We had just passed through Pittsburgh.
Thankfully none of the Burgher’s had noticed who we were, or they would have probably flipped us off. The Railers had a healthy but contentious relationship with the other Pennsylvania teams, which was as it should be.
The knowledge that we were within a few hours of home filled me with serenity. I’d be holding my baby girl in my arms soon. And Tennant as well. Sadly, Ryker and Jacob hadn’t had time to fly out to spend the holiday with us. I was sure we’d set something up during the Olympic break unless Ryker was chosen to represent Team Canada, then I guess we’d see each other when he got back.
“You look sad in the face,” Stan said as he scrolled through what must be his ten millionth Elvis playlist. I suspected my brain had downloaded at least three hundred songs. I had no idea that Elvis had recorded so many damn albums.
I glanced over at the sleepy Russian. He looked as exhausted as I felt. Tired and cramped.
“I was just thinking about Ryker not being able to come home for the holidays.”
He nodded and gazed through the windshield at the Keystone state rolling past. The hills and valleys were coated with snow from a recent dumping while we’d been out west. The sun was bright and high, cold, but tickling the snow with beams that made the ground appear as if it were covered with a blanket of diamonds.
“He will be missed.”
“That he will,” I sighed. Stan reached out to turn Elvis down. I looked from the road to my co-pilot. Or was it my wingman? Or was I his wingman? I was too tired even to recall the movie correctly.
“How old was Ryker when he told you he was bisexual?”
I blinked in surprise. “Oh, uhm. Well, into his teens if memory serves. Maybe fifteen or sixteen.”
“Ah, so old.” He rolled a corner of his lip up to nip at it. “Do you think he knew sooner?”
Wow, okay. This was not the conversation I thought we’d have. Truthfully, I assumed he would drop off and I would have this final leg to listen to something that was not Elvis Presley. But he’d bought some energy drinks at the last gas station and so here we were rolling through Monroeville in search of the exit to take us to I-76, discussing Ryker’s sexuality.
“Maybe? As a bi man I can say that I wasn’t totally sure about my attraction to men until much later. When I was in college. Of course things weren’t as open back then.”
“Yes, I see. Erik tells me much the same. Being gay is different.”
“So Tennant informs me.”
“Pavel told us over Thanksgiving stuffing and turkey that he thinks he is not a boy inside his heart. He asked us if he could paint his nails and wear skirts to school.”
Wow. I stared straight ahead as my mind spun to parse all of this info out. Stan had never said a word about this to anyone that I knew of. Not even Ten. Or perhaps he had and Ten had just sat on it because—
“We have told no-one yet. Not even Tennant.” Ah okay so wow and double wow. “Pavel is choosing a new name and wants new pronouns. She tells us that when she goes back to school after New Year she will be the girl that lives in his heart. She says her name will be Margo now. She is happy but scared. Erik and I are…not confused but worried. For her safety.”
“Are you buying her feminine clothing?” I asked, hitting the turn signal as we slowed for the exit.
“Yes. We rushed to return the boys clothing we’d bought for Christmas and got her girl’s clothing instead. We have read so much online and am trying hard to make Mama understand. She is having big issues. She does not thinks we are doing right by letting him talk such silliness. She thinks he is boy and that is that.”
“Well, it’s difficult for some of the older folks to grasp the concept of someone being transgender,” I offered, stealing looks at Stan. He was nodding. “Give her time. She loves those children dearly. Once she sees how happy he…I’m sorry, she is, your mother will be more accepting. Change is hard. Learning new pronouns is trickier.”
“Yes, I know. It is hard but we want our home to be safest haven for Margo in the whole world.”
“Margo is lucky to have such loving parents.” He smiled at that. “How are Eva and Noah handling it?”
“Eva is fine. Happy to have a new sister. Noah is young yet but we have raised him to be open and accepting so he will not have any troubles. He now has his fingernails painted too as his new sister Margo does. Erik and I have purple toenails.”
“Sounds like you’re doing fine. If you ever need anything from the team or just a shoulder to lean on, let us know. Things might get dicey when Margo goes back to school.”
“Yes, children can be mean. Adults even meaner but I have spoken to someone at the school and they are inclusive and will help with any transition that needs to take place. I am glad I spoke with you about this. I think to go to Tennant but you are a father.”
“Ten’s a father too,” I remined him teasingly.
