Hot 'n Cold Ch. 07byMandartany©
Home, almost there. Tim keeps up a chatty conversation all the time, with me or with the taxi driver. I notice myself turning quieter and quieter as the landscapes turn more and more familiar to me.
Air in Honolulu is so different from the coldness of New York. I curl my toes in my flip flops, enjoying their freedom when we sit in the taxi. There was a wall of warmth and humidity to greet us after landing. It didn't bring sweat to my skin; for me it felt so familiar and caressing, Tim on the other hand had wet spots under his arms almost in minutes. We changed our winter clothes to shorts and T-shirts at the airport toilets, just like every other passenger, it seemed.
Drifting off I let my mind wander back and forth between my family and Aleksi. Wonder if I made the right decision by coming here? Leaving him there, not alone, but almost. I can't wait to hear his voice tonight. We have a phone date planned. And then maybe chat online for hours before sleep.
I glance over my shoulder at Tim when arriving at my folk's place. The house is quite small, but it is in a relatively good area 50 miles east of Honolulu. My dad's family has owned this house for 3 generations. Last spring my grandmother died and I was not able to attend to the funeral. That nearly made me quit my studies. This Christmas is the very first without her and grandpa for the whole family. Grandpa decided to move in with his unmarried brother, who is not in good health and needs assistance. They live in Maui and are spending their holidays at home. It is gonna be totally a different Christmas this year, just the four of us: Mum, Dad, Em and me.
After stepping out of the taxi, Tim follows me carrying my luggage -- he insisted on it, starting at JFK. Somehow I feel weird about that; who is he trying to impress? Is he genuinely that nice? Aleksi certainly thinks so...
The kiss goodbye at the airport -- sigh -- that was so tender, long and sweet, desperate. I felt like shit for leaving, I nearly stayed. The kiss... I'm at my parent's door for the first time in years and all I can think is Aleksi. Focus now!
I use my key to the front door and I feel suddenly funny. I have not lived here for three years now; in a way this place really isn't my home in the same meaning as it was growing up. Tentatively I knock to the door before entering any further.
As I step my right foot half way in, noises around the house start to gather and in seconds I'm being group hugged by Mum, Dad and Em in the hallway. "Hanalei!" she screams with her signature sharp pitch. Emily is unable to keep her voice down when she is excited -- I have not forgotten her loudness, I love it! Oh, she looks so much bigger than three years ago! And so much cuter!
"Hanalei..." Tim grins.
Oh no... I never intended for Tim to find that one out.
"Uhm... Folks, folks... Wait a sec, I need introduce someone to you!" All eyes turn to the doorway and the big blonde boy filling it almost completely. "This is Tim, he is the one to thank for me coming home for Christmas. He came to say 'hi' to you."
Emily, my never shy little sister, walks arms open to hug him. She looks so innocent to me, but Tim makes a scared face and takes a step backwards as if to run from her. She giggles and then storms the last few steps and gives Tim a tight bear hug that my family is known for. Tim's face is priceless.
Dad and mum also step closer and introduce themselves and shake hands with Tim.
After a few minutes of chit chat Tim decides it's his time to go to his aunt's place and get settled, after all the taxi is waiting. He politely declines the invite to come over later tonight and have some eggnog with us -- in secret I am relieved. We planned to spend Christmas day with our families, at Boxing day there is going to be a party held by Tim's cousins and I'm invited too.
Not too excited about that, but I sort of feel obligated to go.
On Monday, I will be back in Aleksi's arms. The thought only sends tremors down my spine. We'll be making love again, after so many days of distance. We talked about that, the last thing he whispered in my ear before letting me go was how much he awaits my return and the way he's going to kiss every part of me.
Aleksi turned me down every time I tried to make a move on him during the last few days. He was caring and affectionate, but it felt weird he didn't want to go further. In my gut I know he was hurt for me leaving. I just couldn't form that into a question. I didn't want to push him.
I didn't want tp push myself to be honest.
A tug on my arm brings me back to the present again. Emily hangs on to me tight, making my heart melt.
I wave at Tim and Mum closes the door behind him, hugging him long and tight for one last time. She doesn't let go until Tim whispers something to her ear and pats her back. Dad don't seem to mind mum hugging a gorgeous hunk, I grin.
