Skateboard – a Colin and Josh short story –

It was morning in Glencoe and Colin stood at the dresser shrugging into a T-shirt. “C’mon, bud,” he said over his shoulder. “Throw on some clothes. I’m starved, and Jess promised me waffles.” A scuffling sound from behind him caught his attention and he turned to see Joshua half-way under the bed, struggling to pull something free.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Joshua clambered to his feet, a huge smile lighting up his face. In his hands was a large, beautifully decorated skateboard. “I forgot this was here!” he crowed.

“Pretty fancy.”

“It’s a Designarium,” Joshua said, holding the board at arm’s length, looking it up and down. “I’m gonna go out back and see if I can land a few.”

“What are you going to jump?” Colin asked, following close behind him.

“The steps out back,” Joshua said. “When I was in college, that’s how I relaxed when I came home for the weekend.”

“By risking your neck on a skateboard?”

“You mean to tell me you’ve never taken air on a skateboard?” Joshua questioned as they strode through the kitchen and out the back door.

“Yeah. When I was a teenager in Scituate me and some of my friends used to go to Skateboard Park.” He shrugged. “I was really into Little League though,” Colin said, “and it didn’t leave much time for other sports.”

“Were you good at it?”

“C’mon, Josh,” Colin said with a smirk. “I’m good at everything.”

Joshua snorted out a laugh. “Sorry. Forgot who I was talking to for a second.”

Colin chuckled and threw Joshua a wink. “I never really worked at it. I could have been good probably.” He shrugged and watched as Joshua began to ride the board around him in a slow circle. “I could do jumps. Easy stuff. Nothing more. I didn’t want to get injured and have to sit out the season.”

Joshua nodded and grabbed the board. “Watch me!” he said, bounding up the steps which ascended the small hill crowning the Abrams backyard. “I’ll be right down!”

“Josh!” Colin called. “Wait a second. Are you sure…,”

“Might as well let him go,” a female voice advised.

Colin wheeled to see Joshua’s mother, who had wandered out behind them carrying two mugs of coffee. “Mom, he hasn’t done this stuff in years. He could get hurt!”

Bracha sat down on the garden wall and eyed Joshua as he stood at the top of the hill spinning the skateboard’s wheels as if testing them. “I suppose he could,” she agreed. “But you won’t stop him. Believe me, I tried. Many times.” She smiled up at Colin. “He rarely ever fell. And he never hurt himself. He’s good at it!” She indicated the top of the hill. “See?”

Colin wheeled just in time to see Joshua speeding down the steps, jumping from one level to the other as he descended from atop the hill. His knees were bent, and he controlled the skateboard with effortless ease.

“Dammit!” Colin sputtered. He strode forward to meet him as Joshua reached the patio and slid to a stop.

“Stuck it!” Joshua crowed. With one foot, he began to push the board forward, circling the spot where Colin stood scowling.

“Josh, you could get hurt!”

“Nah,” Joshua replied, then flipped the board up into his hands. “I’m going again!”

“Josh!”

“C’mon,” Joshua drawled, walking backwards toward the steps. “I never tried to keep you off your motorcycle.”

“Josh, you…,” Colin began, then hissed out a frustrated breath as Joshua turned and trotted once again to the crest of the hill.

“God damn it,” Colin muttered, watching with a furrowed brow as Joshua knelt and adjusted something on the bottom of the board.

“He’ll be OK, Colin,” Bracha said. “Come have some coffee. Josh knows what he’s doing.”

Colin slunk back to the wall and sat down beside his mother-in-law who handed him a filled coffee mug. “He could get hurt,” Colin muttered again.

“Doubtful. He’s skated down those steps five-hundred times.”

“Only takes once,” Colin grumbled. He sipped his coffee, watching as Joshua started down the hill again.

“Ya hoooooo!” Joshua cried as he careened down the concrete steps, laughing aloud every time he took air, sending the board to a lower level. Colin watched him, his heart in his throat. But at the same time, the delight in Joshua’s laughter and the exuberant grace with which he rode filled Colin with a kind of awed wonder. He had fallen in love with Joshua’s sweet smile even before he knew his name. And now his heart nearly burst with love as he watched the man he adored fly down the hill on his beloved skateboard. Completely given over to the childlike joy of the moment, Joshua seemed almost magical.

