Birthday Guest – Amy Lane

If I Must picture
The first story I ever wrote that I didn’t self-publish was a Christmas story for the Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar titled If I Must.  It features practical Joel and absent-minded Ian, and a horrible (deceased) female cat named Manky Bastard, and it was sort of the beginning of my love affair with Christmas stories. That wonderful rush which started with  If I Must was followed by Christmas With Danny Fit, The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing CrittersPuppy, Car, and Snow andTurkey in the SnowMy Christmas story from Dreamspinner Press this year is titled Going Up, and  will be released on Christmas Day. I must say– the thrill of writing the Christmas story hasn’t dimmed one iota. Christmas with Danny Fit
TurkeyUpdate-Amy
As proof, I’m also releasing a story HERE from Riptide, titled Christmas Kitsch, and I’m so very excited about this one– it’s part of a charity bundle going to help homeless LGBT youth.
ChristmasKitsch_final
Still– a girl never forgets her firsts.   This story is a salute to Joel and Ian from that original story– and it’s titled If I Must Grow Older.  
* * * *

If I Must Grow Older

By Amy Lane

Ian looked around the apartment, making sure everything was in place.

Small cake with vanilla custard center chilling in the refrigerator?  Check.

Little banner that said “Happy Birthday”?  Check.

Fully set table, waiting on the take-out that would arrive any minute now?  Check.

Cleaned apartment and stocked refrigerator, so Joel didn’t have to go shopping the next day like he always went on Wednesdays?  Check.

Fully-brushed brown cat, blissed out in the middle of the floor?  Well, he wasn’t really part of Ian’s birthday surprise, but, yeah, Manky Bitch was a go!

Ian looked at his watch and then at the door, wondering where Joel was.  Because seriously, for once Ian had completely remembered the entire enchilada, yes, the whole shebang of domestic partnership.  After forgetting the day twice, and forgetting the year one of those times, Ian had finally remembered Joel’s birthday.

He was so happy.

Now, if only Joel could be here.  That would be truly amazing.

Suddenly Ian’s phone, which sat neatly and accounted for in the charger by the table, gave a ring.  Joel’s ring, actually, which was the theme from Jaws.  Joel had programmed it in, because he said that usually when he had to call Ian it was to remind him of something, and he felt bad because Ian must dread those calls.

Ian certainly dreaded this one—yes, he’d been distracted, because, well, the semester had just started and he was always distracted when he had to deliver lectures three times a week, but he couldn’t have screwed up that badly, right?  He’d remembered Joel’s birthday, right?

“’lo!” he said cheerfully, looking around the room one last time.  It really did look spiffy.

“E?”

Oh no.  Joel’s voice held that pained note in it.  That “Ian, I know you’re a bloody genius but you’ve forgotten to put on pants again,” note.

“I remembered.”

“No you didn’t.”

“No—I did!  I ordered dinner, and got a cake, and I even have a present picked out!”  Well, a gift certificate, because he hadn’t had time to order the thing he wanted Joel to buy with it.  Besides, it was for Joel’s bicycle, and Ian still didn’t know the first thing about bicycles.

“Papi,” Joel said slowly, “papi, what are you talking about?”

“You know, remembering.”

There was a pause on the other end of the line that made Ian make sure he had his pants on.  He should, because it was March and still cold outside, but still.  He’d definitely fucked this up somehow.

“Remembering what?” Joel asked cautiously.

Ian swallowed.  “Your birthday?”

“Uhm, papi?  It’s March.”

“Yeah?”

“My birthday’s in the fall.”

“But…”  Ian looked around the cleaned, decorated kitchen wildly, until his eyes fell on the calendar.  “Aha!” he said triumphantly, striding to the refrigerator.  “See?  See?  The calendar—the one that you set out—“

“I know which one it is,” Joel said mildly.

“It’s here in my handwriting!  See? I wrote it down!”

“No, I can’t see, because I’m at work.  Maybe you could read it to me.”

Joel’s voice held a smug note that Ian could not entirely trust.

