Authors: Jordan Silver
His Holiday Gift
All Rights Reserved
It's that time again, Xmas. There's lots of running around and joy in the air. Everyone's excited about the big day. Everyone that is, except me.
I don't know what it is, but lately I've been feeling restless, like something's missing. What that could be I don't know. Looking around me, I see the evidence of my success.
Two years out of college and I've made more strides than anyone could ask for. My software business was more than successful; my life was full with friends and family.
There wasn't anything I wanted that I couldn't afford, and yet I felt empty, drained. My life seemed pointless somehow.
Maybe it had something to do with the dream I had last night. Christina. I haven't thought of her in years, not since the day her father dragged her off and threatened my life when we were teens.
We weren't doing anything wrong, just kissing, but I guess that was too much for the old man to take.
She was the girl I'd thought I would grow up to marry. Now I didn't even know where to find her. Not that I'd looked too hard.
After her father had made such a stink my parents had forbidden me to ever set eyes on her again. That had been the last summer we'd spent at our place in the woods.
That's where we'd met when I was twelve years old and she was ten. Her family rented a cabin a few doors down from the chalet my family owned.
We spent every free moment together for those there summers, before we were torn apart. We’d combed every inch of that place, digging in the woods, marking our initials in her favorite tree. All of the things kids do I guess.
Then there were the hours spent running around behind my dog Benji. She’d loved that dog as much as I did.
Then as we grew older our playtime changed. I stopped seeing her as the skinny little tomboy who followed me around, and started seeing her as the beautiful young girl she was growing into.
I remember the first time the sun shone through the leaves and glinted off her hair and eyes. I think that was the first time I really saw her as a girl.
From that moment on things became strained between us, because I didn’t know what to do with the new awkward feelings in my own growing body.
I wanted to be near her all the time. Suddenly nothing else was as important as the hours we spent together. And then when she was near I was in all kinds of hell.
I remember rushing over to their cabin every morning full of excitement, and hoping her dad never guessed at the new thoughts in my head.
They weren’t anything too sordid back then, just the innocent buds of first love. Then came that fateful day when we’d been caught.
We’d been practicing our kissing on each other, neither of us having ever done it before. I remember the sweet awkwardness and the way she would always look at me afterwards as though I’d hung the moon.
No one has ever been able to make feel even half of what I felt back then and believe me I’ve tried to find it.
Now she's been haunting me for the last few weeks. I say haunting because it was as if I could feel her everywhere. Sleep or wake, she was there with me.
I even find myself recalling the way she smelt back then, after hours in the sun. Just thinking of it makes my heart race out of control.
She had a scent that made me nuts as a horny teenager who was now coming into his own and didn’t know shit about hormones or what to do with them.
It had been years since I’d thought of her. Of course she came in and out of my thoughts every once in a while over the years, but nothing like this.
Sometimes I’d see something, hear something or even a song would remind me of those days and her. But this was different; if I didn’t know any better I would swear that there was something magical at work here.
I woke up this morning with an overpowering need to see her; no that’s wrong, not just to see her, the urge was for her period.
To know what had become of the girl that had meant so much to me all those years ago. The girl that had peaked a young boys interest, and given him his first taste of puppy love.
"Mom, I think I'm going to the chalet for the holidays, I know you're disappointed but I just feel the need to get away." I said it all in a rush, because I knew what her reaction would be, had thought and rethought my approach all day before broaching the subject.
"You're going to Europe for Xmas? Alone? Now Julian, that makes no sense whatsoever..."
"No mom not France the one right here in the states. We haven't been there in years and I just, I don't know. I need some alone time."
I couldn’t bring myself to share her with anyone just yet, not even the memory of her, as silly as that sounded.
"But at the holidays, couldn't you wait until after?" She dried her hand on the apron around her waist and looked at me almost pleadingly.
I took her hands in mine, I knew this would upset her, but not even that could stop me. The need to go, the pull, was just too strong.
I felt as though if I didn't go now, at this particular time, that I'd never escape this feeling of...I don't have a name for what I feel. Despondent comes to mind.
"Mom I can't put it into words but I feel I have to go. I'm sorry, I know what the holidays mean to you and I wouldn't do this unless it was really important. I'll make it up to you."
She did that thing she's always done since we were kids. Taking my face between her palms, she studied my face as if seeking something there.
"Okay my boy, if it means that much to you I'll let you go this time, but we're not going to make a habit of it. I guess I should call and have the place aired out. The service sees to its upkeep but since it's been so long since the family's been there it might need a little spiffing up. And a tree, you'll need a tree...."
"Mom, mom, mom, take a deep breath. I'll be fine I don't want you going to all that trouble."
"Oh pooh it's no trouble at all for me to look out for my little boy. Have you told the others as yet?"
"No I wanted to talk to you first. I'll tell them in the morning."
"When are you leaving?"
