BooksBrotherly Games

Louis

It's been four years that George de Montpensier fled Toulouse after what happened with his brother. The young man, known to his friends in Paris as Louis, built a new life away from Toulouse and hiding from his family, but his past is about to knock at the door.

“276, 278…” I mumbled as I browsed the seats numbers with my eyes, looking for my spot in the train. “280!” I then exclaimed before throwing my bag in the above luggage compartment and hopping on my seat.

 

After getting comfortable, I grabbed my book and resumed reading where I last left it, shooting a furtive glance at the Gare de Lyon station, slowly fading away as the bullet train gained speed.

 

It was a very sunny and warm day in Paris, and I hoped I would find the same weather arriving in Chambery, in the French Alps.

 

My name is George De Montpensier, and I am a 21-year-old young student living in Paris, France.

 

Somewhere along the way, after reading several intriguing chapters, I fell asleep and when I emerged from my slumber, the train had passed Bourg-en-Bresse and the landmark had already changed from the green countryside to the lush mountains and narrow valley of the Alps.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are approaching Chambery Challes les Eaux station, please make sure to take all your belongings with you when you exit the train. The SNCF thanks you for your trust and hopes to see you soon aboard our trains.” The pre-recorded feminine voice said on the speaker as people in the train started getting up and picking their belongings.

 

I sighed and slipped a bookmark between the pages I just read, waiting for the train to stop, and letting the most impatient voyagers get out first.

 

I then grabbed my bag and threw it on my back before getting my sunglasses on and exiting the train. On the platform, I immediately inhaled the fresh pure air, letting the mountainous scents fill my nostrils, and smiled.

 

I got out of the train station and crossed the road before getting my smartphone out of my pocket.

 

“George!” Someone called from afar. I turned my head and immediately caught the sight of my best friend Carl, waving at me like an idiot with a bright smile.

 

I chuckled and tucked my phone back into my pocket before walking towards him.

 

“What’s up, man?” He joyfully exclaimed as we gave each other a bro-hug.

 

“I’m fine, ready to make you sweat and beg for me to go slower.” I playfully teased with a mischievous smirk.

 

“You wish!” He retorted with a laugh. “Let’s eat, I’m fucking starving!” He then added to which I nodded my approval.

 

“Me too actually.”

 

As we walked down the streets, looking for a place to have lunch, Carl started blabbing about pretty much anything that went through his head.

 

The guy was unstoppable, and I silently listened, smoking my cigarette, and punctually laughing at his anecdotes. Eventually, we reached an average looking brasserie, and both decided that it would do the trick.

 

We sat in the shade, hiding from the boiling sun and knowing we would soon get our fair share of it, and shot a good look at the menu.

 

The waitress was quick to come and, before Carl even had the opportunity to complain, we both had our beers in front of us.

 

“You must be glad to be away from your grey Parisian sky, for once.” Carl chuckled as he grabbed his pint.

 

“Shut up, it was just as sunny in Paris today!” I retorted defensively with a smirk. “Cheers!” I added, raising my pint.

 

“Cheers bro! It’s good to see you.” He answered with a warm smile. “Congrats for your exams, by the way.” He added with a wink.

 

“Thanks.” I replied after taking a large refreshing sip of my beer. “How’s Steph?”

 

“The bitch dumped me.” Carl moodily answered. I raised my eyebrow, looking at him expectantly and he began to smile. “I guess I fucked up a little.” He added with a cocky grin. I shook my head disapprovingly and laughed.

 

“You fucking dog!”

 

Eventually, our food arrived, and we both fell silent for a moment, religiously devouring our meal, both out of hunger and anticipation, knowing we’d only get canned food for lunch and dinner for the coming four days.

 

Not wanting to be late, we hurried up and reached Carl’s old car to drive straight to the mountains. We had to hike to our bivouac spot, and we wanted to get there before sunset.

