister’s birthday cakes?”
“Well, our mamma doesn’t.”
Even nodded, wrapping his arms around Isak again, pulling him close. “We really should be doing homework or something, but I’m too warm here with you to think of that.”
Isak nodded, his nose slightly smushed against Even’s chest. “Me too. I love you, you know.”
“I do know. I love you, too.”
“Can we just sleep? I feel like sleep is good right now.”
Even chuckled. “Okay. Let’s take a nap then.”
They had only just started to fall asleep when they heard the buzzer sound through the small flat. Isak groaned and buried his face deeper into Even’s shirt. He waited for a few minutes, waiting to hear if it would go off again, before letting himself relax once more into the warm embrace of his boyfriend and their bed. It was so unbelievably soft right then, like it knew he was being pulled from sleep. He snuggled closer to Even and deeper under the blankets, letting out a soft breath before settling in to try to get to sleep again.
The buzzer rang again.
“They’ll go away if we don’t get the door,” Even mumbled, shifting so he was on his side, holding Isak close to him. “Just ignore it.”
Isak nodded his head, but then whoever was at the door was repeatedly pressing the button, making it impossible to ignore. Grumbling, he pulled himself out of the bed and to to door, where he pressed the intercom button.
“Who is it?” he asked, sounding just as tired as he felt. Getting pulled out of the brink of sleep did that to him. It made him even more tired than he had been when he decided to nap.
“Jonas and the boys,” came Jonas’ voice, grainy through the intercom. “Can we come up? Magnus is really upset.”
Isak frowned. “Ja, just knock when you get to the door.”
He pressed the small button on the control panel to let them into the flat building. He knew it took them about three minutes to get to the floor they were on, so he had just enough time to pull some sweatpants on before there was a knock a the door. Opening it, he saw Jonas and Mahdi, but not Magnus.
“I thought you said Magnus was upset?” Isak asked. “Where is he?”
Jonas looked around and sighed, walking back to the stairs before pulling Magnus to the door. His eyes were red and puffy, and he had snot glistening at the end of his nose. He sniffled and rubbed his sleeve over his face, looking at the floor. Isak felt his heart twist.
“Come in,” he said, stepping back from the door.
The boys filed into the small flat. Even had made the bed again and was sitting at the head, frowning as the boys came to sit with him. Isak crawled up next to him, his attention being drawn to his phone as it started to vibrate repeatedly.
“What’s going on?” Even asked.
Magnus held out his phone to him, and he read what was on the screen.
“That’s not…” Even frowned again. “Well, we can’t… know for sure what is going on.” To be completely honest, his chest had grown slightly tighter when he had read the name on the text messages.
“She asked for nudes from another guy,” Magnus sobbed, shaking his head. “How can we not know what’s actually going on?”
“It wasn’t real,” Isak mumbled, glancing up at him. “It was for a video that the guy made, I can show it to you.”
Magnus shook his head.
“We don’t even know if this is real stuff about or from Vilde,” Jonas said, crossing his legs under him. “That throwing up one doesn’t even sound like her.”
Magnus shook his head. “She’s got a strange relationship with food. She, uh… She told me once that she used to do that.”
“Throw up?” Mahdi asked. “Everyone throws up.”
“Nei,” Magnus sighed. “I mean, ja, everyone throws up, but nei, she didn’t tell me that she used to throw up just like everyone else. She told me she used to make herself throw up to not gain weight.”
“Oh.” Jonas nodded a little. “And you knew that, so why did it bother you?”
“I know that she has a thing with food,” Magnus said, looking down at his phone, at the awful things on the instagram. “And I know she flirts with people, but I really think she cheated on me.”
Jonas patted his shoulder. “We don’t know that, buddy. It could be fake, it could be those girls trying to hurt her.”
“But…” Magnus sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know. It just feels like this time something actually happened. I know that she sometimes makes out with Eva and sometimes she flirts with other boys, and that never bothered me, because I knew she didn’t mean it.” He dropped his head into his hands, the heels of his palms digging into his eyes to stem the flow of tears. “It fucking sucks.”
Mahdi wrapped an arm around Magnus’ shoulders, rubbing his arm.
“I don’t think she would cheat on you,” Even said, reaching over and taking Magnus’ hand. “We can all see how much she likes you, every time she sees you she lights up like a christmas tree.”
Even nudged Isak in the ribs, not too softly, and frowned at his boyfriend, who was scowling down at his phone.
