I’ll always remember the first time I saw Okos. I was fifteen years old, and I was watching one of those meaningless TV show about obnoxious jackass with Jiffy whining in the background. I was doing a great job ignoring her, but my mother was having none of it.
“Jan, could you please let the dog out,” she asked me with a voice that made it clear I wasn’t to argue.
I sighed, but I grabbed the leash anyway. Jiffy was just too happy to oblige, and I waited for her while complaining in my yet inexistent beard.
That’s when I saw him.
He held a garbage bag in each hand, and he was hurrying to the green can on the side of his house. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, tall and handsome, and a few years too old for me. I watched him get back inside, flustered, and when I pulled Jiffy back into the house, I couldn’t deny my attraction to men anymore.
But I was fifteen, and I moved on. I’ve had dates and boyfriends, and more than once, I thought I’d found the one. I could never forget the first time I told myself I was gay.
It took ten years for words to be spoken between us. I was single for the first Valentine Day in years, and my well-meaning roommate thought it best to force me out of my solitude by pulling me into our local pub.
We’d just ordered beers when a warm melody stole my focus. The man on stage had black curled hair illuminated by the dark red lights and long fingers brushing a guitar. I didn’t recognize him then, but the low raspy voice as he sang his heartbreaking song enthralled me. Our eyes met, and the pub’s lonely hearts disappeared around me when he smiled.
Eventually, the acoustic music was replaced, and I remember the excitement as Okos headed for the bar. The barwoman slid him a glass of whiskey which he sipped before smiling at me.
“Hi,” he said, the gruff sound of his voice sending pleasant shiver to my body.
Right there, I almost forgot how to speak. “You’re really good.”
“Thanks, I’m Okos.”
His confusion was nothing new, but I chuckled nonetheless. “It’s my name. January. But everyone just call me Jan.”
He moved closer to me, and my heart missed a beat. “Let me guess,” he said, “you were born in January.”
He laughed then, and the sound of it made my body noticed how close he was. “Someone had a sense of humour.”
I was about to ask if he wanted to get out of there when we were interrupted by his friends. Alone at the bar once again, I didn’t notice right away the card he’d left with his empty whiskey glass.
I didn’t call him the next day or the one after that. But I kept going back to our meeting in my head; his laughter, the musky undefined scents of his skin, the lingering touches of our fingers just before he left. Twice, I found myself doodling him instead of working on my current freelance project.
The more I thought about him, the more I felt as if I had seen him before. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
When I finally did call him, I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t new to hookups and dating, but I believe my subconscious already knew calling him was a life altering decision.
Our first date was – well, it was a first date; we got to learn about each other in semi awkwardness. I learned he was a music teacher in my old high school, which lead to the revelation that Okos was, in fact, the hot neighbour I’d fantasize about for a long-ago summer.
Before I knew it, we had a house, two cats and a ring on each other’s finger.
One hell of a happily ever after bliss. Or you know, a honeymoon pink tinted one.
A winter holiday theme, A “bad boy” character, and A gift of some kind (author’s choice).
This is how Mark and Dylan came to be. I hope you will like them just as much as I did, and you can be expect to see them again in the future.
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Rocking around the Christmas Tree made place to the romantic notes of The Carpenters’ Merry Christmas, Darling. I picked up a small ceramic snowman and my eyes widened at the price. I placed it back with its friends, and I rubbed my glitter-tainted finger on my jean.
A middle aged lady with a nervous glare asked if I needed her assistance, but before I could answer her, my friend Mark came from behind me and slid his arm under mine. For show, he even gave a quick kiss on my jaw before looking from above my shoulder.
“Found anything, babe?”
Suddenly, her stiffness and reserve became animated gestures and friendly smiles. I didn’t think Mark noticed, why would he? People didn’t look at him the way they looked at me. Mark had his upbringing’s rich boy look, while I was give off a scruffy no-good bum vibe.
If only they knew.
“You think your mother would like this?”
Mark’s laugher resonated in my eyes, and I couldn’t help the shiver that came through my body. The embrace felt good and was distracting me from my purpose.
Keep to the plan.
“You worry too much. She’ll love the necklace you bought her.”
Another kiss on the jaw, and Mark moved away from me, his hand never leaving mine.
