Frolic Presents: ’A Holiday By Any Other Name’ Chapter One 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.]

Chapter One

November 12th

Tis the Season to Be Married!

“What the-” Micah pulled heavy-weight paper out of an envelope decorated with holly and wreaths—what he had assumed was a much too early Christmas card. Christmas tree confetti, glittering in red, green and silver, spilled all over his countertop and onto the floor, along with a photo magnet.

 Disgruntled, he immediately pulled his phone out and called his best friend Sam.

“What kind of assholes get married on Christmas?” Micah demanded. He tucked the phone precariously between his shoulder and ear as he attempted to scoop up the confetti sticking to his countertops.

“Well technically, it’s not on Christmas,” Sam said.

“Don’t get technical with me lady.” Micah gave up on the glitter and picked up the magnet. Greg and Olivia—whom he’d been friends with since college and used to respect—smiled into each other’s eyes, adorably wrapped in large white Christmas lights. Or, well, adorable if it didn’t make you want to throw up in your mouth from the sheer cheesiness of the gesture.

“And what’s more, who sends a save the date with the invitation? Six weeks before said wedding?”

“Liv,” Sam said sensibly. Tinny sounds of some sort of speak n’ say toy filtered through the phone. She lifted her voice to be heard over it. “Don’t worry. There’s always a method to her madness.”

“Okay, well, this better be Mensa-level reasoning. Christmas, Sam.” He put the magnet on the fridge and caught sight of the time on the microwave clock. Shit, he had to get to work soon. He filled his to-go coffee mug while juggling the phone. When he glanced in the mirror, he saw his tie was askew and his hair sticking up wildly in a “Too lazy to put the work in” way rather than “Going for sexy tousled” way. Which, when he thought about it, wouldn’t be a good look for work anyway.

“Oh come on, what do you care?” asked Sam. “You’d be up here doing orphan’s Christmas with my family anyway.”

“Ugh, I hate it when you call it that.” Water droplets clung to the honey-blond hair as he finger-combed it rapidly. Nothing was helping; he gave it up for lost and refocused. “Look, it’s a wedding. They both have about seven hundred cousins apiece. Which you know, traitor, since you are one of those cousins. I’m sure they all have places to be.”

“Micah, I love you, but don’t be a dumbass. Replay that sentence in your head.”

“That they have a million family members who won’t be able to…Oh, my god. That’s brilliant.”

“Right?”

“Liv is so evil, I kind of love it.”

Sam laughed. “Talk about money-saving. This way she can have the wedding of her dreams and avoid the ritual wedding debt.”

“A Christmas-themed wedding is what she’s always dreamed of?” Micah said doubtfully. The glitterbomb of red, silver and green Christmas trees assaulting his home could count as a clue, he supposed.

“Uh, both Liv and Greg are Christmas crazy. Have you somehow missed that every year they host dinner?”

“I don’t know, I guess I’ve blocked the trauma,” Micah said. Which wasn’t a lie; now that’s she’d prompted him, he did remember an inordinate amount of elves and an explosion of tinsel-draped garlands in their house.

“Why are you such a Christmas scrooge?” Sam asked through laughter.

“It’s charming. It’s how I bring the boys to the yard.”

“Oh that’s right, being jaded and grumpy is sexy. I read that article in Men’s Health too. Oops, hold on a sec.” She muffled the phone and through it he heard her address Maggie, her daughter. “Hey, sorry, I’m back. Maggie has a little cold.”

“Oh no, is she okay?” Micah glanced out the window. Grey skies loomed, weak light filtering through the clouds. The weather forecast was calling for snow that evening. Already he could see winds kicking up outside. That was November in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Six weeks until Christmas and already wreaths were being hung on the light poles downtown. One of his neighbors had had the audacity to string up holiday lights the day before Halloween. Was nothing sacred anymore?

“There’s my boy,” Sam said.

“What?”

“Behind the Christmas Grinch behavior, my sweet boy still resides, doesn’t he Maggie? Isn’t Uncle Micah just the sweetest?”

“Mi-Ca,” Maggie said, very clearly, right into the speaker.

“Hi Maggie!” he began. “How are-”

“Yeah, no, I’m not putting her germs on my phone.” Sam cut him off.  “You’ll have to wait to talk to your best girl.”

“Shut up,” Micah smiled. She wasn’t necessarily wrong. Somehow, despite never having been a kid-oriented person in his life, Maggie was one of Micah’s favorite people in the world. Even he couldn’t deny that she had him wrapped around her tiny, two-year-old finger. “Seriously, she okay?”

“God, you’re adorable. She’s fine, just a cold. No fever even.”

“Well, give her a kiss from me. I’ve gotten her the best present for Thanksgiving, I can’t wait to see her.”

“Micah, Thanksgiving isn’t a present-giving holiday. You have to stop spoiling her.” Sam’s voice held no actual rebuke.

“See, and this is the problem with holidays. So restrictive, a whole society frowning on those who don’t conform. People can’t just do whatever they want.”

“Technically, honey, you could always do whatever you want. Don’t let ‘the man’ hold you down. But go on you, buck all those traditions. Be a wild man. While you’re at it, let’s get crazy. Don’t wear a tie today. Oh I know, untuck your shirt. Tell that workplace culture who’s boss.”

“Shut up,” Micah said through laughter. “Listen, I have to go to work now. I’ll talk to you later?”

“Mhm. Make sure your tie is straight, honey, or ‘the man’ will know.” Sam hung up on him before he could respond.

