Rooftop Wishes and Moonlight Kisses, A Winter Solstice Short Story
Nick pushed open the door to the rooftop of Tay’s LA apartment building, juggling a blanket, a bottle of red wine, and his guitar. Tired from another week of retail sales, with only four more days until Christmas, he wondered why he’d accepted Tay’s invitation to ring in the winter solstice by watching the lunar eclipse. Only Tay…. It was a thought he’d had many times since they’d met at that open mic night half a year ago.
Only Tay got him talking endlessly and made him laugh until his stomach hurt.
Only Tay made him blush with his tales of erotic gay adventures in Weho, grinning at him as his cheeks burned.
Only Tay cheered him up after Karyn had dumped him by taking him shopping for the tightest pair of jeans he’d ever owned, and then getting him drunk on Zombies.
Only Tay sang like an angel while looking as wicked as the Devil himself.
Only Tay sent him texts at three a.m. about the music he was listening to, complete with seven exclamation points.
Only Tay pestered him about continuing to write and perform, insisting that Nick bring his guitar and play him his songs whenever they got together.
Only Tay… his thoughts stopped when he stepped out on the roof and saw the circle of candles on the floor, their soft flickers casting light and shadows over the secluded space.
The winter twilight was fast dwindling but he could make out Tay, draped over a lounge chair.
“Ah, there you are. Come and sit.” Tay gestured grandly to the empty chair beside him.
“What’s with the candles?” Nick walked over and deposited the wine and blanket on Tay’s lap, then sat down with his guitar.
“Winter solstice, lad. We’re celebrating the lights in the darkness. Shortest day of the year, capped by a lunar eclipse? This hasn’t happened in centuries! It’s a magical time.”
Nick lounged, idly strumming his guitar, contented to listen to Tay’s seemingly endless stream of words.
“Magical and mystical,” Tay continued. “We’re going to let go of all the negative energy from this past year, burn it up in the flames, sit in the darkness, and then light new candles for everything we want in the coming year.”
“Sounds rad,” Nick said. “I wrote a little ditty full of negative energy today.”
“Oh?” Tay sounded excited, as always, at the prospect of new music from Nick.
Nick cleared his throat, struck a chord, and sang:
Strafe the store with bombs of jolly
Fa la la la la la la fuck you.
Tis the season to come to the mall-ee
Fa la la la la la la fuck you
Steal the parking spot
Flip the bird a lot
I need to smoke some pot
Fa la la la la la la fuck you
“What the hell?” Tay burst out laughing. “Working retail getting you down?”
“You could say that. So, where’s the pot?”
“I’m all out, sorry. We’ll have to make do with this fine red wine you brought.” Tay lifted the bottle and inspected the label.
“Only the finest. $3.99 at Trader Joe’s.”
“Wow, not the Two Buck Chuck? I’m impressed. You didn’t happen to bring a corkscrew, did you?”
“It’s twist top. Like I said, only the finest.”
“Hmm.” Tay twisted the cap off of the wine bottle. “No glasses either, I see. Okay.” He put the bottle to his lips.
Nick stared at Tay’s lips around the bottle and watched the movement of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed the wine, feeling a flicker of heat in his groin. When Tay took the bottle away and smiled over at him, licking his lips exaggeratedly, Nick lowered his eyes, happy for the guitar sitting on his lap.
Tay handed over the wine and Nick accepted it, acutely aware of the brush of their fingertips. He took a long swig, rubbing the dribble away with the back of his hand, then looked over to find Tay staring at his mouth.
It was Tay’s turn to drop his eyes. He cleared his throat, then said brightly, “Well! Time to burn away the negativity from this past year. You’re supposed to write stuff down on pieces of paper then put them in the fire but since all I got are these candles and no paper, I guess we can just say ‘em to each other and, like, pretend-throw them into the candles.”
Nick sank back into his seat, then lifted the bottle to his mouth once more, wishing he could figure out how to get Tay to make a move. It was this starting out as friends deal. Well, and also starting out as straight – that might have had something to do with Tay not hitting on him. After all, when they’d met, Nick was still dating Karyn, more through force of habit than anything else.
So, what’m I gonna say? “Uh, Tay, my bi-ness snuck up on me. I know you think I’m straight but, uh, is it straight to beat off every night while fantasizing about you going down on me?”
Even that was a lie. His bisexuality hadn’t “snuck up” on him, it had hit him like a revelatory bolt of lightning when he’d walked into that open mic night six months ago and seen a long-legged, black haired sex god with freckles, bright blue eyes, and the sweetest smile ever, sitting on a stool and singing. Tay’s voice alone had made Nick and everyone else in the room want to make passionate love to him, but add the body and face it came in, and Nick had been infatuated from the get go.
