Everyone had gone to their sleeping arranged places. Eden watched as Noah kissed his mom’s cheek and told her he loved her before she and John made their way to the lower level bedroom. Would Morgan and she be like that when he was grown? Or was she about to disrupt his life enough that he’d end up hating her? Leaving the elder son and mother, she went up the stairs and climbed into bed.
She was already settled and under the covers when Noah entered the room, closing the door behind him. Did he take all the oxygen out of the room? For some reason, her breathing was difficult.
She listened as he changed in the bathroom, brushed his teeth, all the normal things.
As he entered the room, shutting off the bathroom light as he did, he said “I can sleep on the floor.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Noah. We’re adults.”
He softly climbed in the other side. “I’m sorry Eden,” he whispered. Sorry for this getting so messed up. Sorry for all the hurt he’d caused. Sorry he couldn’t give her whatever it was she so desperately needed from him.
It took him forever to fall asleep. He could tell by her breathing and restlessness, it was the same for her. All the while, he asked himself how they got to this place. Twice they tried marriage, both times failing miserably. And yet, his soul felt empty at the thought of her not in his life.
When he woke the next morning, she was all curled up, sound asleep, her back to him. All he wanted to do was gather her close. Promise they could make it work. He knew she was still attracted to him. But, she’d said they didn’t have what was needed in a marriage. All he wanted to do was leave the past behind. Just like they’d been able to do for a couple of months after the accident. He thought when she got her memory back it was going to be tough. It was even harder without her memories. All she had were her own written words. She no longer felt whatever emotions were behind them. She could only assume how she felt. How was he supposed to fight that?
He showered and when he came out of the bathroom noticed she’d already risen. He was greeted with a flurry of activity in the kitchen. He hadn’t been noticed, so he stood back and watched. Eden and his mom were getting along famously. As Eden cooked breakfast, his mom watched, asked questions, and just chatted up a storm. Eden welcomed his entire family. This is what he wanted to hold onto. And for a few short days, his only option was to savor it up.
“Daddy!” Morgan raced over. “Grandma’s gonna make cookies today!”
“Really,” he said as he balanced Morgan on his right forearm and walked over to the stove.
He kissed his mom’s cheek. “Good morning,” he greeted.
His mother winked back.
When he went to step back, his mother’s expression turned stern. “Noah, I’ve raised you better than this.”
Eden was taken back by the change in Beatrice’s tone. She turned her head slightly and saw the look that was identical to Morgan’s whenever he had been scolded. She smiled at it.
Noah walked over to Eden, kissed her cheek. “Good morning,” he told her. Of course, the look of shock that ran over her face almost had him laughing.
Eden felt she was totally losing control here. An absurd thought came into her mind. She needed to get past this uneasiness around him. Confront head on what affected her the most. Him.
She set down her spatula and turned to Noah, who was still holding Morgan and had turned slightly to talk to his mom. Her hand came up and cupped his face before he knew what was happening, she stood on tip toe and kissed him. Not a quick peck on the cheek. A kiss just like the first one he gave her in this very kitchen after the accident.
“Sleep well Honey?” she asked, smiling at the shock that covered his face.
He stood in silence. She just kissed him! The shot of want and need that went through him was like a bolt of lightning. And she only stood there smiling at him. Oh he was in big trouble.
“Yeah,” he answered after clearing his throat. “Great. And you?”
“Slept just like you,” she answered honestly before turning back to the omelets she was making.
Only problem with her game plan was seeing his eyes turn golden as they looked into hers. This was going to be a very long few days.
The afternoon was filled with squeals from Morgan and laughter from Beatrice and Eden. As Noah entered the living room on his way to the kitchen, his father warned. “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you Son.”
“Suit yourself. There’s some major baking going on. I think the cleaner option would be to sit on down in here.”
