Jonathon’s Hanukkah Surprise

sacred-1800Love is a Light is happy to announce the rerelease of Sacred Hearts in time for Hanukkah 2014. Once again, thanks to Jordan Castillo Price for creating a beautiful new cover for the story.

I hope you enjoy this vignette from Jonathon’s point of view. The Tarnished Souls books, a series of loosely linked, stand alone novels centered around Jewish holidays (published originally by Loose Id 2012-2013), are all love stories told from the point of view of one of the major characters. As I rerelease them, I’ve been posting a short bit written from the other guy’s viewpoint to show you how they’re both doing two years later. You’ll find the story for Learning from Isaac here and from Fields of Gold here.

Jonathon’s Hanukkah Surprise

We’d been together two years, pledged heart to heart, as close as two people could be. David and Jonathon, a matched pair. I had thought that was enough.

It was the second week in November. Although the rains had stopped, the heat and humidity made it feel like we were living in a sauna. It was odd to have guests at La Serenidad. Usually the first tourists arrived around Christmas, and kept coming until just past Easter. Ironic that the rhythm of my life on the Mexican coast wasn’t much different from the job I left behind. Funny to think that the busiest time of the year is the same for a priest as it is for a yoga teacher in coastal Mexico.

But this year, a hot yoga group had decided to give this reduced rate season a try. They had brought their own instructor, so all I had to do was make sure everyone had the blocks, blankets, straps, and mats they needed. Meanwhile, David sweated away in the kitchen. He made cooking for twenty look easy, but there was no way to stay cool behind simmering pots and roaring ovens. An early group cut into our regular prep time, but I think he enjoyed having people around to appreciate his food. I had lived the monastic life for too long to eat David’s amazing creations guilt free.

One morning, in-between sessions, I was organizing the prop closet, when I overheard two women talking about a party one of them was going to when they got home. I was trying to chase a lizard out from under a stack of blankets, and so wasn’t paying close attention. The lizard kept skittering from one side of the closet to the other while I made ineffective shooing motions trying to get it out the door. All God’s creatures deserve a place to live, but not necessarily amid my yoga blankets. The women had left the studio by the time I got the lizard out of the closet and headed toward the jungle.

But there was something one of them said. Later that night, while the guests were oohing and aahing over the dinner that David served, I logged onto the computer. I held my breath while it searched for a signal. Our service is intermittent. I breathed out a long thank you when the computer found what it was looking for. It always feels miraculous to be sitting on a mountain in a remote village, listening to animals in the jungle, donkeys braying in town, and the distant crash of ocean waves, yet be connected through a plastic keyboard to the entire civilized world. I found the page I was looking for, skimmed it, then read again more carefully. When I was finished, I sat back. Once planted, the idea took on the force of a compulsion.

I thought about it while I helped David wash dishes, and again while I brushed my teeth. In bed that night, I lay with my arms wrapped around him, inhaling the familiar, soapy scent of his skin. His body molded to mine like the vestments I’d worn all those years never had. The way we were together felt like a sacrament, something God must have ordained. In the morning, I tried to meditate, but instead of clearing my mind, the thought turned around and around in my head, making me too distracted to focus. Later, as I swept, chasing spiders over the edge of the paved platform on the edge of the mountain that served as a studio, I started to plan.

Surprising someone is a gamble. Some people need to always be in control. They resent the unexpected. I suppose I’m one of those. But David isn’t. His is a much easier temperament. He tends to take life as it is and make the most of it. On the other hand, I’d never really surprised him, not with something big. I told myself that the worst thing that could happen was I’d be out some money. But, of course, that wasn’t the worst thing, and I knew it. I’d seen relationships fly apart over seemingly small things. I lay awake wondering about unintended consequences. It was driving me crazy.

The group left the next Saturday morning. While David walked them down to the boat, I sat with my feet dangling off the edge of the studio, and brooded. It’s one of the things I do best. In fact, I’m such a good brooder that David didn’t blink an eye when he came home, just kissed the top of my head, and went back into his kitchen to make lists of what we needed to buy in Puerto Vallarta the next day. I sat and worried. The sun beat down. Rivulets of sweat rolled down my spine. Even the forest went quiet in the midday heat. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and went in search of David.

