At Home for the Holidays

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Tina sits beside her friend Charise as they crawl along the snowy roads. She is happy that her best friend of many years is a skilled winter driver. As it turns out, they are both competent in a lot of things and within similar interests, that is why they have been so close. They had met four years ago when Charise had started tutoring her in chemistry. It was Tina’s first year of college and she had been struggling. Charise had made it look so easy. They have been friends ever since.

Their interests have always been common, and that includes their shared love for Tina’s father. This is in different ways of course as Tina loves her father as a protector and as the man who has raised her. Charise has had a romantic interest for a long time. They met at Christmas two years ago when Charise accompanied her best friend home for the holidays. It was a happy holiday for Tina because they had hit it off so well. She knows that he has been so down and defeated within his personal life ever since her mother had run off five years ago. She had left him and her two kids very quickly after falling in love with a foreign teacher at an education conference. Her father had been devastated and crawled into a deep personal hole. To this day, he has never quite crawled out.

“You’re quiet,” Tina smiles, “You haven’t talked in over an hour.”

“Hmm,” Charise uttered, “Just thinking about what I am going to say.”

“You’ve been emailing, calling each other, and you even came for a visit three times over the past year,” Tina says, “It’s not like you’ve lost touch.”

“Yeah but,” Charise sighs, “Tina your dad is so shy, or closed off with his feelings.”

“Just tell him,” Tina says.

“He is so deep in regrets and all that,” Charise says, “Do you really think he can get past that and forget enough to have a relationship?”

“Yes I do,” Tina answers.

“Well we are almost there, and I told you this time I am determined to find out, or else forget the whole thing,” Charise says.

“Patience hon,” Tina says, “You’re going to need some to get through to him.”

“I can do that,” Charise says.

“Because?” Tina prods.

“I love him,” Charise sighs, “That’s all there is to it. But is it enough?”

Tina doesn’t answer because she really doesn’t have one. On this trip she is hoping for the best. She has seen her father have an entire mid-sized city smiling, who last month elected him mayor. But when it comes to relationships, he is damaged. She only hopes it is not beyond repair. Tina knows that he and her mother married very young. Her own father is only eighteen years older than her and he will be forty next year. Her best friend Charise is several years older than her at thirty. She comes from a mixed heritage with an African American father, and Thai mother. Tina has always found her quite striking. Tina knows there will be a few boundaries in this mostly white community. They have discussed this, and there was just one simple response from Charise, ‘They’ll get use to it.’

Tina has always admired her friend’s confidence and how she was able to work so hard and get her PhD last spring. She has used her friend as a role model for her own life and has tried to work as hard as she can. Now thinking about it, Tina knows that this seems to be one last hurdle for her friend, creating loving happiness. Tina knows they will both do all they can to pull her father back from the abyss so that he can be happy too. Charise will become a member of this community soon anyway as she takes up a local job position, and Tina hopes with her father, she can complete her next big step.

“We’re here. Wow look at the house,” Tina says as she perks up as she sees hundreds of colorful lights decorating the house.

“You’re Dad is home already,” Charise says as she slowly pulls in to the snow covered driveway, “That is pretty.”

“Yeah he’s off until the new year,” Tina says, “Maybe that’s a good sign he isn’t out.”

“Why?” Charise asks.

“Anxious to see you,” Tina grins.

“Probably you hon,” Charise says.

“Oh I doubt it’s just me,” Tina smiles.

Tina looks toward the house as Charise turns the car off and opens the door. As the two gather their bags they see Tina’s seven year old brother appear from behind the house. He seems to have been playing in the snow in the backyard and doesn’t notice them right away. She hasn’t seen him in three months and she sees he has grown. She smiles as he still approaches without seeing them.

“Hey kiddo,” Tina says as she grabs him.

“Ahh!” Tim exclaims.

“Watch where you’re going,” Tina laughs.

The three exchange hugs and pleasantries as they head toward the back of the house. Tim shows them a snow fort he has been building. As they round the house they hear Tim’s father’s muffled voice from inside an elaborate fort. As Tim hollers to him he is talking so much about how to reinforce it, that he doesn’t hear them. Tina smiles at Charise, knowing her father has always been playful with them as kids.

“We’ll Starzbet go into the house,” Tina whispers to Charise, “You go see if you can get his attention.”

