Epilogue - Part 1
“Aiden! Get over here and finish your breakfast or so help me...” I yelled from inside of the kitchen.
“I’m not hungry momma!” He whined from the living room couch.
“Well you better get hungry!” I replied with a huff.
“Okay mommy...” I could practically hear him frowning as he approached the dining room table.
I smiled with victory as he took his seat in front of the plate of food.
Aiden finally smiled as he began eating his breakfast.
“I love you momma!” Aiden assured as he popped a piece of bacon into his mouth.
My heart instantly melted. “I love you too baby. You still have to finish your eggs though.” I smirked.
“Man...” I heard him mumble.
“Hurry up, I gotta get to work, these clients can’t lawyer themselves!” I smiled as Aiden finished his breakfast. “You be good today alright, and no more picking your nose and wiping it on the other kids. You don’t want to be that disgusting kid, do you?”
“No momma.” Aiden smiled with a few added giggles.
I’m in my late twenties now and Aiden is six years old. He is the most complex and interesting kindergartner I know. His father isn’t in the picture anymore, as he moved out when we divorced each other last year. He still sees Aiden regularly and even has him over some nights on the weekend. I’m glad Aiden still has his father in his life. I didn’t want him to feel the same way that I did while growing up. I needed to make sure he knew just how important he is to both of our lives, despite Lewis and I’s relationship not working out the way that we all hoped.
I met Lewis in my second year of college, and we were inseparable from day one. We got married soon after, and then I became pregnant. Lewis stayed home with Aiden, while I finished my last three years of law school. Lewis started a part-time job at the local music store soon after Aiden was born to help pay the bills and such. He learned how to play in college, on top of the many other things he learned while getting his Bachelor’s in business. Right now he actually owns that same music store where he helps children and adults learn to play different instruments.
“Okay buddy, time to go to school!” I announced as I picked up his now empty plate.
“I don’t wanna go momma.” He frowned.
I knelt down on one knee and looked into his deep blue eyes. He got those from Lewis and I was glad he did. They were beautiful.
“Why not baby?”
“The other kids don’t really like me.” He put his head down and did one of those cute little fake cries.
“Awe, I’m sure they do sweetie. You’ve only been going for a few months. You just have to give them a chance to get to know you.” I assured.
“But everyone else already has friends. Just not me. Well there’s this one girl who sometimes lets me play with her, but sometimes she’s already playing with someone else, so she doesn’t play with me.”
“Well see, you already have one friend. You just need to ask to play with her and her other friends, so those friends can become yours too.”
I felt strange giving my child advice on making friends, being as that I never once made an effort in school to make any. I was the quiet outsider, and I supposed I just didn’t want Aiden to go through what I did. I didn’t want him to isolate himself or be shy around other people.
Although, many of my insecurities came from Michael. He not wanting me at such a young age, made me feel as though I wouldn’t be good enough for anyone, especially the other kids at school.
I frowned as I thought back to my childhood. If I had the chance to relive those years, I’d do them completely different.
“Oh, okay momma. I will!” He said with a smile.
I laughed and gave him a hug. “Now let’s go! Today’s your last day and then you’re off for Christmas break!” I smiled.
“We get to see Grandma Renee tomorrow?” He asked, even though I had told him yes a thousand times before.
“Yes, and don’t forget your best buddy Layla!” I smirked.
Layla went off to college as well, and even though she didn’t go to the same college I did, we remained close all throughout school. She even came to visit me when I had Aiden, and she calls him on every birthday and major holiday. She got married to believe it or not, Russ. I can’t believe they stayed together for the remainder of high school. He even followed her off to college and now they both ran their own coffee business.
The thought of Layla brought on the instant thought of Eric, and even though I hated to admit it, I started to think about him shortly after my divorce with Aiden’s father.
Eric ended up going to college and getting his Bachelor’s in technology. I never knew he was ever into that when we dated. I supposed we didn’t really know much about each other back then like we thought we did. He’s been married to a woman named Melody for a long time now, and she seems really sweet the few times that Layla had told me about her.