Noah shook his head and laughed. His father never took part in the holiday baking when he and Chloe were younger. It was a time he and his sister bonded with their mother. As he entered the kitchen, flour was everywhere. He could tell by the streaks across Eden’s cheek she’d wiped the backs of her hands across them a time or two. She looked ridiculous and beautiful all at once.
“Where’s Chloe?” he asked, stepping behind Eden to retrieve a soda from the fridge.
“Hiding,” Beatrice answered.
“She loves this stuff,” Noah said, popping the tab on the can and taking a drink.
“That sister of yours is acting quite strange lately.”
“Want me to talk to her?” he offered.
“Suit yourself. But, you know she has a mind of her own. Always has to handle things on her own. Whatever it is.”
Eden lifted her eyes to look at Noah. He’d accused her of doing the same thing. Dealing with their issues alone. Again he’d said.
“Noah, wait,” Eden called to him as he turned to leave. She wiped her hands on the towel she slung over her shoulder and she approached him. “Let me try.”
Beatrice was carefully monitoring their conversation as she continued helping roll the dough and use cookie cutters.
“Eden, you don’t have to do this,” he said to her. You’re already doing more than you want right now as it is, he added in his mind.
“I know that. I want to.”
The flour in her hair was in stark contrast to her hair color. He reached up and smoothed some away. Because she didn’t pull away, his hand slid to her nape and he brought his lips to hers in a tender kiss. Surprising her. Oh man, his lips felt like heaven.
“Thanks,” he whispered.
“Daddy! You hafta make a cookie for Santa!” Morgan gave her the opportunity to escape the kitchen.
“You know Santa won’t bring you anything if you don’t make him a special cookie,” his mother told him.
Every year, everyone made one cookie special for Santa to leave out on Christmas Eve. You could decorate it any way you wanted. Tonight, six cookies would need to be eaten after Morgan was long asleep.
“You’d better go get your father,” Beatrice instructed. “He can survive five minutes,” she laughed.
As Noah went to the living room to drag his father in for his decorating duty, Eden made her way upstairs to find Chloe.
It took a lot longer than usual to get Morgan settled down. He’d come out of his room numerous times to tell the adults still visiting in the living room that he heard “reindeer on the roof!” Each time, he’d be escorted back to his bed and told Santa wouldn’t come until he was asleep.
Christmas day had one active moment after another. Gift wrap strewn about everywhere. When Eden opened the gift of sapphire earrings from Noah, she was speechless. They’d both shopped and wrapped before the proverbial shit hit the fan. Morgan had worked on coffee mugs for both of his parents. His teacher had taken his photo and it adorned the mug along with a special drawing by Morgan for each. Noah’s had a drawing of him building a house. Eden’s had her driving a race car.
Eden emotionally hugged Morgan to her. Her little boy was growing up and she couldn’t remember when he was a baby. But, she surely was going to hold onto this day.
Noah opened his gift from Eden. She’d had a key chain designed with Noah’s Arkitects logo. He knew from just the weight of it that she had to have gone to a jeweler.
“Turn it over Daddy!”
Noah turned the key chain over and there was a new photo of Eden and Morgan smiling bright and staring back at him. His eyes met hers. He saw her swallow as her eyes looked into his.
“The one you have is a little outdated,” she shrugged as though to make it seem like nothing. “Thought you could use an updated one.”
He cleared his throat from the building emotions. “Thank you Eden.”
The rest of Christmas went through the usual flurry. Morgan playing with various toys. Beatrice insisted on letting Eden take a break from kitchen work and shooed her to the living room, where Noah and his father were having one of those male bonding conversations.
Morgan called for her to sit by him. That put her on the loveseat with Noah. He was deep in conversation with his father and paid her little mind, which made her feel better.
A short time later, Morgan fell asleep in his father’s lap while Eden softly read him one of his new books.