I found him asleep in our bed. Looking at him through the mosquito netting was like staring at a fairy prince, a sweet, seductive pagan image from a fairytale in my youth. Or like a knight of the round table in his bower. Or like an angel. I parted the netting and stared down at him, not a prince or a knight or an angel but my own human, sweaty, amazing man. The bed rocked as I sat beside him. David opened his eyes and smiled up at me, and everything, the doubt, the fear, even that silly plan, came crumbling down, and all that was left was the idea as it had first come to me.

I started in my usual fumbly, inarticulate way. “They were talking in the studio the other day about marriage equity, and it turns out gay people can get married in Oregon now.”

“I know.” David gave a sleepy nod. Of course he knew. Unlike me, David read the papers. “It happened last spring, I think.”

I ran my hand across his stubble. “Let’s fly to Portland and get married.”

He blinked, his hand going to the talisman I’d hung around his neck two years before. “I sort of thought we were.”

I lay down beside him, cradling my head in my hands so I could look down into his gorgeous, sleepy face. “I mean legally. If we get married in the states, it’ll be recognized here.”

David’s brow wrinkled. “You’re serious.”

I nodded. “We wouldn’t need to make a big production out of it, but I think your dad would like to be there.”

David’s smile was slow but dazzling. “John, if you’re asking me to marry you, then yes, of course I’ll marry you.”

“Good.” I exhaled for what felt like the first time in days. “I bought plane tickets for the second week in December. It was supposed to be a Hanukkah surprise, but I couldn’t wait.”

“Next month?” He reared back and peered at me. “Why not wait until summer when we have a long break?”

I cupped his face and held his gaze. “Because now that I know we can, I don’t want to wait. The need to be your husband is like a hunger.”

His face softened. He scooted closer and threw one leg over mine. After a moment he murmured, “We have a group arriving two days before Christmas.”

“We can be ready for them before we leave.” I pulled him close. “Please say yes.”

He nuzzled my chest and whispered. “Yes.”

My heart soared like a thousand angels singing. This was what happiness meant.

***

The wheels touched down, and we coasted to the gate. Rain streaked the windows. I glanced down at the little, blue, immigration form I’d filled out. This was my first visit back to the states since I left five years before. With a work permit, I didn’t have to come back every six months, and there simply hadn’t been a reason to, before. I had wondered how it would make me feel to be back on U.S. soil, but I couldn’t dredge up the sentimentality I’d expected. Beside me, David slid his book back into his pack. He took my hand and squeezed. I smiled down at him. The United States, Mexico, or any other country wasn’t home. David was my home now.

We were funneled from the plane to immigration, where we were separated into residents and nonresidents. I followed David to the resident line, feeling awkward and displaced. How could I be a resident here when I was a tourist who’d go back home in a few days? Resident or alien—the distinction was absurd. I found the chatter of the crowd, mostly in English, disorienting, and the press of people was uncomfortable. I focused on the top of David’s scull like a talisman, tuning out everything else.

He turned and looked up at me. “Are you okay?”

I shrugged. This too shall pass.

The line moved forward and we were next. A customs officer waved to David. He stepped forward. I moved into his place, alert for the next opening. But David grabbed my hand.

He gestured toward a woman and man with three small children they were herding toward one of the customs officers. “Families go together. Come on.”

Even though he dropped my hand, I still felt the warmth of his encircling fingers as I followed him to the little booth. Everything else disappeared, and I stopped worrying about nationalism or language or where I fit in. David and I were family, and family stays together.

We made it through customs, found our bags, and walked through the automatic, sliding glass doors, and out into the Portland winter chill. I shivered. Five years in coastal Mexico, I’d forgotten about real cold. David rummaged in his pack and brought out his blue fleece pullover.

Then he brought out my black one and passed it to me. “I found this hanging in the laundry room.”

Leave it to me to forget something like that. And it was just like David to remember. I was going to tell him something like that when I heard a familiar voice calling our names. Fifty feet down the street, David’s father stood by his car, waving. I picked up my pack and followed David as he trotted down the sidewalk to greet his dad.

