It was New Year's Eve. It had only been a few short days since Christmas. Their tree was still up and decorated in the living room. They didn’t do anything special during the day. They did the usual. Eat Christmas leftovers, give the kids more candy than they should probably be having, drink beers, and they promised the girls they’d let them stay up late. To watch the new year come in. Alma and Jenny were thrilled. Jack bet they’d only stay awake until ten. Ennis bed they’d only make it until eight. The girls ended up collapsing close to nine, and Ennis had scooped them up and carried them off to bed.
New Years was much less of an affair than Christmas had been. But still a celebration to be had. It was the end of their first year together as a family, and they had many more to look forward to. They’d all get older next year, Alma would move to first grade, and Jenny would start learning to ride a bike. They might move house next year. There were lots of things ahead of them. Jack was taking the day to reflect on the year he’d had.
What a year it had been. The death of Alma had changed many things. Where would Jack be if she hadn’t? Still having secret affairs with Ennis. Occasionally stealing him away for quick sex on the mountain. Eating canned meat and beans over a campfire. Now he had an apartment, kids, and a man who said he loved him, and said it often. Jack sometimes felt guilty about rejoicing at the end of a woman’s life. The mother of two young children who wouldn’t get to grow up with her in their lives. But he couldn’t deny it. He’d never been happier in his life.
So Jack occasionally left flowers next to Alma’s urn. Paid his respects to the woman. He never really knew her. And her existence in life directly opposed what he’d wanted. But she was a good woman, from what he’d heard, and she bore the girls he was going to raise as his own. The least he could do was give her a prayer of thanks every once in a while and try not to hold any grudge against her for keeping Ennis from him in those years she was alive.
“What’re ya thinking about?” Ennis asked, sitting next to his partner with a beer in hand.
“Nothin’.” Jack shrugged. “Just the year.”
“You sad it’s ending?” Ennis knew how Jack got about these things. He was sad for moments to end. He was upset when their affairs on Brokeback ended, he was upset when Christmas ended, and he was probably hung up on the year ending. Ennis just had to remind him that there was another year to look forward to.
“No.” Jack said. Ennis gave him a look. “Honest. There’s just a lot to think about. It was a busy year.”
“Yeah. It was.” Ennis agreed quietly.
They sat in thoughtful silence for a while. Ennis broke it with another question. “What’d’ya want out of the new year?”
Jack sighed through his nose. “I want to not fuck up next Thanksgiving.”
Ennis chuckled. “Never gonna get over that, are you?”
Jack shook his head. Things were never that easy with Jack Twist. “Not until I make it right.”
“You made it right with Christmas.”
“No. No.” Jack looked at Ennis like he was being purposefully ignorant. “I just didn’t fuck up another holiday. Christmas and Thanksgiving are different. I gotta make Thanksgiving right.”
“I never knew you to be a perfectionist.” Ennis said.
“Never had anything worth perfecting.” Jack returned.
Ennis gave another of his rare smiles. Smiles that were becoming more common all the time.
“And you?” Jack quipped.
“Oh. I want…” he thought about it. “For the girls to not get a stomach bug this year.”
Jack laughed loudly. “Oh, I remember that. God, you were a mess.”
“Don’t think I’d’ve survived if you hadn’t shown up.” Ennis admitted. He’d been pissed at the time. Annoyed Jack had ignored his request to stay away and angry that he wouldn’t leave them alone to their misery. But he was glad now. Happy that Jack didn’t abandon him when he was suffering. “Did I ever say thanks for that?”
“I don’t know. But I’d appreciate hearing it again.”
“Thank you.” Ennis said sincerely. “For showing up. And not going away.”
Jack’s heart fluttered like a schoolgirl near her crush. “You're welcome.”
Ennis glanced at the clock. It was 11:48. The year was fading away even as they talked. It had been quite a year. It was hard to believe that only a year ago Ennis had been sitting on that same couch with his wife. Smoking cigarettes and listening to the radio on its quietest setting with no clue of what the next year had in store. Ennis had found who he was that year. He’d decided what he was going to do with the rest of his life. So far he hasn't regretted his decision.
He knew the next year wouldn’t be easy. Or the next or the next. Jack and Ennis would argue. They’d have to hide. Both outside the walls and inside. There was a tension between them and the children, one the girls were blissfully unaware of. The one where Jack and Ennis had a terrible secret to keep from them. It was a struggle every day. Nobody said the life he chose would be easy.
He put his hand over Jack’s and neither of them flinched away. It wouldn’t be fun if it was too easy.
11:50. He glanced between Jack and the clock. Jack smiled at his lover. “You wanna kiss when the new year drops?”
Ennis rolled his eyes at the corny suggestion. To hell with that. Why wait? He leaned forward and pressed his lips to Jack’s. It was just as magical and as wonderful as it would have been when the hour struck. Jack moaned into the kiss and pressed forward, falling into Ennis’ lap. Ennis’ lips were warm. They tasted salty and metallic. They split in the cold, leaving little cuts over the soft flesh. Jack licked them, tasting them. It was an enticing incentive to keep kissing.
They didn’t notice the hour pass. Too wrapped up in each other to celebrate the end of the year before. They were already looking forward to the new one.