Christmas Kisses

All Rights Reserved ©

Bonus: Matthew - December 21st

At the grand age of thirty-one, it wasn’t often Matthew Wood felt the all too familiar feeling of complete terror seizing his heart in it’s unrelenting grasp, especially while stationed at home. Yet as he was loading his mother’s car with a never-ending pile of gifts - with his chin buried deep in a thick, woolly scarf to fight off the frosty temperatures - Matthew’s heart was bursting through his chest and his stomach was sinking past his knees. The thought of today’s events had him sick with nerve-wracking anticipation.

Matthew had returned home from deployment a week earlier than he had been expected - as a result of an injury. This left him with an extra week to prepare for the annual Christmas festivities with the Denson's, a family his mother had been friends with ever since they had first moved into the town when Matthew was only two years old. Due to his early arrival however his mother had immediately snapped at the chance to drag him over as soon as physically possible to the Denson household.

Philip Denson, the man of the house was very much his substitute father growing up; and his wife, Charlotte Denson acted like a second mother. As a child he’d spent as much time at their house, if not more, than his own. Every weekend or special occasion the two families spent together and truthfully if it were not for Philip’s influence on him as he grew up, Matthew wasn’t sure he’d be the same person he was today. He liked to think he was a very calm man when he was at home - an attitude he adopted from Philip’s own personality - and Matthew had only ever acted out of impulse once, a situation that had been a long time coming in his opinion.

Megan Denson. She was the youngest daughter of Philip and Charlotte, a great five years younger than him. She had an older sister, Alice, who although cute and much closer to his own age at twenty-nine hadn’t intrigued him the way Megan had.

Megan had always been a quiet child and honestly Matthew hadn’t taken much notice of her in her earlier years, being too focused with the struggles of high school and girls his own age, and it wasn’t until she was around the age of eighteen/nineteen that a crush had developed. That was all it had been for quite some time, just small glances here and there, making sure to sit next to her at meals and trying his best to speak to her whenever he could - which was rare. Honestly he felt too nervous to ever make a move, not knowing how a newly graduated teenager would respond to a twenty-four year old man’s advances, no matter how close he was to the family. He recognised how creepy he could come across.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this year, a day before he had to head back with his unit in preparation for their deployment, when they were having one last farewell with some friends, that Matthew had stumbled upon Megan at a bar. Like himself, Megan had been drinking and on a whim Matthew had taken his chance and gone for it. By far it had been one of the best nights of his life and the strength it had taken him the next morning to leave her alone in bed had almost killed him. He desperately wanted to wake her up and yet he couldn’t stop the selfish part of him that knew he couldn’t withstand the goodbye.

Today would be the first time Matthew would see her again.

Eight months was a long time to be away and much like every time he returned home he dreaded the update on everyone’s lives. He hated to see how much things had changed while he had been away, terrified to find out that Megan had found someone to care for her like he hadn’t been able to before.

That had changed now, Matthew’s career had altered and now he knew he could be there for Megan like she deserved. He could finally confess how he felt, push past the fear, and hope that she felt the same way for him as he did for her.

But only if she hadn’t moved on and forgotten about their brief affair.

“Matthew, honey, you ready to get going?” His mother called from the doorway just as he was loading the last of the gifts into the boot of the car. Judy Wood was beaming brightly, her silver hair tied up away from her face though a few rogue strands still tickled her rosy cheeks in the wind. His mother seemed to be glowing and though he had no idea why, he was just happy that she was in such a good mood.

“Yeah,” he called back just as he slammed the back of the SUV shut and shuffled awkwardly through the light layer of the snow to the front of the car where he climbed into the passenger seat. He had been told before returning home not to drive for a while until the pain in his leg and the unpredictable cramps had stopped, not that it mattered since his mother didn’t seem to mind driving and he had planned to stay with her for the entire Christmas period to keep her company.

His mother shivered as she too climbed into the car and started the engine, both their breaths fogging in the cold air.

“They’ll all be so excited to see that you’re back, what a nice surprise to have you home early,” his mother cooed, her teeth chattering as she spoke and began to back out of the drive. Matthew hummed back, too distracted to reply. Thankfully his mother seemed content in just nattering away to him, so much so that by the time they had pulled up in the Denson driveway he’d not had to say a single word to keep up a conversation, his mother had done all of the talking for him.

He hated to admit that he’d not heard one word of what she’d said anyway.

He didn’t think it was normal to feel this nervous. His hands were shaking but it was no longer from the cold, instead the adrenaline pumping through his blood was what put his body on edge. He didn’t think he’d be able to sit still once inside, too eager to talk to Megan alone.

