Holidays are a time for happiness, right? Not just everyday happiness, but extra-special, bordering on manic happiness.
So what happens if you can’t dredge up those holiday feelings of being deliriously overjoyed that your family, friends, and most of all, your lover, expects from you.
If you’re Sean Delahunt, you sacrifice to give your lover what he wants most, a trip home to New Orleans, even when you feel shredded by razor sharp pains in your soul every time you think of returning to the Crescent City and all the heartache you’ve tried so hard to escape.
Knowing Rusty is ecstatic to be going home for the holidays, Sean unsuccessfully tries to be of good cheer, driving himself farther from finding his own happy place, and farther from his long-time lover Rusty Duchene.
Rusty has devoted his whole life to making Sean happy. But this time—this time Rusty is going home.
But home isn’t the same as when he left it so many months ago. Or maybe he’s not the same boy who left to make his own home in Boston with Sean.
In this Bayou Boys novella, Jingle My Bells, Sean and Rusty explore the seasonal
intricacies of making merry, gift giving and extreme expectations.
Sean nodded, ducked his head, then looked straight ahead at nothing. “Holidays are hard for me.”
Even admitting something was hard was difficult for Sean. To admit to anything that even smacked of weakness had been whipped out of him at an early age.
As he watched Sean’s throat contract, Rusty swallowed the thick knot in his own throat.
Rusty reached out his wool-thick arm around Sean’s shoulders and pulled him close. “I know they are. We’re going to get through them, together.”
Sean stepped out of Rusty’s embrace. “I’m pulling you down.”
The therapy had Sean raw. Rusty knew it. This was the worst possible time to be heading to New Orleans.
But it was always all about Sean. Just this once, Rusty needed it to be about Rusty.
The image of their flight itinerary held with a pair of strong magnets on their fridge overrode the anxiety in Sean’s eyes.
“I’ve got enough happiness inside me about going home for Christmas to prop us both up.” He pulled Sean back to him, this time tightening his grip hard enough Sean would have to struggle to pull away. “Have a told you how glad I am you came in third in the Halloween contest, and how grateful I am you traded that gift certificate for the plane tickets?”
Sean grinned up at him. It was flat but a valiant try, nonetheless. “About a thousand times.”
Rusty ignored the shadows in Sean’s eyes, focusing on the sparkles that proved Sean wanted Rusty to be happy.
“Maybe I could do a little something to show you my gratitude?” Rusty lifted his eyebrow, doing his best Groucho Marx leer.
“Maybe you could.” Sean blushed, but didn’t look away. In fact, he let Rusty keep that tight grip on him the rest of the two blocks home. That kind of prolonged public intimacy was a big win for both of them.
When Rusty broke away from Sean to dig their apartment key from his pocket, Sean took a moment to look at Rusty. Really look at him.
Caught up in getting from here to there, in getting the details of living done, he didn’t do this often enough.
But now, as Rusty bent, glove between his teeth, and poked the key into the keyhole, Sean took a deliberate moment and looked.
Rusty’s navy pea coat made his shoulders seem even broader than they were. The ends of his dark curly hair flipped around the edges of his knit cap.
Sean knew, as soon as they were inside, Rusty would yank the cap off his head, stick his hands under the nearest faucet and run his fingers through his hair, trying to unflatten his squashed curls.
In New Orleans, caps in the winter were fashion accessories, not necessities. But Boston wasn’t New Orleans. Sean thanked God for that every morning, feeling guilty and selfish as he did so. Rusty missed home so much.
Rusty opened the door and held it for Sean. He was always kind and considerate like that. That Rusty loved him still filled Sean with awe after all these years.
Why? Why did someone like Rusty love someone like him?
Sean brushed past him, shrugging out of his coat as soon as he cleared the door.
The trench coat, at least one size too big, made him feel like a kid playing Inspector Gadget from the cartoons. He threw it toward the couch where it slithered onto the floor. He forced himself not to take those steps over to pick it up. Not part of the plan.
Instead, he turned and shoved his hands under Rusty’s coat. His roving hands started working on the buttons on Rusty’s white dress shirt. He tugged as he unbuttoned, pulling the tails from Rusty’s dress pants.
Rusty shrugged, making his coat fall from his shoulders, giving Sean full access.
Sean leaned in close, his lips tickling Rusty’s ear. “You look good tonight.”
As he’d hoped, Rusty shivered, leaning closer, wanting more.
Rusty’s throat worked as he answered, “Yeah? You, too.”
From Jingle My Bells by Chris Cox
So, what do you think? Will Sean and Rusty pull together, like they always have, so that this less-than-perfect holiday experience brings them closer together as well as closer to their true selves. Or will this be the holiday that convinces them they are better off apart? Interested? Jingle My Bells is available at Amazon ARe Smashwords
Now for tradition:
Because eating is such a joyous part of my Southern holiday tradition, let me share one of my favorite recipes, handed down for at least five generations.
Butter Roll (Yes, it’s high calorie, but worth every bite)
2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup butter, chilled (real butter. Don’t even think about substituting something fake or low fat.)
5-7 tbl cold water
1 qt milk (whole milk. Indulge. It’s just once a year)
2 c sugar
½ creamed butter at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla(real vanilla. Imitation doesn’t do it for this recipe.)
For pastry: Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter as for pie crust. Add water a little at a time, as for pie crust. Divide in half. Roll out thin in a rough rectangle.
Pour milk into boiler. Add remaining vanilla and sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Pour over pastry rolls. Heat in oven @ 400 degrees. Bake until pastry is done, just turning brown on the upper edges. If it gets too dry, add more milk and sugar.
To reheat (because this tastes even better if made the day before), add milk --and sugar if you really want it super sweet, and heat @ 400 degrees until warmed through. Don’t microwave. It turns the pastry into a chewy cardboard texture.
This recipe has been in our family since at least the mid-1800s when everyone had their own cows, so milk and butter were plentiful. It’s extremely rich, so a little serves a lot.
I’m giving away a copy of all four of the Bayou Boys stories in whatever ebook form the winner chooses and a $25 Amazon gift card, too. So leave a comment and be entered to win.
And Good Cheer:
Wishing you and yours peace on earth, and peace within yourselves throughout this holiday season and every other season of your life.