Read an excerpt:
Colin was dead asleep beside Peter and snoring in the last part of his exhale. He’d been up almost all night working on his newest manuscript. Fucking a writer was sometimes like having all of his body and a tenth of his thoughts. Colin would space out for full minutes at a time, leaving Peter all alone in the middle of dinner, a conversation, a night out…anywhere but when they were in bed, fucking. The only place they fucked was in the bed. Peter got blowjobs on the couch. Watching a car chase or explosions while Colin met the tempo of the frantic background music with his mouth were some of Peter’s greatest memories, not just of the year but of his whole life. When Peter went to reciprocate, though, Colin always paused the movie and pulled him into the bedroom.
Earlier, when Colin had crawled into bed with Peter, Peter’s ego was still stinging from rejection. Colin had kissed his shoulder and Peter pretended to be asleep. He’d spent an hour getting ready in the second bedroom. It had been converted into a dressing room by Colin’s former lover, who had passed away. Ren had excellent taste and the exact same shoe size as Peter. Ren had been taller than Peter by several inches, but had dared hemlines that hit just the right spot on Peter’s thigh. On Ren, any slit up the side of a skirt would have been scandalous. With just a few pairs of his shoes and the brand new products that had replaced the seven-year-old makeup, Peter had converted the mausoleum that the room had been into a working dressing room/studio. Most of the art was done in front of the make-up mirror and not on the art easel that was set up to catch the afternoon light. His Christmas present, a line drawing of Colin sleeping, had been done by moonlight.
The fact that a line drawing was the only thing he’d done in a year that felt inspired, wasn’t helping his general sense of wanting to be elsewhere. Colin was fantastic. He might not have been appreciative of all the hard work Peter had put into this particular night, but he’d been mid-inspiration. Colin was writing a whole new book that wasn’t going to use his Max Power pen name, and the writing he was showing Peter in chunks and sections was a beautiful story of love and loss. Peter only painted when he wanted to. Colin pounded away, day after day, and what didn’t work the first time around, he fixed in the rewrite mode.
Peter had drawn Colin with a thick black calligraphy nib. Despite the uncertainty he usually had whenever he put pen to paper, the rich India black ink had no problems dividing the luscious cream paper into that which was representing Colin as he slept, and that which wasn’t. Peter had spent the last three months getting to know Colin’s face with his fingertips, lips, and tongue. Bringing it up out of the paper was as easy as tracing the shape of his hand. The drawing, as simple as it was, was just capturing Colin on the page.
It was wrapped up in the closet, next to Peter’s battered suitcase. As soon as he thought of it, he remembered all the shoes he’d have to leave behind. As easily as he could slip on and stomp around in Ren’s old shoes, he needed to wear four pairs of hiking socks and stuff tissue in the toes to fit into Ren’s life. They might have been more or less the same size in clothing and feet, but Peter’s whole life wouldn’t fill the new stocking Colin had hung over the mantel beside his own old, hand embroidered one he’d obviously been using for most of his life.
Peter and Colin had decorated the small three foot tree wearing corny Christmas sweaters and reindeer antlers, and Peter had spent the whole time wondering if he had to leave, should he take Lucy, his old car that had just barely passed inspection or Throckmorton the Second, the green, all-wheel drive car he’d inherited from Colin when Colin’s publisher had given him a new sports car as a Christmas gift.
* * *
Earlier that evening, Colin had taken in Peter’s new outfit with the lacy stockings and bra, his eyes bright. He’d gotten up as though entranced and sank to his knees in front of Peter. But when Peter was done, breathless and boneless in heels high enough they should have been given their own supplemental oxygen tanks, Colin was back at his computer, banging away. When Peter had first met Colin, he’d just finished a massive book and was between projects. He’d stayed that way for a dizzying month where Peter had Colin’s full attention each day, every day. It hadn’t lasted. Peter was now slightly more sympathetic to Ren’s cheating.
Peter had been honestly asleep, but Colin only had to push his chair back to wake him up. He’d spent too much time in a scary apartment with even scarier roommates to sleep soundly. He’d come out west to take care of his cousin, but she had moved a guy in with them who thought Peter being a drag queen was all the consent he’d needed. Peter had accepted a drink from the guy when Diana was at work, a couple months before they’d fired her. It was a good thing the drink had already been Peter’s third one that evening, because when he’d gotten up to piss and get away from the man’s grabby hands, he’d woken up behind a locked door with the water still running in the sink and no memory of how he’d gotten into the bathroom.