Bracha heard his breathing falter. “Jesus, Mom,” Colin whispered, then swallowed hard and swiped a hand across his cheek. “He doesn’t have a clue how much I love him.” His eyes returned to Joshua, watching as he flipped the board into his hands and once again jogged up the hill.

“Not a fucking clue,” Colin whispered.

Bracha watched him but gave no response.

“If I lost him…” Colin said, his voice choked. He shook his head then turned to face his mother-in-law. “He’s my whole life, Bracha. If anything happened to him…” he shook his head again.

“Sweetheart,” Bracha murmured, reaching to lay a comforting hand on Colin’s shoulder, “I think he does know how much you love him.”

“I don’t know how he could, Mom,” Colin whispered, his eyes once again fixed on his husband. “Hell, I’m not even sure I realize how much I love him. Then I see him in a moment like this and, Jesus, he’s so perfect and beautiful and his smile just…,” Colin’s breath caught. “It damn near stops my fucking heart.” He turned to face Bracha wincing comically. “Sorry ‘bout the language.”

She waved away his apology, then her eyes widened. “Wait a minute! He does have a helmet.”

“Where is it?” Colin cried, leaping to his feet.

“I think….,” Bracha replied. “I think it’s in the garage. On a shelf near the door.”

Colin bolted to the garage where he spotted the helmet at once. Clutching it tight in his hand he trotted back to the garden. “Josh, get over here!”

Joshua laughed and rode the board to where Colin stood, the helmet held out in his hand.

“Put this on.”

“Colin, I was in college when I wore that. It won’t fit me anymore.”

“Put it on!” Colin demanded. He shoved the helmet toward Joshua. “Wear it, Josh. Or I’ll take the skateboard.”

“Colin, come on!”

“Don’t think for a minute I won’t do it.”

“Oh lord god,” Joshua groaned. He took the helmet from his husband and pulled it on, twisting it slightly to fit it over his dark curls then turned back to Colin, arms outstretched. “Happy now?”

“No. But I’m happi-er!”

“Talk to him, Mom,” Joshua entreated, as he scooted the board to where his mother sat watching. “Tell him I do this all the time.”

“Yeah,” Bracha replied, her voice dry. “Seven years ago, you did. And I insisted that you wear the helmet then too.”

Colin returned to his seat beside Bracha and sipped his coffee once before squinting up at his husband. “Keep it on, Josh. Or I’ll put that board where even Scotland Yard couldn’t find it.”

“Sheesh!” Joshua griped. He flipped the board into his hands and trotted back up the hill.

“Would you really?” Bracha asked, smiling at him.

Colin cocked an eyebrow in her direction. “What do you think?”

***

Later that evening, Bracha drew Joshua into the dining room. “You know,” she told her son, “you scared the hell out of Colin today.”

“You mean with the skateboard?”

“Yes.”

Joshua frowned and shot a glance at his husband, who was engaged in a vigorous chess game with Abel, Joshua’s brother. “I know he was concerned…,”

“No, Joshua,” Bracha interrupted, “he was way more than concerned. The thought that you might get hurt scared him to death.” Her grip on his arm tightened. “Just wear the damned helmet if you’re going to ride that thing. You’d never let him ride a motorcycle without one.”

Joshua nodded. “You’re right, mom, and I will. Never occurred to me that he’d be that worried.”

“He adores you, Joshua,” Bracha said, her voice soft. “It was…,” she drew in a breath and shook her head. “It was actually quite touching, hearing him talk about it.”

Joshua’s eyes remained locked on Colin, but he nodded again. “Thanks for letting me know, mom.” He sucked in a quick breath and bent to kiss his mother.

He heard Colin and Abel laughing and moved to Colin’s side. “Did you kick his ass?” He asked, draping an arm around Colin’s shoulders.

“Split,” Colin said, smiling broadly. “He won one, and I won one. But mine was the better win!”

“Naturally,” Joshua said, pressing a kiss to the top of Colin’s head.

