How do the holidays make me feel?
Full. When I’m eating a Christmas meal.
But that’s not what you want to know.
It also gives me a warm glow.
Family love is what I seek,
During the Christmas holiday week.
How do the holidays make me feel?
Full. When I’m eating a Christmas meal.
But that’s not what you want to know.
It also gives me a warm glow.
Family love is what I seek,
During the Christmas holiday week.
The snowman melted on the lawn,
I watched the scene with a tired yawn.
The sun was warm this winter’s day,
Melting all the snow away.
Christmastime was coming soon,
I’ve been planning since early June.
I made a list for mom and dad,
I’ve been good and not bad.
A camera lens is what I’d like,
My brother said he wants a bike.
On my list, I put some other things,
Now I’ll wait to see what Christmas brings.
I glanced back out at the snow,
Still melting, though very slow.
I do prefer the summer sun,
But snowy days can be fun.
Especially at this time of year,
Snow can add to Christmas cheer.
Thanksgiving Day is here again,
A time for family and for friends.
A time for hope and for peace,
A time for pumpkins and turkey grease.
A time for mom and for dad,
A time to be thankful for all we’ve had.
A time for football and for pie,
A time to laugh and to cry.
Whether they are near or far away,
I wish all my loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving Day.
They gathered around me and chopped off my head,
They ripped out my feathers and filled me with bread.
Into the oven, I now go,
Slathered in butter and cilantro.
Baking in the oven for half a day,
While they are free to laugh and play.
Moved to the table, I see the knife,
Held by the farmer’s pretty wife.
I faint, glad I won’t feel,
As I become a Thanksgiving meal.
One turkey said to his turkey friend,
Here he comes, this is the end.
The other turkey said with sass,
That farmer has a big fat ass.
If I jump this fence, you’ll see,
He will never catch up to me.
Over the fence, he began to run,
But then the farmer drew out his gun.
One shot later, that turkey was dead,
The farmer’s bullet in his head.
The first turkey, still in the pen,
Was sad for his former friend.
But he was still glad to say,
He’d survived Thanksgiving Day.
Ben desperately needed to get out of the house before he had an anxiety attack. It was bad enough that they over-decorated their home, but now, even here at the cabin, they were all rushing around putting lights and garland on everything in sight. Ben didn’t hate Christmas, not the overall idea behind it anyway. He did, however, hate the over-commercialization and all the stupid decorations.
Obviously, at nineteen, he didn’t believe in that fat elf-lover in the red suit. And flying reindeer? Please. Maybe reindeer in a tasty stew for Christmas dinner, though. He chuckled at his own joke. He looked around at his parents, his little brother, and his two younger sisters. He shook his head. How many freaking decorations does one small cabin need? He grimaced and inched closer to the door.
He tapped his mother on the shoulder. “Hey, Ma, can I get out of here for a little while?” She was about to say no, then she saw the anxious, trapped look in her oldest son’s eyes.
His mother pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. “Sure, Ben. Go for a drive into town. Pick these things up on your way back, please.”
Ben took the grocery list from his mother. “Thanks, Ma! You’re the best.” He kissed his mother lightly on the forehead and ran out the door.
Ben was driving aimlessly through town with the windows down, despite the winter chill. The cold wind helped to clear his head. Without even realizing it, he was stopped in front of Landon’s house. Ben smiled for the first time that day. He met Landon at the beginning of their freshman year of college last year. They immediately became inseparable. They did almost everything together, except date. Then, after over a year of being best friends, everything changed. Ben’s mind drifted back to that night, October 23. They were, as usual, sitting on the couch in Landon’s basement binge-watching “Supernatural” on Netflix.
Landon looked over at Ben with a curious expression on his face. “After all this time, why haven’t you ever asked me out?”
Ben was almost too shocked to answer. “I didn’t think you were interested in me in that way.” He shrugged.
Landon got up, then straddled Ben’s lap, looking down into his brown eyes. “What if I asked you out?” He asked with a smirk.
Ben looked up, almost unable to speak. “I’d say yes.” His brow furrowed. “Are you asking?” Whatever else he was going to say was silenced as Landon kissed him. Ben’s lips parted, still trying to speak, and Landon’s tongue darted in.
After twenty minutes of a heavy make-out session, Landon casually got up and sat back where he had been before. He restarted the episode of “Supernatural” back at the beginning, then looked at Ben. “So, do you want to go out to dinner sometime?” He smirked.
Ben smiled the biggest smile of his life. “Yes. Absolutely yes.”