I had only met him a few times, when he came down to visit David. Short, round, his hair a white ring around his head like an old time friar, I imagined he was what David might look like at sixty. Add to that his complete acceptance of me in his son’s life, so different from my own family’s rejection, and Daniel Schwartz had earned my profound affection. With an awkward hug for David, and a friendly pat on the back for me, Daniel Schwartz officially welcomed us back into the United States.

Three days later in a dark paneled living room, I stood with David, his father, his old friend, Charmaine, and a justice of the peace. I’d insisted we rent tuxedos and we were far too formally dressed for the space. David’s father had taken one look at the tuxes and changed into a dark suit. Charmaine had swept her dreadlocks up on top of her head, making her elegant in a simple, floral dress. On one side of us was the blank eye of a big screen TV, and on the other, a bank of windows, and a Hanukkah menorah. Cakes of wax stained four of the candle holders and five candles were set up, ready to light at sundown. Outside the gutters dripped rainwater.

The Justice of the Peace, a pleasant woman in a dark business suit, pronounced words not too different from those I’d used to marry Catholic couples in that other life. I’d often looked out at the congregation and seen husbands and wives exchanging secret glances as the ceremony went on. Now, holding David’s gaze as I promised to love and honor him in sickness and in health, I knew that from this moment forward, those words would always bring back this moment for me, and that I’d take his hand and smile our secret smile.

“Mazel Tov.” Daniel Schwartz raised a glass of sparkling grape juice. He clunked my glass. “Welcome to the family.”

My heart swelled. Before that casually overheard conversation in the studio, I hadn’t known how much all this would matter to me. Now I knew that it did.

The End

Sacred Hearts is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Happy Hanukkah

DSC_0054It’s that wonderful time of the year – the one with the holiday we can’t spell the same way twice. This year I’m rereleasing Sacred Hearts – on sale for 99 cents through the holiday. Rereading it for release, I was struck by David’s resilience and his willingness to believe in true love, even at the end of a particularly bad affair. I think that’s the beauty of romance, it lets us believe. And miracles can happen. Even great ones. Here.

Cherry popped

So I’ve finally been to GRL. What a great experience. The best part, and everyone will tell you this, is meeting in person the people you’ve known online for years and getting to chat with them in real life. Everyone’s amazingly nice and friendly – I didn’t have a single truly awkward moment, and that’s more than I can say for my average four-day block here at home.

I went to Joyfully Jay’s terrific newbie gathering early on Thursday morning but didn’t take a cherry to slap on my badge. I figured that I’d lied about my virginity the first time, might as well continue the tradition. But I did enjoy listening to Jay and meeting my fellow innocents. And just think, now we’re all old pros.

Photo by JCP

Photo by JCP

Next time, I need to bring a better camera since I didn’t bring home any good pictures and had to beg this one from my reading off the fabulous Jordan Castillo Price. The reading, the author lounge, the book signing and scrapbooking with readers were all really fun (even if I did end up scrapbooking during the cockwalk – a metaphor I don’t want to look at too closely), but mostly I fell in love with the people – authors and readers alike.

GRL is exhilarating, inspiring, exhausting and a blast. Can’t wait to go again.

Free Short

fields-1800Hi All, here’s a bit of flash fiction from Pete’s point of view in honor of the re-release of Fields of Gold (Tarnished Souls 2). Enjoy!

Snakes and Ladders

One of my favorite things about September was the sweet smell of fallen apples. We did our best to harvest the fruit on time, but inevitably the wind knocked a few apples out of every tree, leaving the orchard fragrant with decaying fruit and buzzing with bees.

Avi probably should have been working on lectures or lesson plans or whatever it is that history professors did on Friday afternoons a few weeks into the fall term, but instead he had volunteered to help me pick apples to sell at the Saturday farmers’ market. It was one of those perfect September days that make going back to school a cruel and unusual punishment. Avi’s last class ended at three and by the time he got home, I was already ten feet off the ground with a bushel basket half full of gorgeous orange-red Pricilla apples. A few not so perfect specimens rattled around my shoulder bag, destined for our own cellars.