Diana was still an addict then, and had stayed with the drug-rapist because he always knew where to score. Peter had moved out and into an apartment in a big old house in another bad neighborhood. The occupants, both human and rat, had scurried through his shit.
Colin had shaved twice a day for the first month to keep his skin smooth for Peter no matter what time of day they fucked. Peter liked his waxing. He couldn’t afford it on his own, but the gift card Colin had given Peter to the spa in town had an endless balance on it. The application of the so-hot-notburning wax on his upper inner thigh was as charged for him as slipping panties on for the first time. Not sexual in the stiffy-sense but still all about Peter’s pleasure.
He was a respectable substitute teacher now. Every morning, he dressed in slacks and a shirt, waiting for the phone call that almost never came, if he wasn’t already booked up ahead of time. He wasn’t on anyone’s short-short list of subs. The harder he tried to be the cool substitute, the more the class got out of control, and the tougher he had to come down on everyone. He knew he had to relax, but just couldn’t make himself do it. It killed him every time he short-changed himself by booking out a Wednesday two weeks in advance when he knew it would mean turning down a week’s worth of work because of it. He could give the single day up, of course, but cancelling on them usually meant never working at that school again, and there weren’t that many in the small town district where Peter lived.
Selling himself short also meant that he’d only made enough to cover the rent on the beautiful apartment above the Miyazaki’s shop once in two months, and January wasn’t looking promising. The two bedrooms faced south and had been decked out to serve the heir apparent. Ren had all but gotten a seat at the table. Peter hadn’t even unpacked his boxes in the spare room. In Vancouver, he would be paying the same amount for a room with a closet. As Colin had married into the Miyazaki clan, they only charged Peter twelve hundred dollars a month. The space could have gone for double that, easy. Peter had five hundred dollars in his account and still owed for November. He’d had one good week this past month where he’d been booked to go out every day, but between the holidays and end of the year concerts and celebrations, most teachers would drag themselves in off their sick bed. If the phone rang before noon, it was usually for Colin. His first three chapters of this new novel had caused a lot of excitement with his publisher. They were in the middle of a book signing tour deal for April.
Peter lived for summer. Hallowe’en was a brief blip of joy until May. Colin obviously loved the holidays. There were as many boxes of Christmas decorations as there were for Hallowe’en, and Ren could have run a man o’war with his own skeleton crew, and had. When they’d put up the Christmas tree, they’d gotten around to talking about wiring and Colin had showed him the picture of the cockpit he’d wired up for Ren.
Ren had been a scrapbooker, because of course he was.
Peter flipped from the award-winning Hallowe’en costume with the working cockpit and Ren dressed as a flight attendant that had successfully landed the plane after both the captain and the first mate had the fish, to Ren dressed as a slutty elf in skin tight pink hot pants and fishnet stockings, bending over to show his amazing ass while retrieving cookies out of the oven.
Ren had used make-up to give his cheeks a pink flush and then painstakingly drawn in freckles over his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. In every shot he was in, even the candid ones, he looked like a pin-up. The Christmas tree in the photo had been hot pink and had feather boas instead of garland.
“Sorry,” Colin said.
“Don’t ever be ashamed of the time your life was perfect,” Peter said, and meant it. They put the star on the top of the tree and it lit up. Colin’s tree was a traditional Douglas fir model.
“Have you always disliked the holidays?” Colin asked.
Peter downed his apple cider. The two kittens they’d adopted, back in the wonderful month where Colin wasn’t working on a project and their future together had seemed so set, tore into the room in a tabby tumbleweed. The cider had cooled down since Colin had ladled it out of the slow cooker. The entire house smelled of nutmeg and cinnamon. The tree in the corner was fake, but the wreath over the door was real spruce boughs. The little two bedroom, single floor house was modern eleven months of the year, but the reclaimed hardwood floors sold it as Santa’s workshop.
“Yes. There were a lot of fights.”
Colin rubbed Peter’s shoulders. “Do you want to go out for chicken wings?”
It was the least Christmas thing they could do. They watched the hockey game at the lounge in the nicer of the two bars downtown rather than sit in the dining room where there were carols playing.