 

Carl played some 90’s music and sang like a dumb kid while I laughed and begged for him to shut up, not wanting to trigger a hurricane or summon some kind of demon with his melodious voice.

 

My torture finally ended when we parked near to a cow pasture, at the bottom of a large mountain towering the whole valley. I slammed the door’s car and looked up, smirking, and already looking forward to being on top of it.

 

“Come on, let’s go!” I exclaimed enthusiastically as Carl got his bag out of the trunk.

 

A few hours later, sweat was dripping from my forehead and my calves were burning with pain. Daylight was slowly fading, and we only had a few minutes to reach our bivouac point before dark.

 

Because we were so focused, Carl and I didn’t talk much during this first hike, and I looked around me with amazement whenever I could, which since Carl was not nearly as good as a hiker as I was, happened frequently enough.

 

Finally, as the sun was setting, we sighed with relief as I dropped my bag at the bivouac point. Carl tapped my shoulder and smiled at me, catching up his breath.

 

“Damn, you had me running, son of a bitch!” He playfully lamented. I winked at him and patted his sweat drenched lower back friendlily.

 

As he caught up on his breath, I started settling the tent, wanting to get it done before the sky turned completely dark.

 

“So, tell me, you’ve got a girl back in Paris?” Carl inquired half an hour later as we ate out canned food around the campfire.

 

“Nah, it’s been a long time I don’t.” I answered truthfully, staring at the starry sky thoughtfully.

 

“Dude, you used to have a new girlfriend every two weeks back in high school!” Carl pointed out with a knowing smile.

 

“Yeah.” I answered evasively before sighing. “We’re not in high school anymore, man.” I added pensively. Carl looked back at me and shot me a compassionate glance before faintly smiling. I chuckled at his reaction and shook my head. “Don’t look at me like that, bro, I still get laid!” I laughed. “I get my fair share of girls, and sometimes guys too.”

 

“Well, I’m glad you’re getting your tiny dick some attention at least!” He playfully shot back before tossing his empty can in our trash plastic bag. “It would be easier to get laid if I hooked up with guys too.” He added with a chuckle.

 

“I’m sure that wouldn’t be very difficult to arrange.” I retorted with a mischievous smirk. He rolled his eyes and shot me a disapproving look.

 

“Dude, you know what I meant!” He eventually answered before playfully punching my shoulder.

 

“It’s getting late.” I pointed out with a sigh. “Let’s sleep, we have a rough day ahead tomorrow.” I said before pouring some water on the campfire to kill it.

 

After shuffling a little and getting used to the uncomfortable hard floor beneath my sleeping duvet, I quickly fell asleep, whacked by the long day of travelling and the afternoon’s hike.

 

When we woke up the next morning, it was fucking freezing. We quickly ate our cereal bar and chugged down some orange juice before packing everything up and hitting the path again.

 

Thankfully, the sun quickly warmed the mountain up and it was soon nice. Unlike the previous day, we were not in a hurry and knew we had some time to spare, so we took it easy and whistled our way up. The mountains surrounding us were majestic, we both took our sweet time to enjoy the magnificent views from time to time and have some little breaks.

 

“Do you still live in that shitty rathole in Carmes?” I inquired with a teasing smirk as we took a break to drink.

 

“Dude, it wasn’t that bad!” Carl retorted defensively. “But no, I moved out, I live with Clément now.” He said before handing me the bottle of water.

 

“From the swimming team?” I inquired with a frown before taking a sip. Carl nodded and wiped his sweaty forehead with the back of his hand. “Damn, I would have never guessed you’d get along that much. You didn’t like him very much back then, did you?”

 

“Nah, I didn’t.” Carl confirmed with a chuckle. “But he’s nice, he’s been here for me since you left.” He added. I raised my eyebrow at the subtle accusation but didn’t say anything. I knew Carl believed that I overreacted by leaving Toulouse for good, and I knew he was still feeling like I let him down, but there are things he simply can’t understand.

