The Santa Mug
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by Patric Michael
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica
Description: When Marlon died on Christmas Eve, Darren withdrew from the holidays, and life in general, until Max, the man who introduced him to Marlon, invites Darren to his parents' house for Thanksgiving. Darren agrees and is immediately overwhelmed by Max's large, boisterous family. He tries to retreat behind familiar barriers, but Max has other ideas for the reclusive young man. It's not until Max delivers Marlon's last Christmas gift, four years late, that Darren truly understands that love is the greatest gift of all.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: December 2009
27 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [82 KB]
Reading time: 48-67 min.
Darren stared at the contents of his refrigerator for a long moment and then shut the door with a sigh. He glanced across the kitchen at the calendar, though he knew perfectly well what day it was. With another sigh, more felt than heard, Darren opened the refrigerator again and took out a beer. He pulled the tab, not particularly caring that it foamed over his hand and splashed the floor. He let the door swing closed of its own accord, also not caring whether it did so or not, and took his beer, dinner for tonight at least, into the living room to watch TV. * * * *
The phone rang, jolting Darren out of his doze. On the TV screen, Jimmy Stewart was crowing his yearly nonsense about rose petals.
"Fuck you, Jimmy," Darren muttered.
The phone rang again, and Darren struggled to remember where he put the damn thing. He found it beneath an old newspaper and flipped it open.
"Hey, Darren, it's Max. You got a minute?"
Shit. Max. The last person in the world he wanted to talk to right now. Why hadn't he bothered to check caller ID?
"Um, sure Max. What's up?"
"You okay, man? You sound sort of funny."
"Yeah, I'm good. I fell asleep on the couch. What's going on?" Darren lifted his beer can, felt the emptiness of it and groaned silently.
"Hey, listen. I've got a favor to ask of you."
Darren went back to the kitchen for another beer and crooked the phone against his shoulder while he opened it. "What kind of favor?" Deep suspicion tinged his voice. A not particularly unwarranted suspicion, given the circumstances.
"Well...." Max hesitated, cleared his throat, and began again. "I was wondering if you... Maybe if you would--"
"Just spill it, Max."
"Would you come with me to my parents' house for Thanksgiving?"
Of all the possible things Max might have said, might have asked for, that had to be the very last thing Darren would ever have expected.
Max. Maxwell Alton Torreigne. A friend of the most casual sort for years, Max was a fixture as common as water and as comfortable as an old slipper. Max was who you called when you felt like seeing a movie or a game and didn't want to go alone, knowing there were no strings attached. Max was the one you called for a ride when you got too drunk. You could rely on Max. He was dependable.
He was not, however, someone you spent a holiday with, and most especially not a holiday at the 'rents house. Was he?
For a moment, Darren had an irrational urge to stick his head out the kitchen window and howl with laughter.
"Darren? Are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. Did you say Thanksgiving, at your parents' house?"
"Oh. Yeah. I'm sorry. You probably already have plans. I should have realized." Max paused for the briefest instant. "My bad."
"No, no, Max. I don't have any plans as a matter of fact. You just surprised me, is all. What's this all about?"
"I don't know. Well, I do, actually. I haven't been home in almost six years, and Ma's been getting more and more insistent, constantly e-mailing me about what the family's been up to, and this is the first year they've all gotten time off together, and so on." Max sighed audibly. "I kind of wish they never got that damned computer. Ma's like some kind of e-mail fiend." His tone brightened, and he continued, "Anyway, I'm thinking that with the thundering horde, also known as my brothers and sisters, all paired off, according to Ma, I'd be the odd man out. I guess I was hoping you'd come with, so I didn't have to deal with all of them giving me 'the look'. You know the kind I mean."
"Wait a minute," Darren said. "You want me to come as your date?"
"Oh, hell, no!" Max sounded truly amused. "I was thinking more as my bodyguard."
Darren laughed, vaguely surprised by his own reaction. He could feel sadness lurking beneath the surface, but for that brief moment, the laughter won.
"How many brothers and sisters do you have again?"
"Just five, actually, but no matter how old I get, I'll always be the baby, you know?"
"Not really," Darren said. "I was an only child."
"Oh. I'm sorry. I forgot." Max sounded chagrined.
Darren laughed again. "It's not necessarily a bad thing, Max. Lots of people don't have siblings, and we do manage, after all."
"Yeah, I know. But...."
"Don't worry about it. What do you want me to bring?"
"You'll do it? Really?" Now Max sounded surprised, as though he hadn't really expected Darren to agree.
"Yes, really. Are we driving or flying?"
"Driving, and I'll do it. I know how you are behind the wheel."
"Smartass. I'll buy the gas then." Darren looked at the beer in his hand and took a drink. Somehow, it didn't seem all that appealing anymore.
"No way. It's all on me. I was looking at spending a few days there, though. I've got two weeks off, so I thought I would play it against whatever time you could get."
"I can do a week, probably," Darren said. "How far away are they, again?"
"Just a day if the roads stay clear. Four hundred miles and change." Max laughed ruefully. "Sometimes even that doesn't seem far enough away."
"I can't even begin to imagine," Darren said. His voice held a note Max caught easily.
"Oh, shit, Darren. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."
"Don't worry about it, man. They made their choice. Up to me to live with it."
"Yeah, I know. You said that before, but can I ask you something?" Max paused for a moment. "You really did sound sort of funny."
"Sure," Darren said. "Ask me anything."
"Are you? Are you living with it? I know what time of year this is for you."
Anything but that, Darren thought. "I get by, Max. I always do."
"Yeah, sure, but if you ever want company while you get by, call me, okay?"
"I've got you on speed dial, baby." Darren said.
"And you've got a broken finger, apparently." Max replied without missing a beat. "Seriously, if you need to talk...." He let the words trail off.
"Then I'll dial with my toes. Now enough of this maudlin shit. When are you coming to get me?"
"If you can get a week, how about Tuesday morning, say about five-thirty?"
"Five-thirty! Isn't that a bit early? You know I'm not coherent until at least eleven."
"I know," Max said. "But I don't want to get there in the middle of the night."
Darren sighed. "All right, but you bring the coffee if you want me to be even remotely functional."
"I'll bring the coffee," Max said. "You bring a pillow."
"I'll do that. Want me to bring anything else?"
"Nope. Just your handsome self. And Darren? Thanks. I really appreciate it."
"No problem. I haven't been on a road trip in ages."
Max laughed. "We'll have fun. I'll see you on Tuesday."
"All right, Max. If you say so." Darren sounded dubious.
"Really, it'll be fun. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"'K', bye." Darren closed the phone and stared at the beer can still in his hand.
The question is: do I really want to have fun?