A Colin and Josh Halloween story!

“Trick or treat!” Sarah Gardener called, knocking on the door in front of her. Behind her, her older sister, Deborah, hung back at her father’s side.

“Go on, Deb,” David encouraged. “Go get some candy.”

“Daddy, that’s kid stuff,” the fourteen-year-old told him.

“Kid stuff!” Colin blurted, in fake shock. “Do I look like a kid to you?”

Deborah Gardener turned to him and giggled. “You look silly, Uncle Colin.”

Behind her Joshua snickered, but Colin squatted down beside her. He was dressed in a Kelly-green jacket with long tails. A bow tie and high-top hat of the same color completed his costume. In his hand was a trick or treat container in the shape of a pumpkin. “Hey,” he said, taking the Deborah’s hand. “I’m going after some candy! Don’t you like candy?”

“I love candy,” Deborah said, still giggling. “But trick or treat is for kids isn’t it?”

Colin drew himself to his full height. “Deb, am I a kid?” He held out his hand. “C’mon. Keep me company. Let’s see if we can get more candy than Uncle Josh.” He bent to her and whispered: “He thinks his crappy costume is better than mine! Let’s show him!”

Sarah turned from the door, her trick or treat bag in her hand, and pointed at him, giggling. “You said a swear, Uncle Colin!”

“Shhhhh!” Colin said, waving his hands. “Don’t tell! Your dad will yell at me!” He took Deborah’s hand and they moved toward the door. “Josh, c’mon!” he yelled over his shoulder.

Laughing, David turned to Joshua. “Well get up there! The integrity of your costume has been called into question.”

Joshua sighed heavily and looked down at himself. He was dressed as Superman, complete with red cape and tights. “WHAT integrity!” he asked David. “He stuck me into this ridiculous costume so he could laugh at me, and he hasn’t stopped laughing since I put the damned thing on!”

Nate snickered and offered Joshua a bite of chocolate. “Have some chocolate. You’ll feel better.”

Joshua ate the chocolate then grimaced at Nate. “I do NOT feel better.” He heaved a huge sigh and moaned: “WHY did I let him talk me into this?”

“Because you love him?” Nate suggested. “And because he can talk you into anything!”

“Not anything!” Joshua protested.

“Probably not your most effective argument while you’re standing on a public sidewalk dressed in red and blue spandex,” Nate said, choking with laughter.

Meanwhile Colin and Deborah had knocked at the door. “Trick or Treat! Leprechaun come callin’!” Colin called in a faked Irish brogue which caused Deborah to giggle uncontrollably. “Open the door if you want to have good luck!” The door opened and Colin bowed low from the waist. “Greetings, Madam,” he said using the same exaggerated Irish accent, then leaned toward the smiling and very attractive young lady. “This young lass and I have come in search of candy! Have you any to spare?” He grinned his engaging grin and held out his pumpkin. Deborah continued to giggle but when Colin nudged her, she extended her trick or treat bag as well.

The woman laughed and dumped a large handful of miniature chocolate bars into each of their containers before arching an eyebrow at Colin. “I’ve never seen a Leprechaun trick or treating before,” she said, her tone clearly flirtatious.

Behind them Joshua rolled his eyes. “Oh, here we go!” While David and Nate doubled over with laughter.

Colin took the woman’s hand and kissed it. “Aye, me dear. I am a Leprechaun. Lost me pot of gold and come searching for candy with the help of this fine Irish lass. We thank you for helping us on our quest.”

“Where’s my good luck?” She asked with a coy smile.

“I’ll bring it back for ye’ later,” he murmured, then waggled an eyebrow and bowed low again, before taking Deborah’s hand and leading her back to where the rest waited.

“No fair, Daddy,” Sarah pouted, examining Deborah’s recent haul. “Debbie got more chocolate bars than I did.”

“I suspect it’s the company she keeps,” Joshua muttered, then elbowed Colin. “Knock off the damned flirting!”

Colin shook with laughter and kissed his cheek before quickly dumping most of his chocolate bars into Sarah’s container. “There you go, Lassie,” he said, bending to kiss the top of her head.

Sarah giggled. “You’re funny Uncle Colin.”

Colin handed his pumpkin to Joshua, then took each of the girls by the hand and began skipping down the sidewalk, singing as they went.

La ta tee, da diddley dee, la ta tee ta tee da

La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai

La ta tee, da diddley dee, la ta tee ta tee da

La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai

There’s a leprechaun in my room.

He swats me with a broom.

That’s the reason I forget the words of this song.

Oh, he shows me a four-leaf clover,

and before me song is over,

He’s buried it in a bowl of Lucky Charms.

The other three men strolled behind them, shaking their heads and laughing. “I never thought I’d see the day he’d actually admit to being a Leprechaun,” Joshua chuckled. “He hates them!”

“He’s doing it for the girls,” David said, nodding toward Colin who was teaching the girls the lyrics to his Leprechaun song. “He’s great with them.”

“Why wouldn’t he be?” Joshua laughed. “He’s a kid himself!” He gazed ahead at his husband. “He has the ability to blow off inhibitions and throw himself into the moment with all the innocence and joy of a child.” He smiled and shook his head in wonder. “God, I love that about him.”

A few steps ahead of them, Colin crouched before David’s daughters. “Now when we go to this next house, what are we gonna’ do?”

“Sing: La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai!” they both crowed.

“Perfect!” Colin said, then took their hands and walked with them to the door.

“C’mon, Uncle Josh!” Sarah called, waving him forward. “Bring your pumpkin!”

Nate snickered and gave Joshua a gentle shove. “Yer’ on, Caped Crusader!”

“Oh, good lord above,” Joshua moaned, moving toward Colin and the girls with a slow, plodding step while behind him David and Nate grinned at his discomfort.

“C’mon, babe!” Colin encouraged. He reached to grab Joshua’s arm and pulled him close. “Now when the door opens… you know what to sing don’t you?” Colin asked, his green eyes sparkling with suppressed laughter.

Joshua glanced at him through narrowed lids and a furrowed brow. “Do not make me do this.”

Colin’s hand fell onto his shoulder and he doubled over with laughter. He tried to respond but was laughing so hard that he couldn’t form words.

Joshua rolled his eyes and sighed and just as he did… the door opened.

“La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai!” Deborah, Sarah, and Colin sang. Then Colin did a dance step that could only have been an Irish jig and gestured toward Sarah and Deborah with a flourish.

Joshua couldn’t help but laugh as the girls did their best to imitate Colin’s jig, then held out their trick or treat bags to receive their candy.

“Doesn’t Superman want some candy?” the woman at the door asked.

“Sure he does!” Colin said, reaching back to grab Joshua’s arm. “He’s just shy,” he whispered to the woman as he dragged Joshua forward. “We found him hiding in a phone booth and convinced him to come along with us.” He nudged Joshua’s arm and nodded toward the woman who was holding out a handful of candy and laughing at Colin’s antics.

Joshua accepted the candy then bowed. “Thank you, ma’am.”

“Strange company you’re keeping,” she said with a grin.

“Ma’am you have NO idea,” Joshua muttered, then turned back to Colin and the girls. “Can’t I please just stay hang back with Nate and David?”

“You don’t want to trick or treat with me?” Colin asked, his hand on Joshua’s arm.

Something in his tone caught Joshua’s attention. This whole evening had been a lark. A frolic to entertain David’s two daughters and give Colin a chance to do what he did best… enjoy himself. But his question to Joshua held a surprising note of appeal.

I hurt his feeling. Joshua thought. I have to fix this.

The girls were tugging on Colin’s arms, but he stood, unmoving, staring into Joshua’s eyes, his hand still grasping Joshua’s spandex covered arm. For the first time that evening, his eyes were shadowed. Joshua smiled and reached to caress his cheek. “Of course, I want to go trick or treating with you,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss a chance to share Halloween with my very favorite Leprechaun, would I?”

Colin smiled. “Come on then,” he said, taking Joshua’s hand in his. “OK, girls,” he told him pointing to the next house, “I’ll bring Uncle Josh, you two just remember to sing our song when they come to the door.”

The girls scampered ahead and as soon as the door opened, sang Colin’s song and gave a fairly good impression of his Irish jig. Laughing, the man at the door filled their bags then glanced back at Colin and Joshua who were standing behind the girls, hand in hand. “Superman with a Leprechaun?” he asked, holding a handful of candy out to them.

“Well, sir,” Joshua said, stepping forward. “This Leprechaun here was encouraging these young ladies to play pranks on the other children, which as you know is not in keeping with truth, justice and the Halloween way.” He accepted the candy and tilted his head toward Colin. “So, I’m forced to follow him around tonight… to make sure he behaves himself.”

