I wrote a short story, a prequel if you will, for Daniel and CLay in WELCOME HOME, SOLDIER.
Happy Birthday, wherever you are…
“Are you humming, Dad?”
Daniel looked up from the workbench, oil filter in his hand and an absent tune dying on his lips. He studied his son, blond hair, brown eyes—a mirror of Daniel twenty years ago. “No, I wasn’t whistling.”
Jared gave him a smirk that was more Tracy than anyone else. “Yes, you were whistling Happy Birthday.”
Hastily, Daniel picked up a rag and wiped his hand clean. He was changing the oil in his late model Silverado and his son had stopped in just to say ‘hey.’ Daniel didn’t get to see Jared all that often, what with college and friends occupying all of Jared’s time. Not much time for boring old Dad in boring old Gilead when a young man was twenty-two.
Daniel knelt down and laid out on his rolling creeper so he could easily slide under his truck to empty the oil pan. He fussed a bit with the oil plug, then finally decided to vaguely address his son’s comment. “Maybe I was humming Happy Birthday, I don’t know.”
Above Daniel, the truck swayed a bit as Jared rested his hip against the fender. “Somebody’s birthday?”
“No, uh, no,” he said, ignoring the ache he suddenly felt inside. “Well, I suppose it’s somebody’s birthday, somewhere. Nobody I know.”
At least not anymore.
Clay Fisher. The name and face had never been too far from Daniel’s thoughts. Though he should’ve shut that chapter long ago and tossed the book, memories of his time with Clay never could escape him. And on a day like today—Clay’s forty-ninth birthday—Daniel should’ve known his mind would drift back to thoughts of his first love.
Maybe his only real love.
Not that he could say any of that to Jared. His son knew that Daniel was bisexual, but that didn’t mean he needed to hear how his father had loved someone else more than his mother. Even if they were divorced.
Daniel let the oil drain into his pan, watching the viscous black liquid pour in a steady stream, waiting for the last final drips.
Hadn’t that been how Daniel had spent most of his life?
He screwed back on the plug and moved the pan so he could swap out filters without dripping oil on his garage floor. While his son above him chatted on about where they should eat—the Riverbend Diner or Mama Rosie’s Pizza—Daniel tried to remain focused on the task at hand. But his mind and heart were elsewhere.
Where are you today, Clay? Are you having a happy birthday? Are you celebrating with someone who loves you?
Though the idea of Clay in another man’s arms—even after more than two decades—didn’t sit well with Daniel, he hoped wherever Clay was, he was happy. Clay had never been happy, not truly. Daniel wished for the umpteenth time that Clay had indeed found he happiness Daniel had been unable to give him all those years ago. The thought made Daniel smile and some of the longing ache faded. He hummed the last refrain of Happy Birthday as he screwed on the new oil filter.
Happy Birthday, Clay, wherever you are.
Read Daniel and Clay’s romance in WELCOME HOME, SOLDIER,
an unofficial Men of Gilead Story. You can preorder today in the
Dreamspinner’s Holiday Daily Delivery Package/Stocking Stuffers