A Buggy Ride for Christmas
Every Christmas was the same. My Mother spent days packing and wrapping presents and packing and making sure we had lots to eat for the trip and then we’d all pack into the station wagon and make the eight hour trip from Ohio to Virginia to my Great Aunt Bonny’s house for the holidays.
Sally, my younger sister, complained the entire trip. No matter how many different road trip games my Mom would pull out, she would find something wrong with it and whine.
If we were traveling during the day, I would spend every moment possible with my nose stuck in a book. If I was unlucky and we traveled by night, I would spend my time with my head stuck to the car window trying to count the stars.
But this Christmas was different. This Christmas I would be seeing him again. Every mile of the trip was an agonizing mile of anticipation. Did he still work at the farm? Would he remember me? Would he notice that I had managed to grow another two inches since last summer? Would he notice that my shoulders had filled out some from all the working out for football this fall? Would he know that I had dreamed of him nightly since I had left last summer?
Dewey Smith was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. He worked on my Aunt Bonny’s farm. He had the long lean body of a man who worked hard with his hands on a daily basis. The sun had kissed his arms and neck and face with the most amazing golden hue that I had ever seen. I suppose some would say he had a farmers tan but it mattered little to me. The sun also made his dark blond hair glow. His eyes were the color of the summer sky and I had fallen hard for them in one short summer vacation.
He had graduated high school last spring and Aunt Bonny had hired him on full time. I had just finished my junior year and my Dad thought it would be a good idea for me to spend some time working during the summer instead of just hanging out with my friends. Because of my late in the year birthday, it appeared that I was behind a year but it wasn't true. Dewey and I were both eighteen.
Dewey seemed older though. His Pa had died when he was twelve and he had been working at some job or another ever since, helping his Ma as much as he could. He’d had to grow up fast. He had a twin sister named Darlene but I didn’t like her much. She was constantly nagging at Dewey whenever she was around him, though he never paid her much mind.
We spent the entire three weeks I was there together whenever possible. I helped him in the barn with the horses and the chores that needed to be done there. When it was time to set the tobacco plants, he showed me how to walk behind the tractor and put the plants in the holes that someone on the back of the tractor poked in the ground with a long stick. He drove the tractor while Darlene, me and several other teens from local farms did the planting.
Aunt Bonny let us have a big bonfire out in the apple orchard under the early summer sky after all the planting was done. It had taken a week but we had planted nearly three acres of the tiny little plants. We all celebrated that night with a huge feast of hot dogs, chips and soda. We even made smores for desert. Dewey brought his guitar along and we sang songs late into the night.
Every once in a while one of the couples would go off for a walk, hidden by the shade of the apple trees. They never stayed away too long but we all knew what they were doing. There were no adults around so we gave everyone their privacy. Darlene had disappeared with one of the other hired hands when Dewey put down his guitar. He pulled a pack of smokes out of his pocket and started to walk off through the trees alone. Just before he stepped into the darkness, he turned back to the fire where the rest of us were setting.
“Cole,” he said grabbing my attention fully. “Would you like to walk with me while I smoke?”
I couldn't believe he was asking me. The others around the fire didn’t seem to notice that he had asked me and I wondered what they thought. We all knew what the couples who had left and come back were doing. Was Dewey saying he wanted me like that too?
I’d never been interested in the girls back home but I just always assumed it was because I’d never met the right girl. Could I be interested in boys instead? I mean I knew there were guys who liked guys in the world but was that me? I knew that when Dewey looked at me, or smiled my way, my heart stuttered in my chest. In the field yesterday when he had pulled off his shirt and wiped the sweat from his body, I couldn’t help but look at his muscled chest. Something about it drew me. But did that mean I liked guys?
“Cole,” he called again taking a drag off the cigarette. I looked at his lips and wondered if they would be soft or hard and what they would feel like against my own. Standing, I walked to the edge of the darkness where he stood and stepped in line beside him as he strutted into the apple trees.
It was my first kiss, my first real kiss and it was heaven. Under a starry, summer night with a warm breeze blowing through the tree leaves above us and the smell of ripening apples in the air, Dewey kissed me and changed my life forever.
So here I sat in the backseat of my Dad’s station wagon, pretending to read the book I held in my hand as I went over that night in my mind again. I had left the next day and I really never got to talk with Dewey before I left. I didn’t want to go back to my friends, football training and school. Suddenly my wank sessions were filled with the sight of him in one position or another and that kiss stayed on my mind constantly.