Not sleeping the past two nights was catching up with Eden. All the holiday bustle around the house was soothing. Chloe and Beatrice in the kitchen, Noah and John trying to fit in a year’s worth of time missed in the little they had now. Morgan asleep. Noah’s arm draped along the back of the love seat. With her head feeling heavy, she rest it back. Her intent was to just rest her eyes.
Noah’s voice lulled her to sleep. As she drifted off, she brought her legs up and snuggled in closer. Never missing a beat in his conversation with his dad, his arm came around and enveloped her close. His son asleep on one side, she the other.
At one point, Noah chuckled at something his father said, causing Eden to stir in her sleep. His response was to kiss her crown in a gesture of calming her from waking. All of this happening sub-consciously for both of them.
Beatrice entered the room and took in the scene. She was looking for John, who’d left the room a moment. She smiled as she approached Noah. He’d closed his eyes and angled his head to rest with Eden’s.
Beatrice woke Noah as she attempted to divest him of Morgan.
“It’s alright Noah,” she soothed as only a mother could. “I’m just taking him to his room so he can get the nap he needs.”
Beatrice softly looked to Eden then back to Noah, “She’s tired too.”
“I know.” In more ways than he could ever explain to his mother. Tired of all they’d been through before and since the accident. Tired of fighting. Tired of their marriage. He couldn’t let those thoughts in. Not today.
As his mother walked away with his son in her arms, he cradled Eden’s head and kissed her crown again, “I love you Eden,” he whispered, wishing it could be enough.
When Eden woke, she was lying on the love seat, covered with a Christmas throw. As she approached the kitchen, she saw Noah and his family getting dinner ready. Table set.
“Beatrice,” she called as she walked over to her. “I am so sorry. You shouldn’t have to do this. You’re a guest.”
Beatrice patted Eden’s cheek. “You needed sleep more than cooking more for all of us.”
“Chloe’s getting him up from his nap,” Noah told her.
Later that evening, after Morgan was tucked in and passed out, Eden sat with the adults as they began their annual card game. She enjoyed sitting back and watching the dynamics of Noah’s family. Whatever game they were playing, they’d added rules of their own.
“Eden, we’re starting a new round. C’mon and play,” Chloe invited her.
Eden held up her hands, “No thanks. You guys are a little intense for me.”
It took some doing, but they’d convinced her to join in. Chloe agreeing to coach the first couple of hands.
Chloe leaned in close. “Noah’s really good at this game. He knows it. I’ve been trying for years to beat his butt.”
Eden looked over at Noah and inspected him more closely.
“What?” he asked. He wasn’t so sure about Eden and Chloe at the moment.
“Nothing,” Eden and Chloe said together.
A few more rounds and Eden was on her own, and whipping Noah’s butt. It was almost like the rest of them didn’t exist as they tried to outwit each other.
It was midnight when the card game finally ended. Beatrice, John and Chloe telling them it had been a tie between Eden and Noah just to stop the insanity. Plus, they all needed sleep to handle a wide awake toddler the next day.
“Your family’s nice,” Eden said into the darkness as she lie in bed.
“They really like you Eden,” he said, not bothering to cover the exhaustion from his voice.
“They didn’t before?”
“They’ve always cared for you Eden. I’m just telling you so you’re aware.”
“So I’ll feel better about deceiving them?”
Noah sighed, “Eden, I’m too tired to do this now.”
She was angry with herself and taking it out on him. She truly cared for these people. She could only imagine how they were going to hate her when all of this came out. Noah, being family, would be forgiven. Her, not so much.
“Hmm?” Though she couldn’t tell if he was awake or not.
“I really like them too.”
No response. His breathing telling her he’d lost the battle. A little while later, she turned on her side wondering how long it was going to take for the exhaustion to overcome her tonight. Just as she settled, Noah turned and spooned behind her, draping his arm over her waist.
No answer. He was too heavy to push off and move.
Just before she drifted off, his arm pulled her closer and he snuggled his face at her neck. Sound asleep. She closed her eyes and cursed herself for wanting this. Hating herself for wishing for things that weren’t.