 

“Alright, let’s go back to it.” I resolutely said while throwing him the bottle back for him to put it in his backpack.

 

Around lunchtime, we reached a deep blue small mountain lake surrounded by green pastures and, since it was just the two of us, we quickly got naked and dived into the water.

 

It was fucking cold, but it definitely relaxed our muscles and washed away the saltiness of the sweat from our bodies. Carl and I played into the water for some time like two dumb kids, horseplaying and giggling, and lied by the lake to dry from the sunlight before hitting up the path again.

 

The afternoon’s segment was definitely more challenging as the path got suddenly steep, but both Carl and I were fit enough to manage without too much difficulty. We were lucky enough to see some wild ibexes and by the time we reached our second bivouac point, we still had plenty of daytime ahead of us.

 

We installed the tent and sat on the grass, looking at the valley below us and the snowy mountains surrounding it. The air was definitely cooler up here, as we were approaching 2 500 m elevation now. We got the card deck out of the bag and started playing together.

 

“Damn, I’m so tired from today!” Carl lamented before shaking his head. “You don’t even look like you broke a sweat today.” He then said with a hint of jealousy.

 

“I definitely did!” I chuckled while focusing on my deck. “What, isn’t Coach Adam giving you a hard time any longer?” I then asked with a smirk.

 

“He is, but I’m more of an upper torso kind of guy.” Carl explained. “I’ve always been better at arms day than legs day.”

 

“Right…” I sneered mischievously, to which he rolled his eyes.

 

“I saw your brother at the last swimming meet.” Carl said in a tone that wanted to sound nonchalant but wasn’t. My smile instantly dropped and he shot a hesitant glance at my now stern expression before looking back at his cards.

 

“Carl!” I warned him with a menacing tone.

 

“What?” He shot back defensively. “I always feel so bad about ignoring him even though he knows I see him every time!” Carl lamented.

 

“I don’t give a fuck!” I answered with a deep low menacing voice. “He’ll get over you ignoring him.”

 

“But…”

 

“You don’t talk to him, you hear me?” I insisted while raising my voice. “You’ve always been the worst at keeping a fucking secret and the moment you talk to him he’s going start asking about me.”

 

“Bro, it’s just that he looks miserable sometimes and…”

 

“And whose fault do you think that is?” I cut him off with a baffled expression. “Uh?”

 

“Don’t say that! it’s not your fault.” Carl answered with a sympathetic tone. “I know you think that because…”

 

“No, you don’t know shit Carl!” I interrupted loudly. I sighed and shook my head in disbelief. “Look around you, look!” I said, pointing at the wilderness surrounding us. “We’re in a mountain Carl, not in a fucking shrink’s cabinet, okay?” I shouted as Carl looked down with the face of a boy being lectured. “Listen, there is a reason whyI told you I don’t want to talk about my brother, okay?” I added with a calmer voice.

 

“Okay.” Carl answered defeatedly. “But you know you can talk to me, bro.”

 

“Just drop it.” I insisted before sighing and standing up.

 

Despite being tired from the day’s hike, I decided to walk a little around the camp to clear my mind.

 

Carl couldn’t understand, he was my best friend, and I was lucky to have him around. He had always been around when I needed someone to get myself out of a bad situation, and he stuck around even after what happened with my brother became public knowledge, but he couldn’t understand.

 

What I did to my brother, I would never be able to forgive myself for it. Henri was way better off without me, and if I had an ounce of honour and respect for him, I would make sure he never has to deal with me anymore, period.

 

After I was able to calm down, I walked back to the camp and slipped inside of the tent. Carl was pretending to sleep, but I knew he was awake. The guy snores like a locomotive when he sleeps, and he was dead silent at that moment.

 

I shifted in my duvet and closed my eyes, trying to let go of all the negative emotions and drifting to sleep after yet another long hiking day.

