Welcome home, Santa Claus
''What is aunt Laurel doing, Sammy?''
Emma looks with big eyes at our aunt, who is talking to herself and going from room to room.
''I have no idea, Em.''
''Dad is coming home and mom always goes a little nuts then,'' Mia says and she plops on the counter.
''Why, isn't a good thing that he is coming home?'' I ask as I finish the last layer of the lasagne.
''You can put the cheese on now, Em. Remember that the dish is hot, so be careful.''
''I know, I know,'' Emma mutters as she starts putting the cheese on the lasagna.
I focus my attention back on Mia, who is licking the last bit of sauce out of the pan. Thankfully she is using a spoon this time and not her fingers.
''So good, can't wait for dinner!''
''Mia, I asked you something. Why is your mother all over the place?''
''Well, dad is in the Marines. He is very strict, disciplined and he likes order.''
I bite my lip and suddenly I understand my aunt very well. She is non of those things!
''Then we should all pitch in and we can start right now. Emma, go put your toys back in the basket. Mia, you can help me with the laundry.''
''And Tyler, doesn't he have to help?''
''He is not home yet, but he can clean the kitchen after dinner.''
Mia seems happy with that and I put the lasagna in the oven. The timer is set for thirty minutes, so we have a little time. The laundry room is in complete chaos. Baskets filled with dirty laundry. A huge pile of clean clothes that needs to be ironed and folded.
''I will iron if you can start with sorting out the small stuff, Mia?'' Mia nods and I start putting the dirty laundry in the machine, while I wait for the iron to get hot. I always loved ironing, so I'm quick. I put all the clothes that are ready in different baskets, so we don't have to sort them out again.
''Samantha, the timer went off!'' I hear Emma yell.
''Yes, lasagna time!'' Mia shouts and she is gone. I turn the iron off and I look around me. There are still two baskets of dirty laundry, but most of it is bed stuff. They could go in the dryer and then it was a matter of folding.
I hear the muffled voice of Tyler and I walk into the doorway.
''Tyler, please make sure they don't go near the oven and set the table!''
''Tyler yells something back, but I can't understand him. Then I hear very excited voices yelling lasagna, Tyler's voice included. I grab two baskets and I make my way back to the kitchen.
''Mia, can you please put these away?''
''But the lasagna is ready!'' Mia mutters.
''It still needs time to cool off and don't worry. Tyler has to put his clothes away too, so the lasagna is safe!''
Tyler sticks his tongue out at me before leaving the room with the basket and Mia follows.
I get the salad that I prepared in advance out of the fridge and I hear my aunt sobbing in the pantry.
''Aunt Laurel?'' I ask and I walk into the pantry.
I try my hardest not to laugh, when I see that everything is covered with flower. My aunt Laurel stands there with the torn bag in her hands.
''I can't do anything!'' aunt Laurel groans and she wipes away her tears. ''I mean, look at this! Look at me!''
A laugh slips through and then I burst out in laughter.
''I'm sorry, aunt Laurel! I really am sorry, but you look like a ghost!''
Aunt Laurel looks at me and she starts to laugh too.
''I don't know why I always do things like this when Thomas comes home. He has a very stressful job and adjusting the our life is hard for him. So I just wanted to make the house presentable and now look at what I did!''
''How about you go take a shower and just relax a little, aunt Laurel? I can bring dinner to your room if you like.''
''That sounds lovely, dear. It's just that I still have so much to do and... Argh!!''
Aunt Laurel looks at the picture that I just took of her and she surrenders.
''Yes, shower! Yes, dinner in my room would be great and how much will it cost me to get you to delete that photo?''
''Nothing, if you promise to stop cleaning and what else you were planning to do,'' I say with a grin.
''You are still up?'' Tyler asks. ''Don't answer that! Yes, I can see you standing there. So why are you not asleep like a normal person?''
A ping sounds and I open the oven. The smell of apple pie fills the kitchen and I smile when I see Tyler's face.
''Because your mom wanted to make an apple pie for your dad.''
Tyler grabs a glass and fills it with water.
''I talked to Kyle about you. Told him that he should leave you alone, since you made it very clear that you are not interested in him.''
I place the apple pie on the counter and I look at Tyler.
''I appreciate it, but it will not work. Kyle is all about the chase and now you made it more interesting for him.''
''Then I deal with him!''
''Spoken like a real man!'' an unfamiliar voice says.
''Dad!'' Tyler walk into the arms of the man that now stands in the doorway. ''We were suppose to pick you up tomorrow!''
''That was the plan, but then I could get away early. So I thought I surprise everyone in the morning, since I expected everyone in their bed. But I like this welcome!''
''Samantha made apple pie for you,'' Tyler says. ''Fresh out of the oven, so we should celebrate that you are home by having a piece, right?''
''Very subtle, Ty. Samantha, I'm very happy to finally see you again. It has been a long time, kiddo.''
''I know, uncle Thomas. I wish it was different, but I'm very happy to be here now.''
I hug uncle Thomas briefly, before I start to cut the apple pie in pieces.
I sigh and I put down the knife. ''I will be right back.''
I walk up the stairs and I see Emma standing in our room.
''Where were you, Sammy? I couldn't find you!''
''I'm sorry, Em. I heard something downstairs and guess what?''
''I think I saw Santa Claus in the kitchen!''
''Really?'' Emma asks me with big eyes, like she couldn't believe it. I love her childlike ability to believe in everything.
''Yes, would you like to meet him?''
''Now?'' Emma looks at me surprised.
''Yes, lovey. You don't want Tyler to eat the entire apple pie, do you?''
And Emma is running down the stairs and I follow her. At first Emma is shy when she sees uncle Thomas. He is a giant compared to her, but she warms up to him quickly. She still calls him Santa Claus and nobody corrects her, because it is the most adorable thing!
We all have a piece of the pie and then it is off to bed. I check my phone for the last time and I see that I have a text from Alexander.
I smile, because I know it is about our date and suddenly I feel nervous. It's like I can still hear the things Trisha and Kim were saying about me.
Uncle Thomas is home, so I have to check.
I press on send and I stare at the ceiling for a while, trying my hardest not to think about my old life.