Christmas in Jasper (by Grant Bentley)

Christmas in Jasper

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

“Give it a rest, dipshit!” I yelled at my brother, Scott. “You’re supposed to be helping me clear the driveway.”

“I am,” he yelled as he picked up some snow and fired another snowball at me.

Not surprisingly, shoveling snow just wasn’t on his list of fun things to do. However, throwing snowballs at me was. Finally, I threw down my shovel and took off after him. He, of course, ran to the house screaming that I was going to beat him up. As he threw the kitchen door open and dashed into the house, the snow on his boots, combined with the vinyl floors, had him sliding through the kitchen, into the living room and right into my dad. As he stood there with snow dropping off his jeans and boots, creating a nice big puddle on the floor, guess who got into trouble? Right first try…me. I was told, in no uncertain terms, to stop fooling around and to stop picking on my brother so we could get the driveway cleared off in time to leave.

I immediately got a big grin from Scott, along with a hidden hand gesture. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had been such a pain in the ass when I was 14. I doubted it, because I had no one to be a pain in the ass to. He did…me. Unfortunately, I was the oldest child and therefore the mature one, the responsible one, and the one to set an example for my younger siblings. It seems that whenever my younger brothers did something stupid or forbidden, I caught crap. Apparently I should have known better than to let them do it. And that’s the way it’s been for as long as I can remember. Considering how much time my parents spend at home, sometimes I think my they have given up the responsibility of raising my brothers to me. Or maybe it’s just easier to yell at one kid rather than three. That way, they don’t have to remember three names, just one. They yell at me and it becomes my job to figure it out what’s going on and sort it out.

I guess maybe you should know a little about us. We are from Edmonton, the capital city of the province of Alberta. My dad is Ross Worthington. He’s 42 and a doctor with his own paediatric clinic. My mom is Lisa James-Worthington. I won’t tell you how old she is or I’ll get into trouble. She’s an interior designer and is a partner in a local designing firm. My brothers are Scott and Sean. Scott is 14, in grade 8. He plays hockey and snowboards in the winter and plays soccer in the summer. Sean is 13, in grade 7. He plays tennis, indoor in the winter and outdoor in the summer. He also plays badminton and handball and snowboards at the local ski hill with Scott. He is more like me and not remotely into team sports. Both are attending J.P. Morgan Middle School.

I’m Shane Worthington. I’m 17 and a senior at Jasper Place Composite High School. I play tennis in the summer, some handball, and figure skate and ski a bit in the winter. Of course, being in figure skating I have to be gay, right? Well, as much as I hate that all too common assumption, I prove it to be true. With the exception of my parents, however, I am hiding as deep in the closet as I can get and plan to stay there until I’m in university.

One day, Mom and I were watching a documentary on high school bullying. When the topic of bullying gays and gay teen suicides came up, she simply asked me if I would tell her if I was being bullied. I promised her that I would. Then she asked me if I would tell her if I was gay. My reaction to her question made it pretty obvious I was. She just smiled and pulled me into a hug. After I stopped crying, we talked. Apparently the posters of cute male actors like Zac Efron all over my room and the fact that I had never been on a date kinda gave me away. I guess she and Dad had thought about it and talked it over for almost a year, so they took it really well and made it very clear that I was loved without question.

We are the typical parental-careers-come-first family. We have all the toys money can buy; we just don’t have parents most of the time. Since I’m three and four years older than my brothers, as I said, I’m the ‘example’ for them to look up to. I must say that I am very fortunate though. For the most part, I get along with both Scott and Sean very well, and although I am the ‘authority figure’ much of the time, I seldom have to be.

So, Scott and I were – meaning I was – freeing the car from last night’s snow in preparation for our long-awaited trip to Jasper. Mom and Dad had been planning this vacation for months. I really wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but it was Christmas, and our parents were really happy to have the whole family with them. Because of their work schedules, they felt we needed to spend some time together bonding. At any rate, I was there shoveling snow and dodging snowballs. In a few hours, we’d be in Jasper, a picturesque little town in the Rockies, with lots and lots of snow.

Once we had the snow cleared and everything packed, we made our way from the city to the rented chalet in Jasper. We finally made it there late in the evening, after hours and hours of battling almost blizzard conditions on the road. What would normally be a four-hour trip had turned into a seven-hour trip. Mom and Dad were so tired that we didn’t even unload the car. We all had a hot chocolate and went to bed. Even Scott and Sean were tired, as they had stayed awake through most of the trip. With the visibility as bad as it was, I don’t think any of us felt safe enough to fall asleep in the car.