From my perch in the tree I watched him approach. Two years together and it still rocked my world to see him cross the field toward me. If anything, Avi was even better looking than when I first met him. He’d bulked out from working on the farm and the sun had deepened his olive skin to a rich golden brown. He’d lost that slump shouldered scholar look and walked across the field like a man who knew where he belonged. Right here. With me.

At the bottom of my ladder he smiled up at me. “Hey gorgeous, where do you want me to start?”

Where did I want him to start? Fuck the harvest, I wanted to roll around getting sweaty in the apple-scented grass. His smile widened like he knew exactly what I was thinking.

I glanced at the horizon, then up at the ridge top. It could wait. We had a little more than an hour of daylight left. With a sigh, I pointed the old MacIntosh tree. “The Ginger golds and Jonafrees won’t be mature for another week, but the Mac needs picking.”

“Got it.” He collected a step ladder from under the Paula red tree we’d finished picking the week before and walked it over to the Mac.

Along with a few Honeycrisps and Cortlands, the MacIntosh had been one of a handful of trees my grandfather planted years ago. In his day, the apples fed the family and livestock. My father mainly ignored the trees. When my sister and I inherited the farm, one of the first things we did was to expand the orchard and add heirloom varieties that matured at different rates. It had taken a few years, but now we had a steady supply of apples to sell at the market from early August until the first deep freeze. Most of the orchard was now made up of spindly young trees like the one I was picking from and only a few gnarled grand dames like Avi’s.

“Let me know if you find any storm damage.” I called once he had settled the ladder under the most heavily laden branch. We’d had strong winds the night before. We didn’t lose too many apples and the force wasn’t bad enough to hurt the young trees, but the no matter how much we pruned the old guys, sometimes they couldn’t take a punch. I watched Avi climb the ladder, wondering if I ought to switch with him. The last thing I wanted was for him to get hurt. Again. He wasn’t exactly accident prone, but back when we were first together… As they say, shit happens.

“Don’t look so worried, Pete.” Avi called to me from his perch on the ladder. “I’m not the type to go out on a limb. Couldn’t be safer.” He plucked an apple and studied it with that mock serious look of his. “Of course, that’s what Adam thought, isn’t it?” He grinned at me and took a huge bite.

“Does that make me Eve?” I lobbed an ugly worm eaten apple at him.

He ducked. “Not Eve, Petey, you’re my temptation.”

Oh yeah. “Better get to picking them apples, Yeshiva boy. We need to fill a lot more bushels before I’ll let you play with my snake.”

I love to watch Avi laugh, love the way he throws back his head, abandoning his usual urbane countenance and committing to a moment of pure joy.

It took us almost an hour to fill the wooden crate boxes I had stacked on the ATV trailer, drive them back to the barn and load them into the truck. One more thing I wouldn’t need to do before the sun came up. Avi slid the last of the crates to the front of the truck bed, leaving room for the fresh vegetables we’d pick and load at dawn. He climbed down and dusted off his jeans.

“I’ve got a surprise for you.” At his raised eyebrows, I gestured toward the ATV, from which I’d unhitched the trailer. “Hop on.”

I climbed on and he slid behind me.

He wrapped his arms around my waist and slid his hands lower. “Is this where I get to play with that snake?”

I leaned back into him, savoring his warmth and the excitement of his touch through my jeans. Reluctantly, I straightened. “Almost.”

I started the ATV’s engine. His hands moved from my crotch back to my waist but he stayed pressed close against my back. His breath tickled my neck, sending shivers down my spine. I gunned the engine, ready to get where we were going—fast.

We got to the top of the ridge in time to see the sun dip toward the horizon. The blanket was where I’d left it, spread out on the only high point of land we owned. From there we could see the entire farm, the orchard, vegetable fields, grazing cows, the barn and the old farmhouse.

“Wow.” Avi whispered in my ear. “I feel like I just stepped into a Victorian novel—a buggy ride to a picnic in the early evening.”

“Let’s hope the squirrels didn’t get into our cooler.” I let him climb off first, then followed. No squirrel damage—the cooler still held bread, cheese and champagne. I popped open the champagne and poured us each a glass.

Avi was looking at me with an indulgent smile. “Will there be strolling minstrels passing by?”

