All I Want For Christmas
I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He looked so…relaxed. His shoulders weren’t up by his ears like they usually were. He smiled all the time, flashing his adorable dimple, and whenever he looked at me his eyes sparkled with love, causing my stomach to flutter.
But best of all: he never let go of my hand.
We wandered down the sidewalk without a care in the world, all our troubles left behind. They would be there waiting for us when we got back home, but here— hundreds of miles from disapproving families—we could ignore them.
I squeezed his hand and he shot me a blinding smile, brighter than the sun that beat down on our heads. “I’m so happy I talked you into this trip,” I said and nudged his side.
“Me too.” He stopped and pulled me closer. When I was within reach, he leaned in and ghosted his lips against mine. Right there. In the middle of the street where anyone could see.
Electricity buzzed through my body and I had to lock my knees so I wouldn’t melt into a puddle. When he pulled back, I panted like we’d made out for hours instead of just brushed our mouths together. My heart hammered in my chest and my wide grin almost split my face in two.
He giggled and we resumed walking. We were on our way to the beach to find a restaurant. Neither of us mentioning that today was the last day of our trip, that we had to go back north tomorrow. Back to the stress that was bound to kick into high gear this last week before Christmas, with presents to buy, food to cook, and still hope we’d have enough time to get into the holiday spirit, even though we would spend it apart. Neither of us had said anything about how hard it would be to go back to hiding our relationship after a long weekend of glorious freedom.
I forced the morose thoughts from my mind, determined to enjoy this evening with him.
So, I did. We talked and laughed and ate our dinner, even though I couldn’t remember what I’d put in my mouth later. I focused on touching him every chance I got. Kicked off my sandal and let my naked foot caress his sun-warm calf. Took his hand that rested on the table and laced our fingers together, brushing my thumb over his soft skin. Licked my lips until he couldn’t resist leaning over and kiss me, and the look in his eyes told me he knew exactly what I was up to, but he indulged me anyway.
When the dinner was eaten, the dessert devoured, and we were on our second bottle of wine, he sighed. It was a deep, troubled sound and it settled uneasily between us. He looked away, eyes trained far in the distance at the sun disappearing into the ocean, and his face turned wistful.
“I wish…” he mumbled.
I lifted our joined hands and placed a tender kiss on each knuckle. “What do you wish, love?”
“I wish we could live like this all the time.”
His words pierced my heart. So did I. We’d been together for over three years and I could easily imagine forever with him. But his Catholic parents didn’t know about him and if they found out they wouldn’t approve. He would probably lose them. And his job in the conservative private school where he worked, too. They had a clause about immoral behavior written into the employment contract, and homosexuality was one of the things deemed unacceptable. If people found out about us, his entire life would be turned upside down. Destroyed.
I could never ask that of him. Sometimes, when loneliness and frustration got to me, I wondered if I’d be better off with someone else. Someone who was out. But just the thought of not ever seeing him again made me want to throw up. Picturing my life without him was impossible.
So, I put on a brave face and hoped my smile at least looked happy. “It’ll all work out in the end,” I said—like I always did—and emphasized my words with a squeeze of his hand. I had no idea how, but it would have to. Somehow.
He nodded, but the relief he usually displayed after an exchange like that never came. Instead, his eyelids fluttered closed. He opened and shut his mouth several times as if he wanted to say something but lacked the courage. His grip on my hand tightened and after several minutes of silence, he whispered, “I we could be open, would you want to live with me then? Like a…real couple?”
“Oh, Joe.” I reached for him, grabbed his chin and turned his face toward me. I waited patiently until he opened his eyes and looked at me. “Don’t you know I’d marry you in a heartbeat if you let me?”
Tears welled up in his beautiful hazel eyes. “You would?” he asked with a trembling lower lip.
I swept my thumb over it. Caught a tear that broke free and rolled down his cheek. “I would.”
“I…” His eyes searched my face and he blinked away the tears. “I think I knew that.” He scooted his chair closer to mine and rested his head on my shoulder. I slid my arm around him and hugged him close, rubbing my beard against his temple.
“I have enough savings to last me for maybe a year,” he continued and laid his hand on my leg, absently playing with the hair that dusted my thigh. “Or longer, if you’re serious. If we moved in together it would cut the expenses considerably.”
My heart jumped up my throat. “What are you saying?” I squeaked.
“I could probably get a new job before the money runs out anyway,” he said as if he hadn’t heard me.
“I’d need to quit my job immediately. Everything would be worse if I didn’t tell them and they found out.” His warm hand caressed my thigh and he behaved like he wasn’t turning my entire existence upside down.
Was he saying what I thought he was saying? “Joseph!”
He tilted his head back and looked up at me. “Yes?”
“What…what are you talking about?”
“I’m saying I’m moving in with you. Your place is nicer than mine. But I’m not marrying you until you ask properly.”
My head spun, and my breathing stuttered. “But…your family?”
He twisted on his chair until he faced me and cupped my cheeks with tender fingers, threading them through my beard. “After these last few days…I can’t go back to the way it was before. I’m not saying it will be easy. But I’m saying I’m choosing you.”
“You mean it?” I leaned my forehead against his, and something blossomed in my chest. Filled me with a blinding light of happiness.
I kissed him. Slid my hand around his neck and pressed my mouth hard against his. Again and again, I kissed him as if my life depended on it until my lips ached. Finally, I pulled away and looked into his eyes. His pupils were blown and his gaze unfocused and he’d never been more beautiful. “Are you really, really sure?”
He nodded and pressed his lips to mine. “I’m really—” kiss, “really—” kiss, “really sure.” Another kiss. “Now take me back to the hotel and make love to me.”