His fingers were cold, but they brought an unexpected warm all over me. My heart beat so fast and loud in my mind that I didn’t hear the lady’s response. Mark thanked her, and I counted the step to the exit.
Ten. Eleven. Twelve.
We were almost out when the security guard called upon us.
Mark squeezed my hand and pulled me with him. I let the adrenaline overwhelm me, and ran as fast as I could.
We dodged the guard, and I realized at that moment just how screw I was. For three years, I’ve done everything to convince the world I wasn’t the bad boy they saw in me, but one look at sweet-talking Mark, and I was running from the law.
“Oh, shit.” Mark said between two breathe. “That was a close call.”
Mark threw his arm around my neck, and if having his lips so close to mine would usually have me think about kisses and other naughtiness, I couldn’t shake the image of the last time I saw my brother.
I was going to get thrown into juvi like he had. The one fate I’ve done everything to avoid.
“I can’t believe we could have been arrested.” Mark laughed.
And I couldn’t believe I let him convinced me it was a good idea.
“No. I would—”
My words were muffled when I suddenly had Mark’s lips against mine. I froze, and before I could react, Mark backed away from me.
“Shit, I’m sorry.” He stepped to me again, and his hands cup my face. “So, sorry.”
He tried to wipe my lips with his fingers, and I was still in shock, my heart beating in my chest.
My eyes went to his lips. It could be my only chance.
I pushed him into the red brick wall and kissed him with all my soul. Every time one of us would come up for air, the other would dive for another kiss.
Eventually, I dug my face in his neck, and we held each other for a moment. I took everything in; if it was to be the last of us I wanted to remember it all.
“I wouldn’t have let you take the fall, you know.”
I believed him, but didn’t think it would have matter in the end.
But instead of expressing my feelings, I kissed him again. He passed his hand through my hair, and a cold drift brushed where my tuque was. Mark put our forehead together and he forced eye contact. Light snow fell around us.
“I’m sorry I brought you into this.”
“I should have told you your plan sucked.”
Mark raised a corner of his mouth. “Why didn’t you?”
“You sounded experienced.” And I didn’t want you to think I was a coward.
Mark shook his head. “Just wanted to impress you.”
I brought our lips closer. “Had me decide to cut you loose.”
“We can’t have that.”
He kissed me again, and when we separated, he whispered. “I couldn’t have hope for a better ending.”
“What do you reckon we do with—” I dug into my pocket to grab the necklace, but my finger closed on something too large to be Mark’s mom gift.
I took the watch out of my pocket. The price was still attached to the large silver band, and the inside of the watch was dark blue with fine diamonds-like sparkles that made it look like stars on a night sky.
“Mom likes to buy her own gifts,” Mark took the watch from my hands, and slid it around my wrist. “It fits you.”
“I can’t be holding on to stolen goods.”
He sighed. “I know, but I just wanted you to have something to remember me by.”
I hugged him and brushed my jaw along his. “I couldn’t forget you even if I wanted too.”
Mark smiled at me, and I felt the butterfly in my stomach.
“I love you.” He froze. “I mean…”
I didn’t let him ruin the moment, and kissed him.
Later, Mark convinced the store not to press charges and I didn’t go to juvenile detention. We had to apologize and give back the watch, and we couldn’t come back ever again, but in the end, I had Mark, and that was worth a million watches.
Darcy woke up disoriented from his dream. He turned in the fluffy bed, reaching for Link, but hugged the second pillow instead. He moaned and closed his eyes, but the images of his dream were gone from his mind.
He rose in his naked glory and took a cold shower. What had he been thinking? He should’ve listened when his father said the cruise was a bad idea. All that testosterone and naked skin had gone straight to Darcy’s little brain. He couldn’t see a couple without thinking it should be Link and him, holding hands and kissing under the Hawaiian sunset. He pushed the thought from his mind. The idea had been to help Link get over his ex, not for Darcy to indulge in a decade-old fantasy.
When he came back from the shower, he noticed he’d received a text from Link telling him he’d be at the cooking class. Good. That would give him an hour or two to gather his thoughts. He put on his speedo and tied the rainbow beach towel around his waist.
