QSFer Kim Fielding has a new MM fantasy romance (Hannukah) book out: Ash believes the Impossible.
Asher Kaufman could use a miracle. But first he’ll have to believe they exist.
Ash is single, strapped for cash, and burned out from his work at a nonprofit. Everyone else’s holiday spirit leaves him feeling like he’s in the wrong movie.
Then strange, thoughtful gifts begin appearing outside his door: a rustic basket filled with pinecones and acorns, and a beautiful handmade scarf in Hannukah colors. But the most wonderful gift of all comes when he meets Clay, his secret admirer, a beautiful young man who happens to be a fairy who lives in the wooded wonderland behind the duplex where Ash lives.
Clay brings warmth and magic into Ash’s dreary life–but when the realities of the human world threaten the bridge to fairyland, it will take all Ash’s faith to bring about a happy-ever-after that will work for everyone.
IT WAS a beautiful day, and that sucked.
For one thing, it was December, and in Portland that should have meant gray skies, a constant drizzle, and a general atmosphere of… blah. But instead the sun shone brightly in a clear blue sky. Birds twittered. People smiled as they lingered outside coffeehouses, paper cups in ungloved hands, eyes sparkling with holiday cheer.
And for another thing, Asher Kaufman was in a shitty mood. The weather should have properly acknowledged that.
But nope, brightness everywhere. Festive colors in shop windows. Children laughing.
As Ash scowled fiercely, the entire rest of the world breezed along, happy and carefree. He’d clearly been sucked through a wormhole into a Hallmark Christmas movie, in which the jaded big-city corporate type returns to her tiny hometown where everyone is adorable and loving and where her old high school sweetheart—now a widowed veterinarian with a charming toddler and well-behaved golden retriever—will show her what love really is.
“I don’t belong in this movie,” Ash muttered as he turned the corner onto the narrow side street where he lived. His backpack felt extra heavy today and the sidewalk seemed to have more cracks than usual, so he had that much consolation.
The trees were bare of leaves, of course, and his neighbors’ front gardens, which were a riot of color during the summer, looked somber now. But there were patches of bright moss on cement stairways. And the houses, with their gray or subdued blue, green, or yellow exteriors, looked comfortable and classic in the sunlight. If it had been raining, they would have resembled squarish mushrooms instead.
The house where he lived—a sort of pale terra-cotta with cream trim—had dormant lilies and rosebushes in front and trans- and gay-pride flags in the windows facing the street. Sitting on the front porch and wearing matching fleece jackets were his landlords, Troy and Zeke. Troy had a glass of red wine, while Zeke was halfheartedly hiding a burning joint. They both greeted him with smiles as he stepped onto the porch.
“Join us,” said Troy. “What’s your intoxicant of choice?” He waved his glass a little.
Because he liked his landlords, Ash downgraded his scowl to a grimace. “Today, Netflix and an early bedtime.”
“You haven’t been working all day on a Saturday, have you? No wonder you look miserable.”
“Just half the day, and that’s not the problem.” It wasn’t. He liked his job a lot, even if it didn’t pay well and often spread into his evenings and weekends. He worked for a nonprofit that helped people find careers, many of them related to social and environmental justice. Which was cool enough as it was, but most of his clients had trouble finding work on their own due to disabilities, criminal records, substance-abuse histories, and other issues. A few extra hours here and there didn’t matter much if it meant helping someone get back on their feet and find a voice.
“You want to talk about it?” Zeke probably intended the offer sincerely. He was that kind of guy.
But Ash shook his head. “Just the same old. I ran into Silas this afternoon when I went out for coffee.”
“With his new boyfriend?”
Ash nodded and sighed. “Who’s way hotter than me.”
Zeke took a hit off his joint, held it for a moment, and then exhaled loudly. “Silas isn’t good enough for you, kid. You’re way out of his league. You’ve got substance.”
“And you’re pretty hot yourself,” Troy added, fanning himself dramatically, which made Ash chuckle. His landlords were old enough to be his grandparents, but occasionally they liked to pretend to flirt with him—once they’d made sure he didn’t mind that kind of joking.
Ash shook his head. “This guy has abs. Six-pack at least.”
“Was he shirtless in a coffeehouse in December?”
“No.” In fact, he’d been wearing a bulky sweater. “I could just tell. He’s the type.”
“Ah. Implied rippedness. Well, if Silas is dumb enough to pick abs over you, sweetheart, that’s his loss entirely.”
And against Ash’s will, his mood was lifting. Man, a guy couldn’t even indulge in a good wallow nowadays. “Thanks, guys. I’m gonna head upstairs, though.”
“Fine,” said Troy. “But Zeke made brownies this afternoon, and later we’re going to bring you some.”
Ash raised his eyebrows. “Um, what kind of brownies?”
“Cannabis-free, I promise,” said Zeke, sputtering a laugh.
“In that case, I’ll be happy to take some off your hands.”
After thanking his landlords, Ash opened the door and entered the little foyer. A couple of weeks ago, someone—most likely Zeke—had placed a potted evergreen tree next to the interior staircase and decorated it with tinsel, colored glass balls, and, in tribute to Ash, wooden dreidels and little bags of gold-foiled gelt chocolates. Ash liked it even on foul-mood days.
At one point the house had been a single-family residence, but once Troy and Zeke’s kids grew up and moved away, they converted the place into a duplex with their two-bedroom unit downstairs and a one-bedroom up. Ash had moved in seven months ago, after the ugly breakup with Silas, and although his apartment wasn’t as big or fancy as the one he and Silas had shared, he liked this place much better. As Zeke liked to point out, it had good vibes.
Ash tromped up the stairs, which brought him to a small landing that included an alcove for muddy boots and wet raincoats, a little bookcase stuffed with paperbacks that Troy might reread someday but didn’t mind if Ash borrowed, and a small table on which Zeke sometimes left him garden veggies or baked goods.
Today, though, there was something new on the table: a rustic-looking basket woven from vines and filled with pinecones and hazelnuts. It was pretty. Zeke must have been expanding his crafting skills. But Ash wasn’t sure whether the basket was meant as a decoration for the landing or a gift to him, so he left it where it was and entered his apartment. He immediately kicked off his shoes, hung his backpack on a hook without bothering to take out his laptop, and then put away his coat. Sock-clad, he slid across the polished wood floor to his couch and collapsed onto his back.
He’d lie here for just a few minutes and then start thinking about dinner. Maybe he’d take a load of laundry down to the basement first. Or finish his online Hanukkah shopping for his nieces and nephews. Or shuffle to the window and stare gloomily out at the backyard, which looked slightly wild even in the depths of winter. Or finish that book he’d been reading. Or….
Within less than three minutes, he was out cold.
Kim Fielding is pleased every time someone calls her eclectic. Her books span a variety of genres, but all include authentic voices and unconventional heroes. Winner of the 2021 BookLife Prize for Fiction, she is also a Rainbow Award and SARA Emma Merritt winner, a LAMBDA finalist, and a three-time Foreword INDIE finalist. She has migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States and currently lives in California, where she long ago ran out of bookshelf space. A university professor who dreams of being able to travel and write full-time, she also dreams of having two daughters who occasionally get off their phones, a husband who isn’t obsessed with football, and a cat who doesn’t wake her up at 4:00 a.m. Some dreams are more easily obtained than others.