A Different Kind of Christmas Carol

by Zustara Orur

A story (C) 2002/2003 by ZUSTARA ORUR. Contact address: zustara@hotmail.com 1.2 May not be redistributed, commercial use prohibited!

Please see chapter 1 for standard disclaimer blurb and the dedication and acknowledgements section.


That first kiss was just lips touching, and Russ's hand on Keith's cheek. It wasn't that long, and they almost pulled apart after first touching out of sheer surprise from the sensations of that touch but only almost! The wish to stay in contact was stronger, you could literally see high voltage sparks jumping between their lips as they'd approached each other, so strong was the tension, the wish to kiss...! After that first moment their eyes opened again and they started smiling. They still didn't understand they were under intense scrutiny, they smiled, and then Russ's hand was on Keith's neck as he brought the blonde boy in for another sweet boy-smooch! It was so cute, they just couldn't get enough of each other! They adjusted their positions on the floor so they got in real close and then they just went nuts, making up for all they'd seen us do just recently, and more! Jeff wanted some smoochin' too, so I obliged him. We soon resumed watching my brother and his best friend go at it though. It actually took them MINUTES to get back to their senses!

Keith was all sweaty and flushed, and his small steel-rimmed glasses sat crookedly on his nose once he'd managed to get his bearings straight again, and he actually forgot to put them back on straight again for like a whole minute! His fluffy, hobbity-curly blonde hair was all unruly and pointing this way and that in a total mess, and he just seemed so utterly happy and content and, well... Cute! My brother seemed to be in an equal state of blissful disarray, the buttons at the neck of his short-sleeved shirt had somehow undone themselves as if someone had had some confused ideas about pulling it off him but just hadn't managed to coordinate his own muscles enough to actually do it!

Jeff was the first to speak. "It was that great huh?", he asked, his voice tinged with amusement.

Keith's hands went up to his cheeks and he blushed soo red, just like me! "Oh my god! You looked!", he said with a huge smile. "You saw us...!" My brother's mouth came homing in for his, making kissing motions. Keith tried to dodge, but only half-heartedly. Their faces almost impacted, it was quite funny to see! Impacted, and then Russ pushed Keith down flat on the floor and climbed up on top, first just looking for a few seconds. Then they kind of gravitated together again, for another of those innocent and totally sweet smooches. Keith went all relaxed and supple, and I understood how he felt right then. He's much like me in a way, but also a lot more like the classic nerd you could say. He's into game consoles and computers and stuff like that while I like acting. Neither of us really practices any sports (we ride our bikes, that's about it), and we're both a bit shy and quiet. Thus, I could understand what he felt. Russ made him feel comfortable and safe, and it was good for him to have a friend like Russ. I hadn't been teased much in school, was a different matter for Keith though. However, my brother is respected for his athletic prowess, so whenever Russ was around the blonde boy was left alone. When they were not together he was fair game, which made his visits to my house even more valuable, and I guess that was part of the reason they had come to like each other so much...

I'm not sure if all that meant they were in love. I mean, I consider myself young and inexperienced! My brother's three years younger still, and so is Keith. Can you fall in love with anyone at that age? Or maybe it's not an age thing at all, but merely a matter of meeting the right person. I'm not sure.

My brother and the hobbit soon moved up to Keith's bed (because it was a lot more comfortable than the hard floor), where they sat much like me and Jeff, holding each other. They kissed every once in a while, but mainly just tried what it was like to be so close now that they had the chance and knew it was okay. They'd wanted to before, but never dared. When they did not kiss, they hugged or touched each other's faces with their hands.

Me and Jeff, we watched them and talked quietly to each other, trying not to hear what Keith and my brother were saying to each other, but we still did.

"You know what I once caught these rascals doing?", I said to Jeff with a giggle.

He removed his mouth from my neck just long enough so he could answer. "No, what? Not what I think it was?" He grinned lewdly at me. I whacked him on a shoulder, though not very hard. "Ooww!", he said, still grinning.