“Little does he know,” Colin said from behind him, waving his pumpkin, “that I hid a handful of kryptonite in his pumpkin!”

“Oh no!” Joshua cried, holding his pumpkin at arm’s length while the man laughed. “Not kryptonite!”

Colin waved his pumpkin and gave an evil, wicked laugh. “Beware Superman! You WILL be at my mercy!”

“We’ll protect you, Uncle Josh,” Sarah said, then shook her finger at Colin. “No fair using kryptonite!”

“Awwwww,” Colin complained. “You guys are no fun. I wanted to sap Superman’s strength.”

“One more house, girls,” David called, waving them forward.

Joshua sidled up to Colin and nudged his arm. “I’ll be at your mercy, huh?”

Colin waggled his eyebrows and snickered. “Completely at my mercy.”

“You don’t need kryptonite for that,” Joshua said, poking Colin’s ribs and leaning against him.

“Now, now,” David admonished, chuckling. “None of that in front of the girls.”

Nate had trailed David’s daughters to the final house and was making a valiant attempt to sing Colin’s song and do his Irish jig.

Colin laughed. “Well done, Nate!” He nudged David’s arm. “Has your husband got a touch of Irish blood?”

David shook his head, smiling. “What my husband has is a burning desire to be loved by his step-daughters.”

“Doesn’t look to me like he has any problems in that area,” Colin replied, watching as Sarah and Deborah both laughed and hugged Nate, praising his singing.

“He’s a great step-dad to them,” David said, watching as Nate ushered the girls back to where everyone waited.

“Is that all?” Colin said, a note of sadness in his voice. “We’re all done?”

“Colin, we probably went to thirty houses,” David said. “They have enough candy to keep them wired for a week.”

“Besides,” Nate added, “we have to check it before they can eat any of it.”

“Check it?” Joshua asked.

“Good idea,” Colin said. He dumped most of the candy in his pumpkin and Joshua’s into Deborah and Sarah’s candy bags. “Make sure it hasn’t been tampered with.”

The four men and the girls wandered through the neighborhood and back to David’s home where Nate took the girls to the kitchen table to go through their candy. “How much can they have tonight, David?” he called.

“Just a couple of candy bars,” David said from where he reclined on the living room couch. “Then off to bed.”

Colin went to the kitchen to hug the girls and say goodnight while Joshua donned his jacket and fished his car keys from the pocket. “Thanks for asking us, David. He had a great time.”

“And you?” David asked, rising to them to the door.

“I never went trick or treating as a kid,” Joshua said, looking past David to where Colin stood, joking and teasing Nate and the two girls, threatening to steal choice candy bars. “I don’t know how to unwind and enjoy the moment the way he does.”

“Never went trick or treating?” David asked, frowning.

“The old man wouldn’t let us.”

David shook his head as Colin moved to Joshua’s side and patted David’s shoulder. “Thanks, buddy! I had a blast.”

“La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai!” Joshua sang, then grinned at Colin. “So did I. Thanks for asking us, Davy.”

Colin took Joshua’s hand as they walked to the car. “You learned my song!”

Joshua grinned at him. “Well it’s not like I’d never heard it before. I get it from the shower nearly every morning.”

“I know you were embarrassed in that Superman getup,” Colin said as they climbed into Joshua’s car. “Was I mean to insist?”

“No,” Joshua told him. “It was good for me. The whole evening was good for me.”

When they arrived at home Colin threw his Kelly-green hat to a chair before yanking off the bow tie and removing the Leprechaun coat. “OK,” he said, dusting his hands together. “My time as a Leprechaun is officially over.”

“’Til next Halloween,” Joshua added.

“Yeah. ‘Til next Halloween, when I’ll don it again.”

“I thought we were going to do ‘Slave boy and Master’ next Halloween,” Joshua said with a grin.

“In front of David’s daughters?” Colin asked in fake horror. He walked to where Joshua stood and rested both wrists on Joshua’s shoulders. “Look, I’m sorry if I embarrassed you tonight.”

“You did not embarrass me,” Joshua said. He slid his hands up Colin’s chest then cupped Colin’s face between his palms. “Listen to me,” he said, his voice intense with feeling. “I would give anything to be like you. To be able to throw myself into the fun of the moment without worrying about how I look or what people think of me or any of that neurotic bullshit.”

“You’re not neurotic.”

“It’s hard for me to be that way, Colin,” Joshua continued. “And I’m always…,” he hesitated and glanced at Colin somewhat sheepishly. “I’m always afraid I’ll look stupid in front of you.”

Colin grimaced. “Come on!” he said dismissively.

“I mean it. I’m not able to just be spontaneous like you are. And I’m afraid if I force it, I’ll just look idiotic and embarrass you.”

“Embarrass me?” Colin said, wide-eyed. “I was the one doing a jig while dressed as a Leprechaun singing ‘La ta tee, da diddley diddley dae’ remember?” He cocked an eyebrow. “I’m not exactly fertile ground for embarrassment.” He slid his arms around Joshua’s waist. “Besides, you did get into it, Superman, and you were wonderful!”

“I was also scared to death,” Joshua admitted, resting his forehead on Colin’s shoulder.

“Scared of having fun on Halloween?” Colin asked.

Joshua’s eyes dropped, and Colin drew in a quick breath. “It was your dad wasn’t it,” he said, cupping Joshua’s chin in his hand, lifting his face until their eyes met. “He made you feel bad about having fun.”

“We got in trouble if we laughed too much or got too… rambunctious,” Joshua told him.

“You never really got to be a child, did you?” Colin asked, his voice gentle.

“Not really, no,” Joshua replied. “So, I feel really awkward when I’m in situations like tonight. I don’t know how to act. I don’t know how to be spontaneous. I’m inhibited all the damned time!”

“Except in bed,” Colin teased, nudging Joshua’s arm.

Joshua laughed softly. “Being with you helps with that, believe me.”

Colin stood beside him in silence, staring past him as if thinking. After a long moment he once again, met Joshua’s eyes. “Will you do something for me?”

“Anything. You know that.”

“Will you play with me?”

“What?!”

“Play with me. Go to the park and just…  play! We can play catch or – or swing on the swings! I love doing that!” He wrapped both arms around Joshua’s neck and drew him close. “We’re going to hop on the merry-go-round and spin until you’re dizzy! We’re going to go up and down on the teeter-totter! We’re going to play!” He captured Joshua’s face between his palms and kissed him. “Will you? Will you, Josh?”

“Colin,” Joshua said, his voice choked. “God, you’re so good to me.”

“I just want you to trust that when you’re with me, it’s not only OK to be yourself… it’s actually encouraged!”

They climbed the steps to their bedroom, Colin’s arm tight around Joshua’s shoulders. “I’m going to teach you how to be a kid,” Colin told him. “You might even end up being an obnoxious kid.”

Joshua laughed and leaned against him. “You think so?”

“Anything’s possible,” Colin said as they stepped into their bedroom. “I know this much. By next Halloween you’re not going to be afraid to have fun with me.”

Joshua smiled at him. “You nailed it. It’s all about being afraid.” He sighed and began to undress, piling his clothes on a nearby chair.

Colin watched him, slowly pulling his own clothes off as he did. He turned to deposit several items on the bedside table, then turned back to Joshua. “Well, I’m no shrink. But I do know this…,” he said, walking to Joshua and wrapping him in his arms. “There’s not one damn thing wrong with letting your hair down now and then and just having fun. There’s not one damn thing wrong with just being silly now and then.”

“Certainly, you have no problem with it,” Joshua chuckled, then kissed him tenderly. “And I envy you for that.”

Colin drew him to the bed and they both lay down. “Trust me, Joshua,” Colin said, holding him close in his arms. “I’m going to teach you how to play. But more than that… I’m going to teach you how to enjoy it.” He reached to one side and grabbed a small item. “And we’re gonna start with this.” He reached around Joshua to awkwardly pull the wrapper off several small chocolate bars then held one between his teeth and leaned toward Joshua, who burst into laughter.

Colin waggled his eyebrows, the candy held tight between his lips and Joshua laughed again before kissing him, taking his share of the chocolate at the same time.

They both giggled and Colin held a chocolate to Joshua’s mouth. “Your turn,” he said, grinning.

Joshua laughed and took the candy between his lips, waiting until Colin bent to kiss him as they shared the chocolate.

They both laughed, licking the leftover chocolate from each other’s lips. “Now see?” Colin said. “That’s how to be a kid!”

“Happy Halloween, sweetie,” Joshua whispered, his fingers tangled in Colin’s hair. “I love you so much.”

“Same to ya,” Colin said with a grin. “Now pass me another chocolate bar ‘cause I’m just getting started.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Anniversary: A Colin and Josh short story.

