Nostalgia is a Liar

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Chapter Eight

Autumn, 2016

It’s Thanksgiving weekend. Luna, Cooper and Waffles are driving up to Sudbury to spend the weekend at his folks’ house. All his siblings and their significant others would be joining as well.

Cooper’s eldest sister, Rachel, would be accompanied by her husband, Alec and their 6-year old son, Max.

His younger sister, Shanna, would have her fiancé JJ join her. And of course, the youngest brother, Jason, promised to bring the good time. Jason was licking his wounds after being dumped by his boyfriend of 4 months, Lukas. Jason wouldn’t ever admit it was due to him being a commitment-phobe. Lukas wanted more, and Jase was not willing to give up his bachelor lifestyle.

“So, a full house this weekend?” Luna asks, her feet up on the dashboard and Waffles in her lap.

“Yeah, Rach is bringing Maxie too… haven’t seen him in a couple of months now. Rach and Alec moving out to Hartford is taking some getting used to… First time one of us has lived in a different state.”

Luna shakes her head, Cooper and the entire Thindrel family were so codependent. He was talking as though Massachusetts and Connecticut were on opposite ends of the country, in reality they were just over 100 miles apart.

Cooper taps on the steering wheel, along to the rhythm of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. He’s wearing his prized possession, his tattered blue Boston Red Sox ball cap, backward of course. His messy, overgrown brown hair poking through the gap above the adjustment strap. Luna had been nagging on him to get a haircut, but instead he started growing a stubble beard. Which she ended up liking on him and made her forget all about the haircut.

His go-to Thanksgiving outfit wouldn’t be complete without his grey sweatpants; Nike trainers and his Patriots t-shirt.

He grabs his pair of black, classic Wayfarers from the cubby hole; his forearm grazing Luna’s leg.

She smiles as he pushes the sunglasses up to the bridge of his nose.

“What?”

“Nothing, just my boyfriend is super-hot”

His mouth quirks up, “Are you flirting with me right now?”

She shrugs, soothingly tracing circles on Waffles side. Suddenly Cooper was jealous of their dog. Extremely jealous.

He shifts his focus back on the road, then backtracks and leans across for a kiss.

Luna was expecting a quick peck, but Cooper had other ideas. She pushes back, “Okay Romeo, eyes and hands back on the road”

He chuckles, both hands on the steering wheel again.

They finally pull up to the house. Waffles sprints to the front door, as if it’s home.

Luna shakes her head, laughing. She helps Cooper get the luggage from the trunk.

Max pops his head out the front door. He is welcomed by a wagging tail. Waffles tackles Max to the ground, licking his face up and down.

Cooper laughs, “Hey buddy, don’t you greet your favorite uncle first anymore? Or has Waffles replaced me?”

“He won’t get off Uncle Coop…” he struggles through the fit of giggles.

“Yeah, sure… stick with that story pal” Cooper teases.

Cooper’s mom joins them, followed by his dad. They pet Waffles briefly, before rushing over to help with the luggage.

Liz throws her arms around Luna. “Hello my darling!”

“Wow, ma… nice to see ya too”

Cooper and his dad share a quick embrace. “Hey Pop”

“Cooper, my boy… looking… uhm… less fortunate”

“Really? First Lu gives me a hard time, now you”

“I like the beard” Luna weighs in.

The twosomes trade places. Liz gives Cooper the once over after nearly suffocating him in a bearhug.

“Cooper Matthew Thindrel… that hat must be over a decade old… and the hair, baby”

“Ma… I’m gonna get a haircut… but winter is coming up… what would be the point? Then my head and face would be all cold… in Boston! Lu…” he looks at her with puppy dog eyes “… back me up here… our apartment gets really cold, like fucking iceberg central…”

“Language!” his mom reminds.

Luna giggles in the background.

Liz completely ignores his rant and tries to flatten the wrinkles of his shirt with her palms. She removes the cap, makes a face and drops it in his bucketed hands.

“David, get the luggage. Come on Luna, I’ve just put on a pot of tea”

Luna grimaces. She hated tea. But she wasn’t about to decline Liz’s offer.

“Great” she plasters a smile on her face instead, interlocking arms with Liz as they walk up to the house.

Cooper is left deflated, slipping his cap back on… backwards of course. He helps his dad with the luggage.

Jason’s car pulls up in the driveway. Loud, generic trap music blasting.

He lowers his oval Ray-Ban shades to the tip of his nose.

“Great stuff, just in time for you guys to help me with mine”

“Good of you to join us Jase” Cooper retorts.

He flashes a cocky smile, turning the down the music and shutting off the engine.

A neon-pink sneaker hits the surface as he steps out of the driver seat.

Jason’s fashion sense was as loud as his personality, full color and all caps.

Jason hugs his dad first, “Pop… looking good old man”

David chortles, heading up with two luggage cases.

“And look at this guy, regular Captain America… taking a page from Thor à la Avengers Endgame.” He teases

“Are you saying I’m fat bro?”

“I’m saying that hat and hair have got to go!”