I noticed that the sky was quickly becoming dark and overcast with clouds that looked like they were bursting with snow. We hadn’t seen one flake yet this season. I was sure that was going to change quickly. We left the highway and headed up the winding two lane blacktop road that would lead us to the small town not far from Aunt Bonny’s farm. It wouldn’t be long now. Finally after what seemed like days instead of hours, I spotted the huge oak tree by the road with a mailbox nailed to it. We were there.
Following the gravel and dirt road to the main house, the butterflies in my stomach began to beat harder. It felt like they were trying to escape and take flight. I swallowed hard the knot that had formed in my throat at the sight of the main house and horse barn in the distance. As the family got out of the car, Aunt Bonny came out the back door to greet us. She hugged my Dad first, then Mom and Sally and finally came to stand in front of me. Her warm embrace was like a burst of heat from an oven and she smelled like fried chicken and cake.
“Welcome back Cole,” she said grasping my shoulders and reaching up to whisper in my ear. “After you help your Dad unload, take a walk up to the barn. He’s been watching for you all day.”
I felt the heat of my blush cover my entire face as I saw her wink at me. She knew and she didn’t care.
“Thank you,” I said nodding, feeling the heat on my skin.
It took Dad and me almost twenty five minutes, yes I counted each one of them, to unload and carry in everything from the back of the station wagon. Mom, Sally and Aunt Bonny were busy in the kitchen getting dinner on the table so I knew I only had a few minutes to make my escape.
I put Sally’s bag and mine in the room where the twin beds were that we would share. Dad had taken care of the other bags and then I helped stack the presents in the corner of the living room away from the coal stove that sat in the center of the room. Aunt Bonny’s house didn’t have central heating. There was a large coal stove in the main room and all the bedrooms opened up off that room. Along with the cook stove in the kitchen, that was how she heated her small home. I knew without a doubt that tomorrow morning she would be up by five and would have banked the stoves in both rooms until it would nearly be suffocating with warmth in the entire house.
I did notice that there was no Christmas tree set up in the main room and I wondered what Aunt Bonny had planned. I was just putting my hat and coat back on when Sally asked me where I was going. Dad and Mom both turned to look at me questioningly. I started to open my mouth but Aunt Bonny came to the rescue.
“I asked Cole to go up to the barn and get me some apples. He knows where I store them,” she said smiling at me largely. I smiled back and said, “Yes, Aunt B, I’ll get right on that.”
Outside I pulled the collar of my coat up against my neck and headed for the barn. I felt the first snow flake hit my cheek and melt instantly. I looked up to see dozens of tiny snowflakes drifting slowly from the sky around me. I smiled at the thought of a white Christmas here in the woods and mountains. The barn door came open just as I stepped in front of it causing me to jump a little.
His hair was longer and his eyes were bluer or maybe I was just imagining that part. But he was there smiling at me with those dimples popping out to play. God, he looked beautiful. It didn’t matter that he was wearing a heavy corduroy coat buttoned up to his chin and a scarf around his neck or heavy worn leather gloves on his hands. He still was the most wonderful sight in the world to me. He motioned me to come into the barn. I stepped over the rail in the door and heard it slam behind me. Then I was in his arms again.
“Cole,” he whispered my name just before his lips rushed to crash against mine. This kiss was urgent and full of need and longing and I believed he missed me as much as I had missed him. His hands came up to run those long slender fingers through my hair where the light snow outside had dampened it. He pulled my face even closer trying to bring our bodies in alignment even though the heavy coats and clothes underneath kept us apart.
“Dewey, God I’ve missed you,” I mumbled against his lips when he gave me a chance to breath.
“I know,” he answered before he took me into another mind blowing touch of his lips to mine.
Finally, unable to breath we pulled apart to look at each other and broke into laughter. It was so good to see him standing right here in front of me.
“How long will you be staying,” he asked already looking sad at the prospect of my leaving. It made my heart beat faster to think that he wanted me here so badly.
“Through New Years,” I said smiling hoping to lighten his mood a little.
“Will they let you spend time with me,” he asked knowing that my parents were here too.
I nodded and then added, “I think Aunt Bonny knows.” I was worried that this would bother him.