She slept soundly for the first time in a long time. As light began filtering into the room, she reluctantly pulled from slumber. She wanted to stay in this little cocoon that felt warm and held none of the problems of the real world.
She sighed in contentment just before she felt a caress along her hip and her eyes shot open.
She looked up and found Noah’s warm brown eyes smiling down to her. She was all snuggled up in his embrace, her head on his chest, her left leg draped over his.
“Don’t look at me,” he softly said to the questioning eyes she looked at him with. “I woke up like this.”
His eyes turning golden again as they looked into hers. Her eyes growing dark as they silently looked at one another a moment.
His right hand came up to slide to her nape as he lowered his mouth to hers. His kiss swimming over her lips. Her left arm wrapped around his bicep as he rolled their bodies, hers half covered with his.
Their kiss continued and grew. Her hand reaching up to tangle in his hair. Their desires growing, he ran his hand down her throat, feeling her rapid heartbeat. Then, caressing lower until finding her hard peak crying out for his touch. Through her nightshirt, he plucked, rolled, teased, causing her to moan into their kiss.
His hips pressed into hers as their kiss grew hungrier. His desire for her snapping her back to reality. She abruptly pulled free and rolled away, putting distance between them, feeling the instant chill of the cold sheets in contrast to his warmth.
He sat up and threw back the covers. “Don’t be sorry Eden.” He looked at her over his shoulder. “Maybe it’s telling us something.”
She too sat up, leaning up against the headboard. “Noah, please.” Her heart still beating fast.
“What? Deny I still…” he stopped himself. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t tell her he loved her and hear her tell him she didn’t in return. He’d gone through that too much before the accident.
She got out of bed. “Still what Noah?” she asked. All she wanted to know was he loved her. In spite of all they’d been through, if he could just tell her that, she could feel hope. She couldn’t remember her feelings and emotions prior to the accident. All she knew is she’d fallen deeply in love with him these past few months. Time he played a role. A time he didn’t love her. She dreamed of him saying he loved her yesterday as she’d fallen asleep on the sofa. A dream.
She knew now there had never been anything between her and Lawrence. Once Lawrence assumed she’d regained her memory, he’d fessed up.
He saw the expectant look on her face. If he told her he loved her, it was only going to push her away.
He walked over and stood before her. His hand rising and sifting soft tendrils through his fingers.
As she looked into his eyes, she willed him to tell her what she most needed to hear.
The way she looked at him frightened him. He could see the apprehension racing through her. Rather than voice his feelings and be rejected, he lowered his mouth to hers in hopes his kiss could get through.
She didn’t hesitate. She opened to him. When she leaned into him, his hand went to the back of her head while his other arm wrapped around her waist.
Though the sounds of his family awake could be heard beyond the closed door of the bedroom, Eden’s focus was on his kiss. Her hands flat at his chest wishing desperately she could be within the depths of the heart that beat beneath her palms.
Morgan came bursting into the bedroom with Beatrice right behind.
“Mommy’s eggs!” Morgan’s exclamation abruptly ended the moment for them.
“Oh my,” Beatrice said as Eden pulled from Noah’s hold before turning to Morgan. “I’m sure Mommy and Daddy will be down shortly Morgan.”
Noah saw Eden swiftly wipe at her eye, though he knew she tried to hide it, before she focused on their son.
“Morgan, I’ll be down in just a few minutes, okay?” Eden asked him.
Eden nodded before excusing herself and making her way to the bathroom.
Morgan scampered downstairs as Beatrice looked at Noah. “Son, perhaps you and Eden should consider locking your door.”
Eden rest her head on the closed bathroom door upon hearing their conversation.
Noah raked his hands through his hair. “Mom, there’s no need for us to lock the door.”
“Alright Dear, you know what’s best,” Beatrice said before turning and leaving the room.
Noah paced the bedroom after his mother left while Eden showered. He was running out of time to get through to Eden.