Ben focused back on the present. He got out of his car and sighed, shaking his head at the Christmas lights and decorations all over Landon’s yard and house. He slowly walked up to the door and was just about to knock when the door opened. Landon pulled him inside and planted a kiss right on his lips. “Merry Christmas Eve, Ben!”
“Wow. A greeting like that could get me to like the holidays.” Ben laughed.
“You are not allowed to be grumpy about Christmas around me, Benjamin Jacobson!” Landon scolded.
“Whatever.” Ben rolled his eyes.
“What’s up anyway? I thought you guys left for the cabin today.” Landon said.
“We did. Everyone is there, decorating everything in sight. Mom is baking cookies. The cabin is chaos. I had to get out of there. Mom let me go but gave me a shopping list. Want to go for a walk?” Ben asked.
“Sure. Hold on.” Landon stepped from the hall into the kitchen. “Hey, mom, Ben is here. We were going to go for a walk. Is that ok?”
Landon’s mom waved to Ben. “Hi, Ben. Tell your family Merry Christmas for me. You boys have fun. Landon, just please be home before five.”
“Ok, mom, thanks. See you later.” Landon said. He grabbed Ben’s hand, and they walked out the door.
Ben’s eyes darted everywhere as they walked up the street. He pointed up. “See what I mean! Why do we need wreaths hanging off the traffic lights? It’s too much. It bugs me.”
Landon stepped in front of Ben and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s waist. “Why? Why does it bug you so much? I love it. I think it makes the town look pretty for a month. I even plan to decorate our house someday.” His smile broadened.
Ben rolled his eyes. “Ugh! No! To answer your question, though, I don’t know. It’s the whole holiday, I guess. Whichever way you spin it, it’s bogus. Religion is crap, and the Santa myth is just lies spread by parents trying to get their kids to behave. It’s all stupid. Plus, the music is annoying!”
“You must not be listening to the right Christmas music,” Landon said, pressing his forehead against Ben’s. “It is my goal in life to get you to believe in the spirit of Christmas as much as I do.” He said.
“Good luck with that. It would take Santa Claus himself coming down my chimney and hand-delivering me a present to get me to believe even half of it.” Ben laughed.
Landon shook his head. “I don’t need you to believe in an actual person in a red suit so much as in the spirit of giving.” He placed a hand over Ben’s heart. “The spirit of love.”
Ben closed the remaining distance between them and kissed Landon. “I believe in love. I love you. I just don’t love Christmas.” He shrugged.
Landon smiled, his face flushed. “I love you, too. And I guess we can start with that. I’ll have you loving Christmas before you know it.”
The two boys walked into the grocery store. Ben looked around at all the Christmas lights and decorations and shook his head. “Even here! Let’s just get what my mom needs and get out of here.”
Landon held tight to his boyfriend’s hand, and they hurried through the store, gathering what they needed. As they exited the store, Ben took a deep breath. “Lan, can we just go back to your place now? Getting away from the cabin was supposed to help, but this isn’t helping.”
“Sure. Let’s go.” Hand in hand, they walked back to Landon’s house.
They dropped Ben’s groceries off in his car and went into Landon’s house. “Mom, we’re back!” Landon yelled when they entered the house.
“Ben, come into the kitchen and try some of these cookies. I tried new varieties this year. You boys can be my taste testers.” Landon’s mom said.
“I’d love to, Mrs. Parker. I can’t stay long, though. My mom needs those groceries I picked up.” Ben said. They sat around the kitchen table, and Landon’s mom passed out plates of cookies and poured both boys a glass of iced tea.
“Mm, these cookies are awesome,” Ben said with his mouth still full of cookie. “Where’s Mr. Parker and Mason?”
Mrs. Parker rolled her eyes. “They said they were going to Mason’s friend’s house to drop off presents, but you never know with those two. Probably last-minute shopping.”
Landon laughed. “You’re probably right, mom. I’m glad I got my shopping done early. The mall has been packed all this week.”
Ben glanced at his watch. “Lan, I wish I could stay, but I gotta go.”
“Wait for me by the door. I’ll be there in a second.” Landon said.
After Ben left the room, Landon looked at his mother. “Mom, I know it’s Christmas Eve, but can I go with Ben to the cabin? He’s been really stressed out and depressed. I’m worried about him, and I want to be there with him.”
Mrs. Parker thought for a minute. “He doesn’t seem his normal cheerful self.” She patted her son’s arm. “You know I want you here, but go ahead and go with him. I can see how much you care about him.”
Landon blushed. “Aww, mom. You’re the best. Tell dad and Mason I’ll be home before noon. Merry Christmas, mom. Love you.” Landon hugged his mother, grabbed his jacket from the closet, and ran out into the hallway.
“Why do you have your jacket on?” Ben asked.