"No, not anything like that!", I growled back to him, trying not to smile but it was impossible! "I caught them making prank phonecalls, asking for people like 'Ineeda Coffey' or 'Amanda Hugginkiss'"

"Not 'Seymore Butts' then?", Jeff replied with another grin of his own.

I giggled again. "No, I guess that one's too obvious." Jeff chuckled quietly too, and then we smooched for a while, enjoying ourselves on our own. What my brother and his friend whispered to each other? Why do you even need to ask?

'I love you', of course.

It was two very red-faced and embarrassed preteens that said goodbye to us in the late afternoon. We were putting on our clothes to go and have dinner with Jeffrey's parents. My mom was still chuckling after having walked in on us during a kissing-and-groping session intending to ask if we'd like a snack or something. She'd halted for just a few seconds, then she looked at me and Jeff for a second and winked before clearing her throat loudly.

Me and Jeff had seen her immediately (but we didn't break our embrace just because our mom came into the room!), but Russ and Keith hadn't been as lucky, and when she made a noise they jumped like a foot in the air (sitting down on a bed, that is no mean feat I might add!), we couldn't help ourselves laughing, but Russ and Keith got so scared they both started crying thinking they were going to get yelled at for being gay or kissing or something like that! We felt so bad, all of us, so we just had to hug and kiss them a lot in return, all of us. Then we had a really nice cuddle on Russ's bed where Russ mostly spoke about his feelings to our mom. He sat in Jeff's lap, and I had Keith in mine, and the two just wouldn't stop touching! Even as Russ was speaking, the blonde hobbit would let his small hands caress Russ' face and neck.

Mom didn't speak that much, she was merely there as support. She said that while it had been a bit of a shock to her, she wasn't angry, not in the least. She gave her little speech about honesty and truth that I'd received the day before, and she emphasized it even more, because young boys can be quite irresponsible at times, yet they still have emotions, so if someone they care for lets them down it hurts at LEAST as badly as when you're older and someone treats you the same way. She didn't really have to say that though, I could tell my brother and Keith really cared for each other, what scared them the most was if they wouldn't be able to see each other again, and the biggest reason for that ever happening was Keith's own family. Well, what he got for a family anyway...

His mom had died when he was very little, less than a year old I think, so he never got to know her. He had two older brothers, Thomas who was in the year above Jeff and me, and Lewis, whom was the oldest. Lew was nineteen and a high school dropout whom worked in Keith's father's car garage. Tom was also a borderline case, always close to either getting thrown out or leaving on his own. Keith's father was financially successful, but his family was pretty dysfunctional to say the least... He was a bitter, angry man with a periodic drinking problem whom was feared by most kids Keith's age for his loud voice, short fuse and foul temper, and his elder sons were heading the same way by the looks of it. They had both run me ragged around the schoolyard at times, but like I explained, them bullying me had stopped due to friends standing up for me. Others weren't so lucky, Tom in particular was a vicious son of a bitch. ...Though I don't enjoy calling other people names.

All of this was probably due to the loss of his wife. Harold Freeman had been a deeply religious person but with flaws. He found forgiveness for his shortcomings in his wonderful, loving, big-hearted wife, and she made him a better person with her kindness. After she'd been taken from him, it was as if he sat down one day and decided, 'what's the use of even trying'? His wife had been such a shining light in his heart it was a blow too heavy for him to bear when she was gone. That his youngest son radiated the same kind of sweet beauty and mild-mannered friendliness as she'd done was entirely lost upon the man, instead he was angry and disappointed that Keith wasn't as big and tough as his older sons and pretty much left the boy alone to his own devices. His car dealership and repair garage meant he could afford to keep the boy preoccupied with electronic toys and gadgets and such so he himself wouldn't actually have to have that much to do with him...

We all knew - well, except of Jeff that is whom didn't know who Keith's father was - that if the man ever found out the truth about his son's sexuality, that would basically be the end of the friendship between Keith and Russ. The man would send his son off to some boarding school, probably some army-like boarding school actually, to be forced to 'toughen up', and that would just totally ruin the kid. He would never recover. Thus we all agreed not to breathe A WORD about this to anyone. That I was gay would reach the man's ears probably sooner rather than later and it would be bad enough considering Keith's best friend was my brother, but Russ isn't the sissy type like me so that would probably be enough to remove any suspicions. Besides, I doubt his father would ever even think it was possible for a boy to be gay at age twelve, so that was our plan. Basically just keep our mouths shut.

