Even through the afternoon, the sun was hidden behind gray clouds that were still pregnant with undeposited snow. The temperatures were just at or below freezing,
It had been coming down thick and heavy the night before, and Kenny had managed to make a snowman, out by the rail fence. He’d put a red santa hat on the rounded squat head, to give him some character, and he was going to find something for his eyes, nose and arms later.
It was the afternoon, and the snow had tailed off, giving everyone a chance to get out the shovels and snowblowers, and catch up before another storm dumped even more of the heavy wet white stuff on top of what had fallen.
Kenny was dressed in blue jeans, tall black snow boots, trimmed with mottled gray fur, and a long blue fur lined overcoat with a scarf of red and green checkers around his neck. He also wore a dark gray toboggan pulled down over his ears, and brown suede gloves. He carried a red-handled steel-bladed shovel in hand, with a wide blade. With it, he could really toss the snow, and he was clearing the snow like crazy.
He was about 18 years old, and around average height, with green eyes and shoulder length brown hair. He was fit, but not overly bulky. He had an honest face, and a pale complexion, with freckles that were dusted around his nose.
Birds were out pecking through the snow layers, especially where Kenny had cleared a path by the sidewalk, and someone, perhaps his mother, had spread birdseed here and there, and the little feathered creatures really enjoyed it as an easy repast, now that the ground was sealed away under the snowy blanket. He smiled briefly at the little creatures, and wondered if he’d see some squirrels, rabbits, or perhaps some other critter that might slink in through the snow.
After dealing with the sidewalk, Kenneth had seen to shoveling the driveway, which was a much larger task. It seemed the wind had piled up the snow over the drive, and he was dearly wishing he’d invested in a snowblower now. Not a defeatist, or much of a complainer (though there was muttering under his breath, for certain) he had concentrated on his task with an intensity that was commendable. Or, more like therapy. After the way he’d been stood up the night before, he was still hurt and smarting, and he didn’t want to think about it.
Well he didn’t want to think about Kris.
He grit his teeth and shook his head, and went to work again on the next section of the driveway, determined to exhaust himself so he wouldn’t have the presence of mind to think about him. And how he’d left him sitting in that coffee shop, with no call, no message. Just… NO. He would NOT think about that. Him. Him or that. No… Sir…
Some of the elderly neighbors glanced wistfully out of their windows, and hoped that the young man would come help with their driveways, too, considering he was moving so much snow, so very quickly. It was almost like a mini tornado was blasting through the driveway. They would likely make a call through some mutual acquaintance or to Kenny’s mother, and have her make the suggestion that he should help out. Kenny might even not complain about it, either, in the frame of mind he was in.
And he didn’t. He got the call from his mother to help the Widow Johnson, across the street, and so he had gone over and done her driveway, all the way up to the garage, and then the short sidewalk, and a little patch for her Mini-Schnauzer, Rufus, to do his ‘biznezz’, as she called it. The little salt-pepper silvery terrier was such a delight to watch, and take care of, from time to time, that Kenny just did it automatically. He even brought the little dog out, and watched him bark and frolic in the snow, while the Widow Johnson made him a mug of tea, and put it in a waxed coffee cup, like the ones you’d get at a coffee house.
Finally, after he’d warmed up at the Widow’s kitchen table, and had a few Christmas cookies and a sandwich, he had excused himself, and went back outside, crossing the street, and he mostly looked down at his boots, as he made it around the enormous snow-mound that the plow had created at the end of the driveway, which he’d had to cut his way through earlier. And as he looked up, he saw Kris.
Kris was sitting on the rail fence, looking like he’d been there a few minutes, watching the little birdies go at the seed, and he just looked… wonderful. The pretty young man’s blond hair shimmered in the snowy half light of the afternoon, and his pale skin almost seemed to be like alabaster. He was dressed comfortably and warmly, wearing black snow boots and a pair of black pants, which revealed some of his shins – why he didn’t get a chill with his pants hiked above the tops of his boots, Kenny didn’t know. But his eyes traveled up him, noting the green woolen sweater, and the brown scarf, and the festive patterned toboggan. Kris’ eyes turned towards him, and he waved, with a little grin on his lips, though the grin looked almost apologetic.
“Hey!” Kris began with a little half-wave of his hand. His voice was melodic, as always, and it sounded hopeful.
“Hey,” Kenny said back, in a half disgruntled tone.
“You’ve been canoodling with the Widow Johnson, I see? Doesn’t she know you’re too young for her?” Kris always thought he was funny.
