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The Greatest Gift

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

The Greatest Gift

ISBN: 978-1-928101-07-9

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Text: Copyright© 2016 Jamieson Wolf

Cover: Copyright© 2016 Jamieson Wolf

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

Wolf Flow Press

www.wolfflowpress.com

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For the real Dava,

who lives beyond the page.

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The Greatest Gift

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Jamieson Wolf

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Lincon went to the same spot in town every day.

It was a very nondescript place, an ordinary place, but he swore it was a place of miracles. It was surrounded by plain buildings made from red brick. He could a see window winking at him in the winter sunshine, hear the traffic that ran by on the other side of the street and the sound of children carolling in the distance, their voices pure and joyful.

Someone had painted a large circle on the stone and filled the circle with colours that were so bright, they were almost blinding. When he stepped over the border of the circle, all the sound around him faded away. It was like the world around him seemed to stop in time, as if someone had pressed a pause button and all that existed was the sound of his heartbeat and the softness of wind as it caressed his face.

He always waited a moment before he spoke, taking in the silence and the calmness, two things he didn’t get in his daily life except for this moment. When he spoke, he did so softly, almost reverently.

“Hello, Xander.” He said. “I miss you.”

Though no one was around him, he heard the reply each and every time. It came in the wind that caressed his face. The wind would seem to almost hug him, hold him close. A voice would respond, almost too soft to hear.

It said: “I miss you, too.”

***

“I don’t know why you torture yourself like this.” Dava said.

Lincon raised his eyebrows at her over his coffee cup. “Like what?” He tried to keep his voice neutral.

“Moping around like the end of the world happened, like there’s nothing left to live for.”

He sighed and took a sip of coffee. “You know this time of year is hard for me. And you know why.”

Rolling her eyes, Dava said “I know why. I do. It’s been three years, though. Three years of mourning when he told you to live your life. To not think of what was but only what will be.”

He would not cry, he had cried so much. “I know what he said.”

“Then why are you living like you’ve already died?” She said. She regarded him with light blue eyes that twinkled in the light of the coffee shop. “Xander wanted you to go on with your life, not to stop living.”

He felt a moment of anger and let it go. “I know what Xander wanted. He was my lover.”

“Then why aren’t you living? You go to work and go home. You hang out with me, but you’re not really here. You’ve cut out most of your friends and don’t do anything. It’s like you’re lost inside of yourself. You’re not the same man you were before.”

The words came tumbling out of his mouth. “He was my everything, Dava. He was all I could want in the world. When he died, a part of me died with him.” The tears came then, even though he had cried an ocean of tears. He had cried so much that he had thought that there was nothing left inside of him.

Taking his hand, Dava gave it a squeeze. “I know, dear heart, I know. He was a light for so many people. But just because his light is gone doesn’t mean you have to live in darkness. He wanted you to be happy. He’d hate to see you like this.”

Wiping the tears away from his eyes, Lincon looked at Dava. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to live without him. I’ve been trying for three years, but I still miss him so much. Everything smells like his cologne. When I go home at night, it’s like I’m slapped in the face with it and I keep expecting him to walk into the room and ask how my day was. Then I remember that he won’t ever be walking into any room again. That he’s gone.”

Lincon’s voice broke on the last word. “I’ve been trying to live, but I don’t know how.” More tears slid down his face and then a sob erupted out of him. It sounded primal and full of pain. “I’m broken, Dava. I’m just broken.”

Dava got out of her seat and came to sit beside him, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him close. “its okay, Lincon.” She said, patting his back. “It’s okay.”

***

When Lincon opened the door, he waited for Xander’s scent to wash over him as it always did. It was the same every time he came home. The scent was woodsy and had a hint of smoke. Lincon always joked that Xander smelled as if he was burning. Xander would always say “I’m burning for you.”

The response had always made Lincon laugh. Now he was only left with memories and the scent of Xander upon the air. He blinked back more tears and took a deep breath. He stepped further into the house and looked at the Christmas tree in his living room.

He had put it up on impulse. Lincon had not put up any holiday decorations since Xander had passed away. There hadn’t seemed to be any point. Why put up decorations that evoked celebration when Lincon felt he’d never be happy again? But this year, something had moved him to put up the tree. It sat in his living room, bare and naked. It looked a little sad. Just because he was moved to put up the tree didn’t mean he had to decorate it, however bare it looked.

Standing in the middle of his living room, looking at the naked tree, Lincon sighed. Xander had passed away on December 24th. It was now December 10th. Only two weeks to go.

***

Xander looked at Lincon and felt only sadness from him. The light that had filled Lincon was gone, had been for a long time. It had been the light that had originally attracted Xander to Lincon. Everything was a joy to Lincon, everything sparkled. Now the sparkle was dimmed and within him was only shadow. Xander had caused that darkness to appear.

He watched the man he loved stare at the Christmas tree and tried yelling at him, telling him that it was okay to be happy, that it was okay to really live. Lincon just stood and stared as if willing the tree to decorate itself.

Losing his patience, Xander knocked over the box of decorations that sat beside the tree.

“Careful,” A voice said behind him.

Xander turned and saw Gabriel making his way over to him. What disturbed Xander the most upon dying was to find out that the afterlife actually rested in a plane on top of the land of the living, that all their loved were nearer to the living than they could possibly imagine. People spent hundreds, thousands visiting psychics to talk to their loved ones in the land beyond; when in reality, they were still there, they just couldn’t talk to them.