Such a romantic. I sat on the blanket and smiled up at him. “Indulge me. We’ll sit here and drink our champagne, watch the sunset, cuddle. It won’t hurt, I promise.”

He took the glass, sat and looked out at the sunset. “It’s beautiful. Thanks.”

I took a sip—cheap champagne, but it was the thought that counted. I leaned my head on Avi’s shoulder. He put his arm around me. We watched silently as the sky lit with a blaze of color and the sun slid below the horizon.

“Dinner at your mom’s house got me thinking.” I drained the last of my glass, sat up and retrieved the bottle.

Avi sighed. “I know it’s awkward. It was nice of you to come.”

“It’s getting easier. Give us all time to get used to each other.” I refilled his glass and my own before going on. “It got me thinking about traditions—don’t burst out into song, Tevya, that’s not what I meant. I like the idea of family rituals and you know I love dipping apples in honey for a sweet new year. What I realized was that we’ve got you doing Christmas and Easter here at the farm with us, but ship the Jewish celebrations off to your mom’s house. And while I’m happy to go there with you, I think we should develop some traditions of our own. How about an annual Rosh Hashanah picnic?”

“Sounds more like Succoth to me.” Avi traced my jaw with his fingers.

Yet another holiday? “Succoth?”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. A Rosh Hashanah picnic with you sounds perfect to me.”

His lips on mine were cool from the champagne but the kiss got hot quickly. When he pulled away it was dark, but even so I could see the shine of his eyes. He whispered, “God, I love you.”

I set my glass down and wrapped my arms around him. “Wanna play with my snake?”

“Loose that mighty serpent. I promise not to bite.”

An owl hooted in the woods nearby but I didn’t care. He could watch if he wanted. I pulled Avi down beside me. It was going to be a very sweet new year.

The end

Fields of Gold from Love is a Light Press

available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Road trip!

Cover by Fiona Jayde

Cover by Fiona Jayde

I love a good road trip. There’s nothing better than piling in the car with my sweetie, the dog and a big bag of snacks and heading out to find adventures.

My new book, Driving into the Sun, takes place on 190/94 from Chicago to Northern Idaho. It’s not exactly your standard family vacation – Dusty and Joe have a long way to go in more ways than one.

Bring on the light

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

It’s September and up here in Northern Wisconsin, that means the days will soon be getting shorter and much, much colder. It’s a good time to look toward the land that never warms up. September in Antarctica is Winfly, the short period between when the continent is locked down in darkest winter and the frantic summer work season begins. In other words, in Antarctica this month they’re getting ready for the light. It might not get warm during an Antarctic summer, but it gets very, very bright.

In honor of Winfly 2014, Love is a Light has released an author version of August Ice, my Antarctica love story. I’ve made some changes, most notably to the beginning and end of the story and the book has a gorgeous new cover by Jordan Castillo Price. You can find the new and improved August Ice on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Here’s to the sun as it waxes and wanes in all of our lives.

Growing community

I’m all about community. Which is funny since I’m a bit of an introvert (not that you’d know that by meeting me). I think what I love about creating communities is that we can get so much more done together than we ever do on our own.

First home grown salad of the year.

First home grown salad of the year.

One of my favorite community activities is working in our local community garden. We started one garden five years ago. It was so popular that we expanded to a second site two years later. You’d think that in a rural place like Northern Wisconsin, there wouldn’t be a need for a community garden. People may not have much money up here, but there’s a lot of green space around. The thing is, we also have lots and lots of trees (wonderful) and deer (umm… I suppose they’re cute if they’re not camped out in your front yard eating the flowers). In the community garden people can farm a small plot inside a big fence where there’s plenty of sun and no cute little Bambis to scalp the peppers.

We also grow food for the local food pantry. I’m in charge of the tomatoes we grow for the food pantry. Last year I tried growing them in straw bales. It worked great so I’m doing the same this year. Straw bale gardening is all the rage up here and I’m definitely sold.

1TW_3019The tomatoes still have a long way to go. But it’s wonderful to be outside gardening again. Especially in community.

How about you? How does your garden grow?

