Hugo was waiting Damien to a parent-teacher conference, once again. Lucien had started a fight with another student and now that student has a broken nose. He had also been skipping English classes for a couple weeks. Hugo knew the struggle of raising a rebelling teenage boy, but the principal ordered him to talk with Mr. Bloodmarch about the punishment. Lucien was close to be expelled from the school but Hugo always forgave him.
A knock came on the door.
Damien stepped in. Hugo pointed out how worried the other dad looked. He was wearing his usual Victorian outfit with a cloak. The heels tapped the floor as Damien walked over the desk and pulled the chair under him.
"Good afternoon, Hugo," he sighed,"Bad news about Lucien I fear..."
"Yes. Your son picked on a fight with another student and broke this boy's nose."
Damien's gaze lowered down.
"I'm awfully sorry for his behaviour. I have tried to make him change his ways but, you see, it hasn't been quite easy. He promises to do better."
"I know but the principal isn't going to let this one pass. Lucien has also skipped too many classes over past weeks and I'm afraid he's going to drop out from the course," Hugo watched Damien shifted on his seat.
"Is he going to get expelled?" His voice was sounding desperate.
Hugo thought for a few seconds before answering:" Lucien has to complete given tasks and stop skipping classes and he's also suspended for two days. The principal thought it would be a good idea for him to continue with therapy. By doing the tasks and coming to every class he won't get expelled."
There was a gleam of hope in Damien's eyes. This wasn't the first time for his son to get another chance. And every time that chance was given, no process happened. Hugo didn't like to admit it, but Damien was guilty in some parts. The man was diplomatic and a gentle father but too permissible. Hugo was the same with his son. At least Lucien had some manners unlike Ernest who didn't greet guests and messed people's yards with garbage.
"I make sure Lucien does everything you and the principal tell him to. He doesn't want to go back to therapy, but if that's what makes him stay in school, then I have no choice," Damien spoke with a formal voice and wore his gentleman smile.
Hugo wasn't going to buy his words this time. He thought what to say to the other dad. He didn't want to offend him but something needed to be said.
"Damien, I don't ever blame on your parenting unlike some teachers have. I see you as a good father but everyone has flaws. This might be his last chance to fix his problems and that's why even you have to change your parenting, for now."
Damien didn't answer right away. He stared at Hugo a while.
"Do you mean...I have to be strict?"
"No...Well, maybe just slightly. But that's not the main point. You have to find out what causes these problems. What kind of childhood Lucien has? Has he been bullied or does he struggle with something, such as his identity or self-esteem? Are there issues in family? Things like these. Ask him and listen," Hugo felt like he was a family therapist even though he had same problems with his own son.
"Hmm... You're right. I have always let him be in his own space and having deep conversations isn't part of our daily life. That might be a reason why he doesn't change," Damien looked upset.
Hugo felt sympathetic for the other man. It is common for a parent to blame themselves. Damien seemed like a loving father who only wanted good for his child. Seeing how his son had grown into a troublemaker might had been hard to take in.
"Parents can't read their children's minds. Lucien might not just want to make you feel any worse and keeps his problems to himself. My son doesn't like to talk with me neither. I assume my break-up with his dad caused him to behave badly. Has Lucien gone through the same?"
Damien turned his gaze away. Hugo immediately regretted asking that. He didn't know what kind of past Damien had and it could possibly be something he didn't want to talk about.
"I'm sorry, you don't need to answer."
"No, no, it's fine. I can answer... He hasn't been in contact with his father in years. We divorced before he was in school," Damien started playing with his hair which Hugo thought be cause of nervousness.
"Has Lucien showed signs of wanting to meet his dad?"
"Actually..," Damien paused his speaking," He hates him. The last time they met face-in-face was when Lucien was ten. His dad had tried to make him move in with him."
"He tried to take Lucien away?"
Damien nodded. Hugo wanted to slap himself for his curiosity. It was rude to ask his neighbor about his life. But Damien seemed like he was feeling better the more he talked. He wasn't looking away anymore and his purple eyes (which Hugo knew were contacts) were facing him.
"I won't ask the reason for that, if there was any," Hugo said.
"I might tell if you promise me not to tell others. The truth may be surprising, no, shocking even."
"I would never."
Damien breathed in:"I'm transgender."
"Alright. Was that the reason?" Hugo asked casually.
Damien's eyes popped wide.
"Wait-, you're not going to question this?"
"This is 21st century, Damien. I meet many non-binary and LGBT students. It's sad to hear your ex-husband had a problem to accept you."
"My dear friend, you don't know how glad this makes me. I was waiting a negative reaction," Damien smiled relieved.
Hugo smiled back at him.
"Whenever people have found out, they have asked questions not out of kindness, but out of ignorance. Questions like "what made you change your gender? how can you have a son? what do you have between your legs then?" and much worse," Damien looked down at his hands.
Hugo would have been ready to find those people and punch them in the face. Damien was his friend and a wonderful human being with a heart of gold. Hugo himself had faced judgmental people in the past but it must had been harder for Damien. Still the man could smile and be cheerful every day. Hugo automatically got up and walked to Damien's side. He pulled him into a gentle yet careful hug and Damien flinched as he did so.
"H-Hugo, thank you but I'm fine!"
"T-To me it seemed like you needed a hug."
Damien didn't say anything to this and hugged back. Hugo's muscles tensed and his face was turning red. Just two friends sharing a hug but why was he getting nervous about it? It lasted longer than a normal hug should last. When they pulled apart, Damien was smiling with a slight blush on his face. Hugo turned to look at the papers on the desk and pretended glancing through them like they were something important.
"You're such a great man, Hugo. I'm delighted to be your friend and I thought, perhaps, you'd like to have a cup of coffee with me in The Coffee Spoon someday?"
"Oh! I-...S-sure! I'd love to," Hugo answered and nearly dropped the papers he was holding.
"There's an open Mic Night on Saturday."
"I have went on those. Not to perform, of course. It's the only live show I go to these days."
"Really?" Damien asked," I agree. I enjoy the music they play there."
Hugo would have loved to keep on talking with him until he glanced the clock.
"My apologies, but we're out of time."
Damien turned to the clock too:"Oh my, how the time flies!" He got off the chair.
He pulled Hugo for a last hug, which the other wasn't expecting, but it was a short one this time.
"I promise to talk with Lucien at home. Thank you for being understanding, as always," Damien spoke with gentle tone.
"N-no problem. Just keep your promise," Hugo adjusted his glasses and his hands were shaking out of nervousness or excitement, he couldn't tell.
"I will. Farewell," Damien bowed and left the classroom.
Hugo smiled to himself right after the door was shut. It sounded like they were going on a date. No, Damien was only a friend. How a man like him could be interested in him? Hugo didn't see himself cool or fun. But perhaps there was a chance after all? They were similar and that's why they befriended. Damien was Hugo's type, minus the goth style, but he had learned to like it. Hugo went back on reading the essays which middle school students had written, but his focus was elsewhere the rest of the time.