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  Chapter 10: Christmas 
  Winter arrived suddenly the following week. A freezing wind buffeted Kate and Michael as they left the office one evening and hurried through the early darkness to their car. 

"A cold front has the eastern third of the nation in its grip," the radio newscaster said, as if he enjoyed broadcasting the depressing news. Kate blew on her fingers. "Temperatures here in the nation's capital reached the low thirties today, but if you thought it felt colder, you were right. With the wind chill, it felt more like ten above." 

Michael was the first one up the next morning. "Well, would you look at this!" he said, peering out the window on his way to the bathroom. "The weatherman got caught napping this time." 

Suddenly wide awake, Kate joined him at the window to gaze delightedly at a world of white. The wind whipped clouds of snowflakes around the street light. 

"Do you suppose they'll close the office?" she asked hopefully. Before Michael could answer, a snowplow clattered by, and they looked at each other in mock resignation. 

"Guess I'd better get dressed," she said, turning reluctantly from the window. 

"And I guess I'd better shovel out the driveway," added Michael. 

As they crept along the snowy roads on the way to work, Michael glanced over at Kate. "I don't know about you, but with winter starting this early, I think I'm going to get awfully tired of cold weather before spring!" 

You're probably right," said Kate, laughing, "but the first snow is always exciting to me." 

"If this keeps up, I'll bet you won't think it's so exciting by Christmastime," retorted Michael. "I've got an idea. What would you think of taking a vacation in Hawaii this winter?" 

"Oh, that would be nice!" exclaimed Kate, her eyes dreamy. 

"We haven't had a real vacation since we came home from Singapore. And it would be fun seeing all our old friends again." 

When they got home that evening, Michael brought a couple of logs in and built a fire in the fireplace. After supper, he and Kate cuddled up on the couch and stared dreamily at the dancing flames. 

"Why don't we spend Christmas at Nonnie's with the rest of the family and then fly on to Hawaii for a week?" Michael suggested, returning to the morning's topic of conversation. "Do you have enough vacation time saved up for that?" 

"Let's see," Kate said, doing some mental figuring. "Yeah, I think I can manage that, with the Christmas and New Year holidays. I wonder if Brenden would be able to fly out to California for Christmas too. I'd hate to leave him back here by himself." 

"Let's ask him," Michael said enthusiastically. "And you know what? Why don't we take Danny with us to Hawaii. It could be an early graduation present. Show him his roots, where he was born, and all that." 

Kate's eyes lighted up. "Oh, honey," she said softly, "what a nice idea. That would really be special!" 

Michael left the next Friday for some meetings in Canada. After lunch on Sunday, Kate enjoyed a phone call from Alex and his second wife, Stephanie. She especially enjoyed talking to each of her precious little granddaughters. As she hung up, she thought, I'd better call Danny. He won't want to make any calls on the phone where he's staying. 

She was grateful when Danny answered. "Homes it going, buddy?" she asked. 

"OK," he answered unconvincingly. "I'm sorta getting settled here. Most of my stuff is packed up and stored at the dorm." 

"How is your student teaching going?" 

"Well, I didn't do too well on my latest video critique," Danny confessed with a sigh. "I'm having problems with discipline. It's just hard to concentrate on what I'm doing with so many things on my mind." 

"That's understandable," sympathized Kate. "Maybe things will go better now that you've moved out of the dorm." 


"Danny, Daddy and I have been talking about taking a week's vacation in Hawaii after Christmas. 

How would you like to go with us, for a sort of early graduation present?" 

"Hey, that would be great!" Danny exclaimed, with some of the old sparkle in his voice. Kate sensed what he didn't say, that the offer was an affirmation of their love that he desperately needed at that moment. 

Christmas Eve was the usual noisy hubbub of happy confusion as Nonnie's old house nearly overflowed with the combined families of Michael and his brother and sister- more than two dozen in all. Alex was there with Stephanie, Amy, and Sara and Samantha, Amy's two little half sisters. 

Kate, Michael, and Brenden were the last to arrive. Under her excitement, Kate felt a shadow of anxiety about Michael and Danny's first meeting since she had broken the news to Michael. 

Looking in the big picture window as they climbed the porch steps, Kate smiled in amusement when she spotted Danny. He was sporting a most remarkable headgear, a flamboyant creation of red velvet that looked like some kind of floppy, oversized beret. Just then, he looked up and saw them. Leaping out of his chair, he ran to the door and flung it open. 

"Merry Christmas, Mummy!" he exclaimed, hugging her, then turned to Michael. 

"You look like Santa Claus!" chuckled Michael, breaking the ice. 

Kate bit her lip as Danny turned and she saw the tiny gold earring. She glanced quickly at Michael, but he seemed not to have noticed. Then Nonnie bustled in, and they were swamped with hugs and greetings. 

