(A Christmas Coda)
The screen door creaking open told me Jae was home way before the cat or my house was being invaded by someone who brought luggage with them when they ripped you off. Of course, now that I thought about it, the best thing to do when burglarizing a house would be to bring along a rolling suitcase. Stash everything in it and then head to the metro as if on vacation.
“Great, now I’m going to be looking at everyone waiting at the metro stations and wondering if they’ve just made a score at someone’s house.” I muttered, lining up the acrylic paints with the glitter I’d bought at Michael’s.
This was the first time since the shooting that he’d been out and I fretted, both before and during his absence. I’d bundled him up with layers because while sixty degrees Fahrenheit was pretty warm for the rest of the country, it was a bitter fucking betrayal in Los Angeles. I wasn’t sure if it was because we had bright blue skies and gently waving palm trees but whenever I opened the front door and Father Winter bullies in to grab me by the balls, I’m always pissed off about the city letting me down.
My heart wasn’t willing and eager to let go of the Sunny SoCal dream it’d been promised. My brain however knew the score and wasn’t about to let Jae-Min get chapped lips and cracked fingers because I didn’t arm him with lip balm and tipless gloves.
He’d scoffed at the thermos of hot coffee I’d pressed into his hands as he grabbed his car keys. I tried not to feel like I was sending him off to navigate the wilds with only a plastic spork to defend himself.
Jae took the thermos whereas I failed at not worrying and wished the Ford Explorer came with machine gun attachments.
From the looks of things—and his ass in his beat up jeans—he survived his first excursion out, even if he was moving a bit stiffly.
“Hey.” I got a kiss hello and a run of his hand over my shoulder as Jae slid onto the couch next to me. “What’s this? Cookies?”
“Whoa! Hold up.” I caught his wrist before he could get the star shaped cookie into his mouth. Plucking it out from between his fingers, I put it back down on the newspaper I’d spread out over the apothecary chest. “Don’t eat that. It’s like my version of bitter melon.”
His forehead creased with a confused frown. “You made these?”
“Yeah,” I mumbled softly. “But you don’t want to eat them. They’re made out of salt-flour.”
“Why the fuck would you want to make that?” He’d come back with an appetite because he picked through the candy dish, liberating a handful of M&Ms. Checking each and every one of them, he popped a few in his mouth.
“I would not now nor ever mix Skittles in with the M&Ms.” I held up my hand and placed it over my heart. “I was joking when I said it would be funny. I hereby admit it would not only be tragic but is a killing offense.”
What that got me was a suspicious side-eye and another round of candy checking.
“So if the cookies aren’t for eating, what are they for?” He chewed carefully.
I stole a kiss, savouring the silky warm chocolate of his mouth then answered, “For the Christmas tree. Well, our tree. Once we go get one.”
“You’re going to put cookies you can’t eat on a tree?” The suspicion grew and he leaned over to sniff at my breath. “You don’t smell drunk.”
“You decorate them.” I was going to have to be patient. Jae and I came from such different backgrounds. He knew how to make kim chee and pretty much ruled our kitchen. I, however, had keen pizza ordering skills and could only really create one thing in the oven other than frozen lasagna—salt dough ornaments.
“See the paint? And well this other crap? We do them up however we want and then spray them with lacquer. I even made holes at the top with a straw so we can string some ribbon to hang them with.” I jiggled a tube of glitter at him, swishing the red sparkling flakes about in their plastic cocoon. “This is something I did as a kid and I thought—since it’s our first real Christmas together—we could make ornaments. You’ve never done this before? Really?”
“Really. I didn’t even know people did this kind of thing. We didn’t. A tree, yes but making cookies like this? No.”
“Yeah, it’s up there with making mini gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and candy. We did that too. Man, whoever thought giving me access to that much sugar was a good idea was insane.” I studied his curious expression. “We don’t have to do this, you know. Its just something I—it’s kind of stupid huh?”
“No,” Jae murmured, shaking his head. “It’s not stupid at all. It’s kind of—nice. Do you hang them every year?”