His mother quickly ducked inside the house all the while he was till sat inside the car. He was much quicker in unloading the gifts than put them in the car but he suspected that was down to eagerness. With a deep, shuddering breath and a quick roll of the shoulders he cautiously opened the front door and stepped inside.

Almost instantly his heart rate burst into a rapid sprint and his hands felt far too clammy to be comfortable.

There she was, curled up on the couch next to his mother, almost hidden by a large cushion. Her blonde hair had been cut short to frame her face, making her look unbelievable cute, and her gorgeous doe like eyes were unfortunately lowered to the floor. Matthew stood frozen in the doorway, not sure he remembered what it was like to breathe.

“Matthew, shut the door quickly son, it’s freezing outside,” his mother urged and when he glanced at her he noticed the sympathetic expression on her face. It was a look that had worry aching in his chest. Why did his mother feel the need to be sympathetic? What had happened while he was away?

Numbly, Matthew dropped the gift bags unceremoniously onto the floor and shut the door behind him. He didn’t speak, couldn’t find the right words to say. His eyes fell to Megan once again, taking in every detail of her face that he could see. The longer he looked the more he noticed the deep bags under eyes; she looked exhausted.

“Don’t just stand there gawking, what’s wrong with you? Sit down,” his mother once again spoke up as if trying to get either Matthew or Megan to speak. Both of them seemed to have fallen into some kind of a startled trance, neither quite prepared to face the other.

Matthew didn’t make any move to get close.

He stayed by the doorway stiffly just as someone began descending the stairs. Alice.

She was hugging a tiny baby to her chest, a boy if the blue sleep-suit was any clue, and not so surprisingly an engagement adorned her ring finger. Was this what his mother was so worried about? Did she think that he had feelings for Alice?

He tried to not turn and glance again at Megan, wanting to conceal his feelings until they had a chance to be alone. He didn’t want to scare her off before they could talk.

“Hey!” Alice greeted as soon as she noticed he was stood there. She beamed at him brightly, surprise evident in her tone as she exclaimed, “I sure wasn’t expecting you home so early, Matthew.”

Matthew squirmed and swiftly tried to shift the conversation, not quite ready to reveal why it was that his return was so early. Not even his mother knew and he’d been trying too hard to keep it that way. For now at least.

“You were single when I left and now you’ve got you’re own little family.” Again his gaze shot to her ring and then back to the baby. He still couldn’t get his head around how both seemed to have appeared so suddenly in Alice’s life. He was dedicated to his career with the Navy but he hated how much he felt he missed out on.

“Who’s the lucky guy?” He felt obliged to ask. The longer he stood here making small talk and catching up the more anxious he felt. Why couldn’t he just grab Megan by the hand and drag her off quickly before anyone else could follow?

Because he was too scared.

Almost as if it were rehearsed, a man Matthew had never met before walked down the stairs and immediately made his way to Alice’s side. He was a tall, lanky fellow that by the arm wrapped possessively around Alice’s waist seemed to care for his fiancée well enough.

“Matthew, this is Tom - my fiancé.” Alice bounced the baby in her arms and his attention shifted back to the boy again. “But this little guy, this little guy is my adorable little nephew, which means no smelly diapers for Auntie Alice and lots of late nights for Mummy Meg.”

At first Matthew had thought he’d heard wrong but then Alice was across the living room and placing the baby in Megan’s arms.

Eight months. Eight months he’d been away and she’d had a child. That meant she’d been pregnant when they had slept together. Had she been so drunk that she’d cheated on the father with him? Did she even remember their night together at all?

Matthew felt a lump form in his throat making it hard for him to swallow, speak, or breathe.

He stared across at her, trying to mask his emotions that were tormenting his insides and creating havoc on his heart. He crossed his arms stiffly, as if that would help to keep him from falling apart at the seems.

He was too late. She was with someone else. She’d had a child.

He’d wasted far too much time never making a move - six years in fact. Six years of standing on the side-lines, silently falling in love with a women he could no longer have. She’d moved too far out of his reach and unknowingly left him behind to wallow in her unintentional rejection.

“Di-did your mother no-not tell you?” Megan’s voice was thick and wavered heavily with emotion. She seemed fearful, regretful. Perhaps she did remember their night together and was now suffering from the truth of her situation coming to light. Not that she had reason to feel guilty; she owed him nothing, had promised him nothing. He was merely lucky to have been blessed with her company those eight months ago.

She turned to look towards his mother but Matthew’s gaze never wavered; he watched her cradle the baby to her chest protectively, noticed the enlarged swell of her breasts and rugged, oversized clothes that she wore.

No. No one had told him.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.