“I’m coming with you.” Landon smiled and kissed Ben on the cheek. “Let’s go.”
“I can’t believe you’re coming with me on Christmas Eve. What about your family Christmas?” Ben said with a shocked expression.
Landon looked up directly into Ben’s eyes. “I love you. I want to be with you. I told mom that I’ll be home before noon. Now let’s get you back to the cabin before your mom kills us both.”
Ben leaned down and kissed Landon. “I love you, too. I’m so happy you’re coming with me.”
While Ben drove to the cabin, Landon was texting with his brother explaining why he wasn’t going to be home. “We’re here,” Ben said.
Landon looked up from his phone, and his jaw dropped. Wow. It’s so beautiful here. And all the decorations. You weren’t kidding. I love it, but how did they do all this in one day?”
“They’re motivated when it comes to decorating.” Ben rolled his eyes. They walked up to the cabin, and Ben pulled open the door. Loud Christmas music immediately assaulted their ears. Ben grimaced and walked in, followed by Landon. He walked into the kitchen and set the grocery bags down on the table. “I got everything you asked for and picked up something extra for myself.” He grinned and nodded toward Landon.
“Landon!” Ben’s mother said. “I’m surprised to see you, but I’m so happy you could join us. Didn’t your family have Christmas Eve plans?”
“Thank you, Mrs. Jacobson. Yes, they have plans. Usual family stuff, but,” He leaned his head against Ben’s shoulder. “I wanted to spend Christmas Eve with this guy.” Ben blushed and put an arm around Landon’s waist.
“Get a room, you two.” Ben’s sister Alice said as she walked into the room.
Ben smirked. “That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”
Landon elbowed him. “Not in front of your mom!”
Mrs. Jacobson Laughed and said, “Oh, don’t worry, Landon. I was eighteen once, too.”
“I’m eighteen now, and I don’t act like a hormone-crazed psycho,” Alice said, rolling her eyes at her brother.
Ben’s other sister, Amy, rushed into the kitchen. “Do I hear Landon’s voice? Hi, Landon! Are you spending Christmas with us? Is Mason with you?”
“Hey, Amy. No, your not-so-secret crush is not with me. He’s home with mom and dad. I’ll be sure to tell him that you asked about him, though.” Landon said with a grin.
Amy blushed a deep crimson. “You don’t have to do that. I don’t have a crush!”
Ben chimed in. “Want us to set-up a double date? Mason is a single pringle that’s ready to mingle. I’m sure he’d say yes.”
“Ugh! Boys! You’re all so annoying!” Amy stormed out of the room.
Ben shrugged his shoulders and looked at Alice. “I was serious. If she’s interested, we can ask him.”
“I’ll go talk to her,” Alice said and went off in search of her sister.
The youngest Jacobson, thirteen-year-old Lucas, walked in the kitchen. “Mom, when are we going to leave to go caroling? I want to be back here before eight o’clock. Oh, hey, Landon. I didn’t know you were coming over tonight.” Lucas bumped fists with his brother’s boyfriend and waited for his mother’s answer.
“Right now, if I can herd all you hooligans into the car.” She said.
Ben spoke up. “Mom, with Landon here, can I skip caroling, please?”
“Landon is more than welcome to join us. Landon, honey, do you want to come Christmas caroling with us?” Mrs. Jacobson asked.
Ben didn’t give Landon a chance to answer. “Come on, mom, please. It would give us a couple hours to just chill without all you guys here. It’s our first Christmas Eve together.”
“Ok. Ok. I really enjoy our caroling, but I understand. You boys have fun. We’ll be gone for about two hours. Behave yourselves.” She said and gathered the rest of the family together, and they all left the cabin.
Ben was waving to his family from the door when he noticed the first few snowflakes starting to fall. He scowled and thought to himself that he didn’t remember seeing snow in the forecast. He took out his phone and opened a weather app. The forecast showed a clear but cold night. Then while he was still reading the forecast, the screen flashed red with a weather alert: Winter Storm Warning. Unexpected snowstorm developing over Douglas County. Blizzard conditions expected with 18-24” of snow. Travel not advised.
“Landon? Have you seen the forecast?” Ben asked as he was walking back into the living room.
“No, babe. Let me look.” Landon pulled out his phone. “Oh, wow. It didn’t say that earlier. That’s weird. I hope your family makes it back before it gets too bad out.”
“Yeah. I’ll text Lucas and make sure they know.” Ben said. “He’s not answering. I’ll try later or text one of my sisters. I’ll get the fireplace going. Go pick out a movie.”
