Section A, Seats 22 and 23
Josie saves a seat.
I focused on the hot chocolate warming my hands as I tried to block out the buzz of the crowded rink. The edge of the hard plastic chair dug into my thighs, and I shifted in my seat to get more comfortable. Why I decided to wear a skirt to a hockey game, I’ll never know. I tugged my skirt down to protect my legs and allowed a small sigh of relief to escape my lips as the discomfort disappeared. Now settled in my seat, I scanned the seats around me as they filled with my coworkers. Groups of work friends sat together, laughing with the ease of people who had countless inside jokes and hundreds of shared experiences. I bit my lip as I searched the rows. Damn. She was supposed to be here already.
"Josie, right?" a guy I didn't know asked as he took the seat to the left of me. He took a sip of his beer and grimaced at the taste. "They never serve decent beer at these games."
He turned his attention back to me.
“You work in Research and Development, right?”
“Yeah,” I nodded and searched for something relevant to say. After too long of a pause, I spoke again. “Which department do you work in?”
“Community Outreach” he said.
He laughed and took another sip of beer.
“It means: I make sure our little software company sponsors science fairs and coding competitions for kiddos and rugrats. I’m Gino, by the way.”
He waved his hand in a small greeting. I hesitated for a moment, then smiled in return.
“Yeah, I know. I think we just covered that.”
I shrugged and laughed.
"These things make me a little nervous," I said, lifting my cup to take a sip. "I don’t usually show up for these team building events. Work parties aren't really my thing."
"What makes this one different?" he asked, draining the rest of his beer and settling into his chair. The steam from the hot chocolate fogged my glasses and I balanced my drink between my knees so I could wipe my lenses. I swiped the hem of my sweater against my glasses and then returned the frames to my face.
"I figured I should go to at least one of these a year, you know?” I lied. I tugged my sweater back into place. “Might as well make it the Christmas party. Tis the season and all that, you know?”
"I’m getting another beer. You want one?"
"No thanks, I’m good with hot chocolate."
“Another hot chocolate, then?”
“No. But thank you.”
The home team took the ice and the crowd roared in appreciation. I glanced at the rink and then returned my gaze to the stands. More coworkers took their seats in our section; my supervisor waved at me from the aisle and I waved back. I smiled politely as she mouthed ‘Merry Christmas’ and looked out of the corner of my eye to see if she had snuck in without me noticing.
"You’re not sitting with your friends in Research and Development?" Gino interrupted my thoughts.
"I don’t have many friends in Research And Development," I answered. "I mean, I don’t think any of them are planning on being here tonight."
"Yeah," he said. "When the boss man said our Christmas event was going to be a hockey game, then dinner, a few people bailed."
A rush of people entered the stands and I swiveled in my seat, hoping she was in this group of coworkers. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Still no sign of her. This waiting made me feel like I was holding my breath underwater.
She was supposed to be here. Her name was on the signup sheet.
"Hell," Gino said. "You can sit with us in Community Outreach." He waved to a few people in the aisle. They waved back and began to inch their way along the row towards him. As the group of smiling people moved closer, I forced the corners of my lips to turn up into a smile. All I could think as they moved into the seats on the other side of Gino was: 'where are you? where are you? where are you?'
"That’s so nice of you, but I’m saving this seat for my friend..." I began. Luckily for me, Gino’s attention was diverted by the group and he didn’t press the issue.
"Merry freaking Christmas," he bellowed, he raised his hand for high fives, which they all returned. He raised his bottle of beer and shook it. “You guys ready for some Christmas cheer?"
Gino’s friends laughed. One of them, a guy wearing a white sweatshirt, raised his hand to signal the vendor selling beer. I took the opportunity to turn around in my seat and face the entrance.
I could have sworn she said she was going to be here.
Within the next group of people, I saw caught a glimpse of a familiar tangle of black curly hair. I leaned forward in my seat and then I heard her signature laugh. I smiled to myself. I knew that laugh anywhere. Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh. Her laugh sounded like a series of happy surprises. I placed my hot chocolate on the floor and waved.
Finally. She showed up. I knew she would.
She stood in the aisle, talking to our CEO. She nodded as he spoke to her, and then laughed. Her emerald eyes scanned the stands and met mine from across the room; the chilly rink suddenly felt like a humid Louisiana swamp. My face flushed and I broke out in a sweat. I smiled and pointed to the seat next to me - she nodded and returned to her conversation. I forced myself to turn away and face the rink.
Keep it together, keep it together, keep it together, I thought.
After what seemed like a thousand years, I turned toward the aisle again. She was gone. Where was she? I panicked and searched the stands. The CEO had taken his seat, and the aisle was empty. My shoulders slumped as I whipped my head around the section. I held my breath until I saw her again.