After Tim leaving, we regroup ourselves to the living room, leaving my luggage by the door. Em sits tight against me and Mum fusses over bringing us coolers and snacks -- everything feels just like old times.
Emily is wearing a bright yellow dress that makes her skin stand out beautifully. She is just a bit more dark toned than me, her hair is long and stubborn and she is like a girlie version of me. I give her hugs and kiss her cheek constantly. We were inseparable when I still lived at home. We even shared a room, now she has her own room after grandma passing away and grandpa moving out.
Mum looks wonderful while hanging one of her cats, Mint, in her arm. The cat protests making her laugh and then Mint jumps off and runs out of the room. Her smile is radiant and her light blond hair hangs lower than the last time I saw her. She still is the most beautiful woman in the world in my mind.
Mum is a nurse at the local hospital, she is always hassling on something; she is like quicksilver. Em and I inherited most of her looks, her small, lean figure, but it definitely was Em that got her bubbly personality.
Dad, who is usually rather quiet type, now talks non-stop about the changes in the house and the touch up -renovations he's planning to do since my last visit. Dad seems melancholic, but he is trying to hide it under the light tone. He lost his job a few months ago, meaning the money is even tighter now, but he has all the time in the world to do small changes around the house.
I feel warm and welcome, but surprisingly not like home. The realization shakes me to my core. I try to push the feeling out of my mind, but really, I would suspect to feel homey when I'm home, right?
Emily seems to sense my inner turmoil when she pulls me up from the sofa with 'super girl's' power and giggling leads me to her room. Then she shuts the door behind her. In a few moments the room is filled with Christmas carols and her everlasting energy.
I could have done without the carols.
"Hanalei, I can't believe how happy I am! You came home for Christmas! That's the only Christmas wish I have had for the past years... And now it came true!" She curls a lock around her finger and then dips it to her mouth as she did when she was a toddler.
Some things really don't change!
"Tell me everything, I mean everything!" Her enthusiasm is overpowering, "Who was that Tim? Is he your friend form uni?"
"Actually... Tim is a friend of... uhm... a friend..."
Then it suddenly hits me, OMG, I have not come out for my family yet! When is the right time to tell my folks about Aleksi? Maybe I shouldn't say anything at this visit? Then again, this might be my last visit here for a while again... Then Emily's voice enters my panicked mind again.
"He's hot!" She smiles widely. "As in smoking hot!"
"Tim is way too old for you, smart ass!" I nudge her with my elbow.
"I'm ten, not seven! And for your information, I already have a boyfriend. His name is Ramon, and he is ten too. He is the class president and real smart, reminds me of you."
I look at Em with amazement, how is it possible that she grew up so fast? And naturally I know the boyfriend is more likely just a friend, but still, this soon? I have my first boyfriend now, at the age 22, and if I had never met Aleksi, I might have waited for my first boyfriend for God knows how long.
Trying to keep our conversation as light as possible, even with the anxiety building up inside of me, I can't keep Aleksi out of my mind. She talks about her school and her new pen pal, her life seems so uncomplicated.
"Do you have a girlfriend, Hanalei? She asks just out of a blue.
I keep my face hidden in her hair and my heart stops beating for like an eternity. Do I tell her now?
"Em, stop monopolizing your brother and bring him to dinner table." Mum shouts out from the dining room. Saved by the bell.
The dinner is not 'grandma style' delicious, but still wins 5-0 over the cafeteria lunches and subs I've been having. Em sits next to me, Mum and Dad on the opposite side of the table. The table is shorter now that there are not so many eaters around.
Our conversation flows effortlessly. I get clued in on neighborhood affairs, Em's bike accident, Mum's new hobby as a judge in cat shows and Dad's repair work in the attic. Em's voice echoes around the dinner room as she comments on everything with her enthusiastic manner.
I almost have forgotten how relaxing and soothing it feels to be around my family.
That is until the dessert, when mum turns the tables around and starts bombing me with the questions.
"How is your radio work doing?"
"It's doing really great! Lisa and I have been joined together by the hips during this semester. Doing the show would not be the same without her." I make a mental note to text her 'Merry Christmas'.
"You've talked a lot about this Lisa, is she more than just a co-worker?" Mum's tone is totally innocent but her eyes give away her curiosity.
"Yeah, she definitely is more than that. She is my best friend. Don't look so disappointed -- Mum..." I can't stop myself from squirming.