 

The First Question A Passover Story (Isaac and Nathan)

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

This Passover I’m releasing a new, improved author version of Learning from Isaac, the first Tarnished Souls books, which was originally published by Loose Id in 2012. The new version is a little longer (5%) with a few plot and narration tweaks. I’m hoping it gives readers a fuller vision of both Nathan and Isaac and their sweet love story. To celebrate this re-release, I’m posting this short to let everyone know where the guys are now. The new version of Learning from Isaac (with this stunning cover by Jordan Castillo Price) is up on Amazon now. I hope you enjoy both the new version of the book and this little glimpse into their life two years later.

 

The First Question

 

Plain, egg, onion, whole wheat, poppy seed or spelt? My stomach twisted in knots as I stared at the matzo display. On some level I knew that no one would really care, but hosting our first real Seder felt like a big-deal, grown-up, serious thing to do and I wanted it to be perfect. For a lot of reasons.

I was the kid who never paid attention while the adults droned through the ritual. One year they caught me passing notes back and forth with my cousin, playing hangman instead of learning about Moses and the red sea and plagues. But these days, Passover meant something different for me. Looked at one way, Seder at Nathan’s mother’s house had been our first date.  Which was the way I liked to remember it. That other first date? Some things are best forgotten.

And now here I was, standing in a grocery store in front of a Passover display that was nestled between tortillas, canned chilies, beans, and rice noodles and soy sauce, with a shopping list and a case of nerves. Nathan was back home cleaning out the spare room for his mom and her boyfriend who would be flying in from Chicago in the morning. l grabbed three different boxes—variety’s good, right?—and started shoveling the rest of the supplies into the cart, gefelte fish, macaroons and sweet wine. The horseradish tripped me up again—regular or pink with beet juice? Both. I wasn’t taking chances. I’d been planning this night for a long time.

The cart bulged with regular and ritual food. I could picture Nathan’s face when I dumped bag after bag of food on the counter. He’d stare at me wide-eyed in that sexy way he had, then shake his head and smile. And I’d go all gooey inside. Maybe we wouldn’t make it to the end of putting away the groceries before we were going at it on the kitchen floor. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The bill was three times what we usually spent on food. And it was okay. We could afford it. Wasn’t that amazing.

I stepped out into the April heat and inhaled the gas-fume-laden air. I loved California, the heat, the ocean, my job, loved the word engineer in my title, and mostly I loved the freedom of walking down the street without meeting anyone who’d known me before. I hadn’t expected to like respectability. But I did. I loved it—loved our life, our overpriced condo and our grown-up furniture. Our friends had real jobs and even if I was almost always the youngest at any social gathering, it was okay because I was just another guy, half of a couple, a matched set.

I drove into the snarl of traffic. Faces in the cars beside me looked mad or anxious or resigned, and maybe I would have too, if I hadn’t spent long winters in Chicago selling my soul for tuition money and another long winter in Madison only seeing Nathan on weekends. Three months before, I’d graduated early, Nathan quit his job and we moved to sunny California and now we car pooled to work for the same environmental consulting company. It was like stepping into the light. I was still blinking from the contrast.

In the empty kitchen, steam roiled from a pot of water boiling on the stove. A carton of eggs sat next to it. The balcony door was open and there stood Nathan, beating the guest room rug, his hair a dark halo in the sunlight and a deep furrow between his eyebrows as he squinted against the dust. I watched him. Even after two years, having Nathan in my life felt like a miracle. My Nate. The professor—smart, sexy and all mine.

He glanced up and smiled. I loved the way he looked at me with those dark, kind eyes. Like I was special. Like I was worthy. Like he thought I was a prize, too.

The water. Hard boiled eggs for tomorrow. I dropped in a dozen eggs, turned off the burner and walked into the living room. Nathan came in from the balcony, meeting me halfway for a hug and kiss too long and deep for the hour I’d been away.

“I bought too much matzo,” I told him when we pulled apart.

“Egg?”

“Among other things.”

“Mom loves you. There’s nothing to worry about.” He brushed hair out of my face. It was getting too long, the curls too wild, but there didn’t ever seem time to get it cut. Besides, he liked it. He kissed me again, this time sweet and slow.

When the kiss broke, I looked into his deep brown eyes. It was right there on the tip of my tongue. Had been for months. “Nate…”

The timer beeped.