Kenny pursed his lips, determined not to let his emotions get the better of him. “Yeah. Funny.”
Kris’s little smile faded, and he put his hand down to the rail fence. The little birds fluttered up to the snow-speckled tree above, and chirped like they were annoyed that these humans were scaring them away from the rest of their birdseed feast.
“I guess you’re pissed at me,” Kris began again, after a few moments of awkward silence.
“I don’t know if I’d say.. Pissed. But that might work, as well as some of the other choice words I could use. “ Kenny wasn’t giving an inch. Kris winced at the tone, before he shoved off the fence, and walked towards Kris. He stopped an arms length away, and wrung his hands a moment, before he looked up into Kenny’s face. “I’m sorry for not getting in touch with you. It wasn’t fair to you. I should have found a way to call.”
“This is only the 3rd time in a row that you stood me up, Kris. I shouldn’t have been surprised. “
Kenny’s tone was a bit frosty, hurt, and there wasn’t much of anger left in it at all now. “I don’t know if I should be mad at you, still, but I’m too tired to be now. I don’t know why you’re here..”
“Look, I haven’t been honest with you,” Kris began.
“That much is obvious, “ Kenny interrupted with a surly tone.
“Hey, will you let me finish?” Kris put his hands on his lean hips, and furrowed his brow. His cheeks were red and his eyes had started to fill, like something painful was there, trying to burst out.
“What, then?” Kenny said, planting the shovel, blade down, and leaning on the handle, keeping it between Kris and himself.
Kris’s lip started to quaver and he looked down, and then to the side, and a single tear slide down his cheek. The unshed tears in his eyes made his eyes sparkle like diamonds, and he spoke like he had a lump in his throat. “Look, I was at the hospice last night. My grandad. He’s.. very sick. He’s not going to last much longer. That’s … where I’ve been the last several days. I should have told you, but I .. I didn’t want to ruin your Christmas any more than its already been hurting my family. I’m… I’m so sorry.”
Kenny’s eyes narrowed, and the grew wide in comprehension, and the perplexed at the end of the explanation. He opened his mouth, and then closed it again. But after a few moments, he swallowed and bit his lower lip, before swallowing hard. “But.. how.. He was just.. Not more than 3 weeks ago.. We all went out to eat! He looked so healthy!”
Kris, looking vulnerable and shaking his head, the blond curls sliding down over his eyes, like a mask, said, “Yeah.. its, really hard to even talk about now. But I.. I wanted to come by and let you know, I was sorry. I know this was probably the last straw, and everything, but .. well.. He told me to get my ass over here, and see if I could salvage something.. “
Kenny stabbed the shovel into the snowbank beside where he was standing, and then stepped the 2 steps so that he could take Kris into his arms, as the blond started to gently cry. Kenny pulled him in again his chest, and the blond’s face was buried there, leaving a trail of tears on the fur collar, as he let the taller boy hold him.
Kenny stroked Kris’s hair,and rubbed his shoulders, and just held him for a few minutes, as his friend slowly regained his composure. He looked up into Kenny’s eyes and shook his head. “I am really sorry. I’ll understand if you don’t.. “
“Hush, Kris.. Hush, “ He said, as he smiled at his friend, understanding the odd behavior and strange indifference. “You should have told me before, you little shit. Gods, I thought I’d .. I thought you’d.. “
“That I was screwing around behind your back, or something?” Kris arched a brow and let out a splutter of a laugh.
Kenny nodded, as he shook his head ruefully. “Well, you were so damned tight lipped. But ..I can’t be mad at you.. Not now. I can however tell you that you should have said something. But yeah.. I don’t want to lose what we have..so, you finally tell me, well.. I appreciate that.. “
“It’s a good thing I came here to say hello, then,“ Kris said, softly, looking up into Kenny’s eyes.
Kenny slipped his arm around Kris’ waist, and ushered him towards the house. “Come on, let’s go inside, get some hot chocolate, and you can tell me all about it.. Properly this time. “
Kris leaned up and kissed Kenny on the mouth, a slow, soft, lingering kiss, that spoke of a host of emotions. They stood in the snow for a few moments like that, before they broke it off, and smiled with goofy smiles at one another. There was still a sadness in Kris’ eyes, and a sympathy there in Kenny’s, but the two were going to be ok now. Just there was some hard road ahead.
Nothing that some Christmas cheer couldn’t help fix.
Story by: Dehrynn Shepherd
Hair/Hat- Tableau Vivant \\ Baum (Tannenbaum)