Contest #229 shortlist ⭐️

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Christmas Gay Sad

It was a long way to Ezra’s parents’ vacation home. The road was narrow and winding, the switchbacks crawling up the snow-laden mountains. Darkness seeped over the horizon and the shadows of trees stretched and receded as the car’s headlights cut through the inky blackness. The falling snow was reflected in the sickly yellow beams, the tunnel of white reminding Ezra of the opening of a Star Wars movie. 

All I Want For Christmas Is You was playing and Ezra sang along, his voice high and off-key. He put his feet on the dash despite the number of times Gabriel had told him not to. The music abruptly stopped as Gabriel skipped to the next song.

“Hey!” Ezra said indignantly. “That’s my favourite Christmas song!”

Gabriel kept his eyes on the road, but his smirk was one of poorly concealed amusement.

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Yes, seriously. It’s a good song!” Ezra poked Gabriel’s cheek good-naturedly. “Asshole.”

Asshole?” Gabriel poked him back twice as hard, his smile widening. “You’re the one poking the driver. That’s dangerous, Ezra. You could make me crash.”

Ezra aborted his retaliation, choosing to push his tongue through his teeth instead.

“Mature,” Gabriel said. “Very mature.” 

Ezra crossed his arms, slouching into the passenger seat. 

“I’m the picture of maturity.” 

“Sure you are.” Gabriel laughed. 

The windshield wipers squealed as they swept away the endless accumulation of snow. The rhythmic sound was almost soothing. Ezra watched the snowflakes melt onto the glass, their beautiful crystalline forms dwindling to nothing before being erased for good.

“So how do your parents feel about me coming to dinner?” Gabriel asked. “Didn’t you say they threatened to disown you if you brought a guy home?”

Ezra played with the zipper on his jacket, avoiding Gabriel’s amber gaze. 

“I…” Ezra faltered, gnawing on his bottom lip. “I haven’t told them.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry, okay? I just… It’ll be easier with you there.” Probably. Maybe. 

Gabriel exhaled heavily like he often did when the conversation turned to Ezra’s parents. 

“Just have to make a scene as always, huh?” Ezra could tell it was supposed to be a joke, but it was tinged with a certain bitterness, a certain annoyance. 

“Don’t be like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like…” This time Ezra was the one to sigh. “Nevermind. It doesn’t matter. Besides, I don’t care if I get disowned, I-”

“You say that now,” Gabriel said. “People with money always say that until they have none.” 

Ezra tossed his feet off the dash, sitting up to prop his elbow onto the centre console and leaned his chin on his palm. 

“I can just leech off you!”

“Very funny.” They both knew Gabriel was nothing like Ezra. He didn’t have a trust fund or a vacation home in the mountains, he had a beat-up Toyota and piles of student debt.

It was snowing harder, thick flakes covering the ground and mounting on the windshield faster than the wipers could clean them away. Blowing snow swirled in hypnotizing whirlpools over the icy roads.

“I can’t see shit,” Gabriel said under his breath.

Ezra hummed in quiet acknowledgment, turning the music up. I’ll Be Home For Christmas echoed from the speakers, making dread twist Ezra’s stomach. He was playing it over and over in his mind – telling his parents about Gabriel, their horrified expressions, the heated arguments and passive-aggressive comments that would surely follow. Perhaps being disowned would be better than having to put up with it all. 

A deafening honk pulled Ezra out of his thoughts. 

It happened quickly, so quickly he blinked and almost missed it. A flash of headlights. A truck losing control around the bend in the road. It was a matter of seconds before Gabriel’s Toyota careened off the road, hurtling down the mountainside, rolling over on itself before colliding with thick-trunked pines. The driver’s side hit the trees, the door crunching upon impact. Ezra’s neck was jerked sideways, pain radiating down his spine. His nose broke against the airbag and his right arm stung where it had collided with the passenger door. 

The headlights were buried in snow, darkness pressing in from every direction in their absence. 

Ezra winced as he turned towards Gabriel, broken bones screaming their disapproval.

 “Gabriel? You okay?” 

Shattered glass glittered on the dashboard and the airbag was streaked with crimson. Wet blood glistened on Gabriel’s forehead, spilling from a gash Ezra couldn’t see. 

“Gabriel?” It was a whisper, a breath, so quiet it could have been the wind.

“Ez… ra.” 

Ezra’s hand found Gabriel’s, squeezing tightly. 

“I’m here.”

Gabriel said nothing. His thin, rattling breaths grew slower, more laboured. Ezra pulled out his phone with shaking hands, dialing 9-1-1. Blood streaked the screen in macabre ribbons.

It didn’t feel like reality. It felt like Ezra was a ghost observing from a distance, his body floating elsewhere. Untouched. Detached. 