The next morning after breakfast, the three of us this time were cleaning off the car and driveway. I couldn’t believe there could be that much snow. The car had only been sitting there for six hours and there was at least eighteen inches of snow on it. After the car was free, we hauled all our stuff into the chalet, and we were on the way to Marmot Basin ski hill. Eighteen inches of snow on the car was a royal pain in the ass, but eighteen inches of fresh powder snow on the ski hill was a blast. All my misgivings about the trip were gone in the first five minutes. If you have never skied or snowboarded on fresh powder, you haven’t lived. It was awesome. Scott, Sean and I didn’t even stop for lunch. We were on the hill from 8:30 in the morning until 6:30 that night. Dad finally caught up to us and forced us to come into the ski lodge for dinner. After dinner, we were ready to go again, but Mom and Dad wanted to do some last-minute shopping for groceries, so despite a half hour of arguing and whining, we were on our way back to the chalet.

After resting for an hour or so, we headed into downtown. First we found a supermarket and bought a turkey and other groceries. We then took a walk around the downtown area. Our parents were in a good mood. I guess they were enjoying doing the ‘family thing’. Surprisingly, I was actually having fun looking around at all the decorations and shops. Scott wasn’t being particularly anything. He was there and that was about it. Sean was running here, there, and everywhere, and since he had insisted we bring a box full of tree decorations, he wanted to know where the tree lot was so we could get a Christmas tree.

After searching for a while, we found a tree lot. Another half hour and we had a really nice tree. As we were walking back to the car, it had started to snow again, and I was quite sure that by tomorrow morning I would find the car snowed in again. All I could think of was wondering why they didn’t build a garage or at least a carport next to the chalet? I hated cleaning off the car and shoveling the driveway. Then Scott made a comment about how great the powder would be again if it snowed all night, and suddenly, cleaning the car off didn’t seem so bad.

As we pulled in, Dad said, “Oh good, the Walshes are here,” as there was a car parked in the driveway next to ours.

As we were taking in the groceries and the tree, a lady, who I assumed was Mrs. Walsh, knocked on the door. She said they had arrived about an hour ago and wondered if we would like to come over for coffee or hot chocolate and, fresh from the bakery, cinnamon buns.

“We’d love to, thanks,” Mom replied.

“We’ll see you in a few minutes then,” Mrs. Walsh replied as she turned and left.

Mom then turned to me and asked, “Would you run out and grab the last couple of bags of groceries from the car please Shane?”

Just as I opened the door, a young guy appeared in the doorway.

“Hi I’m Paul,” he said, “I work here. It’s my job to clear snow from the roof of each chalet. It slides off those metal roofs real easy, so they like me to remove it before it gets heavy enough to slide off on its own and kill a guest.”

“Before it kills a guest…good plan,” I said with a grin.

“Well that’s the general idea,” he replied, chuckling. “It’ll take me about twenty minutes to clear the roof and then the deck. Once I’m done, you’ll be able to get to the hot tub.”

“We have a hot tub?” I asked.

“There’s a hot tub just on the side of your deck,” he said.

“Really?” Dad asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Didn’t they tell you at the office? It’s one of our most popular perks. A day on the slopes followed by an evening in the hot tub.”

“No, they never mentioned it,” Dad said. “It was probably in the brochure and I just didn’t see it. We were more interested in the skiing.”

“Well, I’d better get back to work so you can get to it,” he said. “Just don’t use the back door for a while.”

“Oh wow, I can’t wait,” I exclaimed. “An hour in the hot tub would feel perfect right now.”

“What about the Walshes?” Mom asked.

“Oh please,” I almost begged, “I can meet the Walshes later. The hot tub just sounds too good.”

“Okay, okay, go ahead,” Dad said with a smile.

“Okay,” Mom agreed. “Once you’re settled into the hot tub, do you want me to bring you a coffee or hot chocolate?” she then asked, before reminding me to get the rest of the groceries.

“Hot chocolate would be nice please,” I replied.

I ran out the front door and grabbed the rest of the groceries. About twenty minutes later, I was able to wander out onto the deck and, sure enough, there was a small room that appeared to have been added onto the back of the chalet. As soon as I opened the door, steam filled the room. Once I could see again, right in the middle of the room, there was a four-person hot tub. I quickly undressed down to my boxers and climbed into the tub.

