To Be Loved...

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Christmas

It’s December already and another week closer to seeing my love. Jake is due back in Chicago any time now and I can’t wait to hear his voice again. I haven’t talked to him since the day I told him I wanted to come home, so I am anxious to start planning. I wanted to talk to Jake before I talked to my parents so that I had a plan...or I was just trying to stall the conversation.

“Every time our eyes meet…” I heard my phone playing Jake’s ringtone that I finally figured out how to do when Sarah was home. “...this feeling inside me…”

“Hey baby!” I answered the phone excitedly.

“Hey beautiful! How are you?”

“I’m great now that I’m talking to you. Did you just get home?”

“I just got in the car and am heading home now, but my plane landed about twenty minutes ago.”

“I’m glad you made it safely. I’ve been worried about you, even though you told me not to.”

“There was nothing to worry about, baby, but thank you for caring.” I could almost see his smile through his voice. “So, about we were talking about before I had to run the last time we talked. What are you thinking about?”

“Well, I was hoping you could come up around Christmas and then before the new year head back to Chicago so we can celebrate the holidays with your family.” I shared my ideas.

“That should work for me. I can plan on getting there around the 23rd and then we can fly back home around the 30th. It’s about time I take a vacation.” He chuckled.

“That would be wonderful Jake. My sister will be home that day as well and we can spend some time with her before we leave.”

“Have you talked to your parents about all of this yet?” he asked.

“Ummmm...no, not yet. I wanted to wait until this phone call before I do.”

“OK, but don’t wait too long. I know it will be hard for all of you, but you need to let them know your plans.”

“I’ll tell them tonight, I promise. I love you Jake and can’t wait to see you again.”

“I love you baby. Sending you lots of hugs and kisses.”

I giggled, “Sending hugs and kisses back to you. Talk to you soon.”

“Bye Stace.”

“Bye Jake.”

******

As Mom, Ryan and I had dinner that night, I decided it was time to tell them my plans and what is going through my mind.

“Mom...Ryan?” They both looked up at me. “I need to talk to you both about something that has been on my mind, but I don’t want you to be upset when I tell you.”

Ryan put his head down and sighed, while Mom just looked slightly hurt. “What is it sweetie,” she asked.

“I have had an amazing time here with you both since I came here. Mom, I’ve really enjoyed learning from you in so many areas: cooking, making clothes, music making, and so much more. Ryan, you have taught me so much on the ranch and I have really enjoyed going riding with you. You once asked me if I liked it here and I told you I did, but…”

“Your heart wasn’t here,” he finished for me. I nodded.

“I’ve tried fitting in, but I just feel so out of place. It’s beautiful here and the people I’ve met are amazing, but it’s too quiet. I have grown to love the excitement and the hustle and bustle of the city and have missed being there. Before you say anything, yes, Jake has a lot to do with it as well and I really miss him and want to be with him again.” Mom nodded her head and reached over and grabbed my hand.

“Honey, if that is where you feel you belong, we won’t stop you. We will miss you terribly, but at least this time when you leave, we know we can still see you and talk to you whenever we want. I do thank you for coming home with us and for trying to make things work. When do you plan on leaving?”

“Well, I was hoping that you will be OK that I invited Jake to spend Christmas with us. He is planning on arriving on the 23rd and we would stay a week before returning to Chicago on the 30th so we can spend some time with his family.”

“Of course sweetie, we would love to have him here. I know your Nana and Papa would love to meet him and I think others would as well. And Sarah will be home as well so we will have a great Christmas this year with everyone here.”

“Thank you Mom. Thank you both for everything. I do love you both and I want to stay connected with you. You both will always be welcome to visit us and I will try to get back out here whenever I can as well. I just know that this is what I have to do.”

We finished our dinner and I helped Mom clean off the table and wash the dishes. As we were finishing up, she pulled me in for a big hug and I returned it and let a few tears fall from my eyes.

******

By mid-December we were officially snowed in for several days due to a massive blizzard. I’m sure I saw blizzards when I was little, but I haven’t seen this much snow in a very long time. Every now and then I would see snow falling from my little window in the room I was kept in, but very rarely.

I may have looked like a little kid, but when it started letting up, I went outside in my boots, jacket, gloves and hat and made snow angels, built a snowman and even had a snowball fight with my parents. It was fun to let go and catch snowflakes on my tongue or go sledding down the small hills. My parents just laughed at me, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to have fun.

I think this is one of the first times I didn’t have a care in the world and I loved it.

When we were finally able to drive to the city, we went Christmas shopping. I bought a gift for each person in the family and of course, one for Jake. I didn’t really know what to get everyone, so I went with something personalized: snow globes that were filled with something I connected with each person and our names and Christmas 2021 on the plaque. For Sarah and my parents, I also bought a frame for the first picture we had taken back in Chicago as a family. For Jake, I bought a personalized wallet with a picture of us on the cover.

We picked up some food for Christmas Dinner since we were hosting it at our house. We also bought several ingredients to make Christmas cookies and candy. We arrived home and put everything away and I immediately went upstairs to wrap the gifts. Now, I haven’t done this before, so I looked up a video on how to do it. My first few gifts definitely show my lack of wrapping skills.