He held Gabriel’s hand until the emergency services arrived, their skin growing cold everywhere but the seams where their bodies met. 

Ezra watched Gabriel be loaded onto a stretcher, his skin pale, blood standing out against his clothes. So much blood. 

“He’ll be okay, right?” Ezra asked the paramedic immobilizing his broken arm. 

“Stay still for me.”

There were gruesome droplets leading up the mountainside, a grisly trail leading from the car to the ambulance, to Gabriel. 

“He’ll be okay, right?!” Ezra repeated. 

His eyes grew hot, watering at the sight of paramedics surrounding Gabriel’s still form. Please be okay… 

The zip of the black bag pulled over Gabriel’s body was the toll of the funeral bell. 

_____

Music blared through the car, All I Want For Christmas Is You. Ezra was back in the passenger seat, watching the snowflakes blur past the windows in a hypnotizing arrangement of white on black. Gabriel skipped the song.

Hadn’t he just been here? 

He’d seen this street before, the gnarled tree with its heavy, snow-covered branches. The sign proclaiming winding mountain roads ahead. 

“You okay? You’re being quiet. You’re never quiet.”

Ezra could’ve sworn they’d just been ran off the road, just crashed into the trees lining the cliffs. 

“Are you thinking about your parents?” 

Right. They were on the way to his parents’ vacation home for Christmas Eve dinner. But they’d been here before. They’d done this before. It seemed mere moments ago that he’d seen Gabriel’s broken body on a stretcher. The only explanation was that he must have fallen asleep on the drive and had a terrible, vivid dream. Still, he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something disastrous was about to happen.

“Pull over,” Ezra said. 

“What?”

“You must be tired. Let me drive for a bit.”

“But you never want to drive.”

“Tonight, I do!” Ezra snapped. Something in his voice must have been desperate enough to convince Gabriel to stop on the side of the road. Snow fell in fat, lazy flakes, settling on Ezra’s shoulders as he switched places with Gabriel. 

Ezra breathed a quiet sigh of relief as he pulled back onto the road. 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“About what?”

“Whatever’s going on with you right now.”

Ezra drove painfully slowly. He stopped before every turn, holding his breath as he waited for the blinding headlights that preceded a pitch into the treeline. A queue had built up behind him, two sets of white eyes glaring into his rearview mirror. 

“Anyone ever tell you you’re a terrible driver?”

Ezra’s hands were slippery with sweat, gliding on the leather of the steering wheel. He forced a laugh. 

“Shut up.”

“You don’t have to stop before turns.”

“I know.”

“Then why-”

One of the cars behind him sped up, jerking into the opposing lane to overtake them. 

“Dumbass,” Gabriel whispered under his breath. “It’s way too slippery to drive like that.”

Gabriel’s hand found Ezra’s thigh, squeezing gently. 

“Ezra, if you’re nervous about your parents meeting me– Fuck! Watch out!”

The car in front of them was skidding out, spinning out of control. Ezra slammed on the brakes but he couldn’t stop it, couldn’t stop the way the rear of the other car collided with the passenger side, sending them hurtling towards the trees.

Ezra watched the paramedics shake their heads. He watched them zip the body bag. 

And his world shattered once more.

_____

The third time, Ezra tried something else. He tried telling Gabriel to turn around and get a hotel for the night. The roads were too bad. His parents would understand. 

The sixth time, he asked Gabriel to pull over to the side of the road and stay there. They’d stay as long as they had to, lingering past the sticky stretch of time that marked Gabriel’s last moments. 

The tenth time, he didn’t anticipate the deer running in front of the car.

Every iteration ended the same way. 

Blood on the snow like spilt ink. Broken glass glittering like constellations.

_____

Ezra didn’t sing along to All I Want For Christmas Is You anymore, didn’t say anything when Gabriel skipped it. He knew it would take exactly 23 seconds for Gabriel to ask:

“You okay? You’re being quiet. You’re never quiet.”

Ezra didn’t know how much more of this he could take. 

“Are you thinking about your parents?”

Ezra closed his eyes. No, he wanted to say. I’m thinking about you. I’m thinking about how to save you. 

“Can we not talk about them tonight?” Ezra asked. “I don’t want to fight with you.”

“Why would it be a fight? They know I’m coming, right?”

Tears of frustration prickled at the corners of Ezra’s eyes, building along his waterline. He didn’t want this to be their last conversation. 

“If you didn’t tell them about me, I get it. I know how they are. But-”

“That doesn’t matter right now!”

When Ezra blinked, the tears in his eyes dislodged, streaking down his cheeks. He knew what would happen in 97 seconds. 

What would it be this time? A slick patch of ice? A truck turning a corner too wide? 

“Slow down here,” Ezra said.

“What? Why?”

“Just do it!”

