It’s May so I figured I should talk about Once in May (Nortown #3). This is a hurt-comfort story, with a little social anxiety and a little age-gap and of course a few lumberjacks. It’s my favourite of all the Nortown stories.
I’ve enjoyed writing all of them, of course, and they’ve all given me different things. But Once in a Snowstorm was a story I wrote for the fun of it. Once in a Forest, because I saw a reader asking for ‘bottom for you’ books. Once in May, I wrote for me – simple as that.
I’m not as bad as John, but I wish I could find a cottage somewhere and put a zillion locks on the door and never open it to anyone (except my husband). I’m not even kidding LOL. Crowds have me breaking out in sweats, and when I’ve been around people, I feel like I could sleep for a week. I wish I could write ‘recluse’ on my business card, but the world doesn’t work like that.
So John, like the rest of us, has no choice but to be around people, and he’s working on becoming a new person. It takes seven years for our bodies to replace all the cells, so that’s what’s he’s waiting for. He’s four years into his transformation when he meets Zachary. Or it’s more a case Zachary meeting him.
In Nortown people often get together to celebrate holidays, and in Once in May we get to follow John and Zach to the Walpurgis Night celebrations. Are you celebrating Walpurgis where you live?
In Sweden we do and in many other European countries as well. We light big bonfires, and this is mostly to ward off witches. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Once in a Forest and how we celebrate Easter here and if you read that you realise how this is about the same.
I should probably mention that this is a local thing for the area where I grew up (on the Swedish west coast). In Falkenberg, my hometown, we had bonfires on Easter, and it was to scare off the witches that fly to Blåkulla (no idea where that really is) on Easter. The rest of Sweden have the Easter witches as well, but they save the bonfires for Walpurgis Night.
And since I created Nortown I get to decide what they do there – bonfires at Walpurgis it is! LOL
The knock on the door startled him. A moment later, someone tried the door handle. John bolted up and started scramble away from Zachary.
“Easy. You were resting, remember?”
The front door opened, and John shot him a frightened look. Hadn’t John locked it? Hadn’t he locked all the million locks he normally locked?
A lithe man with artfully styled hair walked in. Zachary prepared to throw him out. He wouldn’t let some fucker scare John.
The man dumped a bag on the floor and spread his arms as if he expected John to run over and hug him. Fat chance.
And just like that, John practically climbed over him and ran into the stranger’s arms. Zach watched, trying not to hate the man. How come John would let this Timothy hug the ever-loving shit out of him when a quick peck from Zachary sent him crashing into a panic attack?
He should get out of there. He watched the two men hug for a few more seconds. They were of a similar build—Timothy a bit taller—and they could’ve been brothers. With a sigh and a sense of failure, Zachary got to his feet.
As he took a step closer, Timothy let go of John and looked him up and down. “And you must be Zachary.”
Zachary stared. How the hell does he know that? “I am,” he said and glanced at John. A flush spread over his cheeks as he quickly looked at the floor. Zachary had to bite his lip not to laugh.
“Sorry for intruding, but I can’t let you sweep my boy off his feet without vetting you first. That’s simply the way it is.”
“Your boy?” Zach asked at the same time as John groaned.
“Not like that.” Timothy grinned and continued, “We work together.”
“Yes, so I’ve heard.” Zachary smiled a little at Timothy, amused by the way his hands were in constant motion. He had a youthful appearance, but Zachary thought he was older than John. Not as old as Zach, perhaps, but a few years older than John. His warm brown eyes went soft when he looked at John, but it was more like brotherly love than something Zachary needed to worry about—not that he should be worrying about anything. He had no business here, unless… He breathed in deep. “I should get going.”
“Oh, no. Don’t let me scare you away.” Timothy grinned again, and Zachary noticed a thin ring in his lip he’d missed before.
“I should. I have nettles to deliver to Jen.”
“Nettles?” Timothy frowned, clearly thinking Zachary was out of his mind.
“Yeah. You should come. Saturday is Walpurgis Night. There’ll be a bonfire, nettle soup and choir singing.”
“At your place?” Timothy still watched him as if he was crazy.
“No.” He chuckled. “It’s a town tradition. John knows where it is.” He waved and went towards the door, not noticing John following until he reached for the handle.
“See you Saturday?”
John slowed down but ended up closer to Zachary than ever before, and of his own accord. “I…erm, where?”
“Same place as every year, up by the clearing in the woods.”
“Same as at Easter?”
“Yup, that’s the place.” John looked as if he was working up to something, so Zachary waited.
“I… Sorry for freaking out earlier.”
Zachary shook his head. “It was my fault, nothing for you to be sorry about.”
John put a hand on Zachary’s arm. It was the briefest touch, but it was enough for Zach to hold his breath. It was the first time John had initiated a touch.
In an attempt to run from his past, John has spent the last few years building walls around himself. He knows the best way to stay safe is to keep people at arm’s length or preferably out of sight. During weak moments, he might wish he had someone, but he’s not ready. After all, it takes seven years for the body to replace all its cells. He has four years to go before he even can think about being around people.
Zachary is always on the move, always on his way to somewhere. He’s going from job to job, from country to country. Contrary to what people might think, he wants nothing more than to find a place to call home, and he knows just where. This time, he is ready. This time, he will stay in Nortown. But when he arrives to buy the log cabin he thought would be his, he finds it inhabited. When he goes to talk to the new owner, he is met by the most beautiful green eyes followed by a door slammed in his face.
John should’ve known the peace he had found in Nortown wouldn’t last. One day everything was fine, the next a mountain of a man starts showing up wherever he goes. All Zachary wants is to be close to the quiet man who has moved into his cabin. If following him around is the only way, then so be it. Sooner or later, John will get used to having him there…at least, if Zachary hangs around long enough.
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