This novella is a Christmas extra complementing my novella series, Cinderlight. You can check out the episodes published previously by clicking on the following links: Part Zero, A Fay, Family Visit and Revival.
„You and Kuzin spend Christmas eve with us, yes? You come for supper, yes?” Some things never change. Almost three years had passed after Salvio had arrived to the States, and his English was still lacking. At least that was what he was making a show of, whenever he wanted to seem lost and new to the country or wanted to accomplish something with it. To his credit, he could switch between an almost perfect and lacking English at a blink of an eye. So speaking messy English wasn’t a hindrance to him, the contrary, it was a tool he used when seducing women or against Tom, to get his way.
Speaking of women, Salvio managed to find a really fine one, and the two of them were like two lovebirds ever since. The four of them spent a considerable amount of time together, when they invited each other over making and eating dinner, or just talking and playing card games. And regardless of those evenings, Tom hadn’t had the slightest idea whether Rosalia knew anything about his secret with Alexander. They never spoke about that. He trusted Salvio, his best friend to keep their secret to himself, or if not, then he trusted Salvio’s judgement to choose someone to entrust their secret with.
So it might be a good bet to think that Rosalia already knew. But not speaking about it was the safest for everyone. Essentially for Thomas and Alexander. It was a harsh world with traps, so abiding the rules was in everyone’s best interest. Tom’s love for Alexander and the other’s for him wasn’t something they ever could shout from the rooftops – not like Tom wanted to -, and speaking about their feelings among friends also felt hellishly difficult (treacherous even). Therefore it was no wonder, Rosalie never brought it up. She went along with the play of Alex and Tom being only “Kuzins”.
In the past year they became neighbors by renting a duplex in the outskirts of New Square. They were close to New York, so their flat was in a favorable location when it came to traveling to one of the newest construction sites of the big city. Not to mention that they didn’t have any other close neighbors except for each other. This was the best possible solution for Alexander, who was haunted by the Fay ever still.
Tom first thought that his nerves were deteriorating as the days passed by, but later he had to realize that the Fay was real as was its clutch on Alexander’s life and mood swings. He was clueless what to do, or how to help. Sometimes days had passed without any apparition from the Fay, sometimes it made its presence clear in each one of Alexander’s dreams, or even in some of his waking minutes.
„I don’t know if it’s a good idea, Salvio. You know Alex, what if he… you know… what if he would be less fit at your perfect Christmas dinner?”
„Nonsense” replied Salvio in a cheerful tone. „Kuzin will be no trouble at all, or won’t you.”
Tom did not bother to correct his phrases. Not anymore. He was well aware that Salvio could speak correctly if he wanted. The only thing he had no control over was his thick accent. But he usually used his broken English as an entertainment. It always made Alexander laugh out loud when Salvio used deliberately grand gestures, like he was emphasizing what he couldn’t express in a foreign language. These role-plays could even deflect Alex’s foul moods caused by the Fay.
„You no say no” Salvio mimicked his just-arrived-to-the-States self. „Rosalia likes the two you.”
„Ok, ok we will drop by, just please stop” Tom couldn’t control his bubbling laughter any longer. „Have mercy and speak like any civilized man would.”
„I might consider your wish, child. But no last minute cancellation” Salvio chided.
Tom wanted to reply with a variety of things – mainly friendly insults -, first of all objecting Salvio’s playfully patronizing tone. He was only 15 years older than Tom, that age gap clearly didn’t give anyone any right to call him ’child’. And last minute cancellations weren’t anything he fancied or did on purpose… it entirely depended on Alexander.
He sighed and opted for a polite answer. „If Alex would be fine enough we would be happy to attend Christmas supper at your place.”
„That’s my good lad” Salvio patted Tom on the shoulder with the sheer force of a tornado. Tom could swear he heard his bones rattle under his skin.
A week later Tomas and Alexander stood awkwardly in the door of Salvio and Rosalia’s flat. They were reluctant to push the doorbell. Alexander stood on the top of the stairs leading to the entrance with panic in his eyes. He looked around uneasily, searching for something or someone. Tom’s heart sank. Alexander was looking for the Fay fearing the panic its apparition might cause.