“What the hell is going on with you?”

A figure darted out in front of the car, its haloed shadow falling over the windshield.

“Gabriel, stop!”

The car jerked to a halt quickly enough that the deer was barely grazed. It limped towards the treeline and Ezra let out a long, slow breath. His laugh started low, quickly growing harsh and manic. They didn’t crash this time. He’d avoided it. 

Gabriel got out of the car to assess the damage. Ezra followed. 

“Looks okay to me,” Gabriel shrugged as he took in the slight scraping and bits of hair clinging to the front bumper. 

“Yeah,” Ezra breathed. He pulled Gabriel in for a kiss, relief flooding his body. Gabriel was still here. Still in his arms. 

“What was that for?” Gabriel asked, brushing a piece of Ezra’s hair behind his ear. Ezra let his head fall to Gabriel’s shoulder as he pulled him close. 

“I’m just glad you’re still here.”

Gabriel’s hand lingered on Ezra’s cheek, cold fingers brushing tenderly against his skin. A thin smile tugged at the corners of his lips.

“Where else would I be?”

Ezra nuzzled into his neck, smelling piney cologne and a familiar musk that was uniquely Gabriel. 

This was the seventeenth time. 

Two beams of yellowy light appeared around the bend in the road. 

Gabriel reacted faster than Ezra, shoving him away as the truck careened down the slippery road to a chorus of panicked honks. 

No matter how many times Ezra saw it happen, it never got easier. 

“Gabriel!”

The truck crashed into the trees, taking Gabriel with it. Ezra ran after him, his boots sinking into the snow. He was breathing heavily by the time he reached him. 

Only Gabriel no longer looked like Gabriel. His body was crushed, his head caved in. He was a mess of blood and sinew, almost unrecognizable. Ezra retched, emptying the contents of his stomach at the base of a tree. 

“No…” Ezra sobbed. “No, no, no, no!”

He’d avoided it. He thought for sure that this time… 

Ezra slapped himself in the face. Over and over. 

“Wake up!” He shouted towards the night sky. “Just wake up! This isn’t real!” He sank to his knees in the snow, hot tears sliding down his cheeks. 

Half of Gabriel’s face was still intact, his amber eye staring up at the moonlit clouds, unblinking. Ezra ran a tentative hand along his hairline, wanting to feel his skin against his one more time. 

_____

Ezra leaned his head against the passenger seat window, his breath fogging up the glass. Gabriel skipped All I Want For Christmas Is You, and this time, Ezra put it back on.

“It’s my favourite,” he said quietly. At least, it used to be. 

Gabriel’s brows creased as he took in Ezra’s slumped form.

“You okay?”

He was far from okay. He’d just watched Gabriel die seventeen times, helpless to stop it. 

“Fine,” he said. 

Gabriel didn’t look convinced. 

Ezra took him in, then, memorizing every inch of him. Every curly brown hair, every crease next to his fox-like eyes, the twitch of his soft pink lips as they pressed together in concern. He wished he could make him smile, etch that image into his subconscious forever. 

“Do you remember when we met?” Ezra asked. 

Gabriel’s lips parted in confusion, but he said, “Of course I do.”

Ezra spoke to the passing landscape as he recalled fond memories.

“We were both in first-year calculus and you were so confused by infinite series that I had to tutor you…”

“That’s almost true,” Gabriel said. His soft smile was a balm on Ezra’s fraying nerves. “I had all A’s in my math classes, I just wanted to spend time with you.” 

Heat flooded Ezra’s face, pooling behind his eyes. His mind wandered to their college years – long nights at the library, celebrating finishing exams at the local bar, playing video games in Gabriel’s dorm room until the sun came up.

“Where’s this coming from, anyway?” Gabriel asked. 

“It doesn’t matter,” Ezra said. “Just… pull over.”

Gabriel obeyed, side-eyeing Ezra like he thought he was losing his mind. They were nestled below the pines, snow swirling over the windshield. Ezra could hear the wind whistling through the gaps in the windows. They’d get hit here. They’d die here. Ezra had seen it time and time again. 

Ezra took Gabriel’s hand in his, squeezing tightly.

“From the first minute I saw you, I knew I loved you.”

“Ezra-”

“It’s always been you, Gabriel.” Ezra’s voice cracked over the syllables. “It’ll always be you.”

Gabriel said nothing, only smiled as he took Ezra’s chin in his hand, bringing their lips together. Ezra melted into the touch, wishing it would never recede. The car’s clock flashed, reminding Ezra they only had three minutes left. Three agonizingly short minutes. 

Ezra broke the kiss, leaning his forehead against Gabriel’s. 

“I don’t care if my parents disown me. I don’t care if we’re so broke we have to live in this car. I love you.”

