Found You Elsewhere
(It May be a Christmas Story)
His strange idea that he will find snow if he climbed up there didn't leave him even after the weather report had said there wouldn't be any on Christmas Eve.
As winter break was getting nearer, the joy and excitement about the holidays was growing bigger to a point where it was out of control. Maybe it was because school would be out for the kids, or perhaps the Christmas spirit settled into every home, that the exhilarating mood was spreading like an avalanche that couldn't be stopped unless the final day passed at last. The conversations were all about those special days; the decorations on the houses, inside and outside, were all about them too; not least, the purchases, hundreds and hundreds of presents in sparkling, bright colors, were also bought because of the time of year.
Some strange sensation floats in the air around those December days.
However, for one teenage boy the spirit of Christmas seemed misleading. You see, that boy didn't believe in Christmas. No one does when they grow up; they simply wish they could. But even when he was little he knew the obvious lie. That boy didn't share other people's enthusiasm. He tried to distance himself from all the commotions but the Christmas mood was everywhere he went. A recent event convinced him that there was no safe place to hide from the deceitful happiness that happened every year (in his own words).
The boy walked the high school halls on the day before Christmas, wishing it could all pass as quickly as possible. He was bothered by the smiling faces of students who, seemingly overjoyed, exchanged small gifts with their friends. He walked by them quickly and diverted his eyes, but they were all around him. He wished that the bell would ring and put an end to this suffocating cheerfulness. Even in school there is no end to this, he thought.
He took his books from the locker and was ready to head for class but a hand on his shoulder made him stop.
"What say you, me and the gang go out somewhere after school?"
It was a girl, slightly taller than him, with straight long black hair. Bright blue eyes met his own. She smelled pretty. The touch on his shoulder was tender. A friendly smile formed on her face.
"Well? What do you say?"
The boy pulled away.
"No. Have something to do. I've got to get to class." And he disappeared.
He knew that his friends wouldn't leave him alone. Rachel was only the first one sent. They thought she was his soft spot and he would accept if she asked him. That didn't happen. There would be others now. That's why he tried to think of a plan to avoid meeting any of his friends through the rest of classes. Still, till lunch break he hadn't come up with anything and he was already in the company of the full gang.
"Come on, Brody, come with us," they pleaded.
"Hey, what's with you," Josh, his best friend, asked. "Why are you leaving me alone?"
Brody said he won't be alone. Josh just didn't understand, so Brody refused their requests and couldn't give them a proper answer as to why when they asked.
"You really won't come then," Rachel asked with a let-down voice.
Brody felt guilty, but only for a moment. The whole table got silent.
"Then, I'll give you your present now," Rachel said. And out of nowhere she took out a small white box with a red ribbon on top. "Here, this is for you, Brody. It's not here yet, but Merry Christmas!"
He accepted the gift while the boys at the table cheered him on by making strange humming noises.
"Don't open it now. Wait until later. It isn't going to snow this Christmas but let this remind you."
He felt stupid that he didn't have a present for her, or for anyone else for that matter, and cursed the tradition of Christmas to exchange items. What was it with all the giving, he thought. People don't understand the real meaning, the lie behind it. But he knew it well, that is why he didn't get anyone anything. Even for his best friends.
Brody just wanted the holidays to pass quickly and the fuss over this to be over. For him it didn't feel like celebrating anything.
The topic of conversation changed. Not much further for Brody though...
"Hey, that stage play the other day was awesome," someone on the table said.
"Yeah, you were great, Brody," Rachel added.
"There was too much `Christmas' in it. Not to my taste." Josh lightly discarded it.
But even if he said that, Josh was there and watched it. All of them did. And the thing is they thought their friend enjoyed it. With all his self-restrain, Brody managed to play the role well, fooling everybody so well that even he was impressed. Well, that is what acting is all about.
After lunch he received another gift from a friend. Josh led Brody aside from the rest.
"I have something for you too," he said, "though I'll give you half of it now." He took out some piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Brody. "You know that hot girl, a year older than us, the blond cheerleader? That's her e-mail there."