“Oh yes, of course, but not of older children. Charlotte is still little. He has not parented through sexual things like you have. You have an adult son. You are old and wise.”
“Thanks. I think.” I chuckled at the backhanded compliment.
“This has helped. Erik and I worry. We read the statistics about depression and self-harming for many LGBTQ children. Our hearts break.”
“It sounds to me that you and Erik are giving Margo tons of family acceptance and support. That will serve well as a protective barrier against much of what the outside world will toss at her. And I meant it when I said to let me know if the team can help in any way. I know Pavel…sorry, Margo, loves playing hockey. We could look into sponsoring an LGBTQ youth team. We have a few non-queer kids teams and inner city teams so why not an LGBTQ one? Let’s get Layton on this idea, what do you say? I bet Trent would have lots of ideas as well.”
“Yes, I say yes! Margo would love to play with other children who would understand her new self and the journey she is making. Thank you, Jared. Your advanced age has made you wise indeed!” He clapped a hand to my thigh with such force the jolt ran down to my toes.
I thought to mention that I really wasn’t that much older than he was but I let it go.
“Glad I could help. Any time you want to talk about Margo you know where to find me.”
He smiled, cracked open another Red Bull, and cranked up an Elvis live concert, his TCB glasses finding their way back to his nose. I hummed along to “Burning Love” as we headed home sipping Red Bull and coffee all the way across Pennsylvania.
It was late afternoon when Stan dropped me off at our house. Ten and Charlotte came out to greet me in the snowy drive. I hugged my daughter tight, inhaling the scent of baby shampoo deeply into my lungs. Ten and Stan were chattering away as they unloaded my bags from the back.
“I am off to give Erik a big smooch and a new car then play games with my children,” Stan announced, pecked Lottie on the cheek, patted Tennant on the head, and offered me his big hand. I shuffled Lottie to my other hip and slapped my palm over his. “Was good drive. I will talk with you soon, probably much if that is good?”
“It’s very good. Any time, my friend.” He grinned then raced to the Spider, his Red Bull still in effect by the looks. The sky blue car peeled away, the roof now thankfully up.
“Everything okay?” Ten asked as he shouldered my bag.
I nodded as I watched Stan cruise around the corner. “Yep, everything is just fine.”
“Did you and Stan get closer? Share any secrets?” He asked, his eyes twinkling merrily.
“We did get closer, yeah.” As for secrets, I’d be keeping a few for a little while. “Let’s go open presents, shower, eat, and fall asleep in front of the tv. How does that sound, Peanut?”
“Dadda home! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” the wiggle worm in my arms shouted.
Yep, that sounded good to me too. As did spreading kisses round. One for Lottie, one for Ten, one for Lottie, one for Ten. And one air kiss sent across the city for Stan, Erik, and Margo as well.
Happy Holidays! We love you very much.
Vicki and RJ
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Have you read?
A second chance at love is all Kyle wants for Christmas, but a dark menace from his past wants him dead, and love is second to staying alive.
Kyle Lourenco has carved out a comfortable life and career for himself in Boston. With the holidays quickly approaching, he’s heading home for the first time in several years. Home to his loving parents and the small Canadian town where he was raised. And home to Christian, his best friend and the first man to steal his heart.
Just as a winter storm begins to blow in, it forces Kyle off the road only miles from home and a dark and sinister force from his past creeps ever closer. His only hope is getting to Christian’s cabin before the evil that has haunted him for years finally catches up to him.
Best friends since they were three, Christian Gauthier grew up next door to Kyle, in a remote mountain town with one stoplight and a forty-mile round trip to the nearest school. When Kyle left town for a shot at a professional hockey career, he took Christian’s heart with him. Even though he knew Kyle was always destined for bigger things, it hadn’t stopped Christian from falling for him as soon as he knew what love was.
With Christmas coming soon and a major snowstorm heading their way, Christian shuts the doors to the family store and heads to his cabin, where he will be on standby as an official volunteer for Search and Rescue. He has never regretted staying in Eagle Ridge, but a near miss on a simple rescue leads him to reevaluate everything, and when Kyle ends up at his door, he knows that guarding his heart might not be the best solution after all.
Dates For Your Diaries:
December 3 – Snowed will be available on all platforms (Kobo, B&N, Apple, Google, Amazon, Smashwords)
December 6 – Snowed will be moving to Amazon Exclusive and Kindle UnlimitedMore info →