21 - Holiday Blues
She looks out of the car window as they pass Tucker’s parent’s house. She wonders if he is there or if he will be coming home at all for Christmas. Tomorrow is Christmas eve and she had not seen him nor heard from him since he disappeared in October.
“I fixed your old room up for you.” Her mom smiles back at her from the front passengers’ seat. Her parents had just picked her up from the airport for a three-day visit.
“Thanks mom.” She sees Stormy hugging her own parents as they pull into her parents’ driveway.
“Oh! Stormy came home for Christmas too.” Her mom waves over toward them. “She lives in Tokyo now you know?”
Chasity rolls her eyes thinking about how she always hated Stormy. “I did not know. She and I hated each other. I never really kept up with her.”
“I know you never got along with the girls.” Her mom turns and smiles at her looking proud. “But look at you now. Wearing makeup and heels. Looking so professional in your dress suit. You figured it out.”
“Figured what out?” Chasity is not sure what that means.
“Life. And we are so proud of you.”
“Come along it is cold.” Her dad opens the door of the car for her to exit while looking up at the sky. “It looks like it might be a white Christmas.”
Chasity catches small snowflakes in her hand as she steps outside. It makes her smile. She had not had many Christmas’s that were white.
“Hey little rat.” She feels someone slap her in the back of the head.
“Oh yeah your brothers are home.” Her dad slaps Cody on the back of the head. “Be nice to your sister.”
“Hey little sis.” Her other brother hugs her.
“How is New York?”
“It is good. How is law school?”
“One more year.”
“I tried to get him to move to Las Vegas with me but apparently he has a new lady.” Cody snarls his nose.
“A new girlfriend?” Chasity sounds excited. “Is it serious?”
“Not serious enough to bring her home to meet us.” Cody answers.
“I didn’t want you to scare her off.” Nick pushes Cody toward the living room.
“You mean you didn’t want to bring her home and her find out she picked the wrong twin.” Cody throws a couch pillow toward Nick but Nick catches it and throws it back.
“You kids stop ruff housing.” Their mom scolds them.
“It’s Cody.” Chasity and Nick both reply to her scolding.
“Cody.” Her mom points her finger at him in a scolding manner. “Don’t throw my pillows.”
“Nick.” Her finger rotates toward Nick. “You either.”
“Yes mom. We will go down stairs and play video games.”
Chasity smiles remembering how they all would play video games when they were younger to see who had to take all the Christmas treats to the neighbors. “Loser will deliver the neighbors treats and the winner gets to dress them.” The three of them run down to the basement for the challenge.
Chasity looks out of her bedroom window at the snow covering the ground. Tomorrow is Christmas and she hopes it lasts till then. “Chasity!” She hears her mom calling for her.
She makes her way down stairs to find her mom, who is in the kitchen. “Morning mom.”
“I need some help making the Christmas treats.”
They make enough treats every year to take every house on their street a container full. Chasity has always hated making all the treats. By 5:00 p.m. the treats are all boxed up and ready to be delivered.
Chasity stands at the door dressed in a giant green foam finger costume with her head as the fingernail. A Santa hat sits on top of the pointer finger. She is rolling her eyes as Cody writes on the costume that he is number one. “Smile.” Her mom snaps a picture.
“Mom stop.” Chasity does not smile and keeps a monotone. “This is embarrassing enough.”
“I found the old wagon.” Her dad is pulling an old red wagon filled with the boxes.
“Helpful dad. Thanks” Chasity looks unamused.
“Alright. Off you go.” Her mom takes another picture as Chasity pulls the squeaky wagon out of the front door.
She knocks on door after door handing them a box and telling them Merry Christmas. Next, is Stormy’s house which she has been dreading. As the door opens, she sees Stormy begin to laugh at her and pull out her phone. “You get weirder every time I see you.” She snaps a picture continuing to laugh. “This is too good.”
“Merry Christmas.” Chasity hands her a box of treats.
She begins to feel disgruntled as she continues her journey. She knocks on the Lancaster’s front door thankful to be on the last house. As the door opens, she is surprised to meet eyes with Tucker. She did not think he would be there. “You’re here.” She stares blankly at him.