Brody raised his questioning and confused eyes from the tiny paper.
"I thought about writing her myself when I got it. But you seem to be shunning Rachel, so I thought you want something different."
Minutes before the last bell rang Brody excused himself and left for the toilet. Only that he didn't go there but exited the school building and headed home before anyone else.
On his way he passed numerous of houses which had strange decorations on their porches. There was a snowman in front of one; it was only a figure – it wasn't real. Some houses had imitations of snowflakes on their windows among other unpleasant sights that had nothing to do with winter.
As he went through the park he saw the huge Christmas tree, standing tall, green, and sawed off, placed there for no obvious reason, except to give a sense of sentiment to whoever saw it. Brody didn't like it at all.
"These scenes are all lacking something," he thought. "Where is the snow? Why isn't there any snow?"
It really hadn't been snowing this year. At this time of December it was a very unusual weather – cold, yet dry and clear.
The fireplace was unlit. On the right side of it, almost reaching the ceiling, the Christmas tree was placed. Ornamented with garlands and festoons; adorned with decorations in red, white and blue colors, the tree's lights flickered, subtle in daylight, hidden amidst the green sprigs.
It was artificial.
Candles with wreaths around them were placed above the fireplace. There was also a red Christmas stocking next to them with a name on it: Brody.
He stood there in the living room, wondering for a while before he took the stocking and threw it for the fire to turn it to ashes.
"You shouldn't do that, young master. Your mother placed it there."
There was someone standing at the large living room doorway; the maid.
"Your parents called and said that something came up. They won't make it in time for tonight. They are sorry but it was important."
Brody's parents were away most of the time, on business trips. He rarely saw them home together.
Without saying anything, he went upstairs to his room.
The first thing that came into view when he opened the door was a telescope next to the window.
"Snow... huh," he murmured.
He went to look through it. The telescope was directed towards a hill outside of town. Only a thick dark mass of trees could be seen. But somewhere out there Brody knew there was something.
He remembered Rachel's words about his present and searched for his backpack. It was on the bed. Brody unwrapped the white box.
He was looking at a snow globe. Under the lucent glass sphere, that was the broad sky, there was a little house – a cozy cottage: it had an inviting appearance; the yellow coming from the cross-windows, the chimney which almost let round, feathery curls of smoke fly, added to the snug impression of warmth. Around the cottage were a few Christmas trees with boughs heavy from the snow. On the bottom of the globe was a small pile of silvery-white glittering dust.
It was magnetizing. Brody was lost in the depth of the mirror surface.
He turned the snow globe around and shook it, then watched the turmoil of the snowflakes. Everything had become white in the confined blizzard. And after a while, little by little, the snowstorm settled down again into a pile of dust.
He saw something inside that made him excited. The feeling was like reaching a summit and having a revelation. A spark ignited in his mind; the spark became an idea; the idea transformed into a plan.
Some thirty minutes later Brody came down with his backpack on one shoulder. He told the maid to quickly pack his meal and without delay went out to get his bike. He pedaled through town, headed in the direction which his telescope was pointing at.
For a month now he had been watching it. Looking at the place from a distance you could see nothing: only plain, stripped by the autumn trees. But it was when the sun set that he usually saw it. By chance, one night while gazing at the stars he saw a light there in the hill forest. At first, he had thought it was a car on the out-of-town roads, but the light wasn't moving. It had caught his interest and he had wondered what it could be. Different ideas had gone through his head and they had only stirred his curiosity. After a few nights of observing he had learned that the light always stays for about 2 or 3 hours and then goes off.
Brody reached the foot of the hill.
The weather was chilly; the cold wind blew behind his back.
It took him quite some time to get there. He was panting, so he tried not to breathe through his mouth. He had gotten off the beaten track some time ago and since then was walking with his bike next to him, since he couldn't continue with it.
Brody noticed that little by little he was being surrounded by trees. The path was becoming more inclined; he was climbing uphill. It was hard for him to push his bike.