I change the subject before she hits me with more questions about my relationship status. "Our two last shows were hits. The last one was about an amazing artist, whose exhibit I went into with Tim. The one before that had an interview with a rising star of university track team, Aleksi Connors. You might have heard of his step dad, Eric Connors, the politician. Aleksi is actually Finnish and he is really down to earth. Not at all, what you would think of a kid with rich background. He studies economics and is an A-student. He practices every day and..."
I trail off when I notice the glances exchanged between Mum and Dad. "Ungh, and that's about that." Why did I start speaking about Aleksi...?
I need a fast subject change again! My mind is hitting blank, my skin starts to sweat and glasses steam.
"What about this Tim?" Em's suddenly calm voice enters my confused mind. "How did you meet him and why did he buy you tickets home?"
Sigh, that's a nice change of subject - for the worse! "Tim is actually a childhood friend of Aleksi. He is loaded with money... he came to spend his Christmas here with his relatives and wanted me to accompany him for the flights."
"That was so nice from him!" For a second I was hoping that Mum had missed the part about Aleksi and Tim being friends, but she proved me wrong. "So, you have been spending time with both of the boys?"
"Well, yes, sorta. Tim goes to the same yoga class as me." That's it! Tell them about yoga and Jerome's offer! "Jerome actually offered me a job! He wants me to start instructing a beginner's class after New Year."
"That's wonderful dear! So what do you do with this Aleksi then?" Sigh, Mum can't be fooled.
"Well, we just hang around, nothing much..." I stuff a large piece of caramel coated pineapple in my mouth to make a stop for the inquisition. The sweet taste of it turns almost bitter when Mum continues. "Was that small present from Aleksi that Tim left me secretly before leaving? He said to give it to you tonight, that it was supposed to be a surprise from your common friend."
The pineapple refuses to go down no matter how hard I try to swallow. I gag a bit then croak, "Present? What present?" Aleksi has a secret Christmas present for me!
We had exchanged presents at the airport already, so this was news to me. My cheeks start to flush.
"Yeah, he might be the one Tim was talking about..."
"Wait a second Honey, I'll go and get it and then you can open it in privacy." Mum nearly runs out of the dining room covering the tears in her eyes. Tears in her eyes?!?
What the heck just happened? Dad looks at his coffee, avoiding my eyes; Em is under the table with Mint and seems unaware of the exchanged words.
Mum returns with a small package in her hand. It is wrapped in a red and silver paper. The same paper as the bigger present Aleksi gave to me was wrapped in.
As I was taking the small treasure in my hands my cell starts ringing. The tone is 'It's a Sin' by Pet Shop Boys.
I hate that I made that phone call to my mum. I should have guessed it would be a bad idea. She cut me out before I had a chance to say 'Merry Christmas'. The rejection doesn't feel any less painful even if I know I haven't done anything wrong, the fault is hers. I need to focus on the good things in my life.
Jaime. Can I call him already, even if it has been mere hours since we parted? I need to hear his raspy voice. I need to erase the hurt mum caused. I need to feel our special connection again.
The phone rings four times before I hear Jaime's deep baritone at the other side. I can imagine he is right next to me if I close my eyes.
"Hi. I miss you already."
"I miss you more." Jaime seems tensed.
"I'm gonna put you on with Emily soon, is that ok?"
"Yes... uhm... why?" I have no objections to talk with his family, but this is kind of sudden.
"I have decided to tell her about us tonight and my parents tomorrow - if the timing feels right. Is that ok with you?"
"You don't have to ask me that, they are your family, you know what is right." A small pause. "I will support you in every way, you know that?"
"Yeah," Jaime's voice is now thick with emotion. "I just wish you were here, I'm nervous."
"Hey...They love you to bits, they are not gonna kick you out like my folks. They are so proud of you. But if you want to wait, that's fine too. I know this happened so fast." Nothing can go as horrible wrong as it did with my parents. They care more about their stainless façade than me.
"Yeah." Jaime seems to be deep in thought. "I want to tell them. It's not like I'm ashamed or anything. I just never had anyone, a boy- or a girlfriend to bring home. I want them to see what an amazing person I have found."
I'm out of words.
"You make me so happy, I miss you so much and I feel I made a mistake coming here."
"Jaime, stop that! You are there now and I want you to enjoy your family. I'm here when you come back, ok?" If he misses me half the much as I miss him, Jaime is feeling pretty awful now.