“Oh here we go again,” Tim sighs, “She’s going to get all weird isn’t she?”

“Come on kid, let’s go in and start some hot chocolate,” Tina smiles as she pulls her brother toward the house.

“What do I do?” Charise asks quickly.

“Whatever you want,” Tina grins.

“Oh man, can we close the window shades when we go inside,” Tim says as his voice trails off toward the house.

Charise watches the two go into the house then she looks over at the mound of snow with a familiar voice inside on an unending lesson on structure reinforcement. She smiles thinking about what Tina had told her one time. She has always raved about his parenting abilities and that he is the type of dad that gets right on the floor and plays too. She walks a little closer but still doesn’t see him.

“Ah Thomas,” She says without a response.

Just as she starts to move even closer, the roof of the fort collapses as she hears a loud grunt from inside. After this happens there is no movement. Charise looks at the snow nervously and runs forward. Starting to call his name loudly, she digs in the snow looking for him. Without gloves her fingers start to feel the effects of the sub zero temperatures. Frantically she digs harder.

“Thomas!” Charise exclaims as she uncovers his hand.

“Oh um hello Charise,” Thomas says as she brushes snow off of himself.

As she helps him up from the ruined fort, he looks at her in his so familiar gaze. She knows how he feels about her. But Charise also knows that for some reason he cannot make his move. They have been talking for so long that she believes she would accept any move at all at this point, just as long as there is some advancement, if it is even to happen at all. At no time during her eight year road to her doctorate had she ever had this kind of challenge.

“Are you ok,” Charise asks, as he stands and she continues to brush snow off of him.

“Um, maybe that fort wasn’t such a good idea,” Thomas smiles weakly.

“Do you think?” Charise giggles.

“I um,” Thomas stutters, “It’s um good to see you.”

“Good to see you too,” Charise smiles enthusiastically.

As they hug for a moment and she lets go of him, she looks into his eyes, with his the hat on his head still covered with snow and smiles deeply. She sees the nervous expression on his face as he looks back at her smiling weakly. It seems as if they are about to finally have the romantic moment that is long overdue. As she looks over his face nearly a foot taller than him, he seems to almost lean forward to kiss her, but then stops.

“I um, maybe we should go inside,” Thomas says as the moment completely deflates.

“Ok,” Charise smiles with a patient look as she walks with him to the side door.

Charise frowns but maintains her patience. She has a lot of it and will likely need more in the coming days. In all their conversations they have had, it has come close a few times. The last time she was here they had stayed up nearly all night watching an old monster B movie from the 1950’s. They had a lot of fun with it, even wrestling for a moment on the couch, acting out one of the scenes. She remembers that then too it seemed as if he would kiss her, but he still backed off. She knows after what happened with Tina’s mother he is damaged in a way, but it seems that everyone around him knows he should move on. If only he would see that, or if he is just not interested, just tell her so.

“Hey Tim,” Thomas says as they enter the house, “Let’s not build a fort like that until we think it through a little first.”

“The castle has collapsed. Alas, it is in ruins, King Timmy,” Charise adds.

“Oh go change Dad,” Tina says as she takes his jacket.

“Can I help you,” Charise asks as she pulls on his gloves.

“Um change you mean?” Thomas says apparently without thinking, then looks at her embarrassingly, “I mean, well I’ll go change.”

“Dad hot chocolicious when you get back,” Tim smiles from the table.

“Maybe if you actually offered,” Tina smiles at Charise after her dad leaves the room.

“Oh stop,” Charise says.

“Offered what?” Tim asks, “You know how to make snow forts?”

“Ah no buddy,” Charise smiles as she takes some hot chocolate.

Tina looks over at her friend sipping her hot chocolate. To her, she seems to be deep in thought and she doesn’t need to ask what it is that is occupying her mind. As she has told her before, she should just not wait any longer and make her intentions known. As Tina thinks about this, something occurs to her that she had never thought of before.

“You’re not sure are you?” Tina asks as she sets her cup down.

“I don’t know,” Charise whispers.

“Tim if you are finished maybe Dad wants you to go take a shower and warm up,” Tina says.

“Ok, yeah because Starzbet Giriş the weird talk is coming. I get it,” Tim says as he heads for the stairs.

“You’re right hon,” Charise says as she watches Tim climb the stairs.