“This is the lucky hat, and you know it. Patriots always win when I wear this”

“That is such a crock of shit…”

Jase pulls him in for a hug, “How are you bro?”

“Apparently in need of a haircut, but other than that…” he smirks, “… things are great”

They walk up to the house.

When the boys head inside, the ladies are all in the kitchen sipping on Shanna’s specialty – Margaritas.

Cooper hugs Rachel first, the eldest sister. He presses a kiss to her cheek, running his fingers through her blonde locks.

“Hey sis, you look good!”

“My handsome brother, you always look good.”

“Thank you!” he exclaims, meant for a reaction from everyone that has been giving him a hard time over his hair and hat.

He drapes his arm around her shoulder, as she wraps a fleshy arm around his waist.

“So, anything besides Margaritas in here?” Cooper asks.

“There’s beer in the fridge” Shanna says as she walks over and breaks up the lovefest between Cooper and Rachel.

“Hey big bro” she wraps her arms around his waist.

He presses a kiss to the top of her head. “Hey Shan”

The boys grab a few beers and head out back to join the other men on the porch.

Luna sits on the barstool at the island table, next to Shanna. She traces her finger along the rim of the martini glass.

“How’s the engagement plans going Shan? Set a date yet?” Luna asks

Shanna’s eyes went round “It’s going to be one of those long engagements Lu… I swear his mother is more in charge of that than anything”

“Mothers-in-law…” Rachel shakes her head.

“Oh, well as long as you two are happy with taking your time in planning everything… that should be alright hon’” Liz adds.

“Does she not want you guys to get married?” Luna reaches out and grips Shanna’s thigh.

She sighs, “She says we’re too young; and JJ needs to get at least a year of work under his belt… and blah, blah, blah…”

“You could just elope…”

Rachel high-fives Luna. “That’s what I shoulda done… saved myself a lot of money and drama… weddings are stressful AF!”

“What’s AF dear?” Liz asks

“Don’t worry ma…” Rachel pats her on the back, as she fills her mom’s glass.

Shanna looks across at Luna, holding her face up in her palm, elbow resting on the counter.

“How bout you and Coop?”

“Marriage?” Luna smiles nervously, “I mean we had this plan back when we were in senior year to get married by 30… but I guess life kinda happens.”

Luna zones her focus on the muggy, yellowy-green liquid in her glass. She never wanted to seem sad when someone asks her why her and Cooper are not married or even engaged yet. She never knew the answer. She wanted to marry Cooper and she believed that he wanted to marry her, but they just weren’t there… yet.

“Gosh, I’ve always been envious of you guys’ love… it’s so epic. I mean, who can say that they’re still in love with their high school sweetheart.” Shanna rambles on, “You guys have history…”

Luna smiles, nodding along. But Shanna’s voice slowly starts to trail off, as Luna spaces out to nowhere in particular. Just a cloud of mist and a soft ringing in her ears. The mist collided with the fog and the ringing turned into chirping… birds, crickets.

“Lu…” Shanna shakes her shoulder.

“Huh?”

“We lost you there for a sec…”

“Sorry, just spaced… must be tired from the drive”

“Back Bay is like 30 minutes away from Sudbury…”

Que…” Luna blinked rapidly.

Shanna smiles, gripping her shoulder gently “Maybe you are tired girl”

“Yeah…”

Luna went down for a nap, and when she awoke, she could hear laughter and music from downstairs.

She sits up in Cooper’s bed, smiling at all his sporting paraphernalia. He had flags and posters of all his favorite teams – Boston Red Sox; New England Patriots; the Bruins; the Celtics. He was so unapologetically, proudly Bostonian.

She swings her legs over the side of the bed and spots a picture of them on his bedside cabinet. Luna picks up the picture frame. Smiling back at her was a young, inexperienced teenage couple at their senior prom. She remembers laying in this very bed when Cooper Thindrel mustered up all the courage in his lanky body to ask her. She smiles at the memory.

She closes her eyes briefly, trying to go back to that time and place.

She had no way of getting a dress for prom, and asking her foster mom was not an option. The foster family she was living with in Sudbury were a lovely couple. They had taken in 3 kids, including Luna, that year she moved in with them. But they also had 4 kids of their own and financially they were struggling to get by.

Liz then graciously offered to make her dress and it was the most beautiful item of clothing Luna had ever owned.

The dress was made up on burgundy silk, understated and simple – a strappy slip dress, that draped along the full length of her legs and a modest slit on the right. The back looped low, cut just above her lower back with crisscross straps holding the sides together.

Cooper had matched his shirt to her dress. He looked so handsome in his black tuxedo.

She had the iconic walk down the stairs of the Thindrel home. Liz took countless photos of the happy couple. But the one framed and perched on Cooper’s nightstand was both their favorite.

They were laughing at something; Luna forgets what now. But they were beaming.

Luna opens her eyes, places the picture back on its place. She slips her feet into her slippers at the edge of the bed. She pulls Cooper’s black Boston University hoodie over her head before heading downstairs.

She leans in the doorway of the family room.

Liz and David were cozied up on the sofa; his arm around his wife while she nestled under his flank. Max sits cross-legged on the rug in front of them.