The next day, Mom and I spent the entire day making cookies and candies. We made peanut butter balls, cut out cookies, gingerbread men, peppermint bark, chocolate covered pretzels and so much more. By the time we were done, we had containers everywhere in the kitchen and out on the porch to keep them cool. We also had a huge mess that still needed to be cleaned. I had a wonderful day with Mom and I knew I would cherish it forever.

******

It’s two days before Christmas and Sarah just arrived home from school as we were preparing lunch. We had made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

“Hey Mom, Hi Dad, Hey Stace,” she yelled as she came into the house. Mom told her we were in the kitchen and she came in to join us. “God, it’s cold out there,” she said when she took off her gloves and coat.

“It’s nice and cozy in here,” I mentioned as I went to give her a hug. “It’s good to see you again.”

“You too,” she replied. “Stacy, is it true what Mom and Dad told me on the phone last week about you leaving here?” She didn’t hesitate to get right to hard stuff.

“Yes Sarah, it is true. I’m going home with Jake next week to Chicago.” I heard Sarah sigh. “We will still get together Sarah and we can still talk all the time. In fact, you are more than welcome to come stay with us for Spring Break or over the summer. Maybe even check out the music scene a little.”

“Yeah, I guess,” she said. “It’s just, I’m really going to miss you. I know that’s dumb to say since I haven’t been here most of the time you have, but it’s true.”

“I’m going to miss you too,” I said, giving her another hug. We sat down and ate lunch together.

Knock, knock, knock…

“Who would that be?” My father asked as we heard knocking on the front door.

“I’ll get it,” I said and ran to the door hoping that it was Jake.

I opened the door, and there stood the most handsome man I have ever seen. “JAKE!!!” I yelled, and jumped in his arms causing him to drop his bag. He caught me and swung me around as we hugged.

“Hey beautiful,” he said as he set me back on my feet. “It is so good to see you again.” He cupped my face and gave me a kiss. I returned the kiss and hugged him again.

“A-hem,” I heard my father cough and we broke apart. “It’s good to see you again Jake, welcome to our home,” he stuck out his hand for the two of them to shake, in which Jake shook it as he said hello to my father.

“Thank you for letting me join you for the holidays,” Jake told him.

“You are welcome. Please come in and get warm, it’s too cold to stand here with the door open.”

“Thank you.” Jake grabbed his bag and came inside. He took off his coat and I hung it up in the closet.

Mom and Sarah finished cleaning up the kitchen and came into the living room to join us. “Welcome Jake, we are so happy you have joined us for the week. I know Stacy has been looking forward to this for a while now,” Mom said.

“I appreciate you letting me stay here and I look forward to getting to know the rest of your family. Stacy has talked a lot about them.”

“Well I know they are excited to meet you as well,” she finished.

“How are you doing Sarah?” Jake asked.

“I’m doing Ok, I guess,” she answered. “Mom, I’m going to take my stuff up to my room, I’ll be back down in a little bit.”

“OK dear,” she replied.

“Jake and I are going to go upstairs as well so I can get him settled and show him around a little bit,” I said as I took Jake by the hand and started towards the stairs. He grabbed his bag and I took him to my room, showing him where the bathroom was in case he needed to use it at all.

As soon as we entered my room, I shut the door and turned to give Jake the most passionate kiss ever. I have missed him so much and I couldn’t get enough at that moment. We laid on the bed and just held each other for some time lost in the moment. I know this is what I want and it feels so right.

******

Christmas Day arrived at last. Jake and I woke up pretty early and decided to go downstairs to make everyone breakfast and coffee. We stayed in our matching pajamas that I had bought when we went into town and went to the kitchen to make pancakes and bacon.

We heard movement upstairs and eventually Sarah walked into the kitchen sniffing the air and soon after Mom and Father walked in. “It smells so good in here,” I heard Mom say. We plated everything up and took it to the table where everyone dug in. At one point, I just sat back taking in the scene before me...this is my family and it’s a perfect start to a perfect day.

After breakfast, we each got to open a gift from under the tree. I gave Sarah, Mom and Ryan their gift to open first. As each one opened the picture, I heard Sarah and Mom gasp and begin to tear up. “I wanted to remember our first day together after you came to Chicago and couldn’t think of a better way,” I said, as I too was tearing up. Jake put his around my shoulders and squeezed.

“It’s beautiful sweetie, thank you,” Mom said and came over for a quick hug, while Sarah did the same. Ryan smiled at me and nodded his head in thanks.

Sarah gave me her gift which was a Music Box that played the song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” As I wound it up and began listening to it, I recalled the tune that played over and over in my head after my memory returned and realized it was one and the same. “Thank you Sarah, but can I ask you or Mom a question?” They both nodded their heads. “Did we listen to this song a lot when we were kids or did you sing it to us Mom?”