He was still in the bedroom when Eden came out of the bathroom after dressing.
“Eden,” he called to her. He stood before her. “We need to talk.”
“Noah, I am mortified and completely embarrassed. My God, your mom walked in on …”
She stepped away and paced. “That never should have happened.”
“Why?” she asked back. “Are you kidding?”
“Look, I’m still attracted to you,” he finally answered after a brief silence. “And, you’re attracted too.” There was no way she could deny she wanted it just as much as he did.
She bowed her head, “Sex isn’t the answer for us Noah. It isn’t something to base a marriage, any sort of relationship on,” she said softly.
Memories of earlier conversations with her filtered in. “Noah, don’t think sex is going to take our problems away,” she’d tell him. Until finally, she just stopped. A wall up so high he’d never get through. He didn’t see that wall now. Though she had her defenses up, she hadn’t turned cold. What more could he possibly give her than the love he felt for her now? A love that overshadowed anything he’d felt for her before.
“We’re Morgan’s family.”
“Only for a few days.”
He reached for her upper arms. “No. No matter what happens, that little boy and us are a family. Dammit Eden, you belong here.”
She pulled free and stepped away. “I belong here? I told you before Noah, I don’t want to be a commitment.”
“But we made one. To each other. To our son.”
They both heard Morgan’s little steps coming up the stairs.
“Please. Don’t make this harder than it has to be,” she said.
With Morgan entering the room, any argument he had would have to wait.
After she left the room, he showered. Cursing himself as he wished he could take back telling her she belonged here. He could tell by the look in her eyes she saw it as ownership. Again questioning himself if that were the reason she found herself in Lawrence’s arms.
Noah’s parents and family planned to leave the next day. Eden left the house a short time to meet up with her new landlord at the townhouse to give the Carringtons time as a family. She needed space. She’d begin moving in the next day after they sat down with Morgan and explained things. She couldn’t believe the pain she felt in her heart. Knowing she was going to break her son’s heart. Noah loved his son. She could see it. She simply couldn’t stay in a marriage knowing how he felt about her. His lack of trust. If he loved her, he’d trust her.
When she returned to the house, the rest were gathered around the dining table eating a lunch of leftovers. Morgan was so happy. He couldn’t be surrounded by any more love than he was at this moment.
Eden discovered the Carringtons were a vocal bunch. Always talking with one another. Joking and teasing aplenty. So much different than her own family had been.
Eden fixed herself a sandwich and joined them. The only chair open was near Noah. He seemed to recover well from how they woke this morning. Time for her to toughen up as well she supposed.
Just as Eden was taking a drink from her soda, Beatrice asked, “How much longer do I have to wait for another grandchild?”
Eden choked on her soda. Coughing and sputtering, barely able to catch her breath. Noah patted her back trying to help her as Chloe let her own disapproval be known.
“Gee Mom, now you’re pressuring these guys? Or is it just another reminder for me?”
“Chloe, Mom didn’t mean,” Noah started.
“Stuff it Noah!” Chloe yelled before pushing her chair back and making her way upstairs.
“Oh dear,” Beatrice said as Eden’s choking continued. “Are you going to be alright?”
Eden held up her hand, trying to wave them off while catching her breath. Her lungs hurt from choking.
Once she was able to breathe, she looked at Beatrice with watery eyes. “I’m fine Beatrice.” Her voice hoarse.
Beatrice then asked excitedly, “Oh, I’m not ruining a surprise am I?”
Eden looked wide-eyed to Noah then her.
“Mom, we don’t have any baby news,” he told her.
“Well, you know, Morgan is getting bigger. And, after this morning…”
“Mom,” Noah dragged out her name in warning.
Eden was turning red. She pushed back from her chair as well. “Please excuse me,” she said before leaving and going upstairs as well.
“Did I say something wrong?” Beatrice asked. John snorted.
