Authors: Holiday Outing
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Copyright © December 2008 by Astrid Amara
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I was pleased to hear that, due to inclement weather, my flight was delayed.
For some people, the prospect of spending the holidays marooned in a plastic chair
with rigid arms in a vacant hallway of vending machines in a regional airport with one toilet
sounds like a nightmare. But for me it was a very reasonable -- one might say even attractive
-- alternative to enduring Hanukkah with my parents.
Before I’m judged too harshly, it is important to point out that my parents, Leonard and
Helene Levinson, while decent, law-abiding folk who have never murdered or even skimped
on their taxes, are surprisingly terrifying human beings. Especially when you are their only
I love my parents. I’m grateful that they raised me. I just wish they would stop raising
me and let me get on with my own life.
I had successfully avoided my folks for four years. I moved to Seattle specifically to be
as far away from them as the continental United States would accommodate. I concocted
excuses every year not to return home to Connecticut. But the long arm of guilt stretched
across the country and stoutly slapped my face. My mother muttered of various polyps and
varicosities. My father was surely inhaling his last breath. I had to come home, I was their
And so I agreed, but mostly because I had another reason.
I had turned thirty that November, and I figured it was time to put an end to the
forwarded JDate personals and curtail the habitual haranguing regarding so-and-so’s
beautiful unmarried or recently divorced daughter and the chronic reminders that my child-
rearing days were sunsetting.
I had to break it to my parents that I was gay.
And not only gay; I actually made money being a gay fiction writer.
All they knew was that I wrote. They thought I was unsuccessful. How could I tell
them my last novel, Nautilus, won a Lambda award and was a bestseller available through
their local gay bookstore?
Did Hartford even have a local gay bookstore?
Was I really going to do this?
Well, the delayed flight gave me a respite. I settled into a molded plastic chair, bent my
neck at an unreasonable angle in an attempt to “rest” my head on my shoulder, and closed
my eyes. Problem solved. No large family scene, no sighing over the now lost theoretical
grandchildren, no rows about the fact that I would not be passing on the family traits (heart
disease, geographic tongue, a knack for finance, and high blood pressure).
To my dismay, the damned airline efficiently found me a replacement flight, and
before long I shuffled onto a touch and go, turbulence-prone commuter flight, then another,
and another, until I arrived in Hartford much worse for wear and unprepared for the
fourteen inches of snow that had fallen since morning.
My bag was missing. This wasn’t as much a surprise as an inevitability, given the flurry
of last-minute airline transfers. This meant I would be living the next twenty-four hours out
of my carry-on. All my presents were in my checked luggage, along with my clothes, my
razor, and, I’m pretty sure, my balls. Because the second my feet stepped out onto the frigid
landscape of New England, I felt like an insecure teenage boy again.
Other than my carry-on, the only item I had with me was a small but heavy vinyl
suitcase stuffed full of copies of my books, including my latest bestseller, which my agent
forced me to schlep across the country for a book signing in Bridgeport. Upon landing, the
first message I received on my cell phone was that the book signing was canceled, due to
Now all I had to give my family for Hanukkah was twenty copies of Nautilus.
I sniffled in the frigid air and braced myself. Against all odds, I was here. The world
outside Bradley International Airport turned the color of bone. Everything merged in a
blurry flurry of snow. I knew the weather was particularly treacherous when I saw even
taxies driving slowly.
I looked around for my parent’s beige Lincoln Town Car, but could not see it.
There was no way they forgot I was coming. I’d called them from my last transfer and
they said they would pick me up.
I turned, and my expression -- my entire ego -- sank.
Standing before me -- towering over me, actually -- was Ethan Rosenberg, looking
attractive, wealthy, successful, and smug.
Excuse me. Dr. Ethan Rosenberg, the acclaimed physician, son of my mother’s mah-
jongg partner, kid I grew up living next door to. The boy who tormented me in high school.
The crush I had that could never be expressed. Damn him. Damn, damn, damn. Mr. Perfect
himself was at the airport.