“Unbelievable,” Tina says, “I know he is interested but he is so damn reserved and timid about it, and you don’t know if that is a game ending thing or not.”

“Basically,” Charise says, “What if I were to tell him. But then he is always reserved, non-affectionate, and all that because he is still hung up on your mother?”

“He isn’t hung up on her,” Tina says, “He despises her for running off on us. You know how it happened. One night they were laughing at dinner, the next day she went to the conference, came home in a strange mood, and left the next day. It’s a lot to take.”

“Yeah, did he ever check to see if she was replaced by an alien at the conference?” Charise jokes.

“Yeah funny,” Tina says, “But it was her. I could see the look in her eyes and heard her words when she said in front of us all that she was leaving. I was shocked, but then began to resent her as much as him.”

“Yeah I know,” Charise sighs, “You refuse to talk to her every time she calls.”

“Speaking of that, tonight is the night she does,” Tina says, “Christmas Eve every year. Well sometimes it’s Thanksgiving instead. Who knows.”

“Lots of effort there I see,” Charise says.

“Look, I really hate to say this but I’ve wanted to for a long time,” Tina starts, “You know that if you are with him you have to sort of take on a motherly role right out of the gate.”

“I know and that’s ok,” Charise says, “I love the kid too.”

“Well my hopeful future stepmom, I have no trouble saying this but,” Tina says with an assertive tone, “From what I’ve seen, you could be ten times the mother she has been. They love you too. I know it.”

Charise watches as Tina walks past her and toward the stairs. She almost gets chills from the finality of her friend’s statement. For someone to say what she did probably takes a lot of nerve, or perhaps the need to just have it said. She knows that it has always been a little difficult for her friend to talk about her mother. What she just said is more than she has ever said about her. It occurs to Charise that Tina just wants her Dad to be happy. She knows how that can happen. But she still has doubts. She feels bad thinking it, but decides to say it out loud.

“Yeah I love him,” Charise whispers to no one, “But can he be a man again?”

Charise sips her hot chocolate and gazes out the window to the now darkening winter wonderland. She knows that she can make this rather nice home, a happy place. But she stresses over her own reservations. Is he so finished and mentally beaten by Tina’s mother that he can’t have a normal relationship? Charise doesn’t know at this point, but clenching the cup handle tight, she feels determined to find out. This visit will answer this question once and for all. She will either leave here in a few days only to return to be with him, or she will simply leave. One of these two things will happen. She will see to it.

“Thank you um, for rescuing me,” Thomas says as he enters the kitchen and takes some hot chocolate.

“Anytime,” Charise smiles as she turns around.

“Did you um,” Thomas starts, “Have any trouble on the roads?”

“Oh it was a little slow in parts but it was ok,” Charise says.

“Good,” Thomas says nervously, “But it wouldn’t be Christmas without a ton of snow.”

Charise watches his expressions, and it seems as if he wants to say something more. Staying hopeful she just smiles at him while she sips her hot chocolate. There is a long silence as she can almost see his mouth start to move. She knows he has something in his thoughts but he just can’t get the words out. Charise wants so much to just say what she wants. But her heart tells her that she needs to wait just a bit longer for him to do it. In a way, it is her way of figuring out if he really wants it or if he can even deliver in a relationship. But just when she thinks he might say something, she sees his shoulders slump and he says nothing.

“Dad,” Tina hollers from upstairs, “Can you come here?”

“I um, I’ll go see what she wants,” Thomas says as he turns and heads for the stairs.

Charise sighs deeply as she rests against the sink. She had just seen the expression on his face. It was almost as if he felt relieved to be called away. As she stares into her cup, she starts to realize that it may be hopeless. She looks outside to the slowly darkening cold and wonders if the same is about to happen here. Will this grow cold and dark or will it warm their hearts this holiday season.

“Yeah Teeny,” Thomas says as he enters the hallway.

“I’m going out a while,” Tina says as she adjusts her shirt in the hallway mirror.

“But its Christmas Eve,” He sighs.

“Yes,” Tina smiles, “Nathan called and wants to meet for coffee and I haven’t Starzbet Güncel Giriş seen him for like 3 years.”

“Yeah but you are going to be here for six days,” Thomas replies.

“I need to go, ok,” Tina says as she pulls his arm, “Come here.”

“What?” Thomas says as he is dragged into Tina’s bedroom.

