“Yes, my love?”
“Did you buy the Christmas tree yet?”
“Sure, Kate! It is on the terrace. Should I bring him inside? I bought it two days ago. I knew I might not find any beautiful trees today. And I knew for sure that you would be disappointed if you didn't have one to decorate on Christmas day.”
His arms were around my waist, and my back felt his warm and strong chest.
I tilted my head, and he slipped around my neck, sprinkling it with sweet kisses.
“Kate, I think you chopped enough onions. You should let me do it.”
With tears in my eyes, and a runny nose that I was trying to wipe with a napkin, I smiled and told him I was doing it with pleasure.
“I don't want your beautiful eyes to shed a tear for whatever reason."
I put the finely chopped onion in a bowl, and I took the chopped peppers.
I wanted to help him as much as I could in the kitchen, to prepare dinner as soon as possible. The hours passed without a hitch, and we wanted everything ready by the time Rebecca and Mike arrived.
The fireplace was already set, and the wood was burning quietly, the Christmas carols that resounded from John's office completed the Christmas atmosphere. Bing Crosby was the first choice, followed by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.
When it came to music, John had an entire vinyl collection of great American artists. For some he paid enormously, being signed by the artist himself, which increased their value.
Now it was snowing quietly and beautifully, without a sign of a blizzard. It took John a while to shake the snow from the tree before he brought it in the living room, and in the end, he succeeded. I had told him I would take a quick shower while he took care of the rest of the things that needed to be done.
Then, as was normal, and unable to resist the temptation, he came with me in the shower.
“John! We don't have much time; don't you think we'd better leave it for tonight?”
I grabbed my hands by his neck, kissing him, letting the drops of hot water wet him.
“Kate, I won't hold you back much. I want you now.”
I gave up. It was far too attractive and smelled so good. I kissed his neck, his chest, while his hands went down hungry to my abdomen.
There was only half an hour until the appointed time when the guests were to arrive.
But a trace of guilt followed me, thinking of Jake, and wondering where he was spending Christmas. I was sorry to know he was alone. No one should be alone at Christmas. Christmas means family, tradition, friends, and most of all it means forgiving and being forgiven, because we should all be better at this time of year. It was impossible for this to happen, for the world to remember what they were celebrating.
For me, Christmas meant more than gifts, decorations, and carols, even if all these were what made the fairytale atmosphere, but it meant magic.
I had to tell John everything. Otherwise, I would have had remorse, feeling that I had deceived him.
I was in the bathroom, applying the last touches to my make-up, when John sneaks behind me, grabs me in the middle and kisses me lightly on the neck.
“You look wonderful tonight. After the guests leave, you will be mine alone.”
His irresistible and provocative smile continues to make me shiver, making my skin like chicken.
“Sounds pretty tempting, love. Looks like you are an ardent spirit today.” Raising and lowering his eyebrows, proud of him, he approved of me.
“Kitty, when will I get tired of you? Tell me! WHEN?”
I smiled. I felt extraordinarily good to have a man next to me who said such words to me. And to ruin the moment, I had to tell him. I felt like I could not hold such a thing in me anymore.
“John, I have something to tell you.” I changed my tone slightly and cleared my throat.” Listen!”
After I told him that Rebecca had invited him shopping with us at the mall, and that I had invited him to dinner, but he had refused, without giving him the rest of the details, a moment of silence had settled.
“I had to tell you. Even if he refused, you still had to know. I do not think he was a threat, but it seemed sad on his own. “
“And why should you be the one to save him? The man deserved his fate, he is alone and now he is trying to take you back.”
I could not tell him that I had told him about the pregnancy and had chosen to retire. I had agreed with John that we would not say anything to anyone yet, otherwise he would have been angry with me. We did not look each other in the eye. And suddenly, the doorbell had broken the awkward silence. John pulled my arm as I tried to get out of the bathroom.
“If you are happy like that, then I am happy too. But I will refuse to have someone else take you, and I will fight for it, no matter how much you dislike it.”
“Thanks!” I smiled at him and kissed him lightly, touching his velvety lips I loved so much, he made me feel protected in every moment. I think if I had made another choice, it would have been wrong. John is the chosen one.
I opened the door for them happily, inviting them inside. I was not surprised when Jake came in after them. He had told me he was not coming, but now he apparently changed his mind.
“Merry Christmas, Kate!”
“Happy Christmas to you too! Welcome!”
I hugged Mike and Rebeca one by one, then invited them into the living room.
“Merry Christmas to you too, Jake! I am glad you came. What made you change your mind?”
