Chapter 19- Haven
I can’t remember the last holiday where I’ve felt complete. As Ava and I are making some dishes in her stunning kitchen, blasting music from Top Songs playlist, I’ve laughed more than I ever had in years. This time in absolute bliss has been me trying to make up for the moments I was robbed of joy. Everything is out in the open with Noah. We’ve been on dates every day for the last 3 weeks and he’s been nothing short of amazing.
We’ve grown a lot closer. I manage to stay away from triggering conversations about Charlie, because it’s not something I really want to dwell on. Noah hasn’t mentioned his situation with Olivia either. We’ve been focused on one another and our own time together. His situation is more stressful because we both know eventually; he’s going to have to address it. But it’s the holidays.
Ava and I have also been getting much closer. She sees me almost every day because I’m always with Noah. One day Ava and I actually went shopping for my house. She helped me decorate inside and get me the missing furniture that I needed. She knew a little of my past, but not to the extent that Noah did.
One day Ava and I went to town she had asked how I found the small town. I decided that she deserved some truth because I didn’t want Noah to mention anything and be put in a bad situation. I explained that I didn’t have the greatest teenage experience, after my dad died. That my mom was nothing like theirs, as they have described her to me. That my dad had a plan to save me after his death and bought me the cabin without my knowing. I explained to her that I left an abusive relationship and my mother without detection. She didn’t say much, just that she was proud of me and then the subject quickly changed when we saw the food court. That was that conversation.
Ava is trustworthy. She truly is amazing. She’s funny, bubbly, and she deeply cares about the -people in her life. I never met a genuine person before her and her brother. My stomach flutters thinking about meeting their mom. Noah described her as a savory dessert, like salted caramel. She was sweet, caring, and always there to offer advice. But she was tough when she needed to be, never allowing anyone to walk all over her.
I’m chopping tomatoes and basil leaves for the bruschetta. Ava and Noah being Italians, they loved their heritage food. We’ve made so much food so far, as though we’re feeding an army. Multiple pasta dishes, small appetizer dishes like roasted stuffed peppers, snails, cheese board, salad and so much more. Ava also asked me to make some dishes from my culture which I decided to make a Paella- a rice and all types of seafood dish.
I never celebrated Thanksgiving like this. My usual Thanksgivings were having my mom and Charlie’s parents over. I would’ve slaved over the kitchen all morning making a favorite dish for each guest. Then when they left, Charlie would criticize me for whatever I had said or done during dinner. I’m glad to be away from that.
“Ugh, this all looks so amazing,” Ava says taking out one of the desserts she made from the oven.
“Yes, it really does,” I said in response to her. Her large island counter was filled with all types of dishes. They were all in beautiful serving dishes. “So how many people come to this thing anyway?”
She laughs, “My mom, grandparents, Drew, Autumn, and us.” I return her laugh. “I know it looks like a lot for so little people, but I love thanksgiving.”
I wasn’t sure if I loved thanksgiving, but I never had thanksgiving with the Adams. I have a feeling it’s going to be my new favorite.
“Ava honey you always do so much,” A woman with the same blonde hair as Ava said as she was walking up the stairs. I understood her children’s good looks because she was a pretty older woman. She had kind grey blue eyes making sense how her kids got such nice eyes. She walks to the counter, where I was at the sink washing the dishes. We make eye contact, and she smiles. “Hi darlin’, I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure to meet you. I’m Carmela,” she had a soft southern accent. She comes over and pulls me in for a hug.
“I’m Haven. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she pulls back and smiles. Up close she has soft freckles and her wrinkles around her neck revealed her true age, but her face still looks young. Realization fills her eyes.
“Oh Haven! Wow, Noah did not say how beautiful you are, drop-dead,” a blush creeps up to my cheeks at her compliment. She turns toward the food, looking at everything Ava and I slayed over.
“So, what do you think mama?” Ava asks, clutching her moms arms as they both are facing the counter.