The sky was gray and getting darker and darker. It was winter so the night came early, still there was no sign of snow or some kind of dampness.
What was Brody expecting if he reached up there, he himself didn't know exactly. Maybe there is a house, a work station or something like that, he thought. Still, he wanted to know. His motivation wasn't driven only by pure curiosity. The idea itself was simple: the sudden urge to feel the touch of snow. Nothing more!
For the first time in his life did he become so obsessed with something. It was a new feelings and it made no sense to him; but wanted nothing else as long as he reached the light. It may not be for other things, but if just this little sort of wish of his comes true then his Christmas would be fulfilled.
Brody continued to push his bike forward as hard as it was through the forest. He thought it was not far away when looking at it from his home, but it was actually quite further out of town. He didn't even ask himself what would happen if the night found him in the forest. Being lost in the mountain at this time of year was not good. And lost he was since he had no idea where he was going. He just hoped he was close to see when the light appeared.
Eventually, the path led him to a plain in the forest where he saw a small open hut. He stopped for a moment to rest. The bike slowed him down, so he decided to leave it locked to the hut. But he wondered about the direction he should take. There were no other paths except the one he came from. There was no sight of a road or path to go with.
"To the top of the hill," Brody whispered.
He just needed to climb up the hill.
However, there was another thing. The wood was dense. Brody realized that the duskiness had prevailed over his eyesight. It was dark.
Brody still hadn't realized how dangerous this little adventure of his was. He didn't know where he was and where exactly he was going. What would happen if the light didn't appear? Was he even in the right direction?
That's when he saw a light! It looked like a small, glowing dot in the nothingness up ahead. It pierced the darkness from far away and reached Brody's sight. It was the one and only light: his, the one he'd been searching for; he knew it. Without thinking, he dashed through the thick forest towards the yellow spot, as though he was chased by wild animals. He ran as fast as he could, enveloped in a sudden euphoric feeling.
"I finally saw you," he thought.
He would have said it out loud, screamed it excitingly, but he didn't have a chance to catch his breath. Luckily, he didn't trip on anything. His determination was so strong that he was driven by spirit alone. All of his senses were concentrated on one objective; but he noticed that no matter how fast he ran, the dot stayed a dot. He wasn't getting close to the light. That didn't stop Brody at all; he ran even faster, eager to reach the top of the hill.
He ran and ran...
...when all of a sudden, before he could even feel the lost support of the earth under his feet, Brody fell beneath the ground.
As many Christmases had passed, on each one Brody found himself alone. When he was little they left him with a baby-sitter. As he grew older they sent him away to other relatives where he spent the holidays. Sure, there were cousins his age there; he felt welcomed with warm feelings; but watching them all smiling, laughing, and happily exchanging gifts, while he thought about his own parents, made him wonder if there was a place for him at all. And they always made him act some play, which he hated. It was always the same thing that suited everyone's overjoyed mood. Nothing did prove to him that miracles really happened on Christmas, because on those days his presence was that of a ghost with a mask.
Brody opened his eyes which he instinctively closed from the fall. It was dark all around him and he couldn't see anything. His butt hurt a little but something had softened his landing. A rustling sound came from the ground as he tried to stand up. With his hands he began to figure his surroundings. The sound came from the piled up dry leaves on the ground, as he thought. Carefully, he reached with his hands around him and he stumbled on something like a wall. As he traced it, he found out that it encircled him like a cage; it was at least two meters wide. Brody looked up and saw a brighter ring appear way above.
He was trapped in a pit.
The instant panic attack made his heart fill with fear. He tried to climb, but couldn't. The soil of the pit wall was crumbling under his hands.
"WHY?!" he screamed loudly.
Normally, he would have continued to search for a way to escape, but he just sighed and sat down. Brody finally understood what stupid deed he had done. He started to laugh, to himself, alone, in the darkness, at his irony of fate and there was nothing better than laughter to express how bad he felt.
"Serves me right for wanting something more... This way, I'll spend Christmas alone yet again."
Maybe it was from desperation, but his laughter became more hysterical.
