Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Coda 27


Finn and Con from LOVERS ANDOTHER STRANGERS

 

 

Christmas morning.

Finn knew he had to make an effort.

It was difficult though. Everything was difficult now. Ever since the autumn. Ever since Fitch…

He had been okay at first. Shocked and horrified, but he had been dealing with it. He had to deal with it because he knew Con would never put up with anything else.

But then the sand had started to slip out from under his feet. And suddenly he wasn’t okay. He couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Couldn’t stop imagining…

Couldn’t stop remembering…

Con had started watching him, frowning, starting to wonder what was the matter with him, starting to question why they were together.

Con denied it, of course. But it was right there in his eyes.

Finn was denying it too, but of course he was thinking the same thing. The only reason they were together was because of Fitch. And that wasn’t a good enough reason. In fact, it was a really bad reason.

He missed Fitch desperately. Which was bizarre because he hadn’t let himself think of Fitch for three years. Now he couldn’t stop thinking about him.

He couldn’t work. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep.

His brain wouldn’t turn off. His thoughts were stuck on a loop. A terrible, terrible loop.

“I need some time on my own,” he had finally told Con.

“I don’t understand,” Con had answered. His face had been guarded, giving nothing away.

“I don’t understand myself,” Finn had said. “But I need to be alone.” What he meant was, I need to be away from you.

Maybe Con had read between the lines. “Why don’t you go back to The Birches,” he had said finally. “Maybe you can work there. I’ve got this book due anyway.”

So it was just exactly what Finn had thought. Con was only too glad to be let off the hook.

He went back to The Birches and he did try to work. He tried to pretend everything was normal. But Martha and Uncle Thomas had seen something that Con didn’t or wouldn’t.

Clinical depression. That was the official diagnosis, and the recommendation was a brief hospital stay “just to get stabilized.” Finn had panicked. Rescue had come from an unexpected quarter. Con.

When Uncle Thomas had phoned to let Con know the situation, Con had shown up within the hour with an alternate plan. He would move into The Birches and lend a hand around the place until Finn was feeling more like his old self. It was a casual, low key offer, more neighborly than loverly, it seemed to Finn. But it had stopped him panicking. He even agreed that maybe he did need a little help.

Con and Martha and Uncle Thomas — and the little pink tablets — had seen him through the worst of it. And now Finn was…trying.

Better.

He was better. A lot better. They could all see that. Though it was still difficult.

And today, this morning, was Christmas and he needed to make an effort. Needed to show everyone that he appreciated everything that had been done for him. That they did not have to keep putting him first, did not have to put their own lives on hold.

Finn had finally shaken off his preoccupation last night to ask Con about his new book, and Con had said the book was on hold. Said it absently, indifferently.

That was when Finn had finally, belatedly realized just how much trouble everyone was going to in order to keep him glued together. He had been so dismayed, so ashamed he had nearly gone into another tailspin. But this morning, he’d woken to the determination to stop monopolizing everyone’s time and energy.

This morning, when Con had kissed him as he did every morning and said, “Merry Christmas, Huckleberry,” Finn had really looked at him. Con’s was not a kind or friendly face. In fact, he looked like one of those impious Renaissance priests. He had high, elegant cheekbones and a mocking mouth. His eyes were pirate eyes, dark and enigmatic. He wore his pale hair longer these days, and he did not bother with anything but jeans and baggy wool sweaters. He had always looked so tailored and fashionable, even working at home. Something had changed inside Con too. That morning his smile had been reassuring and the expression in his eyes was attentive, grave and…

“Why are you doing this?” Finn had asked dully several times over the past weeks. “Why are you bothering?”

And each time Con had said simply, “I love you.”

This morning Finn had realized that it was perfectly true. The expression in Con’s eyes was love. That wasn’t complicated at all. That really didn’t have anything to do with Fitch. Or with anyone other than themselves.

Finn had smiled back at Con.

Con’s expression had changed. He had lifted his hand and brushed Finn’s stubbly jaw. And they had simply laid there for a few moments looking at each other. Not speaking. Finn’s brain had felt quiet, almost peaceful, as he considered the cool blue shadows in the corners of the white room. The patterned adumbration through white lace. The shaded dips in the snowy duvet and the bisque flannel sheets.

“What are you thinking about?” Con had asked softly.

Shadows and light. But he wasn’t going to talk about shadows anymore. He’d thrown enough gloom on his loved ones. Finn said, “Light. White.”

And Con had smiled, a very white smile, as though this was exactly the right answer.

He would be back in a minute or two with Finn’s breakfast which they would eat in the privacy of this room, as they had eaten breakfast for the last month. And then they would go downstairs and Finn would make a serious effort to be normal.