The pool wasn’t empty by any means, but the attendance was nothing like it’d been with the heat yesterday. He noticed all the eyes on him as he spread his towel on the ground. Maybe he should also use this cruise to get over Link. He dived into the pool. When Darcy emerged from the water, he crossed gazes with another swimmer. Normally, he wouldn’t have given it any thought. Instead, he kept the eye contact a second more than necessary and glanced over the guy’s body. Anticipation rose inside him as he made a step toward him. His heart pounded, and he tried to imagine what it would be like to kiss those full lips, the feel of the man’s hard body against his. But then Link came to mind, and the spell was broken. Darcy dived back into the water and emerged farther away.
He turned to see Graham. They’d met on his first day. A tanned, blond man stood with his arms around Graham.
“Hey, great to see you again.”
“You remember Matt?” Now Graham said his name, Darcy recognized him as the one Graham bid on at the bachelor auction.
They exchanged some pleasantries, and eventually, Matt kissed Graham before leaving the pool to lie in the long chairs on the side.
“I can’t believe I could’ve passed on Matt. I’m glad that other guy beat my first bid.”
“Lucky you.” Darcy didn’t mean to let the pinch of resentment show in his voice.
“You didn’t get into the right boat if you wanted to find love, straight boy.”
Graham didn’t believe him, but who did, nowadays? All of his father’s jokes about how Link and Darcy were like an old couple, and his teasing about how Darcy better not came back from the trip married to Link, spoke volumes for his father’s beliefs. And then there was the issue of every girlfriend he had breaking up with some version of “You’re in love with Link, deal with it”.
Darcy snorted. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, I suppose true love could be one bisexual girl away.”
True love always brought images of Link.
“I doubt it.” The corner of his lips turned up in a sad smile. “I’ve had my chances. Now it’s too late.”
“Oh, come on”—Graham bumped their shoulders together—“don’t be such a pessimist.”
Darcy gave him a real smile this time, and Graham seemed satisfied.
“So, tell me, what’s so bad that it can’t be fixed? You cheated on her or something?”
“No, nothing like that. I… Have you ever waited to do something because you weren’t ready, but when you were, it’d been so long you couldn’t do anything about it?”
“Hmm, hmm.” Graham grabbed a noodle and leaned on it.
“You know what? I’m sure you have better things to do than listen to me rant about my coming out issues.”
Graham stopped Darcy. “Are you? Okay, stupid question. Of course you are. I don’t know one straight guy willing to suffer through a two-week Pride cruise.”
“You can’t tell anyone.” Darcy’s heart beat against his chest. Link can’t know.
“Hey, we all went through it. If there’s one place you should be able to find a good and discreet ear, it’s on the Queen Bee. I won’t tell a soul if you don’t want me to, but look around, no one will judge you.”
“I’m not ready yet.” It would change Link and Darcy’s relationship forever.
“Let’s go someplace more private then.”
Graham reached for the stairs while Darcy pushed himself above the edge with the ease of a swimmer. Graham whispered something to Matt, and Darcy got his towel to dry himself.
Was he really going to tell another soul about his feelings for Link? Fear paralyzed him as Graham and Matt kissed. For a second, he saw himself lying on the chair, being kissed by Link. A couple walking hand-in-hand around the edge of the pool distracted Darcy, but again, all he saw was the imaginary version of Link and Darcy—together.
He closed his eyes. Something had to give before he became any crazier. And right then, before he followed Graham, Darcy made himself a promise. Before the end of the cruise, he’d find the courage to tell Link everything.
And it would start by telling Graham.
My little Shrubbery,I know nothing I say can erase the mistakes I did with you or mend our relationship, but if you read these words, it means that I have passed away. I’m sorry I don’t have the bravery to get this letter to you in person, or the bravery to write the words I’m dying to tell you. I hope you live a full life with a good man, maybe even children of your own. I know you’ll be a better father that I ever was, and I’m prou your mother would be proud of you.Your father.
On the top of his mountain, hands busy carving an intricate wooden sword, the God of War watched. He watched as Stone looked for Cresus, and he watched as Cresus escaped the wrath of Byrne, and all of the men sent after him. And by his life, the God of War hoped to achieve the most magical magic of all, a magic that disappeared at his lover’s death. Centuries it had been, but for the God of War, it felt like yesterday everything was perfect. The world was still the one they created together, before only war and misery was left. The God of War couldn’t get his lover back, but even if only for a moment, he could revive his lover’s legacy; there would be hope. Hope of a better future, where once again, pain and happiness would walk hand in hand in the world below. The God of War laid the sword in display on a bed of fir needles and disappeared in a clap of thunder.