Minutes ago, while he was scared at first, he may have yelled for help, but what was the point?! He would be like he always was, only at a different place. It may even be better this way, that's what he thought.
It was freezing cold, Brody felt it. His clothes weren't warm enough and he started to shiver. He'd just fall asleep and try to get out during daylight...
He thought he heard something on the third call for help. Well, he yelled after all, his voice echoing inside the hole and making its way to the forest.
It sounded like a bark. By the sound of it, something was making its way towards him. He called a few more times while looking up at the discerning circle. A dark shade appeared above. It bayed loudly. A dog, Brody thought.
Moments after that he caught another noise: of footsteps. Those of a person!
"What is it, boy? What did you find?" Brody heard a voice.
As he was looking upwards a sudden flash of light blinded him.
The following happened all at once.
"Hey, there's a..." the person above said.
At the same time, while looking up, small lumps of dirt started to fall over Brody and he covered his eyes. Before he knew what was happening, something landed on top of him, taking him down with it.
The person was not heavy. Judging from the voice, Brody guessed he was young. But... What was this? How was this possible? He couldn't believe what happened.
"Ahh... Sorry about that," the person said, still on top of him. "But, hey, Buck was right! There is a person down here."
"Ughh, can you get off me?" Brody tried to push away the body on top of him.
The other person got up and started to search for something on the ground, amidst the leaves.
"I can't believe it!" Brody said as he got up too.
"Ahh, here it is," the other said.
The blinding light was again pointed at Brody. He didn't see the person because of the flashlight, but the person clearly saw him. And he had a slightly surprised and amused face.
"Hey, what are you doing here?" he bluntly said, probably unintentionally.
But Brody didn't catch the note in his voice.
""You've got to be kidding me! What am I doing here?! Did you have to fall in here too?! What are you, an idiot?! Is this some kind of a place for gathering or something?" His boiled up frustration exploded without warning.
The other was taken aback from the answer. For a moment there he thought Brody would jump on him.
"I don't think so. It's just a pit," he said with an easy-going character. "I am a bit reckless. I did apologize for falling on you, you know."
"Yeah, yeah, right. It would have been better if you got me out of here first!" His anger still hadn't dropped down. "And stop pointing that flashlight at me!"
The flashlight was off. It became dark and awkward. Silence.
"I meant put it aside but still keep it on! Jeez!" Brody exclaimed.
As the flashlight revealed their faces, they curiously looked one another. They were sitting down against each other, leaning against the pit's wall. A boyish face in a hat was what Brody saw. A blond forelock was showing from under it. He looked around Brody's age, slim, not so tall than himself.
Probably, what the other boy saw first were Brody's eyes. Although, because of the light they were not in all of their glory, the boy did imagine what they would look like in daylight. But he did remember them well; he knew the green shade, as he recalled images and memories from his mind.
Only for a moment did their eyes met before they both turned their heads away.
"Don't worry. Buck will get help."
They boy whistled, then called for the dog. But they heard nothing from up ground.
"Well, we may have to wait for a bit. He has the habit of getting carried away sometimes."
"Oh, great! Relying on a canine! We'll be stuck in here forever!"
"No... just for an hour, two max."
Brody was still a little angry. But why? He had almost accepted the situation in which he was in. He had accepted that he would again spend the holiday alone. Yet...
"So, why are you here on Christmas Eve?" the boy asked.
"Why should I tell you?" Brody snapped.
"Well, you don't have to. But to pass the time we could share something about ourselves. Don't you think? It's kind of an unrealistic and unbelievable situation, don't you think? Being here together, in a place like this, on a day like this..."
"It's not like I want to be here! Don't get the wrong idea, but I don't want to share anything with a person whom I just met; even if the circumstances are like this."
"Don't be like this. Where's your Christmas spirit?"
