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06 May 2006 @ 06:24 pm

Chapter 8: Justin’s POV

“Merry Christmas, honey.”

My mother greets me with a mug of piping hot chocolate and melted marshmallow as I make my way downstairs sometime on Christmas morning. I didn’t sleep well last night after Brian called, so I could barely drag my ass out of bed this morning. In the old days, Molly and I would be up before dawn, jonesing in the doorway of the parents’ bedroom, demanding to go downstairs and open the spread of presents waiting for us. We were so spoiled. Now, I just want to sleep in.

“We had to wait for you,” Molly says with a sour glare as I flop down on the sofa. The Christmas tree looks a little lopsided to me. It fills the room with that fresh pine scent that used to send me into an asthma attack, but I’ve finally outgrown that sensitivity. I sneeze. At least I think I outgrew it. The ornaments are a combination of school projects, family projects, souvenirs from family trips and a few heirlooms. It’s an odd collection, but strangely soothing to me. Memories, I guess. We used to have a lot of fun decorating it together. I suppose my father didn’t get any of the ornaments in the divorce, nor would he care. He’s put all that behind him, now. All of us. We were just deitrus as he starts his new life. Asshole.

There are fewer presents now that we’re both grown up, but our stockings still hang on the mantle and my mother still fills them with small goodies. Mother, as always, is determined to put on a happy face and make the ceremony at least reminiscent of our childhood heydays. I can smell her favorite coffee cake recipe baking in the kitchen, and later there will be turkey.

“I’ll play Santa,” she volunteers, slipping on that dreadful fake fur Santa Claus hat that always designated the one who distributed the gifts. She metes them out in order, making sure each of us has one to open at all times, until all are revealed. Mine are practical. Gift certificates and cash cards, just what I need, really. But also a new parka, that I probably don’t need, and insulated gloves and a stocking cap, a heavy sweater, wooly socks. I glance at my mother.

“Do you think I relocated to Antartica?”

“I worry about you in that artist’s garret and New York gets cold.”

I laugh, picturing myself dressed up like an Arctic explorer as I paint. Oh well, I’ll get some use out of this stuff. New York does get cold, but no colder than Pittsburgh.

Molly’s gifts are mostly clothes, more suitable to normal weather patterns. When she goes upstairs to try something on, my mother hands me an envelope.

“This is special,” she says with a smile. “I think you need a little break.”

I expect money, but when I open it, I find an airline ticket and a hotel voucher. “What’s this?”

“I know how you love to ski. It’s a paid trip to Banff.” Now the warm clothes make more sense. Too bad the gift doesn’t. There’s also a voucher for renting ski equipment and for lift tickets.

“A ski trip?”

“Yes. You work all the time, you have no real break, no extra cash. A little vacation will be rejuvenating and that’s always good for the creative process.”

I stare at her. Who is she? Where is my mother? What does she know about the ‘creative process’? This little vacation can’t be cheap. I know this lodge, I’ve heard of it. Brian and I even talked about going there someday, one of the things we always said we would do and never did. He never stays at any place with less than five stars. “Why Banff?”

“Why not? It’s beautiful and they say the skiing there is wonderful.”

“Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just send me to Vermont?”

“Justin, it’s not about being cheap. It’s about your having a wonderful time in a beautiful location.”

I sigh and shake my head. “You can’t afford this, Mom. It’s way too extravagant.”

“I had a good year. Just accept it graciously, please. And get packed. Your flight leaves in two hours.”

“Today? I’m flying out today?” There goes the turkey. This is just plain weird. I guess it’s good that I left my passport and other important papers here. Chances are a lot better they’d be lost or stolen in New York than here. And it was never likely that I’d be hopping a plane to Paris any time soon.

“Yes, I got a break on the price if you travelled on Christmas day.”

I shake my head. This is the goofiest, most unexpected present she’s given me, since that football when I was in fifth grade. If it makes her happy, I can force myself to ski and luxuriate in some fancy lodge, I guess. But I’d rather have the money. I gather my new wardrobe and trudge upstairs to pack. I’ll have to borrow a bigger suitcase. I didn’t come prepared for puffy clothes. Brian’s gift waits on the table beside my bed. Why am I delaying opening it? I don’t know. I want to see what’s in the box, but then again, I don’t. At the last minute, I stick it in my messenger bag, deciding to wait.

The plane is empty. There are probably twenty passengers, total. Who the fuck travels on Christmas day? I’m able to stretch out in a row of empty seats in coach and I sleep until we land. After I claim my bag, I wind through the customs line, and call Lindsay while I wait to be admitted. I wish her Merry Christmas and ask, “Is Brian there?”

“No, Justin. He left today.”

Oh swell, this is perfect. He’s on his way back to Pittsburgh just as I leave town. We’re like the stars of one of those schmaltzy movies where the lovers keep passing each other, unseen, in train stations. “He flew back?”

“He went to Banff to ski.”

