Red Like Rudolph

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by HJFURL

I kinda hate Christmas.

Don't get me wrong, I’m not some anti-Santa flower-puss.

It's just... Since the accident, it's hard to get happy.

[Matt's POV. Grazing the Sky spin-off. Knowledge of Grazing the Sky optional but recommended.]

I kinda hate Christmas. 


 

Don't get me wrong, I’m not some anti-Santa flower-puss.

 

It's just... Since the accident, it's hard to get happy. 


 

But let’s not talk about me.



 

I heard Lance had Thanksgiving at Cal's, with his family. First hand source, it got to me. Not through the rumormill this time. Guess that made me something... Not a groupie, at the least. 


 

Maybe I was becoming a part of the team. 


 

And maybe I'm just fooling myself again. 


 

But... Lance is showing up for Christmas; our family is throwing a party, something they did last year and the year before... Just in a different place. It's our tradition, see, but hell if I'm popping up in front of everyone with a fugly sweater. 


 

When 4 o' clock rolled around, Kristy departed into the bathroom, and when my sister popped up again, she had doubled her eyeliner and by the sheen of her lips, added lipgloss. 


 

Ugh. Groupies, amiright? 


 

But who was I to call blame? My heart skipped just the same, when Lance stepped inside and dusted the snow from his jacket. Removing layers and revealing that standard Rise Against hoodie, heartfist symbol and everything. 

 

He said my name, and the sickest part of me glowed like a Christmas tree.

That could very well be a song, but I focused on what Lance was telling me. I listened closely, catching wind of an adventure, something Cal was bringing over. But my mind was hooked, bait captured and point pierced through at the sheer sound of Lance's voice. Melodic, like he was singing right then and there. 


 

I didn't realize I was staring until his eyes looked over my head and greeted the rest of my family. Like it was part of his own.

 

Krissy’s annoying-ass voice shouted past the music, and I realized she had changed it from holiday cheer to… Something indie and “totally underground”.

 

Before I knew anything, I was standing near our dining room window, listening to conversation between Lance and Krissy. My sister was blabbing about the band playing, and playfully teased.

 

“You probably don’t know this artist,” she said, and hooked my attention back with two words: “Huh, Matt?”

 

I turned to her again, trying to stop my fucking heart from skipping when Lance entered my perhprial vision. Just standing, perfectly holding his hot apple cider.

 

Krissy continued on, bragging about some Giraffe-named bullshit. She may as well be making up the band name, with how obscure it was in the first place.

 

“This the band playing?” Even though the answer was kinda obvious, it was polite enough to pass. 

 

Krissy nodded, and Lance made a comment on the melody or chord progression. I really wasn’t listening… Rare for me, when it comes to him, I know.

 

In the next moment, Krissy left our small three person circle, dashing off to squeal with all her dumb friends.

 

I stayed, immersed in the lowkey awkwardness and sulking in the silence. I thought once again, a memory entering my hollowed head. Maybe it was the cheeriness in the air; maybe that’s what made me so bitter.

 

I decided to try at conversation, with the one person I cared about most.

 

"You like this holiday," I asked, "huh? You like Christmas?" 

 

And it was Lance’s turn to go quiet. 

 

"It brings out true family," he said, and once again I felt like a loser. He sipped his cider, and then looked down into the mug as if condemning it. 

 

"Cal." He held out the cup, and instantly—as if he were an elf himself—Cal poured a quick shot from some hidden flask. 

 

"Thanks."

 

I was a little surprised; first that Cal appeared on command, and second because usually Lance only drank, like super rarely. Like only when the guys were digging him about Cassie... 

 

He must have seen the bleak confusion on my face, because he answered before taking another, longer sip. 

 

"It's a once a year thing." Unlike before, his voice was closed off, and I wished I was a mind-reader. Lance is usually pretty open about how he feels, but now there was some movie reel playing in that head, theater closed.

 

The party went on okay for the next ten minutes. I didn’t see it coming, truly, if I had, the incident would’ve never happened. It would’ve taken a side step and maybe a spin, just some steps that avoided the mistletoe.