“I’m going out until ten or so because you and Charise need to talk, or whatever,” Tina says with an assertive voice.

“But,” Thomas starts.

“Get a clue Dad,” Tina says, “Mom’s gone.”

“I know that,” Thomas sighs, “Regardless of what you think, I don’t want her back.”

“Good, then move on with the next chapter of your life,” Tina says.

“I will be mayor in January,” He smiles.

“I don’t get it,” Tina says, “You can win over a small city with forty three thousand people in it, but you can’t talk to a beautiful woman who thinks the world of you.”

“What do I have to offer her?” Thomas asks her with a hint of frustration, “I couldn’t make it work before.”

“You were caring, loving, and a provider,” Tina says as she tosses her hairbrush on her bed, “So that wasn’t enough for Mom. It is not your fault. Get that through once and for all and don’t let this slip away, because it’s about to.”

“I know how she feels, and how I feel,” He sighs.

“Then do something about it,” Tina says as she yanks a scarf off of a coat hanger.

“All she has to do is smile at me and I am happy beyond belief,” Thomas says, “But it’s so hard to get the words out also thinking that I failed before.”

“Get the words out and be happy,” Tina says with her hands on her hips, “It’s probably safe to say, that’s all she wants for Christmas.”

“I got her that suede jacket she was crazy about the last time she was here, oh and an auto club membership in case she is alone and breaks down,” He sighs.

“Something she wants and something she needs,” Tina smiles, “Good job. See you can do this. It’s all very thoughtful. Now give a gift to both of you. Someone to grow old with.”

“I love her,” Thomas whispers.

“Does she know that?” Tina asks.

“No I guess not,” He sighs.

“So I’m giving you an early gift,” Tina says, “Timmy is going to bed soon, and I am out for the next 4 hours. If it will ever happen for you two it needs to be now or just forget it and be miserable.”

“When did you get so tough?” Thomas smiles.

“I’m not,” Tina sighs, “I am just irritated knowing that you both want this. So get it done one way or another. Either start or finish it.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Thomas mocks.

“Ok bye, love you. I’m taking the truck down to the coffee shop near the Pavillion,” Tina smiles as she leaves the room.

Thomas watches as Tina walks past him and then down over the stairs. He turns and heads to the hallway, glancing at an antique mirror. He sees the expression on his face and it seems to glare back at him as if his own soul is also asking what his problem is. Every time he thinks of her and a future together, he gets floored in his own mind by reminders of the past and the woman that walked out on her entire family. He despises her for what she did but always feels as if there is blame to go around. He loves Charise but deep in his thoughts he thinks she can do better.

For the next hour, Thomas, Tim, and Charise sit on the couch, enjoy a nice snack and watch a holiday special. They share some cinnamon cookies that Charise had decided to start making when Thomas was upstairs talking to Tina. She smiles at both Thomas and Tim as they seem to like them. They laugh, and enjoy a wholesome family moment that has been increasingly rare in recent years. Thomas remarks inwardly at how well his son and Charise get along. She seems to know just what to say and do. She had even asked him to go up and get ready for bed before they sat down.

As the time grows short, Tim sits out his usual cookies and milk on a small table beside the couch and skips his way up the stairs. Charise smiles at his excitement knowing that he is growing up and there probably aren’t too many years left that he will believe in the mystical bearded man that delivers gifts. As he goes upstairs, Charise turns to Thomas.

“He’s a great kid,” Charise says standing right in front of him.

“He is,” Thomas says, “Hopefully he’ll be surprised tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn.”

“Ah so how early will that be exactly?” Charise asks with a smile.

“For him um, 5 or so,” He answers.

“So he doesn’t hang out in his room with a stocking or something for at least another 3 hours?” Charise smiles.

“Maybe an hour, then he starts bugging us to get up,” Thomas says.

“Ah 6 then, ok,” She says.

“Oh you can do it,” Thomas smiles.

Charise looks at him and his sudden happiness and confidence. It seems like such a turnaround to her. She wonders if the wholesome family moments of the past hour snapped something on in him. She smiles thinking that maybe the cookies had something to do with it. Staring into his eyes, she makes her holiday wish. Again he seems to want to say something but then breaks from it again. However she is somewhat confident because at least she sees some progress.

“Um, I want to set things up so they are ready for morning,” Thomas says as he starts heading for the garage, “Be right back.”

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