“You know the rules, Xander. You can’t interact with him in any way. The living must not know how close we are to them. It would keep them from truly living their lives.”

“That’s what I’m trying to get Lincon to do!” Xander yelled. “He’s wasting away his life! There’s so much darkness in him that I’m afraid it will take over. If he does that, I’ll never see him again.”

Those that took their own lives never made it to the afterlife. Instead, they went somewhere else, somewhere that matched the darkness they had carried within them. Some called it purgatory, some called it limbo. Whatever the place was called, Xander didn’t want that for Lincon.

Gabriel didn’t know that he had been speaking to Lincon in the town square. The veil was at its thinnest there and though he couldn’t actually speak to Lincon, he could push words through on the wind. Xander felt bad about that, but he wanted to help Lincon some way.

Gabriel looked at Xander with kindness. “You can’t interact with him, but there is a loophole. You can interact with others, but you can’t interact with those who knew you.” Though Lincon couldn’t feel it, Gabriel laid a hand on Lincon’s shoulder. “He needs to find someone who will bring light to his heart. Find that person and lead him to Lincon.”

Xander looked stricken. “I don’t know if I can do that.”

“You don’t want him to forget about you?” Gabriel asked.

“Something like that.”

“I doubt very much that he will. The bond you shared together will last beyond both of your lifetimes. But you can help the rest of Lincon’s lifetime be happy so that he can find his way to you when the time is right. You can give him the gift of love. There is nothing better, after all.”

Nodding, Xander knew that the angel was right. There was no greater gift than love. “How do I find the right person?”

Gabriel smiled. “You’ll just have to start looking, won’t you?” As Gabriel began to fade away, he glowed brightly as if he were filled with stars. “Just look for someone who shines bright. Find a way to lead him to Lincon.”

In the blink of an eye, he was gone leaving Xander watching Lincon and wondering what he was going to do.

***

Though he could watch Lincon forever, Xander had a job to do. In the morning, he went out of their house and into the street and held on to Gabriel’s final words. ‘Just look for someone who shines bright.’

Easier said than done, Xander thought. Where did he start looking? Xander thought about it and decided to look for men who liked the same things that Lincon did. Added to that, he wondered how he was going to influence someone else.

He would find the man for Lincon first. Well, he knew that Lincon loved to read. Maybe there was someone at the local library? Xander closed his eyes and thought about the library and opened them to find he was there, surrounded by the comforting smell of books.

People milled around the shelves looking for books that called to them. Most people didn’t know that books had souls too and they shone just as bright, especially if they were well loved. Xander watched a little girl pick out a copy of The Little Prince, staring at the cover lovingly. The books light pulsed in the girls grasp.

The doors to the library opened and in walked someone hidden behind a tall stack of books that he was carrying. He stepped sideways to avoid an adolescent that was carrying a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and instead walked into another woman who was looking at a copy of Wild. His pile of books fell everywhere and Xander saw him for the first time.

The man had eyes that were both blue and green, but they changed to a silvery grey when the light hit them. Even more light shone out from him and the soft glow was filled with all sorts of colours. From where he stood, Xander could feel the warmth of the light that shone from him.

He apologized to the woman he had bumped into over and over again. As he gathered up his books, Xander saw a few of the titles: Tales of the City, Skeleton Crew, Anna Karenina, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Handmaids Tale and Running with Scissors. Clearly, he had a well-developed love of reading.

Bringing the books to the check out desk, he plunked the books on the wooden surface and smiled at the woman that sat behind the desk. “Hey Moira!”

“Hey Jackson. You get through all of those books already?”

“Yeah, I did read Tales of the City twice, though.”

“Well, I’m going to have to charge you extra you know.”

“I’ll buy you a coffee next time I’m in. Will that do?” He said this with a grin.

“Deal. Why did you read that one again, anyway? You’ve read the whole series like twenty times.”

“This was the twenty fourth time, actually, but who’s counting.”

“What you can get from reading a book that many times, I don’t know.”

The man named Jackson held a hand to his chest. “Oh, you wound me! And this from a librarian!”

“There are too many books to read to give one a second go around.”

“I disagree. It’s like visiting with an old friend.”

“Whatever you say. Speaking of friends, how was the date with that guy? Wasn’t he a policeman or something?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, how did it go?”

“Not so hot. He was a mall cop and his profile picture was a few years out of date.”

“Shame. Police officers are hot, they have their own handcuffs!”

Jackson laughed. “And they come with a big stick.”

“Oh, you’re so bad! Going to look around for a bit and find something else?”

“Don’t I always?”

“I’ll be here when you’re done. Happy hunting!” Moira let out a little chuckle and Jackson smiled. Xander couldn’t help but notice that Jackson’s light brightened when he smiled. He gave Moira a saucy salute as if she were a general and turned around to head into the shelves.

Xander watched Jackson as he made his way amongst the books. Jackson would reach out and touch the spines of ones he had obviously read before, would read the covers of books to find a new story that grabbed him and even told one boy looking for a great book to read to delve into Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and that it would change his life. Every book Jackson touched was left covered in something that looked like glitter.

Watching the people milling about the shelves, Xander couldn’t help but notice that people were drawn to the books Jackson had touched. Xander wondered if this was a kind of magic and what other magic Jackson was capable of.

Jackson brought a pile of books to the checkout desk where Moira was waiting for him. She looked through his new stack of books. “Really? Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? Again?”

He gave her a wry smirk. “Old friends, Moira.”

“You’ve read the Harry Potter books so often, I’m surprised you don’t have your own copies by now.”

