GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 14,110 words
With no job and no boyfriend, Justin sees no reason to make a big deal out of Christmas this year, so he plunks down his severance pay on a cottage in the Caribbean and jets away for some Me Time. Not that he'd mind a little Us Time, you understand, but the handsome young islanders of his acquaintance are all friendly, fun, and straight as they come. He sure didn't leave San Diego looking for any middle-aged American gym jock, but when one washes up at his favorite local watering hole, Justin discovers there are worse ways to dance the night away. Too bad the sexy stranger is on a cruise and the next port is calling.
When he spies the ship still in port while he tends to his Christmas Eve hangover, Justin knows he must manage his expectations. Just because the ship's still here doesn't mean the guy will come ashore, and so what if they do cross paths again? Did they really connect as Justin thinks he remembers, or is that just the beer filling in the blanks? He invents an errand, throws on some clothes, and heads for the dock, figuring there's one way to find out.
Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.
When I was a kid, I remember the three days leading up to Christmas used to drag on for about one hundred years each, and then Christmas Day itself would whiz by; it was over and you were going to bed approximately ten seconds after breakfast, your next Christmas an inconceivable 364 days away. So, too, in half a heartbeat are we trudging back to town, lest the S.S. Party Pooper sail without him. We’re dragging our feet, lollygagging to admire every bloom on every bush, gasping and gushing over every ocean vista, and still we might as well be careening down the hill on a luge for all the time it takes. I pray for Milton to be in front of the bar as we pass by -- to wave us in, to not take no for an answer, to ply Cole with beer until he misses his boat -- but he does not materialize. Dancing like a happy cartoon house through the night apparently wore the old bar out; it’s shut up so tight and quiet you can practically see the string of zzzzs wafting from its chimney.
“So you’ll come to Palm Springs when you get back?” he asks as town, and again the hulking ship, come into view. “Check out the gallery, I can show you around?”
Straight from the airport, I want to say. For the first time since I came to the island the prospect of a return to California titillates instead of terrifies. Palm Springs is hot, and there’s no ocean, and I don’t golf or have a particular passion for modern furniture shopping; any plan I might be hatching to seek my new job there is too far-fetched and embarrassing to even mention, even as I’m wishing I’d printed up a stack of resumes to send home with him. So I say, “Definitely. And any time you want to come to San Diego ...”
“I love it there. Maybe in February?”
My heart tightens as if he’d said, Maybe in our next lifetime, but I offer him the best smile I can and say, “I’d like that.”
For the most part, town’s shut down. The souvenir shop and club sandwich depot is open to receive any last-minute cruise ship dollars, and three teenagers in board shorts and Santa hats spill out of it as we pass by and head for the dock at a run. The cruise line’s ship-to-shore motorboat bobs at the jetty, and a man in white Bermuda shorts and knee socks stands at the bow and waves an emphatic arm. As the kids scramble aboard, he apparently pegs us for non-locals. He puts his hands around his mouth yell leader-style -- tall and blond, all he’s missing is the letter sweater -- and calls out: “You guys gonna run or swim?”
It’s not the romantic goodbye I’d hoped for. Cole raises an arm -- don’t leave without me! -- and is already at a jog when he kisses me, half on the lips, half on the cheek. “Thank you so much,” he says, and off he goes. The yell leader helps him aboard with a pretty firm yank, and the boat is turning away from the dock before Cole’s feet are planted. He clambers to the side rail. “Call me the minute you get home!” he yells. Or something along those lines, I convince myself. The little motor revving to life is all I hear, and before long I can’t hear that. It’s me and the waves, and their splashing does not soothe. At least if they want to, they can follow the little boat. All I can do is watch it go.