“Ahhh!” I sighed as I leaned against the side of the tub and closed my eyes. It felt amazing. I just relaxed totally, feeling the warmth penetrate my body.

Now I know you’re wondering how I managed to get the hot tub all to myself with Scott and Sean around. Well as soon as we got back, they had gone outside to build a snow fort. If I was lucky, I would get the tub all to myself for at least an hour. After about five minutes, I heard the door open and the room again filled with steam. I hoped it wasn’t Scott and Sean, and assumed it was Mom with my hot chocolate. However, when I looked over to see who it was, instead of my mom or either of my brothers, I was looking at a young guy about my age, standing there in a blue bathrobe.

I guess I looked pretty shocked because he immediately said, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to freak you out.”

“Uhh…that’s okay,” I replied, trying to figure out who the hell was invading my space.

“My folks invited you guys over for coffee and hot chocolate,” he said.

“Oh…right,” I responded.

“Your Dad said since you were in the hot tub I should just come over,” he said.

“Oh okay, cool. Just climb in,” I replied. “It’s awesome.”

“Thanks,” he said as he took of his robe and lowered himself into the tub.

Just then, Mom came in with hot chocolate for each of us.

“Thanks,” we both said.

After a few seconds, he reached out his hand and introduced himself. “I’m Carter,” he said.

“Hi…Shane,” I replied.

“So, what part of Edmonton are you from?” I asked in an attempt to start a conversation.

“The west end, High Park,” he replied.

“Cool,” I responded. “So are we. Jasper Place though.”

“Hey, we’re almost neighbours then,” he said before adding, “I go to St. Francis. You?”

“J.P. Comp,” I replied.

“Cool, just down the street,” he said.

“So what grade are you in?” I asked.

“Grade 12,” he replied. “I graduate this year.”

“Yeah, me too,” I said.

“So is this your first time here?” he asked.

“Yeah, Mom and Dad thought it would be a cool way to spend Christmas,” I replied. “Do the whole family bonding thing. What about you?” I asked.

“We come several times every winter. This is the first Christmas though,” he replied.

“I imagine you’re quite familiar with Jasper then. I noticed there’s not much happening in town. Most of the hot girls and all the action’s probably up at the ski lodge,” I said, trying to sound all macho and cool.

“Yeah, any action there is, is at the lodge…as far as hot girls, I haven’t noticed,” he said.

“Oh?” I sort of questioned.

“Well… At the risk of you telling me to fuck off, I’m not into girls,” he stated.

“You…you’re…gay?” I stuttered.

“Yeah, I’m gay. Is that a problem?” he asked.

When I didn’t respond right away, he started to stand up to get out of the tub.

“No, stay, I’m…not into girls either,” I said quietly.

He slipped back into the water as a smile lit up his face.

“Yeah?” he questioned.

“Yeah. It’s just…” I started.

“You never told anyone before, right?” he stated more than asked.

“My parents know,” I replied.

“Obviously they seem to be cool about it now, but how did they react when you first told them?” he asked.

“Actually they said they had already figured it out. They were pretty cool about it. Of course the fact that I’m in figure skating and have posters of the Jonas Brothers, Zac Efron, Mitch Hewer and Sterling Knight in my bedroom didn’t hurt.”

“That might do it,” he said with a grin. “When I told my folks, they just said they had already known for years.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“I guess since I’ve been in dance and musical theatre since middle school, and like you, I have posters of Zac, Mitch, and Daniel Radcliff in my room. So put together, it all kinda gave me away the same as you,” he replied.

Suddenly the door sprung open, and Sean came bounding into the room. “Mom said you should both get dressed. We’re going to have hot chocolate, roast marshmallows in the fireplace and make s’mores,” he said excitedly.

“Okay, tell Mom we’ll be there in a few,” I told him and he was gone.

“Well, so much for hot tubbing,” Carter said with a grin. “I guess we can finish this conversation over hot chocolate and s’mores.”

“Yeah, that didn’t sound like we were being given a choice,” I said, laughing.

We got out of the hot tub and dried off. Carter put his robe on and headed to his place to get changed. I simply got dressed and wandered back into the chalet. As I came into the kitchen, Mom was walking by.

“So you all warmed up and relaxed now?” she asked.