“It says ‘Remember Joel’,” Ian said, his own smugness sort of deflated.  “Well, that’s rather vague, isn’t it?”

“Yes, a little,” Joel conceded.  “My bad.  Can you think of anything else that could possibly refer to, besides my birthday, which is on the whole other side of the calendar?”

“Uhm…”  Ian stalled.  “I don’t know.  Why aren’t you here?  If you’d been here, I wouldn’t have made this mistake!” He sounded petulant and childish, he knew, but dammit!  He’d been trying!  For three years he’d managed to remember to stop and eat at night and to pick Joel up from the airport when he went on trips and to take the cat to the vet and to do laundry on laundry days.  He’d worked so damned hard to be in the moment, to appreciate the here and now with his boyfriend as opposed to the ephemeral dance of numbers, meaning, and universe that occupied his brainpan.  Fuck-all!  He’d tried so hard to make his one person come first.

Joel’s voice held the exquisitely delicate ring of a porcelain figurine.  “Well, papi, the reason I’m not there is that Remember Joel means to remember to pick me up from work.  I took my bike in to get serviced, and you were going to pick me up so we could go to the gym, remember?”

Knock knock knock. 

“Oh hell,” Ian said succinctly.  “Hang on a minute.”  He made his way to the door and took the takeout from the bemused delivery boy, signing the slip with a generous tip, because, well, it wasn’t the kid’s fault Ian was a class A fuck-up.  Then he set what must have been $100 in delivery Italian food on his table and sighed into the phone.  “Can we, uhm, you know.  Just sort of…”

“How ‘bout we pretend it’s my birthday!” Joel said brightly.  “You come pick me up, you take me home, and we do all of those things you were planning to do, just like I really did turn thirty-one.  How’s that?”

“You’re going to turn thirty-one?” Ian asked disconsolately.  “I could have sworn it was twenty-eight.  That’s what I put on the cake.”

“Come get me, papi,” came the kind rejoinder.  “Come get me.  I will kiss you, and you will remember all of the important things, okay?”  His voice had gotten thicker, his Hispanic accent more prevalent, which is what happened when he was talking from his heart.

“Yeah, okay,” Ian said, still feeling stupid.

“Don’t forget to put the take-out in the fridge before you go.”

Oh hell.  Really?  Had he forgotten that too?  Yup. Sure as shit, the take-out was on the table.

He arrived at Joel’s work twenty minutes later, feeling sheepish and out of sorts.  Joel was standing under the overhang waiting for him in the warm spring drizzle.  After he’d dashed to the car, slid in, and stowed his backpack in the back, he greeted Ian with a breathless smile that Ian couldn’t help but return.

“You’re always so glad to see me, mate,” Ian said, feeling some of his disheartenment ease.

Joel used one hand to wipe the rainwater out of his goatee, and then grabbed the back of Ian’s head and pressed him forward for a long, deep, welcoming kiss.  It was long enough to melt the embarrassment from around Ian’s heart and allow him to relax his awkward limbs enough to hold Joel closer.

Joel pulled back and smiled some more, his teeth white in his dark face.  “I am always glad to see you,” he said earnestly.  “Did you really plan me a birthday?”

Ian nodded.  “I just… you know.  I always forget it.  I figured this time, I could make it… you know.  Special.”

The laughing smile faded, to be replaced by earnestness.  Joel’s warm brown eyes were stone-cold sober.  “Papi, you have a heart as big as the world. You try so hard—and mostly, you succeed.  It’s okay if I get two birthdays this year—or even only one, ci?”

Ian smiled a little, because just being in the car with him, smelling his wet-animal smell, feeling the heat and condensation coming off his body—all these things grounded him here in the now, and they were all amazing.

“Ci,” he said quietly.  “And who knows—one of these years, I may get it right.”

“You take all the time you want, papi.”  Joel grinned again.  “If I must grow older two birthdays a year, I’m glad that it’s with you.”