“Smug bastard,” Abel grumbled, getting to his feet. “But that’s it for tonight, bro. I’ve got to be in Chicago early tomorrow morning.” He and Colin bumped fists, then he laid a hand on Joshua’s arm. “Night, you two.”

“Night, Abe,” Joshua murmured.

Colin stood up and stretched, then dropped both arms around Joshua’s neck. “You ready to go up, bud?”

Joshua nodded and they moved to climb the stairs, Colin’s arm still around Joshua’s neck as his arm encircled Colin’s waist. “You ever notice that we go to bed earlier when we’re here?” Colin asked.

Joshua nodded and laced his fingers with Colin’s hand as it dangled around his neck. “I have,” he replied as they stepped into their bedroom.

Colin moved forward and began to strip off his clothes, dropping them on the floor as he walked. Joshua smiled as he disappeared into the bathroom and bent to retrieve them, dropping them onto a chair before beginning to undress.

By the time Colin emerged from the bathroom, Joshua was in bed. “You’re fast,” he said with a grin, then crawled into bed beside Joshua and gathered him close in his arms.

“Mm,” Joshua moaned softly. “God, you feel good.”

Colin kissed the top of his head. “So do you.”

Joshua shifted in bed nestling closer to his husband’s body, his hand moving across Colin’s chest, sighing in bliss as the firm, warm muscles bunched beneath his fingers. “Listen,” he murmured, “I want to apologize to you about today.”

“Why? What did you do?”

“As my mother was quick to point out to me, I started flying down that hill without even considering how you might feel about it.”

Colin’s lips pursed and he drew in a long breath. “I confess it made me a little nervous. You haven’t ridden the skateboard for years. You could have been a bit rusty.”

“I should have found the helmet before I started doing jumps. I was stupid.”

“You weren’t stupid. You were excited.” He turned toward Joshua and drew him closer. “Seeing you flying down that hill today…,” He breathed out a soft laugh. “You were so happy, Josh. Like an innocent child. Fearless… filled with joy. Your smile was just…,” he stopped, then gave a half-embarrassed shrug. “You were so beautiful you took my breath away.”

His honeyed-green eyes met Joshua’s. “I loved seeing you like that.” He traced the arch of Joshua’s cheekbone with his fingers, then slid them to his chin and lifted Joshua’s head until their eyes met. “But wear the damned helmet, would you?”

Joshua nodded and whispered: “I promise” just seconds before Colin’s lips captured his in a fierce, passionate kiss which he repeated again and again. They both tightened their arms, pressing their bodies close under the covers, savoring the exquisite sensation of smooth skin sliding against smooth skin.

Joshua drew in a shivering inhale. “I love you so much, Irish, and I do apologize,” he whispered. Then threw Colin a puckish glance and slid his palm down the length of Colin’s body. “And I think maybe I could come up with a good way to make it up to you.”

Colin laughed out loud and kissed Joshua again. “I love you, my beautiful Jewish boy. And as far as making it up to me goes, we’re both here in bed stark naked. God knows that opens up a ton of wonderful possibilities. So, have at it, bud! Take your best shot!”

Joshua pressed his face to Colin’s bare shoulder and giggled. “Sounds like we have the makings of a great evening ahead of us.”

Colin turned to his back, grinning, and drew Joshua on top of him. “Of that I have absolutely no doubt.”

 

Keep Him Safe – A Colin and Josh short story.

Scowling, Colin snatched up the TV remote and hit the power button. “Stop watching MSNBC! You know that crap just gets you upset.” He husked out a heavy sign and tossed the remote onto the coffee table.

Joshua sighed and flopped back against the couch. “I know.”

“Just sitting here, I can see your angst and depression growing. It’s palpable, Josh. Don’t do that to yourself! It’s bad for you. It’s bad for me. It’s bad for us!” He fell onto the couch next to Joshua and turned to face him. “Stop!”

“Wow! And now for something completely different. You saying this to me!”

“I’m not kidding.”

“I know, babe,” Joshua replied, then sighed. “I’m worried about that new justice that Trump put on the court,” Joshua mumbled. “It scares me. She hates the very idea of gay marriage.” He turned to Colin and lifted a hand to caress his face. “It scares me,” he repeated, his voice soft.

