Also available as part of the Chestnuts Roasting Anthology
I’m not gay. I just notice men sometimes. Everybody does, right? I notice Dane a lot, like every time I’m near him, but just because I think he’s an attractive man that doesn’t mean I like him, does it?
I’m also not a fan of Christmas. Too many years “celebrating” with my Bible-thumping family ruined the holiday for me. So what if I envy all these cheerful souls dashing about with smiles on their faces? I don’t have to like Christmas, do I? If anyone could get me in the Christmas spirit, it would be Dane with his easy, relaxed manner and his gorgeous smile. If that were going to happen, though, I’d have to find the courage to talk to him and to admit that maybe I don’t know myself all that well after all.
I shook my head as I watched Shelley toss back another shot. Her face looked oddly green in the glow from thousands of colored holiday lights, part of the Tacky Christmas theme the office decorators had apparently gone for. Shelley’s day had been hellacious. No one could deny that, but getting trashed at the office Christmas party wasn’t going to get her any closer to the promotion she wanted.
She slammed down her glass and shouted at Dane, the bartender, for another. If he hadn’t glanced her way, I would’ve doubted he’d heard over the blaring strains of a squeaky-voiced rendition of The Christmas Song that would’ve made Nat King Cole slam his head against the wall.
Dane handed a glass of white wine to an older woman from investor services before heading our way. I couldn’t help but notice the line of his jaw, the softness of his lips, the scruff on his face. I usually found the scruffy look obnoxious, but on him, it looked anything but.
He usually worked in The Coffee Bean, a shop in the lobby of our building, and a few times—okay, maybe more than a few—I’d gotten a second cup of coffee just to catch a glimpse of him. The thing is, I’m not gay. I mean—yeah, I’ve noticed men before, but it wasn’t like I wanted to sleep with them. I was just acknowledging that they looked good. Sculpted bodies, soft, well-trimmed beards, a beautiful pair of eyes—I was appreciating them, like art.
But I couldn’t fathom the intensity of my attraction to Dane. If he was anywhere near me, I was instantly aware of him. And when I thought about him, about what it would be like to… No, I didn’t need that kind of complication. I no longer believed it was wrong to be gay, despite what my parents had drilled into me as a kid. It just…wasn’t me. I’d been through enough changes in the last two years. I’d cut myself off from my family, from their expectations, from most of my childhood friends. I couldn’t pretend to be who they wanted me to be.