t’was the night before christmas by phoenix.writing

23 May

Christmas was Brian’s favourite time of year.  As a kid, he’d loved the presents.  It had been so exciting to see that tree all decorated, to hang the stockings above the fireplace, to leave milk and cookies out for Santa.  When he came downstairs Christmas morning and all those gifts had appeared just like magic, it was perfect.

Growing up, he’d continued to enjoy the holiday, but he’d come to appreciate just how much work it had been for Mom to get everything ready, for her to ensure that all six kids had everything they wanted (or at least as close as she could reasonably achieve).  He still enjoyed the holiday, but it just wasn’t the same.

Now that he was older, he could help bring that magical element to the next generation.  His siblings had given Mom and Dad eleven grandkids and counting, and Christmas was one of the only times in the year when they managed to all be under the same roof at the same time.  Mom loved every minute of it, and nothing gave Brian more enjoyment than seeing the look of wonder on the kids’ faces when they got up Christmas morning and saw all the gifts.

Sometimes his sibs complained that he was spoiling their kids, but Brian was sure that that was what an uncle was for; since he didn’t have any kids of his own, it was doubly his duty to spoil his nieces and nephews.

It was amazing how fast they grew.  Julia was already twenty, and it would be a blink of the eye before the others were finishing university and moving on with their adult lives, too.  Now was the time to spoil them, as far as Brian was concerned, and after he’d promised not to give them so much sugar that their parents wouldn’t be able to get them to bed for a week, he’d been permitted to continue with his avuncular duties.

The youngest was just shy of five this Christmas Eve.  Once all the kids had changed into their new Christmas pyjamas and snuggled up by the tree with a last mug of cocoa before bed, it was story time.

They’d each gotten a storybook with their pyjamas, but it wasn’t this that they wanted to hear.  They had a bit of a funny tradition in their family, and it was now time to recollect how their parents or aunts and uncles had got together.

George was the only one who was still single, so they were all waiting to see if he broke the tradition, but thus far, there had always been something interesting or a little bit strange about how they’d each met or become a couple.

Most of the kids had heard the stories before, of course, but as the youngest got older, the stories stuck better, and like most young children, they didn’t seem to tire of hearing the same story over and over again.

The kids all conferred by the tree, choosing their storyteller, and the adults watched with some amusement.

A few moments later, Jo’s youngest, Allison, turned to him, and Brian knew who she’d picked even before she spoke.  There’d been several years of Jo and Chris and Star Trek marathons, and it had been Edward and Susan and the case of mistaken identity last year.  He’d really thought that it was going to be James and Angelica this time, but apparently he’d miscalculated.

“Uncle Brian, c’you tell us how you and Uncle Colin met?”

He and Colin exchanged glances, and then he smiled at the assembled children and all their hopeful faces.  He still thought the others had much more interesting stories than he had, but it wasn’t his opinion that mattered.

“Of course I can.  Come here, Alley Cat.”

She crawled into his lap and stuck her thumb in her mouth.  Jo and Chris were trying to cure her of the habit, but so far, they hadn’t had any luck.  Alli was looking at them expectantly, brown eyes wide.

“It was my second week of university,” Brian began.  “Classes had started, so it was pretty busy.  I was on my own for the first time, and everything was new and exciting but a little bit scary because it was so different from what I was used to.”

It had taken years before Brian was able to admit that aloud, that it hadn’t all been perfect and he’d actually been a lot more homesick than he’d expected.  But he’d felt for so long that he had something to prove, and the realisation that all he needed to judge by was his own happiness had been slow to set in.  It wasn’t like he wanted to do what his sibs did or follow their life paths.

Brian continued: “Back then, I hadn’t realized that I liked boys.”

Alli giggled.  “You thought you liked girls?  That’s silly, Uncle Brian.”

The rest of the kids were nodding in agreement, and Brian rolled his eyes and admitted a little wryly, “I was a little stupid back then.  Fortunately, Colin thought my liking girls was about as silly as you all do, and he was very persistent.”

“What did you do, Uncle Colin?” It was Edmund, James’s youngest.

Colin took over.  “I told him that I certainly didn’t want him to do anything he didn’t like but I thought denial was rather pointless.  I asked him for a kiss.”

Several of the kids wrinkled their noses; they were at the age where kissing was definitely not on the agenda.

Brian resumed the narrative.  “According to Colin, if I did like the kiss, I’d’ve learned something important, and if I didn’t like the kiss, he’d leave me alone—and since he’d been pestering me all evening, that seemed like a very good deal.”

Colin opened his mouth, looking as though he were going to protest, but Brian stared him down.  He’d definitely been pestering.

Alli pulled her thumb out of her mouth to ask, “So you kissed?”

“We kissed,” Brian confirmed.  “And it turns out that Colin was right, and I did like boys.”

“I am very clever,” Colin pointed out.  “As you can see, we’ve lived happily ever after.”

The kids cheered, the adults laughed, and Colin and Brian gave in gracefully for the demand of an encore, giving one another a quick kiss on the lips.

There was a flurry of activity as the children were admonished to finish their hot chocolate, brush their teeth, and get into bed before Santa decided it was too late to stop at the house.

It was almost an hour later when Colin and Brian had almost finished putting all the stocking presents into the stockings—Brian was still not sure how this had wound up as their job—that Colin slipped behind Brian, wrapped an arm around his waist, and leaned his chin on Brian’s shoulder.

“Was I really pestering you?”

Brian laughed.  “You were an unholy nuisance, as you well know.”  He knew what Colin was really asking, so after a pause, he admitted, “And I’ve never been happier with someone’s persistence.”

It would be their twenty-year anniversary next year.

Colin kissed Brian on the cheek, and Brian twisted his body around so that the other man could do the job properly.

When the kids were older, they’d tell them the unedited version of the story.

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Brian gets ready to head off to university in Infinite Possibilities.

Other members of Brian’s family can be seen (or heard) in The Dangers of a Red Shirt, ConspicuousConsequences,  Falling-OutThe Uses of Math, and Subliminal Salvation.

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One Response to “t’was the night before christmas by phoenix.writing”

  1. jmforceton May 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Well written, great flow through what seems to be a chapter in a book.

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