The Anniversary

Colin had been unusually quiet all through dinner. He responded whenever Joshua spoke to him and smiled when it seemed to be called for, but he initiated no conversation and left the table as soon as he was done eating.

Joshua frowned and called after him: “Colin, do you want dessert? There are a couple slices of pie left from last night and a bit of ice cream in the fridge.”

“Nah, babe, I’m good,” Colin replied. He pulled his phone from his pocket and, as Joshua watched, he hit a speed-dial number as he moved through the kitchen and out the back door to the porch where his exercise equipment stood silent. Joshua heard him say: “Hi, mom. How’re you doing?” Then his voice faded as he continued outside.

“Now that’s damned odd,” Joshua muttered as he began to gather up their dinner dishes. He doesn’t want pie? Since when? He’s been awfully quiet. And now he calls his mom and doesn’t let me talk to her? “Yeah,” Joshua said as he sat the dishes in the sink. “Something’s wrong.”

He wandered to their enclosed back porch and looked out the window. Colin stood in the middle of the yard with his back to the house, still talking on the phone. He spoke for a long time, then lowered his phone and began to turn.

Joshua moved away from the window but was waiting in the kitchen when Colin re-entered. “How’s your mom?”

“Oh, she’s fine. She says ‘Hi’.”

“Why didn’t you let me talk to her?”

Colin shrugged and moved past him. “I dunno. Didn’t think of it.”

Joshua followed him to the living room and sank down on the couch next to him. “Colin, you know how pissed you get at me when you know something’s bothering me and I don’t talk to you about it?”

Colin shot him a sideways glance. “Yeah?”

“Well I’m getting that exact same feeling now.”

“You think I’m pissed at you?”

“Stop it.”

Colin dropped his eyes and drew in a long, deep breath. “Josh, it’s not a big deal.”

“Then you should have no trouble telling me about it.”

Colin coughed out a short, mocking laugh and his head gave a quick flick. “Clever boy.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Josh, it’s…,” again, he breathed out a short, pained sigh, then turned to face his husband. “There’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.”

“That doesn’t justify keeping it to yourself.” He grasped Colin’s arm. “Please, Colin. Please don’t shut me out. I’m the guy… remember?”

Colin’s head dropped, but a small smile touched his lips. For a moment he said nothing, simply stared down at the floor drawing in long, slow breaths. Then his head rose, and he met Joshua’s eyes. “Today is the anniversary of Kathy’s death.”

“Oh god, baby,” Joshua whispered. “I’m so sorry. I wish I’d known.”

“Why?” Colin asked, falling back against the couch, his eyes lifting to stare at the oaken beams crisscrossing their ceiling. “Nothing you could have done about it. It’s just a day. I’ll get past it.”

“How’s your mom?”

Colin shrugged. “She’s coping. She’s going out with some friends tonight. But, it’s on her mind of course.”

“Of course, it is.” Joshua pressed his forehead to Colin’s shoulder, hugging his arm. “And you’re wrong that there’s nothing I can do about it. This day is important. It deserves some memorial.”

“Josh, I don’t want that. I just want to get through the day and think about it as little as possible.”

“How’s that working out for you so far?” Joshua asked.

“Not that great.”

“May I suggest something?”

Colin shot him a sideways glance. “What?”

“Trying to ignore days like this seldom works. It’s too big. It’s too much a part of everything you are.”

“I keep reliving it, Josh. Opening that damned bedroom door and seeing…,” he shuddered, and his voice trailed off.

“OK. Let’s do something to honor her life. Then maybe you can stop thinking about her death. Let’s do some small – I dunno – some small ceremony.”

“Like what?”

“Nothing big. Let’s light a candle for her. And… and… I’ll say the Kaddish. The Jewish mourner’s prayer. It’s short. Only take a minute. Kaddish means ‘holy’. Let’s sanctify this day. Let’s let some light into this dark place.”

Colin stared into Joshua’s eyes for a long time, then leaned forward and kissed him. “God, I love you, Joshua,” he whispered. “I love you so damn much.”

“Then you’ll do it?”

“Yes, my love. I’ll do it.”

Joshua nodded, then kissed Colin’s cheek. He rose and went to the kitchen, returning moments later with small, glass candleholder. “This is just a little voltive candle. I keep it in the kitchen in case we lose power. But… it’s pretty. Will this do?” he asked, holding the candle out for Colin to inspect.

Colin nodded. “Of course, it’ll do.” He rose and moved to Joshua’s side as he sat the candle on their mantle.

Joshua lit the small candle, then turned and extinguished the living room lights. The candleholder was adorned with small Jewish symbols and its light danced over their faces illuminating the space around them with a radiant glow.

Joshua reached for Colin’s hand as they stood together before the flickering flame. Then he spoke in a voice as soft and low as the candle’s light.

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.

May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

He heard Colin murmur: “Amen.”

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

Both men said “Amen” then for a moment there was silence. Joshua looked up and saw that Colin’s cheeks were damp. He took his husband in his arms and pressed his face against Colin’s chest. “I love you too,” he whispered, his voice fierce in the darkened room. “With my whole heart and soul, I love you.”

Colin nodded, his arms tightening around Joshua’s body, pressing them together until not a molecule could have passed between them. “Thank you. Thank you for this.”

“Thank you for letting me do it,” Joshua replied. He led Colin back to the couch. “Do you want the lights on?”

“No,” Colin said. “Let’s leave it like this for a little while.” He lifted Joshua’s hand to his lips and kissed it. “Hey, did you notice that your mourner’s prayer doesn’t say one word about dying or death?”

Joshua laughed. “It’s a weird thing,” he muttered, then glanced at his husband. “But you know how weird Jews can be.”

Colin laughed. “Yeah, I learn something new about that nearly every day.”

“Kathy brought her own special blessing into the world, her own special holiness. And it’s hard to heap praise on God after he’s taken that special holiness away from us.” He slid his thumb across Colin’s damp cheek. “The prayer changes our perspective. It turns our eyes away from ourselves. From our internal grief and anger… from our inner darkness and points us outward toward the future, toward the light and the blessings of God. And in that light, there is redemption and healing.” He shrugged. “Or at least that’s what my grandfather taught me.”

“Samuel,” Colin murmured.

“Yes. Samuel. He said the Kaddish five times a day for all the people in the camps who didn’t make it out like he did.”

Colin nudged Joshua. “Turn around.” He drew Joshua across his lap and into his arms, then nestled them close together, kissing his hair and then his lips. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet him.”

“And I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet Kathy. But I honestly feel like I’ve come to know her through you. And you know gramps through me. We carry them both inside us. They’re part of who we are.”

Colin made no reply, simply held Joshua closer in his arms, staring in silence at the flame which danced and flickered on their mantle. “I liked the part about creating peace for us.”

Joshua nodded, his head resting on Colin’s chest. “Peace is the opposite of grief, I think. It comes with the last stage of grieving. Acceptance.”

“I’ve felt guilty about that part… the acceptance. It’s like not caring that she’s gone.”

“No, my darling, it’s not. It’s accepting that she’s gone and that you may always feel sad about losing her, but at the same time realizing that her spirit moves forward with you as long as you remember her. That’s why little moments like the one we just shared are important.”

Colin squinted down at him. “Thank you, Dr. Josh.”

“Hey,” Joshua huffed, elbowing Colin’s ribs. “It’s not bad advice just because it comes from a psychologist.”

Colin chuckled softly. “I never would have believed it,” he murmured against Joshua’s hair. “That on this day of all days I could feel peace. And even a little joy.” He lifted Joshua in his arms until their eyes met. “But I do and it’s because of you. Because you’re wonderful. Because you’re loving and giving and wise. You take me to places I could never, ever reach without you.”

“Colin,” Joshua whispered, his voice choked.

“It’s the truth. Your love has done more to heal me than any amount of therapy could ever do.”

Joshua touched Colin’s cheek and kissed him tenderly. “Thank you. My love – my life,” he whispered. “But the therapy is still a good thing.”

“Maybe,” Colin murmured, nuzzling against Joshua’s dark hair. “But it’s sure not the only thing.”

“Did Kathy like pie?” Joshua asked.

Colin snorted out a laugh. “That’s a damned weird question.”

“Well we’ve already discussed Jewish weirdness so…,”

“Yeah. She loved pie just like I do. We’d ask for birthday pies instead of birthday cakes which drove our mother nuts.”

“Then let’s finish off the pie in her honor.”

Colin nodded, his face still pressed against Joshua’s dark curls. “If you like.”

“Makes me nervous when you say ‘no’ to pie.”

“Well, I don’t want that,” Colin said, then lifted Joshua in his arms. “OK, bud. Get up and we’ll go polish off the pie.” He got to his feet then turned to Joshua and took his hand as they stepped toward the kitchen. “I think you want pie,” Colin teased as they walked, “and you’re using me to get it.”