Ethan had a boyish handsomeness that only improved the more he aged. His light
brown hair ruffled in the breeze. His hazel eyes sparkled with amusement. He was tall, did I
mention that? His clothes broadcast the number of digits in his bank account. His tweed scarf
matched his leather boots. The REI tag was legible on his warm-looking gloves. I had a
sudden, overwhelming urge to stick my hands inside of them and feel Ethan’s heat.
Or just heat, really.
“Hi, Ethan,” I said, teeth chattering, squinting through the whiteout of snow for my
parents. “And here I thought the chill in the air was just the blizzard.”
Ethan smirked. “Nice to see you again.”
“Picking up a relative?” I said casually, hoping he didn’t notice me checking out his
arms, which looked sculpted even through layers of wool and down. “I’m surprised you
didn’t call a limo service. I heard you make millions now.”
“That’s an exaggeration,” Ethan said.
“Oh? My mother still keeps me posted. I get all your newspaper clippings.
Congratulations on finding your lost cat last month, by the way.”
I realized I was running off at the mouth, as usual. Always so attractive when coupled
with uncontrollable teeth chattering.
“So who are you here to pick up?” I said, attempting a semblance of civility.
“You, actually.” Ethan lifted an eyebrow at my bag. “Where’s the rest of your luggage?”
“En route to Zanzibar.” I narrowed my eyes. “Where’s my dad?”
“He’s back at the house, but didn’t want to drive in the snow so I volunteered to get
you.” Ethan was already walking toward his car. He effortlessly plucked the suitcase full of
books from my hand. “Let me get that for you.”
I yanked it back, masculine pride rising up in me. “I can carry it fine, thank you.”
Ethan shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
I slipped and stumbled through the snow as I followed him toward the parking lot.
How did he walk so unerringly on ice? Maybe he was a secret visitor from some cold
intergalactic planet. He certainly couldn’t be human. There was no way his hair could always
be mussed in such symmetry without the influence of superpowers.
Why did Ethan have to be here? For that matter, why was he here anyway?
“Why were you at my parents’ house?” I asked belatedly. I slipped on a patch of ice and
Ethan’s hand shot out, grabbing my elbow, steadying me.
He smiled. “I’m staying at their house over the holidays.”
I felt my throat go dry. “Why?” I croaked.
Ethan let go of my arm. “My dad’s in the hospice unit. I came home to see how he’s
doing, and your mother offered to let me stay with them for a few days.”
I almost asked about his mother, and then remembered another clipping, earlier this
year, announcing her funeral.
So Ethan had lost his mother. And unless “hospice” was a fancy new term for “recovery
ward,” it sounded like he was about to become an orphan. Even if he tormented me in high
school I couldn’t help but feel sympathy.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “About your mom. And your dad.”
“It’s okay. He’s pretty out of it. At least he isn’t in a lot of pain.”
We reached his car. It was a massive SUV, the kind that my people in Seattle would
denounce, and I wanted to hate him for it, but then I realized, it probably handled well in
snow and I should be grateful.
“All the rental company had, unfortunately,” Ethan said, as if reading my mind.
“Rental car?” I fumbled with the frozen door handle. “You don’t live here anymore,
“I moved to Seattle,” he said, and I felt like I had been sucker punched.
One beautiful part of living in Seattle was the fact that my upbringing and my adult life
could never intertwine. Seattle was for the adult Jonah Levinson, the confident, openly
homosexual, successful writer who had friends and a great apartment overlooking Lake
Washington and a kayaking obsession.
Dr. Ethan Rosenberg belonged to the Connecticut version of Jonah Levinson, a person
full of self-doubt and guilt and incomprehensible urges, unnaturally focused on the one boy
who showed him up and humiliated him. Ethan himself.
I fumbled at the parking gate for my wallet but Ethan was way ahead of me. He paid
the attendant and gave her one of his customary flirtatious winks.
“I’ll get you back for that,” I told him.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s really good to see you again.” Ethan shot me a dashing smile
and then appropriately turned his attention to the blizzard enveloping us.
It’s really good to see you again.
Did he mean it? How could he mean it?
We ran into each other around the holidays when I returned to Hartford. Our parents
had been friends since before we were born, and we shared two high school buddies in
common who still lived in the area. We had even found ourselves at the same house parties