No Looking Back

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Wes’s breathing was calm and even as he lay asleep beside me, his arm draped across my middle. I took a deep breath frustrated at my inability to sleep. I looked over at Wes again and gently ran my fingers through his dark hair which was a tousled mess on the pillow. I slowly moved his arm off of me and slid out of bed. I grabbed one of his button up shirts and softly closed his bedroom door as I exited the room. I put the shirt on buttoning it up as I walked over to the kitchen where the dirty dishes from dinner remained untouched. I rolled up the sleeves of the shirt and turned the water on and began to soak the dishes.

Halfway through the cleaning process I heard the bedroom door open. I looked up to see Wes walking out with only a pair of red briefs on yawning.

“What are you doing out here babe?” he asked as he walked towards me.

“I couldn’t sleep,” I said as I put a plate on the drying rack.

“I thought I said don’t do the dishes,” Wes came up behind me and kissed the back of my head before grabbing the drying towel and taking one of the dishes from the rack.

“I’m a rule breaker,” I teased.

Wes grunted in agreement. We quietly finished washing and drying the dishes. As Wes put away the last dish I leaned against the counter. He came over and rubbed my arms.

“Can we go back to bed now?” he asked.

I nodded my head and let him lead me back into the bedroom. I slid under the covers and Wes got in beside me. He held his arm in a way to invite me into his fold; I snuggled in to him listening to the rhythmic pounding of his heart. I fiddled with the ring that lay haphazardly on his chest running my fingers over the engraving.

I felt Wes kiss the top of my head, “Good night baby.” He said drowsily into my hair.

“Good night,” I whispered as my eyes dropped and the world went black.

I walked into a familiar living room the fire burning in the hearth putting off a warm glow. A beautifully decorated Christmas tree sat in the corner of the room, wrapping paper wadded up and carelessly discarded all around it. A woman and young girl both with red hair sat on the couch but I couldn’t see their faces.

“He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” the woman closed the hard cover book

“Again mommy, again,” the little girl begged.

“You know the rules, not until next Christmas.” The woman placed the book on the coffee table.

“But it’s my favourite,” the little girl whined.

“Mine too,” the woman said, “Look out the window princess, a shooting star.”

They look directly at me and I could feel my heart thumping. It was my mom and much younger version of myself.

“Mom,” I heard the word escape my lips but neither of them could see me. I reached my hand out desperate to reach her but my feet wouldn’t move.

“Make a wish,” my mom said to me.

Young me closed her eyes tightly and then opened them, “Done! Do you want to know what it was?”

My mom laughed lightly, “No because I want it to come true. You know how wishes work.”

“Ho ho ho,” I turned my head to see my dad entering the living room carrying a plate of cookies and some milk. He was younger and happier. He was still thin and perfectly shaven; his auburn hair gleamed as brightly as the stars in the sky. Young me started bouncing up and down in excitement as my dad placed the cookies on the table. I watched as young me reached out and took a cookie biting into it and grinning as she chewed. My dad put his arm across the back on the couch gently stroking my mom’s neck as they watched young me gorge on Christmas cookies. I smiled at the picture before me and I could feel my emotions welling up to the surface.

Suddenly the room starting spinning and it was empty. It was still snowy out and cold but there was no Christmas tree, wrapping paper or even warm fire. The only light came from the kitchen. My father walked into the room finishing off the last of a bottle of whiskey and then flung it into the unlit fire; the bottle smashed against the stone shattering instantly. I watched as he scratched his hairy gut looking around. This was the man I remembered well.

“Fucking Christmas,” he snarled.

He suddenly looked straight at me. He glared and started walking towards me with purpose. I tried to move but my feet were still frozen to the ground. I tried to yell out for Wes but nothing would come out. I felt him grab me and pull me towards him.

“You little bitch. You’re all I have left of your mother and I will never let you go!”

I woke with a gasp and looked around. I could feel the beads of sweat all over my body. I looked beside me and saw that the bed was empty. I could hear music coming from the other side of the door. I slowly got out of bed wrapping my arms around myself trying to fight off the cold feeling I had. I opened the door to see Wes shaking his hips while he whisked something in a bowl and singing to “Jet Lag”. The sight made me smile moving my dream to the back of my mind. When he saw me he smiled and gave me a nod.

“Morning beautiful,” he said, “Tea?”

“Please,” I said as I sat down at the counter, “You’re in a good mood this morning.”

Wes poured some hot water into a mug with a tea bag, “Don’t know about you but I got laid last night.”

I giggled feeling my cheeks flush. Wes came around the counter and planted a light kiss on the top of my head. I could feel my fears slowly start to dissolve as he ran his thumb across my cheek.

“I’m making an Italian scramble,” Wes said as he walked back around to the stove, “You aren’t harbouring a secret hate of eggs right?” He poured the contents of a bowl into a pan.

