The more I publish my writing, the more I learn that characters and the scenarios I put them through are a form of a litmus test for readers. I've gotten comments on 'Light Up the Lamp' blaming Gil for why his and Sebastian's relationship fell apart, emails lambasting Sebastian for the exact same thing, suggestions on who was wrong and who was right, and thoughts which one needs to make the bigger apology.
The consistency in these messages is the lack thereof. If everyone was telling me the same thing, it would be a loud chorus of feedback, and I'd have to think about making some changes to the story. Instead, I've received treatises on attachment theory and explanations for who exactly was at fault all those years ago at Rideau and why. I'm not complaining - it's really fun to have invented a scenario that gets people thinking, and I feel that it's a testament to how engaged readers are and how much these characters are loved.
Now, I'm not going to try to put the debate to rest as to whether their breakup was Gil's fault or Sebastian's fault, because everyone gets to interpret books as they want to, which is so much of the joy of reading. Also, there's no 'right' answer, since each of us bring our own lives to any book, and we read through the lens of our own experiences. However you interpret the blame/reason is the right version for you. But, we got an entire book of Gil's side of the story as to why their relationship ended when he left for the NHL, so let's take some time to explore what life was like for Sebastian, left alone at Rideau as Gil headed off to chase his dreams.
Clearly, Sebastian knew that at some point, Gil would get called up to play for San Diego. It could have happened immediately after the draft, or it could have been years away, but once Gil was drafted, a player of Gil's caliber was always going to make his way to the pros. Since the draft, Sebastian lived with that knowledge: Gil was going at anytime, and when he went, he was gone. He'd have a new life in California, a new set of teammates, and an entire future ahead of him that didn't involve Baltimore, Rideau, or any aspect of their shared life. So from the day of the draft until that call finally came, Sebastian spent each day living on borrowed time.
And how could he not be happy for Gil? This wonderful, beautiful man who worked so hard to get to where he is, cutting up the ice in high school and then college, living out his dreams of being drafted, smiling ear to ear as he jammed on a Mountain Lions cap, as happy as Sebastian had ever seen him. Sebastian was thrilled and utterly, absolutely devastated - and both of these feelings were true at once. Every day with Gil from the draft on was the joy of getting to be with someone on the road to their goals, as well as a continuous reminder that Sebastian himself wasn't part of Gil's future. Could he have played pro? Sure, maybe. He'd probably have lingered in the minors, with short stints up in the big leagues, but having grown up around the Roussins, he knew the passion and drive it took to make a career of professional sports, and he knew he didn't have it. He loved hockey, and he loved Gil, but without Gil, hockey was just another sport to play. A favorite sport, a beloved sport, an incredible and amazing and fun sport, but just a sport. It wasn't what he lived and breathed, not like hockey was to Gil.
Which Sebastian had front and center seats to, ever since they met as boys. Gil's entire person is and always has been oriented towards hockey, and as they grew up and Gil got closer to his chance to play professionally, that came into sharper and sharper focus. Hiring his agent, attending development camps, going to world juniors, the possibility of making the Olympic team: every step of the way, Gil breathlessly shared these moments with Sebastian. Eyes lit up, words coming fast, Gil nearly vibrating as he spoke, he detailed for Sebastian every single amazing thing that was happening, as Sebastian hung on to every word, so thrilled for this man, his very best friend.
But he knew what was coming. Gil sank further and further into his budding career, and the times he called when he was off at exhibition games, or the weekend he went to the draft, the stories were vivid and exciting and spoken with an edge of awe - and that's all there was to the phone calls. How could Sebastian complain? This was the most amazing course of events that could happen to Gil, and Sebastian bubbled over with happiness for him. It's fine that Gil never texted back about that hilarious photo Sebastian had sent of Buddy sleeping on his back, all four paws stuck in the air. And that Sebastian moved both of their things into their dorm room by himself, because Gil's Dad invited him to a shindig with hockey big wigs. And that Sebastian was feeling weird about leaving Mom alone in Baltimore, moving all the way to Minnesota, and was she alright? Was Sebastian?
No, it's fine. He'll talk to Gil later, when Gil has spent his excitement over his latest rung up the ladder of his hockey career, and he can focus on Sebastian again, like he used to.
So Sebastian knows what's coming when Gil finally gets the call. He hopes otherwise, he dreams that with his new life, Gil will turn over a new leaf, but he knows. And he's right.
Gil goes off on his grand adventure, and Sebastian slowly sits on the bed as the door swings closed, staring around the room that was theirs, and now is just his. Hours, days, weeks - the texts and calls are the same as he expected, though each time he reaches for his phone he wants to trust that this will be the time Gil has shed hockey for him.
But no, it's one sided, it's thrilling, it's heartbreaking, it's the most excited Sebastian has ever been for him, and it's the hardest thing to watch as Gil takes the ice for his first game, Rideau's team cheering, clustered around the TV, and Sebastian swallowing down an ache in his throat as the guys jostle him, yelling that look, it's Gil, he's right there, he made it!
Does Sebastian ever come out and say what he's feeling to Gil? Maybe. He might try to, but can Gil even listen? No, he can't, his life is too full and too wonderful and too miraculous. And we all remember how old we felt at nineteen (or how old that seems if you yourself are that age or younger), but Sebastian's a sophomore in college with none of the experience of how to be in a relationship that we gain as we go through our adult lives. He doesn't have the skills to communicate, and Gil doesn't either, and they do what people do: handle things poorly. Who hasn't had a relationship fizzle out? Whether a friendship or a romance, or the complicated in-between that Gil and Sebastian had? It's human nature, it's awful, and yes it's preventable, but the heavy lifting for Gil to change at that point in his life, and for Sebastian to advocate for himself, just isn't there for either of them.
So silence overtakes what was their friendship and eventually, one day a long while later, Sebastian and Christopher happen. How and when? I have some ideas, but this love story isn't theirs. Suffice to say, they're happy, Sebastian finds what he needs, Christopher gets his hot hockey dude, and Matty is born into a family filled with love, even if Sebastian and Christopher are better as friends then as a couple. Does Gil hang like a specter over Sebastian and Christopher's marriage? I feel like the expectation of the romance genre is to say: yes, of course Gil does, soulmates, one true love, etc etc, Gil was the only man for Sebastian and he never truly loved Christopher, not even a little bit. But life is far more complicated in all of its messy glory than this genre typically allows for, and I love the idea that Gil was a sore bruise for Sebastian, but he wasn't a third party in his marriage to Christopher. Gil was gone, and as far as Sebastian knew, he wasn't ever coming back. The chapter of Sebastian's life with Gil had ended, and even when he and Christopher split ways, whatever was to come next for Seb certainly wasn't going to be Gil.
No, he was going to take a break from men, having gone straight from his high school/ college romance to the man he married. He was going to slow his love life down, figure out how to be single, and probably have a bit of fun in San Francisco's queer scene.
At least, until a puck flies into his mom's back yard, and his stomach sinks and his heart leaps and he thinks maybe.