Me And My Shadow

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Epilogue - Part 2

The kiss was short and simple, yet it held a lot of pent up emotion on Eric’s side. I could tell by how his body tensed at the contact.

Once my mind caught up with my mouth, I angrily pushed him away.

“What the hell was that?” I frowned, my hand reaching up to touch the spot that where his lips just were.

“I... I don’t know.” He muttered.

“Of course you do, Eric! Why would you kiss me like that?” I had no idea why I became so defensive and riled up. I supposed it was because I had my own pent up emotions I still hadn’t worked through yet. They were finally coming to surface.

"Dammit Cecil, I’m sorry, okay? I don’t know what came over me. I guess I just thought that...” He gestured his hands between the two of us and my eyes widened.

“I don’t know what to say.” I said as I softly shook my head.

I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You mean after all these years, after Melody...” I began, trying to come up with an explanation for what just took place.

“I realized a while ago why it never worked out with Melody.” Eric simply stated, looking into my eyes again.

“Why didn’t it work out?” I asked, losing all of my senses at the intensity of his gaze.

“It never worked out, because I never truly stopped loving you. Cecilia... I just, I just have always regretted losing you. I should’ve fought harder. I should’ve never made that deal with Michael. I should’ve just stayed out of it completely.” He started rambling out loud, his hands nervously running through his hair, over and over again.

“Eric, as much as I used to wish those same things, I’m actually happy with how everything turned out.”

“How can you say that?” He asked, genuinely looking hurt.

“Because Eric. If you hadn’t of made that deal, my Aunt Helen would’ve died sooner without more treatment, and I may have never gotten a chance to meet her or to get to know her. Besides, most of the money you gave her, she didn’t even use. I got the remaining balance of that money, Eric. My mom also got Aunt Helen’s house, and Brody got her car collection. As far as you and me, if I never would’ve fallen for Lewis, Aiden wouldn’t be here, and I can’t even imagine a world without him in it. Everything has a ripple effect and if one thing were to change, our entire lives would be completely different. Maybe even worse, than better.”

“Well, times are different right now. This could be our second chance Cecilia. Now we can finally try again and do things right this time. Don’t you see it?” Eric asked, a small amount of hope dancing behind his weak brown eyes.

“I don’t know.” I replied. Eric immediately had a frown on his face, that was until I spoke up again. “There’s only one way to find out though.”

I had absolutely no idea what had come over me, but I pulled Eric into me and pressed my lips hungrily onto his, craving the feel of them once more. Eric immediately deepened the kiss and I felt my insides soaring. It felt so right.

After a couple of seconds, we pulled apart, desperate to catch our breaths.

Eric slowly lowered his hand down and took a hold of mine.

“Please, give me another chance?” He asked, trying desperately to read my mind through my wild eyes.

“Yes Eric, I’ll give you another chance.” I smiled, and he immediately wrapped his arms around me and picked me up off the ground, twirling me in the process before placing me back down again.

“Hey, not to totally go off topic here, but where’s Brody?” Eric suddenly asked.

“Oh, he couldn’t make it this weekend. He’s still in Iceland doing that college program. He’ll be video chatting with us in the morning when we all open presents.” I explained.

“Wow Iceland. That’s awesome!” Eric smiled.

“Yes it is, I’m really proud of him. He’s come so far in his life.” I smiled, thinking about Brody and wishing he was able to be here for Christmas. I hadn’t seen him in a long time.

“Well, let’s get out of here. You can give me a ride since I walked here.” He sheepishly smiled.

“Of course.” I smiled in return, “But first, can you give me a second alone here?”

He furrowed his eyebrows, but then smiled again. “Of course.”

I watched him walk down the fragile tracks one last time, and then I faced the cool night sky.

“Hey Aunt Helen, me again. I know I said I wasn’t going to come back here, but these were special circumstances.” I smiled.