“What’s wrong?” Even mumbled to him.
“Nothing,” Isak said quickly, tossing his phone down onto the bed. He looked up at the boys with their arms around Magnus, and his face softened. “She didn’t cheat on you, Sana said that Vilde and Elias talked a couple times at a party but nothing happened between them.”
Magnus looked up at him, his eyes red. “But how does she know? She doesn’t know everything about her brother.”
Isak shook his head. “Elias said that she was nice but she was too young for him, and she is Sana’s friend. It would be weird.”
“But she’s not too young!” Magnus protested. “Even’s the same age as Elias, and you’re the same age as Vilde, and it isn’t a problem between you two! Even’s almost twenty!”
“Ja, and I’m eighteen.” Isak scooted forward and put his hand on Magnus’ shoulder. “Magnus, Vilde didn’t cheat on you. She wouldn’t cheat on you.”
Magnus shook his head. “Even if she hasn’t, she probably will.”
All the boys frowned.
“Why do you think that?” Mahdi asked.
Magnus shrugged and mumbled something too low for them to hear.
“You’ve got to speak up, buddy,” Even said, squeezing his hand. “What did you say?”
Magnus sighed and rubbed his eyes again, forcing Even to let go. “I said that she could find so many people better than me. That’s why. Not because she’s awful or anything, but because I’m average.”
“Nei,” Isak said, moving closer to wrap his arms around his friend’s shoulders. “You can’t think like that. You’re a great guy, a wonderful friend, and a good person.” He moved back and brought his hand down to Magnus’ chin, making him look up at him. “You understand that, right? We all think that you’re a good person.”
Magnus smiled weakly. “Takk, Isak.”
Jonas nodded. “We wouldn’t be hanging out with you if we didn’t think you were great.”
Magnus smiled again. “I thought you guys kept me around because I make a fool out of myself so much.”
Mahdi shook his head. He wrapped his arms around Magnus again, squeezing him lightly. “You’re one of us, which means that you’re cool. We’re friends. Best friends.”
Magnus nodded and smiled, but he was crying again. “Takk, you guys.”
They all scooted forward some more to wrap their arms around him, which lead to all of them falling over onto the mattress in a pool of laughter and boy. They stayed like that, all of them resting on some part of another, and they just talked for the next hour. They talked about nothing, and everything, from school to girls to capitalism.
“Did you guys see that new girl in year three?” Mahdi asked. “Fy faen, she’s hot.”
“Ja, I saw her,” Jonas said, nodding. “She is very attractive, but she so smart, too. She shamed my teacher with her knowledge of literary tropes.” He smiled. “She’s got such a nice smile.”
Magnus shook his head, looking at his phone screen again. “She’s pretty, but she seems stuck up to me.”
“But she’s so nice!” Mahdi protested.
“And she’s so smart,” Jonas sighed.
“Well,” Isak said. “She’s not a guy so I don’t care.”
The boys laughed.
“Do you remember when we used to sit at lunch and point out girls to see if any of us had hooked up with them?” Mahdi asked with a laugh. “And Isak, you had hooked up with so many of them!”
“I didn’t do much with them.” Isak shook his head. “I just kissed them.”
“Didn’t you get a blow job from that third year at that party once?” Magnus asked.
Isak scoffed. “Real specific, Mags.”
“No, no, that girl with the blue stripes in her hair?” Jonas asked.
“Ja!” Magnus laughed. “The one with the huge glasses that she didn’t even need.”
“Oh, her,” Isak said. He shook his head. “She tried but I said that I was too drunk. And she said she didn’t care, that she would still do it, but I said that I wouldn’t be able to get it up because I had too much to drink.”
“Dude, that would have been so good though!” Mahdi said, shaking his head. “She was so ready to blow you, and you just said no! What is wrong with you?”
Isak propped himself up on his elbow. “You just asked me why I, a gay teenage boy, didn’t want a blow job from a girl, while we are laying in the bed that I share with my very male boyfriend?” He rolled his eyes. “I can’t think of a reason I wouldn’t have accepted the blow job, thank you for pointing out that there is something wrong with me.”
Jonas and Magnus laughed while Mahdi spluttered before giving in and laughing with the rest of them.
