Trent Gaudeen was going to spend Australia Day alone--on principle, of course. When an invitation comes out of the blue to atttend his ex's holiday barbeque, he goes along despite himself. Will he open a can of worms or find the perfect match to his American pumpkin pie?
It was a nice gesture, supposedly. A celebration of life in the Lucky Country, with its golden beaches, strange animals that didn’t fall out of trees to eat you no matter what the locals told you, and two speed economy fuelled by Asia’s insatiable hunger for mineral resources. Luckier perhaps than his own native America, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, it was Jake’s barbeque. He could face the fact that Jake didn’t love him, could face the fact that he, Trent, had screwed things up royally, even if part of the fault was Jake’s for being as damn stubborn as Trent was. But that he’d wound up losing Jake to a Brit? That could well be something he might never live down.
It had been an innocuous enough invitation.
“You got my Facebook thing, right?” Jake had asked.
Sometimes, for an English professor, Jake used the most inane language.
“Yes, I did.”
Trent’s exhalation of breath sounded loud in the silence of his house.
“Is this a Nate thing?” Jake asked.
“No. I’m an adult and I can accept that I was a jerk first.”
“So what’s wrong? Do you want to bring a plus one? Because that’s fine if—”
“It’s a magic thing,” Trent said, the word sounding strange even as it left his mouth.
“What really happened at the hospital, Jake? I mean that was some freaky shit with the candles and the rapier and the stones—I mean how long have you been able to work that?”
“Since then,” Jake said. “Although not since.”
“That was the first and last time I’ve ever tried something like that.”
“No, don’t give me that crap. No way in hell you discover something like that and not give it another try.”
There was a pause at the other end of the phone line. “You know, Trent,” Jake said in clipped tones. “If we’re going to go back to not believing each other, I’m going to hang the phone up now.”
“Geez, okay, I’m sorry,” Trent said, sinking into his favorite recliner. “But you’re seriously saying you’ve never been tempted?”
Jake’s laugh was dark and surprisingly humorless. “From what I’ve seen, the price of using that stuff can be rather high,” he said. “Plus, it’s not really what you’d call an exact science—there’s no ancient guides to runic syntax around and I don’t want to bring on a volcano because I’ve stuffed up a translation or misplaced a comma or something, you know?”
“But the hospital?”
“I had previous examples to work from, was a little bit desperate, and frankly, I’d been planning that for months as a last ditch contingency plan, all right? And don’t ever tell Nate I said that, because we’d fight for a week over it.”
“Why? He knows you did it.”
“He doesn’t know I just told you. Now are you coming or not?”
“You know, some don’t think it’s appropriate to celebrate on a day that signaled the start of attempts to eradicate the cultures of the indigenous peoples.”
Trent could almost hear Jake shrug. “That’s not what I’m celebrating. And us not having a barbie wouldn’t do much to alleviate indigenous disadvantage.”
“So because of that you’re going to bury your head in the sand and ignore the issue?”
“I’m not ignoring it, Trent, I just don’t have a solution for it, and me feeling deliberately bad and isolated out of a sense of national guilt isn’t going to make it better. Besides, do you skip Fourth of July because your people slaughtered the native Americans and stole all of their land?”
“That’s the Thanksgiving holiday,” Trent protested.
“And I know you still celebrate that, so what’s your point? Get your Yankee ass over here.”
And that was more or less how Trent found himself outside Jake—and Nathaniel’s—neat Victorian terrace in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, staring up at the grey-blue door.