After that, we had a talk about going skiing. It was all on awfully short notice, but everybody had been so excited about the idea that all of us - parents included - would be terribly disappointed if the plans were to fall through. Jeff again assured us the lodge was ours for as long as we wanted, and mom admitted she had already booked seats for us on a flight. Of course it cost a pretty penny (on top of all the holiday expenses), but she'd just take it out of our college funds she joked. Jeff didn't offer to help us financially with that, but he did point out food and accommodations would be free. Mom had expected to have to pay for restaurant dinners and such, but seemed relieved she wouldn't have to pony up even more dough for that and didn't protest. I'm glad she didn't, it's so annoying when people get too proud and stubborn over money issues. So Jeff's like a thousand times richer than our family all put together. Does it matter? Nope! I love him just the same!

Then mom lamented the fact she was seeing so little of me these days, especially since it was a national holiday and all, but the joking was mostly just for fun. We smiled back at her, Jeff apologizing for hogging me to such an extent (to which mom smiled and told him sharply not to be silly), and then I pointed out we would see each other lots and lots for the coming days. I told her what to pack for me since I'd be busy for the evening, and we'd have to leave early the next day.

Then came the reason for the blushing pre-teens. It was time for me and Jeff to say goodbye. Keith would stay for dinner too at my house, so before leaving we gave each boy a hug and a kiss on the forehead, but of course they stole one off our lips too. Then the procedure was repeated with the other boy, and it became a somewhat longer kiss than intended! At least than intended for the two of us though, Keith hung on to me for dear life, I didn't have the heart to push him away, and neither could Jeff with my brother...! After we finally separated, that's when the blushing started! They simply could not BELIEVE they'd actually done that, and in front of the rest of the family too! Even me and Jeff blushed a little.

"Hey... We'll see you guys tomorrow, why the big goodbye?", I asked and both boys blushed even WORSE than before and ran around to hide behind my parents, giggling playfully. They were both unable to reply, but their smiles told precisely why they'd done it; because they'd wanted to! We waved and said goodbye to everyone and then walked back out into the early evening. It was almost entirely dark again, and Jeff held me close with one of his arms.

It was nice walking back to his place with him. I was starting to like walking, at least as long as it was together with my big strong boyfriend! How could a girl compare to him? Easy answer, she couldn't! Even assuming I found one as big and physically impressive (there are such girls, I'm sure!), all she'd manage would be to intimidate me... With Jeff, I feel safe. There's nothing more to it than that.

"You're so cute...", Jeff said to me, his voice warming me despite the cold air. I snuggled in even more to his side. As we walked up the road towards the huge mansion we saw several servants unloading suitcase upon suitcase from the luggage compartment of a car. We understood, Jeff's mother and father were back... Jeff squirmed a bit at me seeing how much stuff they'd brought for just a short stay. "Uh, my parents always travel light...", he joked, but it was sort of strained somehow. I stopped him and gave him a hug.

"Don't worry. It's okay." I reached up to peck him on his cheek but missed. He turned his head slightly, so instead my lips touched his. He felt calm once again after my display of love and smiled. "Let's go meet them, alright?", I said and smiled back.

"Okay...", he replied, breathing easier now that he knew I didn't feel uncomfortable. "You're SO cute, you know that...?", he whispered back. I batted my eyelids at him, and of course he could not resist me! He kissed me again, letting the tip of his tongue caress my lips, tasting me. My eyes fluttered quite on their own as I sighed of pleasure. Then he released me and laughed happily. HE gave ME that peck then, and then re-wrapped his arm around my shoulders. We walked the final distance, saying hello to the men carrying in the last few suitcases.

"Hello Jeffrey", one young man said wearing strict pants and shirt and vest much like a uniform I guess, his black hair slicked back. "They're up in the salon hanging up some painting I think, they said they'd like to speak to you first thing after you arrived." It sounded so formal. His parents wanted to 'speak to him'. To my slightly worried ears it sounded like it was going to be a very one-sided conversation.