“And miss out on the chance to see you? Never.”

She pinched his cheek and said “Coffee next time, don’t forget, you old flirt.”

Xander followed him out of the library. Jackson seemed perfect. Now he had to get him and Lincon to meet. He wondered how he was going to do that. Well, he was an angel, right? They could work miracles, it was in the job description.

***

A loud knock on the front door woke Lincon.

He knew that if he just waited long enough, whoever it was would go away. Lincon snuggled deeper under the covers. When the knock came a second time, and then a third, Lincon figured he’d better answer it.

When he threw back the covers, his cell phone let out a shrill ring. Picking it up off the bedside table, he looked at the call display. Dava’s name stared back at him. Lincon sighed. The knocking continued and Dava’s voice called out “Lincon! Get up! I know you’re in there!”

With a groan, Lincon got up and shuffled towards the front door. He wrenched open the door to find Dava standing there with one hand poised to knock again and the other holding a tray with two cups.

“That better be coffee in there.” Lincon said.

“Yup, with Bailey’s. I figured it’s never too early in the Holiday season to get drunk.”

She walked past him into the foyer of his house and walked into the living room. “Please tell me this isn’t all the decorating you plan to do.”

Dava stood looking at his bare tree. It looked even more pathetic during the light of day. Lincon shrugged. “I just didn’t feel like it, that’s all.”

“Lincon, we’re half way through December! You need to decorate more than this.”

“I don’t need to do anything.”

She handed him a cup of coffee. “No, you don’t. But you should want to. Decorating this place would make it a lot more cheerful, that’s for sure.”

“I can’t, okay?”

“Why can’t you?”

“Because Xander loved to decorate the tree. I just can’t bare doing it without him.”

“God, Lincon. I’m sure Xander loved it when you took in breath, but are you going to stop breathing now, too?”

He took a sip of his coffee and said nothing.

“Look, Lincon, I love you, I do, but this has to stop. You need to re-engage with life, with living. You’re not the one who died.”

“I know that. It’s Xander who died.”

“Yes, honey, so stop acting like it was you.”

Lincon huffed out a breath. “Why are you here?”

“I’m making sure you’re still with us. That you’re still alive, it’s what friends do. Now drink up, we’re going to go out.”

“Where?”

“Does it matter? Out here, into the big scary world. I’m going to get some Christmas cheer into you yet if it’s the last thing I do.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Don’t care. Get dressed.”

“Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas.” Lincon said.

***

If Dava was going to do anything this Holiday season, it would be making Lincon care again.

She’d known him for over ten years and have never seen him so down. After Xander had passed away, Dava knew he had been in shock. They all had, it had happened so quickly. Xander was there one moment and gone the next.

Over time, though, she thought the shock would have lessened and that Lincon would gain his sense of self again. That had yet to happen and he fell deeper and deeper into the shadows. She thought if she had just given him time, he would be all right. At this point, she doubted whether he would ever be all right again.

She had decided to do something about it. She couldn’t let him waste away, she had promised Xander. So here they were heading towards the mall for a bit of Christmas cheer.

“Why are we at the mall? I already got Christmas presents for family and friends.”

“I know you did, we’re not here for that. We’re here for him.”

She pointed at Santa, sitting on his throne, surrounded by a throng of children. Lincon shook his head.

“No way, absolutely not. No way, no how, not going to happen.”

“What better way to get a bit of Christmas cheer than to meet the man himself?”

“You know that Santa Claus is just a made-up guy, right? He was created by Coca-Cola to sell their pop.”

“Not so, legends of Santa, or someone like him, have existed for hundreds of years. Come on, Lincon. Live a little. It’ll be fun, whatever you believe.”

“I’m thirty-eight. I don’t believe in Santa.”

“But what if he believes in you?”

***

Gabriel saw Lincon coming. He had to admire the effort Dava was putting into getting Lincon into the Christamas spirit. The light inside him, normally so dark, was a bit lighter around the edges as he stood there waiting his turn for a photo with Santa.

Many other angels asked Gabriel why he played Santa in a local mall every year. After all, it took a lot of effort to remain in corporal form for a whole day. He often found the experience rather draining, but the happiness on the faces of all the children made every sacrifice worth it. He knew that a lot of other angels did the same thing, to be part of the living world once again.

He let a little girl slide off his lap (after promising her that he would see what he could do about getting her a pony) and Lincon stood in front of him.

“I know you’re not Santa, just some guy in a suit. Let’s just get the photo over with.” Lincon said.

“Don’t you want to come here and tell me what you want for Christmas?”

Lincon sighed. Dava spoke up. “You don’t have to sit on him, for Gods sake! Just get in close so the photographer can take the picture!”

Lincon sighed again. He moved so that he was standing just to the left of Santa and let the photographer snap a shot or two. Then Gabriel spoke: “What do you want for Christmas?”

Gabriel watched as Lincon closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. When he opened them again, Gabriel could see into his soul. He saw storm clouds and rain. When Lincon spoke, Gabriel heard the pain there.

“I want my partner back. Can you give me that?” Lincon said softly.

Gabriel looked at a spot over Lincon’s shoulder. Xander was there, with a sad look upon his face. “I think you’ll find that the dead never truly leave us. They are closer than we might assume. If you’re looking for him, look in here.”

Reaching out with one hand, Gabriel touched Lincon’s chest where his heart lay. “You carry him with you.”

A tear slid down his cheek and he wiped it away. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but instead, just turned away and ran out of the nearest entrance, Dava calling to him. Xander made to go after Lincon but Gabriel put his hand up to stop him.