 

But I saw nothing. I stopped dead in my tracks, hearing Cal’s wolf-whistle before seeing Lance in front of me.

 

His dark stare was wide and trained on the mistletoe above, Santa hat a little crooked. I wanted to adjust it, just reach up and fix something before everything crumbled. 

 

But nothing happened. The music around us still played and we both still stood there, each of us saying nothing. 

 

I could do, perform, fix nothing. 

 

Because this was my biggest dream and absolute worst nightmare.

 

Lance just glanced to me, one quick stare that saw everything at once.

 

And my world crumbled right then, with every half-shouted word, every act of straight defiance. 


 

I was different, and the flare in the color of my face proved it. 


 

I wished my hair was longer, but long curls on a guy just looked fucking bad. 


 

Maybe I was a girl. Maybe a simple act of feminism would solve everything. 


 

Maybe then… He would kiss me, right then and here. 


 

I don't remember actually walking away; the room spun for a half-moment, voices and lights just seeming too bright. And so, I sought darkness, in the only place I knew. 


 

The air was cold, hitting me and immediately beginning to chew at the warmth the inside brought. I climbed out my window, skater shoes flat against shingles. 


 

I crabbed-walked for a moment, and once I was balancing and walking to the roof's edge, I sat down, carefully stretching my legs until they were half-dangling out into nothing. 


 

This fall wouldn’t kill me, if I slid out enough and let gravity do the work. It would barely even hurt me. 


 

I need to call, I told myself, but then my thoughts slipped into tangible, spoken word. 


 

"I can't let it get this bad." 


 

"Matt?" 


 

Every last organ inside of me jumped, my heart especially. And then my mind, my ever-working brain, recognized the voice before I recognized the scraping footsteps. 


 

"What're you doing here?" I asked him, the words falling before they could be rightfully caught and trapped in my mouth. But my brain kept working, wanting and rightfully telling me how very gay I was. 


 

Lance just looked at me for a second, standing tall with his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. He looked good, even better than normal, and my fucking queer-ass mind just took note of the small amount of snow in his hair. I hadn't even been lucid enough to realize it was snowing, however slight. 


 

But for whatever reason, my mind made a photograph, a polaroid printed on neurons and synapses. The contrast of white and black, two things that should never mix. 


 

The moment passed as quickly as it came, and suddenly Lance was sitting down, legs that were longer than mine stretching and hanging off the roof's edge. 


 

"I wanted to see if you were okay."


 

And once again, my heart leapt. Once again, it all made sense, for that singular moment. 


 

"I'm-ohkay." A rushed sentence, a horrible mesh of the English language. But it was true; I was okay, just for the time being. As long as he was here… 


 

And then Lance cleared his throat, bringing his legs near his chest, arms wrapped around. And I took note of his jeans, the usual signature baggyness had been replaced by jogger-like slimness that fit him well. He was wearing all black, and it made me think of the snow still in his hair. 


 

I wanted to reach out and touch his hair, brush his bangs until they lined with his brows, dust the white snow away. 


 

"I mean, like, I just figured," he continued, and I was at a loss for words, only able to say two sounds. 

 

"Are you...?"


 

My words trailed off there, and I watched Lance quickly shake his head, dismissing the unspoken.

 

"No," he said. "I mean, I had a few friends that were, y’know, like gay, growing up, but..."

 

I got the gist.

 

I was different, just another thing that separated us.

 

I just let my lungs dissipate and watched the air fade to black.

 

I had to change the subject, to run from that darkness inside. So, I said the only thing I could, at that exact snowy moment, and hell if I said it well. 

 

“Merry Christmas, Lance.”

 

I sensed his smile before I heard it, lips curved and the sound sending sleigh bells through my stomach.

 

“Merry Christmas, Matt.”

 

I couldn’t keep the smile from surfacing, I couldn’t stop the feeling of my heart dancing for joy inside my chest.