Layla decided it was time to get everyone together, so for Christmas, Aiden and I were going to my mother’s house and Layla, Eric, Rachel and Larry were all going to have Christmas dinner with us on Christmas Eve. I was a little nervous to see Eric this weekend, but was also happy in a way.
“We’re going to have such a nice time.” I smiled.
“Yay!” Aiden yelled as we made our way out of the house.
It’s certainly going to be an interesting weekend.
“I want to knock on the door!” Aiden announced as we reached the front door to my mother’s house. She still lived in my Aunt Helen’s home and she’s kept up the garden in memory of Aunt Helen.
“Alright, go for it.” I nodded.
Aiden stepped forward and practically banged his entire body into the door while I sighed.
A few moments later, the door swung open.
“Grandma Renee!” Aiden shouted as he jumped into her arms.
“Oh my goodness! There’s my big boy! How do you like kindergarten?” She asked.
“Good. I made friend!” He smiled.
“I knew you would! Hey, guess what?”
“I made Christmas cookies.” My mom whispered into Aiden’s ear.
“Mommy! Grandma Renee made Christmas cookies!” Aiden smiled as he looked back at me.
“Well, what are we standing here for? Let’s go!” My mom put Aiden down and he sprinted towards the kitchen.
“Hey mom.” I laughed while walking inside and giving her a hug.
“Hey sweetie. Everything going okay?” She asked.
We walked into the kitchen and sat down island in the middle.
“Things are great! I just won a big case and I got a quote for an open building in the city.”
I decided to leave the firm I was currently working for, to start my own. Details were still being sorted out, but if everything went according to plan, it should be up and running by sometime next year.
“Wow that’s awesome! If you need any help decorating, I’m your gal!” She smiled.
“Grandma Renee, come see!” Aiden said from the kitchen counter.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door.
“I’ll get it.” I said.
I walked to the door and pulled it open to see Eric standing there... alone?
“Oh um, hey!” I awkwardly said as I stepped aside for him to enter.
“Hey Cecil!” He smiled that same smile I would always remember.
“Where’s Melody?” I asked, looking behind him towards his car in the driveway.
“Oh, um, she couldn’t make it.” He said while looking down at his feet.
“Oh no, what happened?” I asked as I placed a hand on his shoulder.
“She decided that traveling for work was far more important than being married to me.” He confessed with a sad shrug.
“Wow. But you guys were so happy from what Layla said the last time we spoke. I’m sorry.” I genuinely frowned.
“Eh, it’s alright. You win some and you lose some. I know that first hand.” He looked at me in my eyes and the look that flashed in his was something I had never seen before. Regret maybe?
He then pulled me in for a hug. “I’ve missed you.” He whispered into my ear, causing familiar goosebumps to travel up my arms.
“Same here.” I simply stated, too nervous to say anything else.
Eric only chuckled.
“Mommy, who’s that?” Aiden curiously asked as he ran from the kitchen to the living room and practically knocked me over as he clung to my leg.
“Whoa! Careful.” I sighed as I reached down to pick him up.
“Aiden, this is Eric. One of mommy’s old friends. Say hi.”
Aiden looked at Eric closely and tapped his chin. “Mommy, why does he look sad?”
“Oh um, he lost another friend so he’s just feeling a little down.” I said, not knowing what else to say without saying, “Oh, he just went through a divorce.” Even though Aiden wouldn’t understand what that meant anyway.
“I can be your friend!” Aiden smiled up at Eric, causing my heart to melt again.
“And what a cool friend you are!” Eric said, giving Aiden a high-five.
“So, when’s Layla and your parents getting here?” I asked Eric, motioning for him to come into the kitchen with Aiden and I to see my mother.
“They called me as I was pulling in, said about ten minutes or so. Dad got called into work this morning and he just now got home and is getting ready. Layla met them there and they’re all riding here together. Russ couldn’t make it either, he came down with the flu but he sends his best wishes and a Merry Christmas to all, or at least that’s what Layla said.” Eric chuckled.
“Ah yes, the life of a lawyer. Luckily, I hired two assistants to do my paperwork while I’m away. Your dad needs to get with the times! I’ll tell Layla I’m sorry about Russ being sick when I see her.”