“It was your favorite song when you were a little girl,” Mom said. “I used to sing it to you every night before you went to sleep. As you got older, we had to watch the movie, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ over and over so you could hear it and see her fly over the rainbow.” She smiled at that memory. “Why do you ask?”

“After my memory started coming back, I had this tune that would play in my head over and over, but I couldn’t quite figure it out or any of the words. When I heard the music play, I recognized it as the same tune.”

“Then I got you the right gift,” Sarah said and laughed. “I didn’t know what to get you, but I found this and it reminded me of singing this together as young girls.”

“Thank you again Sarah, I love it.” We gave each other a hug. She then gave our Father his gift which was a new watch. I didn’t want Jake to feel left out, so I gave him the gift I bought for him. “Here you go Jake. I didn’t know what to get you, but I hope you like it,” I said I handed it to him. He opened it and took the wallet out of the box and smiled.

“I love it, Stace! It’s unique, but I really do like it.” He showed my parents and Sarah the wallet with our pictures on it. He gave me a hug and a quick kiss. I smiled up at him and kissed him again.

After we each opened a gift, we went upstairs and all got dressed for the day. Jake put on a pair of dress slacks, a red dress shirt, a black tie and jacket, while I put on a red Christmas dress with a black ribbon.

As we came back downstairs, I heard a knock on the door and opened it up to find Uncle Bob, Aunt Cindy, Vicky and Tom. I welcomed them and took their coats and put them in the closet. I introduced them all to Jake and he to them. Vicky whispered in my ear, “You didn’t tell me he was this gorgeous.” I laughed out loud gathering attention. I elbowed Vicky and took them all to the living room.

A little while later Uncle Randy, Aunt Jessie and the kids showed up followed by Nana and Papa. I introduced them to Jake and he to them as well. Mom and Father came into the living room and welcomed everyone and asked to get a picture with all of us. Jake offered to take the picture while the rest of us cuddled together in front of the Christmas tree. “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” We all yelled as he snapped a few photos.

Dinner was another huge success with way too much food. Throughout the afternoon and evening we left the cookies and candies to be eaten, which didn’t seem to last too long thanks to the boys. I admit I had my fair share of each one myself. After everything was cleaned up in the kitchen, we went back to the living room to open gifts. Since most of the individual families opened their gifts at home earlier in the day, it was just the gifts to each other’s families.

We went around the room several times each opening a gift from someone. I received a few outfits from my Nana and Papa, a throw blanket from Aunt Cindy and Uncle Bob, a bath and body gift set from Uncle Randy and Aunt Jessie and a necklace from Vicky. I gave out all my gifts to all fourteen family members and Jake. They all thanked me and really appreciated the fact of how I personalized each one.

The day and night were perfect and I definitely had the best Christmas ever. I didn’t want it to end, but it had to at some point. Before everyone left, I made the announcement that I would be returning to Chicago with Jake at the end of the month. I received a lot of hugs and ‘we’ll miss you,’ ‘please keep in touch,’ and ‘don’t be a stranger,’ before they all left. Jake held me from behind as I watched them all leave.

******

The next week went way too fast. I spent a lot of time with Sarah talking and planning our futures. On Saturday night, Jake and I joined Sarah and Ian for a double date in Bismarck at a fancy restaurant and then to a movie. There were days Mom, Sarah and I would hang out, while Jake and my father spent time together. I was curious to what they talked about, but I’m sure Jake will tell me if I really need to know.

I had spent time showing Jake around the small town and just showing him around the ranch and farmlands. It was all covered in snow, but you could still get an idea. The animals were all in the barns and stables since it was so cold out, but we did go and visit them a few times. We even managed to go on a horse ride together on one nicer day.

Next thing I know, it’s the night before we were to leave. I was packing up my clothes, laptop and other things I wanted to bring back with me, while Jake did the same. I took a look around the room and smiled to myself. “What is going through that head of yours?” Jake asked me.

“Nothing much,” I replied with a smirk.

“Sure, it doesn’t look like nothing.”

“I know it’s only been, what-three months since I’ve been here, but I really will miss it. I know I can come back to visit whenever I want, but it’s still really weird. Part of this place does feel like home, but so much doesn’t. It’s hard to explain, but I feel much more comfortable in the penthouse than I do here.”

“There are so many memories attached to each place, so sure it’s going to be hard to leave and not miss it. I’ve told you before that I will stand by you no matter what, but you have to go with your gut and how you feel. Personally, I’m glad that you feel more comfortable with me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see how leaving here affects you.” Jake came up and put his arms around me.

“Thank you Jake. Thank you for being so understanding about all of this. I’m so glad that we were meant to be together and I thank God everyday for you finding me.” I kissed Jake deeply and passionately.

******

The next morning, we got up and got dressed. Jake brought all our luggage downstairs and out to the rental car. We had a quick breakfast with everyone and spent our last bit of time reminiscing about the last few months. We cried, we laughed, we hugged and goofed around. It was such a wonderful time and I will cherish this forever.

We said our goodbyes and gave another hug to everyone as we headed to the car. I knew I would see them again, which I was ever so grateful for. We drove to the airport in Bismarck and headed home to Chicago.

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