“Oh, Ava, it looks delicious, can’t wait to eat.” She kisses Ava’s cheek and smiles. Ava nods contently.
“I can’t take all the credit, Haven helped me slave.” They both met my eyes and I smile.
“Well, I can’t wait. Oh let me see where those grandparents of yours are.” Carmela walks away. She quickly comes back with a very old woman on her arm with a cane. An old man follows slowly behind them. “Careful Ma,” the old woman grasps the railing and Ava heads over to help her up the 3 steps.
“Hi Nona, how are you?” Ava asks the woman. The woman smiles softly and greets Ava.
“I’m good dear, ready to eat,” she chuckles. Ava helps her to the bench by the table. I go to the table.
“Hi, I’m Haven,” I say to her. She looks up at me, I see Ava’s blue eyes.
“Hi dear, I’m Charlotte. That’s my husband Melvin,” I shake her hand softly and smile.
I go ahead and greet Melvin as he takes a seat by his wife. I watch as they take care of one another. Melvin taking her cane and placing it behind her. I hear him ask if she’s comfortable and she nods in response. They emulated love. I had this urge to want to get to know them, so I take a seat across from Charlotte.
“So, how long have you two been married?” I ask smiling. Charlotte smiles and leans in close.
“Too long,” both of us laugh. When it subsides she answers my question? “It’s been 55 years.” Something in me bursts open, awe maybe. I’m not sure, but I just know I want to know more.
“Wow, that’s amazing. How’d you manage that?” It’s Melvin’s turn to lean in.
“The secret,” he starts, with a very heavy southern accent, “is communication, care, and compromise.” Charlotte nods in agreement.
“Don’t forget respect too Mel.”
“That’s right, respect. That’s a big one too. It’s number one.” I nod, smiling at them as they speak.
“So, if you don’t mind me asking, how’d you meet?”
Charlotte waves her hand, smiling, “It’s my favorite story. You see I was 20, just ran away from home because my family was trying to marry me off to a no-good man. I left and made a new life for myself. I met Melvin my third day at this town I just settled in because I liked the quiet, and none of my family would find me. Mel was my first friend here.” She laughs. “You been my first love and my first pain in the butt too.” I giggle, but I feel a pain in my chest. Melvin looks at Charlotte smiling.
“Best day of my life, running into the runaway,” I feel tears pooling into my eyes. I smile and excuse myself away from them. I go into Ava’s bathroom. I quickly dab at my eyes, trying not to ruin my mascara. I take a deep breath.
Their story sounded like mine. Running away from a man I don’t want to be with, bumping into Noah and falling for him. It hit so close to home. The happiness that Charlotte and Melvin have is a happiness that I want and hope for every day. Noah and his family were symbols of love that I never got to experience after my Dad died. I never got to laugh with my mom, just hate her. I never got to experience being a happy teenager. I was always isolated, never sticking with friends. I look at the girl staring back at me in the mirror and smile. She has hope now. A new story to write and tell to her kids one day. Hope to pursue a life that she used to dream of having.
I smile at the thought of a better future. I wipe the tears that slip down and check my eyes, wiping any running mascara from my face. I hear a soft knock at the door. When I open the door a crack, I see him. The man who saved me from myself. The man who captured my heart the day I ran into him in that morning jog. His grey eyes filled with concern as he me my hazel ones.
“Hey, you okay?” He whispers, not that anyone would hear because Ava had her music on, and everyone was talking loudly. I smile at him and instead of responding with words I pull him into a kiss. He doesn’t hesitate to return it. The kiss is strong and passionate. I kiss him with every emotion that has washed over me since I came into the bathroom. When we part, he laughs nervously. “What was that for?” he asks. I smile.
“Just a thank you,” I give him one more peck and walk out the bathroom, back to the family. “Sorry, thought I had something in my eye,” I say when they ask if I was okay. Little did they know, I was more than okay, I felt perfect.