“My boy is so popular,” Even mumbled, smiling and propping himself up on his elbows to lean over and kiss Isak. Magnus, who just happened to be in between them, groaned and wiggled around so he was more in between Mahdi and Jonas. Even and Isak broke apart with a pop, grinning at each other. “My baby boy.” Even rubbed his nose against Isak’s before laying down and resting his head on Mahdi’s thigh again.
“Do you guys want some food?” Isak asked, laying down again and finding his head now on Jonas’ stomach. “We could order some pizza or something.”
“I want a curry!” Magnus piped up. “Can we get curry?”
“Curry sounds so good!” Mahdi said.
Even smiled and sat up, stretching over to pick up his phone. “The nearest place does delivery, if you want to get stuff from there.” He stood, scratching his back and walking to the kitchen to get the take out menu. He tossed it to the pile of boys when he got back in before crawling over his friends to curl up next to Isak, who was frowning at his phone again. “You okay?”
“Ja, just…” Isak sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “My dad’s being an asshole.”
“What did he do this time?” Jonas asked, looking up from the menu.
“His parents are coming to visit,” Isak explained. “And they don’t know he left my mamma, they don’t know she’s ill, they don’t know I moved out, and they don’t know I’m gay.” He tossed his phone down on the bed again. “I wouldn’t care about all of this if he hadn’t just asked me to move back into my old room for a couple days while they’re visiting and pretend to be straight and that my mamma is not mentally ill.” He leaned against the wall. “My own father just asked me to go back into the closet.”
Even wrapped an arm around him. “That sucks. What did you tell him.”
Jonas nodded in agreement.
“Why would pretending to be straight be so bad for a couple days?” Magnus asked, looking up from the menu.
“Really?” Mahdi asked.
“It would be bad because it’s like saying that everything I went through didn’t happen, or it doesn’t matter,” Isak explained. “It means that I would be hiding part of who I am again, that I would be going back into that hole I was in.”
Magnus frowned. “We were nice to you, we never said anything homophobic, did we? Like, we weren’t part of the reason you were in the closet for so long, right?”
Isak smiled at him. “Nei, Magnus. You guys weren’t mean or anything, you just didn’t think that I would be anything else but straight, which hurts, too.” He looked down at his lap. “I liked hanging out with you guys, until you’d start talking about girls, and I be thrown back into thinking that I was different, that I wasn’t… right. That I was wrong, somehow.”
“But you’re not,” Mahdi said, and Jonas leaned over to pat Isak’s shoulder. “You’re just as normal as the rest of us, just as right.”
“I know that now.” Isak sniffled a bit. “But then… I hated it. I hated myself.”
“Jesus, and I thought being cheated on was bad,” Magnus mumbled. “I’m sorry.”
Isak looked up at him, confusion written across his face. “Why are you sorry?”
“Because you’ve been through so much, and I’ve just maybe been cheated on. Why do I have the right to complain?”
Isak shook his head. “You have every right to complain. You were hurt. Just because I’ve been hurt too, in a different way, doesn’t mean that my hurt is bigger than your hurt. We’ve been through bad stuff, the both of us.”
“And if we’re making it a competition,” Even said, “then I win. Because I’m bipolar and have had hurtful stuff happen to me.”
Isak rolled his eyes and shoved Even playfully away. “This isn’t a competition!”
The buzzer rang again. They all looked in the direction of the door.
“Who’s that?” Jonas asked.
“Maybe it’s the curry?” Mahdi suggested.
“We didn’t even order,” Even said.
“I’ll get it.” Isak extracted himself from the pile of boy on his bed and went to the intercom again. “Halla? Who is it?”
“Sana,” the little voice said. “Can you come down here?”
“I could just let you in, Sana.”
“Ja, but I’m not really alone. I need to ask you something first, and I would rather have it be face to face.”
“Uh… okay?” Isak looked over at the boys, who all shrugged. “I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
Isak slipped on his shoes, grabbed his keys, and went down to the front lobby of the flat building. He opened the door to let Sana in when he saw the group of guys behind her.
“Ja,” Sana said. “I told Elias that Even misses the group, and then when I said that I was going to come and study with you, they all said they were coming, too. To see Even and try to be friends again.”
“If that’s okay with you,” Mikael said. “We don’t want to cause any trouble again.”
Isak flushed bright red. “Nei, nei, it’s fine. I just, uh… The boys are over, and Magnus might not want to see Elias.”
“Me?” Elias asked. “Why not?”
“Because he’s convinced that his girlfriend cheated on him with you.”