“I love you and I’m so happy of how my life turned out. I now realize that it was because of you that I made it where I am today. I think about you all the time and I hope you’re living your afterlife to the absolute fullest. Please continue to watch over my family and me. We love feeling your presence in our every day lives. I talk about you all the time to Aiden. I wish he could have met you.”

I realized I was rambling into thin air, so I turned and started to walk towards my car.

"Goodbye.” I whispered.

Aunt Helen must’ve been listening, because I instantly felt a shiver go up my spine. I was already cold due to the weather, but this was a sensation I had never experienced before in my entire life. It was almost as if she were standing right next to me, comforting me.

Despite everything that I had been through, her and Michael would always be a part of my story, however messed up it might’ve been.

When Eric and I got back to my mother’s house, Rachel and Larry had already left. Layla told us Larry insisted that they didn’t have to wait around for Eric to show up again, and to give me their goodbyes. Eric only laughed at that. Layla decided to stay to watch over Aiden and to make sure he got to bed alright.

Layla noticed Eric’s hand in mine and squealed. “No way!”

“Way!” I sarcastically squealed back, giving my best friend a hug.

“I want all of the deets tomorrow!” Layla smiled, pointing her index finger at me.

“Of course.” I nodded.

Layla finally left, so Eric and I got comfortable on the couch with a movie. My mom had already gone to bed herself.

“You look beautiful.” Eric whispered against my ear. I began fidgeting with my fingers as they rested in my lap.

I never fully broke that habit. I no longer require my anxiety medication. I broke free from that in my sophomore year of college, with the help of Lewis and the school psychology professor who took an interest in me.

“Thank you.” I softly smiled, leaning my head against his chest and looking up at him.

He beamed at me with his bright brown eyes, the same ones I had instantly fell in love with many years ago.

“Eric, are you okay with you and your father’s relationship?” I found myself asking.

I wish I could do something to help them. Maybe if he and Larry mended fences, he wouldn’t feel as though he had lost a huge piece of his family.

“It’s not ideal. But believe me, I’ve tried to talk to him multiple times, but he just changes the topic and forgets I said anything. It’s no use.” Eric shrugged while leaning his head on top of mine.

I reached over his chest and turned the lamp off that rested on the table beside the couch.

“What if I talk to him? Maybe I can convince him that you aren’t as terrible as he thinks. I mean after all, it has to end sometime. You’re his son. You were so close before I came along.” I spoke my thoughts.

“Well, he and my mom are coming by tomorrow afternoon to give Aiden some presents. You can try talking to him then.” Eric turned to face me and placed his arm over my shoulders, pulling me into his side.

“I think I will. Goodnight.” I leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“Goodnight.” He softly spoke, and then we both drifted off into a much needed sleep.

“Mommy! Wake up! It’s Christmas!” Aiden suddenly yelled after he ran and jumped onto the foot of the couch.

When Eric and I didn’t budge, he started jumping up and down, until he accidentally fell on top of us.

“Aiden! What’s wrong, are you okay?” I panicked as I shot up in bed. Eric shot up right after I did, and I grabbed Aiden, pulling him into my lap.

I guess you could say my motherly instincts kicked into overdrive.

I started moving his arms and legs, looking around for something hurt or broken.

“I’m fine momma!” He pouted as he yanked his arms away from my hold, “It’s Christmas!” He yelled again.

Eric grunted and plopped back down onto the couch. “Child... you cannot just run in here screaming like that.”

“I always do on Christmas, and mommy always get upset.” Aiden pouted while crossing his arms.

“Mommy is sorry, you’re right, It’s Christmas!” I cheered with a smile, which brightened Aiden’s.

“Let’s go! Santa came!” He shouted as he hopped off the couch and ran towards the tree sitting in the corner of the living room.

“Be careful!” I shouted after him.

“He’s going to be the death of us.” Eric moaned into the couch pillow.

I chuckled and lightly smacked his butt. “Let’s go Eric. Time to open presents.” I cooed.

“Ugh...” Eric slowly pushed himself off of the couch and gave me a kiss before heading towards the kitchen.