“Is that the eggs?” He pulled away and strode toward the kitchen. “We should peel them now. Getting the shells off is tricky once the albumen has cooled.”

God I loved him.

I trailed him to the kitchen. He dumped the hot water and ran cold into the pan. I leaned against the counter, chewing on my unspoken words.

He handed me an egg to peel. It was warm.  “Nate?”

“Hmm?” He frowned down at the egg in his hand as some of the white chipped off with the shell.

It was like diving into the ocean from a high rock. You had to just jump.

“What is it?” Nathan stopped peeling and looked at me, his fingers still in the icy water.

I took a deep breath and leapt. “I think we should get married.”

He dropped his egg and stared at me.

I rushed on before he could say no. “It’s legal here and we already have a joint checking account and, um, it would be good for our taxes.” I could hear the whine creeping into my voice and shut up.

Nathan didn’t say anything. He pulled his hands out of the water, reached for a dish towel and dried them. He folded and set the towel on the counter and looked at me, that furrow between his eyes back again.

“You think we should get married for the taxes?”

“No.” I leaned forward, not touching him but wanting to. “No. I want to marry you because you’re it for me. The one man I can see myself loving forever. You’re my heart. My home. I just thought you’d find the taxes argument more convincing.”

His eyes went wide. He shook his head and smiled. “I’m a lot older than you. When I’m sixty-five you’ll be—”

“—Twenty years older than I am now and it still won’t matter. We get to change our names when we get married, but not our ages.” I put my right hand over his heart and took his hand with my left. “I thought about making a big proposal at dinner tomorrow night, down on one knee and everything, but I decided you wouldn’t like that. So now, over a pot of unpeeled hard-boiled eggs, I’m asking you, Nathan Kohn, if you’ll make an honest man out of me.”

“You’ve always been that.” He caressed my jaw, his eyes searching mine. “Are you serious?”

I nodded.

His face split into a wide smile that went all the way up into his eyes. He wrapped his arms around me and drew me into a long, deep, whole-body kiss.

I guessed that was a yes.

A new version of Learning from Isaac out for Passover this year

Look for it on Amazon somewhere around 4/15. I’m calling this an author’s version, or maybe “take 2″, and I’m hoping that in the new Learning from Isaac readers will fall in love with Nathan in the same way I did. There’s also a spectacular new cover from Jordan Castillo Price.

To celebrate – I’m working on a flash piece to let everyone check in on how Nathan and Isaac are doing two years later. More later – in the meantime happy spring!

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

Cover by Jordan Castillo Price

Happy Purim!

Purim is a crazy holiday, a religious celebration based on a bedroom farce (really, read the Book of Ester yourself if you don’t believe me) during which you are COMMANDED to get drunk. Although most people treat it as a kid’s thing (a Jewish Halloween) and let it go at that, if we’re doing it right, we get dressed up, shake rattles, put on terrible skits and drink until we can’t tell the difference between right and wrong – sort of a slapstick take on annihilation.

Of course my Purim story (Bread, Salt and Wine) dwells more on the threats than the fun, but that’s just me. For most people, Purim is about costumes and parties and eating your enemy’s hat (hamentashen – check it out). And drool over these beauties by slqckqc at Flickr Creative Commons – yum.

See the original photo on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/slgc/6961659235/in/photolist-bBbjKv-bBbhgg-9rVvqv-dUbg9c-dUbfYT-dUgSMU-dUgSKL-dUbgwZ-dUgSA5-dUgSxw-dUbgb8-dUbgB4-dUbg1z-dUbfWK-7JCkTd-9rHKUK-9rVvnP-9rYsQU-9rVuK4-9rYsxU-9rVuE2-9rYsNC-9rYsn9-9rYsB1-9rYsHG-9rYsDm-9rVuND-9rVuG8-9rYsFY-dXotAd-bBvHhp-bBvHdx-bBvHgM-boANcN-bBvHoe-bBvHek-boANo1-boANiu-bBvHhV-9KJMqq-bBvHd8-bBvHiD-boAN7W-bBvHfz-dXcLas-7Gv4wv-7Gv4vn-dYmaMm-9rrcCQ-9smKE4-aKes3V/lightbox/