Ben was finishing up getting the fireplace started, and he smelt the popcorn cooking. Good. Landon found the popcorn. He smiled to himself. He stood up from the fireplace and pulled his phone out of his pocket. Finally, a text from Lucas. “This storm caught us quick. The roads are already so bad that mom talked dad into going home for the night. She said to say sorry that you guys are gonna be at the cabin alone. I know that won’t be heartbreaking for you, bro. Ha-ha. See you guys as soon as we can tomorrow. Merry Christmas, Bro. Tell Landon I said the same.”
Landon walked into the room, carrying a big bowl of popcorn and a six-pack of Sprite. “Nice fire. I scrolled through Netflix and picked out The Christmas Chronicles. I’ve heard it’s good, and I haven’t seen it yet, have you?” He sat down on the couch and handed a sprite to Ben and put the rest on the floor beside them.
Ben smirked. “Have you looked outside?”
“No. Why?” Landon asked, going over to the window. “Oh, my God. Have you heard back from anybody yet? Are they safe?”
“I just got a text from Lucas. Mom decided that they should spend the night in town at our home. We’re on our own for the night.” Ben winked at Landon.
Landon sat back on the couch and leaned in against his boyfriend. “Let’s start the movie then.”
Ben put his arm around Landon and turned on The Christmas Chronicles.
“I’m so glad my family didn’t make up any corny nicknames like Teddy Bear or Kit Kat,” Landon commented as the movie played. But this is a cute movie so far.”
“Cute guy, too. I might have to check his IMDb after the movie.” Ben said.
Landon rolled his eyes. “His name is Judah Lewis, and I’ve seen him in “The Babysitter” and yes, he’s cute.”
“He’s not half as cute as you, babe.” Ben leaned over and kissed Landon. Landon pulled Ben down on top of him, and the kiss deepened. Ben broke the kiss just long enough to reach over and turn the lamp off. Landon grabbed the remote and turned the tv off. The room was now lit by the light from the fire and the Christmas lights. The silver and gold garland sparkled in the dim light.
Ben looked down into Landon’s eyes. “You are even more beautiful in this light. How did it take me over a year to,” Whatever else he was going to say was silenced as Landon’s lips met his again. Landon’s legs wrapped around his boyfriend’s body, pulling him close. Then from overhead, “Thump! Thump!” The boys pulled apart from each other and sat up.
“Did you hear that?” Ben asked. “Is there something on the roof?” He looked at Landon, worry showing in his eyes.
“It did sound like it came from the roof. Wait. What’s that? Bells?” Landon said.
“It can’t be. Someone must be playing a joke on us.” Thumps on the roof and bells. Come on.” Ben tried to laugh, but it sounded more nervous than amused.
“In this weather? Look outside, Ben. They’d have to be nuts to get up on the roof in that snow, and the wind is literally howling. It’s gotta be a blizzard out there.” Landon said.
Then the fire in the fireplace blinked out. It didn’t sputter and die, it blinked out all at once, embers and all. Thump! A figure now stood where the fire had just been. Ben looked over at Landon, who was looking back at him, his bright green eyes wide with shock and awe. Landon mouthed words to Ben without speaking aloud, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Ben shook his head yes. What they were both seeing was a rather rotund man dressed all in red trimmed with white. His hat was red and came to a point with a white pompom on top and white fur trim all around the bottom. The man’s coat was also bright red with white fur trim. The buttons on the coat looked to be solid gold. His belt was black with a gold buckle. His pants were bright red and tucked into black leather boots, which also had gold buckles. The man was carrying an enormous red sack, which also had white fur trim around the top. The bag appeared to be full of oddly shaped items.
When the man turned to face them, they saw that he had a full beard of white, and his cheeks were tinged red from the cold outside. The man winked right at Ben, then turned towards the Christmas tree and started unloading wrapped presents from his sack and setting them under the tree. When he was finished, he turned back toward Ben and Landon. “I normally don’t like an audience while I’m working.” He said with a grin. “But, you,” He pointed at Ben, “have lost not just your belief in me, but your belief in all that I do.”
Ben could barely speak. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t even know if I’m awake or dreaming right now. How can you be real? If you are real, how can you go all over the world in one night? Are there reindeer on the roof right now?”
The man smiled. “You are very much awake, Ben. Just ask Landon. I am real, and I am kept real by the belief of the children of the world. And older kids like Landon, who still believe in the magic of Christmas. I don’t visit every house like some of the legends claim. I visit the kids who need something a little extra. Kids who wouldn’t have gotten anything if I hadn’t shown up. Or kids like you who needed something to believe in again. Parents take care of the other kids in my name.” Santa said.