Sana frowned. “I sent him a message. And I sent you the video when it happened, why does he still think she did?”
“Because he refuses to watch the video and he thinks that he’s such an average person that it was bound to happen anyway. That it wasn’t because she’s a bad person, it’s because he’s boring.” Isak shook his head and mumbled, “Which is total bullshit, but whatever.” He sighed heavily. “And our flat is very small, so it might be a bit cramped.”
“That’s fine,” Sana said, giving him a tight smile. “As long as your friends don’t react badly to my brother and is friends, and as long as my brother and his friends don’t react badly to your friends.”
“We’ll be good, Sana,” Elias snarked.
She smiled sarcastically up at him before turning back to Isak. “So can we come up?”
Isak nodded. “Just wait outside the door for a few minutes when I tell them you guys are here.”
He lead them up the stairs and to the front door, which he unlocked and stepped into, signalling for the others to wait. The boys looked up at him, Even frowning.
“Where’s Sana?” he asked.
“She’s here, but she, uh… she brought her brother,” Isak said. “And his friends.”
Even’s face went very pale. Magnus scowled and stood, Jonas holding onto the back of his shirt.
“Why is he here?” he asked, coming as close to growling as he could. “What does he want.”
“They want to talk to Even,” Isak explained, holding up his hands to calm him down. “They just want to get back in touch.” He looked at Even. “Is that okay?”
Even make a strange combination of body movements, nodding his head and shrugging at the same time, and just looked like he was started to have a fit. “I mean, I guess.” His voice sounded tight.
Isak looked back out the door and waved the others in. Sana walked in first and passed Magnus to sit next to Even on the bed, pulling out her phone and sending off a quick text. Even glanced at her before looking up as Elias and the boys walked into the flat. They stood awkwardly near the door, cautiously eyeing Magnus.
“Magnus?” Isak asked. “Everything okay?”
“Did you hook up with my girlfriend?” Magnus burst out with, glaring at Elias. “Did you hook up with Vilde?”
“Vilde?” Elias asked. “Nei, I didn’t.”
The air was thick with tension as Magnus continued to glare at Elias searchingly, before his shoulders sagged and he let out a small relieved huff.
“I believe you.” Magnus sat back down next to Jonas, and everyone was stared at him for a second.
“Anyway,” Isak said, breaking the silence. “You guys wanted to talk to Even?”
“Ja,” Mikael said, nodding. “We just want to talk, see how you’re doing. You know?”
“You don’t hate me?” Even blurted, causing everyone to look over at him. His cheeks grew red before he looked over at Isak, who smiled encouragingly at him. “How can you not hate me for what I did?”
“What did you do?” Magnus asked.
“Nothing you need to know,” Isak interrupted. “Boys, into the kitchen, leave these guys and Even to talk.”
Magnus, Mahdi, and Jonas followed Isak into the kitchen. Before much time had passed, Sana followed them, glancing down at her phone. Isak started rummaging through his cupboards, pulling out flour and sugar, and then eggs and butter from the fridge.
“You guys are going to help me make a cake for my sister,” he said.
Back in the bedroom, Even was looking up at the group of boys, who were still standing at the foot of the bed.
“You can sit, if you want,” Even said, his voice coming out quieter than he wanted. He cleared his throat. “It’s fine if you want to stand though.”
Elias sat on the bed, which prompted the others to as well. Mikael looked up at him, opened his mouth, and looked away again.
“I’m sorry,” Even said, looking down at his hands, plucking at a loose thread of the duvet. “I’m sorry for everything that happened at Bakka.”
“We were never angry with you,” Adam told him, looking at him directly. “We were worried about you.”
“Ja,” Mutasim agreed. “‘When everything started to be weird, we were worried about you, we weren’t angry at you. And then you just dropped off the face of the planet, we thought something bad might have happened.”
“Well, you guys were almost right,” Even said with a self deprecating chuckle. “After everything that happened I just couldn’t face you guys anymore. I thought you’d hate me.”
“What do you mean by we were almost right?” Mikael asked. “We were almost right about what?”
“Me dropping off the face of the earth,” Even answered, looking around at the boys. He saw that Elias and Yousef were looking at each other slightly guiltily, as if they knew something the others didn’t. “You guys don’t know?”
“Don’t know what?” Adam asked.
“How do you guys know but not these guys?” Even asked Elias.
