A Walk in the Dark

From the 2011 Dreamspinner Advent Calendar, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”


A year ago, Brandon was Jared’s roommate’s boyfriend—and completely off limits. Rex and Brandon have since broken up, and now, as Christmas approaches, Jared runs into Brandon again… and wonders if Brandon might return his once-helpless longing.

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“If you like sweet, romantic stories with a bit of interpersonal tension and dramas, don’t miss this one!” — Serena Yates, Queer Magazine Online


I was never big into the holiday season. Most years, I put up with it, but Christmas had a way of reminding me that I didn’t have anyone to share the holiday with. The image on TV was of all these happy families sitting down to big turkey dinners, while I mostly spent the last two weeks of December sitting alone in my apartment and eating leftover Chinese food. My mother lived in the city, but she thought Christmas was a lot of materialist claptrap and was generally disinterested in making the holiday the Norman Rockwell painting that part of me yearned for.

My roommate Rex was certainly not helping matters that one Christmas a few years ago. We’d been friends for a zillion years, but he’d been trying my patience lately. See, he had this boyfriend. I was at home one night when they came in, all smiles and giggles. By my estimation, Brandon and Rex were parading arm in arm into my apartment for the 437th time, and I wanted to vomit.

Yes, Rex. After all the time I’d known him, I still didn’t know if that was his real name, but that wasn’t important. The real problem here was that Rex and Brandon were laughing and leaning on each other, headed for Rex’s bedroom, where I knew they would fuck, probably loudly. It
was as if I didn’t exist, even though this was my home, too, and Rex and I made eye contact on his way by.

I didn’t know what it was about this time, but something in me snapped. I could not listen to them fuck one more time.

Unfortunately, I’d been camped out on the couch in a stretched-out T-shirt and a pair of gym shorts, hardly appropriate for the cold winter night outside. The building’s heat was turned up to sauna levels, but there was no way to adjust the old radiators, so Rex and I had taken to spending our December wearing as little as possible around the apartment. Well, Rex did that regardless of the season. The bottom line was that going outside would require going to my
room to change, which required walking past Rex’s room, where he’d be fucking Brandon. Poor, sweet, adorable Brandon, who spent several nights a week with Rex but somehow still didn’t know what an asshole he was. Like the name alone wasn’t enough of a tip.

Luckily, my iPod was on the coffee table, so I picked it up, popped in my earphones, and cranked the volume up to eleven. Just as the telltale moans began to seep out from the space below Rex’s door, a good thumping beat flooded my ears and drowned them out.

I slipped into my bedroom and kicked the door closed. It took some work, but I managed to wrestle myself out of my workout clothes and into jeans and a clean shirt, only extracting my headphones when I thought I heard someone knocking on my door. (The sound turned out to be Rex’s goddamn headboard banging into the wall that separated our rooms.) I tripped and stumbled when I tried to shove my feet into a pair of sneakers and hit my knee against my dresser, sending bolts of pain through my leg.

It took me a few more minutes to track down my wallet and keys. I took my winter coat off the hook near the door and slid it on. I had no idea where I would go. I just knew I needed to get out of the apartment.

But just as I reached for the knob, Brandon tiptoed out of Rex’s room. He was wearing his coat, a pair of dark jeans, and a sheepish expression. His dark-blond hair was tousled and his face was flushed, and he was just so goddamn adorable.

“Uh, hey, Jared,” he said.