Dan struggles with Christmas at the best of times, but his indecision and lack of confidence is driving away his lover, Aaron. It takes a special dream on their shared holiday to help him to see a happier way forward
Clare London - Fiction
Short story, e-format
This title contains adult scenes of m/m romance and erotica.
“I think…” I turned slowly around in the log cabin’s bedroom, my suitcase wide open on the bed and a pile of underwear in my hand. “I think this may be a bad idea after all.”
Aaron stood in the doorway, looking at me. He’d been unpacking the supplies in the kitchen, though that was rather a grand word for what was just a tiny cooker and a wooden counter set up in the far corner of the lounge-come-living area. He was probably wondering how he’d create those great meals of his with just one pan and the minimum of condiments. It wasn’t like the place was anything more than basic.
“Do you need more space? I didn’t bring many clothes, so you can have the extra drawers in the dresser.”
“I’m not talking about the damned storage, Aaron,” I muttered. “That’s not what I’m worried about.”
I heard him take a slow breath. There was no excuse for my snapping at him, of course. “Dan. I thought we talked this through when Bailey first suggested this trip? You were happy to come up here. There are no crowds out here by the lake, and there’s no obligation to join in any of the celebrations tonight at the clubhouse. It’s up to us what we do for the holiday--”
“That’s it,” I interrupted. I didn’t turn around: I didn’t want to look at his face because I knew only too well how his confusion looked. “It’s the us thing, Aaron. The two of us here. The double room thing.” Now I knew the confusion was going to look hurt, too, but I couldn’t help myself. Well, maybe I could, but maybe I didn’t want to. Now I was riddled with the confusion thing, too.
We’d been invited this year to ski with Bailey and a group of our friends over the Christmas holidays at a new resort. It was a sport I used to love when I was younger and fitter, and Aaron wanted to spend more time at it, too. Everyone had been keen to leave the city and the frenetic Christmas celebrations behind and come away to somewhere crisp and clean and far more relaxing. A great site up in the mountains, all the facilities available, and because Bailey’s parents were somehow connected with the management, we had it all at a special low cost. Couldn’t go wrong, could we?
Well, like they say, it seemed like a great idea at the time.
Aaron walked towards me now but stopped a couple of feet away. That was another thing he’d learned over time--that there was an exclusion zone around me. Although we’d been close during the last year, I'd always been very possessive of my own apartment, my own space. Aaron understood that, the fact that sometimes I panicked when he came near--but then sometimes I’d smile, and draw him in.
There’d been plenty of the drawing in, of course, and it’d been so good--so very, very good. He touched me in a way that was both careful and hungry. Sometimes when he was nowhere around and I closed my eyes, I could still feel the strength of his arms under my fingertips, still taste his smile on my lips. I never thought I’d feel that way about someone--nor that they’d want me as much in return. But I'd never stayed over at his place, nor invited him overnight to mine. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but sometimes the feeling I had for him just didn't seem to be enough.
He coughed. Made it sound like he was just clearing his throat. “We've taken it all very slow, Dan, and that's been fine. Finding out about each other, enjoying each other’s company. And we’ve had good times together, right?” He was frowning. “Tell me if I’m wrong, Dan, because I--”
“Yes.” I spoke quickly, still not facing him fully. His voice was soft but I could hear the edge of tension in it. “It’s very good. Honestly, Aaron, it is. It’s all been good. I just feel… I just can’t… it’s…”
“It’s too soon for you,” he said, breaking into my pathetic rambling.
I shrugged. That was even more pathetic, really. After all, I’d known him long enough to know what a good friend he was, and we’d been kissing and fooling around since last Christmas. And when I was honest with myself--truly, heart-wrenchingly honest--I knew that I’d loved him from about forty seconds after I met him, if I did but admit it.
Just--there’d been nothing more. Yet.
There was silence for a while between us. I couldn’t say it was awkward because there were often silences like this in our life together, and we were used to them. Aaron was the perfect man to offer that to me--a time to be quiet, to think, to mourn whatever it was I mourned. He gave me space and enough respect that I didn’t beat myself up about it.
It just wasn’t so good when the silence was of my prompting.
“Shall I get another cabin?” He finally spoke, very gently. “Would that be easier for you? There were some singles still available out by the nursery slopes.”
I turned then, to look at him. He made his offer sound perfectly reasonable, but of course I knew it wasn’t. “No. Please.” I didn’t know what I was asking for. I couldn’t seem to move from my position, but he made no move towards me either. “Give me a little time to unpack, okay? I’ll be fine in a while. I’m good. Honestly.”
He made some excuse about going to see how Bailey and Cass were settling in. He’d check out the timetable for ski-ing tomorrow. He’d find more hot chocolate supplies. Oh, all right, what the hell--maybe I made up some of those excuses myself. On his way out, he paused at the doorway and looked up. There were some of those glittery festive chains draped across the ceiling and hanging down from the middle of them was a sprig of something green with white berries. Yeah, I knew it was mistletoe. He did, too.
But he didn’t look back and shut the door of the cabin behind him very quietly.