Authors: Jordan Silver
I looked down at the softly spoken word, but her eyes were still closed. That was more heart rending than anything else I could think of.
"You remember." I whispered the words almost reverently and couldn’t resist the soft kiss I placed on her cold lips, before lifting her carefully from the car.
She didn't seem to be hurt anywhere else except the cut on her head, at least to my inexperienced eyes her limbs didn’t seem to be in any distress.
Folding her carefully into my chest to keep her safe from the elements, I said a silent prayer of thanks. This was really happening, it wasn’t a dream, at least I hope not.
The feel of the cold snow hitting me in the face assure me that I was very much awake and was holding the precious girl in my arms.
With my heart full, I trudged through the snow with my bundle in my arms. I wanted to scream and shout, dance in the snow. Call everyone and tell them that dreams were real.
I had the dumbest grin on my face as I made my way back to the chalet. I'll do all of that later, right now I had to get my Xmas miracle to wake up.
I didn't know it would feel like this. What I expected I don't know, but I certainly hadn't expected this feeling of possessiveness and warmth, and the whole slew of emotions that I'd never felt before.
There were tears gathered in the corners of my eyes as I finally breached the door and took my precious cargo over to the couch.
I don’t know how long I knelt there at her side, just taking her in. I was afraid to blink, or do anything else lest she disappear.
“Are you going to wake up for me baby?” I rubbed some heat into her hands before turning to the old worn boots and removing them from her cold feet.
I don’t know why the sight of the scuffed shoes with holes in the bottoms should piss me off, but they did. I looked at her face and felt a pang in my chest.
First the broken down car that had to be older than either of us, and now this. It told a tale that I didn’t like, but I had to put that off along with the million and one questions I had to ask her.
"Let's just get you out of these wet things love." We were both soaked clear through by the heavy snow, and I was starting to feel the affects.
I was just a little worried about the bump on her head but her breathing was even and her color wasn't off except from the cold.
I was as gentle as I could be as I removed her coat. She was bundled in a mountain of clothes, at least two sweaters and jeans.
I eased off her socks next to make sure her feet were dry. When I was through removing her clothes down to one sweater and one pair of jeans, I left her long enough to stoke the fire and turn up the thermostat, before returning to her.
Looking down at her I could finally see that beautiful face that had been haunting me for the past few weeks.
She was still the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen in my life; only this was no girl lying here. The twin mounds under her sweater showed her to be all woman.
Fuck Cavanaugh, she's hurt and you're getting a boner? I went to get a wet cloth in the bathroom to tend her, castigating myself the whole way for my unruly thoughts and misbehaving body.
I knelt down beside her and tried to coax her awake, wiping the blood from her temple gently, as I held her head in my hand.
I removed the cap from her hair and felt my breath hitch as the waterfall of dark silk fell over my hands. “Oh baby.” Fuck she was gorgeous, even more so than I remembered.
"Julian." Again my eyes jumped to hers but they were still closed. Why did she keep sighing my name like that? Had she been coming here to find me? Was it at all possible that she had been dreaming the same way I had?
"I'm right here Christina, open your eyes and see me. Come on sweetheart open them." I dried her hair in between stealing kisses and warming up her lips that were no longer looking blue.
“Come on sweetheart, open those eyes, I need to see you.”
They flew open and right into mine. I took the punch to the gut. Sweet fuck I don't remember her eyes being that gorgeous.
"Hello baby, welcome home."
Her eyes welled up with tears and she tried to sit up. "No baby stay there I need to have a look at your head."
"Is it really you?" Her voice was soft and shaky as she reached out her hand for my cheek.
"Yes baby, it's me." I kissed her palm while my heart raced and my head swam. It all came flooding back, all those summers spent together, up until the last one when we'd fallen in love.
Nothing had changed I still wanted her, only now instead of the lust of a teenaged boy I felt the yearning of a man. "Don't cry sweet girl it's gonna be okay."
"I looked for you Julian, I searched and searched but I couldn't find you. Where did you go?" She’d been searching for me?
I wasn’t sure if that made it better or worse, knowing that she’d been looking for me. From the looks of things, life hadn’t been as kind to her as it would’ve been had she been with me.
That pissed me the fuck off, but I wasn’t going to rush to any judgments I’ll just wait and see.
