Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Christmas Treat from Andrew Grey

Take a Cruise for Christmas by Andrew Grey

A number of years ago, I was looking forward to going on my first cruise vacation with my partner.  I also had to write a Christmas story and the two things melded into A Cruise for Christmas.  Writing this story was a great deal of fun.  Granted the actual cruise was even more fun, but writing this story was like taking a vacation without leaving my computer.  I hope you enjoy the excerpt and decide to read the entire story and take a warm December vacation with Kyle and Tim.

Blurb:  When Henry Gilmore is given a private stateroom on a gay cruise for a Christmas present, he has visions of cute party boys, hunky muscle gods, and breaking his run of bad luck when it comes to love. Things don't turn out quite as he planned, but sometimes Santa knows best and two out of three ain't bad.

“It’s a cruise!!”  Jim and Paul squealed together as I opened the envelope they’d handed me as my Christmas gift.  “We know we agreed that we wouldn’t go overboard, but we just couldn’t help it.”  Jim gushed with excitement as he pulled me into a hug.
Paul held back, he was always the more reserved of the two, but even he was excited, “You’ve helped us so much this year, we just wanted to say thank you.”
I looked down at the ticket in my hand, unable to believe my eyes, “Thank you, but…”  I had so many questions.
Jim started gushing again, “We already called your boss and arranged for the time off from work.  So you’re all set, you leave in 5 days.”  I was hugged to within an inch of my life… and it felt good.  These two men were as close to a family as I had, hell they were the understanding parents I never had.  I met Jim and Paul years ago when I got my first job and my first apartment.  They still lived in the same apartment while I had moved to another part of the city, but I could never leave them behind.  I spent holidays, birthdays, both theirs and mine, with them.  We laughed together, joked together, and we loved each other.  “If you check the ticket, you’ll see that we got you your own cabin so you can have some fun.”
Their apartment was decorated to the max with a huge tree and lights galore.  “Thank you so much.”  I hugged both of them, unable to believe their generosity.  “I haven’t gotten your gifts yet.”  It was only the first week of December and I had just stopped over to see if they wanted to go shopping.  Both Jim and Paul were approaching 70 and neither of them drove, so I stopped by regularly to take them shopping and to help with things they couldn’t do anymore.
“Just bring us something from the cruise.”  Paul hugged him again before sitting back on the sofa.
Jim quipped as he headed into the kitchen, “Yeah, preferably someone tall, handsome, and just your size.”  They both laughed and I joined in as well.  We all knew my dating history, unlucky at best.  Jim returned with a tray of his famous cocktails and treats, setting the tray on the coffee table.  But instead of passing out the drinks, he went to the huge Christmas tree and started pulling out packages, before handing them to me.  “Before you say anything, we know we sprang the cruise on you and with your work, you won’t have time to shop, so we got you a few things.”  Jim plopped half a dozen wrapped boxes on my lap.  “Open, open, open!”  Jim was like a kid on Christmas morning as I did as he asked. 
The boxes contained a nearly complete cruise wardrobe with shorts, fashionable t-shirts, tank tops, and even light dress pants and shirt.  They had great taste and while I’d never spring for such fashionable clothes myself, my wardrobe consists mainly of work clothes and jeans, I knew what they’d bought would look good on me.  “I don’t know what to say, this too much.”
It was Paul’s turn at the tree, “Nonsense, you do so much for us,”  he handed me a small package, “This is just our way of saying thank you, besides you know we love you, you’re the son neither of us ever had.”  Paul started laughing, “besides we got to spend an evening with the International Male catalog.”  I opened this last small box to find two bathing suits, small bathing suits.  One was a blue square cut with anchor buttons and the other was a very brief bikini.  “We couldn’t send you on a cruise and let you wear those huge board shorts that go down to your knees.  Yuk!!”  They both laughed.  “Okay, go try one on, we want to see you.”  I looked at both men, giving them my best, “You’ve got to be kidding look,”  but they wouldn’t be put off, so I found myself in the bathroom, changing into a the blue square-cut suit.
I came out of the bathroom, feeling a little shy, but as soon as they saw me, they started gushing again, “You’ll be beating them off with sticks.”
“Honey, they’re gonna love you.”  I twirled around for their enjoyment and then went back into the bathroom to get dressed again.  When I came out, they passed out drinks, and Jim made a toast, “Here’s hoping you get harpooned on the high seas.”  All three of us cracked up, particularly since that wouldn’t be surprising.
Up to this point, my love life had been one disaster after another.  There was Julio, who was very sensual and a lot of fun both in and out of bed, but he refused to move away from home.  Stavros was gorgeous… tall, dark, handsome… and married.  A fact he neglected to mention for two months.  Irving was delightful, a shy, quiet, intellectual man that I dated for almost six months.  We had a great time, until he told me his ultimate fantasy involved me naked on all fours with me calling him master and him calling me puppy.   Everyone has to draw the line somewhere, and mine is eating with my fingers out of a doggy dish.  I’m sorry but utensils are absolutely necessary.