Micah slid into his coat and debated the merits of wearing a hat. On the one hand, it was cold as balls outside. On the other, his hair would be a complete loss if he wore one. He’d only been at his new job as a research analyst at KRC Media for a few weeks and he was definitely still in the fear-honeymoon phase, still sure someone would pop up into his cubicle and pronounce him an imposter. It was his hair! they’d say. Professionals take control of their hair! Which was utterly untrue… unless he really was an imposter who had never leveled up to the final stage of professionalism, the one involving blood oaths to get hair products that actually worked.

 Glancing at himself one last time before stepping into the garage, a small green sparkle caught his eye. A single shimmering Christmas tree lingered confetti lingered just under his ear.

November 17th

Micah was still finding glitter days later. Somehow it’d spread all over the house. He was hunting tiny Christmas trees down when he thought of Ben. Suddenly, it occurred to him he hadn’t asked Sam if Ben was coming.

Sam was in the wedding party, and on some level he’d assumed that her brother would be too. Ben lived in in Los Angeles, though, and considering that Liv and Greg had deliberately picked a wedding date that would ensure a majority of their family couldn’t come, it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that Ben might not be able to fly in.

Micah thumbed open his contacts, hovering over Sam’s name. He could use her as an intermediary.  But that was silly. Ten years of shared friendship among their circle of friends meant he could text any of them at any time and no one would think twice. So why was Ben any different?

But he was… or it was. What if Ben was seeing someone? Micah couldn’t shake that he’d look foolish for reaching out. One of the reasons his arrangement with Ben, which wasn’t really an arrangement so much as tradition, worked was because it didn’t involve subterfuge or hidden agendas. It just tended to happen.

Maybe he’d gotten sucked into a Christmas Tree Glitter induced delirium, because suddenly, texting Ben or involving Sam seemed weighted.

But nerves didn’t really have a place in his and Ben’s friendship. They never had and he refused to let them now. He opened a new text message and started typing.

Micah: So were the glitterbomb invitations for friends only, or was immediate family also subjected to the horror?

He smiled as he hit send, and was gratified by the almost immediate response.

Ben: No, we all felt the pain. No one was spared.

Micah: Did you know they were going to do this? A Christmas wedding, not the glitterbombs.

Ben: If I were to admit to such a thing, which I am…not… how long would you hold a grudge? Sam told me about your meltdown.

Micah: Ok, well IDK if I’d call it a meltdown so much as completely appropriate levels of horror.

Ben: Oh I don’t know. It’ll be nice to be in town at the same time as everyone else for once.

Aha! So he was going. Stymied, Micah typed and deleted several responses, unsure of how to vaguely inquire if Ben was bringing a date.

Ben: You’ll be there right? Orphan’s Christmas and all.

Micah: With bells on. Grudging, grudging bells.

A string of laughing-crying emojis interspersed with little Christmas trees followed. It took Micah a moment to locate the middle finger emoji.

Ben: You secretly love it! I’m on to you.

Ben: Listen GTG to a meeting. But I’ll see you in a few weeks, right?

Micah forced himself to put down his phone and took a shower, cursing Liv when he found a red Christmas tree stuck to his hip. The shower was as hot as he could stand, steaming the room. Micah was often told by those who had showered with him—which okay, wasn’t a lot of people—that he liked the water way too hot. Besides, showers with others were way less sexy than he’d been led to believe. Freezing your balls off while trying to dance around someone for a smidge of water? No thank you.

Micah let the heat seep into his muscles and closed his eyes. A memory, a fragmented picture of himself and Ben, surfaced. That had been, what, five years ago? Ben had flown in for his Aunt Charlie’s funeral. That whole week had been awful. Micah didn’t know all of Ben’s extended family, but of the one’s he’d met, Aunt Charlie had been his favorite. Sassy and strong-willed, with a sharp, biting sense of humor always underpinned with mischief. Sam had been inconsolable. The night after the wake, when Micah’d finally dragged himself back to his hotel, he’d found Ben waiting for him.

Micah wasn’t sure how he’d forgotten that time until now. He’d never expected Ben to come to him under the circumstances. Usually they were at a party or get-together, a holiday event or impromptu school reunion. That night, Ben had crowded him against the door with kisses; had drawn him into the shower and brought them together under steaming hot water. By the time Ben was done with him, Micah could hardly remember his own name.

Now though, he remembered Ben holding him in vivid detail—his face in his neck, shuddering tears lost in the rivulets of water running down his chest. Ben had slept hard, curled up against him. The weight of grief, entrusted to Micah, pressed down onto him, into him.

Micah had refused to let himself grieve at all—not when Ben suffered a much bigger loss, not when Sam had needed him so much. Aunt Charlie had treated him like one of the family from the moment he’d met her. She, like all of Ben and Sam’s family, had loved Micah even as his own family had disowned him. When she died he’d been transitioning out of graduate school, coming to terms with the fact that his own family was never going to come around. Months passed before he’d even begun to let himself grieve, and when he did, those months felt like a betrayal.

Which must be why he’d tucked the memory away.

Unlike other lovers Micah had had, Ben liked the water hot. Ben never held back. They laughed over nothing, easily. It was in the nature of their friendship, in the trust built in every stolen moment. They gave each other everything and for the most part, it was fun and light and easy because they trusted each other. People always said friends with benefits couldn’t work, never worked out. Sure, in their senior year at University of Minnesota, Nicole and Owen and had a huge falling out over such a failed attempt. It had rattled all of them, affected the whole group friendship, and cemented Micah and Ben’s secret. But they made it work, and had for years.

[Click Here for Chapter Two!]

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