It was a good day to start because Christmas was always the same at The Birches. Lots of little traditions and routines to carry him through. Last night they had opened presents in front of the giant, flocked spruce tree in the front room. This morning there would be an endless stream of neighbors and visitors in for coffee and pastries, and this evening they would have Christmas dinner. It was a good day in its own right. The memories were happy. Almost entirely happy.

Finn’s stomach growled. Where was Con? It was taking him a long time to get breakfast together.

The door opened and Con was back with the breakfast tray. He was smiling as he set it down on the bed.

“You look like the cat that got the cream,” Finn said. The fact that he was noticing Con’s expression was probably another good sign.

Con did look satisfied with himself. He nodded at the tray and Finn looked down. White china. Oatmeal, milk, sugar. A white rose in a little glass of snow, a piece of driftwood, three smooth white and speckled stones, a glittery piece of white quartz, a white feather, and a wide, creamy silk ribbon. It was as though Con had been on a scavenger hunt.

Finn picked up one of the egg-shaped stones. It felt cool and grainy to the touch.

“Not quite fifty shades, but…white,” Con said.

Finn made a little face, put down the stone and picked up one of the tiny white berries rolling around the tray like waxy pearls.

“You can’t eat those,” Con told him quickly.

Finn rolled the bead-sized berry between his fingers. “No. What are they?”

“Mistletoe.”

Finn looked up. Con was smiling with uncharacteristic tentativeness. Finn began to smile too. He reached out his hand.

 

16 comments:

  1. Depression is like a Norwegian winter. Everything is just so dark and cold and you simply can't be bothered to get out of bed. But then one day.....the sun rises high enough to shine over the edge of the hill. And it hits you straight in the face. You simply stand there and let it light you up from within. And then you're wake.

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  2. Also in this case, I felt like rereading the story first ;-).

    With everything that happened to Finn (the accident, the convalescence, finding out about Fitch), the depression is perfectly understandable. I'm glad we see him starting to come out of it.

    Thank you, Josh, for this other lovely present!

    Ciao

    Antonella

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  3. Aww. Absolutely lovely. I loved all those white things! So sweet, so delightful. Made me think of all the various shades of joy in our lives. Thank you, dear Josh.

    Great pictures, by the way. ;-)

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  4. Depression is isolating. You think you are alone, but everyone around you, who loves you, is there, waiting and watching and hoping. So glad to know Con decided to wait. What a beautiful little story.

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  5. That was very moving, thank you. Finn deserves peace and happiness, so I'm glad Con came through for him when he needed to.

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  6. Aren't the pair of hands here and the pair on the cover of Merry Christmas, Darling just the Yin and the Yang? Though I've read all codas there, seeing them here with all these beautiful pictures make me feel warm all over again. Thank you, Josh, for all these lovely codas and all the recipes in the book. I was pleasantly surprised with the 'One Year Later' Kick Start coda, very sweet, very short though (but then it will never be long enough anyway :p).

    Savanna

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  7. A brilliantly-realized coda, Josh. The white imagery was breathtaking. Through a difficult time, Finn & Con are finding their way toward happiness, together. Thank you.

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  8. Seriously, I am crying right now. The interview with Con several.months ago.discussed Finn's difficulty with his brother's death but this was so.much more visceral. Heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.

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  9. What a sweet and hopeful story. Loved it! thank you.

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  10. One of short stories that I often re-read. This coda feels like a great epilogue to the original - as we never fully witnessed how finding out Fitch's demise would affect Finn. They were so close and yet had such difficult history between them - and Con.

    So thank you. That island is still a mystery to me.

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  11. I had left a comment this morning, but it isn't there anymore. So in short:

    I reread the original story, which is great.

    The coda was also great. It is understandable that Finn gets a depression after everything that happened to him (the car accident, the convalescence, finding out about Fitch). Con is supportive without pushing him, which is good. I'm glad Finn is seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel...

    Thank you for this other present, dear Josh!

    Ciao

    Antonella

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  12. I always wondered about these two, reminds me of Swift and Max; complicated LOVE but it shouldn't be because they love each other. I think this Coda speaks to healing and how the love of others is sometimes the best medicine. LOVE is patient, love is kind...and in Finn's world LOVE is Con. Thank you Josh for writing and sharing with your readers.

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  13. i agree with many of the other comments that they have a complicated love but that kind of love is still sweet and heartwarming. thank you for the coda.

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  14. I'm glad that Finn now has the strength to focus on the light rather than the shadows.

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  15. Con is definitely starting to redeem himself, that is so lovely and so very romantic, bringing white little things for Finn, so sweet, i'm so happy for them, i hope Finn will be ok... Thank you so much, Josh, for this glimpse into their lives after all that they've been through.

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