“Yeah, that hot tub is great,” I said.

Apparently, for some reason, Carter’s folks had ended up at our place instead of the other way around. When we entered the living room, I was introduced to Carter’s mom and dad, Joan and Ray Walsh. They seemed like very nice people. It turns out, his dad and mine were friends and his dad was also a doctor. He was a resident pediatrician at the University of Alberta Hospital and Dad had worked with him a number of times whenever his patients were admitted to the hospital.

Within about ten minutes, Carter joined us around the fireplace. It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening. It wasn’t long before Carter and I separated a bit from everyone else and had our own conversation going. We talked about everything and nothing. I had never clicked with anyone as quickly as I did with Carter. We discovered that we had many of the same interests, likes, and dislikes. We liked a lot of the same books, movies, and activities. We both wanted to go into the faculty of science and transfer into medicine. It was like we were made for each other. And, as an added bonus, I learned that he did not have a boyfriend, nor was he dating anyone.

Around 11:00, we decided to go to bed as tomorrow was Christmas Eve. With any luck we would get in another good day of skiing. But, being Christmas Eve, and thanks to Sean, it also meant decorating the tree. As I lay in bed, I was thinking about how yesterday had been totally awesome. But somehow I knew it would be an even better day tomorrow since it would include Carter.

As I was lying there, feeling my body gradually relax into the soft down-filled comforter, Scott stopped at my door on his way to the other room. He looked at me for a few seconds before walking over and sitting on the edge of my bed.

I was just about to tell him to go to bed and let me sleep when he asked, “Carter’s pretty cool, huh?”

“Uh, yeah he is,” I replied.

“You think he’s hot?” he asked with a grin.

“What the hell is that supposed mean?” I demanded.

“Come on,” he replied. “Since he got here, you haven’t noticed that the rest of us are even still here.”

“Yeah right, get real,” I said, feeling a little nervous.

“Hey, it’s cool,” he responded.

“What’s cool?” I asked, sounding puzzled.

“You being into guys,” he said.

“I’m what?” I asked, this time trying to sound more annoyed than freaked out.

“Oh, come on, I’ve known for ages,” he replied with a grin.

“Yeah right,” I said.

“How many straight guys have posters of Zac Efron, Mitch Hewer and Sterling Knight on their bedroom walls? Oh, and the Jonas Brothers,” he asked.

At this point, I was at a loss for words and just stared at him.

“Seriously, it’s cool,” he said with a grin.

“It’s cool?” I questioned.

“Hell yeah. You’re my big brother. I love you and always will.” Then, grinning again, he added, “Besides who else could I throw snowballs at without getting in shit for it?”

My eyes teared up as I sighed and said the only thing I could: “Thanks Scott…I love you too man.”

He just smiled and replied, “I know you do,” and held out his arms for a hug.

“Do mom and dad know?” he asked as we broke the hug.

“Yeah, I told them a while ago, but they’d figured it out like you did,” I replied, adding, “I don’t know if I want Sean to know yet though.”

“You don’t have to worry about telling Sean,” he responded. “He knows. We’ve talked about it and he’s just as cool with it as I am, so no worries.”

“Is there anyone who doesn’t know?” I wondered out loud.

“Nobody I can think of,” he replied with a grin. “Except maybe Grandma Alice. But then she’s never seen your room.”

“Fuck off,” I told him, grinning.

“You didn’t answer my question yet. So what do you think of Carter? You think he’s hot?” he asked.

“If we’re going skiing all day tomorrow, we’d better get some sleep,” I replied.

“Okay, okay. I can take a hint. Good night Shane,” he said as he got up and headed for the other room.

“Good night Scott…and thanks,” I responded. He just turned and smiled.

When I woke up the next morning, it was still dark out. I could hear noises from the kitchen, so I knew at least Mom was up. I was going to roll over and try to go back to sleep, but the sudden aroma of freshly brewing coffee and the thought of spending the day skiing with Carter changed my mind. After I finally made my way to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and showered, I wandered downstairs to the kitchen.

“Good morning,” Mom said as I made my way to the coffee pot.

“Morning Mom,” I replied as I flopped down in one of the chairs and started to fix my coffee.

