What is your earliest Christmas memory? Tell us in the comments below to enter into the giveaway for T.J. Master’s Christmas story, Dear Santa, Dear Dad. The giveaway will close on 2nd December at midday GMT.
Widower Steven drives to the North of England two days before Christmas to meet his estranged son Andrew hoping for a reconciliation. Steven had rejected his son when, as a 19 year old student, he came out to his parents as being gay. Andrew now lives with his partner Peter who initiates contact with Steven by forwarding on to him the almost childlike ‘Letter to Santa’ that the lad has written asking for a father who loves him.
At first Andrew is hostile to his father’s overtures but the bad weather conspires to strand them all together over the Christmas period. Father and son both experience a steep learning curve, not helped by the father realising that his son’s lover is actually older than he is. Proximity breaks down barriers and the three men work together in the spirit of cooperation and of the season to create a Christmas experience which will change their lives for ever.
I soon arrived at the gate to Stonecroft Cottage. Either side of the gate were tall dark fir trees entirely festooned in white Christmas lights. Andrew was a great one for all the trappings of Christmas and I guessed this might be his doing. Several windows glowed with the warm light from inside the cottage, and the porch around the door was also covered with more bright fairy lights. Although a city boy at heart, I could instantly see the attraction of this idyllic rural setting.
After a brief pause to take in the scene, I pushed the gate which resisted because of the snow collecting behind it. I closed it again and walked the few steps over virgin snow to the door. There was a heavy iron knocker in the middle of the old, very shiny, red painted wooden door. I knocked twice, although my heart was beating so hard I wasn’t sure if I needed to.
Suddenly a light came on over my head and the door opened. It wasn’t Andrew, but an older man about my own age and height, maybe an inch or so taller at six-one, a very trim athletic build with dark salt and pepper hair and a warm, welcoming smile.
“Hello. Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for Andrew Barnes, have I got the right place?” My rational brain had by now deserted me and was floating some place just out of reach. I looked him up and down again. He was wearing light framed glasses and was clearly fit beneath a warm check shirt and a pair of cord trousers. Could this be Andrew’s boyfriend?
“Andrew. Yes, of course. Good Lord. Mr Barnes? Sorry, I wasn’t expecting… golly. Do come in. Sorry, I’m Peter, Andrew’s partner.”
I shook the hand that reached out but I had temporarily lost the power of speech. How could I have been so stupid? My son was cohabiting with a man old enough to be his father! Why hadn’t anyone told me? Margaret, my wife, must have known but she’d said nothing. If I had felt unprepared before, I was now utterly lost and almost ready to turn and run away.
“Who is it?” came a voice from the back somewhere.
Peter called out to him, “You need to come out here for a minute.”
I heard the clatter of cutlery from what must have been the kitchen and then Andrew came through the door wiping his hands on a dishcloth.
“What’s up?” He saw me and froze as recognition descended. “Dad? What on earth are you doing here?”
“Hello, Son,” I said weakly. This wasn’t quite how I’d imagined our big reunion.
Andrew folded his arms across his chest.
“I’m your son again, am I? Why are you here?”
As I’d expected, this was not going to be easy.
Peter came to my rescue. “Let’s get inside, shall we? Let me take your jacket, Mr Barnes.”
“Thanks and please call me Steven.”
While he took my jacket and hung it by the door, Andrew just stared at me darkly. Peter moved between us and ushered me into the living room. The setting was so cosy and comfortable that I was able to relax somewhat from the ‘fight or flight’ scenario of the front doorstep
The room was larger than I had expected and was dominated by a huge fireplace with a blazing log fire. At the far end of the room was a ceiling-height Christmas tree which took up a whole corner and was covered in decorations and bright twinkling lights.
“Please sit down, Steven. Can I get you a drink?” Peter appeared genuinely welcoming at least.
“Thank you. Whatever you guys are drinking is fine.” I was still struggling to speak.
“How about a brandy to warm you up?”
“Just a small one please. I need to drive back afterwards.”
Andrew remained standing, clearly on edge and visibly annoyed at my presence in his home.