 

I was helpless; I knew right then this only hill went down, straight down into some endless abyss of never-ending pain. Because, once again, my love was unrequited.

 

But… Hopefully nothing would end in an accident this time.

 

My thoughts of Jesse were wiped away, mirror cleaned well enough for my reflection to show. A weird analogy, sure, but the next thing I knew, I was in a bathroom, dirty chrome split with a sweep of the hand. 

 

Even through the holiday bash music—a sure sign our little family party was in full swing—I heard Krissy’s annoying lanc laugh. Normally, she didn’t really laugh; a giggle here or there with her friends. But I could always tell when Lance was around, by the way my little sister laughed. 

 

Way too loud.

.

Unnecessarily forced.

 

Come to think of it, everything changed when Lance was around. That’s just kind of his thing; the crowd came alive when he played, no matter how many people were there. People just lit up and gravitated to him. He was naturally gifted, in practically everything.

 

But I thought of his mom, someone I still hadn’t met and had only heard of in passing. Just whispered words here and there, some from Cal… Some from Trent, and very few from Danny.

 

That was my rumormill now, I guess.

 

My phone buzzed with a text, making me realize I had discarded it on our tiny living room table. It buzzed again, in the time it took for me to reach and hold it. The screen didn’t light up automatically, like those newer fancier phones. Nope, I had to waste half-a-second a tap the screen, seeing two more text messages appear.

 

Unknown number: YO MATT. WHERE U PARTY @?

 

Unknown number #2: hey bud. U good yo where u party at

 

My notifications went on like that; it’s suffice to say my phone had blown up. And then, sent hours ago, a number I finally recognized.

 

heyy matt… It’s Sindy. Can’t fxcking believe I’m all the way in Utah rn. LANCE IS AT YOUR HOUSE??? DUDE HOOK ME UP WITH A VIDEO CHAT.

 

She had texted a few times after that, her mini-barrage of jealousy ending about thirty minutes ago. I wanted to tell her about the conversation on the roof, but decided not to. Maybe there would be more to this evening than one story.

 

I let out a small breath, taking a tiny sip of the marked cup I had left near my phone. Mom’s standard hot apple cider. I remember Jesse…

 

The face I had nearly forgotten, left in the back of my subconsciousness, his smile showed again, so white and such a contrast against his skin.

 

A few months ago, a few weeks into the first semester of my new school, I got to researching about soulmates. How they’re there to teach you a lesson, how it’s sometimes not totally romantic…

 

Were we… Platonic?

 

My gaze drifted, a gravity pulling my sight, my focus… And in the middle of the room, Lance stood, casually leaning to the side and taking another draw of his cider. I wonder if it was spiked again, courtesy of Cal, and I wondered who the hell was driving both of them home. I hadn’t seen Cal at all, but knowing that hyperactive goof he was probably bouncing like a pinball, forever going from one thing to the next. He was social, like that…

 

But with Lance, there was a calm quietness. I knew as soon as we had our first actual conversation in History. Maybe “cool” was the right word, one that really summed him up.

 

Yeah, and he was cool, in every way.

 

-----------------------------------

 

It seemed nobody knew about the mistletoe thing, or our conversation on the roof. Lance was the very first living person to really know I was gay, and I wasn’t sure what to think of that. One person, one working, thinking brain; one set of lungs and one pair of lips, knew the biggest secret I had ever hidden. 

 

And so far, I was still breathing. As far as anyone in this room knew, I was as straight as an arrow.

 

But even broken arrows curve, a little bit, huh? I was broken alright, totally, completely snapped.

 

My brain picked up on a sound, a voice, actually. Some nieces and nephews had gathered around the TV, totally mesmerized by Rudolph. The claymation one, not any other totally lame rendition. 

 

I lingered for a moment, staring at that freakish red nose and wondering where I would fit in. I wouldn’t be a normal reindeer; I’d be the one with the siren red nose, for sure. I’d be the total outcast, even with my nose disguised black.

 

“Hey, dear?”