“Why?” Colin asked. He pressed Joshua’s hand to his cheek, then turned his head and kissed the palm. “You think she could get them to overturn the ‘marriage equality act’?”

“The conservatives have a majority now,” Joshua replied. “They could do it.”

Colin leaned back and laughed out loud. “Bullshit!” he spouted, then turned back to face Joshua. “First off, if Biden wins, they’ll never, ever get away with it. He won’t let it happen. Second, even if it did happen… who cares?”

“Colin!”

“Josh, I mean it. I don’t give a flying fuck what some politician in DC says. Couldn’t fucking care less!”

Joshua shook his head. “Colin, they could mess up our life.”

“I don’t see how, Josh.” He grabbed both of Joshua’s shoulders in his big hands. “Listen to me! I’m not married to you because some law says I am. I’m not married to you because some fucking judge says it’s OK. I’m married to you because you are the only person on Earth who I could ever imagine loving. And mean loving with every fiber of my being every day of my life for as long as I fucking live!”

Joshua tried to speak but couldn’t. Overcome with emotion he lowered his head, feeling his eyes fill with scalding tears. But Colin wouldn’t have it. His hand cupped Joshua’s chin and lifted his head until their eyes met, Joshua’s now overflowing.

“I’m not married to you on some piece of paper,” Colin whispered. “I’m married to you here!” He placed one hand over his heart while his other hand fell onto Joshua’s shoulder. “And here is where I’ll stay married to you. A lot of people may think they can say yes or no to our marriage. But they’re full of shit, Josh.” Colin grinned and shook his head. “They’re so full of shit! We say whether or not we’re married. We do. You and I, bud. I was married to you long before we stood in that church and exchanged those vows, and I’ll stay married to you no matter what any fool lawmaker in D.C. might say. Married to you, Joshua. Married to you now and forever.”

Joshua fell forward into his arms, clutching his sweatshirt with both fists. “God, Colin,” he moaned, choked by tears. For several minutes they sat together in silence, holding each other close. Then Joshua lifted his head and swiped a hand over his tear-streaked face. “You are so wonderful. It’s no damn wonder I fall more in love with you every single day.”

“Mm,” Colin hummed in soft appreciation. “Just imagine how much you’ll love me in twenty years.” He grinned and kissed Joshua, sliding his thumb over the soft skin under Joshua’s eye, wiping away the last remnants of dampness. “It’s terrifying.”

“Not to me,” Joshua whispered, both arms tight around Colin’s neck. He drew in a deep breath. “Thank you, my yedid,” he whispered, using the Hebrew word for beloved. “No matter what the world hands to us, you always find a way to make me feel safe.”

“And I always will,” Colin murmured. “Now think of something we can watch that’ll make us smile!”

“Deadpool?” Joshua suggested, eyebrows raised in question.

Colin barked out a laugh. “Perfect!! I’ll find the DVD. You go make some popcorn.”

Joshua caught his hand as he rose. “One more kiss first?”

Colin bent over him and kissed him tenderly, then kissed him again. “Always time for one more kiss.”

“I hope so.”

“You OK now?” Colin asked, his palm still pressed to Joshua’s cheek.

“Absolutely.”

“Deadpool,” Colin said, tilting his head in the direction of their DVD collection.

“Popcorn,” Joshua replied, rising and moving toward the kitchen.

Colin pursed his lips and followed Joshua with his eyes, then shook his head and moved toward the DVD’s. He felt resolve tighten his chest. “Always keep him safe,” he muttered as he flipped through the DVD’s. “Always.”

Halloween – Between the Sheets! A Colin and Josh Halloween story!

Joshua clutched Colin’s shoulders in an iron grip. “Colin! Oh fuck! God!” He desperately gulped down air as his orgasm repeatedly ripped through him, jolting every nerve ending, and sending electric thrills of heart-pounding bliss throughout his body.

“Josh,” Colin moaned, shuddering in a mindless ecstasy that matched Joshua’s in its intensity. “Oh, God, baby, so good. So perfect.”

For a long time they lay together, gasping for breath, feeling each other slowly relaxing, molded against each other’s hot, sweaty body.