73 thoughts on “Birthday Guest – Amy Lane

  1. I purchase my winter/holiday books throughout the year and save them for December. I have all the ones you listed all ready to read. It’s going to be like an Amy Lane fest since you have so many, and because I haven’t read them before, I’m really looking forward to next month. I also pre-ordered the bundle at Riptide, so I’m going to have even more December goodness, even though they start being released in November. I just love to surround myself with all the good feelings and hope this time of year creates, and feeling so grateful that I have this wonderful life. (Yup, I’ll be watching that movie, too!) Thanks for sharing with us!

  2. I love your Xmas stories too 🙂 I have all of them, well except for the new ones coming out, lol. Thanks for joining Amber’s BB.

  3. Oh – I loved If I Must. Now I have to read it again. I have all but one of the ones you listed, I need to look for it! Thanks for the short!

  4. Thanks for the short story. I definitely need to read some more of your books! Thanks for stopping by Amber’s BB and introducing me to your books!

  5. What a great way to start Monday off with a smile. I need to find “If I must” and read it. I adore Christmas themed stories.

  6. Amy, I loved ‘If I Must’. I think it was the first book of yours that I read and I was hooked. Ian & Joel are so absolutely adorable. This was the best way to start a Monday. Thank you for this wonderful, sweet peek at one of my favorite pairings ever. And a very happy birthday to you Amber, I hope it is filled with nothing but wonderful surprises.

  7. I liked the first story and this was great reminder of Ian and Joel. I am going to retread it today. I like Amy Lane’s Christmas stories, and can’t wait of the new one.

  8. This little story was great. Some of the books I like to reread is If I Must and your knitting series.

  9. Thanks for the visit with Ian and Joel. Love those guys!
    I so enjoy your Christmas stories. I’m looking forward to
    Christmas Kitsch.

  10. Ohhh.. that story was so sweet! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!~ I’ll definitely be checking out the original~!!

  11. Awww…sweet, sweet story. And Turkeys in Snow is still one of my all time favorite stories. I will also admit to having a real soft spot for Christmas stories, love them. Buy them constantly. Thanks Amy!

    1. You guys are all SO AWESOME! I had no idea Joel and Ian were so well loved– thanks for the lovely comments!!! And I ADORE writing Christmas stories. There is something really pure in the that belief that we can find the best of someone when we reveal the best in ourselves 🙂

  12. I have most of the stories listed by Amy so I’ll have to check out the other ones that I don’t have. Thanks for the lovely story.

  13. It’s been awhile. I’m going to have to read about Manky Bastard again. This little vignette is sweet. I’m terrible at dates,so I sympathize.

  14. Happy Birthday Amber!!!!!

    Hi Amy! Thanks so much for writing more about Joel and Ian!!! I’ve always loved them. I have read that book a few times! it was nice to see more of them. Maybe we’ll see more of them again! Can’t wait for more books, I am never disappointed!!!

  15. Aw, now I want to go reread If I Must. I love Christmas stories and have pre-ordered the Riptide collection. Can’t wait to read them. 🙂

    And Happy Birthday, Amber!

  16. What a great snippet. I loved If I Must. Ian is so adorable and I am glad he has someone to love him and his quirky forgetfulness and truly understands it’s the thought that counts.

  17. I love Ian and Joel. Thanks for the chance to revisit them. My excuse for forgetting things is old age not smarts.

  18. I’ve enjoyed all of the Christmas stories of yours that I have read. I’ll have to give this one a read.

    Brandi

  19. I loved it! Those guys are great and it would be great if they showed up for Valentines Day! Of course don’t forget the chocolate

  20. Thanks for that Amy, I’m so glad that Ian and Joel are still together. I miss Manky Bastard. Time to go dig out the story on my e-reader to have a fun re-read.

  21. Thank you for the story! It’s always fun to have a little more to read about characters we enjoy. Thanks!

  22. Loved it! I just bought your Ethan in Gold and can’t wait to read it. Thanks to Amber for having such great author friends and inviting them to visit in November.

  23. Lovely. I’ve always enjoyed your Christmas stories and I’m looking forward to the newest one from Riptide.

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