Jeff didn't even blink though, it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to him. "Thanks, Roger", that was all he said. I was a bit surprised, Roger didn't speak 'English' English! He sounded American, like me! Jeff nodded at me, as if he knew what I was thinking of. "We brought over as many as we could of our old staff", he explained to me as we walked up the stairs to the main entrance and went through the big doors. "Some would not, or could not join us, so we hired more to replace those we lost."

For once, William was not there as if by magic, so we hung away our clothes ourselves (which suited me just fine by the way, I'm not used to being waited upon like that), then we went up the main stairs. I hadn't seen anything really of the rooms on the other floors (just some corridors, Jeff's gym and the private dining room), but what can I say, really? It was...more of the same. Really, it was! I mean, it was impressive as hell, sure, but when you'd seen SO MUCH already I was getting kind of saturated in a way. There's only so much room in a guy's (kid's, almost) head for impressive objects and artifacts and stuff you know; even if you see a painting in real life you've only seen in books and such and given the casual thought, 'I wonder who owns THAT one?', maybe wondering if it's hanging in a museum perhaps, well, that's just going to amount to a raised eyebrow perhaps, a mental shrug and a, 'mm-hm, so THAT'S where it is...'. Nothing more.

There were many salons in that massive building, with so many rooms there's bound to be at least one per floor, but there was apparently only one SALON. This was the big show-off room, where the wealth and splendor of the Sinclair heritage was displayed to maximum effect to selected guests (and presumably, enjoyed by themselves, or at least the adult part of the family unit). Even in my rather blasé state of mind, I had to admit I was stunned all over again. The room was sheer luxury, but also had style and personality! It wasn't just all plush extravagance, I don't quite know how to describe it, but you could FEEL it really was a livingspace, not a huge display case meant for bragging or something like that.

I saw Jeffrey's father. He was a thin, wiry man in his mid-forties perhaps, a bit taller than his son, but it was pretty self-evident the boy would catch up pretty soon, and probably exceed too. The man was a cross between red and dark-blonde and wore it short and neat, and he had a small moustache on his upper lip, of the same color as his hair. Hawkish features on his face spoke of determination and perseverance, a man who would not give up just because things got a bit rough. Again, just like Jeff, but there were hard lines too that spoke of almost merciless determination, the will to succeed at any cost. Right then however he seemed rather relaxed, but I knew this was not the man you wanted to get cross with you.

"A little higher, I think", Jeff's father said in a voice that was at least as dry and strict as William's, and motioned with a hand. He hadn't noticed we'd entered, or if he had, he didn't acknowledge us the slightest. The servant raised the picture slightly. It was a portrait done in muted colors, showing a young woman. She seemed sad to me I think, maybe it was just my imagination, but it was as if she was thinking back to a beloved pet - a cat perhaps - that she'd had when she was a kid. A pet that had died unexpectedly, which she'd been very upset over many years ago. The pain had dulled over time, in part because she'd matured and learned to control her feelings better, but it was still there, deep under the surface. It would come out and haunt her when she saw something that reminded her of her now long-gone friend. A blanket perhaps that her pet had liked to sleep on. She was a pretty girl, with long flowing dark hair and the collar of a white dress showing at the base of her slender neck. Golden drop-shaped earrings hung from either lobe, and it made me touch my own ring, which I hadn't taken off since putting it on on Christmas afternoon. William stood there also, a little off to the side, acting as independent counsel, in his deep gray vest and black suit, so very strict and proper, graying black hair slicked back of course. "What do you think?", Jeff's father said to the butler.

"Yes, I agree, that does look better", William replied calmly. "It gives a more esthetically pleasing eye-line from the Monet and the Van Gogh."

Jeff's father mm-hmm:ed and rubbed his chin. "Yes... I think that works just fine." He turned back to the man holding the painting. "Then it's all set. Get it mounted as soon as possible."

"Yes, Sir."

