Cal Thompson is going a little mad over the Christmas holiday, stuck in a tiny house with fourteen members of his immediate family. There's no privacy and no boyfriend to help him cope—because Philip is still a secret, though not for long. Cal's family knows he's bisexual, but they've always assumed Cal would marry a woman and be fruitful and multiply. Just as he's ready to set the record straight, his parents tell the family they're selling the family house and tip this introvert's world on edge.
Philip Sherman arrives at Cal's family home to find his lover mourning the loss of his home, paralyzed by the abrupt and unexpected announcement that trumped his own. Though Philip takes the setback in stride, they won't be able to avoid the calling of their hearts for long: Cal needs to reveal the truth of his relationship with Philip to his family, and Philip has a question he's desperate to have answered.
A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2013 Advent Calendar package "Heartwarming".
18,000 words, 71 pages
- 2 Read lists
THERE WERE twenty… thirty… fifty people at my parents’ house. Of course I was exaggerating, but it sure felt like it. There were really fourteen people jammed into my parents’ 1950s ranch-style house that maybe had twenty-six hundred square feet, if we were lucky. Half of that square footage was downstairs, and half of that was an unfinished furnace/storage room. So we had three quarters of the house to use. Minus the kitchen, because Mom was cooking lunch and wanted us to stay out of her way.
To say we were packed in like sardines was an understatement, especially when you took into consideration my parent’s tendency to collect retro furniture. Add to that the fact that my oldest brother and sister each brought along enough toys for their kids to fill a preschool classroom, along with portable cribs for the twins and even two high chairs, and the space got even tighter. And their spouses. It was ridiculous.READ MORE
Making matters worse was that we were going on five days living like this. The festive cheer of Christmas week had worn off the second the wrapping paper from the gifts had been stuffed into black trash bags and hauled outside three days ago, at least in my estimation.
Why the fuck did I decide to spend my entire vacation here? I texted my friend Miya. I knew, of all my friends, she’d understand my plight without me having to expound any further, because she had a big family too.
Because we love our families? Because we love that our parents were fruitful and multiplied?
Yeah. She got it.
I never liked multiplication.
Five more days, Cal. We can both make it until after the New Year.
Are you sure? I really didn’t know if I could.
All I got back was a curt Yes. I knew the conversation was over, so I left her alone.
I was the fourth of seven kids. I was an introvert surrounded by extroverts. I was also a classic middle child who got stuck either negotiating or being ignored. Except I wasn’t being ignored at all on this trip home. More attention had been paid to me than the last twenty-six years of my life, and it was the type of attention that pretty much made me want to run away.
“When are you gonna settle down?”
“Are you dating?”
“Have you got a girlfriend?”
“What are you looking for in a woman?”
A penis and balls wasn’t an answer that would go over very well in my be-fruitful-and-multiply family. I’d come out to them as bisexual when I was sixteen but then dated a girl. It didn’t last. After graduation, I’d gone as far as I could while still remaining in Minnesota. My dad taught in the university system, so I got a discount on my tuition if I stayed within it. I wanted to be able to be who I was without news of that easily traveling back to my family, and going to college in the tree-filled Iron Range seemed like a good place to hide. Duluth and the North Shore had been perfect for me.
The first person I seriously dated at college was a woman. Same with the second. My parents heard about both of them. And then I dated a man. My parents didn’t hear a thing about him. That’s when I realized I might not be the Kinsey three I’d thought I was, because I felt so much more comfortable with men. I was closer to a four, maybe a five, but without any guys willing to play with me down in rural south-central Minnesota when I was growing up, I hadn’t even had the opportunity to experience the real me until college. I still liked women, but in college I finally had the opportunity to be with men, and I dated several men in a row. Yet I kept all that to myself because my family already knew I was bisexual, so I assumed they’d eventually expect me to date a guy.
What ended up happening was my entire family thought my bisexuality truly meant I thought men were attractive, but I was pretty much hands off with them. They expected me to possibly make out with some guys, but then thought I’d eventually settle down with a woman, get married, and have babies the normal way.
But now I was with Philip. Philip Sherman. I loved his name. Philip. It even felt good in my mouth when I said it. He felt good in my mouth too.
“Mommy! Mackie stoleded my woobie!” my three-year-old nephew screamed at the top of his lungs, and then started his fake cry that drove me insane.
My sister, Jen, came to my auditory rescue. “Jaycee, use your inside voice, and remember your cousins are only one. Mackenzie and Ella don’t know any better. Just let Mackenzie have your woobie for a minute. She’ll get bored with it and then it’s yours again.” She looked at me with an apologetic smile, even though Jaycee wasn’t her kid and Mackenzie was. She knew I couldn’t stand the over-the-top crying moments. I’d always hated them with my younger brothers and sister when we were little too. I’d even hated the melodramatic teenage girl moments my other older sister Jessica had.
There were seven kids, but we weren’t really kids anymore aside from Jackson, who was seventeen. My parents were crazy. Seven kids in sixteen years. Jennifer, Christopher, Jessica, Calvin—that’s me—Justine, Corey, and Jackson. Oh, and the dog, Charlotte. Did you catch that? JCJCJCJC. Mom and Dad were named Jacqueline and Charles. Pretty sick. And then my oldest brother just had to go and name his kid Jaycee. Jesus Christ! At least Jen broke the stupid chain.
I watched as Jaycee ran up to Mackenzie and tore his woobie—it was a stuffed dog—out of her hands and ran away giggling gleefully. Brat. Mackenzie started bawling then, and Ella wasn’t far behind. Jen nearly bowled me over on her way to reprimand Jaycee, and I was shoved into the linen closet door, where the doorknob screwed painfully into my back.
Liquor. That was the answer for moments like these, even if it wasn’t quite ten in the morning. It was a zoo. Then I remembered the liquor cabinet was bare. So was the beer fridge in the basement.
I couldn’t go off to my bedroom to relax alone either, because I shared my room with two younger brothers. Corey was listening to some sort of music that was spilling past his earbuds, and Jackson was talking to his girlfriend about who knows what, right there in the one place that could possibly be my sanctuary.
Outside. It had to be outside, then. Fuck it all. I’d go out and shovel the damn driveway and then walk to the liquor store to get something to help me calm the fuck down. Anything to just get some peace and fucking quiet and not have to deal with the noise of everyone’s incessant chatter.
I thought of something my mom used to say when she was stressed, and then I said it out loud. “Calgon, take me away.” I was bending to put on my boots.
“Need a little thinking space?” Mom asked with a knowledgeable smile on her face. Her long blonde, but now mostly gray, hair was pulled back into a twist and held with a big black clip at the back of her head. She was kind-looking and still very pretty. When I was little, I was positive I was going to marry her because I thought she was the most beautiful lady in the whole wide world. I smiled back at her, just because she still knew me so well.
“Yeah. I’m exhausted listening to all this.”
“I know, babe. Are you going to take a walk?”
“I was going to shovel first, but yeah. Eventually. We’ll all want to get out of here at some point, and we got at least six inches last night. The plow came by too.” I gave her a grin, and she just nodded as she wiped her hands on her apron.
“I’ll make you some hot chocolate for when you come back in. It’ll warm you up.”
“Thanks,” I said as I slipped into my coat and then found a decent pair of gloves and a warm hat in the huge basket in the front closet. I tugged them on, but didn’t bother looking in the mirror to see if the Fair Isle hat looked stupid on me or not. At least it had earflaps to help keep me warmer.COLLAPSE