“Let him go.” He whispered. “He’ll be okay.”

Gabriel only hoped it was the truth.

***

Lincon ran.

It was all he could think of to do. He didn’t know if he was running from himself or to some missing part of himself, but ran anyway. He had tears in his eyes and they flew off his face as he ran, as if he could somehow outrun himself. Lincon could barely see where he was going and only stopped running when he crashed into someone.

He heard “Oh shit!” and then he was being pelted with books as they fell through the air. He felt a splash of warmth and looked down to see that a coffee cup had joined the fray and spilled all over his winter coat.

“Oh, my god, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. I’m such a klutz, god I’m sorry!”

Large male hands started trying to sweep away the mess the coffee had made and Lincon found himself looking up into the most gorgeous pair of eyes he had ever seen. They were a green colour and shone like emeralds. He stepped back to look more closely at who had run into him and when he saw the man’s face, something sparked inside of him. It was like a jolt to his system and he took in a deep breath. The man’s head was blocking the sun and to Lincon it looked as if he was wearing a halo. He seemed to shine so brightly.

“God, I’m sorry. Forgive me? I can pay for dry cleaning to get your coat cleaned.”

Lincon continued to stare at him. The green had changed to blue when the sun shifted so that they looked like sapphires. Lincon was entranced by them. “What colour are your eyes?”

The man smiled. “I’m sorry?”

“Your eyes, I can’t tell if they’re blue or green.”

“They’re hazel. The switch colour depending on the light or the colour I’m wearing.” He smiled at Lincon. “Are you okay? You look a little stunned.”

“I’m fine. Just a little bumped and bruised.”

“I really am sorry.”

“No, I am. I wasn’t watching where I was going. I should be apologizing to you.”

“It’s all good.” He held out his hand. “My name’s Jackson.”

Lincon shook Jackson’s hand and marvelled at the warmth of it. It sent a thrill up his arm that warmed him further. “Lincon.”

“Pleased to meet you. I don’t want to keep you but did you want to go for a coffee later? You were obviously in a hurry.”

Thinking about it for a moment, Lincon said “Why don’t you come along? It’s not far. Then we can go for that coffee. Plus, I can help you carry your books. Are you a student?”

“Goodness no, I just read too much.”

“There’s no such thing as too much.” Lincon said.

***

Watching them go, Xander wondered at the mysteries of the universe. He had been trying to think of a way for Lincon to meet Jackson and they had met anyway without any of Xander’s influence. He wondered if Lincon and Jackson had been fated to meet. How else did you explain such happenstance?

When Lincon had left the mall, running as if his feet were on fire, Xander had thought that Lincon would be forever lost. Now, he wondered if he had found a little bit of himself. He hadn’t shied away from Jackson, hadn’t run back home, and hidden from the world. Instead, he was glowing, a bit of the shadow within him filling with light. Xander followed to see what would happen.

He was praying for a miracle.

***

“So where are you taking me?” Jackson asked.

“Just somewhere I go every day. It helps…” He didn’t know how to continue that sentence without revealing too much of himself to a virtual stranger, so Lincon just let it hang in the air between them.

Jackson seemed to understand. “I get you.” He said. “There are places that bring calmness, provide stillness, and inspire joy. There’s this one place I go where it’s like you’re flying in the sky. The stars seem endless. Always puts me at peace, you know? Maybe I can take you there sometime?”

Lincon found himself blushing. “I’d like that.”

They walked in comfortable silence, no need to fill it with words. Instead, their walk was filled with the crunch of their boots in the snow, the clash of car horns and the sound of their breathing. It was a human kind of music.

All too soon, they were in front of the stone circle that was decorated with swirls of different colours. Lincon looked at the circle and at Jackson, debating what to do, how to proceed. Did he share his most special place, his one connection to Xander, with Jackson?

Jackson looked at the circle and smiled. “I’ve heard about this place.”

“You have?” Lincon had naively thought of the circle as his, that it was his special spot and no one else’s. It looked like he had been wrong.

“Yeah, locals call it the centre of the universe where all sound ceases to be. Come on,” Jackson put down his pile of books and held out his hand. “Let’s stand in the circle. See what happens.” Jackson gave Lincon a smile of such blinding beauty that all Lincon could do was nod and smile.

Then he reached out and took Jackson’s hand.

***

Watching them, Xander was thrilled. The fact that Lincon had taken Jackson’s hand of his own free will was another step to his reclaiming his life. It was another step in the right direction. He hoped that he could help Lincon take another step.

When Lincon stepped into the circle with Jackson, Xander was surprised to feel a little bit of jealousy flare up inside him. Jackson got to hold Lincon’s hand instead of him, got to talk to him, feel Lincon’s touch on his skin.

He shoved those aside when he realized that the main emotion that he was feeling right now was joy. Lincon wasn’t at home in the dark, thinking about what was. He was engaging with what could be. That was enough for Xander.

He glided softly into the circle so that he could hear what they were saying…and maybe help things along a little bit.

*

Lincon took Jackson’s hand and they stepped over the threshold of the circle. The world around them became silent and all that Lincon could hear was his breathing and the beating of his heart. All the sounds of traffic, carollers and people had ceased. He could feel Jackson’s heartbeat through his hand and it was beating as quickly as his was.

Looking at Jackson, Lincon saw his cheeks redden but rather than let go of Jackson’s hand, Lincon held on to it. He took a deep breath and remembered to stay calm. “So why do they call this place the centre of the universe?”