"Jaime, I love you."
My heart seems to swell against my ribs. I said this too soon... I should have waited even if I know it is a fact. I've never felt this way towards anybody. Everything just feels right with Jaime. Still, maybe I should have waited...
I hear a sniff. Is he crying?
"I looooooveeeeee you tooooooooooo," sob.
He is crying, I can't help but smile at his teary voice.
"I love you, I love You, I love you!!!"
"I know, I can't wait to say that face to face, Jaime."
"Omigod, I'm gonna hang up now, I feel I'm bursting if I don't go and tell Em now!" He's definitely not crying anymore!
"Yeah, Babe, call me back when you are ready! I love you, Hanalei."
"I love you, Aleksi."
I put my cell down at the table and notice my cheeks hurting for the smiling. I rub them a bit. I'm happy. I'm fine. Jaime loves me, even if he is thousands of miles away.
A knock on the door and Liisa peaks her head in. "Darling, the guests are arriving in a couple of hours. If you want to take a shower, the towels are in that casket. You can come downstairs too to grab something to eat too if you feel hungry."
"Thank you so much for everything. I'm gonna talk with Jaime for a while and yeah, the shower sounds wonderful! Is it ok, if I come downstairs a bit later?"
"Of course dear, you don't have to ask! I'll put some dinner aside for you or you can go to the freezer and take whatever you like whenever you feel hungry. But we'd love to introduce you to our family and friends."
"And I'm delighted to meet them as well." I'm not just being polite. My mood got up like a skyrocket when Jaime said those magical three words. "I'll come by later then."
I'm still holding on to Aleksi's present. His voice got me all carried away and I forgot it. He loves me! I feel the hairs in my back rising.
I knock on Emily's door.
"Emily, I need to talk to you about something. Can I come in?"
"Sure, just don't step on my school project."
Walking in I notice all kinds of paper models lying around, some of them were painted in earth colors, some still plain white.
"What are you working on, Em?"
"I need to build Adam and Eve's paradise for history class."
"What on earth are they teaching you kids today? It not history, it is mythology or literature." I can't believe what I'm hearing.
"Don't get upset. We are not force fed with organized religion, it is a subject of history of religions. Some groups have Muslims, some Hindus and some native Indian beliefs." She snickers to herself. "What was it you wanted to talk about? I noticed at the dinner that you were awfully quiet."
"Em, you know the friend I mentioned briefly when you asked about Tim?"
"Yes, what about him? Oooo... Are they gay? I know I got that vibe out of Tim. He is too hot to be straight."
I'm lost with her. Just when I think she can't surprise me more, she always does.
"What do you know about gays?" My throat seems awfully dry all the sudden. She is ten years old. Ten!
"I know a lot about human sexuality. No big deal. I like boys, but a friend of mine likes girls. So, was I right?" Her voice is clear and her eyes never leave mine. She is one perceptive kid. With a good gaydar apparently.
"Yes Em, they are both gay." I clear my throat. "I think I am too."
Em stares me for a while, eyes narrowing then she runs me over with her fierce force, making us hit her bed. She lands on top of me.
"I love you, Hanalei, no matter what. Don't ever doubt that."
I hug her little form tightly. She makes me feel so happy to be her big brother. She truly is the best and wisest person I have ever known, and she is still so young. What an amazing future she has ahead with her intelligence, empathy and looks. I would not be surprised if she would be elected as the President of USA someday. I feel my emotions running out in the form of tears. Heck, she's going to rule the world!
"That means so much Emily. I love you too. I want you to meet him, my boyfriend, talk to him. His name is Aleksi, he is beautiful inside out. He is an athlete, he is very fey looking, he is Finnish, he is intelligent..."
"Is he good enough for my favorite brother? That is all I'm interested to know. " She has pressed her head to my shoulder and I feel safe with her just as I did with Aleksi.
"I'm not good enough for him!"
Emily nudges me hard with her thumb making me laugh. My laughter increases when she adds both her hands to the play.
"Take it back!" She giggles. "You are good enough to anybody; I just won't ever admit this again, hehehhe!"
"Watch my glasses you little devil of a girl!"
"Take them off if you don't wanna break them!" She laughs. "I'm gonna make you tell everything I have been missing out! Do Mum and Dad know yet?"