After Nonnie's bountiful buffet supper, the mob migrated to the family room, where the Christmas tree stood, practically buried under a mountain of gaily wrapped packages. As the evening progressed, Kate observed that Danny was growing unusually quiet and withdrawn. Although no one had said anything, she realized that the family had all noticed Danny's appearance and were drawing their own conclusions. She sensed that it was Danny's way of making a statement and knew he felt the undercurrent of questions and disapproval. 

Later, after those who lived near enough had gone home, and sleeping logistics had been figured out for the rest, Kate and Michael got ready for bed. Kate knew Michael had noticed Danny's earring and was irritated, but she hoped he wouldn't say anything. She was disappointed too, but somehow it seemed easier to deal with if nothing was said. This time, she was the one avoiding reality. 

Michael got into bed and reached over to turn off the lamp. As he lay back against his pillow, he heaved a big sigh of exasperation. 

"Why does Danny have to flaunt this thing and make such a big point of it?" he exclaimed. "Why can't he just keep quiet about it?" 

He rolled over on his side and punched angrily at his pillow. "Walt asked me tonight if Danny's gay! Wanted to know if I thought he had AIDS! I didn't know what to say." 

Something defensive stirred inside Kate. "Was Walt afraid he might catch AIDS from Danny?" she asked, with a touch of fire in her voice. 

Silence reigned for a spell. At last, Kate said in a small, flat voice, "Maybe Danny just needed to know how his family would react when they found out." 

Michael didn't answer for several minutes. "Well, he shouldn't expect everybody to act as if nothing has happened," he finally said in a frustrated voice. 

Kate looked at the shadows the street light made on the bedroom wall. "I know," she said sadly. "But he's lived with this so long, I suppose it's hard for him to remember that we're just finding out. I think he just needs to know that we all still love him, that our love isn't based on his not being gay." 

The next day, Michael insisted that Danny remove his earring. With a stubborn set to his jaw, he silently obeyed. Kate had a sick feeling that their vacation was ruined, but by the time they left for the airport an unspoken truce prevailed, as if they had all decided to enjoy their trip and to avoid talking about "the subject." 

As they waited for their flight, Kate could not avoid a stab of pain when she looked at Danny's red nylon carry-on bag with his name stitched on the side. Michael had brought it home from a trip to 
Korea the year before. Angela had an identical one that she would never use, because it had "Angela McLaughlin" stitched on it. Michael had given them the bags for Christmas, along with the promise of a honeymoon in Hawaii for a wedding present. 

A warm, tropical evening greeted them on their arrival in Honolulu. The nearly full moon was rising, illuminating a sky dappled with heaps of cumulus clouds. Palm trees rustled in a gentle breeze that wafted the scent of plumeria blossoms. Pleasant memories mingled with anticipation as they drove across the island to Auntie Florence's home, where they had reserved two rooms. 

Auntie Florence and Uncle James had been youth leaders in their church for many years. Now, Uncle James was gone, and Auntie Florence had turned her house into a "bed-and-breakfast" facility. 

Lazy, sun-filled days passed quickly. Most days were spent on the white, sandy beach at Kailua, where they could look out over the sparkling turquoise waters of the lagoon, the cobalt blue of the deeper ocean beyond the reef, and range after range of purple headlands fading into the distance. 

One afternoon they went to the Polynesian Cultural Center to enjoy the music, dances, and culture of the various South Pacific islands. Another day they drove by the house where they had lived many years before and visited the hospital where Danny had been born. Memories of those happy days, when life seemed less complicated, drew the three of them closer together, and they took pleasure in each other's company. 

All too soon, they were on the plane headed back to the mainland, leis and fresh tans the only reminder of their tropical holiday. At the airport in San Francisco, they said goodbye as Danny returned to the college, where he had been asked to do another three weeks of student teaching before qualifying for his credentials. 

On the flight back to the East Coast, Kate tried not to worry about Danny. He had always been such a good student, but now, at the end of his college career, he seemed to be floundering. 

As Kate and Michael talked to him over the next few weeks, it was evident that he wasn't doing too well. Although he tried not to show it, they could tell he was discouraged. So it wasn't too much of a surprise when he called near the end of January and announced that he had decided he didn't want to teach. 

"I'll still have my English major. but I don't know what I'll do with it. I just want to get away from here," he told them. "I think I'll see if I can move in with Alex and Stephanie for a while till I can find a job. If I haven't found anything I like by graduation, maybe I'll go to Europe and bum around for a while or something. Maybe I'll even go back out to Singapore. I think I'd like to get in touch with my life out there again. The one thing I do know is that I can't get away from here soon enough." 

As she listened to Danny, Kate had the sensation of all her nerves drawing in tightly together, as if shrinking from the pain of this latest disappointment. She could almost see herself holding up both hands to fend off the pain, trying to keep it outside, where it couldn't hurt her. 

What's going to happen to Danny? As day followed day, the thought was never absent from Kate's mind. Worry hung over her like a paralyzing pall of uncertainty. 


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