Jackson smiled. “I’m pretty sure it’s not. But they say that if you stand at the centre of the circle, all sound around you ceases to be and if you talk in the centre of the circle, your voice will be echoed back to you.”

Lincon thought of Xander’s voice that came to him on the wind. “Let me show you something.” He said.

“All right.”

Taking another deep breath, Lincon moved further into the centre of the circle. The colours seemed to swirl around him. He let the breath out slowly and then said “Xander? It’s me. Are you there?”

Lincon didn’t look at Jackson, afraid to see the look on his face. To his credit, Jackson didn’t pull his hand away. Lincon waited.

When the voice came, it arrived on the breeze that flew by. It seemed to wrap itself around Lincon and Jackson as if in a caress. “Love him…” Then the breeze was gone.

If possible, it was even more silent in the circle after that. Lincon thought that Jackson hadn’t heard the voice, it was normally just a voice he heard, but Jackson turned to him and ran a hand along his jaw. “You okay? That was pretty weird. Did you hear it, too?”

“You heard it too? The voice on the wind?”

“Yeah, I did. Are you okay?” Jackson asked again. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“I haven’t seen one, but I’ve been hearing one.”

Lincon expected Jackson to laugh but instead he said “Sounds like there’s a story there. Do you want to tell me over a cup of coffee? My treat for spilling mine all over you.”

His first instinct was to say no right away without thinking about it. He had a moment, just an instant, where he wanted to run. Then Dava’s words rang through his head: “You need to re-engage with life, with living. You’re not the one who died.”

So, fighting his initial response, Lincon said “Sure.”

***

As they walked towards the coffee shop, they each carried a pile of books. Lincon always loved the feel of holding books in his hand, the stories they had yet to tell, the characters he would meet. Books had been his comfort through the last three years. He had lived through them. Lincon had a feeling that Jackson would understand that completely.

“So, I take it you like to read.” He said.

“Doesn’t everyone?” Jackson replied. “Books are like breathing to me. Let me ask you something: do you like to re-read books?”

“All the time! It’s like visiting with old friends. Some you haven’t seen for a long time, but they are always there waiting for you.”

The smile Jackson gave him was joyous. “I feel the exact same way.”

“So why don’t you use a cloth bag to carry them around?”

“I always mean to go into the library and get only a couple, but always come out with a stack. Some books just look too good to put back down on the shelf, you know?”

“You should see my bookshelves sometime.”

Jackson stopped walking and turned to look at Lincon. “I’d love that. I really would.”

Lincon took a second to think ‘Did I just invite him to my house? What’s wrong with me?’ and said “Good, that’s good.”

The coffee shop was called Koffee Karma. Lincon had passed by it a few times on his walk back home from the circle, but had never been in. He had felt that Karma hadn’t been too kind to him and he hadn’t wished to find out what else it had in store for him. Now, though? Now he wanted to find out.

They got a booth in the back so that they had room for Jackson’s pile of books. They set them down on some space on the bench and Lincon got a good look at the titles: The Book of Life, Picture Me Gone, A Christmas Carol, The Stand, Eat Pray Love, A Game of Thrones, The Color Purple, Practical Magic, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. There were tons more but it was the book near the bottom of the pile that drew Lincon’s attention.

It was one he’d written.

He pulled it softly out of the pile and looked at the cover. He remembered every word of the book that lay between the covers. The book was called Finding Your Way Home. When he had started writing, he had wanted some anonymity, so he had chosen the pen name of Jason Callaway. The pen name had stuck. Lincon had stroked the cover lovingly.

“Oh, my god, that’s one of my favourite books. I read it at least once a year.” Jackson said. “I went through this phase after university where I read Like Water for Chocolate once a year, but that was ages ago. Have you read this one yet?”

“I’m familiar with it.” Lincon said.

“Oh Gods, you have to read it again. It’s like the author is speaking right into my soul. Like he gets me, you know? I love the characters, the story. It’s like poetry on the page. Even though it’s a sad story, it’s life affirming. The main character loses his lover and goes on this eternal search for his new love, realizing after many years that he had to love himself first. It’s been a long time since he’s come out with anything though, but this is his best book.”

Lincon had written the story after Xander had passed away. It had been the last thing he had written. It was almost as if he were trying to bring Xander back to life through the story. When Xander didn’t appear, the words stopped flowing. His agent had been bugging him for new writing for three years now.

“You truly have to read it.” Jackson said.

“I don’t have to read it. It’s one of mine.”

“When you say it’s one of yours, what do you mean?”

“I mean that I wrote it. It’s one of my books.”

“Oh, my actual God!” Jackson reached across the table and took Lincon’s hand. There was that flash of heat that moved up Lincon’s arm again. He had to admit that the heat felt good after being cold for so long. “You wrote Finding Your Way Home? You’re shitting me.”

He expected this. He did write under a pen name, after all. So, to show Jackson that he was telling the truth, he recited a few lines of the novel. “Sometimes, late at night, he often dreamed of him. Of what his touch was like, or what the sound of his voice had been. He would find himself awake and, just for an instant, he could see his lover standing in front of him, could smell his lovers scent on the air, could taste his sweat on his tongue…”

Lincon didn’t realize that he was crying until Jackson reached up and brushed some tears away with the ball of his thumb. “Why are you crying?” Jackson whispered. “What you wrote was beautiful. It touched me in a way that no one else had and that nothing ever has since. Your words are beautiful.”