“As you already pointed out, I’m a clever boy.”

They sat at their small kitchen table as they ate their pie and ice cream.

“Feels odd,” Colin muttered.

“What does?”

“Celebrating this day. I’ve always kind of felt like it was my…. I dunno… brotherly duty to feel sad on this day.”

“And I’m sure you do. So does anyone who remembers what happened to her on this day. But is that what you think Kathy would want? For you to be sad? For you to turn away a moment of joy and peace? For you to turn down pie?

“No. She wouldn’t want me to be sad. And she REALLY wouldn’t want me to turn down pie!”

“Then here’s to Kathy,” Joshua said, lifting a forkful of pie.

Colin echoed his gesture. “To Kathy,” he murmured. Then he cocked his head and stared at Joshua, his gaze thoughtful. “Tell me, Dr. Josh. Do you think she’d mind if I ended this day by making love to the one I love more than life itself?”

Joshua smiled and took his hand. “Well, I didn’t know Kathy. But my educated guess is that she’d be happy you had someone to make love to who you loved more than life itself.”

Colin stood and used his hold on Joshua’s hand to draw him to his feet. “Then let’s blow out the candle and go upstairs,” he said, his voice barely a whisper as he drew Joshua close to him. “Because what I’m feeling right now is a ton of gratitude and a very powerful need to make someone I love very, very happy.”

“I doubt you’ll have to look far to find that someone,” Joshua whispered in reply.

They moved together toward the stairs and as they passed the mantle, Colin blew out the candle. “G’night, sis,” he muttered. “I love you.” He slid his arm around Joshua’s waist, and they moved up the stairs together.

Love Letters – A story for Colin’s Birthday

“What’s your most prized possession?” Joshua asked.

“My wedding ring,” Nate replied without a moment’s hesitation.

“I’d have to say that too,” Colin echoed. “Followed closely by this.” He pulled a pendant from around his neck, extending it for all to see. “It’s the emblem that was on our Chuppah. The Star of David wrapped in the Celtic Cross. The one his mother had designed for us.”

Joshua nodded. “I’m with Colin 100 percent.”

“Hmm,” David mused. “Well, I love my wedding ring. But my most prized possession—or rather possessions,” he amended quickly, “are the letters Nate wrote to me when he and I lived on opposite coasts. I treasure those letters beyond anything else in my life. I came to know him through those letters; we grew close though writing to each other.” He paused for a moment then continued. “Maybe the distance made it possible for us to be more open, more honest. But I can follow the path of our love’s growth just by reading them in order. They still give me a thrill.”

Nate leapt to his feet and pressed a kiss to David’s cheek. He whispered something into his ear, then settled on his lap. “Well, I am a good writer.” He kissed David again, then turned to Joshua. “You must treasure Colin’s love letters the same way.”

“I don’t have any,” Joshua replied. “He never wrote me a love letter, or any other kind of letter, come to think of it.”

“I don’t like putting things in writing,” Colin mumbled.

“What!” Nate spouted. “You afraid he’ll sue you?”

“Hey!” Colin responded. “He never wrote me any either.”

“Well, none that I actually sent,” Joshua murmured, drawing a darting glance from Colin.

“You wrote me love letters but didn’t send them?”

Joshua shrugged. “I wrote them more for me than for you. To, well… vent my feelings, I guess. Given the way we parted I didn’t think you’d care to read them.”

Colin growled out an unintelligible response and turned away scowling, staring into the fireplace.

“Give them to him now,” Nate suggested, noting Colin’s somber expression.

“Do you still have them?” Colin asked, spinning toward his husband.

“I think they’re in Glencoe,” Joshua told him. “In my dresser drawer.”

“I want those letters,” Colin blurted out.

“Oh, Lord god,” Joshua moaned.

“What?” Nate asked. “You don’t want him to read them?”

“I was pretty—well—emotional when I wrote them. They might be a little,” he squirmed, his face flushed, “embarrassing.”

“For whom?” Nate asked. “Him? Or you?”

“Me mainly,” Joshua admitted. “I honestly didn’t think anyone would ever read them, so I was pretty, umm…” he shrugged, his voice trailing off.

“Open and honest?” David suggested.

Joshua grimaced. “More like blunt and explicit.”

“I want those letters,” Colin repeated.

“Honey, why?” Joshua said, leaning toward him. “I was pretty upset when I wrote them. I was just… spewing. Trying to ease my broken heart. They weren’t really meant to be read. They were…” he shrugged again, “… therapy.”

“Did you go into detail about what a dick he was?” Nate asked, nudging Colin with his elbow.

“No!” Joshua said. “Of course not! He wasn’t a dick.”

“I was a dick,” Colin disagreed, leaning forward to poke Nate back. “I was a huge dick.”

“Now you’re just bragging,” Nate teased.

Colin reached for Joshua’s hand. “I won’t read them if you’d rather I didn’t,” he told his husband. “But I will say this. There’s no amount of emotional openness and honestly, even blunt and explicit honesty, that you need ever find embarrassing. Not with me.” His hand tightened and he drew Joshua closer. “And I’d genuinely like to know what you were feeling back then.”

“Oh god, Colin,” Joshua groaned. He grimaced and bowed his head, then felt Colin’s hand tug him closer.

“I want to read them,” he repeated.

“Fine!” Joshua said, sagging in defeat. He husked out a noisy sigh. “Next time we’re in Glencoe I’ll give them to you.”

“Oh, I cannot wait to hear what’s in those letters,” Nate said with a grin.

“You honestly think I’d tell you what’s in them?” Colin asked him, then dunked two fingers into his glass of beer and flicked the liquid onto Nate’s face. “Forget it!”

Nate wiped his face, laughing. “You don’t know that. Wait ‘til you read them. You might want to broadcast them to everyone you know.”

“Not unless he wants to spend a month eating bread and water for dinner,” Joshua muttered, slumping in his chair. “I don’t even want him to read them let alone anyone else.”

“Unless you absolutely forbid it, I’m reading those letters,” Colin declared.

“Well, I won’t forbid it,” Joshua said, his voice heavy with reluctance. “But I won’t be doing the dance of joy either.”

“How many are there?” Nate asked.

“Only a few, three or four. I may have thrown some of them away.”

“Josh!” Colin protested.

“Well, dammit, Colin, I never expected you to read them! I told you. They were just… therapy.”

“We gotta’ plan a trip to Glencoe.”

“Oh god help me.”

***

But it was weeks before they even discussed a trip to Glencoe and only then because Colin’s birthday was approaching, and Joshua’s family wanted to celebrate it with him. Much to Joshua’s relief, Colin hadn’t mentioned the letters since they’d first discussed them with David and Nate, and he secretly hoped they’d slipped his mind. Maybe I can manage to avoid this whole embarrassing chapter, he thought.

When they finally arrived at the Abrams family home, Joshua carried his suitcase up the long staircase which led to their bedroom while Colin lingered behind in animated conversation with Joshua’s mother and brother.

“Jessica baked you the most beautiful cake,” Bracha told him. “I can’t wait for you to see it!”

“You guys are so good to me,” Colin said, then kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

“And I might even let you win a game of chess this trip,” Joshua’s brother teased. “As a birthday present, you know.”

“Oh, Abel, please spare me your bull…” he glanced at Bracha and hastily changed the ending, “…crap. I kicked your Jewish butt last time we were here. You leaned too hard on the ‘King’s Gambit’ and it cost you, bro.”

Joshua looked down at them from the top of the stairs and smiled, then lugged his suitcase into the bedroom. He tossed it onto the bed, then on impulse moved to the dresser. For a moment he stood before it in silence, then slid the top drawer open. Tucked far in the back underneath a pile of socks lay a packet of papers wrapped in a red ribbon. Joshua hesitated, then drew them out and stared down at them, startling when the bedroom door burst open, admitting an excited Colin.

“Hey bud, guess what!” he blurted out, tossing his suitcase next to Joshua’s. “Jessica baked me a cake!”

“Well, you had to know she would,” Joshua replied, laughing. He shoved the letters to the back of the drawer and shut it before Colin could notice. “Do you want to unpack now?” Joshua asked. “Or wait ‘til after dinner.” He turned toward Colin and glanced at his watch. “Probably won’t be long ‘til we eat.”

Colin flopped onto the bed and sat motionless, staring at Joshua. “What I want, my dearest husband, is for you to stop sandbagging me and give me those letters.”

Joshua winced and let out a frustrated sigh. “Dammit, Colin!”

“What! C’mon, Josh. How bad can they be?”

Joshua wrinkled his nose. “Have you ever done anything deeply embarrassing?”