I almost drop my phone. I have to juggle it to keep from watching it bounce on the cold, linoleum floor. Could Jennifer Taylor really be that devious? “Banff?” I repeat.

“Yeah,” she sounds surprised by my surprise. “He said he was going to ski for a few days.”

“Do you know where he’s staying?”

“No, I really don’t.”

I make inane chit-chat for as long as I feel is necessary to be polite, remembering what Brian said to me last night about Lindsay, and then I clear through customs, dragging my overstuffed bag behind me. A van with my name in the window is waiting outside at the curb and the driver takes over for me, loading my luggage, after offering me a bottle of water. The cold is intense but it wakes me up, at least.

“Make yourself comfortable,” he tells me. “The heat is on in the van. We just have one more passenger to pick up and then we’ll be on our way. He’s due any minute,” my name comes out of the window and he shifts some paper to find the other passenger’s placard.

“His name’s not Kinney, is it?” I wonder just how well this little shanghai was planned.

“No,” he says with a smile. Just as I begin to relax, he adds,

“Mr. Kinney arrived early this morning.”

Shit. Someone in Pittsburgh is going to die, and the first name on my hit list is Jennifer.
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
(Anonymous) on May 6th, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, this IS awkward. But I have to give Jen points for trying! I liked the symmetry with the family tree, all decorated with personal ornaments, compared with the all white decorative tree that Brian didn't care for in the previous post.
Ann Marie
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, i tried to contrast that.
Polykleitospolykleitos on May 6th, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC)
Could Jennifer Taylor really be that devious?

Yes she can! And we love her for it. :)))
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
Mothers, can't live with em cant commit matricide.
Create Your Reality: big girl pantiescourt1429 on May 6th, 2006 10:58 pm (UTC)
Love it. lol Good on Jen - I'm impressed! And good on you, too, Randall. Now I have a chance to use an icon that isn't my bandaid-ed heart or box of tissues. lol

Sooooo..... Justin's just going to have to, uh, suck it up, I guess, huh? they may be a little resistant at first, but this is the best thing for both of them and a wonderful way to end a seriously stressful year and begin the new. Even though the new year's already given promises of other stress. If our boys can just learn to communicate and face things together, it'd be the best gift they'd ever give or receive.
har2har2 on May 6th, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC)
I for one, am thrilled. I love Jen. Can't wait till Brian finds out as well. Should be an interesting reunion.
(no subject) - rand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
A fanjustinlovesart on May 6th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
Yay for Jennifer! I must say I am glad Justin knows about it before he meets Brian. But poor Brian, is he in for a surprise!

I enjoyed the Xmas morning at the Taylors, it was a nice break from the angst (which I am loving, by the way).

So, who helped Jenn with the reservations? Not being American I also have to ask: where is Banff?
Create Your Realitycourt1429 on May 7th, 2006 05:11 am (UTC)
Not being American I also have to ask: where is Banff?

It's in Canada and every picture I've ever seen of Banff & Lake Louise is unbelievably beautiful. here's a link.
http://www.banfflakelouise.com/ so gorgeous!
(no subject) - rand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wren_kt7oz on May 7th, 2006 07:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Thymeoasis6028 on May 6th, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC)
Loved it!
That was so perfect! Loved the van driver. Justin may want to kill his mother at the moment, but he may need to thank her later.

rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Loved it!
maybe, we'll see.
asm614: Brianasm614 on May 7th, 2006 12:10 am (UTC)
The plot thickens! I know there's still a long road ahead, but I'm loving every twist and turn you take us on, Randall! :)
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:14 pm (UTC)
thanks, we'll get somewhere eventually. BWAHAAA
Dreambee3: thoughtful b&j - paddiesdreambee3 on May 7th, 2006 12:26 am (UTC)
Jennifer took a risk, but who can blame her for wanting to give her son a push towards happiness with someone he loves and she has come love. She is giving them the opportunity of being together - *on Christmas Day* (! too lovely) - just the two of them, together (I can’t get away from that lovely word), away from everything and everyone. I’m so happy for them (or I will be once they settle into accepting how it came about).

I’m glad Justin got the clues which allowed him work it out before getting the shock of seeing Brian in person – now it’s only Brian who’s going to get the shock. One out of two is probably better in this case.

I’m trying to work out who Jennifer schemed with. Scrub Lindsay for obvious reasons. Who would know Brian was going to Banff? I don’t think Daphne would know, and I don’t want it to be Deb, so it would have to be Cynthia. I’ll be pleased if it’s Cynthia, and I hope it is. Somehow I think Brian and Justin would be comfortable with Jen & Cyn having created this.

I’m looking forward to finding out what the present is. I actually understand Justin’s delay in opening it – a present, especially from someone meaningful in life, is a gesture of what the giver is feeling, like reading between the lines. I wonder if Justin wonders about that. Or it could quite simply be that Justin is keeping it as it is, still wrapped, to savour having received it from Brian.