 

My insides jumped, heart no longer dreaming and brain no longer escaping into a movie. 


 

My mom kept talking and my brain escaped for a split second, realizing no matter how I hid my deformity, I’d be revealed eventually. 


 

I stared back at my mom, who was quick to break eye contact. She’d noticed the redness, the puffiness of my eyes. I’d be presented with questions, when the party had died down enough. But with a quick look at the time near the TV, it was only 6:30. The party would go on til at least eight, if history repeated itself.

 

“The sweet potato pie is ready,” my mom said, bustling some recipe in my hand. “You wanna decorate it?”

 

I nearly snapped at her, a blast of teen rebellion. Because shit I wasn’t six anymore, and dammit if somebody heard. 

 

But she forced the small slip of torn newspaper, and the rest was a dash of the moment. Bustling here and there, picking up soda and hinting with a dash of amusement that “something smells like jager!”

 

Cal.

 

The memory shot back, fresh in pain and embarrassment. 

 

I tried to ignore it, to allow my brain peace, if only for a second. 

 

I wandered into the kitchen, keeping my stare down and noticing how many people looked my way. It was kind of like school, which is why I’m always late to my first period or homeroom. People liked to stareespecially since I was part of the school’s most popular group.

 

My footsteps landed me in the kitchen, where a casserole dish was waiting. I crossed the linoleum floor, setting the recipe aside and wishing I was five again. I remember doing this exact thing when I was young; when my mother wasn’t plagued by wrinkles and my dad’s laugh was full. When Krissy barely existed, and…

 

I didn’t try and kiss guys under a stupid plant.

 

I tried to shut out the voices, the thoughts telling me I really didn’t try to kiss him and our conversation on the rooftop was enough to put away the incident forever. 

 

But I wondered how many people saw the original trigger, the sight of Lance and I underneath the mistletoe. I wondered if anyone caught wind of our conversation, but I quicklyinternallyshook my head.

 

Nobody knew. People would be asking me questions about all of it, at the least, if they knew a single hint of rumor. 

 

Lance had kept his mouth shut, but I didn’t expect anything else.

 

I sprinkled a few mini marshmallows on top of the sweet potato pie, and then stared down at how much empty space there was. With a smile and an old song in the back of my head, I reached inside the bag, pulling out handfuls of my childhood again.

 

-------------------------

 

“Would anyone like any more food?”

 

My mom. Always the host, no matter how many people were in the house. A few people around answered, and the rest of them just added to the background noise.

 

I had gravitated to some semi-recognizable people from school, who seemed more than willing to talk with me. Guess that's what happens when you're more than acquaintances with the town's biggest local band. 

 

Something perked my attention, ears listening into another close conversation, a familiar voice fueling the interest.

 

“I can’t believe Cassie’s goin’ vegan,” Cal was saying. “Doesn’t that, like, make you lose a bunch of weight?”

 

I tried to ignore how my heart clenched, just at the sound of her name. She was closer to Lance than I’d ever be, mistletoe or not.

 

I tried to separate, to dissociate myself and listen to the background music. Krissy was in charge of making sure everything was okay music wise, but damn if I was holding my breath, waiting for a familiar ripping scream that could only come from Carry the Creation’s sound. 

 

But so far, at nearly 8 o’clock, the speaker had only amplified jolly, cliche Christmas tunes. I swear around seven I’d heard that Mariah Carey and MCR mashup, but other than that…

 

My attention swerved, and next thing I knew I was a little bit tipsy. The night was winding down; I could tell by the decline in background noise and the sparse crowds of people. 

 

My attention was taken by movement in front of me, someonea friend, even—dancing to some power-pop rock song. Cal was good, slick on his feet in a way that kind of surprised me. I’d only known these guys for a few months, and I’d seen almost every show they’d put on. But maybe, with Cal stuck sitting in the back on stage, surrounded by cymbals and snares, he didn’t have a lot of opportunity to dance.

