Authors: Jordan Silver
She seemed tired after that, so instead of pushing her to tell me more, I just held her in my arms there on that couch, as we both stared into the dancing flames, lost in thought.
She took a couple deep sighs and snuggled closer, it was the first time in my life that just the nearness of someone dear had such an effect on me.
My heart actually felt full, like no matter what came next, I knew life was going to be just fine. “Are you warm enough sweetheart?”
She nodded against my chest, but I moved us around so that her legs were between mine and I was literally wrapped around her. I couldn’t forget that she’d just been in an accident out in the cold.
Speaking of which, I need to call someone to come tow her car, but I figure since it wasn’t in the way I could wait until morning.
“Baby do you have anything out in your car that you need for tonight?” She stiffened against me and I didn’t understand what about my question could’ve caused such a reaction.
“I’ll get it.” She tried moving away from me but I held her still before sitting her away from me so I could stand.
“Don’t be silly, I’ll get your bag and be right back.”
“I won’t be but a minute baby.” I kissed her forehead before heading back out in the snow, which was now coming down even harder.
Her piece of junk was even worst than I’d first thought on closer inspection, and now that there was no longer any fear of someone being seriously injured inside, I noticed other things as well.
Like the fact that the trunk was held closed with rope, and the tires were worn down, which was a real danger on a night like this; but the thing that pierced me to my very soul when I opened the backdoor for the second time that night, was the story it told.
There was a blanket and a pillow back there. Bags were neatly stacked on one side, with what looked like clothing falling out of them. There was a sickening feeling starting to develop in the pit of my gut.
I left the backseat and wrestled with the rope on the trunk, and my suspicions were confirmed. I looked back at the chalet with my heart torn and battered as it fell to my feet.
I’m not a crying man, I don’t remember crying for myself since I was about four. There were a few shed the day we were torn apart, but since then I’ve never let emotion overcome me.
Standing there in the waning light, with snow hitting me from all angles, I felt the burn of tears that seemed to start in my heart.
Returning to the backseat, I grabbed the bags that she kept back there, while stifling the urge to hit something. Who could I blame for this? No one, there was no one to blame, no one but my own inadequacies and myself.
Back in the warmth of the house I dropped the plastic bags with her stuff and looked at her. She refused to look at me, choosing instead to keep her head down as she plucked at the blanket that covered her from head to toe.
“Were you living in that car?” There was anger in my voice, misdirected to be sure, but right now I was angry at her, at myself, and most of all at the situation.
“Answer me.” I walked over and lifted her chin so I could look into her eyes. So much sadness and hurt; just what hell had she endured all these years?
Her nod was barely noticeable but I felt and saw it all the same. “Why baby?” When she bit her lip and looked away in shame, I thought I would howl until the feeling of helplessness left me.
“Tell me baby I need to know.” She told me the story about losing her job and not being able to find anything else, which soon led to losing her apartment.
She had no friends because those foster homes she’d been moved to weren’t in her old hometown. No wonder my guy couldn’t find anything on her or her family.
I listened to her story, kneeling at her feet, her hands held tightly in mine. When she slowed to collect her thoughts I let her take her time until she was ready to continue, without any prompting from me.
By the time she was through, my heart was at her feet, what was left of it. “What’s in those bags, anything of importance?”
I wanted to pack them all back in the car and set the whole thing on fire. “Just some clothes and toiletries. I have my important papers and stuff in there as well.”
She got up off the couch and went over to paw through them. The socks she pulled out had holes and that was the last straw.
Without saying a word, I went up to my room and got the bag with the stuff I’d brought for her, things I’d bought in the hopes of finding her. I also stopped long enough to grab a pair of my own socks.
Downstairs I placed the bag with her goodies on the floor next to the couch, before taking her feet in my hands and removing the socks that had seen way better days.
My socks dwarfed her little feet, but there were no holes and these were warm. Mom had bought them, so I was sure that they would do their job.
She didn’t say anything as I tended her, just watched me out of those magnificent eyes of hers. Digging through the overnight bag full to the brim with wrapped gifts, I brought them out one by one and placed them on her lap and on the seat next to her.