Thanks Ran, nice to wake up to on a rainy and cold Sunday. I hope you and Brian have a nice relaxing weekend after a busy week. ♥
(Anonymous) on May 7th, 2006 01:06 am (UTC)
I don't think the "waiting for another passenger" should be ignored. It sounds ominous.
(no subject) - dreambee3 on May 7th, 2006 01:15 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dreambee3 on May 7th, 2006 01:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - court1429 on May 7th, 2006 05:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - armandyouidiot on May 7th, 2006 11:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - court1429 on May 7th, 2006 04:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
TKtclark1922 on May 7th, 2006 01:29 am (UTC)
I like that Justin & Brian are in the same area but me thinks the extra passenger is going to be the young doc/therapist(?) from the previous chapter. I hope Brian and Justin seize this time to be together and work some things out before separating again (which I hope they don't but I'm not betting on it).

Good job Randall

rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:16 pm (UTC)
thanks tk. no clues, but hang in.
mdlawmdlaw on May 7th, 2006 01:47 am (UTC)
hahahahahahahhahahahhaahhhahahahhahahahhahahaha laughing insanely. hehehehehehehehehehe I love this.
Of course there are going to be fireworks. We'll just have to wait to see what kind. m
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:17 pm (UTC)
omigod, I've driven you insane. BWAHAAAAAA
queenydivaqueenydiva on May 7th, 2006 02:23 am (UTC)
BWAHAHAHAHA! I know the fecal matter's gonna hit the fan eventually, but right now I'm just ready to cheer for Jennifer!
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:17 pm (UTC)
ok, one cheer for mama!
Vivvivrbn on May 7th, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)
LOL...I know it's not a good thing, really, but somehow the idea of the situation is funny. Maybe it's just the absurdity of it. No doubt that Jennifer is one smart cookie, but I'm having trouble pegging her as the devious type. She does get a gold star, though, for caring enough about her son's happiness to take these measures in the hopes that it'll help the cause.
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:18 pm (UTC)
I think she truly does and that she also cares for brian. finally.
qafaddiction: gale addiction by paddies greenqafaddiction on May 7th, 2006 02:58 am (UTC)
It's sad to see Justin so somber on Christmas morning. Maybe it's just because it's my favourite holiday and such a magical time -- as a child, it's all about Santa, and as an adult, that sense of peace that starts Christmas Eve and carries into the morning. Anyway, I really feel for him, because I'm sure the last thing he wants is forced merriment from his well-meaning mom.

Mother, as always, is determined to put on a happy face and make the ceremony at least reminiscent of our childhood heydays.

On the flip side, things could be a lot worse. At least he has a mom who loves him and has done what she could to support her son. Happy memories of childhood are a good thing. I know in my own family, one of my favourite things is decorating the tree with ornaments my brother and I made when we were in grade school, and some that were passed down from my grandparents who are now all gone. A family-decorated tree certainly has more personality than the tree Brian saw that was so perfect it had no real warmth.

Craig the a-hole aside, Justin has a family who loves him, a roof over his head and presents under the tree when many go without. He may find it difficult to count his blessings when the one thing he really wants is to be with Brian, even if it seems impossible. Although... it looks like he just might get his heart's desire, thanks to a little plotting from Jennifer and her accomplice. ;)

I'm all excited now! Banff is beautiful. And I'm so glad Justin packed his gift from Brian. I have a feeling that's a good omen. ;)

Great post, Ran.
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:19 pm (UTC)
i agree H. banff is sublime. and yes, he is lucky to have a good mom, unlike brian. love your icon,.
sandiD: skisandid on May 7th, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
Mother knows best
They can fight it all they want. Chemistry will win out. They are a force of nature.

Can't wait to see how you deal with this.
I'm sure it will be - interesting.

*hugz Mother Taylor*
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Mother knows best
what a great icon sandi!!!!!!!!! BWAHAAAAAAA! Love justins hat especially!!!!!
thumpathumpa on May 7th, 2006 04:09 am (UTC)
Oh my! *touches fingertips to lips*

I don't know whether to be pleasantly
surprised or wary of impending doom.

Such a tricky little vixen Jennifer has become! I see where Justin got his ways. But will this come back to bite her in the rear especially if her dear sweet boy gets his heart broken again?!

It would be pointless to say I hope Brian behaves himself and is sans-trick until Justin gets there, but I suppose I've already said that now haven't I.

*drumming fingers waiting for the other shoe to drop*

rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:20 pm (UTC)
shoe just dropped. posted chapter nine
damietta on May 7th, 2006 04:12 am (UTC)
Sounds like two of the blondes in Brian's life conspired to send the other blond his way.

I loved the description of the Christmas tree. Family ornaments always bring up memories (good and/or bad) at the holiday.

I'm trying to figure out, did Justin take the messenger bag with him or just one piece of luggage? (I'm very curious what Brian's present is!)
rand_altrand_alt on May 7th, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC)
he took the bag, carried the messenger bag on and checked the big one.