“I know. She confronted me about it when I kept asking when you were returning,” he said a little shyly. “I guess I wasn’t too subtle.”
“Cole, where the heck are you? Did you find those apples she wanted,” Sally yelled from somewhere outside the barn. Dewey and I stepped apart just before the door came open.
“Oh there you are. Well hi there,” Sally said as she looked from me to Dewey. It was the first time she had seen him. “I’m Sally, Cole’s sister. And you are?” She batted her eyes at Dewey and I wanted to do what any good brother would do with a younger sister, thump her up the side of her head and dump the body in a deep hole. Dewey snickered beside me. He must have seen the look I was giving her.
“I’m Dewey Smith. I work for your Aunt,” Dewey said holding out his hand to shake Sally’s.
Sally, of course, held his hand a little longer than necessary but Dewey was a gentleman and just smiled nicely at her.
“Well maybe we’ll see a little more of each other this week while we’re here visiting,” Sally said curling her lips and winking at him. Okay, yea, murder was definitely in order.
Dewey disengaged his hand from her claw like grip and motioned for me to follow him to the back of the barn. I knew there was a door to the root cellar under the barn in the far left corner where he was headed. Sally was following behind us closely.
“You might not want to come down here. There tends to be a few critters lurking in the darkness,” Dewey said smiling at Sally and getting exactly the face he was hoping for. She even took a step back when he finished speaking.
The root cellar was dark but I knew as well as he did that the only thing down here might have been a hibernating spider or two. Dewey grabbed and kissed me one more time chuckling lightly at something he found funny. We grabbed several apples each and headed back up the stairs. Dewey handed his to Sally and she pouted a little but turned and headed back to the house. I lingered long enough to speak to Dewey just once more.
“I’ll be sure to have time to spend with you,” I promised him and he smiled at my words.
“Tomorrow,” he said and headed back to the horses. I took my apples and went back to the main house. I couldn’t help the lightness in my step and the smile on my face. He had missed me as much as I had missed him. It was going to be a great Christmas.
Sally was waiting for me on the small enclosed back porch when I put the apples down to take off my coat and gloves. I could see she had something to say and I was dreading whatever it was.
“So, do you think he liked me? I mean I have to be better looking than most of the hick girls around here, right? He is the most fuck hot guy I’ve ever seen in my life,” Sally whispered the curse word just in case Mom or Dad was in the kitchen.
“Sally, shut up and don’t talk like that,” I couldn’t help but feel anger toward her. Dewey was mine and I wasn’t about to let her get her hooks in him. She was two years younger than me and she had already slept with half the football team. I would know since I was on it.
She thought she was so cool with her long black hair and all that talk about peace and love and shit. She made me sick. She had Mom and Dad totally fooled into believing she was their innocent little baby girl. There was nothing farther from the truth than that. Dewey would never want anything to do with a girl like her.
“I don’t think you are his type, Sally. So just leave him alone,” I said picking the apples back up and walking through to the kitchen. Aunt Bonny was there stirring something on the stove and saw the look on my face and knew something was wrong. I think she heard what I had said to Sally, too.
“Sally your Mother was looking for you to help set the table,” Aunt Bonny said then added, “Cole, why don’t you stay here and help me plate up the food for the table.”
“Did everything go alright in the barn? Any trouble finding the root cellar,” she asked as she opened the oven door and wrapped her apron around a heaping plate of fried chicken and set it aside.
“Everything was fine until Sally showed up,” I said still pissed off at my sister.
“It will be okay Cole. I think Peter is going to find Sally very interesting and he’ll be sure to keep her company this week during your visit,” Aunt Bonny said smiling at me.
“You are one sneaky woman, Aunt Bonny and I love you very much,” I said kissing her cheek and watching her blush.
“I love you too Cole and it will be okay,” she answered. “Now, grab a dish towel ‘cause that plate is hot and let’s get dinner started.”
The meal was fabulous and Dad and I both ate way too much. Mom insisted that Sally help her with clearing the table so Dad, Aunt Bonny and I went in to sit beside the coal stove in the living room.
“Well I guess you all noticed we don’t have a tree in here yet,” Aunt Bonny said as we all took a seat.
“I did wonder why,” I answered standing by the stove warming my backside.
“I figured you and Dewey might go out and chop a fresh one down tomorrow. How does that sound,” she answered with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Cole chopping down a tree,” Sally said laughing as she and Mom joined us. “Now that is something I’d like to see!”
