As a homosexual Pagan, Ethan is the ultimate odd-man-out in his Presbyterian family. While his parents and siblings are supportive enough, his other relatives all but despise him and his lifestyle.
Years after starting again in a new state with his boyfriend Caleb, Ethan is invited back home to spend the holidays with his family. Knowing this could end in disaster, but hoping for a new beginning, Ethan and Caleb accept the invitation. Things get off to a rough start, but nothing prepares them for the fiasco at Christmas dinner ...
“So,” Marie barked. “I see you’re here.”
I swallowed. “Yeah.”
Marie snorted contemptuously. “You vanish for years and all you have to say to me is, ‘Yeah’? Do they have no use for politeness in Portland?”
“... Merry Christmas, Aunt Marie.”
“Don’t be sarcastic with me!”
I was about to say I was trying to be sincere when my mom intervened. “Marie, what did I tell you about not antagonizing anyone while you’re here?”
“Ella, if you’re not going to enforce good habits in your children, I’ll have to do it for you!”
“You have your own son to raise, let me handle mine the way I choose.”
Marie narrowed her eyes and my mom crossed her arms to show she was serious. “Hmmph!” Marie snorted before turning her attention to my siblings instead.
I let out a shallow sigh of relief. Caleb leaned closer to me and whispered, “You were not kidding about her short fuse.”
“I think I’m going to take a vow of silence for the rest of the night,” I whispered back.
“You can’t leave me to do all the talking!” Caleb said with a slight grin.
“Well, if I open my mouth around her, I’m probably going to scream.”
“Hey.” Caleb took my hand. “Just remember that --”
“What are you two muttering about?” Marie demanded.
“Nothing,” I said.
“Come on, Marie,” Tim said. “Whatever it is I’m sure it’s nothing worthy of our attention, or it’s probably something that shouldn’t be said in civilized company.” The two of them headed to the living room, followed closely by Brent and a bemused Josephine.
Once they were mostly out of earshot, Caleb said quietly, “Okay, I think screaming is a suitable reaction to these people.”
Caleb and I sat on the outskirts of the living room while the rest of my family visited. Fortunately, Marie and the rest were only dropping by for a little while to let everyone know they were in town before heading back to their hotel rooms to unpack and go out to dinner together. We were left out of the conversation for the most part, except for when Marie ridiculed me for working at the same newspaper at which I had worked in college, regardless of having a higher-ranking and better-paying position, then asked sharply what Caleb did for a living. When he said he was a vet, Brent spoke up with, “And how many people’s pets have you sacrificed to your dark master?”
“Brent!” my mother interjected.
“No, it’s fine,” Caleb said. “I would expect that sort of outburst from someone who can’t be in a room with two gay Pagans without quivering like a murderer at his victim’s funeral.” The tempered fire in his voice both amused and worried me. I crossed my legs and glanced nervously around the room.
Brent’s eyes grew wide, and even Marie was speechless. My dad quickly changed the subject and wouldn’t let anyone change it back. Good old Dad, always there when he’s needed. I gently squeezed Caleb’s hand. That’s enough. You’ve shown off your empath skills and let them know you’re not to be messed with, but you’re picking up too much of the room’s tension and it’s making you cranky.
Caleb squeezed my hand back. I know, sorry.