So, about a year ago, I was working on a short story and had an idea to borrow Cole Fenton as a sassy gay friend for my haunted schoolteacher, Kim. If you have read any of Marie Sexton’s “Coda” series, Cole needs no introduction. For the rest of you, I highly recommend “Strawberries for Dessert“…if you can stand a little man-on-man action. (Seriously, it’s one of my favorite novels EVER.) Marie liked the scene enough to fix the parts that weren’t Cole enough and get permission from Dreamspinner to let me try to publish it. Samhain Horror turned it down for unspecified reasons.
I love this conversation too much to let it languish on my hard-drive, and it’s Cole…by virtue of his presence, it’s mostly snarky.
When the clock finally read 7:30 pm, making it 9:30 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Kim took one last long look at her phone’s address book. She put down her wine glass and tapped the link for Father Chuckie. The man who answered on the third ring spoke so sweetly it made her teeth hurt.
Kim pulled the phone away from her ear. She expected to see a picture of her white-collared brother-in-law, so the man flirting at her from behind sharply cut locks of cinnamon brown hair startled her. Cole Fenton, the caller id told her, complete with his digits.
As she returned the phone to her ear, distracted by wonder at how she called him instead of Chuckie, she asked uncertainly, “Cole?”
“Who else, darling?” he asked. “How are the little Whos down in Whoville?”
“Worland,” she corrected him.
“I know, dear,” Cole replied bemused. “But I doubt you called to give me a geography lesson.”
The answer to the mystery wading through her wine-addled brain finally settled into place. She wished she hadn’t picked up the phone. “No, I….” She explained apologetically, “My contacts…I was calling Father Chuckie….” Did she really just admit to Cole Fenton that she called him by mistake?
“Oh sweetie! I haven’t heard from you in ages, and now you’re telling me I’m nothing more than a wrong number? I’m a little bit offended…” Kim heard mumbling on the call, but all she caught was Johnny, darling, before he continued his previous thought, “…and terribly intrigued.”
“I’m so sorry,” Kim said, deeply annoyed at herself. “I’m sure I’m interrupting….”
“Nonsense,” Cole said brightly. She heard a door shut softly. “I never let my phone interrupt me, darling.”
Kim paused, trying to collect her thoughts through the tangle of emotions and haze of alcohol. His voice took her back fifteen years, to Colorado State, and one particularly bad day when the man she had been dating for six months gave her a list of excuses and tried to assure her that it was him and not her. At the very least, he was finally honest about not being a one-woman guy, but it hadn’t made the break-up any easier.
After a few days of moping around like a zombie, a classmate from her poetry class knocked on her door and said, We have three days and I have four words for you, Kimmy dear, powder, wine, day spa.
Sure you can.
“I have homework…”
“I need clothes…”
“I don’t feel like skiing…”
You’re precious, darling. Now get in the car.
That was Cole Fenton in a nutshell. Charming, demanding, gracious, caring, and usually right about people. Hearing his voice erased away years. It put her back on the slopes, cutting powder through the Back Bowls in Vail. It made her want to tell him everything.
“Kimmy?” he asked, prompting her to give him a hint she was still on the line.
“So…Johnny,” she said, stalling. “Gardener? Driver? Bartender?” She took the rest of her wine in a gulp.
“Husband,” Cole said. She spit out the wine across the table, “accountant.”
“Yours?” she coughed.
“Dear lord, love! Do you need an ambulance?”
“You’re married?” Kim croaked, “To your accountant?”
“It’s not as cliché as it sounds, darling,” Cole said, sounding delighted at her shock. “He was my lover and then my…
“When?!” Kim exclaimed in shock. Cole’s married? COLE?
“Last year,” he replied. “It really has been too long, love. I think Chuckie might say something dreadfully close to ‘God’s telling you something’.”
“Well, mazel tov,” Kim laughed aloud. “Jon’s a lucky man.”
“He is, isn’t he, and thank you for saying so.” Then Cole tossed mantle of voracious gossip around him like a feather boa. “Now…I think you owe me for that regrettable slight. I simply must know why you’re drunk-dialing a priest?”
Kim snickered sadly at his question as she poured another glass. She hadn’t wanted to talk to Chuckie; she needed to talk to someone and Chuckie could be trusted not to say anything to Henry or anyone else. But, it was Cole’s comfort that she had been craving since Henry left.
“I got served,” she told him heavily, breathing in the fragrance of the South African red. She could almost feel the cozy surroundings of Cole’s Vail condo around her.
“That certainly explains the intoxication,” he said. “Tell me what you’re drinking, love. I’m sure I have it and I know that you don’t like to drink alone.”
Kim opened her eyes, disappointed to find herself alone at a laminated MDF table probably made in the 1960’s. She picked up the wine glass and watched the dark liquid swirl.
Cole gave her this bottle at her wedding in Bermuda and told her she would know what it was for when the time came. She supposed subconsciously she knew what was coming when she packed the rest of the bottles a few weeks back and felt compelled to keep this one on hand. She supposed she should have realized what she was seeking when she uncorked the bottle that afternoon.
“Pinot Noir, Galpin Peak, 1990.”
“Oh, Kim,” Cole said softly, the flamboyant affectation entirely gone. “I am sorry.”
If would like more Snark (and aren’t easily offended)…click here.