“I just. I don’t know. I just think that the whole holiday has just been ruined by stores and crappy music, and I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s just all too much.” Ben said.
“Don’t focus on all that. Focus on the joy it brings to people like Landon. People like your family. Christmas brings loved ones together. Christmas is the spirit of giving. Not just giving presents but giving happiness and love.” Santa said.
Ben looked over at Landon. Landon had tears streaming down his face, but a broad smile on his face. Ben took one of his boyfriend’s hands between both of his and held on tight. “You’re right, Santa. Lan has tried to tell me the same thing. I’ve been looking at it wrong. What’s important is people, not things. I don’t even know how to thank you.”
“Cookies and milk next year. And don’t light the fire. I almost came down before I saw it.” Santa grinned. “One more thing, Ben. Here you go.” Santa handed Ben a present, then with a wink of his eye, he disappeared in a flash of light. The boys heard the tinkling of bells and the clomping of hooves, then a loud “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Ben and Landon rushed to the window and looked out. They saw a large golden sleigh pulled by nine reindeer flying off into the blizzard shrouded night sky. A bright red light shone from the front of the sleigh, lighting the way through the darkness.
“We just met Santa Claus!” Landon nearly squealed.
“I know, right! Oh my God. I’m sorry I bugged you about Christmas, Lan.” Ben said
“It’s ok, Ben. I love you. I can handle your moods and your anxieties.” Landon replied.
“Let’s wait until everyone else gets here tomorrow to open this stuff. It has all their names on it. They’re never going to believe us!” Ben laughed, setting the gift that Santa had given him under the tree with the rest.
“Yeah. I agree. Let’s wait. Let’s finish watching Christmas Chronicles and then go to bed.” Landon said.
Ben pulled Landon into a fierce hug. “I love you so much, Landon. For you, more than for anyone else, I promise to always keep the spirit of Christmas alive in my heart.” The two boys turned the movie back on and fell asleep cradled in each other’s arms as their first Christmas Eve together ended, and their first Christmas Day began.
It’s Easter Sunday at the casino.
So many people playing slots and Bingo.
Fresh out of a church, they gamble and sin,
Praying that their next bet is the big win.
They condemn other people for this sin or that,
Then gamble their kid’s college fund on baccarat.
They strut through the town, praising the Lord,
All the while, dreaming of the keno board.
Not all with faith are like that, this is very true,
But if you are, don’t judge me until you judge you.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,
Until that is you, please leave me alone!
The ball drops in Times Square,
Signaling New Year’s everywhere.
The party’s over, they turn off the light,
He walks me home and says goodnight.
Our New Year’s kiss still wet on my lips,
He turns to me and grabs my hips.
Soundly kissed down to my core,
I go inside, wanting more.
I drift off to sleep, dreaming happy things,
All the thoughts that true love brings.
I wake with the sun high in the sky,
I stretch and yawn and cover my eyes.
My thoughts return to last night,
And the guy who held me tight.
Thoughts of him cause a grin,
I feel happiness creeping in.
I make a wish that the feelings stay,
As I start my New Year’s Day.
New Year’s Eve at his place,
Laughing smiles on every face.
Loud music blaring in the air,
Party streamers everywhere.
Time slips by, moving fast,
We’re all having a huge blast.
Jokes and games played by all,
Quick kisses stolen out in the hall.
From the television, we finally hear,
The stroke of midnight and we cheer.
He wraps his arms around me, tight,
And says it’s been a perfect night.
The moment is pure bliss,
When we share a New Year’s kiss.
A New Years to Remember
Cole’s best friend, Samantha, spotted him in the hallway. “Cole! Hey, Cole, wait up!” She ran up, almost out of breath. “Hey, idiot. I wanted to catch up to you before you got to class. What are you doing New Year’s Eve? Got a date yet?”
“No, Samantha, you know damn well I don’t. Who should I ask? This school is so close-minded it isn’t even funny. I don’t think this town realizes it’s 2018 and not 1950!” Cole ran a hand through his longish jet-black hair and focused his dark brown eyes on his friend. “I wish I could go up to anyone here and ask them out without being afraid of getting beaten up, but you know how this place is, Sammie.”
“I know, sweetie. And I also know you wish you could ask out Zac Simpson. I think it might go better than you expect. I don’t have proof, but I think he plays for your team.”
“If there’s a God, he does. I gotta go, Sammie. I’ll see you at lunch.” He ran off down the hall.