She on the other hand, seemed upset and I couldn't blame her. After they'd torn us apart, the only way I could deal with the lost was to shut off all thoughts of her.
I'd had to put her out of my mind lest I go insane. I felt the old anger rise up again, but I'll have to deal with that later. Right now she needed answers and she needed tending.
"I went away to school, after...after what happened that summer I had a really hard time letting go, so my parents thought it was best to send me to my dad's family in England. That's where I was until two years ago."
"You forgot me?" Fuck she sounded so hurt all I wanted to do was grab her and hold on tight; remove that look of pain from her beautiful eyes.
"No Christina I didn't forget you, I just couldn't think about you anymore because it hurt too much. Your dad made it very clear what would happen if I tried to see you..."
"You should've tried, you just left me...you promised..." Her little fist hit my chest over and over until I had no choice but to fold her into me to keep her from hurting herself.
"I'm sorry love, I'm so sorry I had no idea you were looking for me, had I known I would've come back when you turned eighteen."
She leaned back and studied me with her tear stained face.
"Why? So I could claim you."
My words made her cry harder, so I held her closer as harsh sobs wracked her body. My mind was numb. I didn’t want to think of what had happened to her in the last eleven years while I wasn’t there.
I cleaned the wound on her head the best way I could, with her clinging onto me. When I was finished I kissed her hair and moved her head back slightly from my chest.
“Tell me.” I wasn’t sure what I was asking for, her life story, or her reason for being here now. Whichever, I wasn’t about to rush her.
Her tummy made a very unladylike sound that embarrassed her. I ignored her red face as I let her go long enough to grab the afghan from the arm of the couch where I’d left it.
Wrapping her up tight, I picked her up and took her into the kitchen. Sitting her on a stool, I put on the water to make her some hot chocolate, and then got out the makings for a sandwich.
I wasn’t sure of her condition, like when was the last time she’d eaten, or now long she’d been on the road trying to get to me. She was thin, but that could be by choice, and other than that, I didn’t notice anything else that sent up any red flags.
I waited for her to start the conversation as her eyes followed me around the kitchen, but she seemed reluctant. I really didn’t care about yesterday, I was really only interested in now, and the fact that she was here.
“Do you want mayo or mustard baby?”
“Yes please.” She was embarrassed and I noticed tears falling from her eyes again. It was too much, with the soft Xmas music still piping through the room, the lights from mom’s tree reflected in the glass in the kitchen window and the warmth of our own little hideaway.
Putting the cup down on the counter I walked over to where I’d sat her and took her face in my hands. “I want you to listen to me; whatever has been going on in your life that’s making you this sad, it’s over. I will take care of you from now on, so stop crying for me okay, it’s breaking my heart.”
“I can’t help it,” her voice broke as she clutched my sweater, “I can’t believe you’re really here after all this time, it doesn’t seem real. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up and you’ll be gone again.”
Instead of reassuring her with mere words, I lifted my sweater and taking her still cold hand in mine, placed it over the place where my heart beat. “Feel that? That’s real baby. Do you feel how crazy it is? That’s because of you; to hell with it.”
She’d been staring up at me while I spoke, her eyes bright with tears, her cheeks finally getting some color back and in that moment it was as though the years had melted away.
I kissed her softly at first, just a brush of my lips across hers, but when she didn’t pull away but instead tightened her grip on my sweater with one hand and dug the nails of the other into my chest, I went back for more.
I know it’s not possible, but then again nothing about this was supposed to be possible, but she tasted the same, like blueberry bubblegum and sunshine.
How had I kept this all hidden all these years, even from myself? All the love that now beat in me for her, like it had never been interrupted.
I had to let her up for air, but I kept my arms around her. “I’m gonna go finish making your snack, take it easy on me okay, no more tears, my heart can’t take it. I promise you that everything is going to be okay.”
I squeezed her, kissed her hair and went back to what I was doing just as the teakettle whistled. I sat across from her after placing the plate with her sandwich in front of her and the piping hot cup of chocolate.
She picked at the edges of her sandwich until I picked it up and held it for her. “Go ahead baby, eat.” I got her to eat a whole one before she complained that she was too full to eat the other two that I’d made.
I wolfed one down before picking her up and heading back to the living room and the fire. Sitting on the couch, I kept her on my lap all nice and cozy.