"Day after tomorrow I want to drive instead of flying, I think I need it." I needed the time to clear my head and get my thoughts together; they’ve been a bit on the fanciful side lately.
"Son that's quite a drive from here to Colorado, you sure you don't want to take the plane? And you know the weather can be quite unpredictable this time of year."
"I'm keeping my eyes on that mom not to worry." I filched one of the million cookies she was making for the children’s hospital and she slapped my hand playfully, telling me without words that she was okay with my decision.
"Well at least take your truck and not that little matchbox car of yours."
"Mom the Aston is a perfectly fine car, but fine I’ll take the Ranger, happy?" I gave her a tight squeeze and kissed her hair. She'd let me off easy I'd been more than sure that she would put me through the wringer.
Now I could put aside the worry of this little conversation and focus on the most pressing matter. Finding Christina.
I really didn’t have the first clue how to go about finding her, since everything I’d tried so far had failed, so I'd put someone on it only this morning, still I didn't hold out much hope.
I'd only had a name and the name of that little town she'd come from to go on, but if I remember correctly, she'd always talked of leaving there as soon as she turned eighteen; she had a six-year head start.
Please Christina, help me find you. It’s a prayer I’ve been saying for the last few hours as I tried to imagine what else I could do to help with the search.
So much time had gone by, so much had changed? What if she was happily married with kids? How will I deal with the disappointment of that?
“Don’t defeat yourself before you’ve even started Julian.” I’ve been saying that same thing to myself a lot lately as well. Somehow I was reassured that wherever she was, whatever she was doing, she wasn’t taken.
I don’t understand it, why all of a sudden, out of the blue, someone that I haven’t seen or even thought of in years should just take over my whole life.
I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, and it’s almost as if someone is standing over my shoulder nudging me to get on with it.
I’m a practical man, not given to flights of fancy. At twenty-six I’m about as grounded as they come, but this thing has thrown me off kilter.
In the living room I got the fire started and sat gazing into the flames as my mind wandered. I was amazed at the clarity with which I could now see her face.
For the longest time her features were just a blur. I could remember the basics, but the essence of who she was had been long gone. Now it was as though I could reach out and touch her.
I didn’t hear the rest of the house as my family moved around; my mind was a thousand miles away.
In the woods of Colorado, by a stream, with a young girl who smelled like blueberry bubblegum and sunshine.
With my head resting on the back of the chair and eyes closed, I let my mind wander and drift back through those days.
The feelings were so real, as if they were new and I was feeling that jolt for the first time. Just what was going on here anyway? Was I losing my mind?
I had no answer for that, but I felt sure that unless something gave in the next few days, that might be a very good possibility.
No one was happy about me leaving for the holiday, but my mind was made up. There was a little bit of murmuring when my plans to visit the old chalet was brought up the next day, but no one seemed the wiser as to my real reasons for going there, which is how I wanted to keep it for now.
I had no answers to give anyway, so the family thinking that I needed a little downtime after a busy year was fine by me.
Mom decided to have a huge family dinner that Sunday before I was set to leave, to make up for my coming absence.
I have to admit it was great having everyone together, though seeing them all paired off, left me feeling a bit melancholy.
Dane had his wife Rhonda, and even Amalie, who was two years younger than I, was already married to her longtime beau Peter.
Everyone looked so settled in and happy. The way they interacted with each other, finished each other's sentences and just plain completed each other, left me feeling empty.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for them, but I wanted my own perfect someone. Lately I've been thinking that that might be the girl I'd left behind all those years ago.
I ached just for the sight of her face. The only picture I had of her was taken when she was ten years old or so.
She was all knobby-knees and pigtails, with the widest smile. I’d stolen that picture from her little scrapbook, can’t remember why now, but I’m glad I did. It was the only thing I had of her.
Had I known our last summer together would be our last, I would've taken a million of them to remember her by.
There's a lot I didn't know that summer. Like how she'd come back all these years to haunt me, how she'd suddenly become so important to my very existence that I couldn’t go on until I knew.
I know it sounds crazy, but somewhere deep inside it feels as though my life will never be the same if I didn't find her.
I couldn't stop to think why that is, there was no time. I felt compelled to find her and find her now.
Each day that went by, that feeling grew stronger and stronger until, it kept me up all night into the morning.
I wouldn't let my mind wander to the reasons why it seemed so imperative than I find this girl, who I honestly haven't given a thought to in years, who all of a sudden was the foremost thought in my head.
There's so much that could've happened to her in the intervening years. She could be a completely different person. Instead of the sweet beautiful girl I remember, she could be something else entirely.
None of that dampened this need inside me for her though. It was a feeling I'd never experienced before, almost a burning in the gut.
I went to bed thinking about her and the time we'd spent together, and woke up from my snippets of sleep the same.
The one thing I haven't taken out and studied too closely, is the knowledge that no matter what I found, I wasn't coming home without her.