Authors: Sean Michael
Unto Us the Time Has Come
By Sean Michael
Last Christmas, Kenn Greyson gave husband Chris Martenson an ultimatum—spend more time with the family or we’re leaving. He never expected Chris’s reply would be “then leave,” but that’s exactly what happened, and Boxing Day took on a whole new meaning.
Separated for nearly a year now, both men are miserable apart and coping the best they can for the kids’ sake. With Christmas just around the corner, a new conflict arises: neither man is willing to forego Christmas morning with their children. Chris finally suggests they spend the holiday together at the house and, to his shock, Kenn agrees.
Armed with the knowledge that he’s been a stubborn idiot, but that perhaps he can change and begin to repair their relationship, Chris takes steps to win his husband back. He just hopes he can get Kenn on the same page before Santa comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve.
I don’t want to go to Da’s! I want to stay here and go to Holly’s for her birthday!”
Jesus fuck, six-year-old girls could scream. Kenn’s head was going to explode like an overripe melon. Just
. “Honey, your Da has you this weekend. It’s not up to me.”
“But he won’t take me! He has to work on his ’puter, and Holly lives here in the ’partments!”
“Sarah Jane, enough! I will talk to your da, okay?” Because that was his favorite thing on earth, talking to his ex. His soon-to-be ex. Whatever.
“Promise?” Just like that, the sunshine shone through the thunderstorm. “Oh, Daddy. Thank you!”
“I said I’d talk to him. No promises. Micah, get your backpack. It’s time to go to your Da’s.”
“Good. Da has the big TV. This one sucks.”
Ah, eight going on thirty. What bliss.
“I know, son. I’m sorry, huh? This was what I could afford.” Being a starving artist was way more romantic when your husband was paying all the bills and fronted the cost of the studio. Now he had two part-time jobs and a two-bedroom apartment where he slept on the sofa.
Amazing what an ultimatum could cost a guy.
“Whatever. It’s cool, Dad.”
It’s cool, Dad.
So casual, so easy. Micah was growing up so fast.
The knock came at the door, and Sarah went screaming past him. “Da! Da! Da!”
God, he hated when Chris came here. He had to be at work in an hour, though. The coffee shop counted on his weekend hours, and he counted on them too.
Sarah’s dark curls bounced everywhere, the wild mass as untameable as his daughter was. She threw the door open, wrapped her arms around Chris, and squealed. “Da! There’s a party at Holly’s!”
“Right now?” Chris asked, giving Sarah a bear hug and making her squeal again.
“No, silly Da! Tomorrow! Daddy, tell him.”
Kenn looked into the deep dark eyes he’d fallen in love with fifteen years ago. Chris was still the finest man he’d ever seen. He resisted the urge to smooth his hair. Not that it mattered. Chris wouldn’t even look at him for more than a second. “Tomorrow at three. It’s here in the complex. I have the invitation. I told Sue, Holly’s mom, we were a maybe.”
Chris sighed, and Kenn refused to notice the dark bags under Chris’s eyes—he wasn’t the only one who was tired.
“Please, Da! I wants to go to the party. Daddy would let me go.”
“I don’t know, honey. There’s a snowstorm coming in and I have a late phone call tonight and I thought we’d have a family weekend.”
Right, because they were still a family. Kenn wasn’t bitter, though. Oh no, not him.
Chris shot an unhappy look in his general direction as Sarah started crying. Like it was his fault. “Look, sweetie, if it’s not snowing, I’ll bring you, okay? If not, I’ve got ice cream and we’ll buy a cake so you won’t miss out.”
Kenn always thought it must be nice, being the fun dad.
“And we’ll get her a present?” Sarah asked. “A new Barbie?”
“God, can we just go?” Chris grabbed her pink backpack, which was next to the door. “Micah? Are you ready, son?”
“Right here.” Micah rolled his eyes. “See you Sunday, Dad.”
Kenn nodded. “I’ll make lasagna.”