“Actually, I think Cole could probably do it just fine by himself but Dewey and I were out the other day looking at what was available and he knows which ones I was looking at,” Aunt Bonny answered.
“Then I see no reason why, the boys can’t do that for us,” Dad replied and nodded toward Mom.
“That will give you, me and Sally a chance to go visit some of the rest of family tomorrow,” Mom said. Sally pouted and whined for thirty minutes before Aunt Bonny finally said it was time to get to bed. That really set Sally off seeing how it was only nine thirty. Of course, there was no television here so what else could we do beside read or play a game of cards. Mom suggested both if Sally wasn’t ready to go to bed and then there was more pouting. I finally announced I was ready to turn in and that I’d see them in the morning. I left the folks to straighten Sally out and I got ready for bed.
I didn’t fall asleep right away. Thinking of Dewey and those lips and his blues kept me awake for awhile. I pretended to be out like a light when Sally came to bed. Dewey’s lips on mine continued to play just inside my closed lids until sleep finally did take over. But my dreams were just as filled with him as my waking thoughts. Was it normal to think about someone all the time, like I did him? In my waking thoughts we never went farther than a kiss but in my dreams a whole different world of things happened.
I could imagine his hands rubbing my chest and heating my skin through my shirt. I could imagine those same hands gripping my waist and pulling me even closer to his body until there wasn’t even room for a piece of paper between us. I could imagine how good it would feel to have his hardness pressed against my own. I could imagine….
I sat up straight in the little bed across the room from where Sally was talking in her sleep. No surprise there. But the surprise was the mess I had just made in my bed. I’d had wet dreams before but never anything like that. I lay back down with a thud and tried to get the smile on my face to go away and I just couldn’t. If it felt that good in a dream, I’d never make it through the real thing.
It must have been early because the house was cold. Aunt Bonny had not got up yet to stoke up the fire in the coal stove. I laid there for awhile waiting for the sounds I knew would mean she was up and moving about. It wasn’t long. I stayed still and listened to her moving about the house. The door to the stove creaked open and she dropped several clumps of coal into it from the basket I knew set on the floor beside it. She wondered into the kitchen and stoked the fire there too. I could hear pots and pans being put on the stove and I knew she was starting her day.
Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes later the smell of rich coffee wafted into the room. My stomach grumbled at the thought of biscuits, gravy, bacon and fried eggs. I knew she would be preparing them all.
Sally was still snoring in her bed and I quietly got up. I grabbed the clothes I had laid out the night before and made my way to the washroom. I cleaned up quickly and stuffed the evidence of my morning activity in the bottom of the clothes basket Mom had brought for our dirty laundry and then made my way to the kitchen.
By then the smells of bacon frying and biscuits baking were already filling the air. God I loved these early mornings. Aunt Bonny already had a cup of coffee poured for me with fresh cream and sugar waiting on the table.
I heaped it full of the sugar and added the cream. The first taste brought a moan to my lips. If my Mom knew that I was drinking coffee, she’d have a cow but I didn’t care. Aunt Bonny made the best coffee in the world.
“Have you told them I got you hooked on the stuff yet,” she asked chuckling at my moaning sounds.
“Nope! I have to hide it and sneak a cup once in a while at the diner near school,” I said laughing too.
“There are worse things than coffee. You might be surprised at how much your parents would understand, especially your Dad,” she said and I really didn’t know where she was going with it.
“I guess,” I answered shrugging my shoulders and taking another long sip of the hot coffee.
‘I think he might even understand about…Dewey,” she said her eyes never leaving the frying pan of bacon in front of her on the stove.
I choked on the next sip of coffee and turned to look at her, “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that, if I’m right and there are feelings between you and Dewey, you are going to need their support Cole. This world is not a good place for young men who…prefer the company of their own kind,” she answered turning toward me.
“You don’t think there’s something wrong with us,” I asked, realizing that it was good to finally talk to someone about these feelings. And she didn’t seem to mind talking about it.
“Cole Andrew Marcum, how can you ask me something like that?” she asked her hands on hips and her face in a scowl. “You are family and I love you. I would never think there was something wrong with you.” Her hands dropped from her waist and she came to sit down across from me at the table.