„Look at me, Alex” he grabbed the other’s shoulders and turned him so he could look him straight in the eyes. „Catch your breath.” He watched Alex as he sucked in a calming breath then let it out. „Much better.” He smiled. „There is no need to worry. Salvio is our best friend and our most faithful ally. And it’s Christmas Eve. So… the Fay won’t bother you.”
„Why are you so sure?” asked Alexander, his voice hoarse, and Tom could feel his own throat tighten along with Alex’s hitching breath.
„Because… there must be some time in the year when spirits too take holidays. That is why.”
„Spirits taking days-off, that’s rich.” Alexander almost smiled in return, the laugh lines becoming prominent on his handsome face.
„Yeah, right? So if the Fay makes an apparition to you, you can ask him about his overtime fees figuring in its work contract. If it is taken advantage of, you can offer your support as a legal expert.” Taking a look at Alex’s raised eyebrows, Tom continued snickering. „Or you can simply tell it to bugger off.”
The corner of Alexander’s mouth twitched. Tom knew he was trying to fight off the urge to laugh out loud, but that was a loosing battle. Tom continued giggling wondering about exploited spirits who might be as much fed up with humans as humans were with them. Alex couldn’t help it anymore, laughter bubbled up from his chest, and the soft jingle of it all but melted Tom’s heart.
Salvio must have heard the calamities from the other side of his flat’s entrance door, because in the next minute the door swung open, revealing the robust Spanish man with a days growth of stubble on his face.
„You here at last. It’s about time” he held out his hand first to Tom then to Alexander and after a brief handshake with the two men, he ushered them inside.
Inside the flat was like they plunged into a magical realm of brightness and colors. Every inch of the flat was decorated with tinsel, garlands, glass globes and colored light bulbs and among all those decorations stood many figurines composing hand-made nativity or other Christmas-related biblical scenes.
Alex and Tom’s flat was almost plain compared to Salvio’s. Tom and Alex did their best to decorate their side of the duplex, but neither of them was talented enough to do a really good job. Not even Salvio’s would look this good without the helping hands of Rosalia. Tom kept that thought to himself.
„Get a grip boys, don’t look at my poor decorations like you don’t like’em.” Salvio wiggled his eyebrows making clear he was joking.
„Are you insane, man?” Tom asked indignant. „It’s lovely. Rosalia got it really nice.”
Alex snorted at Tom’s well aimed compliment diminishing Salvio’s role in the whole decoration process. Salvio grabbed the front of his pristinely pressed red shirt with little Christmas trees on it, making gestures like he was ready to faint because of the insult.
„Right pal, she really got it right, borrowing my height and arms with the tinsel and other decorations hoisted in places she cannot reach…”
“No, no love.” Rosalia chimed in. “If someone has borrowed something from someone, it was you my dear. You were the one using my sense of beauty and aesthetics.”
“So are you telling me that you were guiding my arms where to hang the garlands and everything?”
“Yeah, I’m trying to say exactly that.”
A wicked smile spread over Salvio’s face what was the expression of winners. But anyone who knew Rosalia, could be sure about one thing. No one got away with that kind of smugness, Salvio was at the verge of announcing. The next step would be to plunge the evening in a hellish Spanish sanguine-kind of brawl. So Alexander took a step forward to hug Rosalia and complimenting the decoration dutifully like the perfectly good soldier he was.
Rosalia beamed, and all the competitiveness was forgotten. Then Rosalia let Tom too to hug her, then ushered the three men into the dining room where the table was set for four, lit candles bathed the room in quivering yellow light. The tablecloth was red and the candlelights danced on the gold embroidered motifs of snowflakes and stars leading the three kings to the baby Jesus.
“Sit down, sit down” Rosalia urged them „Make yourselves comfortable while I serve the soup right away.”
She flashed a warm, happy smile at the three of them, then stormed off to the kitchen. They heard her hustle and bustle around the spacious kitchen serving the soup in a smaller bowl and preparing other dishes.
Supper was lovely, Tom and Alexander got to taste the best flavored Mexican style Christmas menu ever. Truth to be told it was the first time for both of them, but Tom was fairly sure, that nobody could surpass Rosalia’s cooking and baking skills.