I stretched out a bit and did the same. Once I reached the corner of the living room, I saw Aiden sitting patiently in front of the Christmas tree with his legs crossed and his hands in his lap.

I smiled at his patience.

I walked into the kitchen to find Eric half-asleep, leaning against the counter as the coffee maker began brewing the caffeinated French-vanilla liquid from heaven.

I strolled up to him and kissed him hard. He immediately responded as he wrapped his arms around my waist.

“Mm, good morning.” He smiled.

“Good morning, Merry Christmas.” I smirked, mocking Aiden’s baby language.

Eric laughed and pulled out a coffee mug from the cabinet.

I gently pushed him aside and made him a cup, then made one for myself. I also pulled out another mug for my mom, who walked into the kitchen the second I poured her cup.

“Merry Christmas everyone!” She beamed as she strolled into the kitchen and took her cup of coffee.

“Eric, you’re here early.” My mom looked puzzled as she stared at Eric.

“I um, never left.” He admitted, while awkwardly scratching the back of his neck.

“What?” My mom beamed as she pulled me in for a hug, “You mean... you two?” She looked between the two of us and grinned from ear to ear.

“Yes mom, yes. We’re a thing. We’re just taking it slow for now.” I said, smirking at her behavior.

“A thing? We aren’t in high school, Cecil.” Eric said with an eye roll to which I laughed.

“Grandma Renee! I’m waiting!” Aiden yelled from inside the living room.

All three of us laughed as we made our way into the living room.

“Alright buddy, go to town!” Eric smiled as we all sat on the couch.

Aiden lunged for present after present, having absolutely no need to salvage any wrapping paper or gift bags. He tore everything apart and all we heard was the rustling of the paper and a series of “ooh’s and ahh’s”. My mom even began taking pictures of Aiden, so she could add them to her scrapbook.

I had a hell of a time trying to sneak a bunch of presents into my luggage without Aiden seeing.

He should be a very happy kid.

“Uncle Brody is calling Aiden!” I smiled as I pulled my tablet off the coffee table.

I tapped answer and Brody’s face appeared on the screen.

“Hey guys! Merry Christmas!” He smiled.

“Hi sweetie! I miss you!” My mom smiled as her eyes began to water.

Brody rolled his eyes. “I was just there in town for Thanksgiving ma.” He chuckled.

“Uncle Brody!” Aiden cheered as he popped up in between my legs and blocked my face from view.

“Hey buddy! Are you happy with everything Santa brought you?”

“Yeah! I got a lot of toys! Oh, and I got a book about cars!” He cheered as he held it up in front of the tablet.

“That’s so cool! Oh and thank you for blocking the view.” He smirked.

“Forget you.” I mumbled with a slight smirk.

“Love you too sis!”

“Oh, hey Aiden... I left a surprise for you. It’s in the hall closet.” Brody said which fully grasped Aiden’s attention. “Ask Grandma Renee where it is.”

“Grandma Renee, lead the way!” Aiden cheered and pointed towards the hallway.

“Aiden...” I scolded.

“Please?” He looked up at my mom with a soft smile.

“Let’s go!” She replied.

After a few moments of Eric and I chatting with Brody about his school program and about how we were now a couple again, we heard a squeal as Aiden ran back into the living room.

“Uncle Brody thank you!” He yelled with the biggest smile I had ever seen.

“Mommy! Eric! Look!” He held up the brown case and inside held two of Brody’s most valuable collectibles.

“I want you to take special care of them for me, okay buddy? They need you to keep them clean and unharmed. You got it?”

“You got it!” Aiden saluted his hand towards the tablet screen, and then began admiring the two car’s that lay inside the case.

“Well, he’s been eyeing those two every time we come to town and visit. This is probably the happiest he’s ever been on Christmas.” I say to Brody.

“Well, I have too many to count now and I need someone to take care of them for me. He seemed like the perfect candidate.” Brody smiled, “Anyway, I have to go now. I love you all and Merry Christmas!”