Everyone was meeting here at my mom’s house for Christmas Eve dinner, and I honestly couldn’t wait to have everyone together again. Aiden and I were only spending the night tonight and tomorrow night, then we’re flying back home Monday morning. Eric and Layla still lived here in Greensdale. Eric had his own apartment and Layla owned a house with Russ. Layla moved back here after her and Russ got married and finished college. This was where they opened their first coffee shop together.
“Kids, can you help set the table?” My mom asked.
“Kids? We’re adults now, Ms. Collins!” Eric chuckled as we made our way into the dining area.
“Nice to see you too Eric.” My mom sighed.
Eric ran over and gave her a hug anyway.
I began setting the table while Eric helped Aiden sneak in a cookie or two.
“Not until after dinner!” My mom scolded upon catching them in the act. They both frowned and went back into the living room to watch some TV, leaving me to finish setting the table all by myself.
Thanks a lot guys.
“Are we using Aunt Helen’s china for dinner mom?” I asked as I opened the china cabinet. We only used her china for special occasions and big dinners in honor of her.
“Why of course.” My mom smiled.
“Who’s Aunt Helen?” Aiden asked as he looked over at me from the living room couch.
“Aunt Helen was my Aunt sweetie. I’ve told you about her many times. She passed away long before you were born.” I explained. Aiden nodded as if he understood, but I knew he didn’t fully grasp the concept of ‘passed away’.
“Hey buddy, remember when your pet hamster stopped running in his running wheel and wouldn’t move so you had to bury him in the backyard and your mom told you he went to hamster heaven?” Eric asked. I couldn’t believe he had remembered me telling him about Aiden’s hamster the few times that we had chatted when I was visiting Layla.
“Aunt Helen went to hamster heaven?” He furrowed his little eyebrows.
That caused my mom to laugh.
“No, she went to people heaven.” Eric chuckled.
"Oooh. Okay.” He smiled.
“Thank you.” I mouthed to Eric, who in return, stuck his tongue out at me.
For some reason, he was very good at communicating with Aiden. He was a lot better than most, and that was saying something.
Around fifteen minutes later, I heard another knock at the door.
“Aiden it’s Layla!” Eric shouted.
“I’ll get it!” Aiden eagerly sprinted to the front door.
“Hi people!” Aiden smiled as Layla and her parents walked in.
“Hi Aiden!” Layla picked Aiden up and gave him a round of hugs and kisses. “You smell like cookies!”
“Don’t tell Grandma Renee.” He whispered which caused Layla to laugh.
“Who’s that?” Aiden asked, pointing toward Larry and Rachel.
“Aiden, that’s Larry and Rachel. They’re my parents. You’ve met them once I believe.” Layla said, smiling and putting Aiden down onto the floor.
Aiden looked up at Rachel and smiled. “Hi Rachel!” Then, Aiden looked over at Larry and did the same. “Hi Larry!”
“Awe, you’re getting so big! Give me a hug!” Rachel smiled while leaning down and giving Aiden a tight hug.
“Thank you, mommy says I have to eat all my vegetables.” Aiden frowned. Then he leaned in really close to Rachel and Larry and whispered, “But sometimes the garbage can eats them for me. Just don’t tell mommy!”
Both Rachel and Larry laughed while holding their index fingers up to their mouths, indicating that they would keep his secret.
After twenty minutes of the adults catching up, my mom announced that dinner was ready. We all made our way into the kitchen and formed a line. Once we all piled food onto our plates, we all sat around the big dining room table.
“So, Cecilia, how’s the firm going?” Larry asked, trying to initiate small talk.
“Oh it’s fine. I just got a quote on a building in the city, so after some documents are signed it could be mine for a good price. I can’t wait to start my own firm!” I smiled.
“That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you.” He smiled, “Are those clients of yours just buzzing with how awesome you are?” He asked.
“In fact, they are! A few of them have actually heard of you and couldn’t believe that I knew you personally. It made them want to hire me that much more.” I chuckled.
“See, I told ya. It’s all about who you know.” He smirked as he pointed his finger at me.
“Eric, how’s the new computer software coming?” Rachel asked after a few moments of silence.
