Chapter 27 | I Want Him To Be Happy
𝐀 𝐕 𝐀 𝐋 𝐎 𝐍
Searching for a Christmas Tree the day before Christmas probably isn’t one of our best ideas my dad and I have ever had. It’s always been our tradition. To get one together when I come back from college and since college only lets out a few days before Christmas day, we don’t have a choice. My mom brought me up with a lot of traditions on holiday events and finding a real tree at a tree farm was one of them.
She hated the store-bought ones, claiming they weren’t homely enough, and finding one together made memories. Even after she passed away, dad and I carried on the traditions she liked, knowing it would have made her happy doing them every year. Bundled up in my winter coat, gloves and scarf. A sharp cry from the warm weather of California, the New York winter weather is at the other end of the spectrum.
“How about this one?” Dad questions, pointing to a tree that looks a little worse for wear. It has shed a lot, so there isn’t much greenery on the branches.
“Really dad? I think we can find a better one. The staff said there are more decent ones closer to the back since no one usually heads that far down.” I explain to him as we carry on walking through the farm. “But at this rate we’ll end up going to a forest and chopping down a tree there.”
“As long as we leave no evidence, we’ll be fine.” Dad waves me off, and I laugh. “Well, these are perfect. Alright, take your pick.”
I walk through the rows and rows of Christmas trees, my eyes searching for the perfect one. The green branches, although all the same green color, stand out as the mismatched lengths and heights of the branches make them each unique.
“How about this one?” I point to a nice-looking tree and he agrees. Finding one of the workers and paying for the tree, they help us trap it to the top of the car. Securing it on, dad and I make our way back to the house. The surrounding snow has now turned into slush, not surprising, since snow at Christmas is rare in New York. We usually get it around the first few months of the year. The streets definitely do not look like what tourists come to see at Christmas.
“You know. People may think we’re crazy for always waiting so long to get a tree, but we always get a good one,” Dad proudly states, tapping his hand against the steering wheel.
“If mom could see us now. She’s murder us for waiting so long. You know she always had to get one the first day of December.”
Dad chuckles. “Imagine if she saw how, I butchered the cookies we make.”
“She wouldn’t be that surprised.”
“I’m offended. I think I’ve done ok for myself cooking wise,” Dad scoffs, maneuvring through the traffic as we make our way to our neighborhood.
“Please, your cooking is like a college students,” I insult, and he opens his mouth to respond. Until he realizes he cannot argue with my statement. Mumbling incoherently, I chuckle before we spend the rest of the drive listening to the music on the radio. Parking up outside our house, we get out unstrapping it from the car. We carry it up the steps and attempt to get it into the house, while Blue attacks it.
“Blue, this is not something you can eat!” Dad scolds Blue, who immediately runs to his dog bed like a scolded child. Getting it through the door now that Blue isn’t in the way, we come to a halt. “Where do you want it?”
“In the corner near the fireplace,” I decide, and we carry the tree over. Putting it in the corner. Unwrapping it from the netting they put it in, we work on making it look presentable and then having the vacuum from all the tree bristles that have fallen everywhere.
“Sweetheart, can you go into the attic and get the decorations?” Dad shouts from the living area as I put the vacuum away. Shouting back before I head to the door that leads to the attic, I head up and sigh at the amount of boxes that litter the attic. None of the boxes are labeled, so finding the Christmas decorations is like finding a needle in a haystack. Starting to sort them through all, I find holiday decorations for Halloween and birthday ones that are left up here until we need them. Boxes of baby items and mom’s clothes. We need to start labeling these boxes, considering I have to sort through them every time we need something. My phone buzzes in my pocket, and I happily welcome the distraction as I sit back on my legs.
Noah: What would you say if I told you I really want to kiss you again?
A smile decorates my face as the message comes through, and I bite my lip, thinking of the kisses we’ve shared before I left Los Angeles before replying.
Me: I would tell you that I want to kiss you again too.
Noah: Fuck...you can’t say stuff like that when we’re over two thousand miles away and I can’t drive over there and kiss you.
Me: I’m only gone for a week...then we’re all back together for New Year.
Noah: I know you get back before New Year’s Eve, but I’ll only be able to see you at the party that night.
Me: And if you’re lucky, you can be my kiss at midnight ;)
Noah: There was no other option ;)
Dad shouting snaps me out of my Noah induced haze. “Ava! Have you found the decorations yet?”
“Not yet!” I shout back before replying to Noah mentioning I’ll talk to him later after decorating. Putting my phone away I continue through the boxes. Unfortunately, winter break is only two weeks, but the way it works out I can only spend a week in New York because the flights were impossible to get. So I could only fly out yesterday and have to head home before New Year since classes start back days after.
It’s common for people to head back to campus for New Year as a lot of parties are thrown. For us instead, Noah invited us to his place where his family is throwing a party. It will be nice to see his family again. After searching through most of the boxes, I find the two boxes of decorations and carry them downstairs.
“We should really label those,” I huff, setting them down in the living area. “Ok, let’s start.”
“You’re going to have to tell me where to put everything. We both know decorating was your mother’s forte, not mine.”