“Bye, Merry Christmas!” We all yelled back before I tapped the screen and ended the call.

I opened a few gifts from my mom. I got bathroom towels with my initials on them, some perfumes and some new makeup kits. I got my mom a new Vera Wang handbag with a matching wallet, and a new kitchen pots and pans set.

After we all ate breakfast, we decided to watch a Christmas movie, while Aiden played with some of his new toys.

Once the movie was over, it was time for lunch. There was a knock at the door and Rachel strolled inside with Larry and Layla behind her. Both Larry and Layla were holding a few presents.

“Yay more presents!” Aiden yelled as he jumped into Rachel’s arms for a tight hug.

“Why, of course silly! What else would it be?” Rachel smirked.

“No sass Rachel. It’s not polite.” Aiden scolded while pointing his little finger toward her face.

Everyone began laughing.

“You’re so right! I’m sorry Aiden!” Rachel tried to be serious, but the smile she wore told a different story.

“Here you go buddy!” Layla said as she placed the few presents for Aiden onto the floor near the tree, “Have at it!”

Aiden began ripping away again at the paper and each toy he got, he held up for everyone to see. My mom had her phone out taking more pictures of him as he opened his presents.

“Thank you!” Aiden smiled as he grabbed his sandwich from his plate and took a bite.

“You’re so welcome kid!” Larry smiled.

I saw Eric walk up to Layla and give her a hug. “Merry Christmas sis and I’m sorry for yesterday.” He mumbled into her ear. I tried not to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help myself.

“No worries bro. I know you needed time to cool off.” Eric went to step away, but Layla pulled him back towards her, “But the next time you disappear during dinner, I won’t be so forgiving.” Eric then stepped away and nodded to which Layla smiled.

“Merry Christmas Cecil!” Layla said and gave me a big hug.

“Merry Christmas, Layla!” I smiled. I had been missing my best friend for quite some time now, and I was happy that we got to spend the holiday together.

I saw Larry step outside to take a phone call, and when I saw him finally hang up the phone, I figured this was my chance to go out there and talk to him about his pending relationship with Eric. I knew that this was going to be the start of a fresh, easy day, with no more drama or fighting between father and son.

“I’ll be right back.” I said to Layla, who nodded in understanding.

I went outside and closed the door behind me. “Larry?”

He looked up from his phone with a smile. “Hey there. Having a nice holiday?”

“Oh, of course! I just wanted to talk to you about something. Well, about Eric.” I decided to just blurt it out and get it over with.

His face frowned a little. “Oh. What’s going on?”

“I um, I wanted to see if there was any way that I could convince you to forgive him for whatever it is that you’re still angry at him for. Just clear the air once and for all and put the past behind you. After all, Eric and I are back together, and I just don’t want anything to hurt our new relationship. Besides, I know that he misses you.”

Larry pondered my words for a moment, seeming surprised at my mention of Eric and I.

“Cecilia, I’ve wanted to do just that for a long time. However, every time I do, he says something smart that irritates me and then I end up shouting at him to which he shouts back. The ending of our conversations never end on a positive note anymore.”

“Well, maybe just start off by complimenting him on his work. He feels as though you don’t really have an interest in his life. He feels like you only care to know about Layla’s.” I began to explain, “He’s really sorry for everything that happened with me in the past, and he’s made up for it. I forgave him and I think you should too. He’s your son Larry, and the longer you let this feud go on, the more you’ll regret it later. Trust me, you don’t want to wake up one morning and see that you and your son no longer have a relationship. As much as it’s hurting you right now, it’s hurting Eric that much more.”

Larry nodded at my advice and softly sighed. I watched as his breath turned into a light fog, as it left his mouth and blew into the chilly air.

“Thank you Cecilia. I really needed to hear all of this. I know I should’ve stopped this feud a long time ago. I suppose Eric and I are just stubborn. He gets it from me.” He smirked.

“No problem. I just want everyone to be happy and whole. After all, we are all we got.” I smiled.