“… and then we blow the candles out and we’ll sit in the darkness, which will be really cool tonight because of the lunar eclipse, and then we’ll create our wishes and stuff for the next year. And with each wish, we’ll light a candle for that possibility and…”
As he listened to Tay talk on, Nick thought not for the first time how lucky he was to have Tay as a friend, because Tay was an awesome friend. He listened so well, he was truly interested in what Nick had to say. He was full of life and fun and ideas, and he’d talk until Nick fell asleep on him. It was great, though, because Nick had become something of an insomniac since he’d moved out to LA for college, and he soon discovered that no time was too late to call Tay. Even if Nick woke him up, Tay would dive right in and continue the conversation like they’d never stopped talking.
“Nick? Are you listening?”
“Huh? Oh yeah, yeah, all of that sounds good.”
Tay laughed. “Liar. I can always tell when you’re thinking of something else. Who is she? Someone cute come into the store today?”
“Naw, just a bunch of parents and rude jerks.” He wished Tay would stop talking about Nick and women, although he’d given him no reason to. Still, it seemed like Tay went overboard with it, almost like… well, whatever. “This ritual thing is cool. So, for our burning up the negative, how ‘bout we put the blanket down and sit on it so we can get close to the candles?”
Tay ruffled his hair and Nick practically shivered under his touch. “Brilliant! But hand me that wine first.”
Tay did seem to touch him a lot, Nick had noticed, but he was like that with all his friends. He handed Tay the wine bottle, set his guitar down, and got out of the lounge chair. Grabbing the blanket off Tay’s lap, he spread it out on the tar-colored surface and then sat cross-legged, gazing at the circle of candle flames.
Tay settled beside him, sitting crosslegged himself, his knee touching Nick’s. They stared at the candles for a while, then Tay handed Nick the wine bottle. Nick took a nice long swig and offered it back to Tay, but he shook his head.
“Okay,” Tay said, his eyes on the candles. “So let’s start by giving all of our negative shit to the candles to burn up, so we can ring in the new year fresh.”
Nick drank in Tay’s profile as he talked, admiring his handsome face illuminated by the flames. When Tay glanced over, Nick clamped shut his mouth which had begun to hang open stupidly, then opened it to say, “Yeah, okay. Uh, you first.”
“Okay.” Tay turned back to gaze at the candles. When he spoke, it was with a slow and thoughtful tone. “I’m giving to the candle flames all the times that I’ve doubted myself this year, and wondered if I’m ever going to make it as a singer.”
“That’s a good one,” Nick commented as Tay mimed throwing something into the candlelight. “Because if anyone’s going to make it, you are.”
“Aw, thanks. Okay, your turn.”
“Okay. Hmm. I’m gonna burn up all the crap that I go through with my job, so I can remember that it’s not gonna be forever and I’m lucky I have a job.”
“Amen, brother. Wait, you forgot to throw it into the flames. Come on!”
Nick took both his hands and made as if he was dropping something heavy on top of the candles.
“Excellent!” Tay clapped and wiggled a little, smiling delightedly.
Nick snorted out a laugh. “You’re such a kid. Okay, what’s your next one?”
They went back and forth, letting go of negatives, as the sky grew steadily darker.
“Holy fuck, look at the moon!” Tay cried and Nick looked up.
The moon was halfway eclipsed, eerie and mysterious, draped in tendrils of dark clouds.
“Woo, that’s some mystical shit.” Nick grinned, feeling silly with wine and their ritual, but when he lowered his gaze, he noticed Tay staring into the flames with a somber, almost sad expression.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
Tay glanced over at him with a wry smile. “How do you always know? Okay, I’m going to burn up this… um, like this wanting to be with someone, wanting to be with a person, or… or people that I can’t have. I want to find love and I’m burning up anything that’s getting in the way of that.”
Tay averted his eyes and seemed to concentrate mightily on dropping his imaginary woes on to the candle flames.
Nick cleared his throat. “Oh. I didn’t know you were, um, like, hung up on someone that you can’t have.” He rested his gaze on the candlelight, trying to think who it might be out of the constant stream of men that roamed in and out of Tay’s life.
“That’s good,” Tay muttered.
Nick continued, barely registering Tay’s words. “I mean, that’s actually kinda hard to believe, that there’s someone you wouldn’t be able to have. Loser, whoever that is. Who wouldn’t want you?” He stopped short, blushing, as he heard what he’d just said.
Silence. The candles flickered, flames beginning to dance crazily in the soft breeze.
When Nick finally chanced a glance at Tay, he’d drawn his legs up with his arms around his knees and was resting his chin on them, while he studied the ring of candles with a moody expression.
Nick reached out to touch Tay’s arm, but let his hand fall away, instead drawing up his own legs and wrapping his arms around them. Tay seemed to have stopped talking for now and Nick was seized with a need to connect, to offer him something. What better to offer him than honesty?