Gabriel’s fingers were feather-light as they brushed Ezra’s hair away from his face. 

“I love you too.”

Ezra pulled him close once more, pressing their bodies together as if they would become one if he squeezed him hard enough. Emotion was clawing at his throat, manifesting itself in the hot tears stinging his eyes. 

“Ezra? What’s wrong?”

A sob caught in the back of Ezra’s throat. He wanted to hear Gabriel say his name forever, his smooth, silky voice drawing out the syllables. He wanted to grow old with him, raise kids with him, lay on the couch watching movies after a long day at work. He wanted to argue over dumb things that didn’t matter, voices rising and falling until they kissed and made up. He wanted it all. He wanted more time. 

“I’m sorry I can’t save you.”

“What?”

Gabriel shifted and attempted to pull away. Ezra only held him tighter. His breaths came sharp and ragged, rattling in his throat as they turned into sobs.

“I’m so sorry.”

“I’m right here.”

One minute. 

It was already decided, already determined. Gabriel’s name was written in the Book of Fate in blood-red ink. 

Ezra remained wrapped around Gabriel, their bodies so close they lost themselves in the boundless grey where yin and yang blended into each other. 

“I love you,” he whispered one more time as a pair of headlights rounded the corner.

He knew it would happen before it happened. Crunching metal and breaking glass. 

Only this time, Ezra would come with him.

December 22, 2023 01:43

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22 comments

Judah Bannarbie
00:15 Jul 08, 2024

I loved this story and its ability to really connect with the reader through amazing details. After the first few sentences, I had already felt a connection to the characters. Throughout the story, I hoped they would both get to make it out, but it didn't happen. This was the first story I have read on this website and now I am looking forward to many more. Thank you!

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Sarah Parker
13:50 May 29, 2024

I loved the descriptions. Congrats on getting shortlisted!!!

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J. I. MumfoRD
10:55 Mar 22, 2024

I suspect your story has been used without permission. Please search for your story on YT. "Motivational Short Story Today"

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Elisa Skoett
23:36 Mar 22, 2024

thanks for letting me know i found an “audiobook” version on yt. didn’t find anything matching “motivational short story today” tho so there might be more than one. can you send the link of the one you’re referring to? thanks!

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J. I. MumfoRD
07:59 Mar 23, 2024

YouTube shut down the account. Apparently too many copywrite strikes. I found the link when testing free plagiarism software.

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Kate Winchester
19:01 Jan 13, 2024

Your descriptions are amazing! This is a hauntingly beautiful story. Congrats on the well-deserved shortlist!

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J. I. MumfoRD
11:43 Jan 05, 2024

Strong command of language, pacing and storytelling, highly imaginative concept and execution, thoughtful, evocative, and memorable. Thanks, I learned a lot reading this one. You should be proud, this is an outstanding and brilliantly crafted short story.

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Story Time
04:38 Jan 02, 2024

The descriptions here are so meticulous. I found it entrancing to read. Good job.

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Philip Ebuluofor
15:00 Dec 31, 2023

Too many of that accident this December period here. A whole family wiped away two days ago. Congrats.

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Caro Robson
17:46 Dec 29, 2023

Ah! Yes! Well done on making the shortlist - very, very well deserved.

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Mary Bendickson
16:41 Dec 29, 2023

Congrats on the shortlist.

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Alexis Araneta
04:40 Dec 28, 2023

Such a heartbreakingly beautiful story. The imagery is splendid. It's just sad that Gabriel couldn't escape death.

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Trudy Jas
23:08 Dec 25, 2023

You made the unbelievable sound - and feel - believable.

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Elisa Skoett
23:48 Dec 26, 2023

thank you !! glad to hear it :)

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Kristi Gott
02:43 Dec 25, 2023

I love the devotion, love and dedication shown in the story. Well told! I love the ending too.

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Elisa Skoett
06:22 Dec 25, 2023

Thank you so much for reading! Glad you enjoyed it :)

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20:41 Dec 24, 2023

I loved it. But love more your descriptions, I read it and I get a vivid image of what's happening in my head.

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Elisa Skoett
06:23 Dec 25, 2023

Thank you !! I love hearing that you can picture my story with the words :)

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Caro Robson
06:26 Dec 24, 2023

Absolutely incredible. Hope to see your name as this week's winner. Wow!!

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Elisa Skoett
06:24 Dec 25, 2023

Thank you so much !! I’m glad you liked it!

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Tricia Shulist
23:39 Dec 23, 2023

Wow. What a great story. But so sad. I don’t know which is worse — the fact that that fate has determined Gabriel’s death, or the fact the Ezra can’t live without him. Thanks for this.

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Elisa Skoett
06:25 Dec 25, 2023

Yes it is quite sad unfortunately… it seems they’re both just doomed together! Thanks for reading

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