"Here we go," Brody thought. "I don't believe in Christmas! And before you say anything else, I'll tell you that I hate it! Christmas is about lies! Once a year people remember that they should actually be good to others around them and begin to act stupidly. You see them putting on their masks, showing their happy and cheerful faces. But that is all deceitful! They show their love only then and it isn't real! Why don't they show it all the time? Does giving presents wash away your spitefulness?! No! People don't think that Christmas is special. They are forced to accept it! Christmas spirit?! That's just some romantic covering for the consumer society! So, let's not talk about it. We'll just sit here like this, till that stupid dog of yours comes!"
"Well, you could be right..." the boy started.
"Didn't you hear me what I just said?!" Brody's eyes were fearful.
"...you could be right from what you've experienced. And in a way, you are right for yourself. You see it that way; I understand. It's hard to see through other people's eyes, you know? I try to view it from your point of view, but I simply can't..."
"Fuck you! What do you know?!" was the only answer the boy got.
In the light, separating them, puffs of exhalations wandered the air.
"Brody you can't possibly..." the boy didn't continue, as the realization ocured.
"Hey! How did you know my name?"
The boy got nervous. The flashlight was off.
"I know you are here. Turn the flashlight on!"
"I don't want to," came an answer.
"What?! Why? Do I know you?"
"Let's just leave it like this, okay?"
"Huh, you are weird."
They stayed in the dark. There were a lot of questions in Brody's mind. Now, he wasn't angry, but slightly curious.
"I'm sorry," the boy said softly.
Brody's face frowned in confusion.
"For what?" he asked.
"... that you don't know what Christmas is."
It didn't sound like a wit, or a taunt. It sounded so innocent that Brody didn't want to nibble at it. The mood had changed a little as they stayed in the darkness, not seeing each other.
"When I look at you when you play," the boy continued.
"That's where... He likes Christmas and liked the play... nothing new," Brody thought.
"... you always look like you are hiding behind a mask. That Christmas carol stage play... you didn't seem to enjoy it; you didn't seem to want to do it. After that, everyone praised you, but I had the feeling that you were lonely."
Was it the first time someone had said those words to Brody? He dropped the mockery and wondered.
"Hey, tell me your name," Brody's voice broke the silence.
"Well, Rory, it's freezing cold."
"Yeah, I can feel it."
"My teeth are rattling and I think my ears will fall down."
"I've got an idea."
Rory turned the flashlight on and put it aside.
He too was carrying a backpack. He searched for something inside.
Brody again looked close at the boy. Had he seen him before? Had he noticed him in the audience; school?
"I know what you said about Christmas, but I can't stand seeing you freeze to death," Rory reached and handed something to Brody.
"This was a gift for my uncle, but since it's this kind of situation... Here this is my Christmas gift for you."
Brody was surprised.
"But... but I can't take that. It's a present for someone else. And..."
Rory was still reaching him the wrapped package, looking into Brody's eyes, urging him to accept.
"But I don't have anything for you," he said as he finally accepted.
When he unwrapped it, he saw it was a hat: a knitted white hat with red stripes; sidelong, there were two tassels hanging.
"I don't know what to say," Brody softly said.
"Just put it on."
He put it on and his ears quickly warmed.
Their eyes were locked.
The flashlight flickered.
"I know! Hahaha." Brody laughed at his idea.
"Heh, I have only this – my friend's stupid gift, if it can be called that," he said as he searched his pockets. "Would you be interested in a hot girl's e-mail?"
Brody was laughing at his idea and didn't notice Rory's expression.
"Yeah, Josh's idea was dumb. Why would I need it?"
"No, it's not that... Umm, yes, it is dumb. But the thing is... I'm gay."
The light flickered again.
Brody wasn't laughing like before. He was a little confused.
It took a lot of courage for Rory to say it. Maybe if it wasn't this kind of situation he would never have said it.
"Dumb idea, yeah," Brody murmured.
Both boys shivered as a sudden wave of colder wind filled the hole.
"I have a blanket in my backpack. I'll give it to you," Rory said.
"Ha, look at you shivering. We'll share!"
"Umm, won't it bother you? Are you sure?"
"Nah, I don't mind."
The tension in the air from moments ago was gone.
"Come next to me," Brody said.