“Well, there’s the time I puked on your shoes in McCafferty’s parking lot,” Colin admitted with a grin. “But, shit, I don’t dwell on that kind of stuff. Everyone does embarrassing things at some point in their lives. And anyway, why should love letters embarrass you?”

“Because they’re not just love letters,” Joshua told him. “They’re me having an emotional breakdown in writing because the man I loved broke my heart.” He shot Colin an exasperated glance. “God, I’m sorry I ever mentioned them.”

Colin frowned and got to his feet. He walked to where Joshua stood and laid both hands on his shoulders. “Look,” he said, “I don’t want you upset. If you’d really prefer that I not read them, then I won’t.” He shook Joshua gently. “We’ll have a ritual and burn them in the fireplace or something. Just to mark the occasion.” He pressed his lips to Joshua’s forehead then flashed his dimples in a quick grin. “It’s my birthday, baby! I want you to be happy!”

“Actually, your birthday was last weekend. We spent it in Situate at your mother’s house, remember?”

“This is my ‘second’ birthday.”

“How many do you get?”

“As many as I damn well please.”

Joshua leaned against Colin’s chest and was enveloped in two strong arms which pulled him close. For a long moment he rested there, drawing in long, deep breaths, luxuriating in the feeling of Colin’s body pressed tightly against his own. He’s so damned good to me, Joshua thought.

He leaned back and stared up at Colin for a moment, then abruptly spun to face the dresser. He pulled the drawer open, grabbed the packet of papers, wheeled back to face Colin, and held them out. “Here.”

“I thought you didn’t…”

“I changed my mind.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you. Because you’re wonderful. And because it’s your second birthday and I don’t have any other gift to give you.” He extended the letters toward Colin. “Take them.”

Colin frowned and tilted his head, gazing at Joshua, his expression thoughtful. “Are you sure?”

“Take them,” Joshua said, jamming the letters into Colin’s hand. “Now go sit on the driftwood and read them cause I don’t want to be around.”

Colin tapped the letters against the palm of his hand, still gazing at Joshua. “OK. If you’re sure it’s what you want.”

“Go,” Joshua told him, then pushed him gently toward the door. “Just be sure no one else sees them!”

“I didn’t think I’d get to see them,” Colin told him, moving out of the bedroom and down the stairs. “I sure as hell wouldn’t let anyone else read my letters.” At the bottom of the stairs Colin turned and looked up at Joshua who stood at the top of the steps, leaning on the railing. For a long moment he didn’t move, then he threw Joshua a salute and strode toward the front door.

***

Darkness was falling by the time Colin returned to the house. Joshua was helping Jessica set the table for dinner, engaged in a lively discussion over whether or not Jessica would sit with the family on this occasion.

“You know Colin will want you there,” Joshua said, placing silverware next to each plate.

“What that sassy Irishman wants and what he gets are two different things!” Jessica snapped.

“C’mon, Jess,” Joshua coaxed. “It’d really make him happy if you sat with us. You know you are part of this family.”

The housekeeper scowled at him for a long moment, then sighed. “I’ll sit with you after I serve,” she conceded. “But only because it’s Colin’s birthday.”

Joshua smiled and hugged her just as Colin strode into the dining room. “You making him work for his supper?” he asked, hugging Jessica as well.

“He’s been setting the table for me since he was this tall,” Jessica told him, her palm nearly level with the floor.

“Give a call when you’re ready to serve,” Joshua called after her as she moved into the kitchen. “I’ll come help.” He turned back to Colin. “You hungry?”

“When am I not hungry?” Colin asked, then extended his hand. “Come with me for a minute.”

“Oh god,” Joshua moaned softly.

“What?”

“Are you going to make me talk about those letters?” Joshua asked as they strolled into the living room. “Do you have a million questions?”

Colin fell onto a sofa and pulled Joshua down beside him. He huffed out a noisy sigh and for a moment simply gazed into Joshua’s eyes. Then he pulled the packet of letters from his jacket pocket and held them out. “No. I don’t have any questions. And I’m not going to make you talk about them. But I do want to say that I’m really sorry for how badly I hurt you with my stupid Irish temper tantrum.”

Eyes lowered, Joshua reached with tentative fingers to accept the packet of letters. He caught his upper lip between his teeth and lifted his eyes to meet Colin’s. “Colin, you don’t have to…”

“I know,” Colin interrupted. “I know you don’t expect an apology and would never ask for one. But what I did to you back then was just plain wrong.”

“It was a reaction to the emotional pain you’d been suffering for twenty years,” Joshua replied, his voice gentle. He stretched out his hand and his fingers traced a slow path along Colin’s cheekbone. “The O’Malley case brought back all the feelings you had when you lost Kathy. The feelings you’d been suppressing since her death.”

“Didn’t justify verbally beating the shit out of you. You didn’t deserve that.”

“It’s not about that. It never was. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t me you were yelling at. I was just a stand-in for all that you’d been through.” He shrugged and feathered his lips across Colin’s. “I didn’t take it personally, Colin. Even then. I knew there were other factors at work.”

Colin nodded. “Thanks for letting me read them.”

“I’m not sure I did you a favor.”

“No, Josh. I’m glad I did. There were consequences to the actions I took that day, and I needed to recognize them.” He hesitated for a moment, then kissed Joshua’s cheek. “And I needed to apologize for them.”

“Some fucking love letters,” Joshua muttered, his voice husky with sorrow.

“Those letters were overflowing with love,” Colin insisted. He laced their fingers together and fell back against the couch. “Didn’t you tell me once that with great love comes the possibility of great pain?”

Joshua arched his brows and shrugged his agreement. “I prefer to demonstrate my love painlessly.” He leaned against Colin’s body and felt his husband’s arms tighten around him. “Happy fucking birthday,” he muttered and glanced up when Colin laughed aloud.

“Oh, stop it. Those letters didn’t hurt me. Just made me realize how lucky I am.” He shook himself, brows furrowed in aggravation. “I should have listened to my heart rather than my pride and come to Glencoe the minute I had your address. Would have prevented a lot of the pain you went through.”

Joshua grunted his acceptance of Colin’s words, then sat up when he heard Jessica’s voice coming through the house intercom.

“Joshua I’m about to serve. Everyone else, come sit.”

***

The birthday dinner was a joyous success. Jessica’s green and white multilayered cake was a celebration of all things Irish, and Colin couldn’t stop praising it. And when the family sang “Happy Birthday” to him, tears welled in his eyes.

“I’ll get the ice cream,” Jessica said after the song. “You can cut the cake.”

“Wait a second, Jess,” Joshua said, rising to his feet. “I have something to say first.” He drew in a deep breath then smiled down at his husband. “In Jewish tradition,” he began, then bent towards Colin, “which I know you love so well, a birthday psalm is usually read to the honored guest.” He swallowed hard. “The psalm used is the one which signifies the year the birthday boy is entering…” Again, he leaned towards Colin, “…which for you would be your thirty-sixth year.” He lifted a piece of paper, then glanced around at his family. “I’m only going to read part of the psalm because David does tend to go on and on, but to me this is the most fitting part. “And,” he added, “this a modern rendition.” He glanced down at Colin and read:

“God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness nothing is lost;
Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks.
How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.
Keep on loving your friends;
do your work in welcoming hearts.
Don’t let the bullies kick me around,
the moral midgets slap me down.
Send the upstarts sprawling flat
on their faces in the mud.”

He laid the paper down as everyone except Colin applauded. He sat, gazing up at Joshua, tears now sparkling on his cheeks.

“I know it’s probably blasphemy to say that, to me, this psalm speaks with perfect clarity about how I experience your love, but that’s exactly how I see it, Colin. Your love and protection are the banquet you offer, not just to me, but to anyone you care about. Your love is exquisite, and I am always, always, always eager to run under your wings. Your love opened my eyes to cascading light, a I hope you do your work in my welcoming heart for as long as you live.” He bent and kissed Colin who slid his fingers into Joshua’s curls. “Ani ohev otcha,” Joshua whispered. “Happy birthday, my magic man.”

Ta`mo chori istigh ionat,” Colin murmured in response, his voice choked with tears.

The family all applauded, and Jessica handed Colin a silver cake server. “OK. Now cut the cake and start putting the pieces on those cake plates. I’ll get the ice cream.”

They ate Colin’s magnificent birthday cake, accompanied by green mint ice cream, then Bracha handed Colin a wrapped gift. “From us,” she told him. “Happy birthday, Son.”

Still feeling a bit overwhelmed, Colin leaned close and kissed her. “Thanks, Mom.”

In the package was a beautiful set of silver cufflinks fashioned as a Celtic knot. “Wow!” Colin said as he examined them. “They’re beautiful! Thank you.”