“You never knew your Great Uncle Bobby,” she said. “He died in a logging accident when I was just a young woman. I guess it’s been sixty years now since he passed.” She got a funny look on her face, like she was thinking of another time.
“He and his best friend Luke had practically grown up together. Luke’s family lived a couple of miles away from our place and if Bobby wasn’t at his farm, Luke was at ours. When I was about sixteen, I came up on them in the barn one day. They were…well…being romantic with each other. I’d never heard of such of a thing. When Bobby realized I was there, he made me swear that I wouldn’t tell anyone about it because he said that they might send them both away or make them go to prison or something. I thought that was so stupid but later on I found out it was true. Long story short, Bobby and Luke ended up leaving and living by themselves way out in the mountains somewhere. Bobby would come back into civilization from time to time to work at the logging camp so he could make money to buy supplies to take back for him and Luke to live on. Bobby was killed when a tree he was cutting down with some other loggers fell on him. Crushed his chest, he died instantly. My Pa went to the cabin to tell Luke. When Pa came back he was alone, Luke wouldn’t come with him. A month went by and Luke never came back into town not even for Bobby’s funeral so Pa and Luke’s Pa went to see if he was alright. He’d hung himself. He left a note saying that he couldn’t live without Bobby and he’d rather be dead. They never told anyone about that letter, buried it with Luke. I only knew because I heard Pa telling my Ma about it. Pa said he wished Bobby had told him about the two of them. He didn’t understand it, thought it was unnatural but he loved Bobby and he would have never made him go away had he known.”
Aunt Bonny was sitting perfectly still and a lone tear rolled down her cheek and splashed on the table in front of her coffee cup.
“Don’t want to see that happen to you and Dewey,” she said her mournful eyes looking up at me.
“You’re both good boys,” she whispered. “Talk to your Dad, he’ll listen.”
I could only shake my head and try to take everything in. She jumped up and ran to the stove pulling the oven door open.
“Dang near burnt the biscuits!” she yelled and that woke the rest of the house up.
After breakfast, there was a knock at the back door and Sally made a beeline for it knowing it might be Dewey. Of course, it was and he followed her into the kitchen bowing and saying hi to everyone in the room.
“You ready to go Cole. Miss Bonny said she wanted me to show you where the fir trees were that she and I looked at a couple of days ago,” Dewey said with a wide smile on his face. “Make sure you put some boots on. There’s an inch or two of snow on the ground already this morning and it’s still coming down.”
“Sure thing, Dewey, be right there,” I answered and went to grab my heavy coat and gloves.
“I’ve got the horses already saddled up. I figured you’d want to ride White Cloud,” Dewey yelled at my back as I disappeared into the other room.
“That’s great,” I said as I returned with my gear. “He’s a great horse.”
“Since when do you ride a horse?” Sally asked with a smart attitude.
“Since last summer,” I answered wanting to slap her.
“Cole is a really good rider,” Dewey said with a hint of pride in his voice. I blushed at his words.
“Okay you two boys be careful and Cole bring us back a nice one, son,” Dad said as we headed to the back door.
The air outside was damp and there was a definite chill but it wasn’t too cold. The snow that had already covered the ground was clean and white and made the whole world look pretty. White Cloud was an easy horse to ride, so gentle and patient, that was why Dewey had picked him for me. He knew I hadn’t ridden since last summer and figured I might be a bit nervous about it but I wasn’t. I knew he’d help me if I needed it.
The ride through the apple orchard to the deeper woods on the north side of the mountain was quiet and peaceful. We didn’t need to talk. It was enough just to be riding together. Once we found the trees that Aunt Bonny had picked out Dewey let me pick the one to chop down. He pulled the axe out of the pocket on his saddle bag and we took turns working up a sweat swinging at the tree. Dewey took time out to take a smoke and I got the thermos from my saddle bag that Aunt Bonny had filled with coffee for the two of us. It had the sugar and cream already in it.
After our break, we tied the tree to back of Dewey’s horse, Oakley. He was younger than White Cloud and it would be easier for him to drag the tree back. Dewey had brought a sling to lay the tree in so we wouldn’t damage it too much dragging it back. The ride back was a little slower because we knew our time together was growing short. The rest of my day would be spent with my family, decorating the tree and getting ready for Christmas morning. Dewey would be spending time with his Mother and sister, I was sure.
