I wrote this piece of flash fiction during the winter. It didn’t get accepted, but I was pleased with it as I felt like it hit pretty close to what I was aiming for.

I snuck a glance at him, longingly. Michael, my childhood friend, had returned from university for the New Year. He walked beside me, our hands almost brushing. We passed under the torii, the red gate that marked the entrance, and climbed the stone steps to the tiny, countryside shrine. Light snow overnight had given way to clear skies. The sun had melted nearly all of the snow except where it lingered in the shadows.

We passed the komainu, the guardian lion dogs, and approached the offertory box. After we deposited our coins, we bowed, prayed, and clapped twice.

“What did you pray for?” I asked, as we started back down the path toward the stairs. 

“I prayed that I could be more honest with myself this year.”

“Ah,” I said, looking down. “I prayed for courage: that I might be brave enough to share my feelings with the one I like.” 

“I’m sure you’ll find the courage, William,” he said.

I swallowed hard.

“Michael,” I said, turning, but looking at his shoes, afraid to look at his face. “I… I have feelings for you.”

He reached down and took my hand. I looked up and my heart skipped a beat. His smile was like the sun, shining deep into the darkest places of my spirit and thawing what had long been frozen. 

“I know,” he said. “I’ve always known. I just couldn’t admit it to myself.”

We descended the stairs, hand-in-hand.

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