The 42 Days of Christmas Series from MLR Press continues and today I’m posting an excerpt provided by Missy Welch!
Every Time a Bell Rings
by Missy Welch
Available at MLR Press
Brian dropped everything last year when his mother became ill so he could take care of her until the day she died. People he thought were friends didn’t stick with him and he’s somehow become kind of a recluse without meaning to be. Only Mike, his best friend since they were kids, has stuck by him and is now saving him from homelessness after a fire destroys Brian’s apartment building days before Christmas. Though Mike has to go down South for the holiday, Brian stays in Mike’s apartment with his slightly singed kitten Oreo.
Brian’s only goal is to set his affairs back in order before everything shuts down for the holidays and then make it through those holidays in one piece. He’s lost so much–his only real possession is a photo album of his mom that he risked death to save from the fire–and he’s feeling lost and very alone…until Mike, his hot neighbor Trent, and even little Oreo conspire to give Brian the best Christmas possible and a future that looks a lot brighter.
Tomorrow came all too soon.
It started uniquely when Mike kissed my cheek and turned it into raspberries almost immediately. Nothing like a vibration on your face, some spit, and a giggling maniac to get you going at the butt crack of dawn.
"It’s nine o’clock," he said and bounced off the bed. "Not dawn."
I sighed and Oreo grumbled. Neither of us were morning people. Especially not after a long night’s worth of trauma.
"Come on," he hollered from the bathroom. I heard him start pissing. "We have arrangements to make with…places before I have to leave."
I got up and arranged the covers around Oreo [my kitten] so she could keep sleeping in toasty comfort.
"What time’s your flight?"
"Not until two." He tucked himself away and waved me in. "Save water. Piss with a friend."
I laughed. That was Mike. He wasn’t just trying to get his gloomy friend to lighten up, he really was a nut sometimes.
While I complied, he made a few adjustments to his hair. I didn’t know how he did it, but his black hair looked practically perfect while mine was doing a half-fluffy and half-flattened thing. I should just buzz it off. I flushed the toilet instead.
"Hearty breakfast or light one?" he asked as we trooped into the kitchen. "You remember how to make the coffee?"
"Light and yes." He’d gotten this single-cup coffee maker you’d have thought was a gift from Jesus straight to Mike. The man had every accessory and his mugs now coordinated with the little red thing. His carousel of cups had a few regular coffee-flavored coffees just for me since I didn’t like it to taste like french toast or pumpkin pie.
Apparently, he chose hearty because, while I dealt with a bowl of cereal and a shushing coffeemaker, he made an omelet. I watched him, waiting for the moment when he would flip it in the air. He had gotten better, but it was fun to bet on what would land where.
"So I figure we start with the fire department."
"Why?" I asked. "They did their job."
"To find out when you can go back in." He flicked a glance at the coffee maker, probably hoping it would hurry up so I could get smarter. "Only then can you assess the damage for the insurance company so they can pay you. Oh hey! This is one of those times when the Red Cross swoops in, right?"
I shrugged. "Maybe. The local one anyway." I frowned and munched granola coated in sugar. "That’s on Market, isn’t it? Near Frank’s?"
"That’s the only one I know."
Then he went quiet and, with a little hip wiggle and a biting of his bottom lip, he swiveled the omelet in the pan before flinging it up and—
"You did it!"
"Booyah, baby!" He hopped up and landed like a gymnast’s dismount with his hands in the air. After a bow to the fridge and one to me, he high-fived the air in front of me and spun away to thrust his hips at the oven.
Chuckling at his antics, I didn’t dream of mentioning that half the omelet cooked up the side of the pan instead of in it. It was a definite improvement.
"I’ll make a trophy. Master Flipper."
He snorted. "I’ll put it next to my trophy for being a Master Baiter."
I laughed, milk dribbling down my chin which just went so well with the topic. He turned and pointed and laughed it up right along with me.
God but I was so glad to have him here right now! Swallowing my breakfast, I sobered to the point of nearly crying. If he’d already left, I knew one phone call would’ve ensured I could stay here, but to actually have him with me was a balm to my sanity. And when he blew me a kiss over his shoulder, I knew he knew it too.