“Hey Chas.” His familiar voice makes her heart skip a beat.
She hands him a box of treats trying to push her feelings aside. “Merry Christmas.”
“Cody won huh?”
“Yeah. I am a bit rusty.” She turns to leave feeling defeated.
“You want some help?” She turns back toward his question. “I think I have an old hot dog costume I could put on.”
She cannot help but smile at him trying to be helpful. “Um...the boxes are all gone.” She points to the wagon.
“Yeah. I know.” He smiles back at her making her miss him more.
“Please don’t make this harder than it already is.”
“Is that Chasity?” She sees his mom move in front of him. “Oh good! Come in. I have eggnog ready.”
“Oh. No.” She looks at Tucker trying to think of an excuse. “I don’t want to intrude.”
“Nonsense. You’re family.” His mom motions her in.
“That is sweet but really I should get home.”
“I am not taking no for an answer. Now come on.” His mom disappears toward the kitchen leaving Tucker standing at the door.
“She made the eggnog just for you.”
“She knew I was coming?” Chasity looks down toward her parent’s house noticing all the Christmas lights are already lit.
“She called your mom earlier today to see who lost so she could make their favorite treat.”
Chasity sighs heavily realizing she does not really have a choice. She steps inside and realizes Tucker must have known she was coming too. “Why are you here if you knew I was coming?”
“Well, I applied to lead the sleigh tonight but I got a call from Santa the position was filled.”
She feels annoyed by his reply and makes sure he knows it by arching her eyebrow at him. “Why do you have to be stupid?”
“Says the girl dressed as a foam finger. Are you going to wear that the whole time?”
She forgot what she was wearing for a moment. “Maybe.” She knows she cannot unfasten it alone.
“I haven’t spent Christmas eve with my parents the past four years. I was not going to miss out on another one. Now can you please take that costume off?”
“I can’t take you seriously with it on.” He sits there looking at her for a moment and she shuffles around a little. “You can’t unfasten it can you?”
“No.” She hates to admit she needs help but she knows it is the only way she can get out of the costume. He moves over to help her but she tries to push his hands away not wanting his help. “Stop it.”
“I am just trying to help.” They struggle with each other for a moment until she hears his dad clearing his throat causing her and Tucker to both look toward the kitchen.
Tucker’s parents are both standing in the kitchen looking surprised toward them. Tucker quickly pulls the costume off from over her head and she adjusts her blue sweater dress.
Tucker’s mom holds up a tray with fresh eggnog in glasses. “I thought we could drink it in the living room.”
“I got it mom.” Tucker takes the tray and Chasity moves, feeling awkward, toward the living room to set down.
“So how are you Chasity?” His mom tries to make small talk as they all enter the living room.
Chasity takes a glass from the tray as Tucker sets it down on the coffee table. “I am well. How about the two of you?” She smiles politely at his parents.
“We are good.” She can tell they feel awkward too.
“How is work going? Your boss being nicer?” She hears Tucker caringly ask and it annoys her.
She looks at Tucker planning to reply but she suddenly knows she cannot do this. She cannot sit here and pretend. “I am sorry but I can’t do this. Thank you so much for the treat. It was delicious.” She places the glass down on the coffee table and moves quickly out of their house.
As she picks up the handle of the wagon, she realizes she left the costume inside. “Shit.” She drops the handle and turns to go back but she sees the door open. Tucker steps out of the door holding her costume.
She silently walks over and takes the costume from him avoiding his eyes. “Chasity. Can we talk?”
“No thanks.” She keeps her head down.
“Chasity.” She hears his feet crushing snow as he follows her.
“What?” She abruptly turns around to face him feeling the large hole he left inside her.
“I’m really sorry.” She sees the sincerity on his face.
“Now that you apologized, do you feel better?” She stares at him waiting for his response.
“What are you looking for from me? For me to make you feel better about leaving me?” She waits for a response again but when he does not respond she continues. “You want me to say it is okay and I understand? Because it isn’t okay and I don’t understand.” She picks up the wagon handle again and begins to pull it down the driveway.
“I told you. I was afraid I would hurt you again.”