Staring at the circle of light, Nick said slowly, “Yeah. I’m gonna let go of hiding out, pretending to be someone I’m not. That’s the last part of the negative junk that I need to get rid of.”
Tay turned his head. “I don’t get that you hide out or pretend, though. What’s that about?”
Nick couldn’t look at him. “Believe me, I’ve been hiding some things.” He took a deep breath and pantomimed emptying his pockets, then shook out everything onto the flames. When he finally turned to Tay, he found himself pinned by the intensity in Tay’s blue eyes.
The darkness grew.
“Should—um, is it time to blow out the candles?” Nick wished Tay would stop staring at him like that.
“What have you been hiding?”
“I’ll tell you, only, let’s blow out the candles first.”
Tay stared at him a moment longer, then nodded. “Good idea. The eclipse is almost total now. Let’s sit in the darkness and you can tell me.”
Nick swallowed over the silly lump in his throat. “Yeah.” He leaned forward and blew out most of the candles in one breath while Tay leaned over him to blow out the rest.
They sat in darkness, the bright moon only a small wedge, as it surrendered to the shadow. Nick shivered.
“You okay?” Tay whispered.
“Yeah. Um, can we lie down and look up at the sky?”
“Yeah, good idea.”
They stretched out on the blanket, arms touching, heads close, and stared up at the night.
“I’ve been hiding that I’m attracted to you,” Nick said, keeping his eyes on the stars and the rapidly disappearing moon. “I’m not straight, I don’t think. I never gave it much thought. I met you and… I knew right away.”
“What did you know?” Tay’s voice sounded strained, like he was having a hard time getting air.
“That I want you.” Nick heard the sharp intake of a breath. The moon glimmered, a mere sliver of light. “And then, we became friends, which made it worse.”
“Worse?” Tay’s voice was barely a whisper and Nick felt the trembling of Tay’s arm where it pressed against his. He wondered at the fact that he himself was calm, practically “Zen,” as Tay would say.
They turned their heads toward each other at the same time. Their faces were inches apart, so close that Nick could feel Tay’s breath on his cheek.
“Yeah,” he whispered. “Worse, because now that I know you, I want you even more.”
The moon disappeared completely and darkness embraced them.
“Nick.” He heard Tay’s voice like a caress. “You can have me.”
He felt Tay’s fingers running through his hair, then cradling his head. His eyes closed as Tay’s warm, generous mouth found his and pressed in lingeringly, sensually.
When Tay pulled his lips away, Nick gasped, his heart racing. Tay kept his hand on Nick’s head, holding him there, his breathing heavy in the silence.
“Is this okay?” Tay whispered. “Is it what you want?”
“God, yes,” Nick blurted out.
Tay shifted his hand and he caressed Nick’s cheekbone. “I want it too. I’ve wanted you so bad, for so long.”
The slight hitch in Tay’s voice made Nick want to cry.
“You have?” Nick would have said more but Tay was slowly tracing over Nick’s bottom lip with his thumb.
“You don’t even know.”
Nick reached up blindly to touch Tay’s face and found his lips. He ran his fingertips along them, marveling at their softness, pausing and pressing in where he remembered the freckles being. Tay sighed. Nick felt a sharp twist of desire when the tip of Tay’s tongue flicked over his fingertip.
They moved as one, Nick pulling his fingers away and Tay dropping his hand on to Nick’s neck. They kissed, open and wet, tongues sliding against each other. Nick couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think – nothing existed except for the darkness and Tay’s tongue slowly exploring his mouth.
“Okay. Let’s create our wishes for the new year.”
Nick snuggled closer in the shelter of Tay’s arm as they sat with the blanket over their shoulders, facing the unlit candles.
“I already got my wish,” he said against Tay’s chest.
“So did I.” Tay tightened his arm around Nick. “I knew this night was supposed to be magical, but damn.”
“I guess I’m gonna wish for more of the same.” He felt the rumble of Tay’s laughter against his cheek.
“So eloquent, Nicholas. Uh, ditto. More of the same. Forever.”
“Or longer, if possible.”
Tay took his arm away, not without a sound of protest from Nick. “Be right back, silly,” he whispered, capturing Nick’s lips in a sweet kiss. “Okay, where did I put those matches? Aha!”
Nick ran his hand up and down Tay’s back while Tay struck a match and held it to the wick of a candle, then sat back to watch the flame grow.
Nick waited, but Tay wasn’t saying anything. “So… um, do we chant or something?”
Tay cracked up laughing. “You kill me.”
“That’s good, though, right?”
“That’s great,” Tay said, still laughing as he threw his arm back around Nick and held him close against his side.
“Thanks,” Nick whispered to the candle, and smiled.