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The Apology

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Thursday, December 22 2011


Ambrose dialed his mother's number nervously. He didn't know what he would say differently than he had the last phone call when he'd said he'd be staying in the city for the holiday, but he had to try.

"Ambrose," his mother answered the phone, her voice warm, but weary.

"Hey, Mom." Ambrose twisted the cord of Adam's kitchen phone between his fingers. "I just wanted to call again. How are you?"

"Good. I helped set up the decorations for the building party tomorrow."

Ambrose closed his eyes, his chest tight with guilt. "Larry's daughters bicker over the music again?"

"Traditional English hymns versus modern pop carols," his mother confirmed. The annual battles between Larry's two eldest daughters had been part of Christmas nearly as far as Ambrose could remember.

"I'm not upset I missed that," Ambrose said with a flicker of a smile. "Who strung the popcorn this year?"

"Dahlia took care of it while her sisters bickered. How are you, Ambrose?"

"That's actually a more complicated question than you'd think," Ambrose said. He pressed his head back against the kitchen wall, thankful for the quiet house. Adam was already asleep; and, David was upstairs showering. He could hear the pipes in the walls.

"I don't need a degree to know something is upsetting you." Her voice softened. "What's wrong?"

"I wish I could be there, Mom," Ambrose said, forcing every drop of sincerity and honesty he had into his words.

"I know."

He pressed on. "But I can't. And, I wish I could explain, but you'd never believe me." He would have to show her like he had showed Adam and everyone else. Sometimes he envied the others; they only had to deal with memories, while he got the double whammy of memories and magic. Other times, though, he appreciated the magic. It was far more convincing than talking about dreams.

"Surprisingly, Ambrose," his mother said, her tone almost wry, "I do not think you would miss our Christmas if it wasn't an emergency. I trust you." This made him feel even worse. In this case, their definitions of emergency had no chance of overlapping.

"I will explain," Ambrose said. He could feel himself starting to babble. "I promise. New Year's. David won't be able to make it, but I'll come and I'll explain. I just, I can't leave now."

His mother laughed. "Ambrose, I do miss you, but I also trust you. And, don't worry. I won't be alone. Liam's family has invited me to celebrate with them."

Ambrose smiled. "Liam is a good friend." When Ambrose had first realized he was gay, Liam was the first person he'd told. They'd drifted over the years, but Ambrose would never not count him as one of his closest friends.

The pipes ground behind him, the water stopping. "I love you, Mom," Ambrose said. "I just thought I should call and tell you. And, I'll miss you on Christmas."

"I love and will miss you, too. Call me again on Christmas. We can watch our movie together over the phone."

Ambrose grinned. "Definitely. That's sacred. Good night, Mom. Sorry for calling so late."

"Don't apologize for that. I'm just happy to talk with you. Good night."

Ambrose waited until he heard his mother's phone click, then he reached up and slipped the phone into its cradle without looking.

He heard David moving toward the stairs. "Ambrose, I'm—" David's voice was a stage whisper.

Ambrose went to the bottom of the steps. "I know. I heard the pipes." He enjoyed the view of David at the top of the stairs, his hair still wet, chest bare, and wearing a pair of thin sweats.

"Are you going to stare all night; or, are you going to come upstairs?"

Ambrose started taking the steps quietly in twos. "I'm coming. I'm coming." When he reached the top, he hooked one hand behind David's neck, pulling him in for a short, hard kiss. "Good night."

David pushed in, lengthening and softening the kiss. "Good night," he agreed. "Let's go to bed."

"That," Ambrose said, some of the tension from talking with his mother seeping out of him, "sounds like an excellent idea."