He hated this part. Hated it. Hated being alone in his shitty apartment, hated being the oldest man ever to pour coffee for a living, hated being without his Mister Right. Still, it had all been his fault.
Spend more time with us and less at the office or we’re leaving.
He’d never expected Chris to say, “Then leave.”
Boxing Day had whole new connotations now. While it used to mean boxing up the decorations and whatnot to him, now it meant putting his whole life into boxes.
Shit, they hadn’t even talked a little bit about what they were going to do for Christmas this year. They’d never spent it apart, even if last year Chris had left at six to go deal with “an emergency” at work. Which had been what had prompted his ultimatum.
“I’ll drop them off at six.” Chris’s words brought him out of his thoughts.
“Yeah. Sure. Okay. We’ll have to discuss the holidays.” Thanksgiving had been a nonissue. Chris had been overseas in Dubai and he’d taken the kids to his parents for the whole long weekend.
“You just had them for Thanksgiving,” Chris bit out. “I assumed I’d have them for Christmas.”
“The whole holiday?” No. No way. Sarah was still little, still excited about Santa, and next year she might not be.
“Christmas Day,” Chris told him.
“Can we talk about this later?” When the kids weren’t watching them with worried eyes.
“Sure. I’ll have Anita call you to set up an appointment.”
“Yeah.” Kenn refused to let his hurt show. He was just another inconvenience these days. He supposed he ought to feel grateful the kids were still important to Chris. “You guys have a great weekend. I’ll miss you.”
Micah rolled his eyes, but Sarah ran to hug him. “I miss you already.”
“Yeah, me too.” He locked the door behind them and went to find his uniform shirt. Time to get to work. He had to buy a new Christmas tree, decorations, presents. Single dads had no time for tears.
a sip of his double-double and glanced at his watch. Kenn was late, goddamn it. He only had a half-hour window before he had to head uptown for a working dinner with the CEO of Leonard Dynamics. And if he sat here for too long without anything to do, he was going to fall asleep right where he was. God, he was tired. Without Kenn and the kids, there was no reason to go home, and he’d been practically living in the office the last year.
He grabbed his phone out of his pocket and began making speaking notes for the Drumheller meeting tomorrow. Or possibly the day after tomorrow; he couldn’t remember. It would be in his diary. Anita kept it scrupulously up-to-date.
The door flew open, and Kenn rushed in, covered in snow. “Hey, Jules. No. Just a drip. Yeah, I’m on the schedule for every day this week.”
Even in the heavy coat and accoutrements, Kenn looked like the guy Chris had met in university—skinny, bald, eyes huge and bright, bright green.
“Sorry. Sarah’s dance teacher was running late.” Kenn sat, coffee in hand. “Micah’s at his skating lessons.”
“It’s fine. I have to go at five sharp, though.” It would take him a half hour to get to the restaurant, if he was lucky. Between the weather and the proximity to Christmas, rush-hour traffic was going to be a bitch.
Chris tried not to think too hard about how sexy Kenn looked, about how he still loved the stubborn asshole. Or about how much he wanted to get rid of those bags under Kenn’s eyes, the tense set of his shoulders. It wasn’t right. Kenn was supposed to be making art and looking after their babies. Chris was supposed to make sure they had the money for that to happen. Why couldn’t Kenn have understood he had to work hard to provide for everything they needed? From a roof over their heads to the best ballet shoes money could buy to a nice fat nest egg for the kids’ schooling.
“I won’t keep you. I was thinking, if you want, you can have them the week before Christmas and I can have them late Christmas Eve? Your folks like to do Christmas Eve.”
The whole week before Christmas? What the hell was that? “I want them Christmas morning. I hardly ever see them. I want to be there when they open their gifts.”
“And I am the one who’s dealt with all the details. I want to see them open the gifts from Santa,” Kenn insisted.
“And what exactly am I supposed to do with them the week before Christmas? Bring them to work with me?” He was avoiding the question of Christmas morning because he wasn’t in the mood for a screaming match in the middle of the coffee shop. He wasn’t budging on getting to see the kids open their gifts either, though.