“Dad, it’s a tree. It doesn’t need to be perfect,” I laugh, handing over the first decorations. “Just put them anywhere.”
Working in a comfortable silence, as the Christmas music plays in the background, for the next few minutes. Blue continuously tries to get the decorations, believing their toys.
“So, you know that conversation we had yesterday about you worrying about me being alone here?” Dad mentions breaking the silence and I nod my head. “What if I told you I wasn’t exactly alone? I have some news to tell you.”
“What are you talking about? You’re making it sound bad.”
“It’s nothing bad. I didn’t want to tell you this until you were back home, because I didn’t feel like it’s a conversation we could have over the phone. I’ve actually been seeing someone for the past couple of months.” Dad looks over at me to see my reaction.
“Oh.” I furrow my eyebrows, surprised at the news. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Well, I wanted to tell you in person. I was a little scared of how you would react. I mean, I haven’t dated anyone since your mother passed away, so this is new for both of us. You’ve never seen me with another person aside from your mom.”
He isn’t wrong. Aside from a few first dates here and there, he has been single ever since my mom’s passing. I know at first he was grieving, and he never wanted to date until five years later, plus he spent his time looking after me while I was growing up. I knew he would not be alone forever, however he is right, this is a new experience for both of us.
“What’s her name?” I question continuing to decorate.
“Catherine. We met at work, she’s been working there for two years so we’ve known each other for a long time. But recently we’ve been spending more time together. She’s very nice and has a fourteen-year-old son named Reece.”
“Have you met him?”
Dad nods. “I have. I know this isn’t easy to process, so you take all the time you need. I just want you to think about it. I’ll always love your mother, but I have to move on at some point. You’re all grown up and you’ll have a family one day. I can’t stay alone forever.”
“I know, dad,” I sigh, turning to face him and putting the decoration down. “I’m glad you’re not on your own all the time here. I’ll admit it might be weird for me to see you with someone. You haven’t dated or introduced me to anyone since mom so I don’t know how to react. But I also know you wouldn’t date someone horrible, so she must be a nice person.”
“She is. I’ve told her all about you. Your mother will always hold a special place in my heart. I like Catherine and it’s important she gets to know you. She actually invited us around for dinner tonight but I didn’t give her an answer because I wasn’t sure if you’d want to.”
“We can have dinner with them. I mean, I do need to interrogate the person you’re spending your time with,” I joke, poking him, and he chuckles before pulling me into a hug.
“Thank you, sweetheart. This means a lot to me. I love you. You know you’ll always be my favorite.”
I laugh. “I love you too, dad. I’d love you more if we finished decorating though.”
Running my hand through Blue’s gray and white fur as his head rests on my legs while I am sitting in front of my mirror curling my hair, also on video call to the girls.
“Oh babe, I’m so sorry. I know your dad being with someone other than your mom is hard,” Hannah pouts, and I shrug.
“I knew it would happen one day. I want him to be happy and not be alone forever. I was more shocked than anything. He’s never dated properly, so it’s uncharted territory. She seems nice from what he’s told me. Anyway, enough of my problems. What’s up with you girls?”
Blue nuzzles his face into my hand, making me chuckle before Sierra speaks, “My brother spilled to my dad about Aiden. Now my dad is interrogating me about him. You know it was hard enough introducing Aiden to my brother, but to my dad? This is going to be a nightmare.”
“Well, he hasn’t run for the hills yet with your attitude, so I think he’s a keeper,” Hannah smirks, making us all laugh.
“Honestly, you have nothing to worry about. Nick was nervous when he met my parents, but he had no reason to be. You know if they’re a good guy there won’t be any problems with your family not liking them,” Liv explains as I put my curling wand down on the heatproof mat.
“Yeah, she’s right. Aiden is a great person, and he makes you happy so your dad can’t be mad about that.” I point out.
“Mmm yeah, I know, he’s just difficult. Whatever, I should go, we’ll talk soon,” Sierra waves and we all jump off the call. Taking the free time to ensure my hair is curled, and I haven’t made a mess while attempting to talk and curl at the same time, it doesn’t take long before my laptop rings again. Seeing Noah’s contact info pop up, I accept the video call.
“Hey beautiful, what are you getting ready for?” Noah pops up onto the screen...shirtless I might add.
“Dinner with my dad’s new girlfriend,” I state, finishing curling my hair.
“Damn, you ok?” Noah questions, his eyebrows furrowing and I shrug. “What’s going on in that pretty little head of yours?”
“I want him to be happy and I want to be supportive. But I know seeing him with someone else will be hard because he’s never dated.”
“I’m sure it already means a lot to him that you’re willing to give her a chance.”
I nod. “Yeah, plus I hate him being here alone when I’m in California.”
“You’ll have to let me know how it goes and whether I have to ring to bail you out of it,” Noah jokes, making me laugh before his eyes drop to where Blue sits, visible on the camera. “Is that the famous Blue?”
Blue barks at the sound of his name, and I chuckle before introducing them. “Noah, this is my dog Blue. Blue meet Noah.” Blue cocks his head to the side, confused, making me giggle. “I wish I could bring him to LA with me.”