The words came pouring out of Lincon before he could stop them: “Do you remember me telling you that going to the circle helped? My lover died three years ago, and I’ve forgotten what his voice sounded like. I’ve forgotten what he smelled like when he woke up in the mornings. I’ve forgotten what his laugh sounded like when he was caught unawares. The only time I feel close to him now is when I’m in the circle. That voice you heard today on the wind? That was him. That was Xander.”

Lincon had never told anyone this. He had never voiced aloud that his lover was speaking to him from beyond the grave. He hadn’t even admitted it to himself. Instead of staying to see what Jackson’s reaction would be, instead of letting himself be comforted by him, Lincon did the only thing he could think of doing.

He ran.

***

He ran back to the circle. Its swirling colours welcomed him as if folding him in an embrace. He stepped over the border of the circle and started yelling right away.

“What did you mean, love him? What did you mean? How can I love him when I still love you?”

Watching his lover, Xander stirred up a breeze so that his voice would be carried to Lincon. He only hoped his heart would hear the words he had to say. The veil was thin, but Xander still couldn’t get all his words through. Fewer words would have to do; they would have to be enough.

Love him. Be free.”

“How can I be free?” Lincon shouted. Tears falling from his eyes began to fly from his face and into the breeze. Wherever they hit the breeze, they would sparkle like stars. “How can I be free when all I see is you, all I feel is you. I still feel your touch on my skin. I’m starting to forget what you looked like and I don’t want that to happen.”

The heart. Can’t forget.”

“My heart hurts! It hurts too much to feel for someone else when I still love you.”

Breathe. Trust yourself. I’ll always be with you.”

Xander let a few of his own tears fall from his eyes. He wasn’t one to cry, but the pain that Lincon was in filled him with despair. His tears flew up to the sky and, even though it was daylight, shone as bright as stars.

Releasing a sob, Lincon turned and ran from the circle. He ran right into Jackson, knocking his pile of books from his arm again. This time they both fell to the ground and Lincon was on the ground on his back, looking up at Jackson. He took a breath in and took in the beauty of Jackson’s eyes and the light that still shone above his head like a halo.

“W-what are you doing here?” Lincon asked.

“I was concerned about you. I left the coffee shop looking for you and couldn’t find you. Then something made me come here, as if I had no choice. It was as if there was a light leading me to you that floated along the street. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to follow it.”

“I must look a mess.”

“Nah. You’re beautiful.” Jackson smiled and blushed slightly. “You’re beautiful to me.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“That’s true. But I’ve read your book so many times, I feel like I do know you. What is they say? To truly know a writer, you have to read what they’ve written? I know that a writer puts a lot of themselves into a story. I’m wondering now which parts were about you and would like the chance to find out.”

Lincon let out a little laugh. “True.”

He looked into Jackson’s eyes again and noticed they had taken on a gold sheen, as if sunlight was pouring out of them. Lincon thought that he could lose himself in Jackson’s eyes. Lose himself in him. So focused on his eyes that Lincon didn’t realize Jackson was moving in to kiss him until he felt Jackson’s lips pressed against his.

It was as if a light went off inside Lincon. He had never felt such a sensation; his entire body was filled with a lightness that went from the tip of his fingers to the end of his toes. He heard bells in the distance and knew that he would forever associate this moment with that sound.

Lincon broke the kiss, pulling away from Jackson. “Why did you do that?”

“You’re so beautiful. It just felt like the right thing to do.”

“Please get off me. Please.”

Jackson did so, helping Lincon to stand. He took one last look into his eyes, now turned a dusky silver colour. He reached up and ran his hand along Jackson’s cheek and then let his hand fall. “I’m sorry.”

“I should be the one apologizing. I was just following my heart.”

“No, I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I can’t be with you. I can’t know you. I just can’t.”

“We could just get to know each other…” Jackson tried.

“No, I can’t. I already feel too much for you as it is. Trust me, it’s better this way. You don’t want someone broken for Christmas.” He walked away from Jackson, even through his heart kept trying to pull Lincon back towards him.

He was better alone

***

Lincon counted the days until Christmas.

Ten days turned to nine then turned to eight. He had cut himself off from everyone he knew, everyone that filled his life, to save them from himself. Only Dava would not stay away. She knocked on his door every day and every day, he ignored the knocking.

Now there were only six days till the 24th of December, the day that his life had changed. He didn’t think he could bear to live out that day. He planned to drink himself into a stupor and just pass out until the 25th. It was the only thing he could think of to do.

There was a loud knock on the door. Then another one. Then one more. Then the knocks kept coming. “Open the fucking door, Lincon! I know you’re in there! Open the door and tell me what happened! I brought you some wine and some more Baileys! At least open the door so we can get drunk together!”

Lincon ignored the knocking for a moment until Dava said “I’m not going to stop knocking until you let me in. You can cut everyone else out, but you can’t do that to me. I won’t let you! Now open the door!”

Letting out a groan, Lincon shuffled to the doorway and opened the door. Dava stood there holding a bag filled with bottles and food. “Thank fuck.”

She brushed past him and started laying out all kinds of food and baked goods plus the aforementioned bottles of booze.

“What’s all this?”

“Well, I assumed you’ve been hiding and wouldn’t have anything to eat in this place. So, I brought sustenance for you and I. Help me lay it out.”

Dava had brought all kinds of food. Cold cuts, breads, muffins with cinnamon and nutmeg, donuts with little Santa’s on them, Christmas cake, tourtierre, Sheppard’s pie and even a small turkey. There were also bottles of wine, Bailey’s and a very nice bottle of Grand Marnier.