She was American born and bred but she was really proud of her Mexican and Spanish origins. And she clearly did his best to show the three men what she meant by preparing Mexican meals for Christmas Eve.
After supper Salvio herded everyone to the living room where Tom and Alexander got seated in Salvio’s armchairs. The color of the covering velvet of the chairs faded slightly over the years but were very comfy nonetheless. Salvio handed them tumblers filled with fragrant cherry, and Alexander tried to refuse it politely at first – he knew well enough what would happen if he got drunk, the Fay would haunt him with even less mercy than the other times -, but Salvio did not took no as an answer.
Left with no other choice he accepted the glass of cherry tasting it carefully, nibbling only well measured sips. Tom at one point tried to switch his glass to Alexander’s with the clear intention to make the liquor disappear. Salvio did notice the attempt, but said nothing of it, just let Alexander off the hook by not presenting him with any more cherry.
Rosalia brought in a huge pile of different kind of cakes and cookies, she could have get a whole army going on those sweets. Alex and Tom did their best to try all of them. At the end of the evening they were stuffed so much, if they were presented any kind of food in a week, it would be still too soon.
At some point Salvio asked them if they knew any American Christmas songs. Tom nodded vigorously, but Alex did his best to become invisible, knowing well enough what will follow.
„Ask Alex to sing. No one can sing like him!” Tom’s face was rosy from all the cherry he drunk and Salvio was so generous with. His voice slurred a bit, and if the expression on his face was any indication he was happy and mellow. Alexander too felt the same happiness, he was merry. This Christmas Eve had everything the ones before with his family lacked.
In return for this wondrous evening singing a song or two wouldn’t be a big price to pay? Would it? „Let me think” he said, but he already knew what he will sing. His favorite Christmas song, he heard for the first time during the holiday season of 1934.
And why did he remember it so vividly? The Christmas that year with his family was especially cruel. He refused to meet the girl his father wanted him to marry. He deliberately failed to show up at the dinner in the posh restaurant his father booked for the evening. After a harsh quarrel with his father what they finished by shouting obscenities to each other, he spent the next two days of Christmas passed out drunk in a shitty bar in the slums.
That memory now was faded, and tonight’s happiness over-shone the lingering pain of those old injuries, it seemed almost unreal that he was hurt so bad before. If that pain and his connection severed were the price to be paid for this recent happiness, he was grateful to be presented the chance to pay it.
He asked for a bit more cherry, as usually he needed the liquid courage before singing for an audience. He sung for his men once or twice during the war, and he was mesmerized by their happy faces shining with wonder and admiration when hearing him sing. So when he felt courageous enough, he started his favorite Christmas song.
You better watch out/ You better not cry/ You better not pout/ I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is comin’ to town/ Santa Claus is comin’ to town/ Santa Claus is comin’ to town
He’s making a list/ He’s checking it twice/ He’s gonna find out/ Who’s naughty or nice
It wasn’t for long before everyone joined in. First Tom with his rich baritone which was seductive even when he sounded tipsy. Then Salvio humming and finally Rosalia with her chiming – a bit tone-deaf – lovely voice. They were singing well into the night, and not just this one song, but a few more others until Salvio knew them all by heart.
It was two in the morning when Alex and Tom stumbled in their bed in their side of the duplex in a tangle of limbs. Tom kissed Alex messily, and without uttering a single word he showed him again all his emotions, the full extent of his love for Alex. He kissed the sweetest of confessions on the other man’s lips, and Alexander reciprocated all of it with the same fervor and passion.
„You were right, you know” he breathed on the heated skin of Tom’s neck.
„What do you mean?” He asked in reply, one brow raised.
„The Fay. Taking one day off, I mean” he smiled slowly and Tom’s went boneless with happiness.
„I told you, it wouldn’t bother you.” Tom winked at Alexander.
„I just hope its holiday would last till the season ends.”
„I’m sure of it. The Fay must have better places to be during the holiday season. Believe me.”
The darkness of the room stirred. The Fay stepped a step closer to the bed. It looked down on the two men tangled together. Then it faded into nothingness. The Fay really got better places to be at that night. There were places of the word with other people in dire need to have visions in order to keep them on the right track.