“No Mom,” he said as he sat back in his chair and ran his hand down his face. His mother certainly made his quest for Eden more difficult. If anything was going to make Eden bolt from their marriage, it would be pressure to have another child. Especially since she’d been so adamant about it before the accident.
Eden knocked on the guest bedroom door. Chloe softly told her to come in.
“Are you alright Chloe?” Eden asked as she walked over and sat next to her on the side of the bed.
“Eden, I love Noah, really I do. But, because he’s all settled down, she expects me to as well. I’m just not cut out for the whole home-hearth thing.”
Eden held Chloe’s hands in hers. “Does she do this often?” Eden asked.
Chloe chuckled a sob. “I envy you Eden. I wish sometimes I couldn’t remember.”
“You don’t mean that,” Eden said. “Trust me, not remembering isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
“But, you and Noah…” Chloe stood and paced. “God, you guys just got it, ya know?”
“Chloe,” Eden called.
“Noah is the apple of Mom’s eye. He’s always been the good child, while I’ve been the wild one.”
And when she learns Noah and I are separating, she’s really gonna hate me, Eden silently added.
“Are you saying you don’t want to be the wild child anymore?”
“I’m saying, I hate that just because we hatched at the same time doesn’t make us the same,” Chloe told her. “Noah’s the settle down type. God, Mom sees how he looks at you and Morgan and all of the sudden, Chloe needs to do that! Ugh, I hate it!”
Eden stood and walked over to her. “Do you think maybe you’re taking this too personal?”
“Hey, it was my womb she was referring to, not yours.”
Both women laughed and Chloe brought Eden in for a hug. “God Eden, I wish I could be more like you.”
Sure, a liar, fraud. Yeah something every woman should strive for.
“Ya know, if Mom just would’ve had another baby of her own, she wouldn’t pressure me so much,” Chloe said as they sat back down. “But, I’m not sure how I’d feel about a little brother or sister.”
“Well, if you had a little sister, she’d take some of the pressure you’re also under.”
“No, I mean a little little brother or sister,” Chloe answered.
The look on Eden’s face showed she wasn’t registering her meaning.
Chloe chuckled. “I keep forgetting you don’t remember,” she said. “About three years ago, Mom found out she’s diabetic. Well, she lost a lot of weight and Dad found he couldn’t keep his hands off her.”
“Eden, remember why I asked to stay up here?”
“You asked?” Eden toyed back then took in what Chloe had said. “You’re not saying…”
“Yeah, about two years ago, Mom thought she was preggo. Oh God, that would have been mortifying for me.”
“There’s nothing wrong with an active sex life Chloe.”
“For you and Noah, sure. My mom and dad, I don’t want to think about it.”
“Chloe,” Eden laughed.
“It really sucks that my mother’s getting it on more than me!”
That had both women bursting out laughing.
“Someday Chloe, your…”
Chloe held up her hand, “No! Don’t say it! Not gonna happen.”
They laughed more, both releasing pent up tension for different reasons.
A soft knock at the door interrupted their girl time. Eden opened it to find Noah standing there. She stepped back and allowed him in.
Noah took in the scene before him. His wife and sister had been laughing so hard, they were crying.
“Chloe,” he called. She looked up at him. “Look, I’m sorry Mom keeps hammering at you.”
“It’s okay Noah. I feel a lot better now.”
Chloe had been moping around most of her time here. A half hour with Eden, and she resembled his sister again.
Eden left the siblings alone for a little privacy.
Noah’s family left the following morning. Then, the hardest thing they ever had to do fell upon them. Noah tried to convince her to stay. She just couldn’t. It hurt too much knowing what he really thought of her.
Morgan didn’t like the news. Didn’t understand how Mommy and Daddy would have different houses again. Didn’t know which toys to take to Mommy’s and which ones to leave behind. Noah and Eden did their best to get him through this. Morgan wanted to stay at the house where the Christmas tree was first.