Chocolate and Socks by Dev Bentham

/ Dev Bentham / 2019

“Clare’s the queen of Christmas stories. I wanted to write her a Christmas flash as a thank you for having me on. My book of little gay romances is made up of stories like this—just a little romance to brighten the day.”

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Chocolates and socks

“What did you get Dad for Christmas your first year together?” Taylor didn’t look at his mom, just stared down at the edge of the kitchen table, which still had the nick he’d made in it at ten. He’d gotten in a lot of trouble, but fifteen years later the blemish reminded him he was home.

Across the table, his mother had a faraway look in her eye as she drummed her fingers on her coffee cup. “I knit him a hat. He wore it for years until it just about fell apart. Now he keeps it in a drawer upstairs.”

Taylor looked up. “What did he get you?”

She laughed. “A box of chocolates and some warm socks. He called it luxury and comfort on a student budget. Even though our first date was in November, I already knew he was the one.”

“Socks? Not exactly a romantic gift.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. For a girl who’s feet were always cold, warm socks were a perfect gift.”

Taylor stared out the kitchen window at his father, who lounged in a lawn chair reading a book, just like he had every Saturday morning for Taylor’s entire life. He had one of Taylor’s mom’s handmade quilts draped over his legs against the cold.

He glanced back at his mother. “How did you know he was the one?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I just did. Does this concern Miguel, the fabulous potter, amazing cook and excellent dancer?”

Taylor blew out a long breath. “I don’t have a clue what to get him. I mean, we’ve only been together a few months, but I really like him. I want to give him something special, but I don’t have a lot of money and he’s so self-sufficient I can’t think of anything he actually needs.”

“Make him something. Homemade is always special.”

Taylor smiled at his mom. “Like a hat? I don’t know how to knit.”

She shrugged. “But I know you know how to sew because I taught you myself.”

Taylor snorted. “Look, Honey, I made you this nice pair of curtains. I don’t think so. Miguel is so creative and smart. He makes beautiful things for a living. I can’t give him something lame. I want it to be spectacular.”

His mom lifted a shoulder. “I’m sure he’ll appreciate anything you give him. How about chocolates and socks? It worked for me.”

Taylor looked out at his father again. It was a cool November day but he looked warm and content all wrapped up in the brightly colored quilt.

He turned back to his mom. “How long does it take to make a quilt?”

She cocked her head and considered him. “Depends on the size of your fabric pieces. If you put your mind to it, you could probably make a simple yarn tied quilt in a weekend.”

“Will you show me how?”

She patted his hand. “Of course. Miguel is a nice boy. I’d be glad to help.”

A few hours later, Taylor went home with a bag full of fabric and batting and a rudimentary design for putting big blocks together into what his mom called a weekend throw. Between work and school and spending as much time with Miguel as possible, Taylor was sure it would take him much longer than a weekend, but he had almost two months. It was worth a try.

***

December 24th was cold with snow in the forecast. Taylor stared at the not-quite-finished quilt and all he saw were the flaws—the puckering along one seam, the square he’d put in backward and the line of yarn ties that stopped halfway across the throw. He wanted to toss the thing in the trash and go out to buy Miguel something nice, but it was too late for that. Anything he bought now would have that last-minute-I-forgot-you feel and that was the last thing he wanted Miguel to think.

With a sigh, he folded the quilt and slid it into the gift bag he’d made out of one large piece of his mother’s fabric. So far, Miguel had been willing to put up with all Taylor’s imperfections. Maybe he’d show the same grace in accepting the quilt.

He slid it under the tiny tree he and Miguel had decorated together the weekend before and went to the kitchen to turn the roast. By the time the doorbell rang, Taylor had consoled himself that even if the quilt was a failure, dinner wouldn’t be half bad. People always said the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. Taylor certainly hoped that was true.

He ran a hand through his hair and straightened his collar before opening the door. And there was Miguel. Taylor’s heart swelled at the sight of him, strong, handsome, with a warm smile that sent shivers all the way down to Taylor’s toes.

“Merry Christmas.” Taylor loved the honey-rich sound of Miguel’s voice.

Taylor stepped back and let Miguel through, then shut the door and wrapped his arms around him and kissed him. His lips were familiar and exciting and Taylor forgot about all his insecurities. Because this was Miguel, the man who really was perfect, or at least perfect for Taylor.

When they broke, Miguel thrust a gift-wrapped box at him. “I made this for you.”

“I made you something, too.” Taylor took his hand and led him to the tree. He picked up the bulky package and passed it to Miguel.

“You made this?” Miguel turned the bag over in his hand. “It’s beautiful.”

Taylor blushed. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. We’ll see what you think when you open it up.”

He pulled Miguel down on the couch with him and hefted the gift-wrapped box. “What did you make me?”

Miguel smiled. “Open it and find out.”

Taylor slid his finger under the wrapping paper and carefully pulled it off. He opened the cardboard box. His breath caught. Inside, nestled in crumpled newspaper, lay a large ceramic wine glass decorated with swirls of blue and purple glaze. The pattern seemed to dance in the light when Taylor held it up. He didn’t think he’d ever seen anything as beautiful.

Miguel murmured, “It’s a loving cup. Big enough for two.”

“I love it.” I love you. Taylor held his gaze, overwhelmed that this amazing man had come into his life.

Miguel undid the tie on Taylor’s homemade gift bag. Slowly he pulled out the quilt and spread it across both their knees. After a moment, he looked at Taylor, wide-eyed. “You really made this?”

Taylor frowned. “Such as it is.”

“What do you mean? It’s the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received.” Miguel stroked the fabric. He smiled at Taylor. “A beautiful gift. Just like the man who made it. And look, it is also big enough for two.” He wrapped the quilt around both their shoulders and pulled Taylor close. “I like it very much. I like you very much.”

“Yes,” Taylor whispered and surrendered to Miguel’s kiss.

When they broke, Miguel ran his hand along Taylor’s cheek. “I like that we gave each other gifts from our own hands. Gifts from the heart. It means we fit together. A perfect match.”

Taylor stared into Miguel’s warm brown eyes. Eyes he could get lost in for the rest of his life. “Perfect. Like chocolate and warm socks.”

Miguel’s eyebrows rose.

Taylor shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Merry Christmas.”

A first Christmas. But not the last.

copyright Dev Bentham / 2019
Author of soulful gay romance