Finally he turned to us. He didn't seem startled or surprised at all to find us standing there. It was as if he expected it that we were there, he just hadn't acknowledged us, that's all. Not that we weren't worthy of his attention or anything I thought, he simply was the kind of man that finishes one thing before starting on another. Even if that another thing was his own son, whose birthday he'd missed because of some business dealings...

"Aah. There you are."

The two stood a couple steps apart, facing each other. "Hello dad", Jeff said, a little hesitantly. I suppose it was because I was there, and, because he probably never called his dad 'dad' either.

"Hello Jeffrey." The reply wasn't really stiff or formal or anything, but it wasn't really loving or even personal either. "I guess this is...Timothy, is it?" Two piercing green eyes bored into me. They weren't hostile, just very intense.

"Uh... Yeah, yes Sir", I almost stuttered.

The man smiled, just slightly. "It's not necessary to be quite so formal", he said and paused. When I squirmed kinda uncomfortably his smile widened a little. "Finding it confusing what to call me, are you?" He seemed rather amused actually, and I blushed and felt a little awkward and uncomfortable. They did share the same name after all, and I could hardly call them both Jeffrey! At least, that's the way I felt at that time... "Maybe 'Mr. Sinclair' would suffice?", he then said with a small smile.

I blushed a little, thinking maybe he'd give his middle name instead, but he wasn't THAT informal. Jeff had already hinted at that. "Uh... Yes, si- uh, I mean..." I kept stumbling over my own tongue and was blushing more and more. Jeff reached out and put his arm around my shoulders, giving me strength.

"This is my boyfriend, father", he said quietly, but in a determined voice. "I love him, and he loves me." He squeezed me in even tighter, I hadn't expected such a blunt approach but maybe it was for the best... Get it over straight away, not beating around the bush.

Mr. Sinclair didn't do much of anything. His eyebrows raised slightly, and certainly not an outburst of any kind. The man was too measured and polite to allow himself to make any kind of scene, at least in front of other people. Well, I couldn't really tell if he was taking it badly, his expression was totally unreadable! Then I understood. He was analyzing me and Jeff! Checking if it was true, or if maybe we were trying to pull his leg. Then he spoke, after deciding we weren't joking. "Ah, then I suppose congratulations are in order", he said in such a calm and well-measured manner I couldn't tell at all if he was sincere or mocking us! He held out a hand at me and I reached out with my own on pure reflex like some automatic machine given the right signals and he grasped and shook it. I didn't really participate in that handshake because I was too hesitant. He shook my hand like I was a man, I thought. Firmly and without any hesitation.

I felt Mr. Sinclair expected me to say something, so I mumbled a halting, "Th-thank you..." to the man and he nodded in a satisfied manner. It seemed I had played my part sufficiently well.

"Your mother will want to hear this also", the tall man said, and then it was Jeff's turn to nod. "You go see her right away, she is in the drawing room." With that, we were apparently excused, and my handsome boyfriend started leading me away. I followed nervously, keeping a claw-like grip on Jeff's hand.

"It's okay!", he spoke soothingly to me. "My dad's always like that. So serious...", he said with a little smile. I felt marginally better. "It's okay, don't be scared." He patted my neck, and then caressed it. We were out of sight from anyone right then so I was able to relax a little.

Jeff's family was SO DIFFERENT from mine! I didn't know how to handle them. Jeff felt totally at ease around my folks, and my siblings too, but Jeff's parents might just as well have been from Mars; they were that strange to me! Well, I hadn't even met his mother, but something told me she would not be any different... Jeff patted me again and rubbed the tip of his nose against mine just a little. I also felt his forehead touch mine. It was over just as quickly as it started, he didn't want to embarrass me by allowing someone to see us touch (and even less kiss), all he meant was to give me a little comfort.

We went upstairs and turned the other way at the top of the stairs to go to the drawing room instead of to Jeff's own place. He took me to a room that was all white. I could see it through the partly open doors, it was spartan, and was at least as big as our living room and kitchen put together. Its size and spartanness only made it seem even bigger.