 

When the crowd’s attention peaked, Cal reached out, pulling Lance towards him. The black-haired guitarist put a hand near his face, bashfully glowing red, and a flash of thought pointed to Rudolph. If I’d been cursed with a nose, Lance would make it glow.

 

I think that was the gayest thing I’ve ever typed. Ignore that sentence completely—scratch it out, tear it apart, separate it from everything else I’ve written. Because Lance and I just don’t belong together. No matter how much it hurts to admit.

 

I pondered this, trying to drain the concrete from my head the same way I was drinking away the spiked cider. It seemed my mom had an endless supply of comfort drinks, but I think the alcoholwhatever the brand of burnwas running low.

 

Neither Cal nor Lance seemed affected by it, and for yet another moment, I disassociated. 

 

All of the other reindeer

Used to laugh and call him names.

 

The song rebounded in my head, and Lance caught my focus yet again, eyes sweeping over mine, but there was next to nothing in his gaze. The alcohol had done its job, provided enough escape to survive the evening.

 

I took a huge swig of my now cold cider, feeling the bite and the burn. I needed more, but I didn’t see the flask on Cal anywhere.

 

The bitter cavern in my chest continued to cave.

 

-------------------------------


 

At around eleven, I took the longest yawn of my life. The alcohol—whatever Cal had spiked my coffee withhad hit, leaving me in a dizzy stupor. 

 

Quiet-ish words between Lance and Cal caught my focus, from across an empty living room. Talk of going home, but my mother was right there, shooing the idea away and offering the guest room.

 

“I can set up the futon for one of you.” And that was that.

 

I’d have to deal with them in the morning, I guess.

 

I passed out on my bed, thankful for the darkness and the privacy.

 

It was my only escape, sometimes.


 

-------------------


 

I woke up in a cozy bed I could only call my own. I didn’t linger, hearing commotion downstairs in the kitchen: the closing of cabinets, the sizzling of bacon…

 

I rolled out of bed, put on some jeans and a sweatshirt, and started downstairs.

 

The sunshine was too bright, and my squinting eyes longed for sunglasses. But that would look weird, a clear indication to my family that I’d been drinking last night.

 

At the sight of my sister at the advent calender, I realized it was now three days to Christmas. And I still hadn’t given gifts.

 

Cal’s present was easy, albeit a little expensive. 

 

Trent’s, Danny’s… All simple things.

 

And Lance’s? After last night… I debated on taking it back, returning it for something else. Something… more neutral.

 

The knot in my stomach dissipated, becoming yet another cavern.

 

If he didn’t figure it out from the whole mistletoe thing, I might as well staple it to his fucking forehead.

 

I am a flaming gaybe.


 

The chatter from somewhere outside the kitchen caught my ears, as dragging socked feet took me to the fridge. Leftovers… It’s always leftovers after a big holiday event.

 

I thought of Thanksgiving, when my mind was on Lance rather than trying to eat my entire body weight in food. I thought about his family, how I didn’t even know if he was close to anyone related to him by blood. My family had always been tight, aplenty with memories throughout the years. I couldn’t imagine anything else, but

 

“Hey, yo Matt.”

 

Cal interrupted my thoughts, and as I spun around and tried to choke back cold bits of turkey, those half-furrowed eyes met mine, and I hope I didn’t act as scared as I felt.

 

Like Cal could ever read my mind. Like he could come close to…

 

“Lance and I”—my heart jumped, just hearing the name”are gonna go movie hopping. Probably one sick and one stupid or something. You in?”

 

I choked back a fopaux, “Yeah,” I said quickly, trying to come off… as a bro, I guess. “Yeah, I’m in.”

 

“Sweet.” He hit me on the arm and stole a bit of turkey, but joke’s on him because it’s cold as hell and as dry as a grandma’s arm.

 

In a matter of moments, my shoes were on and we were in Cal’s car, myself in the backseat. Anxiety swelled, making it hard to swallow, but as soon as the car started, we were presented with the power-pop of 5 Seconds of Summer, which Cal immediately vetoed. 