She stops and turns back toward him. “That part I understand. What I don’t understand is why I don’t mean enough to you for you to confide in me and to work through it with me.”
“You would never look at me the same.”
“That is where you are wrong.” She suddenly feels less angry and more sorry for him. “I think that would actually be the only way you could ever get me to look at you that way again.”
He searches her eyes as he thinks about her words. He sees her eyes filled with hurt more than anything. She turns and leaves him standing in the yard as he realizes the luster in her eyes for him is missing. He wonders if telling her what all he had done would push her further away. He shakes his head telling himself not to tell her as he turns to go back inside.
His parents are still sitting in the living room as he takes his seat again. His mom seems concerned. “We have tried not to pry about you two, but obviously you still love her. So, do you not think it is time to forgive her?”
“She didn’t do anything wrong to need forgiven mom. I am the one that hurt her.”
“You hurt her and then left her?” His mom now sounds confused.
“No. I left her to keep from hurting her more.”
He sees his dad peek up towards him with interest. “It looks to me like you leaving her hurt her more than anything.”
“Yeah. I am starting to think that too.”
“Then why the hell are you still setting here son?”
He sits there in thought at his dad’s question. He knows they do not understand he physically hurt her. “It is complicated.”
“Only if you make it complicated.” His mom gathers up the glasses to take back to the kitchen.
“No. Look. I hurt her physically when I was having a bad dream one night. I thought I was out on assignment and we were ambushed. When I woke up, I was choking her.” He runs his fingers over his forehead. “I could have killed her.”
“Honey.” His mom comes over and hugs him. “Do you have those kinds of dreams a lot?”
“Sometimes. I haven’t had one in about three weeks though.”
“Poor Chasity.” His mom sits down next to him. “I get you are trying to protect her but don’t you think if you stopped having the dreams that maybe you could try to make it work?”
Before he can answer his dad speaks. “From the way she was looking at you, it looks like you better hurry because that door maybe closing sooner than you think.”
He knows they are right. He stands and runs outside to find Chasity. He sees her just turning into her parent’s yard. He runs as fast as he can to her house. As he arrives at the end of their yard, he sees she is coming out of the garage from leaving the wagon inside. He picks up a handful of snow packing it into a ball. As she reaches the front door, he throws the ball hitting her in the back. She looks pissed off as she turns around but her facial expression changes when she sees him.
“Hey.” He knows he can do better than just saying hey but he cannot seem to think of anything else to say as he moves closer to her.
“I thought you were Cody ambushing me for a minute.”
He finally makes it to being just a few feet from her. “I am sorry I left. I was just scared.” She stands there silent and it causes his heart to ache. “I will tell you everything you want to know.”
“Why?” She folds her arms looking cold. “Why now?”
“Because I realized I was being selfish. I am not protecting you by hiding that part of me from you. I was protecting myself from losing you.”
“Where have you been the last two months?” He sees sadness in her eyes and it makes him step closer to her.
“I have been staying with a friend in New York.”
“You stayed in New York?”
“I finished my police training and start as an officer next week.” He notices how cold it is outside and that she does not have on a coat. “Can we go somewhere warmer?”
“Why did you think the ceiling fan was a helicopter?”
He sighs realizing she is not going anywhere and takes off his coat wrapping it around her. “We went on special missions and would be dropped off by helicopter. I dreamed we were being ambushed and I guess I thought you were one of the people ambushing us.”
He sees her eyes change. “How many people have you killed?”
“I’m not sure. More than I could keep count of.” He feels ashamed not knowing.
“Have you ever strangled someone to death before?”
He closes his eyes in response to the question before clearing his throat. “Yes.” He looks into her eyes and sees a small tear break from the corner of her right eye.
“Is that what you dream about? You killing people?”
“My friends dying. The faces of some friends I lost and of people I killed.” He pauses for a moment before speaking again. “You.”
“Me?” He hears her tone soften towards him.
“A lot about you.”
“What do you want from me Tuck?” She suddenly takes off his coat and hands it to him.
“Um... Nothing. I just wanted to talk.” He thought it was going well and now he feels confused.
“Good night.” She opens the door and disappears leaving him wondering what he did wrong.