‘Twas The Night After Christmas: A Short Story

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Christmas was probably my least favorite time of year. They say that depression kicks in around this time. But that wasn’t my case. I was just typically unimpressed by the entire thing, the Christmas trees, mistletoe, carols, gifts, and definitely the snow. This year wasn’t much different. The one thing that was, was him. This year I wasn’t alone. I had a reason to celebrate and a reason to decorate my home. He never celebrated Christmas growing up and this year, he wanted it to be special. He had just gotten home from war. He didn’t have much family, just me. So, I wanted to make this day special for him. After all, it was the day after Christmas. His flight got delayed so he wasn’t able to make it for Christmas, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t normally celebrate anyway. Better late than, never right?

I had to pick him Romeo up from the airport at noon. By 11:00, I had completed the meal for us to eat, decorated the Christmas tree and wrapped his gifts. I was at the gate waiting for him at 11:45.

“Yo!!!! Lisa!!”

He seemed so excited to see me.

“How long has it been? A year?”

“Probably longer. You know you don’t know how to come see a brother.”

“Whatever Romeo. Ready to go?”

“You know it. I hope you got dinner ready.”

“You do realize that it’s only noon, right?”

“I do, but I’m also hungry. You know they only feed us peanuts and water on the planes now. I’m starving.”

“Don’t worry about it. Have I ever let you down?”

“Maybe that one time back in high school. But that’s a conversation for another day.”

He drove us to the house. I remember when we were in high school, he never let me touch a steering wheel. He said as long as he was around, driving was the least of my worries.

After what seemed like hours in traffic, we made it to the house. He grabbed his bags out of the trunk as I walked to unlock the door.

“I keep forgetting how beautiful your home is.”

“Thanks! I guess my interior decorating skills come in handy somewhere.”

“What do you mean somewhere? You’ve been doing this for years. I’m sure you just take extra care while decorating your own home.”

“You’re right. I love it. With everyone else, it’s almost like going on a first date with someone. I have to learn things about them to make sure that whatever I put in the house is a direct reflection of them.”

“I understand that.”

He walked into the living room.

“Lisa, you didn’t have to put up the tree.”

“What kind of Christmas would it be, if I didn’t?”

“A great one, because I get to spend it with you.”

“Well aren’t you sweet!”

“I try to be. But about this food. I’ll go put my bags in the guest bedroom.”

I was reheating the food when he walked into the kitchen.

“So, what did you make?”

“Seafood dressing, baked macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, and kale.”

“That sounds delicious. I can’t wait.”

“It’ll be ready shortly. The table’s already set. Go through my albums and see if you find anything you want to listen to.”

Just as I was taking the food to the table, I heard Nat King Cole “The Christmas Song” playing over the loud speakers. I couldn’t believe that he remembered. That was my absolute favorite version of that song and I loved Nat King Cole.

“Dinner’s served, Romeo.”

“Everything looks great, Lisa! I want to thank you again for allowing me to spend a few days with you. I would have been in a lonely hotel eating take-out if you hadn’t.”

“Well I happen to love take-out.”

“I’m sure you do. But thank you anyway.”

“You’re welcome. Now let’s sit down and eat.”

We spent the next thirty minutes, eating and talking about old times. Romeo and I met in high school. I had a crush on him. But he liked someone else. So instead of making a big deal about it, I decided to just be his friend. That was probably the best decision I made, because he was the best friend that a girl could request. He did everything that you would expect a boyfriend to do. He set the bar so high that it was hard to find a guy worth my time. When he joined the military after high school, I didn’t want him to leave. But he had to do what was best for him and his son.

“How’s Jr. doing?”

“He’s great. Growing every day. His mom sends me pictures all the time. I’m going to try and see him before I leave the city. They’re visiting her family for the holidays. Hopefully, they’ll be back in town before I leave.”

“I remember when you started dating his mom. I just knew you two would get married.”

“I thought so too. But you never know how things will turn out. I actually thought about you a lot while I was overseas.”

“Really? What were those thoughts exactly?”

“We have a lot of history, Lisa. I really wish we had stayed in touch more over the years.”

“It’s okay. We’re back at it now, right?”

“Yes, we are. Want to watch a movie?”

“Sure, why not. What did you have in mind?”

“I haven’t seen ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ in years. Probably since high school. What about that?”

“I love that movie. I guess you are in the Christmas mood huh?”

“You know it.”

“Wait, before we do that, I got you something. It’s wrapped under the tree.”

“I saw that. I just knew that it was yours.”

“Well you’re the only one who celebrates Christmas the next day. I opened my few gifts yesterday. Just open it.”

He opened the gift and immediately started to cry.

“Why are you crying?”

“I can’t remember the last time I got a Christmas gift. Thank you.”

“It was nothing. I just saw it and thought of you. I’m glad you like it.”

“I love it.”

“Okay enough of the waterworks. Let’s watch this movie.”

We spent about an hour watching the movie before he fell asleep on the couch. I was lying in his lap. When I looked up, his head was tilted backwards. I woke him up when the movie was over.

“You fell asleep on me Romeo.”

“I’m so sorry. That trip drained me. Maybe I should hit the hay. Hang out tomorrow?”

“Most definitely. There are some clean towels and things in your bathroom already in case you need to wash some of that flight off.”

“I think I may. Thanks again for everything, Lisa.”

“No problem. I’ll see you in the morning.”

I got up, cleaned the kitchen, put the leftovers away, and turned off the tv. If he was going to sleep, I would spend the next few hours reading until I fell asleep.