“Jesus, Colin,” Joshua murmured finally, “that was fucking incredible! You been practicing or something?”

Colin chuckled, burying his face against the damp skin of Joshua’s throat. “All I do is get in bed with you and let nature take its course.”

Joshua gave a low moan as Colin’s now-flaccid cock slid slowly out of his body, and then he wriggled a bit to ease the pressure of Colin’s weight.

“Am I too heavy, babe? I’ll move.”

“No. Not yet.” He tightened his arms around Colin’s neck, holding him close, shutting his eyes to better savor the warm, comforting weight of Colin’s body. He smiled and slid his fingers through Colin’s unruly curls, wriggling again. “I like how you feel, but, OK. Now you can move. I need to cool off.”

Colin slid slowly off Joshua’s body and half turned to reach toward the bedside table. When he turned back to Joshua, he had a towel in one hand. “Clean up, sir?” he asked with a grin.

“Love it!” Joshua replied, laughing as Colin dabbed at his naked body with the towel, eagerly blotting up all traces of semen and sweat. “What’s this? I don’t usually get this kind of service.” The towel was soft, and Colin slid it, tenderly, over his body, then used the other end to wipe at himself before tossing it to the floor.

“Now,” he said, grinning down at Joshua. “It’s time for a Halloween treat.

Josh stretched languorously. “A Halloween treat? What kind?”

“Next year we should dress up,” Colin said, bending over him.

“As what?” Josh asked. “A cop and his prisoner?”

“No,” Colin said, shaking his head. “Though, I do have some ideas about that.” He placed something on Joshua’s chest.

“What’s that?” Josh asked, lifting his head to peer down. “What did you put on me?” Then, spotting the small item, he burst into laughter. “Oh my god, Colin!” A piece of candy corn was resting close to his nipple. “Please tell me you didn’t steal that from Sarah and Deborah’s Halloween bags!”

“I’ll have you know,” Colin said, faking an offended tone, “that I did not steal Halloween candy from David’s daughters. I bought this candy corn myself especially for this occasion.” He bent and ate the candy from Josh’s chest, his wet tongue gliding across Joshua’s nipple many more times than was necessary to accomplish his task.” Mmmmm,” he sighed. “So good! This is just heaven.”

“You,” Joshua observed sadly, “are totally bat-shit crazy. Do you know that?”

“Really?” Colin said, laying a piece of candy a bit lower on Josh’s chest. “You think so?” He bent and licked the treat from Joshua’s smooth, olive skin.

Josh shivered a bit as Colin’s tongue caressed his chest. “Well,” he admitted finally, “I have to admit, this feels pretty damned good.” He sighed, closing his eyes, then abruptly opened them again. “Hey, what ‘thoughts’ did you have about Halloween costumes?”

Another piece of candy corn landed on Josh’s body. This time the sweet treat fell right next to his navel.

“Mmmm,” Colin hummed appreciatively. “Now that’s a beautiful sight.” He bent and licked the candy into his mouth. Then, unable to resist, he swirled his tongue around Joshua’s navel.

“Mmmm, yourself,” Josh moaned in response, feeling his dick begin to respond to the moist caress of Colin’s lips and tongue. “Costumes, Colin?” he said finally. “Your thoughts on costumes? And if you put one of those on my dick I’ll…” his voice trailed away leaving his threat unfinished.

Colin grinned, nuzzling Joshua’s smooth belly. “You’ll what!” he demanded.

“Just the visual, Colin,” Joshua said, choked with laughter. “C’mon, Irish! The visual!”

Colin pressed his face to Josh’s naked belly, his whole body shaking with laughter. “Mean!” he said finally, recovering a bit. “That’s just mean, Joshua.”

“Costumes, Colin,” Josh reminded him.

“Well,” Colin said, placing another piece of candy corn on the crease where Josh’s leg met his body. “What I visualize is this.” He lifted his hand and moved it across thin air as if setting a stage. “YOU,” he said dramatically, “dressed as a slave boy.”

Joshua choked with laughter.”

“A red leather thong firmly in place,” Colin continued, staring into space as he described his vision. “The straps of leather attached to the thong are wrapped – seductively wrapped mind you – ” he added, “around your thighs.”