It was about ten minutes later when Sean and Scott came stumbling down the stairs, both still in their boxers. Mom immediately gave them crap and told them to get dressed properly if the were going skiing, and they both disappeared back up the stairs in a flash. Dad came wandering in just as the boys disappeared back up the stairs. Not unlike me, his first stop was the coffee pot. The boys were soon back at the table and within a half hour they were pestering us about going to Marmot. Mom, Dad, and Carter’s folks were going to have a quiet morning, go for a walk, take some pictures, and maybe do some skiing in the afternoon.

Carter showed up about twenty minutes after we finished breakfast. He was going to drive us to Marmot as the parents were going to use our car if they decided to do some exploring or come up to Marmot later. An hour later, we were standing in the lineup for the lift to the top of the mountain. Once again, the powder conditions were awesome. We didn’t have quite the stamina we had on the first day and found ourselves in the lodge a couple of times drinking hot chocolate or coffee. But all in all, it was another perfect day, made even more perfect because Carter was with us. About 7:30, we headed back to the chalet, tired but happy. Sean actually fell asleep on the short drive back. I carried him into the chalet, carefully set him down on the sofa and removed his boots and ski clothes.

Scott, Carter and I had decided we would hit the hot tub for an hour or so before grabbing a bite to eat. Mom said they were going visit his folks for a drink and she would leave something in the oven for us. Dad had the Christmas tree set up in the corner and I was told we would be decorating it at about 9:00. If we weren’t there by then, they would send Sean to get us. I promised we’d be on time and we headed for the hot tub.

When we walked in the room, and the steam cleared enough for me to see, Carter was already there, leaning back like he had fallen asleep. We quickly stripped down and slowly lowered ourselves into the water. I couldn’t help but let out a big sigh as the warmth penetrated my body. It wasn’t that I was all that cold, but every muscle in my body was sore after two days of skiing. As soon as Carter heard me sigh, he sat up and gave me a big grin.

“You guys half as sore as I am?” he asked.

“At least,” I replied, laughing. “This was day two for me. I hurt in places I didn’t even know I had.”

“Yeah, I bet,” he said.

“I’m not too bad,” Scott said. “Just my legs hurt mostly.”

“Well you’ve been out boarding more than I have this year,” I said.

“Yeah, that makes a difference,” Carter added.

We chatted for about twenty minutes, letting the swirling water and heat relieve our aching muscles when I felt Carter’s right foot begin to massage my left foot and shin. I opened my eyes to see him grinning at me. I couldn’t help but grin back.

Scott looked at us for a few seconds and announced that he was ready to get out. “Don’t want to get all wrinkly,” he said with a grin as he glanced at Carter and back to me.

I just smiled and said, “Yeah, you wouldn’t want to get all wrinkly. See you inside Scott.”

“So, you think we’ll be able to get together when we get home?” Carter asked as soon as Scott left.

“Yeah, I’d like that,” I replied.

“Good, so would I,” he said with a smile.

He then slid around the hot tub until he was sitting right next to me. He took my left hand in his right and laced his fingers through mine, and then leaned back and said quietly, “I’m glad we met. I’ve been so tired of feeling alone. I mean, I know I’m not the only gay kid in St. Francis, but it is a Catholic school so no one is out. At least, no one I’ve seen.”

“I’m glad we met too,” I responded as I squeezed his hand.

Then he leaned forward, looked at me and asked, “Can I kiss you?”

I just looked into his eyes for a few seconds, smiled, and replied, “Yeah,” and he did.

I heard you were supposed to see fireworks or something during your first kiss, but all I could think of was how soft his lips were and how he tasted of peppermint when his tongue touched mine. It was without doubt, though, the most amazing moment of my life. We sat cuddled up, talking about getting together when we got back home for the next half hour or so. Of course, we managed to squeeze the odd kiss into our conversation. At some point, our kisses became longer and when he brushed his fingers through my hair as he pulled my face closer to his, chills ran up and down my spine.

It was in the middle of one particularly intense kiss that Sean chose to run in to tell us it was time to decorate the tree. He froze and we froze. When we finally moved apart and glanced over at him, he had a grin on his face from ear to ear. Unfortunately, both Carter and I were speechless at that moment. Sean, however, was not.

“Sorry guys!” were the first words out of his mouth, followed by, “Oh my God! I knew it! You guys were kissing. Does Scott know? Do Mom and Dad know? Oh, wow! This is so cool!”

When I finally came to my senses, I started waving my hand and saying, “Whoa, slow down there kiddo. You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“Yeah but,” he started before I interrupted him to ask, “You think it’s cool that I’m gay?”