 

"I think I'd be into this music, if I was like twelve."

 

As Cal shuffled his music, Lance reclined the passenger seat, one foot on the glove compartment.

 

He kept his stare ahead, not saying a word as subjectively better music came on. I thought about it too hard, about the fact that, come to think of it, he hadn't looked at me all morning.

 

I glanced, sight bleary, to the dashboard. 11:19am. Looks like we were catching the 11:30am show, then. 

 

I still had no clue what movies we were seeing, but I had hopped with the guys before so that part didn’t really matter.

 

It was the silence that was killing me, underneath the music. Just the three of us, and only two knew the truth.

 

My anxiety died down, when we purchased our tickets and eventually entered a dark, nearly empty theater. I took the seat next to Cal, furthest from Lance, and felt my stomach clench into a tight knot.

 

I tried not to think anything of it.


 

------------------


 

Call me a kid, but there’s a certain type of magic on Christmas morning. I knew the time, before I’d looked at the clock. 7:48am. I’d passed out around 3, escaped into a dreamless sleep,

 

Krissy was already up, and even at fifteen she was doing routine—omelettes. We’ve always had someone make thick-ass omelettes before opening all the presents.

 

I just thought of Lance, the last moment I saw him. When we’d exchanged gifts, mine in a bag and his wrapped in a tiny box… 

 

I just hoped he’d like it. That maybe his new opinion of me would change…

 

But it’s the truth. I slid out of bed, sheets lingering for a moment before gravity 

 

What could be more than the truth?

 

I started to get a little bitter, but I shoved the emotion down for family’s sake. Focusing on the present moment, focusing on what I could control.

 

I opened my handful of gifts, feeling grateful but not too surprised. I had given my family a list, after all.

 

And when the excitement had dwindled down and we all separated, I remained at the tree, surrounded by discarded wrapping paper.

 

The text I had been waiting for—holding my breath for, for dayscame with a buzz of my phone and a personalized tone. A blindingly quick C major scale, recorded from a lesson.

 

Thanks for the headphones! I’ll test it out and see how they sound.

 

For the first time in a long while, my smile was true. I didn’t second-guess myself, I didn’t hold back that happiness.

 

I typed out a response, and after moments of my thumbs hovering over the keyboard, I closed the app without sending anything. Just leaving the message on read.

 

Although there was no hope, my heart was full. Even though there was no reciprocation, I’ll remember that moment forever. The brisk cusp of a brand new year, my body working fine and my eyes looking up at that magnificent Christmas tree, my lungs breathing in that amazing air.

 

Maybe things have a way of working out. Maybe… shit, I’m quoting my mom right now, but maybe things just have a way of ending, and ending well. If it’s not good, it’s not the end, right?

 

Mom wisdom. 

 

But, as true as this ink on this page, some things are permanent but that doesn’t mean you can’t change them.

 

And so my story continues.

 

 


Submitted: December 09, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Meaghan Kalena. All rights reserved.

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Comments

HJFURL

Your writing, your style, and your delivery have developed so much since I first met you here on Booksie. Your writing is strong, gripping, punchy while being an easy read, accessible. I loved this story, and I think you deserve much more exposure out there in the big wide world. Best Wishes, HJ

Sat, December 12th, 2020 1:30pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much, HJ! Reading this made my morning :)

Sat, December 12th, 2020 10:17am

HJFURL

Your writing, your style, and your delivery have developed so much since I first met you here on Booksie. Your writing is strong, gripping, punchy while being an easy read, accessible. I loved this story, and I think you deserve much more exposure out there in the big wide world. Best Wishes, HJ

Sat, December 12th, 2020 1:30pm

Ann Sepino

The narrative's pacing and consistency is so good. And the way this POV was written really makes you get to know the MC at a personal level. There's just enough info to give readers context without heavily referencing the story it was based off of. And the feels!

Lovely, lovely story overall.

Sun, December 13th, 2020 1:13am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much :))

Sun, December 13th, 2020 1:05pm

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