Frolic Presents: ’A Holiday By Any Other Name’ Chapter Four by Jude Sierra

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[Note From Frolic: We are so excited to announce our Festive Four Stories! Every week in December we will have a new short holiday story from 4 of your favorite authors. This Jude Sierra with the most adorable LGBTQ+ story.]

[Click Here for Chapter One]
[Click Here for Chapter Two]
[Click Here for Chapter Three]
 
Chapter Four

December 29

“No,” Micah said flatly, “No more holiday parties.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled loudly. He’d done a spectacular job of avoiding Sam for the rest of the week but couldn’t dodge a reminder that he’d agreed to go to a New Year’s Eve ball with Sam and Dean and the rest of the college gang weeks ago.

“C’mon Micah, it’s New Years! You promised. You love New Year’s Eve!”

“Who are you talking to and what have you done with my best friend?” Micah pulled the phone from his ear and stared at it.

“Oh, god, I forgot about your total disdain for resolutions,” Sam said.

“They’re stupid! Just make changes during the year! Don’t wait for an arbitrary day, you’ll never make it that way. And the confetti. Why? Why? Do you know I found more of that freaking glitter from Liv’s invitation yesterday? They’re like the cockroaches of crafting.”

“Christ, man, calm yourself,” Sam said.

“Don’t take your lord’s name in vain,” Micah said. His laughter ruined the effect. “I can’t help it, it’s a dumbass holiday.”

“Okay, I don’t know how I haven’t noticed this before but seriously, do you hate every holiday? Is there anything sacred in the celebratory world?”

“I like plenty of holidays.”

“Valentine’s?”

“Ugh, commercialized romance? Gag me.”

“Easter?”

“No,” Micah said immediately. “Just no. Unless it’s religious. That’s the problem! It’s so rude, the eggs and the candy and like, turning what’s really a very holy day for some people and boiling it down to a rabbit entering your home and hiding eggs. That’s messed up.”

“You may have a small point. But I could be hallucinating. I got lost in the bitter, bitter black hole of your heart that hates joy, God. And, may I add, I’m pretty sure I know an Uncle Micah who swooned over pictures of my daughter in her Easter dress.”

“Shut up, that’s different.”

“Uh, huh. Sure.” Sam paused. “Okay, so joy is dead. What about Memorial Day?”

“Okay, here’s the thing. I’m all for thanking veterans for service but why with all the fire trucks in parades? Must we all be assaulted with horrible noise while being pelted with candy by Boy Scouts?”

“Fourth of July,” Sam said without pause.

“Watermelon tastes like dirty water. Outdoor eating of pasta salad just offensive.”

“Labor Day.”

“No. Just no.”

“Halloween.”

Micah inhaled sharply through his nose. She totally had him. “Okay, in principle-”

“No. Nope. You have no leg to stand on, Halloween is no time for your false principles, complaining about people using children as pawns in some master game-”

“Okay, that’s a bit much even for me.”

“Whatever. Who here begged to take Maggie out when I was sick and Dean had to work? Who helped me put together her costume? Who basically made me have a full on photoshoot with a wind machine-”

Micah snorted in a breath through his laughter. “It was a windy day, you jerk, and I thought a picture of her princess dress billowing out would be cute.”

“My point exactly.”

“I will concede that I enjoyed this Halloween. Because of Maggie.”

“Well, if you…” Sam trailed off

“Sam, you there?” Micah checked to make sure their call hadn’t been disconnected. “Sam?”

“Thanksgiving,” Sam said, too loud and a little rushed. “You’ve always come to Thanksgiving.”

“Okay, so here’s the deal,” Micah started.

“Oh no, what have I started now?”

“No, really, this is a good one. I do like Thanksgiving in practice. I love the togetherness. I love feeling like I have family to come home to.” He cleared his throat.

“Oh, Micah,” Sam said.

“Never mind that part,” he said gently. “But it’s difficult to ignore the fact that we are celebrating what’s a myth intended to perpetuate a narrative of togetherness and peace that erases the genocide and mistreatment—which is hardly the appropriate word—of the indigenous peoples systematically murdered and displaced from their lands.”

“That’s…”

“I know, I know, I’m awful and a scrooge, etc. etc.”

“No,” Sam said. “That was really well said. And sad.”

“Sam, I love this holiday with you guys, but not because of the holiday. I’d pick any other weekend or time in the year and wish that everyone could find a way to celebrate togetherness and have family, found or not, that captures that same spirit. You all mean so much to me that I selfishly can’t not do it on principle.”

“Micah,” Sam said. He had to strain to hear her. “I really love you. I hope you know that.”

Micah pressed a finger to his lips and closed his smarting eyes. “Same.” He would have said more, if only he could speak. But what he felt was so big, and his voice much too small.

“Honey, if you love that togetherness and family and friendship, why are you fighting New Year’s so hard?”

Micah closed his eyes. Why was he? He was in an apartment where he lived alone. One corner was littered with toys for a child that wasn’t his, who lived an hour away, who he only saw once or twice a month. The walls were grey, his furniture bland. The aching in his heart for what his friends had—partners; children; settled, comfortable futures—throbbed. Micah wanted someone to wake up with a distracted kiss to the back of his neck and warm coffee. Laughter over burned dinner. Someone to talk to about the echoing and hurting corners of his heart that still felt every day of silence, the cutting moment when his parents had kicked him out.