“Yeah,” he replied a little more calmly, but still grinning.

“Thanks Sean,” I responded. “That means a lot to me…to us. And yes, Mom and Dad know and so does Scott. He told me yesterday that he’d figured it out.”

“This is so cool,” he repeated with a grin. “Oh, uh…we’re gonna decorate the tree now…if you wanna help,” he then said more quietly and with a little blush, before disappearing out the door.

Carter and I climbed out of the hot tub, dried off and got dressed. Carter took me in his arms and gave me one more long passionate kiss before we too made our way into the chalet. I don’t have to tell you that I was all smiles as we walked into the living room; it didn’t go unnoticed, either. Our parents gave us knowing smiles. Scott just looked at us and grinned and Sean was still almost bouncing off the walls.

We spent the next hour or so decorating the tree. Once we were satisfied that it looked as good as it was going to get, it was time to put all the gifts under it. Since we had decided we were going to spend Christmas together, Carter’s mom and dad recruited him to help them bring all their gifts over. Mom and Dad did the same with us and we toted a ton of gifts in from the trunk of the car and from their bedroom. By the time we were finished, almost half the tree was hidden. We admired our work for a few minutes before Mom announced it was time for hot chocolate or eggnog, and sugary treats that were sure to help us sleep…not.

After our hot chocolate, shortbread cookies, mincemeat tarts, and s’mores in front of the fireplace, Carter and I were stretched out on the floor leaning back against sofa when Sean came over and sat down beside us. He actually cuddled up and tucked his head under my arm so I had little choice other than to put my arm around him. As soon as I did, he cuddled in even tighter.

After several minutes, he almost whispered, “Shane.”

“Yeah?” I questioned.

“Me too,” he quietly replied.

It took me a second to clue in and I glanced down only to see him look up at me as a single tear trickled down his cheek. I gave him a little smile and a squeeze. I got a little smile back as he wiggled even tighter against my side. I suddenly realized our relationship would never be the same after that moment. He had given me a part of himself with those two words, a part that would need to be cared for and protected. As my eyes slowly began to get misty, I looked up and noticed Scott was watching us closely. When he realized I was looking at him, he just smiled. He knew.

It wasn’t more than about ten minutes before I realized Sean had fallen asleep. I guess the excitement and exercise from two days of snowboarding, and possibly the emotional drain of confessing his secret to me, had taken their toll, sugar or no sugar. Dad noticed about the same time I did and came over, gently picked him up and took him upstairs to bed. He was replaced almost immediately with Scott, although Scott didn’t get all cuddly, he just sat leaning against me.

“He told you so you must have told him,” he said, quietly smiling.

“He caught us kissing,” I replied.

“But he told you. Right?” he asked.

When I didn’t reply for a few seconds he said, “It’s okay, I know. When we were talking about you a couple of months ago, he kinda let it slip. Instead of saying, ‘Would you hate Shane if he was gay’, he said, ‘Would you hate us…I mean Shane…if he was gay’. We talked almost all night. He was so scared. I think I cried as much as he did that night.”

“You’re a pretty amazing little-big brother, you know that?” I said.

“Thanks,” he replied with an almost shy smile. “I try.” Then, giving Carter and I a quick hug, he said, “I’m gonna crash now too. I’m wiped. See you in the morning. Good night guys.” After saying good night to everyone else, he headed up the stairs to bed.

About half an hour later, Carter’s folks went back to their chalet for the night and Mom and Dad decided to call it a night and disappeared into their bedroom. Now it was just Carter and I stretched out in front of the fireplace. I’d like to say we had a wild night making passionate love. The truth is, after about the second or third kiss, we both fell asleep. In fact, when Mom got up the next morning to get breakfast started, we were still fully dressed and curled up together on the floor.

It wasn’t until Scott and Sean came crashing down the stairs, full of excitement, that we finally woke up.

“Oh my God,” Scott exclaimed. “You guys slept on the floor all night?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I replied, still half asleep.

“Well that’s one way of getting to sleep together,” he said, laughing.

“Hey, what happened to the amazing little-big brother?” Carter asked.

“Who?” Scott asked with a big grin.