I laughed. “Love them,” I replied taking a sip of my tea.

“Perfect. We will eat, then have a shower, and head to work.” Wes said, “I heard some crazy guy extended that online sale.”

“Lucky us,” I winked at him.

Every time Wes walked near me or even peeked over his shoulder in my direction I could feel my heart beat accelerate. Every nerve ending in my body tingled any time I caught the faintest hint of his cologne. As the hours ticked by I became increasingly sad knowing that our time together was ending. I wondered if he felt the same – disheartened at the idea of going our separate in a couple short hours.

The bell to the shop dinged and I looked up to see a familiar face.

“Winnie!” Wes walked around the counter and pulled the elderly woman into an embrace.

Her arms wrapped around him and a smile creeped across her lips as she pulled him tightly to her. She looked like a mother holding on to her son. As the broke the embrace Winnie kept her arms on Wes looking him up and down.

“You look well Wes,” she said.

“As do you,” Wes said, “Are you looking for something in particular?”

Winnie dropped her arms, “Not really, just wanted to stop in. I was on my way to grab a few items from the grocer.”

“Well I’m glad you stopped in. It’s been too long,” Wes said.

“It has been too long,” Winnie said, “Why don’t you come by for dinner tonight? I bought way too much sweet potato for Riley and myself.” She looked over at me with a tender smile.

“How can I say no that? I have missed your cooking,” Wes said.

“I’ll see you after you close the shop,” Winnie said then looked over my direction, “Bye Riley.”

I waved at her with a grin.

Wes walked back over to the counter and wrapped placed his hands on my shoulders and kissed the back of head, “I’m glad she invited me to dinner. The day was going by too quickly and I really didn’t want to say good-bye at the end of it.”

My stomach fluttered.

After dinner was eaten, the dishes washed, and Winnie upstairs in bed, Wes and I snuggled up on the couch with tea. We were fingering each other’s hand sneaking glances at each other. Every time his fingers grazed my palm I had goosebumps.

Wes pressed his forehead to mine, “I should go.”

“No,” my voice was small; too enwrapped in the moment and the feeling of him to put together a real argument of why he should stay. I leaned up and brushed my lips against his.

He let out a small moan, “Not fair.”

Wes let out a sigh as his deep brown eyes looked into mine. He pressed his lips firmly to mine letting the warmth of his last sip of chamomile tea fill me.

“It’s really slow at the shop,” Wes said.

I chuckled, “You want to talk about the shop right now?”

Wes shook his head, “No, I want to talk about going on a little trip somewhere tomorrow.”

“Wouldn’t closing the shop for a day be bad for business?” I asked.

“No one is going to walk into the shop. Trust me, last year not a soul walked into the shop except Fran until the beginning of January. That’s why I convinced Roger we needed an online presence.” Wes said.

I pressed my lips together.

Wes cupped my face in his hands, “Right now the idea of going somewhere with my new beautiful girlfriend sounds like much more fun than sitting in an empty shop waiting to process online orders. We’ll just have a busy day on Friday.”

“You want to close the shop for two days?”

“I was thinking we could go somewhere overnight. I’ve never been to Boston, you could show me your home town,” Wes said.

I think he kept talking but after the word Boston all his words started to run together. I could feel my chest tightening at the idea of going there. He would want to see my old neighbourhood, the rundown dingy apartment that we moved into two years after my mother’s death following my father drinking away every penny he had and the bank foreclosing on my childhood home. A childhood home that no longer contained beautiful memories but the stench of a childhood and child ruined.

“Babe?” Wes shook me and I looked up at him, “You’re eyes got kind of glassy. Are you okay?”

“I can’t go to Boston, I… I… can’t… I’m…” I couldn’t find words, and my breathing was quick and ragged.

Wes rubbed my arms, “We don’t have to go there. I’m sorry I wasn’t thinking,” he pulled me into him and kissed the top of my head and gently rubbed my back.

I could feel my breathing calm as he reassured me that he wouldn’t take me there. I looked up at him and said the first place I could think of, “Salem.”

Wes smiled down at me and nodded, “Salem.”

He kissed my forehead and then untangled himself from me.

“You’re really going to go?” I asked.

Wes pulled his jackets over his shoulders, “Yep.”

I pouted.

Wes leaned over me and gently kissed my lips.

“Please,” I said.

“I used to live in that room, I know what the bed is like,” Wes said.

I rolled my eyes. Wes kissed me again.

“I’ll pick you up at eight,” he said as he pulled his gloves on and then walked out the door.

I leaned back into the couch and watched out the window as he got into his truck and started it up. The exhaust overwhelmed the truck as it drove away. I smiled after him my mind consumed with thoughts of Salem and what would happen while we were there.

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