Lance is an American student in London, left alone in his dorm over the Christmas holidays. He’s twenty, he’s gay, he’s shy, and he’s determined to once and for all find a boyfriend, so he sets up twelve dates to accomplish his goal. Twelve dates to defeat his shyness, to get out into the world, and to finally beat his loneliness.
It turns out he’s not the only one spending Christmas alone that year. Tom is a handsome, cold-eyed, tight-lipped Polish boy who is also staying in the dorm over the holidays. Lance finds Tom intimidating, but stuck as they are together, they get to know each other better. Soon, the twelve dates with strangers turn into twelve days of pining over a surprisingly kind boy, whose unconventional approach to wooing might be the very thing Lance needs to overcome his shyness and land a boyfriend.
He returns his attention to his groceries. His hair’s slightly wavy and clumped together at the ends, presumably because it was drizzly and wet outside when he was out. There’s a blush in his cheeks, and the tip of his nose is red, from having walked in the cold recently. It looks good on him.
My cell rings and startles me so much, I almost drop it. Nervously, I pick up, and say, “H-hello?”
“Hi!” it’s a man’s voice. “This is Mark? We’re seeing each other today. I was just going to check up on that, because I have a meeting at three, and we haven’t set a firm time.”
He sounds Scottish, confident, sexy. I glance over at Tom, wondering if he could hear any of that.
“Ah yes,” I say. “That’s right. Wh-what time would suit you?”
“Oh anything after five?” he asks. “Also, should I be cleaning my bedroom? Just want to be prepared, you know?” He laughs. Oh God. What? Bedroom? Prepared? What?
Suddenly I feel an intense desire never to see Mark at all. Ever.
“Yeah, hey, listen,” I say, “I’m feeling a bit off, actually. It’s probably better if we don’t do this. I don’t want to, er, give you my germs.”
“Oh,” Mark sounds disappointed.
“No, no problem. Let me know when you’re feeling better.”
I hang up, my heart still dancing around in my chest. Christ.
Tom’s looking at me with a slight frown.
“You should go to doctor,” he pronounces with knowing certainty.
“I’m not- I’m not really sick. It was just an excuse.”
He doesn’t say anything, just opens the freezer and loads it with rustling bags of vegetables and dumplings.
“It was a date,” I tell him. I don’t know why I feel the need to explain. “I made a bunch of them, over the holidays ... Nothing else to do, I guess, huh?”
Why am I trying to bond with him? I feel like a complete idiot when he still doesn’t respond.
“Not that I usually date on Christmas,” I continue. “Maybe I will from now on. Who knows? Anyway ...”
I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m deranged.
“But I didn’t feel like going to this one, you know?” I say.
He’s crouching in front of the freezer, but at this he looks up.
I’m a little surprised he’s been listening to my blabbing.
“So far they’ve all been shit,” I say.
“You shouldn’t go out with shitty people,” he says, reasonably. It’s sort of funny, the deadpan way he had of saying things.
“Er, I guess I don’t know they’re shitty until I meet them.”
He nods, like I’m finally making sense to him. I can’t help but smile at that.
The moment is interrupted by my phone ringing once more. Guy.
I turn to Tom and say, “Case in point. What do you do when you’ve been on a date with someone who then won’t stop bugging you?”
“Who is it?” He rises from his crouch and closes the freezer door.
I laugh nervously and shake my head. I’m not sure I could handle outing myself to someone I’ve just established tentatively friendly communication with. My ringtone plays Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeros, “Home.” Tom watches me, bemused.
When the ringing stops, a text message arrives. Also from Guy.
Stop avoiding me. Don’t be a child, I just want to hang out.
Tom, giving up on me, collects his shopping bags and prepares to leave the room, when another text message arrives. He sees my expression, as I stare at my phone like it’s a slithering insect.
“Your shitty date still?” he asks. I nod.
Then my cell begins to ring.
Tom steps towards me and says, “What is his name?”
I startle. He’s standing in front of me now, almost a head taller than me. He smells of rain and wind. I find it difficult to look up into his face.
“Guy,” I say, feebly.
“Do you want me to ...?” he points at my phone with his chin.
Maybe normal people would deal with this situation differently -- assert themselves with a decisive: “No, thank you, I can deal with my own problems.” But those people are also the kind who can have sensible conversations with gorgeous Eastern-European men, and who go on successful dates, and have a great time on Silent Boat parties. Me? I’m the guy who stutters and falls when too many people are looking at him.
I give him my cell, purely out of curiosity to see what he might do next. Tom picks up my phone.
“Hello?” he demands. “Who is this?”
I can hear Guy’s voice, but the pounding rush in my ears makes me deaf to his actual words.
Tom says, “No, Lance doesn’t want to talk to you. You have to stop making him uncomfortable.”
My eyes widen at this. Tom puts a hand on his hip. “Who am I?” he asks. “You molest him again and you will find out who I am. Goodbye.” He hangs up and hands me the phone back.
“You okay?” he asks. My heart is still pounding hard. Not in a bad way, but he doesn’t know that. I nod.