 

The nights were getting considerably colder at this altitude, and after a good night’s sleep we painstakingly got out of the tent and packed for the day.

 

Today was the real challenge as we were expected to reach the summit around noon. We left before daylight and quickly reached the snowy flanks of the summit where we decided to have a lunch break before our last push to the summit. Carl wasn’t very talkative, and I couldn’t tell if he was just focusing on the walk or simply unsure if I was still mad at him for yesterday’s talk, so I decided to break the ice.

 

“How are the guys doing?” I asked as I finished eating.

 

“Good, for those I still see.” Carl answered nonchalantly. “I’m often hanging out with Nathan, as he is a good friend of Clément. They kept swimming, the others dropped it a while ago.”

 

“I miss swimming sometimes.” I answered pensively. “Hitting the gym doesn’t feel as nice at all.”

 

“Yeah, I miss swimming with you too.” Carl pointed out sympathetically. “I used to be the second-best swimmer in Toulouse. I hoped I would at least become best when you left, but no such luck, I’m still second.”

 

“Who’s first? Marc Perez?” I inquired with a hint of jealousy. I hated this guy’s guts with passion.

 

“Another De Montpensier guy.” Carl answered, shooting me a glance of defiance.

 

“Bro…” I warned him.

 

“I didn’t say anything!” Carl shot back defensively. “Besides, you asked.”

 

I shook my head in disapproval but smiled at my best friend, he was so predictable. I stood up and offered him my hand to help him stand up too.

 

“Come on dude, let’s get to that summit once and for all.” I encouraged him with a smirk.

 

We quickly got equipped for the last ascension and hit the path again. As we walked and climbed our way up, in the thick snow covering the summit, I thought about what Carl told me and couldn’t help but feel a pang of pride that my brother was now an accomplished swimmer.

 

I would probably have never offered to train him four years ago if I had known that he would beat all my records, but I was glad he did now. At least it wasn’t that asshole Marc Perez who took my spot.

 

The climb was hard and technical on several segments, but it was pretty short, only one hour from our lunch spot to the summit, so we focused and pushed. Once we reached the top we were both whacked and exhilarated. Carl and I looked around us and contemplated the endless valleys and mountains range below us and we grinned like the two idiots we were.

 

“Youhouuu!” Carl shouted at the top of his lungs, I laughed as he kept shouting and eventually joined him, echoing our two voices in the valley below and imagining our shouts would reach for hundreds of kilometres around us, which it probably didn’t. We laughed some more and gave each other a bro hug as he patted my back friendly.

 

“Bro, let’s try the GR20 in Corsica next year!” Carl suggested with a wide smile. “You know, to celebrate your bachelor degree, if you manage to get it.”

 

“Fuck you!” I laughed. “I don’t suck at school anymore.”

 

“Then we can start planning already, are you in?” He insisted teasingly.

 

“Yeah, I’m in, bro!” I accepted with a smirk.

 

“Sweet! Let’s head down now, before we have to run again to reach the bivouac in time.” Carl said.

 

We reached the summit from its southern face, and we would get down from its northern one, in order to avoid taking the same path, and would junction back to the path we took the next day, close to our starting point.

 

The descent was a bit technical too, and we were extra careful because we were both tired and that’s when you get easily hurt but, thankfully, we managed to reach the third bivouac point unharmed, and before sunset.

 

We installed the tent and had a quick dinner before playing cards and chatting for a while.

 

“Did you ever date a guy?” Carl asked me hesitantly as I raised my eyebrow with surprise.

 

“Dude, where does that come from?” I chuckled, amused by both the question and the tone he used to ask it.

 

“I mean, the other day you said that you sometimes had sex with guys.” Carl pointed out, obviously uncomfortable with the subject. “I just don’t want you to feel like you can’t tell me stuff, you know…” He explained while shuffling.

 

“Nah, don’t worry, I know I can talk to you.” I answered with a smirk. “Thanks for saying it, still.” I added before punching his arm playfully. “No need to get mushy and shit, though.”