Larry gave me a small hug. “You’re absolutely right. Now, let’s go inside before we catch frostbite.” He chuckled.

Once everyone was seated in the living room with cups of hot cocoa, I noticed Larry sit next to Eric. I had put my eavesdropping skills to the test again, and listened in on their quiet conversation.

“So, Eric. If you need any help with your work, I have a friend in my firm who went to technology school as well, and he may be of some assistance to you and your project.” Larry said.

Eric rose his eyebrows in surprise. “Oh. Thanks dad. Give him my number please, I’m going to be living with Cecilia and Aiden in New York.” Eric proudly smiled.

I know it seemed crazy for us to move in together so suddenly, but I thought that this second chance was something we both didn’t want to waste. We knew we wanted to be together, and to be honest, life was short. Why waste time not being with the person that you love?

“That’s wonderful son. I also wanted to say that I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have held such a huge grudge. I know you were doing what you thought was right all those years ago, and since then I’ve just been getting mad at you for anything I can. I guess it was easier to just stay mad than to admit I was wrong.”

“Hey, it’s okay. I was wrong too. I’m sorry.” Eric said with an apologetic smile.

“I really am proud of you son. Always have been.” Larry smiled as he put his arm around Eric’s shoulder.

“Thanks dad. That means a lot.” Eric smiled back.

I looked over at Rachel and Layla who both had genuine smiles on their faces. Rachel also had a small amount of tears in her glossy eyes.

I looked around at everyone in the room and said a silent prayer that we all stick together, no matter what happens. I gave my thanks for each and every person in my life, and even to those no longer present.

I smiled at Aiden as he played with his toys. I was thankful for his innocence and I had made a promise to keep him that way for as long as I could. He was the light to my life and I was so grateful that he was mine. No matter what happens, he’ll be the most important thing in my life, and I’ll never make him feel unwanted or unappreciated. I’ll do whatever it takes to make him feel good about himself. I don’t want him to feel the same way that I used to feel. I want him to have the entire world to look forward to, not be scared of it like I once was.

I then looked over at Layla who was discussing purses with my mom as she held her new purse in her hands. Layla was the absolute best friend that I had ever known, but she was also more importantly, my savior. Without her, I wouldn’t have moved on so easily from everything that happened twelve years ago. She showed me that people can be trusted and that people can be consistent. She’s been consistent in my life for a very long time, and I’ll always be grateful of our friendship.

I watched my mother, and I noticed the small wrinkles circling her eyes and mouth. She was aging, but still as beautiful as ever. I realized how hard it must’ve been for her, to lose the love of her life twice and to raise two kids on her own with no help. She was the solid rock that held us all together in the worst possible times, and I’ll always owe her my gratitude and respect. After all, she was both my mother and my father.

I shifted my gaze to Eric as he talked with Larry. Rachel sat next to Larry and listened to their conversation. All three of them had endured intense lives themselves, and I was just so happy to say that they were and would always be a huge part of my life, Eric especially. I had no intentions on rekindling our relationship, though I supposed the flames of it had always been sparkling, I just never noticed it until now. I may have married, and I don’t regret Lewis one bit, because he brought me Aiden, but I’m so happy that I was finally able to call Eric mine again. Who knows, maybe one day in the near future, we could bring our own little life into this world.

After all, Aiden would need a little brother or sister.

I felt one-hundred percent at peace and I knew that from this moment on, things would be okay no matter what crazy adventures awaited us. My family was far from perfect, but to me, it was as beautiful as it could be, imperfections and all.

I got up and stepped outside for a moment, to enjoy the cool air. It was mid-day now, and the sun just barely peaked from behind the dark, snowy clouds.

It shined down directly on me, and I closed my eyes taking in a deep breath, while I smiled towards the warm light.

I let go of my breath and looked down just in time to see the faint outline of my shadow, and I knew in that moment, that I never needed to run from my shadow. I only needed to embrace it, and that’s what I would do for the rest of my life.

Me and my shadow are a team, and it will always be a part of me.

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