"I don't know, Jim. We really didn't celebrate Hanukkah every year."
"I understand, Naomi. I just want to do something different... special this year."
"Okay, I'll email you the traditions," Naomi conceded. She paused, then added, "and I'll send you my mother's menorah."
"Thank you, Naomi," Jim said, suddenly choked up. He disconnected, already feeling an excitement about the upcoming holidays that he hadn't felt since he was a kid. Now to start planning.
The first day of Hanukkah, Blair came through the loft door, looking frazzled. "I've had it with my students. You'd think I hadn't been explaining-- Jim, what's going on?"
Food was laid out in the kitchen. The dining room table was set with a tablecloth, good china and wine glasses. A small side table from the living room was set up in front of the balcony doors. On it was what looked like his grandmother's menorah, a box of candles and matches beside it. There was also a box wrapped in blue and white paper.
"Do you mind?" Jim asked shyly. "There's always so much focus on Christmas. I thought I'd like to learn a little more about Hanukkah. Naomi said you don't always celebrate it, but I thought..."
Blair smiled warmly. "I'm touched."
"Would you say the prayers?"
"We've got half an hour 'til sunset. Let me get cleaned up." As he passed by the kitchen, Blair asked, "Are those real sufganiyot?"
"Yeah, from Rosenfeld's bakery. And brisket and kugel from Langer's. Maybe tomorrow we could make latkes?"
Jim was captivated as he watched Blair perform the ancient ritual, finding himself affected in a way that he had never been by his own religion. Afterward, Jim handed the gift to Blair.
"Wow, presents, too? You are too much, man." Inside were a dozen of Blair's favorite meditation candles. Blair looked at Jim curiously.
"Well, it's the festival of lights, right?" Jim asked, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously, feeling his face grow warm. "Anyway, let's eat, I'm starved."
And so it went for the next six days. Jim continued to give gifts of light: a heavy-duty flashlight, a replacement headlamp for the Volvo, a copy of "The Light That Failed", and so forth. Blair taught Jim how to make latkes and shared stories of his childhood.
Every evening, Blair watched Jim. He suspected Jim had a deeper purpose than simply learning about a minor Jewish holiday. Knowing Jim's nature was to let emotional things unfold slowly, Blair decided not to press for an explanation. The last seven nights they'd spent together had been really...different. Sometimes intense, sometimes tender, funny and intimate and comfortable. Blair didn't mind waiting for Jim to get to the point.
On the eighth day, Blair lit all the candles and said the prayers. Jim gave Blair his last gift--a thin envelope. When he opened it, it was tickets to...
"Well, it is the City of Lights. But I'm hoping you're as smart as you look and I don't have to spell this out."
Blair threw his arms around Jim. "I've always wanted to honeymoon in Paris!"
Jim pulled back a little bit to look in Blair's eyes. "Since when?"
Blair rolled his eyes. "Since you just asked me, doofus. Look," Blair said, suddenly serious. "I really appreciate all the wooing this past week, but you, all by yourself, would be the best Hanukkah gift I could get for, like, the next ten years."
"Only ten?" Jim crossed his arms and glared with mock outrage, which make Blair grin. "I'm hoping to get at least fifty years with you, babe." Jim then swept Blair into a kiss that communicated all the love he was feeling. "Now, take me upstairs and unwrap me."