 

“Damn, bro, you know I can’t help it!” Carl laughed before shaking his head and getting another sip of water. “So, did you ever date a guy?”

 

“Nah, it’s just sexual.” I answered truthfully. “You know, especially when I’m fucking a guy in front of his girlfriend. There is something about it that really turns me on.” I explained with a grin as Carl frowned at me with confusion. “Makes me feel like I own them both, you know?”

 

“Not really, no.” Carl chuckled. “But I get what you mean.”

 

“I never had feelings for another dude.” I continued pensively. “Once, in middle school, a guy came to me and told me that my brother was gay.” I recalled as Carl suddenly became more serious and attentive. “I mean, I had my doubts for a while at that point; Henri had always been so… I don’t know, obedient and all. I don’t know if it makes sense.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, at that point I had already realised that the idea of having sex with guys was not as repulsive to me as it should have been.” I explained pensively. “So, I wondered if, you know, maybe I was gay too.” I said with a shrug as Carl stared at me silently. “Or at least bi, since I was already really into pussy at that point.” I added with a chuckle as Carl rolled his eyes. “But no, I quickly understood it was purely sexual.”

 

“When was your first time with a guy?” Carl naively asked. I turned to look at him, my stare suddenly becoming very stern, and I saw his face change when he realised that he already knew the answer. “Ahem… well, anyway, it’s a bit late, maybe we should hit the tent.” He quickly said embarrassingly.

 

The next morning, Carl and I packed for the last time and prepared for our final descent. We had one mountain pass to go through and then it would go downhill to the starting point.

 

We had a quick lunch right after the pass and hit the path again for our final few hours of hiking. The sky was bright blue and the temperature got gradually warmer as we lost height.

 

We soon hit the lush green forest that signalled that the valley was close and, surely enough, we hit our starting point a little before 7pm. Carl high fived me and we chuckled.

 

Going for a summer hike had been our tradition for a few years now.

 

When I ran away from home, five years ago, I first went to Carl’s place. I knew I would eventually be found if I stayed there, so I left and I didn’t let Carl know where.

 

Even though he is my best friend, I know he was a terrible liar and would have eventually told my parents, or Henri, where I was.

 

Carl didn’t know where I was for several months, so he didn’t have to lie about it and eventually people stopped asking him, reaching the conclusion he simply didn’t know. When I reached out to him again, I made him promise not to let anyone know where I was or how to find me, but it meant we had to be discreet if we wanted to meet again.

 

Once, Carl visited me in Paris, and since he had been vague and evasive about the whole trip when his girlfriend of the time asked about it, she suspected he was cheating on her or some shit, so she spied on him. That bitch almost found out the truth about me, and it was all thanks to luck that I avoided being exposed.

 

We decided that from then on, we would meet once a year somewhere private and remote from both Paris and Toulouse, and since we both liked hiking, the mountains had been the natural choice from the start.

 

“I’m fucking starving!” Carl announced as we were driving away from the mountain. “Let’s stop somewhere soon.” He suggested.

 

We eventually drove past a chalet type of restaurant by the stream and decided to stop there. To be fair, I was starving too. It was still a little early for dinner and their kitchen was still closed, so we had a few beers before we were able to order the most amazing tartiflette I ever had. We ate like pigs, finally eating real food after a few days of the canned type of food we carried in our hiking bags.

 

“To Corsica!” Carl playfully toasted, holding his beer as we were eating dessert.

 

“To Corsica!” I concurred with a smirk before chugging down my beer.

 

 

“73, 75…” I mumbled, walking down the train corridor and browsing seats number for my spot. “77!” I finally said with a smirk before throwing my backpack in the above luggage compartment.

 

For some reason, though, I missed and the bag bounced back before falling heavily on the girl sitting in the seat right in front of mine.

 

“Aouch!” She lamented loudly as other passengers shot us curious glances.