Next up for Cole was algebra, his favorite class of the day. Not that he loved math, but Zac sat directly in between Cole and the blackboard. He could spend the entire class pretending to pay attention but all the while staring at Zac. The short blonde hair, the piercing blue eyes, the hot jock body. Yeah, Cole could stare at Zac for hours. After his conversation with Sammie, Cole decided to do something bold. He spent the entire class sketching Zac, he even wrote a poem and added it at the bottom of the picture. Cole wasn’t sure if he’d be brave enough to give it to Zac, but he drew it anyway.
Cole slid into the seat next to Samantha at lunch. No one else was at the table yet. Sammie looked up. “Hey, Cole. You ask him yet?” She smirked and nodded towards Zac, who was sitting with the other members of the lacrosse team and a few cheerleaders.
“No. Of course not. He’s probably going out with one of those cheerleaders anyway.” Cole blushed. “I did doodle a sketch of him and write a poem.”
“Aww! Let me see.” Sammie reached for Cole’s backpack.
“Cole Kendrick, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! The art and the poem are both fantastic! You have to give it to him!” Sammie nearly squealed, and she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek.
“Oh, look the little fag has a girlfriend. How sweet.” Cole glanced up and recognized Danny, one of Zac’s friends on the lacrosse team.
“Screw you, Danny.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, fag?” Danny reached over and flipped Cole’s lunch tray up, the food and milk splattering all over Cole’s clothes.
Cole stood up quick and started brushing off his clothes. “No, Danny, I wouldn’t let you touch me even if you paid me. I’ve heard how small your dick is.”
Danny raised his fist, but someone pulled him backward, and he landed on the floor. Zac stood over Danny, looking directly at Cole. “I’m sorry my friend is a jerk, Cole. I’m sure he’s sorry. Aren’t you, Danny?”
Danny looked up at Zac. “No. Why would you defend that little faggot?” Danny started to stand back up.
Zac lifted one foot, put it right in the center of Danny’s chest, and pushed him back to the floor. “Stay on the floor if you can’t be nice.” A crowd was starting to form around the boys. “What he did wasn’t cool. Let me get you a new lunch.” Zac smiled the smile that made Cole fall for him in the first place.
Cole looked down and blushed and then took a deep breath and looked back up at Zac. “Why are you so nice to me. You’re a popular jock like he is. Don’t you feel the same way about me?”
“Not all jocks are bigoted jerks.”
“Hold that thought,” Cole reached into his backpack. “Here. This is for you. I better give it to you now before I lose my nerve. If you decide to punch me, I understand.” Cole handed Zac the sketch.
Zac looked at the picture and read the poem, expression blank. He glanced around the table at all his friends. He peered down at Danny. He reread the poem and then stared directly at Cole. “Thank Goodness! I was starting to think there weren’t any other gay guys in the entire school. Especially none that are both smoking hot and smart, too.”
Danny stared up at him incredulously. “You’re a faggot?”
Zac pressed down harder with his foot. “Yeah, Danny. Do you have a problem with me being on the team now?” Zac directed the question at Danny, but he glanced at each of his friends that were standing around watching the drama unfold.
“No, Zac. Whatever, dude. Just get off me.”
Zac removed his foot from Danny’s chest, and the other boy got up and stormed out of the cafeteria. Zac scanned the group of his other friends. None of them made eye contact. He focused his attention back onto Cole.
“Now that that drama is out of the way, do you have any plans for New Year’s Eve, Cole? My parents always have this huge party, and I’m usually bored out of my mind. Please say you’ll go with me. I’d owe you a huge favor.”
Cole nearly melted into a puddle on the floor. He stuttered and stammered, “I… uh… I think…” He glanced helplessly at Samantha.
“No. No. No. We definitely do not have plans.” She put an arm around Cole. “He’s my best friend in the whole world, and I love him to pieces, but his tongue sometimes gets in its own way. What this boy is trying to say is that he’d love to go out with you on Monday night.”
“I am capable of speaking for myself, thank you very much. Yes, Zac, I’d love to go.”
Zac reached out his hand. “Phone, please.”
Cole handed over his phone. Zac put his contact info in then sent himself a text from Cole’s phone. “Now you have my number, too. The party is formal. Do you own a tux?”
“No. I have a suit if that works?”
“I’ll have a tux sent to you. You look like you are about the same size as me, but text me your sizes just in case. I’ll make sure the tux is delivered by four, and I’ll be over to pick you up Monday at six. Okay?”
“You don’t have to go through that trouble, but yeah it sounds great,”
“No trouble at all. As I said, you’ll be doing me a huge favor. I’ll see you on Monday night.”
Cole turned to Samantha. “Oh my God! Did that just happen?”
“I know right! Damn, boy, you’re not just going on a date with your crush, you’re going to the biggest party of the year!”
“I hated that we were the only school open between Christmas and New Year’s, but I guess it was fate. If I hadn’t been at school today, Zac would have never asked me out!”
