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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM SANDRA LINDSEY
Paris, December 1783
Louis stood his pen back in the ink stand as his young house guest burst into his study.
“Daniel? Good news, I take it?”
Daniel held a letter tightly in his right hand – presumably the letter which had arrived earlier and been left for him in the hallway – and waved it as he spoke. “Yes, Louis, the best news! Or,” his voice lost its exuberance and the joy on his face faltered, “at least, I hope you’ll think it good news.”
Daniel laughed, though Louis hadn’t thought it a particularly witty remark. Then again, anything which brought a smile to Daniel’s face was, in Louis’s opinion, a good thing.
“Father says I may stay here with you through the Christmas season. In fact, he says,” he paused and brought the letter before his eyes to quote directly, ” ‘as M. Varroq informs me you are progressing well in society, and as travel is often both perilous and expensive, I am pleased to permit you to remain in Paris for the full duration of your studies at the University, if such an arrangement is agreeable to him.’ ”
Daniel looked up from his letter, giddy with excitement. “So, M. Varroq, what do you say? Would such an arrangement be agreeable to you? May I stay with you – here – for the full duration of my studies at the University?”
Louis smiled, then sighed and looked away, not wanting to see the impact of his prepared speech on the innocent young man. “It has been a delight having you here, Daniel,” he began, “and I would very much like the arrangement to continue, but there are certain things I have kept hidden these past few months which may staunch your desire to share my apartments.”
“Like what?” Daniel’s indignant tone and his slide from French back to his native English brought Louis’s gaze back to him. “You’ve already told me our not-so-distant ancestors were smugglers. What other shocking revelations do you have?”
“It is not our ancestors at fault, Daniel, it is myself.” He reached a hand towards his guest and pulled him in to sit on his knee, holding him gently and leaning his head against his shoulder as he closed his eyes against the sight of the reaction he anticipated from Daniel, “I did not imagine, when our fathers made arrangements for you to stay here with me, that you would become anything more to me than a house guest, a family friend. We had not met for several years, and I had no idea of the sort of young man you had become. I had no idea, in short, of how delightful and adorable you are. I am afraid, dear Daniel, that much as I desire to keep close company with you, I am obliged to offer you an escape.”
Daniel’s hand rested lightly on his forearm, but Louis resisted the desire to open his eyes, focusing instead on memorising every sensation of holding Daniel in his arms.
“Louis? I don’t understand what you’re saying. Do you want me to find another place to live? What is wrong? Are you in trouble?”
Louis breathed in the scent of Daniel, drawing strength from the depths of his reserves, “I am in love, Daniel. As the poets say, one cannot determine the place where love may be found to lie, one must simply learn to recognise it when it is found.”
“No, Daniel, I am talking in riddles for I am delaying the moment of your realisation and revulsion.” Louis opened his eyes and looked up to find Daniel peering down at him, concern etched across his brow. “Where most men are pleased to find their blood quickened by the fairer sex, I am not. My blood is quickened, my passion stirred, by my own kind – and you, dear Daniel, are a gentle soul in an exquisite exterior, and I have fallen head over heels in love with your delightful self.”
Understanding glimmered in hazel eyes. “Are you a sodomite?”
Louis grimaced. “That’s one name given to men like me, yes. Though I hold myself apart from the foul rumours and would never take to my bed – or interfere in any way with – anyone who was not as willing a participant as myself. I have no desire to take pleasure from another’s pain or discomfort, and I would rather quench desire with my own hand than pay for the assistance of another.”
The silence after Louis’s speech stretched taught between them. Louis held himself ready, schooling his expression, for the moment when Daniel pulled away.
Daniel’s hand, still resting on Louis’s arm, curled around, holding him in a firm grip as he slid his other arm about Louis’s shoulders.
“What you are telling me,” Daniel spoke softly, “is that my being here causes you discomfort for the sinful desire you feel for me?”
“Something like that. You have an elegant turn of phrase, my friend.”
“But despite the inconvenience it causes you, you are happy to house me and continue to welcome me in your home for as long as I wish to remain in Paris?”
“Technically it is my father’s home, but yes.”
“And you think that this might repulse me?”
Louis could not ignore the incredulity in Daniel’s final question. “It is not the particular circumstance I expect to cause revulsion, but the nature of my desires.”
“But if you do not act on those desires, how does our situation change from what it is now?”
“I agree, it does not – but what if I were to act? Perhaps unintentionally, if I got too drunk?”
Daniel shifted his weight, leaning into Louis’s embrace and circling his arms about his friend to return the gesture, “Well then, my dear Louis, I imagine we should discover whether or not I share your desires.”
At Daniel’s simple acceptance, his unflustered words, Louis’s heart melted and without a second thought his lips sought Daniel’s and caught him in a kiss that was whole-heartedly returned.
Sandra Lindsey lives and works in mountainous Mid Wales. Louis and Daniel feature in Sandra’s short story ‘Shelter from Storms’ in the Lashings of Sauce anthology available from JMS Books
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