“What’s all this?”
“Merry Xmas baby. Open them.” She didn’t seem sure of what to do, so I put her hands on the neatly tied bow and helped her.
It wasn’t enough. I’d bought things with the young girl I remembered in mind. Things that I knew my sisters thought were necessities.
“As soon as the stores open day after tomorrow we’re going shopping. I’m sorry I didn’t get more.”
“What are you talking about Julian? I didn’t come looking for you so you could feel sorry for me…” I held up my hand to cut her off and to give myself time to form the right words.
“Christina, the last time we met we were kids, I don’t know what or how much you remember about the boy I was, but let me assure you that the man doesn’t play games.
I listened to your life story and whether you like it or not, I do feel sorry for you, for all that you had to endure alone.
How else am I supposed to feel when I hear you talk of living in such deplorable conditions while my life was all that was good? Am I not supposed to feel?
“I don’t want your pity.”
“Don’t be stupid.” How could I have forgotten her stubbornness? I only remembered the sweet natured girl who followed my lead, but there was another side to my Christina. Too bad for her, just as with back then I got my way, I wasn’t planning on that changing now, especially not about something as important as this.
“Now open your gifts and no more arguing.” I’d bought her some cashmere sweaters that I thought were cute, but mostly there was jewelry and perfume in the boxes.
I had no idea I would find her in this condition or I would’ve done more. Maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t know what I would find, because I would no doubt have lost my mind.
She rubbed the softness of one of the sweaters against her cheek as she closed her eyes, and in that moment, no matter what I’d felt or believed I’d felt in the past, it all paled in comparison to what went through me then.
Then it hit me, like someone had ripped away the veil. “You’re really here.” What the fuck was I doing? She was here, and she was whole and nothing was ever going to separate us again. Nothing else mattered, none of it.
She probably thought I had lost my mind when I picked her up and twirled her around in my arms in front of the fire.
When she threw her head back and laughed, that sweet tinkering sound I remembered, I fell in love all over again, all the way sunk. I covered her lips in mid-laugh and took her sigh of contentment into myself.
We talked and talked deep into the night, about old times, over cups of hot chocolate. It was great to see that life’s hard knocks hadn’t changed her too much. She still had that same beautiful spirit that I had been remembering here of late.
“Tell me sweetheart, what is it that you want to do with the rest of your life?” We were lying on the couch with yet another blanket wrapped around both of us like a cocoon.
She was nice and warm and didn’t seem to be having any nasty side affects from the bump on her head, which is why I’d been keeping her up this long. I needed to be sure that there was no concussion.
“What do you mean?”
“Just what I said.” I looked down into eyes that in the last few hours had lost some of the shadows, onto lips that were just a little swollen from the amorous kisses we’d been sharing all night.
“If you could do anything in the world, what would it be sweetheart?” She turned around again with her back to my chest as I held her close.
“I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it before, not really.”
“You must’ve dreamed, come on tell me, what’s the one thing your heart has always wanted?” She held me that much closer and I nuzzled her before her answer came.
“You.” The word came out so soft that I barely caught it, but I did.
It took me a minute to get the lump out of my throat, but that didn’t stop me from squeezing her half to death. She had no idea that her answer had just gained her a lifetime of everything I had to give.
I didn’t tell her that though; better to just show her. “You humble me sweetheart.” My Xmas gift, that’s what she was. I’m almost tempted to keep us both locked away here away from the outside world, so that nothing could intrude on our happiness.
“Well, now you’ve got me and I’ve got you, and guess what? I’m never letting you go, not ever.”
Before she could say anything to my bold declaration, I covered her mouth with mine again. My body wanted her, but it was too soon, wasn’t it? My heart and my body said it wasn’t, but my head said I had to start over at the beginning.
There was so much more that I wanted to share with her, that I was finding it hard to pace myself. Even as we sat there quietly, getting to know each other again, my mind was going in ten different directions at once.
My head was full of all the things I could give her, all that I wanted to share with her. I was suddenly happier than I’ve ever been in my life, just from having her there in my arms.