Joshua screamed with laughter as Colin lowered his head and licked up the candy leaving a wet trail on Joshua’s thigh.

Then he lifted his head and continued: “A matching red leather harness is twined around your chest, extremely hot, and yet…” he inhaled and paused for effect “tasteful. It displays your pectoral muscles and nipples in a daring peek-a-boo manner, guaranteed – guaranteed mind you – ” he said soberly, waving a forefinger in front of Josh’s face for emphasis… “to make a grown man – who would be me – ” he added in a stage-whisper, pointing to himself, “positively weep with joy.”

Joshua gasped for breath, still shaking with laughter.

“And,” Colin continued, seemingly unaffected by Josh’s shrieks of mirth, “around your neck is a gold collar to which is attached…” he paused for emphasis. “…a red leash.”

“You don’t say!” Joshua choked, still laughing.

“I do say,” Colin continued. “And I’ll bet you can’t imagine who is holding that leash!” He paused and peered down at Joshua, eyebrows raised questioningly. “Care to venture a guess?”

“Would that be…” Josh paused and rolled his eyes, as if thinking the question over, “… YOU, perhaps?”

“Me, indeed!” Colin replied. “And may I say you are VERY intelligent for a slave boy.”

“And how are you dressed, Colin?” Joshua asked him, grinning from ear to ear. “Or should I refer to you as master?”

“Not until you’re wearing the costume,” Colin informed him. “Me? How am I dressed?”

“I can’t wait,” Joshua said, chuckling.

“Well,” Colin said conversationally, leaning on his arm as he stretched out next to Joshua, “as you might expect, I’m dressed entirely in black leather.”

“Looking ever so hot!” Joshua added.

Colin laughed. “But of course!” he said, laying another candy corn on Joshua’s belly. “You know I always look hot in leather.” He dipped his head to lick the candy corn from Joshua’s body.

Joshua wrapped an arm around Colin’s neck and tugged him closer until their bodies were once again molded together. “It’s one of the very first things I noticed about you,” he murmured seductively. “That you look hot as fuck in leather.” He captured Colin’s lips in a long, lingering kiss.

Colin returned his kiss, snuggling closer. “Mmmm…” he moaned. “This is heaven.”

“I thought you said eating candy corn off my body was heaven,” Joshua reminded him, still grinning.

“Anything that has to do with your naked body is heaven,” Colin replied.

“You got any more of that candy corn?” Joshua asked, trying to peer over Colin’s shoulder toward the bedside table. “You’ve been hogging it. And what’s in that huge bag you brought in with you tonight? You shoved it into the fridge before I had a chance to peek at it.”

Colin turned and plunged his hand into a small, brown bag that sat on the nearby table. It immediately emerged filled with candy corn. “Here you go,” he said, pouring half the candy into Joshua’s hand and then popping a few into his mouth. “Far as the bag goes it’s got more candy, a quart of cider that’s just dying to be heated up in the microwave, a pumpkin pie with whipped cream for the top, aaaannnd,” he drawled, “… a DVD!”

“What’s the DVD?”

“BWAAA HAAA HAAA!” Colin fake-laughed “I stopped and borrowed it from Jeff! It’s The Thiiiiiiing!”

“Brilliant!” Joshua exclaimed. “You are the perfect Halloween date!”

“Then later, maybe, we’ll have hot cider and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.”

“And when we do,” Joshua said, nuzzling Colin’s cheek, “I’ll have something interesting to lick off your body!”

Colin snickered. “I’m willing to bet that I’d be totally …” he inhaled deeply and waggled his eyebrows in a wickedly suggestive manner, “up for that activity.”

“I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised,” Joshua said, grinning. “And hey,” he added in a softer voice, “Happy Halloween, baby. And thanks. You always make me feel so special.”

“That’s because you are special.” He returned Joshua’s kiss and smiled. And besides, I love you, my little Jewish slave boy. Now let’s go watch The THING!’

Joshua grabbed the candy bag and, cackling like a couple of witches hovering over a boiling caldron, they dashed downstairs to the living room where pie, whipped cream and ‘The Thing’ waited.

 

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.

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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