We arrived back at the house around noon and dad’s station wagon was not in the drive way. Dewey and I unhooked the tree and stood it up against the house so the limbs could fall into place more naturally. He took the horses back to the barn while I went in to find Aunt B. She met me in the kitchen.
“Well you made it back,” she said. “Which tree did you pick?”
“I got the one with the pinecones on it,” I answered pulling my gloves off and warming my hands over the stove. “Dewey said it was the third one you picked out.”
“Ah, that was a good one,” she said pouring me a cup of coffee. “Your folks called a bit ago said they were going to eat a noon meal at Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary’s place. They’d be back around three.”
A horn honked from out in the driveway and Aunt Bonny grabbed her coat off the hook by the kitchen door.
“That’s Angela Walters, you remember her from last summer. She’s running me into town to pick up some last minute things from the market before it closes. We should be back around three too. Why don’t you get Dewey and have him come down and eat lunch with you,” she said as she headed to the back porch door. “You could help in the barn too if you want.”
She looked back at me and I’m sure she saw my mouth hanging open. She had somehow managed to give me and Dewey some real alone time. What on earth would I ever do without her? I crossed the room and gave her a tight hug. She was blushing again when I stepped back.
“There’s leftover chicken in the refrigerator and more coffee on the stove. See you in a couple of hours. We’ll decorate the tree tonight with your folks and Sally,” she said closing the door behind her.
I was frozen in place only long enough to realize that I needed to move and right now. I hurriedly got the chicken from the refrigerator and poured fresh coffee into my thermos. I also found part of the chocolate layer cake left from dinner last night. That would be plenty for the two of us. I threw everything in a basket that was sitting by the settee on the porch and took off for the barn.
I could hear him humming when I closed the barn door quietly behind me. He was removing the tack and brushing down the horses. God, he was beautiful. Every move he made was like music to me. Even in winter garb, I could still remember how his body felt when he held me and kissed me. I must have a made a noise with my thoughts because he turned to smile at me; his dimples creasing the sides of his cheeks with deep indentions. I locked my eyes with his blue ones lost in the depths of the emotions I could see played out there. We were young, that was true, but I knew without a doubt that I could look into those eyes every day for the rest of my life and never regret it.
“I brought us some lunch,” I stumbled over the words trying to calm my beating heart. I wondered did his pulse race the same way mine did.
“Miss Bonny,” he asked looking over my shoulder.
“Went into town with Angela,” I answered.
“Your folks and,” he asked not mentioning Sally’s name.
“Gone to visit family,” my whispered response.
“We’re alone for about two hours,” I said stepping toward him.
“Would you like to eat now or…” his words trailed off as he came to stand in front of me.
“Later would be goo…..” I never got to finish my words as his lips captured mine in a heated and urgent kiss.
Somehow we ended up in one of the empty horse stalls, wrapped together under several blankets resting in the hay. Legs and arms, thighs and fingers touching everywhere they could reach. I felt a little like I didn’t know what I was doing but Dewey was being a gentle and loving guide. Mostly I just repeated back the things he did to me but he didn’t seem to mind.
“Dewey, I’ve never done this with anyone else,” I said shyly. I didn’t want to seem inexperienced but I was and I thought he should know.
“Cole, if I do anything you don’t like, all you have to do is tell me. We’ll go as slow as you want to. But I have to tell you right here and right now that I’ve never wanted anyone so much in my life,” his lips took mine again and everything in me leapt to a burning flame.
Every touch was a magical moment. Every movement speared me closer to an edge I had never been on. When the passion had passed and our breathing returned to normal, I returned the smile he was sharing with me. I would never forget this day or this man as long as I lived.
Dinner time came on Christmas Eve and it was another wonderful meal prepared by Great Aunt Bonny. After everything was cleaned up, she brought out the pop corn and she and I popped it while Sally, mom and dad went through the boxes of ornaments to put on the tree. Aunt Bonny also had a bag of whole cranberries. She gave us each a needle and string. We all strung the popcorn and berries together and then placed long strings of them on the tree along with a few ornaments. When we were all but finished, Aunt Bonny disappeared for a few moments and brought a box from her room.
“Cole would you do the honors this year,” Aunt Bonny handed me the box to open and inside was the angel that we placed every year on the top of the tree. Dad had always been the one to place her and I felt really good that Aunt Bonny was asking me to do this.