I could talk to him without hesitation, considering that John partially knew the whole story.
“I was forcibly brought in by Rebecca. Not that I would not like it, but ... you know.”
I assumed he was referring to John, and he did not want to see him. Probably, if I had been in his place, I would have understood how embarrassing it is for him to spend Christmas Eve under the same roof with the woman he loves and the man she is going to marry.
After Rebecca and Mike hugged John as well, they sat down comfortably on the couch, leaving their clothes on a chair I had put earlier especially for their coats. They had brought with them a lot of beautifully wrapped gifts, which Rebecca offered to place under the tree already decorated by John, which I only helped as much as I could.
“John, I haven't seen you in a long time. What have you been doing? How's business?” Mike asked curiously.
“Good enough. I cannot complain! But tell me about yourself first. We should leave the guests first.”
John was standing on the side of the fireplace, enjoying his glass of whiskey.
“We… There is enough to talk about us.”
“But we wouldn't want to be sad now.” Rebecca intervened, who was next to the Christmas tree, taking even more presents out of a canvas bag that I had not noticed when they entered, trying to keep the atmosphere cheerful.
“Of course! Mike, tell me what you are drinking?” John asked, trying to make the polite host.
“A glass of what you drink is perfect.” Mike replied.
“For starters!” John decided, pointing to Mike.
“I’m sorry, we weren't presented properly.” John held out his hand to Jake, who was still standing near the door, and looked as if he were ready to run away at any moment.
“Jake Thomas! I am pleased!”
They shook hands briefly but with visible tension.
“Sure! Kate told me about you.” And just as I was about to intervene, John had straightened things out.
“Kate told me you were helping Rebecca and Mike with the custody process.”
” That’s right!”
Jake's answers were short. Apparently, he did not feel like talking.
“Jake, take a seat, please!” I invited him.
He sat down next to Mike on the couch.
“What do you want to drink?” John looked just as irritated, but he still struggled unlike Jake, who did not sketch any good disposition. And if I did not know him, I could say he might even like Jake. He was pretend very well.
“A glass of wine, please!” Jake replied quick.
“Coming right now! What should I bring for the ladies?”
Rebecca returned to us and collapsed as if after an exhausting work on the armchair.
“For the ladies, you can prepare absolutely anything.” Rebecca assured him as he poured the drinks into crystal glasses from the fireplace tongue bar.
“A Martini would be perfect, then.” John concluded.
I wanted to escape a little from that atmosphere, it seemed tense like the sky during a summer storm with big and strong lightning.
“Excuse me, please! I need to check dinner. I shall return in a bit.”
I breathed a sigh of relief that I could escape for a few minutes. I thought it was probably a bad idea to invite Jake. But, what the hell, he had refused the first time I invited him. This time, it was Rebecca who brought him here. She had to consult me first, before acting. That was her big surprise. Jake! When did she realize we got along well? And why did he allow himself?
“Kate, my God! The house looks amazing.” She had made her grand entrance through the sliding kitchen door.
“I guess John outdid himself again, just to see you happy, didn't he?” It was impossible for me to listen to her, I had only one thing in mind. Jake!
“Rebecca, listen! Why did you have to bring Jake here?”
Her good mood had already changed into a more seriously one.
“Kate, I'm really sorry! I did not mean to upset you, and I wasn't going to tell you what I will tell you now. Yesterday after Jake left stormy without a word, I set my wheels in motion, and realized that something had happened between you two. And in the evening, he had come to us to leave that portfolio he had forgotten to give you. And by the way, remind me to be the one to be angry after this conversation. He looked quite upset, started drinking more than usual, and Mike insisted on staying in the guest room. Of course, he did not get there, because this morning when I went to the kitchen to make my coffee, Jake was on the couch, muttering meaningless words. I listened, obviously. And what do you think he was saying?”
Looking at her, I asked her curiously. She swallowed the lump in his throat, moistened his lips and continued the story.
"He was saying your name, Kate! That among many others.”
“No, other things about you.”
Putting my arms under my chest, I asked her to tell me everything.
“Honestly, my heart ached when I heard it.”
"Go on, Rebecca!"
“Okay, okay! He says he loves you, but you left him. That he will not love anyone else.”
“I find this story a bit strange.”
“But it's true, I'm telling you!”
She had placed her hands on my shoulders, shaking me slightly.
“This man loves you!”
“Becca, you better than anyone in this world, know and understand what I went through with him. How is it possible to sympathize with him? What did he do, and John did not? Ah, I know! John did not cheat on me!”