She was walking right towards me.
I bit my lip as she edged her way through the crowded row. The seated people moved out of her way, but it still felt as if she moved toward me in slow motion. Before I could think of what to say, she took the seat next to me.
She smiled at me, and I smiled back.
"Merry Christmas," I said.
"Merry Christmas right back at you," she smiled.
She shivered in the frigid rink. Her hands moved in a blur as she buttoned up her coat and tugged the sleeves of her coat down around her fingers. The buzzer rang and the hockey game began. She clapped her hands and cheered as the players jostled on the ice. After she tucked her curls behind her ear, she clapped twice more and yelled to the team, cupping her hands around her mouth to make a megaphone.
“Let’s go! Let’s go! Give ‘em hell!”
Her curls bounced free as she cheered; she placed the strands behind her ears again, only for them to pop right back out again. I loved her curls.
Before I could talk myself out of it, I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a small silver glittery gift bag. The white and silver tissue paper rustled as I squeezed the bag. My hands shook as I held it out to her.
"So. Um," I began. "Merry Christmas." I shook my head and forced myself to slow down. You’re repeating yourself, I thought. Take your time and try again.
“I know we haven’t been seeing each other for very long. But, um. I thought I’d give you your gift now...instead of...uh...later.”
Her eyes grew wide and her smile nearly made me go blind.
"Awww, Josie! Thank you," she said. She placed her left arm around me and gave me a small hug. She took the gift from my hands and held it up to her ear. She shook it a little and grinned.
“What is it?” She asked. “A car? A rose bush? A bunch of bannanas?”
I laughed and shrugged.
“I guess you’ll have to open it and see.”
The CEO called her name from his seat; she turned to see what he wanted.
“Come here and meet my wife,” he called over the heads of our coworkers. “She’s planning a trip for us to Santa Fe, and I heard you just got back. She wants to ask you a few questions.”
She hesitated, then nodded. After a beat, she turned to face me again.
"Ok. So. Um. I’ll talk to you later."
The rest of the game went by in slow motion – the crowd cheered and booed and I had two more cups of hot chocolate. Gino and his friends hooted in laughter as each of them took their turns telling private jokes. The seat next to me sat empty for the rest of the game.
The buzzer sounded; the game was over. The CEO called out for everyone to meet for a company party at a restaurant three blocks from the rink. I gathered my empty hot chocolate cups and walked sideways along the row to the aisle. The crowd moved slowly up the stairs toward the exit. At the top of the stairs, I left the sea of people to threw out my cups and then rejoined the group.
An usher waved goodbye to me as I passed.
“Good night! Merry Christmas! Come back soon!” She smiled and waved. “We’re playing Denver next week...it’s gonna be a good game!”
I shook my head and smiled.
“I’m not that into sports,” I answered. “But thanks anayway. Oh, and Merry Christmas.”
As our group slowly inched toward the door, a pair of familiar red gloves tapped my elbow.
I turned. It was her. Of course it was her. She smiled motioned for me to come closer. I moved in and she kissed me. I blinked in surprise and she kissed me again. I tried to think of something clever to say, but all I could do was offer a goofy smile.
She reached down and felt for my hand. Once my hand was squarely in hers, she gave it a little squeeze. It drove me crazy that the gloves I bought for her Christmas present happened to be the thing that kept me away from her, no matter how soft and fuzzy they were. As if she read my mind, she tugged off her left glove and placed it in her pocket, then returned her hand to mine. Her skin felt warm and exciting, like Christmas morning.
“I’ve got an idea,” she stood in place as the crowd moved around her. “Let’s ditch the party. Maybe do our own thing. What do you think?”
I nodded and smiled. She smiled again and scanned the swarm of people.
“The way this line is going, though, we’ll be standing here until Valentine’s Day,” she said.
I bit my lip and looked at the floor.
“I won’t mind, as long as I’m holding your hand,” I mumbled.
“Oh, well, in that case, let’s make it the Fourth of July,” she teased.
As if we had rehearsed it, we both took two giant steps away from the exit. The herd of people shifted around us as we stood in place.
We held hands and hoped the line would last forever.
From the 1st – 24th of December authors of GLBT+ fiction will be opening a door to a selection of festive stories to while away the winter days and get you in the Christmas spirit.
Find stories from your favourite writers and discover some new ones along the way.
A small gift from us to you for all your support in 2018.
This page contains the masterpost of links to the authors and their stories as they are revealed throughout the event. You can find the 2017 masterpost here.
You can also join our Facebook group here to get notifications and spread the festive fun.