“You have almost ten weeks of leave built up. Take it.” Kenn looked furious now, not to mention utterly knackered. “I will lose both my jobs if I miss a day that week.”
Two jobs. His fucking creative artist was working two jobs. It wasn’t like he wasn’t helping with the kids, because he was. His money had to stretch to two households now, though, and all their extracurriculars. Plus he needed to keep feeding the university fund.
He sighed. “Fine. I’ll juggle some stuff and take them the week before Christmas. I’ll bring them home Christmas Day at noon.” That seemed fair to him.
Kenn’s face fell, and he saw those amazing eyes shimmer, then Kenn shook his head. “I want them Christmas morning. That’s special to me.”
“You think it isn’t special to me?”
Did Kenn really think he didn’t give a shit for the kids? For Kenn himself? This separation was not his idea. Shit, he’d been calling Kenn’s bluff when he’d said, “Then leave.” He’d never for a moment thought Kenn actually would.
“You mean if someone doesn’t call you in to work?” Kenn shot back at him.
“That was an emergency.” If the company had lost that overseas contract, he’d have been out of a job. Then where would they have been?
“There’s always an emergency. There’s always a trip or a phone call, or anything or anyone that will keep you from having to deal with us.”
“Or keep me from losing my fucking job. Did that ever occur to you? That if I hadn’t left that night to deal with the shit hitting the fan, I would have been in the unemployment line?”
Jesus, they didn’t even live together anymore and it was the same fucking argument.
“Yeah. Yeah, I hear you. It’s tough to be that important to someone, for everyone to need you.” Kenn didn’t sound like he was being sarcastic at all.
Chris just stared for a moment, then looked at his watch. He downed his coffee. “I have to get moving. I’ll take them on Friday night, keep them for the week, and bring them back Christmas Day at eleven.” Look at him, giving in by an hour.
“Christmas Eve at ten p.m.”
He shook his head. No way. “Christmas Day, ten a.m.” The kids were going to be up at the crack of dawn anyway.
“Bring them in the car late, then. Midnight.”
“That’s not fair to them. Nine a.m., but that’s my final offer—I’m giving up Christmas breakfast with them for that.” That was one of their traditions. Stockings at the end of their beds, Santa’s gifts when Daddy and Da were up, then breakfast before they unwrapped the rest of the gifts. That’s how they’d done it every year since they’d adopted the kids—Micah just three, his baby sister newly born.
Kenn’s shoulders dropped, his face falling. “I hate this.”
“And I don’t? Tell you what. You hate it so much, you come back to the house Christmas Eve and we both get them in the morning,” Chris suggested. Like Kenn would agree to that. Not his stubborn butthead of an almost ex-husband.
“Okay. That works for me.”
Chris blinked a few times, but there was no damn way he was backing down. “Good, that’s settled. I have to go.”
He got up and grabbed his briefcase, heading off before he could say anything else moronic. What had he just gotten himself into?
to pick the kids up from the babysitter’s after his ten-hour shift, get them fed, and have Micah at school for his Christmas pageant on time.
Now he and Sarah had an hour to kill, and Sarah was in full meltdown mode. “Daddy! You didn’t let me finish my nuggets!”
“I told you we were in a hurry.” He sat on the steps right inside the school doors. God, he was tired. Like deep down. Between the coffee shop and the toy store, he was putting in forty-eight hours a week right now, and he was scheduled for, what? Eighty plus the week before the actual holiday. Thank God Chris had agreed to take the time off to have the kids that week. And without too much of an argument at that. Maybe it was a Christmas miracle or something.
Of course, now he was stuck spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Chris. In the house he said he’d never go back to.
Was it sick that he wanted to? That he wanted to be in Chris’s arms, have someone touch him? It wasn’t going to happen and he knew it. It was like he’d told Chris: it must be hard to be so important to someone. Kenn wasn’t important to anyone except the kids, and right now they just hated him for the apartment, the working, leaving Chris. Everything.