There were no electric lights on the tree, but to me it was one of the prettiest Christmas trees I had ever seen. Sally and Mom took time to arrange all the presents we had brought with us under the tree. Dad and I carried all the empty boxes to the back porch to stay until we took the tree down in a day or two. With good nights said and everyone heading off to bed, I stayed for awhile looking at the tree. It stood beside a large picture window where a bright moon shone down from the heavens and lit up the snow covered ground all around the house.
I thought about Dewey and how I would love to someday share this with him. I wondered if there would ever come a time when men like us would be accepted in society. I could only hope. It was close to midnight and Christmas morning would be here soon. I headed to bed and fell asleep quickly thinking about Dewey and what we had done this afternoon. At that moment, I missed him terribly. I knew we wouldn’t see each other tomorrow and the tiny gift I had secretly packed away in my suitcase would have to wait until the next time we saw each other. But at least there would be a next time, and that gave me comfort.
Christmas morning broke clear with a sky as blue as Dewey’s eyes. Breakfast was perfect again. And after reading a Bible verse or two, Aunt Bonny said it was time to open presents. Sally was equal parts squeals of delight and groans of disgust at her opened boxes. Mom and Dad seemed to really like that the presents I had picked out for them. Aunt Bonny wasn’t sure what to make of the electric coffee pot we had brought to her but she was willing to give it a try, if I was. My presents were mostly clothes and a few items I needed. That was okay but the one gift that I really wanted wasn’t there.
Extended family came and went most of the day. It seemed that the dining room table was filled with food from breakfast all the way until dinner. Someone was always dropping off a pie or a jar of homemade pickles. Then some other cousin would stop in and Aunt Bonny would make them a plate and of course they would sit down and eat and chat for a while.
Along about six in the evening, there was a knock at the front door. That was the strange part of it, I mean no one came to Aunt Bonny’s front door, no one. Everyone, even the mail man came to the back door and into the house through the kitchen. It was just her way.
Aunt Bonny went to the door and opened it then bellowed out a “Merry Christmas and come on in” to whoever it was standing there. It was almost dark outside but not quite. To say I was shocked when I saw Dewey’s head follow Aunt Bonny in the room would have been an understatement.
He was dressed in a really nice long leather coat and a cowboy hat was propped up on his dark golden locks. He reached out and shook my Dad’s hand and dipped his hat to my Mom and Sally. Sally had mistakenly had decided that Dewey was there to see her from the look she was giving him. Dewey cleared his throat and looked directly at me.
“I was wondering if you’d like to go for a buggy ride, Cole,” Dewey said and I felt heat flush through my entire body. The room was deathly quiet for all of thirty seconds then Sally spoke up.
“What the hell would Cole want to go on a buggy ride with a guy for,” Sally snapped looking back and forth between the Dewey and myself. Mom and Dad yelled at her at the same time to watch her mouth. The room grew quiet again and I looked to Aunt Bonny who nodded her head in the direction of my Mom and Dad.
“Do you mind,” I asked my Dad suddenly more afraid than I had ever been in my life. My mom placed her hand on dad’s arm and he looked down at her before his eyes returned to mine.
“Bundle up, it’s cold out there tonight and don’t stay out too late,” he said then turning to Dewey he added. “Do you have lanterns on the buggy so car drivers can see you?”
“Yes, sir, one on each side of the buggy,” Dewey answered nervously.
Dad nodded his head and I quickly gathered my coat and outerwear. Just as I was about to follow Dewey out the front door, Dad placed a hand on my shoulder. I turned to face my father.
“I think we need to have a talk when you get back. I’ll be waiting up son,” Dad said without a trace of anger or disappointment in his voice.
“Yes, sir,” I answered and hugged him before I left.
I will never forget that buggy ride in the snow on that Christmas night. Dewey had hooked up White Cloud to the buggy and he was moving at a slow easy pace down the road. There was very little traffic on the road and Dewey and I could sit close and hold hands. The lanterns left a soft yellow glow around us as we moved peacefully along. From the road, we could see patches of fields where the snow lay deep and white, and then a forest clump of trees would block the way until we would come across the glow from a house set back a long lane. I know we were two guys but it was still the most romantic night of my life.
Years would come and go. Viet Nam would change us and the world. We would know others. Life would lead us away from each other but bring us back together eventually. But I would never forget Dewey and that Christmas in Virginia.