Had I known when she first reentered my mind all those weeks ago, that this is where we were headed? Nothing else made sense, this is where we were headed since we were two innocent kids playing in the backwoods of the Colorado mountains.
What point was there in waiting? I might have to wait to take her to my bed, since courtesy and decorum called for it, but there was nothing standing in the way of our being together.
“Christina do you know what I want more than anything else in the world? Now that I’ve found you of course! I want to marry you as soon as possible. I’m taking you home with me when we leave here, but I want to do it as man and wife.”
My family would understand I’m sure, and even if they didn’t there was no way I was waiting to put my ring on her finger. She needed me and I find that I needed her to need me.
I now know that that’s one of the things that had enraptured me all those years ago when I was too young to know. The way she looked to me for the answers.
Now, though I wouldn’t have wished her hardships on her, would do anything to have spared her that, I was the kind of man who wanted his woman to need him.
“You want to marry me?” She sounded surprised, like it had never entered her mind. I chose my next words with care. I’m sure that for me there was only one outcome, but it was only fair to let the poor girl know that I was already planning her life.
“Why were you looking for me all these years love?”
“I don’t know, I had to I guess, but…”
“Did it have anything to do with what you and my mom talked about?” She buried her face in my chest.
“She told you about that? I’m so embarrassed I was hoping she’d forgotten all about that. I was just a young stupid kid.”
I didn’t correct her assumption that mom had shared their talk with me, I used a bit if trickery I guess you can say. I wanted to hear what the young love of my life had been thinking back then, since I never really got a chance to find out before.
“Do you still feel that way?” I was going on a hunch that it was a good thing.
“You know I do, that’s the reason why I could never stop searching, never stop coming back to our place. But that was just wishful thinking, a young girl’s foolish dreams.
For a long time after I couldn’t find you, I started to believe that my dad had been right, and that was the saddest thing of all, like my dreams were dying.
Nothing else hurt as much as the lost of those dreams, they were my last link to you, to you and the best times of my life.
I use to live for those summers. The first time we met I was fascinated with your family. You guys always seemed to be so happy. You were always doing things together while I stood off in the bushes and watched.
I use to watch you most of all that first summer, because you always seemed to be having the most fun. And then we became friends and I didn’t have to watch from afar anymore.
Then that last summer came and everything changed. I remember wondering and being a little afraid of the new feelings I got whenever I would see you.
My tummy would hurt in the oddest way, and when a day went by and I didn’t see you, I felt like I would crawl into a hole and die.
Your mom found me like that one day. Don’t remember where you were off to, but you went somewhere with your dad and your brother. I was sitting down by the stream in our favorite spot feeling sorry for myself.
She came and sat next to me. I’d never forget; she just sat there quietly for the longest time, not saying anything, just looking out at the water with me.
Then she spoke to me like I mattered. I think it was the first time an adult had ever done that. Mom and dad either talked at me, or down to me, but your mom, she was different.
She asked me what was bothering me and I found myself opening up to her. She was very kind; she didn’t laugh at me or tell me that I was silly.
After that day we had quite a few of those talks. By then we had started looking at each other different you and I, and I always felt like my heart was going to stop any second when you would take my hand and we’d walk into the woods together.
I was so happy that summer, happy and scared. I worried about what would happen when I had to go back home and not see you again until the next year.
I told your mom about my fears, and mostly about how I would just die if you found someone else, someone who you would look at the way you looked at me, or take her hand like you did mine.
She listened to my preteen ramblings, and instead of putting me down, or belittling my feelings, she told me that if I wanted it badly enough, all I had to do was wish for it really hard.
From that day I wished for you so hard, it was the only thing I wanted more than anything else in my life.
Of course my dad did a very good job of destroying her words by the end of that same summer.
For the first few months I thought I would die. Dad said we were never coming back here again and I was forbidden to get in touch with you.”
I could tell that her words were distressing her from the way she started to shake. “Baby look at me.” I turned her face up to mine.
“I’m right here baby, and I’m not going anywhere ever again. I’m sorry that I was gone so long. I promise you that I will do everything in my power to make it up to you.”