 

“Fuck! I’m so sorry, are you okay?” I apologised, mortified.

 

“I get it, you value your privacy.” The girl laughed while rubbing her forehead. “No need to kill me though.”

 

I laughed nervously and, cautiously this time, placed my bag in the luggage compartment. I sat and sighed as the girl shot amused glances and scrutinised me. I smiled back at her awkwardly and got my book as the train slowly gained speed.

 

“They both die at the end.” She said playfully, pointing at my book. I chuckled and showed her the title : The Iliad.

 

“They almost all die at the end.” I pointed out mischievously.

 

“The Iliad, wow.” She exclaimed with a surprised tone. “So, you are a literate brute.” She teased with a smirk.

 

“Well, I don’t know, the trojan war ends up with a genocide, so maybe I’m just a brutal brute.” I retorted playfully.

 

“Are you team Hector or team Achilles?” She asked, her eyes fixed on mine.

 

“Team Achilles, naturally.” I stated, staring back at her. “Hector is too perfect for my liking.” I added. She raised her eyebrow and grinned.

 

“I also like a bad boy.” She answered. “Even though Achilles would probably not reciprocate the feeling with me, he was far too busy fucking his cousin Patroclus.” She pointed out with a chuckle.

 

“Well, that’s the kind of stuff you can’t avoid with ancient Greek literature.” I stated, matter-of-factly.

 

“You are far more sophisticated than you look.” She playfully teased.

 

“And what do I look like?” I inquired with a smirk.

 

“A handsome brute that tried to kill me with his hiking bag.” She said. “Not a very dignified way to die, by the way.”

 

“I’ll think about it, for the next time I try to kill you.” I shot back with a chuckle.

 

“I’m Marie, by the way.” She announced, offering her hand to shake, which made me smile.

 

“I’m G… Louis, I’m Louis.” I stuttered.

 

“Well Louis, confused about your own name?” Marie laughed. “And I’m the one that got hit on the head by a big ass hiking bag!” She pointed out.

 

“Well, the hike was pretty challenging.” I laughed as other passengers shot us dirty glances for being too loud.

 

Marie and I chatted for the whole length of the ride back to Paris. She told me she was a 23-year-old student at the Sorbonne University, where she was currently enrolled in a Classical Literature master degree.

 

She definitely was a funny and smart girl, and she was a pretty one as well. I thought it would be a 3h fling, one that would last only for the time of the train ride back to Paris, but as we approached our destination, she asked for my Instagram account.

 

“Wow, such a mysterious profile.” Marie commented. “A restricted account, a blank profile photo, a few generic posts in which you never show yourself.” She enumerated. “Are you… a spy?” She teased with a chuckle.

 

“Yeah, something like that.” I said with a smirk.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are approaching Paris Gare de Lyon station, please make sure to take all your belongings with you when you exit the train. The SNCF thanks you for your trust and hopes to see you soon aboard our trains.”

 

“I guess this is where we part.” Marie said with a mischievous smile.

 

“I guess, yes.” I confirmed while scrutinizing her one last time.

 

“Goodbye, handsome brute.” She teased while getting up and picking her bag, turning one last time to wink at me before getting off the train.

 

I looked by the window, watching her disappearing in the thick crowd, and sighed.

 

 

“Stop playing with your dick, I’m home.” I shouted as I slammed my flat’s main door. Nabil emerged from his bedroom and looked at me with a chuckle.

 

“Oh no, I was almost done!” He lamented with a fake sad voice before giving me a bro hug. “Dude, seriously, you need to hit the shower!” Nabil pointed out with a disgusted pout. “And don’t put these fucking biological bombs you call hiking shoes on the balcony.”

 

“Sorry about that, bro.” I laughed, knowing he was right. “I can’t wait to take a nice fucking shower before slipping into comfy sweatpants and collapsing on the couch, trust me.” I added.

Prev