Dark purple smoke rose from the fir needles, trapping the sword in its magic, until the sword glowed pastel pink and absorbed the darkness around itself. And as the smoke disappeared and the glow faded, there lay the sword, reflecting the sun toward where the God of War had left.
Down below, as Cresus hung at the edge of the drop, ready to die for the secret he meant to keep, revelation came upon him. He smiled, and let go of the wall.
Stone and his men saw Cresus fall, but they knew better than to let Fate take care of their problems. As long as they did not have a body, they would not stop their search for Cresus, the man to kill them all. Byrne would not accept anything less than the man’s head on a plate, and by the God of War, Stone and his troops were going to get it. They searched every corner of the land, but never found his body.
On their shame did Byrne feast on the bodies of his men, exiling Stone with the knowledge his failure had cost the life of his men, and cost their families to suffer in shame over their death. Stone followed the tracks to the city of Millstone, where the local ironmaster told him tales of a sword, lost in the Millstone Mountain, that could kill anything. So then Stone went and found the sword.
And for years did Stone look for Cresus, making it his mission to kill the un-killable, and to restore the honour of his men. When a note was left at a tavern asking for him, Stone faced Cresus at the top of Millstone’s Hill, ready for his enemy’s demise. And as his sword pierced the garden of roses ornament of Cresus’ chest plate, the most incredible thing happened— the sword broke, shards of wood flying around as Cresus’ metal armour shattered into a million rose petals.
And as an unsuspected love flew between them, an ironmaster in his Millstone’s shop breathed out for the last time, ready to join his lover in death, content to see the balance between war and love restored, and the birth of new Gods.
Check out the wedbrief website where you’ll find summaries and links, or jump right to the author website.
William reached outside the sleeve of his winter coat and watched as a unique flake fell upon his hand, a white star that melted as soon as it landed, and left the smallest water dot as a proof it ever existed. William’s lashes stuck together as he closed his eyes in an attempt to stop the tears from drowning him in his sorrow. He tightened the top of his coat around the scarf when the sob, starting in his stomach, caught in his throat before escaping his lips as laughter. Suddenly, he couldn’t stop that macabre sound from breaking the silence of the evening. He turned his back from the stranger who appeared at the corner of the road, willing his body to stop shaking. He had just enough pride left in him not to want anyone to see him like this.
The stranger continued on his way, a vague blue spot in the dark, smaller and smaller as he went. The sobbing and the laughing calmed down, but the frozen path of tears on his cheek refused to let go. A young child, using the heat of his hands to trace a circle on the window, smiled at him. William waved at the child, but he couldn’t smile back. The pain of it adding to the weight on his shoulder. He turned his back to the child, and walked away in the cold December.
William didn’t know how much longer he walked in the night. He did so until the twenty-four hour diner appeared on his road, barely standing, yet the only building in kilometers. Its owner was a warm and welcoming woman so unlike the outside world, and for the duration of a twenty cent meal, William almost felt at home. Until her husband came to the front, and the subtle yet tender look they give each other only reminded William of the lost.
“Don’t you like it?” the husband asked.
William looked at his boiled potato and ham, but the hunger had gone. He had a love like this, once. A love that would travel time and space, but an impossible love nevertheless. A love that no one understood. And he’d pushed Joseph to seek marriage with a proper woman, one who’d give him children, and a life away from sin, away from William.
He pushed the plate away as the door behind him opened. He didn’t turn, didn’t look to see who it was. It couldn’t be anyone he wanted to see.
“There’s something I can do for you, Hon?” the woman asked, and for a moment, there was no answer.
Then the newcomer said, “I already got all I can want.”
William’s heart skipped a beat. He turned, knocking the coffee down on the table, the dark liquid soaking the pale fabric. Once again, tears filled his eyes, escaping in a moment of pure joy. Even though it meant the winter would be harsher and longer than any winter had ever been, Joseph had chosen him, and that alone would be the yellow Winter Aconite piercing the heavy snow to announce the Spring.
Check out the wedbrief website where you’ll find summaries and links, or jump right to the author website.