“You brought enough food to feed an army.”

“Nope, just you. I want to make sure you eat something. Now are you going to tell me what happened or are you going to make me pull it out of you?”

“Nothing happened.”

“Bullshit. You haven’t hidden from me like this in a long time. Something must have set you off.”

“Nothing happened and I’m going to keep it that way.”

“So, what nothing are you talking about?” Dava poked him in the chest. “You might as well tell me. I’ll just pester you until you give in.”

Taking a deep breath, Lincon said: “I met a guy.”

“Oh my God, Lincon! That’s fantastic!”

“And he kissed me.”

“This just gets better and better! So, what happens next?”

“Nothing. Nothing will happen because I can’t let it.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“It amounts to the same thing.”

“No, it doesn’t.” Dava gave him an extra sharp jab in the chest. “Won’t means the guy doesn’t want anything to do with you. Can’t means you don’t want it to happen.”

Something broke in Lincon and the words came tumbling out. “Dava, he’s perfect. He read my last book, has read it multiple times. I know next to nothing about him but find myself wanting to know everything about him.”

“So, what’s the problem? Why are you so shaken up?”

“I don’t want to disrespect Xander’s memory. I don’t want to forget him.”

“Then don’t.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Yes. It is. You’ve made it into this big thing, all these emotions running around inside of you. You have to let them out, but you also have to live. Xander wanted you to find someone that made you happy, or let yourself be found by someone. Why are you fighting this?”

“Did you forget when he died? How can I think about someone else now? He’s in my thoughts all day long and I’ve even started dreaming about him.”

“Xander?”

“No, Jackson.” Lincon let out a breath. “His name is Jackson.”

Dava gave him a kind look. “Honey, come and sit with me.” She walked from the kitchen to the living room and sat down on the couch in front of the bare tree. Patting the space beside her, she said “Come on, honey. I won’t bite unless you want me to.”

Lincon nodded and went to sit down beside her. They sat there looking at the tree for a moment before Dava spoke.

“Honey, you’ll never forget Xander. That he was taken from you in such a way on Christmas Eve day makes it all the crueller.”

“He was hit by a drunk driver. That’s not cruel, that’s just stupid, so pointless. To think that I can’t have my partner with me because of someone else’s stupid decisions.”

“Look, I know it ruined the day for you. But you can’t stay this way forever. You have to change the day into something new, something that isn’t a memory of the one you lost, but something you look forward to every year.”

“You want me to forget Xander.”

“No, I want you to forget how he passed. Holding on to that memory isn’t doing you any good. You will always love Xander, he’ll always be with you. Nothing can take that away from you. Nothing ever will. But don’t you think you’ve bemoaned him long enough? Don’t you think you deserve happiness? That Xander wanted you to be happy?”

“But how am I supposed to change that day? To make the twenty fourth into something wonderful again?”

“Well, you got me. What about Jackson? What’s he doing for Christmas?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, then ask him over. We can decorate this ugly naked tree for starters. Plus, I’d get to meet him and give my approval.”

Lincon let out a laugh. “Well, I have no way of contacting him, no way of getting in touch with him. I ran away from him before we could exchange digits.”

“Well, give it time. Things like this have a way of working out.”

“How’s he going to find me?”

“Honey, it’s Christmas time. You do know that miracles happen at Christmas? Have a little faith in the world beyond you. If it’s meant to happen, it will.”

Dava wrapped an arm around Lincon and squeezed him tightly. “Now how about we dish out some of that food? I wouldn’t say no to a huge glass of wine, either.”

***

Xander knew that he had to get Lincon and Jackson to meet again somehow. He could feel the seed that they had planted in each other growing. All it needed was light and love to help it grow.

He had been following Jackson for a few days now. Every once in a while, he had taken out Lincon’s latest book, Finding Your Way Home, and read some of its pages. After he had returned it to the library, he had even gone out and bought his own copy.

The book sat on Jackson’s bedside table. He read a few passages and touched the cover every night before bed. Upon waking, he would touch the cover again. It was as if the book was his anchor to Lincon.

Watching Jackson, Xander knew that he couldn’t have hoped for a better person for Lincon. The light that came from Jackson emanated kindness and generosity and even the tiniest beginning of love. That was what Lincon needed now.

Xander wondered what to do for only a moment. Then he pointed his hand at Jackson’s copy of Finding Your Way Home. The pages began to ruffle as if stirred by a soft breeze. Xander moved his hand in the air as if he were writing, and the pages began to glow and turn themselves.

It was the rustling of the pages that woke Jackson. He sat up in bed and looked at the book, a look of wonder in his eyes. He reached out a hand slowly towards the book and the book stilled, open at the title page. Words in the top hand corner glowed in a soft green script for a moment before the book stilled.

Xander watched as Jackson picked up the book and read what was written there that hadn’t been there when he last looked at the book. Jackson turned to look towards Xander, almost as if he could see him, and then looked back down at the book.

Jackson reached out with one shaking hand and drew a finger across the words as if he were caressing them.

Xander hoped it would be enough.

***

It was December 24th.

For three years, Lincon had woken in misery on this day. It was the day that everything in his world had changed. Where he had lost himself and a part of his heart. Where the foundations that he had built his life upon had come crumbling down around him.

Dava had spent the night this year, however, so that he wouldn’t have to wake alone. So that he wasn’t alone in the darkness when the day came. She had slept beside him and he had drawn comfort from her warmth.