“I called Sonja,” Elias said, looking at the blanket he was sat on. “I made her tell me why you weren’t at school, and she started crying over the phone so she told me, and I didn’t want to tell anyone else because it wasn’t my story to tell.”
“I asked her at school,” Yousef told him. “I said I knew something was going on, and she took that as you had told me, so she started talking to me about how she was so upset about what you did, and then realised that I didn’t actually know what had happened and then ran away.”
“What happened?” Mikael asked.
Even smiled softly at him, but shook his head. “I don’t really want to talk about it.” He looked over at Elias and Yousef. “I would be okay with you guys telling them later, if you want to.”
Elias nodded his head.
“But what happened at school?” Mikael asked. “Why did you drop out? What was going on?”
Even sighed, looking down at his hands again. “I went off my meds. I thought I was okay, I thought that I didn’t need them anymore, that I had gotten control over it, but I hadn’t, and then everything went to shit again.”
“Off your meds?” Adam asked. “What meds?”
“Lithium,” Even said. “Some others, too. I have bipolar disorder.”
There was a moment of silence, then Mutasim nodded.
“That makes sense,” he said.
“What?” Even asked. “How?”
“Well, that explains why you have such shit taste in movies,” Adam added on. “When you’re on your meds, you must like good movies, right?”
Even shook his head, confused. “I don’t… what are you…?”
“The chemicals in your brain are unbalanced,” Yousef supplied. “So it’s affecting your choice of movies.”
“Baz Luhrmann?” Elias asked. “Really?”
“He’s a great director!” Even exclaimed with a laugh. He knew what they were doing. They were teasing him to defuse the tension, but they weren’t being mean. “Have you seen The Get Down ?”
“Okay, yeah,” Mutasim said, nodding. “That is actually very good.”
“Yeah, but it got cancelled.” Adam shook his head. “A shame.”
“And they’re giving that suicide romanticizing shit stain of a show Thirteen Reasons Why another season when there isn’t even anymore story to tell,” Even told them, and just like that, it was like old times. All six of them, chatting and laughing like old friends.
In the kitchen, Isak smiled to himself when he heard the laughter, but then was coughing into a cloud of flour. Magnus was stood next to him, having just ripped open the bag.
“I’m so sorry, I couldn’t open it,” he said, putting the bag down on the counter top. “Isak, I’m so sorry.”
“Why aren’t we using your electric mixer?” Sana asked. “You have one.”
“That’s a mixer?” Isak asked, rubbing flour off his face. “I didn’t even know what that was.”
“We just spent twenty minutes stirring this butter and sugar together by hand when you had an electric mixer?” Jonas asked indignantly. “Let’s put this into it and speed up this whole process.”
They dumped the sugary butter into the mixer bowl and flipped it on, giving the lumpy mixture a smooth consistency after a minute. They added the eggs and flour a little at a time, watching as it all folded into itself. When the batter was ready, Isak poured it into two cake tins and started to put them into the oven before realising it wasn’t even on.
“Mahdi! I asked you to preheat the oven!” Isak groaned, putting the cake tins back onto the counter.
Mahdi shrugged, looking up from his phone. “Sorry, I forgot.”
“It was your one job!” Isak told him.
Isak set the temperature on the oven to the correct heat. “It’s going to take a while to preheat, so let’s go wait on the balcony.”
“Why can’t we join Even and Sana’s brother?” Magnus asked.
“Because they probably still want time to themselves,” Isak told him.
“You can come sit with us!” Even and Elias called in tandem.
Magnus smiled at Isak before going back into the bedroom. Isak rolled his eyes but smiled after him, joining his boyfriend at the head of the bed once again. He didn’t quite lean against Even, but he was near enough to show they were a couple. Even wrapped his arm around Isak, pulling him against his side, and planting a kiss on his cheek.
“I love you,” Even mumbled into his hair.
Isak blushed and smiled.
The doorbell buzzed again, but this time Sana stood up.
“I’ll get it,” she said, walking over to the door and letting whoever it was into the building. She waited by the door until there was a knock, and then she let the person in.
Vilde stepped in cautiously before looking around. She saw Elias and frowned, but then was enveloped in a tight hug from Magnus.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered to her.
“Sorry?” she asked. “Why… why are you sorry?”
“For not believing you.” He pulled away and kissed her.
“Well,” Even said, looking around the gathered people. “At least this story has a good ending.”
Isak looked up at him, smiling. “I love you.”