Welcome to my stop on the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia! May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – find out all about it, including all the events going on all over the world, at http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/.
The Hop doesn’t end today, though! The HAHAT is here until late in the day on May 27th. And if you comment at the end of this post, with your e-mail address included (even if you know darn well I have it already *winks*) two things will happen. One, you will be entered in a drawing to win your choice of any of my books (listed off to the right, I’ve finally learned to put badges on my Web site, I’m so proud of myself….) And two – for everyone who posts, I’ll contribute a dollar to the Ali Forney Center in New York City (http://www.aliforneycenter.org/), a safe space for homeless LGBTQ youth. (Heck, if you’re the drawing winner and you already have all my books, I’ll add the value of the book to the donation!) I’ll put up a post on the 28th, announcing the winner. I’ll also e-mail the winner, so don’t forget to include your address.
And, to get you back to the main post for the hop when you’re done here, to find all the other terrific authors who are participating – http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com.
Now, to the point. The reason we’re all here.
I’ve been struggling with writing this post. I really have. Trying to find something meaningful to say, to people who have probably experienced a lot more trauma because of other people’s misunderstandings and phobias and hatred than I ever will. (Well, okay, genderfluidity has contributed to the loss of a couple of marriages and any kind of meaningful sex life, and the one date I’ve been on since my last divorce couldn’t handle a book cover with a shirtless guy on it, but still, that’s small potatoes.)
Finally, though, it dawned on me. I’m a writer. That’s what I do, that’s how I let what’s inside of me out. So I’m going to share a bit from one of my books. In Heart of the Oak, Trevor, an American architect on holiday on the Isle of Skye. He’s met a tree spirit, a Gille Dubh, or Dark One, named Darach. At this point in the story, they’ve been lovers, but Trevor has seen something about Darach, something so alien, non-human, that he’s terrified. He’s running. He’s on the bus back to Glasgow, ending his holiday early, haunted by his dreams. And Maggie is the grandmotherly bartender he met at a pub several nights before. I’m going to let the two of them say what I think needs saying.
There was a hand on Trevor’s shoulder. He woke with a start, tears streaming down his face and his breath catching.
In the seat beside him sat Maggie, the bartender from the Broadford Hotel, regarding him with a grandmother’s concern. “Is everything a’richt, lad? I thought I saw ye get on th’ bus in Kyle, but ye were gone sae quickly, I wasnae sure.”
Trevor would have laughed, if the last remnant of the dream in his memory had left any laughter in him. “No, Maggie, not really. But I’m glad you’re here, I didn’t mean to run out on my bar tab.” He shifted his weight to enable him to get at his wallet.
Maggie laid a firm hand on his arm. “Money is th’ furthest thing from my mind, this maement.” Her brows went up and didn’t start to lower until he eased his hand away from his pocket. “Guid lad. Now, what has ye in such a state? Surely ye werena planning tae leave sae soon?”
His throat went tight all over again and he had to cough before he could answer. “I wasn’t, no. But I have to.”
“Naething’s wrong tae hame, I hope?”
Only everything. “No. Thanks. I just have to leave.”
Blue eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. “Have to?”
Trevor nodded miserably. His head fell back against the seat. He closed his eyes for the space of a deep breath. Any longer and the dream started crowding back into his mind again, Darach pacing the bounds of what had become a prison.
“Wi’ ye humor an auld woman, and let me tell ye a bit story?” Her voice was oddly gentle, her gaze a little less piercing.
“Sure.” Maybe hearing a voice that wasn’t leaves and wind would help chase the dream away.
“Nae sae much a story as a memory.” Maggie smiled and the lines around her eyes creased and deepened, but it was an unreadable smile even so. “Ye remind me of anither lad, years ago. Near enough your age, he was, but a ginger. Though he hated tae be called such.” She laughed softly, nearly inaudible over the motor. “He was a sweet lad and a gentle one, wi’ no taste for the tales of gingers stealing souls or haein’ none themselves, e’en in jest.”
Trevor managed a little smile and the old woman nodded as if encouraged, even as her own smile faded.
“A sweet lad he was, but one who ever kept himself to himself. Feared tae be known for wha’ he was. For back in that day, ’twas few there were on this island who would hae left him untroubled had they known.”
Oh, Christ, she knows. “Is it any different now?”
“Among the young, aye. And those of us wi’ the sight tae see past the ends of our own noses, and our own pasts. But this was monie a year ago, and folk were nae sae forgiving as a’ that.” Just for a moment, Maggie’s lips tightened into a thin line. “And this lad, his life was unco’ lonely, and full of the thoughtless cruelty of others, who would speak athout knowing hae they wounded him. Until he fell in love.”
“Why would that remind you of me? No offense,” Trevor added hastily, wishing he could take back the edge to his words.
Maggie completely ignored the interruption. “For years, he kept that love close tae his chest. For ’twas a lad he’d grown up with who took his heart, and he kenned that tae speak it would be his ruin. But the day came when the other lad was tae be wed.
The night before the day, a group o’ them went up tae Portree. For a celebration.”
A chill rippled down Trevor’s spine. “What happened?”
“I dinna ken.” Blue eyes welled up with tears. “But he was pale and drawn, at the wedding and left airlie. And when I came tae hame masel’, that night, ’twas I wha’ found my own son hanging from th’ shower head, and it too late to do aught.”
“Dear God.” Trevor reached out and rested a hand on Maggie’s, where it was clenched into a fist in her lap. “I’m so sorry.”
Maggie shook her head, wiping at her eyes with her free hand. “Dinna be sorry. Only keep your own feet off that path.”
“Follow your heart, Trevor, lad. Dinna hide from it. And for the guid God’s sake, dinna run from it.”
Trevor wanted to close his eyes but Maggie’s wouldn’t let him. “Thank you.” No sound came out but Maggie nodded as if she’d heard, patted his hand gently and eased out of the seat beside his, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
He almost called her back. What if my heart has gone somewhere I don’t dare follow? he wanted to ask. Into another heart, the heart of an ancient oak.
But she was gone. He settled back in the seat, drawing a deep, unsteady breath, and closed his eyes. Deliberately, knowing what was coming.
Again he watched Darach in the moonlight, pacing. Seeking. Alone. So unlike the memory of what had actually happened, the light in the tree spirit’s eyes at the sight of Trevor. The light had stayed there, too. All through their lovemaking. Both times. He came back to life, he rediscovered what it was to be alive.
But Darach hadn’t known the full joy of that life until he shared it. With me.
The light had left those beautiful eyes, though. It’s not what you did, it’s what you are. Dear God, had he been that afraid? Had he really been so cruel? To someone who had given him his heart?
Someone he needed. Someone he loved.
Awkwardly Trevor levered himself out of the pair of high-backed seats. Across the aisle, Maggie caught his eye and nodded. He nodded back, then made his way up the aisle for a brief and urgent conversation with the driver.
Minutes later he found himself at the side of the road, cursing the lack of reception on his phone as the bus rumbled off. He hefted his bags, walked a hundred yards or so up the road, set them down and tried again. He had to reach the bus company, warn them to expect an unscheduled roadside pickup.
He needed to get home.