Kaden wasn’t just an important part of their lives—he mentored countless people as a founding member of the Suncoast Society munch group. As the revelers congregate and reminisce about their lost friend, it soon becomes apparent to some that, just maybe, there’s an extra guest in attendance who wasn’t on any RSVP list.
Are their imaginations simply running wild due to the evening’s high spirits? Or is it possible that the ultimate control freak is fulfilling a promise he made to those he loved most?
“I don’t know why I’m so nervous,” Seth muttered as he finished shaving. “These are our friends. It’s just dinner.”
“Exactly.” Leah hugged him from behind, meeting his gaze in the bathroom mirror. “They are our friends. Family.”
Left unspoken, they’d also been Kaden’s friends. Many of them he’d known, met through Kaden and Leah. But Seth hadn’t known they were kinky until…
He didn’t want to go there tonight in his head. Not now. Even if part of tonight’s purpose was to raise a glass in Kaden’s memory while celebrating Leah’s birthday early.
Tonight’s dinner was just that—dinner and reminiscing. Ed and Hope, Pat and Lyla, Tony and Shayla, Ross and Loren, Walt and Holly, Derrick and Marcia, Mason, Cole, and Kim, and Scrye and June. They were the ones who could come to this private dinner. Tilly, Cris, and Landry had been invited but couldn’t make it because of their schedule, as had a couple of others.
This was…the core.
The birthplace of the Suncoast Society.
Well, some of the people, their partners hadn’t been around back then.
Tonight was casual, barbecue and memories, a toast.
The only reason Seth was doing this was Leah had asked him to. She’d wanted a quiet, peaceful, relaxing evening with their friends.
“I’m okay,” she said, echoing his thoughts.
“That’s spooky, babe.”
“I could see it in your face. I’m okay. I feel strong. That’s why I wanted to do this.”
“I know.” He patted her hands, where they’d settled on his midsection. “Let me finish shaving.”
In all honesty, he…just wasn’t feeling Christmasy this year. Not really. Not in a social kind of way. He just didn’t have the energy to be…chipper. He hoped he was putting on a good enough front for Leah, but maybe it was finally having survived the fallout, now he was experiencing a long-delayed reaction.
Absolutely he wanted to decorate the yard and house, yes.
But he wanted to cocoon himself with Leah within its walls, stare, and reminisce. He didn’t want to…people.
It was a feeling he knew would come and go, too. Because he might wake up the next morning eager to get their holiday play party plans finalized.
This, too, shall pass.
The sad melancholy.
Christmas had always been Kaden’s holiday, and Seth would always honor it and his friend.
There were too many good memories embedded in his brain not to.
Yet he’d hit a point where with Leah solidly grounded and doing well in a way even she admitted she never believed possible, and with their financial and personal lives in order…
It allowed him to finally notice the gaping void in his soul.
He could and would fake it. He’d been doing that.
Until his dying day, he’d carry Kaden’s final words in his memory, the sound of his best friend taking his final breaths.
The feel of curling up next to him in bed, Leah on Kaden’s other side, both of them holding him as the ultimate control freak finally released his tenacious grip on this plane and…continued on without them to whatever came next.
Seth wished he believed in heaven or reincarnation or any other number of religious ideologies where he could pretend Kaden was frolicking with a whip and rope bunnies and enjoying the hell out of himself.
Seth had nearly talked himself out of believing that the Halloween sights at the party they’d thrown last year had been spectral visions of the man.
Even though he wouldn’t tell Leah that. If it made her feel better to think that, so be it.
Maybe I need to go to the doctor. Maybe I’m depressed.
As he looked into the mirror once more, for a brief moment he thought he saw Kaden’s grey gaze peering at him.
Closing his eyes, he counted to three. When he opened them again, it was just his own face staring back at him.
Okay, I definitely need some time with friends to take my mind off things. Obviously, I’m exhausted and too deep in my own head.
* * * *
Leah knew Seth had only gone along with this for her sake.
There was a secret she’d held back from him, though. One of the few cards left by Kaden for her alone, given to her by Ed before they’d even thrown the first Halloween party following Kaden’s death.
Instructions for her about Seth.
Once Seth knows you’re okay and he’s not obsessing over you, he might get depressed. Maybe, if you feel up to it, have a private dinner at the house with the old gang. The original gang. You know who I mean, love. The old-timers. God knows they heard enough about Seth from me that they might be able to gently help him refocus and center himself. Ground him.
I can’t tell you exactly when to do this. That’s up to you based on how he’s doing. But I know that man nearly as well as I know myself, and I know if our positions were reversed, I’d be feeling like that. If you don’t have the strength to do it, I understand, but I think it’d really help him.
Don’t give up on him, sweetheart. If you’ve made it this far, I know you’ll be okay with him. Let him know he doesn’t have to be strong all the time. I know I can’t change what’s happened, but I wish I’d said something to him years ago, when he split with Kelly. I should have, and you were right. I did the best I could back then, love. Perhaps I tried to control things too much. Too exacting.
A Kinkmas Carol by Tymber Dalton from Sunshine Reads on Vimeo.
Do what you feel is best, but please, don’t let my best friend slip away from life and living. Don’t let him dwell too long or deeply. Help him see there are others who can be there for him now, who he should lean on when he needs to. Tell them that. Tell them why you need the dinner for him. Tell them that I asked them to please do this for him.
I love you, Leah. I know you can do this. I know you’re strong enough. And I know you’ll always make me proud.
At the time, she’d sat in Ed’s office and sobbed as she read it, because…well, she knew.
Kaden was right. So, so right. With Seth feeling confident knowing she was okay, and with their college classes now behind them, and their real estate management doing well…
The void in their life was now unavoidably there for Seth. How many times had she caught him unconsciously turning Kaden’s wedding band on his finger? The one Kaden himself had put there just before he died.
But until now, she really hadn’t felt it was the right time, or that Seth was hitting a deep enough low, that she needed to do this. He’d always bounced back before she’d given serious thought to holding that dinner.
Now, with the anniversary of Kaden’s death rolling up on them again, it was time to do this.
And when she’d personally called everyone to invite them, she’d done just as Kaden asked and told them why she wanted to have this dinner. Told them what Kaden had asked of her.
The ghost of Kaden past helping out in the present.
Or would that make it the ghost of Kaden present helping in the future?
In retrospect, they realized everything he’d prepared, he’d done so in the early months right after his diagnosis, completing them and getting them out of his way so he didn’t have to worry about anything.
Kaden the control freak.
Even with everything Leah had to do for the banquet, this was no burden for her. Not really.
Seth was now her Master and husband. These people were her true extended family. The ones who’d been there as much as they could for them when they needed them the most.
The ones who’d understood.
The ones who’d keenly felt Kaden’s loss in their circle, not just his death but his absence, and who had strived to carry on his philosophy to the next generation of people finding their way to the lifestyle.
To welcome newbies, to help educate, to teach safety and fun and finding their own way without guilt and without saddling themselves with preconceived notions.
Extend hospitality and kindness to those who were struggling to come to terms with their truths, sometimes following years of self-denial.
To make sure they always had a place to feel like they were at home.
Tonight would be about embracing that, and the people she loved.
All while remembering the man who was the reason they were all there to start with