Suddenly going to the bathroom became more urgent than swapping insults or innuendos with Scott, and I dashed up the stairs to our bathroom. It wasn’t long before Carter was up there with me. Once we had relieved ourselves, and I got a quick kiss, Carter went back to their chalet to shower, brush his teeth and get changed. Half an hour later we were all gathered in front of the tree, coffees in hand, waiting to start opening our presents. Scott and Sean actually surprised me with their patience. They had lasted more than half an hour without losing it.

The moms sat on the floor in front of the pile of gifts and began the slow process of handing them out. Scott got the new laptop and DJ mixing software he wanted, Sean got the cell phone, Xbox 360, and skateboard he wanted, Carter got the Dell laptop, camera, and web design software he wanted. When I got my gift, it was a small box about 1x4x5 inches. I couldn’t imagine anything I wanted that would fit into a box that small. When I opened it, I almost freaked. It was a set of keys and a picture of the Jeep TJ Sport I had wanted since I was, like, ten. Since I was starting university next fall, Dad figured I needed to be mobile. I, however, saw it as freedom and the chance to get to Carter’s house in ten minutes instead of thirty.

Of course, we all got shirts, socks, scarves, and other assorted articles of clothing. I got a big hug from Sean when he opened my gift which was a new 16gig Ipod nano, and a “Hey thanks man,” from Scott when he opened the speaker system I got him for his laptop complete with amp and subwoofer. I could go on and on, but suffice to say, everyone was happy with what everyone else got them.

Towards the end, I was handed a small box labeled, ‘To Shane…from Carter’. About ten seconds later, Carter got a small box labeled, ‘To Carter…from Shane’. We looked at each other, shrugged and grinned. Apparently our newly developing closeness had not gone unnoticed. When I opened my box, there was a small rectangular black pendant with a diamond in the bottom left corner and the double male mars symbol in silver just above it. When Carter opened his, he had an identical pendant.

“We know you boys didn’t get a chance to go shopping for each other, so we did it for you,” his mom said, grinning.

“I hope you like them,” Mom added.

“Yeah, they’re great, I love them,” I said, still a little surprised and now obviously blushing.

“Me too,” Carter replied, grinning.

“Well, put them on and let’s see,” Scott said.

We looked at each other for a second, leaned forward and Carter put the one he was holding around my neck as I put the one I was holding around his neck. We then turned so everyone could see.

“Nice,” Sean said as he reached out to lift mine and look more closely at it.

“Thanks,” both Carter and I said to our moms.

Okay, all the gifts were opened. A half hour later, all the wrapping paper was taken care of, and we had an Xbox 360…our day was planned. So was our moms’ as they started bustling around in the kitchen. Since our dads wanted to watch TV and visit, the four of us took the Xbox to Carter’s chalet and we were set. Once the turkey was in the oven, our moms came over and watched us for a while. It didn’t take them long to get bored and head back to join our dads until it was time to finish getting dinner ready. When everything was ready, we were called over to what can only be described as a feast fit for royalty. There was everything, and everything was perfect. After dinner, we all sat around visiting quietly after eating way too much. When we finally felt like moving again, the guys cleaned up, did the dishes and put everything away while our moms sat back and watched some black and white movie on TV.

Except for Scott and Sean, who headed back to Carter’s to play the Xbox, the rest of us spent the evening relaxing and visiting together. By 10:00, everyone, including Scott and Sean, were ready for bed. Tomorrow, we would have one last day of skiing and snowboarding and the next day we would be packing up and heading for home. It’s funny, because when Mom and Dad suggested Christmas on the ski slopes, I was not overly enthusiastic and would just as soon have stayed home. Now, I was feeling disappointed that we were leaving.

What I did not expect was that I would enjoy the mountains in all their wintry snow-covered majesty or learn the true joy of skiing fresh powder. Nor did I expect it would be a week of extraordinary, possibly life-changing events. I spent the most quality time I’ve ever spent with my parents and felt closer to them than I had in years. But by far the most emotionally gratifying times involved a young stranger and my brothers. I had met the kindest, most thoughtful, caring guy who in a matter of days had won my heart and pretty much become my first boyfriend. I had come out to, or been pulled out by, my brother Scott, and Sean caught me kissing Carter. Not surprisingly, I discovered they already knew and loved me anyway. However, without doubt, the most unpredictable, heartfelt moment came when my little brother Sean almost merged his body with mine and said, “Me too.”

I smiled as I realized that Christmas, without doubt, could be a very special time, a time of wonder…maybe even a time of miracles.

A very special thanks to Azy for his time and hard work editing this story for me.