“I know! All the snow days we’ve had killed our Christmas break, but now it’s all worth it.”
“Should I call him this weekend or wait until Monday?”
“He said Monday. He’s got your number. If it were me, I’d wait for him to call.”
“You’re right. We better go. The bell rang two minutes ago.” They both hurried out of the cafeteria.
Cole spent Friday night and the entire weekend driving himself and everyone around him completely insane. He was so distracted by the thought of going out with Zac on Monday night that he could barely focus on anything else. Finally, Monday afternoon, Samantha arrived at his house to keep him occupied until the tux came. They were watching their second movie of the afternoon, “Love, Simon.”
“I am so glad that I came out on my own terms. If I had been outed like Simon was, I don’t know how I would have handled it.”
Sammie leaned in and hugged her best friend. “I would have been right here helping you deal with it and kicking the ass of whoever outed you.”
“You’re the best, Sammie.” Cole kissed her cheek. Then the doorbell rang. Cole leaped off the couch and ran to the door. He came walking back into the living room, carrying a garment bag and smiling from ear to ear. “It’s here. This is really happening.”
“Of course, it’s happening, now go get dressed.”
Cole stopped and pulled his phone out of his pocket. “It’s him. He asked if the tux got here and if everything was ok.” Cole quickly typed a reply text. “Alright, I’m gonna go change. Are you leaving?”
Sammie scoffed. “I’ll be right to take pictures of your skinny ass in that tux. Now hurry up. You don’t want to make your boy wait.”
Cole laughed and ran off to his bedroom to change. A little while later, he walked back into the room, straightening the cummerbund and adjusting the bowtie. “Does all this look right? I’ve never worn a tuxedo before.”
“Oh, Cole. You look so handsome.” She hugged him. “I don’t know how you have stayed single this long. You are going to knock his socks off. You’re gorgeous, Cole. The tuxedo is perfect, too.”
“Aww, you’re making me blush. Thank you so much. You’re my best friend. I love you.”
“I love you, too, sweetie.” The doorbell rang for the second time that evening. Cole looked at the clock. Five fifty-seven. Zac said he’d be here at six. He started to walk out of the room, but Sammie stopped him.
“Wait here. I’ll go answer the door.”
Samantha walked back into the room, followed closely by Zac. Zac stopped and stared at Cole. “Wow. You look incredible.”
“Thanks. So do you.”
“Seriously. You’re stunning. Dressing up suits you. You should do it more often.”
“Give me a reason to, handsome.” Cole tried to sound sexy but, with the amount of blushing he was doing, only managed to pull off shy and innocent.
“I might do that. You ready to go?”
“Yes. Let’s get this party started.” Cole grinned, and the two boys walked out the door. Sammie yelled after them, “You guys have fun tonight. Cole, text me when you get home.”
“I will, Sammie. Thanks for everything.” Cole waved to Samantha and then got into the limo.
The limousine pulled up in front of the biggest house that Cole had ever seen. “Wow. You live here?”
“Yeah, I do. Home sweet home.”
Cole’s eyes were darting everywhere, trying to take everything in at once. “Looks likes there’s a lot of people here already. Has the party started?”
Zac shook his head. “No. These are all the decorators and caterers and delivery people. The guests will start arriving around eight.”
Cole followed Zac into the house, weaving around various trucks and vans and avoiding all the workers. He glanced at all the party streamers and growing tables of food as Zac led him up the stairs.
Zac pointed to a closed door as they passed, “That’s my bedroom. I can show you that later, but there’s another room I thought you might be interested in first.” Zac led him a little further down the hallway. They entered a room, and Cole’s jaw nearly fell to the floor. He felt like he was in “Beauty and the Beast.” The room was as big as four rooms in his own house. There was floor to ceiling bookshelves taking up most of the walls. There were gorgeous paintings between the bookshelves and sculptures on pedestals throughout the room. There was even a suit of armor standing in the far corner. Cole didn’t know what to look at first.
“This room is mind-blowing, Zac. I could spend the whole night in here looking at everything and be happy.”
“I’m glad you like it. I figured you would. Your poem was fantastic, and the drawing was beyond extraordinary.”
Cole walked all around the room and stopped to take a closer look at a section of books that were leather-bound gold embossed editions. “Can I pick them up?”
“Go ahead. My mom loves for people to read them. These aren’t just showpieces.”
“This is my all-time favorite book, and it’s even signed by Orson Scott Card. I would kill to own this copy of “Ender’s Game,”
Zac raised both his hands up. “Please don’t kill me. I haven’t even had a chance to kiss you yet.”