“Why are you here, Dad? Come to spoil another Christmas?” The bitterness was clear in his voice.
I had caused that. I couldn’t blame him for being angry or bitter about this whole situation, but somehow I had to convince him I wanted to resolve it. I was asking a lot because not only had I rejected him, but my selfish behaviour had prevented him from having a full relationship with his mother during the last months and weeks of her life. Margaret’s death had left a huge void at the core of the family, but before she slipped away she had charged me with sorting out the mess I had created. Would he ever forgive me for that?
There had been times recently when I felt I was hoping for too much. I had caused so much hurt that I probably didn’t deserve forgiveness or reconciliation with Andrew, but somehow I had to try. I didn’t expect instant absolution for my sins but I needed to at least present my case.
“No, Son, that’s not my intention at all. I just wanted to talk to you, then I will go away and leave you alone.”
Peter placed his hand gently on his lover’s shoulder. “Sit down, my love and just let him speak. I will go and leave you two to talk.”
“No!” Andrew snapped back, almost pleading. “Don’t go anywhere. Anything he has to say, he can say to both of us.”
Andrew sat in the dark leather Chesterfield armchair opposite me and Peter sat on the arm of the same chair. “So, how did you find us, Dad?”
“Peter kindly sent me a Christmas card and hinted I might send one to you here.”
Andrew glared at his boyfriend. “You invited him? What on earth were you thinking?”
Before Peter could answer I jumped in to defend him.
“No. No! He didn’t suggest this at all. I just got your postal address from the letter. I’m sure he sent it with the best of intentions.”
“I can’t believe you did that without telling me!” Andrew admonished Peter. He then turned to me and said, “You didn’t have to drive up here in person.”
“I’ve been a prize idiot for way too long, Son, and I need to put things right between us.”
“Don’t you think it’s a bit late for that?”
The bitterness was now sounding more like deep-seated anger.
“Your letter gave me some hope that we could patch things up,” I said, feeling like a man clinging desperately to the edge of a cliff.
“What letter? I never wrote to you.”
I looked at Peter, who now wore a pained expression.
“I passed your letter to Santa onto your dad. I was hoping it might prompt him to send you a Christmas card.”
“I can’t believe you betrayed my trust like that, Peter. How could you?”
Peter turned and placed a hand on Andrew’s shoulder. “I never meant to hurt you. I just thought it was the right thing to do.”
Andrew looked up at him sternly. “For a very intelligent man you can be really stupid sometimes!” He bounced out of the chair and stormed from the room. I stood as if to follow.
“It’s okay, let him go.” Peter slid from the arm of the chair to take Andrew’s place on the seat. I sat down again, but after a moment of silence I put my drink on the coffee table.
“I should go. I’m sorry, it was a stupid idea and I never intended to cause any trouble between you two.”
Peter looked alarmed at this. “You can’t possibly be planning on driving back to London tonight?”
“No it’s fine. I’m staying at The Centurion in the village so I can drive home tomorrow.”
T.J. Masters is a fifty-six-year-old author and life coach living in Hertfordshire just to the north of London, England. T.J. has shared thirty years of suburban life with his civil partner Ian, and they enjoy the love and support of T.J’s large Irish family who all live nearby. In 2009 T.J. took early retirement from a thirty-three-year school teaching career and decided to follow a new path. After qualifying as a life coach, T.J. found that he was coaching a couple of authors who were going through the process of giving birth to the book which “had always been inside them.” This rekindled T.J’s long-held desire to write and get published.
With a lifelong passion for books, learning, and the sharing of knowledge, T.J. woke up to the realization that he had stories to tell, books to write, and less than half a lifetime left to do it in. As for the kind of books he is writing… well, let’s just say that he decided to channel over thirty years of experience in the gay BDSM lifestyle into a genre where it would be most appreciated!
Alongside this passion for books and writing, T.J. also found an outlet for his inner geek and has become a great advocate for social media in various forms. Blogging has become a great outlet for T.J’s many interests including the writerly ones. The author has a website where he blogs regularly and he loves to interact with his readers and followers at http://www.tjmasters.com.