They had a simple day planned. They were going to finally decorate his tree. “No tree should be bare ass naked on Christmas, Lincon. Didn’t your mother teach you that? It’s bad luck.”

“It is not, you made that up.”

“Yes, I did, but my word is gospel. You should know that by now.”

Lincon was letting Dava sleep in while he made coffee. He had to admit, not waking up to an empty house did make this day easier to take. He poured himself a cup of coffee and raised it, looking up at the ceiling. “The first sip is for you, Xander.”

He took his sip when there was a knock at the door. Then the bell rang. Wondering who that could be at this hour, Lincon put down his cup of coffee and went to the door. He blinked his eyes a few times because he swore he could see light coming from the crack at the bottom of the door. It was bright, as if the sun waited on the other side.

Opening the door slowly, Lincon was shocked to see Jackson’s face smiling at him. “Hey.” He said.

“Hey!” Lincon said. “Hey.” He didn’t say anything else, but returned Jackson’s smile. His whole body felt brighter at just the sight of Jackson.

“Um…can I come in?”

“Sure, of course, I’m sorry. Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“Yes, please and I promise not to spill it on you this time.”

Lincon let out a laugh and let Jackson into the house. “Sorry for the way I’m dressed, I’ve just gotten up.”

“God, it is early, isn’t it? I’m sorry, I just had to see you. I really did.”

Lincon closed the door and said “Don’t be sorry. I wanted to see you too, but I had no idea how to get in touch with you. Not that it matters, but how did you find my house?”

“With this.” Jackson took out a copy of Finding Your Way Home and opened it to the first page. On the top right corner were his name and his address written in green ink.

Taking it from Jackson, Lincon rubbed his fingers over the words. “I didn’t donate any of my copies to the library.”

“That’s just it. I got this from the bookstore. When I woke up this morning, your name and address were there as if they had always been.”

Rubbing softly at the words on the page, Lincon wondered how they had gotten there. “Weird. Would you like me to sign it for you? With my real name?”

A blush reddened Jackson’s cheeks. “I’d love that.”

Lincon got a pen from the junk drawer in the kitchen and signed it ‘To Jackson. Only when we are unafraid do we truly begin to live.’

He handed it back to Jackson and watched as he read the words that he had written. Jackson’s eyes were glassy when he looked back up at Lincon. “Thank you.” Jackson said. “So much.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Would you mind if I did something? I’ve been dying to do it again, since the last time.”

Lincon thought he knew what was coming and took a deep breath. Then he let it out. “Sure, I’d like that.”

When Jackson leaned in to kiss him, Lincon was ready for it. The feel of Jackson’s lips against his was like joy given form. He kissed Jackson back, softly at first, but then as if he had been starved for water for years; which, in a way, he had.

When they broke away from the kiss, they just looked into each others eyes. All Lincon saw was light. The words came to his lips and he let them out, not wanting to keep them caged. “I think I could love you.”

Jackson’s eyes widened as did his smile. He gave Lincon a quick kiss and said “And I could love you.”

There was the sound of footsteps behind them. “Oh, we have company! Come on, Lincon, let the poor boy into the house. Hello, you must be Jackson! We’re going to decorate the tree, listen to Christmas music, and eat a ridiculous amount of food. Care to join us?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Good! I’ll make you a coffee with some Baileys.”

As she busied herself with the coffee’s, Lincon said: “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. I used to decorate the tree with my partner who passed away.”

Jackson reached out and took a hold of Lincon’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “You can tell me all about him while we’re decorating.”

“You wouldn’t want to hear about Xander.”

“Yes, I would. He’s part of you, isn’t he?” He raised a hand to touch Lincon softly on his chest where his heart lay. “He’s in here.”

With a smile, brighter than any light, Lincon leaned in to kiss Jackson and felt that, finally, everything was going to be okay.

***

Gabriel and Xander watched as Lincon, Jackson and Dava decorated the tree. Xander was filled with a peace he hadn’t known in a long time. He watched Jackson move with Lincon as if they were in some kind of dance. They filled the living room with light that was matched only by the lights on the tree.

“He’ll be okay.” Xander said.

Gabriel nodded. “Better than okay. For isn’t love the greatest gift of all?”

Xander let out a little laugh and Lincon, Jackson and Dava turned to face the tree as a little bell ornament on its branches started to ring.

[]

About the Author

Jamieson has been writing since a young age when he realized he could be writing instead of paying attention in school. Since then, he has created many worlds in which to live his fantasies and live out his dreams.

He is an award winning, Number One Best Selling author of over forty books.

He currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario Canada with his cat, Tula who is fearless.

Learn more about Jamieson at www.jamiesonwolf.com

Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com.jamiesonwolf

Or find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamiesonwolf


The Greatest Gift

Lincon is living inside of himself. Having lost his partner Xander three years ago, on December 24th, he is a shell of his former self. His only comfort can be found in a circle of stone where he can hear Xander’s voice. His friend, Dava, tries to get him to engage with life again, telling him that Xander would have wanted him to be happy. Lincon is content to live out the rest of his life by not living. What he needs is a miracle. That miracle comes in the form of an angel. Those we have loved are closer to us then we could even dream. Having watched his lover drift further inside himself, Xander knows he must do something, but what can he do? Gabriel is the one that tells him to find someone for Lincon, someone who shines bright. If Xander should find someone, how does he make sure they meet? Thankfully, miracles do happen at Christmas…

  • Author: Jamieson Wolf
  • Published: 2016-12-07 01:50:11
  • Words: 9567
The Greatest Gift The Greatest Gift