“Nah, we always had these kind of foo-foo trees so they’ve just kind of stuck around. I figured we could do something different—maybe.” I pointed to a keepsake box on the chest’s far end. “We never got around to having a trashy, cranberry-popcorn string and candy cane tree so these haven’t ever been put up. Here, grab that box. I’ve got some old ones I kept. You can kind of get an idea about what I’m talking about.”
I didn’t have any actual Christmas type cookie cutters other than a star and a gingerbread man. Since they also were apparently a rare animal at the craft store, I’d ended up with a potpourri of odds and ends. As trees went, ours was just going to have to be satisfied with Scottie dogs, cats and what I assumed was a giraffe or llama.
Because only the most kick ass Christmas were decorated with the rare salty-doughed llama.
“Hey, what’s this?” Jae held up one of the first ornaments I’d ever done. He turned it over and read the date scrawled with a black marker on the back. “You made this? When you were eight? For Christmas? It’s a dinosaur.”
The eight year old me decided back then to say fuck that shit to all the traditional Christmas cheerful icons and what was originally supposed to be some kind of bucolic farm animal welcoming the baby Jesus to the world became a rather lopsided but mighty-as-all-fuck T-Rex. Sure, I’d caved in to the festivities of the season by giving him a smart Fourth Doctor scarf but still, mighty-as-all-fuck.
“I cannot imagine Barbara hanging this on her tree.” Jae smirked slightly. “She seemed more like a everything has to match kind of person.”
“Barb likes to have—certain colours each year. Silver and blue, red and gold—that kind of thing. One year it was all glass ornaments. I’m pretty sure there’s a bedroom in their house dedicated just for holiday decorations and wrapping paper.” I picked another ornament out of the box, trying to remember what was going through my young head because the current me couldn’t figure out why I’d make a Christmas robot—complete with antlers and red glowing eyes. “’Sides, she didn’t make these with me. The neighbour—Mrs. Finnegan—did. I was friends with their kids so every year I’d stay over after Thanksgiving day and I’d make ornaments with them.”
Jae sat next to me, in that still, silent way of his. Picking up two of the gingerbread men, he waved them under my nose and said with a wistful smile. “How about if you pass me the glue gun so I can stick them together?”
“Gay gingerbread men?” I wiggled my eyebrows at him, a surefire way to make him laugh. I wasn’t disappointed and nearly handed him the glue gun I’d put on a glass dish then stopped, eyeing him as suspiciously as he’d eyed me before. “How are you going to be sticking them together? Am I going to have gay butt sexing on my tree? Because I’m telling you, I’m not sure the dinosaur is going to be up for those kind of shenanigans. He’s kind of a prude.”
“No, agi. Your dino will be safe. I am going to have them hold hands and then paint them. One for you and one for me.” He leaned in, giving me a sugary kiss sweet enough to make my salt-dough cookies edible. “That way, you and I will always be together—from this first Christmas to always. Saranghaeyo, Cole-ah.”
“I love you too, Jae-ah. And you know what? I think that Cole and Jae can wait a few minutes to be together.” I took the cookies from him and put them back on the tray. Pushing him down into the couch, I climbed up over him and lowered the length of my body onto his, grinding Jae into the couch with my hips. “’Cause I kind of think it’s past time this Cole and Jae to start something that’ll give my T-Rex something to be ashamed about.”
Salt Dough Recipe
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of salt
3/4 cups of lukewarm water *If dough is too dry, add a bit more water.
For fragrance, you add cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice
Mix all the ingredients together.
Knead well. At least for ten minutes. The more you knead, the less puffy the ornaments will be.
Roll out the dough. You don’t need a rolling pin. Use a bottle or smash it down under a cookie sheet and wax paper.
Use cookie cutters to make whatever shape ornaments you want. You can sculpt shapes but the thicker the cookie, the longer it will take to bake.
Use a straw (or chopstick) to poke a hole in the top so you can hang them with a string, ribbon or hook.
Bake for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Turn over once at the 10 minute mark.
Let cool. Use acrylic paints, glitter, glue on rhinestones, pretty much anything goes. Use a black marker on the back and write the date and/or names or messages.
Spray with paint lacquer and they’ll keep forever.
Or until a tiny bossy black cat decides the dinosaur looks particularly tasty and tries to bite into it.