“He’s cute. Looks like I have some competition,” Noah states before looking pointedly at Blue. “You taking good care of my girl Blue?” Noah questions and Blue barks in agreement, seeming to understand. “Smart dog.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Your girl?”
A small blush forms on his face as he scratches the back of his neck, but before he can reply Luna appears on the screen.
I smile and wave at her through the camera before she continues. “Noah-Bear gave me the present you got me, but mommy won’t let me open it.”
“That’s okay, sweetheart, Christmas is tomorrow. Promise me something?” I ask, and she nods her head eagerly. “Make sure you wake Noah-Bear up super super early.”
“Ok that’s it! You’re not talking to her anymore, you’re a bad influence. Bye Ava.” He cuts the call, stopping me from giving her anymore ideas and I laugh before finishing getting ready.
Pulling up outside of a two-story house that isn’t too far from our place, dad cuts the engine to the car before turning in his seat to face me.
“Thank you for doing this. It means a lot.” Dad smiles and I nod my head before smiling back. “I think you’ll like them.”
“Of course dad,” I smile before we get out of the car and head to the door before knocking. Not two seconds later, a woman similar to my dad’s age opens the door with a friendly, yet hesitant smile.
“You must be Avalon. It’s so great to meet you, come in come in,” She smiles, ushering us in. “Your dad has told me so much about you.” She hugs me and I return her hug.
“It’s nice to meet you too and just call me Ava, everyone does.”
“Of course. You can call me Catherine, I am not formal,” She says, making me laugh before we take off our coats hanging them up. “And you’re even more beautiful than those pictures your dad showed me.”
“Thank god she got her mother’s looks and not mine,” Dad says, and I chuckle, slapping his arm. But he isn’t wrong. I look extremely like my mom, especially in the pictures where we are standing next to each other. I know it was hard for him to look at me after she died because I looked so much like her. However, I am glad I do look like her. It makes me think I have a piece of her with me.
“Let me introduce you to my son. He’s in the dining area setting up.” She waves us through the house to the dining area where a young teenage boy is setting the table. “Reece. This is Ben’s daughter Avalon. Ava, this is my son Reece. He’s fourteen and a freshman in high school.”
“Mom, I’m not applying for a job you don’t have to announce me that way.” Reece rolls his eyes, referring to the way she introduced him. “Do you play video games?”
“Not really. I tried once, but it didn’t work so instead my friend taught me cheat codes,” I admit, thinking of Dylan.
“We’ll get along just fine then,” He smirks, making me laugh.
“Perfect. Let me go and get the food, while everyone sits down.” Catherine claps her hands together as we sit down and not two seconds later she is back with the food, placing it on the table. “Dig in!”
“You live in LA right?” Reece questions as we pile food on our plates and I nod my head. “Ben said you go to college out there...what’s it like? LA sounds awesome.”
“It’s a lot warmer than New York, I’ll tell you that. But LA is great, it’s really lively and not the business lively you get in the city here, it’s pretty chill.”
“Ava is a journalism major in her second year.” Dad smiles proudly.
“Yeah, I was assigned to write my semester project on the football team. So, it’s been a crazy semester.”
“What made you get into journalism?”
My eyes flicker over to Reece as he asks the question. “My mom was a writer. She used to let me help her out when I was younger. I loved it,” I smile, before turning to Catherine to get to know her better. “My dad told me you met at work.”
She nods her head with a smile. “I’ve been working at the company for around two years now. But because of a big project, your dad and I just started spending more time together. How’s the food?”
“Amazing.” Dad compliments, stuffing his face, which is a clear indication. “Ava is a great cook, as well. Something she didn’t get from me.”
“I got your humor though, and your sarcastic remarks.”
“Reece is nothing like me at all. He’s his own person, very academic though.” Catherine praises her son, who rolls his eyes.
“What subjects are you into?” I ask him, curious.
“Science,” He immediately blurts out. “More biology than anything else I’m not a big sports guy unlike the majority of guys at my school.”
“Join the club. Even being around football players a lot, I still don’t understand it.” I shrug, making him laugh. “Dad tried teaching me years ago, but it didn’t work, and my friends only taught me what I needed for my article.”
“So you spend a lot of time with the players? Are you dating any of them? Your dad mentioned you were close with one of them,” Catherine asks, intrigued. Not that I mind. She is trying to get to know me better.
“I have a few friends on the team that me and my friends have gotten close with. Dad is referring to Noah, I’m closer to him than the rest of them. I spent Thanksgiving with him, since he knew I wasn’t flying back to New York. It’s complicated, we’re gonna talk when I get back to LA.”
“You better keep me updated. I need to know whether to bring my shotgun out.” Dad points his fork at me and I roll my eyes. “I’m very protective of her.”
“I’ve noticed.” Catherine laughs and I nod my head. “My dad was the exact same with me. Any father who has a daughter is protective no matter what.”
“See!” Dad throws his arms into the air, making us all laugh.
Maybe this wasn’t so bad.