After a few hours I still couldn’t go to sleep. I remembered when I was in college, he would come to visit me in my on-campus apartment. He would be sleeping on the couch. I could never sleep too far from him when we were in the same place. So, I would get up from my cozy bed and sleep with him on the couch. It was a comfort thing. He never seemed to mind it. But we never talked about it either.

Instead of a couch, he had an entire bed. I made my way into his bedroom. He was dead to the world. I gently pulled the covers back in order not to wake him. I curled up beside him with my head on his chest. Before I could get comfortable, he wrapped his arm around me. As I started to doze off, he kissed me on my forehead. I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep after that.

By the time I woke up it was one in the morning. We did fall asleep early. I looked up at him and he was awake, watching me.

“Hey sleeping beauty. You still having trouble sleeping huh?”

“It only seems to happen when you’re around. I sleep okay most nights.”

“I was hoping you would come sleep with me.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. That was always my favorite part about coming to visit you”

“Well, since it’s another day, I have a question for you.”

“Shoot.”

“You said I let you down in high school. When did I let you down?”

“I can’t believe you waited to ask me that.”

“I was curious and wanted to know.”

“Well if you must know, you let me down the day that you decided to only be my friend.”

“But you liked Ashely. What was I supposed to do?”

“You were supposed to fight for me. The reason Ashley and I broke up was because she thought we were messing off.”

“You never told me that.”

“I didn’t want you to stop being my friend. I knew that if you thought you were interfering with my relationship in anyway, you would’ve disappeared.”

“You’re right, I would have.”

“After all of those years, I have yet to meet anyone who cared about me as genuinely as you.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want your face to be the first face I see when I get home from deployments. I want to enjoy home cooked meals with you. I want to travel with you. Tell me that you feel the same way.”

“I must admit that picking you up from the airport felt natural. Everything about to day felt natural except for us sleeping in separate rooms.”

“Well let’s fix that. Marry me, Lisa.”

“But…”

“Wait, I know that I said I didn’t get you anything but that’s not completely true.”

He reached over to the nightstand and pulled out a ring box.

“Lisa, will you marry me?”

“Yes, Romeo. I will.”

Then came the tears. But this time, they were mine.

We spent the next year planning a wedding that we never expected to have. Who would have known that celebrating Christmas a day late, would make me a bride to be. From that moment on, Christmas had a different meaning. It meant more to me than Christmas trees, mistletoe, carols, gifts, and definitely the snow. It meant that love existed right in front of me, I only had to pay attention and maybe fall asleep in his arms.

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When Waiting to Exhales Turns Into a Gasp for Air

When Waiting to Exhale becomes a Gasp for Air

I never knew what it meant to suffocate until that night…

You gave new birth to the meaning of the word. I couldn’t remember the last time I had an asthma attack, yet it was so easy for my lungs to give in to the pressure of not having enough room to breathe. I felt my chest collapse as though the world was on top of it. Five words:

I can’t be your friend…

This brought back six-year-old memories of asthma induced weight-loss…I remember secretly loving those moments where I was skinny… but only for a second.

But I didn’t love this feeling. I waited for the day you would give up on me, when your five-year chase would come to a screeching halt. Only I thought I would have a different reaction…

I never thought it would feel like a train wreck happened on the inside. It was as though someone ripped my heart right out of my chest.

I thought I knew what heartache felt like, but now, I’m not so sure.

The next 24-hours were the longest in history.
You gave me an ultimatum
and all I could think about was seeing you.

We sat
We cried
We talked
We cried.

I’d never heard you so hurt before.
Tears that only fell at funerals,
were falling because of me.

I knew that I couldn’t lose you
and I refused to risk it all.

No way would I deprive you of your happiness,
just because I chose to punish myself.

There was nothing keeping me from being with the love of my life,
just past hurt and religion.

——————————————————

When you’re almost 25 and with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with and you hear “We need to talk,” your mind goes directly to breakup mode.

I just knew it was over.
They say that it takes twice as long to get over as it takes to get to know.
I knew that it would be a long 34 years.

34 years from now,
you’ll be retired and I’ll be running my private practice
helping others in the place of you.
I would no longer have you to give that extra push. Others would need that shove.

Maybe I can catch it early.
Maybe they won’t have to grow up with the pain from their past.
Maybe I could be their reason for letting go.
Maybe I can be the voice of reason to a girl surrounded by close-minded hypocrites,
the one who tells her that it’s okay to love who she loves.

I thought that my heart would break into two. But I already saw it coming. I spent the next few hours imagining what you’d share during our next conversation.

It’s that time…
You’re deploying and can’t stand the thought of leaving me here alone.
My greatest fear is now a reality.
You’re not happy and would rather end it now before you resented me.

Well my imaginations were half right. You weren’t deploying. My soldier was still going to be on this side of the world just not in mine. Just one of my worst fears was coming true. But it didn’t hurt any less.

Nothing hurt as much as the time you no longer wanted to be my friend. At least you’d still be in my life. That’s if I would have you. At least I still had my best friend.

What do you do when the only person who knows your worth tells you they’re not worthy of your love and the only person you chose to freely give your love to, doesn’t know how to deal with it? What if they’re not ready for the love you’ve been cultivating just for them.

That’s when you take all of the energy that you used to exhale the moment you realized that you could finally be with the love of your life and use it elsewhere.
Breathe…
Think…
Breathe…
It’s okay to cry…

They say that time heals all wounds, but I say oxygen prevents scars. It’s okay to cry, take all the time you need.

Just BREATHE!