Jessica’s present was a green Irish wool trinity cap, which Colin immediately donned, before jumping up to hug and kiss her in thanks.

“Spiffy!” Joshua said, laughing. “It looks perfect on you!”

After finishing their dessert, the family wandered into the living room. “Game of chess, bro?” Abel asked Colin as he and Joshua fell onto the sofa, but Colin shook his head.

“Not right now.” He turned to face Joshua. “I need to go upstairs and get something. OK?”

Puzzled, Joshua nodded and watched as Colin got to his feet. “I’ll be right back,” he said, then ambled toward the stairs.

“Where’s he going?” Bracha asked, glancing up from her glass of brandy.

“Dunno,” Joshua replied. “Said he needed to get something.”

The family chatted while Colin was gone, catching up on the latest happenings in their lives, and what they had planned for the future. Every few minutes Joshua glanced toward the stairs, but it was over a forty-five minutes before Colin returned.

“There he is!” Bracha said, smiling as her son-in-law entered the room.

“Took you long enough,” Joshua complained, laughing. “I was about to come looking for you.”

“Yeah, sorry,” Colin said, then held out his hand to Joshua. “Come with me for a minute.”

Surprised, Joshua shot a glance at his mother, then got to his feet and followed Colin as he led Joshua through the kitchen, stopping only to kiss Jessica who was clearing away the dinner dishes, before leading Joshua outside to the patio.

He hit the switch which bathed the area with soft golden light, then sat down on the stone wall which enclosed them, drawing Joshua down with him. For a moment he simply gazed into his husband’s eyes, then he breathed out a soft sigh and lifted Joshua’s hand to his lips.

“Colin, is something wrong?”

“No. Nothing’s wrong. I just have something to give you. Something I wanted to give you privately.” He withdrew a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and held it out. “Here. This is for you.”

Clearly puzzled, Joshua took the paper from Colin’s hand. “What it is?”

“Read it and you’ll see.”

Joshua unfolded the paper in his hands and read:

My dearest husband,

You let me read the love letters you wrote after I broke your heart, and it nearly broke mine to know how much damage my misplaced anger did to the most wonderful man I’ve ever known.

It’s not just that I blew my Irish top. It’s not just the awful things I said to you that day. It’s not just the terrible accusations I made. It’s so much more than that. Chief among my sins is the knowledge that I waited so long to come to you when I knew from the moment you left, that I could never, ever live without you. That I let my fear and pride stifle the voice of my love and need for you.

Josh, I was desolate after you left. I’d been fooling myself for months, trying to fight the feelings that grew more profound and intense every day we were together. Trying to pretend that they were something else. That they weren’t that one thing I feared more than any other: love.

But it was love, Joshua. Almost from the day we met… it was love. I was so lonely back then, Josh. I confessed this to you on our wedding day. So sad. My life was a failure in every imaginable way. I knew no joy. I knew no happiness. My only satisfaction came from those rare moments when I could bring some criminal to justice, but even those moments were overshadowed by the knowledge that there’d be another case the very next day, and that these brief flashes of fulfillment were external events that could never touch the man I was inside. I’d go home to that dreary little apartment and try not to think about how dark and lonely my life had become.

I tried to fight my feelings for you, Josh. But from the very first, being with you illuminated me. Not with bright flashes of light, but with a warm glow of belonging that I hadn’t felt since I was a child. You made me laugh! Me, who rarely ever cracked a smile. Who rarely ever felt even an instant of gladness. You taught me the sweetness of intimacy. Me, who fled from closeness like a devil flees holy water. Your sweet smile. Your gentle, kindness. Your dry, brilliant wit. Your constant, steady presence at my side, flooded my heart with feelings that both healed and terrified me.

You never asked for a thing. I knew you loved me. I could see it in your beautiful, brown eyes. I knew you wanted more. Wanted my love in return. But every time I saw the love glowing there in your eyes, I was gripped by a panic that nearly stopped my heart. What if I offered you my heart and you rejected it? What if I lost you and had to go through that heartbreak again?

So, I ran. I treated you with coldness and rejection. I know how much it hurt you, Josh, and there is nothing in my life that I regret with more bitterness.

Your love is my greatest treasure. You lifted me out of the darkness which had imprisoned me since the day my sister died. You healed my heart when I had long ago given up any hope that it could be healed. You brought happiness and love to a man who had long since turned his back on such things, thinking that they were not meant for him. You filled the emptiness inside me with the warmth of your love. And there are no words which could ever adequately express my gratitude.

I won’t ask for your forgiveness. I know I don’t have to. You understand. You always have. That’s one of the many blessings your love freely offers without me having to do a thing to earn them. Those blessings are just there, a part of the man you are. My love. My life.

I can’t promise you that I’ll never hurt you again. You know me well enough to know what an empty promise that would be. But I do promise you this: we will last forever, and I will love you every day of my life just as I love you at this moment… with all my heart and soul.

I will always be…

Your Colin

 Joshua lowered his hands into his lap with infinite slowness. He stared straight ahead of him, but Colin could hear his breath catching in his throat.

“I thought,” Colin whispered, “I figured… you know, that you deserved a love letter too.”

Joshua turned and pressed his face to Colins shoulder, his body shaking with sobs he tried hard to suppress. “Oh god, Colin,” he breathed out, dampening Colin’s shirt with his tears. “Oh god, sweetheart, thank you.”

“Well, I didn’t mean to make you cry,” Colin said, wrapping Joshua in his arms.

Joshua leaned back, wiping his face with his forearm. “Well, what did you think that letter would do to me, you big Irish doofus?” He swallowed hard and forced back his tears, though his breath still shuddered in his chest. “Now I understand what David meant,” he whispered, his hand lifting to cradle Colin’s cheek as he clutched the letter to his chest. “This is the greatest treasure of my life.”

“Awww,” Colin said, nuzzling against his cheek. “And here I thought my dick was the greatest treasure of your life.”

“It’s a close second,” Joshua said, knuckling Colin’s ribs. “And stop joking. I’m serious.”

“I needed you to smile,” Colin told him lifting his chin. “I don’t like to see you cry.”

“Those were tears of joy, my love. Of happiness and gratitude.”

“Well, in that case…” Colin muttered, then wrapped Joshua tight in his arms and kissed him, hoping that the tenderness of his lips on Joshua’s could convey the depth of the love he felt for this gentle Jewish man. He slid his lips to Joshua’s ear. “I meant every word,” he whispered.

For a long moment they stared into each other’s eyes, then Colin blew out a breath and got to his feet. “And now, my beloved husband, I’m going to give myself a birthday present by walloping Abel in a game of chess!” He drew Joshua to his feet and kissed his cheek. “Care to bear witness as I kick your brother’s weenie ass?”

“I’d love to,” Joshua told him. But as they wandered toward the house, Joshua drew Colin to a halt and turned to face him. “Happy birthday, my love,” he said. “I hope we’re still blowing out your candles when you turn eighty.”

“You can take that one to the bank,” Colin replied, then tightened his hold on Joshua’s hand and drew him toward the door. “C’mon. I want more cake!”

Joshua’s Birthday

Colin settled onto the couch beside Joshua and wrapped an arm around him. “Did you enjoy your birthday, pretty boy?”

Joshua shot Colin a look, grimacing at the pet name. “Pretty boy?” he said, brows still cocked in amused disbelief. “Me?”

“Well, you’re my pretty boy, whether you believe it or not!”

“At best I’m a quirky looking Jew, and yes. I had a great birthday, thanks to you.” He held up his arm, displaying the brand-new watch on his wrist. “With Hebrew numbers,” he said. “How the hell did you ever find it?”

“Searched Google under ‘great gifts to give your Jewish husband’,” Colin replied.

“This is the one that really humbles me,” Joshua said, reaching to caress an antique plaque which lay on their coffee table.

“The minute I saw it I knew it had to be yours,” Colin told him. He leaned forward with Joshua to peer at the decorative tile.

“I’m no Lion of Judah,” Joshua muttered, running his fingers over the outline of the lion.

“But you are, Josh,” Colin objected. “Your strength, your courage, is what got me through the worst times in my life.”

Joshua stared intently at the lion, then silently shook his head. “He’s the symbol for the Tribe of Judah,” Joshua murmured.

“What tribe is your family part of?” Colin asked.

Joshua leaned back, laughing. “I have no idea. Most tribal identities were lost a long time ago. Only a few religious tribes like the Levites have passed their tribal affiliation on.” He turned to Colin and shrugged. “You want me to be from the tribe of Judah?” He asked, with a quick grin.

“You are from the tribe of Judah as far as I’m concerned.” Colin huffed a sigh through his nose, his face quirked into a pensive frown.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh,” Colin sighed again and turned to face Joshua on the couch. “I’m annoyed because I couldn’t get you what I really wanted to get you for your birthday.”