“Well, great actually. We’re finally about to crack this code and once we do-“, Larry cut Eric off instantly, “Hey Renee, this Christmas ham is just killer! Did you use coconut juice as well as the pineapples?”
Everyone went quiet for a moment. As Eric glared at Larry, my mom looked confused for a moment and then she decided to go ahead and answer him.
“Yes, I used both. It was my mother’s recipe.” She warily smiled.
“It’s absolutely delicious!” Larry announced as he took another bite.
My mother couldn’t figure out why Larry wouldn’t let Eric speak, but Layla, Rachel and I already knew.
Ever since Eric lied to him about the money for Michael all those years ago, and why he needed it, Eric and his dad hadn’t really seen eye to eye since. They fought constantly up until the day he moved out after high school, and from what Layla had told me, they hardly spoke now.
I felt sad for Eric. I felt as if it was somehow my fault. I didn’t want Larry to hold that big of a grudge toward his own son. I didn’t want to tear apart their perfect family. I hoped that soon, they would be able to reconcile. For now, their relationship was strictly on rocky ground.
“I’m sorry everyone, can you please excuse me?” Eric suddenly said as he got up and left the dining room. Everyone heard the front door open and close, then they slowly went back to eating.
“He probably went to the tracks.” Layla whispered into my ear.
I hadn’t thought about them in years. I still had the picture I took on my old phone saved to my new one, but I hadn’t looked at it since I graduated from college.
“You should go talk to him.” Layla whispered again, “I’ll hold the fort down here and put Aiden to bed for you after desert.”
“Thank you.” I smiled gratefully.
“Please excuse me as well everyone. I’ll go see how Eric’s doing.”
“Thank you dear.” Rachel said softly towards me.
I gave Aiden a kiss on the forehead and told him to listen to Layla while I was gone. He nodded with a mouth full of mashed potatoes and I grinned.
Once I made it outside, I hurriedly got into my car and drove off into the cool winter air.
Once I reached the old, now closed quickie mart, I parked my car and got out while squeezing my coat tighter around me. The temperature was definitely dropping by the minute and I could already feel my nose turning red from the cool air surrounding it.
My heels tapped against the broken wood as I made my way down the old tracks. I took in a deep breath and smiled as I reminisced about my childhood comfort place. It looked the same, except for more pieces of wood that were broken and more vines that had grown in against the fences.
I saw Eric sitting at the normal spot that we used to sit at together when we were younger.
“You still come here?” I asked, causing him to jump.
"Dammit... really?” He cursed, as he remembered the last time I scared him while approaching him from behind.
“I guess some things never change.” I shrugged.
Eric stood up and leaned his body against the fence. “Why did you come?”
“To check on you, obviously.” I rolled my eyes.
“Sassy... I like it.” He smirked.
“Whatever.” I laughed, “So, are things really that bad between you and Larry?”
“I messed everything up, Cecil. With you, with my dad. Layla eventually forgave me for making her almost lose you back then, but my dad just wouldn’t let it go. I even told him that you forgave me, of all people, and he still holds the same grudge to this day. I just can’t get him to understand that it was a mistake and that if I could go back in time... I...” He began, but stopped.
“You what?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have lied to everyone and I wouldn’t have-have lost you.” He barely spoke above a whisper.
“Eric... don’t. We’ve been over this before.” I sighed.
“I know, I know. I just can’t get over how you ended up marrying some other guy. I can’t believe I was so stupid to ruin the one good thing I had going for myself.” He frowned looking down at his feet.
“Eric that was years ago. It’s in the past. It can’t be changed, so we just have to accept what has happened and move on from it, learn from it even. Besides, Lewis and I divorced last year.” I frowned, reaching out to place my hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t do that Cecilia.”
“Touch me.” Something had shifted in his eyes as he looked deep into my own.
“Why not?” I questioned daringly.
“Because it makes me wanna... Never mind.” He shrugged my hand from his shoulder and turned, starting to walk away.
“Eric, wait!” I reached out and grabbed his shoulder from behind. I yanked him around to face me. ”What?” I asked, my breath caught in my throat.
He didn’t utter a single syllable, and for a second time stopped as he took one giant step toward me, and finally pulled me in for a kiss.