I had plans for my Halloween story this year, but as the saying goes, there's many a slip t'wixt cup and lip. The new plan is that you'll get that next year.

Instead of the planned story, I have a little snapshot of the boys from last year's Halloween story, Micky and Rhys, on their one year anniversary, fresh of the keyboard, unedited, and so on. I hope it makes you smile.

Tradition

Rhys was half watching the muted black-and-white film on the tv, and half watching Micky. Micky was sitting sideways in the big battered armchair, tv remote resting in the space under his knees where his feet were tucked up against the arm, talking on the phone, and picking at the chipped black polish on his nails.

From Micky's half of the conversation, and the way his accent was just that bit stronger, Rhys had deduced that it was a member of Micky's family on the other end. Either his mam, his nan, or one of his aunties, most likely.

He ought to go back upstairs, where the problems for next week's seminars were waiting for him, but what was the point of Saturday afternoons if you couldn't slack in the living room for a while?

The house was quiet – Ed was down in the uni library, because all his lecturers had coordinated to have their due dates arrive at once, and Clive had the room right up in the attic, so you could only hear his music if you really strained for it. On the tv Cary Grant was trying to distract his leading lady from the body-count by kissing her silly. Rhys smiled to himself – Arsenic and Old Lace was pretty funny even with the sound turned down.

He'd met Micky's parents back in June, when they'd come up to help Micky find a student house off campus, and he'd met Micky's nan, and about three million members of his extended family when Micky's cousin Beth had got married back in August, and one of the things that the whole family had in common was that they could talk the hind leg off a donkey. When he was talking to his mam Micky’s role was reduced to one or two sentences every five minutes, and lots of 'uh-hu's.

The cup of instant coffee he'd made for Micky was luke-warm and barely touched on the table by the phone, and Rhys's was long gone. He turned the mug around in his hands, and then decided that, actually, yes, he could use a refill and a sandwich.
Standing up, he caught Micky's eye and mouthed 'you hungry', gesturing to his stomach.

Micky nodded, and opened his eyes wide, like a Disney puppy begging for scraps. Rhys grinned, and rolled his eyes. Micky wasn't a big guy by any measure, but he was almost always ready to eat when someone offered.

He was out in the kitchen, digging around in the washing up on the drainer to find a knife for the mustard, when a sudden change in volume made him jump.

"Nan!" Micky yelped. "You can't say things like that!"

Rhys abandoned the half made sandwiches and went over to put his head around the living room door. The hell?

Micky had his spare hand buried in his hair, his raised arm covering his face, and he was shaking his head.

"No, no, Nan, I know. In your day … I know! It's just… Yeah, no, I do. You know I do. I brought him to Beth's wedding, didn't I? " There was something strained in his voice, though.

Rhys's ears were burning now – what had Micky's nan said about him?

"Yeah, about that long," Micky was saying, when he finally noticed his boyfriend lurking in the doorway. As soon as Micky looked up, Rhys could tell that the off-ness in Micky's tone was him trying not to crack up. His eyes were creased, and he was biting down on his lower lip while his nan was talking.

"What?" Mickey whispered, exaggerating his mouth movement.

Micky waved his hand violently – something between 'shut up' and 'go away', and the flush on his cheeks got a shade brighter.

Rhys frowned, and asked again, silently. "What's she saying?"

Micky shook his head, desperately. "That's sweet, Nan," he said into the phone.

"What's sweet?" Rhys mouthed.

Micky rolled his eyes.

"You're right, Nan. I'll have to see if I can find somewhere that sells hazelnuts.... Yes, in the shell. Of course ... Look, um I'm going to have to go, Nan. There's, um, I need to be … I'm meeting some friends in town, is all," Micky lied, still crimson with repressed laughter. "Fair enough, Nan. Love you too. Bye... yeah. Alright, bye, then."

“What?” Rhys asked, out loud, before the phone was back in its base unit.

"God, my nan," Micky said, with feeling, and then paused to turn around in the chair, so his feet were back on the floor and he was hunched over, elbows on knees. Staring down at the floor he continued, "My nan wanted to know if we were keeping up traditions on-"

His voice started to waver, and he completed his sentence through the first peals of laughter.

"On Nut-Crack Day."

******************************

(I was casting about for inspiration earlier, and a friend of mine from Scotland mentioned the tradition of putting hazelnuts in the embers of a fire, to predict how a relationship will work out. I imagine this works about as well as throwing apple peal over your shoulder to find out the initial of the person you’re going to fall in love with, but once I heard the phrase ‘Nut-Crack Day, I could just picture the boys’ reactions.

According to that most reliable of sources, Wikipedia, my friend isn’t completely making this up. One old custom associated with the Western Isles was to put two large nuts in the hearth of a peat fire; these were supposed to represent yourself and your intended spouse. If the nuts curled together when they warmed up, it was deemed to be a good omen; but if they jumped apart, then it was time to look for another sweetheart. So now you know.)



If you'd like to read about how Micky and Rhys got together, you'll need to pick up Favour. As I said last year, when it came out, Favour's sweet like candy, and it has laser-quest, fake fangs, and boys making out in graveyards. It's also on sale for the bargain price of $0.99..

Free Halloween stories from the past four years can be found linked in this post, or under '' in the tags list.

Happy reading!
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