“Why not?”

Colin lifted his eyebrows and smirked. “Blame COVID-19.”

“What did you want to get me?”

“I looked into buying us a trip to Israel.”

“Oh my god, Colin!” Joshua gasped out.

“I would have loved that,” Colin murmured. “Being with you there. Walking through all those Jewish landmarks. Seeing Israel.” He lifted his head and grinned at his husband. “I even planned for us to stay at a Kibbutz!” Then he lifted his eyebrows and shrugged again. “But no dice.”

“Most of them are just tourist traps now,” Joshua observed.

“Not the ones I was looking at,” Colin told him. “They even put you to work. A real, working Israeli Kibbutz.”

“Thank you for the thought, my love,” Joshua said, then kissed Colin’s cheek. “But sharing my birthday here with you in our home is all the celebration I need.”

“Makes me sad that the guys can’t be here,” Colin said.

“I heard from all of them,” Joshua told him. “Trent sent me a porn video that he said reminded him of you.” He shot a glance at Colin. “Believe me. You don’t want to see it.”

Colin nodded and rolled his eyes. “I can imagine.”

“Yeah. It was bad,” Joshua replied, laughing.

Colin nodded, the frowned and took Joshua’s hand. “Do me a favor,” he said, then lifted Joshua’s hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Anything. You know that.”

“Don’t disparage yourself that way. You’re not a quirky looking Jew.” He half-turned to face Joshua and laid his hand on Joshua’s cheek. “I hate it when you do that because, Joshua, you are beautiful.”

Joshua blushed and tried to duck his head, but Colin would not allow it. “Those deep, dark eyes,” Colin said, his voice low and melodic. “That smile that would blind the sun in the sky. Those curls that I can’t get enough of ever.” He wound one of Joshua’s ringlets around his index finger and pressed their foreheads together. “You are beautiful, Josh.” He leaned back quickly. “Now just say ‘thank you’!”

Joshua breathed out a laugh and blushed. “Thank you,” he whispered, unable to meet Colin’s eyes.

“You’re everything to me,” Colin murmured.

“You’re going to make me cry.”

Colin grinned and shrugged. “Go ahead!”

“Don’t want to be ‘wimpy Josh’ on my birthday,” Joshua said, then captured Colin’s lips in a slow, intimate kiss, his tongue caressing Colin’s in a moist, seductive caress.

“Mm,” Colin moaned softly. “Now that’s more like it.” He leaned back and took a quick breath. “Oh! Almost forgot to tell you. I sent your mom a dozen roses today.”

“Why? It’s not her birthday.”

“I thanked her for giving me the most wonderful man in the world to be my husband,” Colin replied.

Joshua stared at him, his mouth open in amazement. “You are the most – the most…,”

“Yeeesss?” Colin drawled out, grinning.

For a moment Joshua said nothing, then he drew Colin close and kissed him again. “You’re my everything too,” he whispered. “Thank you, my sweet Irish love. This is the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

“Your presents weren’t that good,” Colin teased.

“Nothing to do with the presents. It’s the best birthday I’ve ever had because I’m spending it with you.”

“Well, it’s not over yet. How do you want to spend the rest of it?”

Joshua smiled and his arms tightened around Colin’s neck. “How indeed.” He kissed Colin again, sliding his fingers through Colin’s thick, sandy waves. “Do I have to draw you a picture?”

Colin stood, drawing Joshua to his feet along with him. “Come with me, Lion of Judah,” he murmured. “I’m no lion trainer, but I have an idea about how to tame you that I think you might enjoy.”

“Of that I have absolutely no doubt,” Joshua replied laughing.

“Happy Birthday, my beautiful love.”

“Thank you, my beloved husband. You make every day happy.”

Valentine’s Day 2020 with Colin and Josh

Joshua Campbell-Abrams moaned out a soft breath, stirring in the comfort of their warm, cozy bed, reluctant to leave it and start his day. Eyes still closed he turned to his side and stretched out a hand, expecting to touch Colin’s solid, muscular frame, but instead his hands found nothing.

Opening his eyes, he saw one red-wrapped candy heart lying on the bed beside him in Colin’s accustomed place. He snatched it up, chuckling. “What’s he up to?” he wondered, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.

“Colin!” he called, as he wandered to the bathroom. “You here?” At the bathroom door he peered down the stairs but saw nothing. “Colin!” he called again, but silence was his only reply. He sighed and entered the bathroom, then burst into laughter. Taped to the mirror was a huge, red, paper heart and on it the words “Be mine!” had been written in Colin’s distinctive scrawl.

After using the bathroom, he moved down the stairs, still seeing no sign of his husband. Sitting at center of their dining room table was a beautiful arrangement of red roses. “Oh, Colin,” he whispered. The card attached to the flowers read: “We will last forever. I love you.” Joshua pressed the card to his lips, his breath catching in his chest with remembered joy. “We Will Last Forever was the song to which they had walked down the aisle on their wedding day, and it would always hold a treasured place in Joshua’s heart.

Holding the card and the candy heart he glanced around. On the coffee table in front of their couch was a heart-shaped box of candy and a card. He sat on the couch and opened both. Inside the card Colin had written: “Timeless. Priceless. Endless. Those are the words that best describe my love for you. Happy Valentine’s day, A thaisce. I love you with all my Irish heart.”

Joshua bowed his head and pressed the scrawled message to his lips, then drew in a shaky breath and looked around. “Colin?” he called. “Where the hell are you?”

“You lookin’ for me?” Colin said, strolling in from the kitchen a wide grin plastered on his handsome Irish face. “I was out back on my machines.”

Joshua gestured to the flowers, the candy, shaking his head, his eyebrows arched. “I’m – I’m speechless.” He got to his feet and walked into Colin’s arms, his own arms winding around Colin’s neck. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Your card and candy and gift are still hidden upstairs.” He leaned back and grimaced. “But I didn’t get your flowers yet. I was going to do that later today.”

“Ahhh, skip it,” Colin growled out, nuzzling Joshua’s cheek. “I’ll share yours. It already smells like a funeral home in here.”

Joshua snickered and pressed his face against Colin’s neck, holding him tight. “Let me go get your gifts and card,” he murmured.

“I’ve already got the gift I really want,” Colin said, rocking Joshua against his body before kissing him tenderly. “But… if you insist.” He released Joshua and plopped onto the couch. “I’m opening your candy!” he called as Joshua disappeared at the top of the steps.

“I bet you bought your favorite kind!” Echoed down the stairwell causing Colin to snicker and nod.

“You’re damned right I did.” Colin muttered, yanking the cellophane off the heart-shaped box of ‘Dove’s Assorted Chocolates’.

He heard Joshua above his head, moving around in the bedroom, then opening the sliding panel to their small attic. “Damn!” Colin muttered, his mouth full of chocolate. “I didn’t think to look there!”

“Close your eyes!” Joshua called down the stairwell. “And no cheating!”

Colin leaned back on the couch, still chewing, and put a hand over his eyes. “Not looking!” He called, then heard Joshua coming down the stairs.

“Keep those eyes shut!” Joshua said, and Colin heard him moving objects about on the coffee table, clearly arranging them to his liking. “OK,” he said finally. “You can look.”

Colin opened his eyes, then widened them in amazement. “Wow!” he said, leaning forward.

“All from Ireland,” Joshua said, sitting down next to him, reaching into the box of Dove’s chocolates to grab his own morsel.

“Josh this is gorgeous!” Colin breathed out. “I’ve never seen this much candy in one place before!”

Joshua laughed. “And it’s Irish candy!” he added, nudging Colin with an elbow.

“And what’s this?” Colin asked, picking up a gift-wrapped box.

“Open it and see.”

Colin opened the gift and gasped in surprised delight. “Josh!! It’s beautiful!”

“Hand made in Ireland,” Joshua mumbled around a mouthful of chocolate. “Your mom helped me find the Irish lady who makes them.”

Colin held it up before his eyes. “Jesus! It’s incredible!”

“You’ll look amazing in it. Now open your card.”

In Colin’s Valentine card, Joshua offered a touching tribute to their marriage. “I’ve fallen in love many, many times in my life, Colin. But always, always, always with just one person – you. Thank you for being my best dream, my best gift, and my best friend. I adore you.”

“Josh,” Colin whispered, then turned to kiss him. “Thank you, sweetheart. My gift to you isn’t nearly as spectacular.” He reached under the box of chocolates and pulled out an envelope which he handed to Joshua.

“What’s this?”

“Well, open it and SEE!”

Inside the envelope was a brochure for ‘Inn at Perry Cabin’ and reservations for a long weekend. “It’s on Chesapeake Bay,” Colin told him, pointing to the brochure, reading over his shoulder. “I got us a suite with view of the water.”