“Are you ready to tell me now, about why you’re here, what happened to you? Why weren’t you in that little town you told me about?”
She lifted her head from my chest where she was listening to my heartbeat. “You went there?”
“No, I hired someone to find you, but no one seemed to know anything about you or your family.” She bit her lip and tried to get off my lap, but I held on to her.
“You’re not going anywhere.” She looked at me with such sadness in her eyes I thought for sure my heart would break.
“I don’t know if I can tell you.”
“Why?” what the hell had happened?
“I remember your family, how posh they were. I didn’t get it when we were kids, how very different we were. Didn’t understand that last summer when my dad made such a big deal about catching us together.
I didn’t understand all those things he said when he dragged me back home. It didn’t make sense to my innocent heart, that I couldn’t have you because we were so very different.
It’s only when I grew up that I finally got it. Back then all I knew was what I felt when I was with you, and it didn’t matter what anyone said, I knew it was real.
But none of that mattered to my dad. He said that your parents would never allow you to be with me, that all I could ever hope for was to be used by you.
I didn’t understand any of it, and then it was too late and you were gone and…” She started to shake and it broke my heart.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t so anything baby, it was all my fault, if I hadn’t kissed you that day beside the stream.”
“But you didn’t, I’m the one who kissed you.”
“No baby, you have it all wrong, it was me, I remember.”
“Well I think we’re both remembering the same thing, I know I was the one who kissed you, because I’ve spent all these years feeling guilty for what happened.”
It’s strange that she should say that, because for the first few months after we’d been apart, I blamed myself. I do remember being the one to turn to her, holding her face and kissing her.
Maybe she’d wanted my mouth on hers, but it was I who had done the deed. It didn’t matter now anyway, all that I cared about was where we were going from here, and I know exactly where I want that to be.
“Baby, why are you here?” She cuddled closer and pulled my arms tighter around her.
“I’ve come here every year at Xmas since my eighteenth birthday. Sometimes I had a hard time getting here, but no matter what, I made it here.
This was going to be my last time though, I was giving up after this.”
“But I don’t understand, why were you coming in the winter and not the summer which is when we use to see each other?”
“You know I never understood that either. In the summer I would relive the days we spent together, but I never felt the need to be here.
But at the holidays, it was almost as if I would die if I didn’t come here. It made me feel closer to you somehow, and I hated being alone for Xmas. And now I can’t believe that you’re here.”
“And why was this going to be your last year?” She took some time to answer and when she did, had she not been sitting there on my lap where I could see and feel her, my blood would’ve run cold.
“I decided that I should try to get on with my life, that whatever this weird connection I felt for you was nothing more than wishful thinking on my part. So I was going to put you out of my mind once and for all and…”
“Where’s your family, how come you’ve been coming up here alone instead of being with them?”
“They’re gone. Mom and dad died in a car crash the year after that summer.”
I felt sick, and angry at the same time. She’d been alone? But she was so small, so, I don’t know. Even though I knew she was only two years younger than I, she seemed so much younger.
“Where did you go?” I was almost afraid to ask. I knew her life hadn’t been easy, it was plain to see in her clothes and the old clinker she’d crashed.
It hurt me that she’d been living like this while I had three vehicles that sat mostly idle in my garage.
“I went from foster home to foster home until I aged out of the system. I was never very happy or comfortable in any of them. I think I had the reputation of a problem child because I kept getting moved around.
I’d been in the car that day and something went wrong in my head. I didn’t talk for months after, and it took a while for me to remember how to do certain things.
The doctors said there was nothing wrong with me physically, that I’d just shut down mentally.
Eventually it all came back, but by then it was too late. I was flunking out of school where before I was an Honor student. After that I couldn’t seem to get back on track.
All I had to hold onto were memories of those summers we spent together. They became more in my head somehow. Like meeting you, knowing you, was the defining moment in my life.
When I turned eighteen and no one seemed to care one way or the other, that’s when I really started focusing on finding you. But I didn’t really have much to go on, just this place.
Looking back on it now, I took a stupid risk. There was no guarantee that you would even remember who I was. And even now, seeing you, touching you, it doesn’t seem real.
After everything that I’ve been through I no longer expect my life to have a happily ever after.”
I had to stop her there, couldn’t let her go on, because one thing became very clear to me in that moment. “No matter what it takes, I will make sure that you get your happily ever after.”