Cole’s head snapped up, and he looked right at Zac. “Hm. Ok, you get to live a while longer. I’ll just kill Danny instead.”
Zac laughed. “Nah. He was a total jerk, but let’s give him until I show up for practice Wednesday. If he’s still a dick at practice, you can kill him.”
“Dammit. I guess I can wait.”
Zac’s phone beeped, and he slipped it out of his pocket to check the notification. “Text from mom. Time to head downstairs. The guests are starting to arrive. You ready for this?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be. I mean I’m more than ready for a date with you, but I’m kind of nervous about the whole town being on our first date with us.”
“Don’t let them get to you.” Then Zac leaned in close. “And you can be sure that I’ll take you on a date with only the two of us very soon.”
“In that case, I’m ready to go downstairs.”
Zac and Cole walked down the staircase together, slowly weaving their way through the growing crowd. Party guests stopped Zac every few feet to talk with him. Cole recognized a face here or there, but he didn’t know most of them. His family and Cole’s traveled in different circles. While Zac made small talk, Cole spent the time looking around the room. He bet that the chandelier cost more than his parent’s entire house. The whole place felt like a fairy tale setting with the waiters and drink tables and decorations, and everyone dressed up so fancy. He looked down at himself and remembered that he too, was in a tuxedo.
Zac touched his arm. “Something wrong with the tux?”
“Not at all. I can’t believe this night is happening. The party is wonderful, Zac. It’s like a Disney movie.”
“Then I guess we should dance.”
Cole took Zac’s hand and allowed himself to be pulled in close, and they started dancing. They drew some stares, some nods of approval, and even a few winks. Then Zac’s mother stepped between them. “Zachary Simpson, what do you think you are doing?” She was flushed and looked beyond angry.
Zac looked confused. “I’m dancing. What do you mean?”
“With,” She waved absently toward Cole. “This boy? Dozens of girls are simply waiting for you to ask them to dance, and you dance with some boy?”
Now Zac was a little flushed. “Mom, I won’t have you talking about Cole like that. I told you over a year ago that I’m gay. Why would I dance with a girl when I can dance with him?”
Isabella Simpson got a look on her face like she had smelled the worst smell in the world. “Saying you might like boys and actually dancing with one at my New Year’s Party are two totally different things. I will not have you embarrass this family in front of the entire city.”
“You are the one causing the embarrassment, mom. Not me. Look at them.” He waved his hand toward the growing crowd of guests. “I think more of them care that you are a bigot towards your own son than care about me dancing with Cole.”
“Don’t be crude, Zachary.” His mother scoffed. “And you, boy, get out of my house.” She glared at Cole.
One of the party guests, Dr. Emily Baxter, spoke up. “Isabella, I can’t tell you what to do in your own house, but if you make this boy leave, I will leave, too.” Other guests started speaking up. Over half the guests committed to leaving if she made Cole go.
Isabella was shocked. She waved a hand toward Cole and Zac. “Do whatever you want. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” She stormed off into another room.
Cole looked at Zac. “It’s your decision. Do you want me to leave so you can go talk to her?”
“You’re not going anywhere except back out on that dance floor. I’ll deal with my mom tomorrow. Tonight, my focus is on you.” He swept Cole back into his arms and started dancing again.
The next few hours went by in a blur. Cole was aware of the other guests, but it felt as if the world had shrunk down to him and Zac. They danced, they talked, they drank punch, Cole was happier than he had ever been. Then all the tv screens switched to the ball drop in Times Square. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and everyone shouted Happy New Years!! Amid the yelling and streamers and noisemakers, Cole, for the first time in his life, reached out and took what he wanted. He made the first move for the first time ever. He pulled Zac close, put a hand on each side of his face, and kissed him. Zac wrapped his arms around Cole’s waist and pulled him even closer. It was their first kiss, but they kissed like it was the last thing they would ever do. When they came up for air, they realized that most of the people in the room were throwing confetti in their direction. They looked around and saw much more approval than disgust. Then Zac saw his mother walking toward them, and he braced for another confrontation.
Isabella handed a bottle of champagne to her son. “For you and Cole. I know I forbad you from drinking in my house until you were of age, but I’ll make this one exception. Take it as a peace offering. I’m still not one hundred percent on-board with this, but I won’t stand in your way either.” She hugged Zac and walked back upstairs.
Zac peered over at Cole, both boys with astonished expressions. “I’ll call that a win. Let’s go drink this champagne.”
Cole smiled the biggest smile of his life. “Maybe it will be a Happy New Year.” He pulled Zac into another kiss then they walked off hand in hand to enjoy the rest of the New Year’s Ball.