“Oh, Colin,” Joshua whispered, turning the pages. “It’s so beautiful!” He turned to his husband. “You got us a suite?”

“Nothing but the best, bud,” Colin said, nuzzling against his cheek. “The reservations are for this weekend, so I hope you didn’t have plans made.”

“None that I wouldn’t cancel to have this!” Joshua said, still peering at brochure. He laid the papers on the table and turned to face his husband. “Thank you,” he whispered, reaching to caress Colin’s cheek.

“Thank you,” Colin replied. He kissed Joshua tenderly, then stood and drew him to his feet. “Da-da-da-da-da-daaa,” he hummed, pulling Joshua into his arms, swaying with him in time to the song he began to croon.

Joshua felt his eyes burn with tears. No song meant more. No song could ever mean as much. And he tightened his arms around Colin’s neck as they danced to Colin’s lovely voice softly singing in his ear: “We can last forever….”

Joshua blotted his tears on Colin’s T-shirt then leaned back to gaze into his eyes.

“Colin and Josh,” Colin whispered, then kissed him again. “Colin and Josh will last forever. Happy Valentine’s Day. Ta`mo chori istigh ionat, my oak.”

Ani Ohev Otcha,” Joshua whispered in return. “Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my beloved magic man.”

And their arms closed tight around each other as their dance continued.

GLORY DAYS is HERE!!!

Blurb:

The ‘Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ blog said this about Love’s Glory: “In a way, Love’s Glory is Janice Jarrell’s gift to her reader’s and this couple who have been through so much angst and pain and have now mostly emerged through the other side, intact and ready to move forward to the next stage in their lives.”

Ms. Jarrell’s newest offering, Glory Days, enhances this gift with fifteen short stories set in the Love’s Glory universe. The tales begin while Colin and Joshua are still on their honeymoon in Ireland and conclude just before Colin begins law school. Story topics range from the achingly romantic and sexy (“Walking In The Rain”) to the hilariously comical (“Conversations At The Cabin”).

Colin and Joshua aren’t the only stars in Ms. Jarrell’s latest work. All six Revolutionary Heart men are featured. David and Nate get their own story (“Playing The Part”) and Trent and Jeff also get a piece exclusive to them (“Trent’s Triplets”).

The love is enduring, the humor is at once warm and side-splittingly snarky, and the lovemaking is intense. You won’t be sorry you followed the passionate and deeply devoted men of Revolutionary Heart on their newest journey in Glory Days.

This book contains mature content including explicit sexual relations between gay couples. + 18 years of age

FIFTEEN STORIES FROM THE LOVE’S GLORY UNIVERSE! COMING SOON!!

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⁣“I so love this series!! I can’t get enough of Colin and Josh!! These characters feel like family and I want more!! ⁣”

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A Chrismukkah Story – The Star

THE STAR

Colin stood beside their Christmas tree staring up at the star which adorned the top. His hands were shoved deep into the pockets of his jeans and his lower lip was caught between his teeth. The multicolored tree lights cast a radiant aura onto his face as he gazed, making it glow with an unearthly beauty. Joshua drew in a quick breath as he stood unnoticed in the dining room watching his husband. A year ago, he had carried that very star to their home, a gift from Colin’s mother. She had told him the story of how his father would lift Colin onto his shoulder to place that star atop their family tree. She had told him how much this moment meant to the youngster Colin was then and to the man he grew to become.

Colin turned aside. His head was low, and he huffed out an audible breath, his lips pressed into a thin line. He glanced up and spotted Joshua watching him, then tilted his head toward the tree. “Looks pretty.”

“Were you thinking about your dad?” Joshua asked.

Colin tilted his head as he approached, and his eyebrows lifted in a gesture which expressed both agreement and a hint of self-reproach. “I suppose,” he said. “It was always kind-of our moment, you know?” His head dropped once again. “Can’t help but think of him.” He stood for a moment staring down at the floor. “Wish I’d been a better son.”

“Colin, he’d be so proud of the man you’ve become,” Joshua said, laying a hand on Colin’s shoulder.

“You think?”

“I know! A decorated police officer? Working now to become a lawyer? Everything you’ve been through? Everything you’ve accomplished? He’d be over the moon proud of you, Colin!”

“Might mean more if he wasn’t dead,” Colin muttered, then glanced up at Joshua. “And please don’t tell me that he’s looking down from heaven all happy and proud.”

Joshua squeezed his shoulder and breathed out a soft laugh. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Colin leaned forward and pressed his forehead to Joshua’s. “Sorry,” he whispered. “I guess seeing the star threw me into a bout of self-pity.”

“It’s not self-pity,” Joshua said, his arms winding around Colin’s neck. “It’s regret. Every human being on the planet has them, Colin. We’re all imperfect, every single one of us. And if there was a way to put our lives on ‘rewind’ and undo those mistakes, would we really do it? The man you are now was molded and formed by everything you’ve experienced, including those moments you regret. They made you the man I fell in love with. They made you aware of how your behaviors and actions affect others. That awareness is a gift from your father. It’s a part of him that lives on in you. So, my advice is, every time you look at that star say ‘Thanks, dad’, and keep on walking. That’s all you can do. That’s all anyone can do.”

“What’s the price tag for that little speech, Dr. Josh? About Seventy-five bucks?” Colin asked, chuckling.

“Very fucking funny.”

Colin laughed and rocked Joshua in his arms.

“It’s not just psycho-babble,” Joshua muttered. “I meant it.”

“I know,” Colin murmured, then captured Joshua’s chin in his hand and lifted his head. “And I’m grateful.” He kissed Joshua uplifted lips, then kissed them again. “You make me a better man,” he whispered.

“You make yourself a better man,” Joshua replied with a tart edge in his voice. “Me shooting off my mouth doesn’t mean shit if it falls on deaf ears.”

“It’s not every day that I admit to having imperfections,” Colin teased, nuzzling against Joshua’s neck. “So, do me a favor and keep my wimpy-assed confession to yourself.”

“Done… but it’s gonna cost you. You owe me for that ‘Dr. Josh’ comment.”

“Name your price.”

Joshua grinned and tilted his head toward the stairs.

“Oh, it’s like that is it!” Colin exclaimed laughing. He captured Joshua’s hand and tugged him toward the steps, and their bedroom beyond. “That’s one price I’m always happy to pay.” As they passed the tree, Colin threw it a salute. “Thanks, dad. Nollaig shone dhuit.” (Happy Christmas)


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Love’s Glory now available!

 Love’s Glory, the third book in the Revolutionary Heart series is now available on Amazon and FREE on Kindle Unlimited!!

Blurb:

In October of 2017 cocky, alpha-male Irishman, Colin Campbell, Sergeant in Charge of the Special Assault Unit of the University of Virginia Campus Police Force, dove in front of a bullet meant for a University of Virginia student. The bullet shattered his thigh and severed his femoral artery, a wound which nearly took Colin’s life and left him temporarily disabled. His infirmities robbed him of the strength and athletic prowess which had been his for most of his life leaving him humiliated and bereft.

His partner, Joshua Abrams, a Doctor of Psychology at the Rainier Clinic in Charlottesville, never once left his injured lover’s side. He poured every ounce of strength and love he possessed into healing the magical Irishman whom he adored and was overwhelmed with relief and gratitude when Colin was taken off the critical list. Thinking that they had survived their trial, he took Colin home, believing that their happiness was now assured.

But like many injured police officers, Colin subsequently withdrew from his partner. Overwhelmed by feelings of shame and embarrassment, he devoted himself almost obsessively to the physical therapy with which he hoped to rebuild his strength and reclaim the life he had lost. Unable to share his pain and feelings of inadequacy, he shut Joshua out, leaving him to cope alone with the post-traumatic stress he suffered as a result of Colin’s shooting.

In the following months Colin and Joshua fought to keep their relationship alive. Although deeply in love, they felt powerless to cope with the after-effects of Colin’s injuries both to his body and to his pride as a man, and to heal the emotionally devastating PTSD with which Joshua suffered.

Love’s Trials tells the story of this painful and challenging time in Colin and Joshua’s life. As we join them now, Colin is still walking with a cane and still suffering the physical after effects of his injuries. But he and Joshua are both in therapy and are now dealing positively with the emotional and psychological damage they both endured.

They face their future side by side, determined to stand or fall together, as soul mates and lovers. This book follows them on their journey as they move toward the happy future they both long to share. They have moments of anxiety and intense emotion, but you can count on a happy ending. In fact, you can count on a happy read. In this book, Colin and his beloved Joshua have left their trials behind and now revel in Love’s Glory.

This book contain mature content including explicit sexual relations between Colin and Joshua. + 18 years of age.