I yelled at her.
“I'm sorry, Kate! We are going to leave.”
I did not want her to leave, I needed her company, I had been planning for a long time this evening, and I would not have let anyone ruin it. More so, Jake.
I had begun to dislike him. Probably for no reason, but something seemed strange to him.
“Becca, wait! I did not mean to be mean. But I must defend my relationship, it is what I want and what makes me happy."
With a gentler and touching look, she approached me, and we hugged. That means in our friendship that we are no longer upset with each other.
After dinner, which went well, we all sat relaxed in the living room, enjoying the drinks professionally prepared by Mike this time.
He had offered to show his talents as a bartender, following a challenge from John, telling him that he did not think he could make a drink exactly as he prepared. John knew the taste of each drink, and he could tell when the bartender was putting more water, or more drink than he should have. He had traveled extensively, having dinner only in five-star restaurants, even after the successful conclusion of any major transaction he made, he chose to celebrate in the company of his father, accompanied by a glass of any liquor, carefully prepared.
“Kate, are you cheating?”
“Excuse me?” I asked her curiously.
“You didn't drink a drop from that glass. Are you okay or do you want to agree with John about my Mike?”
“Not! Not at all. I have other reasons.”
I looked at John, who was standing, proud and happy, nodding that I should tell them know about the baby.
Rebecca and Mike were waiting curiously to tell them, but Jake already knew the reason. That is probably why he had been looking up on me most of the time since I had received the drink.
“Come on, Kate! Tell us!” Rebecca hurried me impatiently.
The words came out of my mouth like a gust of wind in the winter. It was the second time I had said these words. I had told Jake the first time. What an irony of fate, the one that had hurt me, would be the first to share the best news of my life. The ways of life are strange, and no matter which path you will take, it will guide you on the one you have to reach, the one that is destined for you.
So, there was no point in splitting the thread, that is how it was.
Rebecca jumped to hug me, screaming with happiness.
“So that is why you refused yesterday's wine, you little monkey. I had to figure it out!”
Rebecca had started asking me a lot of questions about the pregnancy, but I could not hear her. My mind and gaze flew to John. Every time I thought of the baby, I wanted to be by his side. But he was congratulated by Mike and Jake, too. During dinner, John had tried to create a more pleasant atmosphere, looking for common topics or even topics in which they both had different opinions. After the aperitif, it seemed that Jake had relaxed, and he easily entered Mike and John's discussions. Probably, if he had not been my ex-boyfriend, he would have been John's best friend. Rebecca pushed me and displayed a hidden smile, when she saw how well the guys were doing.
John had even suggested to Jake that he go to his office one day to discuss a possible collaboration, after the latter had briefly explained the most important cases he had had and how he had won them all, undoubtedly. He was excellent in his profession and benefited only from favorable and positive recommendations. Being a defense attorney was not at all easy. First you had to take your client's presumption of guilt and then defend him by all possible means.
We had retreated near the Christmas tree, where we had kept a few more globes in a box, especially to place them in the green tree with Rebecca. Rebecca who could not contain the questions. And most of the time she asked me the question I was most afraid of.
“Why did you keep it a secret for so long?”
It was as if we had promised to tell each other as soon as we found out.
“I wanted to make sure everything was fine. We decided to be careful about that. Anyway, I found out by mistake. That is not what I was planning to know when I went to the doctor for some routine tests.”
“Can I join you?”
“Of course!” We both answered in unison when Jake approached us. Jake sat Turkish next to us on the carpet. Rebecca watched the whole scene, smiling knowingly.
“Kate, you arranged everything absolutely lovely.” He complimented me.
“Thank you very much. It was a two-way job; I was giving orders and John was doing them.”
“I just wanted to tell him that he could very well pass as an article on the front pages of My Home magazine in New York! This house is for magazines!”
“It's not like that, Becca. You are too cute. It is just an ordinary, decorated house.”
“You're kidding? Look at the Christmas tree, the fireplace, the table, everything. And on top of that, you have a beautiful house.”
“It is called a duplex, Rebecca!”
“Duplex, whatever!” Becca replied and rolled her eyes.
“I guess that my humble gift is with the others on that pile gifts.” Jake said while he was walking over the Christmas tree. Rebecca had made sure to carefully arrange everything under the Christmas tree, including the gifts Jake had brought from the canvas bag.
“Thank you very much, Jake. And thank you for coming in the end.”
“I have to thank you and I apologize for being an asshole. Even your John looks like a good guy. I had imagined another man from what I had seen at the party and from what Rebecca had told me about him.”