“Henry, you’re a wonderful man who deserves to be happy and maybe, just maybe… you’ll find him on the cruise.”  It was Paul, the eternal romantic, who’d said he never gave up on finding true love.  He and Jim hadn’t met until both of them were in their 50s.  They’ve been happy together for 20 years.
We spent the rest of the evening laughing together like we always did in their warm, homey, and utterly charming apartment.  When I got up to leave, they both hugged the stuffing out of me and wished me bon voyage.  “I’ll call you before I leave,” They both hugged me again, told me they loved me, and got me a bag for the gifts before seeing me to the door.
For the next week, I worked during the day and get things ready for the cruise at night.  My boss, an institution at my company, and one of the sweetest people I’d ever met, though if she heard me say that, she’s probably hit me, was almost as excited as I was about the upcoming cruise.  She made sure that everything was done before I left and spent the week running interference.  I added her to the list of people I needed to shop for.  On Friday at about three, she stopped by my desk and told me to get out here before somebody decided they needed something else.
“Thanks Judy.”
“You’re welcome, Hun… have a good time.”  She smiled and tootled her way back to her office as I shut down my PC and high tailed it to the exit. 
As soon as I got home, I completed the last of my packing and called Jim and Paul.  They were both so excited for me I thought they’d bust a gut.  “Have a good time and take plenty of pictures.” 
I heard Jim pick up the other phone, “Yeah, take plenty of pictures of the scenery… preferable in Speedos.”  Jim laughed as they both said goodbye still as excited as if they were going on the cruise with me.  Before bed, my suitcase was packed, the alarm set for a god awful hour, and I climbed in bed with visions of palm trees and pretty boys dancing in my head.
I got up before the alarm and caught the first morning shuttle to O’Hare.  The bus took almost two hours, but it saved a fortune in parking fees.  The flight to San Juan was on time and we landed just after noon.  I retrieved my luggage and a porter from the cruise line was on hand telling me that it would all be taken care of and not to worry.  A shuttle bus picked me up and drove me to the dock where a huge, gleaming white ship awaited.  As I stepped out of the bus, another cruise line employee asked to see my boarding information.  I handed it over and he motioned to someone else.
“Please show Mr. Gilmore to the forward gangway.”  My ticket was viewed again and then I was led away from the crowd of people to the front of the ship, where two people waited behind a table.  My ticket was passed to someone else.  I provided a credit card for my onboard expenses, my passport was checked, and I filled out a few forms, signing where they indicated.  “Thank you, Mr. Gilmore, Jose will show you to your stateroom.”
A little confused, I followed Jose as he took the carry-on bag I was carrying and led me up the gangway, “Is this your first cruise, sir?”  His English was impeccable and his tone very welcoming as he led me onto the ship.  I was lead up a few decks and down a hallway to a door, “This is your room and here are your key cards.”  He opened and held the door for me as I entered the room.”
“Jesus…”  I was expecting a small room on the inside of the ship.  What I was in was a huge suite with what looked like a balcony and a separate bedroom.  “Is this right?”   Jesus, Jim and Paul must have broken the bank.
“Yes sir.  As I said before, I’m Jose and I’ll be your cabin steward for your voyage.  If you need anything, please press the steward’s button on the phone.”  He showed me through the suite and then quietly left the room.  The table had a large basket filled with chocolates and even a bottle of Champagne.  I plucked out the card, “Have a great trip and find someone to share the champagne with.  It was signed, Jim and Paul.”  I smiled as I set down the card.  A brief knock, the door opened, and then a porter entered, with my luggage.  He quickly placed it in the bedroom, bid me a wonderful trip and quietly exited the cabin.  I unpacked quickly, picked up my key and the map of the ship on the table, and ventured out to explore the ship.
The shopping arcade and atrium were decorated with huge Christmas trees and waterfalls of twinkling lights.  As I wandered through, I heard the ship’s whistle indicating that we were leaving port.  Walking briskly, I joined the other passengers at the rails to wave and celebrate our departure.  It was there that I got the shock of my life.
As I looked around at the other passengers, I realized that everyone I could see was of retirement age.  I’d checked the brochure so I knew that was a gay cruise, but this was not what I was expecting.  As we pulled away from the dock, I heard an announcement, “Welcome to the Caribbean Star for our annual Gay Maturity Cruise.”  I was floored, but that explained what was going on, I’d been booked on a gay retiree cruise.  Gone were my visions of cute party boys, strapping boys next door, and hunky muscle gods.  Instead I was looking at a week of canes, wheelchairs, and canasta.  Then I noticed the number of people looking at me and whispering to one another.  God, they thought I was some sort of toy boy with a grandpa complex.  Taking a deep breath, I stepped away from the rail and followed the crew instructions as they conducted the required lifeboat drill.

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