Shanna sat on JJ’s lap in the reclining chair. While Rachel and Alec sat on the couch furthest into the room.

Cooper was playing the piano. Jason sat next to him on a barstool, hands folded in his lap.

Jason starts off singing, once Cooper plays the chords of James Taylor’s Fire and Rain.

Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone

They harmonize, “Susan the plans they made put an end to you

Cooper looks up, notices Luna in the doorway and smiles.

Luna looks around the room, at the family that had become her own over the years. The Thindrels never asked why she would spend most nights at their dinner table, why she preferred Thanksgivings and Christmases with them… they just welcomed her with open arms.

But Luna always longed for a family of her own, truly her own. Not court mandated, coerced or inherited by association.

She folds her arms across her chest, lowers her gaze and enjoys the rest of the boys’ rendition of the song.

*****

The young couples and Jason decide to play beer pong in the basement after the game.

Rachel decides to opt out and go to bed with Max.

“Someone has to be the responsible adult”, she teases Alec, kissing him goodnight.

“Oh, come on Rach” Cooper pleads, already a few beers in at this stage and slightly buzzed.

“You guys have fun… but don’t be too loud. Ma and Pop are sleeping, and so is Maxie”

She kisses Cooper on the cheek and heads upstairs.

“Okay” Jase was hyped, he had finished setting up the beer pong table. “Teams?”

“Me and you all the way J” Luna says, which warrants an excited high-five.

“Yes!”

“Really?” Cooper tries to feign bemusement. “Alright, alright… Shan, let’s bury them”

“Guess it’s you and me Al” JJ says

“Okay, who’s up first?” Jase asks

Cooper motions to bring it on, flicking his fingers up against his palm. His cheeks were flushed already, lips pinkish red. He’d left the cap upstairs and his rebellious locks were on full display.

“Sure you don’t wanna switch sides Jiménez?” he asks, staring at Luna with a seductive sparkle in his eyes.

She laughs, “I’m happy with my choice in partner.”

“There you have it! I’m the better Thindrel man bro”

“Woah…” Cooper holds up a hand, trying to mask his laughter.

He walks up behind Luna, places his hands on her hips, dips to kiss her neck.

“You gonna let him say that Lu?”

She giggles, “You are so tipsy right now Coop, it’s adorable”

He tosses his head back dramatically, “I’m fine!”

He kisses her cheek one last time, walks over to the other end of the table. “Alright, let’s get this show on the road.”

Cooper’s up first, he tries to loop the ping pong ball into the cup and misses far wide and behind, nearly taking out Alec.

“Oh, come on!”

He has everyone in stitches.

“That’s the thing about Coop, talks a big game” Jase cackles as he lays it on thick.

“Nearly took an eye out buddy” Alec chuckles.

Luna takes a shot, a bounce on the table and loops into the most central cup.

Cooper’s jaw drops, “Lu… do you have to show me up in front of the guys?”

“Drink up, buttercup” she teases

He laughs as he downs a solo cup of beer.

Shanna takes the next toss and misses even worse than Cooper’s attempt; this has Jason clutching his midriff with laughter.

Jason is up and sinks a straight, flat toss in the nearest cup.

“Ey yo!” he high-fives Luna.

“Alright, alright” Cooper chugs another cup of beer, as Jase rushes over to jump on him. As Cooper rocks back on his left heel, he sinks a free-throw toss into the furthest cup.

“Oh, shit. I’m Lebron fucking James!” he exclaims “Did you see that shit? Bro?”

Cooper opens his arms and walks to Luna and grabs her up, twirls her around. He kisses her while she’s still with her feet off the ground.

He settles her down, his arms still wrapped around her. He kisses her ear.

“I love you” he whispers.

She smiles up at him and whispers back, “Love you too cariño

She brushes through the fringe of hair falling into his face. He kisses the palm of her hand and then the tip of her nose.

A few more rounds later, everyone is tired and heading off to bed.

Luna leads the way upstairs to Cooper’s bedroom, him trailing behind holding her hand with their fingers interlaced.

She closes the door behind them, Cooper laying sprawled out on his back. She sits down next to him. He sits up groggily and starts kissing her neck.

“This room has so many memories” he flashes a toothy, suggestive grin.

“Yeah, steady on… those memories were in an empty house, not over Thanksgiving weekend with the entire family right next door!”

He shrugs, as he tugs at the hem of the oversized hoodie she was still wearing.

She giggles, as she pushes her palm against his chest. “Cooper Thindrel, behave!”

“Ugh Lu… why do you have to be so damn hot and attractive…” he dramatically tosses himself on his back again, “… and sexy…”

He trails off in his slurred speech.

She leans over and kisses his cheek. “Come on Lebron, it’s bedtime.”

His long eyelashes slowly unveil his clear sky-blue eyes. He smiles.

“I’m happy… are you?”

“The happiest” she kisses his mouth.

He kicks off his sneakers and struggles up to get undressed.

They eventually get into their pajamas and snuggle into bed. Cooper spooning Luna.

“G’night babe”

“Good night cariño

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