She reacted immediately and nudged him with her elbow, and Jake rubbed his ribs as if it hurt a lot.
I laughed lightly, knowing he was telling the truth. Rebecca had her moments when she didn't liked John because of his jealousy, but in the end, she knew John is the right one for me. John and Mike had retreated to the office, where they had heated discussions, from what I heard.
As I imagined, they had already lit the Cuban cigars, which John had received from his father, and were shaking and turning the crystal glasses with the expensive drink inside.
“Why didn't you go with them? I hope you did not feel uncomfortable somehow.”
“No, no! Not at all! Everything is too beautiful. It is just that I'm not a cigar fan, and I wanted to give you the present too.”
“I should go there. I do not like it when Mike smokes. He was smoking when I met him, and I tried hard to make him quit.”
“It's just a cigar, for God's sake! Let him feel good!” I was screaming for her, but she was already ready to interrupt Mike's pleasure.
“I brought John a present too. I hope it is to his taste."
“You're very cute, Jake! Thank you!”
“But I haven't always been like that, have I?”
He looked down, probably embarrassed by his past actions. I asked him what my gift was, and he immediately chose it from the pile
of boxes under the tree.
“Open it easily!” Said and done. Unveiling the thin paper that covered the box and its contents, I had a pleasant surprise.
“Jake! You thought of me when you chose the globe.”
“I am always thinking of you, Kate!” We were both silent, staring intensely. I felt that moment would be unique, full of feelings. As we looked at each other, his hand searched for mine. If I had to let him touch me because I wanted too. I had missed him, all these years in which I tried to loathe the feeling, to hide it somewhere far away in my soul. Probably my love for him was hidden there. I allowed him to grab my palm with his fingers. His touch was velvety, I had almost forgotten how velvety his skin was. I wanted to receive more than a touch, I wanted to give in to my instincts, and throw myself into his arms. To hold him in my grip, to stick my nose to his throat until I get tired of his smell, to feel his chest clinging to mine and my back to be caressed with tenderness. Beyond the walls of the room, the laughter of the three resounded loudly.
They woke me up from the euphoria I had fallen into. I shook my head, hoping that my unbelieving thoughts would be banished.
“No, Jake! It is not possible!”
Immediately, I withdrew my hand, but he was still holding his hand up in the air waiting for me to come back. He wanted me back, and I wanted to, but it was impossible.
“Kate, I apologize a thousand times. It is not appropriate. And that is why I'm an idiot.”
“That's how it is. And I am really sorry for this situation, I wish I could be more opened, and things to be different, but…I am so sorry!”
Unable to react, he hugged my face with his firmly velvety palms, and then his lips made their way to mine, covering them, caressing them.
I could not go on, no matter how much I wanted to.
Sometimes life has pleasant, sometimes bad, or inappropriate surprises in store for you. Surprises that change the whole course of your life, for which we had other plans.
But who are we to judge the fate of each one?
We are pawns on a chessboard, and we must follow the rules of the game. It seems that now the madman had declared checkmate to the queen, because that kiss aroused lost feelings from the day he left.
John's voice was getting closer and closer. I knew he would suspect that something had happened, whether it was true or not, but I had to play the game of innocence.
Regaining my composure and calm, I began to talk to Jake about a subject as boring as watching birds with binoculars.
“Sure, John has a whole collection of vinyl. I will ask him to show it to you, I did not know that you are also interested in them.”
“I am new in this field, but it fascinates me. I would like to start a collection of rare vinyl.”
Jake had entered my game, and I was breathing a sigh of relief. In my eyes, I thanked him for that, but he would be reprimanded later for what he had done to me.
“Rare vinyl have become even rarer over the years. Rich people from all over have bid for them, now you rarely find such a thing.”
John's voice had echoed behind Jake, with a serious tone, and from how well I knew him, he spoke only out of politeness, refraining from making a scene. I knew he was not amused at all by the fact that Jake and I were left alone in the living room.
“Yes. It is a good idea! It could help you with information on how to start a vinyl hunt.”
After a short presentation of his collection, which came as an obligation on both sides, they decided it was time to leave.
After making sure the front door was closed, I started for the table from which I wanted to gather the dishes and cutlery, passing John.
“I think they had a great time, don’t you? Rebecca told me you were an awesome host. These are exactly her words.”
I told him happily that everything ended well.
When you find somene who you think you love, then tell her/him. If the feeling is mutual, then that person is the love of your life.
Don't let go!