Ben had done that. Fleetingly, in the rare times they were together. Even as a friend, Ben was never afraid to try. In fact, Ben always seemed to reach out and gently encourage Micah to address what and how he was feeling. He was never intrusive: Ben always knew when to pull back.

Great. More too-late realizations to add to the list of reasons he’d fallen for Ben but never let himself realize.

“Sam, I think I made a huge mistake,” he confessed. Micah picked at the loose threads where his jeans were distressed. He’d worried them non-stop lately, so what was once aesthetic was quickly becoming a hot mess of giant holes.

“Can you tell me more? What do you mean?”

“You know what I’m talking about.” Micah bit his lip. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

“I’m pretty tough, I think I’ll live. You get a pass because you’re feeling a lot right now, and you don’t usually share that.”

“I share how I feel with you all the time.”

“Micah, honey. You don’t share these things, the ones that really hurt. Why do you keep trying to carry the burden alone?”

“Sam, you’re gonna make me cry and that violates rule 76 of the best friend charter.”

“Nonsense. That was an addendum unilaterally added by you that I didn’t sign off on. All I remember were these: number one, love each other unconditionally. Two, always show up when one of us is in need. Three, be honest, ask for honesty, respect your friend’s truth.”

“Wow, you actually had that planned?” Micah smiled, brushing moisture from his cheeks with the back of his hand.

“Naw, I just think fast on my feet. Don’t change the subject. We’re talking about Ben. And the kissing. Which you think was a mistake?”

“No,” Micah said. Be honest, she’d said. “Listen. I know Ben is your brother, but I need you to think of him as a friend right now.”

“Oh, my god.” Sam gasped. “You slept with him?”

“Please don’t kill me for this.”

“For what?” Sam was honestly a little scary when her voice went dark and sharp.

“We’ve been hooking up since junior year of college.”

What!?” Micah pulled the phone from his ear and winced. “What? You-how… how did I not- you never said a thing! He never…” she went quiet. “Oh! Oh.”

“What, oh? What does that mean?”

“Never mind me right now, this is your truth time. Why and how did you manage to keep this a secret? How did this happen?”

“You really wanna-?”

“Spare me details, give me plot.”

“Well,” Micah said. He spread his hand flat. “The first time I don’t even remember how it happened. We weren’t drunk or anything,” he rushed to clarify. “We just ended up there. And when we woke up the next day, we looked at each other and… laughed.”

“At each other?”

“No. Good laughter. ‘This is okay, that was fun, everything will be fine’ laughter.” Micah remembers that morning with bright clarity more than anything they’d done the night before. For years after, trust and understanding connected them, bright threads that they managed to tug on every time they were together. Something snapped, Christmas morning, and he had no idea why. Ben had pulled away first and Micah had followed his lead. Only, since, he hadn’t replied to a single one of Micah’s texts or calls.

“So… you kept hooking up, but… nothing romantic?”

“We weren’t hooking up all the time. He was moving soon and we didn’t want anyone to know because Nicole and Owen had just broken up for the first time and it was so messy. Do you remember how toxic it was for all of us? Ben and I… we knew it was going to be okay, and that our friendship came first. There was trust and caring and it was easy.”

“So, what you’re saying is that it wasn’t romantic, but only because of our friends and his new job?”

“No,” Micah said. “I don’t think- I mean, in the moment I don’t remember feeling like that sort of romance could happen to me.” Wait, what?

“What do you mean, to you?”

“No, I- in general, I mean.”

“Micah, can I have a moment of truth-time with you?”

“Uh.” Micah fidgeted. His heart was racing. Did he want to hear this?

“Have you ever felt like that? Like you could have love and trust without strings and fear?”

“Sam…”

“You don’t have to answer that now. I don’t want to hurt you, Micah. But I want you to go to bed tonight and think about it. Because I’ve met your boyfriends in the past, and I don’t think you’ve ever felt like that with them. That easy, fun, trusting friendship with a boyfriend.”

“What does this have to do with Ben?”

Sam was silent for a long time. Micah breathed into her silence, ordering his heart to be still.

“You never said,” Sam finally spoke. “Which part of it you thought was a mistake.”

“Deflecting when you caught us,” Micah said. “It’s always been our secret and I thought he wanted it that way. Everything before was… it was really good, Sam.”

“Again, I say, spare me details.”

“I don’t mean the sex. Being with him, it was something else.”

“Oh, honey.” Micah almost couldn’t bear her voice then.

“Okay, what do you know that I don’t? Because you have that tone happening.”

“What tone? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She’d responded immediately, but there was still something almost… off. Micah didn’t think she was lying, exactly. Then again, he wasn’t sure he could trust his perception anymore.

He sighed. “It doesn’t matter, it is what it is.”

“Micah, I’m going to go out on a limb here. But why don’t you talk to him?”

He shook his head, then realized she couldn’t see him. He thought of Christmas day, he and Ben pretending nothing had happened and the utter silence any time they were alone. All of a sudden, he wished he were with Sam. That he could lean against her and feel her warmth and be comforted by someone, anyone, instead of a cold and constantly empty apartment.

“Yeah, maybe.” For some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her about the silence, the unanswered calls. Ben was back home now, dealing with jet lag and going back to work in a few days; he didn’t need Sam calling and bothering him.

“Micah,” she said, gentle but censuring all the same.

“I will,” he promised, with no need to qualify or articulate what he meant. This part, he knew, was between Ben and himself. That was the whole point of keeping it just for themselves all these years.

[Come Back Tomorrow for the Final Chapter!]

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