They snuggled close to each other and wrapped themselves in the blanket. Their breaths were still making puffs. The flashlight flickered a third time before the light died out.
Even if the boys were wearing clothes, they could feel their racing heartbeats. They soon felt warm, but still the chill pierced through the cover.
"Buck will get here soon. We've got to get you home. On Christmas Eve, to be in a place like this... But it is high, even if it is the two of us, we won't reach it."
"I don't mind."
"What? There must be someone waiting for you..."
It was the truth. Rory didn't know what to say.
"There's no one home celebrating or anything. I think it's better here... with you."
Silence. No one said anything for a while after that. They stayed in the dark, warming each other, listening to each other's breathing.
"Rory, are you sleeping?"
He knew he wasn't.
"I'm sorry about before, that I got so angry and all."
Neither did know that their faces were turned in the same direction, looking through the darkness into each other's eyes. But they felt it...
"You won't laugh if I tell you something, will you?"
"No, go ahead."
"It's about the reason I came up here. I came to find snow..."
And Brody told him about the light, and the snow globe, and his strange idea.
When he was finishing, he heard that Rory had started to snicker.
"You said you wouldn't laugh!"
"No, it's not about that..." Rory said between laughs.
"It's not funny!"
"But it is funny. You said you don't believe in Christmas, yet you came all the way up here searching for snow, following some light. You thought that was rational, but I think there is some magic left in you. Am I not right?"
"It's not like that! I was just curious."
"Yeah, and look where you ended up. Admit it!"
Rory received a light punch in the shoulder, which he returned. In the next moment both of them were struggling on the ground. Leaves were flying everywhere; the blanket was thrown aside. They couldn't see anything, but they continued to wrestle wildly. At least they got warm.
Brody finally managed to pin him to the ground.
"So, if we are going to tease each other, tell me, Rory: when you said you were watching me during the play, what exactly did you have in mind? Hmm...?"
Rory tried to struggle, but Brody was holding his hands tight.
"Hehe, you make it sound like I've fallen for you or something."
"And have you?"
Brody couldn't see his blush but it was there. None of them knew how close he was from the other, but they felt their warm breaths on their faces. Rory lifted up a little. They were only a few inches between their faces. Much to Brody's surprise, what happened next wasn't what he really expected. Because of the heat of the moment, he had loosened his grip, Rory managed to flip him over and was on top of him, holding him tightly.
But before he could say anything, something soft and wet connected with his lips. For one of the boys that was his first kiss; for the other it was a fantasy, a dream come true.
The kiss lasted a couple of seconds. After that, they stayed in that; not talking; not seeing anything; only feeling the warm presence of each other.
The sky, that was clouded, cleared. Stars appeared one by one. Moonlight lightened the pit and revealed the boys' surrounding.
They could now see into each other's eyes from up close. They saw lust, passion, and excitement, but not because of the arousal. It was like a dance, a symphony of emotions which needed not to be spoken, but enjoyed and grasped with the heart.
"I felt something," Brody said without breaking the contact.
"We were kissing, you know. It's normal."
"Haha, no, it's not that. Hey, look up."
It has been falling from miles above. The shape shifting snowflake found its way down and landed on Brody's forehead.
"Snow!" he excitingly exclaimed.
They started falling down one after another.
"Rory, the Christmas this year became awesome. I'm not alone! Thank you!"
Their faces met again; their breaths were lost; their lips touched.
It wasn't long after that that they heard Buck's bark.
From Rory's falling till the end Brody was wrapped in the moment. He forgot to ask what Rory himself was doing there in the forest.
The light which he had been chasing was that of a cottage, very similar to the one he saw in the snow globe. He finally saw it. What's more, the person who came to save them was Rory's uncle.
Before they reached the cottage the trees were already covered in white and wreaths of snow were forming on the ground.
I wish you happy holidays, happy moments and experiences!
(I first submitted it to GA around this time last year; here it is for Nifty, one year later, slightly edited and still not quite finished.)
You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're interested, you can check my other works: http://gayauthors.org/author/dariyo