A lone figure stood in the middle of the room, draped all in white, as if she was wearing sheets wound leisurely around her body. She wasn't very tall, and willowy thin. Her hair was a pale blonde, not as pale as mine, but still very light, and put up in a strict, neat bun at the base of her neck. In front of her was an easel, and she used a thin brush with a long shaft to make a watercolor painting on thick paper. In front of her standing beneath the tall, white-curtained windows was a divan - also white, with red pillows stacked on it - but that wasn't what she was painting. The picture was of a huge, glossy red apple sitting on a sandbank on a beach in front of an sapphire-blue ocean and a clear-blue sky above. Somehow she made the colors very intense despite the dull shine of the white paper she used.

Like her husband, the woman didn't react as we entered, she continued working while we stood there quietly. I could see more paintings on the walls, and I wondered if Jeff's mother had done all of them. After a while - maybe a few minutes, the brush stopped moving. She'd been aware of us all that time I knew, she just hadn't thought it necessary to actually give us any attention. Slowly the woman turned around. Like I thought, she wasn't very tall. Just a little taller than me actually, but that didn't make her any less of a person. She was greater in stature than most people I'd met, at least equal to her husband. Her posture was that of a noble, maybe even that of royalty, her face proud, bordering on haughty. She didn't seem to wear any makeup at all, but she didn't need it. She was very beautiful, though not young. Not old either mind you, I really couldn't give even an estimate. She had a pretty narrow face with a pointed chin, prominent cheekbones and a long, straight nose. Her eyebrows seemed darker than the hair on her head, and they gave her a serious expression. Her eyes were blue of course, as deep-blue as the ocean she'd painted, and they seemed to stare right through me.

"Hello Mother", Jeff started quietly, obviously not trying to 'mum' her. Maybe she was even stricter than her husband? "...This is Timmy. Timothy Fairchild." Jeff paused a bit, squeezing my hand harder in a nervous manner. "He's my-"

"Yes I know what he is." The woman's voice was startlingly rich and clear, and rather loud in the sparsely furnished room. It wasn't deep though, not like a man's, but still with a timbre to it, like I'd imagine Lisa Gerrard would sound like if I was to hear her speak... Her voice sounded rather cold and flat though. Disappointed, I thought. Not like Lisa. She'd sound nice and warm...

I tried not to, but I couldn't stop myself. I started shaking, terrified all of a sudden because I knew the woman didn't like me. She didn't approve, she hated me and she'd never let me and Jeff be together... It had seemed too good to be true, and right then I found out that it was! I sank to my knees, crying my eyes out and I felt so ashamed! I was weak, and I didn't want to be. I just collapsed when I wished to run... Run away, far far away. Everything just disappeared in a haze of tears and sobbing.

I was scarcely aware of it, but suddenly arms were around me and voices speaking to me, almost urgently, begging me to calm down. Then I felt myself reach out, quite on my own, and put my arms around the neck of the woman in white. I felt she was warm after all, not a lady of ice, even though she felt thin, almost frail under her voluminous garment. Not like my mom, oh no. Not at all like my cuddly mom. But she was warm, and she held me firm and close to herself and spoke soothingly, apologizing and calming me until my crying had reduced itself to mere sniffles and hiccups. Jeff was hugging me from behind, he had his strong arms around me and his mother, them both holding on to me firmly.

My crying stopped. I filled my lungs with a long breath of air, and then let it out as calmly as I could. I only shuddered a little. I noticed where I was, sitting in Jeffrey's mother's lap with my arms around her tall, slender neck, my head resting against hers. I sat there like that, breathing for just a few minutes.

"You must think we are quite horrible people", she spoke to me. "I'm sorry, but when you live in the world we do you learn to behave in a certain way. If you don't, you don't fit in and people will shun you." She paused, and I felt her stroking my hair. "Me and my husband, we're so used to it we don't even see it. I guess you were neither ready for, nor even expecting such a reception, and for that I'm deeply-"

"It's okay", I said weakly. "I-I just got scared alright?" My voice quivered a little, and I felt Jeffrey hug me tighter. "I'm alright now, promise." Jeff's mother gave me a little smile, and then I smiled back.

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